Phantoms (excerpt – chapter 3, part 1)

(continued from this post)

After what turned into a long, refreshing sleep and a good meal, Nare hoped to find Daris and show him around Starfire Tower, before Saffir called on her. The Crystal Keeper would do it too, because she had a deep-rooted interest in the progress of all Keepers and especially because Nare was her granddaughter. Now that Nare was a Crystal Keeper, she would bet Saffir took a particular interest in advancing her training and understanding of what it meant to be a bearer of the powerful shard.

Nare smiled in the beams of sun she passed through along the skywalk. Waking up at home put a lift in her step and in her wings. She couldn’t imagine what it must be like for Daris after eighteen years.

If she could find him, she’d ask, but he hadn’t been in his quarters when she checked.

He was probably with Anita, who would have had every reason to disturb him to act as he liaison. Thankfully, the human was easy to locate on the internal sensors. Her presence popped out like a beacon in the night, in this case, a guide to the one Nare truly sought.

Her heart fluttered in anticipation and her step faltered as realization struck her. How was it possible? She had only known him for a couple of days and then she didn’t really know him know him. And yet it felt like she had always known him. What had happened in that brief touch?

Part of her kind of wished she had let Kairalyn push the issue at the small town inn a few nights ago, but Nare had been preoccupied and wary.

Now, she wanted to spend time with him. That’s all there was to it, and she hoped he wanted to spend time with her.

Barely had she arrived at Anita’s temporary apartment than the door opened to reveal not Anita and Daris but Anita, Daris, and Saffir, who smiled warmly.

Nare’s head went blank for a second before she could speak. ["Crystal Keeper Saffir."]

The blue-winged woman stepped towards her and offered a light embrace. ["I'm so glad to see you again. We'll speak later."]

["Did I miss something?"]

Saffir stood back and twisted to catch Anita’s eyes for a second.

Nare caught Daris’s unfaltering gaze on her and warmed, and she returned her attention to her grandmother, who brushed past on her way out.

“Thank you, Crystal Keeper,” Anita called after her.

Saffir said nothing but walked away in that confident but friendly demeanor she always wore.

“Nare. Is there something we can do for you?” Anita asked.

“Um…yeah.” She stared at Daris for a few seconds before the encounter fully hit and she focused on Anita. “What’s going on?”

“I had questions for Saffir. I’ll be needing you later to help me with arranging a call home. Saffir—”

Crystal Keeper Saffir.” At least the woman could use the title out of respect.

“Crystal Keeper Saffir agreed to open a portal to send a message to Earth that we’ll be here a while.”

Nare felt the frown pulling down the corners of her mouth. “How long?”

“It could be a few days before we have a thorough analysis of the data.”

A few days wasn’t bad, Nare supposed. At least it wasn’t a week or a month, a turn of Lis rather. And then Anita would return to Earth and never bother her again. Nare could go on with her life.

Until then, Anita could contact her precious agency.

“Will you help me?”

“What about your puppet?” Nare crossed her arms and glanced aside at Daris.

Annoyance flared in the eyes of the human. “I need a Keeper for this. Until Daris submits to a mind scan, they won’t allow him in sensitive areas. All former Shirukan are being required to submit if they wish to live.”

Okay, now Anita floored her. Nare looked from one to the other for answers.

“Part of the reason Saffir came was to inform us that because Daris was a Shirukan at one time, he can’t be authorized to roam free. He must prove his honor before being trusted.” Anita spat the distasteful words, and in that, Nare agreed with her.

“That’s ridiculous! He wouldn’t—” She fixed her eyes on him. “You wouldn’t do anything to harm anyone here. I’m going to talk with Saffir about this. It goes against everything she ever taught us. Not trust you, like hell! I can’t think of anyone more trustworthy.”

A weak smile brightened his face and he stood a little straighter.

“I mean it. You deserve more respect.” Her wings tightened behind her.

“I’m afraid Saffir doesn’t have a choice, Nare,” Anita said with pitiful look to Daris. “It was a unanimous decision by some new alliance of governors. They demanded her cooperation with all former Shirukan.”

“They can’t do that.”

Anita shrugged. “It’s your world, not mine. But as I understand, as long as Daris has a security or Keeper escort, he’s free to move about until he proves his integrity by the clearance of a Keeper.”

Integrity. She’d give their leaders a piece of her integrity if they didn’t show a little more fairness. What had happened to their world?

“Nare, I’m sorry this is happening. I know it must be difficult.”

Anita had no idea just how wrong this was. Difficult was an understatement.

————-

Note: This is not a final version and may be subject to change before the book is released later this month, September 2013.

If you like what you’re reading, Soriel (Starfire Angels: Revelations Book 1) and Deception (Starfire Angels: Revelations 1.5) are currently available from online retailers.

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