The characters in the story are a product of my own imagination and hopefully have no resemblance to any living persons. But if it does it is entirely coincidental. Some of the places mentioned are either fictitious and or adapted to suit the plot of the story.
Sex: This story contains sexual content of a graphic nature between consenting adult women, thus if you are not 18 years old and not allowed to read content of this nature, please move on to other suitable stories.
Archiving : This work is copy written and should not be posted anywhere else with the writer's expressed permission.
Special thanks to my betas rleef and Steph.
Feedback: Constructive criticisms is greatly appreciated, so feel free to drop a line or two at firstname.lastname@example.org or sent me a friend request on Facebook .
Palmer had a crick in her neck from trying her best not to look at Mara breastfeeding Joshua. The sight that greeted her when she stepped into the community lounge was too disturbing. She doubted she'd ever be able to look at her Security Chief the same way again. She took a long gulp from her coffee and looked out the window admiring the extraordinary star constellation. The doors slid open admitting Senator Keane. The woman's gaze fell on Mara and with a smile she went to sit next to the nursing mother.
“He's absolutely gorgeous.” She traced a finger down the baby's cheek, a wistful look on her face.
Mara beamed at the praise. “He is. Just the other day he tried to hold the spoon when Taffy fed him.”
Palmer tried not to stare, but was intrigued by the strange relaxed scene playing off in front of her. Who would've thought that the most powerful woman on Terran had such a soft side to her? She blinked when the Senator's smile widened as she made faces at a gurgling Josh who'd spit out his mother nipple, complete in awe of the friendly lady.
“It is perhaps the most profound connection that a mother could have with her child,” the Senator said. “If I decided to have children I would've loved to have breast feed them.”
Palmer coughed softly into a cup and quickly looked away when the Senator's eyes swung her way. After a few moments of silence, Palmer risked another look their way and found the Senator still looking at her.
“Don't you agree, Captain?”
Palmer almost chocked on her tongue. What did the woman expect her to say? She didn't…no, never wanted to have any children and breast feeding never came up in any of the conversations she'd been engaged in over the larger part of her life.
“I wouldn't know, Senator,” she said finally and looked away.
Mara chuckled. “Palmer is not very comfortable around children. We know and accept it. However she's a great aunt and Josh loves her.”
Surprised by her sister-in-law vouching for her, Palmer looked at Mara who winked at her.
“How are you going to handle your daughters, Captain?” The Senator looked at her with a thoughtful look in her eyes. “They are teenagers and would pick up on you unease.”
Palmer sighed. If she wasn't the Senator, Palmer would've snapped at the woman to mind her own business. “I don't know, Senator. To be honest I haven't thought about it yet.”
The Senator pursed her lips in obvious displeasure, making Palmer grow hot under the collar. “If you hope to have a relationship with them and not hurt them, I'd suggest you put more thought into this.”
Palmer nodded and rose to her feet. The bridge suddenly seemed like the most crucial place to be at this moment. She took her cup over to the replicator and quickly left the room. The moment she stopped on the bridge, she knew something was wrong. The air was thick with tension as both her mother and Taffy were staring at a monitor. What was her mother doing on the bridge anyway? They had a deal that for Sandra to come along, she was not to interfere in any command decisions or wander onto the bridge. The shuttle was big enough with a lounge and a small recreational deck to keep her busy.
“I thought we spoke about this, mother?” Sandra turned to look at her, her eyes troubled. Alarmed, Palmer stepped closer. “Report.”
Taffy's complexion was a little pale when she glanced at Palmer. “You have to see this? I was just about to call you.”
Palmer leaned over Taffy's shoulder to study the monitor. She gulped at the sight. Four huge ships hovered a few yards ahead of them effectively blocking their path. “Why haven't you called me earlier? Put it on the screen.”
It was Sandra who answered; making Palmer wonder again what her mother was still doing on the bridge at such a time. “They appeared out of nowhere. The one moment there was nothing and then the next these ships just…just…was there.”
“Have you run a scan to determine their origin?” Palmer asked curtly.
“They're Pharmac,” Taffy said quietly. “Has the Principal mentioned anything about an escort? If not, I think we're in deep, deep trouble. Permission to maintain station, Captain.”
“Granted.” Palmer briefly closed her eyes. She never expected the voyage to be uneventful, not when they were travelling through the most dangerous part of the universe. She'd anticipated something like this, but this was too much, too soon. Palmer gave herself a mental shake. She never cowered and was not called the ‘Iron Maiden' of the Terran Space Fleet for nothing. Good, they were up against four ships, but except for her unmatched skill on the battlefield, she was also renowned for being able to talk her way out of a tight situation. She will do so again.
Palmer opened her eyes and had to stifle a scream. Standing before her and towering over her, was a Pharmac. The alien's dark eyes were intense as they studied her.
“I am your escort.”
With her heart pounding in her chest, Palmer cursed herself for not having armed herself before they entered Pharmac space. Her inability to protect herself, reminded her of her family. She quickly glanced at Taffy and her mother to found them both staring at the Pharmac with wide, round eyes. Palmer moved so she stood between the alien and her family. She pushed out her chin as she glared up at the imposing alien. She might not be armed, but she was still the captain on this vessel and she was responsible for the lives of each and every individual on-board. Injecting the right amount of bravado in her body, she confronted the alien.
“It would've been nice had you requested permission first to board my ship,” she said coolly. “On second thought, it would be much appreciated if you could escort us from aboard your vessel.”
The Pharmac stood motionless, the dark eyes unreadable. “The Principal personally ordered me to accompany you, Captain. I will not fail her.”
Palmer felt a soft touch on her back and almost jump out of her skin at the sudden touch. Having a dangerous and intense Pharmac standing but three feet away was not comforting in the least. She turned to meet her mother's eyes.
“If it is okay with you, I would like to talk to…” Sandra nodded her head in the Pharmac's direction. “…her.”
“What?” Palmer blinked. What would her mother have to talk about with the alien? “No, mother, please, let's not complicate this any further. I'm sure Captain…” she glanced at the scowling Pharmac. “…uhm…”
“Ahalpa,” the Pharmac offered quietly. The disturbingly solid black gaze swung between her and her mother.
“Thank you. Captain Ahalpa would probably not appreciate being disturbed while on an official mission.” Palmer didn't take her eyes off the towering woman as she spoke. “Am I right, Captain?”
The Pharmac shrugged her massive shoulders. “The Principal instructed me to make the remaining fourteen hours of your voyage as comfortable as possible. If there is any information I can impart it will be my honour to be of assistance.” The Pharmac looked directly at Sandra.
Out of the corner of her eye, Palmer saw her mother make a move as if to approach the Pharmac and Palmer quickly grabbed her hand, holding her back.
“What are you doing, Mother?” she hissed. Even Taffy gave Sandra a panicky look. “Did you forget about our agreement?”
“She said it was okay to talk to her,” Sandra hissed back. “And I need information.”
“Can't you just talk to her from where you stand?” Taffy offered as she blinked at the alien.
Sandra sighed and rolled her eyes dramatically. “I doubt she would butcher me if I approach her. Anyway, the poor girl might be thirsty or something.”
Palmer chanced a quick look at the alien and found the dark head cocked to the side, clear fascination on her face. Poor girl, indeed . She turned her attention back to her mother. She'd known bringing her mother was a great risk. The woman always only saw the good in everyone. “Do not underestimate her, mother, and refrain from calling her a ‘poor girl'. She might be over a hundred years old, for all we know.”
“Three hundred and fourteen, actually,” the alien said softly. “Is it a common human custom to talk about someone as if they are not present?”
Palmer felt her face burn with shame, causing the alien to cock her head again in confusion at the blush, Palmer knew, was creeping up her face.
“Fascinating,” Ahalpa murmured before she focussed her gaze on Sandra. “Would you like to talk with me?”
Sandra nodded, her blue eyes glittering. “But first, would you like something to drink?”
“I don't know what you have to offer.”
Palmer's jaw dropped as her mother took the alien's larger hand in hers and all but dragged the alien down the corridor. “There are too many to name. I will let you decide for yourself.”
Taffy staggered back to grip the back of her chair. Her knuckles showed white as she held on to the chair. “Palmer?” Her voice sounded small and panicky. “Aren't you going to do something?”
“Like what, Taf? You know when mother gets like this it's near-impossible to reason with her.”
“I'm convinced that Mom's misplaced valour is going to put the two of us in an early grave,” Taffy muttered as she ran a shaky hand through her hair.
Before Palmer could respond, a deathly pale Mara suddenly burst onto the bridge, her eyes as wide as saucers. “I…I just saw Sandra drag a really big Pharmac into the lounge.” Mara's hands were shaking badly. She turned to her wife. “Please tell me I'm hallucinating. I swear I only had one cup of coffee today.”
Taffy pulled her wife into her arms, making soothing noises. “The Principal sent her to escort us to Pharm. Where is Josh?
Palmer watched as her normally unflappable Security Chief held on to Taffy. Then she remembered Senator Keane. “And the Senator?” She was already halfway down the corridor. Voices from the small kitchen made her slow down, listening.
“The list here shows all the non-alcoholic drinks. This one here contains the alcohol beverages. Which would you prefer?”
There was a short silence, before the alien's deep voice sounded. “I'm still on duty so it will have to be non-alcoholic. What is this Berry Blaze?”
“We can try it and if you don't like it, we can try something else,” said the Senator.
Palmer leaned back against the bulkhead. Why did she feel as if she was caught in some kind of a time warp? She'd been convinced that the Senator would have more sense than her mother, but apparently she was wrong. Did these women have any idea how dangerous the alien was? What would they say if she told them that Ahalpa could shoot beams of fire from her eyes? That she was stronger than anything else they could imagine. Will they faint dead away if they knew that the alien sipping Berry Blaze with them, could pick up this ship and flung it light-years into any direction she fancied? Palmer swallowed hard. What if the Berry Blaze triggered something in the alien and she became homicidal?
“Interesting,” the Pharmac said. “We have something very close to this on Pharm. The children, especially, love it.” There was short silence. “I‘ve sensed the presence of an infant on the ship.”
Palmer grew cold and quickly entered the kitchen. The Pharm sat on a chair that looked hopelessly too small to accommodate her large frame. Senator Keane stood to the side, leaning against the bulkhead as she sipped from a tea cup. Sandra sat opposite the Pharmac, an inquisitive look on her face. The Pharmac on the other hand appeared to be relaxed as she looked back at Palmer. What the hell was this—a bloody tea party?
Palmer resisted the urge to shake her head to clear the disturbing image before her. “What does the infant have to do with this?” she snapped.
The Pharmac shrugged her heavy shoulders. “Nothing. My mate gave birth to our first child two weeks ago.”
Sandra and the Senator smiled broadly as they congratulated the stoic alien. Palmer watched as she mother actually leaned closer to the alien.
“That was what I'd wanted to ask you about,” Sandra began, her tone gentle. “I will be meeting my two granddaughters in a few hours and I don't know what to expect.”
The alien looked at Sandra. “I take it you are talking about the Principal's daughters.
“Yes. Do you know them?” Sandra's face was bright with curiosity.
Palmer tried her best to look unaffected, but she was eager, maybe even more so than her mother to hear about her daughters. An inexplicable emotion settled in her chest as she awaited the alien's response.
Ahalpa suddenly smiled and Palmer blinked at the change it brought to the woman's serious facade. The alien was actually very beautiful as her dark eyes shone with an internal light, causing them to glitter.
“The Principal has triplets.”
“TRIPLETS!!!” Palmer and Sandra echoed simultaneously. Sandra was halfway out of her chair, her hand clutched to her chest.
“I have three granddaughters? Oh my…oh my…oh my…” She suddenly burst into an impromptu little dance, laughing and crying at the same time. Palmer, still stunned by the revelation, could only stare at the alien, who in turn was staring at her mother with a look of pure astonishment on her face.
“Captain Middleton,” Senator Keane said softly, “are you okay?”
Palmer slowly turned her head to look at the woman. The Senator had a gentle smile on her face. Not sure what to say, Palmer turned and left the kitchen. Three?! She had three daughters! She blindly walked down the hallway to her quarters. If she hadn't been on duty she'd have gotten herself a whiskey. Instead, she replicated another cup of coffee and went to sit on the bunk. What was wrong with her? Even if she never wanted children herself, she was not too bad around them? Josh liked her, if his smiling at her was anything to go by. It was unsettling to find that the only feeling she had when she thought about her daughters…three daughters…was panic. Wasn't every woman at least born with a vague sense of maternal instinct? The door to her quarters hissed and Palmer looked up. What the …?
“What are you doing here?” she snapped.
The alien ignored her as her dark eyes took in the small sterile room. “It is rather small,” she said almost disdainfully.
Palmer gaped at the woman. At that moment she wished she had been strong enough to kick the woman's butt. Instead she decided to ignore the unwanted remark. The alien turned to look at her, a sable eyebrow arched over a broad forehead.
“I fail to understand how you would trade the Principal for this.”
A spark of renewed anger throbbed to life and Palmer rose to her feet. It was the wrong move it seems, for now the alien towered over her. A look of amusement crossed the Pharmac's dark features.
“At least you have spunk. I was wondering what the Principal had seen in you.”
“I don't know who you think you are talking to me like this, but I would like for you to leave my quarters.”
The alien shrugged. “As you wish, Captain.” At the door the alien turned to look at her. The dark eyes were cool. “It's a relief to know that your daughters didn't inherit anything from you. At least in that regard my sister didn't make a mistake.”
The door hissed closed behind the alien.
Hem landed with her right foot in front of the left, her right knee bended slightly and her arms spread wide. A dust cloud billowed up, enveloping her body. For a moment it was as silent as a tomb. She slowly lifted her head. As if on cue, the sound of phasers being fired sounded. Hem growled when a beam caught her in the chest. Slowly, she came upright, stretching herself to her impressive height. Phaser blasts bounced off her as she surveyed the situation.
She had landed in the middle of the clash and was surrounded by close to a thousand fighters. Rolling her shoulders, she took a deep breath, ignoring the fire she was taking. Her eyes zeroed in on the small tent about two hundred metres from where she stood. With purposeful strides, she made her way over to it. Instantly, ten aliens surrounded her, all shooting at her. Hem snarled, the blasts fuelling her rage. Moving with lightning speed, she grabbed one of the aliens by the arm and swung. His hairy compact body slammed into that of the fighter nearest to him, flattening him. When the other man didn't get up again, Hem began to swing at the others in all earnest. Her action drew the attention of the other fighters who, up to that moment, were shooting at the five other Pharmac, who slowly advanced on the combatants in a circular format, boxing them in. Now more than fifty fighters surrounded Hem as she, using the body of one of their own as a weapon against them, cleared a path through the fighters. When the limp body of the alien weighted her down, Hem grabbed two more, continuing her earlier method of defence. Alien bodies hurled through the air as she forcefully made her way toward the tent.
“He's getting away, milady,” one of the Pharmac called out to her and turning to the warrior, Hem saw for the first time the carnage she'd left in her wake. Broken bodies lay everywhere.
“I want him.”
“Yes, milady.” The Pharmac sped to where a small aircraft started up.
Junene Opli had been a thorn in Hem's side for the past fifty years. A warlord from the outer edges of Humer , he was a small man with a huge appetite for power. Fifty years ago he tried a coup de tat which left more than ten thousands Hume dead. Angered by the needless deaths of subjects she was chosen to protect, Hem had squashed the rebellion brutally. Opli managed to flee and stayed in hiding for most of the past five decades. About ten years ago he resurfaced with newly built army of K'melti .
The K'melti was a mercenary race. Powerfully built, with long fur covering their compact bodies, and feared for their brutality. They have grown strong over the centuries; their reputation deterring other races to take them on. With no one willing to go to war against them, the K'melti used their reputation and skill as mercenaries to the highest bidder.
Today, it seems, they've met their match. Hem was in no way trying to hold back. She was supposed to be home, ironing out the final moves with her daughter for the Yram . Instead here she was ploughing through a pack of armed rodents.
The sound of crushing metal drew Hem's eyes to the spacecraft. The craft shook violently as one of her warriors held it down as it was about to take off. The engines revved loudly, but the Pharmac held on, her feet planted firmly on the ground. A loud explosion sounded and Hem knew that the engines had blown. The craft fell to the earth with a loud crush, sending up an enormous cloud of dust. Hem dropped the bodies and slowly made her way over to the damaged craft. She noticed with grim satisfaction a path opening up for her as she advanced on the ship. The aliens slowly dropped their phasers. It seems the K'melti weren't as stupid as they looked.
Hem came to stop outside the craft, her arms folded over her chest, waiting. The latch opened and a body was flung out, skidding to a halt before her. Hem sighed as she looked down at the alien at her feet. It seems his scaly hide couldn't protect him against the impact of the crash. His face was covered in a thick yellow substance that oozed from a cut above his eye. He blinked a few times before he raised split eyes to her.
“So we meet again. I never thought you'd be so stupid as to try my patience again.” Hem threw her arms wide including the carnage. “I was obvious wrong.” Opli struggled to his feet, but he was quickly beaten down by one of her guards.
Hem's eyes narrowed as she studied the alien before her, fighting the temptation to step on him and crush him like a bug.
“Your pathetic little power trip disrupted my day and I hate when that happens,” she snapped and saw the alien cringe. Good for him, she thought. For he was very close to having his head ripped off.
Palmer didn't know how long she had been sitting there, numb. Only one thought looped through her mind.
She sent her sister.
Eighteen years ago all she cared about was getting the mysterious woman in bed, not caring much about the woman herself. She recalled the day they returned to Deus 23 , the Space fleet's deep space military training facility.
The place was on high alert and upon arrival they were all bundled into the weapon vault and ordered to arm themselves. New to the facility and not knowing any of the other cadets there, they had no one to ask about what was happening. Seventy battleships and shuttle crafts were launched to patrol the outer perimeters of the military base. When after nineteen hours, nothing transpired the order to stand down was given. After a quick dinner, they, the newcomers, were summoned to the Station Commander's office. The Station Commander, a towering bald man with a dour countenance, questioned them curtly about their visit to the Pendulum moon base. They all reiterated the same information about how they wanted to spend one night on the base to unwind before reporting to Deus for training. Many cadets visited Pendulum when they had a few days off, so Palmer was confused as to why they were being interrogated.
The man had walked over to his desk and picked up a padd. “Have you spotted this individual on Pendulum ?” He handed the padd to the first cadet and each of the group answered in the negative as they passed the padd on to the next. When it was her turn, Palmer quickly scanned the image, knowing that if her comrades hadn't seen the person, she undoubtedly also hasn't either. But she was mistaken. The image staring back at her was too familiar to deny. As a matter of fact, she was still smarting from having woken alone in the small rumbled bed, her body aching from the previous night's activities.
Hem was dressed in black leather, her head held high giving her an air of arrogance and authority. For a moment Palmer doubted if it was the same person she'd spend a wild, uninhibited night of sex with. But the black eyes with their golden flecks, the soft full lower lip and the powerful shoulders were still burned into her memory. Less than thirty hours ago, she had drowned in those mesmerizing eyes, had sucked on that plump lower lip and clawed frantically at those magnificent shoulders.
For a moment Palmer was caught between her career in the TSF command structure and the strong attraction she still felt for the alien who had conquered her body with breath-taking skill and tenderness. In the end it struck her that none of her friends recognized Hem or perhaps they were too drunk to pay much attention to the alien she'd left the bar with. After one final look at the image, she held the padd out to the Station Master.
“I saw her in the bar. She sat alone at table in the corner and didn't mix with anyone.”
The Station Commander's eyes narrowed slightly. “Did she see you or talk to you?”
Palmer swallowed as looked at her friends. She met Helen's eyes and realized that her friend had lied for her. Palmer met the Commander's sharp gaze. “She nodded in my direction.”
“Are you sure that was all that happened? Is there anything else you'd like to add?”
“Who…who is she, Sir?”
The skin around the man's face pulled tighter as he studied the padd. “She is bad news.” He threw the padd on his desk. “Her name is Hemheri and she's the leader of the Pharmac, an immortal race, who have taken it upon themselves to rule the universe. She's a vindictive, cruel woman, who has it in for Terran and will use any means possible to find a reason to set her murderous sights on us.”
Murderous? Vindictive? Cruel? Palmer frowned. They were obviously not talking about the same woman. The woman she came to know a few hours ago embodied none of the characteristics just bestowed on her. Hem was funny and a perfect gentlewoman. In bed she was demanding but by no way was she cruel. Even when her body was ablaze with desire and she had screamed for Hem to ravish her, the alien was gentle while at the same time skilfully doused the raging fires within Palmer's body.
The Station Commander straightened his coat. “We had to be on alert as soon as our radar picked up the bio-readings of a Pharmac.” His gaze settled on Palmer. “You have no idea how lucky you are that she chose to ignore you. She will go to any lengths possible to get her claws into Terran. To date we have not given her any reason to pay close attention to us, but she's extremely unpredictable. Forget you've ever seen her, if you can, have that memory removed.”
Palmer did just that. Instead of having her mind altered, she'd pushed the memory of Hem to the deepest, darkest recesses of her mind. Her biggest fear had always been that she might have single-handedly brought the wrath of the Pharmac on Terran. In a moment of weakness she had cradled the most dangerous threat to the galaxy's existence against her chest. That certainty had strengthened her resolve to forcefully pushed Hem out of her mind. In the beginning it wasn't easy. At night, she would wake in a state of incredible arousal. Her heart would hammer against her chest; her fingertips would ache with the need to touch that soft sanity skin and the juncture between her legs, would pulse uncontrollably. Even awake, images of Hem would rush through her mind. She recalled images of Hem… inside of her, her dark eyes with those strange yellow flames alight with desire, that large body hovering above her, Hem meshing their mounds together as she whispered soft encouragements and praise in Palmer's ear.
It was impossible to go back to sleep after such a wakening. It is from that first moment eighteen years ago that Palmer adopted the habit of waking early and working off steam in the ship's fitness centre. That habit had sped her towards a quick command of her first deep space explorer at the age of twenty five, making her the youngest captain in the Fleet. She had since worked her way through most of the galaxies, making a name for herself as a just, but no-nonsense explorer. Outwardly, Palmer was very modest, but she was extremely proud of her achievements.
Until three days ago.
She was a mother of three teenage daughters. Daughters she didn't even know existed, because their mother didn't deem it important enough for Palmer to know. She had to humiliate herself by confessing to the Terran Hierarchy that her teenage mishap had resulted into the birth of three girls borne by the deadliest woman in existence. The most difficult to swallow, was that Hem kept her word. Hem sent her sister to reiterate her promise all those years ago.
Palmer will always be safe anywhere in the universe.
“The treaty has been drawn up, milady. All we need it the necessary endorsements.”
Hem looked at the scaly, battered alien who sat at few feet away from her. They had commandeered Opli's tent soon after the General of the Humer Defence Force joined them. The General was relieved when Hem gave them two options to eliminate this reoccurring problem. Either Hem executed Opli or Humer find a way to integrate the once, esteemed Opli into their organisational structure. He was after all one of the foremost scientific minds in the universe. Humer once enjoyed great advances under the expertise of Opli and if given the chance, the same progress might be found. To keep the slippery scientist in check, Hem suggested a pact.
Hem dipped her ring in the ink that was provided and applied her authorization to the document. She waited until both the General and Opli gave their signatures before she rose to her feet.
“I expect all K'melti to leave Humer within the next twelve hours never to sit a foot here again.” She singled out Opli with her gaze. “You have a second chance to redeem yourself. The next time you dream of total dominance, might also be your last one. I will search every galaxy and rock pile in the universe until I find you.” The General fidgeted slightly when her gaze fell on him. “Keep to the accords of our treaty and you will not see much of me.” Hem looked down at her ruined outfit where countless phase blasts left scorched marks. “This whole incident was unnecessary and distasteful and it left a great number of K'melti dead. I will not be as lenient if I have to return next time.”
Without a backward glance, Hem exited the tent and bending her knees exploded into the darkening Humer sky.
The alien stood in the cockpit, her large body very difficult to ignore. Standing next to the alien was Senator Keane and Sandra. Palmer sighed softly and entered the cockpit, making a way to her chair. She felt Ahalpa's eyes on her but ignored the pointed stare as she sat back in her chair.
“We are less than three hours from Moser , the largest city in the realm. It is also known as the Eternal City since all our leaders resided here.”
Palmer looked at the alien and found the dark eyes studying her closely. She looked away through the view screen and saw that two of the Pharmac vessels were leading the way. A slight frisson went through the ship as they crossed into the planet atmosphere and Sandra let out a shocked gasp. Palmer immediately understood why.
Pharm was an exquisite planet.
From the air, the image of long sandy beaches with crystal clear water and thick green forest greeted their eyes. Far off in the distance, snow topped mountain peaks were visible.
“The docking station is further left. We make use of transporters to move between the station and the city.”
Palmer listened to Ahalpa with half an ear as her eyes took in the beauty of the planet. This was probably what Terran must've looked like before its mutilation at the hands of the humans. She had seen pictures of Terran predating the third millennium and she was sad to find that most of the places now in existence were simulations of the real thing. The water is not so clear anymore. Instead a colossal purifying system had to be invented to create the illusion. The trees do not grow in nature as was the case all those thousands of years ago.
Instead, seeds were replicated in a laboratory and incubated in massive greenhouses before they are introduce into nature as saplings to ensure they have a chance at survival. Everything back home was fake or at least on the verge of losing its originality. How ironic that her children were raised in a place, she herself had dreamt of growing up in. Palmer turned to the alien.
“Are they happy?” She didn't know where that came from but at that very moment she needed to know if her children were happy in this paradise.
Ahalpa smiled unexpectedly, taking Palmer off guard. “I can't speak for them, but they appear to be doing fine.”
Palmer swallowed. Hem must be a wonderful parent if she could raise three daughters, who according to their aunt appeared to be happy, and still rule the universe.
She returned her attention to Taffy who skilfully taxied the shuttle into a docking space.
“Holy cow, Sis,” Taffy gasped next to her from where they stood on a rounded podium in a large gleaming foyer. Palmer had to admit that she'd never seen so many rich adornments in one room. Given the Pharmacs' size, everything was bigger than normal. The pillars in the room were huge and seemed to be made from solid gold. There were a number of doors and arched exits leading from the foyer.
“Welcome to the Eternal Palace,” Ahalpa broke the silence, her voice echoing in the silent room. She stepped off the transport podium. “If you will follow me I will make sure that you are shown to your rooms.”
Palmer chanced a quick look at her small entourage and found them to be just as enthralled by the splendour around them as she was. She followed the alien, kick-starting the rest into action.
“I was hoping to conduct a more detailed tour once you've settled in, but I will point out a few rooms as we passed them on the way.” Ahalpa threw a look at Palmer and continued after Palmer nodded her acquiescence. “The Palace dates back to a time than none of us can recall. Before the current Principal, we've had about twenty two leaders.” Ahalpa gave a crooked grin. “I have been a bit negligent in updating my knowledge of our history, but if memory serves me right, Hem is supposedly the twenty third to lead the Pharmac.”
Twenty three only , Palmer thought. Terran has had so much more. As if reading her thoughts, Ahalpa looked at Palmer again.
“Each of the leaders has ruled for close to three thousand years before they relinquished power.”
Palmer was stunned. The others were obviously too, because they were also staring at Ahalpa in mute shock.
“You live that long?” Sandra gasped finally and reaches out to touch Ahalpa. Palmer quickly grabbed her mother's hand and held it in a tight grip. “That's incredible. And…and her…the Principal? How old is she?”
Palmer gave her mother a sharp look and turned to find Ahalpa's eyes twinkling as she watched the interaction.
“The Principal is still young.” Ahalpa's eyes narrowed slightly. “She must be nearing nine hundred.”
Palmer couldn't stop her jaw dropping. That gorgeous virile woman could not be that old. Before she could react to the news, she saw a movement out of the corner of her eye. Turning, her heart jerked as she saw the familiar tall, powerful figure of Hem exiting a room ahead of them and crossing the hallway to enter another. Urged on by some inexplicable emotion, Palmer broke away from the group and rushed into the direction where the Principal had disappeared. Behind her she could hear hurrying footsteps. She entered the room and was surprised to find it opened into a large patio overlooking the city. This was her first glance of the city, since they had transported directly from the dock to the Palace. As if in an afterthought the beauty of the city registered, but Palmer's attention was fixed on the powerful back of the woman who had borne her three daughters. She took a hesitant step forward. Hem stood with her hands on the railing looking out over the city.
The alien didn't turn around, but Palmer noticed the subtle stiffening of the tall body. Why was Hem ignoring her? After all, she was the one who ordered Palmer to come. Palmer moved closer. Hem was dressed in a black leather outfit almost similar to the one she'd worn eighteen years ago in the image the Station Commander on Deus 23 showed her.
This time the powerful shoulders straightened. Hem turned slowly and Palmer staggered back in shock. Instead of those peculiar black and gold eyes, achingly familiar sky blue eyes stared back at her.
“Greeting, Captain Middleton,” the alien said slowly, her deep voice taunting. “Or should I say ‘mother'?”
Palmer felt the blood drain from her face, as she raised a shaky hand to her mouth. She couldn't pull her gaze from the face of the tall, striking alien. Suddenly it was too difficult for her to breathe. The air got stuck in her throat as she began to gasp for air. Small dark dots peppered her sight as she felt herself fading slowly. Just before she knew she was about to clock out, she saw a flash of dread in the sky blue eyes. The earth shook violently as an alarmingly ominous aura permeated the air.
Two strong arms wound around her and Palmer felt a feeling of utter peace washed over her. With soft sigh, she gave in to the swirling darkness.
To be continued...
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