Captured Prologue

Captured

by

R.I. Partridge

Prologue

 

I peered over the edge of the bed to make sure my brother was still breathing. Terrel opened his eyes and grimaced. Over the weeks, I'd watched him go from a strong fourteen-year-old boy to a living skeleton.

“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s all right, Twyla,” he said with a pitifully weak smile. “As a matter of fact, I wanted to talk to you.”

He patted the bed. I climbed up and sat beside him with my feet dangling over the side. “You thought of a way to get all better?”

Terrel had run away and managed to catch some disease before our mother’s people had caught him. He was the one seriously ill, yet he looked at me with brotherly concern.

“I’m going to tell you something very important. Something you might not understand right now, but you need to remember. Promise?” I just nodded, so he could continue. “You know how there are Humans, Katians--"

“Flagoans and Sians. Yeah, yeah. I know my races,” I huffed impatiently. “I might be five but I’m not stupid.”

He smiled indulgently, as if he had all the time in the universe despite his illness. “I know you’re not stupid. In fact, you’re extremely smart. But there are things you haven’t learned yet.” I leaned in to hear his failing voice better. “Do you know what a Kobbi is?”

I huffed and rolled my eyes again. “Of course. Everyone knows that. They’re mixed breeds.”

“There’s more to it than that, but it’ll do for now.” He reached his knobby-knuckled hand out and I took it in mine, careful not to squeeze too hard. Terrel was usually pretty up front with me about stuff, but now he hesitated before asking, “Did you know you’re one?”

I jerked back, but didn’t let go of his hand. “Nuh-uh! No way. We’re Human. We don’t look like bird, or cat, or tree people.”

He licked his chapped lips and tried to swallow but couldn’t. I grabbed a cup of water from the bedside stand and gave it to him. He took one small sip then handed it back. “Thanks. Now let’s see if I can get through this. There are two kinds of Kobbies. It’s the Drey-Kobbi that look like mixed breeds. The Crean-Kobbi look like pure-breeds. There are Crean-Kobbi Flagoans and Crean-Kobbi Katians--and Crean-Kobbi Humans like you.”

“Me? What about you? If I got bad blood, you got it too.”

He rubbed his forehead vigorously, obviously in a lot of pain. “Okay. Sorry. Crean-Kobbi like us.”

I gasped and pulled away as if he’d struck me. “You’re lying. I can tell. You know I can!”

He stared at the holo-screen on the wall rotating through pictures from the last time our father had been on leave. “You can tell because you’re an empath. That means you can pick up on the feelings of others." He just kept staring at the screen as he explained, "It’s a Kobbi ability. One you shouldn’t have at your age.”

I didn't care about that. “But you lied to me. You promised you’d never lie to me. Lying’s bad. Mommy lies all the time. Mommy’s bad.”

“Yes, Mommy’s bad. Sorry I lied, but it’s complicated. I can’t say ‘we’re Kobbies’ because I’m not. We have the same father but different mothers. Our dad is Human and my real mom was Human. But she died before my dad met Cassie--"

“You’re not supposed to call her that. It’s Cassiopeia, mother or ma’am. It makes her mad when you call her Cassie.”

For the first time in days, he grinned. A twinkle sparkled in his eyes as he gave me a wink. “That’s why I do it. You’re right, Twyla. She is bad. She’s very bad. She’s a Dashia.”

 “No!” I jumped off the bed with a shout. I crossed my arms over my chest and stomped my feet. “She can't be! Daddy’s not broken, so she's not Dashia!” Even as I denied it, I knew it was true. Everything made sense now and it made me cry. I crawled back into bed and snuggled up with Terrel. “Sorry I yelled at you. Sometimes I get mad and can’t stop myself.”       

He hugged me with what little strength he had left. “It’s okay. I like your red-hot temper. It matches your red hair. You keep that temper. It will help you fight Mom when I’m gone.”

I sat up shrieking, “Gone! Gone where? Terrel, where are you going?”

Tears leaked from the corner of his eyes. “I don’t think Dad’s going to get back in time to save me. I’m sorry...”

 “Die? You’re going to die? No! No! No! You can’t! I won’t let you. I’ll take care of you. I’ll get you soup. It’ll make you better.”

 He put a hand to his mouth and choked back a heave. It had been a mistake to mention food. He hadn't been able to keep anything down for days. He recovered enough to say hoarsely, “No soup. What I really need is rest.”

 I nodded eagerly. “Yes. Sleep. Dad will be here soon. You'll see.”

We both knew that wasn’t true. Our father was stationed on some planet in another quadrant. Even if he’d noticed our weekly messages had stopped and found out something was wrong, chances were it'd take him several days to get to us.

“I love you, Twyla.” Terrel reached out his hand to me again. [[Henshe?]]

I took his hand. [[Henshe,]] I agreed. It was one of the few Ruslo words I could pronounce correctly and it had no equal in Standard. It stood for the love and bond between siblings.

We snuggled again. He kissed my forehead. “Don’t ever let Cassie change you. Don’t let her make you like her.”

Then he drifted off to sleep and never woke up. Med-techs came to get him that night, but it was too late. They couldn’t save him. Our mother-—my mother--had waited too long to get medical attention for her stepson. So I was left to face Cassie all alone until my father finally returned home. Even then it was two more years of hell before a Dashia Hunter managed to rescue me from Cassie and send me to a remote halo-world where he thought she could never find me.

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