Two years after Earth had been freed from the clutches of the Qharr, Lily
and I had built a new life for ourselves. Times were difficult as
humanity struggled to recover from the devastation wreaked by our
conquerors, but our future looked brighter than ever.
Author’s Note: A very big thanks to Zapper, Beyogi, Loki & Maggie Finson for providing valued input and assistance editing and beta reading this story. Another big thank you to all those who participated in the following blogs Requesting help with a name for a race of aliens… and Questions about a human hair bracelet of all things. Although all participants in the former thread were very helpful (well, really both threads), I feel I need to thank Rasufelle and Elizabeth Jean both for their suggestions as those two inspired the final name for the Phyrr Lesch the most.
Well, now that Earth has been freed from the Qharr, Lexa and crew’s journey is finally at an end, but I felt it only fitting that I give them a proper send off. So, here’s the epilogue.
The rich scent of garlic, onions, and broth wafted in from the bubbling soup pot and I paused a moment to savor the scent. Never, during the twenty-four years of the occupation had I been able to make anything with such a pleasant mix of tastes and smells. Now that Earth was free food wasn’t exactly plentiful, but there was enough to go around most of the time.
“Lex!” Thena called out and I turned to greet the girl with a smile on my face.
No, girl didn’t apply anymore, I corrected myself as she approached. Woman, was definitely the more appropriate term. My smile quickly turned to a frown as I got a good look at her face. She didn’t look happy.
“I just got off the comm with Jora. She’s won’t be able to make another delivery until Tuesday!”
I put both hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. She’d come a long way from the slip of a girl who I’d rescued from New Anaheim just a few years ago, but she hadn’t lost her fiery determination nor her stubbornness. Frankly, I wouldn’t have her any other way as it proved an invaluable resource when it came managing the soup kitchen. I had been the one to put her charge, after all.
“I’m sorry. I’ll see what I can do. Resources are slim, but maybe we can figure something out.”
She nodded and bit her lip before brushing the hair out of her eyes. “Thank you.”
We had technology that helped us produce food in greater quantities, but our infrastructure hadn’t recovered enough for us to fully take advantage of it. It would take years before food shortages became a thing of the past. Edibles were scarce, but, unlike when the Earth was in Qharr control, nothing was held back. Even so, that day’s soup was a rare treat one which I doubted anyone would be able to duplicate for weeks if not months to come. There were no special occasions or circumstances. It was a simple matter of using up food supplies before they spoiled.
I stepped away, returning my attention to the pot of soup. Rebuilding Earth was a difficult task, and nearly everyone was doing their part. After being hailed a hero for my part in the battle for Earth I could have done practically anything, but I’d known from the very start there had only been one thing that had made me happy, cooking. So, I opened a soup kitchen determined to do just that. Unfortunately, my time in the resistance had changed me, I was no longer satisfied sitting back while others suffered. I had to do something more, which in turn led to me taking on more and more responsibilities.
Within just a year, I was overseeing dozens of such meal centers. Not surprising, it drew a lot of attention from the media and once again I found myself in the spotlight despite my best efforts. One thing led to the other and I somehow I found myself put in charge of the effort of feeding and helping those had been left destitute after the Qharr had fled Earth. It would have been fine if those were my only responsibilities, but my endeavors and my status as a hero led to me becoming a poster girl for the recovery efforts.
I knew there were people that felt I was wasting my time, but getting my hands dirty and working shoulder to shoulder with regular people helped give me a better idea how resources could be best utilized on a case by case basis. I didn’t get out as often as I’d like, going sometimes weeks or months between visits to various soup kitchens, but I always seized the opportunity when I could. Especially since, it afforded me the rare opportunity to cook.
I was confident there would come a time where soup kitchen’s like the ones Thena managed would become unnecessary, but that day was far off. Earth was a shell of what it had once been and recovery would take years. I just hoped that my child would live to see that day. I put a hand on my belly and quickly pulled it away. I bit my lip and cast furtive glances around. No one seemed to have noticed and I reached up to give my ponytail a good yank before returning to my work.
A part of me could scarcely believe that I had allowed myself to get pregnant. I mean, me of all people? I was a woman true, but I’d never been very feminine even after I had accepted my body. The fact that I would willing choose to get knocked up was the part that I couldn’t quite understand. I wanted to have Lily’s baby.
It was the absolute affirmation of my status as a woman and I couldn’t wait to hold my infant daughter in my arms. I let out a soft chuckle and shook my head. Four weeks pregnant and already I couldn’t contain my excitement. I hadn’t been this thrilled since… well ever.
I’m sure some would call her a freak of nature, but I didn’t care. She was what Vakrexid had called a binary clone, created by combining Lily’s DNA with my own and forming a fetus. None of it had been done in a lab or with test tubes, but by the genetic manipulating abilities of my symbiote.
A pair of hands slip around my back and I let them guide me around so that I was facing Lily. She too had been lured into bigger and better things, but her work allowed her to get her hands dirty far more often than mine. She had started small, repairing and retrofitting Qharr and humans ships to help support Earth’s growing trade and commerce infrastructure, but given that her experience made her uniquely qualified to the task, there became greater and great demand for her skills. She took on more and more clients, eventually even accepting a contract from the interim government. I lost track of the number of people she employed, but I could honestly say of the two of us she brought in a lot more money.
She was filthy as usual, but I didn’t hesitate before leaning in and sharing a kiss with her.
“You’re in a good mood today.” She smiled despite the dark circles under her eyes. We both put in a lot of hours working, but somehow we always managed to find a little time to spend with one another.
“I just saw, our old friend, the doctor.” I beamed back at her and ran a hand through her hair and kissed her forehead. In recent years she’d taken to wearing her hair short in a pixie cut. She said it was because she was tired of getting her hair caught while working, but I sort of liked it that way.
“He’s good. As jittery as ever, but he doesn’t seem quite as bad as he was during the occupation. The time he spent back on his home-world has done him some good.”
She kissed my neck and wrapped her hands around my waist whispering in my ear. “That’s good to hear, but I meant your appointment.”
I closed my hands and wrapped my arms around her in a hug and whispered back. “As good as can be expected. There’s not much to tell this early in the pregnancy.”
“Then what’s got you in such a good mood?”
I pulled away frowning at her and put both hands on my hips. “You really don’t remember, do you?”
“You mean your birthday.” She smiled coyly and bit her lip. “How could I forget something like that? Why don’t you–”
“Hey!” An all too familiar voice called and I turned to face my sister with eyebrows raised. She had her hands on her hips and her face was creased in a frown which was reminiscent of the terrible ‘look’. When her lips cracked into a smile and she shook her head I realized that she wasn’t being serious. “Aren’t you two supposed to be out of here by now?”
“I-I actually hadn’t told her yet.” Lily bit her lip and stared at my sister with big apprehensive eyes.
“What on Earth is going on here?” I spun around casting furtive glances at the two of them. They both shrunk back and I fought down my sudden urge to burst into a fit of giggles. If their reactions were any indications, I think, I’d finally managed to master the dreaded ‘look’. It wouldn’t do to spoil my triumph with a display of silliness.
“Well…” Becca scratched the back of her neck and pursed her lips before continuing. “It was supposed to be surprise, but Lily here is going to whisk you away for the evening out on the town while Matt and I helped Thena out.”
It seemed selfish to celebrate the anniversary of my birth when Earth was still licking its wounds. Humanity had been freed, but how many had been left homeless and destitute after the occupation had ended? I almost shut them down then and there, but as I looked the pair over and caught the look of anticipation in their eyes I got the feeling that they’d been planning this little excursion for weeks if not months. I just couldn’t tell them no.
I paused and bowed my head and held my hands up in defeat before letting Becca lead me away. It ended up being a memorable night, in every way you might imagine and in one that I could have never guessed.
It was later, we’d returned home to get ourselves prepared for the night out. Our house, while located in a more upscale area was far smaller than most people would expect. For someone who had spent most of her early years sleeping in a crowded communal area, it felt like we were living in a palace, and at times I even felt guilty about it. That being said, I could honestly say it felt more like a home than any of the places I had lived during the occupation. In truth, we could have afforded a much larger home, even with the limited number available due to reconstruction, but neither one of us felt comfortable living in luxury while so many suffered. It was just as well, the money we saved on housing allowed us to spend more of our hard earned cash helping those less fortunate.
I smiled and let my eyes wander around the room, studying the stills Lily had taken such great pains to find and frame on the walls. Most were recent and featured me and Lily together, laughing or smiling, a few were of family and friends both new and old, but then there were the older ones, a picture of Lily and her sister, and even one of her parents, my Mom and Dad before Becca and I had been born and another of my family before the invasion. Lily had salvaged some from her old nest and others from my uncle Harold. It amazed me how many she had been able to scavenge, but for every one she had found how many had been destroyed during the occupation?
I sank into the little couch and felt my smile tighten as I imagined what sort of photos might decorate our walls in the future. Our daughter, of course, would be a prominent fixture, but she was just the start. We hadn’t discussed it yet, but something told me more children would come, nieces and nephews, perhaps too. However many there happened to be no photo would be complete without Lily.
I bit my lip and looked up at the clock on the wall. Lily always took so damn long to get ready. What was it with her?
It was almost time for the nightly broadcast from the provisional government. It wasn’t often I was home in time to hear it and usually had to make do from the recaps. So, I clicked the holo system on and sank back down into the seat. I closed my eyes and let the sound of the broadcaster’s familiar voice filled my ears. It always brought a smile to my face to hear Neada reporting the days events.
As a well trained military force, the nester rangers, had been integrated into the existing command structure of the ERF. Given that both organizations had branched off from the armed forces of the United Earth their merger had been fairly seamless. Unfortunately, for Janet and Rayland their relationship didn’t exactly sit well with their superiors who believed it compromised the chain of command. In the end, Neada gave up her commission and accepted a position working for the civilian arm of the interim government so that they could be together.
Most of the broadcasts were reports on reconstruction efforts more than a few of which, mentioned me, but once in a while there was a rare update on the war between the remains of the Ascendancy and the Gieff Confederacy which had risen up as a direct response to the revelations considering their peoples origins. Since the infighting had begun the Qharr had retreated from the rest of the galaxy, letting the inhabitants of their respective territories fend for themselves. The Gieff Confederacy had been a little more open, even sending a delegation to Earth to issue a formal apologize for the transgressions committed against our people, but it was going to take a lot of effort on the Gieff’s part to mend the wounds the Qharr had inflicted.
This time around, the update was something a lot of people, myself included, had waited a long time to hear. “…the formation of the constitutional convention three months ago marks a first step toward independence from military rule, but some have criticized General Briggs for not taking greater steps to expedite the transition. Today, he came forward to address these concerns.”
There was a brief pause in the transmission then my uncle’s voice rang through the room. “Our goal is and always been a free Earth. The formation of a constitutional convention was a landmark step in that direction. I understand the frustration some have expressed that we aren’t moving fast enough, but democracy is a goal which must be worked toward with a great deal of finesse. We’ve laid the groundwork, and have made great progress, but we cannot make a transition before the right stones are in place. Today marks, yet another important landmark as I am pleased to announce the ratification of a constitution and with it a timetable for a transition to civilian rule.”
My eyes snapped open, just in time to watch my uncle’s face fade away and be replaced by Neada’s. I let a smile return to my face. “You did it, uncle.”
The broadcast continued, but I was so enthralled by what I had just heard that I stopped listening. In the near future humans would be making laws and deciding what was best for our world. It was what I always dreamed of and I felt hot tears sting my cheeks as I considered the implications. I had been asked to participate as a delegate in the convention, but had turned it down. That was the job for those with a better understand of the workings of governments. Not a reluctant resistance fighter, whose favorite pastime was cooking.
A knock at the door was what broke me from my reverie and I hopped from my seat to answer it.
“Alexana Briggs?” A man greeted me as I opened the door. He ran a hand through his graying hair and smiled at me.
“Yeah? Do I know you?”
“My name is Haru Nakamura,” he replied reaching up to adjust his necktie. “We’ve never met, but I believe you were acquainted with my niece, Kaya Brzezinski.”
“Oh, God!” I felt cold chills shoot down my neck as I stared at him noting a slight resemblance to the woman I had once loved.
“Forgive me if it is too presumptuous, but might I come in? I was rather hoping I could talk with you about my niece.”
I nodded, swung the door all the way open more than a little curious. I invited him inside and he graciously accepted a glass of amaretto from me as I took a seat opposite him.
“Now, what exactly can I do for you Mr. Nakamura?”
He slowly turned the glass in his hands, but didn’t drink from it as he stared at me with wide set eyes. “Miss Briggs, I have no family, no wife, no legacy to call my own. When I returned to Earth I had hoped to find my sister or even one of her daughters still alive. I do admit my reasons weren’t entirely selfless, I thought perhaps, that through them I could pass on something of myself, but now it is too late and they are all gone.”
I shifted in my seat, not exactly sure what he was getting at and more than a little uncomfortable with the implications. He continued heedless of my discomfort. “I suffer from a genetic condition which, in addition to rendering me sterile will soon result in my death. I’ve been to the best doctors I could find, even the Dexagarmetrax with all their advanced medical knowledge cannot help me. I’ve come to accept that I will die. It is not an easy thing to do.”
I nodded and bit my lip. I had looked death in the eye more times than I cared to admit and I recognize something of the cold acceptance that I’d experienced in Haru as he spoke and as strange as it might seem I didn’t feel quite so uncomfortable anymore. “I’m so sorry.”
“Please, I do not want your pity. I’ve come to ask you a favor. I understand you fought beside Kaya in the resistance. Tell a dying man about his niece.”
I stared at Mr. Nakamura for the longest time unable to speak. He didn’t say a word either and I thought that moment might go on forever. Then I surprised even myself, and with a quivering voice I began to tell him about Kaya. I didn’t tell him everything, few knew about my transformation from man to woman, my relationship with Kaya and especially our break up due to my transformation. Those things would only serve to mar Haru’s memory of Kaya. So I told him of her dedication, her passion for the fight against the Qharr, and you can bet I even told him about her fiery temper.
Tears streamed down my face as I spoke and I was more than a little surprised to find that he was crying too. When I finished he thanked me and slowly rose to his feet.
“Thank you, Ms. Briggs.” He said then turned away retreating toward the door.
“Wait!” I called after him. “You don’t have to go. There’s a lot we can still talk about.”
He shook his head and gave me a sad smile. “I wish you well, but I’ve already taken up enough of your time.”
He was almost out the door when he turned back to me one final time. “I know that because you are bonded to a K’teth symbiote that some do not fully trust your motives, but I believe you are an honorable woman. With the formation of the new government I believe we will need people to step up and take on leadership positions to help us recover from the scars of the war and the occupation. I think you would be more than suitable to the task.”
‘He’s got a point you know,’ Khala voice whispered in my ear. ‘I personally think Senator Briggs has a nice ring to it, don’t you?’
There would have been a time where Khala’s suggestion would have irritated me to no end, but we were beyond the petty disagreements of our past. When we were fleeing New York after the defeat of the Sub-Ascendant, our bond had undergone a fundamental change. One which, even after several years, we were still only just beginning to understand. There was no room for disagreement, because we understood one another at such a fundamental level, that it was impossible to distrust the other. There was no way either could lie or try to deceive the other, because we’d see through it. Our reluctant alliance, had grown into a friendship and deep love and affection for one another.
Khala and I had discussed creating a conclave that would represent the interests of her people and bonded hosts. There were only two K’teth on Earth at the moment, but with both being fully fertile queens, it was only a matter of time before new symbiotes were born. Many people feared the K’teth, they would need a public face to help people understand that they weren’t a threat and to help find willing hosts. There was more to it than that though, the K’teth had been used as weapons against the enemies of the Qharr for untold generations, forming a conclave would help protect them and offer a means by which they might escape the tyranny of their masters.
I didn’t reply to my symbiote and shook my head watching a Haru retreated toward the door. I called out to him one final time. He turned to me with those sad eyes and met my gaze.
I put a hand over my belly and bit my lip. “I haven’t told anyone this, but I’m pregnant with my first child. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to name her Kaya, after your niece.”
He nodded and his face lit up into the most dazzling smile. “I would be honored,” and with that last sentence he turned away and disappeared down the long corridor.
I sighed, shut the door behind him and stepped back into the living room where I found Lily. She later confessed to me that she had listened in on the entire conversation, but at that time all she did was pull me close and put both arms around me. Eventually, she led me from our apartment and out into the night where we celebrated. My birthday took on a whole new meaning and even when we went back home to make love to each other, Mr. Nakamura’s words stayed with me.
Humanity needed leaders now more than ever. My current position had been appointed and wouldn’t guarantee me a place in the new government. My status as a hero of the resistance would help garner me the sort of support I would need to run for office. I could give a voice to those who didn’t have one and I would be in a unique position to further relations between the K’teth and humanity. I could be a force for good in world where darkness had reigned for so long. Khala was right, Senator Briggs did have a nice ring to it.
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