By Melvyn Riley


All Books by
Melvyn Riley:




In the year 2012, a series of inexplicable catastrophic events occurred that threatened to destroy the Earth. As the chaos subsided and Earth began to heal, many worried about the future of the planet. Eventually NASA created a secret group of scientists whose mission was to preserve Earth and protect its inhabitants. The group, which became known as the Seeders, created a technology that could re-terraform the planet and reverse the effects of pollution and disease. In this they succeeded. But most of the world ignored the Seeders’ work, and their larger mission ultimately failed.

Not everyone rejected the Seeders’ technology. In the year 2077, a group of 10,000 migrated to Mars and began terraforming the red planet to establish a new home for humankind. Months after they departed Earth, an airborne death swept across the world, resulting in what was known as the Final Cataclysm, wiping out most of mankind. Earth recovered for a time, but only a short time.

Unable to return to Earth, the colonizers on Mars redoubled their terraforming efforts there, but those efforts would eventually prove unsuccessful. Thus it was that the humans set off across the galaxy in seeding ships known as Arks, heading to a small planet known as Malakar, an inhabited world similar to Earth. Eleven years later, they reached their destination.

The Malakarans, who had long monitored radio transmissions from Earth and Mars, were familiar with humans and welcomed the sojourners. Except for their dark-red skin, this peaceful, technologically advanced race of humanoids was similar in appearance to humans. And they had something else in common with their guests: Because of environmental neglect, Malakar was rapidly approaching the same fate that Earth had suffered, and the Malakarans knew that their visitors might hold the key to saving them.

The two species overcame the language barrier, and the humans became part of Malakaran society. A series of treaties granted the humans a new home in exchange for seeding the dying planet. The Seeders’ technology worked and the planet was saved.

After the planet was brought back from the edge of annihilation, the two species lived together in peace for several hundred years. Eventually, they began to interbreed, and the human population, though still abundant, began to be replaced by a hybrid known as the Maluan.

The crossbred Maluans were a genetic anomaly, possessed of a second skin beneath their human skin. This second skin was red, the color of the Malakarans’ skin, and could be exposed at will, giving the Maluans similar physical characteristics as the Malakarans. The dual skin also filtered the atmosphere, giving Maluans the ability to breathe underwater and survive in poisoned environments for short periods.

For a time, the three species co-existed, and the Maluans came to play an integral role in Malakaran society. They held positions of authority, continued the work of the Seeders, and, because of their second skin, worked in radioactive environments.

Although the Maluans had contributed to the evolution of the planet for more than three centuries, prejudice against the new species gradually took root. Rumors that the Maluans and the humans were conspiring to dilute and eventually eliminate the purebred Malakarans soon became conventional wisdom. Maluans became known as “second skins” and were shunned by purebred society. Humans fared little better.

Maluans continued to respect both their human and Malakaran roots and to believe in equality among all species and races. But the majority of Malakarans came to view Maluans and humans as abominations. This led to the formation of a secret society known as the Correctors of Abomination, whose goal was the extinction of humans and second skins. After three years, the population of second skins had been reduced from 15 million to less than two hundred thousand. Fewer than 3,000 purebred humans remained on the planet.

The Malakaran government finally intervened to protect the second skins and humans, but that intervention was a cover for the government’s secret agenda: to remove all second skins and remaining humans from the planet. In the year 2582, the secret agenda was formalized by decree. This is the story of the Maluans’ and humans’ struggle to survive.


Five Hours After Departure From Malakar

Dyzm’nd’s eyes were focused on the large view screen at the front of the bridge, which revealed three ships following the small fleet that was carrying Maluans and humans away from Malakar. A message came through his earpiece, and he relayed it to Commander Bequieus. “Adriana is calling from the Ark, sir. Diamond Three has developed a hairline crack and has decreased by several hundred hertz. The Ark has slowed by three hundred knots.”

Commander Bequieus hurried up the steps to the bridge and looked at the screen, saw that the Ark was indeed falling behind. “Put me on all-com,” he said to Dyzm’nd.

“You’re on, sir.”             

“Adriana, I’ve notified Ship Six,” Bequieus said. “They’ve agreed to fall behind the Ark until we know more about those approaching vessels.”

“Understood, Commander,” Adriana said. “But there’s something else—the drop in frequency has not only slowed us, it has also created an imbalance in the resonance of the remaining diamonds. Our wormhole generator is temporarily offline.”

“Are you saying it’s creating a rift in the wormhole?”

“No,” Adriana replied. “We can’t even attempt to engage the wormhole now. The system is overheating, as I feared would happen. The Malakaran engineers used decades-old parts to restore this relic, and this is the result. If a diamond blows, the Ark will implode.”

“Isn’t Kaci on that ship?” the commander asked.

“He is.”

“Pull him out of his cell and put him on it, stat. He’s the only one qualified to redirect the refracted light and readjust those frequencies.”

“With all due respect, Commander, that’s not a good idea. He won’t hesitate to blow up this ship if he thinks it will take out a few Malakarans—assuming the triad is from Malakar.”

“Pull him out now, Adriana. That’s an order!”

“Aye, sir, but he won’t listen to me,” Adriana replied.

“Send Lorien to facilitate the release. Kaci will listen to him.”

The commander looked over his shoulder at his communications coordinator. “Dyzm’nd, how much time before the fleet arrives at the eye of the wormhole?”

“Seven minutes, Commander.”

Commander Bequieus stared at the screen, monitoring the distances between his fleet, the wormhole, and the three ships in pursuit. He zoomed in and isolated the three ships.

“Dyzm’nd, do you confirm what I’m seeing? Three Malakaran warships?”

“Aye, sir.”

The commander swore softly. The fate of the remaining Maluans and humans would be decided within the next seven minutes. He hoped that they wouldn’t have to engage the fall-back plan that Senator Lorien Saraya and his sister, Adriana, had concocted.

“Get the other ships on all-com,” the commander said. “Sync all ships’ frequencies on the eight Q-link diamonds to 2800 hertz, except for the Ark. They need time to fix their ship.”

Dyzm’nd frowned but did as he was ordered, then turned to the commander. “Sir, what if the Ark runs out of time?”

The commander rubbed his eyes. “Have Ships Four and Five fall behind the Ark with Six. We’ll surround her and try to pull her through with us.”

“Aye, Commander,” Dyzm’nd said. It was a suicide mission, but he wasn’t about to question the man who had become like a father to him.

Bequieus explained his plan to the ships’ captains over the all-com. “We have only a few seconds to pull this off. Once we’re all tuned to 2800 hertz, we’re going to perform a little maneuver my father taught me years ago—something from the old days that will send those bastages a shock wave they won’t soon forget.”

“Q-links are almost synced,” Dyzm’nd said. “Thirty seconds.”

The commander nodded. “Prepare to release a sonic burst every fifteen seconds until we reach the wormhole.”

“I beg you not to take this risk, Commander,” Adriana said over the all-com.

“I don’t expect you to be part of this chess move, Adriana,” Bequieus replied. “Just mend the diamond. Focus on the survival of the Ark, regardless of what happens next. As for the rest of us, firing a hexagonal blast simultaneously will slow them down and buy us enough time to make the leap. If we’re lucky, we’ll blow some of their secondary navigational diamonds and send their ships spinning off axis.”

None of the other ship captains spoke up, but Commander Bequieus expected that they had doubts about the wisdom of his plan. He had doubts as well. The chance of outrunning a triad of Malakaran warships in a fleet of KX-80s with outdated wormhole technology was slim. But at the moment, it was the only chance they had.

“Commander!” Dyzm’nd shouted. “The Malakaran ships have released several dozen fighters. Data screen shows radiation buildup. They’re firing on us, sir.”

As if to confirm Dyzm’nd’s report, the ship shuddered under a blast from a fighter.

“I’ve got six RX-10s on visual,” said Dyzm’nd, “and they’re gaining ground.”

“They mean to exterminate us!” shouted Captain Wakemon over the all-com as his ship took a volley of hits. The Malakaran fighters were rapidly closing the distance between the triad that had loosed them and the KX-80s that were their target. The blasts from their weapons lit up the dark space like a thousand shooting stars.

Dyzm’nd looked up from his systems screen to address the commander. “We have confirmation that all our ships have adjusted their resonance, sir. All ships are ready to blast.”

Over the all-com, Commander Bequieus gave the order. “All ships on my command. Three, two, one, blast!”

The six aged ships fired simultaneously, sending a sonic ripple through space that rocked the pursuing fighters like a rogue wave scattering a fleet of rowboats. But the pursuers quickly regrouped and zeroed in on their targets.

“It’s been an honor serving with you, sir,” Dyzm’nd said to Commander Bequieus. He knew he had just uttered the last words he’d ever say.


Three Months Earlier

“Good morning, sunshine,” Elena whispered in her husband’s ear.

Lorien opened his eyes and smiled at her. He squinted against the glare of the two suns shining in through the octagonal prism cell that overlooked the portcullis of their bedroom. The shape of the window reminded Lorien of the old power generators aboard the KX-80s, which the Seeders had used some fifty years ago to explore life on local planets.

“Did I ever tell you that the shape of that window reminds me of the old power generators aboard the KX-80s?”

“Only about a million times,” Elena said.

“It’s hard to believe that those old exploratory ships once relied on …”

“… wormhole technology for power generation and quantum leaping,” she said, finishing his sentence.

“Oh, I’ve mentioned that, have I?”

She chuckled and wrapped her arms around him. “You must be getting old. I’ll have rectangular windows installed so you won’t be tempted to repeat yourself.”

Lorien laughed. “Seventy-seven isn’t old. I haven’t even reached my prime. Besides, who’d ever make rectangular windows?”

Elena leaned in and kissed Lorien as she ran her hands down the back of his pajamas and caressed his backside. The gentle flirtation reminded him of why he fell in love with her.

“You haven’t kissed me like that in a long time,” he said.

“Why, Lorien Saraya, quit exaggerating,” Elena said. “I kissed you like that yesterday.”

“Much too long a time,” Lorien said before licking Elena’s cheek.

“Ah, the lick that won my heart,” she said. “Better quit while you’re ahead, or you may end up in trouble.”

“That kind of trouble I can handle,” Lorien said and licked her again. “Can you believe it’s been nearly fifty years since we met in that party vessel?”

“It was fate,” she said.

Lorien replayed the memory in his mind. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and all he wanted to do was taste her. So he walked up to her, smiled, licked her face, and won her heart. Nowadays, such a move would get him thrown in prison for life. “I’m just glad you fell for my charm and this Maluan didn’t end up in jail for harassing a pureblood.”

“You were sentenced to jail,” she said. “You’re stuck with me for life. All because of that first kiss, I mean first lick. Perfect ending to a perfect first date.”

“Perfect ending? I have a slightly different recollection. You’re leaving out the rest of the night. Maybe I should remind you of how it ended.”

“Let’s do it, handsome.”

“Ah, if only I could. I have to get ready for work. It’s going to be a hectic, busy day.”

“Your loss.” Elena slipped out of bed and found her way to the shower room for a quick misting.

Lorien fell back against his pillow, closed his eyes to shut out the light from the twin suns, and thought about the battle he was losing. His people were slowly being exterminated, and he was their only hope. If he couldn’t convince the Veracitor and the other senators, the reign of terror would continue. It reminded him of the Earthen history of the Jews. He’d never understand the racial prejudice that infected the minds of men. His Maluan heritage didn’t allow for it. And his marriage to the Veracitor’s daughter only made it harder to win the government’s support.

“Geaneré, are you okay?” Elena asked as she exited the shower room wearing nothing but a towel. Her hair was beautiful. Her long black threads, still damp from her shower, glistened in the morning light. Droplets of water fell from her smooth, dark-red skin.

“You’re so beautiful,” he said as he watched her dress, studying the curves of her body.

“I’m up here,” she replied with a smile. “You’re not allowed to stare at the goods if you aren’t going to partake. Now, tell me what’s wrong?”

“I’m worried that your father won’t support the Protective Alliance Order. If I don’t have his support, the other three quadrants will toss it aside, claim there’s no funding. As if that’s a reason not to stop genocide.”

“Lorien, have faith. My father will back you because he loves me. He knows how I feel about the killing, and he knows wrong from right. He’ll make this right, I promise. The Malakarans simply need to be reminded of how the Seeders saved this planet. The Protective Alliance Order will be enforced. But let’s not talk about it now. Why don’t I lick your face for a change?”

The bedroom door opened and their daughter Sariana swept in. “Oh, gross,” Sariana said to her parents. “Can you please put your tongue back in your mouth.”

“Don’t bother knocking,” Elena said with a chuckle.

“I made breakfast for you old timers.”

“This I have to see,” Lorien said.

“But you two can eat it by yourselves. I just lost my appetite.”

“That means more for me,” Lorien said, grinning.

The threesome made their way into the kitchen, which was filled with the smell of freshly cooked Finisch, a delicacy that was becoming scarce on Malakar because of increasing silica dust pollution.

“Ah, Finisch,” Lorien said as he sniffed the air.

“Enjoy it while you can,” Elena said. “It won’t be around much longer.”

“My history teacher, Miss Antaginosis, says the Seeders have been warning the government about silica pollution for years, but they keep ignoring them,” Sariana said as they began to eat.

“The government prefers to blame the Maluans who work in the silica plants,” Lorien said.

“This is delicious,” Elena said. “Thank you for such a wonderful breakfast, Sariana.”

“Yes, truly delicious,” Lorien said. “I love you, Geaneré.”

“I love you too, Daddy.” Sariana excused herself and went to the family’s terrace garden to pick some veluenes. “Try these,” she said when she came back into the kitchen. She set a long, fruit-filled vine on the table.

The three plucked several veluenes from the vine and began to eat the juicy delicacies. When Lorien saw the sweet yellow juice dripping down Elena’s cheek, he couldn’t resist licking it off. Sariana pretended to gag.

“I just wanted to see how much sweeter the nectar tasted on your mom,” Lorien said.

“Get a room, you two,” Sariana replied.

Lorien furrowed his brow. “Get a room? Is that more slang from your Seeder friends?”

“It’s an Earthen thing,” Elena explained.

“By the way, I, uh, I’m planning on skimming to OutReach this weekend,” Sariana said without looking directly at either parent.

“OutReach? I don’t think so,” Elena said. “Too many killings in that area lately.”

“I agree with your mother,” Lorien said. “OutReach is getting as bad as Farside.”

“I’ll go second skin. No one will even know.”

Elena pointed at Sariana’s reflection in the shiny surface of the table. “Look at your reflection, Geaneré. Your eyes will give you away every time, and you know that.”

Sariana stared at their reflections and sighed. “I wish I had your eyes, Mother.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with my eyes?” Lorien asked.

“Same thing that’s wrong with mine. They’re boring circles instead of nice vertical slits like Mother’s.”

“You shouldn’t disparage what you were born with,” Elena said. “Your eyes are natural and beautiful.”

“Okay, Mother, if you say so. Now, um, what about OutReach?”

Elena shook her head. “I’m sorry, but it’s too dangerous right now.”

“But I was planning on going with Frobby and Cocoon.”

Lorien rolled his eyes. “The goofy twosome of Malakar.”

“They’re my best friends,” Sariana protested.

“They’re goofy. If goofiness were a competition at the All Malakar Games, they’d win gold and silver, hands down. What kind of nicknames are Frobby and Cocoon, anyway?”

Sariana shrugged. “They’re just nicknames. But you know I’ll be safe with them. Leona, Chitts, and Armando are going, too.”

Elena sighed. “Well, as long as you’re going with all of them, I think you’ll be safe.”

“Yeah, who would mess with a group of top-rated Veratenté fighters?”

They finished breakfast but lingered at the table, chatting and enjoying one another’s company. The decibel monitor sounded, and Sariana ran to answer the door. It was Lorien’s assistant, Gabriel Anthesixes, accompanied by two armed guards.

Lorien stood and approached the visitors. “Gabriel, what’s going on?”

“Senator, I’m sorry to inform you, but you are to be placed under protective custody by order of the Veracitor. Please come with us.”

“That’s crazy. Give me five minutes and I’ll call the Veracitor and clear this matter up.”

“Sorry, sir, I can’t allow that.”

“I’m not going anywhere until I hear from the Veracitor.”

“Senator Lorien Saraya, you are under arrest by the order of Malakaran rule.”

“On what charges?” Lorien demanded.

“Aiding and abetting the Correctors of Abomination.”

“That’s absurd,” Lorien snapped. “You’re accusing me of helping the people who are killing my own brethren. It’s perfectly idiotic.” He crossed his arms and remained where he was standing.

The two guards drew their laser pistols but kept them aimed at the floor.

“Please,” Gabriel said.

“Are you going to shoot me?” Lorien said to the guards. One of them tightened his grip on his weapon.

Sariana began to edge toward a small table where Lorien kept a laser weapon hidden. Elena put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder and stopped her.

“Go with them,” Elena said to Lorien. “I’ll call my father. We’ll clear this up and come to you within the hour.”

Lorien nodded and stepped toward the door, and the guards holstered their weapons. Before leaving with his assistant and the guards, Lorien turned and looked at Elena with sad eyes. “There’s probably no point in calling your father. Something tells me he already knows every detail.”


The guards took Lorien through a crowd of Malakaran protesters and up a set of stone steps that led to the Malakaran Consulate, the official meeting hall for all political concerns. It had been a long time since any Veracitor had lived there. Now, more than ever, the stone building stood as a monument to the history of the planet. Its tall marble pillars reminded Lorien of pictures of Earthen courthouses in the Seeder’s history books. His heart pounded as he climbed the steps leading to the entrance.

When Lorien entered the central hall and saw not only his fellow senators from the other three quadrants but also the Veracitor himself, he realized he was on emergency trial. He took his place, and the proceedings began. After two hours of evidence against him, Lorien was allowed to take the floor to defend himself against the charges of aiding and abetting the Correctors of Abomination.

“Veracitor, fellow senators, lawyers, and city men, I am not guilty of these charges. I stand now and have always stood in fervent opposition to the Correctors of Abomination. I have nothing to gain by the extermination of my own race. Stopping the mass murder of the Maluans is my utmost priority, which is why I have tirelessly promoted passage of the Protective Alliance Order. As you know, and as history confirms, it was my ancestors who saved this planet. If not for the humans, this planet would be dead. Surely some small degree of gratitude from the descendants of the original inhabitants is fitting and proper.

“The enmity toward the Maluan people that has arisen over the past three years has shocking and deplorable similarities to the Jewish Holocaust that took place on Earth centuries ago. If we do not take a stand against irrational ethnic hatred, we will not only destroy an innocent race, we will also unwittingly destroy the Malakaran race. The Seeders operate under human authority. Most of the planet’s geneticists, quantum physicists, and astrophysicists are in the Maluan Guild. The relationship between humans and Malakarans that created a new species also secured our future. More than three hundred of the advancements made in Malakaran technology over the past five centuries were the result of either human or Maluan efforts. Ask yourselves where we would be without innovations like negative ionic transduced resonant technology.

“You know in your hearts that the charges against me are false. You know they are the result of a hidden agenda against me. Don’t fall prey to falsehoods. Don’t embrace irrational prejudice. Don’t allow the real perpetrators of the crimes against the Maluans to escape punishment. Implement the Protective Alliance Order and rescue an innocent people. You’ll also be rescuing our future together on Malakar.”

Lorien took his seat. A great silence filled the hall. Lorien thought he detected a few sympathetic expressions on the faces of some of his fellow senators, and he felt a sliver of hope.

Senator Koram, leader of the second quadrant, rose to speak. “This is an emergency trial, not a meeting to pass the Protective Alliance Order, which, by the way, I strongly oppose. The punishment it mandates is too severe for the crime.”

Lorien got up to respond. “Incarceration is certainly not too severe a punishment for murder, Senator Koram. Only the members of the Correctors of the Abomination—or one of their secret leaders—would oppose the bill.”

The crowd murmured nervously at Lorien’s veiled accusation. Lorien remained standing, his eyes fixed on Senator Koram.

Koram glared at Lorien, but his voice was even as he made his reply. “Senator Saraya, how dare you make wild and unsubstantiated claims about secret leaders. If you know about any such secret leaders, perhaps you’d like to share your information with the rest of us now.”

The murmuring rose in volume, and the Veracitor banged his gavel. The crowd quieted, and everyone looked at the Veracitor. “I do not believe that Lorien Saraya is guilty of these charges. But the final verdict falls to the majority, not to me. Therefore, in lieu of a collective sentencing, I propose an alternative that will satisfy both the Malakarans and the Maluans.”

The Veracitor looked at Lorien. “Senator Saraya, we are at a crossroads. A vote will surely find you guilty. My solution, if you accept it, will save not only you but also the Maluan and human races. The hate crimes against the Maluans have weighed heavily on my heart. They must be stopped. But there is only one way to stop them and prevent the annihilation of the Maluan and human people. The solution is relocation. If you agree, you will act as Veracitor over the Maluan and human populations. If you refuse, we will cast our votes, and you will spend the rest of your days in a Malakaran prison cell while your brethren continue to be slaughtered.”

Lorien was stunned and confused. “Relocation? But where? Where would we go? The swamps of Aluran? The desert plains of Tinsche? You might as well continue to slaughter us. If we move to either of those places, the result will be the same.”

“The committee that I appointed last year to deal with this problem does not expect their brethren to live in swamps or deserts. Our plan meets the needs of all. Its logic should appeal to you.”

Lorien calmed himself and nodded. “Please go on.”

“The Maluans and remaining humans will be relocated to a planet known as X67, which is five light years away in the Starfish nebula,” the Veracitor said. “We considered seeding the planet nearly fifty years ago, until we discovered that it was already seeded. Oxygen, plant life, and a primitive culture exist there. We will provide transportation and enough wildlife and plant life for you to make the trip and begin anew. Transfer will begin in three months, enough time to allow all Maluans to prepare.”

Lorien was in shock. “With all due respect, Veracitor, how can you require some of your own friends, relatives, and fellow workers to leave their homes? Surely, you do not support this plan.”

“Senator, I fully support this plan. I was on the board that made the decision.” The Veracitor looked at the assembled officials. “All who support the initiative, signify by your voices.”

The roar of the people told Lorien he was defeated.

“Please Veracitor, don’t do this,” Lorien whispered. “How can you send your own daughter away?”

The Veracitor just looked at him. “You have five seconds to make your decision.”

Lorien didn’t answer.

“I accept your silence as an answer in the affirmative,” the Veracitor said. He picked up a document and began to read. “Let it be known that in ninety days, all Maluans and humans will leave Malakar for relocation to Planet X67. This decree also states that under no circumstances may a Malakaran leave with the fleet.”

Fear seized Lorien as he realized the ramifications. “You can’t do this,” he shouted as his fear turned to hatred. Lorien bolted from his seat, hell-bent on strangling his father-in-law.

“Restrain him,” the Veracitor ordered as he watched Lorien approach. Two armed guards secured Lorien and returned him to his seat. They stood beside him, hands on their weapons, forcing him to listen to the decree.

The Veracitor continued. “All Maluans and humans will be provided with a fleet of six KX-80s and the last remaining Ark for carrying plant and animal life. Any Maluan who refuses to leave will be sent to Seracide Prison for electrostatic death.”

When the Veracitor was finished, Senator Rhaymes, a purebred senator from the first quadrant, stood up to speak for the Maluans, putting her own safety at risk. “Veracitor, how can you expect a small fleet of ancient KX-80s and one Ark to make such a trip. Those relics are based on wormhole technology. Five light years is a considerable leap. And the Ark has served as a museum for decades.”

“The KX-80s have been retrofitted,” the Veracitor replied. “Our Malakaran scientists attest to the safety of wormhole technology. The false rumor of its inefficiency was a tale spun by Senator Saraya’s sister to promote her research. The Ark also has been retrofitted, with newly installed 233-carat diamonds. The energy quotient has been tested, and the ships will last hundreds of years. They’re being stocked as we speak, with food, animals, plants, and tools such as sifters and hydration cubes. They’ll have all the provisions needed to start a new life on a rich planet.”

“Sifters? That sounds rudimentary rather than rich,” Senator Rhaymes said. “It sounds as if you’re sending our own people to be annihilated by other means.”

The Veracitor glared at her. “Senator Rhaymes, hold that sarcastic tongue of yours unless you care to risk a long prison sentence.”

The senator glared back at him, but she sat down without further discussion.

“The decree is official,” the Veracitor said. “If any Maluans wish to protest, I suggest they keep their thoughts to themselves. It’s time for them to go home and begin preparation for the trip and their new lives. This meeting is adjourned!”


Within two days, the decree had made headlines across worldwide Malakar News. Lorien and Sariana Saraya watched the government-friendly news channel, knowing the cries of their fellow second-skins would never be heard. The news announcer began to speak.

The Veracitor of Malakar states that Malakaran officials will make routine visits every solstice to X67 to help establish a new government and bring order to the new civilization. In other news, Gabriel Anthesixes has been appointed the new Senator of Quadrant Four in standing, replacing the Maluan Lorien Saraya.

“I should’ve known Gabriel would stab me in the back,” Lorien muttered.

“What about these routine visits?” Sariana asked.

“They’re your grandfather’s way of saying he plans to maintain control over the second-skins. The last thing he wants is for us to create a civilization that could conquer Malakar.”

“I don’t understand all of this hatred, Daddy,” Sariana said as she lay her head on Lorien’s shoulder.

“You don’t understand prejudice because it isn’t our way.”

“I feel like a prisoner. Why do those guards have to be outside our door?”

“We are prisoners, Geaneré. We’re under house arrest for our own protection. That prejudice that you don’t understand—and for that I’m thankful—may soon spin out of control, now that the Veracitor has announced his decree. If not for those guards, we’d be attacked for sure.”

“I’m worried about Mother,” Sariana said. “It’s been hours. She should’ve been home by now.”

“I’m sure your mother will be home soon,” Lorien said, but he was as worried as his daughter. Elena hadn’t returned his phone calls.

They heard the door, and rushed to it. Elena walked in, shaking her head slowly.

“I gather the news is less than hopeful,” Lorien said to his wife.

A tear slipped down Elena’s cheek as she went to embrace him.

“I’m sorry,” Lorien said. “But I knew your father wouldn’t listen.”

Elena looked up at him. The expression on her tear-stained face was sad but resolute. “He’s not my father anymore.”