Half a day later

Lt. Braca was not a man who usually yielded to another's command when he was stationed under a superior officer. He had stayed as faithful to Crais as he could during his time under that man. And he would stay faithful to Scorpius, too, no questions asked. There was just a minor detail he had forgotten in his zeal to be considered unexpendable. Braca could not and would not subvert the command of a higher officer than Scorpius.

When he came rushing into the Aurora chair room, Scorpius raised a hand, stopping the extraction. "You look upset, Lt. Braca," he stated, regarding his second in command somewhat suspiciously. "Is something the matter?"

"Sir, Admiral Turran has arrived," Braca said in a low tone of voice.

Scorpius frowned a little, wondering briefly why that would be a surprise. "Well, that is hardly any reason to get upset, is it?" he asked, a little annoyed.

The extraction wasn't going as well as he had hoped. Crichton was still fighting the chair although he seemed to have hardly enough strength left to remain conscious. It was beyond Scorpius how he could do that, considering his previous inability to block the chair's impulses. He also knew that he couldn't continue the extraction-process for much longer if he wanted Crichton to help him decipher the information. The human would be of no help to him if his brain was fried.

With a sigh, he returned his attention to Braca and the news he had brought. "We did summon her," he reminded the lieutenant. "I will meet her in my stateroom," he added and glanced toward his assistant. "Let him rest awhile," he told her with a nod toward Crichton.

"Sir," Braca insisted. "There is no time. The admiral is coming here."

Although Scorpius at most times never felt the need to get upset or unsettled by the presence of a senior officer, he did sense that something was wrong when this particular Admiral would not wait to meet him. Usually, he had to come to the Admiral, not the other way around.

Before he could come up with an appropriate answer, the sounds of many footsteps nearing the doorway made him turn around to face the Admiral and her entourage. "Ah, Admiral Turran. What a pleasure to see you," he said, stepping forward and holding out both hands to her.

Turran was a tall woman with a shock of grey hair and eyes so light grey they were almost white. Her built and posture disclosed her importance as much as her black and purple uniform did. She came to a stop at the sight of Scorpius, her hands clasped behind her back, and she made no immediate attempt to return his platitudes. "Spare me your pleasantries. Where is she?" she asked, her voice deep and commanding.

"Admiral, your daughter is in good hands. I shall show you to her," Scorpius said and motioned for her to leave the room again.

"No," she replied, her tone totally unwavering. "You will bring her to me. I will assure myself that she is unharmed before I leave here."

"Certainly," Scorpius replied and motioned for Lt. Braca to go and get the girl, which he did immediately. "I apologize for the surroundings," he continued. "I would have preferred to meet you in my stateroom."

"I know you would. That is why I chose to come here," Turran replied and glanced around. Her eyes settled on the less-than-healthy looking individual strapped into the chair and her brow knitted in a frown. Then she returned her attention to Scorpius. She had no desire to know anything about the man being tortured. It was not her first concern and would most probably never be of any interest to her.

Lt. Braca returned with Kia in tow, having to hold onto her arm to prevent her from bolting. He looked flustered and worried, but did his best to hide his preoccupation when he released the girl into her mother's care.

Turran eyed her child for a moment. "Are you all right?" she asked, noting that Kia had tear streaks on her cheeks.

"All right?" the girl snapped and sent Scorpius an angry glare. Pulling her left sleeve up, she exposed an angry bruise on her left arm. "Look what that monster did to me, mother."

Scorpius frowned and glanced at Braca, who looked horrified and shook his head. He hadn't done it. "Admiral, I do no presume to tell you anything about your ... offspring, but I can assure you that none of my men nor I have given her that bruise," he hurriedly explained.

Turran's attention went from her daughter's bruised arm to Scorpius in a liquid flow. "Are you presuming to tell me that my daughter is lying to me?" she asked, an obvious threat of retribution in her voice.

"No, of course not, Admiral," Scorpius hastened to say, the first signs of nervousness creeping into his voice. Upsetting Admiral Turran in any way was not a good idea. Not for anyone. "All I am saying is that I can vouch for that no one on this base has injured your daughter."

"So, you are saying that she is lying," the Admiral snapped, angered by his continued insistence. "I have told you time and time again, Scorpius, that if you ever harm her ..." She saw no need to finish the sentence. The threat had been stated previously and Turran was not a woman who tolerated any overstepping of her orders. "This is the very last time that this has happened. Do I make myself clear?" she asked, her voice cold and dangerous.

"Yes, of course. I shall investigate and have the responsible party punished," Scorpius said, hoping that it would end this discussion.

But Kia was not intent on letting him get away with it, even though she also knew that he hadn't done it. "I want retribution," she snarled.

Admiral Turran took a deep breath and held it for a moment. As stubborn as she herself was when it came to her command, that was as stubborn as her daughter was when there was something she wanted. And Turran could sense that her offspring wanted something out of this. "Retribution?" she asked. "What are you talking about, child?"

Scorpius was quite unhappy about this whole thing. He knew for certain that Kia had injured herself to blame him. He also figured that she could talk her mother into anything right now and all he could do was take it without a word. He just wasn't prepared for her request.

"I want compensation," Kia clarified.

Admiral Turran gave her a frown. "Compensation?" she asked. "For what?"

"He hurt me," Kia pouted, behaving like a child at that moment. "I want compensation."

Admiral Turran was not in the mood for these games, but she would go far to satisfy her daughter's demands. If they were within reason, of course. "What do you have in mind?"

Kia's expression became extremely feral when she stared at Scorpius. Then she pointed toward the chair. "I want him," she said, pointing directly at John.

Turran glanced at the man in the chair again and briefly tried to work out what her daughter might want with him, then sighed. Although she knew that Scorpius was in the middle of questioning this man and probably hadn't found what he was looking for yet, she was also angry at him for hurting her daughter and disobeying her orders on that account, so she figured it would be a double insult which might make the half-breed think twice before doing something like this again. She would not go along with Kia's games immediately, though. "What for the love of Cholok do you want with him?" she asked, not seeing the point of this demand.

"Does it matter?" Kia replied stubbornly. "I want to be compensated for the pain and anguish he has put me through," she added with a snarl and an angry look at Scorpius.

"Admiral," Scorpius tried, but Turran raised a hand, stopping him in his tracks.

"The pain and anguish?" Turran asked her daughter, her expression tensing. "You have a bruised arm, child. That is hardly enough to request compensation," she added, hoping to dissuade her from this foolish endeavor.

Scorpius was aggravated already by the failure to extract anything worth while from Crichton. And now he had an ungrateful offspring of an Admiral no less whining about that she wanted to steal away the key to his research because she had something against him. "Admiral, I demand to be heard," he said, his voice cracking as it did on those very rare occasions when he lost his temper. The microt he said it, he knew was digging his own grave. But it was hard to undo something like that.

Turran came to a full stop, her back straightening, and then she turned around, her eyes cold as ice. "You what?" she asked, her tone incredulous.

"Forgive me," he hastened to say. "This man is very important to my research, Admiral. I cannot continue without him. If you allow your daughter to ..." He trailed off, realizing he was going about this the wrong way. "I beg your pardon. I was out of line," he finished instead.

Turran stared at him, her eyes unyielding. "Yes," she said, her voice quiet and deadly. "You were very much out of line. I will not tolerate insubordination like that. Not from you and not from anyone. Do I make myself clear?" she added in a snarl.

"Yes, Admiral," he said, not looking her in the eye.

"You will have your wish, child," she added and waved her assistants forward. "Get him out of that chair and take him to the pod," she ordered.

Scorpius was at a complete loss for a moment, then regained his power of speech, hoping to somehow remedy the situation. "Admiral," he started, but she stopped him by holding up a hand.

"I will not hear another word out of you about this," she said, her tone of voice deadly dangerous. "You have ignored a direct order given to you previously in regards to my daughter. I do not care in any manner or fashion why this man is important to you. His worth to you does not concern me. I have no idea why my daughter wants him, but after what you have put her through and after this intolerable disregard for my superiority, she will get what she wants."

Turran's assistants hauled the twitching man out of the chair, supporting him as best they could while Scorpius was helpless to do anything other than look on. "But, Admiral ..." he tried again.

Cold, grey eyes regarded him sternly. "Do you presume to undermine my authority again?" she asked.

"No, of course not," Scorpius was quick to assure her. She was the reason for his power, the one who had given him the ability to pursue his passion, and he knew that she could just as easily take it all away again.

"Good. We shall leave now. The next time my daughter comes across your Command Carrier, I expect you to send her home in a prowler. On her own and unharmed. Is that understood?" she asked.

"Yes, Admiral," Scorpius replied and bowed his head. He had lost this time, but a small security measure ensured him that he still had a chance to get what he wanted from Crichton.

Turran turned and strode out of the room, followed by her daughter, her two assistants dragging Crichton along and the four bodyguards.

"This is not over, John," Scorpius muttered, angered by this interference, but helpless to do anything about it right now.

***

Kia was smirking to herself as she walked briskly along behind her mother. Despite everything, she did like her mother. She just also loved to use her mother's power to overrule those who thought they were better than her. And Scorpius had been bugging her from the very first moment she had met him. She didn't like him at all and would love nothing better than to find a reason to have him decommissioned. In her existence, it was use or be used. And she so loved to use others.

Once onboard the pod, she turned her attention to Crichton, who was quite obviously not aware of what was going on around him. She figured he would need some medical attention once they were on her mother's Command Carrier, a minor detail since her dear mother was currently in that frame of mind where Kia knew she could get away with murder if she wanted to.

The assistants had positioned him on one of the chairs and strapped him in, leaving him to his own devices, and Kia settled down next to him and eyed him for a moment. He looked really bad. Uncontrollable jerks rattled his entire body at regular intervals, much stronger than they had been that morning and he'd had another strong nosebleed. From what she could tell, his ears had probably popped if the streaks of dried blood on the sides of his face were anything to go by. She made a face in frustration. "Mother," she called, turning her attention to the Admiral.

Turran looked over at her. "What?"

"He needs medical attention," Kia said, waving at the probably unconscious man.

"I can see that, child," Turran said and rose from her seat to take a closer look. Squatting down in front of John, she eyed him. "What for the love of Cholok do you want with him? He's obviously damaged."

"Scorpius wants him for something," Kia said. "It just tickles my paraphoral nerve to know that I've got something he wants. And he can't have it."

"Stop being so childish, Kia," Turran sighed and got up. "Get him to the med-unit the microt we get on board. He is your responsibility. I will not have him run rampant on the ship, do you understand me?"

"Yes, mother," Kia replied in a somewhat dejected tone of voice. "He's not a pet, you know," she added.

Turran rolled her eyes and returned to her seat. "Whatever you say, child. Just do what you find necessary and be done with it."

***

John slowly became aware that there was no more pain. Well, apart from the constant vibrating inside his head, which was driving him to distraction. He could barely hear anything and his ears hurt ferociously. As did the rest of him, as it were. A twitch going through his entire body which he couldn't control made him feel like he was being pushed all the time and his breath came in hiccupping little jerks. The worst was his head, though. Although his thoughts were fairly clear, he found it extremely difficult to focus on anything and at that point he doubted he'd ever be able to again.

Then someone touched his face. He tried to turn his head, but the twitch made it hard for him to focus his movements in any particular direction. Blinking his eyes rapidly a few times brought no improvement in his vision, either. Everything was a hazy, reddish blur.

"Don't try to move."

The voice was far away and muffled, but he thought he recognized it as Kia's. Had they decided to leave him in peace for a bit? He hoped so, because this idea that the chair would kill him eventually was really beginning to wear thin on him. It took a lot longer than he had planned on.

"Can you hear me?"

Again that voice. Now he was sure it was Kia's. From what he could tell, he was sitting up and he thought he could sense something pressing against his shoulders, which didn't make a whole lot of sense since it felt like the harness of a flight seat. Groaning, he tried to speak and found he couldn't. Not presently, anyway. All he wanted was to lie down and sleep. Just get away from it all.

His surroundings rattled him. Or was it the twitch again? He couldn't determine exactly what it was, so he didn't really try. All he knew was that it was bumpy and it hurt his head.

***

Kia knew John wasn't unconscious and she could sense his struggle against his most obvious injuries. But she didn't think it was such a good idea if he tried to speak or move on his own right now. Mainly because she was concerned that her mother might notice that he was coming around and would deem it unnecessary to send him to the med-unit. Kia wouldn't put it past her to respond that way. The life of others meant very little to her mother. The life of an alien, no matter how much like a Sebacean he was, meant nothing to her.

When the pod settled in the landing bay of the Command Carrier, Kia arranged for the med techs to come down and pick him up instead of having her mother's assistants take him up to them. She somehow sensed that he needed to lie down.

"He's been badly injured, as you can see," she told the med techs and followed them to the med-unit, intent on keeping an eye on the whole thing. And the med techs knew better than to shoo her away. She wouldn't leave and they'd have to deal with her mother if she got upset. Nobody wanted that. Admiral Turran was not known for her forgiving nature.

The med techs did a quick sweep of their patient, determining immediately that he wasn't Sebacean, but that his physiology was similar enough for them to treat him, so they went to work, no questions asked, which was standard procedure among Peacekeepers. Besides, since it had been Admiral Turran's daughter who had brought this one in, they didn't even consider the option of asking questions. Nobody would attempt to second-guess the Admiral.

A few arns later, Kia sat on a chair beside John's bed and stared at him, wondering if he would wake up any time soon. The med techs had told her that he would take some time to recover, that he would probably have trouble hearing properly for a bit, but for now, he was going to be okay. Physically, at least.

***

When he finally started to move, Kia smiled a little. "Hey, John. Can you hear me?" she asked.

He flexed his jaw, trying to make his ears pop, but found that it hurt. Blinking up at the ceiling above him, he tried to clear his vision and found that everything was still fuzzy. "Yeah," he replied weakly. "Where are we? The cell?" He could hear her, although her voice was muffled. It sounded like it came through a layer of cotton. His head did feel a little better and he wasn't in any obvious pain at the moment, but that might be an illusion.

"No, not any more," Kia replied with a vague smile. "My mother. She came to pick me up. So we took you along for the ride."

He almost smiled at that. "Thanks for the pep-talk, Kia," he said, trying to show her he appreciated her efforts to make him feel better. "But there's no way in hell that Scorpy will let anyone apprehend me right now."

Kia kept smiling and shook her head a little. "No, you could be right about that," she agreed. "Unless we're talking about a superior officer."

He turned his head a little too sharply at that and flinched when it sent a jab of pain through his head. "A superior officer?" he asked, trying to make her out in the fuzziness.

"Yeah," Kia said. "My mother is an Admiral. She is ... basically ... the head of Peacekeeper Command."

John blinked again, finding that his eyes didn't hurt like they had before. At the same time he had this weird feeling that he was stuck in a dream. That feeling had arisen at her words. "Are you telling me," he said, his tone full of disbelief, "that I have been given amnesty by the head of Peacekeeper Command?" He couldn't help chuckling helplessly at that notion. There was a lot of irony in this. "Hell, Kia. How did you pull that one off?"

Kia chuckled delightedly. "Well, I am considered to have a destructive nature. I hurt myself and blamed it on Scorpius. My mother ... got very angry with him. And I demanded compensation. You. He tried to prevent it, tried so very hard, but that only makes my mother angry. She cannot stand it if anyone tries to undermine her commands. And he was doing that by doubting her decisions." Leaning back on her chair, she eyed him for a long moment. "How are your eyes?" she asked.

"Fuzzy," he replied. "I'm very tired."

"No wonder after what you've been through," Kia said and eased closer again. "Rest now. Once you can see properly again, I think I'll try to get you out of here. My mother is known to change her mind and you really don't want to be onboard when she does."

John nodded weakly, not too keen on moving his head more than necessary. "Might be a good idea. Besides, I have somewhere I need to be," he replied, hoping he'd know in what direction to go once he got off this boat.

***

Several arns later

John wasn't really sure how to respond to this turn of events. He was utterly confused by the obvious influence Kia had over her mother and at the same time he was rather disturbed by the fact that not only was he on a Command Carrier, he was at least presently under the protection of the head of Peacekeeper Command. The idea was ironic at best, but since his initial discovery of this, he no longer found it funny. On the contrary. He was scared out of his mind that Admiral Turran would change her mind and either send him back to Scorpius or have him executed. Either way, he was sure he wouldn't live much longer if he didn't get off the Command Carrier as soon as possible.

His eyes had adjusted and he could see properly again, but that was where the fun stopped. His hearing was still muffled and every move he made either sent a jab of pain through his head so strong, he wished he could die, or deprived him of whatever resources he had managed to build up in the time he had been confined to the bed. It was quite obvious to him that something was wrong apart from the obvious side effects he had experienced from his renewed encounter with the chair.

With an effort that was almost beyond him, he pushed himself up on his elbows and closed his eyes briefly when the world wobbled around him like a crazy seesaw. His stomach revolted immediately, but he didn't throw up. Swallowing hard, he struggled to sit up, forcing himself to move despite the fatigue and dizziness. He felt horrible to say the least.

At the moment, he was alone in the recovery room. Kia had gone off to do something somewhere. He hadn't bothered asking about it, mainly because he didn't want to know. Breathing hard, he shifted backward so he could lean back against the head of the bed, and kept his eyes closed until the next wave of dizziness had passed.

"I am wondering," a voice said.

John opened his eyes and squinted at the woman standing in the doorway. She was tall with a shock of grey hair, her eyes the lightest grey he had ever seen. The uniform she wore distinguished her, set her apart from those around her by nothing more than the colors, but he didn't know what the purple meant.

"Why is Kia so interested in you?" she asked and stepped inside, her hands clasped behind her back.

John hesitated, immediately figuring out who she was, not sure he should or even could respond to that question. Straining himself, he shifted his position again. "I'm not sure," he confessed.

"Neither am I," Admiral Turran said and stopped at the foot of the bed. "And whenever my daughter does something I'm not sure about, I attempt to find out about it to spare myself any repercussions later on. I assume you can understand that?"

John nodded weakly. "Yeah, I understand that."

"You are not Sebacean," she stated. "What are you?"

"Human." He figured there was no sense in withholding any information from her at this point. He had the distinct impression that she would do what she could to find out if he refused to answer, and he wasn't too happy about those implications.

"Human?" she asked with a frown. "I do not believe I have ever heard of a race called that before. But, no matter. What are your intentions?"

John felt cornered all of a sudden. If he in any way ticked this woman off, he would be in deep shit. Not that he wasn't already, of course. "My ... intentions?" he asked. With the lingering side effects from the Aurora chair still impairing him, he wasn't as sharp as he could be and it worried him beyond reason that he couldn't come up with a better reply.

"With my daughter," she said, a slight tinge of annoyance to her words.

"He has no intentions with me," Kia replied for him as she stepped in behind her mother and gave the woman a strange look. "Why do you care what he wants with me?"

The Admiral gave her daughter a look back, then arched an eyebrow at her. "I am merely interested," she said, then glanced back at John. "Considering the effort you have put into saving this ... alien, child, I assume he must mean something to you. I would like to know why," she added.

Kia said nothing and merely stared at her mother with something that John could only define as a withering glare. The older woman didn't seem to respond to it in any obvious manner, though.

Admiral Turran sighed, glanced from John to Kia and back again, then shrugged as if utterly indifferent to their combined silence and left the room again.

Kia watched her go, her expression nearly frozen with suspicion. Only when the doors closed behind Turran did she return her attention to John. "What did she ask you about?"

"She knows I'm not Sebacean," he said. "And that was about it."

Kia didn't look too happy about that. Instead of voicing her concern, though, she dropped what she had brought with her on the bed. "I brought you something to wear," she said and briefly glanced back at the door again. "And maybe you should get dressed right now. The sooner I get you out of here, the better. If she's starting to show an interest in you, she might decide you should be studied further. And, believe me, you don't want that."

That feeling of being cornered blossomed again. He glanced at the door too, knowing for certain that he wouldn't be able to get far in his present condition. "No, I don't want that," he assured her and leaned forward to grab the clothes she had brought, only to be nearly overwhelmed by a wave of nauseating dizziness.

Kia grabbed him before he could fall off the bed, and held onto him, steadying him for the duration of the spell. "What the frell did Scorpius do to you?" she asked when he leaned back again and closed his eyes.

Licking his lips, he tried to regain his composure, finding it impossible to see how he would ever make it off the Command Carrier, let alone out of this room. He knew he had to try, but it was going to be tough and maybe close to impossible.

Pulling himself together, he reached for the t-shirt she handed him with shaky hands and managed to pull it over his head without moving too much. "I don't know. This is worse than last time," he groaned. And it was. Much worse. He couldn't seem to move very much without getting one of those dizzy spells and this last one had nearly floored him. "Kia, I can't even lean forward without nearly passing out. How the hell am I gonna get off this boat?" he asked, hoping she had an answer for him.

Kia eyed him for a moment, then handed him the pants and eyed him thoughtfully when he leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes once more. "There is one option, but it's only temporary," she said. "I can give you a booster shot. I don't know how it will affect you, though. It's meant for Sebaceans."

"Doesn't matter, Kia. Our physiology is so similar, I'm sure it'll work," he argued weakly. "How do you intend to get me out of here anyway?"

That caused her to smile a little. "Well, you're going to get a prowler as a going-away present," she told him. "I'm just more concerned about how you will react once the booster stops working again. Do you know how to fly a prowler?"

"Yeah, I do," he said, pulled himself together and got the rest of the clothes on she had given him. It was slow going, but he eventually got there. Kia helped him where the part of leaning forward got in the way of his ability to handle it himself.

"Do you know how to use the auto-pilot?" she asked. "And the transmitter?"

"Yeah, Kia, I know how the prowler works. I've flown one before," he said and smiled vaguely. "I just don't know if I have the strength to reach one right now."

"Well, after the booster shot you will have the strength. For a limited time. But you may experience a setback when it wears off again. It is, however, the only way I can get you out of here without actually carrying you," she replied. "And I do not think that we can pull this off quietly if I drag you, half unconscious, onto the hangar deck." Kia rose after having helped him get into the boots, pulled an injector from one pocket and pressed it against the side of his neck.

The injection yielded an immediate result. Suddenly, his strength returned and he didn't feel as unsteady as he had ever since waking up. "Wow," he gasped. "That really is a booster shot, isn't it?"

Kia smiled. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better. Well, somewhat better. I'm not as dizzy any more. But I still feel as if I've been running a marathon ... for about ten days or so," he replied and got up. It felt good to be standing of his own accord, even though he did seem to suffer from extreme muscular fatigue.

"A marathon?" she asked and frowned. "Well, no matter. Let's go. The sooner you get out of here, the better for you," she added and took his arm, pulling him along.

***

The hangar of the Command Carrier that Kia took him to was an impressive place. There were prowlers everywhere on four different levels, some of them being repaired, while others just sat there.

A lot of Peacekeepers were moving in and out of the area, none of them even giving him a second glance. He figured it had a lot to do with the uniform he was wearing as well as with the fact that Kia was holding his hand and chattering away about nothing in particular.

Kia dragged him off in one direction toward the rear of the hangar where John spotted several prowlers that looked slightly different from the ones he had gotten used to seeing. There were six of them and they were all pitch black and unreflecting.

They were nearly halfway there when his right leg gave in beneath him and it was only because Kia was walking right next to him that she managed to prevent him from falling on his face. She hauled him up again, displaying an abnormal strength since it didn't seem to strain her the least bit, and thus supported, he managed to cover the rest of the distance to the sleek, black crafts without further incident.

"The booster is wearing off," he mumbled to her, once again experiencing a dizzy spell that would have knocked him off his feet if she hadn't been holding onto him.

"Much faster than I had hoped," she whispered back and stopped next to the ladder of one of the crafts. "Can you climb that?" she wanted to know.

He tilted his head back and instantly regretted having done that. Kia's right hand pressed against his back while she held onto his arm with her left, keeping him on his feet until that spell had passed. "Frell," he grumbled and grabbed a hold of the ladder. 'Keep your head still', he reminded himself silently, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I think so," he then finally replied to her question and started the ascent up the ladder. And he found that as long as he didn't move his head, he was going to be okay.

Somehow, he managed to get into the prowler and had to take a moment to regain his composure before he glanced up at Kia. "I don't know how to thank you, Kia," he said, finding that words alone probably wouldn't do it.

Kia smiled. "You don't have to. I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing this against the entire Peacekeeper insanity. I'm doing this because I strongly dislike Scorpius and it tickles my paraphoral nerve that he lost something he really wants," she told him and pressed a kiss onto his brow. "So, do me a favor and don't get caught again, okay?"

That made him smile despite the way he felt. "I'll do my damndest, Kia," he said and grabbed her hand. "I owe you more than my life, kiddo. I owe you my sanity."

"Take good care of it," she replied with a grin. "Oh, and keep the prowler. It's mine. You'll find it's got special additions. Now, get out of here, human, before my mother decides you belong in a cage." Again, she leaned in and kissed his brow, brushed a hand through his hair and climbed back down. "Safe journey," she called as the canopy closed.

***