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Tobias Apollyon

Shadow Walkers: Xana's Story
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This is a preview of my upcoming novel from my Shadow Walker series.  All material copywritten.  Send all responses and feedback to the e-mail provided on this site.

Shadow Walkers: Xana's Story

Prologue

 

I brought the ship to a stop just outside our target’s sensor range.  I gazed for a moment at the endless black surrounding us.  Space travel was a very disconcerting thing for the unwary.  Having no sense of direction is a strange feeling when piloting a starship.

I turned in my captain’s chair and checked all the panels to the side of me.  When I was sure everything was in the green, I turned to my brothers.

The Dark Trinity, that’s what people called us.  We were the only triplet Shadow Walkers in the two galaxies.  We were also the most efficient team there was within this galaxy.

I sent my brother Lucas an inquiring look over my shoulder.  He gave me an extremely exaggerated toothy smile, his hands forming two thumbs up beside his head.  The gesture from the old earth days had a reluctant smile tugging at my lips.  He really was funny, but I didn’t want him to know that.  There’d be no stopping him then.

Each of us shared the same raven black hair with its dark, almost unnoticeable metallic blue streaks and blood red eyes of the Shadow Walker race.  He kept his hair long, tied back with the same thong that our father had once used and passed on to him.  Lucas could be best described as tall and lanky in form, but hidden behind his deceptively wiry body was strength unmatched by most others.  He often used humor to hide behind, but he was a disturbed soul.  Aiden and I found it a constant source of alarm that we could not figure out exactly what was bothering him.

I next turned to my other brother, Aiden.  He was the oldest of us three, me coming some six minutes behind him, and Lucas about the same behind me.  Aiden grimaced at the outrageous gesture, just as I knew he would.  He thought it was funny, it was there in his emotions, but he didn’t want us to know it.  He always retained a strictly blank expression most of the time and he never let emotions cloud his judgment… almost.  He had trouble not expressing emotions where Lucas and I were concerned.  It was a very endearing quality.

Aiden was a bit taller than Lucas, his dark hair cut in a short militant spiky style that made his appearance even more menacing.  Where Lucas had a cute handsomeness to him, Aiden had ruff-and-tumble quality to his face.  He looked much like a stone statue most of the time, his handsome face retaining no expression whatsoever.  Only the hard glint in his eye hinted towards the toll his own gifts had taken on him.  He embraced the secular life of the Shadow Walker, never socializing, keeping his distance from other humanoids.

Aiden sighed and nodded.  Then he disappeared into thin air.  No matter how many times I saw him do it, it always amazed me at how fast he could Plane Jump.  It just seemed that moving to a parallel dimension should take longer than a split-second.

After taking a few moments to prepare myself, I tapped a few buttons on the control panel to my left, setting the ship to autopilot, and then closed my eyes.  I focused on my body, on moving across dimensions to the Shadow Plane.  I pulled the energy into my body that I’d need to build the ‘door’ between the two Planes.  It was easy for my kind, the Shadow Walkers.  We just transferred our corporeal body into our shadow body and poof; our physical body and consciousness moved to the Shadow Plane. 

I opened my eyes and waited patiently until they focused.  The Shadow Plane is a plane of existence that underlines the Corporeal, or physical, Plane.  It is the shadow equivalent of everything in the Corporeal Plane.  If someone moves, their shadow equivalent mimics that movement exactly.  The same rules apply to the shadow of a building, or even a planet.  Shadows have no consciousness, no purpose, except to bind their owner’s soul to their corporeal body.  If the owner somehow loses their shadow, their soul escapes from their body, therefore killing the host body.  The shadow a soul-less object has no purpose but to mimic life on the Corporeal Plane.

After a few moments, the usual dizziness that came with Plane Jumping passed.  No matter how many times I Plane Jumped, I was always surprised at how at home I felt on this plane.  On this plane, everything is seen in black and white and intermitted shades of grey, but only to those who weren’t Shadow Walkers.  The Shadow Walker that jumps assumes the form appropriate for the Shadow Plane, which means that they take on the insubstantial form of their own shadows.  It is a strange feeling because we have to shift not only our consciousness, but our physical body into this secondary form.

The way I saw it, the Shadow Plane is an echo of the Corporeal Plane.  A beautiful duplicate.

I looked to my right and saw my brother Aiden as he floated above where his chair had been.  All around us, space and the shadow equivalent of my ship surrounded us.  The rules of gravity are still the same on this plane, but being in space, there is nothing to pull us, so we just floated there.  Had we been on a planet, or on a ship with artificial gravity, we would have suffered the effects of it.

I turned to where Lucas’s chair had been to see a pair of hands floating there.  I was not worried, this was normal.  In the next instant, my ship, the Raven, surrounded us.  With the renewed gravity, I fell a foot into my chair.

Without flinching, I turned back to Lucas to see that his body was now attached to the hands that looked to be protruding from the armrests.  Lucas was the only person I knew that could ‘push’ an object or person onto the Shadow Plane; though I was known to do it to certain degrees when I was angry, I would never be able to control it to his magnitude.  Unlike me, though, he had to maintain physical contact with the object or person, otherwise they’d fall back to the Corporeal Plane, hence the reason his hands were gripping his chair’s armrests.  It took an incredible amount of energy to push and hold the ship on this plane, which was one of the reasons I worried about my younger sibling.  His job was the most taxing by a long shot.  Constant use of his ability would more than likely result in his death.

When he nodded, I turned back to my controls.  I checked the sensors once again and then adjusted our course.  Traveling through the shadow of space was exactly like normal space.  But, being a Shadow Walker, a race as old as time itself, I could manipulate that shadow to a certain extent.  I took a deep breath and focused on the few light-years that lay between our ship and the target’s.  I called on a burst of energy I had stored in my body before we left out on this mission and with it I shrank the distance between the two points until it was only a few hundred yards.  It was one of the harder things to accomplish to any degree, but I was a professional.  It also helped that I was over six hundred years old.  Plus, once you understood the physics of time-space compression, it was really pretty simple.  With a quick engine burn—while I held the fabric of space scrunched together—we were underneath the shadow of the enemy’s ship in an instant.

I looked out the cockpit window.  This was one of the more dangerous missions I’d been on, simply because if Lucas at any time lost contact with the ship and it fell out of what I called our ‘shadow cloak,’ our ride home would be disintegrated, along with my beloved brother.  The Traders’ ship we were about to infiltrate had a captain that liked to shoot first and salvage what’s left, no questions asked.  I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of his philosophy.

That was the reason Lucas was staying behind on the ship.  I knew he didn’t like it, but there was no other way around it.  He had to keep the ‘cloak’ up.

I took the controls and turned the Raven upside down, parallel to the UFSS Tyrannous, the Trader’s ship.  The Tyrannous was disguised as a large, B-class freighter carrying valuable medical supplies to the planet Typhoon.  Well, that part was true at least.  They were taking medical supplies to the planet, fronting as a legitimate business, but they were also harboring kidnapped women that they would be selling into slavery.  The cocky bastard wasn’t even scared of the galactic police.  He had too many contacts and gave too much information to the police.  He was an asset, according to the Galactic Federation government.  To me he was nothing but a liability.  He’d even named the ship after himself.

I had to calm myself and put a blanket over my overactive memory.  Now was not the time for a trip down memory lane.  I needed to remain focused.

Our mission was to recover a specific woman by the name of Celeste Dilahni.  She’d been taken from her mother’s own home back on her home world.  She’d been named after her home planet of Celestia and from a picture I’d been given, she was a beautiful young woman.  According to the profile I’d read about her, she was only twenty-four and she’d been a working researcher on the Celestia Galactic Archives.  That in itself was enough to warrant a rescue, but not for any blasť reasons like keeping her quiet.  I had personal reasons I wanted to meet this woman.

I couldn’t help but remember the meeting I’d had with Celeste’s father.  I still got pissed when I thought about it.

 

My brother and I had been called into our uncle’s office.  Our uncle, Jason Starter, was our correspondent with the GBO, or Galactic Black Operations.  We got our mission assignments through him and only him.  We answered only to him and carried out our missions our own ways, though we do follow orders when they are given by our uncle.

Jason had called us into his office through the usual route, the Shadow Plane.  When we’d arrived I had been doubtful.  Usually when we meet with our uncle for a mission briefing, we did so alone with only him in the room and no cameras of any kind.  It was to be that way so that they could keep our anonymity.  But this time there was a man in the room with our uncle.  We had been prepared to wait until our uncle dismissed this man, but instead he had signaled us to come out.

Not fully comprehending our uncle’s motives, but trusting him nonetheless, we came back to the Corporeal Plane, right in the middle of his office.  He’d introduced Celeste’s father, Galactic Federation General Antonio Caraway, who’d been his friend for going on five years.  Antonio had then informed us that his daughter had been kidnapped.

I turned bodily to the man who rose from my uncle’s visitor’s chair.  He was taller than me by about six inches, standing at about six foot three.  His face had a steely handsomeness to it that told of many years in the military.  The hard glint in his eyes said that he was used to getting his way, and ruthlessly used his command to get it.  His Galactic white uniform was stretched tight over his barrel chest, the muscles underneath deceptively relaxed.

He didn’t offer his hand or any other form of greeting.  When he spoke his voice was deep and full of authority.  “I’ve been working with a new unit that has been practicing ancient energy arts we discovered at Jerusalem, about four years ago.”  Jerusalem was just one of the many names for the Homestar, Earth.  “These particular people have the genetic disposition towards the Psi energies found in all living things.  We have trained them to counter the rising threat the Vampires are beginning to pose.  These people, with the proper training that I have designed, will be more powerful than anything that the Vampire forces can put out.

“The problem is that some radical factions think they can monopolize the discoveries we’ve made by selling them to the Vampires.  They came to me with a proposition.  They said that if I didn’t give them the research information, or money, they’d take sell the techniques I’d designed to the Vampire nations.  Well, I called their bluff because I knew they’d suffer many loses if they sold out our government.  That was when they threatened to kidnap my daughter and sell her into slavery.

“Well, I upped security and had a tracer put inside Celeste’s body so they couldn’t find it, and now we’ve tracked her to a ship called the Tyrannous.  It is a slave trader’s ship that has been named after its owner, the man calling himself Tyrannous, or better known as the Vulture.”

I couldn’t stop the seething rage that boiled to the surface.  I stepped up to the man and poked him in the chest, satisfied when he grasped at it and stepped back.

“You mean to tell me,” I started, my voice growing louder with each syllable, “that you let your daughter be carted off by those animals?”

He was still rubbing his chest when he looked to my uncle for guidance.  Jason took a step forward, stopping dead with a quick glance from me.

“Stay out of this!” I told him through our Shadow Walker bonds.  I was speaking directly into his mind.  “Do not interfere!”

He looked as if he was going to say something, but then he just shrugged and took a step back.  “Don’t hurt him much.  He is a General, after all.”

I stared at the bastard in front of me and felt my temper trying to cool.  I wanted—No, needed to stay mad at him if I were to get my point across.  You don’t hurt the innocent on my watch.

“Who is this young woman you claim as your daughter?” I asked so politely he winced.

Now, her uncle did step forward.  He cleared his throat twice before he spoke.  “Um, that is the reason we can’t let the galactic police help, or even know.”  He took a deep breath with the look of a man who was preparing for the worst.  “She’s a Celestial.  If news got out that a Celestial had been kidnapped, there’d be a rousting of all slave traders throughout the two galaxies and a possible closing of all borders to Celestia.”

My breath hissed out between her teeth as I returned her attention to the General.  I was barely aware of moving until I was standing mere inches from him.  I reached out and gripped his pressed collar and lifted him a foot into the air.  My supernatural strength was attributed to my race, the Shadow Walkers.  And it seemed that the General was shocked to see me use it.

I felt my uncle move, heard him pleading with me, but I didn’t care.  I was too far gone.  I felt the energy building, felt it flowing through her body and into the General’s.  I let it go, encouraged it even.  I let my fury build until I felt it overflow and then we vanished.

Well, to my family it looked as though we had vanished.  I had accidentally—and yes, it was an accident—pushed him onto the Shadow Plane, along with myself.

Still, my attention never wavered from his despicable face.  I dropped him unceremoniously onto the shadowy floor of my uncle’s office.  After a moment of shocked hesitation, he rose to his feet once again.

“W-What happened?  Where are we?  What in the worlds have you done?”  His voice was satisfyingly shaky.  I knew that it had hurt him when I brought him over—it always did when a non-Shadow Walker was pushed to the Shadow Plane—but apparently his military career stood him in good steed.  He hadn’t even flinched.

That helped build my rage.  I would break him before I was through, I promised myself.

I held my hand out in front of myself and snapped my fingers, releasing energy at the same time.  General Caraway clutched his stomach and doubled over, a cry of pain wrenched from his surprised lips.  Now, that was better.

“Now, sir,” I exaggerated the title.  “Let me explain to you why you are here, on the Shadow Plane.  My goal and destiny in this life is to protect the innocent from those who would exploit that innocence.  You know, to me, there is no difference between you and Tyrannous.  Each of you will step all over the weak and innocents of the two galaxies if it would further your own gains.”

“Now, wait a minute--”

I snapped my fingers again quickly, sending him sprawling across the room.  He crashed into the wall with a satisfying thud.

I snapped I fingers once more and he hovered above the ground.  I was on a roll now.  Another snap brought him to within a few feet of me where I let him hang in the air.

“I wonder, do you even know what it is for a Celestial to feel pain?  It is pure hell!  They feel pain a hundred fold of what you and I feel.  But that’s not even the point here.  That you set your daughter up to be taken by these… monsters---” I cut off with an aggressive snap of my fingers again, the force of the energy expulsion hitting him full in the face.  There was an immensely pleasing crack as his nose broke.  Blood spurted from the offended orifice as I let him drop to the ground again.

This time he stayed down, trying to stop the continually flowing blood.  I had no pity what so ever for him.  That would be the least of his worries if I could help it.

I began pacing, my anger making me restless.  I made sure to avoid walking through the sitting figures of my brothers and uncle.  They were sitting around calmly, unaware that I was beating the General senseless.

“Have you any idea what you’ve done?  What those people will probably do to her?  Do you even care?”  Again, I snapped my fingers.  His head jerked and he began swearing as his lip split and joined his nose in blood loss.

I finally walked up to him and lifted him back into the air by his collar.  I stared at him with cold fury reflected in my eyes.  “Did you know that, through Shadow Walker mandate, I could take your life?”  The fear that leapt to his eyes pleased me to no end.  “All I’d have to do is…” I let my voice trail off as I gripped his throat and squeezed.  His eyes bulged as his arms came up to grab and pull uselessly at my arm.

I let the energy flow through me again, subtly building it up until I had sufficient energy and then in a flash, I transported us back.  We were standing in the middle of the room, Caraway still in my grasp.

I turned to her uncle, looked him straight in his eyes, and made a show of opening my hand and dropping the General.  I turned fully to Jason and walked over to where he was leaning against the front of his desk.

He stood up straight as I approached him, ready for anything.  When I stood a foot away from him, I held my chin high.

“We’ll take the mission.  But,” I said holding my hand up when I knew my brothers would speak.  “Celeste will be staying with me—and only me—until I am sure that all threats to her are removed.”  I glared at the girl’s father, sent my brothers a look that said I would explain later, and then took a deep breath, looking back to my uncle.  “I invoke my right to use the Rite of Protection.  I wish to put her under my official protection as a Shadow Walker.”

Jason just stared at me for a moment and then with complete seriousness, he held out his hand, palm up and closed his eyes.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, my voice stronger than I felt.

He nodded once and then his hand tensed.  It shook once from the energy he poured into it and then turned black with the shadows that surrounded it.  He opened his eyes and looked at me.  His eyes were completely black, no whites at all, just two great black holes in his head.

I took another breath and held my hand over his, pulling the energy I needed from the Shadow Plane, channeling it into my own hand, filtering my own energy signature into it.  When my hand turned black, I grasped my uncle’s quickly before I had a chance to talk myself out of it.

I had expected the pain, from what I’d read, but this was so intense I had to strive to keep hold of my uncle.  The pain hit me like a bolt of electricity, eating its way through every cell in my body.  Desperately, I gripped his hand as hard as I could, fighting the unconsciousness that threatened to overwhelm me.  The pain was so intense I thought I would certainly die at any moment, if not for the complete knowledge that thousands of others had lived through this same procedure.

After what seemed like an eternity, as the pain grew so extreme I knew I’d have to let go soon, just as quickly as it had come, it left.  I was gasping as I pulled my hand from his.  I fought for a few moments not to vomit, and when I was sure I had control of my body, I took inventory.  It felt like I’d been branded on my palm, and when I looked down, I saw a small pentagram imprinted on it in scare tissue.  In the center of the start was the form of a woman, a simple, basic outline, but it was bisected by a thin line.  On the left side of the line it was completely light, the other side, dark.  It was the symbol of the Shadow Walker.

“Celeste will have an exact opposite on her right hand.  She wouldn’t have felt the pain, so she might not discover it for a long time.”  My uncle’s breathing was annoyingly normal.  If he’d felt the pain I had, he didn’t show it.

Straightening, I sent one last glare at the man who called himself a father before turning my attention back to Jason.  “I want you to send a message to Celeste’s mother and ask her to pack some of the girl’s clothes and other personal items.  After this mission is over, I will be handling the investigation into Tyrannous’s affairs, that’s if we don’t catch him this trip.”  I stared at my uncle, daring him to say something.  When he simply nodded, I continued, glad for his support.  “We’re going to go prep the ship.  Send me all the data you have on Tyrannous’s ship and his business’s.”  Again, he just nodded.

Tyrannous was the most despicable creature throughout the two galaxies, at least in my opinion.  He was the head of the most notorious crime organization throughout the known universe, and a rogue Vampire at that.  I myself have been tracking him for about a hundred years.  Every time I’d come close to catching him, he’d fled.  Tyrannous’s main philosophy in life is to always have a bolt hole.  He was the main purveyor of illegal substances and slaves to all the other crime syndicates.

Some people believe that he was over two thousand years old, though my estimates are somewhere about sixteen hundred.  He was a powerful being, having survived the Earth-Mars war of 2617 AD.  That had been over a thousand years ago.  If my calculations were correct, this Vampire had been around since the Homestar days, before we colonized Mars.  That was a problem because he’d been around to see every single change in technology since the early twenty first century.  He could bypass almost any system there was, and he had a few systems that weren’t even on market that allowed him to keep his base of operations well hidden.

Though he was decidedly powerful, I did not fear that Tyrannous would defeat me in combat.  I may have only been six hundred years but, as a Shadow Walker, my powers are ten times that of a Vampire.  Him being as old as he was, I believed we would be equally matched.  And now that the man had basically declared open war on all Shadow Walkers by kidnapping a Celestial, I was definitely gonna be taking him down.  It was a matter of honor for all beings.

 

And now, here we were.  After a roundabout trip to Celestia to pick up my requested items, we had set off on the mission.  That had been about a galactic week ago.  I’d needed the entire week to recuperate from the energy I’d used punishing the General.

Shaking my head, I directed the ship to the outer hull of the Tyrannous.  One of the reasons we were the most efficient group in the known universe was because shields meant nothing to us when we could just fly through them on the Shadow Plane.

I landed the Raven on the outer hull and made sure that the bracers were holding us in place before I stood.

Aiden and I nodded at Lucas and moved to the hatch that led to the underside of our ship, me shouldering the pack of supplies I’d requested from my uncle as I went, Aiden shouldering his own pack of explosives.  I squatted down and removed a hidden panel.  I pressed a few buttons and then waited a couple seconds until I knew that the tube that ran from the bottom of my ship had connected to the Tyrannous.  When it was connected, I slipped down the tunnel and focused on the wall below me.

Gritting my teeth, I forced my body to sink through my own ship’s hull and then through the enemy’s.  The pain was instantaneous and brutal.  Having to travel through ten feet of the strongest alloy in the two galaxies was not a picnic.  I felt myself passing through it, felt my own soul attempting to reject the darkness that swarmed it, but I kept my mind on the task.  It takes some strict discipline to stay focused when your mind is trying to put a physical ailment to a pain that was metaphysical.  No matter how many times I told myself, I feared my mind would never get use to the pain that was racking my mind and soul.  That was the bad part about having a logical mind, it immediately tried to reject what could not be proven through our advanced science, even if I myself was a contradiction to that.  The byproduct of a human upbringing, I thought, gritting my teeth as my body passed through the last layer of metal.

I righted myself and stepped to the side as Aiden flowed right out of the floor.  He nodded to me as he righted himself and we each took off in opposite directions.  I’d deliberately chosen a spot on the enemy’s ship where our two destinations—the ship’s main computer terminal and Celeste’s holding cell—would be perfectly even in both directions of each other.  Aiden would be hacking the enemy’s computer and stealing all their data while I located and secured Celeste.  After Aiden was done with the computer, he’d be setting the explosives.  There were no civilians onboard the Tyrannous so I felt no remorse at the loss of life.

I turned around and looked down at my Multibolt wristband computer.  Shadow Walkers could only stay on the Shadow Plane for two hours and then they had to go back to the Corporeal Plane and rest for twenty minutes.  If they don’t make it back in time, they would be stuck on the Shadow Plane forever.  We had to hurry before time ran out and Lucas was forced to return to the Corporeal Plane.  The only way for a Shadow Walker to stay on the plane indefinitely and still be able to move back to the Corporeal Plane was if they found their soulmate and joined their two lifeforces.

I took off at a run, making sure not to run through anyone’s shadow.  Whenever someone complains of a ‘cold spot’ where they walk, or they say they’ve walked through a ghost, they’ve most likely been walked through by a Shadow Walker.  It was a very eerie feeling to have someone walk through your shadow, or so I’ve been told.

I turned a corner and walked up to the door that housed the slaves.  Luckily, they only had one passenger this trip, because as soon as my brothers and I were finished, we were to blow the ship into the next galaxy.

I moved through the door, the pain quick and fleeting, and entered the room easily.  I looked around and moved over to the shadow of a small cot in the corner of the room.  I closed my eyes for a moment and Plane Jumped back to the Corporeal Plane, building the necessary door within seconds.  I quickly set the cameras to play back on a fifteen minute loop, and disabled the recording equipment I knew to be there completely.

I stood there for a moment, my eyes still closed.  The room smelled of dirt and musk.  Not a pleasant smell, especially since I knew what that meant.  Celeste had been their captive for over a week.

They’d tried to break her.

Taking a deep, calming breath in through my mouth, I stepped to within a few feet of the cot.  The woman lying on the bed was totally nude, as I had expected.  There were small cuts and scrapes all along her body, along with bruises on her arms, probably defensive injuries from when she’d tried to fight back.  Her arms and legs were tied to the legs of the cot and her face was turned to the side facing the wall.  The unsteady shaking of her chest was the only sign of her silent tears.

I moved, making no noise as only someone with my training could, and covered the woman’s mouth.  Celeste’s scream was muffled in the cup of my hand as I tried to calm her.

“Celeste, listen to me.  I’m here to save you.  You father sent me to rescue you.”  The woman finally stopped resisting but I didn’t remove my hand just yet.  “I won’t hurt you.  I need you to promise me that you won’t scream, otherwise someone will come and I won’t be able to help.  Do you understand?”  When she nodded calmly, I slowly removed my hand.  She didn’t scream, but just sat there quietly.

“I’m going to free your hands.  I want you to remain calm and tell me if you feel any pain, ok?”  Again, she just nodded.  I pulled the shadow blade that Lucas had made for me from the sheath at my side and quickly removed the bands that held Celeste to the bed.  I slipped the blade back to the sheath and quickly reached up to stop the young woman from lowering her arms too fast.  Slowly, I guided her arms down to her sides, halting every now and then to let the muscles get use to the movement.

I searched the girl’s face but she never flinched.  Not good.  She must be in shock, I decided.  I quickly removed the other two bands holding Celeste’s feet and then tried to move the girl into a sitting position.  She didn’t resist at all until I reached to check her pulse.  The girl quickly shied away from my touch and retreated into the corner of the cot, her legs drawn up to her chin.

I sat back on my heels and held up my hands.  “My name is Xanaphia Nailo.  Xana for short.  I’ve got some clothes here for you, but you need to let me heal your injuries.”

I saw the girl shiver and then she spoke.  “H-How did you g-get in here?”  Her voice was a low murmur, but I caught it.

“I’m a Shadow Walker.  If you’ll let me, I can heal those cut and bruises to where you will never even know that they’d been there.”

The girl was silent for a moment.  When she spoke, her voice was a hollow whisper.  “I will always know they are there.”

That one sentence, those seven words, tore up my insides worse than anything could have.  I ached for this young woman.  I wished that I could take all this away, make her forget, but I didn’t have that kind of power.  I could only console and offer her some sort of closure.

“Listen to me, Celeste.  We’ll have plenty of time to talk about this later, or whatever you want to do.  But right now we need to get moving.  Please, let me heal you.  It’s the least I can do for what those heartless bastards did to you.”  I didn’t have to make an effort to put the anger in my voice, it was real.  That anyone could perform such an act against a soul as pure as this woman… it was hard for me to get my mind around the idea.  It took extreme control to keep my expression blank.

Finally, Celeste looked up.  “You really are a Shadow Walker?”

I nodded.  “Please, let me heal these wounds.”  I wasn’t quite begging, but I was close to it.  It was an almost physical need, this need to heal her.

Celeste nodded and moved back to the edge of the bed.  She laid back down and I removed my gloves.  I reached into the utility belt I was wearing and pulled out a flashstone and lit it.  The stone flashed once brightly and then emitted a low beam of light that I directed at the girl’s body.  Flashstones were an odd sort of material.  When struck by an object, it sparks once and every atom in the stone flashes continually, like millions of tiny explosions going off at the same time.  The resulting light could be directed by a cylindrical tube like the one that comes with every standard survival package.

None of the cuts were deep.  All of them were caked with dried blood and a few of them looked infected.  I removed my pack, using my powers to make the stone hover in the air with a simple thought, and pulled out cleansing wipes and held my hand close to the girl’s body for a moment, my movements slow and deliberate.  When she didn’t flinch or draw away, I began cleaning all the cuts.

As I finished cleaning the wounds, I noticed the girl’s shadow against the wall behind her.  It was faded.  Odd, I thought as I cleaned the last of the cuts.  I’d have to study that later.  I was sure there was something in the Archives about it, but that could be handled later.

I put that bit of info to the back of my mind and focused on healing this girl.  “Now, Shadow Healing hurts a little bit, so please try not to cry out or anything.  You’ll have to grit your teeth and bare it.”

When Celeste nodded, I leaned over her once again and held my hands over the first and largest wound.  It was a three inch cut down her thigh.  I focused on my hands until they disappeared.  I knew what was happening but I decided to commentate to try to soothe Celeste.

“Now, all Shadow Walkers have the basic ability to Plane Jump, or move from this plane of existence to the Shadow Plane.  But we also each have our individual abilities, hence the reason I’m one of the only healer amongst my people.  Now, for my healing abilities, I have to project my hands onto the Shadow Plane in order to reshape and manipulate your shadow.  I take the original form of your shadow and remake the wound.  Now, remember, don’t cry out.”  I settled my hands over the wound and then plunged one hand into it.  Celeste drew in a sharp breath but didn’t cry out.  Good girl, I thought as I molded the wound, drawing my fingers slowly through it.  It was a simple process of reaching into her shadow and determining the shadows original form and then bringing that shape back.  After a few seconds, I retracted my hands from the now clean patch of skin and moved on to the next cut.

When I was finished with all the outer wounds, I took a deep breath and asked the one question I really didn’t want to.  “Did they hurt you—” I pointed out with my eyes what my lips could not say.

The girl closed her eyes for a moment and then shook her head, silent tears streaming down her face.  “No, they… they said they were going to wait… wait until tomorrow.  They said they would give me tonight to think about—” she swallowed hard “—to think about what they would do to me tomorrow.”

I felt my rage build tenfold as I stared down at the beautiful soul they’d damaged.  Celeste hadn’t deserved any of this.  She was a pure, innocent soul.  A Celestial for Rogue’s sake!  One of the most amiable creatures in the two galaxies.  She shouldn’t have had to endure this kind of desecration.

I reined in my anger and pulled my hands back from the Shadow Plane.  I opened my pack and pulled the spare clothes out of it.  “These are yours, I believe.  I requested they send a few spare changes, and a few of your personal items are on the ship.”

Celeste stared at the clothing I sat next to her and, with a startling speed, pulled them into her arms and held them close for a moment, more tears running down her face.  It was a plain terrasilk white dress, common to Celestials.  I knew that the color white represented purity to the Celestial people, and that would be important to Celeste at this moment.  I had to convince her that she still retained her purity.

Against my better judgment, I reached out and touched the girl’s damp cheek.  Celeste’s eyes instantly popped open and she jerked back.  I knew that it was instinctive, so I took no real offense to it.  It was the same way I myself normally reacted to being touched by anyone, but I wanted to give this woman a chance.  I wanted to be there for her and save her from the evils that had been forced upon her.

Celeste shifted uncomfortably and I turned my back, knowing she wanted some small semblance of privacy.  I reached into my holster and checked my Burner pistol.  This was a weapon of my own design.  It generates energy that only Shadow Walkers can supply and superheats it to a highly dangerous degree, then discharges it in a straight beam, all within a fraction of a second of pulling the trigger.  The metal that forms the barrel and energy transfer unit were made of shadows, the darkest and strongest Lucas could get, since one of his individual abilities was taking shadows and manipulating them onto the Corporeal Plane.

It had taken me about a year to perfect the design and when I had finished, I’d only made enough for the known Shadow Walkers stationed throughout the universe, then I had destroyed the plans.  It had helped in the designing phase that I was the Archivist for the Shadow Walkers.  No one knew that I had plenty of backup pistols and other more dangerous class Burners, such as the repeater rifles, stored on my ship.  The fact that only Shadow Walkers could use the pistols discouraged most people from stealing them anyways.

I turned around when Celeste cleared her throat.  The dress flowed around her ankles as though it had no more substance than a Monian cloud.  The brightness of the white dress made me almost sad with the knowledge that Celeste had been abused.  And yet, Celeste looked so beautiful standing there with her hands folding in front of her.  The formal pose she took told me she was trying to hold onto some form of normality.  She had a strong will, this one.

“Ok, let’s get going.  I’ll tell you now that getting back to my ship is going to be painful.  I’ll have to force you onto the Shadow Plane with me.  It will hurt a bit, but the pain is fleeting.  Do you understand?”

When she nodded, I continued.  I didn’t feel it necessary to mention the part where we had to travel through the outer hull.  “Alright, I want you to stay on my heels and if we get into a firefight, I want you to head straight for cover.”

To my surprise, the girl held out her hand.  “I’d like to help.  I can use a weapon.  My life is in jeopardy, so I won’t feel the effects of it.”  Her voice was a low, respectful murmur, the official speaking voice of most Celestials.

The ‘effects’ she was talking about was the pain that Celestials felt at deliberately causing harm or purposely endangering another being.  Normally, Celestials are a completely harmonious race of beings.  They’re powers to minimize negative feelings between two or more beings is one of the reasons they are so well respected.  They have the ability to sense and alter emotions that goes far beyond what most other races can do.  Their empathy towards other beings, therefore, was greater than most humanoids.  The older, more experienced Celestials can take a hostile situation and turn it into a calm atmosphere.  That was one reason there was always a Celestial at interplanetary debates, so they could monitor and control violent emotions, so that the proceedings remained civilized.  But, if a Celestials life were in danger, their need for self-preservation kicked in and they were allowed to defend themselves.

I had to give it to her, Celeste had courage.  I took out the normal blaster pistol that I usually carried and handed it to her, watching how she handled it.  The girl—and that’s how I thought of her, a girl, being as I was centuries older than her—examined the pistol from barrel to handle, and then—to my even greater amazement—found and turned off the two safeties, removed, checked, and replaced the energy pack, and cocked the weapon.  Dooly impressed, I just stared at her for a moment in awe of this girl’s mind.  I had also designed this normal pistol, the use of which every ranking officer in the Galactic Federation only had privilege to.  It usually took two galactic days and nights for military personnel to figure out how to use it correctly, then, after a week, they had to pass a firing test before they were officially given the weapon.  That this Celestial had figured out the mechanics of it in less than seconds had my view of the young woman going up a good few digits.

I shook myself and turned to the door.  I Plane Jumped my hands again and reached through the thin layer of Cordian steel, ignoring the pain, and began manipulating the security system attached to the door.

After a few seconds of tinkering with the security, the door opened with a hiss.  I rushed out into the hall, checking both directions as I went, and thus began my real mission.

Pain is fleeting, Death is eternal.