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Rajha was a biohorticulturist under The Divine Order. His Shadow had 'employed' Rajha to create poisons so potent that even to inhale them meant certain death. They were used to dispatch infidels more expeditiously than armament executions. Rajha complied only because she did not wish to be tortured the way her father had been...

Rajha was only ten when the Divine Assassin burst into her father's laboratory. Arwyn had refused to generate the poisons which would kill so many, and for this crime he was tortured and killed. As her father's mutilated body slumped to the floor, Rajha watched, horrified, as the Divine Assassin turned to her. "I worship His Shadow!" he barked, as her grasped her arms, shaking her slightly. She opened her mouth to speak...but her larynx was shattered, from screaming. Yes, she had been screaming, beseeching the Assassin to stop, attempting to reason with him, his humanity--surely he had some left--or was this merely a semblance of a human?? And for naught...he had relentlessly carried out the horrifying task set to him.

As he gazed coldly down upon Rajha, she let the hatred build within her little body. Glaring her loathing at him like a dagger, she rared back with all her might and spat upon his face, fully expecting him to strike her dead. Closing her eyes against the impending onslaught, she offered up a prayer to whatever god had seen fit to punish her so.

A rasping laugh penetrated the bloody tomb...harsh and cruel, as if to its owner her misery were nothing but child's play! Rajha turned to glower at the source of the laughter...His Divine Shadow. "No, he will not kill you, my child, unless I will it!" he intoned. "This is Kai, my most efficient Divine Assassin. I shall excuse your impetuousness, and offer you my guidance. You will become my ward, and serve The Divine Order. You will become one of my biohorticulturists, and ultimately carry out the task your father refused. It is decided. Kai, escort her to the Cluster. Her training will begin immediately."

And it was so. Kai had held Rajha's small arm with a vise-like grip, so that there was no chance for escape. He need not have troubled; Rajha knew within her heart she would have nowhere to run, nobody to help her.

When she had arrived at the Cluster, the soaring buildings had looked down upon her with austere and implacable power. Their facades spoke to her of the abstract and vile empiricism of His Shadow. Glancing at her captor, she wondered vaguely if Kai had been forced into service for His Divine Shadow. As he icily regarded her in turn, she decided that this was an extreme impossibility. Rajha collected herself with a shudder of pain. Her eyes left Kai's face and traveled over the orblights at their feet.

Kai took in the alien splendor of her beauty--her hair of wheaten gold, so unlike his own...her eyes of purple-black, like huge dark flowers in her tragic face. Rajha's was the last face Kai would forget.

She had wrapped herself in a cloak of silence, small protection against the approach of insanity effected from viewing such a violent act. When she did finally speak, it was such a scarce, anguished whisper that Kai had to lean towards her to ascertain her words.

"What will you do now?" she asked, her voice hushed.

"That is for His Shadow to say," Kai stonily replied. He listened as he spoke, wanting so to embrace and help this orphan whom he'd so wronged, but finding himself compelled to do the will of His Divine Shadow. It was a strange paradox, one which he'd never been able to comprehend.

Instead of pursuing the topic further, as most children are wont to do, Rajha slipped back into her strange silence. She seemed unafraid of him; indeed, she moved as if she had all eternity before her, and would gladly embrace death at this moment. Lost within the impenetrable wilderness of sorrow, she quietly met her pain with the most tranquil composure.

At last, they had come to the steps of rounded stone, the threshold of the Biodome. Its gleaming hemisphere rose far up through the ever-gray clouds which blanketed the spartan city. "This is to be your new home. It is where you will be trained further in the studies of biohorticulture," Kai said to Rajha. She made to enter the Biodome's arched doorway. "I must warn you--if you do not obey His Shadow, I shall be the one to dispatch you."

Rajha coldly glared at him. "Why do you not 'dispatch' me now?" she demanded, frail arms crossed over her slight figure.

" not the will of His Shadow," Kai replied, feeling somewhat reluctant to leave the ward Rajha on the doorstep, presumably out of his reach--and protection.

"I shall see what kind of fate awaits me here, for it looks almost...welcoming inside." She stepped to the archway, tapped lightly, and was admitted by two miniature robots: each was barely as tall as her knee, and both waddled like funny little birds of old her father had once told her of. As they wiggled back to allow her admittance, she hinted at the barest of smiles. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the ensuing years, Rajha flourished under the nurturing care of Flora and Fauna, the two surrogate robots who 'raised' her. They saw that she grew strong and well, and wise, and were her only companions.

Her tutor was Sarenden, a callous and strict instructor. Rajha quickly learned to apply herself to her studies, so that she may enjoy the rest of her time in her blissful botanical garden.

At last the day came when she no longer required the tutelage of Sarenden. However, her happiness was short-lived, since she was to immediately begin to concoct the lethal poisons which would kill so many. Unbeknownst to His Shadow or any of his Bioviziers, Rajha kept a supply of antitoxins for every poison composed in her biolab. She administered these to renegade organizations, under the cover of nightly visits to religious ruins.

For years, her life continued in this mundane fashion, seldom changing. That is, until the second time she was visited by Kai~~~~~~~~~~~

Kai stepped over the threshold of the Biodome, beholding the splendor that Rajha called 'home.' It had been many years now, since that dark sinister night when he had left her at this doorstep. Now he was here to escort Garyn, the aged biohorticulturist, so that he may pass on his knowledge and newest abomination to Rajha.

His Divine Shadow desired for Garyn to create a carnivorous plant which would consume only humans. His Shadow had insisted, with extreme pleasure, that the plant resemble the most beautiful human, so that its allure would be tenfold that of other, more offensive carnivorous species. And so it was that Garyn had been forced to comply with this horrific edict: to feed a human embryo carnivorous plant essences, thus creating the most potent and deadly plant species known to man.

Garyn's mind had broken under the loathing and fear, and the plant must now be cared for by Rajha, the biohorticulturist succeeding Garyn. Of course, Kai was to immediately retire Garyn, once free and clear of the Biodome. He felt that to subject Rajha to yet more violence would be cruel and unnecessary.

Both Kai and Garyn were momentarily stunned by the dazzling brilliance of the botanic garden. The steps of rounded stone inside the dome, identical in shape to those outside, were brocaded with a pattern of emerald and forest green moss. The far walls were decorated with cupolas and spires, and a scrolled balcony sculptured with designs half-obliterated by time. It was clear these had been salvaged from a temple or palace of millenia gone by, to make the biosphere more 'decorative.'

As he strolled through Rajha's Eden, Kai heard the trickle and splash of a fountain. Parting the fronds of a palm, he moved closer to the marble ruin, its shattered opulence gushing and sparkling in the artificial sunshine. Around the pool grew various plants, which seemed to thrive in the plentiful moisture. The rays of the 'sun' gilded each gigantic leaf and magnificent blossom, making the dewdrops glow with a most enchanting radiance. And there, amidst the profusion of plants, sat Rajha.

She was dressed in a scholar's garb of black, and her golden hair had become streaked with silver. Her face was marked with quiet intellect and grace. Unaware of their presence, she intently examined each shrub, looking into their inmost nature, noting their creative essence. She avoided actually touching the plants, or deeply inhaling their noxious odors: thick gloves and a facial mask protected her against the oppressive exhalations of the lavish blooms. Thus, Rajha was able to cultivate and produce new varieties of poison more deleterious than that of nature, at His Divine Shadow's behest.

Rising from her toils, she crossed to the spiral staircase which crawled to the upper story, her gloved hands caressing its archaic beauty of design. She was so tall and thin that her flesh seemed faintly luminous, and her dark purple eyes betrayed her inner sadness.

Sensing a different type of exhalation, Rajha turned, searching the gardens from her lofty vantage point. She was certain she'd heard an alien sound: the garden of the biosphere was her world, and someone had invaded her domain. She watched with breathless anxiety and dread as Kai and Garyn stepped forward. Her voice was hushed and sibilant as she demanded, "Why do you come here?"

Garyn, spurred on by his cavalier mental state, spoke first. "You ask such simple questions, my dear! To think, you are supposed to be my successor! Why, His Shadow must indeed be MAD to believe you capable of such an achievement!" He made a great show of looking down his beaked nose at her, no easy feat for one who was standing beneath her. Had she been given to humor, Rajha would have laughed haughtily at his ridiculous behavior. Before she could form a suitable retort, Kai interrupted the so-called Great Garyn.

"I believe Rajha is very direct with her questions. Her concision eliminates any misunderstanding, as it prompts an exact answer...which she will now receive," Kai asserted, glaring coldly at Garyn, then Rajha. She met his gaze with a detached serenity, as if nothing he could say or do would shake her unnatural calm. Kai found this to be a rather impressive defensive gesture.

"Ahem. Yes, we have brought to you a most infernal experiment arising from the arcana of medical science, to grace Your Worship's garden. I have hereby taken a human embryo, and nourished it with poisons and carnivorous plant extracts from conception, onward, until its whole nature is so imbued she has become the deadliest, most carnivorous and ONLY plant/human hybrid of all species in existence. Poison is her element; her breath, while enticing in aroma, blasts the very sense of her victims. Love is her poison, and to embrace her means certain death. Faint but delicious, her exhalations if inhaled too long by others, render them helpless to her consumption. Her aromas are elements combined of the sensual and spiritual. I give you this creature, so that you may continue on in my work, and nurture her further in your own maternal way." Garyn bowed deeply, as Flora and Fauna wheeled the massive marble vase containing the hybrid toward the fountain.

Rajha, bemused, admired the lovely shrub, with its treasury of glowing purple blossoms. The mechlift placed the gigantic urn upon the central pedestal of the pool, and the plant itself seemed to shiver its excitement, sending its cascades of blooms into a swaying dance. They seemed to emit a whispery song, as if an immortal spirit dwelt withing the huge pod. The flowers around the pool nodded gently to one another in acknowledgment of the plant which now dominated them. They seemed to dream of a rich flower and a charming, beautiful maiden.

"Has...the fruit...ripened, yet?" Rajha tentatively asked, unsure of whether to refer to the creation as plant or human, vegetable or animal.

"Er, no--" Garyn began, reverting to his disconcerted state.

"Garyn has been unable to produce 'fruit' from his creation. He is being...relieved of his duties," Kai supplied ominously.

Not missing his implication, Rajha pursed her lips, narrowing her eyes derisively at him. "And when my time comes, Kai," she taunted silkily, "will you...relieve me of my duties, so I can become so much fertilizer, for these noxious plants?" Removing her mask, she indicated the garden's array with a wave of her gloved hands.

"That will not be necessary," Kai intoned, easing towards the spiral staircase. "I shall, however, discuss a certain matter with you....."

Kai ascended the wrought-iron stairway, his gaze never leaving Rajha's own.

"And what is this urgent and most secretive matter you would discuss with me, sir?" Rajha asked sardonically.

"The hybrid, if brought to fruition, will consume only humans. It has been bred solely for this purpose," Kai admonished, his words censored by His Divine Shadow's unseen hand.

Rajha scowled at him. "I already gathered that. Why should this concern me?"

Clenching his jaw determinedly, Kai forged on. "Since you are the only human inhabitant of the Biodome, you will most assuredly be consumed first."

Rajha paused, absorbing this information. Her next words, though biting and concise, rang of an indisputable moral truth: "How befitting for it to consume the scientists who aided in this abomination! We who have taken an innocent, unborn child and nourished it with such wicked, poisonous essences! I would consider it only supreme justice to become its prey. Perhaps then I would be free from my sumptuous prison!" Rajha laughed, a hollow, mirthless sound.

Averting his gaze from her chilling glare, Kai acceded. "Your point is well-made. I shall leave you to your ruminations."

He quickly descended to the fountain, where Garyn stood cowering. Taking the aged scientist's arm in pseudo-comradeship, Kai steered him towards the arched portal of the doctor's garden. "Garyn and I now have other things which require our attention," the Assassin said.

Casting silent, desperate glances over his shoulder, Garyn gave her mute warning that this would indeed become her fate should she fail to bring the experiment to fruition.
As they reached the doorway leading to Garyn's doom, Kai looked to Rajha, repeating the phrase from her nightmares, "I worship His Shadow!" It was as if he was trying to tell her his actions were not of his own free will, but controlled by another. Again, she briefly wondered if Kai had once been enslaved by His Divine Shadow, cursed to spend eternity in his service. Mentally shrugging, Rajha decided she could not care, not for the one who had so brutally murdered her father.

As the door softly clicked and sealed from the outside, Rajha focused her attention on the strange and marvelous plant. It was so resplendent it seemed to illuminate the whole garden, which was fast growing dim under the fading 'sun.' 'What a splendid specimen you are, my dear!'

She found she was suddenly very tired; this had been another full day of working at that most simple and rewarding of human tiols, cultivating a garden...however nefarious its contents. "Goodnight, my beauty," she bade, and blew the hybrid a kiss.

Turning to enter her private chambers, Rajha heard a slight rustling and soft, musical laughter emanating from the garden. She warily looked around the Biodome: all was as it should be. Deciding she was merely exhausted from the day's events, she muttered to herself, "No one's judgment is infallible; it's merely a visitation from my mysterious imagination." Quickening her steps, she reached the sanctuary of her rooms.

And the curious plant at the center of the fountain sighed, settled its waterfall of blooms upon the pool's surface, and dreamed of all the tomorrows it would spend in this garden where no winter ever lived.

That night Rajha had a vivid dream, in which all the plants of the biosphere danced around the gurgling fountain in complete abandon. They beckoned her to join them, their arm-like vines slithering sinuously over her, binding her to them. The strangest part was that she'd felt no panic or fear: instead, she openly embraced the joyous freedom of their dance.

She awoke energized and refreshed from her nocturnal frolicking, and dressed hurriedly, anxious to see if her lucid dream was reality. Upon opening the door to the balcony, she was struck by the contrasting silence of her Eden: all was in order amid her botanical realm. The air was so still, it seemed the garden was under a flowers moved, no branches swayed.

Rajha looked to the creeping ivy, nestled in its urn at the feet of Theia of Brunnis, the goddess who'd given birth to the sun, dawn, and moon. The ivy had wreathed itself round the magnificent sculpture, thus shrouding her in a veil of hanging foliage. Rajha marveled at the intricate serpentine design, artfully shielding Theia's divine eyes from the glare of artificial sun.

Placing her hand to her forehead, Rajha laughed softly. "Ah, perhaps Garyn is not the only one whose mind has gone! 'Though I'd gladly give it away, to feast at that eternal Bacchanal!'

As she donned her mask and gloves, she embraced each plant with her violet eyes. Every inch of soil had been utilized to ensure each plant's survival and growth. All had received equal amounts of Rajha's assiduous care, and she loved them all in her gentle way. The plants were her reason for living. That they brought death to so many was no fault of their own, even the most virulently poisonous species. For, if kept locked in this dome, they would happily flourish, estranged as they were from the limits of ordinary nature, and harm none. 'But,' Rajha asked herself, 'what in the Cluster remained "ordinary"?'

Nearing the fountain, Rajha cautiously stepped forward to examine the hybrid in the bright light of day. It really was a gorgeous shrub, with its profusion of purple gems glowing in the air and reflecting their radiance from the pool's depths. The blooms seemed to wink at her, and she found herself absolutely enchanted with this new arrival.

Sitting at the fountain's edge, she decided to take notes of the hybrid's state now, so that she may properly track its progress. Her entry contained the plant's scientific name, its approximate measurements, and description...including Rajha's personal observation that the plant was already looking lightyears better than it had while Garyn breathed the same air as it.

She had just closed her journal when a butterfly wandered over the blossoms, drawn by their heady perfume. As it fluttered under one bloom heavy with nectar, it became greatly agitated. Then when a drop of moisture fell from the glittering gem onto its delicate wings, it shivered, convulsed, then dropped to the pool. Rajha watched as it drifted lifelessly under the emerald foliage of the hybrid until it disappeared entirely. It seemed to be carried on a swift and sure current, though no such current was produced by the softly bubbling fountain.

Rajha rose and released five more butterflies from the breeding chamber. They whirled onward, in ever-lessening circles, to partake of the luscious nectar of the hybrid. They were completely intoxicated by its rich aroma, at once heavenly and demonic. For, each and every butterfly succumbed to the magnetic fragrance, irresistibly drawn within the mysterious plant's sphere of blooms. And all drifted on the steady current, to be covertly consumed by the strange and exquisite plant.

Rajha's enthusiasm gave way to a peculiar thrill of excitement, tempered of course by the terrifying aspects of the edict now binding her. One touch from the plant would taint its victim with certain death, but the breath of the plant was what lured its prey. The ultimate effect was both astounding and horrifying....but what about its human genetics? What would....what COULD it do, to survive? Would it walk, once fully developed? Would there be a chance for Rajha to create an 'antitoxin,' as she had for so many other deadly plant species?

So many questions! Rajha was eager to see what more the plant would do, so she released a swarm of gnats. Again, they hovered around the blossoms. Again, they were blasted by the very aroma which drew them. But this time, there was no current; the gnats lay where they fell. Eventually, Fauna came to remove them, and fed them to a lesser carnivorous plant, which gratefully digested them in its syrupy juices.

Throughout the day, Rajha released all manner of flying insects, each of which thronged to the luxuriant shrub, which grew more radiant with each feeding. Yet, it only fed on the colorful insects. It especially liked the blue dragonflies...they were consumed in abundance, after the current furiously swept them beneath the screen of foliage. Rajha also found that no matter which angle she tried to observe from, she could not ascertain how the prey were ingested.

As the artificial sun 'set,' she realized that she'd spent the entire day testing and monitoring the new plant. Flora and Fauna, her robotic companions, had already settled into their rechargers for the night. Rajha silently wished them sweet technodreams, and wearily climbed the balcony to the upper rooms. Casting one last glance at the charming hybrid, she softly whispered, "Perhaps you'll reveal your secrets to me another day. Pleasant dreams, my lovely one."

The plant's cascade of blooms swayed gently upon the surface of the fountain. The hybrid seemed weary, as well, if it longed for slumber after eating such a rich and delicious meal.
Smiling gently, Rajha activated a subtle blue glow in the walkway orblights--just in case....

Over the next few days Rajha released several varieties of insect, which the luscious plant lured and ingested in its eerily efficient way. Each morning that she came to greet it, the hybrid seemed just a bit larger than the day before.

And then, the plant no longer fed. Its blossoms died, shrinking into themselves. The lush foliage diminished in much the same way--to meld with the pod, which was all that remained of the once-magnificent hybrid. Rajha tried in vain to release more and more colorful insects, to induce the weakening plant to 'eat.' To her dismay, the plant only shrank further away from her ministrations, until all that remained was the mysterious ovular pod. The plant was in a state of estivation.

For three weeks Rajha waited, daring to hope that the silent pod would bear its fruit soon, and that when it did, it would produce a companion of sorts for her...a hybrid who could think and talk, and exhibit other human characteristics. She wondered many times if the hybrid would appear human at all; would it reproduce more pods? Perhaps this was a gestation period...would it bear a mutated cross between a human and carnivorous plant?

Her dreams showed her a beautiful young girl, whose arms were long stems ending in lush, spicy purple blooms. She made to embrace Rajha, but in her dream, Rajha had recoiled in terror.

In the cold light of day, she knew that she would be more logical, even protective of whatever the pod yielded.

And each evening, as the 'sun' set upon the garden, Rajha poured forth all the hope in her soul to the plant, telling it that she would wait forever, if necessary, for it to ripen.

One morning, as Rajha was carefully pruning a man-of-war fern, she heard a distinct crunching noise. It was like no other she'd ever heard if something viscous was breaking free from a shell of sorts. She moved cautiously towards the hybrid pod, and stared in astonishment as the plant-child emerged from the ovule. The creature stretched her hands to the sky, took her first breath of air, and spoke her first words: "Goodnight, my beauty; pleasant dreams, my lovely one!"

The hybrid appeared human, and was so radiant that she glowed amid the other plants of the garden. She did, indeed, bear a remarkable resemblance to the gorgeous shrub, which had once bore such an array of gemlike blooms. Her dress mirrored the plant's design in arrangement and selection of hues; her rich blossoms, too, gleamed with the dazzling effect of precious stones. A sweet perfume emanated from her lips, diffusing everything around her.

She was the same height as Rajha; her hair was the same golden color Rajha's had once been...even her eyes were the same shade of purple-black. In fact, she appeared to be the complete image of Rajha as a younger woman.

The biohorticulturist found this adaptation to habitat most fascinating. 'Why,' thought Rajha, 'she's taken cues from both the plant's design, and that she'll blend with her surroundings! Amazing!'

But even in her scholarly enthusiasm, she remembered her civility, and properly introduced herself. "I am Rajha--a biohorticulturist. This is the Biodome, where you and I live. I shall be taking care of you."

The hybrid-child looked puzzled for a moment, as if she were concentrating really hard, then smiled brightly and proclaimed, "I am Rajha, as well!"

Judging this to be mere mimicry, Rajha decided to let the child take on the pet name for the moment. Since the hybrid and she were the only sentient occupants of the Biodome, what did names and labels really matter? Obviously, by taking on her name, the plant-child felt greater security, a sense of belonging. Rajha found this trait most endearing, and sympathized with the girl's...naivete.

The girl skipped around, exploring her new garden home, thrilled by the magic of the magnificent Eden. Everything was new to her, and she reveled in that uninhibited freedom that children seem to be blessed with. She squealed with delight as she touched a finger to the 'sensitive plant,' a tiny variation of the mimosa species. Its leaves folded and its stems bowed to her touch. Rajha knew she hadn't harmed the plant: she came to stand by the child, and told her of the small mimosa's strange feature. Touching her own finger to several fronds, Rajha 'bowed' all of them. "When we come back to this in a little while, they'll have returned to their natural state." The child looked at her in open wonder, then flitted over to the tiny ferns and heavy moss growing behind the stone waterfall. Lifting their delicate leaves, she discovered their spores, and Rajha told her that these were the seeds, which would make new, baby ferns.

....And so the days passed: Rajha and the child spent their time walking through the garden, conversing together as two sisters would. The child grew very rapidly, and became so human in her actions that Rajha almost forgot about her ultimate task. She knew the day would come when His Shadow would send for her, and take the hybrid-child away.

So, she told the child what she knew of her origins: she did not know which plant species, nor which humans were the ancestors of this ethereal being. She only knew that which she was told by Garyn, and she passed on this limited knowledge to the girl.

Once she had disclosed this, the hybrid-child merely asked her, "You are human, yes?"

"Yes, I am," Rajha replied calmly.

The girl furrowed her brows. "But...I do not wish to eat YOU!" In her peculiar way, she paused for thought, then brightened with a solution. "I shall feed on the colorful insects, and when I am introduced to other humans, I shall find someone to eat, then!"

Rajha only nodded wisely. The girl had developed a fondness for her, because of Rajha's own affections, given so freely. And for now, that was enough....

Another crystalline morning had dawned in the glorious Biodome, more beautiful than any Rajha had ever seen. She stood atop the balcony, taking in the splendor of her Eden, its elegance and charm held timelessly aloft from decay and ruin. Shading her eyes, she raised her face to the artificial sun, basking in its warm, healing light.

She knew today was the day His Shadow would send for the child. Rajha didn't want her precious one to leave. She feared for the girl's survival...what if His Shadow wasn't pleased with her progress? Would she be 'dispatched' in the same way as Garyn...or her father? Torn by these thoughts, she gazed sorrowfully down upon the giant pod, where the hybrid-girl slept. What would become of this innocent--?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the portal of the Biodome softly opening. Sarenden and Kai entered, closing the archway quietly behind them. Rajha had always resented the fact that although this Divine Assassin could come and go as he pleased from the biosphere, she could not exit the dome to save her life. And now, he had come to take the child from her. To add further insult, he had brought Sarenden. Vituperative, cold, unfeeling Sarenden. Rajha could not decide which of the two she detested more.

Kai noted the play of emotions on Rajha's expressive face, then the subtle shift as she masked her true feelings behind a withdrawn and detached facade. 'It is good,' he thought, 'that she hide behind this screen of spiritual isolation. There is much she will have to endure....'

Sarenden opened his mouth to speak, but paused as a glutinous sound pervaded the garden. Turning the corner of the walkway, he located the source of the viscosity. The hybrid-girl emerged from the pod, looked Sarenden up and down, and decreed, "I am VERY HUNGRY!!!"

Caught off-guard by her forthrightness, Sarenden stammered,
"Yes, well, why haven't you fed, child?" while directing a scathing look at Rajha.

"I have been waiting for something...tasty to eat!" the girl enthused, sniffing Sarenden's neck as she circled him playfully.

"There will be time for that later," Kai interjected, "but for now, you and Rajha will be escorted to His Divine Shadow's council. His Shadow wishes to you have adapted, now that you....have hatched." He looped his arm through the hybrid's, completely unaffected by her touch. Sarenden made to take her other arm. "NO! You will escort the doctor," Kai ordered, and Sarenden grudgingly obeyed.

Rajha felt a sickening knot begin to build within her stomach, and thought she was going to be ill. Sarenden's touch was revolting, and she was worried for her precious one.

As they left the comforting sanctuary of her beloved Eden, she fervently hoped that Kai was not escorting them to their execution.......

Rajha and the hybrid stood silently before His Shadow. His spectral countenance was shockingly repellent; Rajha noted that the girl shared the same aversion to this cadaverous tyrant, as she openly displayed her disgust with a pronounced sneer.

The eidolon spoke, breaking the macabre stillness of the court chamber. "And so, Rajha, after many years of being my ward, you bring to me this rare and lurid hominoid, who consumes only humans." He paused for her answer; knowing humans were the lesser species, he prompted the doctor with a precise query: "Why, then, has she not done so?"

Rajha replied, her rich voice amplified by the hall's acoustics. "I was the only other sentient occupant of the Biodome. She began feeding on various species of insect, and has done so until now. She...had no desire to consume me."

His Shadow's raspy laugh echoed, drowning out Rajha's last words. "Good doctor, I did not wish for another plant species which would consume insects." Drumming his fingernails, he regarded her intensely. "What name have you given her?"

In spite of her resolution, her voice trembled. "She has called herself 'Rajha,' after me."

A hideous smile slashed His Shadow's ghastly face. "Yesss--so the girl knew of her origins. It is well. Instinct, and innate awareness of her human allegiances." The cowled face drew closer to Rajha, until it was inches away from hers. "I believe I have said something which has caused you great discomfort. Tell me, did not young Rajha's identical features stand out, even to your discerning eye?"

Rajha's face drained of color, and she fought to control her emotions. "She...merely adapted to her habitat, and took my features as her own," she breathed, aghast at the implications of his words.

Cocking his ear towards Sarenden, who had remained as still as a statue, His Shadow commanded, "You must now tell the doctor of her...contribution to this experiment." The wraith retreated to a heavy, iron-backed chair, as if he was settling in for one of his favorite stories.

Kai moved to stand directly behind Rajha, ostensibly to contain her flight....while the hybrid eased closer to Sarenden, eager to hear more of his words.

A perversely wicked grin crossed Sarenden's face, as he began: "Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Rajha. Her daddy refused to obey His Divine Shadow, and was executed. Then, instead of being eliminated as well, Rajha was taken as a ward of His Shadow. She was instructed in the ways of biohorticulture, to serve The Divine Order. But," he added, his hellish eyes gleaming, "she didn't play fair. She created antitoxins for the poisons she provided the Order with. So, His Shadow devised a marvelous plan." He stopped, gauging Rajha's reaction. Her tragic eyes were vacant, withdrawn. A glance to the girl showed that she was positively riveted by his story...why, she was actually smiling at him!

He rushed on, continuing his malevolent tale. "He ordered Garyn to create a carnivorous plant-human know her characteristics," he winked. "The really brilliant part of the scheme was simply this: we needed ovum, and from a healthy, handsome 'donor.' Since Rajha was such a fine specimen, and she had betrayed The Order, she was chosen as the female donor. I entered the Biodome, disabled Flora and Fauna, and rendered Rajha unconscious with one of her more subtle poisons. After that, it was relatively easy to harvest the ovum. And there you have it!" he finished with a demoniac flourish, leering evilly at her.

Rajha stared past him, sighing in a small voice, "You lie. None of it is true. She is not from me..." her words faded, as she began rocking back and forth, clasping her arms to her frail womb. Her lips still moved as she gazed down, but no words issued forth.

"Oh, but you are woefully mistaken, my dear! She is 'from you,' and she was created in our in vitro laboratory by Garyn, himself. Why, I vow she is the spitting image of her mother!" he fiendishly raved.

Rajha staggered back, moving away from Sarenden. She came flush with a column of sorts, and reached her hand back to steady her faltering stance. She absently noted the deeply carved designs of it, even as she grasped at her fading grip on reality. A burst of tearless agony tore her speech. "Tell me you are not her father!"

"No, not I! Someone very close to you--" Sarenden broke off, cackling wildly at his monstrous jest. "A charitable 'donor,' whose...contribution had been on ice for quite some time....." he jeered, spurred on by the intense adoration of the hybrid girl.

Rajha sagged heavily against the column, overwhelmed with shock. "Have remorse? How could you violate me so--offer up an innocent unborn child? This was not by my hand--" Lapsing into incoherent speech, she slowly slid down the column's length to rest lifelessly at its base, staring blankly at a point just past Sarenden.

Kai gazed down at Rajha, knowing she was unaware he was her support. If Sarenden lunged for her, Kai would fire his brace, effectively protecting himself and Rajha. This was, of course, His Shadow's will....but honored Kai's own inner urges.

"Unlike humans, I am not constrained by parental affection. And so, Rajha, you now know the reason the hybrid would not consume you. But feed, she must...and on humans. Or," His Shadow cruelly hissed, "she, herself, will become the prey." He gestured towards the far wall, a solid pane of glass--beyond which a giant, mutated insect rested. Visibly flinching, Rajha took in its enormous size.

"But I am very hungry now, and wish to eat!" the hybrid chimed-in, at last speaking for herself.

Sarenden chuckled, darkly satisfied at her exuberance.

"Yes, sate your appetite, little Rajha!" His Shadow commanded, smiling to reveal gray, decaying teeth.

Rajha shivered her revulsion.

Stirring his already twisted desire for her, the hybrid weaved around Sarenden, sniffing hungrily. Whirling around to face him, she suggestively asked, "Would you like to touch me?"

Sarenden, intoxicated by her spicy perfume, slowly responded. "Just like Rajha...beautiful..." he trailed off, drugged by the hybrid's bewitching aroma. He lazily blinked his eyes, spellbound by this angelic vision.

"Take my hand," she beckoned. And Sarenden, powerless to refuse, did.

He was instantly plunged into a rapturous fantasy. In it, Rajha came to him, her hands moving over his body--what he'd always secretly hungered for. He was completely caught in her web of passion...enchantment. He closed his eyes in the sweet moment of release...and instantly opened them, as the first sharp pain penetrated His moan of ecstasy trebled to a shriek of terror, swiftly hushed by a slippery, viscous sound. Then, nothing.

A chilling silence pervaded the court chamber. Rajha, Kai, and His Shadow witnessed the feeding with varying responses.

The hybrid's paralyzing enzymes, contracted through touch, had thoroughly dazed Sarenden. He'd weaved in a state of utter rapture. Then she had struck, feeding quickly and ravenously. Now she stood as before, a golden seraph of lethal beauty.

In the aftermath, Kai remained stoic, his inner repugnance betrayed only by a slight widening of his pupils. His Shadow veritably glowed with pleasure.

Rajha's expression changed from that of fear, to horror, to repulsion--she must somehow escape this inhuman specter, and his gallery of heinous creations. Reaching around the column, she struggled to her feet.

Having risen, she turned unsteadily towards the door...and beheld the ghostly Kai, wearing eternal death as his armor. Realizing he was the 'column' she'd been leaning against, her skin crawled with violent abhorrence. Recoiling from his touch, she staggered as the chamber spun around her. His Shadow's horrid umbrage loomed closer, hissing incomprehensibly, threatening to engulf her. Unable to articulate her terror, Rajha released a primal scream, frightening in its intensity.

Her mind was breaking, and she found strange comfort in the cacophonous abyss. Her vision blurred, blessedly shutting out all save Kai's bejeweled cummerbund.

Darkness inundated her, gently cradling her in its cold embrace. Serenity, cool and pure, swathed her tormented mind~~~

Cool, shivery stars kissed Rajha awake. She had seen them like this once before, when Kai had taken her from Ventus...the billions of suns blurred together as their craft streaked by, their glacial elegance blending to create giant crystal shards.

"You have awakened," Kai remarked softly.

Startled at the disembodied voice, Rajha spoke tremulously. "I...feel as if I'm dreaming. This is my room, yet not mine, after all. An intricate illusion bedecks my windows, magnificent in its complexity. Am I in heaven?" she whispered, afraid to speak louder, lest she break the magical spell surrounding them.

"You are no longer asleep. You are very much alive. The 'intricate illusion' is no illusion at all. We are orbiting the Cluster, docked to a slaveliner from Khamaran3." His emotionless voice gentled by the stellar shine, he inquired, "Are you...well?"

With his face suffused by the pink nebular glow, he appeared alive to Rajha, and she was no longer frightened of him. Instead of answering his question, she quietly asked, "They took you too, didn't they?"

He stared ahead, arms hanging by his sides, assessing and filtering her query. Not surprisingly, he didn't answer. He was a helpless puppet to His Shadow, and his tragic existence pained her.

Strolling over to him, she continued, "You say we are in orbit. How did we get here?"

Kai blinked, sliding his icy gaze to focus on her. "The Biodome is equipped with impulse engines. These were aided by propulsion enhancers, to clear the Cluster's lower atmosphere. Once this was achieved, the solar magnetic subatomic particles from Rydarus launched the forward motion and position of the Biodome, securing maximum orbital efficiency for the aerodynamics of its hemispherical shape."

"I see. And the slaveliner~~I presume it is full of for the hybrid?" she prompted.

"For the hybrids. The motherpod has produced more...seedlings," he said, his voice hushed.

The ensuing silence was palpable. As Rajha strode around the chamber, straightening this vase, stroking that curtain, she felt his gaze bore into her. She knew he was observing her, probably for signs of mental deficiency. She almost gave way to hysterical laughter. Though her mind had shattered, it had also pieced itself back together...relatively speaking.

So, now there was a whole nursery full of hybrids. The laughter effervesced, this time escaping to voluptuously fill the vaulted room.

"You can't be serious!" she chided. Upon seeing Kai's severe expression, she sobered. "You are serious, aren't you?" Rajha asked, a look of awe transforming her features. When she laughed, she was once again the young Rajha; Kai absently marked this as the only time he'd heard her laughter. It was....obscurely affecting.

"How many?" Rajha wondered aloud.

"How many what?" Kai asked.

"Pods...seedlings. How many are there?" she demanded, exasperated with his maddening dullness.

"They seem...illimitable, but there are only fourty-two, including the prototype."

Striding to the balcony door, Rajha flung it open to reveal a sea of purple-blossomed hybrid shrubs. They glowed in the dome's twilight. Rajha's breath caught in her throat; these were her children, and she marveled at their lush beauty. And there, in the center of the fountain, the mother pod had withered away, until it was a crumpled, decaying mass. Rajha's joy quickly transmuted to agony; she sped down the spiral staircase, crying, "What have you done to her?!?"

"If you mean the prototype, she is in her pod," Kai calmly answered, "which is now directly under this balcony."

Blinking away her tears, Rajha came to examine the pensile ovular pod. It was smaller than the motherpod had been, more streamlined, and had attached itself to the stairwell's top step. In this way, it could dectect vibrations of Rajha's footfalls, much like a baby in its mother's womb.

"She's in a state of estivation," she said, relief evident in her tone. "She's going to live."

Kai had descended to the garden, and now stood beside Rajha.

"They're all going to precious ones," she said breathlessly, a fervid glint in her eyes.

"Their numbers will be legion," Kai confirmed, regarding the pod coolly. Grasping Rajha's shoulders, he soothed, "The time has come for you to retire, Rajha."

Mistaking his meaning, Rajha covered his hands with her own. "Yes, rest is what I need," she sighed, looking up at him worshipfully.

Kai escorted her to her quarters, for the very last time.

~~And the pod shivered its mute fury in the twilit garden, dreaming of sweet revenge...

Divine Executioner

Joined: Tue Oct 24th, 2006
Location: Keeping Kool With Kai...
Posts: 11444
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I'm so glad you posted your story, Ramses.  I remember it from the sci fi board.  Maybe when things are less stressful, and if I get my muse back, I will write something new.  But I'll probably over time re-post my old stories.

Divine Assassin

Joined: Wed Oct 25th, 2006
Location: Lioness' Lair, USA
Posts: 2510
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Excellent story usual..chilling, mesmerizing and truly brillant!

Divine Executioner

Joined: Tue Oct 24th, 2006
Location: Dark Zone, Naturally
Posts: 2472
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Hey Rams!! Welcome !! Great story!


Divine Assassin

Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Watching The King Of Fools Run
Posts: 189
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No doubt....a real great story Ramses!

I really love this idea that Lyekka may was developed by HDS!

I hope you write more about it some day....




Joined: Sat Oct 28th, 2006
Location: Elysian Fields, North Carolina USA
Posts: 13
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Thanks, sugarplum.  I love reading your stories, too. :D

My muse is on strike right now.... :c030a:


Joined: Sat Oct 28th, 2006
Location: Elysian Fields, North Carolina USA
Posts: 13
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Um, the above was supposed to have been a reply to Angel...then I was to post one to each of you ladies.  As usual, I'm a bit fuzzy, so I'll wave, say hi!, and smooch & grope Angel, Ketana, Maya and Aenea all at once!  *snoogans/feelios ensue*

I'm glad the story was well-received again.  I love ya's! *snogs*



Divine Assassin

Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Watching The King Of Fools Run
Posts: 189
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*huggles back*


I just wondered, cause I only have one story out there *lol*




Joined: Sat Oct 28th, 2006
Location: Elysian Fields, North Carolina USA
Posts: 13
Status:  Offline

Thanks, sugar.  Perhaps I'll lasso my muse one of these days.  :re_11:

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