He held her throughout the night. She remained in her clothes, which was okay with him. He stayed clothed as well, but added another shirt. He also made sure they remained on top of the coverlet until it got too cold. Only then did he suggest they pull the blankets up over them to preserve their warmth.

            Every so often, when they knew the other one was awake, they’d talk. Most of the time, he would ask her about herself, curious to know more about her. About how she came about.

            “I don’t know,” Runt admitted. “I remember waking up and seeing my reflection inside the capsule I was in. I saw what I looked like, but it didn’t register. Not at first.”

            “Do you remember anything else?”

            “Like what?”

            He brushed the hair away from her face. She reacted, gasping softly. “What?” he urged.

            “I remember… I have dreams sometimes, Axel.”

            “What sort of dreams?”

            “It’s usually the same thing. A woman is talking to me. She smiles at me, and tells me things.”

            “Tells you what?”

            “About how special I am.”

            “Well, she’s right about that, you know,” he chuckled. “What else? What does this woman look like?”

            “She’s… She has dark hair like mine. And blue eyes like mine. But she’s not a cybie like me. She’s human.”

            Axel pressed his lips to the top of her head. “Runt, is it possible that woman could be your mother?”

            She tilted her head back to look up at him. “Like I was born human?”


            “I’d like that…if it was true.”

            “Could you tell where this woman was?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I mean, was she on board a ship? Or a planet? What I’m asking is if you got any sort of idea of where you and her were during these times?”

            “I think we were on a planet. I saw things I was told were called trees. Green and brown. The sky was blue. The sun was yellow. And the air smelled like…flowers. I saw flowers. Yellow ones.”

            A few moments of silence passed before Axel approached the subject again. “This woman, in your dreams, did she call you by name?”

            “I don’t know. I think so. But I don’t know if the name she used belonged to me,” Runt confessed.

            “And that name is?”


            “Asha,” he repeated. It was beautiful and exotic, just like her.

            Their conversation ceased. Runt lay snuggled in his embrace, her head resting on his arm or on the extra pillow he provided. Every now and then, she’d reach up to touch his face. He’d kiss her fingers unless she tugged on him, letting him know she wanted him to kiss her on the lips, which he happily obliged.

            She grew more tolerant of his touch, even allowing him to stroke her back. She discovered she enjoyed it, and asked him what it was called so she could request him to do it again. At no time did he push the envelope, afraid that if he did so, she’d retreat back into her shell and never reemerge.

            The hours passed more swiftly than he believed. He dozed on and off, surprised he was able to sleep at all. Because she was so small in stature, the two of them fit easily on his bed. Having her there with him was enough. They may never get to the point where they’d make love, but he was content with what they had now.

            If only we’d had more time.

            He was dozing again when his monitor lit up, casting its white glow across the bed and shining directly in his face, as he’d set it up to do.

            “Axe! Axe, wake up!”

            He was instantly awake, hearing Vassidy’s strident tone. “Yeah?” He cleared his throat. “What’s up? Something wrong?”

            “Yeah. We got company.”

            Rolling out of bed, he went over to the monitor and hit the console button to make it a two-way call. Too late, he realized his sister spotted Runt behind him. But she’d also notice the two of them were fully clothed.

            “More of those flatworms?”

            “No. From above. There’s a ship homing in on us.”

            His first reaction was one of relief. But seeing her pale face, he knew it wasn’t what they’d been hoping for.

            “Any I.D. on it?”

            “No. And they’re not answering our hailing frequencies.”

            Shit just went from bad to worse. There were only two reasons why a ship wouldn’t respond, and neither one was good.

            “All right. I’m heading for the bridge now.” He ended the call and turned to see Runt sitting on the edge of the bed.

            “Why aren’t they answering?” she asked.

            “Either they’re pirates or scavengers,” he replied. “Come on. We need to get up top.”