Aloe Tekken startled out of her morning yoga routine. In the middle of a lord of the dance pose, her long bushy tail was the only thing to save her from falling on her face, as Takara Deakoah slammed through her front door. The woman’s usual bright white completion had gone an alarming ashen gray.
“Aloe! Aloe, we need to get down to the docks right now!”
“What, why?” She sucked in a breath of excitement. “Are we being assigned a case!”
“No!” Takara thrust a thick archaic filing cabinet folder into her hands. “The High Crown of Enochia has sent you a shipping container.”
Aloe paused in her motion to flip through the file.
“I…” she looked stricken, “I think it’s Tensaiga.”
Aloe stiffened, cold static running down her nerves. She slapped the folder shut with a snarl, grabbed Takara firmly but gently by the arm and turned to pull them both through subspace and out onto the docks.
“I will never get used to that,” Takara muttered, rubbing at her temple as she shivered.
Aloe shot her a concerned look before the entirety of her focus was caught by the faint pulse of Tensaiga’s energy signal. She let out a soft curse, whipping around to head down the dock towards where she could feel it coming from. The tip of her tail lashing through the air behind her in anger.
“The files says it’s container A 30 6B 71,” Takara called after her. Aloe’s eyes shifted from unit number to unit number, an invisible fist slowly closing around her lungs. She’d never felt Tensaiga’s energy at such a depleted level before. Had never felt any High Tier Enochian’s energy so low. She hadn’t known a High Tier could even get that low.
As her eyes caught the number, she waved a hand to erase the doors from reality and lit up the container with the glow of sunlight. Her breath caught and her blood grew hot with furry.
Tensaiga was curled up in the corner. His arms and hair blanketed in frost. His eyes clenched shut with streaks of tears down his face, frozen into ice crystals. Dressed in what appeared to be either training attire or sleepwear.
Aloe bit back another snarl at the thought they’d pulled him from his bed in the middle of the night to shove him in a box and ship him across the galaxy. Like a malfunctioning piece of technology or a broken piece of furniture they wanted fixed. Traveria Remiel had only ever let her have contact with her son because she’d thought she could change him somehow. Funny, it probably ended up having the opposite effect.
Aloe moved forward, cautious of how he might react in such a state. But he remained frozen in place against the wall, motionless. She was pretty sure he wasn’t even breathing. A fact that would have been much more alarming if not for his species’ ability to go without oxygen for long periods of time.
She reached down to press a hand against his face. He still had an energy signal, even if it was terrifyingly low. So he wasn’t dead… At least not yet, anyway.
“Tensaiga,” she tried calling him back into a state of consciousness, but again he remained unresponsive.
“Aloe,” Takara called from the containers entrance, “his body and mind have completely shut down. I don’t understand. Any High Tier Enochian should have handled the trip easily without any adverse side effects.” She made a sound of frustration and Aloe turned to see a sneer slide over her face. “At least not physical ones anyway. Who’s to say what mental effects throwing your son into a metal box and shipping him off to another planet will have.”
Aloe turned back to Tensaiga as she pulled out her phone and dialed up the medical bay in Sector Four.
“Hi, this is Armada Agent Aloe Tekken. I’m out on the docks, Area A, shipping container A 30 6B 71. I’ve got a nonresponsive High Tier Enochian who needs immediate medical attention.” The emergency respondent was silent for a moment, clearly shocked at the notion something had harmed a High Tier, before confirming a team was on the way. She could have picked him up and teleported them both there, but she didn’t know what was wrong with him. Didn’t want to take the chance of making it worse.
She placed a hand on his chest and slid the other behind his head, pulling him forward to get a better assessment of him. And froze. The entire back of his shirt was nothing but a solid icy patch of blood.
“Aloe…” Takara called softly with questioning alarm.
“Scan his entire body for injuries,” Aloe demanded, gently setting him back against the wall. “Specifically his bone structure.” She stiffened at Takara’s gasp. “What is it?”
“He… His wings are gone!”
“What?” Aloe’s mind raced. To cut off an Enochian’s wings was a punishment worse than death. She glanced down at him, running a hand over his cheek. A horrible realization coming over her. They didn’t want her to fix him.
This was a disownment.
. . .
As Tensaiga regained consciousness he was surprised to feel an absence of the bitter cold and biting pain he’d grown accustom to in the past few days. There was a hollowness inside of him that bled into every aspect of his being. But he’d expected as much after losing his wings. His energy was so low it might as well be none existent. His conscious mind reaching out to the raw ends of his severed wings like teeth constantly snagging on a split lip. His mind blank. His emotions deadened.
He supposed in the and his mother got what she’d always wanted.
It was that thought more than anything that sparked an inferno in his veins. He was momentarily grateful for his low-energy level. Otherwise he feared the entire station would have been at risk. Even so, the walls around him began to vibrate.
The machines monitoring his health went haywire. His IV drip short-circuited.
His eyes jumped to Aloe’s. He sucked in a breath, wondering if it was the first he’d taken since he’d felt the currier ship leave the atmosphere on his home planet.
She was on him in an instant. Pulling him into the warmth of her embrace. He buried his face in her neck, trying to fight down the boiling rage. The hurt. Forcibly clamp down on the burning behind his eyes and the choked breaths threatening to turn into sobs. Aloe’s affection was the only warmth he’d ever known his entire life. His own mother had never even hugged him once.
“What am I supposed to do now?” He asked when he’d finally gotten his breathing under control. Every minute of every day from the time he could walk and talk had been in preparation for him to one day take the crown. To be a proper and respectable Enochian ruler. Without it… Without his wings…
“What ever you want to.” Aloe pulled back to give him a soft but firm look, cupping his face in her hands. “You’re free now.”
He drew in a breath at the realization. A realization that should have been obvious from the start. He didn’t have to be anything to anyone anymore. He didn’t have to follow any of his mother’s stupid rules, or act like a proper High Tear, or find a wife and produce an heir. Not that he didn’t want kids. He’d just never liked the idea of a child being raised the way he had been, having to go through the same horrendous training and conditioning. Turning into the kind of parent his mother was, was one of his worst nightmares.
“Takara and I want to put together a team,” Aloe said, dropping into the chair next to his bed. “Get back into working missions for the Armada full time.” She studied him. “You could join, be member of the team. You have the training. You’d just have to pass an evaluation.”
“Even without my…” he swallowed, unable to say it. Even thinking the word made the hollowness inside him ache and the airfoil openings in his back itch.
“Your still much stronger than most species out there.”
He shot her a look. Her species in particular being a hard exception. She rolled her eyes.
“I said most not all. But I don’t see it being a problem, though, you will need to…” she hesitated, grimacing, “be conditioned not to instinctively manifest your grace or try to fly.”
His eyes fell shut as he tried to force back the memories of soring through the air, gliding on wend currents, the feeling of being weightless.
“Okay… What all do I need to do to be evaluated?”
“Not too much, just a physical, a psych eval, and a handful of tests. But don’t worry about that right now. You need to get some actual rest and fully replenish your nutrients. After that we’ll contact Starship with the request.” She stood up with a relieved grin and with a wave of her hand made the room dark. “Now get some sleep, I’m going to go find Takara and let her know you’re okay.”