Venus chortled. As her personal Formytian, her safety overrode everything else. 

“I entered your room and noticed your packed bag. I called out. When you didn’t answer, I began to worry. As I searched your room, I noticed a small drop of irrihunter blood on your sheets. Normally, had any sort of bodily fluid touched your covers the Body Sensors would’ve gone off. After a quick check, it became apparent someone had tampered with the mechanism. Knowing foul play was afoot, I ran to get your father . . .”

He paused, running a hand through his glorious, black hair. His eyes had glazed over, as though he were back on Kelari, reliving what’d happened. “. . . but he’d vanished as well. The same goes for your mother and your sister. As of this moment, I have no idea where they are.” He watched her, his gaze full of sorrow.  

Panic gathered in her stomach and settled like too much food. She moved away, watching a squirrel scamper up a tree. “Zaren, do you think they’re alright?” She turned toward him, dreading the answer.

He shook his head, bent over and ripped a long blade of yellow grass out of the ground. “I hope so. As I headed toward the stables, hoping you’d found your way there, I heard a Transport charging in the Travelling Room. I tried the door, but it’d been jammed from the inside.”

“How’d they do that?”

“I’m not sure. If I’d have stayed I probably could’ve figured it out. But I wanted to hurry. As it was it took some time to override the signal. When I finally got in, the Transport had left its dock. I hailed it, praying to the Gods there was a reasonable explanation, but no one responded. So I turned on the holographic imaging and saw you, out like a light. Pulling up the computer’s Voyage Log, the coordinates revealed your destination—Earth. I punched in an emergency return travel plan, but the mechanism had been jammed. That left one option—follow you.” He threw the now mutilated weed to the ground. “I’m sorry. This wouldn’t have happened had I stayed with you.”

“You can’t be with me every second.” She bent to retrieve a blade of dried wheat grass. The texture was similar to anony, a tall weed on Kelari. With a fingernail, she split it open and then pulled it apart, forcing her anxieties on the helpless weed.

The notion of being on Earth caused her heart to beat rapidly. Earth Studies had been her favorite subject in school, but then she’d been hundreds of millions of miles away. Studying a planet and living on it were not the same. Sure, their species had similarities to humans, many in fact. There were many similarities between the planets, too. That was the main reason kelarians studied Earth. There were differences as well. Technology, for one. The way kels treated their world was another.

Worst of all, Earth’s air was poisonous to unchanged kelarians. Kelarians like Venus.

She could survive here, but not for long. Of course, once she’d made the change, become kelvieri, she could survive anywhere. Now though, this planet’s atmosphere was too thick with oxygen and pollutants for her blood.

Never had a kelarian been sent to Earth before the metamorphosis. Differences in the air being of the upmost concern. The other obvious problem had been the physical differences. Unchanged kels were all metallic white and silver. Certainly, she could’ve pulled it off, had she needed to. Silver teeth and white lashes might be considered cool in some parts of this country.

At least she wasn’t blue or green and slithery, like the Smartians and the Skelters. 

When she returned she’d be sure to advise the chancellors of the way this planet’s atmosphere affected her body. The physical alterations, almost like a chameleon, making her appear more human. She worried that when she returned to Kelari, her physical appearance would return to the way it had been. A silver clone! 

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