Venus’s body burned, the medicine wearing off. She resisted the urge to cough and tried to imagine herself back on Kelari, free of this awful place. Death seemed to be the answer, the only way.

More than anything she wanted justice. For her family! Her irrihunter and the unborn baby! Instead she sat in a cell, at the mercy of this atmosphere, and these people, including Michael.

It was obvious he felt bad about his part in capturing her. It didn’t change the fact that he’d done it. Taken her from Zaren, forced her to endure their torturous tests. Confined her to this evil, stinking place. 

Michael wanted a story. Fine, she’d give him a story. “Sure. It’s a long one.”

He smiled. “The longer the better.”

She took a small breath. Not that it did any good, but she needed to clear her mind. Three. Two. One. “Before kelarians existed, there were others, called gethniovians.”

“Gethni . . . others?” He sat up, directly across from her. Crossed his legs as Venus had hers and placed his arms across his lap.

“Yes. Back then, Kelari was full of division. Six different tribes roamed our world. The Ertherns, Winbeys, Firclees, Watrets, Monobians, and the Suraeys.”

“Okay.”

She stifled a giggle. They were kelarian words, but since English didn’t have duplicates, they’d have to do. “The Suraeys were the largest tribe. They also believed they deserved to rule our world. Of course, though the other tribes were smaller; they had their own reasons for thinking they should rule. Every year or so, one tribe would war against another. The biggest reason was always to conquer, but smaller reasons usually started the war. A fight for more land, insidious threats, or lies. Ridiculous reasons, really. The war that brought extinction to nearly all of the tribes and begins my story, happened over a piece of fruit.”

She watched him raise a brow. “You’re joking?”

“Nope. I’m not.”

“Well, wars begin on our planet for stupid reasons, too.”

“Oh, I know. Maybe even more than you do. See, we kelarians have been around a lot longer than humans. Our race has studied your world and its inhabitants for hundreds of thousands of years. The similarities between our planets, the idea that we look so much alike, that we have land and water similar to Earth, has kept us intrigued. You need to realize our kind make the change into immortality at the age of sixteen. Forever is a long time.” Venus waited for that information to sink in. There wasn’t any doubt Frank and possibly that scary guy, Abe, were listening. Well, let them listen. There wasn’t a thing they could do with the information.

“Really? Tell me about an incident I wouldn’t already know—about one of our wars.”

He’d challenged her and she accepted.

“Okay. You know the war called The Civil War?

He nodded.

“The war was important and would’ve happened anyway, but it began because Jefferson Davis lost a game of poker.”

“No it didn’t.”

“Afraid so.” Venus chuckled quietly.

He looked doubtful and the history lesson wasn’t getting her story anywhere. She decided against further discussion on the matter. Regardless of the fact that her father happened to be on the planet at the time, and a close, personal friend to Abraham Lincoln, and her mother, a dear friend to his wife, Mary Ann. That information didn’t need to be announced, especially not here, with a room full of listeners. They might kill her for lying instead of because she was an alien.

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