Chapter XXIV

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Cenerea, 3rd planet from the star Letria. Regalius, The Homeland,

Central Region, Just Outside Of The Capitol City,

The Arcturan Estate, Current Day

Wendy was afraid and although she wanted to, she could not tell her husband, because it was something Jay could never know occurred. If she was right, what was going to take place would definitely break his heart; however, she understood it was an activity that had to occur for their plan to advance. Her long conversations with Jinah and Geneticus made it very clear there was no way around it. She was going to have to perform The Twelve. It was difficult, but Wendy did manage to convince the A.I. to keep everything a secret from her husband.

Geneticus did admit it did not like that part of their bargain one bit. G had become nearly as close to Jay as it had with Wendy, and even more so than Harold, it appeared. The machine reminded Wendy that lies are what put this tragic chain of events into motion in the first place. As true as that sentiment might have been, she knew it might take another falsehood or two to end its steady advance. She just hoped the A.I.'s theory about what actually transpired during the trials were true. That it was only a show. If it wasn't, her 'dream' of becoming the queen of the Arcturis Clan might end today.

"Daughter, are you ready?" Mother Arcturis asked.

The scientist in Wendy tried to rationalize her activities as necessary. It was strictly to get from point Alpha to point Zeta. She even tried to convince herself that it was Elle's body not hers. Again, she found no comfort in the illusion. "Yes. Let's get this over with, mother," she said nervously.

Elle's mother and seven of her sisters, all dressed in red rather revealing robes, surrounded her. They placed bright crimson masks on their faces. Each mask bore different expressions symbolizing the first Arcturan's struggle with controlling her emotions and eventually overcoming their grip on her. When Wendy read of this part of the ceremony, it reminded her of Geneticus' emotional programming, only in reverse.

Mother Arcturis produced a tattered blue gown for Wendy to wear, snapping the former Scientist General back to her strange reality. Wendy removed Elle's slutty dress and pulled the frayed material over her head. This part of the ritual signified Queen Beherit's fateful trip to the king's bed as a farmgirl.

"Follow me, daughters," the older woman said.

The thinly clothed sisters surrounded Wendy, creating a three by three procession with Mother Arcturis in the middle front and 'Elle' in the very center. They quietly made their way through the Clan's large ornately decorated mansion. It was strangely empty and eerily silent. The sandals on their feet lightly echoed through the large open space.

The women stopped as their mother raised her hand. They were now staring at a large dungeon-like door. The two lead sisters, one wearing a mask of fear and the other a mask of anger, stood on each side of Mother Arcturis. They turned in unison and removed their necklaces. They presented them to the family matriarch with a bow. She accepted the offerings, taking the pendants from her daughters, grasping each one separately in her two hands. She pressed the two metallic objects together to form a key, inserted it into the door's lock, and turned. There was a click followed by three thuds as heavy security bolts retracted allowing the door to swing open rather easily. The door squealed, exposing a stone spiral staircase leading into an unknown darkness, figuratively and literally. Mother Arcturis separated the necklaces and handed them back to the two masked girls. They returned to their places in the formation once more. The nine women resumed the slow journey to Wendy's destiny with the Motherhood.

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