The hot-white pain intensified inside of Charlie’s head, screaming and tearing her apart. The longer the great horn bellowed through Kander’s atmosphere, the more Charlie wanted to die. During those excruciating heartbeats, Charlie was forced back in time to when she was five years old and the Sworne had arrived at Earth’s doorstep. The raging fire turned down the back of her head, then speared the top of her spine. In a minute, she would collapse to the snowy land under her and become crippled until the sound cannon ended her misery. There was nothing she could do to halt the Sworne’s control, not when it was embedded in her.
But then chilled palms pressed against her cheeks, lifting her head up. Someone’s gruff voice attempted to cut through her screams, her agony, and the horn’s noise. Charlie forced open her eyes when a twinge of comfort pierced the scorching heat in her head. Above her, fiery green eyes captivated her, and black tendrils floated around them. She noticed Kal’s lips were moving, but she heard nothing. Charlie narrowed her gaze and concentrated on Kal’s voice, but it wasn’t her ears that caught her Alpha’s next words.
“Charlie! Focus on me!” Kal called through their connection with the god spirit.
Charlie sucked in a breath and yelled for Kal, but her voice was washed out by the sound cannon’s assault.
“Focus on me,” Kal ordered again. Her eyes were magnificent and bright, holding all of Charlie’s attention.
The god spirit surged through Charlie’s body and silenced the pain created by the great horn. Charlie gasped, reached up, and hooked Kal’s wrists. “Sumner,” she said through their connection.
“I’m going to stop the pain.” Kal was bent down, close to Charlie’s level but still taller. “You’ll feel a brief sharpness at the front of your head, then it’ll be gone.” Her glowing eyes held a slight gloss.
A twinge started behind Charlie’s skull, right in the center of her forehead. She hissed and gripped her Alpha’s arms harder as the pain increased with each heartbeat. But then it vanished, and so did the residual pain from Sworne’s sound cannon. Taking a deep breath, Charlie concentrated on the world beyond her connection with Kal. The horn was still powerful and piercing, but it no longer drove a spike through her head. She then jerked her attention to the left when Raine’s screams caught her ear. “Sumner—”
“I know.” Kal broke away from Charlie and took two wide steps to Raine, who was cradled in Andren’s lap. She fell to her knees and grabbed for Raine.
Andren was yelling and trying to comfort Raine. Kaden howled and danced around everyone, then pushed up against Charlie’s side.
“Please help her, Kal!” Andren pleaded.
“Give her to me.” Kal took Raine into her arms and held her thrashing body in her lap. They were both sunk in the snow.
Charlie stumbled to Andren’s side, fell to her knees, and gripped Andren’s shoulder. Kaden was on her right, supporting Charlie’s weakened body. Raine’s screams grated against Charlie’s pounding heart.
Raine had tangled her fingers into the lapels of Kal’s jacket. Snow and bits of dirt from the heels of her boots were sprayed over the whiteness. The god spirit rushed up from the ground and cocooned Raine and most of Kal. Through the misty tendrils, Charlie watched the spirit absorb itself into Raine’s thrashing body.
“Krafka, Kalatas,” Andren repeated again and again. Her cheek was stained from earlier tears.
Charlie grabbed Andren’s hand and squeezed it until their knuckles matched the color of the snow. “Come on. Come on,” she pleaded, praying that Kal could help Raine too.
Raine gasped and arched her back as the god spirit poured from her body. She coughed and almost rolled off Kal’s lap, but Kal held her close.
“You’re okay now,” Kal said over the horn’s blare. After a beat, she twisted her head upward and glared at the black spaceship that marred the beautiful blue sky. She turned back to Andren and ordered, “Take her.”
Andren nodded several times, climbed to her feet, and scooped up Raine. “I’ll take her to the rover.” She cradled Raine, who was panting and drained from the painful experience.
Kal stood, then retrieved the tablet from her jacket. She hailed Blade Perras and said, “Prepare the satellite’s ion defense beam! I want you to fire on the ship when it returns to orbit!”
Charlie had no idea how the FoSIB system could shoot a focused ion beam at the Sworne ship when it was already in the planet’s atmosphere. But Kal seemed sure of herself. Charlie worked her shaky legs and climbed out of the snow with Kaden’s help. The air around them sparked with life, and a soft breeze shifted to a strong wind. “Sumner, what’s happening?” She wondered if her Alpha heard it over the call of the horn. Through their connection, she sensed that the Spirit of Kalatas was being drawn up and out of Kander. A knot formed in Charlie’s gut as the god’s power built up like a wild storm. At one time, Kal had explained that she could call on more of the god’s spirit to do great things.
Kal pivoted and turned her head toward Charlie, revealing her blazing green eyes. Her features were immortal and dark, but she held out her hand toward Charlie. Their taut link reeled Charlie into Kal, step by step.
Kaden whined at the pair. Her tall ears were flattened against her head, and she paced nearby.
Charlie stood in front of her Alpha, whose front was pressed to Charlie’s back. She was consumed by the rush of godly power that fed from Kal to her. Then Kal rested her hands on Charlie’s shoulders, joining their bodies. “What are we doing?”
Kal flexed her grip on Charlie’s shoulders and replied, “We need to send the ship back into space!”
The sound cannon went silent, and in its place the Sworne spaceship’s engines grew louder; then its dark hull raced across the sky, heading east. Its quick flight whistled like a bullet through the air, distorting the wind that Kal and the god spirit had created together.
“Joh!” Kal snarled and turned in the ship’s direction.
“Kal, Kal this is Blade Perras!” This time, Perras sounded frantic and repeated his call even faster until Kal responded to him.
Charlie gasped seeing the Spirit of Kalatas drain back into the planet. She started to collapse, but Kal hooked an arm around Charlie’s waist.
“Stay with me,” Kal said, imploring Charlie to fight off the draining effects of the god spirit. She adjusted Charlie in her arm while she returned Blade Perras’s call.
“The alien ship is traveling east, Kal, at a rate of two hundred marches per hour,” Perras replied.
Straightening up, Charlie grabbed Kal’s bicep and said, “New Earth. They’re headed to New Earth.”
Like Charlie, Kal stiffened in realization, then ordered, “Perras, alert the fio in Gaular. Send them to New Earth immediately.”
Kal closed the tablet and shoved it in her coat pocket, then scooped up Charlie. She sprinted through the snow with Kaden on her heels. Andren scrambled out of the rear of the rover, raced to the passenger door, and jerked it open for them. Kal ducked inside and deposited Charlie into the seat. Andren hollered for Kaden to follow her into the rover.
Charlie groaned, rubbed her brow, and stared at the village. A soft whine freed itself from deep in her chest. They were so close to Kal’s home and family. Fairlee might be a short walk from them. Charlie could have learned so much about Kal, or rather Sumner. Her eyes burned with unshed tears at the loss. But they were needed back in New Earth where Charlie was certain the Sworne were headed. As the rover returned to the single road, Charlie watched the village shrink in the side mirror until the tall trees blocked the view.
After a few deep breaths, Charlie straightened up in the seat and peered over her shoulder. “Raine?”
Raine was leaning against Andren, but she lifted her head and met her sister’s worried gaze. “I’m okay. How are you feeling?”
“Like shit,” Charlie replied, suspecting Raine felt the same way after the sound cannon. She dragged her eyes over to Kal, who concentrated on the drive. They were going double the speed of when they arrived. It was a race, but the Sworne would win.
“Kal, Kal this is Blade Perras.” His voice came over the speaker system in the rover.
“Go ahead, Perras.” Kal was fighting to keep her voice even, but a growl threaded her words.
“Fio Gaular has been alerted. Rikar Ochin wishes to speak to you.”
“Connect him,” Kal ordered. She slowed the rover near an approaching crossroad, then zipped through it once there was no traffic.
“Kal, this is Rikar Ochin.” From his rumbly voice, Ochin was clearly an Alpha. “I have mobilized the fio. Fifty rovers with six warriors per vehicle are loading now. The outpost near Melitt has been alerted of the situation.”
“After the fifty rovers unload, they are to return to Gaular for more warriors.” Kal paused, then ordered, “Also send two hundred warriors to Little Canada.”
“The EMPs,” Raine said from the back. “They’ll use the EMP tech to disable the rovers.”
Kal cursed low, then snapped, “Any of those who can ride on horseback are to do so immediately. Be prepared for the enemy to use tech to disable our vehicles and laser weapons.”
“All warriors were ordered to carry their blades as well as advanced weapons,” Ochin reported. “Do we know how many enemy units to expect, Kal?”
Charlie shook her head and whispered, “It could be a few hundred to a few thousand with a ship that size.” She glanced back at Raine, who confirmed the estimation.
“Expect no more than three thousand,” Kal replied to Ochin. “Protect the citizens in New Earth and Little Canada. Hold the enemy back.” She paused then growled and said, “I will handle the spaceship. Hail me on this connection.”
“Ja, Kal.” Ochin ended the connection.
“Perras, get me General Hoyt at New Earth!” Kal continued to snarl. She gripped the wheel until her knuckles were white. A few moments of strained silence passed through the rover, and then Melissa’s voice came over the radio.
“Turen, Kal.” Melissa sounded drained, even raspy. “The Sworne must be here.”
“Were you hit by the sound cannon?” Charlie asked, unable to stay out of the conversation this time.
“Ja.” Melissa released a soft groan. “We’re passing out blockers, but we have just enough for our Liberatine soldiers. The citizens…” She hesitated when someone spoke in the background. It sounded like Castel.
“Melissa, the Sworne ship arrived in the western region, but it’s headed east.” Kal tapped on the rover’s touchscreen. A map reloaded, indicating their location on the road. A second blue dot showed on the map; it was farther east. “We believe it’s headed for New Earth.”
“How large of a ship?” Melissa replied. “It can’t be a starship?” The large starships weren’t designed to enter a planet’s atmosphere, let alone land.
“Joh,” Charlie replied. “But it’s still pretty fucking big. About twelve or fourteen hundred feet in length.” Melissa hissed at the size, but Charlie pressed on. “There have to be about two thousand or more souls on board.”
“I will ready the Libs”—Melissa was moving fast and became breathless—”and alert Little Canada.”
“Fio Gaular has been mobilized and is headed to you. I’m going to contact Shield Master Laken now.” Kal was about to disconnect the call, but said, “If the Sworne continue on their course, they will arrive in one hour. Attempt to communicate with the Sworne before fighting. The longer you can hold off fighting, the better chance we stand.”
“Ja, Kal.” Melissa was panting, but managed to say, “Be safe, all.” She ended the call first, just as yelling filtered through the connection.
Charlie cursed and looked over at Kal, who was seething about the Sworne’s arrival. But it was a smaller ship, which was strange. Where was their starship if there was one coming? Her thoughts were cut off by Laken’s distinct voice.
“—incoming enemy ship,” Kal told Laken. “Fio Gaular is mobilized and coming to New Earth. Your orders are to protect the citizens of New Earth. Assist General Hoyt until I arrive.”
“Ja, Kal. When can we expect your arrival?” Laken was calm but held an edge to her voice.
“In the next hour and a half,” Kal replied, then they finished their conversation. For a moment, there was a heavy silence that was like a weight on their chests.
“If that wasn’t a starship, then what does that mean?” Raine leaned forward and touched her sister’s stiff shoulder. “Will there be more of them?”
“I don’t know.” Charlie shifted in the seat and twisted her head around to see her sister’s drained features. “They weren’t due here for several more noreds.”
“Victor lied,” Andren said with bitterness. The darkness in her eyes was strange and left a chill in Charlie’s bones. The way Andren rested a protective hand on Raine’s thigh stirred recognition. Andren viewed Raine as part of their pack now.
“It could be a scout ship,” Charlie theorized. “There could still be starships coming later.” She turned back to her lover and asked, “How did you stop the pain in our heads?”
Kal glanced at Charlie, then returned her focus to the speedy drive. “Years ago, when Kalatas studied your people’s bodies, it noticed a strange lesion at the center of the human brain. It was peculiar because the first humans who came to Kander didn’t have this.”
Charlie had a deep furrow across her brow.
“Now I understand its purpose,” Kal said, her features tight and lips pulled into a thin line. “The lesion was designed to respond to that horn and trigger the pain receptors in your brain.”
“Wait.” Charlie touched her lover’s tense thigh and said, “You’re telling me that this lesion was planted in my head?”
“Joh.” Kal narrowed her eyes. “You were born with it, like all Earthlings.” She rumbled low in displeasure. “I suspect it was a modification in Earthlings’ code a very long time ago.”
Charlie massaged her forehead, but the headache wasn’t about to leave after the earlier attack; now this new information added to the pain. “It’s a biological control switch.” The idea seemed far-fetched, but an hour ago she and Raine were suffering in response to the horn, just as they had on Earth. Kal and Andren had been unaffected by it.
“Modification?” Raine asked and leaned closer to the front, her arm pressed against Charlie’s chair. “And there were humans who came to Kander before us?”
Charlie’s lips tightened to a thin line. She looked to her Alpha for approval to tell Raine the abridged history about humans and Earthlings. From their link, she sensed the willingness to tell the truth. They both trusted Raine and even Andren. Charlie sensed that Kal held great respect for both of them, especially for their loyalty. She twisted around in the seat as much as possible and held Raine’s curious gaze. “We’re not the first humans to come to Kander. A very long time ago, another race of humans lived on Kander.”
“They were the real Betas. They died out many centuries ago,” Andren said to Raine. “There are many arguments about whether they existed or not.”
Biting her lip, Charlie decided it wasn’t her place to confirm the truths. She sighed and jumped to Raine’s other question about modification. “But when we landed here, Kalatas started studying our biology and found a couple of differences between us and the original Betas.”
“So the Betas were real,” Raine said, her eyes darting between Charlie and Kal. “Why didn’t they survive?”
Kal responded with a throaty noise but handled the question. “They died out because they couldn’t adapt to Kander.”
“Then that’ll happen to us too.” Raine groused and leaned heavily against Charlie’s seat.
“Joh. Your people are different,” Kal said, stealing a glance at Raine. “Your people have the ability to adapt to new worlds. That is one of the other modifications in your coding.”
“Coding,” Raine murmured, then slouched back in the seat. “You’re talking about our DNA.” Her frown appeared and grew deeper the longer she mulled over the new information. “Someone messed with our DNA with bioengineering.” She straightened up and muttered, “That sounds like something the Sworne are capable of doing.”
Charlie conceded with Raine’s hypothesis. “The question is why,” she said.
“Because they think they’re a bunch of little gods who can do anything with their tech,” Raine said, heat burning her bitter statement. “I mean, if you could design and control your own personal race, why not? Where’s the harm in that?”
Charlie snorted and muttered, “Until the slave overthrows the master.” She shifted back into the seat and massaged her throbbing brow. For a moment, her connection with Kal had softened and soothed the distress deep in Charlie. After a deep breath, she tried to relax even though they were about to face the Sworne.
From the back, Raine whispered, “They’re here to exterminate us, again.”
* * *
“The Sworne are demanding all Earthlings surrender themselves to them,” Melissa reported over the comms to Kal. The Sworne spaceship had landed outside of New Earth about fifteen minutes ago. A short blast from the sound cannon had announced their arrival, pushing back many of the curious humans. But the Libs and fio soldiers remained at the front line. Melissa, Laken, and Ochin had spoken to the leader of the Sworne ship. “Tensions are running high, Kal. I don’t think we can delay them much longer.” Then a sharp yell echoed through the comms before the call was cut off.
Kal cursed and said, “Perras, any response from the Sworne ship on the comms?” She wanted to speak to the Sworne directly rather than allow Melissa, Ochin, and Laken handle them on their own. But without a channel connection with the Sworne, she was out of the loop.
“Joh, I’m afraid not, Kal. They continue to refuse our requests.” Perras’s voice was breathy, and soft movements sounded behind every one of his words.
Kal ground her teeth, then said, “Keep trying. Also, prepare the satellite’s ion beam again, over New Earth’s location.”
“Ja, Kal. Blade Perras on standby.”
The map showed they were close to New Earth, about ten minutes out. Like Kal, Charlie hated not knowing what was happening in New Earth other than the few snippet reports from Melissa. But now, it sounded as if the meager communications between Melissa and the Sworne had broken down. The Sworne wanted the Earthlings to hand themselves over peacefully, and the clock had run out. Charlie pictured Sworne troops swarming New Earth, the sound cannon incapacitating everyone, and blood-soaked snow.
“Can’t we go any faster!” Charlie hissed and slammed her boot into the footwell. Her patience was fraying along the edges. They needed to be in New Earth, now!
“We’re almost there.” Kal was forced to avoid several soldiers on horseback. A few attempted to holler, perhaps warning them that New Earth was a dangerous place. Snow kicked up behind the rover when it flew down a hill. The landscape was familiar now.
Raine grabbed the back of the front passenger seat. “Where’s the battle suit, Charlie? Back at your cabin?”
“Ja. It was charged the last time I checked it.” Charlie peered back at her sister. “Andren should go with you to grab it.”
“Joh, my duty is to protect you,” Andren said. “We will stay together.”
Charlie was about to refute the idea, but Kal cut her off.
“You will go with Raine,” Kal ordered. “Each of you take a laser rifle.” Raine always carried her laser gun on her person, and Andren had two plus her sword. A laser rifle each would be enough. “I will take care of Charlie, Andren.”
“Ja, Kal.” Andren accepted the command, but her voice was tinged with frustration. She wanted to carry out her duty, since she knew Kal would be focused on the Sworne.
Just ahead were the outskirts of the human settlement, but they had to get to the north side where the Sworne had landed. It was also the most exposed area of New Earth due to the Snowlands abutting it to the north. No one expected an attack to come from that direction. Within a few beats, the amount of Kalmar warriors flooded the area and blocked them. Kal parked the rover to the side near the main road entrance into New Earth.
Andren had already handed Raine a laser rifle and went to the rear, pushing open the door. She helped Raine and Kaden out of the vehicle.
Charlie was about to open the door when a strong hand grabbed her. She turned back to Kal.
“Charlie, I need you to—”
“I’m not hiding,” Charlie said with certainty and firmness. Her face was etched like stone until Kal’s slight grin gave her pause.
“I need you to stay by my side. I will need your help.” Kal paused then asked, “Can you do that?”
Sumner needs my help? Charlie cleared her throat but didn’t trust herself to speak so she nodded. Once released, she hurried out of the rover and collected a rifle from Andren. Kal was at her side and took the last laser weapon. Charlie still had her lectra handgun, the Grasshopper, and her dagger. The possibility that the advanced weapons could be rendered useless was real, but she had the Spirit of Kalatas if she channeled it right.
Raine and Andren were starting to leave, but Charlie hollered for them and sprinted after her sister. Charlie held onto Raine and said, “The battle suit has EMP protection. If they use it, don’t be in the air when it happens, just in case.”
“I won’t,” Raine promised.
Charlie exchanged a quick hug, then watched them run off to get the suit. Kal and Kaden joined Charlie, then they sprinted into the town. The humans were frantic, crying, and rushing into their homes to hide from the Sworne. Kalmar soldiers were sprinting toward the north, but many cheered for Kal. Halfway through the town, the horn erupted and signaled the initial onslaught. Humans who were running fell to their knees and cried out in agony.
Charlie slowed until Kal hooked her wrist and forced her to run again.
“We can help them by stopping the Sworne,” Kal said, yelling over the cries. “We need to force the ship back into outer space.” Her plans made Charlie dizzy and stumble once. “Stay with me.” She urged Charlie to keep up.
Still headed north, they raced past the various buildings. Yells and screams grew louder, followed by a boom that overtook the sound cannon. The crisp air was tinted with an iron smell that caused Charlie’s stomach to clench. All the Kalmar warriors with swords, armor, and snarling faces took her back to her childhood. She felt like she was fourteen again and wanted to hide from them, but the strongest Alpha of them all was with her. She was safe from the other Alphas, who were charging forward and into the fray. Her racing heart matched the pounding of their boots.
Through the swirling snow, the black, hovering ship emerged sudden and fierce, leaving Charlie blinking in disbelief. The Sworne are really here, she reminded herself. They had returned to the Milky Way to finish their extermination mission. But Charlie knew in her heart that the extermination was only the start of their plans, just like last time. The Sworne believed they owned the universe and had a right to claim it.
At some point, Kal had unsheathed her blade, and her movements grew bigger the closer they came to the battle area. Overhead, laser shots started to fly around them, then the first few Sworne soldiers were ahead of them. The Sworne soldiers were outfitted in armor and carried bladed laser rifles that they fired or slashed with.
Charlie readied her laser rifle, freeing herself from Kal’s grasp.
Kal had both the Sword of Kalatas and a laser rifle. With the blade in her right hand, she growled and pushed forward with determination. A Sworne soldier noticed her and pointed his rifle at her. The first shot bounced off Kal’s sword, and Kal quickly dodged the second one. With a roar, Kal drove the sword into the Sworne’s chest and pierced the armor with ease.
Kaden shifted closer to Charlie’s side, eyes gleaming red. She pivoted around and searched for trouble behind Charlie.
Sliding to a stop in the snow, Charlie gasped at her lover’s ruthlessness; but she turned and fired on another enemy that hurried toward them. The Sworne soldier’s armor protected them, glowing for a beat as it did its job. Charlie cursed and turned up the power on the rifle, which would discharge its power source sooner, but there was no choice. She fired again, closer to the Sworne’s exposed neck. He went down, blood spraying onto others around him.
“Come on!” Kal hooked Charlie’s forearm and pushed them closer to the Sworne ship. As they fought their way forward, the ground started to vibrate under them.
Charlie ducked under a Sworne’s swinging rifle, nearly being decapitated by the blade end of the weapon. “Vuk!” She started to slip on the soft snow but managed to aim the rifle at her enemy. As she fell backward, she pulled the trigger, but nothing came out of the barrel. “Sumner!”
The Sworne soldier saw the opportunity and pointed her rifle at Charlie. But Kaden launched into the Sworne’s stomach, tearing into the armor that held at first. Her claws reached through the reinforced suit, slicing through the hard exterior of the enemy’s gut. Then in a flash, the Sword of Kalatas slammed into the female Sworne’s chest, sending her back hard into the snow.
Kal knelt beside Charlie, eyes ablaze with green fire. “Are you all right?”
Kaden nudged Charlie’s shoulder with her stained muzzle, pushing Charlie to get up.
“I’m great.” Charlie took Kal’s offered hand, which hauled to her feet. She jumped when the Sword of Kalatas shot through the air and landed in Kal’s hand. “Wooo. That was totally a Thor move.”
“Take this.” Kal handed the rifle to Charlie, who turned up the power on it. “We’re almost close enough.”
“For what?” Charlie didn’t get an answer and was drawn toward the Sworne spaceship, which loomed over them. It cast a shadow over the battlefield, but its sound cannon hadn’t ended since the start of the fight. “We need to stop that horn!” Even though her body didn’t react to it, the sound was still piercing and bringing back her headache.
Kal snarled and sliced through another Sworne soldier, who collapsed at her feet. She then lowered the sword and knelt down, pushing her hands through the red snow.
Charlie kicked an opponent away, then fired a laser into his gut after Kaden pulled a foot out. A Kalmar warrior twisted around and slashed the opponent’s neck. “Sumner, what are you doing?” But she felt the ground’s early vibration start to increase, then the winds kicked up with strength. Charlie pivoted when a Sworne soldier fired at Kal. She returned fire and hit him in the head, an easy target spot.
As if in a trance, Kal rose to her full height and held her sword at her side. The weapon had a dark glow that snaked up from the ground and twisted down the blade. “Charlie?” She turned and held out her hand. “I need you.”
With a low yelp, Charlie swung the butt end of the rifle at a Sworne, then dropped it and yanked her lectra gun free. It was far more powerful than the rifle, and one shot sent the Sworne soldier careening into a pile of warriors. “Kaden!” She aimed for a Sworne soldier, who shot at the locke and struck a paw.
Kaden howled and toppled to her side. Charlie fired one shot, hitting the Sworne in the chest armor. Before she could get another shot off, a black mass struck the enemy and sent him flying into the air, far away. Charlie rushed to Kaden, falling and sliding on her knees.
“Hurry!” Kal ordered.
Charlie scooped up her furry friend and carried Kaden over to Kal, who watched with bright green eyes.
“Place her in the snow. She’ll be fine.”
Biting her lip, Charlie nodded and lowered Kaden into the snow between them. “Stay here with us.” She brushed her fingers through Kaden’s mane, then stood and peered up into Kal’s face. An unsteady groan escaped her upon feeling the Spirit of Kalatas so alive.
Kal traded the sword to her other hand, then drew Charlie in front of her body. “Focus on the god spirit with me.”
Charlie pressed her back into Kal’s front, linking their bodies. Around them, everyone was fighting in the snow that was whirling around in the wild winds. Both enemies and Kalmar warriors were pressing in on them. “S-Sum-mner?” She lifted her handgun, about to shoot the nearest Sworne soldier. But the god spirit was tugging and pulling at her, riding on the edge of her mind. It called for her this time rather than her calling upon it. Charlie was drawn to the calling.
The swirling winds increased around them, spinning and circling with great force but never touching them. Together, she and Kal remained at the center of the calm eye. A roar like a train filled the air. Then the winds exploded outward and tossed everyone around Charlie and Kal. Sworne and Kalmar soldiers alike were piled up several paces away from them in a perfect circle.
Charlie gasped after everything went silent other than a few groans from the bodies around them. Even the great horn had ended, but yells started to renew across the battlefield. She sucked in a deep breath and straightened her back. They weren’t done.
“We must send the ship back into orbit,” Kal said in a quiet but firm voice.
“H-How?” Charlie covered her chest and willed her thundering heart to calm down.
“You are an extension of me. Together we draw the Spirit of Kalatas from the planet, then direct it under the ship.” Kal swung her arms forward with the sword blade pointed downward. She raised it, then drove the tip and blade through the snow and ground. The sword vibrated with dark matter, focusing the energy that they called upon. “Focus on the calling,” Kal ordered.
Charlie closed her eyes and remembered her lessons from before Alpha Prime. She opened her mind to the Alpha God, who protected her and made her stronger. Behind her, the Spirit of Kalatas grew and started to blanket the ground. United, she and Kal sent the dark power rushing forward toward the Sworne spaceship that hovered above the ground. There was a distant groan of metal that intrigued Charlie. But the sound cannon had been reactivated, renewing the battlefield.
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