I hope you're enjoying the story. This chapter wraps up the characters' mission on Xian. Next chapter will get our trio reunited and focus on what's going on with Ilyana.

-Guinevere A. Hart

***

Kytia and Mila's crew scrambled to release their people from the stasis pods while the sounds of violence outside the depot increased. Ylf'nim ears heard it all— weapons discharge, distant explosions, even the shouting of those engaged in the conflict. Though muffled by the walls of the building, the noise was still disturbing.

Kytia was nervous when the Ay'niki tried to use a plasma cutter on the sealed door. However, the mages' runes held against any sort of breach. She felt a moment of relief at that, but the moment quickly faded as a new sound threatened from the roof. A low throbbing pained sensitive eardrums as some unknown vehicle descended towards the depot.

All discussion ceased, and every eye turned upward. Without conscious thought, everyone seemed to shuffle together in the center of the room. They startled when the building shook, knocking bits of the ceiling down. At the sounds of many heavy boot treads across the roof, a frightened voice uttered, "What are they doing?"

The voice was enough to break Kytia's momentary daze. She looked around at how they'd all clumped together— just like cattle. "No!" Kytia barked.

Now that Kytia had everyone's attention, she commanded, "Spread out. Use the crates, the pods, shelves, whatever. Just take what cover you can."

When no one moved right away, Mila backed Kytia's order with, "Do it!"

Kytia kept her eyes lifted, squinting against the sparks that rained from the enemy's new entry point. They'd be through in seconds, bringing the war inside. She analyzed her situation and inwardly groaned at her lack of options, a unit of stasis-sick mages and whatever she could scrounge off the floor. She bent down to look for a viable weapon amongst the few fallen guards in the room.

With their power cut, there was no place for the guards to charge their weapons, and most of them were spent or nearly so. Finally, Kytia found one that had some energy in it by a little over half. "You'll do," she muttered to the inanimate object, an act that made her wonder if Wy wasn't correct about her sanity.

Kytia primed the weapon while returning her gaze to the ceiling. Every witch in the room stared at her, she could feel their eyes on her without having to look. She wasn't sure when the mantle of authority passed from Mila to herself, but suddenly, Kytia was in charge of everyone's safety. They had no armor, no weapons, and Kytia had no idea what any of them were capable of, if anything. She repressed a string of expletives and issued orders instead. "If you have spells that hurt, use them. Defense, we need shields, wards, anything you've got."

"What about us?" someone asked.

Not all the victims were magically inclined. Some were ordinary ylf'nim who'd been canned in stasis gel for no other reason than genetics. Kytia shuddered as she thought again of cattle. "Can you fight?" she asked him.

His halfhearted reply was not encouraging. "I guess, if I have to."

She glanced up again to see the Ay'niki were making a sizeable hole above their heads. "Well," she said, "Looks like you have to."

Part of the roof was about to drop. Backing out of the way, Kytia happened to notice Index scuttling around on the floor. He collected a bunch of the weapons she had rejected. "What are you doing, Index? Those are useless."

"Yeah, I know. But I've got an idea." He sat half hidden behind a crate and started taking the guns apart.

"Care to share?" Kytia asked.

"Not really," Index answered. "If I don't say anything and it doesn't work, nobody will call me a dumbass."

Mila called over to him, "Index, you've always been the smartest dumbass in the room. Whatever you're doing, do it faster, please."

A massive chunk of ceiling crashed down followed by two smoking canisters. "Gas!" Kytia shouted while dropping her visor into place.

Defense magic was already on it before she'd finished yelling. As the miasma spurted from the cans it was caught up in a small whirlwind. The miniature twister carried the smoke back up through the hole it came from. Meanwhile, Index tossed something out into the center of the debris.

To Kytia, it was just a bunch of junk tied together with tape and wires. Then the first Ay'niki in a mech suit leapt down from the roof. Landing square in the middle of the mess, Index's junk bomb exploded. Lines of white fire clawed at the blue-skin's armor. It took little more than a second for the suit to topple over, acrid, black smoke wafting from the gaps.

Kytia called, "Damn nice, Index."

"Yeah, kinda surprised, actually. But that's the only one I've got." Index turned away and began to rummage for anything else he could scavenge.

More Ay'niki poured through the opening. They callously landed on their fallen colleague only to kick the corpse out their way. Kytia sent a silent prayer to whichever ancient gods might be paying attention, and she opened fire.

It was war inside the depot. At first, the Ay'niki hit light, their concern focused on simply reacquiring their stolen assets. They'd underestimated the mages, and they certainly didn't expect Kytia. When it became clear the pets had truly turned against their masters, the Ay'niki began to fight in earnest. They fought with all the vindictiveness of those who know they're about to lose everything. But Mila's crew was just as desperate.

Kytia felt as though she had been at it for hours. She knew it was probably only a few minutes. She lost count of how many Ay'niki soldiers she'd taken down, of how many weapons she'd traded out and depleted, and of how many Hibreonites she had left to rescue. Her body burned and bled. The scathing itch of the healing alien tech under her skin was as maddening as the pain from her wounds. They just kept coming, and they wouldn't stop, so she couldn't.

Wave after wave, and they were losing ground in the depot. "Mila," Kytia shouted, "Get the door open. We need to fall back!"

Mila worked with her mages to get the door open only enough for them to duck underneath. Kytia kept one eye on her people and another on the fight in front of her. She was ready to shut the door behind her to give the others a chance to get away, but then a pair massive blue hands wrapped around both of her ankles.

Kytia was swept from her feet and yanked through the door. She'd smacked her face plate hard enough on the floor to worry about whether her biotech could fix a concussion. A sharp pain in the center of her face let her know her nose had broken, and her face plate rapidly pooled with blood. The door slammed shut, and whoever had hold of her made the mistake of letting go. In one motion, she hopped up and flipped her visor open to release the small flood. She meant to deliver a solid punch, but the Ay'niki was ready for it. He caught her fist and held it in a vise grip.

"Stop!" he demanded. "I'm on your side!"

"Bullshit!" Kytia snarled. Then she actually looked at his face. His dark blue skin was unlined and still a little scarred where recent adolescence had been unkind to him. His eyes were wide, lips trembling slightly. He was young, barely into his adult years. She'd forgotten the Sil contact had told her crew that there were abolitionists among the younger Ay'niki generations.

Mila boldly stepped up and put a hand on Kytia's arm. "Please, stop this. He is here to help us."

Slowly, Kytia let her guard down. He had pulled her out of the fight, and he didn't seem to want to hurt her. "What the fuck is happening?" she asked.

The blue guy answered, "The whole city's in an uproar. The Revenants started something, and we'll keep it up until we get the changes we need."

Mila added, "I think this war's been brewing for a long time. They just needed a catalyst."

There was no time to discuss it any further. Belthiax, carrying Bomber, dropped from the roof of the depot. He set his passenger on his feet and tucked his wings behind him before drawing Mila close to him for an intimate kiss. Bomber announced, "Save the mush. We've got less than thirty seconds before the depot goes kaboom."

Index yelled, "Well, shit, Bomber! Everyone get back to the safehouse. Run!"

Kytia and the others ran through the streets of Xian to reach the underground. It didn't matter that they were out in the open, for all hells had erupted in the city. The Ay'niki were fighting each other, and it didn't help that someone had let the monster races loose from the gladiatorial arena. No one paid their little group of escaped slaves any mind.

***

The Nephilumen returned to Xian at about the same time as Kytia and her mages reached the bunker. Ilyana stayed with the ship, while Wy went back for more people. He paused as he entered because the place was overly crowded and hectically busy.

He was relieved to see that there were more people. It meant that Kytia's mission had been a success, but those people were in bad way. Everywhere he looked they were sick, bleeding, and broken. There were also a bunch of young blue-skins among them, which surprised him. They were helping, passing out medicine, bandages, and water.

Wy held back near the door, staying out of the way. Though he was worried about her, he spoke calmly into his comm, "Kytia? You good?"

Her immediate and sharp response flooded him with relief. "Does it look like we're fucking good? Gods damn it, those sons of bitches hit us hard."

Wy smiled and said, "Yeah, you're good."

He picked his way through the throng, looking for Kytia. He passed by Index who was speaking intently with their Sil contact, and he paused to listen. The Sil had called in his own people to intercept the Ay'niki imperial fleet that was supposedly on its way to the planetoid. Xian's bad was about to get a lot worse.

He started to move on when he thought better of it. He turned back and interrupted. "Do you think you can spare an Eloua ship? There're more folks here than I thought, and the Nephilumen's only got so much room. We can't lift them out all at once, and I want to get them out of here before..."

He didn't need to finish his sentence. The Sil gave him a simple nod. "Battle cruisers are incoming. I'll make the arrangements to have them picked up shortly."

"Thank you," Wy said as he reached for the Sil's strange serpentine hand. It was a little weird, but not too bad, when snaky fingers briefly wrapped around his forearm. He shook with Index as well, then dove back into the crowd in search of his fiancée.

He found her, still in the process of shucking her armor. From head to toe, Kytia had turned a mottled yellow, green, and brown where bruises were rapidly healing. The worst of it was her face. He added watching his lover's busted nose knit itself back together to his growing list of the weirdest shit he'd ever seen. Kytia was covered in gore, hers, and that of her enemies. On top of that, she was in pain and mad as a whole sack of wet hellcats. And she was beautiful.

She caught him staring at her and snapped, "What?"

"I love you."

She stopped what she was doing, and her face twitched then cracked into a smile. Despite the broken nose, she laughed. "Gods you're a dork. And I love you, but this isn't a fucking strip tease. Are you going to help me or not?"

He grinned. "I'll always help you take your clothes off."

"How can you flirt with me when I'm like this? I'm gross, Wy."

"Yeah," he said moving to grab a damp rag. "But you're my gross."

"Give it a rest. I've just been in a gods damned war, and your sap is going to make me hurl." She was smiling though, and that was what mattered to Wy. "Where's Ilyana?"

"She's prepping the ship for another jump. My instructions were to get you and anybody else who's going and get right back to her. Something about a virtual meeting with the Elouan elder council on the station. I think it's got to do with her bloodline, and Ilyana's anxious to have the issue resolved."

Kytia resumed her serious expression and nodded. "I can understand that. Just help me get cleaned up and give me a little time to finish healing. I don't want her to make a fuss."

They wove their way through the people towards the showers, and Wy said, "Do you really think she doesn't know what you get into? Ilyana's telepathic, Kytia."

Kytia answered with a light chuckle. "Our kids are going to have a hell of a time getting away with shit."

Reality suddenly hit home, and Wyfrost nearly tripped over his own feet. When he looked at Kytia, she had her hand on her mouth like she was just as surprised by what had come out of it. They were going home. They were settling down, and they were going to be a family. Wy was going to be Arl. He would be husband to two beautiful and insane ylf'nim women. It was possible he'd be a dad, too. All at once he was struck with a mix of infinite hope and abject terror. But maybe that was okay because he read the same thing in Kytia's eyes.

He had no idea what to do with the overwhelming moment of emotion. So, heedless of the grime, the blood, and the sweat, he picked Kytia up off her feet and kissed her. A fervor rushed between them. It didn't matter that they were in a crowd of people. Kytia wrapped her arms around Wy's neck and her legs around his waist. When their lips parted, she whispered, "Take me home, Wy."

"Yes, ma'am, you know I will. Right now, though, you could use a little soap and water."

They stood in the hot water and steam together. Wy could tell Kytia was exhausted by the way she just stood under the spray. Her eyes closed, forehead resting against the tiled wall, a weary hand flailed for the soap dish. Wy grabbed it instead and said, "Let me."

He lathered his hands and gently brushed them over her skin. He was mesmerized by her body's healing process. To him, it looked as if the bruising was washed away with the suds. When he'd finished her back, she leaned against him, and he wrapped his arms around her to get the front.

Wy loved the way Kytia's ample breasts fit in his palms. His soapy hands cupped, caressed, and massaged. She sighed and pressed her back more firmly against him. He considered she might not be as tired as he'd thought. He pinched both of her nipples between his fingers and she gasped his name.

Her hand that had so weakly reached for the soap now moved with more confidence, her fingers curling around his hardening member. Kytia knew exactly how to hold him. With perfect pressure and just the right rhythm, she could read his heat, his breath, the racing of his heart.

Wy nudged her forward, and she steadied herself with her free hand on the wall. She continued to stroke him while she parted her legs, and he adjusted his position. Then Kytia pressed the head of his hard-on against her own engorged sex. She was hot and slippery wet. She rubbed herself with him, but the position was awkward, and he took over.

Kytia braced both hands on the wall while Wyfrost took his erection in one hand and used the other on her clitoris. He started with two fingers, tight rapid circles drawing ragged breaths form her throat. All the while, he stroked himself, letting the head of his cock massage her folds and her entrance. He added a third then a fourth finger, spreading her open further.

The sound of her breathing, and the quick, hot pulse of her tender flesh told him she was ready. He gave her the head of his cock, and she pushed back to meet him. Silky skin and firm muscle gripped him. Sheathed in Kytia's glorious heat, Wy's entire focus narrowed to their joining.

He wanted to take his time, to spend hours just loving her, but Ilyana was waiting for them. He firmed the fingers at her clit and increased the pace of his thrusts. Kytia was just as anxious to leave Xian as the rest of them, and she rocked with him.

In moments, Wy's energy pulled all the way from the ends of his fingers and toes. His soul rushed to collide with Kytia's. Her legs shook in her climax, and Wy automatically firmed his hold to give her more support. The rhythmic throbbing of her firm rings around his cock drove him to his own thunderous end. They stayed under the shower for a few minutes to catch their breath.

Wy noticed that when Kytia dried herself off, she was still trembling. It wasn't from a quickie in the shower, but from shear exhaustion. She made a face when she put her dirty under-armor back on, but it was the only thing she had to wear. She said, "I'm going to find some clothes."

"Okay," Wy said. "I'll talk to Mila and make sure we're all set."

Wy found Mila and wings giving last minute instructions to those getting ready to leave. He said, "I think Kytia and I should take the worst of the wounded with us. Ilyana will be able to help them. There's an Eloua battle cruiser on route for everyone else. So, are the two of you coming with us to Harmony Station, or are you waiting for the larger ship?"

Wings shook his head and sneered. "I won't set foot on an Eloua ship, much less one of their stations." His expression relaxed, and he continued, "I originally came here for some repairs on my own scout ship. It's been done for months now, but I stayed for my beloved." He took Mila's hand in his, and she smiled up at him.

Wy understood then. "You're not coming home, then?"

Mila answered, "Belthiax is a scout for his clan. I want to travel with him, to see whatever the multiverse has to show."

Wyfrost nodded, then he thought of something. "Seems like you were the 'chosen one' after all."

Mila's eyes went wide for a second and she laughed. "Yeah," she said. "I guess I am."

Belthiax extended his hand and Wyfrost took it. When they let go, the Tenkaru's smile faded to a look of concern. In a hushed tone, he asked, "Out of morbid curiosity, what did it cost you to enlist the Eloua's help?"

Wy shrugged. "They just wanted a place on Hibreon where they could study."

"Oh, is that all?" Belthiax asked sardonically. "Just your whole planet, huh?"

Wy didn't comprehend the reason for the sarcasm. Bewildered, he asked, "What do you mean?"

Belthiax explained, "The benevolence, the passivism, all that altruistic enlightenment stuff— it's all a front. Look how they use the Sil. And the magic users they recruit to run their ships; like your woman, Ilyana. They took her, changed her, used her. Do you think they won't continue to do the same thing on your world?"

Mila spoke sharply, "Bel, that's enough! Stop it."

Wy was very glad that Kytia wasn't around for that conversation. She was already too squirrely about their deal with the Eloua. Besides, she'd essentially banished them to the other side of the planet. Still, he felt the need to defend their saviors. "Ambassador Araquies isn't like that. He's a good guy."

Belthiax' lips pressed flat, and Wy could see that he wanted to argue. Instead, he glanced once at Mila, then quietly conceded, "Yeah, I'm sure he is." To Mila, he said, "Say your goodbyes, my love. I'm sick of this place." With that, he went off to prepare their departure.

Mila smiled weakly at Wy. "I'm sorry about that. Tenkaru and Eloua come from the same home world, but I guess they've never been able to get along with each other." She smiled brighter and said, "Hey, I don't think I ever said thanks for coming to my rescue."

Wy chuckled, "I should've figured you'd rescue yourself."

Mila threw her arms around him then and hugged him tight. She said, "Really, Wy. Thank you. Take care of yourself, okay."

He hugged her in return and kissed the top of her head. "You, too. Be safe out there. And Fjallheim will keep a light burning for you when you're ready to come home."

Mila stepped back and nodded. Though she tried to keep her smile, her eyes flooded, and her chin quivered. "Don't you have someplace you need to be?" she bossed.

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