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Chiela had to watch the newscast three times through before she could accept that yes, one of those kids from the orchard had a cell phone, and yes, he’d gotten a perfectly in-focus video of her transforming into a freaking lizard while Terasu floated beside her and, yes, the media had gotten a hold of it and aired it, which probably never would have happened if there also hadn’t been reports of a freaking spaceship hovering over the Earth and beaming them up. Which the video also showed, directly after the freak storm that, apparently, Terasu had caused. And seriously, that had to be one expensive phone because the feed wasn’t even grainy. CNN had apparently tracked down who Chiela and Terasu were, and there was an interview both with their next door neighbor and Neavah, who was a complete and total traitor and had told them all they’d cared to know about Chiela, and then gone on to ruminate on whether Chiela’s psychic abilities were the result of her being a dragon or an alien or an alien dragon.

“Jesus Christ,” Chiela said.

“So you see,” Nikolao said, killing the recording and valiantly ignoring how Pipra was hanging off his shoulder making kissy faces, “why we can’t send you back,” and, yeah, Chiela saw why, but that didn’t mean she was thrilled about it.

Chiela scrubbed her hands across her face - the scales and talons had finally retreated, although the wings still refused to disappear - feeling utterly fucking overwhelmed.

“What the hell am I supposed to do, now?” she asked, and she was perilously close to whining. But, hell with it, she’d totally earned some whining.

“We could drop you on another planet,” Nikolao said, and his tone made it clear he wasn’t going to do that - behind him Pipra was making a series of increasingly ridiculous faces which - actually, Chiela wasn’t sure what that meant; maybe he was making fun of Nikolao, or possibly just that plan, or maybe he just wanted to make faces, “but you’d likely fare no better,” not to mention the fact that she wouldn’t know anyone on another planet - granted that here she only knew Terasu, and apparently she didn’t know Terasu very well, after all - and she doubted there was Catholic Relief Services in space. Also, she wasn’t wild about having to learn a whole new culture and, probably, language.

Nikolao looked as if he were about to say something more, but Terasu stopped him by the expedient measure of punching him in the back of the head.

“I hate to agree with this asshole,” Terasu said, and Nikolao was rubbing his head and looking aggrieved, “but you’re probably better off with us,” and while Chiela wasn’t sure she agreed - she hadn’t missed the part where these guys were being tracked down by people who’d nearly wiped out their entire species - she didn’t see how she had any other options.

“Yeah, okay,” she said, heavily. “Why the hell not?”

“Oh my gosh,” Pipra said, giggling, “You are so totally going to regret saying that.”


Chiela had found the commissary - and look! they had cafeterias in space! - while wandering dazedly around the ship half trying to orient herself, and half avoiding any more conversations that’d make this real. If she were alone she could go on pretending that this was one trippy=ass dream, one she could wake from any time now. That’d be great.

She dropped onto a bench and let her head fall down onto her folded arms.

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