On the edge of a galaxy in the unknown regions, a space station floats aimlessly. Inside something amazing is happening, two beautiful babies have just been born by two masters of the great empire.

‘In every sense of the word, your baby boys are healthy in a few weeks they will be ready to take home,’ I said with a smile on his face.

‘Thank you, Doctor,’ both parents said smiling

‘You don’t know what this means to us’ said the tall, broad shoulder father with a scar on his face.

I turned to the woman on the birthing table she looked like all women after birth tired and worn out yet there is a strange glow to her.

‘How do you feel, ma’am,’ I ask? The lady smiles, it was infectious and genuine.

‘Doctor I am fine, the healing process has started, I should be good to move around in the morning, now if you don’t mind doctor, can you give us a moment,’ I nod in agreement and head out away through the doors leaving them in peace.

As I walked down the corridor, I recalled the day I met the couple. He knew they were praetorian from the way they carried themselves and by the clothing they wore. The father unquestionably one of the close combat types the nasty scar near his eye indicated that. The mother used the Chikara arts, her recovery from giving birth to twins was much quicker than any others he had treated the power of the healing technique is extraordinary.

Thinking about the laws for people of such backgrounds not allowed to have children a ridiculous venture, they should allow everyone a family. Stopping before the cleanroom where the children slept, I saw the two newborn boys sleeping the only difference between them the eyes one had green the other blue. The only final question in my head ‘what the worst could happen.’ Suddenly one child screamed at that moment and the glass cracked on the Cleanroom window, I jumped out of my reverie at the noise.

‘We finally did it, we got away from your mother and got our dream of being a family’ Henrik said proudly, as a new father I could sense the emotion roll of my husband.

‘Yes Henrik, but even darling though am drawing on my healing Chikara is still tired’ I said weakly, Henrik looks down at me with concern. I am lucky to be married to him and finally having children, we both longed for.

‘Sorry Zia I lost myself in the excitement I can leave and get us both an artisan,’ Henrik Said

Henrik walked away, I smiled to myself, Henrik is a big strong man with powers that would make people think twice about approaching him. In most circumstances, even with the harsh look and a scar across his face, Henrik had a heart of gold. So most men and women under his command trust him.

‘Here you go beautiful nice and sweet, just the way you like it’ there was a small silence between them my thoughts were happy and I could feel Henrik conflict through our connection. ‘What are we going to do about mother’ there was a little worried look across Henrik’s face?

‘We will have to cross that bridge when we get to it’ we both smiled, not feeling confident at the thought of my mother.

Two weeks later we headed back to empire-controlled territory. This didn’t take long the galaxy may be huge, but there weren’t many places the empire hadn’t reached out with its fingers and touched. The empire governed over most of the known galaxy, providing stability, too many of the outline regions, protecting trade routes by the vast strength of the imperial fleet, and the praetorian forces. This allowed fair trade without outside interference from aggressive factions. These enemies of the empire would-be quelled before any real damage could happen.

Those the empire protected, governed resources through standard intergalactic trade, and commerce anything from hardware for the fleet to beautiful worlds filled with resorts for R&R. Henrik and I were aboard a long-haul passenger cruiser it wasn’t the best transport, but it wasn’t registered with any major conglomerate which minimized empire interference. This helped us keep a low profile on our way back and a prudent choice, looking over the vessel the ship, it had seen better days.

I carried both children in my arms, keeping them calm with soothing sounds while Henrik carried all the luggage stowing them in the compartments provided,

Henrik finally sat down beside us all ‘Zia, we will arrive in the capital in the next few days I guess we can go home before we see your mother. The only thing now is you need to build your mental barriers to protect from her probing about our sons, he picked up the data slate for their travel documents ‘well at least the slicer that made the adoption documents together for our son’s looks like a real art piece. The coded signatures shouldn’t give them away as fakes.’

I breathed out heavily; I have been building mental barriers around my mind the moment we started back to the empire. Even now I could feel my mother’s presence, especially the closer she got to the capital, light years away I could feel mother impatience. Mother and I hadn’t spoken since before the pregnancy. I buried the thoughts about the birth and when speaking to mother gave some half-truths to throw her off, then maybe we could get away with it. I looked down at the children in my arms Varak with his blue eyes and Devin with his green eyes. The bond between them was strong.

Varak began to cry in her arms Henrik looked over picking him up, his hands made Varak look small and fragile, wrapping his arms around Varak and the crying began to quell into little whimpers

‘That’s it, you keep quiet little man you don’t want to wake up the whole ship’ I smiled at the pair Varak seem to relax more near his father than myself. I can feel the joy rolling of Henrik, the calmness of Devin in her arms, and Varak worried nervousness slowly relaxing at the sounds Henrik made. The ship juddered into hyperspace and made towards the capital I became more determined than ever to protect my family.

The passenger ship came out of hyperspace over Catronia, I Looked down on the capital taking in the sights. Catronia was an amazing sight to behold the planet cut in half by a giant energy wall on one side there was a vast metropolis with some small outlying towns and villages, on the other side was forests and wild animals all left in their natural habitat the only structures on the forest side were a few towers for holiday goers and researchers.

Catronia had two moons Velveen and Kariuki, Velveen the largest out of the two containing mainly praetorian and government families, Kariuki being smaller with no atmosphere became a military and scientific research facility which created many things for the empire, through the viewport just coming around on the horizon was Station one, this giant space station had trained praetorians for centuries.

Sky lanes kept traffic in order as ships drove around the space above Catronia. The odd vessel sometimes would break away, making their own way down to the planet, but easily caught by authorities who manage the lanes, large vessels had to land at several space stations to unload cargo and passengers this allowed smaller shuttles to get through the busy airspace above the capital ‘all very organized as usual’ I thought.

The passenger cruiser landed at one of the larger transport stations shuttling passengers to the surface, its current orbit was over the wildlife part of Catronia. Showing our ident cards at the gate, the big guard grunted confirmation that we were legitimate and pointed us toward the traffic. Finally, we made our way to the shuttle area that would eventually us to the surface.

I watched the people in the station, animals, and aliens from all parts of the empire coming and going from the capital. I spotted Zunic’s from Foranda a cat-like species known for its investing nature, over at another gate showed a transport had arrived from Kodila, hard-shelled Krotki appeared with at least twenty children running around travelers’ feet. The bug race parents had a hard time keeping them all in check and safe from others,

Devin became restless in my arms, he’s probably hungry again. The shuttles were large enough to hold two hundred people at a time, but the lines are long today, we had hit rush hour.

‘This will be a long wait’ Henrik sounded exhausted, from behind us someone coughed.

‘If you don’t want to wait in line, you can always come with me.’ His voice regal as always, turning to find it was indeed who we thought it was, as always, the tall skinny man dressed in a tailored suit.

‘Harrison what brings you here’ Henrik said, watching him closely the aid to my mother wouldn’t be here without a reason. The man may look defenseless, but that was far from the case with Harrison the man radiated power.

I decided to diffuse the situation enveloping him in a hug Harrison smiled, but any public display of affection seems to make him uncomfortable.

‘So are these newest members of the family’ Harrison said condescendingly, releasing him from the hug, allowing the man to settle his suit back in good order.

‘Yes, Harrison this is the new family, how did you know we were here’

‘As always your Mother, Grand Master Winter knows when and where you are and sent me to see if you would like to avoid the queues to the capital.’ he said in a manner that he wouldn’t take no for an answer

‘Sure, no problem’ I said, looking over at Henrik he glared at the aid it seemed to go unnoticed by Harrison, as we made our way through the ever-growing crowd.

Heading for one of the more private bays we passed guards and other security checkpoints until finally reaching the private yacht called the Tirade, mothers’ private vessel.

‘Good to be home’ Henrik said while stepping aboard all the time I felt the probing of my mother Henrik looked back at me with a look of concern, we both dreaded this meeting, it was too soon.

‘Grand Master Winter thought it would make your journey to the ground much smoother than falling in with the rest of the world’ Harrison was at the controls going through his pre-flight checks on the Tirade while Henrik sat beside him, in the co-pilot chair, myself and the children settled ourselves in the back seats.

‘Are we heading to the main tower,’ Henrik asked?

‘No, we are heading to the private residence of Grand Master Winter, am sure after your long journey, you would like some familiar surroundings.’

‘Am sure my mother would like to make us feel comfortable, but I would have preferred to have gotten home and rested before’ I was feeling desperate I wasn’t sure if mother could be held at bay, from in front Henrik turned around using Kensei telepathic abilities.

‘Everything will be all right, you got this I can’t reach into your mind right now. I don’t think your mother the Grand Master Rhina Winter will ever get through that,’ I smiled as he spoke, I felt a little more reassured but as always mother has been beyond the normal Praetorian.

The Tirade broke through the atmosphere and headed north towards mother. On the final approach towards the edge of the nature reserve, I could see mother’s palace standing tall amongst the other estates. Upon arrival, the Tirade circled a large courtyard above the residence. I watched out the window and could see the landing pad attached to the three-story building, a grand palace it still was. Thinking back, I remembered every inch of my childhood home.

The top floor was the bedrooms and mother’s meditation room there was a minimalist nature in the private rooms, wardrobes, and storage for anything that would disappear into the walls leaving any form of mess hidden away. The main floor was to entertain guests for those who wish to have the praetorian master ear on many matters political. The opulence and finery on the main floor were just for show, lulling the higher-ups and political parties to think she was one of them.

Mother always said ‘I rather put all the objects on this floor in a giant furnace, of course, appearances help.’ And last but not least the basement where she trained and work stations filled with files on anyone and everyone in the empire the basement was bigger than the house. Providing mother, a private space to train without interference, some techniques she used needed a lot of control and if any disturbed her, it will be dangerous for many in the surrounding areas.

Harrison finally settled the ship down neatly on the landing pad, with the engines powering down, they all disembarked and headed through the bay entering the main foyer. Standing at the top of the stairs was a lady with long white hair, dressed in a simple red gown, her piercing blue eyes, strong, even though the deep wrinkles on her face showed old age, mother was no fool.

‘Grand Master Winter here is your daughter and family safe and sound as I promised.’ Harrison with an actual smile on his face something between mother and he must have been said because he seemed relieved. Mother indicated to Harrison for him to leave

‘Mother you shouldn’t scare Harrison like that he serves you well’ I spoke first to break the ever-growing silence

‘Varak and Devin have told me a lot about you two,’ Henrik moved forward.

‘Don’t move one more muscle Henrik, Zia can defend herself,’ Henrik froze in place ‘you need not hide anything from me your mental barriers are strong, but the connection the boys have with their mother and father gave away your secret’ my mouth barely opened to speak, mother just raised her hand for silence ‘even though you have a great cover story adopting children by traveling to the furthest part of the galaxy. Having the children in secret you still believe that I would not know the children were yours’ mother stared at the children.

‘Mother, please do nothing rash’ I become worried now. The laws forbid praetorians from having children.

Mother’s eyes hardened ‘the laws are in place for a reason, you know why we praetorians can’t have children together the empire doesn’t want to create another centurion. The last one nearly made the galaxy desolate of all life because he went mad, it cost the lives of billions and the wounds are still healing from that disaster, even today.’

My eyes welled up with tears ‘you can’t do this’ Henrik may tower over his mother-in-law but didn’t make a move his thoughts were racing, probably going through scenarios to delay my mother for myself and the children to escape.

Devin started to cry I tried to stop him, maybe this was his last ever moment of being alive. Suddenly an invisible hand pulled Devin from my arms landing in the old woman’s embrace.

Henrik started to move ‘you have heard what I have to say,’ she chided this halted Henrik movement, she slowly turned with Devin ‘now you will listen to me carefully if the children step out of line or even start thinking to destroy what the empire has held together for centuries, then our family will have to stop them.’

‘What do you mean’ Henrik said, confused but curious at the same time?

Mother looked in Henrik’s direction ‘can you both promise me if we have created another centurion, which starts to grow out of control, we all will remove them from the empire.’

‘Mother’ tears streaming into my eyes now, she turned back to us with Devin pulling at Grandma’s hair, we both smiled happily at the change of heart.

‘How could anyone hurt such a tiny baby’ Grandma was now talking very childish to Devin. Rushing forward and grabbing mother in a big hug. Varak in my arms reached out and started pulling hair too both babies chortled in excitement.

‘Thank you’ is all Henrik and I could say.

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About the author.

Albert is an ex-royal air force photographer. He is passionate about novel writing and creative arts, his work can be seen on Amazon and Opensea. Albert enjoys gaming with his son and records them to replay on YouTube.

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