CHAPTER ONE - SENTENCING
Anarion Gray sat next to his mother, Mercy, in the Council Chambers. His ten-year-old face was pinched and pale. He tugged on the sleeves of his worn jacket. They hardly brushed his wrists. Luckily he was thin or it wouldn't fit at all. He hunched his shoulders.
He knew he looked ragged compared to everyone in the room even though he had on the best clothing he owned. His clothes and his slender framed showed the wear of his family's constant running from authority while his father Tranis had led the resistance against the Kin. Though Anarion felt conspicuous over his shabby clothes, he also felt safe. He knew that no one was going to attack him here. That hadn't been true before. In the Starn Slums, you were never safe.
I shouldn't feel comfortable here. I shouldn’t like it here. They're gonna imprison Dad. And Kin are here, too, Anarion thought, his hazel eyes skittering over to the seats that held the leaders of the alien race his father loathed.
While the four human members of the High Command were seated behind large plastiglas tables, the Kin had seats of honor to the side of them. Everyone else, including Anarion and his mother, had to sit or stand in the gallery. Since they were the family of the defendant, Anarion and Mercy got front row seats, which just made the boy want to twitch. He felt exposed. And it didn't help that he found himself gawking at everything around him, especially the Kin who sat so regally only a few feet away in their shiny armored Teklan suits.
With their helmets off they look just like humans. Well, better than humans actually, Anarion thought. Despite all he had heard about the Kin from his father and the Resistance fighters, this was the first time Anarion had actually seen any Kin in person. They don't seem scary though. Especially the one with red hair. He's beautiful.
Anarion tried to stare only at his feet or the marble floor. His father would be unhappy with him thinking these things. Maybe Tranis would even hate him. But despite those fears, Anarion couldn't help but cast surreptitious glances at the red-haired Kin.
My Kin, Anarion thought and a shiver went through him.
It felt daring to think of this beautiful being as his in some way even though no one else would ever know. His Kin had startling poison green eyes, flawless white skin and long crimson hair that hung down to his waist. That glorious hair was braided into one long rope.
Anarion felt his heart seize when his Kin looked back at him. The boy's breathing quickened when his Kin smiled and tipped his head slightly, acknowledging him. Anarion quickly looked away.
Doesn't he know who I am? Why doesn't he hate me? Why is he being nice? Anarion's thoughts scattered like startled birds. Why doesn't he seem like a monster like Dad said?
He tried to force himself to not look back again at his Kin, but his will failed him and he peered over at the beautiful being through his lashes. Anarion jerked in his seat when his Kin grinned back at him as if they were both doing something daring. Sharing an adventure.
"Anarion," his mother hissed. "Your father is on trial for his life and you're fidgeting? By the gods, what a son I've raised!"
"Sorry," Anarion mumbled and his head lowered again; his pleasure replaced by shame.
Mercy turned back to watch the trial with the same single-minded purpose she did everything else regarding Tranis. A lock of her once golden hair slipped over her shoulder. It was a lifeless shade of mouse blonde now. Her face looked weathered yet sickly pale. Leeched of all life. It was from being in the Starn Slums for months on end. It made people colorless. Thin and insubstantial as paper. No sunlight ever reached the Starn nor fresh air, water or food. The flickering of dim energy crystals provided the only light and the people ate whatever they found: rats, cats, dogs and even each other when it got bad enough.
And Dad hates the Kin because they want our blood, but the people in the Starn eat all of us.
Mercy's gnarled hands were clenched into fists over her thighs. She was practically vibrating with anxiety as the prosecutor made his closing statement. Anarion sighed and stared at his feet again. Even though he felt his Kin's eyes on him, he managed to not look back. He wasn't concerned or upset about the trial. The truth was that he already knew what the outcome of it would be. His father had told him so.
"They'll convict me, Anarion," Tranis had said to him through the prison com unit. The high-voltage prison lights made Tranis' skin look waxy and the bright orange jumpsuit he wore glowed. "As sure as sunlight. So don't waste time or energy on worrying about it."
Anarion had believed him. He'd had months to get used to his father being locked up. Months of not having to live in the Starn, but in government housing. Months of good food, clean water, fresh air and sunlight. The sunlight wasn't his favorite. He burned so easily and it hurt his eyes. But everything else was great outside of the Starn. He was healthier than he'd ever been.
With a guilty twist in his stomach, he realized he was grateful his father had been caught. Otherwise they would still be running in the dark and filth of the Starn. His father would still be giving speechess to wide-eyed, angry people whose harsh voices hurt his sensitive ears. Tranis being caught meant no more running. Anarion was sick and tired of running. He wanted to stay in one place, to go to school and have friends. Now that he'd had a taste of being topside, he didn't want to go back down.
But despite all this, when the words were finally spoken sentencing Tranis Gray to life in prison, Anarion gasped and felt cold inside. He immediately looked over at his Kin. Somehow Anarion wasn't surprised when the beautiful being's face showed pain for him. Understanding and compassion lined that pale brow while his full lips dipped down into a frown.
“Tranis Gray, you are hereby convicted of crimes against humanity,” Admiral Regnus Strawn, the senior member of the Earthian High Command, pronounced and a gasp went up from around the Council Chambers. “You are sentenced to no less than 150 years in a maximum security penal institution.”
"No!" Mercy cried out then covered her face with her hands.
“He’s not a criminal! He's a freedom fighter!" someone yelled.
“That’s not enough! He should be executed! He nearly killed us all by starting the war!” another shouted.
Admiral Strawn banged his gavel. Each blow seemed to pound in Anarion's chest. The crowd quieted, but it was an uneasy silence.
“Many called for your death, Mr. Gray," Admiral Strawn said to Tranis who sat still and rigid at the defendant's dock. "But Lord Abaddon has mercifully requested that no more blood be shed."
Tranis' angular handsome face reflected no shock at the verdict. He seemed almost galvanized by it. He looked over at Anarion's Kin with an almost amused smile. "No more blood lost, Lord Abaddon? I suppose you didn’t want even mine to go to waste. How environmentally conscious of you!"
Anarion's Kin's made no response to Tranis' words. Instead, his green eyes flickered over to Anarion and the boy felt betrayal spike through him.
That's Lord Abaddon? My Kin is the one that Dad hates so much? It can’t be!