The Beautiful Beingby Jessica Inclan
Together, anything is possible. . .
Edan Mirav must protect his people from the enemies who wish to destroy them. Despite his extraordinary abilities, Edan has not been able to locate his double--the one person who could make him whole and help him control his remarkable power to age himself with a simple thought. With her, he can grow even stronger. Without/b>… See more details below
Together, anything is possible. . .
Edan Mirav must protect his people from the enemies who wish to destroy them. Despite his extraordinary abilities, Edan has not been able to locate his double--the one person who could make him whole and help him control his remarkable power to age himself with a simple thought. With her, he can grow even stronger. Without her, he is doomed to an uncertain fate. Just when he's about to abandon all hope, she stands before him like a shimmering mirage. . .
Recently rescued and freed, Ava Arganos has been waiting for the day that her double finds her. When Ava first lays eyes on Edan, she doesn't recognize him immediately even though she feels the charged, sizzling connection between them. Now united, Edan and Ava surrender to a fiery, explosive passion that only renews their bond as they combine forces to battle their most treacherous foe yet...
"A magical, mystical tale, one you won't soon forget." --Amanda Ashley on Reason to Believe
"Readers are sure to find this a fast, intriguing and lovely tale." --Romantic Times
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The Beautiful Being
By JESSICA INCLÁN
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Jessica Inclán
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWatch this! a Cygirian thought, his joyful idea hitting Ava Arganos as if he were yelling directly into her ear instead of standing hundreds of feet away from her and simply thinking.
Keep your focus, his partner thought back, her intensity a crackle in the air. But she was happy, too. We aren't moving surfboards like we did back on Ocean Beach. Focus please!
Ava listened to their back-and-forth thoughts and looked upward at the impossibly heavy object that sailed through the sky. She stood in the middle of the Upsilian desert construction site, her hands on her hips, her head tilted up, the hot wind blowing back her hair. Five hundred feet above her, the large column of metal that the two Cygirians were moving with their minds passed by as if it were nothing more than part of a childhood toy, finding its way to a structure where it came to rest on top of two other steel columns. Once settled, a group of Cygirians seemed to fuse it to the other columns, sparks flying in a spray of heat and flame, the building growing right in front of Ava's eyes.
The sand mound she stood on gave Ava enough of a perspective to see most of the construction going on, the back and forth of Upsilian aircraft and earthmovers, the movement of Cygirian power and Upsilian technology. In just a few short months, a hastily formed temporary encampment was slowly being transformed into permanent housing and business buildings, the small town full of meandering paths that wound between the structures, Cygiria powers managing to keep the planted shrubbery and landscaping alive and flourishing.
This town slowly becoming a city that the Cygirians called Talalo, a word that meant home. A word that gave Cygirians a place, a permanent place for the first time in decades.
Ava smiled, happy to see the work. Together, Upsilia and Cygiria were building a place for the lost and abandoned Cygirians to live. To regroup. To form a plan against the Neballats, the race that wanted Cygirians for their powers.
But all Ava was able to do was watch. The air was hot and held her in sandy arms, and if she were smart, she would leave the desert and return to downtown Dhareilly and sit down with the group that was planning their next move. But she was tired of being confined, of talking, of sitting and thinking. She wanted to move. To do something. To help! But she was of no use whatsoever. The two Cygirians moving the steel beam didn't need her, nimbly pushing around three tons of steel with no more than a thought. And they didn't need her to join with them in power, to Converge, because, well, they were doing fine on their own.
This is horrible, she thought, turning to look south, where she saw that another pair of Cygirians were filling a water tank, the necessary water coming from seemingly nowhere.
And really, all around her, Cygirians were working, using their powers to help the Upsilians create the outpost. But all Ava knew was that it would be home. Home for all the Cygirians who still survived in the universe, on the planets they'd been left on, those who had been scattered, abandoned, orphaned. Here they would find their culture, remember their roots, work with each other to form a plan that would once and for all keep their enemies the Neballats away.
But she felt like a waste of space, knowing that her power—while one that the Neballats craved—was not helpful in building anything of service. Closing her eyes against the flat hot sun, Ava knew she should go back and help where she could. She should stop whining about what she couldn't do and be thankful that the Upsilian government had granted the Cygirian refugees a place on their planet—something Ava had imagined impossible. Upsilia had never been friendly to them, afraid of their powers. In fact, they'd been so afraid they'd hidden the orphaned Cygirians away, forced them to go into the Source, a place of immeasurable beauty, of infinite possibility. But it wasn't life. And with the Cygirians there, the Upsilians didn't have to think about them.
Every day, Ava played out this constant thought stream. She should, she should, she should ... Work, help, be someone else. But for this moment, for this amazing second, she wanted to stand on the desert and watch. After five years in the Source, she needed the feel of the hot dry air on her skin that was somehow like the whirl of energy in that place where all souls met. Swirling and wild and exciting. She wanted to forget her deficits, her problems, her "issues," as a woman from Earth had once said.
"We all have our work to do," she'd said after listening to Ava's story. "But you have more than most. You clearly have issues."
The woman had gotten up and left Ava sitting alone on a bench in a spacecraft. At that moment, Ava had wished for a mind that could spew out quick, cutting rejoinders, but all that came to her was confusion and the understanding that the woman was probably right.
She couldn't figure out how to stop wishing for what wasn't. And she was also tired of imagining her double, or twin, as those raised on Earth called them. The sad, tired, repetitive thoughts of her imagined other half were irritating and sad. With more Cygirians arriving daily, she'd expected to feel a pull toward one of them, a call out of the ether to alert her that finally, he was here. Even as she stood outside in the desert, sweat trickling down her spine, she thought she'd hear him alert her, knowing her name from some well of remembrance deep inside him. His voice would be like a bell, a beacon, a welcome home. But no. The sound never came. There was nothing but nothing.
Ava didn't want to think about it anymore. Maybe her double had died in the last battle with the Neballats. Maybe he had died in the attack on the safe house. Maybe he hadn't made it through his time either on Earth or here on Upsilia. So many things could happen in a life, so many things that a Cygirian child wouldn't know how to take care of by himself. Maybe he'd never even made it to one place or the other in that first emergency escape from Cygiria, a casualty of that mad rush to safety over twenty years ago.
Sometimes, that's what Ava believed because in all her five years in the Source, she'd never been able to find his energy, and she knew that she was likely going to spend this lifetime alone, her power incomplete. Her eventual connection with any other man would be half at best and thus, hardly worth the effort. She had to get over it. So that's why she needed to help with the building of Talalo. But what could she do? She wasn't really even sure what her power was, something so internal and strange that she hated to think about it.
"Your hands are so smooth," people would say. "Your skin like a teenager's. How do you do it? You must never go outside."
Or worse was "How old are you, anyway?"
And then the inevitable "No way! Really. Wow. Good genes, I guess. You are so lucky!"
Ava was twenty-five but the questions about her age, her skin, her looks were apt. During the course of her short life, she was certain she had slipped back in age, losing years of skin damage, repairing her cells, going internally from twenty-five to what? Twenty? Nineteen? Her power was the dream of every woman or any person, really, a perpetually youthful glow that came not from potions or lasers or powders or good genes but from thought. What use was that to anyone but her? And what could her double, her twin do? Age himself? She'd be eighteen and he'd be eighty, May and December. Or January and December. Maybe New Year's Eve and nothing.
A sudden dry wind whipped her long blond hair around her face, blew her thin, white dress around her legs, and she blinked against the sand peppering her eyelids and cheeks. The sun began to beat down, hard in its afternoon slant, and she left the mound, walking to a wilika tree for its small piece of shade, its thin spindly branches surprisingly full of wide fan-shaped leaves. Once under it, she wiped her face and leaned against the rough bark.
After being awakened from the Source by the two men from Earth, she'd found herself mostly by herself, confused by everything once she landed at the safe house. Ava hadn't been able to really figure out how to get back into interacting with people not in the Source, staying in her quarters or walking the perimeter of the safe house world for hours at a time. She'd tried to find those she could talk with, but she didn't know how to move into a conversation, the rhythm and current of it like a cold, too deep river.
How to step in without slipping? How to swim without drowning? How to act normal when she felt anything but?
After the destruction of the safe house, she'd ended up with a group on Earth, and none of that had made sense to her, either. Earth seemed to be a vile, dirty, dangerous place. The people on Earth had no idea about Cygirians and their powers, so they'd had to hide their powers lest they were spotted. Not only that, but the air was dirty from the rudimentary machines the Earth people used to move from one place to another and their planet was in disrepair, the sight of the garbage and waste much like the images she had seen of the Neballats' planet before it folded in on itself and died.
So she was relieved to leave Earth, even if it meant coming back to Upsilia to face certain death from Neballat attack or Upsilian censor.
All she had wanted was to return to the Source where she understood the rules because there was really only one rule: everything is everything. Nothing is separate. Everything is connected. Out here, well, there were so many rules, she felt like she'd breathed in cotton, her head clogged and stuffed. Certainly, she'd fought back when she was called to, but since the last battle against the Neballats on Upsilia, she'd stayed at the temporary shelter in the desert. In the mornings and evenings, she helped prepare and serve food, sitting down when her work was completed, listening to stories about sand and buildings and powers and plans. At those moments, she felt connected to the project, to her people, to their battle against those who would destroy them. But in the mornings after breakfast was over and everyone left, she wondered what she was doing here. Why did she stay? How could she possibly think she was of any help at all?
Sighing, Ava pushed back from the tree, stood straight, and decided to head back to the temporary shelter. At least she could be of some use there. Maybe she couldn't lift weighty things or start fires or melt steel. She couldn't create water or move earth. No matter how hard she tried, she would never be able to conduct electricity. But she could make a pretty damn good meat pie and sauté the hell out of simind squash. No one ever complained about the dark brew the people from Earth called coffee, all of them wanting it morning and night. And that, she thought, as she pushed through the sand, was something.
"Is this real? It can't be. It's impossible. What is this called?" a Cygirian named Stephanie asked her. "It is absolutely amazing."
Ava smiled, wiping her hands on her apron. This woman had just come to the temporary shelter this very morning, popping in to ask for a glass of water. And along with the water, Ava had given her a taste of her best recipe, a crispy pastry made of ripe abricas and cocats, fruits that didn't grow on Earth but were definitely appreciated by the workers here. Even those who had grown up on Upsilia remarked on it, and at least for a time, Ava felt like she was contributing. Food was tangible and of use. And dessert was most important, at least on a comfort level.
And with a scoop of what those from Earth called ice cream—the heat of the pastry melting it— the dish was enough to cause lines to form outside the shelter. And when Ava went out with the lunch cart, that's what everyone asked for.
"Based on all my Earth research, I'd call it a tart. A crisp? Maybe it's more of a pie. I don't know. I just know how to make it," Ava said, handing Stephanie another rich, juicy slice.
"I'd just call it heaven," Stephanie said. "It's probably the best thing I've had in forever. I don't know what the fruit is. Something like peach or plum or apricots. I'm not sure. But really, I don't care. All I want is more!"
Ava smiled. "Thank you. I'm glad you like it."
Stephanie looked at Ava as she ate, the woman's short spiky almost black hair framing her heart-shaped face. She wore work clothes, but in the desert work clothes were scant and thin: shorts, a small cotton shirt, ankle-high boots with thin socks. Ava almost felt like a nurse in her long white dress and thick white apron.
"So, um, I don't think we've ever met before.... You are?"
"Ava. Ava Arganos. At least Arganos is my Upsilian name. I don't know, well, who my parents were on Cygiria or what our family name was."
"I'm not sure too many of us do know who we are or were yet," Stephanie said. "I think we won't have the luxury of compiling family trees until we have a tree to call our own, you know what I mean?"
Ava nodded, realizing that back when she imagined she was simply a weird, freak Upsilian, she wouldn't have understood the connection between the words luxury and family. Now she did.
"You're right," she said. "Maybe it will be a while before any of us know who we really are."
Nodding, Stephanie took another bite. "You grew up here? On Upsilia?"
"Yes, but I spent five years in the Source." Stephanie stared at her for a moment, shrugging.
"Really? They must have put you in there when you were really young."
"Not too young," Ava said. "I was almost twenty."
"Hmmm," Stephanie murmured. She took another bite of the tart but looked at Ava as she ate, staring enough at Ava's face that Ava turned away and picked up a couple of dirty pots and pans and put them in the sink. "Really."
"I was," Ava whispered to herself, knowing that even though the years were true, her skin was not twenty-five.
"Well, I still don't get the Source," Stephanie said. "I don't think I want to ever understand it. It seems like prison to me. A punishment."
"It isn't so bad," Ava said. "In fact, it's a lot easier than being out here. Some days, I think it was a blessing."
Putting down her fork, Stephanie stopped chewing. "Holy cow. You can't be serious. You can't actually want to be in there?"
Ava nodded and turned to put the pie back in the cooler. "I am serious. I do want to go back. All the time...."
"How could you stand it? How could you bear to be separated ... Do you—where's your twin? Your double? How could he ever accept you wanting to be there?"
Again, the question. The very same one everyone asked. Ava wondered if she should wear a sign that read TWINLESS. DON'T ASK UNLESS YOU KNOW WHERE HE IS. Or WITHOUT A DOUBLE. SO SHUT UP ABOUT IT, or what about DOUBLE-LESS. HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT?
She turned when she heard Stephanie laughing. "What?"
"Those thoughts came through loud and clear. I wouldn't have guessed you had such a good sense of humor. You seem so focused on fruit and flour. You are very serious, you know."
Ava shook her head, smiling into her blush. "I'm sorry. I usually keep my thoughts tamped down. But I just get that question a lot. I think I do need to have a sign on me."
Stephanie took another bite of her pastry, licking the fork. She put the plate down on the table in front of her, ummming her pleasure at the dessert. "So I guess the answer is no. You haven't found him."
Ava wiped the table, avoiding Stephanie's eyes. "Right. The answer is no. I haven't. But I guess I don't get why having a twin is the answer to everything. Maybe I won't have my mirror self, my other half. Maybe I won't ever get to find the balance for my power. But does that mean I'm doomed forever? That I can't lead a satisfying life? There's this idea that with your double everything is perfect. And I don't see why it has to be like that."
She put down the towel and looked at Stephanie. "Why does everyone imagine that your life is over if your twin is gone? I don't understand. I don't get it. I think I can do just fine by myself."
Clearly," Stephanie went on, her smile turning into a laugh, "you haven't met my twin, Porter. He and I—well, our fit is a strange one. Not like some of my friends who seem to have found their perfect halves, the yin to their yang, the left to their right, the up to their down. There are no elders to tell us how to do this, so we've just been trying to figure out how to live together. He and I aren't like any other twin couple I know. Porter and I have, I guess, a different arrangement. But because we haven't all been together very long as a group, it's hard to know. I would imagine we aren't the only ones like this. I think there's a whole range that we will figure out one day when things calm down."
Excerpted from The Beautiful Being by JESSICA INCLÁN Copyright © 2009 by Jessica Inclán. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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