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With her eyes shut against the wind battering her face, Jen felt for the edge of the door with a sense she didn’t fully understand. She felt her hold on the rest of the group slipping and let go of the door to hold on tighter.

Somewhere beneath the violent wind, she heard a voice–an ordinary, human one. She couldn’t make out the words, but it didn’t sound like any of her companions.

The wind went still.

Jen cracked her eyes open. Everything looked the same–almost completely dark except for the light emanating from her own skin.

The new voice spoke again.

“Stella, what on earth are you doing? Stop it this instant!”

“They intruded on your sanctuary,” the booming voice replied. “I could not allow them to live.”

“We don’t know that they mean any harm! Put them down at once and we can talk to them like civilized people!”

“As you wish, my love, but it is not I who is holding them up.”

“Whatever do you mean?” said the new voice.

“There is something unusual about these humans. At least, a few of them. See this one? How the light shines from within her very skin?”

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to talk about people in the third person?” said Jen.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” the new voice addressed her now. “Where are my manners? My name is–well, there will be time for introductions later. Dearest, could you please give these people some air to breathe so we can talk this over?”

Wait, there wasn’t air?

That explained why most everyone was unconscious, but what about her and Sam? And how long had they been in this airless void? Were the others going to suffer brain damage?

“Whatever you wish, my love,” said the booming voice.

Jen gasped in a breath, and realized it was the first breath she’d taken in at least a few minutes. The light coming from her body was extinguished, plunging her into darkness. Her head finally stopped spinning.

“What happened? Where are we?” said a voice that was either Lachlan or Mahender based on the speaker’s accent.

A moment later, a dim, red light illuminated her surroundings. She looked up to see the source and saw a red and orange marbled orb glowing above them, about the size of the sun in the sky but nowhere near as bright. They weren’t in an endless dark void like she’d thought; they were in a massive tube with dark-colored walls made of a material Jen couldn’t identify. The tube was so wide Jen couldn’t see the furthest side of the its wall if she looked straight ahead; she only knew it was a tube because she could see the circular walls extending down far below her. She thought again about the pipe she’d crawled into as a child.

The others were regaining consciousness now, normal color returning to their faces and hands as they looked around, groggily voicing their confusion. Jen watched as Lachlan, still in Sam’s arms, blinked himself awake and found himself face to face with Sam.

“Hey, there, Samurai.”

Jen looked away.

They all begin to float downward, but this time, Jen wasn’t in control of her descent.

“I’m terribly sorry about all this,” said the new voice. “Let’s all get settled on a solid surface so we can straighten things out.”

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