Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday Briefs Denied Chapter 94

Fucking nighttime beasts coming out trying to eat me. I spun and smacked the squishy beast from my shoulder before it could lock its jaws onto my shoulder and gnaw a gaping hole up to my neck and blood supply. Worse, I knew these things didn’t come out by themselves.

No, the creepy little beasts crawled out of tiny holes with their squishy, extendable bodies, looking for something warm and blood-filled to take away the chill of the night. Where the hell did they come from?

I stomped on the thing on the ground and it squished, then splatted as the blood spread out through the splits on either side of its body. “Die!”

There was another one. I took two big steps to it and stomped down. So nasty, but necessary. Soon they were coming up nearly as fast as I could stomp down. I didn’t want to run back to the house; they’d follow the heat trail from my feet.

Chomper was in the house. I glanced at the window.

Shit! Chomper wasn’t there anymore. Well, maybe that was a good thing. He didn’t need to see this. I stepped on two of the crawlers at once, one foot on each, and shuddered, yelling in revulsion.

“Kohen?” Captain came running from the back of the house. He held a weapon at the ready. “What are you doing?”

“Killing these things. One of them tried to take a nibble from my neck. I kinda thought you might not like that.” Another one came up from a hole I thought I’d collapsed. Damn it! “You gonna help or what?”

The buzz of Captain’s weapon frying the little shits was loud in the near perfect silence, at least until a strident bellow sounded in the air above my head. I risked a quick look up, and my jaw dropped.

Chomper was in his shifted form. He was bigger, at least twice the size he was before, and he had two of the squishy beasts dripping blood down his arms, one in each clawed hand. He tore a strip off of each with his teeth, living up to his name, chewing with his mouth wide open.

By the blood coating his front, he’d eaten more than the ones he was holding.

At least he was safe in the air. It took several more minutes before the attack subsided and we packed down the holes that had been left in the ground. Captain holstered his weapon and slid his hands over my arms and up to my neck, checking me for wounds. “You’re okay?”

“Yeah, fine.” My feet hurt, and my stomach was churning, but that was because I could see Chomper on the ground still eating. “I don’t think we’ve been feeding him enough. Or maybe just not enough meat.” I swallowed and checked Captain with my eyes. “You okay too? How’d you know something was wrong?”

“Of course. I was inside when Chomper started yelling. He’d been whining, but this was different. Then I felt your panic.”

“Well, when it was just one I was fine. A whole herd of those things is deadly.” I still didn’t even know what they were called.

Aparoe stood in the doorway of the house. “Everyone all right or are my medical skills needed?”

“We’re fine,” Captain called.

The medic caught sight of Chomper. Their breath caught. “Oh my. He’s grown.”

“I know,” I said. “I left him inside in the window sill and came outside to walk. I only went around the house about three times before I was attacked. Then Captain and Chomper came to help me.”

“Oh no. I came to help. I told Chomper to stay inside like a good boy like his dad told him too.” Captain glanced at the filthy little beastie that was somehow ours. He was still on all fours, but his wings were tucked and he was slowing down. “But he must have found a way to get out.”

“Did he grow before or after he ate some of them?” Aparoe asked.

I shrugged. “Don’t know. He had blood on his face and two of them impaled on his claws when I saw him.”

“My guess is before. He couldn’t have reached the door release, otherwise, his arms were too short to release the latch and turn the handle.” Captain pursed his lips. He sighed. “Guess we’ll have to put a password lock on the doors.”

“It’s fine,” I tried to say soothingly. “I was out here. He doesn’t go anywhere without me or you.” He was like the synthgar in that. Hmm… the little symbiote was with Captain right then, and I could see just the edge of it behind his ear.

“So most likely a biological response to the threat. To you, obviously, not him since he was safe indoors. Once again proving the bond between you.” Aparoe tapped their chin. “Fascinating. Chomper, will you come see me? Let me run some tests?”

They didn’t even ask me anymore, just Chomper. I said no, but he usually said no. Of course, I’d veto if I felt I needed to. But Aparoe knew my history, new Chomper’s… they knew exactly who was Chomper’s parent, and what would happen to them if Sparkles came back. Chomper dropped the carcass he was more playing with than eating and scampered over to the medic.

Picking him up as if the blood covering him was nothing, they retreated into the house.

If, not when. I stopped on the walk back to the house, suddenly stuck on that thought. Captain’s jerk on my arm as we stopped startled me back into walking. “Sorry.”

I needed out of these clothes and into the clean room. I needed a wash fast. I might even splurge and do a water bath.

“Join me?” I glanced at Captain over one shoulder.

“Anytime.” We stripped the second we hit the bathing chamber. I ignored the promise of sleek, naked skin was too much for him to resist.

Even though we were planet-side, he still rationed, and the water the house of all. We climbed inside the clear stall and the lights came on. His eyes stared at me hungrily, and I felt like a feast laid out for him to nibble and snack on until his heart was content.

“I was so worried about you,” Captain said. “What if I didn’t get there in time?”

“But you did.”

“Because Chomper told me there was something wrong. He’s hyperfocused on you, but sometimes, that’s a good thing. You get into too much trouble.” Captain wasn’t wrong, but he’d winked and the rueful grin as he rolled his eyes said he was only joking.


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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 93

“This is too weird,” Deke said. He stared at me and then smirked. He glanced at Captain. “Guess you two are daddies now.”

“What?” Captain opened his mouth and then shut it. He shook his head.

“You see that fire-breathing sparkly death machine anywhere around here?” Deke looked around in example. “She looked pretty cozy with those ones that looked just like her but left that one with your boy there. And he’s talking to you. I’m thinking she’s basically saying the boy is your problem.” He snorted and started laughing. “Better hope he doesn’t want to nurse or anything,” he gasped out.

“Can you be any more ridiculous?” Aparoe said.

Deke was still chuckling. “What part of what I said wasn’t true?”

“Beings born from eggs are almost always capable of eating the same diet as the parents from the very beginning. Beings who are incubated internally are normally the ones are often born with a less developed system and need another method of feeding, such as a liquid based diet, until their systems mature further.”

“What part of this is normal? Tell me that!” Deke flung an arm out. He wiped his forehead. “What I can tell you is that we gotta get out of here before it gets much hotter.”

“He’s right,” Captain interrupted when Aparoe pulled themselves up in a huff. The arguments Deke couldn’t seem to stop having with the medical officer wouldn’t help them now. “Let’s go back to the pool, see what’s happening there with Kohen’s friend, and then pack up. I want to get Kohen home as soon as possible.”

Deke apparently couldn’t hold back another jibe. “Dying to set up a nursery?”

“To call Freska. Just shut up and lead the way.” Captain helped me up and stayed behind me, taking the rear. Aparoe kept glancing back as we walked in single file through the narrow path to the pool.

Sparkles wasn’t at the pool. The egg sacs were gone too. Other than the equipment the others had left behind, there wasn’t anything to suggest anyone or anything had been there, other than us. “Where did she go?”

“She dumped and ditched on you, man.” Deke laughed again.

His sense of humor was getting on my nerves. I glared at him. The baby was still curled up in my arm, tucked inside my shirt. Maybe having his egg caught on fire and burned around him was exhausting, because he’d fallen asleep on the short walk.

“Let’s go,” Captain said. He wiped sweat off his forehead. “Before we all cook in here.”

 I stood around while the others packed up. Then we started the long walk back to the house; funny, it hadn’t seemed like we’d flown that far when I’d been clutching at Sparkles in terror.

Deke left as soon as we got near his place, but Aparoe didn’t go anywhere. I sighed. There went our privacy. Captain ushered me inside with a hand on my back. Our small house looked like the others on the world from the outside, but inside was a blessed oasis of technology. The cool air was recirculated, and we had a vid and plenty of other technology to make it seem as if we still lived in comfort on the ship—just with a lot more space and freedom outside.

I had a brief moment to worry about Chomper and the cool air, but his skin seemed to warm even as I pulled him out of my shirt. Okay, so he didn’t need outside heat to regulate his temperature. We woul’n't have to replicate the sauna warmth of the rocks and pool.

“Did Sparkles like it warm?” I asked Aparoe, since they were right beside me.

They shrugged. “The temperature never seemed to bother them either way.”

Okay, good. I looked around for something to lay Chomper on. “Here,” Aparoe said. They grabbed the blanket from the pack Captain set down, balling it up. I set Chomper in the middle. He lay there, his eyes blinking lazily, and waved his arms and legs around.

“He might go back to sleep.” Captain’s voice was a rumble at my side. “Babies sleep a lot.”

“I know that.” I’d had younger siblings.

“Can I scan him again?” Aparoe asked.

“If it doesn’t bother him.” I turned on my heel. “I’m going to go check on our supplies, see what else we have he can eat.” He couldn’t live on protein chips alone.

Except he could. I’d been right; Aparoe hadn’t left. They camped out in the tiny spare chamber. Chomper ate every protein chip we could get our hands on and refused any other types of food. He never left my side, no matter what form he was in.

He switched between the two at will. He wanted to curl around my shoulders or use those tiny wings to flap around the floor? He turned into a dark, swirled Sparkles-like alien. He wanted to be snuggled or there were strangers around? He looked like a child, a dark, swirled child. His diamond eyes never changed though.

His speech was simple word mimics or prompts. Food. Want. Water. Want. Hold. Want. It was exhausting.

Freska and Danie were to find out more about Sparkles. They’d taken a shuttle off-planet, but Captain wouldn’t tell me where. The only good thing? She’d taken Deke with her. I was slowly going crazy inside the house, trying to keep Chomper a secret, and he hadn’t been helping.

“I’m going for a walk around the house!” I announced. “By myself!”

Chomper whined, but he would be fine. “Sit here.” I put him in the window seat. “You can see me from there.”  

It was a blessedly cool evening, as I paced exhaustedly. I waved my first time past the window. Chomper watched me intently. The second time he waved back. The third, he was waving before I got there, his eyes laser focused on me.

Who knew having someone depend on you for everything was so exhausting? I froze, my head coming up as that thought struck me. Like… Captain was for me and mine. I’d never realized—

Then something else struck me.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 92

I fell onto my ass abruptly, fighting to draw in a breath. Captain dropped to my side. “I thought… I thought that was just what created the mental connection. The stuff in my body and brain joining me and Sparkles so I could feel her and probably them. Not making us physically—” I broke off, waving a hand between me and the little hatchling.

Captain and Aparoe exchanged glances. Aparoe scowled and folded their arms, and Captain sighed.

“What?” I split a look between them. “What?” I asked again when neither of them spoke.

“I’m telling him. I always thought it was best, especially after Lakshou turned out to be a damned traitor. His judgment was clearly suspect, and he probably had ulterior motives to prevent Kohen from knowing about all the changes that were done to him.”

“He was scared enough. I agreed—”

“To keep things from me?” I snapped, interrupting Captain and pulling away from him. “We talked about that.”

“I know, I know.”

“What didn’t you tell me?” My heart was in my throat, and I wanted to throw up. Or I was going to have a heart attack because my heart was still pounding out of my chest and cold sweat was running down my back.

“The changes to your body that let you be faster and stronger than normal humans are not just from your mind and the synaptic changes. They put alien DNA through your whole body, changing your bones, nerves, and even parts of your muscles. Your joints lubricate in different ways, which let them move more fluidly.” Aparoe spoke calmly but they must have thought about how to explain this to me because I understood everything they said.

“How could you keep this from me?”

“You don’t even notice you’re doing it, Kohen,” Captain said softly. “I didn’t want to scare you more.”

“Shit, kid, you blend in with anyone and everyone you come in contact with by instinct.” Deke was looking over his shoulder, still guarding our backs—from what, I didn’t know. “No one expects you to come at them until you’re just… there.”

“So it’s more of the weapon stuff.” My chest hurt, and I ached to run, to hide, but the hatchling couldn’t run and Sparkles was nuzzling it with her nose. She huffed, looking up. “Yeah, okay.” I shoved aside my shit for the time and rolled painfully onto my knees. My back was killing me.

The hatchling was still blue, orange, and yellow, and it was still covered in skin instead of scales. The wings were gone, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was an alien child curled on the rock waiting for a parent.

A humanoid alien child. It sure as stars didn’t look like a Sparkles.  I held out one shaking hand toward the hatchling and Sparkles, waiting to see if she’d bite my hand off or what. I was still sort of waiting for that, now that I’d helped her. “Can I touch him?”

At least, I thought it was a him. He had a pouch where Sparkles didn’t. Stars if I knew! If she was a girl fire-breather, and the others were essential clones of her, this one had to be male. Were all males different? Or was it just my DNA?

Sparkles blinked.

“Okay.” I lowered my hand, holding my breath. I couldn’t hear anyone else breathing either. The hatchling’s light yellow eyes with dark diamond irises watched me closely until I made contact with his belly. He was soft, not like the others, but smooth and silky almost like his egg had been before Sparkles torched it.

“Oh, wow. Wow.” My eyes fluttered half-closed, but I couldn’t look away. He—he was definitely a boy—was cold, and hungry, and something—someone smelled good. The little chomper opened his mouth and closed it several times, whining, and shivered. “Oh. Deke, give me that food in your pocket.”

“What? That’s my breakfast.”

I yanked my head around and glared. “You don’t need food, this baby does. Give me what you have in your pocket.”

Sparkles’s head was very close to mine, and she hissed.

“Fine! Stars! Take it, take it.” He hurried to toss me some protein chips. Not the best, but they were at least soft. The others were still sleeping, but I put two aside for the little ones. Chomper rolled onto his belly and crawled toward the meat, so I scooped him up.

“Okay, so not quite like a baby,” I muttered as I flipped him and held out a protein chip. Babies were defenseless and needy and… His claws snagged my hand and pulled it to his mouth, and I barely got to keep my finger. “Definitely naming you Chomper.” So he was needy. And still cold. I opened my clothes and put him next to my skin, offering him another protein chip when he was done with the first. “Yum!” I bopped his nose like I’d once done to a younger sibling, distracting the baby between bites to draw out his meal to make up for the tiny portion.


I gasped and yanked my head up. “He just spoke!”

“You were talking,” Aparoe said.

“No,” Captain disagreed with her. He was a few feet away, but he was watching us closely. “Kohen’s right. He spoke. But I don’t think it was out loud. He copied what you said. He said yum, didn’t he?”

“You heard him?”

“Sometimes, when your brain is going, I can hear you through our bond. Kohen, you have a bond with him, and it’s not like what you have with Sparkles. It’s not even like what joins us through the synthgar. It’s like… he’s a part of you. Our connection must let me hear him like I can sometimes hear you.”

As soon as I started feeding him, Sparkles had wandered away, going back the way we’d come. “What am I supposed to do with him?” I looked up at Captain, but for once, he didn’t have all the answers.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 91

Sparkles blinked once, staring at me intently, her claws nudging my hands closer, just barely touching them. The sharp tips pricked my skin, one tiny blood drop welling up. “That’s it, isn’t it? You can’t touch the eggs.” But she could retract her claws. But her paws were still hard, the scales rough. I’d felt it when she grabbed me earlier. My skin, on the other hand… “I can touch it?”

She blinked again.

“Okay. Here goes.” I slipped my hands into the water and cupped them under the egg. Then I lifted them, bringing the egg out of the water. The weight settled into my palms as I got it out of the water, heavier than I expected and almost overflowing both hands. The egg was smooth, and it rotated in my palms, but it wasn’t slimy, instead the outside felt silky when I barely slid my thumbs against the sides to hold it as the water streamed between my fingers.

Captain stood beside me, one hand hovering just under one bicep. I was still crouched over the water. Glancing up, I looked at Sparkles. “Now what?”

She chirped, stepping backwards, not breaking focus. I turned and followed. “Where’s it going?” Deke said behind me.

“How do we know?” Aparoe snapped.

I focused intently on not moving my hands and watching every step I took, placing each foot with precise care so I wouldn’t stumble. The horror of possible dropping the egg was forefront in my mind, and I was glad when Captain stayed close even as I used every speck of my training to move fluidly.

“Thought you’d been keeping an eye on the beast,” Deke muttered.

“I checked on the eggs. Sparkles didn’t let me wander around. She’s sentient, I said. She’d let me in and out, through the one entrance, and that’s it.”

Sweat dripped down my face by the time Sparkles stopped. The suns had risen and light bounced off the rocks, warming them. She indicated a white mass in a depression.

“Kohen, is that your shirt?” Captain frowned.

“Yeah. I wore it that day I cut my hand carving. See, there’s the blood from where you used it as a bandage. I thought you threw it out.”

“No. I didn’t.”

Sparkles chirped and looked from me to the shirt then back. “You want me to put it there?” What was it with her following me? The babies liked my scent, burrowing into my arms earlier. They seemed happy enough now, perched on Sparkles’ head, curled into sleeping coils. Did she know this egg would need help and take my shirt?

How smart was Sparkles?

The fluid-filled egg was slightly firm, but would the shirt be enough cushion? The baby inside still wasn’t moving. Why wasn’t it moving?

Questions flitted through my mind and worry churned in my gut, making me sick. Tremors shook me, and I wanted to ask Captain to hold me, to sink into the comfort of his arms. But I couldn’t. I had to do this myself.

Well, not completely alone. Captain steadied my wobble as I knelt. I nestled the egg in the small depression with shaking hands. It shook slightly, like jelly, when I slid my hands out from under it but then went still.

“What now?” I asked Sparkles. She thrummed and nosed me, pushing back. I stumbled, reaching for Captain now that I wasn’t holding any babies. Funny… the three babies on Sparkles head were all awake and thrumming too. Sparkles pushed me farther with her tail, facing the egg.

Her sides heaved, then a stream of fire burst from her mouth and consumed the egg.

“No!” I screamed. I tried to jump forward, to shover her, stop her, but Captain’s arms closed like vices around me.

“Stop, Kohen. It’s too late, you can’t save the egg now,” Captain shouted over my cries, and I couldn’t stop fighting him for the long seconds Sparkles continued to fry her egg to a crisp.

“Why? Why would she—” I broke off, unable to say it. I turned my face into Captain’s shoulder, body shuddering, tears streaming down my face. I’d thought she wanted me to save the egg, not help her destroy it.

The humming cut off and then someone gasped. Deke cursed. I couldn’t look. Captain’s hands on my back froze. “Kohen, you need to—”

“No, you were right, okay? She’s an animal. Fire-breathers like her are dangerous.” I shook my head against his shoulder. “I can’t… I don’t want to see.” I gasped in short breaths.

“Yes, she can be dangerous. But you need to see this.” Captain moved back and put his hand under my chin, moving my head when I didn’t do it on my own. “Open your eyes.”

Reluctantly, I did. I’d face it, then we’d leave. She had her babies, she could stay away from me and I would never think about the precious egg I’d held so briefly in my hands….

Lit up with incandescent swirls as my shirt flared and then crumbled to ashes. Through the glowing swirls, I could glimpse the baby. And it moved!

I gasped. “It’s alive! I’m sorry, Sparkles. I didn’t understand. Fire burns. That would hurt me. Oh stars, you knew,” I said breathily. “That’s why you pushed me back. But the egg had to come out and this baby needed fire?”

She blinked once, then turned and started humming. I scrambled up to the edge of the depression. The cloth was gone, but the egg didn’t look soft anymore. The baby inside rolled, stretched, and tapped one side.

The egg shattered around the small being. I sucked in a breath, staring. Bigger than the others, but just two back legs and forelimbs, dark wings wrapping its rounded body unlike the others’ lean, tube-like bodies. Blue, orange, and yellow swirls colored its… skin?

Its blue eyes had met mine, and it changed.

“Aparoe?” I whispered.

“I said it had more of your DNA.”

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 90

The miniature Sparkles turned when her croon cut off. She rose from the water and nudged me with her nose. She chirped and I looked from her to the egg still in the water. The babies clawed their way up her snout to perch in small circles on her head.

“Sparkles?” She hadn’t gone away from the water, still hovering beside me, but she wasn’t making the same sound she had for the other eggs. She wasn’t hovering over it or bathing it with water. “Is it okay?”

I glanced at her, but she was looking at one of the babies who’d perched on her eyebrow ridges.

“Aparoe!” I called. “Aparoe, come help!” I’d wanted to share this moment with just Sparkles, but now I needed someone who knew more than I did.

Captain and Deke were on their feet instantly. Deke faced out, a weapon in his hand while he scanned the lightening sky. Captain rushed to my side, crouching next to me.

“Why didn’t you wake me? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. It’s not me.” I didn’t talk about why I didn’t wake him up. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but this was bigger than me. We needed help. The egg needed help.

“Is it the large egg?” Aparoe asked. They slid in next to me on the other side away from Sparkles.

“I don’t know. I didn’t see how big they all were or anything.” Aparoe had spent more time around the eggs and knew a lot more about Sparkles than I did. “It’s not moving. Sparkles stopped humming and left the water.” I shot up. “You said you didn’t experiment on the eggs. Were you lying?” I opened and shut my hands into tight fists. “If you hurt it….” I hissed.

“Calm down, Koehn. Do you think Sparkles would let me harm her babies?” Aparoe activated a scanner. Sparkles was right next to the egg as soon as the scanner neared it. “Yes, it’s okay, we did this before.”

Seconds passed, but they felt like ages before the scanner beeped. Aparoe frowned. “This egg has always been on the bottom of the others. I could tell it was bigger, because it protruded beyond the edges of them, but it was below them and under the water so I could never get a clear scan of it.”

That told me nothing. “Is it… dead?” It didn’t have quite the same opacity as the others either.

“No. But it isn’t moving either. I’m not sure why. The scan shows a mix of your DNA and Sparkles, but it’s not the same either.” Aparoe looked up and bit their lip. “I’d like to scan one of the babies. Do you think she’d let me?”

“Getting between a new mama and her babies is a bad idea,” Deke threw over his shoulder. “Good way to get mauled or burned.”

Captain was near my side, but even he didn’t get too close to Sparkles. For all that Aparoe helped take care of her when she was little, I sensed Sparkles scared the doctor in her full-grown form. Then again, multiple limbs with sharp claws, impenetrable scales, fangs, and the ability to breathe fire would intimidate anyone.

Just not me.

“Sparkles? Can I hold one of the babies?” I asked. I was desperate to help the egg, and I’d held the babies before. “I won’t let anything happen to them.”

Sparkles blinked and chirped, then lowered her head. I wasn’t sure how I knew which was the oldest, but I picked up one coiled baby, crooning to it when the baby quivered on my palm. “Shh, you’re okay. You know me, remember.” I brought the tiny face up to mine, breathing my scent out and receiving a tiny lick on my nose.

I turned, tucking the baby next to my chest as I encouraged it to stretch out along my arm. “Be careful, move slow. Don’t scare it.”

Aparoe grumbled under their breath, but moved gingerly, the machine held sideways instead of over the baby. Aparoe scanned with glacial slowness from its head to tail. Data was already streaming before they finished. “Hmm.”

“Hmm… what?” Captain said. He leaned in but didn’t touch, just examined it with a small smile on his face. Oh, the beautiful baby was charming him as it yawned and curled back up.

“The baby is a genetic match for Sparkles, perfectly. As near a replica as nature can come up with.”

“So she produced them asexually?” Captain said. “Clones?”

“This one and probably those two since they look identical? Yes. But that egg, that one is different. It has more of Kohen’s DNA.”

I carefully placed the baby back on Sparkles’ head. “What does that mean?” What was in that egg? Some sort of half-human freak? A doomed mix of human body parts and scales and wings? A monster? I shuddered, disgusted, knowing it was the doctor’s experiments on my body that let this happen. That would have twisted that baby into whatever poor creature it had become. “Is it even… viable?”

Aparoe opened their mouth, closed it, then sighed. “I don’t know.”

“What do you know?” I hissed in frustration.

“Sparkles wants you here to do something. It wasn’t the other babies. They were born just fine, though they liked climbing on you, they could have gone on her. It has to be this, this is why you’re here.” Aparoe had been watching.

I frowned. “But what can I do? I’ll do anything to save it, but I don’t know how to help the egg.”

As if that was all Sparkles was waiting for, she nudged me. Pushing on my body, then my arms, she guided me to the pool and the egg. Her razor sharp claws swished the water, but she pulled them back from the egg and out. Then she nudged my hands.

“Do… do you want me to take it out of the water?”

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