The following is a deleted scene that was originally intended to act as a second epilogue to Book 2 of the Levekk Invaders series. It didn’t make the cut, but it I think it’s still important to Ellie’s development as a character, so I wanted to make it available
As it is set after the events of Her Cold-Blooded Master, it does contain SPOILERS for some events. I hope you like
Her Cold-Blooded Master Deleted Scene
By Lea Linnett
Copyright © 2019 Lea Linnett
Ellie settled herself at the small comms table that Lena had set up for her. She plucked at the woodgrain with shaking fingers, hesitating to touch the collection of devices on the table. Before her lay voice and signal scramblers, four different kinds of keypad, and a mess of wires—and that didn’t even account for the virtual private networks and signal rerouting software that would kick into gear when she picked up the handset.
Lena had come in and configured everything she would need for this call. She’d also provided the signal address, thanks to an old contact, although it had taken months for them to get it.
Her sister had even offered to make the call with her, even though Ellie could see how unappealing the thought was for her. Lena had never felt the need to make amends, but then again, she’d never been quite as close with Augusta as Ellie. It was Ellie who spent hours sitting in the clothier’s as a child, learning how to sew. Lena had always been outside working on cars and transports.
She drew in a deep breath, gazing out the window. The planet outside was glowing with a soft light, and the day was warm—just a few degrees hotter than Earth but a hell of a lot hotter than the ship they’d traveled here on with its faulty heating element. It was perfect for both her and Helik, not to mention the other species they shared it with.
Outside, despite the warm weather, faint specks of color dusted the air, almost like snow. They fell in waves, refracting the light and casting moving, rainbow-colored reflections on the floor beside her.
They were lucky to have found such a place, and luckier still to have reunited with her sister and the hulking levekk she’d escaped CL-32 with, but still Ellie felt like something was missing.
She couldn’t bring Augusta here, she knew. Their guardian had been an old woman even when she took them in, and it had been years since Lena and Ellie left. She hadn’t even been sure whether the elderly woman was still alive until she’d managed to squirrel up a contact. Besides, Augusta would never want to leave Earth, especially when Ellie’s new home was on the opposite side of the Constellation.
But Ellie could try and make amends. They’d been close, and she didn’t want her last memory of Augusta to be the click of a commlink shutting down as the old woman rejected her.
She moved to pick up the comm, but faltered. Shutting her eyes tight, she gulped back a wave of fear. Would Augusta even want to speak to her? Would she simply slam the proverbial door in Ellie’s face? Worse, what if she only stayed on long enough to berate Ellie once again for leaving the way she did, and who she chose to leave with?
She shook her head. She was being ridiculous.
Besides, what had she always told herself? If it scares you, face it down.
With a steadying breath and a grim expression, Ellie snatched up the comm, plugging in the number that had been given to her. There was a long pause, and then a series of beeps and tones as her signal passed through a mess of connections that she couldn’t hope to understand, and then… the tinny ring of an open connection.
She held her breath, her heart thumping loudly and a small part of her screaming to put the comm down, but she persisted. There were two rings, three rings, four, and then a click.
“Hello?” came a grouchy voice, and all the air whooshed out of Ellie’s chest.
Ellie winced, clearing her throat and trying to remember to breathe. “Hi, Augusta. It’s… It’s Ellie.”
Silence, apart from the buzz of the comm, was her answer, but Ellie waited.
“Yeah,” she said, tears welling up unbidden in her eyes. “It’s been a while.”
“W-where are you?”
“I can’t say.” She looked out the window again, wishing she could describe it to the old woman, but it was still too dangerous. “I’m safe though. I found a new home.”
Augusta’s breathing was labored, and her voice was reedy when she finally replied. “What have you been doing all this time?”
Ellie laughed, thinking back over the journey she’d taken to get here. “A lot. I’ve spent a lot of time on ships, searching for a place to live. But I also got to see some pretty interesting places.”
“You’ve been adventuring.”
She blinked, astounded at the warmth in the old woman’s tone. “Yeah. I guess I have. But what about you? You have a comm now?”
“Mm,” Augusta grumbled. “A friend made me take it. Said it would help business in the shop.”
“That’s what I was always telling you.”
“Mm, well. You were right.”
“So things are good?”
“They are.” A thin chuckle huffed through the connection. “I still darn Cleena Marpo’s work clothes every other month. It’s rough on the hands though. …I had to take on another apprentice.”
Ellie gasped. “Are you serious? Is she any good?”
“He’s a cicarian with a potty mouth. But he does okay.”
She grinned into the comm, finally relaxing a little with her elbows on the table. “That’s great.”
“…Is Lena with you?”
“She is,” Ellie replied, looking down. “Kormak, too…” She bit her lip, wondering whether to keep going or not, before finally steeling herself. “And Helik.”
There was a beat of silence, and Ellie feared the comm would go dead in her hand. But then a soft sigh reached her. “Would you…” Augusta hesitated. “Would you tell your sister that I’m sorry?”
She almost didn’t believe what she was hearing. She didn’t think she’d ever heard Augusta apologize before. “O-of course.”
“I want to apologize to you, too,” the old woman continued. “I… I’m old. I’ve faced a lot of pain in my life—you know.”
Ellie did know. The night Augusta threw Lena from the house, she’d told them of the way she lost her husband and child. And she’d told them that it was the levekk that were responsible.
“But that doesn’t excuse the way I treated you both. You were my children. I raised you both for nearly ten years.”
“Augusta, the law was on your side. I understa—”
“No,” her guardian insisted, voice fierce. “I should never have pushed you away. Or said those things to your sister. At the very least, I should have been able to look past my own experiences. You’re smart girls. I should have trusted you to make the right choices about… about them.”
Ellie’s nose tingled, her eyes turning glassy again. “Augusta…”
“I’m so sorry. I let myself stop being a part of your lives, and that’s caused me just as much pain as the past.”
“I wish you could be here,” Ellie admitted. “I-I know it’s not possible, but… Just know that we miss you. Lena, too.”
“Thank you,” said Augusta, and Ellie thought she heard a telling sniff through the commlink’s static. “Thank you for this.”
“I should be thanking you,” said Ellie, unable to keep the grin from her face. “Now, tell me more about the shop and this cicarian before I start crying!”
She stayed on the comm for hours hearing all about Augusta’s life: the customers, the clothes, the trials of having a hyperactive cicarian nymph running around her store. In turn, Ellie relayed some of her own adventures, and was delighted by the interest Augusta took in them. The old woman had never cared for news from other planets, content with Earth and all it had to offer.
But as the soft light began to darken, Ellie heard a familiar babbling from outside. The child’s voice cut through the peaceful silence of Ellie’s dwelling, and her heart swelled with excitement even as her lungs seized with fear.
“Augusta, I… I have something else to tell you, before I go.” She blew out a nervous breath. This was the subject she’d feared broaching the most. This was the one thing she wasn’t sure she would take well. As she battled with herself, the door to the large living room she sat in slid open, and a large figure entered, balancing a much smaller one upon his shoulders.
Helik paused as he noticed Ellie still sitting at the table, his ice-blue eyes softening. He didn’t move closer, hovering instead as if Ellie and Augusta were enclosed in a bubble that would pop if he tried to pass through, but the small smile he offered her bolstered her confidence. His strong arms balanced the child upon his shoulders as if it were an extension of him, his clawed hands grasped firmly around the child’s small limbs. Gone was the nervous, fractured male that she’d met all those years ago. She knew that, even if this conversation went sour and she never spoke to Augusta again, he’d be there, steadfast and supportive when it really mattered.
And that gave her the strength to say, “I-I… I have a son.”
Augusta’s gasp was audible, and Ellie gripped the comm with white knuckles, listening intensely to the silence even as she smiled back at the little toddler, who yelled joyfully at seeing her.
Ellie’s heart sank, fear chilling her again. “Yes. He looks a little like me. And a little like Helik.” She glanced back, seeing the soft scales that covered her son’s arms and the gentle ridges above his brow. He was paler than Helik, though, and his eyes were large and round like her own.
She waited for the click of the comm again, but instead, Augusta laughed. “Congratulations! I… Last time I saw you, you were just… Oh my… Does Lena have any?” she asked, almost yelling.
A hysterical laugh bubbled up from deep in Ellie’s chest. “No! No, not yet. I don’t think Lena’s ready yet…” Her and Kormak were both career first, family later kind of people, and it was only just recently that Lena had stopped babying Ellie, she thought with an eye-roll.
“What’s his name?”
A warm knot curled into place in Ellie’s stomach, and even with nerves trying to stop her voice in its tracks, she managed to reply, “August.”
Augusta was silent again, but Ellie could hear the woman breathing raggedly. “Ellie…”
She smiled. “You practically raised me,” she said softly. “I couldn’t think of anything better. Helik agreed.”
“I can’t… I don’t deserve—”
“You do,” Ellie insisted. “You were basically my second mom, Augusta. Or maybe my third, after Lena,” she added with a giggle.
There was silence for a moment, cut only by the sound of gentle sniffling and the child babbling behind her, and then, “Thank you. It’s an honor.”
“Hey, August, you wanna come meet your grandma?” Ellie asked, unable to keep the grin from her face as she took the child from Helik, placing him on her lap. She placed the comm in her toddler’s grappling fingers. “Say hi, August.”
He blew a raspberry before answering, and Ellie was glad to hear Augusta’s tinkling laughter come through the comm. She glanced up at Helik, whose clawed hand was on the child’s back, and he smiled down at her, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
They stayed on the comm until long after the sun had set and Ellie and August’s stomachs had begun to rumble.
And If Ellie had had her way, she’d have stayed connected forever, basking in the warmth of her family, together again at last, even across lightyears and lightyears of distance.