Alfreda has become used to the constant pressure of her harness, keeping her in a basic bipedal form and helping her back into her Terran shape. When she learns that her mixed blood makes the shapeshifter in her far stronger than the human, she has a choice. Should she give in or keep herself human at all costs?

El-sur works with the Guardian project, finding those of his species and training them to their full potential. Alfreda is stronger than any other shifter he has met, and she is also the only female of his kind he has ever seen. Will biology win over education?

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Cover Art by Martine Jardin

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Alfreda Older shifted and slid through the crowd muttering about the royal family, and she tugged her cloak around her. She kept moving toward the heavily guarded library but paused when one of the guards touched her shoulder.

“What are you doing here this evening, madam?”

Alfreda cocked her head. “I am here to see the librarian.”

The guard stood straight and eyed her. “What is your purpose?”

She smiled. “I am a book binder. There is a restoration project that he wished me to consult on. This was the only time I was available.”

A man in the robes of the master librarian emerged behind the guard. “Bookbinder. It is good to see you made it through such a turbulent atmosphere.”

The guard jerked with surprise.

Alfreda inclined her head as he stepped aside.

A guard followed her in, and she looked to the librarian. “Please, take me to the area set aside for me.”

The librarian looked at her, shrugged and took her down the endless halls of tables, finally escorting her into a room lined with books in various stages of decay. She winced and actually wished that she was there as a restorer. She could do her life’s work in those battered books.

She flipped her cloak back and pulled out her pack, opening it and setting it on a table. Long needles, coils of thread, sharp scissors and curved knives for working with wood and leather all were set out with precision.

The guard nodded and left the room.

Alfreda breathed in and verified the connection with the orbiting warships. She still had the line, so she asked, “Are you the one who sent for me?”

He was eyeing her with confusion. “I didn’t send for you specifically.”

She grinned; if he wasn’t the one, he was about to get a shock. She grabbed his hand and completed the link. She placed his hand on her arm and went about stripping off a damaged cover, carefully cutting the signatures free of the boards.

She kept her mind blank and let the conversation flow through her without touching her consciousness. Being a living relay was awkward at the best of times, being one during an uprising made her very popular.

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