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It took a long time to get a passage to Ayot. After Roj had found out what he had from Keir Chevron he returned to his father-in-law and told everything, asking his advice and trying to find out what to do. His Elspeth's father was a good man and the boy trusted him. He was told he must follow his own destiny, if he wished to find his foster father them he must go, but he must find his own way to get to the planet he was on. Ayot was half the way across the galaxy and there were no ships available to go there from the fleet they owned.
It took over a year to arrange things; in the end one of Elspeth's fathers contacts was taking a load of important parts to a planet in the same system as Ayot. Elspeth, who had accompanied Roj and they took the irregular transport shuttle (it had required longer to wait for it than they thought) the rest of the way and landed in the Space Port when the planet was in its dark phase. They to wait until the following morning when it was light to begin their search
The two young people had ten days and then they had to begin their return back to Shepreth. Roj was needed on important business, a takeover deal for another shipping company by his father-on-law's firm and with Elspeth in the condition she was in, their first child was due in a few short weeks, it was not a good idea to be on a frontier planet with very little health care available. They both wanted to be home in time for the birth of their offspring but the boy's bond-mate had insisted she come with him to support him on his search for the facts that would set his mind at peace
After a week of looking around and asking questions around the settlement they had come to the two searchers were getting no further, they changed their position, to one of the other large towns on the one landmass the planet supported. Here they too drew a blank, and were about to give in and call things a day when a man in a bar where we had stopped to eat a frugal midday meal from their scant savings said although he didn't know the name Plantagenet he thought we must be talking about Dar the engineer whose house was in a wood about a mile from the next village.
They left with very little hope; Roj felt we really were looking for a needle in a haystack, or rather his true birth identity on a small planet out of a whole galaxy and how was he to know if his foster father was even still alive? He took the next transport shuttle with Elspeth to the settlement and then got out to walk. It would be dark again by the time they got to where we were going; the days on this planet were short even in the summer season. He only hoped the person we were about to visit was friendly towards strangers; even it if was not the man they were seeking they would have to ask for shelter overnight.
Roj had been brought up on a planet with forests and trees but this place was strange and odd with different bird and animal calls than he was used to and disconcerting rustlings coming from left and right as they walked. The trees, which had strange leaves, glowed of phosphorescence in the dying light; it was unlike anything he had seen before. Everything seemed to be going wrong.
The bags they carried were heavy, the track they followed on foot was difficult to see in the twilight. Elspeth tripped and sprained her ankle as she put her foot into a hole she couldn't see. The two searchers had nearly given up hope, and were preparing for having to spend the night alone in that eerie desolate place when suddenly Roj thought he saw a light ahead. Staggering on now with a little hope, and through even thicker ground cover as they had lost the path completely now, they stumbled out into a clearing where a small cottage was standing. There was smoke coming out of the chimney and a man moving boxes of electrical parts across to a shed, brightly lit within and some sort of workshop, next to the house.
At first the young man didn't recognise his foster father, he had changed completely in the years they had been apart. Then he had been grizzled and wiry, now he had gained a great deal of weight and had a shock of pure white hair. He still looked as durable as he ever, firm and forceful and as tall, and the boy knew it was him. Their search had come to the right place finally, but would they get a warm reception or a brisk rebuttal for themselves pains when they made themelves known?<br><br> Their stumbling out of the undergrowth, and Elspeth's small cry as her ankle was jagged by a trailing briar, had alerted the attention of the man who's home they had just chanced upon. He was returning from the shed carrying a torch and it seemed they had surprised him. He rapidly pulled out a weapon with what looked like a practiced response of many years and looked in the direction the noise had come from.
'Who's there?' he called roughly, 'better come out into the open or I shall shoot you down where you stand.'
'It's all right father,' Roj called, 'its only me, its your foster son. I have had a long journey to find you.'<br><br> That took the old man by surprise, 'So you found out and came to find me?' he said abruptly turning, and then, 'you shouldn't have come boy but by the look of things you better come inside.'
The young nodded, and helped the pregnant woman by his side to walk the last steps into the clearing. His foster father looked surprised at what he saw there too, and then hurried over to take the bags she was carrying.
'Who are you girl?' he asked.
'I'm Elspeth,' she replied, with no fear of the gruff man who's dour front she could see behind very well, 'I'm your son's bond-mate and I am carrying your grandchild.' she said.
'That is no grandchild of mine,' he muttered coldly, but looked somewhat shocked all the same. It was as if Dar Plantagenet had not thought about the possibility of his foster son ever becoming father himself, and something else. `Someone made sure I would never have no children of my own a long time ago.'
The girl gave the older man a calm look in reply. `There are many ways to make a family, as you well;know.' she said, 'Its not who begets a child but who brings him up that makes a parent.'
The old man looked away and saying no more, her words had obviously made an impression. He huffed along in a grumbling way as he picked up the bags and easily carried them into the house but it was with great gentleness that he helped the pregnant girl to the only chair in the kitchen and placed a cushion behind her back. She took a sharp breath then and looking down with surprise at her swollen belly put her hands on the bump to steady it. The old man chuckled.
'I thought that might be about to happen,' he said, 'you can't be that long from having that offspring you call the grandchild of mine can you? That long walk won't have helped either.
Elspeth looked surprised at him, she did not ask how he knew all this but said, 'Our Health Worker on Ayot assured me I had a few weeks to go yet. She said I was fine to come on this trip with Roj.'
That made the old man chuckle again, 'I would say you've lost track of time in your search for me girl. You've come a long way to get here from Shepreth. How about I call for some help for us,? This planet may look like the back of beyond but we have a good support service when we need it. If no-one can come out I've a flyer behind the shed that will get all of us to where we need to be on time.'
And so Roj Plantagenet sat back on a stool he was given and, in surprised shock himself at these new circumstances, watched his foster-father take charge again, as he had many times before in his life. It felt good to be here, they had been well welcomed after the bad start and his father seemed genuinely pleased to see them. Maybe this could be the beginning of something good between them again. Elspeth seemed to have helped a lot, Dar had taken a shine to her from the beginning.
The young man''s father had gone over to the sub-space comms unit he had in the corner of the kitchen to call on the help he said he could summon and within a very short space of time, shorter than would have been imagined, there was the noise of a flyer in the night air above the house. It put down in the clearing and two medics in white trousers and tunics buttoned down one side stepped out, one a man with a mop of flame coloured hair, one a cheerful faced woman with her hair braids curled up on her head. They ran from the open hatch to meet the occupants of the house who came out. The boy was relieved to see these people came carrying efficient looking portable equipment; perhaps everything might be all right after all.
'Hello Mr Dar,' the said, 'we got your call and came as soon as we could.''
'This is my daughter-in-law,' the old said smiling in welcome, hurrying them through, 'my grandson seems to be in a bit of a hurry to get out and get born. I was hoping you might be able to help him do it safely?' He said with a grin which melted Roj's heart. Now he understood something about his father he hadn't known.
After a first quick check the medics announced there was nothing wrong at all with Elspeth or the child but there no time to take the mother in labour to anywhere near. They said would just have set up and do the thing here the ginger haired man said cheerfully.
He was smiling, the man with the read hair and the white tunic, he seemed to be enjoying his job immensely, and went outside to collect more things that would be needed. The woman, smiling also, came over to Roj and put her arm around him, shaking him gently to get his attention.
'Don't seem so worried, your first I presume?' she asked, and when he nodded she grinned, 'don't stress yourself lad really,' she said, 'we know our job and we'll get your kid out and leave your wife in one piece. Now if you can help us we ought to get your girl upstairs to a bed while we have still time. She's going to need to be comfortable when things get exciting.'
The father-to-be did so and his own father bustled about beaming, providing clean sheets and towels and running a bath in the adjoining bathroom in case it would be needed too. Roj helped get his bond-mate settled, and elected to be there to hold her hand as she toiled to bring his child into the world. Then after all that hurry and rush things it seemed would take their own pace and half an hour later, and with no result yet, the male carer there smiled through his ginger fringe at the two young people in his care.
'Go and make yourself cup of tea,' he said turning to Roj, 'you could do with one, and a breather from being in here, there'll be time yet for you to get back up here before the exciting bit. Go on!' he said waving his hands and chasing the youngster out of the door like an old mother hen.
Roj went as he was told and found his way downstairs to find his father who had remained below by the fire reading from a book. Hej recognised it as the Shakespeare plays he had handed him from his luggage before he'd left the bedroom earlier.
'Ah Roj,' the old man said when he saw him, handing him a mug he must have just poured out, 'come, sit with me and talk for a bit.'
Oh how much of a difference there was in the man's demeanour now. He seemed very happy with what was happening around him and was humming to himself as he poured himself a mug too and went to join his son picking up a bottle of something to pour a slug in both drinks. The young man was very encouraged after the frosty welcome earlier, now he was certain his father was back for good.
'If that child's a boy it'll look exactly like us you know.' the prospective grandfather went on conversationally, 'that's the problem with clones, they have the same effect genetically on their progeny. I'm glad you found the letter I left you though, it would be a pity for you not to find me again after I left.'
'Then why did you leave?' the boy asked urgently as the sounds of approaching new life continued above in the bedroom above them, 'my mother was heart broken when you did. It killed her I think, more than the Hese Plague really, although that was what got her in the end.'
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