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It took the boy a long time to find the man his father's letter told him to search for and it was his father-in-law who was finally able to help. He had contacts throughout the galaxy with his work, and it was a contact on the space station Tower 34 who told them where to look. This was a large psychiatric institution and it seemed that Keir Chevron was a patient there and had been for some time.
When the two young people visited the staff were most surprised, the man they cared for got no guests and had sent the people from the League of Visitors away when they had tried to befriend him. He was not a friendly man. They were happy with the boy's credentials however, his father-in-law was well know, and interested to see the letter which his own father had left for him. Since the war and the problem of the destroyed computer on Star One many people were searching for lost relatives.
They were lead down a corridor and left at the door of the large day room. The man they saw sitting alone in front of the large view port, the rest of the inhabitants were at their morning meal. The person sitting there had aged terribly and was hardly recognisable and only after looking at him for a long time did the boy realised he was the one who had visited the at their house on Shepreth and given him nightmares with the darkness he carried with him like a burden. It was strange, only a few years had passed yet it was as if the life that had been reluctantly held there before had been let go of and was leaking away, aging does not have to be related to years. The man looked no longer gloomy and foreboding now, but old and diluted, a wreck of who he once was. He still hid the stump of his arm in the folds of his clothing only instead of the black leather jacket from before he now wore a grey dressing gown over institutional pyjamas. He did not look long for the world; he seemed to be being chased by death in his travels and the two young people might have come here just in time.
'Roj?' the man asked when the young man walked closer. Then he blinked and after looking at him for a long time, the two people assumed it was the treatment drugs they gave Keir here which must make him slow. Then the older man seemed to realise where he was and the two were told ;to sit down
'I thought you were your father for a moment,' the old gunfighter said, 'he looked like you when I first met him.'
Now the boy understood something, this man knew his father by a rather different name to the one of Dar Plantagenet he had used in the life when he lived as an itinerant engineer on their lonely planet at the edge of the galaxy. This revelation brought many questions with it and he ached to ask them all quickly and now; if his father had run away from his real name then he must have been running away from something else too. The boy only hoped it would not be something terrible. Dread grabbed his heart and held it tightly
'I came to you to find out about my real father,' he said gently, taking things slowly for the this man's sake understanding the confusion on his face to be the product of the illness that had brought him to this place, 'my mother is dead, ` he said, `so I can't ask her and my foster father left him a letter to tell me to look for you if I wanted any answers. I know he is not my real father because my mother told me. '
The Roj handed over the yellowing piece of paper in its envelope. The man looked the contents over and smiled sadly, it seemed he had mellowed a little, as he no longer wore that look that wanted death. Perhaps he knew now it was coming and had gained enough patience to wait for it to come in its own time rather than wishing it here already.
'I am truly sorry about your mother,' he said when he finished reading, 'I am not the most sociable of people but she always without fail tried to find a way to be kind to me when I visited your family. It is just like you foster father to start something and leave him to finish it to;' he added with a smile, 'and he will finish it, he owes me that if he owes me anything.'
'So why did my foster father lie to me?' Roj asked wanting to get to the truth, wanting this man to speak the words, 'that's what I came to talk to you about, the letter says you are the only one left who will know.'
The man in the chair looked at him long and then sighed, 'Well now, I suppose you are due the truth Roj,' he said, 'and I will tell you if your father did not have the decency to do that for you. You have your father's genetics it is true but the man you knew was only the one who raised you. The man who was your real father was the one who gave you life and died saving it.'
'So why do I look like a man who is not my father?' the young man said, 'did he have an identical twin brother?' he asked.
'No,' the old man replied, 'the man who brought you up had a brother who looked quite different than him I am told, and who died, was executed, long before you were born. The man who is your father was a clone, you will not have heard of his creators the ones they called the Clone Masters, I hope you understand when I speak about them. They were all killed during the invasion before you were born too but they created your father. They were people could take a person's genetic code, and for the one, who paid the correct price, make a copy of in an afternoon. Your real father was an unfortunate pawn in another man's game, a instrument in another man's war.'
'But why a clone?' the boy asked, 'why was the man my father was cloned from so important that someone required a copy? Tell me about my real father,' he said, 'what happened, why did I end up with the man who he was cloned from bringing him up as his son in his stead?'
The boy saw the look in the man's eyes, they looked pained, as if telling him all this was hard, as if he did not talk much about the past and this was something he was done with and wished finished. The man pressed on though and the boy thanked him silently for doing so. Maybe he would be glad to tell this tale one more time, it obviously weighed on his soul.
'Your real father was killed saving your mother from agent's of the old Federation government.' the boy was told, 'there was something valuable, a weapon that they wanted and he was used in their attempt to get it and to destroy the man who fostered you. After the alien invasion your foster father, I myself and a man called Vila Restal went to move your father and mother to a place of safety. Your foster father was concerned about them in the way his great big bleeding heart made him interfere with everyone and he would not leave them alone to their own fate. When we returned to the planet where your family had been left we were followed by what was left of the old government. They wanted the weapon that had been left with your father. It was to be instrumental in his death but he managed to protect your mother and you long enough for them to get her away and to destroy what their enemies wanted.'
'So my father is a hero.' the boy said, 'and the old government did end, they didn't get what they were after it must have been an important asset they were trying to reclaim..'
The older man looked at him with a cynical smile in his eyes, 'Yes your father is a hero, if giving up your life for a cause you value creates one called so.' he said, `your real father and your foster father were forged from the same mould, and the one left felt so much guilt over the other's death he took you and your mother to an out of the way planet to raise you as his own.'
'You look as if you think he should have done differently.' the boy replied interested in the way this conversation was going. He got a smile then in reply with an almost imperceptible embarrassed dip of the head, a confession of sorts from this man.
'Yes,' the older man sitting in the chair said sighing, 'I would certainly have done things differently, not interfered, left you to your own destiny. Altruism and concern for other people not my style' he added, 'I must however say your father seemed very content to be settled down cosily with Rashel and his little ready made family. On reflection I think he may even have got the better deal with his life choice.'
There was a look of regret in the man's eye despite his fine words about being unfeeling.
'If he was so happy why did he abandon us then?' Roj asked, 'I can't blame him for my mother's death, she did die of the Hese Plague, but I am sure he had broken her heart by leaving.'
As he said that he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, the other inmates of this care home were returning from their meal. The old fighter he was talking to looked round and saw that too, he looked as if he must hurry, that there was something important to tell him in private.
'You must ask your foster father about all that.' he said, 'Now don't look surprised, he is still alive,' he said at the son's sudden look of shock, 'he told me you might come looking for him some day and told me to send you on to him in the event of that happening.'
'Then where is he?' the boy said excited all of a sudden gaining an intenseness he had not felt before. Elspeth, who had sat by his side. silent and supportive through all of this, squeezed his hand showing her support.
'On Ayot where I left him if course,' Keir said looking round as if worried someone would overhear them, 'they say there is no one as free as a dead man and if you know how easy it is to alter Space Track Control computers to report a two man shuttle lost in a meteor storm it is quite simple to place a man where he won't be looked for.'
By now the room was filling with people, there were no more things that needed to be said. 'You must go now.' the old man said hurriedly, 'go and find the man you are looking for, he will tell you everything.'
'Thank you,' his visitor said, 'does he know you are here, should I take some message to my foster father from you?'
The reply a vigorous shake of the head from the older man as a clear negative, 'Your foster father and I passed part of our lives in each others company. That time is past and gone by many years. The fact that you have been sent to find him will be all he needs to know about my fate. My time is near I know and I welcome it, he does not need to have to bother himself with me again.'
The boy realised that was the end of the conversation, he would hear no more.
'Well thank you again.' he said not knowing how to end the exchange, feeling lame, and crowded as he looked at the people milling around him as other occupants of the space station returned. There were no more words to be said here so the boy and Elspeth left.
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