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By S.L. Koss
Page 3 of 11

Kai brought up the environmental systems in the outer room and showed Blake how to adjust the settings in case they were not to his liking. The cavern had obviously been adapted as living space, the walls smooth and dry. There was a surprising amount of electronics in the room and it was obvious though they lived away from civilization, they certainly enjoyed its comforts. Cally sat curiously before the bank of computers and scanners which took up near the entire wall. The room was small but comfortable. Vila sat at a small table, sullenly drinking a glass of water, he had asked for soma, but the boy had refused, saying they had none and gave him water instead. Cally looked at the equipment lined up, wondering how a child of four had managed to put it all together from salvage. She asked him how to monitor the other room and he showed her competently, obviously at ease and knowing well the electronics.

"Don't worry." He said, watching Cally who was trying not to let her concern show. "My mother knows what she is doing, she's not worried, you shouldn't be. Though they will not acknowledge her as a doctor, the local farmers find it closer to come here then to go on to the city. Sometimes, especially during harvest, she is quite busy, though I have to stay out of the way, they think I'm a demon." She smiled bitterly. "I don't exist you see, it's easier for mother that way and when I'm old enough to be a threat, the Star Commander will make it a reality."

"You certainly read feelings rather well, are you a telepath as well?" Cally asked quietly.

"I'm a primary empath." He answered. "Feelings come without my trying to access them, sometimes it's very annoying. Thought I can only reach with effort, but it's not impossible, it just takes concentration I can read the thoughts of the Star Commander though he does not believe it." He turned to one of the screens, bringing up a representation of the planet; he pointed to a blip superimposed on the planet. "That's your ship there. " He watched another screen avidly as information scrolled across it. "Dartine operates a navigational surveillance base, they did not pick up your approach because that sector was shut down for maintenance, the defense systems read that they are powered down. The moon, which contains all the defensive systems, is presently on the other side of the planet, they cannot be a threat to your ship until they come into range. Giareth will not fire on anything he is not sure he can destroy, he is ignoring its presence for now." A green film appeared on the screen over the landscape surrounding them. "That's the ion screen, as long as he thinks you're stranded down here, he will leave you alone. One good thing, though, he's conserving power and just extended it over us. He'll watch until he can devise a clear advantage. Unless your ship shows aggression, he'll leave it alone. The ion field extends just over us, once your ready to leave, it will be a short walk to a clear spot in the field where you can contact your ship."

"Are you certain we are safe here?" Blake asked.

The boy looked at the screens with confidence. "The systems will inform us if the Dartine station initiates defense systems, I assure you."

"Your mother said you built all of this, it's fairly sophisticated for salvage, isn't it?" Cally asked.

"It works, most of the time anyway, something is always breaking down, though. Luckily a lot of ships think they can skim the barriers and land an overly loaded shuttle, there's always a source for spare parts. I keep all this running, it's the only way I can keep us safe out here."

"Safe from what?" Blake asked.

"The Star Commander was granted my mother as his mate, that's why he lets her stay here. She made a deal with him with she brought me here. He will let her stay as long as she keeps out of his way and no one knows about me. Once I reach majority at eight, I am to leave and she is to become his, but she hates him, he terrifies her. She doesn't want to belong to him."

"Belong to him? What like property?" Vila asked.

"It is a woman's place to belong to her mate. There is no other place for a female in Felinian society. Giareth's resources are unlimited; he's smart and accustomed to getting whatever he wants. The only problem is, he can't get near this place without my knowing about it. He'd rather not take the chance I'd kill him if he tried, there would be no honor in it for him."

"What is it he wants from your mother?" Blake asked.

"He can afford to wait her out. Once a mating pair has been established, neither can have another mate, he has been granted his mate, he needs an heir. Once has an heir, his claim on mother will be sealed, then she has no choice in the matter. Without a mate, she needs protection, I protect her." The boy had tightened the focus on the displayed map and it now showed the immediate area with the ion field lingering over the cliffs they inhabited.

Blake watched the unusual child for a moment, noting with dismay his familiarity with the computer components before him. "What about your father?"

The boy turned to him sharply and considered for a moment. "Don't know. I don't really have one, certainly not in the way Felinians think of a mate. Mother was inseminated, she never even met him, and she was not even allowed to know his name. As far as the Felinians are concerned, a woman of child bearing age without a mate is under sentence of death if she does not accept the counsel's assignment of a mate and she cannot because his first task would be to kill me."

"Does all this have something to do with the Pandora Project?" Blake asked. Little data had been available on the matter, but he had at Avon's insistence reviewed it several times.

The boy considered Blake for a long moment, assessing his motives and judging quite accurately how quickly he was likely to be able to reach the gun at his side, never more quickly than Kai could draw and throw one of the knives in either wrist sheath or the ones in his boots. He sat back, confident that he had advantage in the situation and that he could see everyone on the room at once, monitoring just barely their emotions for any aggression. "Pandora, according to Federation records had a primary goal of finding out if it was possible to graft back into the Terran population any of the telepathic abilities which had been an unintentional byproduct of their genetic manipulation." At Vila's obvious lack of understanding, he rephrased himself. "They wanted to see if they could mate interracially and have the offspring retain telepathic abilities, presumably while looking more human than Felinian. At least, that was their working theory."

"You think they had other intentions?" Cally asked.

"I will very probably never find out. I find it curious that all the selected male donors were convicted criminals on the Federation's death list. I suppose it was meant to be very neat, it did not leave any family ties behind, theoretically, it left no one behind. My mother was the last participant in the project, civil rights protesters became aware of it and shut down the project's funding."

"That's fascinating." Blake said, wondering where the boy had gotten all that information, the Federation files containing any information on the project were all encrypted, although not difficult for Orac, it would be both difficult and time consuming even for an experienced technician. "What ever happened to the offspring in the project, or their mothers? It would seem to be impossible to hide such individuals in a xenophobic society."

"Quite, I would not exactly blend well any better than I blend with the Felinians." Kai's tone was blatantly bitter and the words the Star Commander had spoken rang insistently in his mind. "When my mother found out all the participants had died, she left on one of the mining freighters, she would never have been granted a visa. Gaining passage on several freighters, she only got as far as Dartine, Felinas' only trade planet. One of the moons actually. This is not her native planet. The gravity down here is slightly higher than standard, so the bulk freighters land on the moons and then arrange to shuttle down smaller loads. Occasionally they try to skip a step and land down here, then they crash."

"And you built all this out of salvage parts?" Cally asked, noting the different systems that had been linked together to work with each other, a fairly difficult feat of engineering.

Blake looked at Cally with much the same thought in his head, wondering if it was a reflection of the child himself or the race in general.

"The doctor said that their children are born with all the knowledge of both parents." Cally said by way of explanation.

"Knowledge, memories, experiences, skills, all that. Though one must learn to sift through it. Sometimes answers just come to me. I know things that I don't really know I know until I need the information for something. Most of this stuff I managed to put together from what whole bits are left behind. Sometimes, like with the medical equipment, most of that ship was intact, it had lost power and glided down nicely, the crew was dead because their oxygen generators shut down when they encountered the barriers. Most of the components in its hold were completely intact, it was a shipment meant for the hospital on Felinas Prime, nice stuff too, though mother does not get to use it very often. The locals are afraid of me. If someone gets hurt badly enough that they can't make it to the medical facility in the city, they'll let her treat them as long as I stay out of sight." His voice was even and steady, revealing none of the emotion he felt. To show emotion was to show weakness and Kai would never show weakness.

"What about your mother's family? Do they live around here?" Blake asked gently.

"They don't know we're here. Giareth can block out any transmissions I try to make and I have a couple of times, then he sends someone out to destroy the transmitter. The Felinians don't use wave communication, sub space or anything. They communicate primarily telepathically and when it's necessary to get out a specific message, they use a holographic transmitting system, they like to see who they are talking to, watch their eyes, they can tell a lot that way."

"Can't your mother communicate telepathically with her family?" Cally asked.

"Felinas Prime is nearly 20 light years away, a woman cannot send that far reliably. It's not as if she hasn't tried. They know she is, they just don't know where or under what conditions. A child has a secondary link with their parents; formed through touch it is different from a primary link, which is only a matter of sending and receiving. But, again, Giareth can block that as well. He has effectively stranded her here and he's prepared to wait her out. She will never be free while I'm alive and Giareth will never have her while I'm alive. It's trade-off, unless I kill him first." The boy grinned eerily, adjusting his knives. "He does not consider me a threat, doesn't think I can read him, but I can. He underestimates me. He thinks I'm more human than Felinian and that will be the mistake that kills him." Something in the intensity of his dark eyes and the cool assuredness of his tone was disturbingly familiar and no one spoke for some time, considering what they had learned.

It was nearly four hours before the doctor emerged into the common room. She gently eased her fiery bound curls and sat down on one of the couches, eyeing the information on the medical screen beside her.

Blake was the first to voice the collective concern of the group. "Is he going to be all right?"

"He will be under the anesthetic for a couple of hours more, he's done well until now I think he'll be just fine. It will be some weeks before he feels entirely the way he did, but with rest the body will heal itself." Kai had brought a glass of water for her to drink, which she did with relish. She sat him down next to her, bringing out the arrowhead she had removed. It was considerably larger than the narrow points Kai used on his hunting bolts, a finely honed and sharpened triangle with fine, barbed ends opposite the point. She looked at him harshly.

"I was just out hunting." He said defensively, folding his knees tightly and wrapping his arms around them. He did not look fully at his mother, but pretended to be interested in one of the screens.

She sighed deeply. "Kai, this is one of Giareth's own hunting arrows. You don't hunt the upper fields this time of the year. You were on your way back from the city and he was following you. Now don't argue, I just want to know why he left his patrol to come after you. The Star Commander does not waste his time or certainly his custom arrows unless he is provoked. What did you do?"

Kai looked uncomfortable, but defiant. He reached into a pack he carried and brought out a piece of circuitry, which he put in his mother's hand. She looked at it disdainfully, then sharply at her son.

Since she obviously did not recognize the significance of the find, he dutifully explained to her. "It's a holotransmit circuit, a whole shipment of them came in yesterday, he'll never even miss that one. I know I've tried before, but I did not have the right frequency. I have it now and I can reach Prime."

With a patience it was obvious she had learned well and used often to deal with him, Alarayna turned gently to her son. "What about the transmission filters, you know better."

"I planted a virus, the systems will be down for at least four days for reprogramming."

Alarayna shook her head uselessly, rubbing his head affectionately. "He'll find another way, don't doubt it, Kai. What shall I do when he's killed you? Do you figure that into your probability equations? If life was a question of numbers, you'd have it beaten, little one. At least I know what you were up to." She turned to Blake. "It does not tell what you people were doing here or how you got here. Obviously, you know nothing of my people or you would not be here."

"Well, we did get all the information we could, but there was not much to be found." Blake answered. "Our computer intercepted traffic which suggested there were anti-Federation groups in this area looking for assistance from other similar groups, going so far as to leave specific coordinates for contact, although the information was scarce and for the most part second hand, I thought it was worth following-up on. Avon will be the first one to tell me I was wrong I suppose, though he already has several times. I get the impression your people would be unlikely to want our assistance."

"You better just make sure you tell him that when he wakes up, Blake." Vila said from across the room. "He'll make all our lives miserable for weeks otherwise, probably will anyway."

"Vila, stop!" Cally injected. "We should all be grateful he is alive at this point, that was a very serious injury. We could not have been luckier than to have a doctor at our disposal. My people say one should not be unhappy when providence has smiled on you."

"Certainly, anything we can do for you, let me know." Blake said graciously.

Alarayna had lived for five years among these people, but it never ceased to amaze her, the extent of wasted words they used to get a simple point across. She smiled. "I require no payment. I shall be more than compensated if you are gone when the Commander comes back for this, which he certainly will. As for this transmission you are following, I'm afraid your assessment is quite accurate. Our people are just as happy to be left out of that which goes on in Federation space. The Federation leave us alone and we leave them alone. Trade is necessary and that is the only reason we have contact with the other human colonies around us." She looked severely at Kai, holding his eyes mercilessly. *What have you gotten us into? Giareth will not be easily placated after this, plus the fact you've been messing around with his security systems. What shall I say to him?*

*I'm sorry mother, I was curious that's all. I've never seen any of their kind aside from the merchants down at the ports. Giareth has already warned me to have them gone, they will be. The Giardasta left two hours ago chasing Federation pursuit ships, they will be gone at least three days.*

*Can you even be sure he was on the ship?*

Kai smiled evilly. *He wouldn't dare miss a fight like that or leave the glory to one of his underlings. He left on that ship all right. The outer detectors picked them up on trajectory to the third sector, it will be at least three days.*

Alarayna was tired and she knew well that it was useless arguing with the child. She placed the arrowhead on the table beside her and leaned back on the couch, pulling the child's head to her shoulder. "You cannot play these games with the Commander. As far as Felinas is concerned, you don't even exist. There is nothing to stop him from killing you whenever he wants to. If you push him too far, he will have no choice. Once you're gone, I will be his. He will see to it that I forget you ever existed. There is not a thing I can do about it and he knows it." She clutched her son tightly as if he would fade before her.

"You know he can't do that. He cannot take your memories from you, it's illegal. He will never have you, I will make sure of it." He disengaged himself from her grip and looked at her defiantly.

"Eventually you will come to understand, little one, the law is what he says it is and whatever he says it is. You cannot fight it, sooner or later I will belong to him. He can and very well will block out all the memories that pertain to you; it will be to me as if you never existed; he would not want the competition. Once you're grown, you can get one of the merchant freighters to sign you on as crew; you can fly better than any of their pilots. From there you will have your own future, mine has already been sealed. Right now, you're all I have, Kai, and I can't bear to lose you."

Kai looked at his mother critically. She was tired, he could see it easily in her face, but she would not let herself sleep until she felt her patient was out of danger. He reached out to smooth a stray curl from her forehead. As she lifted her eyes to his, he murmured softly. "Sleep." Her eyes closed obediently as he knew they would. He laid her tail carefully across her shoulders, bound at its end only with a length of leather cord, the golden clasp she had worn since birth was in his tail. He turned to the others, who watched curiously. "You should get some sleep while you can, he won't wake for hours yet."

Having nothing else better to do, each of them found a comfortable spot to rest in and was soon asleep. Kai waited patiently, stroking his mother's hair gently. When he was certain everyone was asleep, he sat quietly at his computer screen, keyboard before him.

/computer access systems/ he entered in, waiting for a response as the systems around him hummed compliantly.

/system access available. What system do you require?/


/processing, please wait. Requested system requires security code for remote access, enter code./

Kai thought for a moment before entering a series of numbers and letters.

/system accessed, enter requirements./

/have the zen computer advise jenna that blake is unable to communicate due to ion interference. she is to hold position until he makes contact. confirm acceptance./ Kai watched quietly as the computer carried out his instructions, waiting for the requested confirmation before turning the computer off and blanking the screen.


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