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Jabberwocky - Part 9 - Choices

By Sheila Paulson
Page 3 of 15

      "What were they doing in there?" demanded Ren Harlin as he drew back from the door to the flight deck.

      "It's called group linkage," Kyl Avon explained. "Jabberwocky pulls them all in and it's something like group telepathy. Everybody's minds link."

      "I don't think I'd like that," his friend returned sceptically, eyeing Kyl with doubt. "Have you ever done it?"

      "Well, I've been in link-mode," Kyl temporized. "It was a little like telepathy. Jabberwocky could talk directly into my mind and I could talk to him without speaking, but it's not quite like telepathy. Cally says it isn't and she should know. She's an Auron after all. And it's different than when she uses telepathy with me."

      Kyl grinned. He liked coming aboard Jabberwocky now. When he had first met his father, he had doubted he would ever like him, but though Avon had taken a bit of knowing, Kyl was beginning to feel more comfortable around him and to like him a lot. His father liked him too, though he didn't show it the way people usually did. He had a sense of humour that had fooled Kyl more than once, and sarcasm often masked his softer feelings. Kyl knew all about that kind of thing; he did it himself. So gradually he and Avon had come closer to one another.

      Kyl had been raised with the surname Veelan, but after he'd been on Ryalon for a month he had come to Avon and asked him if he minded if Kyl went by the name Kyl Avon. It was the one time he had seen his father completely disconcerted, and then he had smiled, a wonderful, delightful smile and said simply, "Why not? It is your name." After that, both of them were more comfortable with each other, and Kyl had begun to come to the ship more often. He had been assigned a cabin and when Jabberwocky was in port, he could stay there if he chose. He'd been staying on board for a week now and last night had invited his friend Ren to stay over too. When Jabberwocky was away on a mission, Kyl lived with Ren and his family and he liked it there, but he was coming to consider Jabberwocky as his real home. None of his father's friends seemed to mind, and they were always happy to show him things about the running of the ship. Sometimes Avon let him work on the computers. Of course he checked the work afterwards, and didn't hesitate to criticize something done wrong, but he found things to praise too.

      Vila loved to talk to Kyl and told him wonderful stories about his father. Cally was always willing to spend time with him too, and while he'd felt a little uncomfortable at first with Cally because he knew she was sleeping with his father, that was just the way things were and he liked Cally now. He had been afraid she would resent him for taking some of her time with Avon away, but she never did, and Kyl, who had grown up rather prickly around people, inclined to hold them all at a distance, found that it was harder and harder to do that to Cally or Vila or Hugh, or any of the crew. He was least comfortable with Soolin, but rather than her cool control, he suspected it was because she was so pretty and because he knew she probably thought him nothing but a kid.

      He and Ren had been exploring the ship for most of the morning. They'd spent an hour back in the computer crawlways. Ren was good with computers - he was no Avon but he wasn't an illiterate either. Kyl considered computers and Avons a natural pair and meant to be every bit as good with them as his father was one day. Now they had come out, a little dusty and messed up, but ready to hit the flight deck. The group link was just breaking up as they entered, and the crew greeted them as they scattered to their duties, leaving only Avon, Cally, and Tarrant on the flight deck.

      Kyl grinned at his father, who nodded in response - Avon was not a man who smiled casually and once Kyl had learned that, some of his intimidation in his father's presence had faded; it wasn't that his father didn't approve of him, it was simply that he did not show approval with meaningless smiles. "We're doing a tour," explained Kyl. "Ren wanted to see the computer crawlways."

      "I see you brought some of it with you," Avon responded, gesturing to their appearance. "If you are bored, perhaps you could clean things up in there."

      Kyl grimaced. "I told you he was a hard taskmaster," he retorted to Ren. Crossing the flight deck, he patted the top of Jabberwocky's console affectionately. "Hi, Jab. How's it going?"

      "Just fine, Kyl. And how are you? It's good to see you on the flight deck with your friend. I watched you in the crawlways. If your father isn't careful, you'll know more than he does one day."

      Avon turned and favoured Jabberwocky with an affronted look, but reluctant humour warmed his eyes. Kyl had already learned to ignore Avon's words and expressions and look at his eyes. They gave a far better clue to what he was really thinking than anything else about him.

      "You will have to move back to the Harlin's tonight," Avon informed him as he inserted another piece into the dismantled detector shield. "Blake has been assigned another mission."

      "What kind of mission?" Kyl asked eagerly. "May I come?"

      "No," Avon returned at once.

      "Maybe you should bring him this time, Avon," Tarrant cut in, looking up from the panel he was adjusting. "It's just another milk run. There's not likely to be any Federation flotillas between here and Parais. It's too remote to be a threat to the Federation anyway. It might do him good to see how we operate on a mission."

      "I said no," Avon returned. "And even if I were to approve, Blake would still veto it. He thinks Kyl is too young for missions, something I am inclined to agree with, and you know that Blake fondly deludes himself that he is in charge."

      Kyl grinned. Avon always made remarks like that about Blake when anybody with a drop of sense could see that Blake was Avon's best friend and that when the chips were down the two of them always backed each other.

      But if the mission was so easy, why couldn't he come? Kyl considered it. It wouldn't be fair to his father to demand he come along on a risky mission, but an easy one like this would be a different story.

      He began to plan. He'd need Jabberwocky's help and he got along really well with Jabberwocky. He'd make a token protest to fool his father, then he would leave with Ren so if anyone asked Jabberwocky, he could say Kyl had left. Then when he came back, he'd talk to Jabberwocky alone. No one would check his cabin, and once they were well on their way, he could come out. Blake wouldn't turn back when they were almost at their destination.

      So he complained a little just for show and when Avon didn't back down, he conceded with bad grace and went off with Ren. He knew his friend would back him. He only regretted letting his father think he was mad at him. Their relationship was too new and too untried for him to be comfortable with a fight, even a mock one like this. But the sight of his father's disappointed eyes as he stalked away bothered him. Once he emerged from his hiding place, his first task would be to apologize.


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Sheila Paulson

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