Darkship Revenge – Snippet 16

Fuse paused and said, “First night here, I looked at wires and where wires went,” he pointed at a section of wall behind denuded built-in storage.  The storage was in molded dimatough and looked like it had been poured at the same time as the wall, which probably explained why no one had tried to remove the shelves.  They had removed the doors that had been wood, and which had once hidden the shelves.  “I was bored,” he explained.  “And I realized that some of them had to be for a secret door.  So I got wires from other places.  Some of the bombed, unstable places still had everything.  And I got components and I refixed the entry.”

I remembered the door to my father’s secret domain had once been operated by manipulating a faun’s statue and some accouterments on the shelves.  Those were gone, but Fuse now reached beneath a shelf, touched a point on the wall, which looked to me indistinguishable from any other point on the wall, kicked a distant shelf.  Part of the wall slid away revealing a hallway.  He smiled back at me, an echo of his old lopsided smile, “Come,” he said.  “Once this is closed we’ll be safe here.  Even if they know there used to be a secret place, they won’t know where to look.”

I hesitated.  I had known Fuse well before, and while I wouldn’t say I’d have trusted him with my life, since his impairments made trusting him with anything but the ability to “make a big boom” perilous, I had known how his mind worked and his proclivities.  I knew Fuse had been a good natured child, at heart.  Now —

Then I thought that once Fuse’s personality had been stripped away by the accident, what had remained, at the heart of it, was his own basic inclinations, which seemed to be rather well-intentioned and perhaps even, at least when applied to the old Fuse with his impairments, sweet.  I remembered he used to greet me with wholehearted hugs, for instance, and I didn’t even remember a single instance of his throwing a tantrum.

And while brain injury could and did change people’s personality, the vague memory I had of Fuse before his injury was of a quiet, somewhat shy, but helpful and rather gentle young man.  Besides, if he tried anything funny, I could fight him off.  I’d fought off bigger men before.  And even if he had the same enhancements I had – or so close as made no difference – being also the clone of a mule-Bio-Lord-Good Man, he hadn’t full control of his body yet.  That much was obvious from his dragging right foot, his trembling right arm.

I nodded and followed him, pulling Nellie the Robot.  He noticed this and said, “It’s okay.  I’ll take Nellie.  You have a baby,” and reached to pull Ms. Cleaver Robot himself.

Inside the secret door, it looked far more as I remembered my father’s house looking.  There were deep rugs on the floor, and shelves and cabinets everywhere, many of them crammed with mementos of my father’s long and disreputable career.

Most of these mementos were perfectly innocuous, consisting of things he’d been given by his subordinate rulers, usually a slightly higher version of the sort of souvenir people bought in souvenir shops.  Things made of seashells, and seashells of monstrous proportions, and fossils, and holos and…  And then there was his office, which consisted of a far more utilitarian bend, with a link and things that Father wouldn’t want anyone else to see.  And then there were the private rooms.  For a moment I entertained the hope that Fuse hadn’t penetrated the private rooms.  Father had rather peculiar tastes, we’ll say it that way, the result of which had been not only dark stains on the floors of those rooms but the sort of mementos that I understood all serial killers kept: bits of humans.  Usually small and desiccated, but unmistakably human bits of people who were no longer alive by virtue of Father’s agency.  There had also, I think, been holos and sensi recordings.  I wasn’t absolutely sure as I hadn’t activated the holo apparatus or played the sensis.  In fact, since, at a relatively young age, I had realized what Father did in those rooms, I had tried to stay out of them and keep my ignorance of what happened there as much as possible.

So I’d hoped that Fuse hadn’t opened those rooms.  I didn’t know what his recovering mind would make of it, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

But when we got to the central hall of the place, the door to Father’s most secret room which had once been secured by genlock, stood open, blasted, the lock burned away.  Fuse looked at it, then stopped dead.

He turned around to face me.  “I have thrown away everything from those rooms,” he said, with a slightly worried look, as though he thought I might object.  And, to my enthusiastic, “Good,” he hesitated.

“I burned them,” he said.  “Or threw it in the sea.  I cleaned.  I got a bed from upstairs and… and things… and I sleep there.  But you don’t want to sleep there.  It was a bad place.”

I had no idea how he’d intuited I didn’t want to sleep in that place.  Perhaps he’d noticed my expression when looking at the blasted-open door.  Or perhaps he’d recovered enough memories and enough of his mind to realize what the place must have been and was gallantly trying to protect me.  Impossible to say.  I simply didn’t know the new Fuse.

“No, I don’t want to sleep there,” I said.

He grinned, with an echo of the Fuse I’d known, and possibly an echo of someone he’d been in childhood, and went into that space, and dragged back several blankets.  “We’ll make you a bed in the office,” he said.  He hesitated.  “I don’t want to go upstairs and see if there are some mattresses.  You don’t mind do you?  Some places are very unstable.”

I didn’t mind at all.  I’d flown enough above the mansion’s ruins, to think that Fuse shouldn’t have risked it in the first place.  Yes, the way the shell was split, and only selectively burned, there were probably entire rooms untouched, but the way the walls leaned at crazed angles, it was entirely possible for the entire thing to collapse at the smallest weight.  In fact, Fuse had colonized just about the only safe area in the house, since  Father’s holy of holies plunged under the dimatough top of the island and was therefore probably safe even in case the structure above collapsed.

The assemblage of blankets Fuse arranged was more of a nest than a bed, but it was surprisingly comfortable.  Or maybe I was that tired.

Fuse watched in solemn, owlish interest as I changed Eris, and, because I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of him, while I nursed Eris, although I did cover the process with a draped corner of a blanket.

At the end of it, while Eris lay in my arms, falling asleep, he gave her his finger, which she grasped with a determination that I suspected meant a whole lot of stubbornness as part of her inborn character.

He looked down, fascinated at her tiny fingers squeezing his.  “She’s holding so she won’t fall,” he said, very gently.  There was a long silence.  “I felt like that.  When I was… when I was really not well.  I kept trying to hold on to the little bits that were me,” he said.  “But I kept falling.”

I didn’t say anything.  There didn’t seem to be anything I could say.  Eventually he shambled off to the rooms I’d rather never enter again, and I closed the door to the office and locked it.

Look, chances are he could get in if he tried really hard.  And he probably had a burner about him, somewhere.  And I’d once fought off an armed and armored man using only my boot.  But I like to sleep more or less undisturbed.  And what if he came in and took Eris off with him, while I slept? Let’s suppose he even did it with the best intentions in the world: did he know he was supposed to support her spine?  Even if he had known that about babies long ago, while well, did he still know it?

I shoved one of the armchairs against the door, in such a way that getting in would take time as well as effort.  Time would mean time enough for me to wake up, time enough to prepare defense.

I bedded down on the untidy nest of blankets and eiderdowns on the floor, with Erin on my chest.

It smelled as though it had been exposed to the outside air for a long time, which was probably true, before Fuse had rescued the covers.

As I started sliding down into sleep, I had an idea.  But even the idea was not enough to keep me awake.