Darkship Revenge – Snippet 19

Lost and Found

Of course Eris started crying halfway through the trip, above the ocean.  She cried so loudly even Fuse could hear her.  I realized he’d flown closer and was making the sign-language-gestures for “What is wrong?” over and over frantically.

Strangely, broomer sign language did not contain terms for “her diaper needs changing, she wants to nurse, and she’s probably upset at changing air pressure.”  So I flashed back, quickly, “Nothing” and “uncomfortable.”

He must not have believed the first part, because he flew close to us for a while.

Olympus seacity is a sprawling Seacity.  They used a lot of white dimatough in making it, so it manages to give an impression of Mediterranean beauty.  I wanted to fly the way I used to when Max was alive and a member of our broomer’s lair – to the side, and land on the terrace next to the sea.  We used to gather there often before a raid or a party.

But even from the sea I could tell that Olympus was now a military center, and as such I could not possibly just land anywhere.  Or I could, of course, but I wasn’t interested in getting shot out of the air.  People fighting a war didn’t have any kind of a sense of humor.

So I landed in front of what used to be the Good Man’s palace.  Fuse landed right next to me.  Eris was still raising a ruckus. Fuse looked worriedly at her, his eyebrows quirking. With his brain starting to function, he looked almost normal, despite the network of scars on his face, and the fact that he had patches of hair missing.  I wondered if his father had planned on cosmetic surgery after appropriating Fuse’s body, and then I wondered how difficult the surgery would be, and then I stopped being an idiot and wondered how to get to Lucius Keeva.

The entrance to the palace was through a massive and rather impressive staircase.  At the foot of the staircase were two sentinels.  At the top two others.

I stared at them.  They wore the sky blue uniforms that had been newly designed when I’d last been here.  But they were also armed with large weapons.  I thought that if I knew anything about how bureaucracies and armies worked, just blustering up to the door, particularly in my current, disheveled and rumpled condition, would not get me to Lucius’ presence.  Or indeed much of an answer.

I flashed a smile at Fuse, “Can you wait here?” I asked.

He narrowed his eyes then shook his head.  “No.  I know I’m safe with you.”

“Ah…” I said, and because I wasn’t sure where Fuse’s mind was right now and if I was talking to an adult or a six year old, I said, “I’m going to lie a lot. Do not act surprised.”

His eyebrows rose, but he nodded once, and followed right behind me, all the way to the top of the stairs.

The guards were young, and tall and obviously worked out more than most men bothered to.  Clean shaven, brown haired, in identical sky-blue uniforms, they could have been twins, only they clearly weren’t.  Their features were different. And they were both looking at me as though I were something that had crawled out from beneath the rug.

I cleared my throat, “I need to see Lieutenant Colonel Lucius Keeva.”

They didn’t even change expressions enough to let me know they knew the name.  For a moment I wondered if they were some kind of incredibly realistic statues.  Then the one on the right said, “About?”

I couldn’t tell them anything that would get me to see Lucius but wouldn’t get other people curious about me, or Eris, or most of all curious about Kit and about Eden.  My father had been on a mission to catch Darkship Thieves and my father was dead, but it didn’t mean that other Good Men wouldn’t want to find Eden, particularly if they realized Eden had technology they lacked.  As for the other side of the fight, they too needed technology to defeat the Good Men.

So I said what I had planned to say.  In any place, at any time, there is a lie that will bring a woman carrying a child to the presence of a man no matter how well guarded he is or how high his station, and no matter how absurd her claim.  Or perhaps even more so if her claim is absurd.

Look, I grant you there will be exceptions.  Any woman showing up carrying an infant and demanding to see a Good Man would be sent away.  If she was lucky she’d be sent off with some money.

Or maybe not.  Though the Good Men were biologically the same Mules created and designed to be absolutely sterile back in the end of the twenty first century, it didn’t mean that they didn’t wish, sometimes, to pretend to be able to impregnate normal women.  Particularly when they were undercover as natural humans.

In the same way, my accusing Lucius Keeva of fathering my daughter was a double impossibility.  Or at least an impossibility and a high unlikelihood.  Now of course it was only an impossibility if you didn’t know I was of the same stock he was.  A Good Man-Mule could not impregnate a standard human woman.  Me?  I was a different matter. And as for the unlikelihood, I happened to know Lucius was in a relationship with my old broomer lair friend, Nat Remy.

However, I very much doubted two guards as young as these looked were going to attempt to argue the relationship angle, and if they knew that Luce was a mule, yet they might not put two and two together quickly enough when faced with an accusation.  I straightened my spine and I said, “About his daughter.”

“His…” the guard on the left said.

I looked at him, then at Eris.

He opened his mouth.  He looked like he was about to say something.  He closed his mouth.  He opened it again.  He looked helplessly at his watch mate.

I didn’t know how much they even knew about Mules.  Mules who had become the Good Men, had grown into such scary legends that amid their superhuman brilliance, their cruelty, and their disdain for humans the “sterile with normal human females” thing might have been lost.

But I swear the message they traded through their look was, if this is true and Nat Remy finds out, he’ll kill us all, so let the big guy deal with it.

One of them went up the stairs and in, to be replaced seconds later with another guard. And then the guards stood there, staring at us, and Fuse and I stared back at them, until I got tired of hearing Eris cry and knelt down, set her on the step, changed her diaper, then opened my broomer suit strategically so it still covered me, and proceeded to nurse her while Fuse watched with that strangely fascinated expression all males, of any level of mental development get when breasts and babies are involved.

Since I was sitting on the steps I had my back turned to the front door, and the first I knew of Lucius Keeva’s approach was the sound of his boots on the steps.  I got up and turned, just before he got to me.  He’s a huge man, over six feet tall, with long dark blond hair, and he looked confused and curious in equal measure.

He glanced at Eris – what was visible of her, since her head was hidden inside the chest of my suit, making me look hideously deformed – then at me.  “Thena,” he said, and extended his hand, before realizing mine were both occupied in holding Eris.  He dropped his hand and said, “Thena,” again.

He looked at Fuse, frowned, then back at me.  “They said, the guard said –” he frowned.  “Not unless some experimentation has taken place or I’ve become amnesiac.”

I smiled at him.  “I said what I had to say to see you.  I need to ask your help.”

Now his gaze sharpened, and he nodded once. “I see,” he said.  “Come with me.”  He waved to the sentinels that I was all right.  I noted that they more than likely couldn’t have heard our conversation, and that what they saw was a quick exchange and Lucius inviting me in, and I had to fight not to smirk.  By nighttime the rumors would be rife, not that either Lucius or I would care much, I suspected.  Unless, of course, Nat heard, wherever he was.

I started up the stairs after Lucius, and Fuse shouted, “Wait.”

I turned and realized the sentinels had blocked him, not that I could blame them.

Lucius turned and said, “Er –” Even as I said, “He’s with me,” and to Lucius, “He’s Ajith Mason, or if you prefer Fuse, a member of my broomer lair.  Nat will vouch for him, if you ask him.”

“Nat is… in some sort of high council meeting, but of course I trust you,” he waved for them to let Fuse through, and said, as he led us through the door to a darkened hallway, “I remember him.”

Fuse blinked.  Then spoke, “I remember too,” he said.  “A cell? In a prison?  And water coming in.”

Lucius turned around, “Yes.  You were the one who shot the door to my cell, and freed me from Never-Never.”

I knew that Lucius had been a prisoner in the infamous underground jail, and in solitary for 15 years, but I didn’t realize that Fuse…  Well, Fuse had been in on the raid.

“Possibly,” Fuse said.  “You must understand, I’ve been very ill.  I’m just recovering.  I have to stay with Athena.  She keeps me safe.”

Lucius frowned at that, but escorted us into a small room with sofas, and had three kinds of soft drink and little sandwiches brought in.  I had finished nursing and probably ate more than good manners dictated.  Not that anyone would notice.  Lucius looked at Eris, “Your daughter… she’s very little.”  He sounded like a man fishing for context.

Which was my opening for telling him everything that had happened to me since Kit’s and my return to Eden.  When I mentioned the Emperor Julien Beaulieu, he started to open his mouth, then shook his head.

I’d just finished when someone knocked on the door and came in.  She was a young, slim woman in an Olympus uniform, and she handed Lucius a slip of paper, which he read.  He frowned and took a deep breath. “That’s all Gloria, thank you.  You may leave.”

Once the door was closed, he turned to me.  “Your husband has just turned up in Liberte Seacity with a hostage.  They are now…”  He looked around wildly.  “They are elsewhere. Simon requests our help with the situation.”

“Simon?” I said.

But Lucius didn’t explain.  “We have no time to lose.”