Darkship Revenge – Snippet 26

We Come In Peace

I turned.  Kit came running into the door of the flyer.  I realized what I had heard was his involuntary reaction to finding the door forced, when I heard running steps behind him, and then Fuse saying, “I told you she’d be all right.  She’s Athena.”  I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or scared by such confidence.

My husband’s eyes look like cat eyes.  It’s a side effect of their being bio-engineered to pilot the darkships without auxiliary lights, to diminish the chances of being caught in the powertree ring.  At first I’d found his expressions unreadable.  Utterly opaque and alien.  But now I could read them fairly well.  It didn’t hurt that there was a mind-link, which transmitted in succession worry, confusion, relief, and finally amusement.

It was his cat eyes, and his calico hair that made it hard to identify the redhead as a clone of the same man, but now it was obvious.  He looked like a younger, not bio-engineered in appearance Kit.

Kit stepped up to where I was tying his clone’s hands.  I was using for the purpose a pink and purple band with cheerful clown faces that I suspected Luce used to attach a pacifier to a child.  It was sturdy, though, and pliable enough.  He examined my handy work, when I was done.  Then he stepped over to baby brother whom I had bound hand and foot – because I knew where he came from – and then over to Thor, whose pockets Kit started going through methodically.

Fuse looked intently at Thor, in silence, as though trying to evaluate something.  I assumed he’d recognized his own clone, but I wasn’t going to ask.  The new Fuse was disturbing and unpredictable, both in his level of maturity and in his reactions.

Eris continued crying, and I went over to the net, got her, put her on the sling, attached to me.  Simon and Luce came in.

Well, I surmised the fourth man was Simon.  I had reason for it, since he moved like Simon, and he was Simon’s height and also, when he looked at me, his features split in an unholy grin that I knew all too well.  But he didn’t look like Simon.  Someone had darkened his skin two shades, his hair had loose curls, much like mine, and his eyes were now a deep, dark green.  It was the expression in them that was still Simon’s.

There was something challenging in it, at the bottom of it, as though he were daring me to call him by his old name.  I pretended great absorption in Eris, as I checked her diaper which was dry, then said, in an off hand tone, “Emperor Julien Beaulieu, I presume?”

He cackled.  Lucius rolled his eyes and stepped towards the control panel.  “I disabled the genlock,” I told Lucius, virtuously.  “I didn’t burn it.”

“Thank you.  I realized my stupidity immediately after leaving,” he said, as he pulled the panel and – presumably – set about reconnecting it.  “I fully expected you to have burned it, in order to hear what was going on outside.”  He gave a quick smile, as though mocking himself.  “And I’d have deserved it.”

Fuse was talking to Kit over the contents of Thor’s pockets, a series of spheres and weirdly shaped packages, and vials.  At one point, Kit turned pale, reached very carefully for a cylindrical object and walked away with it, outside the flyer.

Eris having decided she wanted to nurse, I sat down on a chair and took care of that, while Simon, Luce and Fuse took each of the boys and strapped them in to auxiliary seats which pulled down from the ceiling near the wall.  Then they tied them to the seats.  Halfway through it, the oldest one, Kit’s and Jarl’s clone, woke.  I felt his gaze on me and realized he was frowning intently.  I checked there was nothing showing from the nursing that could give him a shock, but there was nothing, except Eris’ head disappearing into my suit.

As I looked, his lips moved, at first soundlessly and then “Who are you.  What are you?  You look like… Sinistra? Like Morgan.  Like you’re made from the same genes.”

“Athena Hera Sinistra,” I said.  “Legal daughter of the Good Man Alexander Milton Sinistra. And you?”

He shifted uncomfortably.  The rope going up from his ankles to his hands was probably too tight, but having been tied down with too much leeway, and having managed to escape, I was not about to make that mistake.  Not with these kids.  I had a feeling they’d learned to fight before they learned to walk.

“I’m Laz,” he said.  Then blushing a little.  “At least that’s my… my call name.  I’m Lazarus Long from Ingemar made from Jarl Ingemar’s genes.” He turned a wandering look towards Kit “I think he is too, but… changed. We didn’t realize the resemblance when we … when we captured him, because he was suited and… modified.”

The name he used tickled something in my deep memory.  Something about a series of books I read long ago, in my father’s library, now probably reduced to ashes, but for a long time the place where I hid from everyone else in the household.  “Lazarus — from a book?”

He smiled, as though surprised.  “Yes.  From some books by an ancient author.  We — None of us had names, just the names of the people we were made from, but that was not us, so we took the names of story heroes.”

I remembered the character that name attached to, and I decided that this one bore watching very closely indeed.  I could sort of see how a redheaded child with no name could be attracted to the moniker, but I wondered how much he’d modeled himself on his name sake.

“He’s Thor?” I said, pointing at Fuse’s clone who had come awake and was staring at Fuse and being stared at in turn.

“Yes.  From the god of lightnings,” he said, with a small smile, as though realizing the funny idea of an explosives bug naming himself after Thor.  Then with a movement of the head. “And he’s Captain Morgan.  Of the … Sinistra.”

“Yeah. For lack of a better term, my little brother.”

Laz nodded.  “But you’re a woman.  How can you be a woman?  When Father made us –” He stopped.  “I mean, they tried to make women, but they all died or were sterile.  So. That leaves us.”

I wondered who “Father” was.  Some rogue doctor in an unused portion of Circum?  It was possible.  Only at that moment, Kit came back in.  When Fuse turned to look at him, he said, “I threw it away.  Far into the sea.”

Fuse nodded.  “Quite right.”  Then he turned to Danegerous, aka Thor, “You shouldn’t have that in your pocket, kid.  It’s not stable enough. You were seconds from blowing yourself up.  I can’t believe you didn’t.”

Thor looked sullenly at him, and pushed his lower lip out. “I’ve done it hundreds of times.  It’s a very effective explosive.”

“Well, stop doing it.”  Fuse sounded like the patient adult.  Hair, scars and all, he looked suddenly concerned and… paternal and also very grown up?  It was an expression I’d never expected to see on that face.  “You could have got killed.  And your friends with you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Thor said.  And burst into tears.  He bawled with the abandon of a very young child, tears and snot running freely.  Between sobs, he got out, “Father is going to kill us all, anyway.”

“Hush now,” Laz said.  He sounded older than his years and very caring.  I caught a resemblance to the tones Fuse used, and wondered what role he’d played in the younger boys’ lives.  Was he the oldest?  How many of them were there?  And where had they grown up?  “No reason to assume that.  We can still find… movers and shakers and present the petition.”

“What petition?” I said.

Kit made a sound.  I can’t describe the sound, it being part sigh and part huff, as though he were both grieved at the situation, and upset at having to explain.

As I looked at him, he smiled, tight lipped.  “I don’t even know how to explain,” he said.  “Except that I think I can explain better than they do.  The proposition itself is a simple one, but I sense undercurrents, and I have questions both about the whole setup of this situation, and the nature of the people who sent them to Earth with this mission.”

He frowned, wrinkles forming on his forehead, the sort of worried wrinkles I sometimes evoked, not just because he thought whatever I was doing was wrongheaded, but because he couldn’t understand my motivations.  When he spoke, he did it slowly, as though he were trying to think through something.  “You see, I heard them talk, and more importantly I heard them think enough that I can fill you in some, and Laz can probably fill in what I don’t know.”

“You can hear us think?” That was Laz, his eyes wide.

Kit shrugged and managed an almost smirk.  He turned to me, as he continued, “I wasn’t sure they couldn’t hear me, either, Athena.  That’s why I didn’t answer you.  They ambushed me while I was outside the ship, trying to fix the circuits.  I couldn’t fight them off without risking drifting off to space.  And I didn’t want them to find you and the baby, not in the state you were in, tired and defenseless. You wouldn’t have been able to fight at all, and I’d have been impaired, defending you because if they captured you, it would all be over.  We’d be done. I couldn’t risk you, no matter how much I wanted to fight them off.  So I went with them quietly, and just hoped you would find my note and come after me.”

“I did.  That’s why I came to Earth, and if you think it was easy totting Eris–”

His eyes widened, “You named her Eris?”

I felt my face get hot.  “Well, she was born during a battle.  I thought it was appropriate.”