Darkship Revenge – Snippet 27

“And serve notice to any future young men,” Simon said, in that under-voice tone that was supposed to be heard while pretending it didn’t want to be heard.

“And we hadn’t picked a name,” I said.  “And Eris is a pretty name.”

“I thought we’d agreed on Jane,” Kit said.

I didn’t dignify that with an answer.  Ninety percent of married life is pretending not to hear the remarks to which the only possible response is an almighty argument.  Instead I smiled at him, and took a deep breath.  “It’s good to have you back.  And you need a fresher.”

“Something awful,” he agreed.  “I didn’t get a chance to bathe in their ship, and then when I took a lifeboat and Danegerou — I mean Thor, over there, there wasn’t a fresher.”

“So, they took you hostage, and you escaped and took one of them hostage,” I said, filling in the blanks. “And you came to Earth.”  I smirked inwardly that he also called Fuse’s clone Danegerous. “But who are they?  Besides the clones of men three of us were cloned from?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “Hell of a coincidence that, but perhaps not–” He shrugged.  “I gather sooner or later–  Look, this is why I chose to come to Earth even after I took Thor hostage, instead of trying to find you in Circum and going back to Eden.  First, I was almost sure Eden wouldn’t take well to Thor.  And second, I thought Earth needed some warning.”

“Warning?” I said.  Granted, on body decoration alone, this lot looked like slightly more savage Vikings, but I was fairly sure they were just spectacularly feral children.  Look, Mules never got prizes for being well adjusted, okay?  And whoever had made these kids wasn’t even a genetic relation, on account of the fact that the closest genetic relations the boys had were Kit, myself, and Fuse. Nor would he or she have any reason to care for these children.  And obviously they hadn’t.  But feral also meant a lack of discipline.  I couldn’t understand how these three striplings, aggressive, sure, but not really capable of much complex strategy could threaten all of Earth.  Hell, they couldn’t even threaten all of Eden, even if my husband weren’t able to fully conceptualize a planet the size of Earth and kept thinking of it in terms of his native colony, in a hallowed asteroid.

Kit stared at the boys, then looked at me.  “They didn’t tell me this, you understand, I just surmised it from hearing to their thoughts cross-chatter, that they are sent to Earth with a mission, to find a safe place for …” He paused and took a long breath.  “You remember what Je Reviens means in Ancient French, right?”

“I’ll return?” I said.

“It did.”


“The Je Reviens did return.  As far as I can figure out they are orbiting Earth, somewhere, and they sent down these most unlikely emissaries.”

It took me a while to process this.  The Je Reviens was a – no, the only – interstellar ship ever built by inhabitants of the Earth.  It had been built by the mules, back when they called themselves the bio lords, and when they had more or less reigned over the Earth like absolute despots in a way even the Good Men hadn’t managed.  They had used it to escape the riots that put an end to their rule.

Correction, that is what I’d learned in my educational programs, but it wasn’t… strictly true.  I’d found it wasn’t strictly true when I’d become a refugee in Kit’s native colony, and learned their half of the story. Only about half the mules had left on the Je Reviens.  It had been intended for all of them, and also for the people I’d learned in my early schooling to call “the servants of the Mules.”

This too was a misnomer.  Oh, sure some of the people who had been meant to flee with them had been literally the servants of the Mules – or bio lords as they preferred to call themselves – as each one of the hundred and fifty or so of those who’d been improved to be almost a different breed of human, had controlled a vast territory that usually comprised two or three of the old style land nations as well as some sea-cities.  Government like that, particularly as an oligarchy, needed a vast bureaucracy and, more importantly, a trustworthy bureaucracy.

The bio-lords employed the best of whatever they required, be it assassins or paper-pushers, and the best, by the late twenty first century were always bio-improved before birth, by ambitious or prudent parents. Enhanced for speed or intelligence, for beauty or acting ability or a thousand other characteristics.  Or most of them, for those born to ambitious, prudent and rich parents.

However, when – as I understood it – the Mules had taken panic and decided they were about to be routed, and therefore started building the Je Reviens, the primary plan had been to take not only the Mules and their servants, but every conspicuously-bio-improved person, away from the revenge, wrath and destruction that had been labeled “the Turmoils” in my history holograms.

I still didn’t know what had caused them to leave in a panic, too, in the barely-built Je Reviens.  I knew some of the people they’d left behind, they’d left behind on purpose: people like my so called father.  Daddy dearest couldn’t be trusted with a ship full of people not as improved as himself and vulnerable to the idea of superiorly bio-engineered Mules any more than a wolf could be trusted penned in with a cargo of sheep.

I’d never fully understood if Father’s particular kink was sexual – though it was that too – or if his homicidal sadism was a response to deep psychological wounds of another kind.  The only thing I was almost sure of was that it was not genetic, since I’d never felt any need to torture or kill my sexual partners.

But I did understand the decision to leave him behind.  Others, it wasn’t as clear why they’d been abandoned.  As I understood, Jarl had made the decision, and that decision must rest on his knowledge of his own kind, growing up.  I had to be satisfied that he hadn’t thought them suitable.  I suspected some of his decisions might have been rooted quite simply in his likes and dislikes, such an obvious, deep seated hatred of the original from which Simon had been made.

The rest of the people, the vast numbers of “servants of the mules” left behind seemed to have been left through the hurry in which the Je Reviens had departed, rather than due to any moral or practical judgment.  In other words, there were only so many people they could collect and give warning to, and only so many who’d made it to the Je Reviens in Earth Orbit, before it left.

And while vast numbers of those left behind had died – burned, beaten, crucified, killed by mobs insane for vengeance and vindication – a number had survived, and reproduced and many had attained power in the households of the mules, who’d risen again to power under the guise of Good Men. My friend Nat Remy, and in fact all of my friends who weren’t the clones of Good men, were descended from those highly bio-improved people.

The ones who’d left with the mules – mostly close retainers and functionaries – had been offloaded in Eden, an asteroid hollowed and made suitable for human habitation for their convenience.

Only fifty or so mules had left in the Je Reviens, and no mere “improved humans”.  The justification given in Eden was that only the Mules had left because they were the only ones who had a chance of attaining the distant star to which the Je Reviens was aimed.  And Jarl Ingemar, and Bartolomeu Dias, Mules, both, had stayed behind in Eden to “guide the development of a free society.”

I’d never bought either of those, any more than I bought the stories Earth told its schoolchildren.  It seems like hiding and whitewashing the past is one of the great vices of mankind, to be undertaken whenever someone feels he can get away with it.  Sometimes it’s not even for any particular reason, but to make things somehow tidy.

But now I looked at these… children.  The Mules, by the time they cast away from Eden, had been alone in the Je Reviens.  No one aboard the interstellar ship had been able to have children: not naturally.

When the mules were created, back in the twenty first century, they’d been – as the most extremely bio-engineered of all people – all sterile and all male, the last a failsafe for the first.  They were so modified, even though most looked perfectly normal, that their creators didn’t want them in the human reproduction stream.  Originally they had had stops on cloning, too, though that had not managed to survive a hundred years.

And it wasn’t out of the question that even creatures who could live hundreds of years – even if the political necessities of Earth had required that they change bodies more often than that – might want progeny.  But I had trouble believing that, and besides these three…  These three were clones of Mules who had stayed behind on Earth. Why on Earth?

“I don’t understand,” I said, turning to look at my husband, then back at Morgan, and Laz and Thor.  “These aren’t clones of the Mules who went.  They are –”

“Clones of those left behind, yes,” Kit said.  “I don’t know why.  I know how.  I’d be surprised if the Je Reviens hadn’t contained genetic samples of ALL the bio lords, as a way to treat them and to grow… spare parts for them, should it become necessary.