Darkship Revenge – Snippet 30

However, part of the very bad time was that Kit had, at the time, been at risk of being overtaken by Jarl’s personality, implanted during a misguided treatment for traumatic brain injury.  At any rate, I had destroyed all of the potential traps in the area. There was nothing injurious about the resort itself, other than being old and in some areas ruined.

On the one hand, the place had plenty of abandoned machinery, possibly compounds for making explosives, and was dense and forest-like enough for the children to get lost in it.  On the other hand it was difficult both to break into and to leave and fairly secret.

They should be asking me, not Kit if we minded using that place.  Only they remembered Kit as being half-possessed by Jarl, and they were probably keeping in mind that Jarl might take offense at the trespass.

Kit sighed.  “This is nothing to do with us,” he said.  “Athena and I, and our daughter, have nothing to do with these children, or with Earth, or with granting the Mules a place on Earth if… if anyone is going to do that.  It is only the merest chance that embroiled them with us.  I think the best thing to do, for the three of us would be to go back home, and leave you gentlemen to handle this.”

There was a long silence, after he spoke.  Lucius didn’t move, or look back.  He was looking intently at his controls and remained so, with perhaps a bit of extra rigidity to his pose, as though what had been natural abstraction was now quite unnatural appearance of abstraction.

And Simon stayed stock still and frowned, not so much as if he were upset, but as if this upset his plans.

Kit had spoken carefully, and politely, but with a sort of cold detachment that was quite unlike him.  I wondered if it was because he felt most of all he must take me and Eris out of this situation.

I understood his point.  I did.  Not just wishing to see us safe, but his reluctance to stay on Earth any longer than necessary.

After all, Kit simply wasn’t free to go anywhere he wanted on Earth.  Sure, his eyes could be disguised with contact lenses, and then he wouldn’t look like the highly specialized enhanced life form he was.  But with his calico hair, he was still noticeable.  And even if we disguised that, he would stick out as a stranger everywhere.  The way he moved, the accent on his Glaish, even his expressions were subtly out of kilter with anyone on Earth.  It was the result of growing up in a colony that hadn’t been in contact with Earth for centuries, and not something you could easily overcome.

Plus, I knew he still wasn’t fond of standing anywhere on Earth where there wasn’t a roof over his head.  In the hallowed asteroid, in which he’d been born and raised, the sky above was a hologram.  He’d confided to me that the only way he could keep from going into an agoraphobic panic outside was to pretend the skies of Earth were the same.

In other words, he was a man out of place.  And he wanted to go home.  Which I understood.  I did.  Then why did my stomach contract at his words?

I found I was looking at Little Brother.  Captain Morgan, of the Sinistra genetic line, was a pitiful object.  Too young to be a man, too old to be a child, and from the look on his face, and the way he looked warily at all of us, too untrusting to ever have been a child like other children.

I’d been created and raised by a man who saw me as his way to a plan: his plan of turning the world into a haven for his kind, one in which normal humans were slowly pushed out, as an inferior species, unable to compete.

Something about that thought sent a finger of cold up my spine and a suspicion crossed my mind that there was something in that I should pay attention to.

But mostly, I was looking at Morgan.

I’m not going to say he was a pretty child, though he could have been one, under different circumstances and different standards of grooming.  And I’m not going to say my interaction with him made me think him pleasant or really possessed of any good qualities.

The thing was, where would he have learned good qualities or proper principles, poor sprout?  I’d been raised by someone who didn’t love me, and didn’t really consider me human.  But even so, I’d had a foster mother, who had loved me, at least if I remembered my first years of life accurately.  She’d disappeared when I was six, but she’d left behind that sense of security and love.

More than that, I’d had the whole wide world.

Yes, of course, my father had mostly made me acquainted with that world by sending me to reform schools and mental hospitals, in an attempt to make me conform to his plans and not question his orders.

But in those, and in my broomer lair, I’d found boon companions, friends, acquaintances.  And even then…

Even then, I’d been a sorry mess with no more morals than a cat.  I remembered what I’d been like when Kit had rescued me from the powertree ring.  Even afterwards, even after he and his family had taken me in, looked after me, and given me their trust and their help, I’d been so disloyal, so unable to have any moral judgment that I’d almost gotten Kit killed.

If Kit had never taken me in, I’d have ended up killed, my own misguided machinations trapping me into what my father wanted me to do.  And if I’d somehow survived my father, I’d still be a sad creature, not fully grownup, not responsible for my own actions, let alone others’.

What about this child, who’d grown up in circumstances that made my upbringing look idyllic?

I slipped my hand into Kit’s, on the seat, beside him. His hand felt very cold. He looked at me.

Simon said, under his breath, but in a tone that was obviously meant to be overheard, “How … typical.  Of course, it is none of your business.  Though we helped you when –”

Kit opened his mouth, closed it.

Into the silence, I said, “I see both sides,” I said.  “Yes, Simon has helped us, Kit, as has Lucius.  They didn’t need to provide us with places to stay, or cover for us, even if once or twice we might have benefited them.  But I do understand Kit also,” I said, looking at Simon.  “This is not his world, nor does he feel comfortable in it. He’s afraid of being caught out in something all of us know, but which he doesn’t, and which will make it obvious he’s a stranger.  Considering that my father imprisoned him and tortured him to get the location of Eden and the secrets of darkships, considering that most of the effort of his people is towards hiding the location of his home world, you can’t blame him.  Or rather, you can but you shouldn’t.”

“Yes, but — ” Lucius said. He sighed.  His face was taut, the lines on it too sharp, as though he were disciplining his expression by an effort of will.  “But Athena, if we are going to keep these children secret – and I’m sure we must – until we figure out what, precisely, is going on, and if we can help them complete their mission without hurting ourselves or them, we have to leave someone with them.  You’re ideal, not just because Kit can open things that Jarl coded, and will be more at home and more able to arrange things to suit you in Jarl’s retreat, but also because you will not be missed on Earth.  Simon and I are both relatively prominent.  If we are gone too long — As is, taking you to Jarl’s retreat and going back would take long enough to be hard to explain.  But we can’t disappear for days or weeks or even, in extreme case, months.  If we did, it would be noticed and people would come looking for us.  Not all of them friendly people.”

“You have subordinates,” Kit said.  “Both of you.  You could order someone to look after the boys, or to keep them prisoner.”

“We could,” Simon said.  “But you know who they are, and of whose genes they’re made.  Do you think many normal people would be able to contain them or to prevent them from going off, perhaps into Good Men hands, carrying information about us?”