Darkship Revenge – Snippet 31

I remembered how no school, no mental hospital, no boot camp had been able to keep me.  I said, “Kit, they are… related to us.  Of us. If they belong to anyone–”

He looked at Laz and Morgan and sighed.  His mind started They are really —

Perhaps it was the sharpened look in Laz’s eyes, meeting Kit’s just a moment, that made Kit realize that for the first time, his mind talk with me was not private.  I still didn’t understand why their mind talk wasn’t restricted to only bonded relationships, but it obviously wasn’t.  I didn’t know what word Kit had been going to use after really.  It could be anything from feral to bizarre.  But instead, he sighed, heavily.  He looked at me for a moment.

Normally, if our talk had been private, I’d have said more, but all I said was, Remember what I was like when you found me.  Remember my attempt at stealing a ship?

Even though we were still paying for that piece of hooliganism – literally, since the damage to the ship had been charged to Kit who was then my legal guardian – and even though in retrospect that betrayal was one of the most despicable things I’d ever done, my husband’s lips twitched as if he found the memory of it funny.  Honestly, the man had the oddest sense of humor.  I was grateful, I supposed, insofar as I amused him.

He sighed, deeply.  “All right,” he said.  “All right.  I suppose we owe something to these children, to the extent they share our genetic code. Or not owe, precisely, but as fellow humans, as relations, it is our duty to protect them.  We didn’t choose them, but we don’t choose our relations, do we?”

“I’m not going to let Thor come to harm,” Fuse said.

“No.  I think they’ve come to enough harm,” Kit said.  He frowned.  He looked very much like a man deciding to do something he knew would hurt, in more ways than one.  “All right.  We’ll do it.  But we can’t stay for months.  We are already under some suspicion in Ede — At home.  We can’t explain months away and get away with it.  Or rather, we can but it will only make us more suspicious and isolated among our fellows.  It will only make everyone think we’re traitors.”

Lucius took a deep breath.  I had the impression that he was relieved, more relieved than I expected, as though he had some plans that we could have ruined by refusing to go along with his idea.  “So,” he said.  “Jarl’s refuge. If you don’t mind?”

Kit shrugged.  I said, “It is a place with the possibility for endless mischief.”

“Indeed,” Simon said.  “But which place on Earth isn’t?  Are you planning to take over a maximum security prison?  I don’t think we have anything like Never Never anymore.  Or not under our command.  And even that, as we all know is not impregnable to escapes.”  He turned and gave Lucius the coordinates for the place Lucius called Jarl’s retreat.

It took a long time to get there.  It was half around the world, and in the middle of the territory of Europe, the place that had got most affected by the “ecological clean-up bacteria” the Good Men had released.  If they hadn’t lied about it – which they probably had – the intention of creating and releasing those micro organisms had been to clean pollution from the soil.  What they had actually done was turn vast portions of continents into deserts.  Other parts of the world had recovered, and North America was almost entirely re-greened and heavily re-colonized.  But this part of Europe, where, according to the history we were taught, the infection had originated, remained sandy and deserted, the ground stripped of anything living, so that sand and dust were loose and blew in the air, the remains of cities standing like abandoned sentinels in the wasteland.

Lucius didn’t need to refuel his flyer, which surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have.  In an Earth where war – or rather, multiple, small wars everywhere, all part of a larger strife – had become a constant, it probably wasn’t safe to run on a small amount of juice, so that you might need to replace the power pack in a bad area or at a bad time.  No, if I were designing for the conditions on Earth right now, I’d have backups to the back up to the back up.

More importantly, Lucius had both fresher facilities, and food on board.  When those needs had come up, he’d grinned, “Remember, I am often entrusted with the care of the Remy children.”

Which probably explained why the food was highly colored, amusing, somewhat bland and in the case of crackers, shaped like iconic heroes of the Usaians.  I found it a little odd to eat a package of smiling George Washingtons, the mythical George that the Usaians believed would come back to establish their republic anew.

We slept too.  Not all at once, but by turns.  It was decided, without discussion that two of the adults, besides the pilot, needed to be awake at any time.  Kit and I took turns amusing Eris, and if I’d thought that Fuse’s staring at me while I tended to her had been unnerving, the look on the boys’ faces was twice so.  They looked as if they’d never seen a baby.  Which now I thought about it might be true, at least for their conscious lives, if Morgan was among the youngest batch of clones made.

I confess that by the time we arrived and dipped down to the entrance that would otherwise look as just the rock face of a hill, I was jumpy like a broomer at a peacekeeper convention.

The thing was I knew these kids.  Oh, not them personally, of course.  How could I?  But I knew the genetic stock they came from, a genetic stock that had been replicated with no outside input.  Meaning, I knew the people whose clones these children were, and being clones they didn’t have anyone else’s genetics, so sweet reasonableness couldn’t have come from anywhere else.  These weren’t the children of my misguided father, or Jarl Ingemar or of Meinard Ajith Rex Mason, Fuse’s father.  No.  They were their clones.

Sure the argument of nature versus nature can go on forever, and sure, Lucius wasn’t Max and as far as I knew Max was nothing like their father, Dante.  But that didn’t mean that the innate tendencies weren’t there. Luce and Max, at least, had both been relatively laid back until provoked beyond endurance, and both men of few words.

I’d seen these kids under pressure, and could attest that like their originals or like myself and Kit, for that matter, they were spitfires, hell on two feet, ready to resolve whatever was scaring them by scaring it right back.

So why were they so passive during the trip?  They slept most of the way, save for requests to use the fresher.  They didn’t even ask for food, though they did ask for water.

I kept expecting one or the other of them to flourish a stolen weapon or a hidden one, and try to take over the ship.

Instead, they sat there sleepy, heavy eyed.  I wondered what was going on.  Had the immensity of the Earth scared them?

When Kit had first seen the ocean he’d indulged a fit extreme agoraphobia, but we’d been flying above it on a broom, not in an enclosed, totally covered flyer.  That surely wouldn’t raise their fears.

For that matter, their fears shouldn’t be acute when we came out of the flyer in the cavern.  Though there was an artificial sky above, it was cycling through night time when we arrived, a beautiful summer sky, studded with lights like stars, which was clearly not the sky outside, which had been the middle of a summer afternoon.  Besides they knew we had gone underground into a cavern.

But if they weren’t scared, they were still reacting weirdly. I half-expected the boys to look around in wonder, or to be surprised and maybe even delighted by the heavily wooded space, the river murmuring through the mechanically-maintained lawn on the riverside, or the rustling of small animals and birds.  But they didn’t even look either way, when we let them out of the flyer, and escorted them to one of the main buildings, which used to be the resort’s main hotel and later Jarl’s main residence.  Instead, they stumbled along, staring at their feet.