Paradigms Lost — Chapter 41

Chapter 41: Worries and Joys

Verne and Kafan stared at the reprinted articles, while Sylvie peeked over their shoulders. “H’alate,” muttered Verne. “This is most inconvenient.”

“Maybe not quite as bad as it seems.” I said. Verne had looked like Death warmed over when he came in, but that might have been the yellow street lights. He looked a little better, here in the office, than he had yesterday. I hoped that meant he was taking it easy. “With that kind of high profile, yeah, it’s certain that your enemies know where the kids are. But the good thing is that the high profile also makes it virtually impossible to just kidnap the kids. Doing a snatch-and-grab on some random runaway is one thing; kidnapping the children of a senator of the United States — especially one like Paula MacLain, who’s one of the most outspoken and uncompromising people I’ve ever seen — is very, very different.”

“True,” Verne said. “But it will be difficult to convince the lady to return her children to their father when that father is wanted across the globe. Giving him a new identity would work for ordinary situations, but you can be sure that if we ask her to hand over her children to us that she will have us investigated to the full extent of her powers, which are quite considerable. She would most certainly discover your internationally known identity, Kafan, and might find out some rather unwelcome facts about myself as well.”

Syl nodded. “And… didn’t she have a son before? One about Tai’s age? He got killed somehow. She’s going to hold on to those kids like grim death.”

I winced. I’d forgotten about that — it had happened about ten years ago, a little before I really started reading anything about politics, since in high school things like that seem pretty unimportant. But now that Syl mentioned it, I remembered; a plane crash, killed her husband and son, and it had something to do with her job so she might even have blamed herself somehow. “We’ll have to think about this.”

“What is there to think about?” Kafan demanded. “I am their father. They belong with me.”

“I’d tend to agree,” I said, “but the rest of the world knows you as a psycho killer, wanted by an international task force. Not exactly the kind of parent people want for children, you know.”

“Then we’ll tell her the truth.”

“Which truth? The one about genetic experiments? Kafan, that’d be a quick way to end up in yet another lab. The one about ancient civilizations that can’t have existed by all we know today? That would be a good way to get us all locked up. No, I’m sure there’s an angle here, but I’m going to have to work on it. At least relax some; we know where they are, and they’re being treated very well. They’re not suffering, and it’s for damn sure this organization won’t dare touch them as long as they’re in the Senator’s custody.”

Kafan’s lips tightened, showing faint hints of fangs underneath, until he got his temper under control. Then he shrank back, depressed even though the news was at least partly good. “You are correct. I cannot fight this whole world if I wish to live here.” He brooded for a moment, then asked, “What about Kay and Kei?”

I shook my head. “Sorry. Nothing yet. If they were captured again as you said, I’m not going to turn up anything quickly, even if they did move them. Most likely they’re still in the lab compound you mentioned, if they managed to keep it hidden this long. You can’t tell us where it is?”

“No.” The short, blunt monosyllable carried a world of frustration. “Showing me where I was on a map was never something they had in mind. And I just ran when I escaped. I had no time to mark bearings. Oh, put me back in the general area and I’ll find it, that I promise you, but I can’t show you where it is.”

“Too bad. But if we’re going to even think about finding some way to go back and get them, we absolutely have to find out where the compound is, and to be honest a whole lot more about it, too.” This was getting more and more difficult. I wasn’t James Bond, and I didn’t know anyone who qualified for the part, either. Jeri Winthrope was about as close as I got, and I sure didn’t like the idea of involving her in this — both because of the problems it could cause for us and the problems it’d cause for her. That was ignoring the possibly cosmic threat hanging over anyone who got too close to this mess. “Guess I’ll have to work on that too.”

Verne, still pale but looking definitely better than he had yesterday, sat up. “Jason, at this point I insist on paying you. This may require a great deal of your time and resources, and perhaps more than you can easily afford.”

I opened my mouth to protest, then shut it. It grated on me to charge a friend for something so important to them, but Verne was right. If I followed this thing to its logical conclusion, I might end up having to do everything from pay out bribes to mastermind and equip a commando raid! I shook my head at that; I didn’t think I knew anyone who even knew anyone who could do that. Oh well, one thing at a time. “Thanks, Verne. You’re right. This is going to get expensive no matter how I slice it.”

Taking out his checkbook, Verne wrote quickly and tore out the paper. I boggled at the amount. “Verne –”

“Don’t protest, Jason. Better to be overpaid than underpaid. You have no idea how little such a sum means to me, nor how highly I value your services.”

I nodded. “Okay.” I gestured at the pile of newspaper copies. “Take those if you want. I’d better get back to work. Besides this snafu, I’ve also got three other regular jobs on the burner.”

Sylvie remained behind after Verne, Kafan, and Gen had left. “Verne isn’t well, Jason.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” I said. “He looks better than he did yesterday, though.”

She frowned, a distant and unfortunately familiar look on her face. “Maybe… but I have a bad feeling about that.”

I sighed. “Syl, sweetheart, maybe you can do something. It’s for sure that I’ve got enough to do here. I’m no vampire medic. He regards you very highly and talks about your being a ‘Mistress of Crystal,’ whatever that means. Maybe you can do something.”

Her expression lightened. “Why, thank you, Jason! For calling me ‘sweetheart,’ that is.”

I blushed; I could feel the heat on my cheeks. “So maybe it wasn’t ever a secret. Syl, you’re the only woman that makes me still feel like I’m fourteen, clumsy, and tongue-tied. Maybe that’s a good thing.” She started to say something — I could tell it would be another of the kinds of things that embarrassed me more — and then stopped. “Thanks. I don’t need to blush more than once a day.”

She smiled, a very gentle smile. “It doesn’t hurt your looks at all, you know. And that clumsy approach of yours helps me keep thinking I’m still in my teens too, so I’d say it’s a good thing.”

I smiled back, still nervous. “I guess you make me nervous because you’re the only woman I’m serious about.”

“Are you?”

I swallowed. “I’ve been in love with you for years, Syl. Just not ready to admit it.”

You can insert your own experience of a first happy kiss here; I’m pretty sure they’re all the same to the lucky people involved. Time stops, or passes, but it certainly doesn’t behave the same, and the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Oh, I’d kissed Syl before, quick pecks or something, and I’d certainly kissed a girl or two once I got out of my geek stage, but there just wasn’t any comparison at all. I’d been waiting to do this since I met her, and from her response, she’d been waiting just as long.

When lack of air finally signaled the end of eternity, I pulled back from her for a moment, looking into those deep blue eyes. “Whew.”

“So what was it you were so afraid of, Jason?”

“This. I like having control over my own life, and there’s no control over this.”

That smile again. “Do you want to change your mind?”

“Don’t you even think about it. After all the courage I had to work up there to mention that four-letter word ‘love,’ you’re not getting a chance to get away.” I wanted to spend the rest of the night — maybe the rest of the week — continuing what we’d started, but I couldn’t ignore business, either.

Especially when business also involved a friend. “Syl, can we make a date for tomorrow night? Right now I’d better keep working — I’ve already lost a couple days as it is. And do you think you can do anything for Verne?”

She grinned. “Not jealous of him any more?”


“I can sense things, you know that. And I could see your little pout every time Verne put on the charm and I smiled back at him.”

I gave a sour look. “Well, he does have a kind of overwhelming presence, not to mention that perfect sense of style.”

“Jealous, like I said. Don’t worry, Jason. I knew you were the one for me as soon as I saw you. I had a feeling about it.”

Now that really made me wince. “I don’t believe in destiny.”

“Then call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m heading over to Verne’s. Maybe I can’t do anything, but then again maybe I can.”

“Thanks… Syl.”

Even after she left, it took a while to start concentrating on the work at hand.

Perfume stays with you.