Another snippet. At least I read over this one before I’m posting it… Not that it will necessarily help! 🙂 Comments/recommendations always appreciated!
Lal cornered Fargo and Nicole as they were leaving. “Tyag wants to stay with us one more night.”
“Tyag…oh, Ton.” Fargo shook his head as Nicole elbowed him in the ribs. “I…think I understand. We do need to leave tomorrow. Nicole needs to get back, and I have things I need to do.” He looked around but didn’t see OneSvel or NasTess. “And I need to catch up with OneSvel.” Ton’Skel finally broke free of a gaggle of children and walked up. “Ton, stay here tonight, be we need to leave in the morning.”
“I understand. I will be ready.” He turned to Lal. “May I go with the children?”
Lal nodded. “Please escort them to their houses. I have to talk to Nirvik and I will be along shortly.” Ton’Skel walked back to the children, and they left in a group as Lal shook his head. “Amazing. Simply amazing.”
Nicole laughed softly. “Do you…do all of you realize just who you’ve adopted?”
Lal smiled. “Not everyone does, but the elders do.” He looked sharply at Fargo. “Have you heard anything?”
“No, and I don’t expect to for at least another month.”
“Please let us know. We…can provide an escort if needed.” Lal glanced up. “And there’s Nirvik. I will see you in the morning.”
They both said good night and put their parkas on, then slogged out to the Hyderabad. Once aboard, he asked, “Where is OneSvel?” His wrist comp pinged with a location that he translated to the crew’s mess. “They’re up in the mess. A bulb of coffee?”
Nicole turned up her nose. “Gah, not coffee. I want my cappuccino!”
They laughed and, arms around each other, headed up to the mess. OneSvel, NasTess, and Captain Jace were all sitting there, and she gave him a shove. “I’ll get your nasty coffee. Go make nice.”
“Yes, dear.” He made his way over to the table and slumped in a chair. “Jace, why weren’t you and Evie at the dinner tonight?”
“I talked to Lal, and we decided this needed to be…shall we say members only.” He glanced at the two Taurasians and added, “Because OneSvel and now NasTess have saved lives of the Ghorka, they are family. Also, I had other things going on. I doubt that you’ve heard, but they killed Zubin tonight in what the newsies are saying was a robbery gone wrong in White Beach.”
Nicole dropped Fargo’s bulb in front of him. “What? Tonight?”
Jace’s smile was grim. “Apparent robbery on the way from his office to his home. Curiously, attacked in a place where there were no cameras. His pockets were cut, and one slice apparently severed his femoral artery.”
“Isn’t that convenient.” Fargo juggled his bulb then took a sip. “Sushma did out him at the trial as being crooked and taking bribes. I just wonder what else he did they didn’t want to come out?”
Nicole murmured, “I wonder if GalPat is going to be called in on this?”
“Probably not,” Jace said.
OneSvel’s GalTrans chittered. “Fargo, we have an issue that…affects Ton’Skel.”
The bulb stopped halfway to his mouth as he stared at OneSvel. “What do you mean, an issue?”
OneSvel waved a pseudopod in NasTess’ direction. “NasTess is confident the Dragoon she treated on Eros was Ton’Skel’s…uncle. She has…all his memories and stories. We have discussed this and in good conscience believe she needs to…share those memories with him.”
Nicole asked, “How is that going to…affect him?”
Both of the Taurasians flushed and tiny pseudopods waved all over both of them. “That…we do not know,” NasTess replied. “But in his memories were…snapshots of him playing with a very young dragoon that can only be Ton’Skel by the coloring.”
Fargo cocked his head. “OneSvel, what do you think?”
“Traumatic is the first thought. We know so little about their actual physiology, or how quickly their minds mature, but everything,” he pointed a pseudopod at Captain Jace, “has in his files, their brains are fully formed and processing by age two. Ton’Skel is at least two years old, growing into his full size is almost complete. We believe it is necessary for Ton’Skel to have these memories or at least the knowledge of what happened to his…uncle. Will it break him? We do not know.”
Nicole huddled in Fargo’s arm. “Is there any other way?” She held her bulb in both hands as if gathering comfort from it.
NasTess shifted uncomfortably. “We…could put him in the medbox and…sedate him first.”
Fargo shook his head violently. “No! Deity no! I…know what I went through and…” He trailed off, his face pale. Nicole hugged him tightly, fear on her face for the first time. “If you do that, it…might not kill him, but it would damn sure make him crazy. He…hates being cooped up and not being able to move or go out and run. If…we took him back to the cabin and…did it there, maybe…” He looked at OneSvel with a pleading look.
OneSvel and NasTess shared some thoughts and OneSvel said, “We will try. If the shuttle takes us,” he rotated an eyestalk to Captain Jace, “can you orbit close overhead if we need to sedate him and put him in the medbox?”
Jace nodded. “I can low orbit. Hell, I can sit on top of the cabin at seventy thousand feet and you won’t even know we are there.”
The Taurasians communicated again and NasTess said, “We will try that way, if that is acceptable to everyone.”
Fargo blew out a breath and bit his lip. “I…don’t like it, but I think he needs to know about his family.”
Nicole nodded. “He…right or wrong, he needs to know.” She gulped her bulb and got up, threw it in the recycle, and walked out of the mess.
Fargo watched her walk out and sighed. “Something…has her spun up.”
Captain Jace replied, “She’s been under a lot of pressure. She did a lot of the…integration of what I found running up to your trial.”
Snarling, Fargo snapped, “Trial? Discovery? Is that what that was supposed to be? What was the old word…kangaroo? Yeah, Deity damned kangaroo court. Why did they not go by the rule of law like—”
Jace’s laughter broke Fargo’s train of thought. “Rule of law? Just because they adopted a covenant from Earth doesn’t mean shit out here. It’s all about power. And they have the power. Absolute—”
“Power corrupts absolutely.” Fargo finished the quote. “My father taught me that as a teen back on earth when I complained about something not being fair in school.” He finished his bulb of coffee. “That still doesn’t make it right. And the law—”
“When there is no higher power to complain to, what do you expect to happen? Klynton et al. are the power on Hunter. What are you going to do, complain to the company back on Earth? And how would you do that without credits? Who would believe you? You are…nothing to them. You have no power. You’re a disabled veteran, loner, militia type. Throughout history your kind, if you will, are always the ones blamed for random killings, starting revolutions, all sorts of shit, because you type are a convenient lot to blame. You know why the Ghorka are here? Or that there are another five hundred on their way? This is as far away from…civilization as they can get. They know they would be targets on any settled world.” Jace shook his head. “The reason they picked on you was you had something they wanted. Discovery? Only what they thought your appointed law giver, another with no power, could possibly find when the powers that be stood against him. What they didn’t count on…was…our capability. And GalPat being on your side. Zubin is just the first domino to fall, as the ancients said.”
Stunned, Fargo sat back and could only ask, “Domino?”
Jace laughed again. “A game with numbered tiles. It was popular in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Some people did…entertainments with massive installations of them to then knock them all down by touching one tile. I can find vids if you would like.”
Fargo shook his head. “No. I guess I need to go face…find out what has Nicole so upset. OneSvel, NasTess, I agree with you. We’ll do this tomorrow when we get back to my cabin…somehow.” He got up, dropped his bulb in the recycle, and walked resolutely out of the mess. Another five hundred Ghorka? Where will they go? I’m…too much information. Do I want this confrontation right now, or…no, better to get it over with. Nicole only gets worse if things aren’t brought to a head. Women!
He went to his cabin first to hit the fresher, then deal with her. It surprised him when he walked in to find her sitting on his bunk. “Took you long enough.”
Raising his arms defensively, he replied, “I agree, we’ll do it tomorrow at my cabin, I just don’t know how. And I’ve got to pee.”
“Well, go.” He did what he needed to and came back, sitting carefully on the bunk, close but not too close to her. Nicole slid over and leaned on him. “I’m not mad at you. I’m…mad at the universe right now. Those shits in White Beach would have…gah…”
“You, Sushma, and Jace pulled me out of that mess.” He hugged her close and kissed the top of her head.
She looked up at him. “What is going to happen with Ton? How badly is he going to be hurt?”
“I don’t know,” he said sadly. “I just don’t know, but you’re right, he needs to know. OneSvel is…good. If there is a way to do it without hurting him, he will.”
“But he’s just a child! Ton’s not three, is he?” She got up and paced. “That is a child! We wouldn’t force those kinds of memories on one of our children!”
Fargo got up, put his arms around her, and pulled her close. “Nicole, he’s…yes, by our reckoning, he’s a child. In his culture, he will start arms training as soon as he gets back. They mature much faster than we do. I’ve seen him maturing just in the last few weeks, it…is happening fast. Even when we rescued them, he was already alert, aware, and capable of mature thought patterns. What he did, saving Kam and the children here were not the actions of a child, you know that as well as I do.”
She sighed. “I know. But that doesn’t mean I like it. Can we go to bed? I just want to be held.”
He kissed her on the forehead. “Your wish is my command.”
She elbowed him in the ribs, and she stepped away. “Yeah, right.” She quickly stripped and hopped in the bunk. “Are you coming?”
Fargo woke to find he was in the bunk alone and said, “Time?”
The AI said, “Ship time is zero six.” Grumbling, he rolled over and staggered to the fresher, set it for refresh, and stood mumbling to himself until it finished its cycle. He dressed in a well-worn shipsuit, slipped on his boots, and headed for the mess.
He walked in the mess to find OneSvel and NasTess sitting at a back table and sensed they were deep in discussion. Did they stay here all night? He hit the autochef for a breakfast and a bulb of coffee. When it dinged and spit out his tray, he took it and sat facing the hatch as he ate. Where is everybody? Was I supposed to meet them in the village? Dammit…where am I supposed to be right now? With those thoughts running through his head, he quickly finished his breakfast, punched up another bulb of coffee, and swung back by his cabin to pick up his parka. He made it as far as the forward ramp when he saw Lal coming up the ramp with Ton’Skel and he relaxed momentarily.
The two of them walked through the air curtain and Fargo asked, “Ready to go…Tyag?”
Ton smiled. “I…am. I know that things have changed, but I need to leave here before the word gets spread about me.” He turned to Lal. “I…am grateful for all that you have done for me. I will…honor this time.”
Nicole appeared at the top of the ramp and smiled. “Tyag, would you like to come with me? There is food in the mess.”
He brightened immediately. “Yes. Please.” All but trotting up the ramp, he quickly followed her into the ship.
Lal asked, “Can you bring him back for at least a couple of days before you leave? He’s been working with Nirvik, and there is a kukri being made for him. Nirvik has been talking to him about fighting and said to tell you he…loses his temper quickly. If you could work with him on that, it would be beneficial.”
Fargo nodded. “I will. Also, the colonel wants us to be OPFOR for a winter exercise with the GalPat troops at Rushing River. He wants us to design the exercise.”
Laughing, Lal replied, “Oh, with pleasure. With pleasure! Check back with us in a week. We will have something for you.” The two grasped arms and Lal trotted back toward the village. Fargo shivered as he noticed Lal wasn’t even wearing a parka. They really aren’t bothered by this weather. How in hell do they do that? Or are they just built differently!
Twenty segs later, they boarded the shuttle and Evie steered them gently out of the bay, then took a nape of the earth route toward Fargo’s cabin. OneSvel and NasTess were still deep in a psi conversation and Nicole sat morosely leaning against Fargo as Ton’Skel avidly watched the screen showing the exterior view from the shuttle.
A div later, they touched down gently on the field below his cabin and everyone including Evie came down the ramp and walked up to the cabin. Canis and Cattus came bounding from the tree line, knocked Fargo into the snow and pounced on him, nuzzling and licking him as Canis pranced and barked. Both the animals greeted Ton’Skel and Nicole much more sedately and politely sniffed OneSvel, NasTess, and Evie before bounding around Fargo as he walked up the steps. Unlocking the door, he was relieved to find that the power was on and the cabin was warm. He realized just how small the cabin really was with both OneSvel and NasTess in the living room area along with both animals. Ton had sat on the couch and was reaching for the e-tainment controller when Fargo said, “Ton, there is…something you need to know. We rescued NasTess from the ice moon Eros, Endine’s mood, and she was…treating a number of slaves and others. She…I’ll let her tell you.”
NasTess turned and faced Ton’Skel as he looked up at them. “Ton’Skel, do you remember your…father’s brother’s name?”
He looked at them in surprise. “There are two. Ton’Roye and Ton’Kalt.” He bowed his head and asked softly, “How…can you know this?”
NasTess’ pseudopods rippled across their body and they said, “I met a Ton’Kalt on Eros.”
His head snapped up. “That is not possible. Ton’Kalt would never be far away from…” his voice trailed off, and he shivered. “May I…be told privately?”
NasTess replied, “We could step outside, if that is better for you.”
Ton’Skel looked at Fargo and Nicole, standing off to the side. “Is this…”
Fargo nodded. “Yes, do what you need to. We do not need to be witness.” Ton’Skel and NasTess went out onto the porch as Nicole leaned into Fargo’s arms and he could feel her tears through his shipsuit.
The last thing they heard NasTess say was, “We would like to touch your mind to directly share with you our memories from Ton’Kalt. Will you allow this?”
“I will.” They watched as NasTess extended a pseudopod and gently touched Ton’Skel on the temple.
A couple of segs later, he seemed to slump, then screamed, for lack of a better term, turned bright red and sprang off the porch. Fargo slammed the door open and sent a thought “Cattus, Canis, follow and guard.” The two animals scrabbled for purchase as they charged out the door in hot pursuit of Ton’Skel.
Nicole slid down on the couch, tears streaming. “I knew this was a bad idea. How are we going to…dammit, do something,” she almost screamed.
He sank down next to her and took her in his arms. “There isn’t much I can do right now other than what I just did.”
Evie interrupted calmly, “We are tracking him. I will…retrieve him, if necessary.”
Nicole looked up at her in amazement. “How?”
Evie pointed at the ceiling. “Hyderabad is directly over us. The captain has the track. And will tell us what we need to know. Right now, he is running toward the waterfall. Cattus and Canis are following.”
NasTess stepped back into the living room and Fargo closed the door behind them. “He now has all the memories that I possessed from Ton’Kalt. He is…upset, but he is processing those memories. I do not believe he will be significantly affected by having those memories. He is much stronger than you may believe. His brain and patterns are those of a mature…human, is the best comparison I can give. His initial response was to strike out at me, but I stopped that. He will need time to understand what he now possesses.”
Nicole asked softly, “How can you be so…clinical?”
OneSvel twittered, “It is a requirement. We cannot allow our feelings to change our care protocols. He hurts now, but will recover and be stronger for it. The psychosomatic pain he has now is transient. How long it is transient, we can only estimate.”
Fargo blew out a breath and said, “Well, if all we can do is wait, I am going to make some coffee. Would anyone else like something?”
Four divs later, as the two moons started to rise, a bedraggled Ton’Skel staggered up onto the porch. His body colors were flipping between normal, bluish, and reddish, but he appeared in control of himself. He stepped slowly into the living room and went to NasTess. Falling to his knees, he said softly, “I Ton’Skel apologize for my actions. You have given me both great honor and a great task. For this, I thank you. I will avenge my father’s brother’s death and you have shown who among our kind are our enemies.”
He stood and turned to Fargo. “May I be excused? I…must rest now. I have many…things to consider.”
“Do what you need to do, Ton. You know where things are.” Ton’Skel walked stoically into the bedroom he had been using and shut the door softly.
Nicole looked around. “Is it just me, or…did he change? I mean, his voice was deeper and his eyes were almost black.”
NasTess replied, “It remains to be seen. We should leave now. He will need…more time.” They turned to Fargo. “Treat him no differently. He needs support during his recovery from this shock. If his behavior is not under control in…forty-eight divs, we must take further action.”
He nodded. “Forty-eight divs. Will do. Nicole?”
“I’m going to go home. I…need some time myself.” She looked around. “I’m sorry for my reaction earlier. I know it…was wrong, but it is hard to think of Ton’Skel as an adult. I…just can’t get over the age.” She shrugged, then hugged Fargo. “I’m sorry, I love you, but right now I need my space to deal with what has gone on today. I just…I need to be alone.”
He kissed her forehead. “I understand. And if you’re not here, I won’t have to worry about Ton going off on you for something. It’s not that I don’t trust him, because I do, but in this situation, the fewer stressors the better. Vidcall me when I can come see you, please.”
Evie broke the spell by saying, “Well, if everyone is ready, why don’t we go on back to the shuttle and I’ll get you folks back to Rushing River.”