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Dark Lords: Book One, Shadows, Chapter 24

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Chapter Twenty-Four

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Dr. Dennis Kincaid Residence, New Oxford, Planet Albion, Realm World

 

Dr. Kincaid looked over at Claudette. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Claudette nodded. “I need to know absolutely everything about Jason Malwas.”

“Surely someone else has caught her eye or could?”

“My daughter is in love, Kincaid. I know my child. Perhaps if the feelings were not mutual.”

“Bah, they have just met, you can not tell me they have fallen in love already. What about the age difference? There is almost a hundred years between them.” Dennis shook his head. “Love at first sight, really, Claudette? Are you telling me you believe in the Weiss Curse?”

“I did not until I met George. I had not even spoken to him and I was in love with him. My brother did not until he met Margaret, we both know how that ended. My grandfather chose death rather live without the woman he loved. My cousin, Linda, chose a life of solitude rather than not marry Marcus Alister. She died four days after his death. I will not take the chance that my daughter is cursed as well.”

Dr. Kincaid shook his head. “Madness and foolishness.”

“Really? What of the wealth of Avalon?” Claudette asked.

“What?” Dennis Kincaid’s confusion took his words.

“There are four Vampyre of Avalon left. With the largest holdings, by far, belonging to the Malwas. He is the only surviving family member. Are you aware of that?”

“No. I was not aware he was the last Malwas.”

“The Malwas never gave anything up. They have holdings throughout the Realm, in the Unified Systems and even in the HFSS. Their portfolio includes shares in Knight Industries.”

Dennis played with his cup of tea. “I thought you had stopped by for a visit. There was a time when you did.”

“And there was a time when you knew where all the money was and where all the bodies were hidden.” Claudette took a deep breath. “What I mean, Dennis, is that none of us are getting any younger. Avalon is a mess, partly because we chose not to act.”

“We did not know it was a virus. Who could have? Who would have guessed?”

“Not us, obviously.” Claudette took a sip of her favourite, white tea with Jasmine blossoms. “But that does not excuse our lack of care for those we should have been looking after.”

“Claudette? What are you talking about?”

“Johanna is right about Jason. She has been doing extensive research into what happened on Avalon and anything about Jason Malwas.”

“Exactly what did you find in his head?” Dennis sat back in his chair, his look one of concern.

“His mother was holding his hand when the explosive rounds killed her.” Claudette picked up her teacup. “You should watch some of the video. The private historical footage is really amazing. You feel like you are right there.”

Dennis Kincaid picked up his cup and took a sip. Sometimes, after all these years, he forgot who Claudette had been … Seeing the hardness in her face, perhaps she still was that person. “Are you the one who released the sealed footage of what happened on Avalon?”

“No.”

“Of course,” Dennis nodded. “That would be wrong of anyone associated with House De La Roche.”

“Certain barriers were merely weakened. Others chose their own actions.” Claudette put her cup down. “Dennis, we make assumptions. The Malwas story could easily be the De La Roche—”

“Never!” Dennis’ cup hit the table, spilling tea. “Claudette, that will never happen here as long as I draw breath!”

“No doubt, Rebecca and Harris thought the same thing, Dennis.”

“He was sent to live with his sister and her husband, Lord Caradoc of Kasztanka.”

“Who sent away his Nanny, Valet and Guard.” Claudette spoke firmly. “He had just seen both his parents killed, Dennis. His sister, Jullietta, who was over three hundred and without heir, promptly sends away those he trusts and who love him? Then barely more than a year later sends him off to a boarding school? He was eleven years old.”

“They had their reasons.” Dennis was shaking his head. “Albion is not Avalon, nor Esmeralda. They were afraid for his life. Treason was suspected in his parent’s death. I consulted. We believed it was the best course to keep him safe.”

“Perhaps. But who was looking after his care when Jullietta and Harris died in the hover craft accident?”

“Admiral Malwas, of course. Roger’s sense of duty, if not his brotherly instincts, were indisputable.”

“He was over six hundred years old. Never married. His entire adult life had been in the Royal Navy. Jason was barely three months old when Roger requested abdication. He knew nothing of the care of children. He put Jason in a military style school for troubled youth. Sapiens youth.” Claudette watched Dennis struggle.

“We were dealing with the Blackwood Forever Incursion. Thousands had died.”

“I am not laying blame, old friend, merely stating the fact that we are very lucky. Jason Malwas, the inheritor of three fortunes, three large fortunes, was sent to a school for sapien children, and did not corrupt.”

“Well, it is breeding.”

“We both know which end of the vukta that statement can be shoveled from.” Claudette leaned forward. Dennis, still harumphing over her last words, leaned in.

“He is untrained, nothing but the basics one teaches a child, he was molested.” Claudette saw the sudden horror on Dennis’ face, his immediate response, denial as he shook his head, but he could not speak.

She said the name knowing it was a slap to the old man. “Peter Clifton.”

“Will that man’s poison never end?”

Claudette let Dennis have a moment. The pain that his former pupil had caused was not his doing, over the centuries of teaching, he had had thousands of students. Yet, though it defied logic, Dennis Kincaid still felt shame and responsibility for what he had not known about one student.

“If Nigel Petrov hadn’t turned up and rescued his one time charge, Jason Malwas would no doubt be a very different kind of problem right now.”

Dennis looked down at his cup of cold tea.

Claudette waited, she could feels whisps of the emotion turmoil coming from the old man. The silence stretched until he finally spoke.

“What do we do?”

“House De La Roche, needs—” she held up her hand to forestall the old doctor’s protest. “We must live in reality, not the past. House De La Roche, and the Realm needs stability, as do the half billion souls who call Avalon home. Avalon must be brought back into the fold, it is too central for security reasons. We both know this. And the planet is financially broken. We can fix both through one person.”

“And how will Jason be used to achieve this?”

“By making sure he fulfills the obligations of his station.”

Dennis sat back. She could see doubt and pain in her old friend’s eyes. Claudette reached out and took his hands in hers. “How does the saying go, when Dagmar asked Alexandria what she had to give, was not the answer always more?”

* * *

Castle Cor, Albion, Realm World

 

The reading chair by the second fireplace in his room had become Alex’s favourite spot. With a sigh, he got up and stretched slowly. His right hand kept trembling. The weakness through his hips and left leg wasn’t as bad, but … There might be holes in your mind. The phrase, the words, would not leave his thoughts.

There was no future for a mechanic who couldn’t fix engines … He felt nauseated at the idea of tweaking, but what choice did he have? He knew it was a kind of hubris he had about being a plain, old stock, human. That he could compete in a verse where everyone was stronger, faster, fully connected but not better!

Jack, his step-father, might be just a retired plumber, with excellent advanced genes, but he had shown Alex early on, and repeatedly, that Alex was just as good as everyone else. Taught him, tested him and never once let him feel sorry for himself. Alex took a deep breath. If Jack saw him sitting here …

People thought they knew Jack but they didn’t. Just like the Vampires. Nothing was what it seemed. Jason had said that, had told him to keep smiling and be careful who he trusted. Jason was more like Jack than anyone Alex had ever met. Except, there was a fear in Jason and a kind of rage. Alex didn’t know how he knew that but he did. And he knew something else, knew it completely and without question, Jason was his friend. If he needed him, Jason would be there, no matter what.

Alex picked up the third edition of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, he had restarted the book. He knew he’d finished reading it, yet the story had eluded him. At first he couldn’t remember reading any of it. Then parts had come back, but he was afraid that the rest had vanished from his mind. Then, as he had slowly read the book it had started to become familiar. He stared down at the blue cover, the ending suddenly there in his mind. Was that it?

He finished the book, just in case. It hadn’t been a lie, a make believe moment, he remembered!

Alex sat in the reading chair as another sunset painted the sky and the lights of New Oxford turned the city into a postcard. He still had to contact the Jules Verne, but maybe, maybe—he’d still have to be re-certified. The idea sent a shiver through him. Could it happen in time?

Jason’s words kept repeating in the back of his head, get off your arse, you don’t know what you don’t know.

The library would have technical books, right? Throwing open his door he was startled. Dani gasped, her hand pulling back before she could knock.

“I heard you were leaving us?” Dani’s voice wasn’t its usual confident tone, she sounded … scared. Stop it, Alex, of course she isn’t. If she had a problem she wouldn’t be coming to you.

“Yes, but first I was hoping to do some technical reading. I remembered Snow Crash.”

 

* * *

George listened to Dale’s words. Alex’s self-pity had lasted little more than a couple of days. He had been willing to give the boy weeks to work through what had happened to him. Apparently, Alex was in some sort of hurry. He had packed his bags, actually, he had packed one bag and gone in search of the laundry. George decided that what Alex needed was time and friends his own age. He walked to Alex’s room, but the young man was not there. George picked up the duffel Alex was using, the thing was falling apart. What was the boy thinking? There was traveling light, but this would not do.

“Mrs. Finley,” George asked the head housekeeper for the upstairs, “have you seen Alex?”

“He’s in the library with our Dani.”

* * *

Dani sat next to Alex at one of the large desks. The questions she wanted to ask him seemed selfish now. Yet the anxiety was still growing, the fear sat just under the surface. Madeline had yet to receive a reply. Dani felt her stomach twist. Perhaps the shame was too much, knowing what she had done.

Outside the summer sunshine filled the library with light. It seemed so very bright and empty after the rain and all the guests crowding her home. She picked up a large book called, Post Colonial Power Systems and Engines of the Three Systems. It had dust on it.

“I talked to the doctors, Alex.” Dani crossed her arms. “They all said the same thing, you need to figure out what you know and what you do not know.”

“I know Dani, but you’ve given me enough already. Your family has helped me so much. It’s time I head home.” He took the book from her hands.

“Do you really think … insurance wise, that you would be allowed to simply leave?” It was the only thing Dani could think of to say. At Alex’s surprised expression, she continued. “We have to show that we did all we could for you so you do not sue us.”

“Really?” Alex wasn’t sure Dani was telling the truth, especially when she blushed and looked away.

“I talked to Kelvin, he has medical training. He said that the doctors are right. Everything should still be in your head, you just have to regrow the connections to get at your memories.” That wasn’t exactly what Kelvin had said, and definitely not what the doctors had implied. Dani was finding the doctors’ attitude that Alex would recover no further and would need care, possibly lifelong, odd in its gloominess. Kelvin had answered her questions as best he could and had done research on her behalf. He too, was confused by the doctors’ prognosis.

“Dad has a workshop in his garage, I am sure if we ask him, he will let you play—I mean you could take apart something and put it back together. You can see what you remember, see what you have forgotten, and relearn what is gone? Or maybe, by just stimulating your memories, everything will come back.”

“All right.” Alex was shaking. What if he had forgotten more than he realized? It was one thing for Dani and Kelvin (who he could not remember, but he should, right?) to be so upbeat and positive, they weren’t the ones still getting nosebleeds. “But first I just want to go through the manuals.”

George entered the library, surprised to find Dani and Alex on the main floor. They were at one of the large wooden desks, a stack of technical manuals spread about the desk.

“Alex, Dani, what are you two up to?”

“Father, Alex knows stuff. I mean he is remembering. He just needs to be stimulated to remember.” Dani’s voice was excited, she was more animated than he had seen her in a while.

George turned to Alex. “If it is manuals you want, young man, my den’s the place. Come along.”

They followed George through the castle. Alex realized he knew where he was. His sense of direction had returned. Entering the George’s den, Alex hesitated at the gun in the display case. He knew he’d seen the gun centrally displayed before. It was old, came out in 870s and was used by active service people …

George held up his hand, silencing Dani.

“Alex, the company that built that device was founded by independents. They led a revolution against corporate overseers. Their leader had a code name. In her honour the gun was named.”

“Bolt! Bolt laser gun!”

Dani and George were smiling as Alex turned to them. “The first non-liquid plasma, non-ion, high powered laser gun. Uses a gas cartridge. Can hold a charge indefinitely. And it’s very, very old.”

George smirked. “A lot of things are very old in this house.”

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