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Dark Lords: Book One, Chapter 25

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Dark Lords: Books One is copyrighted and belongs to T. Masters-Heinrichs who hopes you are enjoying the story. If you like the characters, please share! (You can find Tyra Masters-Heinrichs on Facebook and on Twitter. Please feel free to leave comments, like or follow.) Chapter 25 is just past the halfway point of book one. I’m working hard on book Two, Blood For Blood. Hope you like, Tyra.

 

Chapter Twenty-Five

New Paths

Castle Cor, Planet Albion, Realm

 

 

The door opened and in walked Claudette. Jason, who’d been reading in bed, immediately swung his feet to the floor and put the book down.

“Good news.”

“Oh?” No one followed her in, not good.

“You have displayed none of the signs of a Puppet Virus.”

“Like?”

“Irrational anxiety and, or fear. Distancing yourself from friends and family.”

Jason raised his hands, motioning to the room. “I don’t see any friends and I don’t have any family.”

Claudette shrugged. “Your requests have been reasonable. You have not acted violently toward caregivers. You have shown no unexplained anxiety whenever Miss Leigh Richter or Johanna has been present. Your behavior has been consistent.”

“What if it’s not like a normal Puppet Virus? What if it takes a long time to establish itself?” Shut up! Don’t you want out of here! But what if he did do the last thing the meat suit told him? Jason shuddered.

“Our bodies would destroy the virus over time, more efficiently, with time.” Claudette walked to the bed and picked up the book. Kel La Matta, by Isttakka Goolink, a direct translation of the Lakosh to English. “Light reading?”

“The Lakash have a definitely alien mindset, but not one that’s …”

Claudette raised an eyebrow as her dark green eyes focused on him.

“One should know one’s enemies,” Jason said and waited but the silence stretched.

She closed the book. “You’re over a hundred years old, Jason. It’s time to grow up and take on your responsibilities.”

What was she talking about?

“You have a choice to make. The first one is a military commission. By law every citizen of the Realm must give a minimum of five years service. No Vampyre can be excused from service. You have been remiss.”

“There’s no fucking way I’m joining the military.” Jason felt his fangs drop in a surge of pain and sensation as his nails started to transform.

“Well, there is another option. You can become a ward of the state.”

Jason wasn’t sure he had heard her correctly.

“After all, with what you went through as a child, your self-destructive behaviour makes sense. I doubt we would have to look hard to find a judge or therapist who would not believe you to be a threat to yourself. With the psychic invasion of your mind bringing everything to the surface. The aftermath. There are some beautiful care facilities on Albion, Esmeralda, even Camelot.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Go and sit down.”

And Jason did just that. He began shaking, his body obeying her words, he could feel her in his head.

“You fucking bitch.”

“That’s not very nice, Jason. Apologize.”

“I’m … Very … Sorry, La, Lay, Lady, De La, Roche.” He choked out the words. He crushed the arms of the chair, the wood splintered. He dropped them to the floor but still could not rise.

“The choice is yours.”

Jason struggled, but he could not get up. He snarled at her, but he could not move.

“Choose.”

“The military,” he said staring at the floor.

“Just so we are crystal clear. You go AWOL, run anywhere, and the reward for your safe return will be exceptional. We will release all the terrible, terrible details, Jason. All of them. Claim you have had a psychotic break. Whoever brings you back will be a hero, especially to the people of Avalon.”

He bit back words. “Five years?”

“Then you will be a full citizen.”

“You must be a wonderful mother.”

Claudette froze, her jaw clenched. She could easily have inflicted pain on him for that. Real pain, or just painful memories. She turned to him. Jason was fighting her. Figuring out where she was in his head. Already his wild mental struggle was becoming more focused. She took the two steps to him and reached out, tilting up his head. He really did have the bluest eyes she had ever seen. If he survived, if Johanna truly loved him, if, if, so many ifs … too many ifs.

“Your clothing will be returned to you. A Major Jack Cromby will be picking you up at one p.m. He is your driver. He will drive you to that Inn you are staying at and will return at eight a.m. tomorrow to take you to the military offices. I took the liberty of pre-registering you. Good luck, Jason.”

Claudette pulled out of his mind carefully. She did not believe in ghosts, but if she did, Claudette imagined Rebecca Malwas smiling at her from a bloody airfield on Avalon, with Harris at her shoulder.

* * *

Alex rubbed his eyes. He’d been going over manuals, virtual tours, virtual models and maintenance protocols for more than five hours. He sat at the unused desk that, according to George, at one time or another all the girls had coloured on and studied at.

George was watching a vid. A mystery set in a little country town that could only be in the Realm or some core world. As he watched George made a sandwich from the tray that Elaine, a member of the kitchen staff, had brought in. There was more than enough for two and George was tutting, it was making it hard to concentrate.

“If you do not eat Alex, you will not be able to think. You want memory lapses, go without food and sleep for a time.” George was pouring tea and muttering that he could never figure out these damn plays.

“It’s the mechanic. He killed the brother for the credits, I mean the money,” Alex said as he started making his own sandwich.

“What? Why do you think it is Peters, the mechanic? Why can it not be Butters, if not for any other reason than tradition?”

“Tradition? Traditionally the butler does it? I’ve never heard of that. Then again, maybe I have.” Alex gave his head a shake. “Theresa and I love these mystery shows. My mother was captivated by watching entertainment. It was the way she figured out how to act, language, stuff like that.”

“Ahh.” George put down his cup of tea. “Your mother and you …”

“It’s okay George. I know you’ve seen emancipation in my records.”

“I was not going to pry, Alex.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not what you think. She was, we both were, Omarus slaves.”

George did not know what to say. That had not been in the report on Alex. That would be something one remembered. “Omarus … but …”

“My mother was called Sarnia ke-ke-tu-ka; it’s a designation about her genetic line. Her name is Susan, Lindsey’s Daughter, that’s how they remembered. I was less than a standard year old; I really don’t have any memories.”

“What did she do? For the Omarus?” George looked at Alex. He was just a normal man … with ancient DNA … the Omarus. This could explain Alex’s mind. George literally felt the hair on his body rise. The Omarus.

“She was a mechanic. Fixed things.”

“Would you have become a mechanic?”

“Doing what I do now? No. My mother and the others, they escaped when their ship was damaged. They fled in an altered pod and were rescued by traders.” His stepdad Jack’s brother Bill, to be exact. Alex felt uncomfortable by George’s baffled expression. “Mom explained that she’d already lost two children to Maintenance. When I had gotten a few cycles older, they would have literally removed my unnecessary parts and plugged me into a box. A kind of biological droid.”

George was dumbfounded. Literally without words. He sat on his chair. “Well, I am quite pleased that did not happen.”

“Me too.” Alex motioned toward the screen. Sure enough, Peters, the mechanic had done it for the money.

“Your mother was very brave.”

Alex looked down at the manual. “Yes, she is very brave.”

“Your father?”

“Not a clue.” Alex yawned.

“Sir, it is time for bed.” Both jumped at Dale’s voice.

“Of course, Dale. Alex, you must regain your strength. We will continue tomorrow.”

George could barely wait until Alex was out of the room before summoning Thomas.

“Sir?”

“The Omarus, Thomas! The Omarus! They are the answer!”

“Indeed, Sir. And what question does an extremely powerful, ancient race of space faring psychic squid answer, My Lord?”

“Alex Hunter was born on an Omarus ship.”

Thomas blinked. “Excuse me, did you just say that Mr. Hunter was born on an Omarus ship?”

“Yes, I did.” George was calling Brendan Ector, his dearest and oldest friend, not to mention another seated Lord.

“That is something I would have remembered, Sir.”

“Is it something that Alex’s family really wants to get out? Not genetically developed enough, oh, by the Blood!”

“My Lord?”

“In the report, the medical report from New Canada. The bloody idiot claimed that Alex was not genetically developed enough for any type of neural plug in.”

Claudette burst through the door, her outside coat still on, face flushed, sweat on her temples. She was breathing hard. “George! Are you all right?”

“Ah, my love!” George scooped her up in his arms. He could feel her heart racing, smell the sweat on her body. “Were you exercising dear? Seems an odd outfit?”

“I just ran from the front door all the way here. I thought you were in trouble!”

“Actually, I think we are out of trouble.” He kissed her full on the mouth, loving the feeling of her arms around him.

“You keep this up George and I am going to bite someone.” She pushed him away. “You tell me right now what is going on. Right now, George Venandi Joss De La Roche.”

The comm beeped. Brendan Ector’s concerned, flushed face appeared, his usually perfect hair messed from sleep. “By the Blood, Georgie, is everything okay?”

“Brendan, Brendster! Things might be better than okay. Alex Hunter was born on an Omarus ship.”

Brendan stared at George. His face unreadable, then he turned to someone off the com’s video pickup. “Elaine, it has happened. George has gone senile.”

“Brendan!” Elaine’s voice sounded loud in the room. Elaine pushed her husband out of the way. His eyes went wide as he fell out of the camera’s pickup. There was the sound of a chair crashing.

“Bloody hell, woman. Have you all gone mad?” Brendan’s disembodied voice said even as Elaine spoke.

“Are you sure, George? I mean—are you sure?”

George recoiled from her image. It was not her large pale blue eyes or delicate porcelain skin that appeared washed out on the screen. It was her mane of strawberry hair, frizzed and standing up. It gave her the appearance of some theatrical creature.

Hmm, perhaps they had not been sleeping, George thought. Then pushed the thought from his mind.

“Yes. Um …”

Elaine was typing furiously. “It only says emancipation.”

“What does that mean?” Brendan asked from off pickup.

“Released from slavery, dear. Emancipated.”

“Slavery? In this day and age? But he is not a clone. He is flat. He is stock, is he not?”

“That is the point, dear.” Elaine was still typing furiously, her eyes not leaving the screen to the left of the comm. Brendan had stepped into the video pickup, rubbing his shoulder. He was standing behind her as he leaned forward to see her screen.

“What, by the Blood, would slaves be used for in this day and age? Organs? Labour? What?”

“At one point, dear, both labour and organ harvesting, but that has not been the case for hundreds of years, if not longer. Today, stock human slaves are kept for sex.”

Brendan’s eyes went wide, his fangs dropped. His mouth opened then closed again. “But, but, but—there are androids for that! Pleasure workers! Even ELFs!”

Elaine sat up, nearly hitting her husband in the face with the back of her head. Brendan jumped back, just fast enough to avoid his wife’s head, and stumbled over the chair. George chose to ignore his friend’s sudden inappropriate choice of words.

Elaine’s eyes narrowed, reading something even as she spoke. “Really, Brendan, slavery is still a very common occurrence outside the Realm. There are very few Felinoids who do not respond as they were designed to when exposed to the scent of a stock human, especially a male. That is the irony, is it not? The Emancipation laws that once freed the ELFs now free the descendants of their former masters.”

Brendan, shaking his head, walked through the video pickup, muttering.

“You are right, George. And really, there was no attempt to hide the information, it just was not considered relevant by the data collection algorithm.”

“Elaine, George,” Claudette said with a sigh. “What does any of this have to do with the Omarus?”

“Alex is ninety-eight percent compatible.” George said to Claudette.

“Yes,” Elaine said from the comm. “Genes change over time, more dramatically thanks to artificial genetic manipulation and a large variance in environments.”

“I know that.” Claudette’s frustration had her fangs showing. “Are you saying that they have somehow limited genetic drift? They had millions from old Earth, why is there not more drift with Alex?”

“Most of the drift we are dealing is artificial.” Elaine replied.

“Or intentional.” George added. “A salvo we did not see coming from the Old Enemy.”

“I thought they ate them?” Brendan’s voice drifted into the room. “Processed them for food.”

“Well, dear, it is not like anyone ever asked them, now is it?” Elaine leaned into the video pickup. “I am calling an emergency meeting of the Houses. We need to find out if Alex and his mother were genetic aberrations or the standard. Twenty-one were rescued with them. I would like to send a request to Special Branch.”

They all agreed. George said goodnight, though he doubted any of them could sleep. Except Brendan, of course, that man could sleep anywhere, anytime.

 

 

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