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Dark Lords: Book One, Shadows Chapter 20

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Chapter Twenty

Barriers

New Oxford General University Hospital, New Oxford, Planet Albion, Realm

 

Jason looked up as Lady Claudette De La Roche entered the ICU. Great! The Dark Queen herself. He was really beginning to hate that damn heart monitor.

“Mr. Malwas, do you know who I am?” The woman asked from the foot of his bed.

And how does one answer that? Thought Jason. An honest answer would be an assassin for hire. A murderess. Daughter of a Ronin Czar. The woman who fell in love with the man she’d been sent to kill. All of the above and … “You’re Lady De La Roche. Johanna’s mother.”

“You have not been given permission to use my daughter’s first name.” Claudette nodded to the man and woman from security. The woman was shooing everyone out, while the man started closing Jason’s privacy curtain. He stopped long enough to help the woman push over a two part device. Looking like a set of old fashioned glass speakers on wheels, they were moved to either side of the head of the bed.

“What are you doing?”

“We need to know if the neural net the virus was designed to implant is truly gone, which, I am afraid, is doubtful. And I want to know exactly what kind of man you are.” Claudette raised an eyebrow, her eyes glanced at the monitor above Jason’s bed.

Jason felt something inside himself shift. He’d been in this position before, helpless and a lot younger. He’d survived then, he’d survive now. He made himself relax, or tried to. Jason heard Dr. Kincaid asking the security staff to please wait outside. He came around the curtain and put his black bag on the chair. Jason watched him pull out two glass vials and an old-fashioned syringe. He also had a flat tablet like computer.

“What are you doing?” Jason asked.

“Jason, these are nanites,” Dr. Kincaid said. Jason tensed as the Doctor filled the syringe from the blue vial and then injected it, them into his saline solution. “We need to be able to destroy any net created by the foreign virus.”

“Fight fire with fire?”

Dr. Kincaid nodded, his fatherly smile back. “Actually that’s quite accurate.”

“I thought it used my DNA to build a net. Isn’t that how Puppet Viruses work?”

“Yes. My, but you are bright. Or have you had experience with Puppet Makers?”

Jason raised an eyebrow. “So how does injecting more nanites help?”

“I will identify any areas of foreign programming, the new nanites will eliminate the constructs, your immune system will do the rest.” Claudette smiled as she spoke.

“I thought my immune system was taking care of it.” Jason watched the Doctor fiddle with the black tablet. Next to him, both ‘speakers’ hummed. He felt the hair on the back of his neck rise.

“As you say, advanced Puppet Viruses use the subject’s own DNA to build the neural net, though it is altered, it is still your DNA. That means the immune system has trouble identifying the enemy. In time, your immune system will locate most, if not all, of the adjusted DNA.”

“So why can I not just wait it out?” Jason looked from Dr. Kincaid to Claudette De La Roche.

“Jason, in the mean time there could be a literal bomb being constructed inside your head. One day you could follow through on those last commands that the ELF gave you. Do you remember those commands?”

Jason looked at Claudette. Her eyes were hard, but he could see where Johanna got her looks and determination from.

“Is there someone else I can have messing around inside my head?”

Claudette’s smile did not reach her eyes. “What are your intentions toward my daughter, Johanna?”

Jason smiled, a pithy comeback ready, but bricks hit him behind each eye. At least if felt like bricks. He gasped. She was in his head! He jerked, the restraints held him as he struggled.

Claudette was confused. Jason’s defences were rudimentary at best. They were what one expected from a child, not someone in their early hundreds. His mental struggle was unfocused, his responses mostly instinctive to her queries. His fear roared up, childlike and engulfing.

She pushed deeper, pulling up memories of the Clover. They came across blurred, soaked in emotion, most of it his own, but not all of it. Claudette hesitated. He knew her as the Red Hand, her father’s favourite assassin. She had not heard that, felt the fear of who she had been for some time, but there was no way this child had ever encountered her or her work. That life had been left behind hundreds of—Gwen’s face appeared.

Well, her sister was a different story. Claudette pushed deeper.

“A pirate?” Claudette laughed.

“Claudette?”

“Ah, Dennis, this boy has lived an interesting life. He has even had some dealings with my family. Particularly my sister Gwen.” Claudette pushed passed Jason’s confusion, back to the Clover. “Among his careers you can add pirate.”

“Privateer,” Jason said between clenched teeth.

“My mistake. A Privateer.” Claudette batted aside his untrained attempts at keeping her out. “More of a runner really, hauling contraband loads.”

“Really? How silly.” Dr. Kincaid’s voice raised an interesting response in Jason. Claudette jumped on the memory. His sister’s home on Esmeralda, the fear and confusion. Dr. Kincaid recommending good boarding schools, if not on Esmeralda, then several on Albion or Troth. Telling his sister and her husband not to worry, he would be fine…

Claudette went back to the Clover. Johanna walking into the bar—No! Jason’s resistance roared up so suddenly that Claudette hesitated. His mind was a raging sea during a storm, so Claudette became a lighthouse. Though Jason battered her and his inherent ability was great, she was unharmed and undeterred.    

Above the bed, the heart monitor was racing. It’s rapid beats reflected in Jason’s sweat covered face as he struggled. Claudette pushed to the moment when Johanna walked into the bar, the moment Jason saw her. Her gut twisted. His first thought had not been to bed her daughter, not to take her for her money. No, far worse. Jason Malwas’ first thought had been Johanna’s beauty.

He had seen her from afar before, on Troth three years earlier. Once he found out who she was, he had done his best to avoid her. Jason had been at Miller’s Road against his better judgement, he had not wanted to be anywhere near New Oxford, anywhere near the Red Hand or any relative of Liam Weiss. But Weiss had a way of killing people who did not do what he wanted, so Jason had delivered a package.

Claudette pushed, but Jason had not dared opened the item. What was her father up too?

Jason had to wait for a reply. He had been waiting five days. He had been bored and had gone to the Station. Like an insect to white light, he had been drawn to Johanna. He watched from afar and become fascinated by Alex’s shell game. He had tried to figure out how Alex had done it. She even found the wish that he could read the other man’s mind. Johanna had been looking about, so he had fled.

The Clover. There Jason had reached out in his limited way and found? Treacle. Claudette smiled. Yes, treacle was an apt description of Alex Hunter’s head.

The Clover. The attack did not shock Claudette. She had experienced ELFs and psychic assaults many times before, but somehow, Jason had not. At least not directly. Where was his training? 

Memories surfaced. Jason in a line with other youth practicing Aikido in a ship’s hold. Running through ruins, free-running? Ah, parkour. Workouts, races, laughter, defeat and wins of games organised in the moment. Practicing with a group of youths, laughing. The memories were tinged with happiness and loss.

A moment surfaced, edged with the emotional sharpness of the memory of swimming far from shore when a shark fin appears. Jason wearing a shield helmet on the illegally outfitted hauler, the Green Eyed Gypsy. A molecular sword and two charged military blasters had made short work of a group of three ELFs.

Claudette shook her head. That had not been skill, it had been dumb luck that he and the crew had survived. Not all had.

The Clover. She moved back to the assault. She felt it then. It’s struggle to hide.

“Found the tail.”

“Excellent.” Dennis’ voice was reassuring. “Can you determine the command before you terminate?”

“I do not know.” Claudette pushed deeper. Now Jason’s mind was a hurricane sea, a typhoon. Emotions roared and buffeted her. The Virus had buried its coding in a base memory rooted in shame and pain. A memory where Jason was also tied to a bed.

“No!” Jason screamed. He was thrashing, falling back through time to his fourteen year old self, becoming the fourteen year old boy betrayed by those sworn to protect him. His mind fought now, more violently than before to protect the thing that had encased itself in his darkest moments.

Claudette reached in and directed the nanites to surround the tissue, for a moment she was tempted, more than tempted to destroy the memory cluster. To erase what no child should have to endure, but it was part of who he had become. There was a time when she would have done it, erased another’s memory without thinking, but that too was part of the past.

“Dennis.” Claudette snapped. Dr. Kincaid injected a combination of tranquilliser and a solution of Kaloline. The drugs quickly began shutting down Jason’s conscious mind, in essence, forcing him to drift off to a deep, if troubled, sleep.

Claudette felt the nanites eat the corrupted strands of tissue growing in Jason’s mind. Each nanite that had attached itself to a fragment of the biological net being created by the Puppet Virus promptly shed its protection. Jason’s system, already on high alert went on the offensive. Quickly his aggressive P and C type T cells attacked. Now, armed, his body began hunting the invaders hiding within its own tissues.

It was always better to be unconscious for this part, unfortunately, one had to be conscious to respond to the probing. Claudette turned away from the young man and walked the few short steps to where Alex lay peacefully. She had not felt Alex’s presence in Jason’s mind. But what would he have felt like?

She looked back at Jason Malwas, despite herself, Claudette liked him. There was a lot more to Jason Malwas than Privateer, Rock Star and exiled Lord. Few people had ever stood up to Gwen. Far fewer were still alive who had.

* * *

Alex smiled weakly, Jason leaned over the bed. “Hello, treacle head?”

“Where am I?”

“By the blood, you’re making sense.” Jason had a huge smile on his face. “First good news I’ve gotten in a while. You’re in the hospital. GU, to be exact.”

“That thing, things from the bathroom?” Alec shifted on the bed.

“Don’t worry about that, Boy-yo,” Jason said giving Alex’s arm a squeeze, “we beat them.”

“That’s good to know.” Alex tried to focus on what Jason was saying, but he drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

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