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Dark Lords: Book One, Shadows, Chapter 26


Dark Lords: Book One, Shadows is copyrighted by T. Masters-Heinrichs. If you’re enjoying the novel so far, please share! Work on Blood For Blood, book two of the Dark Lords series is coming nicely.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Undefined Perspicacity

Castle Cor, New Oxford, Albion, Realm World


George listened to Dani’s request, feeling somber. He had his own doubts about the doctors’ prognosis. He had seen the genetic compatibility. Ninety-eight percent was unheard of in this day and age. No doubt samples had been taken and somewhere on Albion a clone of Alex was already growing. Most likely, not just clones.

He tried not to be cynical, but George was practical. He did oversee the Heritage Program on Albion after all. Perhaps oversee was too strong a word, but he did receive bi-annual reports. Every Dark Lord did, along with the Stewards of every House.

He tried to focus on what Daniella was saying, but the envelope he’d found on his desk would not let him. George had not believed in the Black Guard until he was one-hundred and seventy-two. He had met their operatives and discovered that they maintained their own version of the Heritage Program. Their actions had saved his life and saved House De La Roche. He slid the envelope under a folder, their symbol his only warning to whatever were its contents. He dare not open it with Daniella in the room. The material of the envelope needed special treatment, there would be questions.

“Daniella, I agree. When Alex comes down for breakfast, we will take him to my workshop. I am going to program in a replica. That way he will have something to get his hands dirty with.”

Dani’s smile lit up the room. When was the last time she had hugged him? Any of them for that matter? Stop it George, you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. A lover’s spat, nothing more. Probably wanted to elope or something. Or worse, wanted that so-called designer sister of his to supply the dress. George shuddered.

* * *

Outside the workshop George waited. The morning air was crisp. Jogging up to  what looked like a wooden barn built into the hill, Alex slowed, breathing hard.

“Where is Daniella?”

“She got a comm. Said she had to go. It couldn’t wait.”

George shrugged. “Well, then I guess it is just us for now.”

With a roguish smile, George turned to the door and with a wave of his hands said the phrase, ‘open sesame.’ The doors whooshed open.

Alex raised an eyebrow.

George laughed. “Security.”

Before Alex followed George in, he looked up. The building was at least three stories. The garage was cavernous and filled with various cars, hover cars, personal flight craft, and in the distance, Alex could see three personal spaceships. This wasn’t a garage, it was a hangar, a massive donut shaped hangar neatly hidden in the landscape. In plain sight without being obvious. Alex nodded, very Vamp-pyre.

In the middle of the hangar was a large white oval, composed of rectangular iridescent white sheets of some material that appeared to glow softly. Around this centre, large auto cranes hung from the ceiling, below them auto dollies waited. Wide stairs led up to a set of smaller white squares.

Alex kept looking around, everything shined. The collection would put any museum, possibly all of them on New Canada at least, to shame. He followed George as the older man strode toward the lab, but Alex’s steps slowed. Then, hiding behind an ancient hovercraft, the tear drop shaped ship appeared. The blue-green and polished titanium piece of spacefaring history sat daintily on three tiny feet.

“Is that a Dragonfly LL 7?” He’d only seen them in history vids. He had had a model, he’d put it together himself. It had hung over his bed until Theresa had smacked it with a broom handle.

“Ah, yes. Yes, it is.” George followed Alex to the little personal runabout. George popped the canopy. “My father bought her for me on my eighteenth birthday. I took Claudette up in her when we were on our honeymoon.”

“You mean she flies? She’s still space worthy?” Alex knew there were collectors across the verse who would give their firstborn to sit in the little runabout. Alex looked up to see a frown on George’s face.

“Everything here is original and kept in pristine running condition.”

Alex nodded. “I meant, it’s just that, the design, the systems. The Dragonfly line was the standard for centuries. This ship completely changed space flight. With a few alterations, this ship could still hold its own, but she has to be almost a thousand years old?”

“Almost eight hundred, young man,” George had his arms crossed. “Practicality and beauty never go out of style.”

“Of course, sir.” Alex tried to think of something to say, it was hard to remember just how old George was, hard to wrap his mind around it. He looked up. “Is that an Avalon Touring Sedan?”

The bright blue, methane fuel-cell powered, five hundred equivalent horses sat resting on a service stand. Alex wasn’t one hundred percent sure what five hundred equivalent horses meant, but Jack had had a hologram of the vehicle on his desk. Still did as far as Alex knew.

“Yes.” George motioned Alex toward the huge sedan. Opening the door he patted the seat. Alex gently touched the leather seat, then carefully climbed in and sat down. George smiled as he reached out and touched the ignition. The huge sedan came alive with a quiet purr. “Ahh. I can still remember when this car came off the assembly line of my father’s factory.”

Alex turned to George. Avalon Touring Sedan. G-1!

“Hand finished, you know. Each one. John Lee was the designer. The man was a master, an absolute master of combining looks and efficiency.” George ran his fingers over the shiny blue roof, his eyes unfocused. “A very passionate soul. He got me interested in engines. My father would not hear of it, of course, the House comes first, but he—” Going silent, George patted the car gently. “You will have to forgive a very old man. It was all a long time ago. You came here for my lab, Alex.”

“Do you have any plans in the Luminosity?”

“I was going to print off the LL7 but I realized the anti-gravity, well you know. So I had the unit print up a LQ 9. Should be done and waiting for you.”

Alex could feel his heart racing. He followed George up the high flight of stairs. The glass doors slid open and he was in a much larger, better outfitted version of George’s den workspace. Sitting on the machining dais was an eight metre long, LQ 9; nicknamed the ‘Little Queen’ personal runabout.

George smiled at the awe he saw on Alex’s face. For a moment he thought back to Ethan, Claudette’s and his firstborn. His small body was buried next to his grandfather and grandmother in the catacombs in the base of Castle Cor. Closing his eyes, George could still recall the sound of his son’s laughter. The hope of one day showing Ethan this very workroom. Though the lab had evolved, it had not moved. He could still sit by the window on the upper level and imagine the boy playing on the lawn, his nanny and Claudette always nearby.

“George, are you okay?”

“What? Yes, yes.” George turned away, wiping his eyes.

Alex looked up to where George had been looking. The lab went up three levels. He could see natural sunlight pouring in at the top. At the top of the building, and the hill it was built under, there had to be windows. The question of how many of the ‘hills’ around the Castle were actually buildings, darted through his mind, but the lab was just too amazing.

“Now, Alex, let me get you started.” George initiated the protocols and the lab was now, essentially Alex’s. Around them, the system powered up. The space brightened and the small inner cranes did a little test run. He saw wonder on the young man’s face as photonic three dimensional overlays appeared. Alex slid on a pair of glasses; his fingers tapping, hands moving photonic images that from his angle, George could only guess at.

George smiled. With each daughter he had longed for one of them to develop a love of the mechanical, of the world of engines, of stardrives, much as he and his grandfather before him. But that was not to be. Johanna did love physics, but not in the crazy passionate way that would keep a soul up for hours or even days.

The fact that he had introduced over eight thousand engineers and powered flight mechanics to their field of study had never diminished his joy and happiness at seeing the look on a person’s face, the look he now saw on Alex, when they first entered the garage. Each time, though, he had felt his heart pulled with a thread of sadness, remembering the last time he had held his son.

George started up the stairs. On the second level he filled a kettle and set it to boil. What they needed was some good strong tea and sandwiches. George turned back. Alex was completely engrossed. His world had become the dais, the photonic imaging and the ship at hand.

Ethan’s eyes had been blue. A dark blue, not un-like Alex’s. They might have turned green, if he had lived long enough. Dani’s had started out blue. George shook his head. He turned and looked out over his collection. Maybe it was time to shed some old memories.

“I am making tea, Alex. I will call up to the kitchen for some sandwiches.”

There was something about Alex. Perhaps it was the sense of hope that he had given George about the future, coupled with his innocence. George tilted his head. The universe had yet to break the young man below him. Though it did seem intent on petty cruelties.

He watched Alex, completely absorbed in the schematics of a ship that, outside of the Realm, someone like him could never possibly hope to have access to, never mind own. That slavery was still an issue in the Human, George corrected himself, Hominid universe was a disappointment. No, not a disappointment. That fact angered George. He could feel his anger as a quiet hot thing, so opposite Claudette’s.

The treatment he had seen Alex accept, George sighed. Had he, George, not also made assumptions?

Emancipation. When he had read it, had not embarrassment and shame kept him from remarking? Had he not asked Dale to be Alex’s Valet because of it? George was more thankful now than ever, that Thomas and Dale had made it clear that none of the staff should know.

The Omarus. Not relevant to the search parameters. George poured the hot water in the tea pot.

Alex looked up, seeing George staring at him.

“What can I do?”

“Whatever you want. I do suggest running a maintenance cycle. Perhaps doing some upgrades. I mean it, Alex. Do whatever you want. No restrictions.” He had wanted to ask some of the young men and woman who worked about Cor to come by, but most had taken leave to recover from the Hominid Trade Summit and Technology Symposium. He had sent out a few invitations. He hoped Marcus would put off his ski trip, the lads did seem to have finally hit it off.

“George, I can’t thank you enough for this. I mean, this is going way beyond anything … insurance required, really. Far and beyond.”

“Um, thank you.” Insurance? What was the boy on about? Was it more HFSS slang? A euphemism for something? There was a ring from the door. George looked at the security feed. Kelvin Ector was standing outside. Excellent! “Ah, young Kelvin’s here.”

George buzzed the door open as over the intercom he told Kelvin to come to the lab. Good, Alex needed someone around his own age.

“I was supposed to meet Dani, but she did not show. Hello, Alex.”

“We met at the Sports Club, fencing.”

“Yes, and I saw you in the hospital.”

Alex tilted his head, he didn’t remember that. He could feel his heart speeding up.

“You were unconscious at the time.”

That explains it. “Good. I mean. Not that. Just. I didn’t remember.”

“Sorry, I did not mean. Um, where is Dani?”

“I will look into it.” George nodded. “Will you be staying?”

Kelvin shrugged. “Sure, but I do not know much about engines and stuff. I fly ships, I do not fix them.”

“That is fine,” George said with a chuckle. His wrist comm buzzed. “If you could just keep Alex company. It is never wise to be alone in a garage. I am afraid duty calls.”

George excused himself.

Kelvin asked if it was okay he took a look at the old ships and really old cars and stuff. Alex smiled at Kelvin’s museum comment. It was probably best that George hadn’t heard that.

* * *

George flexed his hand. He had been sitting at the lawyers office signing nearly three hundred investment and development documents. House De La Roche could never be accused of the sin of hoarding. He was just a short drive to the Government Buildings and The House of Dark Lords. It had not made sense to have the lawyers come to Cor, though that was tradition. George checked his watch.

Thomas and Claudette would be meeting him there. So far, no one had been able to locate Daniella. What was she up too?

“Damn it!” The envelope! He had completely forgotten about it.

“Lord?” Solicitor Madeline Pearson had a look of enquiry on her face.

“Sorry, Madeline. I just remembered something of import. I will just have to see to it later.” George stood, pulling on his dress coat.

“Lord, there is one thing. How long will the various,” Madeline Pearson made her displeasure clear as she spit out the name of those still in space over New Oxford, “so called elites be staying?”

“I understand that most of the ships have already left.” George shook his head. “Sorry, I forgot. With humanity so fractured, we are neutral space. Many agreements that will hopefully help still have to have their details worked out.”

“I am aware, Lord. It is just … they are not Realm. They are rude. Some of the requests have been quite ridiculous. Others we have referred to the Guard.”

George did not know what to say. What, by the Blood, could require the policing services of the Guard? What requests were they making? Madeline and the others had been acting as hosts just as much as he. “I hope it eases your mind, Madeline, they must all be gone in fourteen days.”

“Thank you.”

George walked up to his car and froze. His driver, Owen, was not in the front seat. The strange man who got out of the car and held open the door flashed the yin-yang symbol tattooed on his left wrist. George slid into the back seat. Liam Weiss was sitting behind the driver. George felt a chill.

“Where is Owen, my driver, Liam?”

“He was, difficult, but don’t worry, he is basically unharmed, though he will have a rather nasty headache.”

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

“You have a young Vampyre at the New Oxford General University Hospital. I want him released.”

“Jason Malwas is of no concern of yours. None.”

“Really, George.”

“Liam, the children would love to see their grandfather. We will meet you at the Monument. Would eleven tomorrow morning be too early?”

Liam gave George a measured look. “My, but we do grow so complacent, don’t we?”

“We are old men, Liam.”

Liam snorted. “Speak for yourself, Lord De La Roche. Remember you owe me.”

“And you me.”

Liam’s green eyes seemed to darken in his lined face.

“You have used my name to save yourself too many times to count. You travel the Realm under diplomatic immunity. And quite honestly Liam, I fear my wife far more than I have ever feared you.”

Liam raised an eyebrow, then smiled his crooked smile. “I’ve underestimated you George, you’re wiser than I thought.”

George blinked. The last time he’d seen Liam so jovial he was about to kill a Forever. He had strangled the man with his own intestines, not an easy thing to do. George would have helped, but his hands had been broken.

Right now though, Liam’s mind was closed tight. No testing, no seeking. No gentle inquiries about the girls.

“Your driver is in the stairwell. The family is not safe.”

The driver opened the door. Liam looked out the window. Dismissed, George got out of his car and watched it drive off. The old fear was back. The family is not safe.

George’s heart started pounding.


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