Darkship Revenge – Snippet 20
Let it be noted I much prefer traveling in a comfortable flyer than on broomback. So did Eris, who fell asleep as soon as I secured her in a seat which had special adaptations for children. Since this was Lucius’ flyer, it merited a side long glance at him, while I fumbled with the infant-adaptor module, which was sort of a pull-out crib.
He looked amused, and I got the impression he enjoyed puzzling me. After a while, he reached over and set the proper adaptor. “Nat has siblings,” he said, in the tone of voice one uses when trying not to laugh. “And often I’m the only family member who can work with them around, since most of my work is writing things and appearing in hollo casts. I do a lot of my work at parks and zoos.”
He waited till Fuse and I were strapped in, on either side of the pilot seat, then pulled up at least three screens worth of info before programming a route into the flyer. I said, “Difficult route?”
“No. I just don’t like to find myself in the middle of a shooting match. And some of the things used… could bring us down. So I check what is happening on the route. A lot today, apparently.”
“I just flew,” I said. “On the broom.”
“Yes, but Nat says that angels protect you. Or something. Which considering some of the things he survives…”
“It’s safe with Athena,” Fuse said. “She’s always safe. Because she’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt those with her.”
“I don’t normally mean to hurt anyone,” I said. Though it wasn’t precisely true. I’d tried to hurt people with malice aforethought several times before. And sometimes even managed it.
Lucius was programming our course, and spoke without turning around, “It’s not a bad idea, or a bad thing to hurt people when they’re trying to hurt you or those you love. It’s something I had to learn.” His voice had the sort of slow, thoughtful cadences that betrayed he had put deep thought into the words.
“You said Kit was with Simon?” I said.
“Yes, though perhaps I shouldn’t have said it.”
“But Simon is dead. I saw it on –”
Lucius pushed the button to input the route, then turned his chair around. “There have been… issues. There was a revolution in Liberte,” he said.
“I know. I saw the hollos.”
He shook his head. “It’s more complex than the hollos show. Simon… set the revolution off without meaning to, and the only way it could be brought under control was for someone to take charge who was experienced, someone who understood and could control the armies and the loyalty of those who knew how to run the domain. As you must understand that person was…”
“Simon? But he–?”
“Ah, no. What was killed was one of his replacement clones. Acephalus or nearly so. Created as emergency bodies for… for the Good Man.”
“The what?” In Eden it was normal for people to grow bodies, or at least body parts, in order to replace their own in case of injury or accident, as well as to forestall aging. Just not conscious bodies or bodies that moved under their own power. “But it could move!”
“Yeah, the Good Man made them that way. Healthier. It can be exercised and develop muscles of its own.”
“But that’s disgusting. And bioengineering is forbid –”
“And you think that means totalitarian, secretive rulers haven’t done it.” Lucius gave me a look that enjoined me to be my age. “We know they cloned themselves, plus whatever went into creating you. We don’t have much provable knowledge, because we only have one of the doctors who did this, most of the others ran away, went underground or are missing. Simon’s was an Usaian and tried to mitigate what he did, but we do have a clue as to what went on. Anti-bio-engineering laws were and are for the little people.”
I opened my mouth and snapped it shut. I’d seen how much my father cared for rules that hampered or mattered to other people. Lucius smiled. It wasn’t a good smile. Just a mirthless stretch of the lips. “Precisely,” he said. “Anyway, so he had a near anecephalous – without a brain – clone killed, and he … It’s complicated, but we’ll say he had surgery to change his features and he proclaimed himself –”
“The Emperor Julien Beaulieu,” I said. “The rat bastard. I should have recognized the style. Beaulieus as a currency, now. That should have told me it was Simon behind it. Megalomania.”
Lucius smiled, a tight smile. “Precisely.”
“So, we’re going to his palace? Kit is there? With… a hostage?”
Lucius made a face. “It’s not that simple.”
“Nothing ever is.” Honestly, when I die, if I have a grave, and if anyone wants to give me an epitaph beyond Thank all divinities, she’s dead I would like Nothing is ever easy or simple.
“Well, as you’ll probably understand, we can’t go to Liberte Seacity and visit the Emperor Julien. You know that. In fact your husband could not stay there.”
“There is a place,” he said. “And abandoned algae processing platform, in the middle of the sea. It’s far enough from any routes and small enough that we shouldn’t be in danger. Sim– Julien had your husband and the… hostage brought over by submarine. They wait us there.”
“You keep saying the hostage. Who is this hostage?”
“I understand your husband said it’s one of the people who tried to capture him. But that you have to see him to believe it.”
I didn’t know what to even answer. My mind conjured thoughts of tentacle monsters, but I was fairly sure that wasn’t it. For one, if Kit had been captured by a tentacle monster, he’d probably have said so. I mean “I have a hostage and he’s a squid” would be an irresistible line for anyone, particularly my husband. But I also didn’t understand why he wouldn’t have given us a description of any outlandish enough captor. Was this really Kit? Was he being coerced or otherwise under duress?
Luce went back to fiddling with the controls, and scanning a scrolling screen that indicated – as I understood it – the danger spots. He made minor corrections to our course as we went. When he got closer, or at least, I assumed so, he started pressing the link button and saying “Come in Slasher.” It took me a moment to make sense of it, and realize it was Simon’s old broomer nickname, Gutslasher. Frankly, I’d never seen Simon slash any guts, but he had taken a fancy to the name, and I think gave it to himself, which figured.
No one answered. At first I wondered if there was some answer in the screen Luce was staring at, but kept pushing the button and repeating his call, and after a while I said, “No answer?”
He shook his head looking upset.
“Kit?” I called mentally, and got back a sense that he was nearby, but no answer. That had never happened. Unless, of course, he was unconscious. The idea made me want to punch something.
I unbuckled. Fuse and Eris were asleep. I came to stand behind Luce’s chair, where I could look at the other… well, not screen. It was actually a hologram of the terrain behind us and a little to the front, materialized in a cube beneath the dash. The tech had still been too new when I’d left Earth two years ago and it was amazing to see it fully functioning in a normal flyer now.
The hologram, itself, showed nothing but water, except for a structure in the distance.
“The algae processing platform?” I asked.
It was becoming more clear by the minute, as we approached it. These platforms had been cutting edge science a hundred years ago. Built more or less by the same process as the seacities, but more cheaply, they were assemblages of dimatough, ceramite and metal, often with terraces of dimatough underneath to create shallow seas where they didn’t exist, and ideal conditions for the cultivation of food-purpose algae.