Darkship Revenge – Snippet 24
I banished misgivings. Look, whomever my wiles hadn’t worked against, they always worked against males. Mostly. Almost. Practically. They hadn’t done me much good against Kit, but my darling was a jaded bastard. How many of them could there be in the universe? And could any of them sound as young as those people outside had?
Fast, I made sure of the hidden burners, one at my ankle, one under my hair, and one where it’s really none of your business. No, not there. That would impair any fast movement.
Eris had fallen asleep. I engaged my fast speed, because I knew I had seconds only, to disengage the sling, grab her, and stow her in the back, where a net held back an assortment of toys and blankets and stuff that testified as eloquently as his words that Luce did indeed spend a lot of time babysitting young ones. I sort of rolled her in a blanket, so that it protected her from any sharp toy edges, but did not cover her face fully. I was hoping she would pass unnoticed in the middle of the mess, and no one would realize there was a baby back there. I was fully aware that if they grabbed my daughter they’d render me less effective. Not incapacitated, but less effective. Or more effective in a “kill them all” sort of way, but that too had its liabilities.
Bless the child, she did not wake up, though she did make a little aggrieved sigh, which caused me to kiss her forehead, before I returned to the middle of the flyer, the open space between seats, where I did my best to appear surprised as the door burst open.
The surprised look was made much easier by what the intruders looked like.
They walked in, in a group, as though none of them trusted the other to go in first.
They were as I’d expected three boys and very young. They were dressed in what looked like those one-piece baby suits made adult size, only they had boots over their feet. This was strange enough, as was the fact that these one-piece suits had been embellished with patches, scribblings and bits of metal sewn on. It was fairly startling that the two who had cut off their sleeves had what appeared to be a welter of scars and blue ink all up their arms.
But none of this – none of it — compared to the strangeness from the neck up. First of all, they all looked startlingly familiar, but I had trouble identifying them, because… Because it looked like a piercing freak had gone insane in an electronic components store. The one in the center, who looked older than the others, had red hair, which he’d carefully shaved so it only grew on half his head. I’m assuming shaved. For all I knew he’d killed the follicles, of course. The half that remained glittered with metal, glass and who knew what the heck else, all of it looking like he’d salvaged it from a computer room. His eyebrows were pierced all along their length with more glittering components inserted. There was something orange and green and metal through his left nostril. There was a blue indecipherable symbol on his forehead. He looked indefinably familiar, but it was hard to focus through all the facial piercings and tattoos.
The one on the left looked really familiar; must be all of 12 and was prettyish in the way boys sometimes are just before or at puberty. What remained of his hair – he seemed to have eliminated random patches of it – was inexpertly dyed blue and straightened, so you could see that his hair was both curly and black. All down one side of his still-babyish face, he had scribblings in blue ink, that disappeared into his collar. His eyes were blue and feral.
The one on the right also looked familiar, but not as much, was maybe 14, had a still-round face that would probably turn sharper with age. He had fewer of the blue markings, but his ears were stretched with what appeared to be spools of some sort, his scalp was completely bald and seemed to have electronic components actually growing on it. He had cut off his right sleeve to display a welter of blue wink in designs that included a dragon and made me wonder if these were in fact the sort of primitive tattoos no one used in the twenty fifth century.
In the middle of the designs was a single word: Danegerous. Yes, it was misspelled.
I’m not a prude or an innocent, and there were very few things that people could do with their body that shocked me. I grew up between the high class of Earth, the bioengineered Good Men, who treated normal populations as disposable sludge, and in broomer lairs, where frankly most of the population treated themselves as disposable sludge.
But there was something to the way these boys were body-modified that put a chill up my spine and made me realize I was dealing with something completely different.
Throughout the ages, humans had dressed and adorned themselves to look different or to signify membership in some group or family. I was going to assume these boys were adorned according to some tribe or affiliation. I was hoping the tribe was “The Insane Neurotics” because that was how they looked.
Before I could make sure that my air of surprise was just perfect, they’d replied with their own hair of surprise. Nose-pierced red-head jumped back. I mind-heard him say Whoa!
Danegerous stood rooted to spot and I heard him mind-proclaim to the world at large It’s a woman.
And the baby, the little twelve year old was holding two burners out and pointed at me.
The shock that I could hear them mind talk hit me at the same time that I recognized the youngest one. I recognized his movements, the crazed look in his eyes, I recognized the sort of mind that always, always, reaches for a weapon first; the type of temperament that views anything strange and fascinating as something that should be shot first, so it could be dissected later at leisure.
Staring at me, those baby blue eyes in the tattooed face were my Daddy-Dearest’s eyes and my eyes too. I didn’t know how this was possible, and I was not even going to make any guesses. Just as I wasn’t going to make any guesses about their mind talk. We’d heard that the telepathy bio-ed into the mules was limited and bonded. That is it had to be a bonded pair to allow it to flow. Though really, Kit and I hadn’t been when we’d first talked, but an exception doesn’t negate the rule.
Unless these three were bonded, of course, which was possible, as there are many kinds of bond. But I didn’t want to know why I could hear them, anyway, nor why or how this kid was … for lack of a better term, my baby brother. I just knew he was. He’d been made from the same genes that had gone into making me and my late father, Alexander Milton Sinistra. The feral blue eyes were the same that had stared out of the mirror at me for most of my growing up years. I hadn’t even realized they had changed until now.
A cold shot of fear went up my spine, because let’s face it, I knew myself, and I’d known daddy. No one with those genes could be trusted, not even for the simple things that untrustworthy people could be trusted with, like, you know, not doing things that will get them killed.
My face must have turned to stone. He hadn’t recognized me, or the relationship between us. Which was good, I supposed. I was measuring the space between us and figuring out how to disarm him. I wondered if the other two were armed too. So far they were not making any effort to reach for guns.
“How do you know he’s a woman?” Baby Brother asked, in voice, glaring over his shoulder at the other two while keeping his weapons trained on me.
With anyone else, I’d have risked a lunge at him. I would. But with him, which is to say with myself, it was too risky. It might push him past slightly annoyed into homicidal maniac. I felt a trickle of cold sweat run down my back. From the pile of toys I heard the snuffle, snuffle, snuffle that was often the precursor to a really good Eris; cry. Surely not. Surely she wasn’t going to start… Please, don’t start. I didn’t want to see what these feral children could do to a baby. I was going to guess they had no protective instincts of any sort.
I took slow, controlled breaths.
The redhead, who was clearly the oldest one, blushed. It was kind of weird to see someone that pierced and tattooed blush, but blush he did. His voice was gruff and low as he said, “Look at her. She –” He made gestures in the front of his chest, even though Baby Brother had gone back to staring at me and wouldn’t see me. “She looks like a woman.”