Sample chapter 4

1 Nov

I’ve been thinking about the name, I’m not happy with the working name I gave this story. Something both simple and descriptive might be best. So, maybe *something happening* on (the planet) Madalait. Or possibly I’ll change that name a bit too, it was taken from mythology – not any of the Baltic ones, although the other names used tend that way, but who says the people who named it and the people who settled there have anything to do with each other? – since I’d presume our tendency to name planets with names taken from some mythology might remain as it is something traditional, but let’s assume the names might still morph at least a little with time. Only the change I made is very tiny, just one letter, and now the planet is called Madilait. (Well, not saying I’ll keep that, not yet).

So. Escape on Madilait? Rescue on Madilait? And a cover which brands the story as science fiction. I did gave the planet two visible moons, so any scene which has those should suffice… okay, thinking about that.

And here’s the chapter:

Chapter 4

The next days were very pleasant for Rahan. The girl – Lida, she was called, she had said it was a pet form of her actual name which she had so far refused to tell him, saying it was embarrassingly goofy – was good company. Pretty, with a sense of humor, not self-centered like many of the pretty rich girls he had met so far seemed to be (there were points to working for the Corps, and not all of them immediately obvious, one being the possibility to sometimes getting a chance to mingle with the upper social echelons of some planet just because you had gone there to check how their birch trees were doing). He had to admit he was becoming a bit infatuated with her. Not much, but enough that these days would count as a mild romance. Who knew, maybe he could make them even more of romance, with some luck. She had not seemed all that skittish when he had placed a friendly arm over her shoulders a couple of times the previous day.

Maybe he could try some kissing today.

He intended to be careful, though. She really seemed to be actually rich, not just well-off. Not middle class, not even upper middle class, but the real upper one. And as far as he had been able to find out, with this place that meant she was probably a noble. And the attitudes about the daughters of noble families were… rather strict. And a scandal, even a minor scandal on a backwoods planet, would not be good for his just barely starting career, a career he at least now very much wanted.

So he needed to be careful.

But that did not exclude a little bit of fun.

Ryn had been giving him some long glances, but had refrained from asking any questions out loud. Rahan appreciated that.

Besides, Ryn probably knew everything he himself did anyway.

***

There probably was a girl involved.

Rahan’s body language was pretty unmistakable. Ryn had seen the kid getting infatuated a few times before. And he had smelled her on him a couple of times. Rahan had been overly generous with the aftershave lotion for a couple of days – the kid refused to use any of the blocks which would stop his beard growing for any chosen period of time, and insisted on shaving, daily – possibly in an attempt to stop Ryn with his acute sense of smell from figuring out he had been getting in close contact with some girl, but while the scent traces when he had returned from his daily explorations had been very weak, Ryn had still been able to discern them. If he was right she was girl or a young woman, or at least young enough to be naturally fertile, which might mean anything from a teen to about 80 or 90 – even if the hormone production stayed pretty similar for older women it was not completely similar, and their scent changed subtly after that – but knowing Rahan she really most likely was either young, or very skilled pretending to be so.

Probably nothing serious. Even if she was somebody older, and basically taking advantage of the kid – the boy was tough enough, smart enough and knew enough to handle something like that by himself. And at least right now it didn’t look like he was seriously falling for whoever she was, mostly it seemed to be just a normal short term infatuation.

Ryn shrugged the thoughts off and concentrated on his virtual investigations. The power structures of this planet were fascinating. Seemingly rather simple, but there were underlying tensions which made the situation far more complicated than it seemed. And trying to guess the direction they were headed – and whether it might be possible to help them, indiscreetly, to push gently in a direction which might make life easier and more pleasant for the now badly oppressed lower classes, without having to resort to any kind of violent uprisings – well, not really his field, but he knew enough that his report to the Central might be useful. Corps didn’t officially interfere with the natural development of colonies. They were, however, somewhat prone to behind the scenes manipulation. A well working colony was an asset. A dysfunctional one was of no use to anybody but criminals. And the Corps was strongly influenced by the Shemasharra clans, and they played the long game, one goal being a strong humanity both willing and able to function as a unified whole, if necessary – that humanity including both humans and themselves.

The clans worried that the two branches of humanity might not be alone in the galaxy. They liked to be prepared. For everything and anything.

While getting absorbed in his work Ryn, for some reason, still found himself vaguely worried about the kid. He just wasn’t quite sure why.

***

“I will take him to the restaurant today.”

“Have you gotten any closer to telling him about the problems? Does he seem to notice anything, on his own?”

“Not yet, and maybe yes, but…”

Kerrin’s voice interrupted. Lida hadn’t known he’d be on the other end of the connection, and felt her stomach cramping a bit at the too familiar voice. “We are running out of time. The service shop should be getting the necessary parts done by the end of this week. You have two days. After that we’ll take him by force. It might take years before we are going to get another chance like this. Our prospective client is starting to get impatient too.”

“Yes. I hear you. I was planning to talk to him a bit today. If he seems receptive I will take him to a meeting tomorrow. Then you can arrange that false raid. If not I’ll contact you and tell where to find us tomorrow. Good enough?”

“Good enough.” Kerrin sounded grumpy.

Lida said her goodbyes and grimaced. He, nowadays, always did seem grumpy when she managed to achieve something important. Once upon a time he had courted her, and during that time there had been no win so small by her that he wouldn’t have come to her with some sort of praise, but when that hadn’t worked and she had made it clear she was not going to become his girlfriend – or arm candy, or favorite prop, and one reason for her rejection had been that she had not liked the way he had acted with the three previous girlfriends she knew about, who had, whatever they had been before being ‘Kerrin’s girl’, soon become only that after they had started to sleep with him… He was an enemy now. No going around that. And it bothered her. So they didn’t like each other, but they were both working towards the same goals, weren’t they? So why waste time with personal vendettas?

***

“So, what will you show me today?” Rahan asked when he met with Lida in the cafe which had become their base of operations.

She smiled and turned her head, seeming to inspect him. “Weelll… “

“What?”

“I thinking that perhaps you might like to see something of the real city.”

Rahan raised an eyebrow and glanced around. “So what is this if it’s not the real city?”

“Tourist area.”

“Yes, with your huge hordes of people coming here, eager to sample the exotic cuisine and relax on the endless white beaches.” There were no beaches close to this city. It was a seaport, but all the shore areas nearby seemed to be in wholly utilitarian use. Rahan had gotten the impression that locals simply didn’t have the custom of going to a beach, or swimming, or fishing, or doing any of the other customary water related activities for fun. Yes, they fished, and a lot of them perhaps knew how to swim, and there were lots of boats and other types of water vessels around, but they only seemed to be used for practical reasons – to get food, and because knowing how to swim was generally speaking a good idea when you worked on or near water, and because a boat was a practical means of transport when there was lots of water around. Fun, to them, seemed to be cafes, and shopping, and dancing – that seemed to happen on most evenings in all of the larger squares, and he had been planning to ask if Ria would be willing to join with him one of these evenings, a lot of the dances required the partners to be very close – but not much else.

“Funny,” Lida said in a dry voice. “Alright, not that many offworld tourists here, maybe, but this happens to be one of the areas most of our own visit. To get a glimpse of the spaceport, and of actual spaceships. But they also do shop. So yes, this actually is a tourist area. Just for local tourists.”

Rahan grimaced. “Gotcha. I guess I was being a tad condescending there. Sorry.”

At that she smiled brilliantly. “Maybe a bit. But don’t worry. You’re no worse than some of my friends. Especially those ones who have spend some time offworld.

“And actually, cuisine is one part of what I’d like to show you.”

He looked at her.

“What you can get in these cafes and restaurants is… a bit bland. Good enough, usually, but not very representative. They tend to go for alternatives which might be pleasing to everybody, including offworlders, no risks taken. I do happen to know this one place in the city proper, though…”

“Ah, so you are going to take me to a real local restaurant.”

“And a good one.”

“Okay, I’m game.”

Now she seemed a bit worried, though. “Well, it is in a bit… restless part of the city. It used to be safer, but the last couple of years that area has been changing.”

“But you go there? Even alone?”

She nodded.

He grinned. “I’m a bit bigger than you are. I’m trained.” No boasting, that. He was. Quite well. He had been training in hand to hand since he was seven. “And if it comes to that… I think I could outrun you any day of the week.” Not armed, not here, though. He had found that the local laws really did forbid carrying weapons for most people, including locals. Which he didn’t like much, but what could he do? To leave – and go back to – the ship he needed to go through a checkpoint, every time, and while there undoubtedly was some sort of black market in guns he didn’t know enough to find it, nor did he have any idea how big a risk of getting caught while carrying illegally was here. And he didn’t know his only local contact, Lida, well enough to ask. So no guns it was.

She laughed. “Okay, if you think so. What I’m actually worried about is that you look like a stranger, and you are a guy, and you don’t know the local customs. That might mean a slightly higher risk you will get into trouble. But if you promise to follow my lead…?”

He nodded. “Cool with me. I’m not in the habit of grandstanding. If you tell me to grovel, I will grovel. Or run.”

“So lets go then. It’s a rather long walk. No convenient public transport lines from here to there. And besides, okay, we could take a cab, but I’d like to walk there. You’ll see more.”

He nodded again. “Okay.”

The day promised to be an interesting one.

***

They decided on a snack one the way. Ice cream. Rahan loved ice cream, all the endless varieties people of different worlds had invented.

“So, tell me a bit about your shipmate,” Lida asked when they were finishing their cones.

Suddenly some of the pleasure of the ice cream, the day and her company was lost to him.

“Why?”

“Just curious,” she said. “Now more than ever. Why don’t you like to talk about him?”

He shrugged. “I have spends months cooped up in a rather small ship, with only him for company. Right now I’m not overly fond of him.”

Lida laughed her tinkly laugh. “Ah, cabin fewer. But seriously, what is he like? What about him bugs you the most? You made me curious. I will now bug you until you tell me at least something.”

Rahan took another lick of the cone. “What about him bugs me the most… he’s not really all that bad, I guess. Got a temper, although he rarely does anything like yells, just kind of… fumes. Perfectionist. High demands.”

When he gave her a sideways glance he saw her looking at himself with an unmistakably expectant look.

He sighed. “He’s not human. Strictly speaking. You do know that there are two species of us now, don’t you?”

“Shemas… what was it?”

“Shemasharra.”

“Really? So they do have males?”

Rahan laughed. “Oh, that myth. Yes. The reason you are far more likely to encounter a female unless you go to one of their colonies is that there are a bit more than twice as many of them than there are males, big reason being that the girls are almost always born as identical twins. Part of the reason for those group marriages of theirs – well, the other part is that they tend to choose places which would not be coveted by humans. Like their main planet, which is a regular death world. There, if you want your kids to live they will need constant supervision until they are old enough to protect themselves. So they have… packs, basically. Two or three males, with twice or a bit more as many females, and they make sure there are only a couple of kids at a time at that age where they need to be watched all the time. And the males also… the females are really awesome too, but the males are seen as the primary protectors in the packs. Which tends to mean they are more likely to die if there is some trouble, and on that planet there often is. But while both their culture and, to some extent, their inborn preferences supports the pack model, they do pair bond too so there is often something like the primary wife and the secondary wife or wives. And most of the women would still prefer to be the primary wife. And in spite of the strength and other differences they are perfectly able to fall in love with us, and it’s easy for us to fall in love with one of them too, we are still similar enough… so…”

“The women go in search of human husbands?”

“Yes.”

“But… what if they want children?”

Rahan shrugged. “They will need a genengineer. But the Shemasharra have good ones, and the difference between us is only a few percents in DNA, however big they seem when it comes to phenotypes.

“There is just one complication, and it’s that… well, it’s sometimes called a symbiont, but it’s not, not really since it piggybacks its… okay, this gets a bit weird since the thing may be at least partially of alien origin, and it does not have DNA as such, or it does but it’s a DNA equivalent, not DNA… do you want the full official explanation?

Lida shook her head, looking perplexed.

“Okay. Thanks. Fact is I don’t remember all of it that well, molecular biology is not among my majors… Anyway, those things they have in their bodies, which are kinda like nanites, except they come as part of the package, the building code is permanently attached to the Shemasharra DNA, and while they can be purged from the gamete chromosomes it’s so hard that it’s pretty much never done. And the end result is that you can’t make half human half Shemasharra or full human babies using Shemasharra chromosomes, they have to be all Shemasharra or they never develop much past the fusion stage. Those bionanites seem to be programmed to accept only the Shemasharra blueprint. They are called ‘The Silver’, well there is a more official name but that’s the handle used in everyday speech, because the silver color you see in the Shemasharra eyes… well, it’s the nans. And their wounds, when healing, have enough of the Silver in them that you can see that color, as do their scars, as long as they have them. They do scar, by the way, but those are not permanent because the Silver will help to regenerate the tissues in time. They can’t rebuild something completely gone, like an arm, but as long as there is enough intact living tissue… well, pretty much anything as long as at least half of the tissues are still alive. Even parts of the brain, although that kind of damage tends to change the personality, sometimes even drastically.

“So, anyway, human-Shemasharra couples can have children made for them where the child has half of their chromosomes from the human parent and half from the Shemasharra parent, but those chromosomes are practically always going to be chosen so that those parts which makes them different from us are going to be picked from the Shemasharra parent, and as a result that child is going to be a full Shemasharra.”

Lida dropped what was left of her ice cream cone into a pile of trash they were walking by – lots of those around, and no trash bins, at least so far the only ones he had seen had been in the cafes near to the starport – and made a half laugh. “Okay, so they are better than human women and can give a human father superkids. Bad competition. That might make me resent those superwomen more than a bit. And even with smaller likelihood for getting them as rivals for the affections of human women I think I can figure why a human male might not be overly fond of their males…” She looked back at him with an expression which made it clear that was a question, even if she had not said it as one.

“They can be very irritating. In all honesty, part of it is, I guess, just plain jealousy from our side. The men are so bloody… perfect compared to us. And they most certainly know it. No hints of false modesty to be seen with that bunch.”

Lida was still looking at him with that same expression.

Feeling somewhat embarrassed Rahan continued. So it was embarrassing, but since this had come up why not… He had never liked to pretend being something he was not – maybe because he was so used to dealing with the Shemasharra, but he thought it also made living with humans easier. “He’s over half a head taller than I am, although I have to say he is actually pretty tall for one of them too. Intelligent. Can do all kinds of savant shit too, like calculate drive orbits in his head, up to the point of figuring out the exact jump points while the ship is moving towards the jump at full speed. And that is impossible for most humans, pretty normal to them.

“Strong. He could literally, and I mean literally – I have not seen him do that to a human but I have seen him tear the head off of a rabid mountain lion variety, one that is nearly twice as big as the Terran parent species – so, he would be able to rip a man into pieces. Not all that easily, mind you, they are not quite that strong, but he can do it. And I’m actually pretty damn good in hand to hand, but I wouldn’t have a prayer against him.

“And… bloody handsome too. The traffic stopping variety. Literally, sometimes. I’ve seen people stumbling or walking into something because they stared at him.” He made a face.

“Ah, thus the jealousy.”

“Don’t kid me. I have lived with them most of my life. It can be rather…” he shrugged. “Okay, I guess it’s stupid, but you ever got the feeling you suddenly turned invisible when somebody else walked into the room and everybody suddenly focused on her, even people who had been talking with you just a few seconds ago? Okay, maybe not, maybe you were that person who stole the attention more often…”

“Why thank you.”

He smiled. “… But while I am usually pretty able to hold my own in a wholly human company, they usually do that, and it can be kind of… okay, humbling, I guess. And Ryn is worse than most. Yes, I really am jealous. Petty, perhaps, but…”

She nodded. “I do understand. When I was a kid there was this one cousin… I think I get what you are telling me.

Rahan smiled. “It’s… not one thing. It’s more like lots of little things.”

“Is it true that they are mindreaders?”

Rahan nodded. “That too. They are not telepaths, not in the real sense of that word, but in some ways it’s worse. Telepaths have their problems with that talent. You know about it?”

“Well, some stories and rumors…”

“So, it’s a rare condition partly because it requires a very specific combination of genes combined with very specific conditions in the womb, a lot of those pregnancies do fail in the early months because those combinations also tend to give them some physical vulnerabilities, but then there is also this: because unless found out in about… well, womb, and early on at that, it destroys them. You need to remove a woman pregnant with a telepathic baby away from any crowded areas, the best alternative actually seems to be space, into some remote station, or keep them in a ship, with only a skeleton crew and at least one adult, trained telepath in that crew, because most colonies have enough people that if not shielded those babies will never develop a real individual personality, or at least learn how to express it. A telepath who is born and spends the first year or two of his life undiscovered is probably going to spend the rest of his life in some institute, staring blankly at a wall. In previous times they sometimes were classified as having severe autism, those people who never learned to communicate, usually never acknowledged the people around them in any noticeable way… well, noticeable to normal humans. Actually that was how the existence of full telepaths was originally discovered, somebody studied one of those individuals… And it’s almost impossible to rehabilitate them into anything resembling a normal human unless discovered at the earliest possible stage, before the brain has even started to develop. A lot of humans have slight traces of that ability, but because, well first because ones having the full ability are very rare in the first place, and then because of those very specific conditions which are needed before they can grow into functional humans, because of all those vulnerabilities we didn’t know they existed for the longest time.

“But even when found out in time… and shielded and trained by that adult telepath, they will always have problems. Crowd emotions can overwhelm them, as can very strong willed people. All kinds of shit. They are very vulnerable. Which means they have to keep shielding most of the time. That is, those ones who are willing to keep the talent once grown. Lots of them choose to have those parts of their brain destroyed. Even if staying as one means they have a guaranteed and extremely well paid career ahead of them.”

“You have met them?”

“One. Weird guy. I know somebody who’s an empath and a high efficiency clairvoyant – and with some telekinetic talent too – pretty well though, and she acts almost normal. Old beyond her years, but otherwise pretty ordinary for a girl in her early teens.

“But anyway… So having a telepath around is an invasion of privacy, but it’s not going to be constant because they just can’t afford to be open that much, and even when they do read you it’s not done by somebody who is so goddamn superior compared to you… But the Shemasharra, they are not real telepaths. For them it’s partly a combination of sensory issues – better sense of smell than us, to the point where they are able to consciously notice something like the scent of a person who is scared, or sick or… well, lots, and then there is the fact that they see a bit deeper into both ends of the spectrum, like they can see something like changes in skin temperature – not that well, but a bit, sort of like being able to see your blush even if it is so faint there is no change in your color a human could see?”

She nodded. “Go on.”

Her interest was starting to bother Rahan a bit. Ryn was the last person he wanted to be talking about right now. But he guessed it was natural curiosity for somebody who’d be going to other planets, where she might meet some of the Shemasharra for the first time in her life. So he  didn’t try to change the subject quite yet.

“And hearing. Their hearing is somewhat better than ours too.

“So yes, keener senses. And there is another part which is inborn, they just are more able to read body language. So most of them can read each other, and us, to the point where dealing with them can be kind of… okay, once again, the only word I can think of is irritating. They communicate with each other a lot nonverbally, and they can react to what you were going to say before you say it.

“And then some of them get trained specifically to read humans. And with those it can be very, very damn close to real telepathy. Mr Maylo is one of them. Living with him you know he is privy to goddamn everything you think, or close enough. No real privacy there.

“Okay, there are some aspects here which aren’t that bad. They have a pretty strict policy of keeping what they read to themselves, not much of a risk any of them would blab about your innermost thoughts to another human. Very bad breach of custom, and if they find any of them did that individual will end up under a pretty big heap of scorn by the others. Bad enough even to destroy a career.” A remembered incident made Rahan smile before he continued. “And you know you will never, well, almost never be misunderstood. They also know when you misunderstood. And they do have this need to straighten you up when you do… Makes it funny sometimes, you know? I’ve listened to some pretty damn badass looking guys explain pretty emotional stuff to me a couple of times… “ He laughed.

“Well, women too, of course, more often, but with the way a lot of our cultures are it is funnier when it’s one of the guys. And because of that, they are also, well, they can seem rather taciturn with humans, and to some extent even with each other when they don’t know – or don’t like – each other, but among friends and family they are one of the most goddamn touchy feely bunch of people I have ever seen. No need to hide your emotions, since everybody knows them anyway, you know?

“Well, except… they might act seemingly quite cold with their family and friends when there are humans around since they don’t necessarily care to show that stuff to outsiders, especially strange humans – they are… not perhaps suspicious so much as wary, if a hostile human knows the group dynamics he might be able to use them to his advantage, so better not to to make those dynamics obvious to outsiders – but if there are no outsiders present… Which can also be rather funny at times. Especially since their culture also is this… well, they are called a warrior culture, and it is pretty true, fighting skills are highly valued, both on an individual basis, and also being able to function as a group – and boy are they good at that, basically you can throw a bunch of randomly selected strangers in a middle of a battle, and odds are they are going to be able to start fighting as a pretty effective unit in only a few moments… – and all that, but most human warrior type cultures like that tend towards also trying to look tough to each other. No showing fear and hiding the more tender emotions and so on…

“So, with the Shemasharra, as said, there is no point to them to pretend to each other because what they are feeling is obvious anyway, so if you are trusted by them you can see stuff like adult males, and some very badass looking ones, hugging each other, and crying openly, and giving each other gifts and kissing and all that shit. And with a human, they’ll probably tell you if they care about you and they think – or know – that you haven’t noticed.” Rahan laughed again, remembering.

She smiled, then sobered and looked a bit embarrassed “What you said about men hugging and kissing… Is it true what is said of their… sexuality? That they are kind of… depraved?”

“Depends on what your culture sees as depraved, I guess” Rahan said and shrugged.

“Yes, theirs is different. With us, sex and reproduction are always tied together, it’s the same thing, emotionally, if you are just having fun and have taken care that no pregnancy will follow, or when the older people who are past reproductive age do it. With them, there are two kinds, and those really are very clearly separate things. They produce gametes at will, well, men completely at will, women have a few periods per year but can go to that point whenever they want, but basically, unless they want not to be they are sterile. So, two varieties when it comes to sex. With different emotional content, to them.

“One is socializing and for fun, and it can be kind of of everybody with almost everybody and almost everything goes, and they are all bisexual when it comes to that, but even so it’s nowhere even close as… wild, as the stories might suggest. So yes, that is one thing, except it really truly is not the same as the making babies variety to them, their minds are wired differently when it comes to their infertile type of sex, but when it comes to having sex when they are fertile it is something where they function pretty much the same way as we do, and with that they are pretty puritanical. Well, some differences, due to the lack of males and the pack structure, the secondary wives, or more often unmarried daughters who have stayed as members of their parent’s pack, can occasionally have children with men who are not in their pack – but only if the men in the pack approve since any kids born in their pack are their responsibility. There are some fairly strict rules for all that, and they do stick to those rules too. Oh, they are also naturally fertile longer than we are, even if their natural lifespan is the same.”

“Soo… you can’t hide anything from them, you can’t hope to fight them, they can do anything you can a lot better, and you should probably not bed any of them?” she said.

He grinned and nodded. “Not a bad summary. Now mind you, usually you can trust them. At the same time, it can be kind of… Well, the fact that you pretty much have to trust them, you don’t have that many other options, besides just staying away from them altogether, can kind of eat at you. Humbling, and aggravating, and a bit scary.” He shrugged. “You just can’t compete. And knowing you will always stay the second best to a whole species is…” He shrugged again.

“Humiliating?”

Rahan’s smile was a bit forced this time.

Lida nodded. “Okay, I really can get that, I think. I have never met one, but simply that description…

“They have their groupies.”

“How can you tell you have met one, by the way? I know they are usually dark skinned, but even that is not a constant, is it?”

“Looks can be chosen by the parents. Most don’t care to play with those, but there can be benefits for producing kids who can pass as a human, so I have seen ones who look almost exactly like some of us. Their most common looks are, yes, dark skinned, and this kind of vaguely very mixed look, there are some varieties between the clans though. Mr Maylo looks mostly kind of Asian-European with some very faint African influences, if you are talking about features, has a dark brown skin and straight very deep black hair. Now some of his relatives… one of them is one of those ‘designer’ babies, he looks very much like my Mr Maylo, except a very blond almost wholly European version. And there are a couple of cousins who look noticeably more African. And I’ve seen one I could not tell apart from an Asian variety human until I kept observing her eyes for a moment.

“But generally, it’s the eyes. The one thing they all share is the Silver in their irises. And while for some it’s wholly light silver irises, which can actually be almost unnoticeable with some of the blond types since while that color is not quite the same as light gray eyes among the more lighter colored European varieties of humans are it’s close enough, more normal colored, like brown, irises with silver stripes are actually more common for the Shemasharra, and that is something that does not occur normally with humans.

“The other obvious difference in the eyes is the third lid, although that can be a bit difficult to spot sometimes since it seems almost completely transparent to us. You need to catch them blinking. Well, or seemingly not blinking at all since they often do blink only with that lid. And their pupils reflect light, like a cat’s. Same reason too.

“And then there is, of course, the strength and reaction speed difference. Some enchanced humans can get close to those, but it’s rare. And that’s mostly only with strength, changing a human into somebody even with sorta kinda that kind of speed requires an almost complete rebuild, including the brain. It can be done, but what you have then will not really be any more human anymore than a Shemasharra is, so not that many are interested. Plus making changes that big is outlawed in a lot of places too.”

Lida nodded. “I know somebody who had those changes made, for physical strength. I think with him the change was not a biomod – for that you’d need to go offplanet and his was done here so they probably mostly just added some fully artificial parts. So he’s probably a cyborg now, although he has never admitted to that, it’s considered a bit freaky here. I think he might be able do that thing you told me about – tear a man’s head off with his hands.

“But, anyway, so if I see somebody dark skinned, who is not only very strong but also very fast, with silvery eyes who doesn’t seem to blink much it could be a Shemasharra – especially if she, or he, is also very good looking?”

Rahan nodded. “Yep. And there can be the hair, sometimes, although I guess that is not that good a sign.”

“Hair?”

“Well, since it is kind of military oriented culture most keep their hair pretty short. But with their very top elite fighters long hair is allowed. Kind of a badass boast thing, and most who can have it do go for it. Ryn’s one of the longhairs. You rarely see hair that long on a man.”

“And your mr Maylo, what color of eyes does he have? How much silver in his eyes?”

“Fully silver, with a slightly darker ring around the irises. Looks very spooky, especially considering his skin color. Pretty much the only thing that mars his looks, unless you happen to like spooky.”

Lida shivered a bit. “For your information, I do not. And with everything else you have told me, I don’t think I’m going to be asking for an introduction. I may be a bit curious, but not so much I’d like to actually meet one.”

Rahan gave an inward sigh of relief, and answered her with a smile.

He had been a bit scared of that. Would not have been the first time a girl lost all interest in him when confronted with Mr. Dream Boat… and he much preferred not to put her to the test. Not that he expected Ryn to steal her, or any girl of his, that was not his style – but the fact that Ryn never showed any interest didn’t mean Rahan wouldn’t get to see her change her sights and maybe – as had happened – seemingly completely forget he even existed, except as handy means to get in close proximity to the big Shemasharra male. And that, in its way, had smarted even more than if Ryn had actively stolen his girl, the fact that even when the big guy had made completely clear he would not touch her with a ten feet pole no matter what she did she still had gone after him and lost all interest the one who would have wanted to be with her.

No. He liked this situation as it was. Ryn confined in the ship, out of sight, him free to roam and to enjoy the company of this very delightful local guide of his.

***

The Ytjar agent’s com signaled a message, and he flicked the view on with his tongue.

“Hey, some Maasvat chick is going to be in the White Room restaurant today. I’ll send you the picture now.”

The two other men in the flyer nodded after a few seconds.

“Got it? Good. We are to get her, and the young man with her. The girl will go to headquarters. The boy… okay, this seems to be some sort of black ops thing, that package will simply be left in one of the alleys in the Nevin quarter.

“And they must both be sedated after the capture.”

The Nevin quarter was a now mostly deserted industrial park. Weird place to leave a prisoner.

He turned the flyer and headed towards the general area of the restaurant. They’d leave the flyer some distance away and walk there. Might even stop for a tea on their way, according to the time when the girl and the boy should get to the restaurant there didn’t seem to be any hurry.

He didn’t particularly care of the whys and wherefores. He just did what he got paid to do: obey orders given to him.

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