No one had bothered tracking Rory Slade down when his son Madison died in the skiing accident. They hadn’t thought he’d care – that was how active he’d been in his son’s life. It wasn’t something he was proud of, being a deadbeat dad, but he didn’t know if he really could have done anything differently either. Amplifiers usually didn’t do well amongst families. If he’d stayed, he’d probably have done more harm than his absence had.
So when Madison and his wife, Clara, died while on vacation and his granddaughter, Gale, was left parentless, it was weeks before he heard. When he found out, he finished out his current contract, refused all the waiting ones, told his contacts to remove him from their call lists, and had all his belongings shipped home.
He missed the funeral by a good month and a half. It took him another two days to track down the aunt and uncle who’d taken Gale in. Sadly, it had taken no time at all to convince them that she should live with him. They just didn’t know what to do with a child like her. He knew it would only get worse as she got older. The poor little sprite was an amplifier just like her Poppy. He couldn’t leave her to the world’s tender mercies. He might be completely unsuited to raising her, but he was all she had. And before long, she was going to need him.
A more frail, sad-eyed four-year old he’d never seen. Not that he’d been around many young kids, but he knew this wasn’t normal. The last time he’d seen her, some four months previously, she’d been a typically happy, if quiet, child. Now she was more of a breeze than a gale. She hardly spoke, she was sickly, and she wore the trauma of her parents’ death almost visibly. Had she seen them die? Felt them pass from this life? Did she have that post-traumatic stress syndrome or whatever the shrinks called it? He’d have to find out. God only knew what that would do to a budding amplifier.
The aunt and uncle - Mort and Maggie or something like that – packed up a couple of woefully small bags for the chit. Surely that was wrong. Didn’t little girls have lots of frilly things and gew-gaws and stuff? Where was all the shi- er, stuff, from
’s home? The M’s sent her off with stilted hugs and more vigorous waves. She didn’t even look back. Madison
“Are you keeping me now?” Her voice was barely a breath of sound in the loud beat-up car. At least it hadn’t taken her long to decide to talk to him.
“Yep. It’s gonna be you and me, kiddo.” Then he added under his breath. “God help us both.”
He had no idea what to do with kids in general, let alone a little girl. He’d look up parenting crap on the internet. McDonald's. Kids liked that place, right? They went there for lunch on the six hour drive to his place out in the weeds of
. She seemed to like it okay. She ate the nugget things anyways, and clutched the little pink toy whatsit when they got back in the car. Other than that first question, she didn’t speak, and that was fine with him. But if they were going to live together, they had to talk sometimes. He figured it was up to him to get things started. Kentucky
“You wanna talk about your parents?” he asked after a gruff attempt at clearing his throat.
Right. Big surprise. “How about the aunt and uncle you stayed with for a bit? Were they nice?”
“They were okay. One of their kids bit me.”
“Bit you?” Kids did that to each other? How dare one of those little twits do that to this poor child? He was of half a mind to go back and beat that kid’s ass. Butt. Bottom. Or, hell, whatever you called it that wasn’t a cuss word. Heck. Dam- darnit! This not cursing thing was going to be… heck.
Huh. That urge to go defend the kid had hit him out of nowhere. It was the first protective urge he’d felt in… ages. And his amplifier’s abilities had had nothing to do with it. They were still lying complacent in his mind like a fat cat on a sunny window-seat. “Did you tell his parents?”
“Her parents. No.”
“Why not? She shouldn’t be picking on you.”
“She’s only a year old. Her teeth are coming in.”
“Oh. Was she the little one in the yellow jumper-thing with drool all over her chin?”
“Yeah. Babies drool and bite things a lot when they’re teething, Aunt Margie says.”
Margie! That was it. Not Maggie.
She was quiet for a moment, then added, “I don’t like drool.”
“Me neither.” Did this count as bonding?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Lora entered the Anyaver with something akin to relief. She tugged the head covering closer around her face and hoped that the temporary brown tint to her eyes held until she made it to a room. The gold rims of her irises burned through the dye at an alarming rate. Her clothing was of good quality, but nothing that proclaimed her true rank. After all, why would the heir to the throne of Andiri need to frequent a hotel a short glide trip from her own quarters in the Courts?
To escape. Just for a while.
She approached the front desk, knowing that she would have to talk to a live person rather than simply key her request into a machine. Today’s attendant was a young lady with light brown skin, just hinting at the laska color common to the higher ranked Andiri. Lora’s own skin was pure laska, the light orange-pink of the morning sky on Andiri. One of the new Personal Appearance Modifiers (PAMs) had managed to dull the color to that of an aristocrat for this trip.
Lora inserted a credit chip linked to her alternate identity into a slot on the counter. “One room, two nights,” she stated to the employee.
The young woman’s eyes widened slightly at whatever her screen told her. Then her professional mask returned and a friendly, if curious, smile slid into place. She handed Lora a room key chip and pointed off to the side. “The private lift over there will take you directly to your room.”
Lora raised her eyebrows. That wasn’t common at all but she wasn’t in the mood to argue. “Where do you need my print?” The transaction was keyed to her account via her credit chip, but it needed her fingerprint to authorize it.
“No need. This room is always available to you. You don’t even need to check in or out. Just take the lift on up.”
Before Lora’s tired mind could argue that none of this made any sense, Jorand stepped off the private lift and moved towards them. His strides ate up the distance between them. Somehow he seemed to note everything at once. He directed a passing hotel employee to something that needed attention at the front of the lobby. As he passed by a large potted tree, he plucked off some dead leaves, dropping them in the base. And yet he remained focused on Lora.
When she’d needed to get away from the Courts but still be accessible, this was the first place she thought of. Even if Jorand found out she’d taken refuge here, he would keep her secret. Now she was getting the idea that he was several steps ahead of her.
“I’ll show the lady up, Tennya. Thank you.” He motioned Lora to precede him to the lift, taking her small bag as she passed him. Lora was used to these small courtesies from him. Once the lift doors had swished closed, she turned to him, still peering out from the depths of her head cover. “I have a permanent room here?”
“A suite actually.”
“An entire suite that will hardly ever be used?”
“With a garden.”
“Surely that’s a waste of money and space, Jorand. You’re a keen businessman. Why would you do that?”
He shrugged. “What wouldn’t I do for my Coravi and the guardian of my family?”
She scoffed. “It was an accident that I aided your family a few times. Coincidence.”
“No. It is who you are. You are the Coravi in deed as well as in name. We recognize this and are grateful for it.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Jorand. You or your family. Regardless of my actions, you are the ones who capitalized on it to make your lots better. You might not be at this same place today if I hadn’t played a small part in your history. But I have no doubt that you would have done equally well on your own.”
“Your words are that of a true Coravi, bolstering her subject’s morale.”
She narrowed her eyes at his obtuseness and stalked from the lift when it opened. These people insisted on believing that she was something more than she was. Didn’t they realize what a farce having her as Coravi was?
She didn’t notice his small smile as she strode away.