Asterion – Chapter One, Part Two

Excerpt time!  Usual disclaimer that these are drafts and a lot may change when the story finally published (not sure when – probably early next year).  The first novel and a few novellas are available from lots of places.  And if you’ve no idea what this is then essentially this series is sci-fi adventure about how science and technology is able to give life to human fantasies, almost literally in a lot of cases.

Asterion: Chapter One, Part Two

The police van’s lights cast Jennifer as a very ghostly figure with white skin and pale yellow hair.  As Kaya spoke to her friends on the force Jen quietly slipped away and found Tenley next to a tree flexing her fingers.

“Are you okay?” Jen asked.  “Are you hurt?”

The girl shook her head but her eyes stayed fixed on her own hand as if memorising the back of it.  “Even if I was,” she explained, “this body I have now heals much faster than any of yours.  But please, feel free to keep showering me with your unnecessary concern.”

“Right,” Jennifer sighed, “Sorry.”  She looked across to Kay who was helping load the Changeling’s into the van while chatting with Sergeants Daramy and Delainy.  Jen still didn’t know those two very well.  She was sure they were fine but… she didn’t know them.  Right now, strangely, she was much comfortable way over here talking to Ten.  The girl had shared memories with her once.  Like the other Changeling’s, Ten possessed a limited form of telepathy – enough to sense when others like her were around.  But by making physical contact the Changeling’s could all exchange thoughts and feelings and memories.  Jen had been infected once as well, but while most of the shared memories faded quite quickly as if they were a dream she still felt some vague kind of connection to the girl.

“You know you’re really remarkable,” Jen said.

Tenley looked up at her now, squinting and tilting her head.  “How so?”

“I mean, most children would cry if they were hurt.  You never do, do you?”

Tenley, still squinting, exhaled and looked down at her hand again.  “They cry because they think it will make someone come to them.  It’s pointless and stupid.  Most of the time no one comes to help.  Better to just take care of yourself.”

Jen supposed that was true, for Tenley.  The girl who had lived alone with her mother had never experienced much affection, and yet she did have affection – Jen was sure of that.  Maybe it was just some natural unconditional affection a young girl has for her family.  And maybe that was all the connection was – Jen simply feeling sorry for her.  She suspected though that Tenley would not welcome being pitied.  “Well,” she said, “you know if you do need help with anything, you can just ask us.”

“I don’t,” Tenley answered, finally put away her hand.  “I’ll see you later,” and with that, she sprang on her heels into the nearby tree.  But she did glance back for a second before disappearing, saying, “thank you.”

Some people might have thought that sight a bit strange, but Jen was already getting used to it.  As was Kaya who appeared by Jennifer’s side and asked, “is she okay?”

Jen shrugged and shook her head.  “I have no idea.”

“Gone off by herself?” Francis Daramy said, stepping forward with his long coat open and girth out.  “She reminds of a friend I had when I was young.  She was what we called a tom boy back then, always getting into scraps and trouble.  One time when she was upset she tried to storm out of the classroom, but the teacher tried to stop and she turned and bopped him on the chin.  Last time I saw her.”

“Okay,” Kaya said with a sharp intake of breath.  “I mean, Ten’s not… you do understand what’s actually happening here, right?”

Chance Delainy, who seemed to get more scruffy every time they saw him, intervened on his partner’s behalf.  “You know he actually does have a point.  Children have more of a tendency to act on their emotions without thinking about the consequences.  It’s why these… these changelings are so dangerous.  Giving a kid that much power… it’s irresponsible.”

“Titania is gone,” Jennifer assured them.  “So there won’t be any new changelings at least.”

Delainy pointed to the tree branch above them with his eyes.  “What about…?”

“Well… Tenley’s a special case.  I can’t reverse the physical changes made to her,” Jen admitted.  It was frustrating because she had no idea why.  Ten was just different in some way she couldn’t pin down.  Perhaps Titania had been conducting her own experiments, trying to engineer a new strain that was immune to the virus her father had made, and Tenley was the first successful subject.  But still Titania was gone and whatever else she’d been hopefully died with her.  “We’ll just have to keep an eye on her but I don’t think she wants to hurt anyone else.”

“She killed six people,” Chance reminded her.

“Not without reason,” Jen answered, and immediately realised how awful that sounded.  Anyone who’d ever killed anybody surely had a reason that always made sense to them.  Still Tenley really hadn’t hurt anyone yet other than in defence or those she deemed responsible for her mother’s murder.  Jen supposed it as her job now to make sure it stayed that way.  “She was in shock and angry and Titania took advantage of that.  We’ll just try and get her to channel her grief into something more positive.”

Jen stepped away from them, eyes on the ground.  It wasn’t as if she was completely innocent either.  She’d allowed Alvin Stag to be killed.  He’d been threatening her at the time, but really she just hadn’t liked him.  He could have channelled his money and her father’s research into things that would help people, instead of trying to create his own vision of a perfect human design and profit personally from it.  And as for Ten, she was also a victim of Stag’s and her father’s work.  Chance and Francis would have a hard time arresting her for what she’d done, and even if they could there was no facility equipped to take proper care of a child with her abilities.  So all they could do was watch over her.

Kaya nodded to the van.  “What’s going to happen to them?”

“Well,” Chance rolled his jaw, “we can’t charge them for anything they did while changed.  Meridiem are keeping a tight lid on all of this and would take measures to ensure it never goes to trial.”

“Meridiem?”

“Stag Corp’s parent company.  Huge conglomerate that have got their pockets in… well, a whole lot of things.  Including, I’m sorry to say, the law.”

“Figures,” Kay sighed, “one law for the rich and another for everyone else.”

“Yeah, well, before you go off on a socialist rant don’t forget that you two are also complicit in all this.  At the very least, you’re guilty of trespassing on private property and of hacking data.”

“So… forgive and forget?”

“For now,” Chance agreed.  “And as for them, we’ll find out who they were and see if there’s any family around who wants them.  I expect the story will be a sudden amnesia epidemic.  And you two go home and, for God’s sake, stay out of trouble.”

Kay narrowed her eyes.  “You say that as if you don’t think I’m capable of not getting in trouble.  It’s not like I’m an addict or anything.  I once went six months without any kind of trouble.  It’s just that trouble gets lonely when I’m gone and always finds me.”

“Try for a new personal best.  Goodbye Cade,” Chance tipped his hat to her and then Jennifer, “Miss Airhart.”

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