Stock in Trade 1
"We've located a suitable world," said a tall man while rushing
into a dim room. "You need to look at it. We're in orbit now."
Wearily, the orange-skinned commander of the scouting unit stood and ran
his fingers through his unruly red-violet hair. "This had better
be an improvement over the last one you found for me."
"For us," corrected the deep-blue skinned man. He had a look
of tiredness about him, like his commander did, but his was a more proper,
appropriate tired. He'd spent the last sixteen hours compiling information
about this world they were about to scout, not sitting worrying at a love
letter to someone long since over a relationship.
With a grunt, and a glare, the commander straightened his shoulders and
agreed, "yes. For us," and then walked out of his private chambers.
Over the generations, the people cast off from their home world of Suul-Sat
had become something new. Yet, they had no place in the galaxy. Their
people, should one wish to call the world-hoarding masses that banished
this group 'theirs', were not even truly space worthy when they built
the exile ships. They had in theory many methods of achieving near-light
speed acceleration, but for all their attempts to use an explosive device
to power a ship such as they designed - most of the time the scientists
were rewarded for having given the zealous leaders of their countries
another new weapon which could destroy far more people and land than before.
Discouraged, but not out of the game, a large number of those very scientists
had accompanied the exiled folk on their journey. All the exiles really
wanted was to be accepted.
All their judges wanted was for them to remain invisible and leave every
normal Suulatian alone. Those powers they had - and their wild appearance!
How could any decent person ally themselves with such freaks? Yellow hair,
blue skin, red eyes... Why, the idea was horrific at best.
So it was that more than twelve generations before, this ship was made
in pieces circling Suul-Sat, and was eventually filled with the mess of
tri-color mutants that were unwanted in every city and district.
An hour after being rudely broken from his heart-rending work, Commander
Jathan knew that this was their world. What he saw on the readouts were
a series of numbers: oxygen and nitrogen, land mass versus liquid water,
specific gravity, orbital trajectory and wobble estimates... What he read
into those results was a broad smile.
"I think we have our winner," Jathan announced to no one in
He strode around the bridge of their huge ship, only one of three main
command centers for the colony ship. They did not refer to themselves
as exiles, these young folks - they knew their history but they'd rather
forget it. And since no one else was around, they were going to make sure
that it stayed forgotten.
Their new world, yet invisible to the naked eye since it was on the far
side of the system from where their ship had entered orbit, would prove
to be perfect for their needs.
Seventeen probes were shipped off, their data streaming in almost immediately.
Two moons, neither remarkable in any way and both most likely captured
asteroids. Nearly eighty percent liquid water, with small ice caps at
the poles - which were nearly perfectly aligned. Tiny wobble, perhaps
a five degree axial tilt. Happily, the atmosphere would be better than
perfect: it was a clean, sharp version of their old world's polluted and
sickly air. The four large land masses plus a lone smaller continent had
clearly stopped drifting long before the planet became filled with life.
There was very little apparent seismic activity, which meant that the
coastlines and features of the world would be carved purely by weather
conditions and time.
When two of the probes brought back information about possible local wildlife,
the crew became tense. What if there were people? What if they didn't
want them here?
Well, there were people there on the smallest of the continents, only.
It looked like habitations and some small amount of agriculture had been
started and abandoned. None on the other land masses, though there were
some odd formations on one northerly area.
Animals would be present, large and small. The climate of the world seemed
almost too good to be true, as well. The large storm front which was observed
for several weeks while they were in orbit, drifted in a constant, steady
manner. It was predicted by several computers and one odd girl who seemed
to be sensitive to patterns, that this storm had been there for a very
long time indeed, and would doubtless continue to shape the coasts of
And at last, after an approach of just over seventy days ship time, the
group in command got their first look at their new home.
It was blue, not rust colored like their old one. It had brilliant white
hazy cloud formations circling around it, not those brackish horrific
acid-bearing ones that Suul-Sat offered. The lands were green and brown
and had ice and snow on the mountains, the big sideways triangle shaped
land clearly had a large desert on it, yet was framed by obvious habitable
and arable greenery.
"The scientist who commanded the second generation of our people,"
said Jathan to an assembly that looked up to an image of their new world,
"promised us that we'd be able to prosper. She swore that our genetics
were only going to prove that we were better than our predecessors. I
believe that she was correct - even these many decades later."
Jathan looked out at the crowd and saw a patchwork of color - deep green,
multi-shaded peach and red, yellows and vibrant blues. These things, all
mixed together, that was what their people would be. No restrictive shade
laws. Never a judgement against someone who can produce light from her
eyes. No child left to die because it has long ears and missing digits
on their hands. Jathan could not express this in words - his ex-girlfriend
knew that all too well.
"Her name was Zekira, and I propose that our new world, our new home,
be named after her."
'He's finally said something right,' Amlata thought to herself - several
nearby telepaths caught it, and found themselves snickering.
The cheer began carefully, the people of this exile ship were not easily
swayed to anything. They were always given to deeper thought about things
and would not rush. But this time, indeed, Jathan had spoken something
that everyone really agreed upon. No one had given any thought to what
their world would be called, and he'd gone and done it. Named it, as he
wanted to name his son.
Not that he'd ever be able to sire one, but still. He knew the love and
the deep commitment that he felt toward all of his people - some more
than others - would extend to this planet.
He turned, looking at the static image on the screen behind him. Then,
tuned back to see several hundred of the exiles happily cheering and chatting,
waving their hands in the air and beginning to applaud.
Now, he'd let the experts take over, so he wouldn't have to worry about
the ship arriving in one piece.
Some wise mouthed atmospheric expert said, "I want to name the long
one. It looks like a -"
"Shut up, Darav," another rather more sensible ground-water
scientist cut him off. "Curra," he said, labeling the long rectangular
land. They were placing map labels onto things, long before even getting
the okay to head to the planet. Someone had left the duties of naming
the lands to a bunch of young smart asses.
"That one looks like a shoe," Darav whined.
"It looks exactly nothing like a shoe," his supervisor growled.
She was pacing about, waiting for her chance to start digging. The land
would remain a mystery until she actually got her hands - and her strange
psionic powers - onto it.
"It does too! It looks like a shoe with those curly toes." Darav
said more in passing to someone else, just to piss Edlee off.
"Shoes don't do that," she pointed out.
"They do in the story books."
"And how often do you go back to your story books, Darav? Seems that
you've gotten a bit out of touch with reality."
"My story books are read to my daughter, every night before she goes
to sleep," Darav smirked. He knew that this would be his winning
point: he was annoying as a hornet, but he was fertile and so was his
Edlee almost froze, but kept her composure. Her yellow eyes narrowed and
she flicked Darav's ear. "It does not look like a shoe. What would
this shoe's name be, if it looked anything like one, then?"
This, Darav gave a bit of thought to. While the other land, which was
now sadly off limits to call 'log of shit', was named Curra, he was forced
to go with names that sounded pretty and had some kind of basis in their
language. Curra meant, in a prior and distant lifetime, something akin
to forested-hill. So... Something about the big desert in the middle of
this shoe-shaped land? No, that was way too obvious.
Edlee stood staring with her cat like eyes at the young man but he was
entirely oblivious to her.
Finally, he decided on, "Kiran, crossed-by-tan."
"And it is, at that," Edlee sighed, letting out an unconsciously
Another of the techs who were waiting their turn to actually land on the
planet said, "I claim the bumpy one - Zerin. I've always wondered
what snow felt like."
"Not that fake stuff?" A brown-toned supervisor asked. "I've
heard it's cold."
"Very," grinned the other. "That's why I want to see it
Edlee smirked, "well you can see it perfectly well from here. Why
would you want to be that cold?"
"Because I'm soooo hot." He waved his orange-red hand before
his face, and let a plume of steam come from his fingers. "See?"
"Show off," Edlee muttered. "Anyone else? What have we
got for the last two?" She walked around the consoles where her team
worked, looking at them as they mulled over their decisions. It was hardly
frivolous work, but she supposed that the excitement of having actually
located a world to colonize - a world to really live upon in gravity and
weather and day and night - couldn't be held in for long.
The eldest member of the team, a stocky violet-skinned man with short
cropped yellow-green hair named Pleet, spoke up. He wondered aloud why
the smallest of the lands was the only previously inhabited one? "Neres,
it meant 'to hunt alone'. Maybe they never reached the other lands."
"There are those odd formations on ... Curra?" Their strata-knowledgeable
member said. But Pleet shook his head.
"No, I can't see how these primitives could have made those. And,
it would have been several thousand years ago - longer than we have been
That made the group of seven quiet down. Ancient forces? Another, dead
race? Who could say. But, they had other things on their minds than finding
out right away - they were meant to be locating places for landing parties
to set up the first habitation.
"Tana!" Squealed the youngest member of their team, a golden-colored
psionicist with long ears and a penchant for electronics. "It meant
'green cap' and look at that beautiful run of forest on the north end?"
"But the mountain in the middle rivals this one in Zerin," said
the brown skinned Felpar. "But it's not nearly as cramped in with
Their observations were merely passing the time. They sent information
to the main command team, which relayed their choices for names of the
lands. Uniformly, they were accepted. Now was no time to be choosy and
the names fit perfectly well.
"How goes the wake up call?" Asked Garmel the heat-ridden.
Edlee pressed a few buttons on her private console and ground her jaw
around. "Well, if the reports are to be believed, the populace of
pod two is completely ready - all packed up and in line. Pod one is about
sixty percent, and pod three is," she aimed a mockingly angry look
at Darav who came from pod three, "about twenty five percent."
Snickering again erupted among the group.
"But there are four lands we're looking at colonizing," said
the elder Pleet. "How are we splitting up?"
"Looks like based on apparent arable land mass. Volunteers from the
pods are heading off to each chosen spot." Edlee announced. She wanted
to be doing something other than relaying what could be printed out on
anyone's screens. She wanted to be hip deep in dirt.
Eventually, she'd get her chance.
The landing parties were split up at last, with a few representatives
from each Pod and a handful of scientists ready to help out. Not everyone
was leaving just yet. In fact, by this point, it looked as though the
general consensus was that the science teams had best get a move on. The
colonization was about to begin, but the people aboard the generation
exile ship weren't quite ready to leave their rather advanced cushy home
for ploughing fields and tending livestock all of a sudden.
Who could blame them? They'd lived for generations among the advancing
sciences, well-developed medical tech, and slowly building psionic power
structure. What would happen when they had to abandon that?
It was finally decided, over the course of another week in orbit, that
they were to actually land the pods, eventually. That way they could scavenge
or even live upon them, if need be. Now, the trick would be to place them
in areas that would help rather than hinder their colonization.
The four spots chosen, one on each large land mass (they were not going
to interfere with the natives just yet) were grasslands. There was clear
ground water and obvious signs of life in each area. The leaders of each
expedition had been chosen for not only their ability to make decisions
and organize people, but for their amount of prior experience within their
Professor Mada, a stunningly tall and beautifully crafted woman, led her
expedition to Curra with a smile and a dash of arrogance. Engineer Lisar
was a bit less ostentatious with his group heading to Tana, he being more
sedate and learned, careful. Nakani, a popular leader of pod three groups,
showed her big bright teeth in a smile that rivaled Mada's but her experiences
in building and construction were well known as superior to her rival's.
And finally Jokan, the portly dark-skinned maker of wines, would lead
his largest group to Zerin.
Each equipped to handle at least ten percent of their full population
load, the landing party groups would be responsible for digging in to
the world and putting up the first 'Zekiran' settlements. Homes, plantations,
and herding would have to be the first things expected of them. The largest
group, at over twenty-three hundred people in the landing party, was to
be Jokan's. He had hand picked the experts he wished to use to settle,
as had the other party leaders.
It was all very organized. It was all extremely exciting to everyone.
"The Nakani party has touched down," one of the techs reading
the information coming from the shuttle ships said. He could barely contain
the rush of emotion in his voice. This was one step closer to stepping
on real grass for the first time. Not that the ships pods didn't have
grass- but he was convinced that it would somehow be better on the planet.
From what the Nakani landing party said, he was right. The ship set down,
and would become part of the homestead operation on this desert-riddled
land. The party was resting on the green belt north of the desert, relatively
close to it in theory, but for all intents and purposes, what was past
the horizon was totally unimportant to them.
Their shuttle decompressed properly on its way down from orbit, and landed
with rather less fuss than anyone expected. The land was firm, no unexpected
caverns below their landing point, no herds of angry predators circling
When the doors first opened, the groups inside were still holding their
breath. But it wasn't to keep the last vestige of their old ship closer
to their hearts - it was pure awe.
A gleaming object in the sky meant danger - meant anything that the chieftain's
shaman wanted it to mean. And right now, he knew that his tribe was about
to splinter. The people were angry with their chief, but most were loyal.
Some wanted to begin a war party with the neighboring tribe because of
the last rainy season's events.
So now this bright object, another star or perhaps a moon, had appeared.
It was quick in the sky, and could be seen as a bright spot in the daylight
as well as night. It soared overhead several times a day. Sometimes it
was farther north, sometimes it would almost vanish into the day, but
it was there and it didn't go away for three months.
When it fractured into four smaller but much brighter starlets, the shaman
- fairly represented in other tribes in exactly the same manner as he
- decided that now was the time to act. This was a portent. The tribe
would split! It had to! Look at the sky and see proof of the action's
Fifteen tribes went to war against their neighbors, and two managed to
lose their entire young male population to suicide. The annoyingly primitive
people of Neres didn't think it would be good to ignore the portents of
When the Mada, Nakani, Jokan and Lisar parties had landed scattered across
the planet, everyone on the still-orbiting ship waited for word. It would
take a while, the landing parties said, to get settled. But the ship had
room to grow for twelve generations or more, so with a portion of their
population already away from it, they would have that much more of their
resources to draw from should they need to remain in space. It was never
in question that if they truly had to abandon the world, they would do
Soon, within another month, it became apparent that all four landing parties
were having tremendous success. The only drawback was that the climate
just wasn't right for some of their grain and tree seeds - they would
have to rely upon more native plant life for their foodstuff. That didn't
seem to bother most people. So long as they weren't going to become allergic
to it, or get poisoned by random leafy greens, they decided it was well
worth the risks.
After three months, the first of the colonization teams were summoned.
All but gutting the ships and the insides of the pods for their goods
and materials, another thirty thousand people went to each landing spot.
The influx almost didn't work but wisely the landing parties split off
into more groups, exploration teams who would then found their own little
At long last, they began to ship down the stored surrogate cells, fetal
cells from hundreds of different animal species, thousands of different
individuals among each of those - when they were available. Since these
animals cells had been harvested while still on Suul-Sat this was a desperation
move on the part of the few remaining ecologists of the world. Most of
those people came with the exiles, alongside their cell samples and high
hopes for seeding a new world that wouldn't get plundered the way their
last one had.
The smaller of the animals of course had been used either as food stock
or pets, during the trip. No one wanted to live without a feline by their
side, or a little dog to keep them company, perhaps a bird or lizard for
their child. But what they really wanted was to fly upon the steeds that
Suul-Sat had been known for. Tales of huge flights of the wild winged
steeds still pervaded the lore of the colonists, but not one living member
of their population had ever actually seen a Steed with their own eyes.
Only the genetic code, and certain cells, and perhaps a preserved if long-dead
Because of the low fertility rate among their people, some of the first
truly advanced technologies that made it to the ground were the Breeding
centers. In a ship the size of theirs, and with such an advanced rate
of partial or infertility, medicine had long since worked itself into
a frenzy trying to make up for it. None could imagine what their population
would have been like, had they not kept their high-tech methods alive.
Next upon the ground however, were as many hardy pioneer folk as could
be mustered. Even though many had been split up according to family ties,
some were requested to go before the rest of their groups, to test the
waters. To see if their bodies, long unused to a planet's true gravity,
could withstand the rigors of building, mining or farming. Those things,
everyone knew, had to be mastered before any frivolities like games and
While the next batches of colonists were sent, doubling the planetside
population and slowly dwindling those left upon the ship, studies were
still being done. The whole of the planet's surface was mapped out carefully,
by satellites released at intervals during their orbit. Those same satellites
were then turned to communication use, between landing parties.
It went this way for sixteen months, slowly disabling the ship and taking
it apart. The pods indeed finally landed upon the planet - in huge pieces,
guided down by careful hands and even some amount of powerful psionics.
The pods were ungainly and terribly ugly - especially compared to the
elegant structures which were planned for building at the landing spots!
Engineers and construction experts would have to wait, the gathering of
raw materials had to start first. Careful mining operations, marble and
stone cutters, and wood harvesting began only after a long examination
of the local habitats. Which animals would be displaced? Which might be
beneficial to keep on as domesticated beasts? How would their landing
impact the world?
Since it was a big world, and their population so small - miniscule compared
to the Suul-Sat population when they had left - they knew it would be
centuries, if not millennia, before any measures against population control
would have to be enacted.
That and the fact that nearly a quarter of them were infertile, they knew
they would have a long while to think about it. A census indicated that
just over eight hundred thousand people had actually made planet fall.
That number stunned many of the people present, making them wonder just
how much longer they could have gone in space with the confines of their
One thing that people seemed to notice right off, was that though there
were in fact animals living upon the planet, there were fewer of them
than they'd really thought. The bugs were everywhere: insects of all sizes
and descriptions seemed to fill niches which the exiles' textbooks and
biology instructions said would be filled by birds or small mammals, or
even fish. Surprised at that, but able to take it with ease, the colonists
decided that if a bird wasn't available, a singing roach would have to
do. But in terms of mammal or other types of life, things were a bit stranger.
Certainly, on the wide plains of Tana, and the vast grasslands of Curra,
there were gigantic herds of grazers, followed by their attendant packs
and groups of predators. But it wasn't as if everywhere one turned, there
would be a critter to see. Slightly disappointed, but glad that their
impact would not be decimating any particular beasts, the colonization
Though they took several years to complete, the first four Cities of
the world grew up around a compact plan. Group housing which was used
almost exclusively at first, became town halls and meeting chambers and
Breeders clinics. Farmsteads which started their lives near the center
of things soon became traffic hubs for trading goods. Since there was
plentiful wood and other materials, nearly everywhere the colonists went,
farmsteading or planting down roots in an isolated area was desirable
so long as one could get back to town.
The owners of the Steeds became the first truly wealthy people besides
the Breeders. They would hire out their animals - which were hugely successful
after just a couple years due to their ability to digest almost any cellulose
materials - and began taking commissions on specially trained animals
or breeding them for color or size.
Each landing site City was surrounded by farmland, spotted landscapes
with homesteads far and wide. Beyond those, however, were the independent
homesteaders who wished nothing more than to prove their worth outside
of the community. None of them were large enough to be called a City,
but there were hundreds of them consisting of a few dozen people, almost
everywhere across each Land.
Someone suggested they come up with zoning information: which township
lay in what portion of the Land? Areas were established at haphazard borders
to one another. All four lands were divided, not all that equally really,
but more based upon who was where at the time, and how they felt about
having their own Area.
Tana was divided into two regions: northern Imaa, and southern Difar.
Zerin, six Areas known as Bohata, Ka, Stetil, Laiarta, Reimal, and the
huge island Area of Zuca. Curra and Kiran both divided into three Areas,
the northerly Curra split into Altem, Polaen, and Mi'a. Kiran, into Le'ret,
Emosah, and Wo'ad.
The names were purely sounds - no hint of their old language needed to
be used. Sometimes it was someone's name, others a word that the youngest
or oldest member of the homesteading team chose. They stuck, because no
one wished to challenge them.
Life on Zekira had begun.
The celebration went on unabated through three days - it had been started
to commemorate the first known birth on Zekira. It continued like this
because several others were promised or imminent.
"Twelve years is a long time to wait for a birth," commented
one of the attendees, her yellow eyes shining brightly rather than in
any manner indicating offense.
Darav smiled broadly. "Aecos is just like his good old dad,"
he said. "You know we're really fertile, my family."
"I can tell," Edlee sighed. She looked at Darav's half-brother,
who was the father of this child. "Aaval must be very proud."
"This is his second," Darav told his ex-supervisor. Since their
landing, many of the people grouped together to investigate their lands
had kept in touch, but largely been broken from groups by necessity. The
science officers always had new things to relate: the discovery of a new
ore vein, a layer of strata indicating prior eras of plant or animal life,
how snow really is butt-freezing cold in reality...
Now they had a new little member of the team. Darav's nephew would be
raised proudly as a land holder - his position in society was already
assured. Very nearly everyone else, however, had to work for it.
Even while in transit, the new Zekiran population had clear ideas about
station and society, which translated on this new world into a complex
web of land ownership and servitude. Those who could work their own land,
were considered independently wealthy. Those who could offer other services,
could hire workers. Those workers who incurred debts too big for them
to pay off quickly, became bonded, or Bayaran, to a master who paid their
debt for them. A debt so large that none could pay it, and the poor individual
would become a permanent servant to the indebted party. This had been
the way of things long before, while on the ship. It seemed to work well
enough here, but it was becoming apparent that not everyone would fall
into a neat category of "worker", "bayaran", "slave",
"land holder" or "breeder". Of course, those strange
people who had animal features mutated into their genes and strong psionics
toward only animals would have their own sort of status, sooner or later.
Everyone knew that.
Darav's introspection on land holding and the like ended when his own
daughter Davali tugged on his sleeve. Her big green-laced-white eyes pleaded
with him to come along. The technician bowed out of his conversation with
his former team mate, and followed his daughter to a more quiet portion
of the courtyard.
"Father," she stated, her voice betraying annoyance that only
a 13 year old could muster, "when is this - thing - going to end?
I have studies to finish!"
"Davali, this is a very important milestone!" Darav insisted.
But his daughter was not to be put off.
"Father, Aecos is trying to get some sleep too, and no one lets him.
What kind of ill-adjusted child will he wind up being if he doesn't get
any sleep as an infant?" Said the defiant girl, setting her fists
upon her hips.
Darav raised an eyebrow. "So, I'm fostering a Breeder am I? Where
do you get these ideas?"
"... Maybe I will be a Breeder," Davali said. Her look of anger
turned to one of deep thought. "I mean, we'd become quite wealthy
if I did."
Darav laughed, "Davali, we'd have to already be wealthy to afford
an education like that."
Davali didn't laugh - in fact, she scowled. "I'm not putting it out
of my mind, though. What if I did become one. Would you insist on a party
for every birth I assisted?"
Darav looked back at his lichen-green skinned daughter. His appraisal
of her skills wasn't far off from that which his own Breeder friend had
guessed. Their medical technology already proved she was fertile like
her parents, and she had the slightest inclination to psionics that ran
through most of the colonists. Perhaps latency to some odd power would
show up later on in her life. Or, perhaps, it would erupt full fledged
when she reached maturity.
Darav nodded his head, and draped his darker forest-colored arm over her
shoulders, escorting her away to their private chambers.
"I might, Davali, I just might."
"He thought he'd like to be tested," said the woman whose son
simply oozed power. "I mean, he's already got the look. I just have
to wonder if he's also got the powers?"
Davali, interning in her fourth-year Breeding license, nodded to the pair.
"Of course. I'll need to take a blood sample, if you don't mind?"
The woman was squeamish, but her son seemed eager enough to comply. He
might have been eight or nine years old, certainly not even an adolescent.
But he had oddly shaped ears which stood out from his head at a low angle
and a light down of what would become silky fur on his skin. There was
no doubt in Davali's mind that this was an animal-tuned mutation running
through his genes.
She carefully removed a needle and took just enough blood to work on,
dabbed at the boy's arm, and smiled at him with her youthful but well-practiced
Breeder's manner. "It'll only be a few days before everything is
checked out. But I can say that you're highly likely to show up positive
for certain things. Let me ask you," she said, sitting down after
placing the sample in a 'to-do' box, "have you noticed any affinity
to certain animals, plants or types of people?"
The boy looked at his mother, who nodded. "Yes," he said quietly.
"The flattail rats, we had a family of them living in the swamp near
our homestead, and when they would come near, I... I guess I could hear
them. Not like," he fingered his pointed ear, "with my ears.
But hear them, like they were talking in my head. When they were hungry,
the kits would get really loud - so I started feeding them. And when the
parents were afraid, I told them not to be, and they stayed."
Davali nodded sagely and gave the boy a more personal, confident smile.
"I'm almost positive, like I said. There will certainly be good work
for you in the beast trade. It's called Tuning. Some people are tuned
to ... oh, electric things. Some, to animals or birds, and others to natural
phenomenon like storms or plants. But we all know the money's in animals."
The boy laughed, half nervous but clearly pleased. His mother looked about
to burst with pride.
As they left the office, and Davali began to work on his blood sample,
she knew that this had always been her own tuning. The way that she had
with people was a side effect - her forte was biology and moods. Did her
father know that she was a psionic? Probably not. But then, there were
others in their family who had strong abilities. Why not her? Now, if
only she could put into words the things she felt whenever she saw a mutant
or a latent psionic?
Some day, she would. Some day, in fact, her words would become the basis
for the entire world's mutation listing.
"Is he the one?" Davali's Bayaran secretary and friend Nesmina
asked. Davali nodded, eyes affixed firmly on a slender, long limbed black-skinned
man. He was a part time racer, started off and kept his career on steedback
as a courier, and he was at the top of Davali's "to mate" list.
She'd waited nearly all her fifty years for this moment: when Jakran would
come into contact with her bond. All she needed to do, Davali instructed,
was hand off a business card with her information and a simple request
on it. What happened then would be entirely up to him.
Now, as he dropped to the ground outside her clinic from his orange-white
steed, Davali licked her lips and wondered. Would he take her up on it?
She knew that he was at least partially fertile, from his Status records.
Such private things were quite easy to get hold of, when one's Status
read Breeder/Membayar. Davali peered out from her office window, and saw
Nesmina greet him.
She wanted to do it herself. But, she had tons of work and would probably
screw it up. Her bedside manner was well known, among parents and children
- but her personal desires would surely get in the way of her tongue's
behavior if she had to ask him herself.
It wasn't like a date, though. It wasn't at all like finding a partner
for a long term commitment. This was a Breeder's thing. She'd looked him
over and decided that not only were his skin and hair just the right shade
of dark to bring her own features back into the visible spectrum (she'd
always thought her pale coloration was boring - not like this vibrantly
black-skinned wonder outside), but he was healthy, could provide care
or a home if need be, and his latency rating was quite high. Combined
with her own, she wondered but couldn't quite place what the results would
That, too, would wait until much later.
For the moment, she saw Nesmina hand off the card and tilt he head waiting
for a response. Jakran looked at the card, away, then at Nesmina to ask
a question, she answered, and then he looked directly at the window where
Davali was standing. He ought not to have seen her standing there, since
it was a shaded affair that offered privacy from the outside world but
a view of it from ...
He could see her, yet. His smile said that he'd be amenable to this offer.
She didn't even have to ask when Nesmina came back into the office with
his formal response.
There was something so deeply fulfilling, Davali decided, about having
one's choice of mate turn out to be more perfect than she'd imagined.
Jakran and she had met several times for formality's sake, signing and
agreeing to paperwork which made their union at present an officially
"for offspring only" one. But she knew. Davali saw something
in Jakran's violet-blue eyes that she liked. Intelligence, poise, perhaps
even a touch of cruelty. Why she was drawn to all those things and not
just the first two was beyond her. But, there they were. And she would
Davali's father would certainly disapprove. He was still happy that she
was able to complete all her Breeder education with flair and two years
to spare, but he was never quite comfortable with what that status really
meant. She wasn't one of those plain healers - ones you take your sick
or injured to. She was that and much more. A full Breeding degree allowed
her to locate and pair off couples for the purpose of producing another
child for the world of Zekira.
He didn't give much thought to the fact that Davali wanted to do this
for herself, not just for other people. He considered it improper to mate
outside of marriage.
Such a typical Membayar at heart, he was. A good land holder, of course,
and a good father. He ran a business based on what he knew best: atmosphere.
Several local information video and transmission senders would request
his take on where the storm was, how best to dress for the day tomorrow,
and generally, he'd predict the weather. To a strong extent, he was right.
What he wasn't right about was that his daughter would come to her senses
any time soon about this breeding project she'd launched herself into.
The lad was barely old enough to hold land, let alone ...
Davali smirked when Jakran came to her homestead with a basket full of
fresh flowers and a wrapped freshly baked loaf of bread.
"The best bakery in Mada said this was the right flavor for an, um,
romantic evening," Jakran said. He made a pretense of seeming bashful
- Davali knew better. He had the stately presence of a winning steed jockey,
known locally as a daring rider. He'd come either on foot or escorted
in a carriage, because his transportation steed wasn't in sight. That
was a good thing, as Davali hardly had the facilities to take care of
"I would say that by the smell, it's a wonderful choice." Davali
said at last, taking the flowers from his hands and letting their scent
fill her nose. It wasn't part of their formal agreement, that he do these
things. But it made everything work so much more smoothly that he had.
Davali was still a bit nervous and self conscious - her! She held the
basket, an open scoop with a handle filled to the brim with fresh-cut
bright-eye blooms surrounded by a spray of red crackle-leaf.
Davali selected a wine which had been made locally - she didn't see the
point in asking to import any from Jokan. That night was spent with flirtatious
speech and sly looks, and ended with a hesitating but well-crafted lovemaking.
"I'd no idea it would take this long for us," Davali said,
cradling their son Djeck. He was unusually mutated, something that Davali
couldn't have predicted since it had never occurred on the colony ship.
Djeck was quite dark green in skin, with vibrant green-teal hair (a full
head of it, too), and what would probably become violet-to-lavender eyes.
His chubby face made everyone smile.
Davali knew that when she showed her aging father this grandson of his,
he would be a bit shocked to see the four arms.
What wouldn't shock him, though, because he'd blossomed into full weatherhaping
powers over the last decade, was that Djeck could already use his powers
of telepathy to summon his mother or father from wherever they were. They
usually spent little time away from him, but if he was in need he could
put out a piercing mental cry. Rather like he did not do when he cried
aloud. He was so sweetly quiet with his voice, that most people thought
he was quite the sedate little thing.
Ha. What they didn't know wouldn't hurt them. Skies forbid a telepath
or empath wander by!
Not knowing quite what to make of this, though, Davali made certain that
the elder Breeders of Mada could study her son. She was curious: why the
arms? And did they have some intimate connection with his power level?
The general consensus was that yes, his power was off the chart so far
as anyone could determine. But his arms? Well, they were a mere physical
mutation and nothing more.
Perhaps a bit of an annoyance, since they'd have to have tailored clothing
specific to him all his life.
Not that Davali couldn't afford it. Certainly not now after nearly six
years of trying - when she and Jakran would become married soon. He only
got better and better at his jockey work - and had an eye for selecting
the right steeds to fly. He owned several by the time they decided to
marry, and even Davali had gotten used to the big winged beasts. She'd
had a bit of fear around them, never really comfortable, but she loved
to watch Jakran race so she put up with them up close too.
With the winning bet, Djeck smiled at his father and waved to his mother
down below. He could wave to both of them separately. He still reveled
in that, apparently, and also loved having people look at him. How unlike
anyone before him, this four armed creation. His telepathy grew stronger
every year of his life, 'til this point, and would only get stronger with
He could easily locate other telepaths or others who sported psionic powers,
in any crowd. In fact, he loved doing that. He loved it so much that he'd
told his mother - and she hired him to do it for her.
"We want stronger psionics, like yours," she would say, So she
sent him out at races like this, to play spot-the-breeding-fodder.
Having been raised in a family of sharply psionic people himself, Djeck
soon realized that he would be cut out best for the Breeding life: he
had the eye, he had the experience as well.
He lacked the drive to attend all those dreary classes. But, his mother
insisted that if he were to be part of her staff at the clinic, he'd learn.
But he was so good at betting! That of course led to his wealth outside
of his inheritance from both sides of his family, he'd earned his own.
And wanted to spend it on things other than a Breeder's license, but that
was what would make both mother and father happy - so he did.
Djeck took longer than his mother to pass his Breeding exams. His heart
was in the subject, just not the books! He knew most things inside and
out before he even opened a file, before he took one look at a patient.
Djeck had been raised as intimately aware of his human patients as his
animal ones - his father kept seven Steeds at the main house, one of whom
was specially made for Djeck.
After the trophy ceremony, which went on a lot longer than anyone really
wanted it to, Djeck met up with Davali and Jakran near the Steed boarding
"Are you ever going to surprise anyone?" Djeck asked his father.
Jakran smiled, his crafted and pleasing face showing all the pride that
any winning jockey ought to.
"No, if you mean by losing."
They laughed. At twenty nine years of age, one might have expected Djeck
to be more distant from his parents - but they were quite the opposite.
Many wealthy land holders looked upon them jealously - Davali had born
two more children since Djeck's birth as well, and cared for them with
the same intensity that she had afforded her first born. Djeck was adept
at keeping young children occupied, and so he remained near his younger
"Did you find anyone here?" Davali asked, raising her sea-blue
eyebrow way up. She gazed at the crowd and then turned back to her son.
"I did, but they were pretty far away from me. I didn't get a card
to them. I'm sorry." Djeck admitted. While he wasn't all that disappointed
really, his mother was, but she also didn't chide him for it. After all,
he'd only be paid if he got someone to show up to the clinic for testing.
The pulse of the music was hypnotizing, and the press of bodies against
one another thrilled Djeck. Here was a place where he could do every job
he wanted all at once: a dance club that serviced the most cutting edge
of Bred folk, they were edging out the normal folks slowly but surely.
Everyone knew him: he was that four-armed guy who could send his thoughts
almost halfway across the Area without tiring.
And everyone wanted to know him better. He remained aloof, his father's
genes almost seemed to make him do so without difficulty. That only made
many people want him more. In his ninety-five years, he'd never looked
older than forty, and kept his age a secret to those he knew were merely
half or a third of his age. It was something easy to do, and no so damaging
a secret that anyone could fault him for it.
Smiling at his friends, and smirking at his few enemies, Djeck danced
his way from one side of the building to the other. Touching minds as
much as flesh - he spotted three of his closest friends without any difficulty,
but he knew they were all the way across the room and somewhat busy with
their partners for the evening. He didn't bother them.
There were other people to bother, and he did so with a grin.
"Hallam, how are you?" He asked of a dusky grey-brown colored
man. That man glanced up at the much taller Djeck, then back at his drink.
"Go away," Hallam muttered. "I'm in no mood for you. Mood
for a fight."
"A mood for drinking is always a fighting mood with you, Hallam,
did you want to talk?" Djeck asked - he was honestly asking one of
his betting-enemies, one of the guys he'd actually Bonded briefly, if
he wanted to have a heart to heart? Was he nuts?
Apparently he was. Hallam sensed this as well. But the drunken man merely
stared at his drink and didn't even bother lifting his hand to it. It
was then that Djeck saw the circle-within-circle pin newly creasing the
lapel of his shirt.
"You're Bayaran again?" Djeck asked, as if it was the slightest
bit of his business, and to his surprise Hallam nodded. "What is
it this time?"
"It was a Steed, what else would it have been?" Hallam spat,
eyes narrow. But he looked at Djeck and didn't see any of the old rivalry.
Only a concern that went as deep as any a Breeder could muster. "Ahh,
what would you know. You've never lost a bet in your life."
"Don't bet on that one, either," Djeck said, sitting down next
to him. "Look, who's your debt to? I can arrange a transfer if you
want. If it's someone you don't want to work for."
"Now there's an understatement," Hallam groaned. "Do you
know Mistress Eyal?"
The name rang a vague bell with Djeck, but he couldn't quite place it.
"Runs the Steed harness job down in the grassland park," Hallam
said. "I ... I guess you can't say it was a betting error on my part
this time," to that he raised his glass and took a long swig of the
contents. "I managed to spook this damnable Steed of hers off the
road and crushed its harness and buggy. It's more than two years pay on
what my job used to be."
"... Used to be. Oh, Hallam, what'd..."
"It wasn't my fault this time... They decided to move the waxworks
down to the plains." Hallam said. "I couldn't go, I think they
took only the damn Holders with them anyway. It was like they wanted to
get rid of us Workers."
Djeck didn't say anything about the wax works being closer to the bees.
Instead, he draped his upper arm around the man's shoulder and placed
the lower around his hip. "Eyal will take whose ever money is thrown
at her. Do you want me to write it up?"
Hesitating, but turning with a drunk eye at Djeck, Hallam said, "First
I want you t' take that arm o'yours off me like I'm your girl," he
took a long drink, finishing the last of what he had and clearly he could
pay for no more this night, "second, yeah, if you've got a job I
can do. I don't wanna be workin' off in some clinic or around no Steeds."
"The first is easy enough," Djeck laughed, removing his hands
and clasping them behind his back, "the second... have you ever done
any homestead construction?"
Hallam nodded, "I've done lots of it. I work with casting things
- wax, metal, it's all the same once it's hot, really."
"Then I think I have a place for you to work on, if you're good for
Djeck's northerly homestead, a big rambling wooded landscape with rocks
and a waterfall and ... well, all that would certainly look better if
it had a wrought iron gate at the front. And a fence around the perimeter.
And perhaps, some filigree here and there...