looked up from his papers. "Your birthday is April the
what my ID says, Ma'am."
you are from Wolf Den," she said carefully. "And I know
quite a bit about the different dates used in the project. I was
a member of the commission that examined the happenings there. So
I'll ask directly: Is that your date of birth or not?"
am ordered not to talk about that, Ma'am." Gooseman clenched
his fist next to the table, feeling uncomfortable.
noticed it. "Don't worry, boy. You have to answer. I'm the
Lady Prime Senator. If you stay silent you'll be accused of
treason. So there's no way out. Whoever gave you these orders
will know that."
buts, Gooseman. Is that your date of birth or not?!"
sighed. "It's my date of viability, Ma'am."
does that mean?"
was the date on which the commission decided that I'd be able to
fulfill the STP's expectations."
when were you really born?"
wasn't born, Ma'am. I am an ST. People like me get
was that?" She felt sympathy for the young man against whom
she was using all her political status and powers at this moment
to break his defenses and get the information she wanted. But her
suspicions had been growing since the New Year's Ball and they
simply must be proved now.
date of decant is the 27th of January, 2067."
just stared at him, at those green eyes and the blond
died in June, and she was two months pregnant...
I think you've got a lot to tell me." Lady Prime
Senator Madeleine Hays stormed past an embarrassed Walsh where he
stood in the doorway of his house.
turned and let the door slide shut. "I assume this isn't an
official visit, Maddie."
the hell did you plan to tell me?!" She pointed an angry
finger at him. "Did you really believe I wouldn't want to
evasive again, Joseph!" she snapped. "I have a
grandson, haven't I?"
was stunned. She put a hand in sympathy on his sleeve. "Why
didn't you tell me, Joey?" she asked more calmly, realizing
she'd overrun his barriers. "I wouldn't have taken action
against you. Leana was my only child, and"
caught himself, tried to distract her. "How did you get this
particular, Joseph. Don't worry about that." She made an
impatient hand movement. "The details. Every single one of
them is harmless and could be purely by chance, but all
together... His hair and eyes are more strongly colored than
Leana's were, but they are of the same color. There are
involuntary gestures of his I recognized. During the ball he
reminded me of you twenty-five years ago, and I thought that
could be because you are his mentor. But the way he narrows his
eyes after they widen when he's surprised. The sudden turn of his
head when he's approached from the side before he decides to
grant the other person his attention and turns fully round. That
was so typical for Leana."
lot of people have reflex movements like that, Maddie,"
Walsh reminded her. "That's no reason to assume
today when they broadcast the profiles of your new Galaxy Rangers
unit on Tri-D I learned that he's an ST. And I know who
commanded that goddamn project." She looked at him,
determined. "You were already in command of it before
Leana's accident and you buried yourself in it afterwards,"
she stated coldly. "You were never a people person, Joey.
But that was too extreme, even for you."
was mourning like you, Maddie. Wounded."
you've never been someone who showed that! You must have had a
reason for your behavior. I knew you wouldn't say
anything, so I summoned Shane to my office and squeezed it out of
him." She showed a cynical half smile for a moment. "Don't
be angry at him, Joey. He didn't have a chance against my
position." The lines in her face tightened again, reminded
him that she deserved her position on the Board. "His date
tell me it's called something different! You know what I mean!"
she flared at him. "It corresponds to the projected due date
for your child. And that was at least one coincidence too
many for me to buy." She drew herself up to her full 168
centimeters in front of him without regard for her nearly 76
years. "Confess, Joseph! You used the possibilities of that
project to save your son."
Walsh just looked at her. Memories, more than 20 years old,
flooded in the air between him and his former mother-in-law,
filling the room, hurting...
remembered the feeling when Leana had told him they were
expecting a baby. The touch of her arms around his neck as she
whispered into his ear... The sensation of wonder when he finally
understood. And only a week later the young courier officer had
come into the lab where Walsh was checking the weekly reports
with one of the gentechs Max Sawyer, an agile, friendly
man and a brilliant scientist, but one Joseph believed to be too
warmhearted for this kind of work.
Commander Joseph Walsh?"
had only nodded, hadn't looked up from the forms he was
"I regret to
inform you that Premier Jonathon Hays and his daughter were the
victims of a glider bombing near the Hall of Earth this
transparencies crumpled in his hands, and he felt as though his
heart had stopped beating. "Leana. Is she okay?"
father-in-law is dead, Sir. Your wife was taken to Meredith
University Hospital. She suffered severe injuries."
she make it?" The courier's voice seemed to reach Walsh from
Sir. But we have no further information about her conditi"
The door cut off the rest of the courier adjutant's words as it
slid shut behind Walsh, and his running steps on the metal floor
outside covered any further calls.
next thing Joseph could clearly remember was Max Sawyer standing
next to him on the landing field, taking the glider keycard out
of his hand with determination. "You're in no condition to
fly." Sawyer pushed him over to the passenger seat. "Get
in. I'll drive." After a moment the gentech assured him
drily: "Don't worry, I have a license."
had known the truth the moment he saw the physician's face, had
known there was no hope for her any more. The physician had
talked to him, but he hadn't really gotten the words, except at
the last. "We are still trying to save the child." The
physician looked very earnestly at him. "But the chances
aren't good. The second month is usually too early for putting a
fetus in vitro."
waited for hours. Sawyer had stayed with him, had assured Walsh
that Sawyer wasn't worried about the bollocking he was going to
get for staying with Walsh and away from his work for so long...
is a dangerous drug. Nothing can do more than hope, and nothing
can devastate more than the end of hope. He had seen it on
battlefields before, and he saw it in Madeleine's eyes when they
finally gave her a tranquilizer to calm her after hours of
exhausting crying. It had been the only time he'd ever seen her
sorry." The physician lowered his head. "It's as we
feared. The embryo itself suffered injuries during the explosion.
We can't do anything more"
embryonic tissue is highly" Sawyer's hand grabbed
Joseph's arm, pressed his muscles till the pain made him
right. They can't do anything." Sawyer's look held his eyes
when he repeated. "Do you get me, Joseph? They
can't do anything here."
The gentech's last sentence was very faint. "But
if we are damn fast..."...
barely remembered Leana's funeral. Only single images stuck in
his mind: white flowers on her coffin, thankfully closed because
of the extended injuries she'd suffered, Madeleine's pale, stony
face. The state funeral of Leana's father had been only a day
before. It was the last time Walsh saw Maddie for long years. He
hadn't said anything, had only wished her a wordless goodbye and
made a silent vow to his lost wife. His mind was elsewhere, at a
godless, nonexistent military base where a small cluster of cells
struggled for survival...
finally broke the long, painful silence. "Why didn't you
tell me?" she asked softly in her motherly way. "It
would have been so important to me."
he could have died any day, at any moment. You suffered enough
from Jonathon and Leana's deaths." His face tightened. "Just
like me. But this was my battle. Only mine. I had to win it.
Nobody else." Max had already paid the price for helping
me. He looked up. "I need a coffee. This isn't
"Then get us
one, Joey," Maddie agreed and added with a humorous but
slightly warning look, "And don't you dare slip out the back
door. You will no more escape from me than Shane did! I will
get the whole story tonight. Clear?"
Ma'am." Walsh's voice sounded as if he was chewing sand.
doesn't know, does he?" she asked, sitting finally with him
at his living room table.
has no idea." Walsh leaned back. "The Board's
commission never learned how Wolf Den really was, Maddie. If he
had been any different from the others he'd be dead. It was
essential for his survival that he believed in his origin."
And it was easier to be rigid enough to get him through it
without that knowledge behind the distrust and caution in his
"And you never
told him later," she stated. "You had more than two
years to do it."
world is complicated enough for him." When he noticed her
frown: "Maddie, he had to learn this life in a crash course.
I didn't think it would do any good to shatter his fundamental
why BDC, Joseph?" Madeleine Hays took a last sip of her
already cold coffee and put the cup on the table. "There
were variations of STJ, like the mental ones, which would have
caused much weaker alterations than that."
sighed. "The embryo itself was harmed, Maddie. Otherwise the
med facility might have tried to save him itself. BDC has the
highest adaption and correction rate of all variations. If
something could offset the injuries, it was that. We thought it
was the best chance we could give him."
did you get him, anyway?" she asked. "Embryos aren't
handed over to relatives."
carried a full donation card for R
and D. Like most
of us back then."
was classivied UVP,"
reminded Maddie. "You couldn't ask for donations."
it was linked with the military research facilities, which could
take donations," Walsh said coldly. "And Wolf Den got a
lot of embryos from them. They were used for standard control
tissue, since the developing cell structures showed possible side
effects very quickly. So nobody could guess that anything was
different about this one when Wolf Den ordered it." The edge
of his mouth twitched, and he continued grimly, "Except that
it wasn't used for controls."
Hays shuddered and sighed. "This project is one of the
darkest spots in military history."
first look through the data, I couldn't believe that you had led
"I was assigned
to it pretty early. The original intentions had been optimized
soldiers, yes, but neither their creation nor the treatment the
participants received were like that in the beginning. A couple
of prime orders and increased pressure from the Board changed
that. And you know how risky it is to leave a high sec project."
He sighed. "And there was no chance to get Shane out of
Maddie nodded. More
than one good officer simply disappeared when trying to
quit such an assignment, and it surely had been out of the
question to abandon the boy.
became our personal nemesis," he added grimly.
feared so, though it's not obvious from the papers. He'd never
been a friend of yours but after your marriage to Leana he became
almost an enemy."
snorted. "She hated him, but that egocentric asshole
couldn't accept that. I guess he thought everything was my fault
since I married the woman he wanted to
language, Joey." Maddie grinned, trying to ease the tension
a little. "I share your opinion about him but not your
"I was polite
in talking about the senator."
running for premier."
too polite to comment on that." Walsh grunted.
am I," Maddie smiled. "But it's unlikely that he's
going to win the vote. Sorensen is very popular with his League
project, and the second candidate, Dutch, is a strong rival, too.
I think we can safely ignore Eric's attitudes." She became
earnest again. "If I can help somehow..." She made a
helpless hand movement.
draw attention to the boy, Maddie," Walsh said, suddenly
wary. "I've got an acceptable reason to care about him since
I was his commanding officer from the very beginning, but if the
Lady Prime Senator shows special interest in a Ranger of his
origin Maddie, that could bring the attention of the wrong
people to the whole thing."
sighed. "I know. I just wish" She interrupted
herself. "His papers. Eric. Why the hell should Eric do
something for you, Joe?" She noticed the sudden caution in
Walsh's face. "He does know who Shane is, right? Did he do
it for Leana?"
he does, Maddie. But he didn't do it for Leana. He did it because
he wanted to save his political ass!"
More calmly: "What do you mean?"
don't, Maddie. I'd like you to know only this: as long as it is
only Eric who knows, we are safe. If anybody else should stumble
across it, we're in for it." He sighed and clenched his
fist. "You know what that would mean."
for the rest of your life, Joey."
the cryocrypt for Shane," he added grimly.
silence stretched out between them. Again it was Maddie who
finally broke it, touching his hand on the table. "You did a
good job on him, Joe," she said in a voice atypically soft
for her. "I'm proud of my grandson. Even if I can never tell
him that. And if you ever need help..." She took a deep
breath and her voice grew suddenly icy, "I'll tear you to
pieces if you don't tell me!"