yawned and looked through the window at the sheets of water
running down the glass, the rain
glimmering silver in the blue and white lights of the spaceport.
Yet another delay was announced to the waiting passengers in a
burst of gibberish. It was amazing that the personnel of New
Petrograd’s only civil spaceport actually seemed to
Another gust of
wind sent more rain gushing down the window next to her. Lost in
thought, she watched the streaming water flickering silver in the
ever changing light.
rain washing down sheets of transparent steel.
sheets on metal sheets...
sheets were used on Xanadu as a learning aid for mental focusing.
Tall round silver sheets -- like over-sized holiday dishes --
were hung in front of the silk curtains in the crystal hall.
Designed to tarnish when touched with psionic powers, they
separated one exercise cubicle from the next. If a silver sheet
turned dark, the student had to polish it back to a shiny metal
gleam – by hand, since using psionics would blacken it even
more – and the time-consuming, monotonous work caused by a
mistake brought the attention of the student to the problem that
At least, that was
the intention of the mentors when they installed the silver
While rubbing the
results of her latest mistakes off the plates, Niko had been
convinced as a child that their intentions were petty-minded
punishment for the few dreams she had.
had been times when she'd dreamed of a White Knight in silver
armor, psionically gifted like herself, who was able to brush the
soot of her mistake off the sheets with a twitch of his hand and
a charming wink of his honey-colored eyes.
she'd grown older and more skilled, Niko had decided that she
preferred her Prince Charming – a.k.a. White Knight –
without silver armor, since armor had to be polished, too.
And it could get in the way when... But that was a thought for a
more mature Niko than she had been back then.
then, if someone had told her she would be spending her life with
a golden-haired, six-foot-five soldier with no apparent psionic
schooling, she'd have laughed in their face. She'd dreamed of
someone safe in her life, someone who'd comfort her, protect her,
steady her. Someone who would gently encourage her to do the
exercises that she labored over so much. Someone who became the
calmness she sought and seldom found...
would have honey colored eyes, she'd decided back then, and black
hair, tall but not heavy, and...
remembered the day she'd dawdled while imagining her dream lover;
she remembered it quite well. Fifteen year old Niko had spent
almost all four hours of concentration exercise polishing the
darn tarnish off the sheets!
she hadn't imagined Shane's face in those unforgiving silver
sheets back then. But nowadays Niko would never take the pale
girlish fantasies instead of him. The half-child couldn't dream
about what she understood today. The knowl–
sudden rattle on the window next to her brought her out of her
daydreaming and she saw that there was hail in the rain now.
Wonderful. It seemed New Petrograd Spaceport would be closed even
longer. This place needs a Weather control system. Urgently.
Niko sighed inwardly. Or at least a landing field weather
shield for the civil transports. As the next gush of hail
drumming against the glass, she added: Best both.
waiting benches at the spaceport had seemed ridiculous to her,
but now she began to understand their advantages. She leaned back
into the warmth irradiating from the back of her seat and allowed
her thoughts to wander off again.
Xanadu'an psi-masters knew two kinds of knowledge: psionic and
physical knowledge. Her mentor had taught Niko that once the
psionic understanding of something was complete, the physical
side became unimportant, a mere projection of the greater psionic
picture onto the three-plus-one dimensional physical plane. And
to the student she had been back then, the explanation made total
But the woman of today
was no longer sure about that. Time and events had shaped doubts
into her picture of things.
was eighteen years old when she left Xanadu for Earth. And the
Circle would never have approved her volunteering to go if her
fundamental education of life hadn’t been finished and
understood. So it shouldn't have made a difference that she
hadn't had physical experience beforehand. It shouldn't have made
a difference that he had had no idea about it. Surely
But it did.
irony was, the dreams of the girl she had been once were better
able to deal with the situation as it had turned out to be than
her hard-learned psionic understanding had been. Despite the fact
that she'd never dreamed anything like that. At least, not as far
as she could remember.
never thought that innocence in a man could be so beguiling. But
she still remembered his tall frame collapsing beside her, not
physically exhausted – that wasn't so easily done –
but mentally, and in need of time for his mind to adapt, to get
used to this formerly unknown side of existence.
had been the first time she'd seen his face unguarded, there in
the cognac-colored light of Granna's moon, and truly realized how
young he was. Numbers didn't really have a feeling of time
attached to them, did they?
remembered waking up in the night and how the feeling of shock
ran through her at what they– what she had done. How she
had cleaned herself of the blood while lying beside him, how
she'd pulled the blanket over him, too, shielding him from the
chill, and had frozen for a moment at the sensation of him
snuggling unconsciously against her side, not out of trust or
desire, but simply because he had nobody else to go to for
comfort, awake or not. And sometimes, it wasn't enough to twist
into the sheets to–
a ride?" Shane's eager voice made her jump.
whirled round in her seat, feeling the heat rushing into her
cheeks. "Where did you come from?"
heard New Petrograd was shut down." He shrugged, shook the
icy water out of his hair like a wet dog, and stuffed his clammy
hands into his pockets. "It was on my way,
that's right round the corner," she commented dryly. And
only halfway across the galaxy.
what were you thinking about, eh?" he asked with the look of
innocence she’d have expected from Lucifer. "Heavens,
I snuck up on you. And that‘s been pretty much
impossible lately. And then there's this fabulous shade of pink
it!" she snapped and succeeded in forcing the blush off her
He commented on her effort
with a brow arched in silent inquiry.
she gave in. "I was thinking of the silver sheets used on
Xanadu to test students' concentration."
he asked, curious.
blacken when touched with psionics. If you make a mistake you
spend hours polishing the tarnish away."
thought of lacquering them?" he asked with a grin. "A
fine thick layer of transparent spray lacquer should keep the
oxygen away from the silver. And it isn't easily detected,
either. No oxygen, no tarnish, psi or not." He tossed her
heavy bag over his shoulder. "Come on. We don’t want
the authorities to learn where I parked the Explorer."
say hello to Nighshae,
who offered to help me publishing all the stories lurking on my
harddrive for lack of editing.
This is the first fic we edited