It was an
inconspicuous house at the back of one of the big ancient flats
in the Rue Voltaire built just after World War II in the rush of
Paris' reconstruction. The windows were closed and shuttered by
heavy curtains. None of the people in the flats around knew what
resided within it.
you're sure about the psionic level? A real T-15?"
doubt about it, Sir." The skinny man bowed in front of his
highest boss. "It buried the needle! Even the Japanese from
last year didn't have measurements that high."
chief frowned. "The Japanese. Has she had young
Sir." The scientist lowered his head. "A
The chief's fist
crashed on his oak wooden desk. "The damn drugs again! You
said you eliminated the side effects."
seems that telepathic DNA is more sensitive than normal. We
should try to detoxify the Japanese and—"
boss waved the rest aside. "The new one. Do we have the
the clinical data, Sir. She had her appendix taken out three
months ago. The fertile period is in eight days from now on with
an accuracy of 96%."
Mate her with Ilianov."
kind of drugs shall we use on her?"
a T-15. The only female T-15 we know of. Ilianov is our only
match of that level. No drugs. I don't want a failure again. Tell
him he's to seduce her."
"And tell him
also, that if he fails he'll be used for the in-vitro program for
the rest of his life!"
are coming now to a formidable pre-Christian bronze figure: this
representation of the Assyrian goddess Baal, the lightning
thrower, dates back to 1350 B.C. and is shown with an ancient
The group of
art students, mostly male, listened in admiration. Frederic
Mercier, curator of Louvre's famous sculpture exhibition,
wondered if they came almost every day because of the beautiful
exhibits he had collected for years or because of his second
assistant, Victoria Ryan, who had been leading the guided tours
for some weeks now.
A soft smile
appeared around the mouth of the 68-year-old. He could understand
the young men – Victoria was a slender beauty with her pale
skin and the long, slightly curled, ginger hair – and he
was French, after all! And whatever the students came for –
the more of them came, the more money the Louvre got and the more
money he could use to complete his exhibition. Wonderful! And the
slender English woman had a real feeling for the ancient art
objects. She was a precious jewel of an assistant.
leave now the pre-Christian era and..."
Victoria closed the great double doors that separated the rooms
where restorations and preparations of dirty and sometimes
damaged art works were done from the exhibition halls and headed
for her boss. "Mr. Mercier, the last tour is finished. May I
have the rest of the day free? My feet are killing me."
someone stepped onto them?" he asked.
she laughed faintly, "just new shoes." She tapped with
her lemon yellow high-heel sandal on the marble floor. "They
match the color of the dress," she sighed, "but
obviously not the form of my feet."
smiled, remembering a discussion about the same topic he'd had
with his daughter only a week ago. "Okay, Ms. Ryan. You
still have overtime on your account. It's no problem with me. But
be here early tomorrow. I want to open the new exhibits from
Egypt that arrived yesterday."
threw him a bright smile that made him wish being forty years
younger. "I'll be there, Sir. I'm very curious if the mummy
of Amenhotep II. is really in such a good condition as the New
Yorkers told us."
fact, she was curious about the sensations the three thousand
year old mummy would create in her, but it was impossible to tell
Mr. Mercier about that.
hurried down the broad entrance stairs and shielded her eyes with
her hand from the brilliant early summer sun. Large groups of
people concentrating on her always caused these throbbing
headaches, that was the price for not taking the suppression
medicine wasn't really bad. It had no side effects on her, wasn't
unpleasant to take – just a small white pill every morning
– and no one would bother her because of her psionic powers
which were safely suppressed or her aversion to work with them
for the government. She always thought of that as being
But her abilities had
been discovered relatively late in her life – she'd been
already in school for some years – and she'd been used to
having them, to feeling the sensation of life around her, the
comforting whisper of minds. She had learned early not to listen
and to use them on purpose, to find lost things or the rabbits
her brother had always let escape.
had been a hard time for her, when the powers were erased. She
had felt horribly alone. But her family had been there. Her mom
and dad had held her, her brother had walked and played with her,
in spite of the fact that a fifteen year old boy usually didn't
want to be seen with his little sister. But she had needed him
and he had cared for her.
and Dad were buried now on the church cemetery of their small
home town in middle England that wouldn't even appear on a map if
the number of inhabitants were accidentally doubled by the city
computers. And her brother...
had stopped taking the suppressor the day the letter arrived that
told her Adrian wouldn't return from the Colonial Wars. At that
she couldn't stand the loneliness any longer. The next day, she'd
gone to the cemetery and planted the most beautiful flowers she
was able to find on her parents grave, then she had packed her
bags, got all the money that still was on her college bank
account and left for Paris. She never returned and the whispering
of the millions of minds in the foreign metropolis that was so
totally different from England and London that she'd known
before, helped her to cope with the loneliness.
still got the pills every month – it wouldn't be wise for
her as a known telepath not to fetch them from the health center
– but she threw them away instead of taking them. And
nobody noticed since she had learned to control her abilities
while still a child.
left heel slipped off an ancient worn stone step and, stumbling,
she found herself in the arms of a man.
He caught her before she could fall, and laughed, stabilizing
her. "Be careful, mademoiselle. Your shoes aren't made for
your speed on these stairs."
took a step back and composed herself. "I'm sorry, monsieur.
I–" That was the moment she noticed that, in spite his
arms around her waist, his mind hadn't invaded hers. She looked
up, met fascinating pale blue eyes laughing at her.
I should introduce myself. – Dimitri
Victoria Ryan," she managed a smile and was amazed to see
him laughing again.
An English queen and an Irish hero in the same name. If someone
like you is the result of that union the two countries should
have made up with each other much earlier in their
historian, Mr. Ivanov? The legend of Ryan is not very
please," he begged charmingly as he stroked through his
smooth dark brown hair to push some strands back into place, "and
no, I'm only an interested layman. And you?"
work with the curator for sculptures here. The pre- and
early-Christian era is very fascinating to me."
impressed. Are you in a hurry or would you like to tell me about
next six days were the most wonderful time in her life, filled
with laughter, long walks at the Seine's shore and across
Montmartre, visits at Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. All the
fascinating places of Paris where she – in spite of living
here for more than two years now – had never been before.
was a warm night, shimmering with stars that looked so peaceful
and yet her brother had died out there. Victoria had vowed never
to trust them. She and Dimitri had had a cappuccino in a cafe at
Champs Elysee, and now walked slowly back to Le Quartier Latin. A
long way on foot but she enjoyed it. She liked walking the night
as Dimitri called it, his arm around her waist, welcomed
presence, maybe more...
didn't know where they kissed first, but it wasn't far away from
her small attic apartment on the other side of the river. The
kiss grew. They were crossing a bridge across the Seine and
across her soul. She searched for the keys, took them, reaching
the house she lived in, his arms still around her, her heart
pounding with the dream of a promise.
almost danced up the stairs, while their lips met again, and
again. Was it the same kiss or a new one, when they reached her
room below the roof? Victoria couldn't say for sure any
They moved as one being.
Arms reached, caressed, embraced. Fingers glided across
shoulders, along necks down the spine, getting rid of everything
that was in the way. She leaned into him and he drew her down
into her bed. She breathed him in. His scent – rosemary and
musk – the whisper of his mind – laughter, images of
the places they visited, the admiration for arts – soft,
cool, controlled, not overwhelming, overtaking. He was a
telepath, thoroughly, precisely trained, likely for military. But
that didn't matter. He'd never harm her. His hands on her skin.
Her body beneath his, between him and the silk...
the very moment of their physical uniting she instinctively used
her powers, wanted to surprise him with her control, establishing
the second connection only trained telepaths could share...
the telepath on duty in the backside house at the Rue Voltaire
said with the characteristic emotionless voice of those being
assessed to long distance contacts. "Mission accomplished.
may enjoy the rest of the night. I expect him tomorrow for a new
screamed in pain as her world turned, hit against the man who
called himself Dimitri, and though her physical strike didn't
have any serious effect on him lying on top of her, her psychic
strike did. Her mind lashed out, drove her agony beyond the
shields he'd used to betray her, ripped his real memories out of
his mind, absorbing them, leaving only a wasteland of emptiness
She drove her powers
against his chest, into his chest, pulled at the pulsating
muscles there, tearing them. The body above her quaked, saliva
dropped from his mouth and then death rushed across her, but her
own agony filled her mind, made her sick to her stomach;
filthiness and horror left no place for the sensations of death
reaching for her mind.
struggled free, staggered for the sink, feeling sick.
left the room, no longer her room, the place of betrayal, with
the dead body on the bed. She felt sick and torn and alone,
filled with the venom of enemies she hadn't been aware of before,
clothed only in her old coat. The Charite. She plodded
forward. They have pills to be taken in case of rape. She
pressed her arms around herself. They couldn't get me, now
they aim at– They won't get any of me! Victoria bit her
lip bloody, eyes wild in the dark. I'm going to be sued for
murder. But they won't get any of me. They won't get any of me.
They won't get any of me. They won't get any of me. They won't
A tiny spot of
warmth grew inside her. Like a clear star in the darkness of her
wounded soul. Touching her. Warming her. She froze, sensing into
herself. Pulsating warmth in the middle of her betrayed body.
Small. Tiny. Minute.
the warmth was doubled, heating up more of her. It doubled again,
and again, and again...
stood there, below a wrecked street lamp, sensing inside her,
feeling... life. Vibrating life. So very new in this world, so
dependant of her, so innocent.
world turned upside down again.
as if Ilianov couldn't enjoy it this time," the commander of
the sweeper team said dryly. "Tell the chief he must use
somebody else for the next one." He looked around the small
room with the bright colored curtains at the tiny window and the
flower pattern on the wallpaper. All of it appeared like the room
of a very nice young lady. The commander's lip twitched. This
nice young lady successfully killed Ivan Dimitrievich Ilianov,
the best trained and most unscrupulous telepath in Orange-T, the
organization he worked for. Being just a normal one himself, he
lowered his head. Run, girl, he thought, Run as far as
you can. And good luck. He wouldn't allow himself such
thoughts again. One could never know who was listening. Raising
his head in a sudden jerk he bellowed at his subordinates:
"Search for traces. The chief wants to get her ASAP!"
lost her?!!! How could you to lose her?!" The chief's
fist crashed on the desktop as he jumped up, bellowing at the
five sweeper commanders in front of him. "A female
T-15!!! And you lost her?!!!"
we became aware of the situation when Ilianov didn't return
yesterday morning. By the time we entered the attic in Le
Quartier Latin she was gone. We began the search immediately to
no success. She wasn't within reach of her apartment since then,
and Ilianov had been cold already. There was no way for one of
our subjects to get a psionic image of her
Their boss threw
a file in front of their feet. "A woman. A red haired
beauty. Alone. Barely twenty years old. And you think I'm
going to buy that you weren't able to find her?"
we did all that we could. Maybe if we inform the police about the
murder of Ilianov–"
idiot!!!" his boss snorted, "what do you want to tell
them? That a suppressed telepath tore to pieces the
cardiac muscles of a man having sex with her? – They'll
believe he had a heart attack, stuff your request in their lowest
drawer because all they see is that a young woman was too shocked
about the sudden death of her lover to call them herself and
that's it!" He continued frighteningly soft: "And for
that you want to risk a coroner's examination on a trained and
adapted T-15? Get your corpses gone! Find her!!!"
a sigh of relief, Victoria leaned back in her seat as the big
public glider crossed the Channel heading for the old airport of
Heathrow. She had a slightly bad conscience regarding the old
lady she had confused with her powers so much that she could
pretend to help her out ordering not one but two tickets for the
flight to London. The lady had been so glad about the friendly
young French girl that helped her and that had stolen her
It has come to that,
Victoria thought sadly, nestling into the soft upholstered seat,
Victoria Ryan, a thief. She closed her eyes at the
thought, suppressed a sob and again, the warmth inside her
doubled. She sensed for it, touched it with soft, caring mental
...and got an
answer. Not conscious. Not yet. But the promise of going to
She soothed it, held it,
wrapped it in her care. I'll never allow anything to happen to
you, she whispered and through the vibrating resonance in her
soul came a shiver of implicit trust.
straightened and stretched her aching back. The landlady she
worked for was nice to her. And pitied her quite a lot. But that
was fine with Victoria. Her body was rounded now, and her back
ached, and she was sure she didn't fulfill her daily stint any
longer in spite her efforts to do so, but Mrs. Dillingham said no
word about that.
corpulent lady owned a bed-and-breakfast house at the outskirts
of London and was kind enough not to ask all the questions
Victoria had feared when asking for the posted job of a
She was still afraid of
discovery, still felt hunted and therefore had cut her hair short
and colored it dark, but her moss-green eyes couldn't been
hidden, nor her physical status any longer. Eight months was
eight months. So she stayed away from the guests as far as she
could, avoided to get jobs outside the house and Mrs. Dillingham
called her Vicky and let her be. Gracious soul.
growing mind inside her was all the company she needed now.
Brilliant. Bright. So new and innocent. Only aware of the
wonderful caring warmth of her mother around her. The glowing
link between herself and her unborn girl was the most intense
sensation Victoria had ever felt. She wouldn't believe such
intensity possible if she didn't feel it with every breath, every
beat of the two hearts inside her. She felt the sudden movement
of the child inside her and smiled. Be careful with me, girl.
I'm new to this, too, you know? Her mind whispered and the
mental equivalent of a giggling laughter answered
Victoria took a deep breath
and grabbed the next of the potatoes she had to peel for today's
lunch. The big pressure pans with the first load of chips behind
her steamed and simmered. Mrs. Dillingham's kitchen was old but
meticulous clean and despite the fact that Dilling's Bed and
Breakfast served only good plain cooking, the old landlady owed
her corpulence to being a fantastic cook of such stuff. Not
that it matters in any case, Victoria thought amused –
during the last months she had wanted to eat almost around the
She looked at the wall
clock. The chips would be ready-to-serve in five minutes. She put
the peeling knife down and stood up clumsily. Time to
hear the explosion as the blasted-off pressure pan lid hit the
side of her head, didn't hear the frightened shout as Mrs.
Dillingham thundered into her kitchen, saw her unconscious maid
with a bloody head and called for the ambulance.
great, semi-transparent world map panel in the cellar of a
backside house in Paris a tiny red LED began to flash wildly. The
observer on duty checked the incoming data and hurried up the
stairs to his chief's office.
Ryan. Miss Ryan." The voice slowly entered her
consciousness and the blurring color patches melted into the face
of an elderly, white-haired man in a hospital physician's coat.
He began to smile broadly as he saw her opened eyes. "Good,
you're with us again. Do you know where you are?"
still dizzy, looked around. "Looks like a hospital,"
she whispered. "I was in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, and
then–" She stared up at him as the whole situation
reappeared in her mind. "My baby. What's–"
worry, Miss." The doctor answered hastily. "Everything's
okay with it. You two are lucky that you are exactly as
hardheaded as your last name promises."
reached for her throbbing head and found a thick bandage around
it. "But the—"
wound isn't serious. You are suffering from a concussion caused
by the pan lid that hit your skull. We can't ease the pain
because you 're in the family way." He smiled. "We were
just a little worried about your paleness until our OP nurse
noticed your real hair color." The physician stopped
talking, his patient was already asleep again. Good. She's too
strained for a pregnant woman that young, he thought sadly,
she needs every bit of rest she can get. He ordered the
head nurse to have a special look for Ms. Ryan.
was long after midnight when the dozen black clothed, heavily
armed men entered silently the second floor of St. John's
Hospital, leaving a couple of nurses and emergency doctors
soundly asleep behind. It would be impossible to wake them for
the next four hours – the k.o.-spray was that
The men communicated
wordless with short, clear-cut handsigns, some of which involved
the AK-980-LaserGuns in their hands. Aside from a faint squeaking
of rubber on the polished hospital floor no sound arose. The
leader stopped, connected eyes with four of his men, who wore
orange bands around collar, sleeves and waist, and waited until
all of them nodded – the T-15 was jammed. He held three
fingers up. Two fingers. One. Go!
pressed on her mouth and nose. A bitter burning scent accompanied
the choking that raised Victoria out of sleep. She tried to
scream and the cloth was pressed between her jaws. Iron fists
held her hands and feet. Her powers reached out – into
nothing. Nothing was there. Caught in fear she sensed for her
child – nothing. She sensed for herself – nothing.
Her scream of lonely agony was cut by the loss of consciousness
as the anesthetics took effect. The last things she saw were the
stony faces of four men in orange and black, standing around her
bed, staring down at her.
told you not to use anesthetics on her!" The furious female
voice seemed to reach her from far away through the light grey
mist that was the world now.
a T-15 and has already killed one of her own kind. We couldn't
risk anything." Another voice, dark, grumbling.
the child!" the first voice snapped. "The chief will
use all of us as training objects if the child is somehow damaged
in the premature birth."
cut it out. The woman is useless," the second voice
The shuuush of a sliding
door. "You want to waste a female T-15?!" a third voice
cut in. "Who are you to decide that?"
I– She– She killed Ilianov. We can never trust her."
The second again.
Ilianov," the third voice ordered, "if we can't trust
her – okay. We need a female T-15 in the breeding
drifted away into the fog around her. Pain rolled through her
body – and through her soul. A band of light clung to her
mind, whispering of fear and discomfort and loneliness. It
shouldn't be lonely. Never be lonely. She held it with all
the will she could find. It is all...
the small, light blond girl of about fifteen years clenched her
fists into the cloth of her coat and tried to find the courage to
speak to the merciless god of her universe. "Sir, I– I
sense a very strong link between her and the child." The
cold, grey eyes of the chief focused on her and she shivered but
still continued, "The baby can't handle losing the link
now." She looked down on her feet, adding faintly, "whatever
the woman did, you need her if you want a healthy
The chief snorted,
"Shut up, Marie. You're a sentimental crybaby."
the doctor cut in, "she's right, Sir. If the link between
mother and child is already established we risk another autist if
we disrupt it at this phase of development. Especially during the
shock of the prematurely delivering that your barbarians
Her boss swore
heavily. "The child. Intact and sane. Or else–"
he didn't have to specify what that else would mean before he
left. All of the medical – and non-medical –
personnel in the cold white room hurried to care for the
near-unconscious woman in labor on the examination table as the
door slit shut behind him.
physician whirled round. "Get me the dialysis unit. We've
got to detoxify her to get her awake before the parturition
starts. Marie," she turned for the childish French empathic
hiding herself in a corner, "check on her. Tell me
immediately if she's awake enough to understand me. – And
you," she snapped at the sweeper commander who brought her
patient in, "Get lost! And take your jamming bastards with
you. You've wreaked havoc enough!"
Lavoisier, I must protest–"
gone!!! – Marie, what's with the patient? Is she responsive
Madam." Marie bit her lip. "But she's holding the
link." The fairylike girl had tears in her eyes. "Madam,
how can someone be loved that much?" she whispered after the
armed soldiers had left the room.
Lavoisier didn't answer. In the organization's world was no place
for loving something, only for using it. As sweet Marie was used.
Here. To get another victim.
can hear you now," Marie wept finally.
hand slapped her face, waves of pain rushed through her womb, the
connection to her child vibrated with fear. Victoria whimpered,
not completely awake, clinging to the link, whispering through
it, trying to comfort the child in the maelstrom of something she
herself didn't get at the moment.
slap. Someone was hitting her. Victoria turned a tiny fraction of
her powers for an attempt of defense.
little girl's voice screamed: "Watch out!"
person standing beside Victoria took a step back and a cold voice
said, determined, "You won't attack me. I'm physician, the
only physician available for you now. If you injure me, neither
you nor your child will make it through the delivery."
cloth soaked with cool water wiped the sweat on her burning skin
away, and Victoria obeyed.
doctor beside her nodded. "So it's good. You can be sure we
won't harm you. You are wanted. And now, concentrate on
your baby. We'll take care for everything else."
was small, wet and red and wrinkled. Oh no, they wounded her!
was Victoria's first thought as they laid her daughter into her
arms. But the child wriggled, touched with such tiny, fragile
hands the skin beneath it and soared in the warmth and the
well-known heartbeat below it, transmitting her joy at reuniting
with mama through the bright link that much stronger between them
after the first breath.
Victoria discovered that wrinkled red on the baby's head wasn't
blood but strands of dark red hair, still wet and
The child's eyes
opened a slit and blue green irises met the artificial light
above before Victoria could bow over it, amazed by the color that
was cooler, more clear than her own moss-colored eyes and
suddenly the baby's eyes flashed violet as recognition flamed
along the link. Nothing was no longer important. Hello, I'm
Mama, Victoria thought through the link and though it wasn't
yet physically able to do it the sensation of happy laughter came
back into her mind.
stood outside the locked room, with tears running down her
cheeks, and she sobbed faintly. Soon they would do to that baby
what they had done to her and the laughter would stop, all
responses would stop if it was lucky. Marie hadn't been lucky.
Marie still felt.
sat, dressed in what they called distinguished clothing, in the
back rows of the Hall of Earth. Her appearance was made up to
match the expectations for a journalist. She listened to a speech
of the relatively young senator Eric Wheiner. Her target. To be
precise, she didn't listen to his words but to the thoughts
behind them, and her heart continuously sensed for the little
girl back in the black, unmarked glider outside, in between some
of the most disgusting men she'd ever met. Vicky. Her
heart ached, and her stomach revolted as she forced her way into
the mind of her target.
A lot of
stuff about a project called STP was in the senator's mind
as he held his speech about genetic warfare, genetically
optimized soldiers and the need of a failsafe project he named
GTP. But that wasn't what she had to scan for. The chief wanted
the information why the senator had cut the organization's funds
Ah, now Wheiner
is talking about possible ways to finance the new project and he
names someone opposing him: Premier Jonathon Hays... Victoria
swallowed hard as she found the information she searched for
connected with the Premier's name and retrieved them from the
unknowing man. She drove her nails into her palms, feeling
disgusted by herself. Premier Hays was launching a campaign
against the huge black accounts of taxes under control of single
senators. And that man, Wheiner, had overtaken the
responsibilities for the organization Orange-T from his
predecessor but was himself involved deeply into that project of
genetically engineered soldiers – STP.
got up, unconsciously smoothing her skirt, and headed for the
door. She knew for what she'd been sent to find out. She could
return to her little daughter, waiting for her. Victoria was
disgusted with herself, but for Vicky, she would do anything.
get on my nerves, chief!" the senator barked into the phone.
"My funds have been reduced, therefore your finances are to
be reduced, too."
can't provide a sufficient coverage with funds that small!"
the chief said angrily.
your project doesn't work, well other projects do! – as
long as my funds are low, I finance only projects that work!"
Wheiner snorted, annoyed. Incompetent cripple-breeding French
"But right now we
are making progress. We've a child here, bred by two T-15's which
seems to possess incredible powers."
words," the senator snapped, "your psionics can't solve
my problem, so I don't solve yours – no money!"
chief stared at the phone as short beeps indicated the closed
connection. The psionics can't solve your problem, asshole,
he thought, but my people aren't only psionics. You said, your
problem is the money. Bah, idiot, your problem is Hays. And
nothing can be solved as easily as single-person-problems!
sat Vicky down on the exams table and kept standing behind her,
watching distrustfully the rough physician with the graying bun.
Her little girl leaned against her, pressing herself into her
mother's warmth. Victoria sensed the slight tremor of Vicky's
fright. She shouldn't have to be frightened. Her eyes
narrowed as the physician took out a set of injection needles.
"If you hurt her..."
know," Doctor Lavoisier's mouth twisted, "you'll roast
my brain before any of the jammers could even think of reacting.
Don't worry – just a blood sample and the psionic check.
She doesn't like it but it won't hurt or harm her."
yet... another voice appeared in Victoria's mind. ...they will do
with her whatever they want as soon as her sanity is no longer
dependant from your presence...
are you?... Victoria sensed back.
Victoria. What's your name?...
A maniac laughter trickled along the connection. ...I'm the
twelfth female level fourteen telepath they captured. No names in
...You'll lose your
name as soon as you're no longer needed to keep your child sane.
Then you'll be T-15-1... The maniac laughter repeated. ...When
you are no longer obedient they will use you where obedience
isn't needed. You are T-15. Precious. You will end up where I
am... Distorted images of crippled, unresponsive children,
swollen bodies, blood, and women trapped in upholstered cells
that made it impossible for them to hurt themselves came together
with the last sentence.
are they doing?... Victoria asked in shock and
...Breeding new ones, of
...I would never
woman's insane laughter of bitterness stopped her. ...I know, you
killed that bastard Ilianov. Wonderful. Best news I got during
the years I've been here... Again a wave of ill laughter rushed
through the link. ...but you don't have to agree. They won't ask.
Some day you'll grew drowsy, maybe feeling aroused, maybe just
losing consciousness, and when you come to your senses some
months later, you'll be at an advanced stage and going to give
birth to something of which you won't even know if it's fully
human or not! And it will happen again and again and again...
Images of babies without eyes or limbs appeared, with
hydrocephali, additional legs, open chests. ...You never know who
the father is. Or what...
was frozen in horror, felt the patting touches of her little girl
against her abdomen and lay her arms around her, sheltering.
...But my daughter...
when her sanity is no longer dependant from your presence,
they'll take her away to train her into something like that
bastard Ilianov was. And you are going to be a stock animal. As
all of us here are...
arms closed around Vicky, holding her close in spite the doctor's
annoyed muttering about disturbing the measurements, sensing the
presence of her, feeling her. Vicky gave an astonished but
comfortingly vital mental reply, while her mother fought to keep
the horrible impressions hidden from her powerful child.
curtain on the other end of the room was pushed aside. Two guards
in black with orange stripes, marking them as psionics, led a
small, dainty Asian woman through the room back to the wide swing
doors to the ward with the single rooms she was never able to
look or sense inside. The woman stumbled clumsily with bare feet,
moving without paying attention to her advanced stage of
pregnancy. The guards had to take care that she didn't bump into
something, hurting herself and the unborn.
the woman's head with shaved black stubble hair jerked up,
blurring, wet eyes touched Victoria and her daughter as the voice
from Victoria's interlink said raspily in reality: "I'm
Michiko." The doors swung shut behind them.
done. Your daughter develops fine," the doctor said busily.
"You," she waved for the four psionic guardians
standing at the door, "get them back to their
Victoria had never
been so frightened before.
the chief snapped, sitting behind his big desk made of oak. "How
long till we can start training the T-15-brood?"
two weeks. The girl's developing fast. And she's strong. Maybe
even T-16, if something like that is possible."
I'm sick of granting the T-15 special rights. And until then,"
he narrowed his grey eyes, "until then, I've another job for
her in Phoenix. She's to help the sweeper team there. The mission
is really important for us."
I hope you are aware that we have to start training the child as
early as possible." The physician reminded
"She'll be back
just in time for the child to be trained and for her next mating.
Blowing someone up doesn't take that long." The
organization's chief scrutinized his chief physician and her
skinny scientific assistant closely. "Have you solved that
problem with the drugs? I don't want another row of cripples."
whimpering of loneliness and despair among the velvet tranquility
She sat straight up
in her bed, sensed the surrounding orchids, smelled their scents,
their perfume, pollen and the slight odor of the earth they grew
in despite the fact that their blooming had been caused by
psionics. She was always a perfectionist with her
She smiled vaguely at
the thought, remembering the face of her teacher as he had
stepped into the droppings of the Dodo bird she'd imagined as a
child long ago. Everything is part of the world, she had
answered his question about the reason for that detail, who
are we to decide which part is necessary in it and which
Again she inhaled
deeply the multiple fragrances of the cool bedroom air and
remembered the sensation that caused her awakening. I'm too
old to have nightmares, she thought and kindled a sphere of
light in the room's center before she pushed back the sheets.
Hopefully, I'm not getting senile yet. Two candles began
to burn on her bedside table and concentrating on the flickering
flames, she began to calm her obviously too crowded mind...
concentrated, sitting in the backseat of the unmarked glider
standing in a parking lot at the Hall of Earth near Phoenix. She
held Vicky on her knees, grateful to feel her presence mentally
and physically this time.
there were also the men of the sweeper team around her: all of
them strong telepaths, together able to jam her, and able to hurt
Vicky, but they couldn't do what she'd been sent for, to find the
glider their target was going to use.
dark blue over there," she said finally, feeling sick again
and noticing with sorrow that her daughter sensed her uneasiness,
too. "The limousine."
they close?" The commander, the only man without psionic
talents, sitting on the driver's seat, asked.
concentrated again. "About five minutes, I
With a warning glance: "Stay here. Don't make nonsense.
You'll know what my men would do otherwise."
nodded with a wan face. She'd been shown a presentation of
that – on a five year old child, a boy. She had sensed
strong powers in him, but his hands and legs had been disfigured,
so someone had decided he wasn't useful enough for the
organization. She'd never forget the child's desperate scream as
they first jammed his powers and then started to rip his
"Is the glider
nodded. It had an advanced alarm system, reacting to movement,
opening of the doors, changes in the wiring. She sensed the
ticking of the different devices. But not to... "It will
also go off if something's attached to the hull," she
The commander swore. "That
means we can't use the magnetics. Shit. You and you," he
pointed at two of the jammers guarding Victoria, "take the
bombs, bring them over to the limousine, mask yourself against
normal vision and wait there." The two men obeyed. When they
were gone he pulled out the trigger and muttered, "They
erased their will to make them as responsive as droids, but I
still hate doing this."
do you do it then?"
seen how the organization kills, Ms. Ryan," he used her name
in a mocking tone, as if he knew that she wouldn't carry it much
longer, "why do you think?"
didn't answer, concentrating instead on the men still sitting
beside her and Vicky, and waited.
side entrance of the Hall of Earth opened, a tall, handsome man
already graying at the temples appeared, accompanied by an
elegant, slender woman with long pale blond hair and five
bodyguards. The group went for the limousine. The premier held
open the glider door for his daughter, seemed very anxious about
her comfort, while the looks of his guards checked the area. For
a moment the eyes of two of them rested on the glider with
Victoria and the sweeper men inside but then they wandered on,
finally they entered into the armored glider, too, slamming the
they?" The commander asked Victoria. The blasting devices
were strong enough to blow everything to dust if used in a
distance not greater than four meters of each other. The two
jammers were about eight meters away from each other, Victoria
could sense their presences, one next to the left backseat door,
the second in front of the vehicle. She concentrated even harder,
wrapped her arms around her little girl, pressing her to her
chest, preparing herself.
of them is next to a backseat door now."
sweeper commander pressed the trigger.
two jammers inside the glider screamed in pain and collapsed
while the explosion rolled over the parking lot.
turned for the commander, eyes flashing while she protected her
child and herself from the emanations of the deaths beside her. A
violet shimmer appeared in her eyes while she sensed for his
no weapon, " he said. "I can't stop you."
found the pulsating muscles inside his chest.
flipped a cashcard with the organization's bright orange T on
black ground over to her. "Untrackable. Phoenix SpacePort is
close. Leave this planet as fast as you can. They will find you
anywhere on this rock." He closed his eyes, expecting the
rip of his cardiac muscles.
it didn't come. A gust of wind, carrying the smells of smoke,
burning flesh and plastics rushed through the glider. Alarm
sirens howled, security personnel from the Hall of Earth ran
towards them, and Victoria and her little girl were gone. He
leaned back in his seat, laid his hands on the control console
but didn't start it and sighed. He remembered the first time he
crossed the path of this lady, back in Paris, as he had to remove
the body of Ivan Ilianov to prevent unwanted attention by local
authorities. Security personnel surrounded him already, emergency
units appeared. He would be in prison soon, but there was no hope
that that would protect him from the Orange-T. He was going to
die soon. "Good luck," he whispered as he had done more
than a year before.
had Vicky safely secured in a safety-harness attached to her
back. The big passenger glider combined almost all settlements
and colonies within the Solar System, including Mars, some of the
asteroid colonies, and moons of the big outer planets Jupiter,
Saturn, and Uranus. Triton of Neptune carried only a scientific
station not accessible to the public, though the ship was going
to stop there shortly to bring them mail and supplies, as the
steward announced proudly.
bought a round-trip ticket for herself and her daughter,
including a small cabin. This ship was the one with the most
stops. She doubted that the cash card would be really
untrackable. It was likely that they would find her trail soon,
but it wouldn't be easy to make out where she and Vicky left the
ship. Outside Earth, the destruction of the Colonial Wars was
still very present and regular registrations were more of an
exception than the rule.
knew she had to leave not only Earth but Solar System itself, but
colonial ships didn't leave often nowadays. If she couldn't
mislead her enemies first, it was likely that her flight would be
useless. And she didn't know enough about the world out there. Is
it really only a year ago, that I swore never to go to where
Adrian didn't return from? she thought sadly. And now the
ship was entering Martian space – with her and her
She looked down on the
red planet, with the blinking lights on the dark side, indicating
the intact settlements down there.
passengers. We are now running the standard quarantine routine
which – as always – will take fourteen hours.
Afterwards, shuttles will connect to our front and rear locks to
carry you down to Mars. We hope you'll enjoy your visit there.
Time for some sleep before we have to run again, she thought,
tired. She laid her arm on her child's waist, drifting off to
sleep beside her...
rose out off sleep, feeling the cold trickle of sweat on her
temples and illuminated the room with a single move of her hand
by flooding it with soft indirect light. Another nightmare,
she frowned, disturbed, and left her bed, covering herself in a
wide silk robe. She'd performed the rituals for self-composure
with great care to calm herself down, but her mind obviously was
still troubled – how else should she explain the images of
tortured women and children, crippled bodies and minds, all
wrapped in desperate fear, to herself if not with nightmares? She
shook her head, took her small pair of glasses from the bedside
table and left her room, accompanied by the invisible light
source. She decided to make herself a soothing herbal tea –
physically, with her hands something like that sometimes helped
her regaining composure (but she would never confess that!).
now that we solved your problem regarding the possible reduction
of your funds I expect you to reestablish our financial
agreement," the chief's voice, though slightly distorted by
the bug-proof connection, sounded satisfied. The senator stared
at the speaker on his desk and then decided to activate the
do I understand right, that you proclaim to have solved my
problem regarding the anti-free fund campaign?" he asked
a proud smile appeared on the other man's face in his office in
France. "You see, my project is working."
senator narrowed his eyes to slits. "You're telling me that
you ordered the bombing of–?"
Hays, right. I expect my money within a week, Sir." He
about that!" the senator murmured faintly. "We'll see
how you'll pay for ruining my plans for the Hays, asshole!"
Pigale was one of the oldest settlements on Mars and it had
suffered badly during the Colonial Wars. In spite of being a
civilian city, it had been targeted more than once during attacks
and a lot of its buildings had been damaged.
big poster on the front of the newly repaired city hall told that
during a fierce battle an Earth Force fighter had flown straight
through it to catch a colonial vessel that was going to destroy
the city's main water reservoir.
pilot must have been a real hotshot, Victoria thought. She
wasn't sure if she believed the story or not, but the artist who
drew the poster was obviously gifted – with talent and
imagination. The small room in midst of the artist quarter –
the oldest part of the town, carved deep into the rocks with
winding lanes and pedestrian bridges between crooked houses –
was cheap. Only the big bugs with which the inhabitants of New
Pigale shared their town made her feel uncomfortable.
disliked roaches large enough to be put on leashes. And when she
saw some kids actually riding a beetle this morning she
had decided whatever a job she was going to get she wouldn't let
Vicky out of her eyes for it! Now she worked for a special-crop
farmer on the outskirts of town who didn't mind her taking her
little girl with her when she checked the fruits in his covered
She looked down on her
daughter, sitting on her hip, with the smooth, chestnut-red hair
that always stood away from her head making her look like one of
the pompons Victoria had used while being a cheerleader in high
school. The link between them was still incredibly strong: though
Vicky had begun to try words, her voice didn't work properly so
far – that was how she explained it once, mentally, to her
Victoria had laughed and
told her that all little girls need time to learn to speak
physically and that listening was a good way to get a feeling for
the words themselves, and then she had started to tell her
daughter about all that crossed her mind. But it had become late
now, the first street lamps had lit and she felt as tired as her
child, sleeping in her arms as she opened the small room, slipped
inside it and locked it safely behind her – partly because
of the big bugs around here, and mostly because of bugs not
from around here, though she knew that the tiny lock wouldn't
help against them.
She put Vicky
down on her bed, took off the child's dusty shoes and socks and
pulled the blanket up to her chin before she kicked her own
slippers off her feet and warmed up the rest of soup from this
morning, then took a mug of it and sat at the bedside looking
down on her daughter sleeping calmly.
can something so beautiful come from such a horror? Victoria
thought, safely behind the strongest shields she erected to
protect her daughter from the ugliness of her memories, not for
the first time. If I weren't her mother I'd never believe that
monster Ilianov is her father... Her thoughts wandered,
recalled and lined up all the fragments of information she'd got
so far: Ilianov had had incredible power – like she herself
had as she had learned during the nightmare in the organization –
and he had used that power against her: first to make her stumble
on the stairs so that he could touch her to impress her with his
self-control and second, to hide his real intentions from her.
But he had underestimated her and she had discovered the truth,
not in the morning when a sweeper team had been ordered to bring
her in but in the very moment of the act itself. And in the chaos
of her mind she'd done the best she could: she had
Victoria closed her eyes
as the images Michiko had sent her appeared in her mind. The
crippled, misfigured babies. The dozens of autistic telepaths –
the result of in-vitro breeding and drug immobilized mothers.
They couldn't stop the side effects of the drugs, one of the
normal guardians had said her once, when she had been forced to
witness the psionic attack on some of the autistic children used
as target objects for the responsive ones.
thought of the intense sensation as the first sparkle of life
appeared in midst of that horror night in her, of the incredible
strong connection between her and that little mass of cells that
was going to be her little girl during the next months, and knew
– simply knew – that those scientists would never be
able to eliminate the side effects, since it wasn't the drugs it
was the lack of contact, the absence of the link. They had
thought it was established shortly before birth but it was there
from the very beginning and they both, she as much as Vicky, had
needed it so badly.
sobbed for all the lost, condemned souls back there and her head
sank down onto the pillow next to her little girl who drove a
tiny fist into her mother's ginger hair, huddling into the
well-known scent of it.
on Mars!" The chief bellowed at the new, cruel looking
sweeper commander in front of his desk, "Get the girl back.
The woman doesn't matter!"
Sir." He saluted, slammed his heels and turned for the door,
his AK-980-LG over his arm.
With my special greetings," he said into his wristphone with
a cruel smile and closed the connection as the wide double door
in front of him opened for him. A security man scanned him before
he was allowed to enter to make his condolences.
so sorry for you, Madeleine. Jonathon's and Leana's death is a
bitter loss for us all."
you. We will never forget them," Lady Prime Senator
Madeleine Hays said in an emotionless voice. After two burials
she was beyond crying now.
organization's chief stared, shocked, into the muzzle of an
unmarked blaster. "Special greetings from Senator Eric
Wheiner," the killer said, pulling the trigger while he
finished, "he prefers closing rather than paying."
with a shout out of sleep, sitting straight up in bed, her silk
sheets soaked with sweat. A faint ding-a-ling indicated the
arrival of a visitor waiting outside in the hall. After a moment
the ringing repeated and then, the man resolutely pushed the
curtain aside stepping into the doorframe to his fellow student's
composed," he said, worried.
still panted a little and put her glasses on. "Magician,"
she said, "not that I wonder – you never had any
manners – but this is my bedroom after all."
grinned and twiddled his black mustache. "Right, I never had
manners." He grew earnest. "And you never had
have–" she began.
heard your shout across the crystal hall, in my room, inside
my own illusion. What's going on? Should I help you perform
the ritual of composure?"
already done it twice," she confessed in a sigh. "I
don't know what to do else to ban this dream about tortured
babies and hunters of darkness and soullessness on
"Are you sure that's a dream? Maybe it isn't," he said
She looked up at
him. "You mean it could be a message? Across a distance that
great? Don't be silly! Terrestrial telepaths aren't that strong
his head, causing some crystal sparkles to dance around his head.
"It's not sillier than the idea of you having
nightmares strong enough to get me out of my
She looked down
into her lap, then threw her silk robe tighter around her
shoulders and left her bed. She flared at him. "Let's prove
He smirked satisfied.
"That's my old girlfriend."
she whispered softly.
"Get out of my
Victoria was wide awake, sensing presences down in the old house,
heading upstairs. They are here. She looked around, no
way out. She woke Vicky, pressed her hand onto her daughter's
mouth. "Sh, darling," she whispered. "Mom wants
you to hide and be silent. Please, Vicky, it's important that you
are very, very silent whatever's going to happen now, okay?"
The little girl nodded with great blue-green eyes fixed on her
face and she sat her daughter into the old closet, pulled the bed
in front of her. After a moment of concentration her powers
flared up and the wall behind the bed seemed unbroken.
felt Vicky's fear through the link into her mind, sent a signal
of comfort back to her and sensed for the enemies. They're
already on this floor. No chance to leave the room without being
seen. She raised her chin, eyes flashing red violet and
pushed her ginger hair back behind her ears. I've done it
before. I'll do it again. Her eyes narrowed as she raked her
fury. I am Victoria Ryan. I am nobody's prey! With
that thought she reached for the first man's mind.
by a circle of candles, in front of a crystal ball on a table
covered with dark violet velvet and the petals of her most loved
orchids, she concentrated for the remnants of what she called her
nightmares and found the fragrance of it reaching outside,
leaving the ground, the planet, crossing the empty space, heading
...You were right,
Magician... Her mind confessed into the rapport. ... it's an
external link – a cry for help... Her eyes widened as a new
rush of images appeared in her mind. ...it's a woman –
she's fighting – incredible cruel – I would never...
She stopped, got to her feet. "I must go there. She's not
fighting for herself."
fully dressed before teleporting," Magician said drily. "You
know how these semi-normals are."
the circle. I need their support."
nodded and vanished with a slight poof and a cloud of silvery
It was more than a decade
since she had used her powers to get dressed faster. But now, she
broke her record.
third. A fourth. She began getting tired, needed more and more of
her remaining powers to hold up the camouflage for Vicky's hide.
Blaster fire burned through the door. It was incredibly difficult
to divert them. She had managed it twice. But the weapons didn't
get tired. It was obvious that she wasn't wanted by them anymore.
But Vicky was...
A blaster bolt
hit her shoulder, brought her down to her knees. The next man
approaching the door came almost within reach of her before she
could stop his heart. Another blaster bolt struck her, hitting
her chest. She collapsed. Vicky, she thought, clinging to
life for the camouflage field. The sweeper team entered the room,
staring down on her, one of the men kicked her in the side. She
didn't care any longer. Vicky, her mind whispered in
despair and then her eyes opened wide as she saw the elder woman
materializing on top of her bed, just in front the camouflage
field for her daughter.
woman stretched out her hand, seemed to reach for her, but her
mental voice denied.
to help you... the voice was very controlled, comforting, and
full of sorrow.
...Not me. It's
too late for me. But...
started to search the room. "She has to be here," the
leader snapped. "Find her."
my link. Help her. Hide her. Please...
do, with all that I can...
senses reached out, touching the fatally injured woman in front
of her, followed the bond she sensed there, and saw the
camouflage field, crossed it mentally, felt the silently weeping
Victoria coughed and
moss-colored eyes broke. The camouflage was gone, revealing the
A tiny, frightened
voice cried "Mommy." A single word, filled with
agony and desperation.
men tore open the closet, it was empty.
on another world full of wonder, a tiny fragile girl with scruffy
chestnut-red hair cried in the arms of a white haired woman who
bloomed a large violet orchid in front of her to distract the
child from the horror of death burning in the sensitive young
Vicky, she thought,
looking down on the girl's pale green sweater with the name
embroidered in copper on it, named after her mother. She
herself had tears in her eyes but she couldn't allow herself to
cry now, this was too important. Gently she sensed into the
child's mind, found incredible possibilities and incredible pain.
She managed a smile and started to soothe the wounds in the tiny
soul, finally touching the core of it, and knowing above anything
else, that Victoria wanted her little girl unharmed and happy,
whatever that would cost and so she felt for the name. Victoria,
the goddess of Victory. She looked deeply into the girl's
blue-green eyes and said with a tender smile, "Hello, I'm
Ariel, and I always go with the Greeks – Niko."
backgrounds of the two violent explosions that destroyed houses
in the urban areas of Edinborough and Paris in early June 2066
were never solved. Though a lot of bodies were found in the
burned remnants none of them could be identified later. Five
years later, the investigation was officially finished. Result:
old cemetery of New Pigale, near the outer wall lay a grave
without a name. And though nobody seemed to take care of the
grave, red violet orchids bloomed in the middle of the plain
granite plate that covered it. Nobody could ever explain that and
nobody ever saw a withered one.