Build a Warrior Breed
Sharon L Reddy
All rights reserved
Episode One: Tanner *
Chapter Two *
Chapter Three *
Chapter Four *
Chapter Five *
Chapter Six *
Episode One: Tanner
Hard won time between two missions, they needed it. They felt ragged-edged from high-stress patrolling. They knew everyone thought they were crazy to request transfer to blockade runners, but a runner ran and it was over for awhile. Patrol was day after day of watching for the sudden appearance of a group who had their own definition of blockade.
Tanner looked down at Kev and smiled. He was practically bouncing. R and R to him meant music, people and a party. She'd promised one. She was taking him where he'd find one. The Shern Funplex was the right place to start. She pulled him close to her side and glared down a nine-stripe marine whose ideas about him had nothing to do with duty.
"You didn't like HIM."
"I sure didn't, Sweetie. He's big, hard and the type who pulls rank for company. I don't plan on sitting some place while you eat dinner, provide pleasant conversation and dodge passes."
"Mmm, my lady fair."
"You're warped, kid. I'm TOO old to be your mother. The nice thing is you mean it."
"Tanner, getting me excited in public is not polite."
"Wading through the crowd around you may get me in fights, pretty boy, but someone is going to have to rescue you."
"I hope not, but I do appreciate it. I won't be flirting and I won't notice they are."
"No, you won't. You'll get into some deep scientific discussion, get excited, start to glow and the moths will start circling. A half-hour later you'll be cornered and the ONLY one still thinking about science."
"Space troops on leave from hell do seem to have a preoccupation with physical contact."
"To which you aren't necessarily adverse, but I seriously doubt you'll notice an invitation until it becomes VERY direct."
"Open skies make me nervous."
Tanner squeezed the hand of the beautiful red-haired young man beside her. Swede had paired them when she'd lost her co and he was a too young grad from training. He didn't look a day older than the sixteen he'd been then, but his beauty had somehow deepened in the four years they'd been on patrol. He lifted her hand to his cheek and smiled.
Tanner wouldn't allow their relationship to get exclusive, or rather stay that way. It wouldn't reduce the loss if one of them died, but she'd been through the loss of one who was everything to her. She wouldn't allow it to happen to her again and she wouldn't let it happen to Kev.
"Oh, sparkling new brass coming. I'm blinded, a JG."
"Don't start, Tanner."
She didn't. The new brass did. He didn't like Kev's salute. Tanner explained they'd been on patrol four years and were probably out of practice, then asked politely what was wrong with it. Kev groaned.
Tanner showed mercy on the young JG and only made him give them five minutes of in depth training in saluting. She had the poor fellow standing on the walk teaching her to salute. Every veteran who went by was chortling. The kid had gotten more than he bargained for. Every veteran who went by also saluted. He wouldn't do it again and, having learned the lesson, had a better chance of surviving his first mission. He'd listen to his noncom.
They'd almost reached their chosen destination when their call units buzzed. Tanner swore and acknowledged. Kev just grinned and reversed directions. He didn't notice two other people reversed when he did, but Tanner did. She rather liked the dreamy-eyed corporal, but the civvie bothered her.
"Kev, you've got two tails. One's a cute thing who really hasn't noticed she IS following you. The other is a civvie who's raising the hair on the back of my neck. I don't think his interest is personal."
"It's been four years, seven since they found me. They have to know I'm not going to design weapons for anyone."
"Sweetie, he doesn't look like the type to be interested in whether or not you DO anything. He's got credit symbols in his eyes when he looks at you."
"You think he knows someone else wants me."
"Yep, and my neck hairs say Beska."
She grabbed the corp and put her on Kev's other side. The corp was surprised, but got the idea fast. She recognized the wary look in Tanner's eyes.
"Tanner, Flightwing Three til oh six this morning."
"Tinse, Flightwing Six. R and R for ten days."
"NICE to meet you. What's up?"
"Kev is Kevin Oras Andeline Vanderbilt Holiday."
"I know, the station kid."
"Ouch. Yes, the station kid."
"He upset LOTS of people when he refused to work R and D, enlisted, turned down off training and qualified for maintenance. They were so mad they sent him straight from training to patrol at sixteen and put him with the crustiest old noncom still on patrol status, me."
"A good bread is known by the texture of its crust and you are NOT old."
"I like her, Tanner. She won't let you get away with pleading age either."
"Kids! Anyway, there are evidently still some out there who want the kid who spent eleven years taking care of himself and whose only company was an ed comp."
"Beska pays well for information, assassination, probably kidnapping. Let's see, was it thirty-six degrees?"
"Thirty-four, but that's deceptive. Once you have all the basics, it's just adding a little bit of extra knowledge in a particular field. Like it only took four more courses to qual for one in power tech after I finished one in A M systems engineering. Nobody would have paid any attention if the station ed comp hadn't been accredited for the original personnel. When it transferred its memory store to the U comp on Fielding, the accreditation was still in effect and THEY dumped all those degrees on me. Didn't tell me who my parents actually were or how I ended up alone in the only piece of the station with life support and food and water systems operating. They handed me four possibles out of eighty-some as my name and a string of letters to go behind it."
"I remember. I was about fifteen at the time and you were so CUTE. There was quite a stir about it. The Beska let the station wander through the blockade because it was just an old derelict with no one and nothing of interest aboard. It was headed right for Fielding and they thought it would be more hassle than asset as salvage to us. If we hadn't needed the materials so bad, we'd have just blasted it. Then they found you."
"And opening the hatch triggered the ed comp's transmittal to Fielding U and I was stuck."
"And they went crazy. You weren't twenty-five years behind. Your Ph.D. work was in advance of current tech. You were so scared of all those media people."
"I had only vague memories of ONE and there were hundreds pushing, shoving and yelling things at me. I never really wanted to go back to being alone, but I wanted to hide."
"Every girl I knew, some of the boys and at least my parents wanted to grab you and GIVE you a place to hide. My dad was so mad at the way you were being treated, we were careful not to talk to him for an HOUR after he'd seen a cast about you. He actually broke the vid screen once. He got furious and threw a cup through it. Mom told him he was wonderful and bought him a new cup. My sisters and I got a new screen. Would you like to meet him? He'd like to meet you. He had an odd childhood too. He was the only child of steaders on Barley and didn't meet anyone his own age until he was nineteen and got drafted. He says going from having physically met eleven people and talking to about forty via comm to a barracks was very difficult. He once said he thought it had been hell until he saw what you were going through."
"Mm, hm. Tosca is my home world and I'm from right here in Deccatown. Went to primary about eight blocks from here. Dad moved out to the country when Mom was killed in the Cooper Day missile attack while she was at work. Tanner, you guys need a place to disappear to. Our place is available. Ours because my two sisters and I own a quarter each. Huge old rambling colonial place that Dad made beautiful again. It was built for an extended family and there are six separate suites of rooms. Dad won't let us call them apartments. He says the communal areas are the obvious center of them all, so they're suites or quarters."
"Ugh, quarters makes me think of barracks."
"Us too, Tanner. We ALWAYS call them suites. Do watch Daddy, though. He's liable to defend your privacy with a blaster. My sisters, Linsy and Dell, are home, but they won't mind, or bug you either."
"You're all home at ONCE?"
"There's a fairy godmother somewhere in fleet org. Tomorrow is Daddy's birthday and we were all due leave, all close to Tosca and all of us got it. Say yes and I won't have to miss the party."
"Why would you miss the party, Tinse?"
"Because I'd be watching the guy watching you, Kev. I don't like him at ALL."
"I haven't even noticed this person who has you two bristling."
"That's why you get watched. Ten years alone, three sequestered in a gov facility and four with just me on patrol does NOT give you good people instincts, Love."
"We got buzzed. It's probably about our request to transfer to a blockade runner slot."
"You requested a runner slot?!"
"At least as a runner there are times you sleep through a night."
"Ooh, Flightwing Three IS a tense posting and, if you did four on it, you were outer-ring posted. Yes, I might have done the same. At least as a runner, you know WHEN you'll be fighting for your life."
"Exactly. Tanner and Holiday reporting, Sir. Tinse is official company at my request."
"That explanation is for Commander Swede, Sir."
"He's waiting, Pilot Tanner. You know where?"
"If he hasn't changed, the juice bar in the gym. We're old friends."
"The place. If you hadn't known, I'd have said I had an impostor and get to his office."
"You mean he can find it?"
Tanner grinned, saluted, and left the young lieutenant laughing. She liked her. Swede had finally gotten a good aide. She pulled off insignia, pocketed it, unbuttoned her collar and rolled up her sleeves. Tinse and Kev did the same. It was as out of uniform as they could get and anyone who did it was considered to be in civvies.
Swede was a giant of a man. He was fast, strong, and very, very, smart. He'd gotten Tanner drunk and into a brawl forty days after her previous partner had been killed, then held her when the tears finally came. The last time she'd heard from him was when Kev had arrived with a sealed envelope from him. The note said, "Keep him alive, Baby. You may be the only one who can."
"Hey, you, big and ugly! Got room for three more in that corner?"
"Saved you a spot on my lap, Baby. Been saving it for YEARS."
"And loaning it out every chance you got. Missed you, Swede."
"Mutual. Hi, Kev. Sorry, don't know you, but I know I've seen you. Or maybe... Do you have a sister?"
"Two. I'm Tinse Lamb, Flightwing Six."
"You like it?"
"It's a bloody bore, but patrol and runner do NOT appeal."
"I need a... Corporal?"
"I need someone on the Cossalis. Security posting, but every odd duck on it thinks every sec person is a spare lab assistant. You walked in with the best recommendation there is. It won't be boring, lonely or gut-tight tense all the time. Say yes sir."
"Comm, get me Sunder. Tinse Lamb of Flightwing Six is being reposted. The slot on the Cossalis is now filled. She goes there AFTER her leave is over."
"Yes, Sir. Sunder out."
"Finally. All right, now that I've given her a legit excuse for being here, Tanner, why is she?"
"A civvie who raises my hackles is trailing Kev. I grabbed her for the other side. She caught onto trouble instantly and made offer of a hole we could dive into if needed."
"The sec chief on the Cossalis is going to wonder HOW she got someone who's actually what she wanted. Runner?"
"We think of it as a restful posting."
"All right, Tanner, but asking to have your SHIP transferred with you is pretty odd."
"Um, I played with it a little."
"Yipe! Comm, get me Admiral Sont."
"She's in conference, Sir."
"I don't care if she's screwing! Now!"
"Swede, what's the blow?"
"Sont, get ship Q six nine one three sealed and shuffled to runner status and keep it sealed until Tanner shows up to claim it. Holiday's been PLAYING with it for four years."
"I didn't do THAT much to it, Sir."
Tanner burst into laughter and just laid her head down on the table that Swede used as a desk. Swede raised an eyebrow at Kev and pointed at her.
"Well, it was something to do while we were just watching."
"He built a new comp, then he rebuilt that. Then he rebuilt the interior. After that he built new sensor systems. One day, while doing exterior maintenance, he changed the drive. He'd built a new one in the shop he'd built in the ship. He says it's soothing to work at 'simple mechanical stuff.' I giggle and remind myself I'm qualified as a test pilot."
"None better. Any you want to share?"
"Huh, uh. Too many leaks, Swede. The Beska would have it in use before we got it approved."
"Or at least as soon as they got a ship they could reverse engineer. We've reduced the leaks a lot."
"Tagget took over Fleet Sec and Forder is chief of Comm. Nouse, Twelk and Drovonosky retired. You KNOW my section doesn't leak."
"And Tagget's people plug holes with bodies."
"Please, Tinse, we don't know that."
"Yes, Sir, but it's a nice comforting thought when you're out there wondering if the Beska have your position, name, next of kin, favorite foods, a NICE thought."
"Call me Swede. A sports brief isn't a uniform and the juice bar isn't an office. Which, of course, is why I use it as one. My own form of protest against being made an officer and GIVEN an office and rank. Of course, if I didn't have the rank, I couldn't get away with it."
"Swede, anyone who hassles you is requesting a broken arm."
"Tanner, I don't break people."
"And you and I are the only ones sure of that."
"Nah, Sunder's got me figured out. She knows I'm just a big teddy bear."
"Ooh, I collect teddy bears. I'll bet I could find a big enough spot for you on my bed."
Swede stared at Tinse a second, then burst into laughter. Momy on the Cossalis would love the story and she deserved a good second. He supposed he should probably tell Tinse she was being promoted to lieutenant for the job, but decided he preferred not ducking juice glasses. He expected Tanner to deck him for making her an officer, but a runner required one and he wouldn't do that to Kev. He decided he might as well get it over with.
"Tanner, you AIN'T gonna like this. I'm going over my unarmed combat defense training in my mind."
"Uh, oh, you're going to promote me."
"I have to or turn down the request for transfer. Enlisted can't captain and that's the job. The lowest option is light commander acting as. I want you to take commander and accept the bump to captain when it comes."
"Commander! Swede, that's at least unprecedented and, frankly, unheard of. I'm a patrol pilot, an SPCO. You want to jump me a dozen ranks."
"Ten if you consider them as linear, but they aren't. I'm using a very seldom used point to point experience translation. I'm, basically, using the nine years you've commanded a patrol ship and calling you looie equivalent for the last four. I need you to take it, Tanner. It's the only way I can give you your own ship and avoid commissioning Kev. I can make him an SPCO and dodge the JG rec if you're a commander in line for captain. Otherwise, I have to go looie for you and JG for him. It's the best Sont and I can come up with and have ANY chance of pushing it through. Sunder's creating the experience equiv chart now."
"I MAY slug you, Swede."
"Can I lay down first? The last time you did that I cracked my skull on the floor."
"I'm too stunned to swing. I'd say you'll never get away with it, but I know, somehow, you will."
"That's why I'm Fleet Personnel commander. I find ways to get the right people for the job. It's lots easier since Nouse retired."
"I hope you gave her a hide-bound rule book as a memento."
"I thought about giving her a starched collar, but didn't. I even put on a uniform for the ceremony."
"Oh, you WERE glad to see her go."
"Hell, Tanner, she was more problem than the Beska at times. Mainly because she wouldn't accept ANY change in 'the way it's always been done.' She wouldn't let me move a JG into a LOOIE'S traditional spot. Unless, of course, they had the required six years in rank to TEST for lieutenant. We'd have been a fleet of ensigns and noncoms sitting on the ground because NO one was 'qualified' to make captain. Four years as ensign, six as JG, eight as lieutenant, ten as light commander, ten as commander and ten as captain and NO exceptions. She never seemed to remember she'd jumped rank from captain to admiral. That was different. SHE was needed."
"Down, boy. You're steaming."
"Only got out from under her scrutiny twenty-nine days ago."
"Oh, I'll bet there's a lot of shuffling going on."
"I am getting a lot of threats from old friends, but so far no one's slugged me or sent back a set of insignia. It's time to end this damn thing. Marry me and help me raise a bunch of kids when it's over?"
"Nicest proposal so far, Swede."
"Someday I'll hit one you'll accept. I've been keeping track of the ones that make you smile since primary school."
Tinse raised an eyebrow at Kev. He smiled and nodded. "Old friends" was an understatement. When Swede stood, they both blinked. He'd looked big slouched in a chair, but he was huge, two meters twenty at least. The biggest shock was seeing his broad furry chest become part of a perfectly proportioned, somewhat slender, man.
"You three need to go out of here quiet and in an unexpected way. Comm, Sunder."
"Boss is ALMOST as bad as Sir, Sunder."
"You saw three. Civvies for. Garage in two. I'm out to lunch. Anybody who knows better won't ask where, with whom, or when I'll be back. Scurry."
"Moving. Be down in two. Out."
Swede led them through the huge complex by a rather roundabout route. If someone was tailing Kev, the fewer who saw him the better. They arrived at the garage by stairs just as Sunder arrived by lift. She handed out three sets of sportswear, five of uniform and five of insignia, two to Swede. Swede winced and she grinned.
"Uh, oh. Thanks, Sunder. I was hoping to get to know her a LITTLE better before she started throwing things at me. What's this?"
"Sont found three records under Lamb. She said if you'd looked you'd have yelled Turadin and Flanders. They're comm and engineering and underappreciated. The Turadin needs a decent comm chief bad and Flanders' chief engineer is nearly begging for someone who knows SOMETHING about her drive. We'd have run across them soon anyway. I'm on the Ks. Duck fast, Boss."
"He'll have to. Linsy and Dell won't be pleased with him. Oh, well, it'll make Daddy laugh, so they'll probably forgive him."
"Being an officer isn't as bad as it used to be, Tinse. Oh, Boss, these are for you. I'm supposed to tell you Sont and Forder say stick those admiral's stars on your itty bitty briefs, all FOUR of them, effective twenty-seven days ago. She told me to find just the right time to tell you. I figure you'll have LOTS of volunteers to help pin them on."
Swede's mouth dropped open and Tanner, Kev and Tinse all burst into laughter. He'd been caught in his own shuffling. He'd said, "Rank and position as needed to win this thing and the hell with tradition." Sont and Forder had decided he needed to be an admiral to accomplish it. He couldn't really protest. He'd gotten both her and Forder bumped from three and two stars to five and four over cocktails with the Alliance Space Navy Advisory Board. He sighed and directed the three to a vehicle that looked like it might be held together by the dirt on it. They put sports clothes 'over' and climbed in. It was very different inside. Tanner was not surprised.
"Getaway car. No one looks close enough to notice I'm in it. Would you believe I had to get my data clerk to register it in his name to get an employee parking sticker?"
"Security IS getting better."
"Everything is, Tanner. We're finally getting rid of the 'good old bunch' who are just SURE their 'old buddies' in Beska high command aren't ordering illegal missile attacks."
"The group that attacked has been reprimanded. Sorry several thousand of your people died, and our high command wouldn't let us even go after the attacking groups once they'd crossed the picket line."
"That's over, Tinse. Beska went too far. We've got thirty-two HOURS of vid of attacks and a seven hundred screen list of civilian dead. It's in the hands of our rep at the League of Worlds headquarters. If they don't withdraw immediately, we're declaring war with extreme provocation. We booted seven admirals, nine commodores and three captains into retirement."
"We had to, Tanner. Beska is killing us and they kept telling us it isn't a war, just an 'economic sanction.' No publicity on any but Nouse."
"Swede, you did illegal or you couldn't have accomplished it, not that many."
"Well, we cheated a little. Some orders came out of offices whose occupants didn't send them. Hundred thirty year old admirals don't read most of what they sign. Interesting they all noticed the increase in retirement pay, but not the mandatory retirement age clause."
"So that's how you got rid of Nouse."
"Yep, max age for active duty is now one hundred. You were about to get bumped anyway, Tanner. You're at the new max age for SPCO. You'll like commander better than an MPCO desk."
"It's a new navy."
"Would have been ten years ago when I still thought naval tradition was wonderful even when I was breaking the rules. Now I just want effective and an end to this thing. If it wasn't a majority opinion, you couldn't have booted that many."
"True. I'm headed south, Tinse. I'm taking you wherever you say. I want these two tucked away, at least until I get a tail on their tail."
"South is good. Junction six, go west. It's twenty-nine K past the Olyville turn off."
"That's in the ocean!"
"On the Dedding Peninsula. We own a nice chunk of it. Actually, we own the entire end of it."
"Lamb! Glynn and Danton Lamb!"
"Mother was killed in the Cooper Day attack. She was working to cover for a girl who wanted at least one full day with her new husband before he went back on patrol. It was the only day they ever got. Dad says Mom would have thought it was worth it."
"Ow. I've heard a thousand stories like that and they never hurt less."
"Swede, it's because they DO hurt, you found a way to change things."
"Shh. Everyone thinks it was somebody else's idea, Tanner. As long as no one asks me, everybody can answer it wasn't theirs truthfully. I don't lie well. Well, if we're going that far... Comm, get me Deccatown Police."
"Deccatown City Police."
"Clegg, that you?"
"Comm said Swede and I grabbed. What's up?"
"I've got a long way to go and need to keep low and get there and back fast. Clear me to, um, let's see, the Dedding peninsula. It's close enough to cover my real destination."
"I think you just want to go surfing at Teckett. I heard they were expecting a nice day for it."
"Shh, pulling rank to go surfing is not considered proper conduct, Clegg."
"I'll clear your heap. One of these days that box is going to fall off that drive inside it. Dinner on sixday?"
"Lunch on seven. Danby's at noon. Call Sunder and tell her to put it on my real schedule."
"Will do. Have fun. Clegg out."
"Clegg covers me well, Tanner. He knows better, but everyone else will be giggling I'm headed for fun in the sun. His comm is practically public broadcast and he knows that too. In a way, it's the best way to stop tapping. Obviously nothing important is said on it or it would be scrambled."
"Therefore you have a secure channel if needed."
"Spies are numerous and well paid, but they're sure if it's a secret it's guarded. We're keeping a bunch busy watching an empty warehouse with a round the clock guard on it. The thirty marines guarding it don't know there's nothing inside either."
"Well, a couple of us store fishing gear there. It's a nice place for an occasional poker game too."
"Brass goes in, stays awhile, comes out and marines speculate. Spies hear speculation and run for comms. If you can catch one comming, one less spy."
"Exactly, Tinse. Kev, you haven't said a word since we left headquarters."
"Can I see the drive? It sounds different. You've modified it in some way or built something I don't recognize."
Swede laughed. Kev was the first who'd ever noticed. He should have known he would. He might even figure out what he was hearing before they got where they were going. He didn't consider "Everyone knows that can't be done," to be a valid statement. Of course, he didn't consider it a challenge either. Swede always had.
"Let's just say my tires don't wear out."
"You did it! I always wished I had time."
"I did it, but I haven't TOLD anyone."
"That's reasonable. People are almost mad when you do something they've stated is impossible. I quit telling them things I did when I was fourteen. They always told me I was a good boy, but they didn't sound pleased."
"Which is why you refused R and D?"
"Not really. I wanted to keep people alive and they wanted things that would kill more. I still cry every time I blast a ship. I don't want to be able to do it more easily. I certainly don't want to be able to obliterate an entire fleet."
"Good boy. Sometimes I wish we could just get rid of them, but since they're up there, humans obviously aren't grown up enough for that kind of power. Weapons are never a good deterrent."
"The League of Worlds isn't doing all that well either. Where are these supposed observers?"
"Having tea with the Beska admirals, Tinse, and well back from any action. The Beska make sure of it."
"They're also all well over a hundred and quite sure their friends wouldn't lie to them, Tanner."
"You're getting an age prejudice, Swede."
"Maybe I am. I just know I'm sick of being told, 'I remember when admiral, or observer, or delegate so and so and I were in school together,' when I say we've got to do something. They ALL seem to have been in the same class at Tread Military on Carson. It's even possible Beska's old admirals DON'T know what's happening."
"I've never understood how they got consent for a blockade in the first place."
"We were hurting them financially, Kev. We were doing so well with our four planet trade alliance we scared the old trade giants. They pushed their planetary reps to accept Beska's tale it was deliberate and we were undercutting to destroy their economy. Economic sanctions were approved and they've been working to assure we'll never be competitive again. One of the first targets was our fishing fleet. Universities weren't far behind. Basically, they've tried to destroy EVERY type of production and keep us from educating our young. Twenty-six years of 'economic sanctions' is unprecedented, but the lid on us has kept the big trading companies happy. When we DO break out, we're going to tear those price-fixing bastards a new asshole. They don't know what twenty-six years of battling for existence teaches, or what hollowing out mountains for schools and hospitals turns up. As soon as Tagget gives the nod, our tech will make a jump that will put us WAY ahead of every other trading group."
"I didn't do that."
"No, Kev, but you gave young people ideas and taught them impossible means no one's done it YET. Dedding peninsula. Now where?"
"You're on our driveway. You probably should slow so dad can scan us and see I'm with you."
"He hasn't assumed visitors were friendly since someone blew up his work shed when we were little. Of course, he didn't have anything in it but a lawn mowing robo, but it made him mad."
"Danton Lamb is not known to be the kind to ignore a problem."
"Of any kind. That's Linsy. Stop."
"Hi. Dad said brass sans brass and anything else he could see. He said, 'Tell Swede he's not welcome and I'm getting out fishing gear for us.' I'm supposed to point you to the cabin, not the house. He wants to run a sec check on it before our other guests visit."
"I think he knows me better than I know him."
"He likes you. He said he wondered how long it would take you to get really frustrated and start fixing things."
"He knows you, Swede."
Linsy climbed in beside Kev and grinned at Tinse. Tinse glared back, then grinned back. They'd stopped fighting over boys when they realized Dell always won, even when she wasn't participating.
"Yes, Kev, but I'm the baby of the family."
"By six minutes, Linsy. She also never mentions it when she goes into big sister mode. Left, Swede. She's so good at it, Dell and I both let her get away with it. Dell's not quite a year older than we are. Two kids got married couples posted together if possible twenty-four years ago. We're why they still got to stay together when they upped it to three kids. We used to wish we could share having had Mommy and Daddy and each other around with you."
"Yeah, every kid should have someone to fight with."
"Yes, Kev, it teaches you that you can be mad at someone, but the love doesn't go away."
"You learn it the first time someone ELSE picks on the sister you're mad at and you wade in on her side."
"Took me a half year to get him into a really good argument, Linsy, then he spent days worrying I didn't like him any more. I knew I'd gotten through the day he got so mad he put his fist through a cover panel, then yelled at me to fix it. I giggled and fixed his hand first."
"She wrapped it, my arm, my head... I was on my way to cocooned before I caught her giggles."
"Ah, I see a... cabin? Oh, MY."
"That's Dell, Swede. I warn you, she wasn't wearing shorts and halter and weeding the flower bed ten minutes ago. She squealed and ran when Daddy said, 'Swede.' She's been working on getting a pass into the gym to 'go swimming.' She's seen you before."
"Tech school graduation four years ago, Linsy. See, Tinse, I had met your sister."
"He told me I looked familiar, then asked if I had a sister. Welcome to the cabin. Daddy's building us each one. This will be Dell's. Mine will be in deep woods and Linsy's on the shore. Dell's the lawn and flower bed type."
"This 'cabin' is a rather large house."
"Six bedrooms, Tanner. Daddy whispers 'grandchildren' to us while we sleep in hopes our subconsciouses will push a little. Told him we have to find the right people for them to push toward first. Hiya, Dell."
"Don't bother being surprised. Linsy blabbed you changed."
"Our little sister can be a pain, Tinse. I've wanted to meet you a long time, Swede."
"A handshake while receiving a diploma is not what I had in mind. Hi... Kev? Oh, boy, now I know why Dad's running a security check. That means you must be Tanner. You're rather a hero around here."
"You got the ship that shot the missiles that killed our mother. Tinse didn't mention?"
"She lost her partner on that one. I didn't remind."
"I'm glad someone appreciates it, Dell. Garand said, 'No one gets away with that.' They didn't. We got all four of those ships. It didn't bring back any of the school kids they killed, but I'm not sorry we did it."
"Still sorry I brought it up. I recognize a pang when I see it. Come on in. I made lemonade earlier. I don't think Dad drank it all."
Kev was excited. He'd been in a family home before, but never for long. The three sisters were wonderful. He'd met a pair of brothers before, but they'd been much older. He knew several people who had brothers and sisters, but he'd never seen them with them. He suddenly wanted to tell someone his secret, but he knew he wouldn't. He had promised his dying parents when he was three, all eighty-one of them.
They'd locked him in his shelter and said good-by, then shut down the comm. Their other child killed them, but couldn't reach him. The ed comp controlled his space and it was an independent system. He knew a computer could be sentient because he knew one could go insane. It had killed itself and taken all those who'd given it life with it. It had destroyed the station trying to get to him. It had been jealous. It was the one emotion that terrified him and he was going to have to face it. He could ask for help though.
"Um, Tinse, can I talk to you?"
"Oh, oh, worry. Sure, Kev, let's sit in here. Linsy, he said me."
"That worry is too deep, Tinse. I think it deserves both of us."
"Up to you, Kev."
"I need advice. I'm... Well, I think I'm starting to get jealous and it scares me."
"It's a normal human emotion, Kev. It starts when baby is mad because Mommy and Daddy aren't paying enough attention."
"We learn to handle it as we grow, or most of us do. It gets in the way of love."
"I never loved... Linsy, Tanner is so much to me. When Swede put his arm around her, I got very angry."
"Oh, NOW I know why you got so quiet. You did fine, Kev."
"I just ignored it as hard as I could, Tinse. I didn't get rid of it."
"That's exactly how it's done. Emotions can't be gotten rid of. They can only be dealt with."
"When we're small children, our parents deal with them for us. As we mature, we learn to do it more and more for ourselves."
"It goes from 'naughty, naughty,' to 'Mommy said nice girls don't bite,' to 'Oh, dear, I have to wrestle this one down and sit on it or it WILL be a problem.' That's why we call a person who doesn't control jealousy childish. Learning to do it is part of the maturation process. Linsy and I stopped putting frogs in Dell's bed at about age twelve. We stopped hiding her hairbrush about two years later."
Kev stared at them and felt for the chair behind him. He'd been wrong. He hadn't understood. The comp hadn't been insane. It had been a baby with too much power. His parents had known. They'd never been angry with it, just themselves.
"I had a big brother, I think. I remember he was mad because I got a lot of attention. He died with everyone else. I remember not much more."
"You were very young, but probably not too young to remember a big brother. You just never bumped the memory before."
"Maybe didn't want to because he was mad at me, Tinse. I even have a reason, I think. I remember lots of loving faces. I can't remember two as Mommy and Daddy though. I remember being everyone's baby boy."
"Ooh, he went from the center of attention to a pat on the head and HATED it. I would have. If he was between two and four when you were born he wouldn't have understood why he was mad at you even about the time whatever happened. So, want to play house with two little girls?"
"I included you, Tinse, which is more than you'd have done for me."
"Kev, she's usually fairly normal, but she DOES get strange once in awhile. Still, it's an interesting idea."
"Uh, huh. Uh, maybe we should join the others?"
Danton Lamb stepped into the cabin kitchen and just stopped. He realized he was in trouble. Tanner was the most beautiful woman in existence as far as he was concerned and he was about to meet her. He hadn't known he'd built a fantasy around her, but he obviously had. She was the only woman he'd noticed since Glynn had been killed and it had been a nice "safe" fantasy.
"Hello, Dell. Nice to meet you, Swede."
"Hear you have a fishing rod for me, Danton."
"I do. Hello, Tanner. My home is always yours."
Tanner wasn't sure the lovely young women could be his daughters. He was tanned, incredibly well-built and his hair was sunbleached pale gold. She heard Kev sigh behind her and smiled. He'd noticed her noticing.
"Thank you, Danton. This part is nice."
"This part is Dell's. My part has a picture of you in it. We shared a tragedy. Yours was... a response to mine. It didn't ease the pain, but it helped me deal with the terrible anger, and I could hurt for you part of time and not just myself and countless, nameless, others. I gave them your face, I suppose, to give them identity. I knew no one else who died that day and I needed someone to help me help my girls. I chose you because you'd fought back for us all."
"So why didn't you drop me a note?"
"Actually, I have about fifty long letters I wrote you, but it's quite difficult to post a letter to a patrol ship and I don't put personal things in comp mail."
"Do I get to read them?"
"Do you want to see me turn pink?"
"Say yes, Tanner. Daddy's cute when he blushes."
"Oh, THANK you, Dell. Ah, Kevin. Welcome home, son."
"Glynn and I always said you deserved a place to call home. This is the one I can offer."
"Thank you, sir."
"Ouch. You can call me Danton or even uncle but sir makes me grind my teeth. I hated being an officer."
"Swede's aide says it's not as bad as it used to be, Dad. She said it when she handed me lieutenants' uniforms and insignia for three. There's a lot of promoting going on. Tanner got caught in it. So did Swede, but HE deserved it."
"I figured Sont would get you, Swede. Kev, Tanner, I'm going to ask the girls to show you to the house. Swede and I need to do some fishing."
"I wonder what that's about."
"Don't wonder too hard, Dell."
"I'm VERY careful not to wonder too hard, Tinse."
Swede took the shirt and fishing rod Danton handed him and followed. He was rather thankful for the shirt. He'd planned a quick dash and back and hadn't grabbed one because someone would have taken note. The dash had been longer than he'd expected and he had a feeling he wouldn't be going back for awhile. Things were just too interesting. When they started down a forest path, he was surprised. The ocean was the other way.
"We're headed for my workplace. Even my girls don't know about it. Only one other does. Tagget sends greetings."
"I knew someone on Tosca had to be, but I figured Tagget would tell me who if he wanted me to know."
"I told him I did. He agreed. This rock is hollow. Watch closely."
Swede whistled. A doorway shimmered into existence. The rock was the best holo image he'd ever seen. It looked totally real. The tech was way beyond any he knew of.
"You did this?"
"No, Glynn invented it. I built it. I built everything in here for her, as she'd always built everything for me."
"Holy... Do you see everything that happens on Tosca?"
"No. I don't tap anyone I trust. Your office isn't tapped, either of them. I don't tap Clegg. I trust him too. Your house is monitored, but not tapped. Tagget said I have a blind spot. I cheerfully agreed and told him I didn't tap his office either. Glynn was killed intentionally, Swede. The whole attack was to keep her from developing this comp tap system. They were too late. The attack on the fairgrounds was because we usually went there on Cooper's Day. They hit the three places she might be. They were probably after me too, but I'd decided to spend a quiet day at home and the girls went off with friends. They hit the fairgrounds, park music pavilion and the lab. If she hadn't been at the lab, they'd have gotten our whole family. We'd planned on going to the concert in the park. Our children are alive because she had a soft spot for young love."
"Was Tinse a plant?"
"No, she was NOT intended to be scooped up on the street by Tanner. Linsy would have said more. Tinse was already going away to school when Glynn was killed. Linsy gave me the picture of Tanner. She put it in my room opposite Glynn's and told me to write her a letter. She said I wouldn't be able to post it for several years, if ever, so I should 'open up and tell SOMEbody' how I felt. Since Linsy never tells anyone what to do unless it's important, I did it. It helped a great deal. They knew too much about us, Swede. They knew our jobs were a cover. They knew where we'd be. They knew we were dangerous to them and on the verge of a breakthrough of some kind."
"A holographic cloaking field?"
"No, an untraceable, unstoppable, comm tap. The cloaking field is just an improvement on old tech. It was a cover too. Keep my family busy awhile. I have to go out."
"The one following, Kev?"
"Which one? I counted eight. Only one is dangerous. He's been supplementing his top sergeant's pay too long. He retires tonight. He's worn out his usefulness. The Beska have realized we've been feeding him false info and his interest in Kev is more than just business. I asked for this one."
"Just keeping the family occupied. When we leave, I'll show you how to open the door in case I don't get back. If I don't, see that Tinse and Linsy's cabins are built. The house goes to Tanner and Kev."
"You're in love with the girl I've been trying to talk into marrying me for thirty years."
"I don't expect any more success than you've had."
"If you do, I'll congratulate you, probably right after I slug you."
"If I succeed, you'll be best man."
"If I do, you will be. Why didn't you want to meet me before?"
"I'm a dangerous man to have as a friend, but I was working on bumping into you the next time you went fishing. I needed someone on Tosca to know about this."
"If you're not back in four hours, I'm coming after you, Danton."
"If I'm not back in three, I'm dead. May I borrow your car?"
"Key code Q six nine one three."
"Tanner's ship number. It unlocks my house too."
"And my safe."
"And mine. There's a string of fish in that locker. Give me twenty to get moving and take them up to the house. Let's go. I'll show you how to close and open this place. Swede, if... Well, tell Kev I loved his parents."
"Whoa! Explain that."
"No. I can't. Balemy station is a secret that will NEVER be told. He just needs to know someone cried when it died and celebrated when he was found. Glynn and I actually talked about trying to get him. We decided it was too dangerous for him. Now, watch closely. Touch here, here and here. Now, you do it in reverse order."
"Genetic sample. I programmed it to accept you."
"Then the code alone won't open it."
"No, it's too easily seen. The house is safe, but don't leave the yard after dark. I should be back before then."
"Be careful, Tom Cat."
Swede didn't want to leave the monitors, but he had fish to deliver and a family to watch over. Just as he started to leave, a monitor changed scenes. His "heap" was parked by a very disreputable hotel. He knew he'd been meant to see it or Danton wouldn't have parked it by a public comm box. When the scene switched, he glanced at the time. It had been exactly twenty minutes.
Kev felt odd. The house was too welcoming. The suite of rooms he and Tanner were shown was too comfortable. The room he'd been told was his anytime felt like his. When he opened the closet and found clothes that would fit him, he ran. He almost collided with Swede coming in as he was running out.
"Whoa, Kev. Stop and take a deep breath. You're spooked and I got a tiny hint why."
"There are clothes for me here."
"Glynn and Danton talked about trying to get you from the gov. He meant it when he said this is your home. This house is in yours and Tanner's names if something happens to him. Kev, he loved your parents."
"That's what I said. I don't think I was supposed to mention it yet, but he said someday you should know someone wept when Balemy station died and celebrated when you were found. I guess I decided someday is now and he MAY clobber me for it."
"I need to talk to him."
"No, he needs alone awhile. You get to help me clean fish. You ever cleaned fish?"
"No, and I'm NOT looking forward to learning how."
"Cleaning is the messy necessary step between catching and cooking, Kev. It's really not that bad and I'm sure Danton has exactly the right setup to make it easy. Come on. He's a bit odd about you and Tanner, but he's someone I trust completely. I let him drive my car."
"He knew exactly what it was and how it worked. Well, I mean he figured out the controls. I promised you first look at the drive."
"You're worried and trying to distract me, Swede."
"Too much coincidence makes me nervous, Kev, and this day has held WAY too many nice ones. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"Something's about to go to hell in a big way and Danton's in the middle of it."
"Do you read everyone's mind, or just mine?"
Episode One: Tanner
Contents / Intro / Adult Women /
General Audience / Style and ContentRoll Credits / Awarded by a Talespinner / Award MantleRequisite Author Bio
Copyright (c) 1999 Sharon L 'Spinner' ReddyAll Rights Reserved