After eating, I fully intended to wait up for them, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer; I have no idea when they came back. I left the receipt for them to find and I knew they had found it as soon as I woke up the next morning. They were waiting for me and they didn’t look happy.
“Good morning mom, dad,” I said, forestalling the explosion for only a few seconds.
“What is the meaning of this?” said my mother as she held out the receipt.
I took the receipt and shoved it in my pocket as I cast around for something to eat. I didn’t want to do this on an empty stomach, but I didn’t see any way around it. “Mom, dad, please sit down. We need to talk.”
They sat on the couch and I drew up a stool and sat on the other side of the coffee table from them. Leaning forward with my elbows on my knees, I said, “Mom, dad, I have to go back.” I could think of no other way to begin.
“Absolutely not,” said my father. I had expected that.
“I have to, dad. Do you remember what Master Durmas told you? ‘Mr. McTavish,’” I quoted, “‘If Liam doesn’t learn to control his magic, he could make mistakes that could cost lives.’ Well, he was right, dad. There was no mechanical breakdown in my cryo-pod, and it was no miracle that I survived the boost. That was my magic, all of it. My magic wouldn’t let my body be frozen, nor would it let me die from the damage. That’s not the worst part. Surely, you’ve noticed how much I eat lately. My magic is healing me, faster than normal. My feet don’t even hurt anymore, but I’m not going to push my luck there. Burning up all that magic takes a lot of energy and it makes me very hungry. Very, very hungry. You heard about that man who was murdered on the ship?”
They nodded. Mom went quite pale.
“I’ve been told that I have a tendency to wake up early. I know that doesn’t make any sense to you, but that’s what I did. I woke up early and that man was there. I hurt so much. I was so hungry.” I had to stop for a few seconds as the memory flooded my mind again, sending chills down my spine. “I was so hungry. I got ahold on him. I . . . fed . . . off . . . of . . . him, I think. My magic killed him so that I could live. I have to go back and learn how to control this or it’ll just get worse; I’m sure of it.”
“But they kidnapped you,” said my mother in a small voice.
“No they didn’t, mom. I went willingly and they let me leave as soon as I was able.”
Dad said, “After all we went through to get you away from there, how can you say you want to go back?”
“I liked it there, dad. The last three years have been the best. The best friends I’ve ever had live there, but that has nothing to do with my reason for going back. I have to go back before I make another mistake and kill someone else, and I will; I just know I will.” I reached out and touched the coffee table. Under my hand, it melted into a thin elegant vase made out of the same wood. Finished, the vase stood about two and a half feet tall. Mom gasped. I hardly felt the drain. “I’m getting stronger,” I said to them, as much as to myself.
I got up and went to the phone. “What’s the number of that planet?” I asked.
“663-457,” said my father softly.
I called the scheduling office at the spaceport and booked myself a seat on the next flight back. It left at noon.
I went back to my room to get dressed. I pulled out my leathers. I hadn’t worn them since shortly after walking into my home that first day back. I put them on now. The buckles on my shin pads wouldn’t buckle so I just left them hanging, and of course, I couldn’t wear my boots. I stuffed a couple pairs of socks down in them and set them on the foot of my bed then I strapped my sword belt on again. My shades were a permanent fixture on my face.
Dad came in then. “Where did you get that outfit?” he asked, and I remembered he’d asked that question once before.
“I guess Durmas gave it to me. It’s all I could find to wear when I got ready to come home.”
“It’s a nice looking outfit. The sword and belt go with it nicely. May I see what you bought?” He was acting strangely, but I drew my sword and let him handle it. He hefted it. “Nice balance. I took a few lessons in college.” He handed it back and then he handed me a small black leather pouch. “Here, it’s all the local money we have left.”
“Dad, you’re sounding like I’ll never see you again. I will; as soon as your replacement moves in, I’ll send you messages as often as I can, or at least I will as soon as I know where to send them. You’ll have to message me first as soon as you get to wherever you end up.”
He sighed real big and touched me on my cheek. “I know, son. You were just a fifteen-year-old kid a few weeks ago but now, suddenly you’re a man. I just wasn’t prepared.”
I buckled my boots together and slung them over my shoulder. I thought briefly about taking a change of clothes, but I could get whatever I needed when I got there. Hell, I’d probably learn how to make anything I needed.
When I got back into the living room, mother was nowhere to be seen.
“Forgive your mother; this has all been rather hard on her. When’s your lift off?”
I looked up at the clock on the wall. It was only about nine o’clock in the morning. “I’ve got to go.”
Dad showed me to the door and shook my hand. “It could be as long as a year before we are settled somewhere permanent. We’ll keep you informed though. My replacement should be there by the end of the month. I’ll send you a message as soon as I know someone’s there.”
“Right. I’ll watch for it.”