Friday, March 16, 2012

Chapter 112 - CATCHING UP

I was awakened by the sound of a gentle argument outside my room.

“Let him sleep, Victoria. He’s not well,” said my mom.

“But grandma, he said I was supposed to wake him this morning. He told me to; you heard him.”

“He needs to get up and start moving around,” said another voice further away, I think it was Oskan.

Mom must have resigned herself to being out voted because my daughter came bounding into the room. “Daddy, its morning; wake up, daddy.”

I pretended to remain sleeping and I watched her come closer with my magic.

She started to pull my blanket back in order to see my face better. “Daddy?”

I could hear the tremulous disappointment in her voice. I quickly snaked my arm out from under the blanket and scooped her giggling, wiggling form in beside me where I began to tickle her, which wrung helpless shrieks of laughter from her.

“What is this bug I’ve found in my bed? I think I’ll have to throw it out the door.” I got up and slung her under my arm heading for the door.

“Daddy, I’m not a bug.”

I walked past the smiling faces of the others in my living room toward the hallway that led outside.

“Daddy, it’s me,” she protested with giggles while she pulled at my arm.

I took a few more steps.

She began to wriggle a little harder. “Daddy, it’s me, Victoria.”

I stopped. “What?” I said as if I was surprised. “Well, what do you know? It’s not a bug after all. I could have sworn I had a bed bug. What did you do with the bug?” I turned her upside down and pretended to shake the bug out of her pockets.

She was shrieking and giggling again. “Daddy.” She was all breathless.

I turned her right side up again and held her out in front of me. “Are you sure you’re not a bug?”

“No, I’m not a bug.” She pushed her hair out of her face.

I swung her to my hip. “Well okay, if you say so.” I headed back into my living room.

“You look better,” said Connor.

Haines was standing there too and I stepped forward to shake his hand warmly. “I feel better. I guess you went and filed your report,” I said to Connor.

“Larak took me last night after you went to bed,” said Connor.

“And I had to come and see for myself,” said Haines. “It’s good to see you up and around again.”

After a breakfast that was made by Oskan at the direction of my mother, I dressed and went outside. “You’ll have to excuse me for a while. I feel the rain calling me.”

Only Connor seemed to take exception to it. “Hey, wait a minute. That’s no fair. I can’t compete against that.”

I just laughed and waved him to join me and the others followed to watch.

It was raining outside; the storm had rolled in during the early hours of the morning. Connor and I stood out in the gentle rain and crossed our swords like we used to do so long ago back on earth; it was only yesterday for me. The pause was only momentary. Connor was grinning like an idiot.

“Don’t let your excitement hinder your judgment,” I said, as I sized him up.

“No chance of that, old man,” he retorted.

“Old man, is it?” I stepped in and battered at his sword. I relished the exercise and was pleased to see that he was holding his own, though the smile was quickly replaced with a look of concentration.

As the rain dripped down through my hair, we sparred. He had learned a lot, but he had yet to develop his own style and act on his own instincts. The teachings of his instructors, myself included, were still strongly in his mind.

I didn’t press any advantages, nor did I let him have any, and I could tell that he was skilled enough to know this, but that didn’t stop him from trying.

Soaking wet, I couldn’t resist the urge any longer. When I said the rain was calling me, it was the truth. I needed a rain dance.

When Connor felt the first assault from the water, he cried out, “No fair,” but didn’t falter or back out of the fight. He shook the water out of his eyes and stepped up his attack.

Water soon began to pool around our feet and Connor slipped, but I didn’t let him fall. Finally, he relented and stepped out of my rain dance. I saluted him and continued on my own until I was pleasantly drained.

Larak was handing out towels when I stepped up to the group again. “You better do that up on the dark moon next time. When you reach your full strength, that’ll be the only way you’ll be able to tax yourself. We don’t need a tidal wave coming down out of these mountains.”

I laughed and patted him on his shoulder (which was over my head). “You’re probably right. Do you want to watch?” I made everyone dry.

“You couldn’t make me miss it,” he replied as he gathered up the towels.

I turned to Connor. “Sorry, Connor. I couldn’t resist it anymore.”

“That’s all right,” he said. “You had me beat anyway.”

We all went back inside where I made a large bowl of fruit. “Now, tell me. What all have I missed?”

I learned that Carm had two sons and another on the way. Larak and Oskan had gone out and fought two wild fires. Fall dry weather was prone to that, though most of the time the fires are out in the wilderness somewhere. Connor told me proudly of how he had helped to keep them out of trouble.

The village had been rebuilt and the inn was bigger than ever. Tsan was buried where he had died and now a small garden marked the place. Larak confessed that his left side still felt wooden. His arm and leg were flexible enough, but he had no feeling in them. When he did anything with his hand, he did it more by sight than by touch.

I offered to try and fix it for him, but he waved me off. “Maybe some other time, I’m used to it,” he said.

This was the first time I had really sat down and talked with my mother. My last visit was more of a bump in my honeymoon and she hadn’t wanted to bother me with her troubles. They weren’t the kind of thing to put into a letter either. Apparently, the transition from her father’s rule hadn’t been at all smooth. It had taken years to weed out the corrupt bureaucrats (most of whom had been family) so she wasn’t too popular with the aristocracy. She was still uncovering trouble spots, but she figured she’d be finding things like that until the end of time.

She told me that Colin had reached Master Sergeant in the emperor’s space militia and was in charge of seeing to it that the men could handle themselves under weightless conditions. He had kept in touch with my mother over the years and so knew of my latest trouble.

Jonathan Preston had never been found though there were still wanted posters in every port in the empire. Mom figured that he must have had a face job and changed his name. Even so, he had to be keeping a very low profile. I figured he never really made it off the planet regardless of the fact that he had been seen running away. Maybe Marell had exacted a final revenge on him. Maybe he had run into one of the local predators.

Connor told me that he had a younger brother now who was five years old. They had wanted to name him after me, but they thought I might think it was too freaky so they named him Daniel after his grandfather on his mother’s side. He hadn’t been back to see him yet. I was glad to hear that the emperor and his wife had been able to patch things up and I thought Daniel was a fine name for a prince.

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