Chapter Fifty Six - Leaving Earth

In The Garden

When I saw him, that first second; he
was one of Them. And for one of
Them to be around one of me was not good.

I pulled the Firebird amulet to the
centre of my forehead, slowly
approached with Prima in my arms to distract.

The ruby 'eye' of the Firebird concentrated my thought waves.|
It was created for me. It was a bribe.

"Kill my avatar,
let me go and
I will give
you The Edge."

Damion Tolver had begged.

I'd been hired by Tolver Laboratories, the Company he had founded, that he had
been cheated out of, that he had cheated.

A bounty hunter has to know which side she plays, and when to change sides, and
when to smudge the line between the sides.

I killed his avatar and Tolver created the amulet for me with the promise he create no others.

All he wanted to do was retire to Belladonna and enjoy spending his wealth.
So I let him.
I let him live, he gave me the 'Edge' which let me live.

I use it on my quarry. It scrambles their thoughts. I'd used it on Normals and on
Gennies. All I had to do was get within ten feet of my quarry.

As I approached the man who sat in my garden, his Oriental cast told me he
wasn't from Dalmar. For a moment I pondered if he had been sent by Priam...?

But as he hadn't heard my approach, I knew he was not a Superboy.

The hearing of a Gennie is so sharp he'd pick up my heartbeat when I was
twenty feet away. I knew he a Norm, yet, seeing him, that first second,
opened the wound marked Priam.

He took me off guard when I realised he was crying. He was so handsome,
so pleasant to my eyes, and of course, that he was crying, dispatched any
fear I might have had.

With my free hand I pushed the headband back, and maybe more curious
and compassionate than I ought be, I spoke to him.

When I met his eyes, there was an absence in there.

I shouldn't expect to see that sharp confidence, that power Gennies exude,
but I did. Not seeing it was like unwraping an empty box.

His name meant nothing to me, and his being here, looking the way he did,
raised hairs on the back of my neck, until I realised he was the actor who
played a Gennie.

That he knew Doug made me want to question, to share, but only for a
pico-second, for where would Angelina Molina know Doug Hooker?

For the past eleven months I had been good. Cutting Firebird out of
my identity so completely I didn't even eat what 'she' liked, until this
stranger found my soul in a sentence.

He had to go. I couldn't dare him here, yet, there was this weakness in
him. He could never be a spy nor would he own data. Even if I told him
who I was, it wouldn't register because he knew nothing.

My life had depended on being able to instantly analyse those I met,
and I hadn't lost the skill. He was just a loose nut. A lonely loose nut
who needed someone to talk to.

Yet he said words I had not admitted to myself.
I was alone.
I didn't know what tomorrow would be.
Where I should be, who I should be.
For now, I was Angelina.
But I wasn't Angelina.
There was my entire real life out there...waiting.

I shook off the vibe he output, like a dog and water, went into the cottage,
put Prima in her cot. I glanced through the window, watching, especially when he left.

I didn't need a normal reminding me of Gennies or Doug, or that I was a
disconnected bead at the bottom of a jewelry box.

Seeing that mock Gennie, that confused actor, that nobody who resembled
somebody, woke me from my Angelina stupor.
This was not my life and it was time to leave it.

I'd leased the cottage, not purchased it. I called my landmaster, broke the lease,
even got a portion of my money back, because there had been so many inquires
about renting the cottage.

I knew the requests were funeral related, my landmaster who lived on another island, didn't.

I rang up my boss, told him of an emergency and that I had to go.
I didn't give details, but sounded upset enough for any inference to be drawn.

He told me he'd hold my place as long as he could, but was unable to promise.
'Angie' accepted that.

How To Go

I caught a flyer to Venezuela, did a fast
shopping reached the Hub. The Viper
was not suitable for me and my
daughter, so I sold it.

And went for Priam's yacht.

My Avatars had packed our things; my
things, Priam's things...I had them
arrange his cabin as I remembered it,
putting Prima in a third room with a
Avatar.

I connected to Firebird's com,
received data from my dummies
and ships. Nearly a year's worth
of messages.

I had the yacht fly as slow as legal as I needed to know if I could go to Newfrance.
News was conflicting, confusing.

Having been Angie Nobody on a mudball, everything that came off the blurbers
was diluted, repackaged, served cold. Hiding in Angelina's life I'd hid from real.
Now, I needed real.

I hacked into secure channels, picked up more than skirmishes, more than
a careless murder of Laker. It was war, hot war, war between Dalmar and
Sagir. And Priam was in it.
Priam.

When I think of Priam, of the life I shared with Priam, with his grooming
and cooking and just being, it was almost impossible to believe he could
be in an army, much less, in a war.

Of course, if I think about our time on Smudge...
If I think of who Priam Zal was...
according to others....

I had to park emotion. Prima, being a Gennie baby was very advanced
and reminded me so much of her father.

Priam would take something in his hands and study it. She had the excuse
of being a baby, so everything was new for her.
His reason?
Was everything so new to him?

He'd never owned anything, I believe, and little things, like cheap (and
not so cheap) souvenirs were examined as if remarkable artifacts.

I thought of things I'd said to Doug those years ago.

Why did I always need words from Priam?
Oh Priam, be safe...please...please...
come back to me.
Oh Priam...I believe in you.

I so want to believe in you.

Then Dalmar Explodes...

I was two days from Pluto Station when I heard the planet of Dalmar had exploded.

War is one thing.
To destroy an entire planet?

Everyone was now hysterical.
Sagirs had gone too far.
Should normals interfere?

I sent a message to my 'bots on Newfrance, ordering they move everything in Priam's room to an office I owned under the name of a different company. Move everything, scrub the room down, put in selected living room pieces.

I was being more than cautious.

If Priam was involved...he'd told me he had murdered fifteen Dalmar with his bare hands...
and I'd seen how fast he could move, and how strong he was...any connection to him
was deadly.

And not for the first time I admit, I don't know him.
I don't know what he is capable of, what he really thinks or feels.

I did a search to learn if the war was about to escalate. Tellur and Molbe were deafeningly silent. Sagir had made no statement concerning the explosion, which wasn't surprising as
they never communicated.

Then reports changed.

When Dalmar exploded there were no Sagir vessels in the solar system.

Had Sagir blown up Dalmar? Or had Dalmar blown itself?

Had there been one of those industrial accidents?
But for an entire planet to blow up?
In an accident?
What could they have been doing?

What burnt was that first reports blamed Sagir, the ensuing were sheepfaced and apologetic. But it was late.

I couldn't evidence righteous indignation, as I remember when I'd asked Priam what was
in his rucksack...

"You want to know that?"
"Oh, those are heads. Shrunken heads of
all the Dalmar I have killed and eaten.
We kill them, we peel the skin back from
the skull and shrink it. We chop up the
bodies. We put the internal organs into
a bag...roast the flesh and eat it..."

I'd run into the bathroom to throw up, and as I sat on the floor, sobbing, he asks;

"You believe that?"

And then he'd gotten off the bed and proclaimed;

"If we were not on this ship in space,
I would leave. I would leave and never
allow you to look at me again.
How do you believe this of me?
What have I shown you to infer that
I am a savage? That I could do this?"

Yes, Universe, what had Sagir shown you that you could believe they would do this?

And like me, who'd squatted on the bathroom floor, the stink of my vomit stifling, they,
all these educated analysts, had to figure out how to back track.

I suppose the Sagirs, as Priam, listened to the reports, aware that this is how they are classified; this is what others believe them capable of.

Yet.

Yet despite the fact Sagir couldn't have bombed Dalmar despite the fact the Planet
appeared to have exploded there was still this kernel in me, perhaps in others, that
somehow Sagir was involved.

By the next day, planets were offering Dalmars refuge. One of them was Newfrance.
Why wasn't I surprised?
But what this meant was that I couldn't go to Newfrance.
This meant Newfrance so sure Sagirs were savages, so avid to align with Dalmar that
despite the strict immigrant laws, they'd bend them into pretzels to suit.

So there goes my homeworld.
Now where do I go?

I brought my ship to dock with Pluto Space Station, left my baby with my dummy and
went inside.

The war seemed over, which kind of went without saying, but there were a lot of
Dalmar in space.

So forget megastuff...Where do I go?

If Priam were alive...

Now I got really afraid.
How did I know he was alive?
And if he was, I had no idea where he was, how to find him. I could be as that pitiful
'Pete' Doug told me about who haunted Smudge, looking for 'her' Superboy, handing messages to every Gennie she saw.

No.
I would not demean Firebird.
I had a life before Priam, I would get it back.
Maybe not exactly the same, but I was still a fine Bounty Hunter.
Still had my edge.

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