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Chapter Thirty; Firebird

Updated on May 30, 2021


That's what it was.
To have found a hideout in the jungle, bloated with wanted men and women from every corner of the galaxy; amazing!

Capturing them was not the problem; finding out who they were, which law enforcement agency interested, and how much the bounty, took the most time.

And while these messages floated back and forth, Priam and I enjoyed each other.

I didn't need to use my brain scrambler on the criminals; I sat safely in the yacht, while my cyborgs surrounded the camp. They released a gas, then stacked and packed those I had 'buyers' for, leaving the rest for later..

I made more money in this 'gathering' than I had ever held at one time. And all because I'd planned to leave Priam in the jungle beyond Pier Four.

I was glad I hadn't.
He was the other side of my circle.
I need never return to Newfrance.
My father would be safe, I would have Priam.

Being the champion of liars, I could concoct any fable that played true. Lying in bed with him, I shared my 'dream' of visiting other worlds, especially Earth. Having all this money and being pregnant, it was the right time to travel.


Priam was easy. Maybe too easy.

He never volunteered information, never spoke of himself. The most I knew of him
was what he liked to eat, what side of the bed he chose, or the temperature of the
water he liked to bathe in.

I tried to walk around his dark corners while seeking to draw him out, tossing words as hooks, looking to catch a truth. But I never had success.

If I asked anything he took as a pry he wouldn't answer, just look at me with his large expressive eyes. And topic closed.

We left Smudge, riding the yacht to Earth. Days chased each other, we made love, we ate, bathed, and my work consisted of monitoring the movement of prisoners by my androids.

And then it happened.

Paradise Ends

We were on the bed. We'd made love. I was sitting, he was reclining propped on pillows, it was nearly our sleep cycle when I asked;

"If this baby is a boy...what am I supposed to call him?"

"Whatever you like," he replies in his deep calm voice.

His response is 'wrong', "You're not going to tell me I have to call him..."

He shook his head.

"If I want to call him Joe or Tom..."

He gave me a bland look.
How do I read that?

Eugenics have a formula in naming.

There are always four names. His name, which is his great great grandfather's name, followed by his father's name, followed by his grandfather's name, followed by his great grandfather's name.

I know him as Priam Zal, aware his father and grandfather's name come between.
His son would be Zal Priam and those two names. It is a law among them.

But not here, not now, not with my child.

My child will not be his real child, does not deserve his family names. Anger crawled over me, my face contorted, I felt my love twisting into hate.

"...if I wanted to call him...ZalPriam?" I shouted.

Suddenly he filled with passion;

"Why? Why do you want to perpetuate this Eugenics? This need for keys and to
define people by their genes? If I wanted that I would not have..."

He stopped speaking, took a breath, lowered his head to gain control.
I waited, but he was silent.

"Talk to me Priam. What was your life before we met?"

"Of what value is that? Obviously it is well left behind."

"What is in the bag?" I suddenly ask.

"The bag?" he repeats.

I snap, "The bag you have there. The one that was so important to you?"

"You want to know that?" he fixed me with a gaze, perhaps the way a spider looks
at a fly, but his chest rising and falling in rage, yet he forced his voice soft;

"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..." he demonstrated, "...and
shrink it. We chop up the bodies. We put the internal organs into a bag, and we
roast the flesh and eat it..."

I ran into the bathroom to throw up. I couldn't believe this.
It was too horrible.
I sat on the floor by the bowl, sobbing. I couldn't breathe, think, needed to get
control. And when I could hear his voice;

"You believe that?" he asks.

Ruining it all

Priam slides off the bed, pulls on his slacks, his voice filling every corner;

"If we were not on this ship in space, I would leave. I would not allow you to look at me again. How do you believe this of me? What have I shown you to infer I could do this?"

How hideous I must look sitting on the bathroom floor, my face streaked with tears,
the vomit in my mouth.

Then he spoke.
Emitting all the words within him from the day we met, maybe hoping he'd never have to say them.

"You have never trusted me." He announces.

Then, too calmly;

"You tested me with your avatar thinking I would poison you. You offered me money, thinking I would rob you. You took me from your world because you believed I would harm your family."

Then proving he was far more aware than I imagined:

"You intended to leave me on Smudge, without cash, without a weapon ...and now, now what do you plan to do now? Kill me? Kill my child? Take me to another world and abandon me?
What is your plan now?"

I felt so stupid, so humiliated.

He knew what I had thought, what I had planned but to preserve the semblance
of a relationship, chose not.

He chose not...

Misjudgement; The Depths of Pain

I forced myself up, washed my face.
I needed to gain control.

I needed to find words, actions, anything to get back to where we had been before
...but when I turned he was not in the room.

I pulled on my clothing, needing to confront him in some semblance of decorum.

He had moved from the bedroom we had shared, into another.
The door was shut.

If I opened the door and walked in, what would I say?
I had nothing to say.
It was true.
Every word.

Though I behaved one way, I thought another.
I didn't trust him.
I never trusted him.
I loved him, wanted to be with him, but always felt I was fooling myself.

Now, I had become the fool.
He had been honest.

He had never tried to trick me, he had never plotted, I just kept assuming something
ugly lurking behind him.

My mistrust, my deviousness hadn't protected me, it had destroyed me.

Though he'd jumped the hurdles I'd put before him as if oblivious to their existence,
he knew. He had known at every juncture, but said nothing.

He worked to preserve our relationship, while I, who loved him, hadn't.

I sat on the sofa, waiting.
He'd have to come out sooner or later.
He had to eat.
I wanted to push the door, to take him in my arms, but until I owned the words
to explain, I could only wait.

Hours passed, I forced myself not to push his door, but wait.

I fell asleep.
When I woke I know he'd been in the galley.
I smelled the food, he'd left a portion for me.
I sobbed a little, got myself together.

Making the Effort

I went to his room, turned the door, he was sitting on the bed, watching something
on the vid. He shut it off.

His eyes narrowed, his entire being took up an antagonism. I'd never seen before.
What had been desirable, lovable was now dangerous.

And he glared at me with predatory eyes.

Carefully I spoke. "I apologise for misjudging you."

"Apologise for your inferior intellect. Apologise for being alive. That is what you apologise for. You are a product of your inferior genetic endowment as I am a product of my superior genetic endowment."

His voice menaced because it was exactly as it had always been, sans that warmth which made it sweet, now bitter. And he, who rarely spoke, who seemed almost inarticulate, proved me wrong, again.

"I put myself at your mercy," he charged, his eyes burrowing into my soul, "I gave myself to you. Yet, you, mistrusted me."

Involuntarily I nodded. I didn't want to agree, but it was true.

"You have no need to doubt. Give me one hundred thousand guilders and when we land on Earth, remove my child from your womb. It is better unborn."

He was angry, seething, yet his posture, his voice remained controlled, it was only this essence of him that indicated his mood.

"I never thought I would hurt you like this..." I peel from my heart.

"You have hurt me more than anyone has had the capacity," he replies.

I stood facing him with more remorse, more fear than I had ever known. And what stupidity could I utter?
That I loved him?
That I wouldn't hurt him?
That I was sorry?
Did I pollute the air with words more unnecessary than a fart?

It was too late.
I might as well have killed him.
I might as well be my mother, crouching on a deck, holding the head of his father
in my lap as his life expires.

I'd taken Priam and always believed the worst.
No matter how many times I was proven wrong, I kept believing I was right.
So what do I say?

"I owe you Priam," I admit.
"I must teach you to read English so you can function on Earth."

I think both of us were surprised at my words. I hadn't known I would say them, he hadn't taken the step to appreciate that not being able to read English would cripple him, would put him into danger.

"I bought documents for you on Smudge. I had planned...", yes I always planned,
"...for you to pass as normal, you will need a little more."

"If I take your documents you will always be able to find me. I do not want Firebird to find me."

I nod, what else could I do? I could nod and stand and look at him, everything he'd ever said rushing through my mind;

--"I can not promise how long it will last,
but right now I want to be here, with you.
I like what you do. I like how you do it,
and I want to be part of it. Part of you."---

That is what he had said.
That is a declaration of love.
That was a declaration of intent, of honesty, and why couldn't I have grabbed it with both hands?

He took his eyes from me and looking at the dead screen asked;
"Will you abort my child?"

"I don't want to," I reply, wishing I could sit on his bed, wishing I could take back last night.

"You will have your trophy," he resigned.

"I will love this child." I declare.

"Yes, as you love me," he gave as if he'd yawn.

"I love you, I don't know who or what you are, but I love you."

"No." he replies, then looks at me. "You know me. You know who I am. You do not
know my antecedents."

I wasn't prepared for his ability to articulate. I think that is why I stood staring.

"This yacht," he tosses a negligent hand, "You need not know who owned it before, or what colour this room was originally, but you know this yacht."

His analogy was beautifully flawed.

Getting back

"No." I say, filling with the sense of possible.

He looked at me, quizzically.

"If this yacht had been damaged, and the engine patched, I'd need to know."

I could see a glimmer in his eyes, a question....

"I'd need to know, for example, that the engine could blow if I tried for a certain
velocity. I'd need to know, before I bought it if it were stolen, if it were involved
in a crime...."

He looked at me; and he wasn't thinking about the ship.
He was thinking about himself.

And then, because I had nothing to lose.

"That I have a husband and two children living on Belladona may not be important..."

"Do you?" he demands.

"And if you believe that?" I ask.

He almost smiled, it was there, but didn't manifest. But I knew.

And he realised that when you keep it all hidden, anything is possible.

"Do not lie to me." He says. "Do not try to manipulate me."
"Do not think I am oblivious or innocent."

I looked at him, and he misread. Blessedly, he misread.

"I know my 'legend' I know who and what I have done. But know this, I would not harm you, I would not abuse you, and I would take no more than you would to give."

I didn't know his legend, I didn't know who and what he had done. But I knew that I would let everything go, and jump.

Just jump and believe he would catch me.


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