Copyright (C) 2006 Katherine Padilla. This sample is published by Novaun Novels at www.zerosilver.com and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0.

 

 

BOND WITH A TERRORIST

 

By Katherine Padilla

 

Book 4 of

 

HEIRS OF NOVAUN

 

 

Part 1: A CHANGE OF HEART

Prologue: A GOLD BOX FILLED WITH DISCS

Aulanora Nalaurev carried the commudisc that had just arrived into her bedroom, her hands trembling and her throat burning. The return address read, "B. Nalaurev, Box 287, Fleet Post at Shalaun."

A commudisc from Braysel came every two weeks, and every one was as difficult as the one before. She slid the disc out of its envelope and sat down on the edge of her bed in despair, staring at the disc in her hand for a minute, then clenching her fist to hide it from her view the next, then opening it again.

Aulanora stared at the disc for fifteen minutes, fighting the urge to slip the disc into the telepathic transmission recorder and assimilate its contents, her emotions in chaos. Why was her son in the Fleet? How could he kill other human beings? What had she done wrong? How could he live with himself? How could she live without him? Would it be so wrong to see his image for just a moment? To feel his thoughts and emotions?

She went to her dresser and picked up the little picture that always lay there, a child's drawing of a yellow-haired woman with a ball. The sky was a thick blue line at the top of the piece of paper, the sun was a bright orange ball, and behind the woman were blue waves. The misspelled words on the paper read: "Mama, I love you because you make me sweet rolls and nut cookies and play ball with me on the beach. Braysel."

The burning in Aulanora's throat rose into her mouth, and tears blurred her vision, leaving the picture a blue, orange, yellow, and white blob in her hand. She set the picture back down on the dresser and gingerly placed the commudisc in the velvet-lined gold jewelry box with all of the other un-assimilated discs.

 

Chapter 1: A JOB OFFER

Colonel Sharad Quautar communicated with Ton as usual at the Palm Pavilion, proceeding with unusual care. King is being extremely cautious in his effort to destroy you. His agents have made no attempt yet to harm you. I believe that he plans to have you shot at his trial.

The colonel's suggestion was logical in some ways, ludicrous in others. Ton could feel no fear because he didn't believe King planned to have him shot at a trial he might never attend, a trial that might never occur. I've thought about this a lot. It makes sense to me that King would want to display his power that way, but there are too many variables. What if King never goes to trial? Even if he does, how does he know I'll be there?

The plan does seem shallow in some ways, but right now, it makes more sense than anything. It gives us something to plan for.

Ton's spirit cringed with foreboding. What was coming? Even the colonel couldn't know for sure.

You'll wear a protective force field vest under your clothing, which will repel neurodarts and diffuse laser beams, Colonel Quautar explained.

Ton dropped his napkin onto his plate. And if the assassin aims for my head?

My greatest fear. There will be no way to secretly protect your head, and a direct hit to the head on high power would mean instant death. Your only hope in such a circumstance will be if I observe the assassin in time and am able to push you out of the way of the shot. The colonel placed a hand on his shoulder with a squeeze. This is a dangerous business. Are you sure you want to go through with it?

I don't have much choice.

The colonel raised his eyebrows. There may be more choices than you think.

I don't understand.

What do you want to do?

Why didn't the colonel just communicate what he was thinking? Why did he always have to play these stupid games? I just want to be done with this.

When you're done with this, where do you want to live?

Ton always hated this question. There were so many possibilities, yet nothing appealed to him. More than anything, he just didn't want to think about it. I don't know. Let me think about it some more, he communicated wearily, knowing he wouldn't think about it at all anytime in the near future.

Ton progressed through his days thinking as little of the future as he could and working to understand himself and deal with his past. He still communicated with Counselor Shauna Brunel, although his sessions were now only twice a week. Session after session, he relived the events and feelings of his past.

Counselor Brunel had green eyes and white hair that she usually wore in a French braid. She was pleasant and professional, a perceptive questioner, and Ton had always felt comfortable with her. He was so anxious to put his life in order that he was completely honest with her and with himself and did everything she told him to do.

For years, Ton had not been able to come to terms with the destruction of Adrian and Angela's marriage, Angela's false accusations that Adrian had beaten her, and Adrian's subsequent refusal to communicate with him for three years. Ton had never wanted to confront his feelings on what had happened and had successfully avoided thinking about the events of that afternoon most of his adult life. Counselor Brunel led him into the pain again and forced him to express his feelings about what had happened.

Why were you so disturbed that Angela and Adrian's marriage broke up?

Because I wanted it to work.

Why did you want so badly for it to work?

Because I wanted Adrian to be happy.

Did you ever think Adrian would be happy with Angela?

Ton thought about that question for many minutes. No, he finally answered.

Why not?

Because Angela had always liked men with money, and Adrian didn't have much money.

Maybe she loved Adrian enough to overlook the fact that he didn't have much money.

That was what I wanted to believe when they got married.

What did you believe?

That Angela was the way she had always been.

If you so doubted Adrian would be happy, then why did it disturb you so much to be proved right? Naturally you would have felt sorry for Adrian and been disappointed that things didn't work out the way he wanted them to, but you were too skeptical about the marriage in the first place to be overly disturbed or disillusioned.

Ton had to admit that the counselor's observation was logical.

Was there a reason other than Adrian's happiness that made you want so badly for the marriage to work?

Ton nodded bitterly. I wanted my mother to know Adrian and see that a poor man from the neighborhood could be a good husband and a worthwhile person.

Adrian found your sister with another man. The fault for the break-up appears to have lain with her. It seems to me that Adrian proved his worthiness.

My mother didn't think so.

Were you really so surprised that she wasn't convinced?

Ton shook his head.

Why not?

Because she didn't want to accept him, and not enough time had passed.

So you were upset because the marriage ended prematurely, before Adrian had a chance to prove himself to your mother.

Ton nodded.

Why, Ton, would that disturb you so much now, six years later?

Ton experienced a sinking feeling of degradation, and he wanted to turn and run out of the office rather than face the truth. He gripped the armrests of his chair so hard his hands hurt. It doesn't.

Then what does disturb you?

Ton stared at the floor. I don't think Angela was lying.

Why don't you think Angela was lying?

Because Angela wasn't a liar and because . . . because Adrian kept saying, "I'm so sorry, Ton, I'm so sor . . ." Ton released the armrests and dropped his head into his hands, unable to continue. There was no way he could express the disillusionment, the loss of respect for Adrian, and his own subsequent feelings of worthlessness and despair.

Counselor Brunel's spirit brushed his in compassion. Why did Adrian's weakness make you feel worthless?

Because I'm like Adrian. Because Adrian failed.

How did Adrian fail, Ton?

He failed to be different.

Different from whom?

The other boys in the neighborhood. Mamma was right.

Adrian may not be perfect, Ton, but he is different. What sort of education did he have to acquire to become a teacher?

Three years of advanced school.

How many of the other boys and girls who grew up in your neighborhood went to advanced school?

I don't know. Jacquae and me, and there was another girl, Sandra.

And you don't think graduating from advanced school made Adrian different?

I always thought it did. I was wrong. Ton forced himself to sit up and look at the counselor again. If an educated person can't be decent and moral, who can be?

Anyone who wants to be badly enough. The rich, the poor, the educated, the illiterate, the powerful, the laborers. Whether a person is moral has little to do with what his external circumstances in life are or even what other internal qualities he may possess. For example, a person may be honest, but he may not be humble; he may be patient, but not kind; he may be intelligent, but not moral.

So what you're telling me is that determining a person's sense of morality by his level of education is kind of like determining a person's ability to practice neuromedicine by his knowledge of botany.

Exactly.

How do you learn morality? And what makes one person's morality right and another person's morality wrong? Who decides?

A sense of morality comes from parents, religious training, and from conscience. A person will know in his heart if what he is doing is right. He just has to have the courage and the humility to look for the answers and the self-discipline to live them once he finds them.

It still doesn't make sense to me, Ton admitted.

Counselor Brunel smiled. I think Adrian is different, and I also think that in many ways he's an idealistic, moral person. Not only that, but a person can change tremendously in six years. Do you think Adrian wanted to change?

Ton fingered the corner of his mustache. After many moments of reflecting, he nodded.

What did he communicate or do that makes you believe he wanted to change?

He was just so shaken up, and he was more hurt and ashamed than angry at Angela. And when I saw him again, he was different. Kind of relaxed and relieved, but solemn and mature--just different.

Do you think he was happy?

Yes, I think so. He was married to a woman named Sliata, and they had a child.

Ton left Counselor Brunel that day, still puzzling over the issue of morality. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't understand it. Where did morality come from? From religion? But where did religion come from? If it really was from God, then why were there so many different religions? And why were there religions like Zarrism whose purpose it seemed was to demean and manipulate and exploit? Were religions creations of God that were corrupted by man over time, or were they mere creations of man? Or were they both? Could there be an uncorrupted religion? By the same token, could a religion created by man ever teach morality?

Parents could teach morality, it was true, but where did the parents learn it? If parents never learned morality or taught it to their children, then what hope did the children have? What hope did civilization have? Over time civilization, losing more and more moral consciousness with every generation, would deteriorate into chaos and corruption.

If it was true that a person learned morality from his conscience, then what was the origin of conscience? Was it passed from one generation to the next genetically? If it was, how? Why hadn't the evil genes multiplied with each new generation until they had consumed humanity completely? If the source of conscience was genetic, how could he, an Earthon who had been born on the other side of the galaxy, share any values with the Novaunians at all?

Why did he feel so emphatically that human life should be preserved, that it was wrong to hurt people, to lie, to steal, to cheat, and to murder; that it was wrong for a man to strike his wife, to be unfaithful to her, or to abandon her and his children? Where had he learned these things? He certainly hadn't learned them from his parents. Had he learned them from Earth's culture? Why then did he know that Zarrism, one of the sources of Earth's culture, was exploitative and wrong? Where had he obtained a conscience that was so different from that of his mother and sisters? Or had he? Did he have the same conscience and just use it differently?

Ton decided that he would study the religious development and various philosophical creeds of different planets and cultures in an attempt to understand the concept of morality. He began spending forty-five minutes in study every night of the hour he normally spent assimilating InterMind news. He didn't tell anyone of his new pursuit. He understood something of the Novaunian philosophy and knew that Novaunians attributed the source of conscience to God. Perhaps they were right; perhaps they were not. He knew he would not be able to make a comprehensive study with too much persuasion from one point of view. He wanted to form his own conclusions and decided not to direct any more questions on the subject to Counselor Brunel.

Lren Tervel finished his apprenticeship with Dr. Hovaus and, after New Year's Day, started his new job on the General Network in northern Palensea. The conflict between Ausha and Lren had made everyone who worked with them tense, and no one was disappointed to see Lren leave.

Occasionally Ausha asked Ton where he wanted to work after they certified, a question Ton always evaded. Before lunch one day in Ton's office, Ausha pressed a commudisc into Ton's hand.

Ton glanced at the disc in curiosity. What's this?

Ausha's eyes shown with excitement. It's from my father. An application for position as neurophysician at his clinic. He doesn't want our partnership to be dissolved, and he believes you would work with him and Faurney as well as you work with me.

Ton stared at Ausha. A research position with an authority in neuromedicine like Dr. Vumen Ferudant seemed like a magnificent dream, almost too magnificent to be real. It was the position for which he had been working his whole career. How could he not be ecstatic about it? On the other hand, how could he even consider it?

Is there enough work for both of us?

They have more work than they can handle right now and are referring much of what comes their way to other specialists. Father plans to hire a fourth specialist, and he would like it to be you. Ausha squeezed Ton's arm. I know you weren't expecting this, but please consider it. I can't bear the thought of going back to Dinevlea without you.

Ton couldn't bear it either. He wanted it more than he had ever wanted anything. He gazed at her in tenderness and confusion, wanting to tell her everything but knowing he couldn't.

Ausha communicated hopefully, as if in answer to his thoughts, You have to come. We're partners.

 

Chapter 2: A QUESTIONABLE MEMORY

Paul sat across the kitchen table from his grandfather, his grandmother having just left for the day to go shopping in Jastray with Maranda Vundaun. His grandfather had communicated little that morning and seemed not only preoccupied, but disturbed. His manner was so unusual that Paul couldn't help but feel uneasy.

Paul, his grandfather finally communicated, pushing his plate aside. There's something I want to communicate with you about, and I'm not sure how to do it.

Several things raced through Paul's mind at once, and he found himself growing anxious. Was Grandfather ill? Had Colonel Quautar's people found Sanel? Had Deia been in an accident? Had she lost the baby? Paul suddenly felt angry at Sanel and what he had done to Deia. He missed her more than ever now that he wasn't allowed to communicate telepathically with her anymore.

Patan perceived Paul's agitation and patted his arm. No, no one's hurt. It's nothing like that. He withdrew his hand, his gaze tentative. I want you to be the Doshyr heir.

Paul couldn't have been more astounded if his mother and father had miraculously walked through the door. During the nine months he had lived on Novaun, virtually no one he had met in Menaura had let him forget that he had been born to be the Doshyr heir, no one but his grandfather. They had discussed the possibility once during Paul's first days on Novaun, and his grandfather had never mentioned the subject again. To have him now communicate his desire so bluntly bewildered Paul.

It's very difficult for me to ask you to do this because you haven't been on Novaun long and I know you're not completely comfortable with your life here yet. I've thought about this a great deal and discussed it with Uncle Cherl and Saum, and we all agree that you should be the heir. We all feel you would be an excellent high patriarch when the time comes. It's what they believe is right, and it's what I want--I want it very much. I know this is a shock, but please consider it; seriously consider it. I'll give you as much time as you need--months or even a year if you need it.

On one hand, Paul was flattered; on the other hand, his grandfather's request filled him with apprehension. What answer could he give? His grandfather had asked him only to consider it. How could he refuse? He nodded slightly. I'll consider it.

His grandfather's countenance suddenly filled with joy, and Paul knew that his grandfather was sincere in his desire and that he believed him capable. For a fraction of a second, Paul himself almost believed he was capable.

*

Deia Zaurvau awoke Third Day morning of the third week in First Month, her feelings mixed. On one hand, she was excited about the prospect of seeing Paul. She hadn't seen him since her visit to Menaura, and since her home was secured under mind shield, she had been forced to correspond with him by commudisc instead of through direct telepathic communication. On the other hand, she knew they wouldn't be able to mentally put aside the reason they were getting together in the first place--their mother had died a year ago that day.

Teren left for work, and Deia set the breakfast dishes in the synthesizing machine to be cleaned. Paul arrived only a few minutes later. She embraced him, tears coming to her eyes. "Thanks for coming. I don't think I could have made it through this day without you."

"I don't think I could have either," Paul whispered.

Deia withdrew and gently wiped her eyes. "I don't think she would want us to weep. Our lives are exactly the way she would want them to be. Sort of."

Paul allowed Deia to lead him into the living room. "Are they?"

Deia seated herself on the couch and motioned Paul into the lone red armchair. "Is your life really so bad?"

"No, it's not bad, just confusing." Paul leaned on one arm and stared at the floor. "Grandfather asked me to be the Doshyr heir."

Deia thought Paul should feel honored, but she didn't dare tell him that. "What did you tell him?"

"That I would consider it. What else could I do?" Paul sat up and recounted the conversation he had had with their grandfather. "I'm still in shock. It makes me feel good that Grandfather has that kind of confidence in me, but, at the same time, I don't know if I could ever cope with having that kind of responsibility. More than anything, I don't know if I'll ever feel like a Novaunian."

"It's only been nine and a half months, Paul."

"Nine and a half months seems to have been long enough for you."

Deia shook her head quickly. "No, not really."

"You don't feel like a Novaunian yet?"

"I do in some ways. In other ways, I may never." Deia thoughtfully stroked the red linen armrest. "But I don't think that matters."

"Maybe it doesn't matter in your life, but it does in mine. I don't know how I can be the Doshyr heir if I don't feel like a Novaunian. Deia, I don't even feel like a Doshyr!"

"Grandfather doesn't seem to care about that."

"That's true," Paul admitted. "He doesn't."

"What do you want to do?"

"Honestly? I don't know." He looked at Deia's stomach with interest. "You're starting to look pregnant. Have you felt the baby move yet?"

"No, but I have seen her move on the Awareness monitor."

"Her?"

"Yes! Our baby is a girl. We're naming her Michelle Rose."

*

Paul remained in Shalaun five more days, spending Seventh Day evening with Ton and Ausha and their friends at a Coalition social, having a wild and enjoyable time with young people who didn't know him and didn't care whether he would ever be the Doshyr heir. Once Paul left, Deia was dumped back into her lonely routine.

If Deia handled her confinement well, it was only because she was so lacking of energy that she didn't want to go anywhere anyway. Colonel Quautar allowed her very few excursions away from her home other than Devotional, and those she was allowed were always under guard. Even her physician saw her in her home. She was depressed and irritable at times, which was difficult for Teren, but in concern for her emotional well-being, he didn't go anywhere she couldn't go except school, work, and an occasional shopping trip.

Deia spent her days doing a little housework, playing a little piano, and spending a lot of time sleeping and studying for her elementary school certification exam. Twice a week a tutor came and gave her formal training in telepathy. She was progressing, but she still felt telepathically weak. Teren and Deia's friends and family members spent many evenings at their home, and on the evenings they were alone, they studied the Novaunian cultural arts together, an exciting topic for Deia and a relatively unfamiliar one for Teren.

Sometimes Deia reached into her memory in an attempt to discover who had bound her mind to his and was never successful. One day when she was feeling more energetic than normal, she decided to conduct her search in earnest. She sat at the piano and played minuets in an attempt to put herself into her childhood and clear her mind of other thoughts. Event after event from her childhood with Lena, Paul, and Sanel flowed through her consciousness, but she saw and felt nothing that even remotely resembled a violation of her mind.

Where was it? How had it happened? Who had done it? As illogical and impossible as it seemed, Deia believed Sanel was the person who had captured a cell in her brain and that he had simply taught one of his agents how to manipulate the bond. Deia went over and over every event in her childhood in Tryamazz that had involved anyone other than Sanel, Lena, or Paul and found nothing.

She played for hours, her back aching and her hairline wet with perspiration as she reached further and further into her memory. It had to be there somewhere, perhaps before Sanel had taken her to Earth. She remembered her mother's sadness, her father's broad shoulders, and playing with Mara. She remembered lying with Paul on a different floor, in a different house, with Mara shaking toys in her face, and she remembered Evelayna's wispy blond hair and her Aunt Tashaura's smiles.

She felt large hands lift her from the floor, hands like her father's. She looked curiously into peculiar eyes that didn't belong to her father, feeling confused. She kicked her legs and whimpered. She wanted her father, not this strange person.

"Shhh . . . shhh . . ." the stranger whispered with a smile. It's all right. I'm your Uncle Jovem. He held her close and rocked her, soothing her with his whispers. She smiled and cooed. She felt warmth around her head, and then it was gone. A moment later, the strange man who was so like her father put her back on the floor next to Paul, and she watched his feet move across the carpet as he walked out of the room.

Deia awoke to her present surroundings as if awaking from a dream, her elbows on the piano and her face in her hands. Everything around her seemed so silent. Even her heart felt silent, silent with emptiness. Uncle Jovem had done it gently in his own home, there in the presence of his wife, daughter, and children of the brother who had loved him, and no one had ever known.

Deia reached out to Teren for comfort but was prevented from doing so by the mind shield that was protecting her and holding her captive. She slowly arose and trudged to the couch. She lay very still, staring at the white velvet upholstery, feeling polluted, her heart convulsing in loneliness.

Teren returned home hours later and found her still lying on the couch. He knelt down beside her and caressed her, and she clasped him and pulled him close.

*

Two evenings later, after Deia had numbed herself somewhat to what she had remembered, Colonel Quautar came to her home to discuss the situation with her and Teren as they were finishing dinner. Deia told the colonel about her efforts to remember when a cell in her brain had been captured, then detailed her memory of her Uncle Jovem.

Colonel Quautar folded his arms on the polished wood table. I have no doubt of the accuracy of your memory, Deia, but what you remember about that moment in your uncle's home may not be when you lost control of that cell in your brain. There's no way your uncle could have manipulated that bond without being here. It has to be someone else.

Deia stood up and began stacking dishes. Theoretically, yes, but there's no way you can really know. My uncle worked with Earth's Ex-men and Eslavu for seventeen years and was certainly able to develop new methods of mind control. He's already developed a way to do the impossible--lie about his essence. What is so preposterous about his being able to figure out a way for another person to manipulate that bond?

Teren arose and picked up his plate. You have to admit, she has a point.

The colonel gazed at Deia thoughtfully. You do have a point, but I'm still skeptical.

Deia took Teren's plate and headed into the kitchen. I know that Sanel supposedly has to touch his spirit to mine to manipulate the bond, but could he do it through another person with whom he has a telepathic bond? She set the dishes on the marble countertop and dampened a clean dishtowel. Could he manipulate Aunt Tashaura's bond and cause her to manipulate my bond? Could he manipulate my bond and by so doing use the dijauntu bond that exists between Teren and me to try and manipulate Teren?

Deia returned to the tiny dining area just in time to see both Teren and the colonel nod. Teren took the damp dishtowel from her hand. One mind can always be used as a channel for another, and one bond can always be a channel for another bond. Even so, to manipulate a bond, spirits have to touch.

King could use Tashaura's mind to manipulate yours, but to do so he has to touch his mind to hers, which still means he needs to be on Novaun, the colonel explained.

Deia sat back down at the table as Teren quickly wiped it. But perhaps he is here.

The colonel shook his head. He isn't here. I know where he is.

You do? Deia communicated in surprise. Then why hasn't he been apprehended?

Teren took the towel into the kitchen and slapped his hands together over the recycling tank. Because he's on the Sovereign with an entire fleet to protect him.

Deia had no doubt that Teren was right and was satisfied that Sanel was not on Novaun. I know that Sanel never did a dijauntu bond with Aunt Tashaura. Could he have a dijauntu bond with someone? That person would know everything about him, would in a sense be him. Wouldn't that person be able to manipulate the bond?

Teren returned to his chair. No, because the dijauntu partner would only be him in memory, not in spirit. To manipulate a bond, spirits have to touch.

But they do touch, always, in that thread that binds them, Deia communicated.

The colonel shook his head. It isn't enough.

Theoretically, Deia communicated pointedly.

Theoretically, anything is possible, the colonel admitted.

Teren took Deia's hand across the little table. Have you been able to trace the bond, minon?

Yes, but it hasn't done any good. The thread leads us only to space.

Well, then that proves it, Deia communicated. My bond goes into space and Sanel is in space. What more do you want?

That doesn't prove anything, Deia, the colonel communicated.

Perhaps not, but you have to admit, it does make sense.

The colonel's face was solemn with concern. What is it that's worrying you?

Deia sighed. I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just afraid that you're going to find this mysterious agent and that it won't matter, that I'll be Sanel's slave forever.

You aren't your uncle's slave, the colonel assured.

Aren't I? He's a tiny step away from controlling my mind, and he most certainly controls my life.

 

Chapter 3: BOND OF HERITAGE

Braysel took the commudisc he had just received from Miaundea out of the telepathic transmission recorder and threw it down on his bunk. Why did she have to work in Mautysia? Why did she always have to tell him how wonderful the people there were? Why did she always have to tell him things about his history that even he didn't know? He was sick of it. He couldn't wait to marry her and get her away from Novaun. Then she could study Gudyneans or Latanzans or Manoureans or whomever and would stop nagging him with her grand ideas about getting the Isolationists and Fleet supporters to understand each other.

Braysel didn't receive another commudisc from Miaundea for another five days. He slipped the disc into the telepathic transmission recorder, and her image materialized in front of him. She had recorded the disc sitting in a chair, and Braysel seated himself in a chair facing her, touching her hands as he always did and imagining she could actually feel his hands on hers. The minute he looked at her face, he knew something was wrong.

Her face was pale, her yellow-green eyes glistening. Hello, Bray. I just received your last commudisc and . . . She stared at her lap for a moment, then looked back up at him, heartbroken.

Braysel couldn't bear to see her so hurt. What had happened? He waited for her to continue, holding his breath in dread.

I feel that something's wrong between us, and I don't know what it is. She paused again, the same painful kind of pause as before. You've just been so . . . cold and distant. At first I thought you were having problems with work. Please communicate with me soon and tell me what's bothering you. I don't want it to be like this.

Miaundea's image faded, leaving Braysel shocked and humbled. His first instinct was to communicate with her immediately and tell her that nothing was wrong, but he quickly stopped himself. Cold and distant? Had he really treated her that way? But how could he have? His feelings for her certainly weren't cold and distant. On the other hand, Miaundea was sincerely hurt. Either she was being abnormally sensitive or something really was wrong.

Braysel didn't like what she was doing in Mautysia, it was true, but he wasn't irritated with Miaundea personally, or at least he didn't think he was. Could his dislike of her work be affecting his relationship with her? The possibility made him feel more ashamed than ever. Perhaps the only way to make things right with Miaundea was to somehow force himself to feel comfortable with her work in Mautysia.

Braysel slept little that night. The one thing he had to admit was that Miaundea's plan to give their children their pacifist heritage was a good one. One way or another they would get it, and Braysel certainly didn't want them to get it from members of his family. Why, however, did she have to work to change all of Novaun? All of the Union? Even as Braysel asked himself those questions, he couldn't help but ask himself the same question in reverse--why shouldn't she?

Was Miaundea's plan to help the Fleet supporters and Isolationists understand each other a good one or not? Was it the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do? Braysel couldn't make himself believe that what Miaundea was doing was wrong. Perhaps her plan was not completely realistic, but something about it felt right. Understanding between the two factions would make Novaun more unified and that was a very good thing--that was the right thing. So why did he feel so threatened by this good, right thing?

Braysel eventually drifted to sleep, his mind still churning with questions and self-reproach. When he awoke in the morning, he understood his inability to support Miaundea's work. Deep down he believed that if he accepted pacifism in any way he would undermine the Fleet.

It was what his parents felt, only in reverse. They could not accept the Fleet in any way because that acceptance would undermine the Isolationist Movement. Intellectually, Braysel had known the ideologies weren't so different and that a person could, theoretically at least, believe in both--Miaundea had helped him understand that--but in his heart, he still hadn't accepted it.

What would he communicate to Miaundea? He understood what his problem was, but he didn't know how to fix it. After work, dinner, and a hard workout at the gym, he finally knew what he had to do. Once he was alone in his compartment, he transmitted his thoughts to a relay, who in turn transmitted his thoughts to Novaun and Miaundea.

Angel . . . I'm so sorry I hurt you.

Bray? Are you all right? Are you angry with me?

No. I'm not angry with you. I'm just a selfish idiot. He poured his feelings out to her. Miaundea, I need to feel good about my heritage. I want you to teach me pacifism.

How can I teach you anything about pacifism?

I need you to teach me everything about pacifism.

But you know far more than I do.

What I know is warped and you have such a fresh perspective on it. Please, Miaundea.

Well, when you put it that way . . . yes. Yes, of course I'll do it.

*

In the months that passed, Miaundea saw Braysel's sister Mauya once in a while, but when they met, they never discussed Braysel. For this reason, Miaundea was surprised when Mauya asked her to lunch with one surprising purpose in mind--We need to communicate about Bray.

Miaundea met Mauya at a quaint little restaurant in the theater district. Mauya, as glamorous as ever, was wearing a soft, cream-colored body suit trimmed with rubies and onyx, her lips bright with red gloss, her wavy gold hair pulled away from her face with a band of red, black, and purple silk. Once they had ordered, Mauya came directly to the point: You have to persuade Bray to quit the Fleet.

I can't do that.

Mauya shook her head adamantly. No Miaundea, you don't understand. Bray has no choice. He will never be accepted back into the family if he doesn't quit the Fleet.

I can't do it. I have no right to ask him to do something he wouldn't feel good about.

You have no right? Of course you have the right! This is serious, Miaundea. This is your future we're discussing, your future, not just Bray's. The future of your children. Grandfather hasn't changed his position one iota. He will not perform a marriage for Bray or allow him contact with the family if he doesn't repent.

Foreboding filled Miaundea's heart. Braysel's grandfather was requiring repentance, nothing less. Miaundea didn't think that quitting the Fleet would be enough. She had no doubt that Braysel would be required to admit that joining the Fleet had been wrong and sever all ties to his Fleet past. His parents didn't like the fact that her father was a Fleet officer. Would total repentance require that he sever all ties to her? Or would it require that she embrace the pacifist ideology? Miaundea thought that either possibility was likely.

When I agreed to marry Bray, I knew what I was getting into. I'll marry him with or without his family. Miaundea felt as if marrying him without his family would be easier.

Mauya stared at her in disbelief. I'm sorry, Miaundea; I don't mean to offend you, but you are extremely na´ve, and I don't mean about the whole financial side of things, but about the marriage relationship itself. Bray is my brother, and I love him dearly, but do you really think that a man who would put the Fleet above his family won't eventually do the same thing to you and to your children? How can you marry into a situation like that?

Mauya's assertions pierced deeply, not because they were new, but because they were so astute. Many people Miaundea knew had at different times suggested the same thing, and Miaundea couldn't deny that she had thought about it herself. More than anything, this entire attitude made her angry because these people hadn't the slightest comprehension of what Braysel was going through. They didn't know how much he loved his family and how much pain the separation caused him. Miaundea was confident in Braysel's commitment to her. Why did people keep attacking her for something they didn't understand?

Mauya perceived something of Miaundea's anger and loyalty to Braysel in the exchange. I'm sorry, Miaundea. She sighed in frustration. I'm just worried about you two. And what's going on between Bray and the family is just so wrong, so utterly wrong.

Braysel's entire situation baffled Miaundea. She had believed for some time that, in the eternal scheme of things, Braysel was somehow a catalyst to bring the Isolationists and Fleet supporters together, but how? The course Braysel was following seemed to be doing the opposite.

Miaundea and Mauya's food arrived, but neither one of them could bring themselves to eat yet. Finally Miaundea communicated, I agree that it's wrong. But I don't have any solutions. My father told me that I should let Bray work out his family business on his own. I'm thinking more and more that it's some of the best advice he's ever given me.

Mauya relaxed and gazed at Miaundea affectionately. You're the best thing that's ever happened to Bray. I just wish Mother and Father agreed with me.

What exactly do they think of me?

I'm not sure they know themselves. I know they don't entirely approve of you.

How can they? Miaundea communicated humorously. My father is a Fleet officer.

But that seems such a little thing. You would think they would be relieved that you're a Novaunian.

Miaundea wasn't comfortable with Mauya's comment. She frowned, taking a bite of her sandwich. Relieved that I'm a Novaunian?

Well, yes. It would have been so easy for him to marry a girl of a different race.

Yes, I guess it would have been, Miaundea communicated, feeling disturbed and not sure why.

*

Braysel expanded his spirit to encompass every fiber of his armed shuttle. His spirit flowed through the metal, the circuits, the electromatrixes, the lasers, and the engine like blood, making the ship's body one with his. As navigator Mykal Vandur, telepathy scientist Trevaun Surkel, and engineer Wilyl Faumtren expanded their spirits and overlapped each other's and Braysel's, Braysel could feel that their nervousness and anticipation was as intense as his own. After months of thought control exercises, flight simulation, maneuvering exercises in the armed shuttle, and practice in the VisionRun lanes moving themselves with the spirit dimension formula, they were finally getting to use the formula in flight.

The four executed their separate parts of the spirit dimension formula as they had done so many times before, carrying it through with a speed and precision that came only through countless hours of practice. A surge of living energy engulfed the craft and pressed down, everything in their field of vision seeming to sink away and, at the same time, advance toward them, every hint of sound sucked into nothingness.

Braysel's mind was blank except for the coordinates of the shuttle's destination, but his spirit reveled in the rapture and excitement it felt in the combined spirit energy of his companions. Everything around them changed to an opalescent blur, and in an instant, the craft traveled from the airlock to its projected coordinates two thousand meters from the Glautel Monsa. The four gazed in wonder through the canopy at the curve of the Glautel Monsa's white wing and the hundreds of airlocks that led to launching and landing tubes, when suddenly, they felt their bodies again. Mykal whooped in excitement, and the other three followed with vigorous cheers.

The weeks that followed brought stringent flight control exercises. Braysel and his crew spent hours in the armed shuttle, their minds blank except for the spirit dimension formula and the repeated coordinates given them by the Command Center. The Command Center formulated fight paths that took them as far as thirty light-years away from the Glautel Monsa, directing them to move about the test area with increasing precision and speed. Then came days flying with one other ship of their squadron, then the weeks of flight coordination with the entire squadron.

Braysel and the other pilots, navigators, engineers, and telepathy scientists that composed the flight crews of the two new squadrons spent many hours brainstorming new design ideas for a compact two-man crew fighter that would be energized by the spirit dimension formula. Braysel, as young as he was compared to most of the other men involved in the flight testing, was the only one who possessed equal knowledge in the fields of piloting, navigation, engineering, and telepathy science. He was anxious to have a new craft designed and contributed many creative ideas which Colonel Sedel, the engineer directing the project, found useful.

As much as Braysel enjoyed his work, he was anxious and depressed much of the time. He continued to send a commudisc to Maurek every two weeks, and Maurek still refused to reply. Braysel had known it would take awhile for Maurek to feel comfortable with his betrothal to Miaundea, but half a year was a long time. Braysel had almost given up hope that he and Maurek would ever be friends again.

Braysel lived for commudiscs from Miaundea. Every commudisc she sent contained hours of information on the history and culture revolving around Novaunian pacifism, along with her observations. She was excited about all she was learning, and her excitement was beginning to move Braysel to appreciation. He had never felt such understanding and support from anyone, yet he couldn't help but think that Miaundea was the cause of his current dilemma. Had he not met Miaundea, he wouldn't have had to betray Maurek. Had he not become betrothed to Miaundea, he wouldn't have ever had to worry about how he was going to provide her with a family and an honorable marriage.

Braysel corresponded regularly with Mauya and sent commudiscs to his parents often, telling them what he could of his life without mentioning his work, but he never received any type of reply. He bitterly realized that they probably disposed of the discs as soon as they received them, without assimilating so much as a thought.

He anguished for Miaundea, but the prospect of an extended leave filled him with anxiety. He believed it was still a year away, but what could he possibly accomplish in a year that he hadn't moved a millimeter toward accomplishing in half a year? His situation seemed more and more hopeless, and he couldn't help but feel frustrated and trapped.

After work one day, Braysel received a small package from Miaundea. He took it back to his cabin and eagerly opened it. Inside the small box was a commudisc and an exotic ring carved out of green jade with the word "beloved" engraved on the inside of the band. Breathless with anticipation, Braysel quickly inserted the commudisc in his telepathic transmission recorder. Miaundea's image materialized in front of him, vivid and beautiful.

Emotions of love and emptiness immediately overwhelmed Braysel. Her eyes were intense with yearning. I miss you, Bray.

I miss you too, angel, he whispered.

Braysel lost himself for thirty minutes in Miaundea's communication, then sat in front of his own telepathic transmission recorder and formulated his reply. He spent much of the evening praying, begging God to inspire his parents to accept him back into the family. He fell asleep feeling serene, as if everything would eventually work out. After all, hadn't Miaundea agreed to marry him? Hadn't her father approved the marriage? Weren't those two things, in themselves, miracles?

Braysel dreamed strange, graphic dreams of soaring through space in a new fighter, at the same time mentally seeing every process that made the fighter function, only there were no electromatrixes or engines, but instead, an artificial brain.

Braysel awoke and sat up in bed abruptly, overwhelmed with excitement. That was it! The artificial brain!

He and his colleagues had been perplexed by how they could construct a craft to function with the spirit dimension formula without the necessary four people. They had decided that such a craft would need a device that would store spirit energy and would use the stored spirit energy to produce new spirit energy to work in conjunction with the spirit transformation formula emitted by the pilot and his navigator, thus eliminating the need for the two crew members presently needed to execute the spirit energy formula.

Scientists had, in the past decade, made advances in harnessing spirit energy for medical and commercial use. Much work had been done to develop ways to incorporate the spirit energy in space flight, but Novaunian engineers had encountered the same problem those on the Glautel Monsa now faced--how to construct a device that would store and produce spirit energy.

Braysel's grandfather had already designed an artificial brain that was powered by spirit energy. His grandfather had not discovered a way to produce spirit energy, but he had found a way to store it and to make it work with the Awareness monitor.

The power generators and matrixes in Braysel's dream were almost identical to the artificial brain his grandfather had engineered. The spirit energy generators of his dreams not only stored spirit energy and allowed it to interface with the Awarenesses of the men in the flight crew as the artificial brain interfaced with an Awareness image produced by an Awareness monitor, they produced new spirit energy!

The formulas were all there in his mind, and he had no doubt they would work. It all was so simple. Why hadn't anyone thought of it before? His mental image of the spirit energy generator was as vivid as if he had already built it. He immediately transmitted a thought to activate his telepathic transmission recorder and poured his new knowledge into the machine. Then he telepathically turned on the lights, sprang out of bed, and awoke Wilyl.

I know how to do it, Wilyl! I know! It came to me in a dream! I know how to build a spirit energy generator!

Wilyl awoke with a start and sat up, his light brown hair disheveled, his gray eyes wide with vigor. You aren't serious.

Of course I'm serious! It's based on the same principles as the artificial brain!

*

Miaundea stepped noiselessly up the walk to the Avenaunta home thirty minutes before dawn. Maurek had not come home on leave once since her betrothal to Braysel, and Miaundea knew that he still hadn't replied to any of Braysel's commudiscs. She had been heartbroken for Maurek in the beginning, but five months had passed and she was on the verge of exasperation.

She thought that if she could communicate with Maurek and explain to him what had happened, she might be able to soften him a little. She had enlisted the help of Maurek's mother, and finally, after four weeks, his mother had been able to persuade him to come home.

Mineste Avenaunta met Miaundea at the door and gazed down at her with sad blue eyes. Miaundea was instantly alarmed. What's the matter?

He's changed. He's cynical, and there's a harshness about him I've never seen before. He may refuse to communicate with you.

I have to try. Miaundea turned and walked down the quiet hall to Maurek's bedroom, her emotions a tangle of anticipation, anxiousness, and dread. Miaundea knew Maurek's mother didn't understand why she wanted to communicate with Maurek in this way, but it didn't seem to bother her and she didn't ask any questions. Miaundea carefully pushed open Maurek's door and slipped into his room.

Maurek lay in bed under a blue quilt, the starlight pouring through his window and illuminating his face. In his sleep he didn't appear cynical or harsh, just exhausted and desolate. Miaundea hesitated there for a moment, unable to breathe. What would he do? What would he communicate? Suddenly she wasn't sure this was a good idea. Was this the way Maurek had felt when he had invaded her bedroom?

Not seeing a chair, she knelt down next to his bed. Hearing movement near him, Maurek opened his eyes and turned toward the noise. Miaundea froze. She hadn't expected Maurek to be such a light sleeper, to discover her presence so soon.

Maurek sat up abruptly and scowled down at her. What are you doing here?

I . . . I wanted to communicate with you.

I have nothing to communicate with you. He lay back down, nestled himself into a comfortable position, and closed his eyes.

Miaundea hadn't known what to expect, but she hadn't believed he would ignore her. She reached out with her thoughts: Please don't be this way, Maurek. But he had closed his mind to her communications.

She stood up. "You make me sick, Maurek. Bray didn't pursue me; I pursued him. We didn't mean to fall in love; it just happened. It nearly killed Bray when he realized how much you would be hurt. Now here you are, so proud, and so bitter that you can't think of anyone but yourself. You don't care one iota that Bray is despondent, thinking you hate him, that he misses you desperately, and that he needs your support. Some friend you are." Maurek didn't so much as flutter an eyelash in reply.

Miaundea remained there a minute longer, gradually gaining control of her anger. "I was so thrilled, Maurek, when we started trying to understand each other. I wanted us to be friends, and I believed at the time that I had made my feelings about you perfectly clear. I never imagined you would place such conditions on our friendship."

Miaundea lingered there another moment, waiting for Maurek to open his eyes and communicate with her, but he didn't. Finally she turned and left, communicating nothing to Maurek's mother on the way out.

Miaundea took an airbus back to Mautysia that morning, worked her shift at the restaurant as a hostess, then took an airbus back to Shalaun that evening. She went to Devotional with her family the next morning, and as she had anticipated, Maurek was there. She tried many times to get him to look at her, but he avoided even that.

Miaundea's family sat in the holy room several rows in front of Maurek and his family. Miaundea couldn't concentrate on the service. It was as if she could feel Maurek's stare bore through her head. Was he angry? Or was he still deliriously attracted to her? She wasn't sure which possibility disturbed her more.

Finally, when the service was over, Miaundea turned and smiled at Maurek weakly. His face was pale, but his features had relaxed and his icy blue eyes had become soft with love. After a moment, Maurek self-consciously averted his gaze, and Miaundea knew that he wasn't ready to communicate with her yet. Still, she felt progress had been made, and she left the house of worship feeling relieved.

The days passed, and Miaundea didn't worry about Maurek anymore. He would accept the situation eventually, and Miaundea had no doubt that he still considered Braysel his friend. Miaundea told Braysel about her meeting with Maurek and tried to assure him that everything would be all right, but Braysel remained skeptical.

When Miaundea had first moved to Mautysia, her work had been physically demanding, but exciting. She spent her early afternoons working as a hostess in a restaurant downtown and her evenings working in the backstage crew at one of the city's minor theaters. She met many types of people from different pacifist countries and planets in the Union and was learning a great deal. Nearly everyone she met was unsure of her motives for being in Mautysia and treated her as an oddity, but they were helpful and kind. She was frank about her involvement with Braysel, and although people sometimes made critical comments, most respected her honesty and sincerity enough to remain silent.

Miaundea's attitude began changing, however, after her discussion with Mauya about Braysel's situation. As hard as she tried, Miaundea couldn't forget Mauya's relief that Miaundea was of Novaunian race. That a pacifist would be less offended by marriage to a strong Fleet supporter than by marriage to a person of another race suggested that even if they didn't think interracial marriage was a sin, it repelled them.

What if Braysel had married a woman of another race? Would that have been such a terrible thing? Despite the potential discrepancy between lifespans, Miaundea couldn't make herself feel that such a marriage would have been wrong, not if the woman shared Braysel's values and religion. Mauya, however, obviously believed it would be wrong, and that nagged at Miaundea until she could think about little else.

Why did Mauya think marrying outside of the race was wrong, and how far did her reluctance go? Did she feel it was only wrong if one married a person who was not a Novaunian citizen? Or did she feel it was wrong for a Novaunian citizen of complete Novaunian race such as Braysel or Teren to marry a Novaunian citizen of mixed race such as Ausha Ferudant?

When Miaundea saw Mauya again, she almost asked her but didn't dare, feeling as if she might lose control and communicate something that would offend her. The possibility that Mauya or any other person of pacifist heritage would consider it wrong for Braysel to marry someone like Ausha made Miaundea feel queasy with disgust and humiliation.

The weeks flew by, and Miaundea noticed every remark that possessed even a hint of racism. I never thought Bray Nalaurev would actually convince a Novaunian woman to marry him . . . You know the Earthon doctor? Do you know anyone who's actually gone to him for treatment? How could he be qualified to practice Novaunian medicine after only a year? . . . You spent two years studying a primitive planet's culture? Why?

Miaundea slowly began realizing that Mauya wasn't the only person of pacifist heritage who was concerned about keeping the race pure. Once Miaundea began looking for evidences of it, she found it everywhere, even among pacifists who were not native Verzaunians. Perhaps Ausha and the other Coalition officers had been right. Perhaps the pacifists really were racists. Then again, did aversion to interracial marriage mean they were racists? Or did it mean they understood the enormous difficulties inherent in a marriage between two such different people and were simply cautious?

Miaundea was too troubled to let the matter rest. She invited all of her roommates out to breakfast one Eighth Day morning and, after they had all ordered, asked, I'm just curious. Let's pretend you meet a man at the Shamunja one evening and he asks you to dance. You like each other and dance several dances, and in that time, you find out that he's from the planet Bristaun. He asks you for an engagement. Would you go?

Nanci's turquoise eyes sparkled impishly. What does he look like?

He's gorgeous! Not only that, but he's charming and very kind. What would you do?

Nanci shook her head. I don't know. That's a hard one.

The waiter set a glass of milk in front of Miaundea. Why would that be a difficult decision? You like him, and it's only an engagement.

I'll have to agree with Nanci, Jere communicated, receiving a glass of juice from the waiter. On one hand, it's only an engagement, but on the other hand, what if you really started liking him? What if the relationship started getting serious? Jere was nearly twenty-five, a history teacher and pacifist activist from Narquasa.

So what if it does? Miaundea asked. He's a good man, he's a Novaunian, and he shares your values.

But he isn't a Novaunian, Nanci communicated. Not really. He might be just as much Gudynean as Novaunian.

They really did have a problem with interracial marriage. Why would it matter that he's part Gudynean?

Tausha shook her head quickly. I don't think it would matter so much to me. If I liked him, I would certainly go on an engagement with him. Perhaps I would marry him. I don't know.

Nanci set her glass down quickly, astounded. What would your parents think? Nanci, the only native Mautysian, was the youngest of the group, an art student who still depended heavily on her family for financial support. Miaundea wasn't surprised that her first concern was how her parents would react.

Oh, I don't know. I don't think they would be thrilled about it, but I don't think they would oppose it. It wouldn't be like he was from Gudynea itself or anything--it's only Bristaun, after all, not a planet on the other side of the galaxy.

Tausha was from Systrina. Perhaps pacifists from other planets in the Union were in general less xenophobic than their home world counterparts. The possibility was worth exploring. What's wrong with marrying a person with Gudynean blood? Many Gudyneans share our religious beliefs.

Nanci shook her head quickly. It just wouldn't be right.

Why?

Because Novaun is for Novaunians and Gudynea is for Gudyneans--we have a certain obligation to Novaun and our posterity to keep the race pure.

Jere frowned at Miaundea. You don't think so?

To tell you the truth, I'd never thought about it before.

So you would go on an engagement with the man from Bristaun? Tausha asked.

Miaundea shrugged. Before I met Bray, sure.

Jere's golden eyebrows shot up. Would you actually marry him?

Yes, I think so.

Nanci grimaced. Even though you would outlive him by half a century?

I'm betrothed to a Fleet man. He may die in battle while still in his prime. Does that mean I shouldn't marry him?

Tausha's mouth quivered, as if she were struggling not to laugh. Well, none of us would marry a Fleet man!

Nanci did laugh. And we certainly wouldn't marry Braysel Nalaurev!

Miaundea knew they were teasing her and laughed with them. When the laughter died, she asked, So what do you think about the existence of Bristaun, Jeltar, and Dinevlea? Do you consider them Novaunian planets?

How can you not? Nanci communicated, stretching her neck and peering in the direction of the kitchen. They're part of the Union.

Miaundea glanced toward the kitchen and saw that their food was coming. That's not what I mean.

Jere unfolded her embroidered white napkin and set it in her lap. Well, I think it's a crime that Novaun ever cooperated with Gudynea on a colonizing venture to begin with. Both groups lost major portions of their heritages when they began to intermarry. What happened to those six planets was that they ended up creating worlds that are neither Novaunian nor Gudynean.

Miaundea unfolded her own napkin. I'm not sure that's true. I know several people from Bristaun and Dinevlea, and they all think of themselves as Novaunians. Not only that, but they act like Novaunians.

And you really think that's right? Tausha communicated. Here you have people of Gudynean ancestry who have no ties to their Gudynean heritage. That's just as wrong as a person born half Novaunian who has been smothered by the Gudynean part of his heritage such that he knows nothing of his Novaunian heritage.

Nanci and Tausha nodded in agreement as the waiter began serving them.

Dinevlea, Bristaun, and Jeltar have had nearly a thousand years to develop their own unique race, history, and culture, Jere communicated. Personally, I've always felt that they ought to join with Roysa, Lylenta, and Dretundel to form their own union.

A union of six planets? So close to the Dirons? Then Miaundea remembered that the Isolationists didn't think of such things.

Jere ground pepper over her eggs. Why not? They would be politically independent, which would probably suit their purposes better, and they could maintain an alliance with our Union or the Gudynean Federation or both, whatever they wanted.

Miaundea left her roommates later that morning, disturbed. No wonder Ausha and so many of the other Coalition members were such zealots. She understood, but oddly enough, she believed that some of those people, Ausha included, were too sensitive about the issue and too bitter and blind with their own prejudices.

Miaundea communicated telepathically with Braysel the next evening and told him everything. Braysel communicated, uncomprehending, I don't understand why you're so troubled. What did they communicate that was so wrong? It is important to preserve our race and heritage. How can you find fault with that?

Realization crushed Miaundea's heart. Braysel believed as they did! He really was one of them! Miaundea was so outraged that she ended the communication abruptly. Braysel tried to resume the communication, but she ignored him. How could he feel that way? How?