Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Science Fiction > The Door Through Space > CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 He hadn't changed much in six years. His face was worse than mine; he hadn't had the plastic surgeons of Terran Intelligence doing their best for him. His mouth, I thought fleetingly, must hurt like hell when he drew it up into the kind of grin he was grinning now. His eyebrows, thick and fierce with gray in them, went up as he saw Miellyn; but he backed away to let us enter, and shut the door behind us.  
The room was bare and didn't look as if it had been lived in much. The floor was stone, rough-laid, a single fur rug laid before a brazier. A little girl was sitting on the rug, drinking from a big double-handled mug, but she scrambled to her feet as we came in, and backed against the wall, looking at us with wide eyes.
She had pale-red hair like Juli's, cut straight in a fringe across her forehead, and she was dressed in a smock of dyed red fur that almost matched her hair. A little smear of milk like a white moustache clung to her upper lip where she[105] had forgotten to wipe her mouth. She was about five years old, with deep-set dark eyes like Juli's, that watched me gravely without surprise or fear; she evidently knew who I was.
"Rindy," Rakhal said quietly, not taking his eyes from me. "Go into the other room."
Rindy didn't move, still staring at me. Then she moved toward Miellyn, looking up intently not at the woman, but at the pattern of embroideries across her dress. It was very quiet, until Rakhal added, in a gentle and curiously moderate voice, "Do you still carry a skean, Race?"
I shook my head. "There's an ancient proverb on Terra, about blood being thicker than water, Rakhal. That's Juli's daughter. I'm not going to kill her father right before her eyes." My rage spilled over then, and I bellowed, "To hell with your damned Dry-town feuds and your filthy Toad God and all the rest of it!"
Rakhal said harshly, "Rindy. I told you to get out."
"She needn't go." I took a step toward the little girl, a wary eye on Rakhal. "I don't know quite what you're up to, but it's nothing for a child to be mixed up in. Do what you damn please. I can settle with you any time.
"The first thing is to get Rindy out of here. She belongs with Juli and, damn it, that's where she's going." I held out my arms to the little girl and said, "It's over, Rindy, whatever he's done to you. Your mother sent me to find you. Don't you want to go to your mother?"
Rakhal made a menacing gesture and warned, "I wouldn't—"
Miellyn darted swiftly between us and caught up the child in her arms. Rindy began to struggle noiselessly, kicking and whimpering, but Miellyn took two quick steps, and flung an inner door open. Rakhal took a stride toward her. She whirled on him, fighting to control the furious little girl, and gasped, "Settle it between you, without the baby watching!"
Through the open door I briefly saw a bed, a child's small dresses hanging on a hook, before Miellyn kicked the door shut and I heard a latch being fastened. Behind the closed door Rindy broke into angry screams, but I put my back against the door.[106]
"She's right. We'll settle it between the two of us. What have you done to that child?"
"If you thought—" Rakhal stopped himself in midsentence and stood watching me without moving for a minute. Then he laughed.
"You're as stupid as ever, Race. Why, you fool, I knew Juli would run straight to you, if she was scared enough. I knew it would bring you out of hiding. Why, you damned fool!" He stood mocking me, but there was a strained fury, almost a frenzy of contempt behind the laughter.
"You filthy coward, Race! Six years hiding in the Terran zone. Six years, and I gave you six months! If you'd had the guts to walk out after me, after I rigged that final deal to give you the chance, we could have gone after the biggest thing on Wolf. And we could have brought it off together, instead of spending years spying and dodging and hunting! And now, when I finally get you out of hiding, all you want to do is run back where you'll be safe! I thought you had more guts!"
"Not for Evarin's dirty work!"
Rakhal swore hideously. "Evarin! Do you really believe—I might have known he'd get to you too! That girl—and you've managed to wreck all I did there, too!" Suddenly, so swiftly my eyes could hardly follow, he whipped out his skean and came at me. "Get away from that door!"
I stood my ground. "You'll have to kill me first. And I won't fight you, Rakhal. We'll settle this, but we'll do it my way for once, like Earthmen."
"Son of the Ape! Get your skean out, you stinking coward!"
"I won't do it, Rakhal." I stood and defied him. I had outmaneuvered Dry-towners in a shegri bet. I knew Rakhal, and I knew he would not knife an unarmed man. "We fought once with the kifirgh and it didn't settle anything. This time we'll do it my way. I threw my skean away before I came here. I won't fight."
He thrust at me. Even I could see that the blow was a feint, and I had a flashing, instantaneous memory of Dallisa's threat to drive the knife through my palms. But even while I commanded myself to stand steady, sheer reflex threw me forward, grabbing at his wrist and the knife.
Between my grappling hand he twisted and I felt the[107] skean drive home, rip through my jacket with a tearing sound; felt the thin fine line of touch, not pain yet, as it sliced flesh. Then pain burned through my ribs and I felt hot blood, and I wanted to kill Rakhal, wanted to get my hands around his throat and kill him with them. And at the same time I was raging because I didn't want to fight the crazy fool, I wasn't even mad at him.
Miellyn flung the door open, shrieking, and suddenly the Toy, released, was darting a small whirring droning horror, straight at Rakhal's eyes. I yelled. But there was no time even to warn him. I bent and butted him in the stomach. He grunted, doubled up in agony and fell out of the path of the diving Toy. It whirred in frustration, hovered.
He writhed in agony, drawing up his knees, clawing at his shirt, while I turned on Miellyn in immense fury—and stopped. Hers had been a move of desperation, an instinctive act to restore the balance between a weaponless man and one who had a knife. Rakhal gasped, in a hoarse voice with all the breath gone from it:
"Didn't want to use. Rather fight clean—" Then he opened his closed fist and suddenly there were two of the little whirring droning horrors in the room and this one was diving at me, and as I threw myself headlong to the floor the last puzzle-piece fell into place: Evarin had made the same bargain with Rakhal as with me!
I rolled over, dodging. Behind me in the room there was a child's shrill scream: "Daddy! Daddy!" And abruptly the birds collapsed in midair and went limp. They fell to the floor like dropping stones and lay there quivering. Rindy dashed across the room, her small skirts flying, and grabbed up one of the terrible vicious things in either hand.
"Rindy!" I bellowed. "No!"
She stood shaking, tears pouring down her round cheeks, a Toy squeezed tight in either hand. Dark veins stood out almost black on her fair temples. "Break them, Daddy," she implored in a little thread of a voice. "Break them, quick. I can't hang on...."
Rakhal staggered to his feet like a drunken man and snatched one of the Toys, grinding it under his heel. He made a grab at the second, reeled and drew an anguished[108] breath. He crumpled up, clutching at his belly where I'd butted him. The bird screamed like a living thing.
Breaking my paralysis of horror I leaped up, ran across the room, heedless of the searing pain along my side. I snatched the bird from Rindy and it screamed and shrilled and died as my foot crunched the tiny feathers. I stamped the still-moving thing into an amorphous mess and kept on stamping and smashing until it was only a heap of powder.
Rakhal finally managed to haul himself upright again. His face was so pale that the scars stood out like fresh burns.
"That was a foul blow, Race, but I—I know why you did it." He stopped and breathed for a minute. Then he muttered, "You ... saved my life, you know. Did you know you were doing it, when you did it?"
Still breathing hard, I nodded. Done knowingly, it meant an end of blood-feud. However we had wronged each other, whatever the pledges. I spoke the words that confirmed it and ended it, finally and forever:
"There is a life between us. Let it stand for a death."
Miellyn was standing in the doorway, her hands pressed to her mouth, her eyes wide. She said shakily, "You're walking around with a knife in your ribs, you fool!"
Rakhal whirled and with a quick jerk he pulled the skean loose. It had simply been caught in my shirtcloak, in a fold of the rough cloth. He pulled it away, glanced at the red tip, then relaxed. "Not more than an inch deep," he said. Then, angrily, defending himself: "You did it yourself, you ape. I was trying to get rid of the knife when you jumped me."
But I knew that and he knew I knew it. He turned and scooped up Rindy, who was sobbing noisily. She dug her head into his shoulder and I made out her strangled words. "The other Toys hurt you when I was mad at you...." she sobbed, rubbing her fists against smeared cheeks. "I—I wasn't that mad at you. I wasn't that mad at anybody, not even ... him."
Rakhal pressed his hand against his daughter's fleecy hair and said, looking at me over her head, "The Toys activate a child's subconscious resentments against his parents—I found out that much. That also means a child can control them for a few seconds. No adult can." A stranger would[109] have seen no change in his expression, but I knew him, and saw.
"Juli said you threatened Rindy."
He chuckled and set the child on her feet. "What else could I say that would have scared Juli enough to send her running to you? Juli's proud, almost as proud as you are, you stiff-necked Son of the Ape." The insult did not sting me now.
"Come on, sit down and let's decide what to do, now we've finished up the old business." He looked remotely at Miellyn and said, "You must be Dallisa's sister? I don't suppose your talents include knowing how to make coffee?"
They didn't, but with Rindy's help Miellyn managed, and while they were out of the room Rakhal explained briefly. "Rindy has rudimentary ESP. I've never had it myself, but I could teach her something—not much—about how to use it. I've been on Evarin's track ever since that business of The Lisse.
"I'd have got it sooner, if you were still working with me, but I couldn't do anything as a Terran agent, and I had to be kicked out so thoroughly that the others wouldn't be afraid I was still working secretly for Terra. For a long time I was just chasing rumors, but when Rindy got big enough to look in the crystals of Nebran, I started making some progress.
"I was afraid to tell Juli; her best safety was the fact that she didn't know anything. She's always been a stranger in the Dry-towns." He paused, then said with honest self-evaluation, "Since I left the Secret Service I've been a stranger there myself."
I asked, "What about Dallisa?"
"Twins have some ESP to each other. I knew Miellyn had gone to the Toymaker. I tried to get Dallisa to find out where Miellyn had gone, learn more about it. Dallisa wouldn't risk it, but Kyral saw me with Dallisa and thought it was Miellyn. That put him on my tail, too, and I had to leave Shainsa. I was afraid of Kyral," he added soberly. "Afraid of what he'd do. I couldn't do anything without Rindy and I knew if I told Juli what I was doing, she'd take Rindy away into the Terran Zone, and I'd be as good as dead."
As he talked, I began to realize how vast a web E............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved