Chapter 10 – Table Talk

When he last saw the lounge, it had been a bare white room with three puffy chairs, a low table, and some panels of machinery built into the walls. The screen on the back wall showed the aft view – a few pinpoints of purple light. He had thought it very stark.

The lounge was now a mess hall. Or banquet hall. The back screen showed a holo of a dining room in some palatial hotel. Baroque string music wove in the air. A dark red carpet had appeared on the floor, matching the one in the holo. A long table, swathed in white, flanked by ebony chairs, dominated the room.

When Isaiah walked in, FX looked up from a wall panel, saw him, and muttered, "Oh, yeah, two more," then touched the panel again. The table stretched like a rubber band. Two more ebony chairs popped into place at one end.

"What–?" Isaiah started to say.

"The furnisher," FX said, pointing a thumb at the panel. "A teleform projector."

"Teleforms," Isaiah echoed, hunting his memory. "Solid images? Is that how homes are furnished now, back in Terran Space?"

"Not yet," FX answered, "but they're handy when space is short."

Vivian unloaded dishes from some hatches in the forward wall, then handed them to the air. They flew to the table, apparently under Borne's power; he stood at the table, watching the flight sharply.

"Please move," said Daima from behind him. Isaiah stepped out of the way. The Sossen frani entered with a wooden box, announcing, "I bring the real silver."

"Good," said Vivian. "Set the table."

Daima stared at the box in her arms. Her face was always enigmatic, but Isaiah thought she looked uneasy. "I'll do that if you like," he said."

Daima gave a short trill, then smiled and handed him the box. "Thank you."

He set the table for seven. The silverware included four kinds of forks and three kinds of knives. Isaiah used them all. "How many courses is this?" he asked, surveying the latest incoming fleet of dishes.

"Fourteen," Vivian answered.

"Egad! Didn't you people eat while you were on Carmel?" He didn't see any oysters yet, but he began putting out the oyster forks anyway.

"It's a ship custom, Isaiah. We always have a feast after an adventure."

Isaiah noted that this team didn't have assignments; they had adventures.

"Don't worry," said FX. "A lot of this is very creatively disguised roughage."

"And a lot isn't," Vivian replied. She turned and pointed at Isaiah. "You are under doctor's orders to have seconds of chocolate bombe and either fish or fowl. Starting today, you're a growing boy again."

Isaiah glanced down at his hands, where the knuckles had been getting leathery and silver threads showed among the gold. "Suits me," he muttered. In a louder voice, "Is teleform tableware not as proper as real silver?"

"Yes. It has no class and no weight," FX said. "Like eating with plastic or aeromer." He glanced at the wall screen and appeared to see it for the first time. With a short order to Wisper, he changed the image to the dining room of Blenheim palace.

Just then, Canorus came in with the "real napkins." "Not bloody Blenheim again," he grumbled. Isaiah noticed the Melior now had the gold eyes and red-shot chestnut hair of a pure-bred.

"Oh all right!" exclaimed FX. Blenheim gave way to something else – Versailles, for all Isaiah knew – and the carpet changed color to match. Then FX gestured and the chairs took on an elegant old 22nd-century design. He gestured again and candle flames appeared over the table. Then candelabra grew beneath them. Daima lowered the lights.

Isaiah ran his fingers over a chair back and found that it still felt smooth and rounded; the engravings were illusion. He touched a candle and found it heatless, impalpable. "Food that does not fatten, airy furniture and unburning flames." He shook his head, smiling. "Do you know the kind of feast you've laid?"

"A fairy feast!" said Jeannete, just coming in. "All glamour and no substance."

"Right," said Isaiah, smiling back at her. She wore deep red draped in a sari-like style. It brought out the honey-gold tones in her skin.

"This has substance," Vivian assured them. "Eat it and see. But don't worry; we'll work it out of you. Sit."

They all sat. Isaiah and Jeanette, the newcomers, wound up at one end, facing each other. Jeanette had her brother beside her; Isaiah sat next to Daima. The Sossen frani wore a black satin sari, pinned at the shoulder with a silver rose. A moment before she sat down, she covered herself with her most humanlike illusion. "Why did you do that?" he asked her.

"This meal is a human formal– formalism? Formality. So I appear formally human," she answered. Her voice, too, was now more humanlike.

They had all dressed formally, Isaiah noticed. FX wore a wide black collar, intricately pleated and studded with tiny pins, over a white shirt with lambchop sleeves of a pattern reviving twenty-first century fashion. Vivian wore mint green with trailing sleeves. Canorus wore flat black, but with a red gem at the high collar and a tiny gold pin that looked, from Isaiah's position, like a military insignia. Borne's idea of formal wear involved nothing fancier than an open-necked white shirt with only one pair of sleeves. Then there was his sister in that lovely rose red.

Isaiah noticed that, by luck or unconscious design, he had worn the best of his three old red tunics. He remembered how British empire-builders and United Earth exploratory teams had always worn formals to dinner, wherever they were. Did his shipmates – did he – feel cut off, like those earlier folk? Or was it simply that a feast was a good way to cap off an adventure, and this was how you dressed for a feast?

He dropped his wonderings when FX rose, lifting his wine glass. "We made it," he pronounced. "Cheers."

And suddenly everyone else was lifting a glass and repeating, "Cheers." Isaiah picked up his glass by imitative reflex, then hesitated. The Resurrection Soldiers in general and Isaiah in particular were not committed to total alcohol abstinence. But many people on Carmel were, with the result that Isaiah had not tasted wine since a lone milliliter sipped at a friend's eucharist more than a year ago. He had to think through a series of questions – Will anyone here be offended? (Of course not.) Will I set a bad example? (A little late for that.) Will they notice if I don't? (Probably.) Why shouldn't I, then? (No reason, except...) What's my capacity? (Very small.) – before he cautiously sipped a little wine. He did not particularly like the taste.

"Absent friends," FX toasted again.

Isaiah thought of Matthew, Max, and many others, and sipped again. "Who are your absent friends?" he asked.

"The membership of our team," FX answered, sitting, "has changed over the years." He passed Vivian a salad bowl and did not elaborate.

"I look forward to hearing about them sometime," Isaiah suggested. FX smiled blandly and helped himself to some salad dressing. Vivian and Borne were talking about a four-sleeved shirt she was making for him. Everyone else was silent.

Isaiah thought about his hesitation at the first toast and the long history behind that tiny thing, all obsolete now. These folk had a history, but he had little part in it. He wondered if Jeanette felt equally adrift. Probably not.

He suddenly decided he would have plenty of other opportunities to feel homesick. Vivian and Borne broke off to eat. "What are your ranks?" he asked. The question was abrupt, random, addressed to no one in particular, but it got him in the conversation.

FX recovered from the surprise first. "Oh, well, let's see. I'm a commander. So's Canorus."

"And a commandant," said the Melior.

"Yes, but that's not in TSTO," FX replied. "Vivian's a lieutenant commander. Daima was given an honorary captaincy when she showed up."

"How about you?" Isaiah asked Borne.

"I'm a civilian," he answered. "They just hire me to fly the ship."

"So you're pilot and navigator?" Borne nodded. "Vivan's the medic."

"Right," she said.

"FX is acting captain?"

He shrugged, then nodded.

"And Canorus is engineer?"

"Not especially," Canorus answered.

"But your tricks with computers–"

"Just computers," the Melior said.

"Who is the engineer?" Isaiah asked. "Borne?"

Borne shook his head. "Not me. Wisper maybe?" he said to the table, joking.

"Is Wisper sentient?" Isaiah asked. "Sapient?"

"Sentient, yes," FX answered. "Sapient? Getting there. We don't really have an engineer, Isaiah."

For a moment, Isaiah's acrophobia came back. He was vividly conscious of being in a small box, falling through the void at several hundred times the speed of light. "I may be able to help you there," he said mildly.

"Oh, are you an engineer?" FX asked.

Isaiah nodded. "I worked at the Hebron shipyards. And taught classes."


"But I thought you were a preacher," Borne said.

"There are far too many preachers on Carmel for most of them to make a living at it," Isaiah answered. "But don't get too excited about my engineering qualifications. I've only had ten years to study psionics-based machinery. We're barely starting to use it, out here, while you people have had it for a century."

"That's all right," FX assured him. "I'm sure you're a fast study. That reminds me: what else do you do, beside engineering? I mean, in patharchy?"

"Most kinds. Anything you like in mnemonics and voluntary hysterics. A lot of psychosomatics. A fair bit of suggestion, like distraction and attention. Mood control. Perception skills, like truth-reading and remote diagnosis, only I don't have a medical degree."

"It's the only thing you don't have," Vivian said.

It was Isaiah's turn to shrug. "I've been studying it since I was about fifty. That's two hundred years ago."

"Suggestion," Canorus repeated. "We've seen you do distraction and confession. Can you do command?"

"Everybody's favorite suggestion skill. Yes, but it's not as useful or reliable as most people think. You have to know the subject's idiolect, have some psychological advantage over them, and surprise them. Even then, you can only bark out one order before their guard goes up."

"Still a nice edge," the Melior said. His tone hovered between admiration and suspicion.

"What can you do," Isaiah asked him, "besides fly and whatever it is you do with computers?"

"Psi-coding. It's called psi-coding. I also do retrocog – reading histories. And I'm a general psi."

"That means," FX told Isaiah, "that besides his specialties of psi-coding and retrocognition, he knows all four of the basic skills: telepathy, clairvoyance, and both kinds of TK – levitation and dicing. But clairvoyance and levitation are his strongest suits."

"Thank you," Isaiah said, then turned back to Canorus. "What about patharchy? I've seen you do distraction. (Well, not seen it, but you know what I mean.) What else?"

"Attention. Strength, speed, and agility in hysterics."

Isaiah nodded. "I can round our your hysterics skills with hyperesthesia, anesthesia, and endurance. I can heighten your perceptual skills and teach you some useful psychosomatics. Sound good?"

Canorus nodded, as Isaiah had hoped. He had offered to teach those skills likeliest to appeal to a psionically enhanced ninja or cat-burglar or guerilla or whatever Canorus was. But the nod was still guarded; the Melior was still reserving judgement on Isaiah.

He turned back to FX. "How about you? Tell me your psi talents, and I'll suggest patharchy to enhance them."

"Me? I'm a general psi, too, and I do glamour, firekey, and alchemy. The first is illusions by manipulating light and sound. Firekey is thermal TK. Alchemy is TK on chemical reactions. For patharchy, I already know total recall and photographic memory, but I'd like to learn phonographic and kinesthetic memory, too. I know enough hysterical skills to suit me, I think. I've tried to learn distraction but haven't succeeded yet."

Isaiah nodded and turned to Borne. "Are you a general psi?"

"Nope. Just a lot of TK and a little telepathy. No patharchy."

"You'd probably like hysterics. Speed and agility, maybe?" He turned to Jeanette. "I bet you're a generalist. Plus a lot of specialties."

"Well, yes. Mostly in telepathy. And the time-related stuff I learned on Refuge, of course. And I know mnemonics and mood control. I'd like to learn perceptual patharchy."

"She has telepathy sewed up," Borne boasted. His sister shot him a glare.

"You're different," Isaiah said, pointing at Vivian. "You glow from time to time. And you do psychic healing."

She nodded. "Right. These guys all learned psi in the standard way in Terran Space. I learned it on Varkard. Completely different school. You cultivate an aura." Vivan held up her hands demonstratively and glowed, extending a silvery nimbus. "Then you use the aura as a psionic organ, to sense and act through. It amounts to general psi, but the range is short. This–" Her aura flared and grew, until it blazed about two meters before her, across the table, between FX and Canorus. "– is as far as I can reach, with any psi. On the other hand, I use less effort and get better penetration – I don't have to see things to TK them. It's enough to touch them with my aura."

The aura winked out. "I'm the medic," Vivian went on, "the cook, the lockpick, and the chief interrogator. You can take over as interrogator if you want, Jeanette." Jeanette smiled wanly. "Since you're letting us shop through your brain, I'd like psychosomatics and some hysterics," she told Isaiah. "All the patharchy I know now is sleep control."

He nodded, then looked at Daima. "I'm not sure we have anything to teach each other, about patharchy."

The alien nodded carefully. "It is a distinct art for each species of nervous system. But I am curious to watch."

"Fine. I am curious, too. What psi do you do?"

"I do not classify as you do, but you call my shaping glamour and warp and lifekey and ectoplastics, according as I shape appearance, flesh, or the flesh of appearance. And I am telepath and telekinetic, but I must touch. No range."

Isaiah nodded. "Thank you. Well, I'll come talk to each of you tomorrow and work out the details for lesson plans. I'm sure I'll learn a lot about psi in the process."

A little sigh murmured across the the table. "More training," Vivian said, half to herself.

"We spend most of our time in transit training," FX explained.

"A good idea. Well, thank you. I now know a lot about you all. Except who you are and where you come from."

"What do you mean?" FX asked.

Isaiah ignored the question. "What a lot of guilty looks," he said, gazing up and down the table. "You ask what I mean, but none of you look puzzled. You all look uncomfortable. Except Daima." The alien had been sedately eating and only now turned at the sound of her name.

"You all have a secret. One secret, I think, among the lot of you. Even Jeanette." He turned to her. "You seem to be in on it, even if you aren't a part of the official team. Of course, with your brother on the team and you being a telepath..." He let the thought trail off and turned back to FX and Vivian. "You've described yourselves as a troubleshooting team for TSTO. I believe that, but there's something more here."

"What makes your say that?" asked Vivian.

Isaiah waved a hand dismissively. "I've been studying your moods for days now. Both before and after rescuing Jeanette, you showed a mixture of relief and anxiety in your outlooks. I'd guess that you recently got quit of some long-term stressor and are still recovering from the stress at various rates and in various ways. Am I right?"

After a silence, FX said, "I really don't see why we should bother to teach you telepathy."

Isaiah laughed. No one else did. "Well, will you tell me? If not, fine, though it will make life a little tense for the next few weeks." More stony silence. "Now you're all actually afraid of me. (Daima excepted, again.) I can't imagine why. Here I sit, without a psychic power to my name, deep in hyperstate, in your ship, outnumbered six to one." More silence. "Pass the soup, please," he said.

The soup tureen floated over, probably by the force of Borne's will. As Isaiah ladled out his soup, he heard FX speak. "We are ... survivors of an encounter with a psi lord."

"I thought the psi lords were conquered a century ago."

"The Psi War was won a century ago. The psi lords are another matter. Let me tell you the story. Have you ever heard of Delta Chrysaor?"

"A small, new colony. Or it was a century ago. Two settlements. A largely oceanic world named Nereus, and a mining settlement in an asteroid belt. The one supplied bio-tech, the other supplied metal and machinery."

"Mnemonic skills do seem handy. Yes, that's the place. Early in the war, a psi lord came to play conquistador. Wanted his private turf, as they all did. He and his troops descended on Nereus with shiny, new, quirky psi weapons, and even quirkier psi powers. He wiped out the spaceport town and, I suppose, was miffed to find there were no other towns. That's what comes of blitzkrieging first and aiming second. Or maybe his quirky weapons were too quirky and he hit harder than he intended.

"Anyway, he found himself a conquerer without many conquerees. Also, Nereus fought harder than I think he expected, and he found himself with very few troops left. But the remainder were some of his best trainee talents. Natural selection, I guess.

"So he turned his attention to the space stations in the asteroid belt. And he decided to use stealth and guile instead of speed and force. Worked, too. The stations were all in a state of blind confusion. No ships or communication from outsystem. No news from Nereus since battle joined. A couple of scout ships went out and didn't come back. Over the months, three quarters of the communications system failed. At the time it looked like wear and tear, plus bad luck. It was a year before people realized the psi lord hadn't gone away. He was still there and mostly in charge.

"Just mostly. And he developed the same problems they all did; his trainee talents decided they had graduated and were ready to leave the nest. Only it looked more inviting just to claim a piece of the nest."

Isaiah nodded. "The bandits fell out among themselves."

FX nodded back. "And some factions lined up with the resistance fighters. And it was long and messy. And weird, being psi-based."

"What did this psi lord call himself?" Isaiah asked.


"As in 'moira,' Greek for 'fate'? Was he precognitive?"

"A little. It made him a lot of fun to catch," FX said with heavy irony.


"Yes. Eventually, the resistance won. He fled, hotly pursued, all the way across Terran Space and into the alien parts of the Ecumene. To Varkard."


"Yes. Vivian and Canorus were among the ones who chased him to Varkard. Borne and I met them there. So did Daima."

"How did you come to–"

"Let me go on. It turned out this was not Moiros's first trip to Varkard. But he had been even sneakier there than in Delta Chrysaor. He had some partisans in the human enclave on Varkard, who helped him hide. And no sooner was he unearthed by the Chrysaor posse than he ... ah ... went to Varkard for the first time."

"I beg your pardon?"

"He time-traveled. Just a few months back. He made the friends and set the plans that hid him the first time. And made some more friends and plans for the second time."

"How intricate. Isn't doubling up on your history that way supposed to be dangerous?"

"Yes, it is. But when you're a psychic with time-related powers, it gets easier. We still caught him. Eventually."

"'We,' now."

"Yes. The five of us were among the ones in at the ... at the kill."

"A kill that happened a century ago."

"No, a couple of years ago. You see, when Moiros fled to Varkard, he took a long vector through hyperstate, a few weeks for the ship, a century in outside time. He was hoping the Chrysaor posse would give up. They didn't."

"So you two," said Isaiah, pointing to Vivian and Canorus, "are from Delta Chrysaor of a century ago." They nodded.

"And I represent Delta Chrysaor of the present," FX said. "I was sent when present Delta Chrysaor heard from the posse. Daima is from present Varkard, from the equivalent of the local cops. From a Sossen fra enclave there. And Borne was an independent trader, just visiting Varkard. Moiros tried to win him over, because of his TK talent. We wound up rescuing Borne from Moiros."

"I was in there pitching," Borne objected.

"Of course you were," FX agreed. "Once you were rescued. After the dust settled, we picked up our lives. I am a TSTO officer. Viv and Canorus were officers of the Chrysaor government, even if it was a century later, and Chrysaor is now a signatory to the Terran Space Treaty, so I was able to talk TSTO into signing them on and giving us this ship. Signing up Borne was out of the question, but we were able to hire him."

"And you've been working as a team, on the Will o' the Wisp, ever since?"

"Yes. For a couple of years. You're caught up now."

So the subject was closed again. Isaiah applied himself to his soup for a while. He had a few more questions but didn't want to try the patience of the group any further. It would be nice to talk to Jeanette. She would know the answers. Of course, he couldn't ask right now. Unless...

He ran his mind back over the various telepathic contacts he had had since meeting the crew of the Will o' the Wisp, especially the contacts with Jeanette. Telepathy was always reciprocal, she had said, back in Gilead. So initiating contact must be very like being contacted. He turned his perceptual skills inward and ran over his memories again, of telepathy and of the sensation of opening psi. Only it wasn't a sensation, really – that's why they called it "extra-sensory." It was confusing. Don't analyze now. Just recall those states. Bring them back. Especially Jeanette. Contact with Jeanette was like... is like...

Jeanette looked up from her own soup, puzzled. She glanced around the table, then locked gazes with Isaiah. Her eyes widened. "Is that you?" The words were not spoken. Once again, she seemed closer than her real distance. It showed him how vague and fumbling his own effort had been. Still, it was a beginning.

"A very good beginning," she verbalized. Her face was calm again but it was hard to realize that. An impression remained of surprise.

"That's the empathic component," Jeanette told him. "I'm holding contact at the verbal level, which is deeper than empathic and so includes it. How did you–?"

"Patharchy. Mnemonics. You do mnemonics too. On other people, too. Like Steves, in his memory tower." Isaiah found himself rambling. It was difficult to withhold verbal thought, or discipline it to well-formed sentences.

"Yes, but I learned mnemonics after I learned telepathy. Don't worry about the rambling. I'm sure you'll become a very eloquent mindspeaker soon." There was an edge to those words. "Go on eating your soup if you don't want people to notice. Why did you contact?"

Isaiah took a couple of spoonsful and thought, "Why are they so furtive about their past? Why did I have to pry it out of them?"

"Habit. All the time they spent on Varkard was under cover. They were looking for a man who was telepathic, clairvoyant, precognitive, with agents and tools in unknown numbers. Most of the time, they were from the future; you never make that public knowledge. And more. They think they'll never encounter Moiros again. But with time travel..."

"And you watched all this from a distance, by telepathy?"

"Eat more soup. Never had a clue, until it was all over. Had no reason to contact Borne, and those interstellar reaches are hard, you know."

"The core members – FX, Vivian, Canorus – don't seem inclined to go home. Why?"

"Footloose. Still shellshocked. FX and Vivian are a couple; which century of Delta Chrysaor would they return to? Canorus is alienated. They all are, really." A flash of pity and regret. "That's enough. Enjoy the soup. Vivian composed it." Her contact ended.

Isaiah concentrated on his soup, which was indeed very good. But he spared time for the thought that Jeanette could have switched off the contact at any time but had answered his questions fully instead. That was encouraging.

The excellent soup was followed by sole, stuffed mushrooms, and spinach pie. Canorus, who had been listening to Borne chat about skycycles, turned away to looked at Isaiah. "You think we should let him use psi while he's on a case?" the Melior asked the table at large. "A half-trained talent could be worse than none."

"Wait and see how fast he picks it up," Jeanette suggested. "I think he'll get to the useful level very quickly." She glanced at Isaiah, who wondered if Canorus, of all people, was beginning to consider him a permanent team member, with a role to play after the current case.

Next came a roast. FX carved and Borne floated plates to and from the meat. "Didn't think you'd be heading back to Philippia so soon, did you?" he asked his sister.

"I'm glad she is, though," said FX. "This time, we'll have someone on the team who knows the place."

"I was only there for a week," Jeanette warned him. "And I spent all that time in Kingston and Kingsport."

"You're still ahead of us," FX answered.

"Anyway, you have your Philippian friend," said Vivian. "You must have picked up a lot of information about Philippia from her, back at school on Refuge."

"I'm not sure if it's the sort of information that'll help you," Jeanette warned.

"Anything," said FX. "When we landed on Carmel, our background information fitted on a single screen."

"Isaiah also knows," said Daima.

"Knows what?" asked Isaiah, surprised. "I've never been to Philippia. I told you; I've spent the last century on Carmel."

"Yes, but you are neighbor with Philippia on the last century," the Sossen frani said. "So you know what neighbors know."

"I suppose so," he agreed.

"Would you two tell us about Philippia, then?" FX asked, looking from Isaiah to Jeanette.

"You mean, write a report or something?" Isaiah asked back.

FX looked doubtfully around the table. "Well... I doubt if we'd get around to reading it. I only meant talking to us about it."

"Not a very thorough or reliable way of briefing the staff," Isaiah pointed out.

"I'm limited by the resources available," FX replied drily, glancing at Borne and Canorus. "You could tell us about it at meals. When you have a captive audience. Little travelogues. How's that?"

"It's the best offer you'll get from this crew," Jeanette told Isaiah.

Next came a round of punch, then duck. "You're sure you don't eat like this often?" Isaiah asked. "Because I know I can't."

"Most of the time, we just grab snacks from the autochef," Borne told him. "Don't worry; this schedule you're working up will run it off you. Is there going to be any time free?"

"Of course," Vivian said. "You'll have hours to pore over your cycle magazines and play your simulations."

"Do you sing?" FX asked Isaiah. "Speaking of recreation."

Isaiah smiled, pushed back from the table, took a deep breath, and sang:

"Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
 God of glory, Lord of love.
 Hearts and worlds unfold before Thee,
 Op'ning to the Light above!"

FX nodded. "Beethoven. Nice bass. Clear, dark, and cool. Like iced tea."

"Thanks. Lots of choir practice. I can teach you patharchic methods to develop that synesthesia, too, if you like."

"You know anything besides hymns?" Canorus asked.

"What do you care?" FX retorted. "You never sing. Vivian and I are the only ones who sing," he told Isaiah. "He and Borne have perfectly nice voices but are too shy. And of course Daima can't carry a tune in a bucket." Very few non-humans could; music was something of a Terran specialty.

"Do you sing?" Vivian asked Jeanette.

"Alto," she said. "I don't have a sample ready, though."

"That's okay. As long as you're willing, we have an SATB quartet."

Then came the desserts. Plural. Pudding, chocolate bombe, cheeses, dried fruit, and exotic coffees. At the end, Vivian carved out seconds of duck and bombe, and plopped them in front of Isaiah. He obediently tried to eat more. Then Daima released Nift from her cabin, for a raid on the crumbs and table scraps.

They went on discussing schedules – drills and system checks, mutual training, recreation. Isaiah felt much too stuffed and sleepy to take part. He helped pick up the dinnerware and watched as they dematerialized the furniture. The conversation turned to TSTO politics. Isaiah retreated to his room, started outlining the patharchy courses he was to teach, but finally gave up and lay down for a nap.


He was very surprised to wake up ravenously hungry. He also felt feverish and edgy. The last two were symptoms of rejuvenation, but he had not expected them for a few days. He rose carefully. In the past, rejuvenation had brought weakness and pain in the joints, as fibrin and collagen were repaired and replaced. But this time he felt only a slight ache, as Vivian had promised.

In the corridor, the lights were low. Apparently it was night, ship time. Isaiah made his way to the lounge, now bare of furniture, and ordered a cheese sandwich from the autochef. As he headed back to his cabin, a door slid open. Vivian stood there, a stitcher in one hand, a glittering mass of blue and gold cloth in the other.

"I thought so," she said. "Hungry?"

"Yes. Is this part of the rejuve?"

Vivan leaned back into the room and said, "Pause." Faint music halted. "Yes, often. That's why I loaded you up at supper. I told you that you were a growing boy again." She smiled. "Any fever?"

"Just a touch."

"Ought to pass off in three or four days. Get lots of gentle aerobic exercise, but nothing more vigorous until the aching passes off."

"Yes, ma'am. Have I been asleep a long time? That meal was lunch for me, but maybe it was supper for you?"

"No, we're still working on Carmel's cycle. You've slept a long time. That's another side-effect. I can give you something to control it. Only I suppose you can control it yourself."

"Probably, but I'll be happy to take a pill and save the effort."

"Huh. Passing up a chance to control? Most of the patharchs I know are control avids."

"I try not to be silly about it." He munched his sandwich and examined Vivian. She had built up some irritation. Over what?

"You have enough control over us now?"

Ah. "You mean because I learned your background? But I didn't use patharchy. FX just told me."

"Because you were half way to figuring it out anyway."

Isaiah shrugged. "I'm sorry. Was it a secret?"

"Was it your business?"

"Maybe not. If you like, I'll forget it."

Vivian shook her head. "You could always recall it again." She shut her eyes, sighed, and deliberately changed emotional gears. "Look, never mind. Sorry I poked at you. I just hate it when– It's like–"

"It reminds you of Moiros? You were controlled by him? Captured? He ransacked your mind?"

"At least he had to use psi to do it," Vivian growled. "FX is right. It's a waste of time teaching you telepathy."

"Me? I'm not ransacking your mind. Look, you're right, I'm a control avid, like any other patharch. But what I want to control is me, not you. I wanted to learn your background so I could orient myself, that's all. I still don't know your favorite ice cream, or the rotten thing you did to your brother when you were twelve, or your pet name for FX, or the security secrets of Delta Chrysaor, or anything like that. And I don't want to."

Isaiah's stomach interrupted the conversation with a loud growl. It broke the tension. Vivian giggled and he chewed on his sandwich for a bit. "Butterscotch," she said, "and I don't have a brother."

"See? I don't go after secrets; people just blurt them out to me. Please don't tell me your pet name for FX."

"Don't worry."

Isaiah's stomach growled again. "Egad! Is this supposed to happen? What else do these new rejuves do to you?"

"Ha! Here's something you'll have to let me control. Don't worry, you're right on schedule. See you in the morning." She turned back toward her sewing room.

"Wait," said Isaiah, hastily swallowing a lump of cheese. "Have any of you really told me secrets? That is, I'm planning on writing letters back to my friends on Carmel, but I need to know if I should watch my words about anything. For instance, I don't intend to tell them about your leftover psi lord."

"Oh. Well, really, you don't even need to be careful about that. I guess. No, write what you like."

"Thanks. Good night."

On to Chapter 11, Arrivals
Back to Chapter 9, Departures
Return to Dragons' Teeth Introduction
Return to Wind Off the Hilltop

Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2013