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Excalibur #2: Renaissance, Page 2

Peter David

  “How much more do I have to be there for you? I was there for you when you were in the grip of pon farr. I was there for you, for emotional support, during your pregnancy. I saved your life—”

  “Burgoyne, I know that—”

  “Saved your life!” s/he shouted over her. “I was so linked into your mind that I fought monsters and kept you alive so that you could give birth to our son in a hostile environment—”

  “Technically, it was a single monster, not plural.”

  “Who cares?”

  “I care. We might as well be precise.”

  Burgoyne covered hir face with hir hands. “Selar . . . does it matter whether it was one monster, two, or twenty? The point is, you owe me your life, and the life of Xyon.”

  “I am very well aware of that,” Selar said reasonably. “But what did you expect of me, Burgoyne? Did you believe that I would come to love you because of those things?”

  “I believed that, at the very least, you wouldn’t reject me out of hand.”

  “It is not out of hand. It is . . .”

  “What? What is it?”

  Selar looked away. “Burgoyne . . . you want me to give something of which I am not capable.”

  “I don’t believe that,” Burgoyne said firmly. “I don’t believe that you’re incapable of love. Incapable of acknowledging that you are capable, perhaps, but that’s as far as I’ll take it.” S/he shook hir head in exasperation. “You know what? I’m starting to wonder why I even bother.”

  “As am I,” Selar said reasonably. “What did you think was going to happen here, Burgoyne?” She steadied herself. “It is my fault. You see, Burgoyne . . . I was operating out of gratitude. Believe it or not,” she added dryly.

  “Let’s just say I’m skeptical,” Burgoyne said, but s/he sounded uncertain.

  “I agreed to come out here, to reside with you in this domicile, because I believed that you were . . . entitled in some way. That, after everything you had been through in connection with me and this child—”


  “Yes. Xyon.” She frowned. “I know his name.”

  “That may be, but you never say it. You just say, ‘this child.’ You should refer to him by his name. It’s as if you’re trying to distance yourself even now.”

  “I am trying to do nothing of the kind. The point is, Burgoyne, that you had gone to a great deal of effort to create a safe and nurturing environment for both my child—”

  “Our child,” Burgoyne immediately corrected.

  “Our child . . . and me,” Selar continued. “And I have resided here for eleven days, thirteen hours and fifty-seven minutes. I have given you time to get to know your child—”

  “Our child.”

  This time Selar took longer to make the correction. An observer might have concluded that the unflappable Vulcan was becoming just the least bit annoyed. “Our child,” she said slowly. “But I believe that I have falsely given you the impression that this could possibly attain some sort of long-term status, when such is not the case.”

  “Would you like to know,” Burgoyne said, “what I consider not to be the case?”

  “I suspect you will tell me whether I desire to know or not.”

  “Absolutely true.” Burgoyne took a steadying breath. “I thought I could walk away, Selar. I thought I could accommodate your biological need, provide you with a child, and then turn away and leave him or her in your hands. And I suppose I also thought that we would have time to sort things out. After all, we were going to be continuing to serve on the same ship. Neither of us was going anywhere. So you could say that a false sense of security set in. Well, we’re not on a ship together, and if we’re going to raise this child as a couple—”

  “Burgoyne.” Even Selar’s endless patience was waning “We are not a couple. We are not going to raise this child together. I am his mother.”

  “And I am his father.”

  “But according to Vulcan law, my interests in the child hold sway.”

  “Ah,” said Burgoyne. S/he had stopped pacing, and was now facing Selar in a rather challenging pose. “So now we get down to it.”

  “Get down to what?”

  “You feel that you’re more important to Xyon’s future than I am. You’re intending to cut me out of all interest in his development and growth.”

  “For you to be ‘cut out,’ ” Selar said, with what she felt to be fairly reasonable consideration, “you would have had to be ‘cut in’ in the first place. You have not been. It has always been my intention to be this child’s primary parent.”


  “Why?” Selar blinked at the question.

  “Yes. Why?” S/he gestured toward Xyon, who—it seemed to Selar—was actually beginning to look a little concerned, as if aware that his parents were having a disagreement. “You keep telling me how incapable you are of love. What kind of a mother are you going to be if you can’t even love your child?”

  “A Vulcan mother. One who will teach Xyon about his heritage and raise him in the Vulcan way, as per Vulcan law.”

  “Well, you know what?” Burgoyne said defiantly. “We Hermats have a few laws of our own. That child right there is as much Hermat as he is Vulcan, no matter what the biological tests might say right now.”

  “I think,” she told him, “that if you do some serious study into the matter, instead of confining your awareness on the topic to emotional outbursts, you will find that not to be the case. Vulcan genes tend to dominate. This is true in Vulcan/Human pairings, and is true as well in this union. Burgoyne, I think it would be best if you were reasonable.”

  “I am being reasonable. Xyon’s entitled to know of his Hermat heritage.”

  “But he needs to be raised as a Vulcan.”

  Burgoyne actually looked concerned. “What are you saying?”

  “I am saying that it is my intention to return with Xyon to Vulcan, to reside there, and to raise him as a Vulcan. He will be taught the orderly discipline of logic, he will be—”

  “He will be my son, with no opportunity to truly grasp his heritage.”

  “His heritage?” She shook her head and actually looked amused, or as close to that as she came. “Burgoyne, this is foolishness. The fact that he is your son flatly contradicts that he could even have a heritage. Hermats do not have sons, or daughters. All of you are mixed genders.”

  “We prefer the term ‘blend.’ ”

  “Blend. If that is your phrase of choice, fine. The point is, your calling him your son precludes the very claim to Hermat upbringing that you bandy about. If he has one heritage, then he is not Hermat.”

  “You don’t understand his potential.”

  “Potential? To what are you referring?”

  Burgoyne looked left and right, as if s/he were about to impart some great, secret knowledge. In a lowered voice, s/he said, “There is a prophecy . . . a Hermat prophecy, going back centuries. A prophecy that says there will come a child . . . a child who is Hermat, but not of Hermat . . . a child with pointed ears and alien head, but of Hermat heart. One who will unite the fractious Hermat population and guide us forward into a golden age. And that prophesied child . . . could very well be our son.”

  Selar was stunned. She looked from the baby back to Burgoyne. “Is any of that true?” she inquired.

  Burgoyne opened hir mouth to continue the boasts, then sighed and sagged, like a deflated balloon. “No. It’s all lies,” s/he admitted. “But it sounded good, didn’t it?”

  Selar’s lips twitched ever so slightly. “Sometimes, Burgoyne, I have no idea what to think of you.”

  “Then think of this,” Burgoyne told her. “You said these past eleven days were so that I could get to know the child. Eleven days? Eleven days, Selar? The truth is that people spend a lifetime getting to know their children, and even at the end of that, they can still be as much of a mystery as they were at the beginning. The sad thing is that you don’t understand that. The fortunate thing is tha
t I do. The child needs both of us, Selar. Both of us. It is only . . . logical.”

  “But I do not love you, Burgoyne,” she said firmly. “I feel as close to you as . . .”

  “You’ll allow yourself to be?”

  She frowned slightly at that. “This is accomplishing nothing, Burgoyne.”

  Burgoyne seemed about to argue further, but then s/he sighed, looking fatigued. “You know . . . you’re probably right. I admit that. But I will do so only if you admit that perhaps we’ve hit a stalemate simply because we’re going back and forth over the same ground. That perhaps tomorrow might bring fresher views and new insights.”

  “I do not know that I agree,” said Selar, “but I concur that it is possible. You are suggesting that we ‘sleep on it,’ as they say.”

  “As they say,” agreed Burgoyne readily.

  “Very well, Burgoyne. I owe you much, I admit that. So I certainly owe you a night’s consideration. Let us consider matters tomorrow.”

  Burgoyne bobbed hir head . . . and then reached toward Selar with hir right hand, the first two fingers extended. Selar was a bit surprised, but hid it with practiced ease. She hesitated a moment, and then extended the first two fingers of her own right hand. Their fingers touched, caressed each other gently in the Vulcan custom that served as an open display of affection.

  “There,” smiled Burgoyne, hir pointed teeth slightly exposed. “That wasn’t so horrible now, was it? The world didn’t come to an end. Maybe there is hope for us, Selar. What do you think?”

  “There are always . . . possibilities,” Selar said diplomatically.

  Dreams tumbled about in Burgoyne’s head, images that s/he could not determine, nor did s/he wish to. They were too upsetting in nature, and were best left for another time.

  S/he awoke and sat up in hir bed, then glanced at the chronometer. But that simply verified what s/he knew instinctively: it was the middle of the night. S/he had no idea why . . . but suddenly s/he wanted Selar. There was no rhyme, no “logic” to it. It wasn’t as if Selar would be interested. And even if she was, it was insane to think that an act of passion in the middle of the night could settle the differences between them.

  “Then again, at least it would be a start,” Burgoyne murmured to hirself. With that thought in mind, s/he padded out of hir bedroom and down the hall to where Selar slept. The door, s/he was pleased to see, was unlocked. That might be considered a very good sign.

  S/he stepped quietly into the room, allowing hir catlike eyes to adjust to the dimness, and padded over to the bed. S/he knelt down upon it . . . and, instantly, the absence of warmth indicated to hir that the bed was empty.

  This did not immediately concern hir. S/he reasoned that the baby must have stirred, cried for his mother. Hermat parents tended to keep their children in the room with them during the early days. Selar had not felt it necessary: with those impressive ears of hers, there was no way Selar would not hear him should he stir in the night. So Selar was undoubtedly in the adjoining room, tending to little Xyon’s needs.

  That was what Burgoyne kept telling hirself, right up to the point where s/he entered the baby’s room and found that empty as well.

  They’re in another room. They’re outside for a walk. These and other explanations tumbled about in Burgoyne’s head as s/he went from one room to the next, and to the next, still fighting down a combination of anger and panic. But as s/he moved through the house, s/he went faster and faster until—by the time s/he was inspecting the exterior in the last, flagging hope that Selar and Xyon would be out there—s/he was practically sprinting.

  S/he bolted to the outside. The desert air was surprisingly sharp in hir lungs as s/he bounded around the perimeter of the house. By now s/he was moving on all fours, balancing the spring in hir powerful legs with hir knuckles. S/he moved away from the house, hir nostrils flaring, trying to catch a scent in the air. And s/he picked one up. No . . . there were three. There was Selar, and Xyon . . . and there was the faint, burning whiff of ozone that told hir a small ship had come.

  Come and gone.

  Gone . . . with Selar and hir son.

  Burgoyne crouched, looking at the blood-red full moon that hung in the sky, and then s/he threw back hir head and let out a scream that sent small animals scurrying. A scream that carried across the desolation of the peaceful night desert, and seemed to go on until morning.


  ROBIN LEFLER GAPED at her mother and shook her head. “No. Absolutely not.”

  There was no sunlight coming through the window of the San Francisco apartment that Robin shared with her mother, Morgan Primus. A cloudy day had been scheduled, with some light rain mandated for later in the afternoon. At that moment, however, weather was the last thing Robin was thinking about.

  “You’ll change your mind, Robin,” Morgan said with confidence. She was busy moving about the apartment, packing a case.

  Robin’s eyes widened as she realized just what it was her mother was packing. “Mother! Those are my things!”

  “Yes, I know,” Morgan said matter-of-factly. “I didn’t think you were going to pack them.”

  “I wasn’t!”

  “See? Mother knows best.” She held up several blouses and shook her head. “You inherited your father’s clothing sense. I loved him dearly but, good God, the man couldn’t dress himself worth a damn. Thank heavens for Starfleet uniforms. You never have to figure out what you’re going to wear to work.”

  Robin took several quick steps forward and snatched the shirts from her mother’s hands. Morgan looked a bit surprised as Robin threw them back into the drawer. She then turned to face her mother, arms straight down and fists balled—not as if she were going to try to hit her, but rather out of an obvious desire to try to contain her annoyance.

  “Risa, Mother? Risa?”

  “Yes,” said Morgan. “Risa.”

  “I cannot believe you booked us for a stay at Risa!”

  “Why ever not?”

  “It’s so . . . so . . .” She gestured helplessly. “I mean . . . it used to be okay. There used to be a variety of resorts, and they certainly had some free-spirited beliefs about . . . romance. But now it’s just so . . . so . . .”

  “So what?”

  “So prepackaged!” Robin finally managed to say. “Everything is so manufactured!”

  “That’s an odd thing to say, coming from someone who spent the last several years of her life inside a starship. How manufactured a life is that?”

  “We use starships to go places, Mother. Real places.”

  “You’re acting as if Risa isn’t a real place. As if it’s a . . . a holodeck simulation or something.”

  “It’s only a few steps above one!” Robin dropped down onto the edge of her bed. “Have you seen their advertising, Mother? Have you?”

  “Yes, of course I have. Anyone who’s spent more than twenty minutes surveying the ether-web has.”

  “ ‘Come to Risa, there’s no place nice-uh?’ ” Robin looked as if she was going to be sick. “What kind of an awful slogan is that?”

  “It seems rather effective to me.”

  “Effective? How effective? It doesn’t make me want to go there!”

  “Yes, but it makes you remember the name of the place. That’s the important thing.”

  “It’s plush! Luxurious!”

  Morgan cocked an eyebrow. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

  “It’s not a bad thing, but . . . there’s no sense of adventure there!”

  “Spending time together with nothing requiring our attention will certainly be adventure enough, don’t you think?”

  “Mom . . . there’s nothing on Risa but gigantic resort hotels. All the beaches, the natural splendor of the place, has been co-opted.”

  “ ‘Natural splendor’?” Morgan sounded as if she wanted to laugh. “Robin, you seem to be forgetting something. When Risa was in its ‘natural’ state, there was hardly splendor. It rained ninety percent of the
time and the planet was geologically unstable. Only because of the weather-control system was the planetary climate made over into what it currently is. The people of Risa embraced the changes, and the subsequent tourist trade.”

  “Some of them did,” Robin said sourly. “Others felt that if the Risan gods had intended their planet to be a ‘paradise,’ they would have made it one in the first place. Instead, everything that was unique about the Risan culture—with the exception of their eager attitudes about . . . romance—has been subsumed by a tourist mentality.”

  “I don’t believe it,” said Morgan.

  “It’s true! That’s exactly what’s happened!”

  “No, I mean I can’t believe you used ‘subsumed’ in a sentence.”

  Robin blew air through her lips impatiently, not even bothering to address that comment. “And the worst is that new place, the one you want to book us at . . . what’s it called? Oh, right—‘El Dorado.’ What sort of incredibly stupid name is that?”

  “Well, aside from the literary reference, I tend to suspect that the hotel’s founder, Laurence Dorado . . . L. Dorado . . . didn’t think it such a foolish name at all.”

  Robin decided to try a different tack. She rose from the bed, draped an arm around her mother’s shoulder, and said wheedlingly, “Mother . . . how about mountain climbing? Now that would be an adventure! There’s a mountain range on Qontosia that has the most magnificent vistas on—”

  “What, and wreck my nails?” said Morgan dryly. “Where’s the relaxation in that? The stimulation . . .”

  “Stimulation?” Robin looked at her blankly. “What do you mean . . .?” And then, suddenly, she understood. “Of course! I get it!”

  “You get it?”

  “Yes! You’re looking for romance!”

  Morgan winced. “Robin . . .”

  “Oh, have I got the planet for you! Argelius II. So hedonistic it makes Risa look like kindergarten. As a matter of fact—and I can’t believe I’m telling you this, me, talking to my mother this way—” She lowered her voice, sounding conspiratorial. “On Argelius II, I know a place where the men are soooo—”