Thursday, September 17, 2015
July 14, part 4
I had another message as well. My dads commed! I was still a little out of it from today’s earlier excitement, but I wanted to talk to the big guys ASAP. They told me to com no matter how late is was on Earth. They were eager to talk to me, even if it meant getting out of bed.
I figured out it would be about nine p.m. Atlanta time. I could catch them before they’d gone to sleep if I got moving.
I was on the verge of comming Betra to help me get ready and take me to Medical so I could introduce the new grandfathers to Anrel. Then I remembered he is operating on purely a liaison level with me right now. I suppose this matter would fit into his duties, but I’m not ready to see Betra as a pure professional. Fortunately Candy was available to put my mussed hair and makeup back to rights, along with picking out a fresh, unwrinkled skirt and blouse. Then I commed Tep to get his permission to show off Anrel.
“You’re pushing it,” he warned me.
“I know,” I said in my most responsible tone. “But I plan to come in my hover chair and sit quietly the whole time. I should be fine. I’m not going to dress Anrel up for this one either. Dad – Nayun, that is – will want to look her over in his capacity as a doctor anyway.”
“I don’t know, Shalia. You sound drained already.”
“I just had a nap,” I wheedled. “Please Doc? I will be on my best behavior. I promise on the names of my prophets and your ancestors.”
He got a laugh out of that. “All right, all right. But this is going to be a short visit.”
I agreed. Again Candy was my sweetheart and she pushed me in my chair to Medical. Once I was in Isolation and holding my sleeping Anrel, I sent Candy running along. I promised to have an orderly or Betra bring me back.
I put on my brightest smile, knowing it would do little to soothe my dads’ nerves when they saw me. If Clan Seot had been startled, Clan Bitev would be downright horrified. I arranged the slumbering Anrel so that she was front and center of my body. I hoped seeing their granddaughter right away would calm the three Dads down after the initial shock.
It was as heartrending as I’d expected when my dads picked up the com. Nayun was damned near inconsolable. The big Imdiko came close to crumbling to his knees as soon as he saw me. My doctor dad, who looks like a jolly version of a giant, had tears crawling down his ruddy cheeks in an instant. “What happened this time? How did you get like this? How? How?” he wailed.
If Nayun hadn’t gone so far off the deep end over me, maybe Bitev and Rak would have lost their shit more too. Keeping the big Imdiko on his feet took some of their attention, though both men couldn’t have looked more horror-stricken.
Dramok Bitev is the smallest of the clan, lean for a Kalquorian. He was hard pressed to keep his side of Nayun on his feet. Still, his mouth went into a rictus of hurt for me, as if he felt some of the pain I’d been through. My Nobek dad Rak, with his pointed nose lending him a sharklike aspect, wavered between dread and looking like he wanted to chomp into whoever had reduced me to my present circumstances.
Thank the prophets they’d not seen me at my worst. This was bad enough.
Rather than answer Nayun’s questions at once, I held Anrel up to take their focus off my condition. “I’m going to be fine. Calm down and say hello to your granddaughter.”
Ah, the healing power of a newborn. The dads were still freaked out, but they recovered their senses at the sight of the baby. Nayun found the strength to stand up straight again. A smile for Anrel battled against agony for me. It was the most bizarre expression I’d ever seen on any face.
“The baby? You had her?” Then Nayun veered back to the verge of Freak Out World. “You had the baby! But it’s much too soon! How is she? Let me see her! And tell me what the hell has happened before I have heart failure!”
A little at the time, he calmed enough for me to tell the story. There were interruptions galore in the form of questions and exclamations from the dads. Bit by bit, they came to grips with my latest brush with tragedy. About halfway through, I got Tep to come in and fill in the medical gobbledy-gook that I couldn’t give Nayun. Only after Tep reassured them of my steady recovery and Anrel’s excellent prognosis did my fathers calm down.
It’s wonderful to be so loved. It’s also awful in that I tend to scare the shit out of my adoptive parent clan on a regular basis. This time was the absolute worst.
Once they had all the details and Tep left, they could at last delight in their first grandchild. Much like Cifa, Nayun was a puddle of saccharine goo over Anrel. Even Rak broke the ‘Never Let Them See You Melt’ Nobek code. He made silly faces when she woke, though she still can’t really focus on anyone or anything. Bitev made a big deal about setting up an account for her and me on Kalquor. He wanted to be sure we had money for anything and everything the government allowance didn’t cover. “My granddaughter wants for nothing!” he proclaimed more than once. I privately swore that I would not take advantage of my dads’ generosity. I’m already worried Anrel will be spoiled rotten.
I let them coo over her and enjoyed some light conversation about how they’d been doing (terrific), how their Matara Joelle was faring on her trip to Kalquor (much less excitement than me), and how the ongoing evacuation of Earth went (steady, but there have been some problems with roving Earther gangs terrorizing everyone they can).
After everyone was in a pretty good mood, I finally broached the subject that I’d been itching to get to for two days. “What’s the story with Commander Nang?”
You could have heard a pin drop in the shocked silence that followed. Nayun looked like the kid who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Bitev’s worry sat plain to see on his face. Rak glowered. My stomach twisted. Something had happened, all right.
“Nang?” Nayun asked weakly. His gaze darted to Bitev, looking for guidance.
“Nang,” I affirmed in the steadiest tone I could summon. “I know something’s up, so there’s no point in pretending it isn’t. What’s happened?”
“Have you heard from him?” Rak asked.
Nobek Dad’s question told me that Nang was still alive. Option One off the table. “No. Should I have?”
Rak gave Bitev a dark look. My Dramok dad cleared his throat.
“We were going to tell you when the time seemed right,” he said. “For your own protection. I had planned to give you the news today, but I’ve been wondering if we should hold off after seeing how ill you look. I not sure you’re ready to know.”
I licked suddenly dry lips. “Not knowing is going to make it worse. Tell me.”
“He’s AWOL, my daughter. He disappeared about two weeks ago.”
Rak’s look was thunderous. “A space-worthy shuttle went missing. There is little doubt Nang took it. He left Earth.”
Okay, things didn’t look good. But Nang leaving for parts unknown didn’t necessarily mean trouble for me. Especially if he took a shuttle. Look at me, trying to be the ‘cup half-full’ girl ... even when I know better.
“Shuttles don’t have a great deal of range,” I ventured.
“Enough that he could have made it to at least half a dozen space stations from Earth. From there, he could pick up a transport and hire himself out as crew.” Rak wasn’t going to spare me the worst of it now that I had insisted on knowing.
Nayun cleared his throat. “After his sudden disappearance, his Nobek went into Nang’s computer, trying to figure out where he might have been headed. He discovered Nang had hacked into our clan’s communications. Nang had also gotten access to personal data held on our devices. He’d been reading our correspondences for the last two months before he left.”
My mouth fell open. “Your stuff? But why?”
Bitev looked almost as enraged as Rak. “To find out what he could about you. Once Nang got into our files, he accessed anything to do with you.”
Nayun took a deep breath. “Nang’s Nobek also discovered he’d done the same thing to Clan Dusa.”
It was everything I’d feared. “Nang knows I was pregnant. He knows he might be Anrel’s biological father.”
Bitev nodded. “His obsession with you has made him unstable. Or maybe he was already mentally ill and this brought it out. There are alerts circulating to apprehend him if he’s seen by any of our people or our allies.”
Rak gave me what I’m sure was supposed to be a reassuring look. “Nang will be found before he can get to Kalquor. He will be picked up. He’ll get nowhere near you or Anrel.”
I’m pretty sure Rak believed that, that they all did. It was probably why they hadn’t been too quick to raise an alarm with me. After all, Nang can’t catch up to the transport, not being seven months behind. And he’s a long way from Kalquor. Odds are pretty good he’ll be found in short order.
I wish I could accept that. Yet I know how my luck has been running lately. I can’t help but worry, especially because I don’t know what he’s thinking now that he’s aware of the baby.
Nang. Fucking Nang.