"…the development of bioartificial nerve guidance conduits…" Cally eyes blinked as the words floated off the screen and mix in an incoherent jumble. She leaned tiredly back against the padded headrest, rubbing hazy eyes and yawning loudly.
Reading the same sentence the third time round wasn't working and she was developing a headache. Her eyes opened and the wayward words had returned to their proper places in an interesting but extremely dry text about research into repairing damage to the human nervous system.
A soft bark caught her attention and she glanced over at Avon, his head bent down to talk to the wolf. They sat together on the floor, another project laid in neatly ordered rows around them. A well-kept garden of technology with the man and his wolf the centre attractions, their heads leading towards each other in conspiratorial silence. She could hear their mental voices as distant whispers.
It was research to improve the range of the teleport or maybe the scanners. It was hard to keep track.
* The signal degradation increases exponentially… * Avon's reassuringly confident tones caressed her ears, the strong sable brush of an enquiring mind.
The wisp of a smile lightened her face and she breathed in deeply, refreshing herself in a mental connection that had become an essential part of her.
He was content, at peace, and his mind was active, preoccupied with something he enjoyed, which was the closest to a happy state that he normally could expect.
* Pattern buffers in the teleport computers… *
For him, happiness was being surrounded by intelligent beings he could relate to, and the lack of the stresses that took him away from the things he enjoyed.
Cally sighed, glad that he finally had what he needed. He needed to keep busy. If not, he tended to slide into depression. The presence of Sharp-Eyes was a boon, the wolf helped keep his mind off the constant irritant that was his physical state.
She couldn't always be with him and was glad of the wolf's acceptable company.
The wolf gave a half barking-whine and his head was tilted to study Avon's face. * Why would… *
They were a serious pair and the image was one she was tempted to immortalize in drawing.
Leaning back and resting red-weary eyes, Cally opened up her psi senses to 'feel' the pulse of the ship.
Avon was always strongest in her mind, a constant presence, delightful, complex and full of deep mysteries. The wolf was a steady shape, solid and bright with curiosity.
She could sense all of the wolves and their straightforward emotions, so unlike humans. They were creatures with simple needs, content with what they had.
The clones were murmuring, barely distinct voices at the edge of her consciousness. She could hear them if she strained her abilities.
There was an emotional landscape, a colourful painting of emotions from the other humans on the ship.
It was almost like… being back on Auron. There was shuddered breath, a catch of sorrow and loneliness that made her tighten lids that were already closed.
* Cally. *
She opened her eyes to see man and wolf turned in her direction.
* Is something the matter? * asked Avon, his impassive voice, but with a rise in energy that indicated his concern, for those who understood what it was.
A sad sigh escaped her lips, an ache of pain that she could not hide from him, not with the intimacy they had shared. She had allowed him to experience her deepest regrets, and the guilt that haunted her when they first discovered his latent psi abilities. * Old memories. *
* Auron. * He nodded, his brow furrowed, a man who had a compulsive need to find solutions.
* Yes, Auron. * Flicking off the monitor, she stood up, stretching a tight back, smiling ruefully. * I'm all right. *
Hearing her approaching, Avon pushed down on the wolf's firm shoulder and got up. * No, you're not. * It felt like déjà vu, a reliving of another time in their lives when there were only compromises. * The regret is still strong. *
His chest was warm, the heart beating steadily as she pressed her hand over it. * As it is with you. *
* We will be arriving at Kaarn soon. *
The smoke cleared, and Vila and Corinne coughed, smiles on their faces.
"It's going to be wonderful," said Corinne, resplendent in her flowing red dress with a silver brooch over her right shoulder.
"I hope the kids like it." Vila was in a black jacket with a matching red shirt. The stage was set for their magic show. It was to be a spectacular entertainment for the senses, even more marvellous than their first efforts on Tellar. "You'll love the kids. They call me Uncle Vila."
Oscar rubbed his fingers through his hair as his eyes squinted in concentration. The diagram didn't look right. He adjusted the contrast and glanced up at his brothers. A few were doing the same thing.
* Hello. *
His eyes widened in surprise. It was a young female voice and it wasn't Cally or one of the wolves. He would have recognized them.
The clones looked around at each other, puzzlement in their eyes.
Being the leader, Oscar took a breath and thought a tentative greeting, * Hello? *
* Oh, hello! * A sharp flash of a smiling face entered their minds. She was a young girl, a few years younger than they were from the brief picture.
He looked to the others, an unspoken thought between them. The girl didn't seem dangerous, the opposite in fact, but they'd been taught to be careful.
* Who are you? * he asked warily.
* My name is Brina. I'm on Kaarn. *
Information was useful. Avon had taught them that. * We are going to Kaarn. *
A bubbling sense of joy rolled towards them, accompanied by another flash of a smile. * We know! Auntie Cally told us. *
* Auntie Cally? *
* Oh yes! And Uncle Avon and Uncle Vila. We were just talking to them. *
* You are related? *
A chuckle entered their minds. * Noooo. We're like you. We're clones. *
Twenty-four pairs of eyes widened.