Dark Legend: A Story in the Stars (by Cheryl Wolverton)

Chapter Two

"Oh, sure. Purely professional. Put your tongue back in your mouth, Kendra."

Kendra heard the amusement in Dara's voice but ignored it. She couldn't seem to take her eyes off the man...no beast... the beast. Still, for an unknown alien, he was... magnificent.

Dara was right. Even laying down she could tell the specimen was tall. Dark hair, almost black waved slightly where a bandage had been secured around his head. A long then aquiline nose, with high cheekbones and a square jaw.

He looked almost normal...until you looked at the huge reinforced metal restrainers that cupped his arms and legs, or you noted, right at the wrist...small sheaths, almost invisible unless you were looking for them.

In those sheaths lay the tentacles. And in all the study cases she had read, it was when those tentacles came out and wrapped around the arms of the enemy, they died.

Also reported was that this race was so fast, they could grab you and have you before you realized it. And you'd be dead before you could react.

Kendra shudders, looking closely at the wrists, wondering, "How can something that isn't as thick as a finger and barely reaches past the end of their fingers have such power to kill?"

"Four somethings on each arms top and bottom," Dara said mildly and then "Along with two little pink somethings on the sides of each arms."

Kendra nodded. "Yes. I read the reports and stand corrected. How can...twelve somethings kill a grown person?"

"That's for you to find out," Dara said. "I'll be back later. I have to stop by Lerners for a drink and a discussion with another pilot."

Kendra chuckled. "Yeah. Well, we'll see you when you return. Don't forget to seal my door if you go out!"

Dara called from down the hall. "You worry too much!"

Kendra looked at the specimen on the table noting how still and innocent he looked. "I'm afraid, Dara," Kendra whispered. "That I don't worry enough."

With a soft sigh, Kendra went to the door and signaled.

***

"It's coming around."

Dalon blinked hearing the voices and trying to locate them. Bright light blasted into his eyes, pounding into his head in a rhythm of agony. His hands jerked, automatically reaching to block the light.

Confusion creased his features when his hands wouldn't move. Trying again, he realized, with growing alarm, that his arms were manacled down to some type of table. Using his Sime senses, he tried to zlin the selyn fields around him to find out just who and where these people were. He zlinned very little which panicked him more. Everything had selyn fields. Simes and Gens both. And yet, nothing. He heard voices, but could zlin not one thing. Turn the light away, his mind demanded, panic at losing one of his senses making him feel oddly handicapped. Turn it so I can use my eyes to see.

Think, he ordered. Where are you? How did you get here?

Vaguely he remembered coming to, a horrible throbbing in his head as he was dragged off from his ship from... from his crew. There was the occasional flash of a selyn field--or had he been delusional--and then he was brought in, under darkness, to some sort of shelter.

But where?

He remembered a hall, then a door and then everything had gone black again.

"Cut the light."

Terrified of being so blind without his Sime senses, he forced his eyes opened and looked around to find the soft voice that had just spoken.

Thankfully, the lights dimmed. Three people stood in the room. They were all adult but zlinned like children from what he could tell. No selyn fields. Children either established as a Gen or changed over into Sime at puberty.

How odd to see adults that didn't zlin like either one. Forcing himself to look instead of zlin the fields, he studied them closer. But with the light dimmed, it was hard.

One of the shapes, the one he thought had spoken walked forward. Tiny, in what he would guess to be at an age around five or six years past normal changeover age she had long blonde hair pinned up on her head. She wore rounded glasses and carried some sort of tool in her hand.

A writing instrument, he realized, seeing the hard board with the document on top of it.

The woman scratched something on it, then nodded. "It looks alert."

Though it was hard, he understood the words. He was surprised, she spoke a very old dialect of the Ancients. At least, that's what it sounded like to him; similar to the old English he had studied in his university but not quite the same.

Glancing around, he saw two other people standing back in the shadows near the door. Seeing where his gaze went, the woman turned. "You may go. Thank you for attending me."

"But Kendra," one young man started.

The woman shook her head. "It'll be fine. Just go."

"Our orders are to guard--"

"Then guard outside!" she snapped.

Dalon jerked and she immediately quieted.

"Go," she said softer though just as firmly.

The two men left. She finally approached the side of the bed. "It's all right," she soothed in her soft husky voice and he could almost feel the projection of calm she offered. "Just be still and let me do my job."

Dalon watched her lay down the chart and then she walked past him the odd purple outfit with threads of sliver streaked through it shifting and flowing against her as she walked.

For the first time he realized this must be similar to a medical facility. Trays made out of some type of metal stood nearby with all kinds of different instruments on them. The overhead lights and the counters looked so much like their own treatment centers back home...

His gaze drifted back to the woman. She zlinned human, except for the lack of selyn production or consumption.

Reaching the other side of the room, the woman pushed a button and the table Dalon was strapped to rose.

Again, Dalon pulled against the restraints, but they held firm. It was odd she didn't seem to think anything about him understanding the language. Perhaps it was normal for them to grab travelers who crash landed on their planets.

He only knew that the woman, though nervous around him, was determined to carry through with what she was doing. He could zlin that much.

And with that, he decided to wait and allow her to make the next move.

#

Kendra walked over to the cabinet and removed a bag filled with metal instruments.

She was tired. She hadn't had much sleep in the last two weeks. And now, here she was again, in the lab, with one of these...these...spies. A live one.

Kendra shuddered and began to lay out the instruments.

She was a specialist in working with genetics. However, when these unknown spies had started turning up and trying to infiltrate the local capital of the Coalition, she'd been summoned to work on this project.

The mighty coalition, a loose-knit group of seven planets, so far that they had found, had banded together to share technology and advancements.

When these animals, who walked like humans, talked like humans but had super-strength and abilities unlike anything she'd ever heard of had decided to invade her homeworld, she had immediately agreed to come and compile all the data.

Laying the tray out, she moved over to the table.

"The metal is reinforced. I am told your kind have killed others and broken the bonds. You cannot break this."

She saw the being who looked so much like their own humans test the strength, his muscles bunching, then relaxing.

Her stomach churned as she examined him, thinking what was to come.

Stay impersonal.

It's that easy. Don't look in its eyes again.

Turning, she picked up a larger scalpel and began to cut off his clothes.

He jerked.

She hesitated, then soothed, "Normally someone else would have done this, but since I am the only one here, it will be me."

His shirt came off in seconds, then she moved to his pants. He tensed.

"Put the knife down."

She jumped. His bad accent of their language forced her to look at him again.

Their eyes locked.

Power shone brightly as, even strapped down and unable to fight, he fought her mentally for command of the situation. She forced her attention away. "No one noted on the earlier discoveries that they had such trouble pronouncing the words of our language. I will make sure our government hears of this. He will be glad to know there is a possible weakness."

She reached over and flipped a recorder on and then set to work.

She lifted the scapal and slipped it under the waistbands of his pants. She had studied the charts, knew that they appeared human in every way, except for the four rope-like structures on their arms. Two on top of the arm, two on the bottom. And two small pink objects located laterally on the inside and outside of their arms. "It is interesting how you can extend and retract the ropes," she said, softly, cutting on his pants, revealing a hairy thigh and then a calf. "Good muscle development. Indicates species probably runs quite a bit and can run fast like the others..."

"Augment."

She blinked and accidentally met the subject's eyes again. She quickly averted her gaze.

"It's called augmenting."

"Species indicates they call running augmenting," she said for the purposes of the recorder, her heart pounding. "Species is obviously intelligent, unlike others, as he seems more likely to communicate with us."

Kendra finished his pants and pulled them off, noting that there was definitely no difference she could see between their own male species on Balka. She quickly removed his shoes and socks and saw to her relief no ropes there. "Total of eight ropes, four to each arm, found..."

"Tentacles."

Again she paused. She didn't look at him or answer.

"They're called tentacles."

Kendra was unnvered. She turned and look at him again.

Sanity and intelligence were in these eyes. They weren't glazed over or filled with mad lust like in the reports she'd read. "Just who are you?" she asked, not realizing until she'd said it that she had decided to talk to him.

"I am Dalon, house of V'lar from planet Earth."

Kendra's mouth fell open. "You admit to being an invader?"

The subject--Dalon--smiled at her. "I did not mean to invade your space. My spaceship crashed---"

"Oh, yes, we found it...and our dead that you had obviously captured too."

He tilted his head, curious. "Your dead? I don't understand."

Kendra stared in disbelief. "You admit it was your ship but don't admit you had bare-armed ones on there?"

Understanding dawned in his eyes and she nodded grimly. "We saw them, V'laran," she said.

He shook his head. "Dalon. From Earth. And yes, but they were on my ship to help me."

Kendra thought of the reports she'd read on what these creatures could do. "You kill and destroy our kind. You try to eat them. Don't tell me--"

"What!"

Dalon stared in utter shock before his gaze change to one of acceptance.

Kendra nodded.

But he didn't say what she expected. Instead, he invented some wild night tale. "Evidently someone saw a Sime taking transfer." He shifted and Kendra realized he must be getting cold. She didn't move to cover him though.

"You see," he continued in his broken words, "in transfer, these tentacles wrap around the Gen's arms and the laterals come out and act as a conductor to draw the selyn out of a Gen's system. We touch their lips to make the current complete. We do not eat them--"

"But you kill them," she argued.

"I have never killed," he reassured her softly.

She studied him, conflicting emotions going across her face, then all emotion was wiped clean.

He watched her turn back to the little machine setting on the table next to the tray. "Subject shows signs of higher intelligence and manipulative abilities. Subject reacts to normal situations as would a regular human."

He saw her pick the knife back up and wondered what else she could cut. When she turned back to him, a cold sweat broke out on his brow and he stiffened.

He watched the knife lower toward his arm. Fear, filling him, he began to jerk against the metal binders. "Don't do that. You don't really want to do that!"

He thought she would listen to him as she hesitated, but she didn't. Instead she brought the knife down toward his forearm.

He let our a roar as he jerked, certain she was about to end his life by cutting his laterals. Instead, she cut a small thin slice of skin off, just above his elbow. The pain threw him hyperconscious, where only the Sime senses were used. A small flicker of light from the woman shone at him.

He forced himself duoconscious, where he could use both senses and then collapsed, sweating, against the table. "Shenned, shenned, shenned," he muttered clenching his teeth against the pain.

The woman acted as if she didn't hear him as she placed the specimen on a small round object and then slipped it into a slot on a box. She scribbled something on the door of the box and then closed it.

He shuddered. "Haven't you ever heard of anestiatation? I would gladly show you some of our own developments...Look, lady don't--"

The knife was coming at his leg this time. Or, at least, he hoped it was only his leg. "Aaagh!" he cried out when she sliced another piece of skin off, a bit deeper.

Pale and sweaty, he watched her repeat the process. Dalon decided this was not going to be his day. Just as he got his breath back, the woman turned again.

Five times she took samples of his skin, even one from a tentacle, but when she turned back and looked at his laterals, he knew he had to do something.

"Kendra," he called, thinking only to reason with her.

Her head snapped up, her eyes widening in dismay.

It was then he zlinned her regret, her nausea at what she was doing. "Talk to me. I'll answer your questions," he said, thinking he'd answer anything if it'd keep the knife away from his laterals. Those few small wounds would heal. A cut in his lateral wouldn't.

Kendra looked at him again, wavered then turned away. "We have many more tests we have to do to you. This can wait for now. I'll have the others come in. I'll be back tomorrow to finish."

"But what do you want?" Dalon asked, desperate for an answer.

She got to the door, paused, then turned back. The pain of what she was doing was gone, replaced by determination. "You are a threat to our species, Dalon Earthing. It's very simple what we want. We want to find your vulnerabilities. We want a way to destroy you before you disrupt the peace we established."

"But I'm no threat."

Kendra laughed harshly. "Please, spare me. I know better. You might look innocent, but you've come here to conquer. Why else would you have killed the man who has spent his whole life bringing about the unification of the Coalition?"

Dalon replied, trying to keep the woman in the room and talk to her, hoping to get some more information. "But I didn't kill him. It wasn't me."

She shrugged. "It was just like you. You're species."

"You won't at least talk to me about this, let me help explain, maybe make you understand?"

Kendra simply stared at him, saying nothing for a moment before she finally spoke. "Let me explain something to you, Earthing," she said softly, strongly. "There is nothing you could say to make me change my mind. Rejay Freland's entire life was for peace. His every waking moment he worked toward that goal, toward the goal of six different species living together and sharing technology. Do you really think I would listen to anything one of his murderers had to say?"

"You said murder?" Dalon was confused. Murder in his society meant something entirely different than kill. To kill meant a Gen had been stripped of selyn. She'd said kill until now. "Are you sure he was murdered?"

She laughed, a short sharp sound. "Oh, yes, I'm sure. It was vid-clipped nationwide. I was fortunate enough to be sitting there watching when one of your species escaped and managed to get to my father and kill him."

He realized she'd misunderstood what he meant, but he was too stunned to answer.

He simply watched the woman called Kendra leave, thinking, he wasn't going to find help from her. He'd hoped to reason his way out, to explain, talk with her, or someone. But the very person who had him was the very one who would see no reason to release him--and every reason to murder him.

Dalon dropped his head back and groaned.

Until an idea formed.

Then he smiled.

© Cheryl Wolverton 2000.  Do not reprint without permission.

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