— by Ted R. Blasingame, with Steve Carter
Two days later, Rojur materialized with Sahni on the surface of Rona in the capitol city of Astran, in the shadow of a great building of steel and granite. Inside the obelisk-shaped structure were the regional offices for the Dunkn Shipyards, a division of his father's Santrojur Industries. A beautiful and aromatic garden surrounded the building, adorned with the occasional statue and sculpture. The esper checked his chronograph and noted that the prearranged meeting with his father was to begin in half an hour.
He looked at Sahni and frowned. "It would be best if I went up alone," he said grimly. He led her to an ornate granite park bench and they sat down together. "This will be our first private meeting since he tried to kill me." He sighed and glanced up the full height of the building and then back down to meet her eyes. "I may have been invited back into his company despite my refusal to meet him alone without someone else present during the investigation, but I can't believe that his lifelong hatred against espers is so easily overcome with just a letter from the captain."
Sahni took his hands in hers. "Wouldn't you rather have me along anyway – to provide a reason for him to hold back his anger, should it arise, just as you did when you had Kehtan join you in that meeting?"
"No. I do not," he stated firmly. "I intend to draw his opinions out into the open this time. I want to know exactly how he stands with me should I go back to work for him. I don't want anything hidden to come out against me later." He looked up at the pale green sky and stared at the lazy clouds floating above. "I want to be sure he really wants me back and isn't just using this as a ploy to get me into a position where he can follow through on his death threat."
The esper forced himself to relax after seeing the worry in her eyes.
"Rojur," she started again, "give him a chance. He must have gone through some personal changes to allow – to offer you an opportunity to come back. Esper or no, he loves you."
"Used to love me," Rojur corrected. "Before he discovered I was an Es-par."
"Give him a chance."
The esper brushed a stray lock of hair from his face and sighed. "I am giving him a chance. After our meeting, we will know one another exactly. I do not intend to leave until we do. In case this meeting is actually a trap, I’m prepared to teleport out of there in an instant."
Rojur stood up and straightened the slacks of the charcoal-grey business suit he wore. It had been several years since he had been so attired, but it felt comfortably familiar. "For good or bad, I will have my answers when this day is over," he said in a gentle voice.
Sahni stood up beside him and kissed him lightly. Rojur gestured toward a group of buildings a short distance away after their lips parted.
"That shopping mall has practically anything you could want," he said with a smile. "I'll look for you there when I'm finished with the confrontation, uh, the meeting with my father."
Sahni nodded silently, but before she turned to go, she ran a finger lightly across the back of his right hand. "Be careful, Love. Patience be with you."
* * *
The structure that was home to the offices of the Dunkn Shipyards and a multitude of other organizations towered well over a hundred levels above the city; a series of tubular lifts were mounted on tracks on all sides of the massive obelisk and Rojur Delondin rode to the top level in one.
As the indicator panel registered that he was nearing his destination, the esper reached into his inner coat pocket and removed the silver psi dampener that Blackthorne had developed and quietly slipped it onto his head. He arranged it slightly in his reflection in the plastiglass side of the lift and readied himself. The last time his father had seen him, however, Rojur had not had a beard, nor was his hair quite as long and airy. Those were styles he had adopted just prior to his stay on Earth.
Rojur swallowed hard when the lift came to a stop at the one hundred thirtieth level. The doors opened and he stepped out into a pastel blue room where mirrors divided sections of the wall every three meters. No doubt concealing monitoring scanners, the esper mused to himself.
He moved to the curved desk immediately before him and caught the attention of the Roswein receptionist searching through a series of files on his monitor screen. The young man glanced up at him with an upraised eyebrow.
"Yes?" he asked as he straightened up in his chair. "What can I do for you?"
"I have an appointment to see Rayce Santrojur."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No, but he will want to see me."
"Really?" the response fairly dripped in sarcasm. "We'll see. What is your name?"
The receptionist looked as if he had just been confronted by a Ziphlarian rock leopard. He hesitated for only a moment and then keyed up the message on his terminal.
So, Rojur thought to himself bitterly, he knows what I am...
The man's pale eyes narrowed in apparent distaste, but said nothing until the reply he awaited showed up on his monitor. "You may go in now," he said in a strained voice.
Silently, Rojur noted the man's name from the ID badge he wore and committed it to memory. Without malice, he gave the man a brief nod and moved down the hall toward the office his father always used when visiting this facility. When he reached the door, he stopped before it and hesitated. He had donned the dampener to keep himself from accidentally using his talents, but if his father got violent again, he might need the protection. He sighed and decided to keep it on. He thumbed the keypad set in the door frame and the voice of his father came through a speaker hidden somewhere in the wall.
He opened the door and walked into the small office. As he shut the door behind him, he immediately noticed the total silence. The room was soundproofed. It was completely paneled and decorated in tharsis wood, imported from Roswei. The room was large but only seemed tiny, an effect from the immense size of the desk dominating the area. In a high-backed chair sat the one man in the galaxy whom Rojur feared.
Rayce Santrojur looked up at him quietly, an expression of indifference on his face that Alex would have called a poker face. He stood up from his seat and regarded the esper without a word. He was the same height as his son and his build was similar. His soft turquoise hair was combed straight back, but no grey could be detected in his locks. His face was unlined for his sixty-three years, and the only facial hair he sported was a thin, black mustache. Since the average lifespan of a Roswein was one hundred thirty years, he was still middle-aged.
Rayce's own clothing was charcoal grey, though the suit coat covered a black turtleneck shirt rather than the standard shirt and tie. He wore a single band of silver on the small finger of his left hand, and adorned himself with no other jewelry. He held his broad shoulders straight and coolly gazed at his offspring.
Several minutes had passed and still neither one of them spoke. Rojur stood with his hands lightly clasped together behind his back, awaiting some form of acknowledgment. Finally, the elder man returned to his seat and looked up at his son.
"Delon," he said in a strong, though quiet, voice.
"Rayce." Rojur took the seat in front of the desk and sat uncomfortably in further silence.
Rayce continued to wear his indifferent expression, though Rojur could sense the checked hostility in his father's pale eyes. He tried to make himself to relax as much as he could.
In a businesslike manner, Rayce broke the silence. "Well then, despite the trouble with the crew on board the Zephyr, what was your personal assessment of the ship's capabilities and handling?"
Rojur was astonished. This was not at all what he had expected. His father was acting as if he were conducting business as usual. Though startled, he cleared his throat and gave as clear and informative a report as he could. He knew his father was a stickler for details, so he left nothing out; not even his psionic usage, even though Rayce was already aware of the full reports by his people and the statements of the crew. Throughout the briefing, the elder man never interrupted, choosing instead merely to listen as was his practice. When Rojur finished, the room fell into silence once more.
Abruptly, Rayce asked him a few moments later, "What is on your mind?"
Rojur was not sure how to answer, but after fumbling with his thoughts he managed to say, "I am wondering how you can act so nonchalant toward me now, when at our last meeting you tried to kill me."
Rayce drew his eyebrows together in contained anger at the memory, but did not reply.
Rojur stood up and leaned on the massive desk with both hands. "Did it surprise you when I used my abilities in a constructive way?" he said in a near-whisper. "Did it shock you to know that I wasn't out blowing people apart and doing mass destruction? I'm an Es-par! Isn't that what I'm supposed to do? That's what grandfather did!"
Rayce leaned back in his chair and studied his son. "Sit down," he said flatly, fully aware that Rojur was trying to bait him. Rojur stared at him a moment and then returned to his seat. "Es-pars are not tolerated to live in our society," Rayce said lowly. "They are unpredictable and cause too many problems. Simon Santrojur was an Es-par of the worse kind. He was a prime example of why they should be destroyed."
"Even if one of them is someone like me, who uses his abilities to help others?" Rojur spat.
"You are a freak, Delon. A mistake that should have never been," Rayce said coldly. "Granted, you were a remarkable asset to the success of the Zephyr's maiden voyage according to Captain Kehtan's report, but you also threatened one of the officers."
"That's right, it was only a threat. I didn't kill him and neither did I intend to. I said what I did to frighten him to get him off my back."
"Ah, but you could have. What if he had provoked you a little further? I've always known you've been a little high-strung and you have a temper. What would have happened if you'd snapped? The Psion Patrol would have had to hunt you down and destroy you just as they did with Simon."
Rojur was about to argue back against that, but he stopped. "The Psion Patrol?" he asked. "What do you think of them?"
The non sequitur stopped Rayce a moment, having caught him off guard. He blinked a couple of times and replied, "The Psion Patrol? They're doing the galaxy a great service by ridding the existence of Es-pars."
"Father," Rojur said with a thin smile, "The Psion Patrol are espers, and they're not ridding the galaxy of all other espers, they're merely trying to maintain order – just like any other police force. They just happen to use different tools: psionics." Rayce's expression was unreadable, but he said nothing. Rojur leaned toward the desk again and said, "Not all espers are destructive. People like Simon do pop up from time to time, but not all of us are that way!"
In a voice so quiet that Rojur barely could hear, Rayce asked, "Do you remember your mother at all, Delon? Do you remember how Darisa died?"
"Mother?" It was Rojur's turn to be caught off guard. "I have no real memory of her," he said quietly. "You told me she died in an accident about a year after I was born."
"An accident," Rayce muttered. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed. "No, Simon killed your mother."
"He… burned…her… alive... He was a fire-bolter." Rayce's face contorted in anger at the memory. "And do you know why? Do you know why?" He didn't wait for Rojur to answer. "Because she was more interested in taking care of her infant son than fixing his dinner one night!"
Rojur sat stunned while his father continued. "His mind snapped! That's – that is what set him off on his killing spree... He... he violently murdered seventy-three people before the Psion Patrol took him down." Rayce's whole body shook with horrified rage, and his clenched fists were pressed white.
He looked at Rojur with bared teeth and shouted, "Now do you understand why I hate Es-pars? Your blasted kind are murderers! Murderers!"
Rojur could do nothing but stare, open mouthed. His father removed his coat and pulled the bottom of his turtleneck shirt up to his armpits. He turned around and showed his bare back to his son. It was badly scarred from an old but tremendous burn.
"Do you see this?" Rayce asked in a voice so quiet that the contrast from his previous shouting startled Rojur. "I got this trying to protect you from Simon after he killed your mother. The hospital in our city at the time was rather inadequate to deal with burns as severe as mine were, but they did what they could. I survived, and so did my son." He pulled his shirt back down and tucked it into his slacks. He did not put the coat back on, but left it lying on the desk before him.
"If I had known you were an Es-par too, I'd have gladly stood by and let Simon kill you instead of my wife… the only woman who ever mattered to me." Rayce sat down and ran a shaken hand through his hair and then across his face.
Rojur's eyes were moist and his breath was ragged. He had heard none of this before. Finally, he ran the back of his left hand across his face and dried his eyes on his coat sleeve, forgetful of the handkerchief in his pocket. For a long while, father and son sat in silence.
Rojur finally composed himself and remembered his reason for coming in here. Now he knew the basis for his father's earlier attempt to kill him. Then, in a voice free of any emotion, he asked, "Why the offer to let me come back?"
Rayce turned to look at him. As he did so, he pulled open a drawer and picked up a wicked-looking gun. It was quite similar to the revolvers from earlier days on Earth, but the caliber was larger and the ammunition that went with it was far more destructive. He pointed it at Rojur's chest.
The esper whipped the dampener from his hair in a quick reflex to the new development. Rayce merely smiled and said, "I already have quite a substantial reward offered for your life. My intention today was to lure you in here to deal with you myself."
Rojur's eyes glowed blue as his personal shields were in place, but Rayce chuckled lightly. "That will do you no good, Delon," he said. "The whole room has a psionic dampening field running through it."
Rojur was doubtful until he tried to teleport away and was unable to. His eyes widened in horror as he focused on the large barrel of the gun in his father's hand, but then he remembered the military training he'd gotten in the Alliance Service. It was risky, but he thought he might be able to disarm Rayce without getting himself killed.
Before he could act, however, Rayce set the gun on the table and leaned back in his chair. He stared up at the ceiling, his face set in a weary frown. "I had every intention of killing you," he said slowly without looking at Rojur. "Killing a known Es-par has no penalty, you know."
Rojur stood completely immobile as so not to make any sudden movements. He watched intensely as Rayce picked the gun back up off the table, only to open the chamber and dump out the large projectile. He sighed audibly as the gun itself was placed back inside the desk drawer. Rayce still would not look at him.
"Why — did you stop?" Rojur asked hoarsely. With the rage he'd seen in his father a few moments before, he felt it was truly fortunate that he was still breathing now - though he didn't understand why.
The elder Santrojur turned to face him, but his eyes downcast. "Because I have spent most of your life loving you, boy – much longer than I've hated you..." He swallowed hard and closed his eyes as he added, "I had to be both parents for you after I lost Darisa– after we lost Darisa... I loved you... I fed you and I clothed you… I picked you up when you fell and held you when you cried. I tickled your toes to make you laugh and took you for walks in the park… I rejoiced at your graduation and was proud when you made top honors at the Academy, and you couldn't have made me happier when agreed to use your talents for my company."
He finally looked up and nodded to his son. "I've had a lot of festering hatred for Es-pars since your grandfather took the life of his daughter, but you've shown me that having such abilities is not necessarily a bad thing. I cannot say that I will change overnight, Delon, but with your patience… and your forgiveness, I would like my son back." Rayce Santrojur was a strong man and a strong businessman. He wielded wealth and power and let no man daunt him, but for that moment, he was nothing more than a father.
Rojur swallowed with difficulty and then approached that father. He was hesitant when the elder man stood up, but then the look of emotion in his eyes broke the barriers.
* * *
Sahni held the sheer garment she had up to the light, examining the rainbow sheen of the fabric. She smiled to herself as she thought of wearing it for Rojur and draped it over an arm with three other outfits she had chosen to buy. As she started toward another rack, she felt a finger brush along the short curls at the base of her neck.
She spun around and saw Rojur standing beside her, smiling gently. She traced a finger across his lips and returned the smile. "Does this mean the meeting went well?" she asked.
Rojur nodded. "It didn't happen the way I thought it would, but it did end well." He looked at the items she held and said, "Let's get these paid for. Rayce would like to meet the woman of my dreams."
As they walked back toward the Dunkn offices, new purchases in hand, Sahni asked him, "When do you start working for his company again?"
Rojur's smile turned to a light frown. "It's still up in the air as to whether I will be working for him," he said quietly. "My father promised to let me take a vacation, since we've just returned from a long mission on board the Zephyr. All expenses paid. While on this vacation, I am to think about the various offers he made to me and see if I still wish to design ships afterward."
"Why wouldn't you?" Sahni asked. "I thought you and your father had straightened out your differences."
They entered the garden around the building and followed one of the cobblestone walks through the winding path. "It's not my father I am concerned about," Rojur replied. "While I was away, he'd put out a reward on me and displayed my data all over Roswei. Whether or not Rayce has accepted me back, my whole planet now knows I'm an Es-par... a world that hates Es-pars."
"However," he said as they entered the building, "I now look nothing like the pictures of me that were distributed then, so if I continue to go by the name of Rojur Delondin, rather than Delon Santrojur, I might get by."
It was Sahni's turn to frown. "All you've done is grow a beard, let your hair grow out and rearrange the syllables in your name. That's not much of a disguise."
"Rayce said that if I was uncomfortable being in a Roswein office, it would be permissible to set up my studio anywhere I wished," the esper replied as they boarded a lift. "I thought about setting up a place on Earth to do my work."
"Earth? Isn't that where Alex is?"
"That's where Alex was," he corrected. "Alex lived there a couple hundred years ago —remember what I told you about traveling back in time to take him and Brandon back to their home?" She nodded. "Anyway, I've been there before, in this time, and it's a decent place. I haven't made up my mind, though."
Sahni leaned on the plastiglass side of the lift as it continued its way to the top. "Wasn't bringing Alex up from the past risky? I mean, if he's now back in the past on Earth, won't he be tempted to duplicate some of our modern devices and alter his planet's future with them? He is a businessman, right?"
Rojur smiled and shook his head. "Right before the three of us left his time to come here, I placed subliminal educators beside his and Brandon's beds to teach them our language the night before so they'd be able to communicate during their stay. In addition to teaching them Galactic Standard, it also placed a hypnotic suggestion in their minds that any thought of replicating anything they saw in the future would immediately be forgotten. To be sure, I’ve already done a bit of historical research on Alexander Marcus Blackthorne of Earth, and none of our technologies ever showed up in his inventions."
Sahni looked thoughtful for a moment and then glanced toward the ceiling of the lift. "You said that even with the different options, you still may not work for your father," she recalled. "What else would you do?"
Rojur shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno. I'm still toying with the idea of joining the Psion Patrol. They are espers who use their abilities to maintain order and peace. I don't know if I would even qualify under their standards, but I've considered it."
Before she could reply, the lift doors opened. Rojur led her past the snarky receptionist's desk without a word and stopped outside his father's door. He turned to Sahni with a smile, kissed her briefly on the lips and then said, "Here goes…"
— NEXT CHAPTER —
Unless otherwise noted, all material © Ted R. Blasingame. All rights reserved.