Sweet Starfire (Lost Colony #1)

Chapter 10


The people whom she had questioned at Port Valentine had been in agreement about one thing when it came to Teague Severance: He was a man of his word, and among Wolves that meant something. It had to mean something. It was all the general population had when it came to insuring trust. Wolves were forced to depend upon such things as reputation and experience to judge their acquaintances. They could never be completely certain of each other. They were forever denied the unique telepathic communion of minds that allowed Harmonics to establish such firm bonds between themselves. Trust was implicit in the way Harmonics lived and communicated; it was an unavoidable given, because they could know each other’s minds. But when trust existed absolutely between a man and a woman, and was combined with the indefinable chemistry of shared pleasures and intellectual interests, it could lead to a lifelong commitment that was unique among mankind.

Cidra’s parents shared mat type of commitment. Talina Peace-tree and Gam Oquist had a bond between them that Cidra had always longed to experience, herself, with the right man. Knowing that was impossible as long as she lacked true Harmonic telepathy had been the misery of her life. And her determination to overcome her own shortcomings was the driving force of her existence.

The covenant of marriage had taken on new meanings as Harmonic society had evolved. It stood now as so many Harmonic ways did, as an ideal. Wolves frequently used portions of the formal Harmonic wedding ceremony for their own nuptials.

Harmonics had always appeared at random in the human population. For countless generations many had died young. Others were driven insane by their instinctive efforts to reconcile reality with the inner harmony they saw in the world around them. A few had lived lives that appeared normal to others who never guessed at the effort it took to survive as a Harmonic among Wolves.

Special aptitudes and genius were common among Harmonics, and a few of the early ones had been strong enough to achieve a great deal before they died. Usually the achievements came in spite of a life racked with trauma and mental strife. Many others had simply perished without ever flowering.

The world of Wolves was a harsh one, and true Harmonics seldom coped well. A few hundred years ago, just prior to the unprecedented outpouring of mankind into the galaxy, it had been recognized that both Harmonics and Wolves fared better if they lived a separated, if symbiotic, existence. When the first of the beautiful, interstellar shimmer ships had left the home star system carrying colonists to new worlds, they had carried small contingents of Harmonics aboard.

No one had been egocentric enough to believe that the galaxy could be colonized into a tightly knit empire. Distances were too vast, and the demands of different worlds required too much physical and emotional adaptation, and the streak of independence in human nature was too strong. But the early planners had felt the need to insure that the best of what was human went with the colonists. Sending a small group of harmonics along with each colony ship had not only guaranteed philosophical continuity, it had also provided a resident brain trust for each new world.

But, beyond that, each world had proved unique. Cidra knew from her work in the Archives that the Stanza Nine social structure was different in sometimes subtle, sometimes elaborate, ways from that of the home worlds. And since the ability to maintain contact with the home planets had been lost, the distinctions between Stanza Nine and other human systems no longer seemed to matter. Adaptation meant survival. And both Harmonics and Wolves believed in survival.

The crash of the colony ship that first reached the Stanza Nine system had been a complete disaster. Not only did the home planets believe there had been no survivors, but the First Families, thus isolated, had been deprived of much of the technology that should have been their heritage. The need to dig in and establish a foothold on a new planet without the aid of the machines that would have made the task relatively simple had bred a rugged sense of independence in the colonists. That sense of independence had even permeated the Harmonic contingent of the culture, where it was quietly accepted that each individual had both the privilege and the responsibility of achieving success on his own.

Technology had developed erratically from the bits and pieces of information left in the heavily damaged data banks after the crash of the colony ship. Regaining spaceflight had been of paramount importance because the human population was intent on establishing itself throughout the Stanza Nine system. After finding the remains of the Ghosts it had become even more important to determine if humans were going to have to share Stanza Nine with anyone or anything else. It had taken a hundred and fifty Lovelady years to get back into space, and the secret of the faster-than-light speeds that had brought the colonists to Lovelady had still not been found.

The majority of the population, the Wolves, respected the levels to which the Harmonics raised human virtues because the seed of those virtues lay in all humans. When a Wolf viewed a Harmonic, he saw the best of himself; he saw the most valuable essence of his own nature developed and channeled. Intelligence, integrity, honesty, serenity, and an appreciation for every element of the universe were traits to be protected and respected. Every human knew this. Not every human reacted in a positive manner to the knowledge, but none could avoid it.

Cidra drew the first deep breath she’d allowed herself since the man called Scates had lied his way into her hotel room. She was tired, but the adrenaline was still flowing through her system. Through the cabin window she could see the white disc of Lovelady’s single moon, Gigolo. That small, dead world was also shining on Lovelady’s southern town of Clementia. Her home was a serene, protected landscape of beauty and order. There lay everything she understood and loved. For a moment her heart yearned for another glimpse of the delicate fountains and the formal gardens that lined the white stone paths. But she had never been truly a citizen of Clementia. The magic of it had been denied her, even though she had been raised in its midst and taught its ways. Her own shortcomings had been pointed out quite graphically this evening.

Severance finished one last procedure at the command console and then swung around in his seat to face her.

“You look exhausted. Maybe you’d better grab a nap before we reach Lovelorn.”

“I couldn’t possibly sleep.”

“Still seeing Scates coming at you?” he asked gruffly. “Don’t worry. You’re safe now.”

“It’s not that.” She glanced out into the darkness and then back at Severance. “Do you realize that tonight was the first time in my life I’ve done violence to another human being?”

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