“You’ve led a sheltered life.”
“It’s not funny, Severance.”
He sighed. “I know. But it’s not the end of the universe, either.”
“Perhaps not, but it worries me.”
“Listen, Cidra, you want to worry? Worry about what would have happened if you hadn’t had all that fancy Moonlight and Mirrors training. Now that’s something to fret about.”
“You don’t understand,” she snapped. “I should be begging for a shot of oblivo. I should be flat out on the floor, half catatonic.”
“And instead you’re just sitting there shaking like a leaf?”
“Don’t laugh at me, Teague Severance.” She was near tears now, and the knowledge infuriated her. Quickly she used her years of training to regain her self-control. “I want to be one of them. All my life I have been trained in the ways of the Serene path. Surely I have some Harmonic sensitivity in me. I was born to Harmonics. Yet tonight I used the ways of a beautiful dance to hurt someone else.”
“Who was trying to hurt you. It’s called self-defense, Cidra, and I know enough about Harmonics to know that they’re not philosophically opposed to self-defense. They’re just lousy at being able to act on that belief. Be damned grateful that your only problem right now is that you’ve got the jitters instead of a full-scale anxiety attack. I’ve seen what happens to a Harmonic who runs into real violence and it’s not very pleasant.”
She eyed him curiously. “When did you see a Harmonic deal with genuine violence?”
Severance ran a hand through his thick black hair, his face drawn, gray eyes suddenly bleak. “My brother was one of those random occurrences you mentioned earlier. A Harmonic born among Wolves.”
“Why wasn’t he sent to Clementia?” she asked, frowning.
“It’s a long story, and I’m not in the mood to tell it right now. Take a nap, Cidra.”
“I don’t think I can sleep yet.”
“Suit yourself. I’m going to sack out for a few minutes. It’s been a long night.”
Severance got to his feet and brushed past her, heading for the sleeping area at the rear of the cabin. He unlatched the upper sleeping berth so that she could climb into it if she changed her mind, and then he threw himself down onto the lower bunk. He was already half asleep when he felt Fred undulating up onto the bed to drape himself over his master’s feet.
Severance awoke once during the flight and realized that Cidra hadn’t tried to nap. He peered through the gloom of the dimly lit cabin and saw her seated cross-legged on the metal deck. Her eyes were closed in silent meditation.
Probably still worrying about Scates and how she’d handled the situation, Severance reasoned in sleepy irritation. She looked very soft and gentle sitting there with her black-and-silver gown flowing around her. A little lost. But it would have taken a fair measure of strength and coordination to throw Scates. She couldn’t be all sweetness and light, even if she wanted to believe she was.
Beneath the fine crystal-moss fabric of the robe she wore, he could see the rounded upsweep of her br**sts. It seemed to him that the womanly curves would fit his hands perfectly. Then he recalled what she’d said about Wolves being very interested in sex. Severance turned over to face the wall and ordered himself to go back to sleep.
Cidra felt the shift in altitude and speed as Severance Pay automatically began its approach. The subtle changes jerked her out of the meditative trance she had been using to calm her mind and body. Opening her eyes, she saw new console lights wink on, while others changed color. For the first time she noticed there was a second computer on board. It didn’t appear to be involved with the landing operation, either. A glance over her shoulder told her that the ship’s master was still sound asleep.
She got to her feet, feeling delightfully rested, and went to the nearest viewing port. A few scattered lights in the distance heralded the presence of Lovelorn, a manufacturing town that had been located near the ore-rich deposits of the continent’s western mountains. Beyond the mountains lay an ocean that extended most of the way around Lovelady. It was almost totally unexplored, although research indicated it would ultimately prove even richer in raw materials than the continents.
There was a lot of Lovelady waiting to be thoroughly explored and even more of Renaissance and QED. Beyond the three close-in planets lay one other, Liquid Assets, a frozen ocean of a world that lacked a breathable atmosphere. It hadn’t experienced more man a few exploratory landings so far. The Stanza Nine system was still a frontier, its population centers small, even on Lovelady, which was its most heavily populated planet.
Cidra felt a glimmer of excitement rush through her. She was on her way, off in search of a legend. For the first time she acknowledged that the search, itself, was going to prove fascinating.
The ship altered course again, and this time Cidra turned around a little anxiously to see if Severance had awakened. When she saw him lying spread-eagle on his stomach, face to the cabin hull, she decided to act. She went over to the bunk and reached down to touch his shoulder, only to find she had made a terrible mistake.
There was no startled shout or sleepy, questioning groan. Severance simply exploded off the bunk at the touch of her hand. He was on the deck, feet spaced apart in a fighter’s crouch, before Cidra quite realized what had happened. The small weapon he had used on Scates was in his right hand. Somehow he had gotten it out of the utility loop he’d hung beside the bunk.
Cidra froze, not daring to breathe as his eyes flickered in recognition. With a muttered oath Severance dropped the black metal object back into his loop. The poised tension went out of his body. On the bunk Fred exposed his teem briefly, and then went back to posing as a rug.
“A few more surprises like that, Cidra, and one of us isn’t going to make it as far as Renaissance.”
She cleared her throat. “I just wanted to tell you that we’re approaching Lovelorn. The ship seems to be altering course. I assumed that, as pilot in command, you might have some interest in the matter.”
“Not much,” Severance assured her. “This baby can land herself if necessary.” Nevertheless he went forward to check the winking lights on the command console. “Saints know she’s done it before.” He yawned and massaged the back of his neck with one scarred hand as he stood staring down at the controls.