Chapter 1

He read the message once again, there was no mistake. He was ordered to report by 1600 hours ship time for random security examination. He had been in the service for almost three standard years, this was the first time he had been selected for security exam.

He leaned back in his chair and considered his options. The security check was a problem for him, not because he was a security risk, but rather because of the physical danger of the examination procedure itself. One of the procedures of the security check was the administration of a drug to facilitate the truthful answers to questions. This drug was supposed to be completely safe but he was not the same as his fellow crewmembers.

He, Mev Van Zehe, was a High Lord of Venda, the last. For Venda was no more, the entire planet had been destroyed by the same enemy that now hunted the ship of which Mev was a crewmember. And it was to guard against infiltration by that enemy that caused the need for the security examinations to be done.

It was not that Mev was any sort of enemy agent but rather the drug used as part of the examination would not have the same effect on him that it would have on anyone else. This difference is not something that Mev could explain easily without a serious risk of losing his position in the crew. No one knew he was any different from any of the other human crewmembers. Before its destruction Venda had been part of the Republic though little known by people of other worlds. Few even knew of the existence of the High Lords or what they really were. And despite the fact that he was the last of them Mev preferred that it should remain that way, if possible.

Until today he had been able to keep of the illusion that he was no different from any of the other human crewmembers. But it seemed that today his luck had run out with the summons for the security examination and he was left with a dilemma. He could refuse the summons and in truth there was really little security could do to force him to comply but only at the cost of revealing his true nature and especially the full extent of it. Or he could comply and risk the effect of the drug on his extra sensitive nervous system.

Oral or skin absorption of drugs or poisons would not be something for a High Lord of Venda to fear, for their bodies had extensive defenses against such. But injections directly into the body are another matter, in such a case they are even more vulnerable than humans, and many psychoactive drugs were actual poisons for a High Lord if injected. For them, the result would not be intoxication but at least a coma and possibly death. For humans the effect of the security drug was to remove the ability to lie or evade questions. But for Mev the effect was certain to be quite different and not the one expected. Since the composition of the drug security used was classified it was not possible for him to determine the exact effect in advance. This was the source of his current dilemma.

After a few more moments of contemplation he decided the best thing to do would be to go to the examination and sense the drug before they gave it to him. If the composition of it seemed to be too dangerous he could still flee, despite being in the center of security. If it seemed like it was something that would not have a fatal effect then he would take it and try to save his position on the ship. His decision made he acknowledged the message on his terminal and turned it off.

Mev stood up and left the compartment, heading for security. Even though it wasn't 1600 yet there really wasn't any reason to wait. Depending upon what happened the security check could with turn into several days away from his work, or he would have to leave the ship. Either way things in his area were quiet; the equipment he was charged with maintaining was always well cared for. It had taken him a couple of months right after he joined the ship to get everything up to his standards of repair but since that time there had been little for him to do.

The compartment he had just left was on the A4 deck of the ship, security central was on deck A7 so he walked to the lift that would take him down to the lower deck. The concept of "lower deck" was simply a matter of the way the decks were numbered and the way the artificial gravity generators were set up for the habitable area of the ship. In space, all orientation was strictly relative but those two things provided the reference. Mev entered the lift and entered his destination in the simple control pad. The doors closed and the lift took him to his desired destination.

Security Central was in compartment A7-126 that was about a 3-minute walk from the lift door. When Mev reached the doorway to that compartment he stopped for a moment just short of the opening, which was open to the passageway. Mev made a conscious effort to drop his shields and defenses for he would be the target of sensitive instruments looking for possible implanted devices and other anomalies. He took a deep breath and then resumed walking, entering into the open doorway.

Inside the compartment it was divided into two sections. One area was a waiting area for those who had business with security, and the other was occupied by several workstations that faced the waiting area. A waist high wall that served to divide the two sections from each other divided the two portions of the compartment, separating the security people from those who had business there. A second class security specialist manned a workstation that was adjacent to the divider and acted as a receptionist. Mev walked up to her and introduced himself in the usual military manner.

"Petty Officer Mev Van Zehe reporting for security check," he told her.

The security specialist called up a record on her terminal. "Oh yes, you're scheduled for 1600, you're a little early. Just take a seat and we will call you when we're ready for you," she told him after consulting the schedule now being displayed on her terminal.

Mev moved over to some plastic chairs that were along the walk of the compartment near the door and sat down. Fortunately it was a quiet day for security too so he was alone in the chairs. He sat quietly but internally he had to make some effort to keep his shields damped, as normally he did not allow himself to remain so exposed. The standard internal sensor sweeps of the ship interior he was able to handle easily, it was a simple matter to intercept the beam with his shields and modify them to convey whatever information about himself that he wished. But because this was a security check they would be looking much more carefully than usual and any strange reading would be investigated intensely. So here he did not make any effort to conceal himself or what he was, doing so would only complicate things further.

After about 15 minutes a lieutenant appeared. "Petty Officer Van Zehe?" he inquired, approaching him.

"Yes, sir," Mev replied, standing.

"Please follow me, we're ready for you now." The officer ordered.

Mev followed the lieutenant as he opened a door in the divider and led the way back into another compartment deeper inside the security complex. As he followed the officer Mev had to make another effort to fight down the instinct to raise his shields.

The lieutenant led him into a smaller compartment that contained two workstations, and a larger chair in the center that was similar to a dental chair. Another security specialist occupied one of the workstations that would record everything that happened during the session. Next to the central chair was a medical technician who would administer the drug and monitor Mev's physical life signs. And standing against the far wall were two armed security men who were present just in case the examination revealed something they had to handle.

"I'm Lieutenant Casey. Please sit down here and make yourself comfortable. We'll get started shortly."

Mev sat down in the indicated chair, again fighting the desire to raise his shields. He could feel the scrutiny of the sensors already as he sat down, and they would scan him even more closely as the session progressed. Fortunately, so far it was only an external scan that would not reveal anything out of the ordinary. In external appearance a High Lord of Venda was identical to any other human but internally there were some anatomical differences. Up until now Mev had been able to conceal this difference by modifying the propagation of the scan beams during the medical exams he had undergone. But this time it was certain they would learn about his internal differences, it was certain he would have to explain the non-discovery later.

After seating himself he turned his awareness mainly toward the medical tech, it was important that he gain some sense of the composition of the drug they would use and get a feel for the effect it might have on him. If it turned out to be something too dangerous then he would be forced to raise his shields and leave security and then leave the ship. But if the drug was one that only produced unconsciousness in his kind then he could risk staying. They would still discover he was different but there was a good chance he could come up with a satisfactory explanation for it.

The medic removed a pneumatic injector from her kit and adjusted its controls. Mev forced down another desire to raise his shields and reached out his awareness to the injector. He found the space containing the drug they would be injecting and examined its contents. Hmm, he thought to himself, not too bad. From what he could determine from the drugs composition it wouldn't kill him, instead it would just render him unconscious for about 3 days. While he would be defenseless during that time he really didn't fear they would do anything to him during the time he would be out except send him to sickbay. So he decided to remain and let them proceed.

"Petty Officer Van Zehe, we are ready to get started. Unless you are an agent of the Morro Empire there is nothing to worry about. Medic Rayfield will administer a drug that will facilitate the examination. Once it takes effect we will have a few questions and then you can rest until the drug wears off. It's completely safe," Lieutenant Casey told him. "She will monitor you in case anything goes wrong, which we don't expect to happen. Are you ready?"

"Yes, let's get it over with," Mev replied. The effect of their drug would not be what they were expecting but they could learn that when it happened.

"Rayfield, please administer the drug now," the lieutenant ordered.

Mev made another effort to keep his shields down as the medic brought the injector to his arm. There was a hiss and a slight sting as she activated the injector. Once that was down she set it down and turned to her medical monitor panel which she already had monitoring his condition.

Suddenly Mev felt a wave of dizziness, despite being sitting back in the chair. At almost the same time the medical monitor system emitted a loud warning tone.

"Lieutenant, something's happening!" the medic shouted.

Mev barely heard this as he felt another wave of dizziness and then the voices started to fade. Before the officer could answer the medic he was out.

"What's happening?" Casey asked Rayfield.

"I don't know! I've never seen this before! As soon as I hit him with the drug his vital signs went crazy and he lost consciousness. It's not supposed to do this, either on humans or Morro." She replied. As she watched her monitor she could see Mev's vital signs becoming shallower as if he was now in a coma.

"What can you do about it?" the officer asked.

"I've got to get him to sick bay right away! I've never seen this reaction before, it's not supposed to happen. I can't handle this, he needs a doctor now!" she replied.

"OK, let's get him to sickbay as quick as we can. Jones, Baker, get the gurney so we can roll him there." Casey ordered to the two guards against the wall.

The guards slid the portable antigrav gurney out of the storage slot and turned on the power. It immediately rose to float at a convenient waist height and the two guards pushed it next to the chair containing the unconscious Mev. They slid his limp body over onto the gurney and quickly buckled two straps over his body to ensure he did not roll off during the trip to sickbay.

Once they had Mev secured on the gurney the two quickly pushed it toward the door to the compartment. The medic quickly grabbed her kit and followed, as did Casey.

Casey was just as mystified by what had happened to Van Zehe as the others, he had never seen it have this effect before despite having taken part in several hundred sessions, one of which had uncovered a Morro agent. But the effect had never been like this. Hopefully they could figure it out in sickbay.

The two guards rapidly pushed the gurney out of security and over to the lift. When the doors opened they quickly pushed Mev inside and LT. Casey and the medtech followed them inside. The medtech punched the code for deck A-9 where sickbay was located. The lift rapidly descended to A-9 and then the doors opened. Moving quickly, the guards pushed the antigrav gurney out and down the passageway toward sickbay. They went around a bend in the passageway and came to the emergency entrance. The medtech pressed a button on the wall panel and the door slid open. The medtech waited for the guards to push the gurney in and then she and Casey followed.

Inside the emergency center it had been a quiet day, usually there was little for them to do in interstellar space. When he saw the doors open and two security guards rush in pushing a gurney the duty medtech looked up and then set down the tablet he was reading, somewhat startled by the sudden unexpected activity. When he saw Rayfield enter behind them he quickly asked, "What happened?"

"Reaction to R-12!" his fellow medic replied.

"What! That's impossible!"

"I know! But something still happened. Who's the duty doctor?" Rayfield asked.

"It's Mori. I'm calling him now," the other medic replied. He pressed the call button on his console that paged the duty doctor who was in his office off the emergency center.

A moment later Dr. Mori walked into the compartment and quickly took in the group that occupied the emergency center. Spying the unconscious Mev on the antigrav gurney Dr. Mori walked up to it and looked down at his new patient.

"What happened?" Mori asked, noticing that Mev did not have any obvious wounds or injury.

"It was the standard security check. It seems Van Zehe has had some sort of reaction to the R-12 agent. As soon as it was administered he lost consciousness. I've never seen or heard about anything like this before." Casey told Mori. "R-12 is supposed to be completely safe."

"I've never heard of anything like it before either. Let's get set up the monitors so we can see what is happening here." Mori ordered.

The two medics quickly powered up the medical monitors and moved the gurney under the sensor pickups. As soon as data began to be displayed Mori concentrated on the terminal screen. After a quick check of Mev's heartbeat and respiration he determined his patient was not in immediate danger and seemed stable, though unconscious for some unknown reason. An attempt to awaken Mev had no result and Mori turned his attention back to the sensor readouts.

Once Casey saw the doctor had things well in hand he posted the two guards outside the door to the emergency center. Then he went to one of the terminals and called up the service record for Mev Van Zehe. Since there was nothing he could do to aid in the medical side of things he decided to see what he could find out about the patient from the records available on the ship. Then he could add that knowledge to what the doctor could tell him and it would give him an idea if there was any security threat to be concerned about.

Both Casey and the medical team worked quietly for a few minutes. The doctor and the assisting medics moved quickly with little wasted motions. They were trying to do what they could to determine why their patient had such an adverse reaction to a drug which had been determined to be both safe and effective on both humans and Morro after both extensive testing and even longer experience in use.

After working on the patient for a few minutes Dr. Mori released him into the care of the medics and came over to Casey, grabbing a chair from the terminal next to the one where Casey was sitting. Casey closed the information window he was viewing and turned his attention to the doctor.

"So doctor, what's wrong with Van Zehe?" Casey asked.

"Well, first of all, Van Zehe is not human. At least, he is not the same sort of human as we are." Mori replied.

"I see. Then he is a Morro, some sort of agent for them?"

"No. He is not Morro either. Actually, when I said Van Zehe is not human it's not strictly true. DNA analysis shows that he is definitely descended from ancestors who originally were human and came from Earth. But, and this is very strange, his DNA is at least a million and a half years divergent from normal humans." Mori told the security officer.

"What? How is that possible? We're only had space travel for 656 years. Was it genetic engineering?" Casey asked the doctor.

"That is what is so puzzling. You see, genetic engineering using the technology we have or what we know the Morro have, leaves definite markers in the modified DNA. But I can't find those markers in Van Zehe's DNA, none at all. It is obvious that his genetic structure is derived from humans but there is no sign of artificial genetic engineering. Somehow he has a genome that is at least a million and a half years divergent from ours without any of the markers of artificial modification." Mori said.

"According to his service record, Van Zehe is from Venda, which was settled from Earth 283 years ago. Despite being part of the Republic there is not much information about it in the database. Up until two years ago it was a pastoral and agricultural planet, keeping pretty much to themselves with very few visitors from other planets. As far as I can find out from Fleet records Van Zehe is the only one from there in the service."

"What happened to Venda two years ago?" Mori asked.

"The entire planet was destroyed by a Morro task force. Venda is located in the arm of the Republic that the Morro took from us then. The same occupied area that now divides us from the rest of the Republic." Casey replied.

"I see..."

"How is we didn't find this out when Van Zehe joined the service? Aren't all recruits and cadets given a complete physical examination, including DNA scan?" Casey asked the doctor.

"Actually, you don't even need a DNA scan to know he is different. While externally he is just like you or I, internally there are some fairly significant differences. For one thing, he has almost twice the amount of nerve tissue in his body that we do. Significant differences in brain structure as well, though the volume is about the same. All it would have taken is a simple internal scan with a portable medical scanner and you would know he is different." Mori answered.

"Do you think he is something created by the Morro, doctor? Could they have used captured human tissue to create him?" Casey asked.

"Unless the Morro have some technology fantastically more advanced than what we currently think they have, I'd say not. I think it's pretty unlikely."

"What is he then?"

"To be honest, I don't know. Maybe he really does come from where his record says he does. I don't think there is any way to tell." Mori answered.

"I see. I guess all we can do now is wait and see if he comes out of it. Is he stable?" Casey asked.

"As far as I can tell he is, for now at least. I think he might come out of the coma once his body flushes all of the R-12 out of his system. It might take several days, his nervous system seems to be incredibly sensitive to R-12, and in fact any psychoactive drug. You're lucky the R-12 didn't kill him."

"What? R-12 is supposed to be safe. It's been extensively tested and proven to be safe and effective." Casey said, incredulous.

"For you or I or any human, or even a Morro, that is true. But for Van Zehe it is a different matter. His brain and nervous system contain receptors that will bind to almost any type of psychoactive chemical. If something of that nature makes it into his blood the result is coma or even death. Fortunately for him his skin, lungs and digestive system have mechanisms to prevent substances of that sort from entering his body. You bypassed those when you injected the R-12." Mori explained.

"That's incredible! Then there is no drug we can use to get him to answer questions truthfully?" Casey asked.

"I don't think so. Either they won't work at all, or it will produce the effect we are seeing now. If it doesn't simply kill him which I think is a likely result." Mori answered.

"We'll just have to do the best we can to investigate without it then."

"One other thing," the doctor continued. "Some of the medical scanners are providing strange results when I scan his body. I'm not quite sure what to make of them. Not just the anatomical difference, but almost like there is some sort of quantum shift centered in his body. A slight warp of space-time itself and it's centered in Van Zehe's body. The effect is very small but it's definitely there."

"Hmm, another mystery. Well, I'll go and continue my investigation. Call me if Van Zehe wakes up." Casey told the doctor.

"Will do," Mori replied.

Casey stood up and walked out of sickbay without another word. He left the two security men stationed outside the door just in case. Once he was confident the security posted at sickbay was adequate he returned to the security center.

Mev remained in a coma for the next two and a half days. Casey continued to research Mev's origins and sought an explanation for his presence on the ship. Despite his suspicious he was unable to find anything other than Mev was indeed from Venda (as he actually DID come from there). In fact, the only suspicious thing Casey could find were Mev's anatomical differences from the norm, and their non-discovery of those differences until that time.

He was also able to find little information about Venda in the ship's database, despite the fact that Venda had been part of the Republic until recently. It appeared that for the entire time since colonists from Earth centuries before settled it, the inhabitants of Venda had little interest in the Republic or its affairs. And the Republic had shared that disinterest it seems, as he could find little written about the planet in media reports or scientific journals.

For Dr. Mori and the rest of the medical staff the time was spent watching the patient and doing research as well. Foremost was the mystery of Mev Van Zehe's genetic structure, which while clearly was derived from Earth origin humans, was no longer the same. The difference was not a single mutation but rather what otherwise would appear to have been the result of normal genetic progression over time. Yet Mori was unable to discover how it was possible to obtain a genetic deviation equivalent to more than a million and a half years in less than three hundred years. That fact and the nature of the differences pointed to some sort of artificial genetic manipulation, but manipulation done by some unknown advanced technique.

The doctors made continuous scans of Mev during the time he was unconscious and the results of these were also somewhat troubling. Whenever they made a scan of Mev's body the results were always slightly off, as if the instruments were out of calibration. Yet when they use the same instruments to scan someone else, the readings were dead on. Somehow, the actually fabric of space itself within Mev's body was warped slightly but they could find no explanation for this effect.

Finally after two and a half days Mev began to come out of the coma but not at once. The medics noticed an increase in his brain activity and his heartbeat and breathing became stronger but he did not awaken immediately. They also noticed the de-calibration effect upon the medical increased at the same time and in step with his increasing physiological activity. They could not find any explanation for the de-calibration effect since whenever they scanned anyone else the readings were normal, and all diagnostic checks of the scanners were also negative.

Mev returned to awareness slowly and for a time he was in a sort of dreamlike state. But gradually his thoughts cleared and with it his memory of what had happened. For a time he just lay quiet while he searched the ship with his senses. He found the two security men outside sickbay, which was something he was expecting. Everything else appeared to be normal. Maybe he would be able to explain his way out of this situation and if that succeeded he would not have to leave the ship. If not he could always leave and they were in no better position for stopping him than before.

Finally Mev opened his eyes and sat up and the duty medics, noticing this, signaled Dr. Mori, and then Casey his problem child was now awake. Then they moved over to the bed to check on Mev. They found he was now fully recovered and back to normal, little the worse for his experience. That was how it was for his kind. But he remained in bed for the moment to see what was going to happen.

Mori entered the compartment just then and walked up to where Mev still lay. "How do you feel, Van Zehe?" he asked.

"Fine, I'm OK now." Mev answered.

"Do you know what happened to you?" Mori asked.

"Yes, I do. The drug security gave me poisoned me."

"You're right. I don't know how it happened, that drug is supposed to be perfectly safe." Mori told Mev.

"It is for you, or even for a Morro, but not for me."

"Yes, we know that now."

At that point Casey and the two security men walked into the room. Casey walked up to the bed and demanded: "What are you, Van Zehe?"

"I am exactly what it says in my service record. I'm crewman from Venda, a planet that used to be part of the Republic before it was destroyed last year. I was born there, and so were my parents." Mev answered.

"Even if that is true, you're not like us. Was everyone on Venda like you?" Casey asked.

"No, sadly, it was only a few, and that is why Venda is no more." Mev answered.

"What do you mean?" Mori asked.

"The first task force the Morro sent was thrown back, mostly destroyed. But then the Morro sent another, much larger. They were able to hold off the attack for a while but eventually their strength failed, their shields collapsed, and Venda was destroyed." Mev explained.

"Who is 'they'?" Casey asked.

"The High Lords of Venda, of whom I am the last." Mev answered.

"The High Lords of Venda, who are they? There wasn't anything about them in the records I reviewed." Casey said.

"There wouldn't be, few know about us off world. I'm the first High Lord who has ever left that planet and that is the reason why only I survive." Mev told them.

"What do you mean?" Casey asked.

"The High Lords remained on Venda to defend the people and planet. Only they had the power to oppose the Morro assault fleet since Venda eschewed technology, as it is known in the rest of the Republic. The High Lords resisted the Morro until their strength failed, for the High Lords were living and as living things do they became fatigued after a time. But the weapons of the Morro were untiring machines and so they prevailed in the end." Mev told them.

"How were they able to resist the Morro at all?" Casey asked. "From what I could find out Venda didn't have any technology or space defenses. The Morro should have been able to take the planet intact."

"The High Lords had power the Morro did not suspect." Mev replied.

"What sort of power?" asked Mori.

"A High Lord of Venda has the ability to tap the fundamental power of the universe," Mev replied. "The amount of power is limited only by his knowledge, strength, and skill in using it."

"How many High Lords were there on Venda?" Casey asked.

"There were 309 High Lords, male and female, including myself. But I am the only one of them who has ever left Venda." Mev replied.

"I remember the initial Morro incursion into that sector initially made little progress. But then they reinforced the task force making the invasion and were able to continue." Casey said.

"The main reason for their initial lack of success was their failure to take Venda, despite the fact it had no modern technology. But the Morro were ignorant of the High Lords and so sent a force which was too small to overcome them. The High Lords destroyed the first Morro task force that was sent against Venda." Mev told them.

"But how was it possible for people who had no advanced technology to destroy a Morro task force?" Casey asked.

"As I said before, the High Lords had power the Morro did not suspect." Mev answered.

"What do you mean by the 'fundamental power of the universe'?" Mori asked.

"The very energy of space/time itself is the source. But tapping that power also consumes some of our life energy, and this can only be replenished by rest and nourishment." Mev explained.

"So there are limits to what a High Lord can do?" Casey asked.

"Yes, of course, we are still living and mortal. Our capacity for tapping power can be increased by training, practice, and exercise in its use. Also knowledge and ritual have a big influence on what we can do, because usually there is more than one way to do something, and some ways take more energy than others do. And there are other dangers besides simple exhaustion. 'A High Lord uses power only with moderation and restraint, lest ill befall all.'" Mev told them, with the last sentence a quote from his teacher.

"You are the only one of these 'High Lords' ever to leave Venda?" Casey asked.

"Yes," Mev answered.

"Why did you leave when none of the others did?" asked Casey again.

"It is the custom among the High Lords that when a youth finishes school he or she will set forth on a journey to explore the world and themselves. My interests have always been unusual, because I've always had an interest in technology and the universe beyond Venda. When it came my time to make that journey I left Venda and joined the Space Service. Despite the lack of desire to use high technology on Venda it is not unknown to us. And of course Venda was part of the Republic though my people participated little in the political and social life." Mev explained.

"I joined the Space Service, took advantage of the training and education programs offered. I plan to spend some time in the service to learn about other peoples and planets. The same as many others from other planets in the Republic who join the service do. Except for being a High Lord of Venda I am exactly like anyone else on this ship. Considering what the Morro did to my home world you can safely assume I am not working for them in any way." Mev added.

"You don't really expect us to believe your 'High Lords" story do you? I've checked all the records I can find about Venda and there is nothing about it anywhere?" Casey challenged.

"The High Lords felt it was better that their existence was little known off Venda." Mev answered.

As soon as he finished speaking Mev reached for power, found it, and quickly lifted himself off the bed. Casey jumped back a step as Mev somersaulted over their heads near the ceiling, did a back flip, and landed softly on his feet. The whole move had a weightless quality to it, more like floating than jumping. Mev landed softly and silently on his feet behind Casey.

Startled the officer quickly turned around to face Mev. "How did you do that?" Casey asked.

"It is the power of levitation," Mev answered. "We have the ability to lift our bodies or other objects."

"Incredible!" Mori exclaimed.

"It is a simple thing for us. It's one of the first things our children learn."

"A simple thing! Telekinesis has never been proven to exist by any irrefutable scientific testing." Casey said.

"Well, as you can see it does exist. In fact, you even have such abilities yourselves, though the use if it does not come so easily to you as it does to a High Lord of Venda. But the seeds of it are still within you."

"You mean anybody can learn how to do what you just did?" Casey asked.

"Yes, if they are willing to put in the time and effort required. It is the origin of the Vendan High Lords, for our ancestors were colonists from Earth just as you are. But when my ancestors left Earth they rejected the use of technology though they retained the knowledge of the theory of it. Instead of technology they instead sought to develop a different way of interacting with the universe. In time they found the way they sought and began to draw power from the universe itself. As they grew in knowledge and skill their bodies also changed and the power came to them more easily." Mev explained. "But only a few were able to reach the point where their bodies changed."

"As a person seeks and uses powers of that type it changes their bodies?" asked Mori.

"Yes, if they continue to pursue with sufficient effort. It does not happen immediately but instead it takes several years, often several decades. Only a few Vendans were able to go so far that their bodies became changed. Most of them remained as you are now."

"Is that how you became a High Lord?" Mori asked.

"No, I was born to it. I've always been as I am now. Once their bodies changed such that they became High Lords they found they were only able to have children if the other parent was also one whose body had been changed."

"Because their genetic structure had been altered so much that they were no longer human?"

"Yes, that is exactly what happens." Mev replied. "And once their bodies had been changed, they could not be restored. Several made the attempt, they all died. As a result it was forbidden to make such attempts. Partly that was because we do not fully understand how the change to High Lords happened in the first place and so we don't fully understand what is needed to change back to the unchanged human."

"You mean once someone becomes a High Lord they can't be changed back?" Casey asked.

"Yes, it would seem to be the case, or at least we have never been able to discover a way for a High Lord to use his power to restore himself or another to being unchanged. There were several attempts to reverse the process and each case the result was disastrous. But we did learn to make humans into High Lords, though it was little done."

"Why?" asked Mori.

"Because of the risks involved in and resulting from doing so. The process itself is risky because of the amount of life force that must be expended. And there is also a moral hazard created when someone is granted such power so easily."

"It seems to me the moral hazard would be the same for those who are born with the power," Casey said.

"The difference is those who are born to it come to their power gradually as their bodies mature. They also receive instruction in their youth in how to handle their powers and what the risks are."

A person who makes the transition as an adult comes into their full power immediately but with no training on how to use or control it." Mev replied.

"To return to the matter at hand, how do we know that if you are returned to duty you won't use your power to cause problems?" Casey asked.

"If I had wanted to do that I would have done it already," Mev replied. "Really, that is all the assurance that I can possibly give you."

"I will meet with the Captain and the XO and you will be informed when you can return to duty. Until then please remain here in sick bay," Casey ordered.

"Aye Aye sir," Mev replied formally. Casey turned and left sickbay.

Mev remained in sickbay for the rest of the day under the watchful eye of the security men and being subjected to additional medical tests by Mori. Mev declined every request to display any unusual ability and Mori did not press the matter. They would have to content themselves with the single demonstration Mev had allowed them. Finally at the end of the day he received a message that he was allowed to return to duty.

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