I'd always been called Kendall. My mother had caught some sort of vicious infection before I was born. It marked and twisted me horribly. What marked me killed her. I was born on Aldrys 3, a farming planet. They couldn't cope with my deformities. I was sent off to one of the core worlds for genetic therapy but the ship I was on somehow was re-routed to Cottman 4, an old, cold planet under a dark red star.
There I became a ward of the star base.
I didn't speak much. At first I couldn't pronounce words properly with my deformed face. However, I read and I learned. I had a bright, fierce thirst for all things that I could dig out of books.
One day I was on a bus destined for a local art museum when some sort of attack caused the bus to roll over and its shell was shredded. I was tossed about as the thing was shaken like a bouquet of flowers shedding petals. When everything stopped moving I crawled out of the wreckage and made for a corner of the closest building.
It was what the local bully-boys were waiting for.
I was punched, clubbed, kicked and finally stabbed with a short sword.
I honestly thought that I was going to die there on those filthy cobblestones. Something inside of me reached a final limit. I heard a horrible scream and the sound of thunder.
I awoke in the base hospital. There wasn't a square inch of me that wasn't scorched or blistered. I was dizzy as hell and my headache was, let's just call it 'weapons-grade'. I was seeing 'auras' around everything. I was stuck in that hospital room for what seemed like years. I slowly healed but my skin kept tearing and my broken thigh bone didn't want to fuse.
Team after team interrogated me as to what happened. I said nothing. I simply looked at them. What the hell was I going to say? The world came to an end?
Finally an older man wearing fancy brocaded clothes came to see me. He did something that made my head hurt horribly. I screamed out, "NO!" and passed out.
I woke up. It couldn't have been very long. There were small smoky fires coming from the equipment, the ceiling tiles were destroyed and the old guy was lying upside-down--legs up-- in the corner. I felt something like constant thunder in the back of my mind. It seemed to come from deep below me, but it was damned strong.
Oh, they tried to patch me up, but the way my body healed--or rather didn't heal-- made it an exercise in futility. I got more scars and my mobility was even more limited. My left hand just lay in my lap with the fingers curled. It was a devastating blow.
It wasn't long before the base diplomats received a demand from the Comyn Council for me to appear before them. There wasn't a fucking thing I could do about it. I got angrier and angrier. The thunder in the back of my mind became louder--more real.
I was wheelchair bound and was glad for the escort. The streets were made from cobblestones so old that a person could easily trip in the ruts worn in the stones. I'd been flown from Thendarra to Caer Donn, where the old spaceport was. That's where the council met. It was bloody cold. The air tasted metallic. The winds wouldn't have been so bad if they'd just come from one direction but they changed from moment to moment, making walking difficult. There was nothing allowed off the base that was motorized. Oh, no. That would have made it too easy. I had a good mad on to begin with. When the poor guys carrying my wheelchair around slipped on the ice and dropped the thing I jarred in agony. I was pissed. I panted a few times trying to get a hold of myself.
I realized that I wasn't cold anymore. I'd been curled over trying to protect myself from the wind. Now I relaxed and straightened up, working the cramp out of my lower back. It was damned strange, but I wasn't going to ask any questions that had answers I didn't want to hear.
It was late in the day when I was rolled into a big room. I'd missed lunch and supper. Two more strikes against the day. I had copped an attitude just after noon and it just kept getting better.
Seven old guys in colorful tunics and embroidered vests were sitting behind a big U-shaped table. It was open towards the door. My escort rolled me up to a short stair and left me.
Everybody was, um, wincing like they were in a room with the lights turned up too bright. A tall skinny guy with a white pony-tail stood up from his chair in the middle. He about yelled at me, "Control Yourself!" His voice felt like three hammer blows! I focused on him with everything I had and said, "Go to hell." I felt an echo of the thunder in my head flash towards him. The carpet between us ripped in half like the wake of a jet boat and he fell over backwards. That was the end of that interview.
At least they fed me. A servant took me to a room with a chair, desk, bed, dresser and a small toilet in a side-room. I was finally able to pee. It was awkward balancing on one foot while holding a door jamb and trying to hit the damned hole, but I did a creditable job without pissing on myself. Much. Once I got back into the chair and figured out how to prop my leg up I felt a lot better. Since there was a light over the table I rolled over to it, then fished my day pack off the back of the wheelchair. I'd been working my way through a book on the theory of electromagnetism on my own. I carried it everywhere. As I concentrated on the equations the rumbling I'd been hearing dialed back. I was having as good a time as I'd had since before the bus blew up.
I heard a light knock on the door. Curious, I called out, "Come in.". A young lady--a girl, really as she had no hips or figure, preceded a servant pushing a serving cart. She looked about the room and scowled. "This will never do! The fire has not been set, there is no fruit nor cheese plate left for you, not even a drop of wine!" She turned to the servant. "Gerald, Go fetch help and get this room properly prepared for guests. I shall serve as hostess." He dropped a quick nod with a finger to his brow, grinned and scooted. I could tell that she was on good terms with the help. That put her head and shoulders above the people I'd met in that frozen pile of rocks before that. Hell, I'd not even noted the cold. Something inside me kept me warm and toasty. I'd thrown off my blanket and sat in shirtsleeves.
The girl turned to me and curtsied, of all things! I returned with the deepest bow I could, as my motions were confined by the chair. "Greetings, young lady. I would rise and give you courtesy but for my leg, as the cannon bone is broken."
A look of concern flashed over her face but it was quickly replaced by a calm, pleasant look. "I am Isobel. I have been tasked with making you comfortable during your stay. The kitchens have prepared an early supper. Shall I serve?"
"Of course, but only if there is a place setting for you as well."
Her wonderful attitude surfaced again as she danced around the table, laying out a service for two and placing covered warming dishes here and there. A team of four servants entered to prepare and light the fireplace, light a small chandelier over the table and, after covering a sideboard with a tablecloth, laid out trays of candied fruits, cheeses and nuts. Gerald assisted her with the heavy chair while I rolled up to the other side of the table. He then poured glasses of water and large goblets of wine for both of us. He nodded with a smile and ushered his team out the door.
"Well, that was something! Shall we see what the kitchen has prepared for us?" The table was shallow enough for me to reach all but a couple of the dishes. I removed the warming covers to the cart where I also found the serving spoons.
We had sliced pork, mashed potatoes, root vegetables in cheese sauce and a lemony gravy for the meat. It was all quite good--better than I'd had before. After tasting the dishes I remarked, "This is quite good. I haven't had such a wonderful meal before, and to have it with a pretty young lady across the table just takes it all to the sublime."
She blushed prettily and grinned. We each had a slice of warmed raisin pie for desert, which about did me in. I helped clear the table back to the cart as I could, then we sat once again. "I hope that I might answer some of the questions you must harbor."
I nodded. "Thank you. This is much less confrontational than what occurred in the hall."
"First, to clear the air we have to agree on some background and terms. Do you know what Laran is?"
"No, not really. I've heard the term used, along with TP, PK and others but it's all over the horizon for me."
She sat back and sighed. Then she started quietly talking. "A bit over sixteen hundred years ago three colony ships arrived here from Earth. The cold and lack of food almost killed them, but a few survived. What they didn't know was the planet was already inhabited by a very old race that was in decline. The Chieri were star-farers when man was learning to use nets to fish. Once more, they were quite powerful telepaths. The races were mutually attracted to each other and, what's more, were cross-fertile. In this way dominant talents for various forms of telepathy rose. To make matters more complicated, a naturally occurring mineral acts like a psychic resonator. It changes a person and is changed by a person in what is called a bonding. If you see a bright blue or blue-green crystal with bright lines inside it, turn away and definitely don't touch it! If it's tuned to someone, just touching it can kill them."
All this came out of the blue for me. It explained a few things I'd heard, but why tell me? "All this sounds like something that should be held secret. Why tell me?"
She flatly said, "You have Laran."
.... There is more of this story ...