Authors: J. D. Lakey
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Metaphysical & Visionary, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Galactic Empire, #Genetic engineering, #Metaphysical
Text copyright © 2016 by J.D. Lakey
Cover & Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Dylan Drake
All rights reserved. Published by Wayword Press
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
Printed in the U.S.A
Second Edition, January 2016
Other Books in the Black Bead Chronicles:
Black Bead: Book One
Bhotta’s Tears: Book Two
Spider Wars: Book Three
Trade Fair: Book Four
Dunauken: Book Five
Dylan, for being a rock, Daris for being constant, Liz for being patient, and Tomas for believing in the impossible.
“… so there we were, stuck on a world not of our own choosing, running down a track hellbent on destruction with our heads so crammed full of the thoughts and ideas of others there was no room for our own; everyone telling us what we should be thinking, ought to be thinking, needed to be thinking, trying to climb into our minds and down our throats, choking us with their tyrannies disguised as theologies and their theologies disguised as dogmas and their dogmas disguised as civil law. Well, we had enough, didn’t we. The staying felt worse than the leaving. We turned our backs on that life and we walked down the road and out of the world. Some say we invented a new way of living. Human Evolution, they called it. Piffle. That is the hubris of hindsight. I think what we did was far more subtle. We forgot. We embraced our collective amnesia, wiping the slate clean so that we could remember what had been long forgotten. That, my friends, is the true definition of revolution.”
Anna, the first Mother
The Quiet Revolution,
The Forbidden Books
Cheobawn woke with a start, her heart pounding in her chest, her mind already piercing the ambient, searching for the threat that had broken into her dreams and disturbed her peace.
Dark and silent, her room was not the source of her unease. She pushed her awareness out further, into the home she shared with her Mothers and their Husbands. The household slept. She could feel their restless dreams whispering softly to her out of the still pool that was the Coven’s communal heart.
Letting her Ear expand out beyond the walls of the house and the walls of Mora’s will revealed nothing of note. The village dreamed on. All was as it ought to be.
Had the turmoil in her heart been nothing but a nightmare? She tried to put the wisps of that dream into some coherent order but it was like trying to catch clouds. An image lingered in the back of her mind. An image of herself standing on the edge of the Escarpment with her toes curled over the rocky lip of the tall precipice. The rest of the dream remained formless and unfocused, hidden under the same blanket of clouds that had covered the earth beyond the edge of the dream’s cliffs.
An ominous foreboding tainted everything about that image, leaving a sour aftertaste in her thoughts. But it was just a dream.
Cheobawn rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.
She tossed and turned for a bit and when it became apparent that the time for sleep had come to an end, she sighed and sat up. Leaning over, she pressed her palm against the surface of the bedside table.
“Five thirteen,” the table said softly, its voice serene and motherly, the program intentionally designed to comfort wee things who were afraid of the dark. In her own voice it added, “What are you doing up so early, you dufus? Go back to sleep.” Cheobawn smiled. Last Restday she had opened up the table’s guts and replaced its crystalline brain with one Alain had helped her program. She touched the night stand again.
“I’m sleeping. Go bother someone else,” her own voice groused at her in annoyance. Despite its protest, the intractable tabletop activated. A menu glowed softly under her fingertips.
Cheobawn laughed. She now had the most irreverent night table under the dome. She keyed in a code in the inquiry menu. The string of numbers initiated her own programing. The display rebuilt itself revealing a more complex menu.
She touched a blinking icon. Halfway across the dome compound the little brain inside her personal study terminal flared into life.
“Uh oh, someone is being naughty. Better not let the Mothers catch you,” her own voice crowed in delight.
It was early, too early for study time. Her study station was now operating outside of the set time limits for underage use, an infraction that risked privilege restrictions and extra duty.
Extra duty always seemed to be smelly, dirty, or disgusting, such as scraping hardened snail slime off the intake filters in the dome’s water works or mucking out the fermented straw in the bottom of the root cellars. This was awful in and of itself but it was made all the more horrible when you added the preamble of endless scolding from her nest-mothers, the Coven.
Cheobawn grimaced at the thought but did not stop. She was fairly certain this small transgression would go undetected. Alain had assured her that you had to be standing directly in front of the terminal inside her cubical in the Learning Center to see the telltale lights. As long as she used her program after hours when the building was empty, she would be fine.
Studying after hours was a minor infraction. She was not sure what the elders would say if they found out she had altered the original format of the night table, turning the glorified alarm clock into a full access data terminal.
Establishing a link between the two brains had been fairly simple. She had cold soldered a pair of synced bloodstones to the two brain units, the one inside this table and the one inside her study station in the Learning Center. Alain had helped her with that as well, showing her the where and the how of it on his own study terminal in the Pack’s dormitory room in Pack Hall. He had even insisted she practice on a few dummy crystals before attempting the real thing. The hardest part had been sneaking him into her room and the Learning Center and dismantling the consoles without any of the Elders noticing.
Finding a pair of synced bloodstones had been the easiest part of the whole escapade. She had merely taken a pair from the remains of the bag of marbles she’d found hidden in the detritus at the bottom of her old toy box. Her family of marbles were small and pink, their psionic field weak, good only for kid’s games like hide and seek, a psi-skill game she had not played since Megan had declared Pack status and gone off to live with the boys. Pale as they were, they were clear as fine glass and the harmonics of the stones still managed to stay tuned to each other across the dome. Now the two crystal brains were linked as surely as if she had run a hardwire between them.
Someday, when she was older, Menolly would take her into the Temple to teach her the Mysteries. Cheobawn would learn the art of Tuning. Then she would be able to take a family of raw bloodstones, indelibly bonded during their creation and turn them into something really useful such as warding stones, sentinel units, or com spheres.
Once, when she was little, she had tried to tune a pink orphan bloodstone all by herself. She had become convinced there were things living in the darkness under her bed, inside the toy chest, and behind the cupboard doors. Mora had not listened and Brigit had laughed, so she had taken the matter into her own hands, playing with the internal harmonics of the stone, intent on turning it into a ward.
Cheobawn grimaced at the embarrassing memory. Little kid’s brains came up with the strangest ideas.
Needless to say, the results had not been pleasant. Instead of creating a warding stone, she had scrambled the stone’s harmonics so badly that its psi emanations had drawn Mora out of her study, a furrow of pain between her brows. Hayrald had been delegated to take the offending stone outside, beyond the Dome’s warding limits, to be buried as far away from sensitive minds as possible. Afterward, the scolding had been endless. Mora kept going on and on about eating your vegetables before eating your dessert, an argument that had gone over her young head since dessert and bloodstones seemed two totally different things.
In retrospect the logic became painfully clear. One did not attempt a Master level skill with Apprentice level training. The lesson having been well learned, she had set out to learn as much about bloodstones as possible. Syncing a pair to work together had been dead easy.