This is the 6th in our ongoing serial story of Melina and Daeva. Two chapters ago, Daeva used time-space travel to come from her planet, Gardotian-56, to Earth, and steal President Winton’s daughter, Camille, who has a genetic heart condition. Here she arrives on Gardotian-56 with the little girl.
Daeva stepped out of her Hummingbird and walked around to the opposite side, where Camille Winton slept soundly in the passenger seat. She lifted the little girl out, careful not to wake her, and held her tight against her strong shoulders, realizing that she’d already grown fond of Camille during the trip. Camille was a sweet-natured and affectionate kid; Daeva already saw the person she’d become, one who could win hearts easily, like her mother, the President, had. Daeva just hoped the risk of stealing her had been worth it.
Bruna came towards them, alerted to their arrival by the security field surrounding the planet, but Daeva waved her off. “I’ll take her. I need to check in with the others, anyway. I’ve been gone too long.”
Bruna turned and followed them towards the compound where the children were housed. Daeva strode quickly, glad to feel solid ground and gravity under her feet again. Twenty days on that ship was enough to drive her mad. At least she only had to be strapped in during landings and take-offs. The rest of the time, she could get up and move around in the small belly of the Hummingbird, exercising on the magnetic machines, and, on the way home, playing games with her charge. Camille had quickly adapted to the new situation, unlike Jeffrey Jamison, who had screamed half of the trip and beaten at her with his fists every time she came near. If he’d weighed any more, he’d have caused the ship to rock, he was so violent, and they might have missed the wormhole which cut five days off their trip.
She half-wished she hadn’t abducted him. Maybe then Will Setty would have greeted her just now instead of the ever-faithful Bruna. She could use another adult ally.
Bruna, panting, caught up with her. “Jeffrey has started eating. He’s stopped asking for his mother.”
Slowing her pace so they could talk, Daeva glanced over at her, then back at the path. “How long before he forgets her?”
“I doubt he will ever will completely lose that shadow of a memory of his family. He’s too bright for that. But give him another six months, and he’ll have lost most conscious memory of them. This little girl, however, will probably forget hers in six months or less. That’s the benefit of taking them earlier.”
“And the difficulty is that they’re harder to raise.”
They reached the first building of the children’s compound, and stepped through an arched door into a large, brightly-colored room lit by a variety of oddly-shaped windows, designed to stimulate children’s imaginations. Camille woke up and buried her face against Daeva, who squeezed her tighter, then set her on the floor.
A woman’s voice announced her arrival, and four children left a playhouse in a corner and ran towards them. Only Jeffrey stayed behind, turning around and leaving the room. So he was still angry. She certainly hoped that would change soon. Otherwise, what would she do with him? She couldn’t have a team member hate her.
After introducing Camille to the others, she went to one of the picnic tables which sat in the center of the room and gathered the kids, all between one and three years old, around her. “Once there was a little girl,” she started, and Peony, the oldest of the children, jumped in. “Was her name Camille?”
“Why, yes,” Daeva said.
Tinsley found her there, an hour later, still surrounded by the children. Despite his worries, he smiled at the sight. He and Daeva believed that they needed to make the children love them from an early age, just as they’d loved her own parents. Then, when they grew up and became their leaders, their loyalty would be assured. There were other benefits, because he and Daeva would know exactly what skills and strengths each child possessed. Every day one or the other of them, and often both, spent at least an hour with the kids, telling stories, playing games, and even eating meals with them.
Usually, Daeva found it easier to bond with the children that he did. She would even lie down with one of them at bedtime, snuggling and reading a bedtime story. Tinsley preferred to play games to stimulate their intellects, or race spaceships around the room.
The new girl was already sitting next to Daeva, as were all of their recruits save Jeffrey. Tinsley nodded at his sister, then spoke quietly to Bruna, who informed him that Jeffrey had gone to his room and was lying on his bed, stiff as a board, refusing to talk to anyone. Tinsley needed to speak to Daeva, but it could wait. He went to find Jeffrey, the one child who seemed to prefer him over all of the other adults.
When he reached the room, the boy’s balled-up fists and tightly squeezed face scared him. At first, as he said hello and pulled up a chair, Jeffrey remained silent, but he finally squawked, “I thought she was gone.”
“Sorry kid, but she lives here.”
The little face squeezed shut again.
Tinsley didn’t know what to say. He waited, to see if Jeffrey would relax at all, but, when he didn’t move for a minute or so, Tinsley forced himself to say something. “Want to go for a ride on my scooter later?” This was something he was sure the little boy had wanted very badly. All of the kids wanted to ride his scooter.
The black hair shook in a decisive ‘no.’
“How about petting the Tamalinds?” Tamalinds were the local equivalent of ponies, except that they were fluffy and soft like rabbits.
This time Jeffrey’s face softened and he smiled a little. Like all of the children, he loved the Tamalinds, and begged Bruna and Clotho almost every day to pet them.
“I’ll take that as a yes. I’ll be back in an hour and we’ll go out there. I’ll even let you sit on one, okay?”
“‘K,” the little boy said softly.