Ethan Robertson by James Demitri
"I must not think, I may not gaze,
"I must not think, I may not gaze,
On what I am -- on what I was."
The year was 3012 and fetid rainclouds lay like a toxic blanket over what remained of Earth’s smoldering, squalid lands. He streaked through the sheeting acid rain fast enough to leave no trace on the biogrid. He slipped and almost went down in the rancid water again. His anger soared and his young passenger moaned softly at the unexpected pitch. He cursed the human race, shifted the weight of his passenger a little higher on his back, and worried about the slack grip the little hybrid had around his neck. The kid’s corrosive blood was an acrid stench on the air and stung his back where it ate through his ecosuit. His strong hands locked beneath the kid’s buttocks and he hiked him higher again bringing another soft moan from him. Hang on, only three more miles, he telepathed to the kid.
A loud crack sounded on the horizon and lightning splashed the pewter sky unnerving him. A tornado crested the Blackstairs Mountains and dropped onto the Plains twenty klicks away. He concentrated on his speed, strategically placing his soft boots on the hot, sodden ground and tried not to jostle his package again. He felt most in control when he exerted himself. Ironic now, as he was running for the little hybrid’s life and controlled nothing until he made it to the ship. He ran faster than any other hybrid, and could do so while carrying weight equal to his own. He would make it. He bore down on the molten, sooty terrain bringing to bear the last of his strength and cursed the human race again.
First, there had been the stem-cell scientists and gene splicers, and then came interstellar travel. Under the auspices of the Human Genome Project, they created a race of human-alien hybrids with hermaphroditic traits and superior psychokinetic powers. A millennium later, they named them an abomination before God and called for their annihilation. They.
In response to the public outcry for destruction, the humans formed the Interstellar Militia for Genetic and Noetic Engineering to perform the pogrom. Then had the temerity to call IMGNE a peace corps. More hypocritical yet, the sobriquet they flaunted for the slaughter was Imagine. They.
They loosed hybrids in the outlands and shot them for sport. Humans paid hundreds of thousands of credits for guided hunts. They sold them for slavery of the most illicit sort. They experimented on them. They tortured them. They were cruel. They.
As the most powerful hybrid specimen in existence, they came after him. His choices had been simple. Join Imagine and hunt down his own or die. At eighteen, they’d sheared his wings, genetically enhanced him, and made him a tracker. Now, at twenty-two, he was their most trusted assassin. He was elite and he loathed it.
He slipped again and regained his balance. The kid cried out. Almost there, stay with me.
“You’re…going…to… kill me…” the little hybrid panted through the pain and fright.
Hush. You’ll be safe soon. We can’t speak aloud in the open.
Terror shuddered through the kid and covered his back like a macabre cape, ever so reminiscent of the unmitigated fear he felt when they’d executed his parents in front of him. The memory roared through his head, an ugly firework bouncing off the walls of his mind. He slapped the brutal memory away with a vicious mental hand. Concentrate. Save the kid.
He felt the kid’s body go limp as he passed out. Fuck. Unconsciousness made a big difference in feel of the kid’s weight. He leaned forward and shifted the kid into one strong hand, his tiny, bony buttocks causing him to wonder, again, how old he was. The kid said he was eighteen. Not a chance. He guessed twelve, maybe fourteen, at best. With his free hand, he pressed the comm sensor behind his ear to summon the ship.
Galon banked the ship hard and headed into the upper atmosphere. He’d lost Ffolant on the biogrid over an hour ago and only the steady pulse emanating from the biosensor in Ffolant’s inner thigh told him Ffolant was still alive. He’d watched the pulsing data display like an Earthen crack addict. When Ffolant finally summoned him, he felt a wave of relief so great it made him light headed. He hated these missions but knew they were essential to their survival.
He came in hot, the gates down, emergency retrieval beams alight. Ffolant jumped aboard, gently laid the kid on the deck, and promptly collapsed. Galon nearly burst into tears as he watched through the sensor camera. He set the ship on autopilot then leaped from the captain’s chair and went to join Ffolant in Sickbay.
Ffolant sat with his head in his hands as a bio-scanner moved around the kid as he lay suspended in the air. Galon set a warm hand on Ffolant’s shoulder. “How bad?”
Ffolant shook his head in disgust. “He ran from me, right into a band of barbarians. I can’t remove the knife without killing him.”
Galon moved around the kid’s small, emaciated body to study the holodisplay. A Mercurian knife had four barbs along its eight-inch blade and this blade rested amid the little hybrid’s vital organs. The knife was sure to take an organ with it when removed. From what Galon could see, Ffolant had performed the scan four times from four different angles, to no avail. The knife wasn’t coming out without the aid of an expert surgeon. “Lie down, Ffolant.”
Ffolant lay on the air next to the boy, his back an ugly, red ruin. Galon set another bio-scanner to motion while he undressed him and retrieved a biopatch and slapped it on the side of Ffolant’s neck. “Know anyone who can do the surgery?”
Ffolant shook his head.
“Can you find someone?”
“I doubt before the kid dies.”
“I’ll do the research while you sleep.”
Ffolant’s hand shot to his neck. “You used a sedative!?”
Galon smirked. “His blood damn near ate into your skeletal system. The pain will be astronomical when your adrenaline fades.”
“Curse you, Galon! I don’t like being without my senses!”
Galon leaned over and stroked the damp, white-gold curls from Ffolant’s forehead. “If you can’t trust me, who can you trust?”
Ffolant’s world faded to black before he could think I trust no one.
Galon stroked Ffolant’s pale cheek with the backs of his fingers. He’d idolized his brother since the day they were born. While they were twins, Ffolant was prettier, smarter, stronger, faster, simply better. Galon had to work twice as hard to keep up with him, but he wouldn’t trade it for the entire solar system.
Their human father had been a famous geneticist and their mother a Jupitarian princess. Captured, his mother had been remanded to his father’s laboratories for breeding. Against all odds, they fell in love and bore twelve children in all. Then the human government declared all hybrids rogue and their world fell apart. In an effort to save them after the execution of their parents, Ffolant married a human. After all, if a hybrid was married to a full-blooded human, it and its family retained civil rights. It.
The hideous woman left Ffolant for an off-world dictator just after their daughter was born. Little Cariad had been added to their clandestine number.
Then IMGNE came after Ffolant. To ensure their survival, Ffolant joined them and agreed to their evil deeds. He took his oaths with false tongue and no complaint. They subjected him to a year of genetic enhancement and nearly killed him in the process. Since then, Ffolant had falsified the deaths of each of his prey and brought them to the sanctuary. Galon idolized him ever more for defying the humans. Their clandestine number grew and, over the course of three years, Ffolant had established a thriving, underground city for human-Jupitarian hybrids. He protected and cared for them all no matter the risks to himself.
Galon turned him in the air and examined his back. An hour or two with a dermaplast drone and he’d be as good as new. Damn, what was in that kid’s blood?
Galon returned to the flight deck and sent a comm to open the gates. He cruised over the highlands, up the Blackstairs Mountains, then steered the ship into a steep dive. He held his palm over the bio-plate, ready to ignite the explosion that would make it appear as if he crashed. He slapped his palm to the plate as he dove into the obsidian maw of caverns and a muted explosion sounded in his wake.
Ffolant taught him how to navigate the five-mile long tunnel using his senses rather than his eyes. He’d crashed three ships before he’d succeeded. Now, it was as easy as gliding through the Earthen Sea. He entered the cavernous docking platform and brought the ship around smoothly to roost on its pedestal. He shut down the drives and locked the gravity stabilizers. Medics stormed the ship as he disembarked.
Cariad ran up to him, wrapped her spindly arms around his thighs, and looked up at him. “Is father going to be all right?” she pleaded him with large, blue eyes.
Galon stroked her white-gold wisps. “He’ll sleep for a while and be fine when he wakes.”
“I’ll help mend him!” She ran off.
“Cariad!” he called after her.
She slowed without turning back.
“Don’t overtax your powers,” he cautioned.
She sped her bare feet again. “All right, Uncle Galon. Don’t nag. I’m almost five!”
“And the most powerful hybrid to come along in a thousand years,” he sang under his breath whimsically.
* * *
Dr. Pío Cebrián Castillo reread the message in the data spiral spinning slowly above his ancient, mahogany desk. Phoebe, the eldest Jupitarian hybrid was pregnant. This news both pleased and worried him.
Phoenix Biogenic was the largest biotech company in the solar system and, thanks to him and his now deceased mentor, it was the leader in human-hybrid molecular science and genetics. It was responsible for the creation of the human-extraterrestrial hybrid and held the majority of the patents in hybrid genetics, including patents in genomes and individual chromosomes. Concurrent with the rescission of hybrids’ rights six years ago, breeding of human hybrids became illegal under Interstellar law. However, breeding and experimenting with hybrids already in existence at the time of the ban remained legal. Through companies such as Phoenix Biogenic, and under the guise of non-invasive research, experimentation continued at the behest of the very government that banned it in the first instance.
Non-invasive research. Now, there was an oxymoron if he’d ever heard one.
The matter of hybrids’ rights was presently before the Interstellar Supreme Court. On Friday, the Court would render a landmark decision. One that could render all breeding and experimentation unlawful and end his career. No doubt, IMGNE would order all of Phoenix Biogenic’s experimental hybrids be put to death. The thought made him physically ill. His five hundred and thirty six hybrids had become his extended family. He’d endeavored to devise a plan to save them thousands of times over the past year, but it was futile. He couldn’t simulate over five hundred deaths, let alone steal that many hybrids away to a safe haven.
Phoebe’s baby would be the first hybrid to be born in almost six years. Make that five hundred and thirty-seven deaths. Cebrián swallowed the lump in his throat as he reached into the lower left drawer of his desk and withdrew a bag of chocolates. He added a few to the pocket of his sterile lab suit then left his office.