The room Tadik woke up in looked different to a normal hospital ward. The walls curved up to form a seamless ceiling, and the equipment round his bed was nothing like he had ever seen before, including a tube that fed something into his left arm. He looked down his body and noticed his injured leg was raised in a sling; and instead of the usual surgical dressing, a plastic sheath covered the wound. He felt a little pain when he tried to move his leg but nothing like he expected. He heard a whirring sound and looked up to where it came from. Something like a submarine telescope lowered itself to within a metre above him, its head moving like a single eye. A thin skeletal arm with pincers for fingers moved out from its stand to turn a valve on the tube, feeding a phial of something into it, and Tadik felt the pain in his leg fade away. Then a mechanical voice said, "Patient is awake. Medical staff notified. Does the patient wish anything? A drink of water perhaps?"
"Yes, please."Tadik had to stop himself from laughing at the absurdity of talking to a machine. People talked to computers all the time these days why he shouldn't have been surprised. He watched in amusement as a nearby cabinet opened and another metal arm moved out with a beaker of water in its forward holder. It stopped close enough for Tadik to reach for it. As soon as he had hold of it, the arm retracted and the cabinet closed. Neat! As he drank the water, a part of the wall in front of him swished to one side and two people walked in; one in white coveralls and the other in the uniform of a space captain. "DAD!"Tadik almost spilled his drink as he put it down on a bedside cabinet and reached out his arms. "Why are you here? I thought you'd gone; what happened?"
His dad enveloped him in a warm embrace and kissed his forehead. "There was a technical fault and my fight is delayed, so they let me come and see you. How are you feeling now?"
"Not bad, but that guy you sent really scared me. I thought he was going to kill me with that gun."
"Frightening but necessary, son; my superiors decided that sending our fast response security team would be faster than waiting for the medicopter. He didn't have time to explain things and your leg was in a bad way. If he'd tried to move you it would have hurt you too much, so he chose the safest and quickest way out and anaesthetized you with a new piece of equipment we've started using. Now, I know you have a lot of questions for me but let the doctor have a look at you first and we'll talk in few minutes, okay?"
Tadik let his dad step away from the bed and lay quiet while the doctor checked the equipment and then removed the sheath and examined his leg. Tadik's eyes widened. The only evidence of the injury was a dark red mark along the inside of his leg. Had he really healed himself? The doctor replaced the sheath and moved his dad to one side while they spoke in hushed voices, the doctor shaking his head and indicating Tadik a few times. His dad seemed adamant about a particular point, laying a steadying hand on the doctor's shoulder and speaking in his ear. The doctor stared at Tadik with shocked eyes, nodded his head and left the room. Tadik waited till his dad sat down on the bed then asked, "What's going on, Dad?"
Tadikon took hold of his hand and squeezed it. "Do you remember your mother and I telling you many times, when you were very young, that you shouldn't talk about your psychic abilities?"
"Well, that is all the more important now. You see, Tadik, you are very special, and if certain people learn of your abilities they may want to take you away from your mother and I. Already, people are asking questions about you. Tod Dorne is a lot bigger than you; didn't you think it strange that you could throw him ten feet across a room?"
Tadik thought carefully about the incident, reliving the fight in his mind. He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Dad, I saw a kid being beaten and I reacted without thinking. Did I do wrong?"
His dad smiled at him. "No, son, and I'm very proud of you. You save someone from being hurt. The only thing is, Tod Dorm being who he is, the school board have asked me to remove you from the school."
"Oh, no!"Tadik's heart sank. "Not again. I'm sorry Dad; does this mean we have to move again? It's the third time in a year."
"I'm afraid so, sport. But this time it might not be so bad. The government has joined forces with the Academy of Psychic Research and opened up a small school for children showing paranormal abilities."
Horrified, Tadik gripped his dad's hand. "Please, Dad, you promised I'd never have to go to one of those places. I know what happens to kids when they take them away. Remember Tomi Croach? When he came back, he couldn't even spell his name or add two and two."
"No, Tadik, it's not one of those places, I promise. It's just a little school inside the grounds of the Academy where kids like you can live a normal life and be safe. There are nice houses there, just like ours, and it will also be closer to where I work, and there'll be no more fingers pointed at you and whispering behind your back."
"But what about my friends? I'll never see them again."
"Of course you will; we can always arrange for a friend or two to come and stay over at weekends, but I'm afraid you won't be able to go and stay with them. Security is very tight at the APR and it would mean having to make special arrangements for bodyguards and chaperones. I also had your bike brought in and examined. The brakes had been tampered with. But never mind; there will be lots to do at the APR and on the Base, and you'll soon make some new friends. The Academy is fully equipped for all sorts of sports and pastimes, and you can always join the Space Cadet Squadron at the Base. And if you keep up your grades, you'll have no trouble entering the APR or the University for Space Exploration, when you're eighteen, if you so wish."His dad grinned and clipped Tadik gently on the chin. "And you'll see a lot more of me as well, as I'll be home more often between flights."
That cheered Tadik up. "Does that mean this place is inside Space City? Wow!"
"Yes, son; you always wanted to see where I work, didn't you? Well now you'll have your wish come true. Once you join the cadets you'll have credentials giving you entrance to the more secure operations sectors as well as a lot of other places on the Base; now about your leg."Both Tadik and his dad looked at the injured limb. "You have the doctor mystified at the speed at which you're healing, and he wanted the experts to come and have a look at you. He's one of the 'old brigade'; anything out of the ordinary, call the experts in. I put a stop to it soon enough, but it makes me wonder how he got a job here in the first place. He's gone off to talk to his superiors and mine but he won't get very far with them. They already know about you, so they'll make sure he understands the situation."
"But you still haven't told me why I'm special, Dad. What's so secret about me?"
Tadik noticed the calculating look his dad's eyes as he studied him for a moment. "Tadik, I'm under orders not to reveal too much at the moment. You're only twelve years old and not old enough to have security clearance. I wish I could tell you things, about me and about yourself, but my hands are tied. It will be different when you're older and you gain your first security pass. Even I'm not privy to a lot of the things that go on here, and I'm a senior captain. What I am allowed to tell you is that my superiors believe you could be in danger from outside forces. I had your bike brought in and examined; the brakes had been tampered with. Whether it was Tod Dorm out for revenge or someone who was watching you and hoped you would have an accident so they could pose as a medical team and pretend to take you to hospital.
"That's the reason my bosses had the security team pick you up before anyone else could get to you. I'm to warn you, as of now, not to speak to anyone you don't know, either on or off the Base. It will seem as if people are treating you as a little boy, but that is not the case. They only want to keep you and your mother safe while I'm not around. If by some chance someone did get hold of you and tried to make you reveal things, then your ignorance of the facts will protect you because you can't tell what you don't know. As you grow older you will learn to understand how things are regarding security at a Base such as ours. But till then it would be best if you put your psychic abilities at the back of your mind and forgot about them and lead as normal a life as possible and just enjoy being a normal boy doing normal things like playing football and watching adventure films. Do you understand me, son?"
Tadik thought about what his dad has said, and it seemed as if he would be living in a gigantic prison, with guards and minders watching him all the time. How could be live a normal life with people like that around all day. Frustration set in as he wondered how the other kids on the Base coped.
He jerked back to the present as his father's voice broke through his thoughts. "What? Oh, nothing, Dad I was just thinking, it will be strange getting used to living here. How is Mom going to handle coming here?"
Tadikon smiled. "She'll be all right. It won't be the first time we've lived here. This was our first home when we first got married, although our new quarters will be much larger than the one we had then, and a lot nicer, and it has its own swimming pool. I know you'll love it."
Tadik was about to assure his dad he would be okay when the door slid to one side and a young lieutenant came in. Coming to attention, he saluted smartly. "Excuse me, Captain, we've just had word; your ship will be ready for take-off in twenty minutes."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."Tadik's dad rose to his feet, leaned down to kiss Tadik, and ruffled his hair. "Get well soon, son, and don't terrorize the nurses too much, and look after your mother for me, okay? Goodbye, son."
"Bye, Dad."Tadik felt tears spring to his eyes as he watched his dad follow the lieutenant out of the room, strangely puzzled that his dad had never mentioned whether his mother would come to visit. All of a sudden he felt very lonely. "Come back soon, Dad,"he whispered, and concentrated on his leg.
With the healing of his leg a vivid memory racing through his brain, Tadik waited till Inmahn had left the room before he opened his eyes. So he was being drugged was he? He studied the tube feeding essential medicines into his arm and noticed an extra phial fastened to the tube and feeding a blue liquid into it. He remembered having a similar tube in his arm when he gashed his leg. "I wonder."Reaching up with his mind he willed the slider on the phial tube to move till it was closed. "Okay, let's see if what Inmahn said is true."
He felt the pain developing in his arm and his torso, and simply willed it away. Studying what remained of his arm, he remembered agony as the Towdak sank his fangs into his flesh. With his left hand he lifted the sheet from his body and studied the bandages. It was as if he could see right through them and winced. The damage was much larger and widespread than a mere cut on his leg, but he had to try. He cleared his mind and aimed his thoughts towards the injury and was almost sick as he saw the torn intestines sewn together, and the gouged flesh covering his ribs. He closed his eyes and blanked out the nausea, willing his flesh to repair itself.
Sadie Versont sat in her solitary confinement cell and tried to work out for the hundredth time how her life had become such a mess. That damned Franklin Jute and his greed for the good life; how she had fallen for his honeyed tongue she didn't know. Away from him and no longer under his influence, she wondered whether he'd had some kind of sinister mental hold on her mind. It must have been so for her to have done everything he commanded her to do and not interfere when he chastised her son, and rendering her incapable of arguing with him. And her babies; where were they? She longed to hold them to her breast and comfort them, especially baby Frances, only six months old and needing her mother; and she dreaded the thought of Franklin having custody of them. Silly woman, what was she thinking of? He couldn't because he was in prison as well.
And Tadik, her beautiful step son, dragged off to prison like some hardened criminal, for something she knew he couldn't have done. She remembered screaming his innocence in court before they took him away from her in shackles, his face white with horror as he stared over his shoulder at her. Could all this be connected to the arrival at her home of three strangers who asked if they could speak to Tadik? They had been very firm in their request, and when they said they would come in and wait for her son to come home, Sadie had gone into the kitchen supposedly to make them coffee and had activated the security alarm, a button attached to the base of the kettle. Minutes later, a security team from the Base had arrived and escorted them away, telling Sadie not to worry about them and forget the incident.
Forget? How could one do that when it concerned the safety of my children? She sighed as she listened to the humdrum sounds of prison life drifting down to the solitary cells in the depths of the prison, to the arguments among the other inmates gathering in the recreation area two floors above. There was no peace, the prison being built round an open plan rotunda, with every sound echoing from floor to floor. The sound of heavy boots as guards moved along the gallery caught her attention. She listened to them as they moved closer then stopped outside her cell door. The door swished open and two tall female guards stepped inside. One of them approached Sadie and told her to stand up, snapped shackles on her wrists and ankles and took hold of her right arm. When Sadie asked what was happening, her companion said simply, "You're being moved."
What Sadie thought would be a simple move to another cell, and finally out of solitary, turned into a confusing nightmare involving a long ride in a police vehicle followed by a long flight in a strange looking helicopter with men in black and carrying assault weapons. No one spoke to her other than to offer her drinks from time to time. There were no windows for her to look out of so she had no idea where they were taking her. Eventually the helicopter landed, her shackles were removed, and all but two of the captors jumped out. The remaining men signalled for her to leave the helicopter, and she stepped out into dazzling sunshine. Satisfied that all was well, the men jumped back into the helicopter and it took off, leaving her to stare around her.
Frightened, she turned round and saw she was on the lawn of a large garden with a white painted house beyond, half hidden by trees and shrubs. As she moved towards it she watched the front door open, and someone stood there, watching her. Recognizing the blonde hair and the familiar face, which she hoped never to see again, she froze to the spot as terror gripped her. The young man moved towards her, holding her youngest son, eighteen month old Wade, in his arms as he smiled and said, "Hello Auntie."
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