Chapter 3 : A Father’s Betrayal

I did not know about the following dialog until much later,when I was able to review my father’s surveillance videos. He was in the habit of keeping an encrypted recording of all meetings in his private study. Here is what I was able to recover from those recordings;

“Lord!” said Standt with a crisp salute.

“Standt, so good of you to be so prompt.”

“My lord, I have always been at your service since you recruited me to your house.”

“Yes, but I still remember you were my superior when we served in the military. This is why you have my respect. Because I respect you, and your son is going to risk so much in protecting mine, I want to give you something for him.”

“Sir! You do not have to do anything for either of us.”

“Standt, this is not a selfless gift. I have two vials that I want you to insert into the special port in the regen pods. They will splice special genetic material into the boys. It should make them stronger and more able to defend themselves and each other.”

“If I may ask, Sir, what is it you are splicing in?”

“Standt, do you recall the stories of the Arcanumh?”

“But those are just stories. Just tales of a lost group of our ancestors.”

“Not just ‘stories’ and not just ancestors. They were the greatest of us. They had control of the keystones we could only dream of. They had abilities that go beyond what we could even guess at. They even had a special section in the Cloisters. Students and teachers still avoid going there because it is too dangerous.”

With unabated skepticism, Stadt asked, “What has this mythical group got to do with the boys?”

“First of all, my family is actually related to the Arcanumh. We do not have much of what they had in abilities, but I hope to change that little detail. The woman I found in the world you and I were stationed at… The one who was really Salon’s mother… I suspect she is descended from the Arcanumh who left.”

“That explains why you were in a hurry to create an imaginary mother for him that would fill the ‘Genetic Purity’ requirements for citizenship. Why didn’t you simply create a fake identity for his mother and bring her back too?”

“She would have been more trouble than it would have been worth. I needed an heir, but I did not want the trouble I would have had managing her.”

“What was the rush? You bribed me so much to speed things along… I figured you just had a kid with some mongrel. How do you know she was Arcanumh?”

“The rush was that my father was planning to challenge the emperor. He made the mistake of thinking his status as a Stogath would insure victory. He was a fool. The emperor may not have won, but my father lost the duel. The prince simply took over for his father, and mine vanished. I got back home in time to hear the news and start trying to preserve our great house status, such as it is.”

“What was so unmanageable about the boy’s mother?”

“She was very rooted in what was left of the Arcanimh ways of her people. She even named him ‘Alontheus’ against my wishes. It means ‘Last hope of the tribe’, in the dead language of our ancestors. Once I looked it up, I knew that she would reveal my plan to our enemies if I let her come back with us. Besides, I already had what I needed from her. She would have been in the way. How could I raise the boy to revive our house with her getting in the way?”

“That is a very pragmatic view, if a bit cold blooded.”

“Standt, you and I both know, I have to do what I can. It may be cruel, and my son is almost certain to hate me, but I have a responsibility to my people and my family. I will restore the greatness of this family!”

“I see. I will try to guide the boy as best I can. He is, different. I almost feel like I was the on to adopt a foster son, not you.”

“Just make sure he does not grow up soft. I was worried by his request to save Slaith, but his reasoning is sound and shows great potential. This is why I want to have them both spliced in the regen pods. It will make them genetically brothers in a way as well as by law. The regen pods should make the changes almost impossible to detect.”

“You do know, an in depth genetic study will have a chance of revealing the changes…”

“We have no choice. We have to take the chance. The cloisters are a trial by fire. They will need all of the advantages we can give them. I require that you train them hard. I will be  away more as I prepare for the other parts of my plan. My hope is to make this family vital to our emperor and our people.”

“Have you considered that, with your father’s challenge to the throne, and your line’s nearness to the line of succession, your actions could be taken in a threatening light?”

“There is that possibility, but my father is long gone. As long as Solan does not make himself look like a threat, we should be safe.”

“You are taking more risks than I would advise, Lord. I will train the boys as hard as I can. Subterfuge will be a large part of it. Your son shows a certain flair for that already. Are you sure the genetic modification is needed? He beat Slaith mentally and physically already.”

“I can’t take that chance Standt. If he fails, I will have to disown him and start over. I already have plans for replacement heirs. Some of them are already in action.”

“You have other children Lord?”

“Yes, but they are not as strong, so the modifications to enhance their strengths may be a bit more extreme…

“But now, it is time for you to go and implement my plan. Here are the vials that you will need. I will expect progress reports on a weekly basis. My own sources in the Cloisters will observe how they do there.You have two years to make then as tough as you can”

“They will be the best team I can make them, Lord Dothstaire!” sat Standt as he exited with a sharp salute.

Lord Dothstaire turned away to his desk and placed the small self-adhesive connection to his temples. The communications system gave a soft bell like ring and his eyes took on a blank, far away look. “How are the children doing?”he said to whoever was on the other end of the connection. Moments later, he nodded with a subtle smile. “Good! It sounds like they have learned how to work together well! You will need to keep them on that world and only send them to me if I send you the message we agreed upon.” Turning his attention to a display screen to his left he said tersely, “I will notify you when I am on my way to inspect the facility. That is all.” Looking intently at the screen, he slowly removed the interface to the virtual environment communications and started writing notes on a conveniently placed writing tablet. He scribbled notes to himself intermittently before tucking the pad under his arm and walking from the room.