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Damia

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  • 352 Nombre de pages
Afra has submerged his romantic feelings for the great telepath, Rowan, and has even dedicated his life to helping raise her famil... Lire la suite
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Description

Afra has submerged his romantic feelings for the great telepath, Rowan, and has even dedicated his life to helping raise her family, but trouble brews for Afra when Rowan's talented daughter, Damia, begins to fall for him. Reprint.

Auteur

Anne McCaffrey was the multi-award winning bestselling author of more than fifty books, including the Dragonriders of Pern series, the Freedom series, and the Tower and the Hive series.



Texte du rabat

As willful as her mother, The Rowan, ever was, and possessing unimaginable powers, Damia defies her family's attempts to tame and train her--only to bond with Afra Lyon, a Talent who serves The Rowan, and who becomes the object of her affection.



Échantillon de lecture
CHAPTER ONE

AFRA felt his sister’s mental touch and told his mother that Goswina had returned to Capella. Cheswina regarded her six-year-old son with her ineffable serenity.

“Thank you, Afra. You always could hear farther, and Goswina better, than the rest of us. But don’t intrude,” his mother added, as Afra jiggled about in his eagerness to make contact with his beloved sister. “Capella Prime will wish to debrief her on her training at Altair Tower. You may continue with your exercises.”

But Goswina’s excited about something. Something that has to do with ME! Afra insisted, for he wanted to make sure that his mother heard him.

“Now, Afra,” and his mother waggled a stern finger at him, “you’ve got a tongue AND a voice. Use them. No one is to accuse this family of bringing up a discourteous and ill-mannered Talent. You have your lessons and you are not to ’path your sister until she comes in that door.”

Afra scowled because, when Goswina came in the door, he wouldn’t need to ’path her.

“You won’t ever be chosen for Tower duty if you cannot obey,” Cheswina went on. “Please assume a cheerful face.”

If Afra had heard those admonitions once, he had heard them several thousand times. But he stifled his vexation because what he wanted more than anything else in the world was to be in a Prime Tower, part of the vast FT&T network that handled communications and transportation between the star systems that comprised the Federation. His parents and his older brother and sisters were either part of or working toward being in that great network.

The family were also lucky enough to live in the Tower Complex. As a baby, he had been lulled to sleep by the throb of the enormous generators with which the Prime Talent made the gestalt to perform her miracles of transportation. His first mental effort at fourteen months had been a cheerful greeting to Capella’s Prime, who had taken the professional name of her posting. Although she had been addressing the Earth Prime with her “good morning,” Afra had heard her voice so clearly in his mind that he had responded. His parents had been shocked by his impudence.

“He was not impudent at all,” Capella had reassured them with one of her rare laughs. “It was really quite charming to be greeted by a sweet, chirping ‘good morning.’ Quite sweet. We will encourage such a strong young Talent. Though it would be as well if you can make him understand that he is not to interrupt me.”

Cheswina was a T-8 telepathic sender and her husband, Gos Lyon, a T-7 kinetic. Every one of their children had Talent, but Afra’s was not only apparent early but was also the strongest, possibly even a double—telepath and teleport. This did not keep his parents from being considerably embarrassed by their youngest son’s precocity. So they immediately initiated gentle methods of curbing him without inhibiting his potential Talent.

Either father, mother, or Goswina, the eldest sibling, had to be sure to awaken before Afra did and curb a repeat of that performance. For several months, this was a splendid new game for the toddler: to see if he could wake up first so he could chirp “good morning” to the velvet voice that invaded his mind . . . Capella. Whoever was minding him that morning had to engage his attention in an alternative occupation—like eating. For young Afra loved to eat.

Not that it showed. Like the rest of his family, he was a healthy but lean baby; ectomorphic with the sort of energy levels that burn up calories. Placing a rusk or a piece of fruit in his hand would instantly divert him. As most tots, he had a very short attention span, and these ploys worked until he was old enough to understand that his “good mornings” should be limited to his immediate family.

Goswina, a loving and caring sister, had not an ounce of meanness in her temperament and never found this duty a chore. She adored her clever brother, and he reciprocated so warmly that a strong tie was established between them. The mental exercises his Gossie used to divert her lively brother had a salutary effect on her own Talent and she was upgraded to a T-6 by the time she was sixteen. That made her eligible for the special training courses that Earth Prime Reidinger initiated on Altair.

This was a very mixed blessing, for sixteen-year-old Goswina had developed such a deep attachment for a T-5, Vessily Ogdon, that both families had earnestly discussed a possible alliance. However, Goswina was asked to put aside her personal plans for the chance to participate in the Altair course. Only Afra knew how painful that choice was for his sister. Once Gos Lyon invoked family honor, she had complied, demonstrating an obedience that seemed genuine—except to her brother who howled loudly at Goswina’s departure.

Afra missed his slender, gentle sister dreadfully. Altair was so very far away that he could not maintain the light mental touch that reassured him through his daily trials. Afra was not a natural conformist and trouble seemed to seek him out at school, and even at home. He was not as biddable as his brother and sisters had been, and his parents found his impetuosity and often “wild” or “aggressive” behavior a trial.

Aware of young Afra’s problems, the Capella stationmaster, Hasardar, tactfully had the boy doing small “jobs” for him, jobs which the worried parents could not take exception to as they were aimed at developing his potential. Afra willingly did the “errands,” delighted to be considered—for once—capable of doing something properly.

One of these errands took him to a large freighter with a packet, requested by the captain. Afra was agog with the prospect of actually meeting spacemen. He’d seen ships come and go from Capella all his short life but had never actually encountered off-worlders.

As he trotted up to the open hatch, he saw big burly space-tanned men lounging within. He also heard a babble of sound which made no sense at all to his ears. His mind, however, translated the meaning.

“This is no place for leave, boys. Straight as dies, these folk. Methody believers, and you know what that means.”

“Sure, chief, no hanky-panky, no funsies, no drink, no smokings. Hey, what’s coming here? A pint-size greenie! Don’t they grow ’em a decent size?”

“Ah, it’s a kid.” And one of the men swung down the ramp, grinning. “Good morning,” he said in good Basic.

Afra stared up at him.

“You got a package for the Captain, boy? Stationmaster said he’d have it hand-delivered.”

Afra continued to stare, extending the package with both hands, puzzled by the strange words and especially by the description of himself.

“What does ‘pint-sized greenie’ mean, please, sir?”

Afra flinched at the laughter from the lock and then from the angry glare the chief directed at his crewmen.

“Don’t be offended, laddie,” the chief said in a kind tone. “Some spacers have no manners. You understand more than Basic?”

Afra wasn’t sure what response to make. While he knew some people could not ’path, he didn’t know that there were many different forms of language in the galaxy. However, as his family would expect him to give a courteous answer to a friendly question, he gave a nod.

“I understand what you say,” Afra replied. “I don’t understand ‘pint-sized greenie.’”

The chief hunkered down, being conscious that it was wise not to offend locals, even a kid. And a kid would be more likely to repeat what had been said to the Stationmaster. It was also smart for freighter crew to be on the best possible terms with Tower Stationmasters.

“It’s like this, lad,” and he rolled back his sleeve, showing a brown-skinned arm, then he pointed to Afra’s hand. “My skin is brown, your skin is green. I’m a brownie,” and he ignored the hoots from his crew, “and you’re a greenie. Just a matter of what color we got born with. Now, ‘pint-sized’ means small, and I’d be gallon-sized, ’cause I’m much bigger. Get me?”

“More like barrel, Chief!” one of the crew chortled, again using the different sounds, though his mind made the comment clear to Afra.

Afra cocked his head at the chief, noticing other differences between himself, a Capellan, and these visitors. The man had brown skin, streaky gray hair, and brown eyes. He was the widest man Afra had ever seen, with forearms twice the size of his father’s, or even Stationmaster Hasardar’s.

“Thank you for explaining to me, Chief. It was kind of you,” Afra said, giving a respectful bow.

“No problem, lad. And here’s something for your trouble,” the chief said, reaching for Afra’s right hand and closing the fingers around a metallic object. “Put that by for a rainy day. If it rains on Capella.”

Afra looked at the round object, ’pathing from the chief that this was a half credit, a reward for delivering the package. He had never seen credit coins before, and he liked the feel of its edges in his palm. He gleaned from the chief that a “tip” was normal procedure, so he bowed again.

“Thank you, Chief. It was kind of you.”

“Tell you one thing, they teach manners on this planet,” the chief said in a loud voice, trying to overwhelm the rude comments his crewmen were making about Afra’s courtesies.

Afra didn’t catch the meanings behind some of the strange words.

“Off you go, lad, before you become contaminated by this sorry lot of spacers. Ain’t any of you guys got some couth? Back inside, the lot of you. You’ve had your smoking time.”

As Afra trotted across the plascrete back to the Stationmaster, he decided that he wouldn’t tell anyone about the coin. It had been given him in return for completing his errand. It was for him, not Stationmaster Hasardar who had said nothing to him about collecting any sort of payment or to expect a tip. If Goswina had been home, he would have confided in her as a matter of course, but his other sisters considered him a nuisance, and his brother, Chostel, felt that he was too old to associate with kids. So Afra decided he didn’t need to say anything about his coin. He would save it, but not for a rainy day. When it rained on Capella, no one went anywhere.

This was yet another occasion when Afra found himself deprived by Goswina’s absence. And why, now that she had returned to Capella, that he simply had to renew contact as soon as he could. So, despite his mother’s stricture, he reached out his mind to his sister in the main Tower building.

Not now, Afra, Capella said but not unkindly as his mind linked to Goswina’s in their conference mode.

Oh, mercy, Afra, not now, was the simultaneous message from a mortified Goswina.

Fearful that his parents might receive official reprimands from the Prime herself, Afra shrank away and coiled so tightly into his own mind that he genuinely didn’t “hear” Goswina until she opened the door of their quarters an hour later.

OH, GOSSIE, Afra cried, tears of joy streaming down his face, as he jumped into her arms.

Theirs was not a physically demonstrative family, as much because they enjoyed a sufficient mental rapport that touch was redundant as because tactile contact between Talents allowed deeper readings, sometimes an inadvertent invasion of the private mind.

Today, Goswina ignored such considerations as she hugged her young brother tightly. Through that close contact, she also managed to convey many things such a reserved girl would find difficult to say out loud. Afra caught rapid shifts through scenes of her landing on Altair, the forested mountains behind the Port City, the raw look of the Altairian Tower, the faces of her fellow students in a hectic montage, with one face dominating the group, rapidly scrolling through schoolroom sessions, meals, the room Goswina had shared with two girls, then pausing at a musical interlude which was abruptly deleted, overlaid with her excitement at returning to the home she had missed, and her Vessily.

I missed you terribly, Afra.

More than you missed Vessily?

As much, though not quite the same way, Afra, and Goswina’s gentle thought teased him. But it was a splendid trip. I met so many marvelous people. And oh, Afra, how you’ll love the Rowan when you meet her. She said that she would consider you when you have finished your training, because you are my brother and because we two knew our temperaments weren’t complementary. But I told her that you would be because you’re so clever and understanding. I missed you terribly, Afra. Just wait ’til you see the trees they have on Altair. Whole forests of trees, darling . . . big trees and small ones, different shades of green and blue and many different shapes of trunk, branch, and leaf. All of them fragrant. Altair’s not as large as Capella, but it is a good place. I did so well in my course that Capella said that she will definitely place me in this system, and, as she held Afra from her to peer into his face, “to work in a Capellan Tower.”

Did you . . .

“Aloud, please, Afra,” she said, hearing her mother come into the room.

“. . . know that Stationmaster Hasardar gave me some special training, after school hours? He said I had Tower potential, too!” He offered that praise as a homecoming present for her, but he didn’t mention the credit coin aloud. Or even in his mind.

“How very good of Hasardar. How clever of you, Afra dear,” she said, releasing him from her embrace and rising to greet her mother more formally. “Mother, Capella was very pleased both with my course of study on Altair and with the report Siglen of Altair sent her of me.”

Cheswina smoothed her daughter’s hair in a brief, loving gesture and smiled.

“You bring honor to our family.”

“Afra will bring more,” Goswina said, looking fondly down at him.

“That remains to be seen,” Cheswina said, her expression bordering on the severe, for she did not believe that it was right to praise a child for what he or she could be expected to do. Reward should never be a consideration of effort. However, Goswina did merit some special indulgence for having brought honor to the family, so her favorite dishes were served at dinner that evening and she’d be allowed a visit from Vessily Ogdon.

On returning from his Tower shift that evening, Gos Lyon smiled in benign approval at his daughter. When everyone had eaten a sufficiency of the excellent meal, he handed her an official note. He contained his pride as his overjoyed firstborn communicated to everyone at the table that Capella had appointed her to the staff of the southern Tower, one of the busier local FT&T facilities.

That means you’re going away again! Afra cried out in distress.

Silly! I won’t be so far that we can’t keep in touch all the time. “Forgive me, Father, Mother,” Goswina added hastily, blushing for such a gross social lapse, “but Afra was so disturbed . . .”

“Afra must learn to control his feelings,” Gos Lyon said, bending a stern gaze on his youngest. “Tower staff must always contain their emotions. To splash about personal reactions exhibits a woeful absence of discipline and an abysmal lack of courtesy and consideration. I’ll have no child of mine so ill-mannered. One can never learn respect too early in life.”

Later, dear. Goswina shot the very private thought tightly to her brother, so fast her parents would not have caught it, being less telepathically Talented than herself. But she had to do something to relieve the woeful expression on Afra’s face and unwind the tension of his small, thin body. Shriveled by the parental disapproval, he had curled in on himself, arms clasped tight across his chest, head down.

Prior to her course at Altair, she would never have dared even think of criticizing her parents. She didn’t entirely approve of Altair’s social manners but she had also seen a different sort of society that apparently worked quite well. And Afra was so very sensitive to his father’s disapproval and, sometimes, very privately, Goswina thought her parents could be a trifle more lenient and understanding. After all, he was the most Talented of them all and needed extra, specially astute handling.

“Now, now,” Gos Lyon said, realizing that perhaps he had been too severe with Afra, “I know you meant neither disrespect nor disobedience, Afra. Tonight is a time for rejoicing.”

His soft words and gentle tone, as well as the shaft of love and reassurance directed at his son, had the desired effect on Afra and he was soon smiling when Goswina began her almost day-by-day accounting of her Altairian sojourn.

Afra also “heard” unfinished sentiments and, once, caught her remembered alarm. He fervently hoped that her “later” would come soon so he’d find out all those bits and pieces she left out of the public recital.

“Later” was going to really be later, for Vessily Ogdon arrived at the door, on time as usual, palpably eager to see his betrothed. Afra didn’t like staying in the same room with Vessily and Goswina because he was acutely aware of their attachment. Since Vessily was a T-6 and even older than Goswina, Afra thought that he ought to know how to control himself. He was amazed that his father didn’t say anything about leaking emotions to Vessily.

As Afra retired to his room, he heard the depth of Vessily’s discontent with Goswina’s posting to the Southern Station. But he heard Goswina’s telepathic reassurance—and Gos Lyon, who was chaperoning the couple, said nothing about that! Afra was also vexed to hear Goswina say exactly the same things to Vessily that she’d said to him—only her tone was much different.

Afra puzzled over that. How could the same words sound so different coming from the same mind? Goswina loved him, but he knew that she also loved Vessily. Afra understood that everyone should have love enough to give special friends, even many special friends. Goswina loved him and she had a special tone for him, but she also loved Vessily—and hadn’t wanted to leave Capella for Altair because of Vessily, or so she’d said out loud—and she had anotherspecial tone for Vessily. That was very strange, and Afra went to sleep pondering that mystery.

Goswina kept her word to him, even if “later” was the next morning at first light. He woke the moment he felt her mind brush his. Of course, she no longer slept in with him as she had when he was a baby, but her room was adjacent to his. As had long been their custom, he put his hand up on the wall that separated them, knowing that she did the same thing. Not that they needed contact, but it was a friendly remnant of childish habit.

What bothered you, Gossie, that you couldn’t tell Father and Mother? He shot her a glimpse of the scene of her panicky flight to the parking lot.

Well, it wasn’t anything . . .

Huh? That’s not what you really think.

Well, one evening, we got permission to go to a concert in Altair Port. She showed him a picture of them all driving off together, but she was still concealing something. You don’t need to know every cross on the t’s and the dots on the i’s, Afra.

Sorry!

It’s just that Altairian concerts are different from ours. And I don’t mean the music they played. I mean, they have a much more . . . flamboyant way of performing.

How? Since his encounter with the freighter chief, Afra had taken every opportunity his duties afforded him to meet other crews, with their variety of skin shades and physical attributes. He also liked hearing the different languages, and the odd things crews said from time to time, most of which he didn’t exactly understand. It was often hard to find someone willing to explain variations to his inquiring mind. Some Talents had a way of wriggling past public shields to the real truths, but he didn’t expect to be able to do that for some years to come. Now that Goswina was back, maybe she’d tell him. But he wouldn’t interrupt her with his questions now.

They are . . . far more demonstrative than we would be, and Afra could tell that she was carefully editing the thoughts she let him see. She was falling into his parents’ habit of “protecting” him. He wasn’t a sissy. He was over six—nearly seven.

No, you’re not a sissy, Afra, and you’re a very clever nearly seven or Hasardar wouldn’t let you run errands for him. It was an adult concert, Affie, and not something you would understand or enjoy. Afra caught her mental disgust.

It’s not as if I’d start acting like a nutty Altairian, Gossie. Please let me see!

Oh, don’t push me around, Afra. I have absolutely no intention of contaminating an impressionable young mind like yours. I said, and Goswina’s mental touch unexpectedly firmed against him, don’t probe, or I won’t tell you anything else.

Afra projected compliance because he couldn’t bear for Goswina to shut him out and not tell him the exciting thing that was at the edge of her mind.

So Goswina did tell him about her dismay at what she would only term a lewd public display of affection, her mind so tightly shielded that he couldn’t catch a glimpse of what had made her leave the concert arena so abruptly. Afra hadn’t heard “lewd” before, but it couldn’t be an acceptable word, considering the way she colored it in her mind—a slimy muddy yellow brown.

The music had been wonderful. Music always is, Goswina continued, and then they had to spoil it. Rowan left with me. I was glad because she was much too young to see that sort of thing, even if it is her native planet and she might be accustomed to such displays. That’s when I found out that she was the reason so many Talents were invited to go to Altair. You see, the Rowan is really a Prime, so of course she couldn’t leave Altair, what with the way space travel sickens Primes, so FT&T set up the course to introduce possible Tower crew to her, when she’s old enough to have her own Prime Tower.

You didn’t get space sick, did you? Afra would have been disgusted, even with his beloved Gossie, if she had.

Of course not, but I’m a T-6. The sickness only affects Primes. All of us on the course thought the Rowan was just a T-4. Goswina’s thought brightened with delight at having been the first to learn the truth. She’s not much younger than I am but ever so much stronger. She’s being trained in her duties by Siglen, just as our Capella was. I suppose all Primes were young once, like the Rowan, Goswina added thoughtfully. She’s an orphan. All her family, everyone who knew her, were killed in an avalanche when she was only three years old. They said that the whole planet heard her crying for help. Goswina did not add the other things she’d heard about how Siglen had behaved at that time because it wasn’t proper to criticize a Prime for any reason whatsoever. But the Rowan is very strong, and so clever, and generous, and brave. I could have never done what she did when those awful boys attacked us.

ATTACKED YOU? There’re indent gangs on Altair? So that was what Goswina hadn’t told the parents. Not that Afra blamed her. They’d’ve been very upset at the insult to their daughter and there could have been embarrassing repercussions. What sort of a barbaric place is Altair?

Now, Afra, it isn’t barbaric. It’s really very—very sophisticated; much more worldly than Capella is with no Method to guide them. And I wasn’t hurt. I was scared. Anyway, the Rowan took care of them. Afra could hear something akin to righteous satisfaction tingeing Goswina’s thoughts. She just flicked them out of the way as we’d brush sandflies, and without any gestalt to help her. Then cool as you please, she ordered a cab and we got back safely to the Tower complex. That’s when I told her all about you.

Me?

Yes, dearest brother of them all, you. Because your minds will match. I just know they will. Afra heard her hand slap the wall for emphasis. And she has promised me that she will see that you take the course at Altair, too, when you’re old enough.

She will? But I’d have to be away from you . . .

Afra, dearest, Talents like us aren’t more than a thought away.

I couldn’t think at you when you were on Altair.

Well, I’m home now . . . and the Southern Station is well within your range, brother dear. Now, it’s time for us to be up. And for you to study hard so you’ll be ready when the Rowan needs you.

* * *

As Afra grew up, that promise began to assume more and more significance—mainly as the passport off Capella and the strict, almost stifling, code of conduct expected of him by his parents. His interactions with freighter and passenger crews, with occasional visitors whom Hasardar had him conduct from their personal capsules to the Tower, had broadened his experience of different cultures and systems.

He encountered the gallon-sized brown chief on a regular basis over the next nine years. Chief Damitcha liked the odd dignity of the pint-sized greenie, though that description rarely crossed the chief’s mind after he learned Afra’s name. It was Damitcha who introduced Afra to the art of paper folding, origami, which had been part of his ancestors’ culture.

Afra had been fascinated to see Damitcha’s thick fingers deliberately and delicately creasing, folding, and producing the most elegant creatures, objects, and flowers from colored sheets.

“Old-fashioned sea sailors used to carve things in their off-duty hours,” Damitcha explained, deftly making a bird he called a heron, with outstretched wings, long legs, and neck. “Scrimshaw, they called it. Have museums of the stuff on old Earth, and I seen it once on leave there. But spacemen gotta watch weight, and so paper’s perfect. Beats the hell outa watching fractiles or such like. Keeps my fingers supple for finicky board repairs, too.”

When Afra begged to be taught how to do origami foldings, Damitcha produced an instruction tape for him and even gave him several sheets of his special colored papers. Afra told Goswina about this hobby, but Goswina was so involved with being a new Tower technician and wife that her response was more automatic than enthusiastic: all part of her detachment from her previous ties. Afra did understand that she had other claims on her time, that she still loved him but that working in the Tower was far more exciting than listening to her little brother. Hasardar was handier and could be relied on for approval and amazement at what Afra could create out of a sheet of paper. He pinned samples of Afra’s handiwork on his bulletin board and took the manipulable ones home to amuse his children.

On his next trip into Capella, Damitcha presented Afra with a box of origami papers, all sizes and many beautiful shades and patterns. He brought historical tapes about Oriental arts and even a small paper book on Japanese brush calligraphy.

As Afra grew older, and assumed other duties, Damitcha would join him in Hasardar’s office for chats, for meal breaks, for long evening discussions. So Afra learned far more details about other systems than were taught in his classroom.

Damitcha retired from active service with the freighting company and, though he frequently sent messages to his “pint-sized greenie” to which Afra usually responded, the boy did not find another so congenial. The curiosity that Damitcha had generated in the young Afra would never fail, and the boy continued to make far more contact with other cultures than his parents knew, or would consider advisable for their impressionable son.

However, that same curiosity troubled Afra, for it made him uncomfortably aware that he found great interest in matters his family considered quite trivial or useless. Afra spent hours in his early teen years examining his inner self, trying to find the flaw in him that wanted more than he could have on Capella; that was fascinated by “otherworldly notions”; that resented the loving supervision of his parents and the path they had chosen for him to follow. The fact that he knew they loved him burdened him in his striving to be different. Their main concern was to keep the family’s honor unsull...

Informations sur le produit

Titre: Damia
Auteur:
Code EAN: 9780441135561
ISBN: 978-0-441-13556-1
Format: Couverture cartonnée
Editeur: Taylor and Francis
Genre: Science fiction et fantaisie
nombre de pages: 352
Poids: 172g
Taille: H166mm x B114mm x T24mm
Année: 1993

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