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The Lani People By Jesse F. Bone Characters: 14486

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


"What are you going to do with that girl?" Brainard asked.

"Formalize our mating as soon as she is able to get out of bed," Kennon replied.

"She is an ignorant, untrained savage!" Brainard protested. "You should hear the stories the nurses tell about her!"

Kennon chuckled. "You don't have to tell me about those. I've lived with Lani for two years. But she's not stupid."

"What are your plans?"

"After we establish her humanity legally," Kennon said, "I'm going to send her to school."

"For twenty years?"

"If necessary. But I don't think it will take that long. She has some schooling."

"But no training-and what of the Lani in the meantime?"

"I have plans for that. I'm going back to Kardon and give Alexander a chance to make restitution. I think he is an honorable man. Slavery may be as revolting to him as it is to any civilized human. He deserves a chance to rectify his grandfather's error."

"That is reasonable-and in the best traditions of the Brotherhood."

"Furthermore, it's practical," Kennon said. "Alexander is the only one fully qualified to handle the problems of enfranchisement. He's known the Lani all his life, and he is an executive type. A Brotherhood committee would probably botch the whole affair. What with colonial jurisdiction, territorial rights, and all the legal quibbling that committees love, the Lani would get a poor deal. And there's no reason to wreck the lives of a couple of hundred million Kardonians because the rightful owners of Kardon were illegally enslaved. That happened too long ago to have any practical meaning. There are other and better solutions."

"What?"

"How should I know?" Kennon asked. "But I'm sure Alexander will. That's his field."

"All you have to worry about is whether he'll co-operate," Brainard said.

"He'll co-operate once he knows the score," Kennon said confidently. "And he'll have to make some form of restitution. But it shouldn't involve Kardon. Actually the Lani were never in a position to develop that world. They'd probably have remained on Flora indefinitely. The old court records showed no tendency for their culture to expand. They were an inbred group, a static, balanced society in harmony with their environment. In nearly thirty-five hundred years their numbers increased only to a few thousand. Actually there is a good possibility that the race would ultimately have died out if Old Alexander hadn't enslaved them and instituted a controlled breeding program. There are more Lani alive today than there were at the height of their power. So in a way Old Alexander did them a favor. He kept their race alive. All we can expect is a fair and just settlement."

"But if Alexander doesn't co-operate?"

"That's where you come in. You'll be a watchdog. If you don't receive annual progress reports from me-and see or talk to me personally every second year, you are released from our bond and can do what you wish with the evidence I've accumulated."

"We'd better get this into Private Record," Brainard said. "We can transcribe an agreement and place it in the Public Repository."

"A good idea and we'd better waste no time. Alexander might still be looking for me-and if he is, it's merely a question of time before he catches up."

"Ten years have passed. It's doubtful. But we could keep you here at the Center."

Kennon shook his head. "Too dangerous. And besides it would compromise you. No-we'll get everything possible done to make the Lani's case airtight, and then I'll return to Kardon. It will put our case in a better light if it ever comes to trial, if I go back voluntarily. Anyway-I'm morally bound to return. Now let's make this record."

"It's your decision," Brainard said. "And it's your neck-but I must admit that I agree with you."

"I'll feel safer when we get the legal details clarified," Kennon said.

"And what of the girl?"

"Can you take care of her if I have to leave quickly?"

"Of course. I'll give her personal attention, and after she has her child I'll see that she is sent to you."

"That's decent of you, Doctor."

"It's my moral responsibility," Brainard said as he slipped a new tape into the recorder.

* * *

Copper responded quickly to rest and therapy. The space shock cleared up quickly. The gerontological treatments put her to bed again, but within a month she was completely normal, and her lifespan was now that of a normal human. She could look forward to some four hundred years with Kennon-and the prospect was not unpleasant. The Center fascinated her. Never before had she seen a hospital devoted to the care and treatment of humans. It was a far cry, in its polished steel and stone magnificence, from the tiny primitive structure over which Kennon had presided. Yet both places served the same purpose. Perhaps Kennon was right-that there was no difference between man and Lani. The idea was not nearly as unbelievable as it was at first.

"I never realized what it meant to be human," Copper said as she held Kennon's hand. "It is nice to feel important and to know that our child is a member of the race that rules the galaxy."

"So you're convinced?" Kennon chuckled.

"The serological identity-" she began.

"Hmm. You've been getting some education, I see."

"Well," Copper smiled, "I didn't think you wanted a stupid woman. I can read-and since you are around so seldom nowadays, there is little else to do. I've been reading history, medicine, and novels," she finished proudly.

"A fine catholic selection," Kennon said, "Now if you add mathematics, sociology, and philosophy you'll have a well-rounded basic education."

"Dr. Brainard has been trying something he calls 'hypno.' He says it will help me learn faster. But I can't see that it's done much good."

"You won't until you need the information," Kennon said.

"That technique is only good for implanting basic knowledge, and much of that will merely supplement or complete that which you already have. You won't be conscious of it."

"Oh-I think I see what you mean."

"Of course, you'll have to continue your formal education. There's a great deal for you to learn. It should keep you busy while I'm away."

"Away? Where are you going?"

"Back to Kardon."

"But you can't! Alexander will destroy you."

"I think not. After all, ten years have elapsed since we left there and he's had plenty of time to think. Douglas must have told him about us. I wouldn't be surprised if he has already done something about your people."

She shivered. "He might-but the question is what would he do? He could have killed them all!"

Kennon shook his head. "I don't think so. He never struck me as a mass murderer."

She shook her head. "You don't know the Alexanders like I do. I was raised by them. They're capable of anything. But what is this business of ten years? That's silly. I haven't had my child yet-and it doesn't take ten years of pregnancy to produce a baby."

"It's the difference between subjective and objective time," Kennon said. "We traveled here through hyperspace-low Cth-in an uncompensated ship, and there is little temporal flow in the levels below the blue."

"Oh-of course."

Kennon chuckled. "That would

have been Greek to you a couple of weeks ago. See where that basic data fits?"

"But I've always known that."

"You just think you have. Search your memory and see if I'm not right."

Copper shook her head. "It's very strange," she said. "But that's not important. This idea of going back to Kardon, though-that's a different thing-that is important."

"I have to do it. Not only because it's a personal moral obligation but also because of the Lani. They must have their freedom."

"Providing there are any still alive."

"Stop being a calamity howler. Whatever Alexander may be, he's not a butcher. He even loved a Lani once. You told me so yourself. And he couldn't kill where he loved."

She nodded. "I suppose you're right, but I've never lost my fear of the Man Alexander. He held the power of life and death over me. But if you must go then I should go too. My obligation is greater than yours."

"Later," Kennon said. "You're not ready to return. It will be time enough after you have learned some civilized habits."

Copper's face lengthened. "You mean like wrapping myself in cloth like these people do?"

"That's part of it."

"Why can't they be sensible-or are they so ashamed of what the gods gave them that they must hide themselves?"

"No, it's not that. At least not exactly. It's custom. And you must learn to conform to customs-outwardly at least-no matter what you may really think."

"Isn't that a form of lying?" Copper asked.

"I suppose so."

"Isn't that strange. Your society exalts truth, honor, morality, and intelligence-yet you lie about your attitude."

"It's called diplomacy," Kennon said. "It's part of respect for others' attitudes and beliefs, a necessary part of human relationships."

"Then you'd be a nudist on Santos?"

"Of course-even though I think it isn't proper, I couldn't inflict my ideas and attitudes on the customs of an independent world."

"Oh-you think I'm doing that?"

"Yes-and it is a mark of barbarism."

"Sometimes you're not very nice," Copper said.

Kennon smiled wryly. "I suppose I'm not," he agreed.

"I'll try to be civilized," Copper said. "But if you go to Kardon-I'm going with you."

"Perhaps," Kennon said. "We'll see how things turn out."

"You don't want me to go with you?"

"To be honest-no," Kennon said. "You're safe here, and until your status is cleared by a Brotherhood court, I wouldn't care to place you in Alexander's hands. And clearing your status is going to take time."

"You mean that I am still his property?"

"Yes. But there is a legal doubt that will prevent him from exercising his claim as long as you stay on Beta. In the area where he has power, that doubt might not hold. So until your status is definitely proven to be human, you should not leave."

"And what happens if this court denies my claim?"

"Then we appeal to the Council. However, with the evidence we have, your claim cannot reasonably be denied. The only question is one of time. It may take years. Still, I don't think there is anything to worry about. I don't think Alexander will give us any trouble, but there's no sense in taking chances."

"You still think I'm a Lani," she said accusingly.

"I do not."

"Then you think that I'd obey Alexander, after what I did to Douglas."

"I can only repeat that Douglas isn't the Boss-man."

"I wish I knew what you really thought."

"That isn't hard. I think you should stay here until I get this business straightened out."

"That's all?" she asked suspiciously. "After all, I know I'm not very pretty now. And there's lots of Lani on Flora-"

"Oh, for Ochsner's sake! Do you think that I'm-" He paused, speechless. "Just what do you think I am?"

"You're a man. And that's the trouble."

Kennon chuckled. "So that's it! You don't trust me."

"I love you," Copper said.

"Sometimes I wonder why men ever finalize their status with women," Kennon murmured. "It does no good. It doesn't convince the woman. She's still fearful, jealous, and suspicious-always belittling her ability to hold what she has, always alert for competition, clinging, holding, absorbing-when she should be working as part of a team."

"That's not true!"

"Then prove it."

"How-by staying here while you go to the end of the galaxy and play noble?"

"I'm only doing what I have to do."

"And so am I-and if you go I'm going with you."

Kennon shrugged. There was no sense arguing. The only thing to do was make his plans and leave quietly. If she was faced with an established fact, she might be more reasonable. He doubted it, but alone, she could do nothing-and Brainard would see that she was comfortable. The salvage money from the Egg would keep her from being a public charge. And he had more banked in Albertsville which he could send her once he got there. He'd start making plans to leave as soon as possible.

Copper looked up at him as he stood above her bed. Slowly she reached out and placed one slim hand in his. "I know what you are thinking," she said, "and-" her face twisted in a grimace of pain, and the hand in his clutched with convulsive strength at his fingers.

"What's the matter?" he said.

"Nothing-it's perfectly normal," she said. "I'm just going to give you a son. Now if you'd call for the doctor, perhaps we can get this over. That pain was only twenty minutes from the last. I think it's about time."

Kennon-who had attended several hundred Lani births and had developed a certain callousness about them-was suddenly frightened and helpless as he pushed the call button. He could feel the cold sweat form on his forehead. He had started this. It was his fault if anything went wrong. He wished that it was someone else rather than Copper who was going through this trial. He was nervous, unsure, and guilty. In a word, he felt like a man whose mate was giving birth to their first child.

* * *

"It's a boy," Dr. Brainard said. He smiled down at Kennon's haggard face.

"How is Copper?" Kennon asked.

"Fine-she's healthy as a horse."

Kennon winced at the cliche It was so ancient that it had lost all meaning. Most Betans didn't know what a horse was, let alone whether it was healthy or not. From what Kennon could remember of veterinary history, the horse wasn't too healthy an animal. It was rather delicate, in fact.

"How is the child?" Kennon asked. It took a little courage to ask this question. The baby could be anything from normal to a monstrosity.

"Perfectly normal," Brainard said. "A true Betan type even down to the vestigial tail. We amputated that, of course."

"Thank Ochsner!" Kennon breathed. "I was afraid."

"Of course you were," Brainard said. "Do you want to see them now? When I left, Copper was asking for you."

Kennon sighed. Leaving, he realized, wasn't going to be as easy as he had thought.

"We'll have to keep them here for a couple of months," Brainard said. "We must take exhaustive tests if we expect the court to reverse its prior decision."

"I expected that," Kennon said. He shrugged, "It's probably best," he said. "Now show me where Copper is."

"She's back in the same room. You don't need a guide."

Kennon didn't. In fact, he behaved quite admirably.

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