Witness to This Agreement
No one answered the door so she tried again. This time the portal swirled open to reveal a middle-aged woman in non-descript brown and white clothes.
“Please, come in.” she beckoned.
Kyren stepped inside and the circular door closed behind her.
“Follow me.” The woman said.
The walk took several minutes. The low lighting in the halls they traveled down reminded Kyren of parts of the palace library. Perhaps all the lights on Iscandar were like this.
Kyren and her guide reached the end of their trip. The other woman motioned for her client to take a seat on a comfortable-looking piece of furniture that could have been a couch.
“I assume you are Frincha.” Kyren said as she sat.
The woman nodded and sat down on the opposite end of the couch, “I am. You said yesterday that you were in need of someone to provide you with an engineered ‘specimen.’ What exactly did you mean by that?”
“I…” Kyren pretended to be hesitant about her request. “Have a few specifications I need.”
“Very well, do you have a list for me?”
“I do.” Kyren handed Frincha a small piece of paper.
The geneticist took the list and peered at it. When she realized what Kyren was asking of her she looked up at the other woman and said, “You know this is illegal here?”
“Yes…” Kyren again feigned nervous hesitation. “But this is very important to me…” then she added, “Whatever your fee is, I can pay you double.”
Frincha pursed her lips, looking thoughtfully down at the list that now lay in her lap.
Finally the woman nodded, “I will help you, but on one condition.”
“No one must ever know that I was the one who did this for you. Engineering an animal is one thing, but engineering a child is not well looked upon in Iscandari society.” Frincha cautioned.
“Your name will be kept out of everything involving her.” Kyren assured.
“Very well then, if you have today available, we can complete the process now and you will never have to see me again.” The scientist said casually.
“Thank you.” Said Kyren. “Now, what do I owe you for this little… favor?”
“So where did you disappear to today?” Asher asked when his wife returned to their docked ship that evening.
“You don’t need to know.” she said dismissively.
“I – ” he started to say, but Kyren cut him off with a cold stare.
“You’ll understand soon enough.” She said cryptically as she walked away from him.
Several months later, when the telltale signs of pregnancy began to creep into his wife’s features his anger began to boil up. She had done it again, this time without his knowledge. She had found someone who had promised her that they could carry through on her specifications.
Asher was so angry with his wife for what she had done that for a while he seriously considered divorcing her, but that idea fell apart when he remembered that they would have to go back to Neptoah to get it authorized. Stupid technicalities always had to get in the way…
After he calmed down a bit he realized that perhaps this situation was not all bad. If Kyren finally got what she wanted, maybe he would again have peace in his life; maybe he would get the old Kyren – his Kyren – back.
This small hope was just enough to motivate him to endure.
The child was born nearly hairless – just like Trelaina had been…
As the months passed the little girl – still unnamed to Asher’s dismay – began to grow hair. At first it was an ambiguous brownish-blondish, unidentifiable mess of strands. Then it began to lighten. And lighten. And lighten.
Four months after Kyren’s second daughter was born, the doubly frustrated woman knocked on Frincha’s door one more time. This time it took three of four loud knocks before the geneticist answered the door.
The scientist saw the angry look on Kyren’s face and the sleeping, conspicuously blonde baby in her arms.
“Come in. Quickly.” Frincha motioned Kyren through the door and again took the woman back to the private office down the hall. This time however, Kyren did not sit. Once the door to the room was closed she lit into Frincha.
“First that stupid Telzarti, and now you! Can no one do this right?!” Kyren fumed.
“Telzarti?” Frincha asked in confusion, “You were at Telezart? When?”
“That is none of your business.” Kyren snapped back. “You’ll not be receiving the remainder of your fee since you have not delivered the promised product.”
“I risked my career for you!” Frincha bit back, suddenly very angry with this woman.
“Then you should have tried a little harder!” Kyren retorted.
Without warning Kyren shoved the baby into Frincha’s arms.
“This thing is yours.” she said, and then left without another word.
The geneticist was so startled that she didn’t even follow Kyren out or try to stop her from leaving.
Frincha continued to stare down at the infant long after Kyren’s angry footsteps had faded. Surprisingly, the little girl had not stirred from her sleep yet. Frincha reached down with her free hand and brushed the baby’s cheek. At the light touch, the girl’s eyes popped open and she looked up into the geneticist’s face innocently.
When she had seen the little girl’s blue eyes and the look of pure trust in them, she bolstered her courage, pulled out her personal communication device – PCD – and dialed a number she had not called in many years.
The anonymous face of a receptionist appeared before her.
“May I help you?” the young woman asked.
“I need extension two six five.” The geneticist replied.
“Alirght. I’m transferring you now.” The receptionist’s image disappeared, replaced by a swirling icon. The scientist waited anxiously for the connection to go through and for the person on the other end of the line to acknowledge her call.
Ten terrifying seconds later a young man’s face appeared in front of her. “Frincha!” he exclaimed.
“Mr. Krom.” Frincha nodded in greeting to the Telzarti.
“I haven’t heard from you in years.” Holden said. “How are you, professor?”
A small laugh escaped the Iscandarian. “I haven’t been ‘professor’ for a while, Holden.” She said.
“Technicalities.” He replied with a smile of his own. “So, what brings you to me? The last time you called me it was because one of your students absconded with your research.”
Frincha smiled at the memory. “Yes, I know. Thank you for your help with that, by the way.” The woman looked down at the infant she was holding and then plunged into her real reason for calling. “Holden, there was a woman who came here several months ago. I made a deal that I never should have made…”
Krom’s face fell.
“What is it?” Frincha asked when she noticed his discomfort.
“I… also made a bargain I wish I could take back.” He replied.
Almost as if on cue Frincha heard the cry of a young child coming from somewhere near Holden.
“What is it, Trelaina?” Frincha heard Krom say to the child. “Frincha, meet Trelaina.” The young man held up a little girl. She looked to be between one and two years old.
“Oh, I didn’t realize you had a family.” She said.
A guilty look spread over Holden’s face. “I don’t…”
“That isn’t your daughter?”
“No… Not in the traditional sense anyway…”
“Holden, you didn’t.” Frincha breathed, wide-eyed. “I thought you only worked with plants!”
“I… uh… broadened my field a couple of years ago. That’s what brought me to the ERDC. Didn’t you know? I had a breakthrough in my research, wrote a doctoral thesis on it… and ended up here as a result.” Krom looked down at Trelaina who was playing with the pocket on the front of his coat. “This is the first one I’ve actually met… Her mother decided she wasn’t good enough…”
“Holden…?” Frincha looked sideways at Krom. “What was her name…?”
The single word rang through Frincha. She held up the nameless infant for Holden to see.
The Telzarti’s face betrayed his complete shock. Staring back at him was the mirror image of Trelaina.
“She came to you too, didn’t she?” Holden asked.
Frincha nodded, ashamed. “I needed the money…”
“What will you do with her now?” he asked.
“I don’t really know, Holden. Do you intend to keep Trelaina?”
“Yes. She’s my daughter now. I adopted her when I figured out that her parents wouldn’t be returning for her. I felt as though I owed her at least that much.”
“Parents? The woman was the only one who came to me. I had no knowledge of Kyren’s husband – I didn’t even know if she had one.”
“She does. And when he was here I got the impression that he was not happy about his wife’s decision to create a child artificially. If you can find him, you might be able to secure his help in either getting this second child back to her parents or finding a good family for her. His name is Asher.”
“Thank you again, Holden.”
The young man nodded respectfully to his former teacher. “You are most welcome Frincha. Don’t wait so long between calls though. It makes me feel old.”
Frincha let herself smile again, “I won’t wait too long, Mr. Krom.”
“Trelaina,” the Telzarti addressed his adopted daughter, “say ‘good-bye’ to your sister.” He held the toddler’s little hand and made a waving motion with it. The little girl caught on to what she was supposed to do and said farewell to the only blood relative she had seen since she was six months old.
Frincha spent a full week trying to locate the man called Asher without alerting Kyren that she was looking for her husband. Her hard work was met with frustration after frustration. One night, after a full day of doing nothing but search, she was about to give up.
She had just plopped down hopelessly on the couch in her home-office, her face in her hands. Her PCD lit up in her pocket.
“Incoming call. Point of origin unknown.” the device announced.
Frincha snagged the communicator and pulled it out of the hip pocket to answer it.
“Accept call.” She said, setting the device on the short table she kept in front of the couch.
An unfamiliar face materialized in front of her. The device adjusted and displayed the image at eye-level for its owner.
“Hello.” Frincha greeted cautiously. “May I help you?”
“Do you have our – my wife’s daughter?” he said in a stumbling whisper.
“Perhaps once I have your name I can help you better, sir.” She said carefully. If this was a police investigation of some sort she didn’t want to reveal anything more than she had to about her little illegal activity.
“My name is Asher. My wife is Kyren. I found your name and contact information in my wife’s possession last night. Do you, or do you not have her daughter?” the man’s voice was becoming more intense, but Frincha was too busy being relieved that he wasn’t the local law enforcement to feel anxiety.
She breathed out a sigh of inexplicable relief at having finally found the object of her search, “I have been looking for you for a solid week, sir. I do have the baby. She is quite safe.”
“You’ve been looking for me?” he looked confused. “How did you even know about me?”
“A…. mutual acquaintance told me about you.” She replied.
“It doesn’t really matter at this point anyway,” Asher said dismissing the ambiguity, “I want her back,”
“I’ll bring her to y –” Asher interrupted her with an uplifted hand.
“I want her back, but if I bring her back my wife has threatened to kill her…”
“But… I don’t understand…” Frincha said, “Just because her hair color is not quite what she requested –”
“Take my advice and don’t get mixed up in this any more than you already are.” The look in Asher’s eyes sent chills running through her.
“I understand.” She said. “But what do you want me to do with the baby? I can’t just leave her someplace, and I can’t keep her either…”
“You must go to the palace as quickly as you can. The sooner you can get there the better.”
“But wh –”
“Please, don’t ask, just go.” Asher pleaded.
Seeing the man’s anxiety over this, Frincha nodded immediately in agreement.
It was raining heavily outside, but the rain was a peaceful downpour, not a torrential beating as they sometimes received.
Janina stood at the bulbous window that looked down over the island city. The ship docks were nearly full of magnificent craft of every shape and size. Each space vessel floated peacefully on the waves of the Sea of Iscandar, housing tourists, teachers, adventurers, philosophers, dignitaries, and some even carried the most important species in the entire universe – ordinary people.
The Queen smiled to herself remembering a time when she and her husband Itamar had made their first round of those docks – the day Itamar had been crowned king of Iscandar. She wished he was with her now instead of off on some rim-world working with ever-troublesome trade agreements.
“Majesty.” a voice cut through Janina’s wistful thoughts.
“What is it, Yuria?” the queen asked kindly without turning around to look at the servant.
“There’s a woman here to see you. She says it’s urgent. She told me to tell you that the ‘man from the library’ sent her.”
Curiosity lit up Janina’s eyes as she finally looked at her servant – and friend – Yuria. “Please, send her in.”
Yuria nodded, “Yes, Majesty.”
A minute later a woman, sopping wet from head to foot entered the vast throne room with a look of intense trepidation on her face.
“Your Majesty!” she bowed awkward, encumbered by some sort of package or bundle in her arms. Then the bundle began to cry.
The woman tried to shush the bundle, now very obviously a baby, and partially succeeded. The child still expressed its discomfort at being wet, but it did so less audibly.
“Yuria!” the queen called. Almost instantly the servant appeared. “Get this woman and her child something to dry off with.”
“Yes, Majesty.” Yuria nodded, disappearing to fetch the desired items. She reappeared quickly with two very warm and dry blankets.
“Please sit down.” The queen directed her guest to the window seat that she had just stepped away from to greet the stranger.
“Thank you, my Queen.” The stranger said, not looking so miserable now.
Upon sitting down in the seat the stranger looked startled to find out that the portion of the seat that she rested on was heated to a comfortable temperature.
“Now, what is your name and how can I help you?” Janina asked the other woman.
“My name is… Frincha.” The woman said, looking very uncomfortable holding a conversation with one of her rulers, but she forged ahead anyway, “I bring a petition to you from Asher – the man you met in the library several months ago.”
“Go on, Frincha.” The queen encouraged.
Janina’s guest took a deep breath, then carefully unwrapped the baby she was carrying. “This girl has nothing – no name, no home, no one to love her and take care of her. I come to you on a mission of mercy, to deliver this little girl to you in the hopes that you will be able to find the best home that you can for her. Asher would have come himself, but … circumstances hindered him.”
“Whose child is she?” Janina asked, taking the baby girl from her guest.
“I –” Frincha stopped then looked away from the queen, “I would rather not say, Majesty…”
Janina thought for a moment, looking into the infant’s face, considering what was acceptable in such a situation and weighing it against what was right.
“Yuria,” the queen addressed the servant again, “please bring Jaton to me.”
A few minutes later a very sleepy boy, about four years old, was led into the throne room by Yuria’s careful hand.
“Jaton,” Janina beckoned the boy over to her side.
Frincha held her breath.
“This is…” the queen paused a moment, looking thoughtfully at the baby again, then turning back to the boy and continuing, “This is Ilya. When she is older she will be your best friend, and you will be her protector.”
“She so little though.” The sleepy child protested.
“I know, my son.” The queen fondly ruffled the child’s hair, “That is why I said ‘when she is older.’”
The boy looked up at Janina, his brown eyes meeting his mother’s. He smiled at her and said, “Can I go back to sleep now?”
“Yes,” the queen said, with a smile. “Yuria will take you back to your room so you don’t get lost.” Before the little boy left Janina laid a quick kiss on his head.
Frincha quietly let out the breath she had been holding. “Asher judged well.” She whispered.
Janina smiled broadly at the baby in her arms then looked up at Frincha. “As her guardian I have deemed her worthy to be my son’s bride when he comes of age, and as my son’s mother I accept the generous offer. I am quite sure my husband will agree with my decision. And you, Frincha are witness to this agreement between Ilya’s guardian and Jaton’s mother. This child will be raised here with my son in the palace.”
Frincha couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This nameless, homeless child, before her very eyes, had just become Ilya, crown princess of Iscandar.
“You are… much too kind, Majesty…” the woman whispered to her sovereign.
“Frincha,” the queen put a comradely hand on the other woman’s shoulder. “As queen I have a duty to do what is best for my people – all of them, from the greatest of them, down to the very least.”
“Yes, Majesty.” Frincha nodded, tears coming to her eyes. “Thank you.”