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Hoven Quest [MultiFormat]
eBook by Michelle Levigne

eBook Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy EPIC eBook Award Finalist
eBook Description: Legend says the planet Gemar once belonged to the Hoveni, a race of shapeshifters. Hoveni and Humans lived together in peace until the Set'ri decided to exterminate anything that didn't meet their definition of what a Human should be. Centuries later, descendants of the Set'ri throughout the Commonwealth still hunt the Hoven race. Kendle Fyx is a descendant of the leader of the Hoveni. Her lonely daydreams of a hero to unite the Hoveni and bring them back from hiding and exile, inspire her uncle's newest entertainment series: Hoven Quest. But if the Hoveni realize that this is an attempt to contact the lost members of their race, won't the Set'ri as well?

eBook Publisher: Writers Exchange E-Publishing, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2007


41 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter One

"Kendle?"

Uncle Max stood over my bed, shaking me awake. At first, I thought it was all a dream and didn't pay too much attention. Unless my time sense was totally whacked by exhaustion and too much rich food before I went to bed, it was four in the morning. Uncle Max wasn't due back from his business trip to FAN headquarters on Gadara continent until ten. Besides, he hadn't even stepped over the threshold of my room in years.

Then it occurred to me that Uncle Max wouldn't have come back early except for an emergency, and he certainly would not break privacy and wake me up, except for a really big emergency. I rubbed at my eyes and rolled over, checking the chronometer in my headboard. Unfortunately, my time sense was as accurate as ever.

"What's wrong?" I palmed the light panel in the headboard and sat up.

"Nothing's wrong."

From the grin on Uncle's face, I got a little suspicious, and leaned forward to smell his breath. No alcohol--but then, he could drink five Humans under the table without even starting to feel dizzy. Maybe one of those snarky executives at headquarters had slipped drugs into his food? This had happened at some of the other quarterly meetings that sometimes ran ten days to two lunar-quarters long. Other producers who were too progressive or radical were viewed as a threat by some of the higher executives, either to their authority or their bid for a higher pay scale. I simply never thought it would happen to Uncle Max. He was too alert, too aware of dangers and openings for attack. It was the nature of our lives, our heritage, our mission.

"What's up? Do you know what time it is?"

"Oh." He glanced at my chronometer and his grin flattened for a few seconds. "Kendle, do you have any more like this?" He waved a stack of printouts under my nose.

It took a few seconds for my eyes to focus and recognize my newest Meruk story, just finished the day before. I had finally written down the nebulous 'pilot' story, after it had stewed in my imagination for literally years. Being the niece of a Tri-V executive, I grew up thinking in entertainment visual parameters. Occupational hazard.

"A few." I had about ten percent of my private computer storage filled with Meruk stories. Considering the size of our family archives, legal and quasi-legal, that was saying a lot. "Ah ... I left a mess when I went to bed, didn't I?"

I tried to visualize how I had left the living room when I tottered off to bed only three hours ago. I had worked myself to dizzy, blurry-eyed exhaustion, and I could not remember how many printed stories and dirty dishes I had left behind me, or even if I had turned off the Tri-V console. Since the last of my brothers had moved out and moved off-planet to follow several vague legends about Hoveni refugees as they scattered through the universe during the Set'ri persecution and Downfall Wars, the house seemed to be in worse shape with just the two of us living there. Silly me, I thought that no longer having three very preoccupied males to clean up after would make life easier.

"Mess?" Uncle looked up from the sheaf of flimsi-sheets and frowned, visibly yanking his thoughts back to the present moment. Then the frown turned to a grin, touched with sympathy. "Hard day yesterday, hmm?"

"I let myself get maudlin, that's all." No way would I admit to anyone, especially Uncle Max, how sometimes I prayed I would find out I was adopted, that I was Human, not Hoven.

Fat chance of that, since I had been able to shift shape since I started my second growth phase at age six.

Yesterday hadn't been particularly stressful. Since graduating from mandatory group schooling, I divided my time between taking extension classes through the planetary 'Net and the off-planet feeds from the Commonwealth Upper University, and tending to family business. I kept house for Uncle Max and made sure that the people who worked under him in our quest to reunite the Hoven race could contact him whenever necessary.

I liked the quiet in our house, tending to the family investments and properties via the planetary and inter-planetary links. I liked being the organizer, keeping track of records, researching the tiniest scrap of legend or rumor, acting as historian. Fyx daughters had been doing that since time immemorial, before the Diaspora when the Set'ri landed on Gemar and tried to destroy the entire Hoven race.

What I minded was the loneliness, the lack of other Hoveni my own age. Or even my own generation. Especially females. There were far too many Hoven males, in my estimation, and all of them were interested in a marriage alliance with the only living Fyx female. It was a good thing I was years away from physical maturity. I looked like an adult Human, but I wouldn't be reproductively able for another five Gemar years, which translated to nearly ten Commonwealth Standard years.

And all that aloneness and pre-adolescent angst led to necessary periods when I drowned my sorrows in off-planet sweets and created adventures in my head with make-believe friends. All Hoven, of course. Like Meruk.

Uncle stroked my cheek, as if to brush away a few tears I had given up shedding years ago. "It's rather lonely here for you, isn't it?"

"Just the opposite. With all the correspondence and vid-calls I handle, I'd love some isolation," I lied. "They all think I'm your personal secretary or something. And by the way, what are you doing back so early?"

"The Board ran out of gripes and the biggest troublemakers are either off-planet or feeling too ill to indulge in their favorite sport." He stood and slapped the stack of semi-transparent flimsies. "But this--this may be what we need."

"Ah ... you didn't read that, did you?" I wanted to turn the lights down, or even off. My face had to be burning red in embarrassment.

"Of course I read it. Too keyed up when I flew in to just go to bed. And you did leave a mess--which I was glad to clean up, to help me settle down." He chuckled. "How long have you been writing stories like this?"

"You mean Meruk?"

"Good Hovenu name, by the way. Yes, Meruk." He stopped pacing and sat down on the end of my bed. "Well, how long?"

"Ah ... a few years, now. Just scribbling. Sometimes I sit down and go through them, correcting inaccuracies, straightening up the continuity." I made a face at him, which elicited a chuckle. "You're a bad influence, you know? You're a perfectionist."

"Well, it just might stand us in good stead. Do you trust me enough to let me read the rest? Are they all about Meruk and his quest?"

"Most of them are Meruk," I admitted. An inner voice of panic tried to tell me why he wanted to know about my daydreaming scribbles. But I didn't want to listen. "There are a few about off-shoot characters. Their stories don't stop once Meruk passes by."

"Spin-offs. Kendle, you definitely have entertainment in your blood." Uncle chuckled, shaking the bed a little.

"Can I ask why you need to know?"

"Well, the more material I have to show the higher-ups, the better my chances of getting a go-ahead." He nodded and stood to resume pacing. "I think we should start out with a one-time, three-hour drama, and if the percentages are high enough, propose a series to the network. Maybe set up for production even before they give approval."

"Series?" I nearly jumped out of bed to shake him into talking straight with me. Since all I had on was a too-short sleep-shirt I should have tossed in the trash years ago, I settled for grabbing my robe and putting it on before getting up. "What the nethers are you talking about?"

"Don't you see?" He stopped and faced me. He had that look in his eyes I had come to know. Scheming and delight intermixed, along with relief from pressures burdening him. Pressures I had been learning about, and helping to handle, since the day I was young enough to understand the problems of our race. "Kendle, my dear, we are going to make your stories into a series for FAN. Even if it only lasts a trial alpha season, it will open doors and attract attention from all the right people ... with all our trusted friends doing the behind-the-scenes work, making contacts, smuggling information. Maybe even finding ways of smuggling people out of danger." He nodded, thinking that over for a second. "The opportunities here are boundless, all because of your stories. I'm rather proud of you."

"You're not turning my Meruk stories into a cloak-and-dagger scheme!" I blurted, and tried to snatch the flimsies from Uncle's hands.

"Kendle--" He stepped back and slipped the stack behind his back, out of my reach. "It's a matter of survival. We need it." The light had left his eyes. Memories of pain and loss and danger seemed to leap from his mind to mine. The death of my parents during the quake on Quevilac Island was probably uppermost in both our minds. "It's just the cover we need to make our operations legitimate and safe. The upper level executives are growing desperate for something new and exciting for the upcoming alpha season for FAN."

"A series about Hoveni in this present day and age? Come on, nobody believes in the Hoveni nowadays, despite all the historical evidence."

"Nobody but you and a few hundred obsessives."

"And maybe descendents of the Set'ri? People who would like nothing better than to finish the blood quest against the last of the Hoveni?"

"That's true. Consider this: nobody believes anything presented on FAN is real. Yet at the same time, it will reintroduce the whole planet, and all the planets in the Commonwealth who subscribe to FAN, to the background of the Hoven race, and do half our work for us without even trying. Imagine all the secret messages you could write into the scripts for our friends to catch."

"Wait a minute. Me? Writing scripts?"

My resistance to the idea died away in the thrilling, chilling idea of writing for Tri-V. A paying job, at last! Not that I needed one, since the family-held investments provided enough money that Uncle didn't need to work, either. But the idea of fame, travel, an expense account for all the books I could ever want to buy--that grabbed hold of me when little else could. Besides, getting paid to daydream? Who wouldn't take the chance?

"Caught you there," he said with a grin.

"They won't let me. I'm your niece."

"Nepotism is running rampant in the industry, my dear. Why do you think I paid all that money for art and drama workshops and your Upper University classes, let you study writing and theater and let you tour the Network grounds so often?"

"To spoil me."

"Besides that." He grinned, daring me to laugh. I lost, again. Uncle Max waved his hand, pushing my arguments aside. "Meruk's story is perfect, Kendle. Think about it, will you? I'll be in my office, working up the proposals." Uncle turned to go. He stopped in the doorway. "If you care to share any more of your stories with me, I'd love to see them. They could add weight to convincing the upper execs."

Then he was gone. I sat on my bed, thinking, listening to my heart pounding and slowing. My stories? The answer to our problems? Even the thought of writing professionally, of seeing my name in the credits for any Tri-V program, was not as frightening as the thought of my dreams spilling through the ether, in brilliant color, for the whole planet to see. And not just the whole planet, but eventually half the Commonwealth.

Anywhere that Hoveni might have fled to escape the genocide perpetrated by the Set'ri since before the Downfall.

Meruk was a precious dream for me, my ideal young man, born with the Hovenu gift to shift shape, and unaware of it until danger brought his talents to light. I was a long way from physical maturity, but Meruk was my choice for a future mate. Physically, anyway. And not just because he matched the profile of all the Hoveni I had grown up with, including Uncle Max, my brothers, and even what I saw in the mirror. Classical Hovenu good looks--wavy hair in that deep brown that could look black in the shadows, or in the right light could look like the deep, dark red of dying coals or streaked with deep amber. He had the deep-set, changeable eyes of legend. Greenish, grayish, bluish--dark in the shadows, vibrant in the light, revealing the strength of his spirit. Wide, muscular shoulders from hard work and outdoor living. Long fingers on wide, strong hands. Sometimes, I prayed for the double-edged gift of my ancestors. Many women in the Fyx line were seers, priestesses, visionaries. I thought about the day I would have to choose a mate--there would be many suitors, just because of my family line--and I prayed Meruk would be among them. Sometimes, I fantasized that my dreams were calling Meruk to me.

I had to face reality right now, sitting in my room at nearly five in the morning, with a long day ahead of me, and Uncle waiting to see more stories. My dreams were no longer my private playground. Could I let myself grumble over that loss? I could see clearly how Meruk's adventures, dramatized, would teach the rest of the planet about the historical truth of Hovenu history, culture, powers, physical limitations. It would fight, maybe even dissolve superstitious fears, and reveal the tragedy of the Set'ri massacres that had gone on for generations, before Hoveni vanished from sight. The other people on the planet who still cherished Hovenu history and artifacts would dearly love a series based on the history of our world, even if it was presented as fiction. We already had a built-in audience. Hoveni were no longer the fad interest they had been just after I was born, but the subculture and scholarly interest was still strong.

I had been brought up believing that nothing mattered as much as our mission. Not even personal feelings and dreams. And it occurred to me, as I went to my desk and started keying the printer for hard copies of all my Meruk stories, that if Uncle's scheme worked, I would not be so lonely and depressed anymore. Through the contacts brought in by the coverage of the program, I would meet Hoveni my age, maybe other females. I had friends among our neighbors, the girls I had gone to school with, but they were all Human. I wanted a Hovenu girl, to share all the fear and turmoil and fun of growing up. I grew up with three much-older brothers, and the few women among Uncle Max's contacts were old enough to be my mother or grandmother.

No more lonely days, writing and dreaming, eating myself sick and working myself to exhaustion so I would not dream disturbing dreams of what could not be.

* * * *

"When I said it would add some weight..." Uncle trailed off, eyeing the stack of hardcopy I brought to his office downstairs. "Kendle, dear, I haven't meant to neglect you--"

"You haven't." I flopped down into the recliner and leaned back, folding my legs under myself.

"But I never knew you wrote so much." He ran his finger down the edge of the stack. "All Meruk?" Uncle closed his eyes in his typical gesture of disbelief when I nodded. "Your parents would be very proud of you, cheriya."

"But is it any good? I mean, enough to validate my working on the program?"

"I liked the one story I read. It's not long enough to fill up the launch episode--if our plans work--but there must be a few more stories in this mountain we can weave into the thread of continuity." He winked at me. "If the executives don't approve of nepotism, I'm still hiring you as resident expert. You'd better have all your notes and research ready, in case people want proof that you know what you're talking about."

"Historical evidence for what we're saying, not just hearsay and speculation from idle imaginations?" I could not help the touch of sarcasm in my voice.

Six years ago, Uncle had taken me to a conference called by the History Authority, to put to rest invalid histories, and separate truth from the rumors and fables about Hoveni, to establish a scholarly authority and database against which all future information and writings could be grounded. Most of the people there--at least, those I hadn't already been in correspondence with over scientific and cultural evidence--didn't take me seriously, because of my age, until I gave my presentation on archaeological findings and historical records. Sometimes, I still received a request for a paper from some obscure scholarly foundation.

"Despite being on FAN, some people will still demand scientific accuracy," he responded with that droll drawl in his voice, and the upward glance of the eyes that meant he wavered between laughter and impotent, frustrated rage at the idiosyncrasies of some people.

"What's the use of being the Fantasy Adventure Network, unless you stretch the truth a little?"

"You're rather argumentative without some breakfast in your stomach, aren't you?" he said, bestowing a grin on me before taking the first story off the stack to read.

"Considering it isn't time for breakfast and my stomach hasn't woke up yet." I cringed as my stomach chose that moment to rumble loudly. Uncle had the grace not to make a comment, but he grinned and shook his head. "Hungry?"

"As a matter of fact, yes. My body is still on Gadara time and it's suppertime there."

I took my time making a huge, complicated breakfast. Sweet rolls and eggs, tea and tuber hash, sausages and fruit salad. From the size of that stack of stories and Uncle's reputation for asking detailed questions every step of the way, I knew it would be a long session in his office and we both would need all the energy we could get. At one stopping place in the preparation, I hurried upstairs to shower and dress for the day. By the time we finished, I knew it would likely be afternoon, and members of the inner circle would be coming to see how his trip to Gadara turned out.

Most of the men who came to our house for these meetings were like uncles and grandfathers to me, but I was no longer a little girl who could run around in pajamas or lounging clothes with non-blood relatives in the house. Especially those of the male persuasion. The women in the inner circle seemed to want me to act twice my age, and someone would try to give me a lecture if she caught me improperly dressed for guests in the house.

Uncle finished the first six stories, and we discussed them and made a mountain of notes by the time the inner circle arrived. Dinnertime meetings were standard practice, and I had prepared dishes the day before, so all I had to do was retreat to the kitchen to heat the hot food, pull the cold dishes out of the coldbox, and set up the buffet. Uncle spared me embarrassment by revealing his plans and my stories while I was working out of the room. When I returned to the living room to announce the meal was ready, everyone turned to me with that expectant look I had been dreading. The atmosphere was charged, seeming to draw me in. I braced for the first barrage of questions, but nothing happened.

The official meeting continued as we trooped into the dining room. Reports on the latest smuggling attempts. The latest batch of forged identities and the suggested increase in waiting time before the new identities were deemed truly safe. Our losses in the workforce, through accidents, sickness or death, explainable and suspicious. And the lamentable lack of caring in the younger generation.

I relaxed a little when that subject came up. It meant the meeting followed the usual pattern and stayed right on schedule. If the older members of the circle, Gaylon Ty and Freelish Carn, could complain about the younger generation, then the rest of our worries were not so bad.

"Please, let's not hear that old diatribe," Regina Coorman moaned, as the two elders warmed up to the same sour old song. "We've heard it every lunar for the last forty years, and you don't change the dialogue at all. Face it, if the younger generation doesn't care, it's because the older generation didn't bring them up properly." She sat back, balancing her filled plate on one knee, waiting for the loud reaction sure to come.

Silence.

Instead of rebukes and more lectures, delivered in double volume and triple speed, the only response came in soft breathing, and a feeling of the whole room settling down to wait. Gazes flickered around the room, as everybody expected somebody else to say something. I held my breath, waiting for something to happen, and started counting. I got to eight, just as Uncle walked into the room, having served himself last, as usual. He looked around, frowned for a second or two, then chuckled.

"Well, it's good to know things are back to normal. And in answer to the age-old complaint, the younger generation does care. Kendle is a perfect example of that. Look at the wonderful idea she's come up with."

"I didn't think of a series," I protested.

"But the stories themselves are wonderful. If they had merely been published in book form, or even sent out as periodic pieces in some literary distribution, it still would have met its intended audience."

"Uncle--" I wanted to get out of the room immediately.

"For years we have searched for a way to contact our people, let them know that there are many of us, still alive, safe from the ancient enemy. The story of Meruk is the story of all of us." Uncle stood still in the middle of the room, locking eyes with the people in front of him. They didn't look away. They couldn't.

I had to flee. Any moment now, the tableaux would break. Either we would be inundated with acclaim, or buried under an avalanche of pessimism and questions. I backed out of the doorway where I had been standing and ran for the kitchen. The tiny back door slid open at my approach, the sensors reading emergency in the speed and rising temperature of my body. I didn't panic very often. The situation all Hoveni lived in didn't permit the luxury of letting go and falling apart. I literally couldn't take the pressure anymore, the sensation that the future of our entire race rested on my shoulders. It was bad enough to know that the leaders of a dozen Hoveni families eagerly watched me grow up, so they could trap me into a marriage that would put them in a position of leadership. I had grown up feeling the pressure, and it didn't bother me because Uncle promised I would have the right to choose my future mate. Far in the future. I could handle that kind of pressure.

This sudden weight of expectations and hopes was new, and I needed to get away before I did something utterly stupid and embarrassed my family.

The steps leading down to the patio could have been greased or a flat plane, for all that I touched them going down. I hit the smooth river stone surface of the patio and went to my knees, my breath coming in ragged gulps. The need to be free ached through my whole body. Uncle had chosen the site for our house well. The trees protected us on all sides from prying eyes and security fly-eyes. I acknowledged that with gratitude as I raised my arms to the sky, tilted back my head, and melted into a kri-hawk.

My head itched as the sensor stalks emerged and my skin tingled as the feathers formed. Just for a second, my bones ached as both sets of legs emerged. Pain in the transformation was a sure sign of emotional distress. I fought that down and concentrated on my new form.

Immediately, the sense of freedom that came with the kri-hawk shape overwhelmed me. The old fears of failure, of reproach, of embarrassment and eventual discovery by the Set'ri, seemed piddling, inconsequential. What mattered was flying, the air under my wings, the scents and sensations rushing past my beak and eyes and sensor stalks. I launched, and with a few beats of my meter-long wings, I shot up above the trees and kept climbing.

My stomach reminded me that I had eaten nothing, and all my senses shifted into hunting mode. Even before I was conscious of the hunger driving me, I sensed and spotted a drivet, one of the rodents imported to Gemar. I dove, all four sets of claws extended from a thousand meters up.

* * * *

"You really must learn to control yourself better," Uncle said, coming upon me in the clearing as I sat picking the last bits of drivet blood and fur from between my claws with my beak. He squatted down, smiling a little sadly, and waited until I had finished grooming.

"Regina let me know that I've been shanghaiing you again." He moved back a little as a wash of transformation energy warmed the air around me.

"Not that drastic," I said, my voice rasping from the immediacy of the transfer. I leaned back against the tree where my hawk shape had been squatting, and kicked the bones and fur of the drivet out of the way. "Has my future been decided for me again?"

"Yes. Again." He rubbed at his eyes. "Kendle, I'm sorry."

"For what? For necessity? For taking the chances Fi'in gives you? Uncle, you're our leader because you can see possibilities that the others could never recognize if they sat smack in the middle of them. I'm proud to be of your blood, and I'm proud that I'm able to help you, in any way I can." I stopped and took a breath, still ragged, but calming. "It's just that sometimes you work a little too fast, that's all."

"That's all?" He chuckled, softly. "You mentioned cloak and dagger this morning. If Gaylon had his way, that's what you would have been reduced to. How do you feel about traveling?"

"I like it. Not that I've had much chance ... What sort of job will I have?"

"Well, as chief writer, Hoven expert and advisor to the producer, you'll have to scout locations. And know them well, to correct any mistakes the other writers make."

"Scouting locations ... and making contacts all along the way?" I hazarded.

"All across the planet, if this becomes as big as I anticipate. You'll be approached mostly by people who are just fascinated by the mythos of the Hoveni, but there will be some of our kind among them. The lost ones, living in fear and superstition, thinking they are the only ones." Uncle's smile had sadness as well as pride in it. "You're a natural for the job. No one would ever suspect you."

"Because no real Hoven would ever risk her safety by actually writing about Hoveni, right?" I smiled, and felt a last little bit of fur from the drivet in the corner of my mouth. I gagged and spat it out. No matter how good it had tasted when I was in kri-hawk form, it still made me sick when I was back in my own shape.

"How about some dessert? Regina went out to Arli's Confections, so we could all celebrate." He held out his hand to help me stand up.

"Riz-berry cream?"

"Absolutely." He yanked me to my feet, almost the same way he did when I was little and he could flip me high into the air with one tug. We were both laughing as he hugged me. "Kendle, I'm very proud of you."

"Even if I do panic and act like a jibber sometimes?"

"Especially when you do. Shows you've got more common sense than the rest of us."

* * * *

The next morning, Uncle sent me to oversee the periodic check of the Warren, the series of tunnels and caves established centuries ago for our race as a safe haven and hiding place in the Nubom mountain range. I went by myself, taking a public flitter. There was no indication that anyone had begun to suspect our activities, but we could not take that for granted. If remnants of the Hoven race had survived all these years, then so could descendants of the Set'ri. Standard policy was to move and live as if the siege still existed.

When I arrived at the edge of the mountain base, where the artificially arrested avalanche hid the primary entrance, I almost forgot to interfere with the memory of the flitter's robot drive. That showed how much my mind was fixated on the coming lunars of proposals, waiting and uncertainty. But I caught my mistake just before I stepped out of the flitter. It was a matter of seconds to jimmy open the panel, press the required buttons to erase the last thirty minutes of travel, and program it to replace the gap with idleness at its next stopping place. I had been able to do that job without thinking since I was five, and it showed just how much Uncle's plan bothered me, that I would forget routine so easily.

There were no doors or anything to block my way the first hundred or so meters inside the maze of tunnels. We wanted chance visitors to think themselves in a natural place, with carefully placed danger signs, but otherwise no tampering from Humanity. But when I got past the fifth danger sign, I pressed my fingers underneath a ledge treated to continually look and feel slimy with mold, and tripped the release panel. A section of the wall in front of me slid aside and pale blue light streamed out into the relative darkness of the tunnel. My hand torch dimmed automatically, and I stepped through.

The periodic check included verifying the seals on the food, water and medical supplies, as well as the security locks on the weapons, the functioning status of the surveillance monitors and defensive systems, and climate control in each and every room and tunnel in the Warren. Usually, Uncle sent three or four members of the inner circle, and it took half the day. I had never gone by myself before. The silence and the whispering echoes didn't bother me. I liked being alone, working in silence, thinking through my problems with no well-intentioned elder interfering at the worst possible moment. But the sheer volume of the work I had to do weighed me down. I worked harder and faster than I would have with company, and finished in a little more than a day, with only a few hours of sleep.

During that time, I realized why Uncle had sent me there alone: to think, to come to an inner balance and peace about the project. Uncle Max was a great believer in keeping the originating creator of a project involved through all steps, no matter what changes appeared in the finished product. He wanted me directly involved in the Meruk program, and I would be no good to anyone if I did not accept what was being done, down to the last fiber of my being's core. And I needed to be fully alone, away from all influences, good or bad, to do that.

The silence spoke to me. About our long, sad, elusive history. I was a Hoven, perhaps of a purer line than most in the present day and age. My family line had always been at the forefront of the movement to keep us alive and in contact, and my great-grandmother, Jayza Fyx, had been the one to conceive of the plan to contact all the lost refugees of Gemar and bring them home. Like my main character, Meruk, there were too many Hoveni on our planet who did not know of their ancestry. Most of them likely had not discovered their abilities to mold and control the matter of their being, to take on any living shape they wished. We had to reach them, had been trying to reach them for decades now, but the going was slow and dangerous. Especially since we could not be sure the Set'ri--either their genetic or philosophical descendents--were truly all vanished. Even if the Set'ri no longer existed, there was the problem of the Gen'gineers, who were repeating the mistakes of First Civ in trying to breed the perfect Human being. It was the stuff of horror stories, to think what they would do if they had proof that the Hoveni were real, not just fable. Singling us out to add to their ultimate Human genome was just as horrifying a prospect as being wiped out entirely by the Set'ri.

Uncle Max was right, I realized, admitted and accepted, after hours of mulling over our history and recent activities. The story of Meruk and his adventures was the perfect tool to reach the lost masses of our race. He was only beginning to discover his abilities and heritage, just like so many descendants of the scattered Hoveni. Through the series, we could disabuse the false notions and superstitions that had grown up through the centuries since our race vanished from sight. Someday, the whole planet of Gemar would be ready to accept the rebirth of a Hovenu race, without fear. And my simple, scribbling, wishful stories might just be that key.

I was proud of myself, by the end of my task. Not boastful, but glad that I had been able, at last, to contribute something important and useful to the effort. I was the last remaining daughter of the Fyx line. My duty to provide more heirs, someday in the far future, did not seem so heavy anymore, because I would contribute something besides my genetics to the future.

When I returned home, Uncle practically glowed without any external help. If the view at the front of our house had not been clear to our nearest neighbors, he might have sprouted wings and flown out to meet me when the robot flitter dropped me off at the end of the walkway.

"They're going to let you try the launch episode?" I hazarded, as soon as the flitter had turned to head back into the city.

"They're willing to go a full season, the idea appeals to them so much." He chuckled as he wrapped his arms around me, giving me a tight, celebratory hug. "It turns out one of the vice-presidents is a ... what words did he use? Oh, yes, an underground historian. And he specializes in Hovenu culture. He knows your name, from the papers you've written."

"Oh, great..."

"He suggested you be given the position as historical accuracy consultant before I could even suggest it. The board only read three of your stories before agreeing to the series. We're gearing up right now to start production for the alpha season coming up."

"It's just too easy!" I protested as we walked into the house. Inside, I felt ready to grow wings and leap for the sky, myself. "They must really be desperate for a new show."

"Maybe, maybe. But hurry on up to your room and change. We're going out to celebrate." He gestured as if he would swat my rear end to make me move faster, like he used to when I was a child.

"Megavissy Carnival?" Amazing, how the idea of celebrating--especially at Megavissy--could raise my spirits at least four hundred percent.

"Where else would we go?"


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