War World X Takeover(108)
Author:John F. Carr


    The man standing before her was tall and slender, obviously very athletic in his youth and still appeared quite vital despite a cane he apparently needed, if only at intervals. He looked to be in his early seventies, perhaps a bit older, but Becca knew from her own experience that such appearances could be deceiving.

    The man nodded. “In a way. I knew your mother when she studied at the University.” He stepped closer to Becca and extended his hand. “My name is Larson Voorhees.”

    Becca felt sure she knew the name but could not place it.

    “I am sorry, Mister Voorhees, but my mother never mentioned you to me.” She became aware of a mild sense of apprehension; this man was looking at her with a great, and progressively unwelcome, intensity.

    “I would not think she would. We only met briefly. I was working on a research grant at the time. Your mother was a student volunteer, the only one who—” he stopped.

    Becca frowned. “The only one who what?”

    “The only one who was also a medical student,” Voorhees continued smoothly. “It gave us a common ground to talk about. She could fully appreciate what I was trying to accomplish here on Haven. Her…contribution…was a great encouragement. We were more friends than colleagues, but I daresay I could not have succeeded in my research were it not for her.”

    “Well, my mother never finished college,” Becca said, wishing to end the conversation. “She married my father in her second year, and I was born in what would have been her third, so I don’t know how she could have given you much help with your research, but I’ll take your praise as a compliment to her and thank you for it.”

    She felt an immediate and unreasoning dislike of Voorhees, but being unable to explain the feeling did not mean she was prepared to ignore it.

    “Please do; I meant it sincerely as such.” Voorhees nodded in farewell. “I just wanted to see you and speak to you briefly.” He looked past Becca’s shoulder to where her children were waiting, two of them holding children of their own. “An excellent family,” he said, and turned away.

    Becca watched him go, trying to remember where she had seen him before. Years ago, and only briefly, at some gathering. Becca had only attended one gathering in her youth, and suddenly she remembered. It had been just before her return to Haven.

    “Mister Voorhees! You were with the Olympics in ’82, on Earth!”

    Voorhees turned and smiled. “I am flattered you remember me, Mrs. Parmenter.”

    Becca’s lips thinned with anger. “It is not a happy memory, Mr. Voorhees.” Becca took two long steps toward him. “It was at the memorial for the athletes. Twenty-two young men and women died. I survived only because my ship was late because trips to and from Haven were so infrequent in those days. I missed the ship to Wayforth that carried almost all the other athletes.”

    “A terrible tragedy, Mrs. Parmenter,” Voorhees agreed.

    “Yes. One I have had to live with every day for the last thirty years. I had friends on that ship, Mr. Voorhees. People I had only known a fortnight, but with whom I shared bonds that have lasted my entire life.” Becca could feel the blood pounding in her ears; thirty-five years of anger and grief trying to burst forth.

    “I share your grief, Mrs. Parmenter, but I do not understand your apparent anger,” Voorhees was trying to be conciliatory, but something inside Becca told her that both his statements were lies.

    “I am angry, Mr. Voorhees, because those young people—my friends—were on a Sauron ship, a ship which you, too, were supposed to be on. At the memorial you mentioned a ‘cruel trick of fate’ that detained you at the last minute. But for some reason, I never believed you.” Becca felt tears on her cheeks. She had not cried for her mother today. She had never cried for her friends, not in thirty years; but now she cried.

    “But what could a sixteen-year-old girl do? Nothing. Nothing but go home; live, marry, raise a family and try to forget her pain and her suspicions.”

    Voorhees was silent for a long time. “I don’t know what you expect me to say, Mrs. Parmenter, so let me say this: Living, raising a family and forgetting one’s pain is the sum total of human existence.” And suddenly, Becca saw a gleam of revelation in Voorhees’ eyes, as if he only now was seeing the truth of his own words.

    “You could say they are the ‘golden apples’ of our lives.” He nodded again and turned away, walking back to a car where a driver opened the door as he approached; on the door was the State Seal of Sauron. “Goodbye,” he said.

    Just before he reached the car, Becca called after him. “What exactly was the research you were doing that my mother helped you with?” she asked.

    Voorhees turned and favored her with a smile of paternal love.

    “Obstetrics.”

    The car door closed, and the vehicle slid down the hill and out of sight.





    The End

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