(15 minutes 13 seconds)
Thank you so much paraka for hosting me!
Caine's mind races as he saves Jupiter's family from the destabilizing RegenX factory. Every second makes him worry more for Her Majesty. He tries not to flinch as each crumbling and creaking section tears away from the main frame to the central tower. He sucks in a breath at each explosion and burst of fire as the metal from the structure make contact with the gas giant’s highly combustible atmosphere. Breathable air is quickly becoming a premium.
Finally, Caine reaches the last family member - a young male with the Bolotnikov round face and dark hair. It strikes Caine just how innocent this unconscious boy appears. Such a contrast to Caine’s own youth as a Legion contracted splice.
As he flies with the young man in his arms, he pushes harder against the fermionic stream to surf even faster. The child’s weight in comparison to the other members of this family is minimal and Caine doesn’t worry about tiring himself, before he can return to find Her Majesty.
A stray thought pops into the soldier’s mind. On the off chance he’d wake, what would this boy think of a lycantant hauling him to safety after what must have been a terrifying encounter? Would he be afraid of Caine at first like Her Majesty? For that matter, did he show fear in the face of his kidnappers?
At the grav beam Caine’s shaking his head, and he banishes the train of thought. This lad’s memory will be wiped, so it’s a moot point anyway. Despite that, he has to suppress a shudder as he thinks of what someone so young might have gone through had Caine not made it in time.
On his second date with Her Majesty they talk more about her kin and what it feels like to have a family - since Caine’s experiences are vastly different. He learns their names and who has what temperament.
“What’s with you and all the questions about Moltka?” Jupiter queries.
That gives him pause, until the words coalesce. “Well, you talked about him and Aunt Nino with the most joy. He sounds curious and mischievous like I was.”
“Do you have a family? Any siblings or the like?” Jupiter switches gears. She’s been talking about her own family the whole time.
“Just the pack I fought tooth and nail with - and it’s where the mischief comes into the picture. Then Stinger and Kiza took me in and were more like pack to me than my litter mates ever were,” he reminisces.
“Well, that brings up another topic… My family would like to meet you. They’ve been bugging me left and right. Nagging with ‘A respectable young man would come to meet us.’ Oy-vay…”
“You think they’d accept an alien? One with pointy ears, fangs and wings?” The doubt is etched on his face.
“Yes.” She cups his cheek with her hand and sheepishly grins hoping to make him feel at ease. “You’ll fit in really well, actually. As long as you pay no attention to any dumb remarks about dogs..”
His eyes squint shut as he laughs and grimaces at the same time in reference to the first time she tried to tell him she liked him.
Meet the Family
After much debate, Jupiter and Caine opt to hide his canine features. A stocking cap and jacket to cover his ears and wings will have to suffice.
The exuberant welcome by her family is almost too much. Not just because of the attention (which is a little overwhelming for a loner like himself), but being grabbed by the face over the strategically placed stocking cap and kissed on both cheeks by Her Majesty’s mother left him scrambling to put the hat back over his almost exposed ears.
The last introduction is to the youngest of the clan and he’s off by himself playing on his DS. Jupiter covers for Caine well when Moltka asks, “Is he bald or have a bad haircut or what?”
She giggles and ruffles the lad’s hair. “He just likes this hat, dear cousin.”
Caine steps up and offers his hand, “ You must be Moltka…”
Skeptically the boy accepts and returns the handshake. “ There’s something odd about you. My cousin never brings guys home to meet us. Ever.”
“You’re an observer, aren’t you?” Caine measures the lad.
Moltka gives a minute shrug signifying his Russian casualness, “Mom says it’s antisocial.”
A single eyebrow raises on Caine’s otherwise passive visage. “I got told that too kid. Though, it’s a good skill. Always be aware of your surroundings.”
“You’re not some commando or military freak are you?” Moltka tries to process any and all meanings from that last comment.
It makes Caine quickly stifle a huffed laugh. “Used to be. So do you like space as much as your cousin and I?”
The boy’s face lights up, “She’s been teaching me about what we can see in the telescope.”
“ Then what do you think about that uncountable number of stars?” Caine challenges.
“You mean about aliens?” Moltka pshaws, “We just haven’t found them yet.”
“What makes you think that?”
“It’s all over in our culture. How could the idea of aliens be pervasive and any report of it dismissed? Dad, when he was in the KGB, said that people who reported ‘proof’ of them disappeared. How could we be the only ones? The truth is out there.”
“ You might be right. Who knows? ” Caine shrugs. The young man is right of course, but Caine can’t just tell him yet. On the other hand, he can’t resist asking, “ What would you do if you met one?”
“Why?” Moltka’s tone goes suspicious as he catches Jupiter’s warning glance and tugs Caine away to join the rest of the family.
With an understanding nod, Caine volleys, “Later.” If Moltka is as bright as he seems, he’ll get the double meaning.
Of all the people he met that night, Moltka is Caine’s favorite. The ability to put two and two together to reach conclusions most of the boy’s race wouldn’t consider or pay attention to - well, Caine won’t be able to hide what he is for long. The fun of meeting the lad is mixed with a worry in the pit of Caine’s stomach. That intelligence would make others curious about him too - those who may not have the lad’s best interest at heart.
The next time Caine sees Moltka, he and His Majesty are sitting on the roof sighting in the full moon with the brass telescope when the youngest cousin climbs out the window and joins the couple.
Caine has to claw his hat down over his ears and grimaces as he fights the urge to scratch. The darn thing despite being cotton, itches like crazy.
“I thought I saw…” Regarding the tall bearded guy with suspicion, Moltka slowly reaches out a hand - as if about to try to pet a vicious animal, and gently lifts the brim.
Caine remains completely still, but watches him warily, waiting for the boy’s reaction and hoping Jupiter will breathe soon. It won’t be long before she passes out.
With wide eyes darting to Jupiter, the lad lets the folded brim snap in place as his hand whips back in surprise.
Directing his gaze at Caine, the boy stumbles over his words, “Y...your ears are pointed and you have fangs?”
“Bingo, kid,” Caine concedes the obvious. “ Can I just take this thing off now?” Caine half growls, half pleads to Her Majesty. “It’s hot and scratchy.” She nods the approval and he pulls off the hat then gives a small shake.
“Why does Jupiter have to give you the OK? I know now, and I’m not running away screaming.”
“You’re darn good kid.” Caine directs the conversation, “So what does that make me?”
“Not human.” Moltka declares with conviction.
“And?” Caine prods.
Hesitation taints the answer, “An alien?”
Caine winks, “I just hope you can keep a secret, kid.”
“So, what kind?” Now Moltka needs to know more.
Jupiter explains as she directs everyone back over to the telescope, now that it’s sighted in.
“A werewolf?” Moltka’s expression turns to consternation, as if he expected more.
Rolling his eyes, Caine replies. “Lycantants are probably where the myths originated, though.”
Now the lad’s brain is quickly jumping from piece to piece in the logic stream, “So where are you from?”
Doing a few mental calculations, Caine points directly behind them. “Besides from a lab? Tuaturn. Though, your planet’s telescopes can’t see it.”
Moltka’s face falls a little and Jupiter tries to cheer him up, “I forgot snacks! I’ll bring up your favorite, Cuz.”
Caine gestures to the telescope to allow the boy first dibs on the view.
As he gazes at the bright sphere, his mind is still buzzing. “ So are we totally behind in tech stuff?”
“ A little” Caine admires how quickly Moltka can process information and come to conclusions. Pulling out a sheave, he brings up a hologram of Tuaturn and it starts to talk.
A gape, then “Cool…” from Moltka as he holds out his hand - wanting to see the thing more closely.
“ Jupe and I use it to look up the places we see. Want to be the one to watch over if for us?”
Nodding vigorously, Moltka looks over the flat metallic item with a cylinder on the side. After having seen Caine run it once, he mimics the actions and finds Earth.
‘ Third tertiary planet in the Sol system of the Centauri quadrant. Inhabited by harvestable population. Please install the update as the planet has changed hands.”
Moltka’s cool demeanor is replaced with alarm, “Harvestable? What does that mean? Us?”
Deflating a bit, Caine sidesteps cryptically. “Well, I know the owner and she’ll never let that happen. Before she came to own it, the people could have been sold off like animals and worse.”
“But that won’t happen now?” The boy really needs this assurance.
“No, Moltka. She’s risked her life to save this planet and it’s people and she’s working to make it a historical marker and part of the Commonwealth of Planets - to keep it safe forever.”
Jupiter returns, over hearing the last part and freezes - looking for Caine’s glance that all is well. She wasn’t ready to divulge that secret.
“Who is she?” Moltka persists.
“Jupiter. You’re back!” Changing subjects, Caine deflects, “I think that’s a story for another day. How about some of those cookies she made for us?”
With a glower Moltka concedes, “ I’ll be bribed with a cookie this time. But next time it’ll cost ya…”
Impulsively Caine ruffles his hair, “ You’re quite the scamp, kid.”
When Caine and Jupiter are alone, she can sense something’s bothering him. “Talk to me…”
He sighs, because she knows him all too well and he’s not sure how she’ll take this. “Moltka … well, he’s a really bright kid — very adaptable, and kind of a loner — except when it comes to family…”
Taking his hands in hers, she coaxes. “Does he remind you of someone?”
He struggles to put words to his thoughts as he nods. Looking away, he whispers, “Me.”
Jupiter wraps her arms around him and waits for him to continue.
“Now that Earth is on the map for possible Commonwealth membership, the Legion will be recruiting here. He’d be an ideal officer. They recruit young. Though as Queen of the planet and a member of his family, you’d have a say.”
“Are you trying to tell me you think it would be a bad thing? I wouldn’t like it, but I want to be sure I understand you.”
“I’m saying that he should have a choice.”
“Because you didn’t?”
“ No. I’m a splice, remember? I was made for it. There’s just other options for him. Especially if you officially recognize him as a part of House Abrasax.”
“ So you’re watching out for him.”
Caine pulls her closer and nuzzles into her shoulder. “I guess I am.”
“You’d make a great adopted uncle, you know.”
Screwing up his face, he considers. “Do you think he’d mind, considering my past and that I’m a splice?”
“ Well, Vladie’s not exactly the best role model as an older brother, and Moltka likes you. Why not see how it goes?”
He nods ever so slightly, and she kisses his cheek.
“Besides, it will only endear you to my family more…”
Over the years, Caine does indeed watch over Moltka and gains favorite Uncle status. And the Legion does come knocking on the Bolotnikov door. But a tip from Caine’s eyes and ears in the service give him a heads up when they’re about to visit Earth. After a long talk about Caine’s past, along with the pros and cons of the service. Brilliant Moltka could indeed do a lot for the Commonwealth in the Legion. But he could without the Legion too. Caine explains that the recruiters wouldn’t tell him that.
No matter what, Moltka as relation to Her Majesty will lose innocence and belief in the benevolence of mankind. But Caine hopes it will be later rather than sooner. He encourages the young man to watch what his cousin does. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and he will be too. Caine will be there to back both of them up.