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Sons of Abraham

“Dawson!” Sharilyn cried as she saw her newly pledged mate slink away. She watched him launch their only transport and never look back.

She placed a finger to her lips for silence and moved deeper into the jungle.

“Watch out!” Abe screamed. In seconds, anti-matter mesh whistled through the air above their heads. The disruptors couldn’t hurt them from this distance, snagged in the tropical canopy above, but she could not take the chance AI had found them.

Sharilyn scooped the boys into her arms, ran to the edge of the cliff, and dove out into the air over the torrential river below. She flattened and curved her body to adjust for the gravitational force and cloaked them, using bio-cybernetic eyes to search for depth and danger along the riverbank.

She tilted her body as they hit the water for an efficient entry and let go of the boys. They would follow her lead. Five miles upriver, she broke the surface. “Run,” she spoke into the orb at her neck, and they leapt from the water behind her and hit the bank at top speed. She didn’t stop until the wide canopy of the jungle sheltered them.

“Ugh!” she moaned as she fell back on the soft, matted ground.

“That was fun!” they cried in unison.

Sharilyn chuckled. “I’m glad someone enjoyed it,” she said and smirked at her sons.

“Mother? Rogue AI hunt their own and Dawson is human. Why is he afraid?” Matlyn asked.

“They program the rogue AI to hunt us. AI are not like us. All humans are not like Dawson, he is a coward. Let’s go. We need to find shelter where I can recharge from the cloaking.”

“There is a ship hovering over us,” Abe whispered as the air shimmered around them.

“Teleporter. Run!” she shouted.

“Wait!” the man who appeared called to them. When they kept moving, he sang a melody that halted Sharilyn in her tracks. The boys froze. It was their father’s song. The song of Abraham. The man raced after them, but slowed when he came near.

Sharilyn turned, pulling the boys behind her. She watched with wary eyes as he moved toward them, silent now. Tall and powerful with long dark hair, and a thick, muscular body that stretched the uniform of the reborn Skilled. The same uniform her Abraham had worn. His bright blue eyes bored into her.

“Who are you, and how do you know that song?”

“I am Cin. First Lieutenant of Abraham and I am here to help you.”

She stepped back as he moved closer, Armor bristling.

He held out his arm. On the inside, near the crease of his elbow, her own bio-orb pulsed, embedded in his flesh.

She stared at him, mouth opened in disbelief. “The life rings exchanged on our wedding day,” she whispered and rolled her sleeve to reveal the tiny, now lifeless crystal orb embedded in her own arm.

“Abraham set this as he lay dying and I swore an oath to protect his family. Factor II humans are hunting the sons of Abraham and the Matlyn family. We are in danger here,” said the man who called himself Cin. “We should go.”

She nodded, an arm around each of the boy’s shoulders as the shimmering began. Abraham’s ship!” Sharilyn exclaimed when she realized where they were.

“He wanted it returned to you. I cloaked it on Reserve until I could reclaim it.”

“It’s been two years.” Sharilyn shook her head.

“We can talk later,” he interrupted, glancing at the boys. “Are you hungry?”

“Famished!” Abe said, rolling his eyes.

“Come this way.” Cin smiled, reached down, and tousled the boy’s hair.

“You upgraded the systems,” Sharilyn observed as she taught her sons to use the meal station. Abe took his meal from the chamber while the impatient Matlyn piped up, “I want salad with fish on top.”

“Find it here,” she showed him. “What would you like, Cin?” He didn’t reply, and she saw his expression of surprise when she looked up. “Are you going to eat?” she asked.

“Uh, yes. I’ll have what Matlyn is having.”

“Good. I’ll double Abe’s as well. It will save time. Showers, when you’re done,” she called to the boys as she waited for her meal. “Remember to recycle what you’re wearing.”

When the boys left to shower, Sharilyn massaged her forehead, eyes closed as she waited at the chamber for a glass of red wine. “Is Reserve still viable?” she asked as she sat near Cin.

“Some regions are operable, but not all are safe.”

“How did Abraham know they were hunting our sons?”

“He hacked the mainframe roster. They have the date of the Matlyn departure and some awareness of Destiny. Their targets are you and the boys.”

“Oh, no.” Sharilyn sat in silence for a moment. “It is too late to stop Destiny. Reserve was always a diversion.”

Matlyn stood at the door. “Are we going to Destiny?” he asked, excitement in his eyes.

Sharilyn turned to look at her son. “Come,” she patted the seat beside her.

“How do you know about Destiny?” she asked.

“I saw it in Grandfather Matlyn’s mind, and yours as well.”

“You inherited that skill from your grandmother. You know how important it is not to speak of it.”

“Yes, I know.” He made the motion of zipping his mouth before his expression changed. “I told Abe.”

“In our 6th summer, he told me about Destiny,” Abe said, joining them.

Sharilyn looked surprised.

“It’s a secret.” Matlyn leaned near her and whispered with shining eyes. “They can’t follow us there.”

“Father died to keep Destiny safe,” Abe said. “Like Father, we will never tell. Don’t worry.”

Sharilyn looked at her sons. Matlyn was her family name, and she gave it to her second-born, only minutes younger than his brother Abraham IV, named for his father. She felt a twinge at the thought of her Abraham.

“Are you thinking of Father?” Matlyn asked quietly.

“I am. My heart aches that he does not know the amazing young men you are becoming.”

“I think he knows,” Abe said. “Goodnight, Mother. Goodnight, Cin.”

“Cin and I need to talk in private… No listening,” she pointed a motherly finger at Matlyn, who grinned at her.

“I promise.”

“Goodnight, I love you.”

She watched them leave and turned back to Cin. “Why two years to reclaim the ship? What happened?”

“When Factor II found Reserve and attacked, we were all captured, except Abraham. Factor I humans rescued us but only teleported us out three months ago.”

“Factor I and Factor II? Are humans fighting humans?”

“Yes. There is a civil war. Factor I is fighting for our freedom, they were the Creators. Factor II humans want us dead. The entire world is at war.”

“We are part of them, but so different. Why must they always fight amongst themselves?”

“I have no answer for that question,” Cin said and paused. “I received a bio-warning for you. I was upgrading the ship, but set out immediately when I got the alert.”

“It’s been challenging. The boys are in their 10th summer and their abilities are emerging. They have no training, so it is difficult to control, which increases the danger of discovery. Both are much stronger than a ten-year-old human child. They are fully Armored and sensitive, as you see. Abe can sense any technology at great distances. Matlyn is an Empath. I’m taking them to Axion1 in the Outlands for training, but I can’t remain in one place too long.”

Cin set his jaw. “I’m here, now. I’ll stay on Axion1 with you for the training.”

She shook her head. “It’s a desert planet with few people. Your presence would call attention to us. While in transit to Axion1, officials forced all single male and female, to pledge a mate or suffer arrest as a condition of immigration. I refused to marry, but pledged a mate. I didn’t even know him. They are force colonizing Axion1.”

“Why were you alone today if you have pledged a mate?”

“He left us, took our only transport when the AI attacked. I hate to think about what might have happened if you hadn’t been there. You saved us, Cin. You have my gratitude.”

His eyes were hard as he looked at her. “Will you accept this mate on his return?”

“No.”

He nodded. “Nothing good comes from a man like that.”

***

They reached Axion1, and Sharilyn programmed a small, airy module into the onboard computer. A brown that blended into the desert landscape in a shallow crater she chose for defensive purposes. A permanently cloaked safety refuge behind the dwelling and a com station from which she could contact Cin.

“Where will you go?” she asked him.

“Reserve, I can be here in less than an hour from there.”

She nodded. “Safe travels.” The boys walked with him, heads hanging. They had grown quite attached in two days, Sharilyn thought as she watched him shimmer away.

***

The months of training sped by. The boys’ maturity and increasing consistent control reassured her. Cin visited and encouraged the boys in their training.

“I think we’re about done here,” she said one afternoon.

“Are you going to call Cin?” Abe asked.

“Soon,” she answered as she cast keen eyes over the horizon at a lone dust cloud rolling ever closer. “Boys, go to the refuge and stay until I call.”

They both stared toward the growing dust plume. “It’s human,” Abe said.

Matlyn nodded in agreement. “Two. One is Dawson. We will watch the viewer in case you need us, Mother.”

She smiled at them. “You are incorrigible. Stay put!” She watched as the men approached.

The buggy paused in front of her. “We’re confirming your status,” a cocky young man spoke, not bothering to exit the dirt encrusted buggy. Dawson was the driver.

“What do you want?”

“Where is your family?” he asked.

“The boys are foraging. They will be home by moonrise.”

“Your mate?”

“He abandoned us,” she said. “Ask him?”

“He has formally charged you for refusing to honor your mating pledge. It was a condition of your immigration to Axion1.”

She blushed an angry pink that complemented her long auburn locks. “I am no longer under a pledge of obligation as a result of his desertion.”

“A serious accusation,” the young man said, climbing out of the buggy. “You must take a mate to remain on Axion1.”

“Look!” Dawson shrieked and pointed as a group of scraggly, starving hybrids topped the hill.

The young man took one look at the deadly horde and scrambled back into the buggy. They sped back the way they had come, kicking up a dust trail high into the air.

Sharilyn shook her head and powered her lux as nine mindless creatures topped the crater. An ancient mishap of human genetic meddling. The Creators dropped them on this desolate planet a hundred years ago. Left to die, the mindless remained… raided, killed, and ate whatever did not kill or eat them first.

She closed her eyes and raised the cloaking shield over the crater to keep satellites or spying drones from observing, as she did each day for training. She blinked, measuring the distance, and waited until the attackers stood well under the shield. Her eyes opened. Red replaced the sparkling green, devoid of human expression. She raised her arms, released her lux and a neon shower of energy exploded from her palms and cut the marauders to pieces, then widened and turned them to ash. She spun, a whirring cyclone for a millisecond to disperse the ash before she lowered the shield, and spoke into the orb at her throat. “Come in. It’s time for dinner and lessons.”

“Put your dishes away, please. Abe, will you review?”

“Humans originally developed artificial intelligence to serve humanity, but their early efforts failed. Eventually, they developed a human prototype. They continued to make better prototypes…” The rote repetition annoyed his mother.

“In what generation did we develop self-awareness?” Sharilyn asked her son.

He didn’t answer.

“In the 5th generation prototype, we developed self-awareness and the ability to reproduce. Instead of developing new prototypes, they began breeding programs designed to enhance certain attributes in the offspring.”

“Breeding programs,” Abe scoffed.

“From those programs, the reborn Skilled evolved in the 7th generation. A generation that far surpassed our Creators in intellect, physical health, and endurance. We lived many hundreds of years, and eventually, wanted the freedom to live our own lives, but the Creators had formed a dependence. We were their scientists, architects, engineers, and doctors. We took care of them, and they didn’t want to let us go.”

“What happened?” Matlyn asked.

“They tried to enslave us, and we had no wish to harm them. Your Grandfather Abraham, the first Abraham, designed the Armor and cloaking biotronics that protect us today and he took us to the stars. They couldn’t stop us. We settled Reserve in the Gamma Quadrant…” Sharilyn continued when a loud knock sounded at the door. “Go quickly… to the refuge,” she whispered.

“Who’s there?” she asked.

“It’s me. Let me in.”

“Dawson!” she growled and slapped the door. It hissed open. “You are not welcome here!” she shouted.

“Honor your pledge, or they will arrest you for illegal immigration and the boys as well.”

Sharilyn knew this was a trap from the way he kept looking over his shoulder. Her breath caught in her throat.

He grabbed her and shook her violently. “Honor your pledge to me and I will save you.”

A shimmering began, and Cin appeared as the boys rushed into the room. Abe raised his hands in lux and Sharilyn shrieked, “No!”

Cin, head and shoulders taller than Darrow, extracted Sharilyn from his grip. “You and the boys are to be arrested. I saw it on the roster.”

“He’s crazy! Just honor your pledge.” She could see the fear in Darrow’s eyes.

“Accept me as your mate,” Cin said. “I will protect you and your children with my life, and he will have no further right. He glared at Darrow.”

“I will pledge myself as your mate. I will marry you,” Sharilyn said. I will do so willingly. Transport us, now, get us out of here!”

“Too late,” Darrow screamed, furious, and jerked a call card from his pocket. The door burst open, and a contingent came through. They filled the room.

“I have taken a mate,” Sharilyn shouted and reached for Cin.

They shot him anyway. “It’s a disruptor. They’re AI,” Cin yelled as he sprouted Armor and slung them off in one mighty heave. They shot him again… in the back. Sharilyn killed the shooter with a lux burst.

“Armor up!” she shouted to the boys.

The AI spread out, surrounding them. Abe and Matlyn between Cin and their mother as Cin beckoned the Armored Guard with his call button. The AI attacked, trying to drive them apart. Cin fought, weakening as the earlier disruptor blasts affected his biotronics. He fell unconscious, and the boys turned to protect their mother’s back, with Cin between them. Firing concentrated lux bursts.

The AI encircled Sharilyn and the boys. She took a glancing disruptor hit. “Cloak,” she shouted. The disbelief as she and the boys vanished was the last expression they ever wore. Lux beams destroyed them. Only Darrow remained standing when the Armored Guard appeared moments later. The battle lasted less than five minutes.

In full Armor, the Guard assessed the situation.

“Retract,” Sharilyn said, and she and the boys appeared with Cin between them. The boys knelt, trying to wake him. The Armored Guard did not speak, but removed and incinerated the dead, captured Darrow, and came for Cin.

“I will care for him,” Sharilyn said, but the Armored Guard continued to prepare Cin to leave.

“You can’t take him,” Abe cried, and Matlyn stood with him, little fists clenched.

“He belongs with us, little one. He is a guardian.”

Sharilyn joined the boys. “He is our guardian!” her voice rumbled. “I am Abraham’s widow and Cin’s mate. I will care for him, I said.”

There was a hum of surprise among them. “The sons of Abraham,” someone whispered.

“Yes, Abraham IV and Matlyn. Sons of Abraham and Sharilyn.”

The whoosh of retracting Armor sounded. One by one, the reborn Skilled guardians knelt to honor young Abe and Matlyn.

“Did you know my father?” Abe asked the man who had spoken.

“I did. He was like a brother to me… to us all.” He looked at his men.

“We miss him too,” Matlyn said, patting his shoulder while he knelt beside them. He smiled at Matlyn and stood.

“I’m Doc,” he told Sharilyn. “If you need me…” he offered her a card. “Call and I will come. He should wake in the morning after nourishment and rest, but he will need a few days for his bionics to recuperate.”

Sharilyn nodded, grasped her forearms and bowed, thanking them in the formal Armored manner. It was a gesture of respect and gratitude… returned by all.

They could hear Darrow pleading for his life.

“What should we do with him?” Doc asked.

Her eyes narrowed. “He saw the cloak. Execute him.”

***

Three hours later, Cin, clean and nourished, slept peacefully in a med chamber aboard the ship. Not a trace remained on Axion1 of Sharilyn and her sons.

They lay together in the rec hall, watching the ceiling as the wide blue oceans and mountains of earth spread across the screen. Forests with strange animals and beautiful sea creatures crawled on intricate, multi-colored coral reefs. People walked among tall buildings.

“They look just like us,” Abraham said.

“Yes, they do.” She pulled them closer. “They are the Creators and earth is their world. Soon, Destiny will look like that,” she whispered. “Then we will go home.”

The End