Written by Dampiress. Constructive critisim welcome.

Zo'or for Mommy

        Haley walked briskly down the corridor, her footsteps echoing sharply on the freshly polished floor. The monotony of white walls was interrupted by brightly scribbled pictures. Most depicted the Taelons' arrival on Earth and the Companions at different hospital events. Her head turned down, as if the reflection of the overhead lights held more fascination than the children's art. Only the small frown marring her brow gave way to the turmoil of her thoughts.
        She had been one of the first helped by the Taelons technology. Without the implant which connected and modified the electrical impulses between the different parts of her brain, she would still be a prisoner of her body, forced to spend hours strapped into a wheel chair or bed and dependent on others for most of her needs. She would always feel indebted to the Taelons for her freedom, and had worked with them with complete faith that they would bring about a better Earth.
        In the beginning, Haley had done her part to help by going to hospitals like this one, screening children with similar disabilities that human technology had been unable to cure. But, over the last year and a half, things had begun to change. The Companions had started requesting kids with more mental impairments than physical. The explanation given was that with cooperation from the US government, they had developed new treatments to enhance the capabilities of the human mind.
        "Ms. Lucerne?"The greeting brought Haley back to the present. Her attention focused on a small woman dressed in a tan mid-thigh skirt, white blouse, and blinding yellow smock with cheerfully smiling tulips. Without the ID badge hanging around her neck, Haley would have sworn she was one of the resident kids playing dress up. The woman extended her hand.
        "That's me."Haley reassured the woman by accepting the handshake and pulling her own face into a well-practiced smile, meant to put people at ease, while not welcoming familiarity.
        "Welcome. My name is Dr. Neuve. I'm head resident of the Children's Ward." The woman released Haley's hand and waved her to follow. "We were painting, so you must excuse the jacket. I was surprised when you called, and I must admit, are rather curious at the Companions' interest in our kids."
        "No problem. The jacket contrasts nicely with the hall's paintings." Haley said, noting Dr. Neuve's attempt to divert attention from the real issue of curiosity, "Actually, I'm here to see a specific child, Kennie St. Wain."
        "Oh, yes. Well. That poor boy. His parents were killed in a car accident last week. He has some surviving grandparents, but they simply can't manage a toddler." The Doctor turned right and headed down a hall lined with numbered doors and large picture windows. Dr. Neuve stopped in front of the second window. Looking in, Haley saw what looked like a class room. "We find, that kids kept entertained, don't seem to notice how badly they feel or how long they have to be with us."
        Haley acutely remembered long stays at hospitals and how boring it had been laying in bed staring at the T.V. For a brief moment she felt a little envious. A bald little girl, dressed in a pink night gown, walked up to the window and crossing her eyes she stuck out her tongue. Haley couldn't help laughing.
        Dr. Neuve smiled. "It's a two-sided mirror. We have them so the class can be monitored without the supervisor noticing. Knowing that ‘Big Brother' is watching tends to cut down on misconduct. Oh, that's Kennie there. The boy in the blue jumper. He's wearing the cast."
        Haley nodded her head. She had already recognized him. The profile she had been handed this morning was very specific, right down to the boy's remarkable intelligence. What it didn't explain was what the Taelons wanted with a child, who aside from the broken arm, had no additional injuries.
        Well aware that the Doctor was awaiting a further explanation, Haley reached into her small leather satchel to retrieve some folded documents. "You will find everything is in order. Kennie is to be released to me. I need him to be readied to leave within half an hour."
        Dr. Neuve scanned the paperwork, her eyebrows migrating to her hair line. "This gives guardianship to the Companions!"
        "Yes, they feel that a human submerged in their culture from childhood, may gain a better understanding and help strengthen the bridge of communication between our people." Haley lied easily.
        What Zo'or had wanted with the child had not been made clear to her. When Haley had tried to press the issue, she had been rebuffed and asked ‘if she found her job with Human/Taelon Relations not to her liking'.
    As unsettled as Haley felt, her reservations were well camouflaged and did not affect Dr. Neuve, who seemed pleased. With a look of barely contain excitement, she went to fetch the boy's belongings.
        Left alone, Haley turned back to watch the children. If she hadn't known she was standing on opposite of the reflective side, the directness of Kenny St. Wain's gaze would have made her swear he knew she was there.
        Haley frowned again and asked the empty hall, "Why do they want you?"

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        Dr. Neuve, as good as her word, had gathered Kennie's things and finished the paperwork within the hour. Haley was buckling the squirming child into the car seat, trying to be careful not to jostle his casted arm. But as she secured the belt and started to pull out of the back seat, Kennie swung his arm up and barely missed hitting her face. For a moment she considered whether he had purposefully tried to make her see stars.
        He started shrieking at the top of his lung, "Da'an, Da'an , Da'aaaaaaan"
        A small blue bundle being shoved past her to the toddler brought her brain back from a void of shock. It was a stuffed Taelon with large cartoonish characteristics. Once it was in his grasp Kennie squeezed it to him and the doll gave off a blush glow from its rubber head and like magic, Kennie stopped fusing.
        "Whatever happened to Barny?" Haley wondered allowed closing the back door.
        Dr. Neuve smiled thinly and shrugged, "It has been the only thing that seems to comfort him when he gets upset."
        "I didn't know they were making them."In some twisted way it made since. How many kids grew up fearing ET, Darth Vader or any other monster they had for a playmate?
        Kennie continued to hold on to the doll and watch the adults with large solemn eyes. Haley bet that if he hadn't been so excited about going on a ‘trip' no one could have pried the doll from his grasp.
        "Mateo has been making them for less than six months. There supposed to be ‘The Gift' for kids this year."She explained following Haley to the driver side. Dr. Neuve's mouth opened and closed as her eyes lowered in thought. "I've had one on back ordered for about a month. It's for my niece's birthday. Ummmm, I'd like to ask a favor if I could."
        Haley stood in the open car door. She couldn't say why, but the hairs at the base of her neck started to stand. She was careful not to show any stress outwardly. Instead, she gave the petite women a smile and made sure that her voice held just enough humor to take any sting out of the words, "You can ask, Dr. Neuve, but I can't make any promises."
        The Doctor's eye brows went up, and she gave and obvious blink, before she seemed to come to a decision, "Kennie's unique situation has endeared him to the Children's Ward. We would really appreciate it if you could let us know how he settles in."
        Haley felt the muscles in her shoulders relax at the simple request. She sat behind the wheel and rolled down the window, before closing the door. Many of the families and friends of prior children had wanted to be kept up with their progress. It had never been a problem before and she couldn't see a reason why it would be a problem now. "I will most certainly let you know how he does. Don't worry about Kennie. He's going to have a very promising future."
        "Thank you. I can just imagine how many kids, or adults for that mater, would be green with envy for the chance. But Kennie . . . He's different. He acts like most kids do but, some times . . . I think the accident affected him a lot more on the inside than we yet know." Dr. Neuve gave her head a shake and beamed a smile at the toddler through the front window, "Bye Kiddo!"
        Kennie paused from chewing on ‘Da'an's head long enough to waive back, "Bye, Bye."

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        I have always believed the Taelons would be the saviors of mankind. It certainly seemed so, when they swooped down out of nowhere, to save our butts; from food shortages due to over population, new diseases caused from deforestation or pollution and old diseases that we hadn't been able to comprehend. They accomplished more in three years, then mankind accomplished in four thousand. Certainly Da'an has performed far more miracles in my own life, than any "man of the cloth."

        I guess that its natural, at some point, to question one's faith. I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible that these being of light and mercy are actually fallen angles? One day, could they exact a price for these blessings, beyond the devotion and adoration already given to them? A price that will demand more then we should be willing to pay?
        I'm sorry. My thoughts are running in tangents. I should explain how I came to such morbid contemplation. Last week, I was sent to pick up a child. I know, there's nothing unusual sounding about that. But, as I was taking him to the local Companion Youth Center to be processed, I received a message from a man introducing himself as Sandoval.
        "Ms. Lucerne, I am the Personal Assistant to Zo'or. I understand you have Kennie St. Wain in your possession." He was an Asian man and could have easily passed as handsome, if it weren't for the pinched way his mouth moved. It was like each word was weighed and evaluated before being spoken. As if the wrong word spoken might cost him something.
        I switched hands so I could drive, while giving at least half my attention to the Compad, "Yes. I picked him up less than half and hour ago. I'm taking him to the local recruiting center . . . "
        "No, Ms. Lucerne." Sandoval cut me off, "There has been a change in plans. Zo'or wishes to interview the child himself. The child is expected to be here by sixteen hundred hours this afternoon."
        "Four o'clock? There's no way I can drive to Washington, D.C. from here in a little over an hour. Surely the appointment can be arranged for tomorrow morning, at the earliest."With Taelons' technology causing more competition for traveler's business, flights had become cheaper, but ran less frequently.
        However, there was another way to get there . . . and within the time allotted by Zo'or. "That isn't necessary. I have spoken with Guardian Airline. They are expecting you. When you arrive in Washington, a car will be waiting to transport you and the child to the Taelon Embassy."
        As I attempted to change lanes and come up with a feasible excuse for not complying with Sandoval's plans, my com went blank leaving no room for further debate.
        I must admit, I have an irrational fear of the Portal System. Even though, statistically, the Fixed-Link Interdimensional Travel System is safer than flying, the idea of disappearing, as I'm tucked into the space of a dimension unknown to humans, and re materializing at some chosen new point, causes me a real dread of getting misplaced . . . or of being folded wrong and coming back rearranged. In my mind, I realize these things are impossible. But, deep inside, there is still a little girl that believes something is hiding in the dark unseen places.
        When we arrived at the Guardian Airline Terminal things went just about as I expected. The Guardian Steward pushed us to the head of the line skipping the free bag of peanuts. Which I wouldn't have minded if I hadn't of skipped lunch. But, the Steward placed us on the first transport to Washington. The expected time of travel was supposed to take less than two minutes. We were warned we would experience a slight feeling of dizziness and some disorientation upon arrival.
        One moment, I was no more than half a foot away from Kennie. He was dressed in blue denim overalls, with a yellow T-shirt. He was holding the Da'an doll in a killer grip, as if it were his talisman. The next moment the world began to smudge at the edges and dissolve.
        When I came to, I was standing where I had begone, or so it seemed. However, there were no longer any people crowded around me. Instead of the stewards' bidding me "Welcome to Washington," I was being asked, "How do you feel?"
        It took me a moment to gather my thoughts and form a reply. "A little fuzzy."
        "That's usual. I guarantee it'll wear off quicker then a hang over." The stewardess reassured me, "Do you know where you are?"
        As she lead me off the Portal Platform I contemplated the answer for all of two second before I recalled Kennie, "Wait a minute. I came across with a little boy. We should be in Washington. Where is he? He's small. No older then three or four. His right arm is in a cast."
        "You arrived a little late. Let me go check and see if he already came through." She stepped over to one of the Guardian technicians. From what little I caught, it appeared I was one of five, not to make it through without trouble. I had been lost for twenty minutes, misplaced somewhere between known space, folded up and tucked away -- as Kennie still was.
        It seemed to take an eternity before they were ready for an additional retrieval. I called Sandoval to explain why we wouldn't be meeting Zo'or at our duly dictated time. He wasn't pleased. But with a certain hindsight, I must conclude he is rarely pleased with anything in life as a whole.
        It took an hour before they were able to recover Kennie. When he formed, the long delayed line of passengers cheered. Whether this was in appreciation of the rescue, or the chance to start the line moving again, I'm still not quite sure.
        But, I won't soon forget Kennie standing there with his arms at his side, as if he were in a light trance. The stewardess took his hand to wake him. He swayed for a moment, before succumbing to gravity.
        I ran forward, thinking he had fainted. But, he refused to respond to calls or gentle shakes to "wake up." When I checked his breathing, it was irregular. His pulse was very hard to find in his frail wrist.
        "Sorry, Miss, but we need some room." I was pushed out of the way by company medics carrying large plastic boxes. They formed a human tent over the small motionless body as they worked frantically to stabilize Kennie for transport to the hospital. Because I wasn't a member of Kennie's family, I had to wait for Sandoval's arranged ride to take me to the hospital.
        According to Kennie's doctors, it appeared that the prior accident, from more then a week ago, had caused a small tare in the brain's lining. This tear allowed fluid to collect between his skull and the tissue. The building fluid compressed the tissue and cut off the flow of blood to a portion of Kennie's brain. This, in turn, caused a stroke. Kennie never even regained consciousness.
Both Human and Taelon doctors agreed that too much damage had been done to save little Kennie. They declared him brain dead the next morning. The Taelons, who were his new guardians, took him off life support that afternoon.
        Within the following week, Guardian Airlines announced Kennie's death as an "unfortunate event of time and circumstances." They depicted the child as a walking time bomb, waiting to go off, and all but accused the Children's Hospital of negligence.
        All these lines, and still I haven't come to the point. It doesn't explain why I'm now questioning my faith in the Taelons. I do apologize for taking so long, but I had to reveal this to someone, if only to your blank pages.
        It took me less than two hours of watching Kennie's still body, clad in a flower print hospital gown, with wires and drips attached to his body, half his head shave half bald and bandage from surgery, before I finally realized something, besides the obvious, wasn't right. He looked so lonely . . . so very alone, without the precious doll that was nearly as big as Kennie. How could I have missed it before? How could I forget the doll? Da'an had never materialized with him!

To be Continued....