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Thoris Age 9

Thoris raced to the projector. "We walk like civilized people in this home, Anjonthoris," Veshana, his birth mother, admonished gently from the dining table.

"Sorry, birthmom!" he called back distractedly, racing through channels. "Yes!" he exulted, as he saw the title card for The Eagle Dares pop out of the screed. "Made it!" The litany of heroes began. The Eagle's legendary Captain Igrilan Kor. First Officer Klenarc Claness, said to be the best helmsman in the era's Starfleet (though humans fondly argued for their "Sulu"). Sherev Idisha, Chief Engineer, as pugnacious as a Tellarite but eternally loyal to captain and ship. Turath Ivos, Science and Communications Officer, fluent in as many languages as he was sciences. Shieri P'Trell, the Chief Medical Officer who could heal a Gorn with half its heart ripped out. (Thoris tried not to blush when she smiled at the audience.) And today's episode...

"Tonight, on The Eagle Dares," the narrator intoned soberly, "two legends meet. Igrilan Kor and James Kirk unite at last." Thoris gasped with awe. [Teasing us for half a season,] the boy thought with wonder, [but they're really doing it!] The image cut to the two heroes grinning cunningly and shaking hands. "And yet," the narrator continued gravely, "what terrible danger could require both the Enterprise and the Eagle to face it?" The screen faded to a starfield. Then a Klingon ship uncloaked. Then another. And another. Eight ships in all had decloaked by the time the laughter started. The title, "Gods and Devils," scrolled past beneath the infamous Klingon villain.

"Kivil," Thoris whispered, and a transition to the lead ship's bridge proved him right. Kor's archenemy was about to do his best to start a war. [Yeah, that would do it--]

"Ooo, is that the double-lengther?" a girl's voice asked insistently, vaulting over the sofa's back to land next to Thoris. "Finally!" Thoris sighed.

"We also sit like civilized people in this home, Thilelin," Shana said evenly.

"Sorry, birthmom!" Thilelin replied. Thoris completely failed to notice how nearly identical her tone had been. "Hey, what are those names next to the human ones?" she asked, pointing at the introductions.

"The names of the human players," Thoris explained with exaggerated patience, "the aktorni."

"Actors," Tlanerev's gentle voice added from the kitchen.

"Thanks, bonddad," they said in unison. "Human players prefer their recognition up front," Thoris added knowingly.

"Five minutes older than me and you think you know everything," Lelin replied, crossing her arms and glaring mutinously at the screen. Her pout faded away before the credits ended, and she glanced at Thoris. "Do you know if bondmom and birthdad are going to make it?"

"Bondmom should be home any minute," Thoris replied, his own voice turning uncertain. "Birthdad...I don't know. He said he got leave, but..."

"He'll be here," a woman's voice called from the door. She threw off a leather jacket with "ADF" printed on the shoulder and grinned.

Both children popped up from the couch and smiled almost wildly. "Bondmom!" they shouted, and glomped the powerfully-built lady thoroughly.

"Well, aren't you two growing in leaps and bounds!" Ilisreli laughed. "I'm gone for two weeks and you're ready to pick me up!"

"We're nine, bondmom," Thoris said as if that explained everything.

Lelin tugged at the soldier's hand. "Come on, bondmom, it's starting!"

Shana chuckled. "Are those two bullying you again, Reli?" she asked fondly.

"Mercilessly," Reli replied with equal good humor. "It's good for them. They could use a little more assertiveness." She let them sit her at the couch as "Gods and Devils" began.

Ninety standard minutes later, the intermission was playing promotions for several other keth Idisha productions, and the two young Andorians were bouncing excitedly. "Did you see that race?" Thoris as much demanded as asked.

"I was kinda right next to you," Lelin retorted distractedly. "But it was really shosi," she confessed after a moment. "I still can't believe they showed Kor losing tri-chess to Kirk, though."

Thoris shrugged. "That actually happened. That's what the wiki said, anyway."

Lelin stared at Thoris in shock for a moment, then planted her hands on her hips. "Thoris, you did not."

"What?" the boy asked with a shrug. "It's all historical -- well, mostly -- it's not like they're real spoilers."

There was a scream from the nearest bedroom, where Thoris' younger birth-siblings were supposed to be sleeping. Somehow, Thoris knew that the five year olds weren't having a nightmare.

Reli was on her feet instantly, but Thoris was already moving. He yanked his birth-father's hrisal to his hand with his telekinesis and ran into his birth-siblings' room. What he saw made him go as pale as arctic ice.

Rev was cowering under the blankets, and Leth just stared as she clutched the sheets, paralyzed with fear. Thoris didn't blame her. [Gilkar'ma,] he thought, fear turning his blood to slush. The spider-like horror chittered in place, its faceted eyes locked on his baby sister. The thought of that creature consuming little Leth cleared his veins, hot fury driving him at it just ahead of Reli trying to grab his shoulder. He drove the hrisal right at it --

-- and fell through the hologram, nearly slicing one of his own antennae off in his stunned surprise. The laughter he heard next, though, explained everything. "Oh Maker, you should have seen your face!" another girl said mockingly, forehead in her hand.

"Antalkevis," Thoris muttered furiously. "Figures. Gilkar'ma stick to their own." She flipped him the Andorian equivalent of the bird (index and ring finger up), then paled as he had when she saw her own birth-mother looming over Thoris.

"Kevis," Reli said, her voice low and furious. The girl looked away sullenly, ducking her head. "Entirely aside from that being completely unacceptable, Thoris nearly lost an antenna because of your little stunt."

"How was I supposed to know he'd grab a knife that fast," she grumbled. Reli's eyes narrowed, and pointed silently to Kevis' room. The girl obeyed without another word.

"Thoris, that was very brave of you," Reli said with a voice shaking but still gentle, the whole rest of the household now staring into the children's room, "but also reckless and foolish. Please put Lan's hrisal back, and we'll finish watching the play, yes?"

Thoris nodded and walked over to the blade stand, carefully putting the weapon back in its place, by hand this time. He turned, and Leth was there, quivering. She threw her tiny arms around him and hugged him as fiercely as a short five year old could, then ran back to bed. The young psychic felt light-headed. "Y'know, bondmom," he said quietly, "we're recording the show. I'll watch it in the morning, if that's okay."

"Oh, baby," Shana replied, stroking his hair, "you've been so good all week, you've earned this."

Reli shook her head. "Let him sleep, Shana. We've got restday tomorrow and Sun Festival for two days after. Facing a gilkar'ma, even a false one, probably took enough courage for two days' energy." She patted him on the shoulder. "Just wait for backup next time, all right, my little shanthola?"

"Yes, bondmom," he said quietly, then padded to his own bedroom. He heard his parents debating how to punish Kevis, but only distantly. [She finally stepped in her own dung this time,] he thought tiredly. It was as if all his excitement had vanished with the hologram. [I always imagined I'd feel brave if I ever faced a gilkar'ma. Bondmom's right, though. I was just an idiot.] He collapsed into bed, strange dreams of serving on the Eagle mixed with Kevis as a Klingon with antennae, using packs of spider-bull hybrids against the Enterprise's humans. "I challenge you to ushaan," he was saying, when fog filled the world...

"Hey," he heard from a great distance. It was a voice he'd longed to hear the night before.

Thoris rubbed his eyes and sat up. Lelin was snoring in her bed, next to his. Logrilan was sitting in a chair by his bed. "Birthdad?"

"I understand," he said with a twinkle-eyed grin, "that I missed two tales of courage and battle last night, and only one of them was recorded."

"You made it!" Thoris blurted, hugging Lan happily.

Lan chuckled wryly. "You attacked a gilkar'ma with a hrisal last night, and that's all you wish to say?" He patted Thoris' back. Lelin stirred.

"It was just stupid Kevis' stupid holodisk," Thoris half-snorted. "Are you here for the whole festival?" he continued quickly, brightening as he asked.

"Barring orders to the contrary," Lan replied. "And unless you knew it was a hologram, you chose to face a gilkar'ma with nothing but a blade. I hope you'll let me see it in your thoughts later."

Thoris' cheeks turned almost indigo from the blush. "If you wish, birthdad," he said, biting his lip in embarrassment, "but...it wasn't really real. I mean..."

"BIRTHDAD!" Lelin shouted, literally jumping across Thoris' bed to glomp him. "You made it!" [Saved,] Thoris thought wryly, hoping Lan would forget later.

Lan didn't forget, but Thoris would be glad of it forever after.