Once Rien was gone from the property, Moyen carried Itina to her room and laid her on the bed, covering up the girl, who had fallen asleep.
He held the girl’s icy hand in both of his and rubbed it to get blood into the pale flesh.
“I want him dead, Moyen,” Malida whispered, taking a seat on a nearby armchair.
“I will kill him myself,” Moyen assured her. “Once I torture him.”
She rubbed peevishly at her forehead. “How can I not have seen him for what he is?”
He turned to her. “Don’t, Malida. Perverts hide their perversions very well, if they are smart. Othel is clever.”
Her eyes filled with tears.
“My lord, my lady.”
They both turned.
Sol stepped into the bedroom and gently closed the door behind him. “May I speak to you a moment?”
They rose to face him.
“Of course,” Moyen replied.
The Sentinel scratched the side of his neck. “I don’t want you to think I am sympathetic to Othel’s perversions. I am a psychologist and I was trained to understand human behavior.”
Moyen scowled. “What are you trying to say?”
Sol squared his shoulders. “A pervert is not born; he is made. Someone abused Othel when he was a child and Othel became an abuser in turn. Not everyone who is sexually abused as a child becomes a sexual predator in turn, you understand. But a certain number do. If people have a weak sense of empathy, they become predators.”
“Are you saying we are to forgive Othel?” Moyen demanded.
“No,” Sol replied. “He cannot be rehabilitated, I don’t think. There has been little success with rehabilitating pedophiles, other than enforced celibacy. I am not telling you how to mete justice. It is not my daughter who was molested. I am saying you should kill him, if that is the justice you wish to mete. But torturing him makes you no better than he, and we cannot stand by for such barbaric measures.”
“You heard me?” Moyen asked.
“We have enhanced hearing. Yes, I was headed this way to see how you both were and I heard you.” Sol took in a deep breath and released it. “I have my mission and my ethics. As a doctor and a psychologist, I cannot stand by and watch you torture a sick man.”
Malida cocked her head. “How did you deal with…what did you call Othel?”
“A pedophile. It is an old word. Pedo means child; phile means lover of.”
Moyen grimaced but said nothing.
“How did you deal with pedophiles in your time?” Malida asked.
“We incarcerated them,” Sol replied. “Removed them from society.”
Malida shook her head. “There must have been many, to give them a label.”
“There were,” Sol replied.
“Well, incarceration must have been more secure in the distant past,” Moyen said.
“”It was a huge institution,” Sol agreed. “I have another idea of how to deal with Othel, sir.”
Moyen sighed. “Oh?”
“We can remove his desires, which is also what we did in the past, if the pedophile requested the measure,” the Sentinel said. “We can emasculate him. It didn’t always work, you see. Sometimes the pedophile became bitter and kidnapped children to torture or kill them. That is why we simply imprisoned them, but we also emasculated them, permanently removing their sexual desires.”
“And how is that not torture?” Moyen demanded.
“It was successful in a percentage of the population of pedophiles. They became normal members of society in that they held jobs and contributed to society. They no longer were tortured by their unnatural desires.”
“I see,” Moyen replied, unsure he did see.
“Then if we capture–no,” Malida stated firmly. “When we capture Othel, I would like him emasculated.”
Moyen crossed his arms over his chest. “I want him dead.”
Sol shifted. “Let’s see if the emasculation works first.”
Moyen shook his head. “I don’t think Othel has any sense of empathy. What if we create a monster?”
Malida looked at him. “Then we kill him.”
“But not before he does something that warrants death,” Moyen said. “I object to this path of action. I want my objection to go on record.”
“Noted,” Malida told him.
Moyen turned to Sol. “What does the process of emasculation look like?”
“We inject a chip into his brain that interferes with sexual drive. As much as he will want to desire a child, he will be unable to. He will essentially be without a sexual drive.” Sol cleared his throat. “Also, the chip renders him unable to obtain an erection. His penis–his kauon–will not become erect, no matter what he does.”
Moyen shuddered but said nothing. The more he heard, the more he was inclined to go along with the scheme. Othel would suffer greatly and he was infinitely pleased by that.
Malida gave a firm nod. “Then that will be justice in and of itself.”
Sol nodded. “Agreed.”
Moyen gasped and turned to the bed.
Itina’s eyes were open and she was glancing uncertainly around the room.
“Hello, daughter,” Moyen said and sat at the edge of the mattress. “How are you, child?”
“Why am I in bed, Eda?” the girl asked in a small voice. “Am I sick?”
“You were examined, child, that’s all,” her father replied. “Are you well?”
The girl frowned. “I have a headache.”
“That is common,” Sol replied. “Give her fluids. She might be dehydrated. That is a side effect of the drug.”
Malida went to the bedside table and poured water from a decanter into a mug. She handed Moyen the mug.
Moyen helped his daughter to sit up then fed her the water.
“Your headache will go away in a bit,” Sol told the girl.
The girl blushed and nodded as her father helped her lie back down.
“I suggest you rest, young lady,” Sol told her. “After a bit of a nap, you’ll be right as rain.”
They watched as the girl closed her eyes and was soon sleeping.
The family gathered in the sitting room later that day. The Sentinels joined them.
Malida had another vision.
“The Sha’jeen will be here soon,” she told them. She looked at Ishel. “I have a sense of their language, Ishel. I understand them when they speak.”
Ishel leaned forward eagerly. “Then we need to discuss this matter indeed. We have chips in our brains that allow us to learn languages quickly. We don’t have much time.”
Malida rose. “Excuse me.”
Ishel watched her leave the room and return shortly with paper, an inkwell and pens.
“I will write down the words and their language for you,” Malida told them.
The Sentinels pulled out their electronic pads from their shoulder bags.
She wrote a symbol on paper and held it up. “This symbol means Shi’ehl. The pronoun for the Shi’ehl, who are their rulers, is ‘oun’. Oun is the equivalent of ‘she,’ except the Shi’ehl look like males, not females. Oun means ‘that can bear young.'” She set the paper on the low table and wrote another symbol. “This symbol means Deuil. The pronoun for the Deuil, who are their soldiers, is ‘aun’. Aun is the equivalent of ‘he.’ The Deuil grow tall, too, and are strong with speed and stealth being their abilities, but they don’t have the musculature of hu’an males.”
“That is because of the gravity on their ships,” Kaster piped up. “A planet has greater gravity than a ship is able to produce.”
Malida nodded. “Don’t take the Deuil lightly, please. I have seen in my vision what they can do.” She set the page on the table and drew a third symbol. “This is the symbol for bouel, who are their servants and slaves. Their pronoun is ‘nieh.’ It means ‘nothing.’ They are neuter, unable to reproduce. They have no sexual organs. The Sha’jeen have conveniently forgotten that all of their fetuses are boueli at first. When they are conceive, none of the Sha’jeen have a gender or sex. Then a wash of hormones assists the fetus in developing sexual organs. The boueli also look like males.”
“Curious,” Topon said. “So do the dual-sexed higher beings on this planet. The isili look like young men all their lives. The Isemi look like human males. Well, the dominant gender of that species anyway. Their ouna-nae look like slender young men. At least, that is how they are portrayed in paintings and drawings.”
Malida nodded. “Yes, you are correct. I’ve never meet an Isemi, but my ancestors did. Those portraits and drawings in our books are fairly accurate, I hear.”
They settled down around her as she drew two symbols on the paper. “This is how a Shi’ehl is addressed. The pronoun always comes first in their language. So, if you address a Shi’ehl, you address oun as ‘oun Shi’ehl.’ If you address a Deuil, you address aun as ‘aun Deuil.’ The same with the bouel. You address nieh as ‘nieh bouel.'”
Sol shifted in his chair. “I don’t know how I feel about addressing a being as ‘nothing.'”
“Yes,” Ariahl agreed. “But we must be able to communicate with them first and foremost.”
“Agreed,” Mariel said.
Ariahl turned to Sol. “You must address them in a way they comprehend.”
Sol grimaced but nodded.
Topon leaned forward in his seat. “Malida, what else has been revealed to you?”
She gave the question some thought. She sighed. “They will travel on small, light machines on the planet. They resemble black metal chairs with glass coverings. The machines are equipped with weapons that destroy living things and structures. These weapons pulverize anything the Sha’jeen want destroyed. The weapons emit a light beam of some sort.” She shuddered. “Anyone who stands in the way of the Sha’jeen gets pulverized. I saw us in battle, though.”
“We can bend fields, Malida,” Derik gently reminded her. “Your lessons have been going well and now you and your children can bend fields as well.” He glanced at each Sentinels before turning his gaze to her as well. “Once we see their weapons in action, we can devise a means to stop them.”
“But that means they will fire their weapons,” Malida put in. “Does that mean something will be destroyed or someone will be killed?”
“We may have no choice but to let such a thing happen,” the engineer told her. “We have to see the weapons being used before we can devise a counter weapon. Do you see?”
She rubbed her arms. “Yes.”
Mariel crossed her legs. “We cannot give away our advantages. We might have to let the Sha’jeen do some damage before we are able to fight back.”
Moyen shook his head and sighed. “This begs the question: how can fourteen of us fight an entire race?”
Malida looked at her husband. “The majority of Sha’jeen are boueli, my dear. They are not taught how to fight. Their mode of transport is not equipped with anything, because the Shi’ehli and the Deuili do not trust their slaves. We have to worry about the Deuili, their soldiers. The Shi’ehl believe it beneath them to fight. Unfortunately, I don’t have numbers for the Deuili. They could be 100 or 1,000, for all I know, although I get a feeling their numbers are not as many as I fear. Each generation produces fewer and fewer Sha’jeen, after all. In the last vision I had, they showed stress and fear that they would not make it here in time.”
Sol shifted. “How do they know of this planet?”
Malida glanced at him. “Their bloodthirsty deity sends them visions, just like Atana sends me mine. The deity gave their supreme ruler coordinates to this planet almost two hundred years ago, so they were in the general vicinity of our solar system.”
Sol looked at Ariahl. “That means we are connected somehow, these beings and this planet. For what purpose, I wonder?”
“I think we are meant to change them,” Malida offered. “To lead them to a more peaceful existence, to offer part of this world for them to settle in. To return them to who they used to be.”
Kaster nodded. “I believe they need to settle on the planet if they are to survive, for their travels through the galaxy has only poisoned their bodies.”
Mariel glanced at Ariahl. “We’ll have to settle them in an uninhabited land mass on the planet. That way they can develop a new culture free of influences.”
Ariahl nodded. “We’ll make sure to keep an eye on them.”
“Yes,” her second agreed.
Moyen shifted. “Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, shall we? We have to defeat them in order to assist them.” He looked at Malida. “What my wife tells me is that they are bloodthirsty and aggressive. If they believe us to be inferior, how are we to change them?”
Derik let out a bark of laughter. “If we beat them, they will not hold that belief for long. We just have to make sure to beat them and soundly.”
Mariel frowned. “We have a drug in our possession that induces altered states in the mind.” She flicked a glance to Kaster. “How safe is the drug, Kaster?”
“It’s fairly safe,” he replied. “It just gives a feeling of euphoria for a few days and the imbiber may not be good for much during that time.”
Mariel nodded. She looked at Malida. “Will you agree to undergo a vision with us in attendance, my lady? We have to direct your vision in order to gather intel.”
Malida felt someone take her left hand and she gazed at her husband.
“Do only what you feel comfortable with, Malida,” he told her.
She squeezed his hand. “I must do what is good for the mission of the Sentients. I am the key to all this.” She let Moyen’s hand go and turned to Mariel. “Let’s do this then.”