Van Motaff, renowned philosopher and Rahfonist, is looking ahead to Retirement, but the planetary government has other plans. Something unprecedented has happened—a young, male Rahfoni has been raised by aliens for the past thirty years—and Van has been chosen to restore him to Rahfon society.
Even though the eyes of two worlds are on her, Van thinks the job will be straightforward enough. But when her charge, Eton Abless, is injured, an irate governor interferes, demanding that the young man be neutralised as a potential political threat. Van resists and finds herself falling into a forbidden romance with her student…a romance that may mean the end of her reputation and career, and his permanent exile. As her options narrow, Van is forced to face the conclusion that the only way to save Eton may be to lose him completely.
She glanced pointedly at the opaque windows. “As if it can.”
But it still took many long minutes before Blen opened his mouth again. “It's not common knowledge, but we didn't have first contact with the Ithari seven months ago. We've actually been communicating with them for more than a year.”
Van wasn't surprised. She'd been around too long to be startled by anything the planetary government did. “I presume this is because of the treaty we're negotiating with them?”
“Yes, exactly. We needed to be at the stage where they trusted us fully before the Ergifani found out about them, so the details were kept secret as long as possible.”
“Because we were afraid the Ergifani might have negotiated something with the Ithari while we dithered?”
“An entire species of merchants,” Blen complained, “with nothing better to do than go around undercutting their partners. Of course we had to keep things quiet. The planetary council made sure any information regarding the Ithari was locked down so thoroughly, it was an incarceration offence merely mentioning their name.”
Van watched Blen closely. “The news reports say that we are operating at unseemly haste in negotiating this trade agreement.”
“Yes, of course they would say that. As far as the rest of the planet's concerned, we've only known the Ithari for a few months. Now you know that it's been much longer.”
“And I presume it's progressing well?”
“Well enough. I suppose.” Blen looked down at his desk again. “I'm not sure. On a 'need to know' basis and all that.”
Van's lips tightened. She was starting to run out of patience. “Yical, why are you mentioning all this to me? What does an interstellar trade agreement have to do with the Emaak Institute?”
He was quiet for such a long time that Van thought he was ignoring her. Then he said: “They have a Rohfan native.”
She stared at him. “I beg your pardon?”
He tensed his fingers then clasped them together and rested them on his desk. “It seems that, thirty years ago, a vessel crashed on their home planet. A Rohfan stellar yacht.”
“Stellar...?” Van frowned. “But stellar yachts didn't exist thirty years ago.”
Blen looked up at her. “Actually, they did. It's just that not many people could have afforded them back then. This particular family could.”
“So there was just one family on the yacht? It wasn't a prototype commercial venture?”
Blen shook his head. “We think we know who they are. A scion of the Albess family.”
“Oh.” Van didn't know what else to say.
“That's right. Louis Albess got his share of the inheritance when his uncle died and spent all of it on the most extravagant spacefaring vessel he could afford. He, his young wife and two children went off on a jaunt—a Grand Tour of Rahfon space, he said—and were never heard from again.”
“Tragedy seems to stalk that family like a vengeful slithcat. But if we've found them—”
“Not 'them'. Him.”
“Not the whole family?”
“The Ithari say that by the time they reached the wreck,” Blen held up a single finger, “they only found one person alive. Louis Albess' son.”
“And we're sure it's—”
“We told the Ithari what kind of tests to run. His identity's been confirmed.”
“Well.” She let out a breath. “Pity there's nothing left of his family's fortune. Poor soul.”
“It gets worse. At the time they found the crash, the Ithari didn't know who or even what he was. A different species, certainly, but one they'd never encountered before.”
Van drew in a sharp breath. “What did they do to him?”
“It's nothing like that,” he hastened to reassure her. “They treated him like one of their own. Even fostered him out to one of their biologists, who brought him up with the rest of her family.”
“I can hear a 'but' in your voice, Yical.”
Blen spread his hands. “They want to give him back. Now that they've found out exactly what species he is, they want to return him—give us the chance to restore him to Rahfon society.”
“And this is a problem because?”
“He doesn't know anything about Rahfon or Rahfon society, Van. He can't even speak our language.”
You can read the first three chapters as an online flipbook on the Restoration page at Sandal Press.
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About K.S. Augustin:
Kaz is Chief Editor of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly and she and her husband run Sandal Press. The Augustin family consists of two human offspring, a brace of eccentric cats and a miniature Bull Terrier with a bark bigger than her entire body. Kaz is a Linux geek. For fun, she reads, cooks, is learning Latin and dotes on her twin-cab diesel truck.