Time for a Teaser Tuesday excerpt!
From the second prequel of my To Be Sinclair series entitled Undying Dawn, in which Kyan Sinclair rethinks his principles:
Turning to Joshua, he stated, “I want to buy you out.”
“What?!” Joshua was so startled, he even dropped his soft drink bottle in the sand. “Why?”
Heart breaking, Kyan tried desperately to keep his face neutral. “I have so many reasons, I doubt if I could even count them all. Whenever I think about one, corollaries pop up so fast and furious that I don’t....” He hung his head.
It hurt even worse that Joshua didn't get angry with him. The true, loving concern of his best friend felt completely undeserved as he rattled off questions. “What’s wrong, Kyan? Are you working too hard? You’ve hardly PAL’d me for years, now. What happened to all your enthusiasm? You’re living in paradise, for pity’s sake.
“Do you just need to get out more? You should come with me on my next recruiting run. Experiencing a new city, new scenes, and new people will energize you again, I’m sure. Why don’t we go see Takeo soon? Maybe some of his people would want to join us.”
Kyan turned his head to watch the parasailer, now near the harbor of Sainte Maxime, descending to Earth once more. He was unsurprised and untouched when Joshua ultimately pleaded, “For God’s sake, Kyan, talk to me!”
After riffling through the top dozen excuses he had manufactured in his mind to explain to Joshua, he surprised himself by saying, “I just... feel dead.”
As Joshua gasped, Kyan tried to analyze the feeling. “Whenever I think of any part of the plan anymore, my brain goes numb, like I know it’s not going to work. Like some part of me knows there’s some kind of flaw, and I have to start from scratch.”
Looking Joshua straight in the eyes, he concluded, “And I know how much thought and work you've put into the plan, how much passion you have for it, so I know you will resist changing anything at this point. So I either buy you out, or you buy me out. Since I’m so heavily invested in the equipment anyway, I might as well buy you out.”
Joshua’s brow curled in confusion. “What kind of changes were you thinking about?”
“No.” Kyan shook his head. “I don’t even want to get into it. You’ll want to reanalyze the plan, but we did such a good job on it that it would all fall to pieces if we tried to re-tweak all the little details to fit the major tweaks. I want to start from scratch.”
Bewildered, it took Joshua a full minute to respond. “But I want off Earth, too.”
Kyan sipped his drink. “I’m not saying you can’t join me, or even contribute. I’m just saying I want to redesign the entire strategy with completely different goals, and I don’t want to have to fight you to set things up my way.”
Gazing at a distant yacht, he sighed. “We've been best friends for ten years. You know I love you, man. But I need to find my passion once again. My values have been changing in ways I can’t even describe to myself. I need to find a deeper meaning to dedicate my life to.”
Joshua sat up on the side of his lounge chair, picking up the bottle and digging his feet in the sand. “Like what? Can you at least give me a clue?” He wiped off the bottle and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, ready to listen with every care in the world.
Kyan considered everything he knew about Joshua. Born into affluence, he had nevertheless worked hard to learn everything MIT’s Sloan School of Management could teach him. While multiplying his grandfather’s fortune by investing in Moehrke Jump Drives and setting up new interstellar shipping lines, Joshua’s passion for the expansion of humanity into the galaxy led him into taking multiple science courses at UC Berkeley after earning his first degree.
After noticing they were both taking the same three unique subjects in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, and the newest terraforming course the university offered, Kyan struck up a conversation with him. That led to a most remarkable dinner, ending the evening at a bar where they clinked their glasses together to toast their new friendship and potential partnership.
Bankrolled by Joshua, who was earning a heavenly salary and options from his grandfather, Kyan had tweaked the basic design of a wormhole navigation headset so heavily that it qualified for its own patent. The PsyActive Link he had created took the planet by storm as the most efficient social utility ever devised, replacing most phones and datanet sites, and used extensively by business for teleconferencing.
By the time he had repaid Joshua with interest, Sinclair-Edwards Limited became the Sinclair-Edwards Corporation with a minimal common stock offering. Overnight, at ages 23 and 25, they found themselves christened as two of the top 100 wealthiest people on Earth.
Just over a year later, the scientists of their new private company S-E Discovery and Development, Ltd., had finished exploring one of the wormholes leading from Rendel’s volume of space, determining that the fourth planet of the new system was the closest planet to Earth-like conditions ever discovered. Despite the frenzied newscasts and dozens of interviews, Kyan and Joshua were unable to find enough qualified people willing to sign on to their charter as colonists. Joshua the ebullient businessman focused on that element of the plan, while Kyan the scientist stuck to the practicalities of setting up their new world.
Then Joshua had met Julia. Kyan found himself inviting Monique to share his life just so he could have regular sex with someone beautiful enough to distract him from thinking about Julia. It was almost more painful when the two ladies developed a fairly strong friendship, though it was nowhere near as strong as Kyan and Joshua’s. Still, Monique was unthreatened by Julia’s intellect, and Julia, she of the Italian curves, luscious breasts, softly rounded belly, and loving, generous ways, was completely unthreatened by Monique’s slender, statuesque, standoffish goddess beauty.
So here he was, staring at Joshua staring at him, wondering what he could possibly say to make Joshua realize that being a brilliant, obscenely wealthy scientist was just not enough for him anymore. “Do you think Monique loves me?” he finally blurted, unsure why he had asked in the first place, since he already knew the answer.
Joshua’s lips parted; he blinked heavily before offering a mild response. “I’m not the person you should ask.”
“In other words, no. I don’t think so, either.” Kyan turned his face away. “So the reason she’s with me is because I’m wealthy, or good in bed, or a status symbol. The odds of her being with me for who I really am are slim, wouldn't you say?”
Joshua remained silent, though he did run one hand through his blond American surfer curls before sighing and looking at his bottle. Kyan decided to ramble on for a while, since his subconscious had already generated two items of interest thus far.
“Our plan was predicated on the thought that normal, everyday people are tediously boring, as well as too stupid to live half the time. Yet look at Manuvia’s founder. Leah Marie Fischer originally signed on as a domestic servant to Corona Segundus.
“Although she admits to no genius, at least to no advanced intellect, nevertheless she had a brilliance to acknowledge her strengths and get trained as a courtesan. She surrounded herself with loving people who could help her make decisions, she fell into an unexpected inheritance but learned to manage it by the seat of her pants and in non-standard ways, and now she has 50,000 colonists signed up to build a new society. That tells me three things.
“First, intelligence doesn't get the loo scrubbed.” Kyan was grateful when a burst of nervous laughter erupted from Joshua, because he still felt uncomfortable letting out so many of his deepest thoughts, even to his best friend. Smiling briefly at his own joke, he grew serious once more.
“Although we've been concentrating on getting the most brilliant people we can to sign our charter, we haven’t really thought much about why they are living the lives they do. They are undoubtedly immersed in comforts too numerous to mention, such as their support staff. To think they might have to suffer the privations the original scientists did on Corona Segundus is a negative incentive. Corona Segundus is the object lesson, and the people you have been approaching have learned it by proxy.” Joshua nodded deeply, brown eyes searing in intense thought.
“Second, Leah Fischer’s investments revolved around one thing: the comfort and support she could give to people. And not just brilliant people; I hesitate to say ‘average people’ because it doesn't sound like there is such a thing on Corona Segundus.
“But consider her two main investments, a nourishing and delicious food product, and compounds for the maintenance and pleasure of the bravest men on the planet, the wildlife bounty hunters, who lived in virtual squalor before because they had never had the time to attach themselves to women. Somehow she internalized a vision of the expansion of the colony so well that she pinpointed the exact way to attract new colonists who could guarantee the colony’s health and welfare.”
Kyan put down his bottle and shifted in his chair to sit across from Joshua. Staring intently, he declared, “The third thing is so astonishingly subtle that it took me two years to understand it. Manuvia isn't going to be a successful colony because of what apparently sounds like free sex for people in any way they can manage to achieve it. It didn't get 50,000 people signing on just because Leah Fischer is famous, or talented, or charismatic or an equalist or a political minimalist.
“It was because she deliberately established the tenets of a new kind of society that invited every single member to contribute their own creativity and talents toward its success. She took the craving for love and understanding, and made it the theme of the colony. Love. Pure and simple. Expressed right in the charter. ‘That each citizen is granted leave to pursue love and gratification with no threat of onus or censure.’ How simple is that?”
He slumped. “And what do we offer our potential colonists? Patent rights and intellectual rivalries. Surely we don’t even understand ourselves, if that is the limit we place on intellectual gifts.”
“What kind of tenet or goal do you think would inspire people to want to join our colony?” Joshua at least seemed to realize why Kyan thought their whole plan should be scrapped. Usually he would have offered half a dozen counter-arguments and derivative ideas before asking Kyan for his own.
Kyan sighed. “I don’t know. I've been thinking a lot about motivation. I almost feel like I should....” He blinked as if he could navigate a PAL fog.
“What? You know I’ll help, in any way I can.”
Kyan shook his head. “I don’t know if I will ever figure it out. I’m not the people-person you are.”
He stared into Joshua’s eyes. “That’s why I think one of us should buy the other out. You’re the businessman, so figure out a price you wouldn't mind either taking or paying. If I can’t figure it out, I’ll sell out to you. If I do figure something out, I’ll buy from you. How does that sound?”
It took Joshua a full minute to respond. “Fair. But I’ll have to get back to you on it. It’s not like I could just take the annual bottom line of S-E D & D and cut it in half. I have to make projections and talk to some industry analysts, that kind of thing.”
Kyan nodded. “That works for me.” As Joshua glanced past his shoulder, he knew their ladies were probably approaching behind him. “I’m going to take a swim, then head back to the house.” He headed for the gentle surf without glancing toward Julia at all.
◊ ◊ ◊
The third night of Joshua and Julia’s visit, Monique started in on him. “Don’t you realize we haven’t gone anywhere together for four months? With the exception of the beach, I don’t think you've even been out of the house for three weeks.”
She finished oiling her legs before bringing the bottle of emu oil to the bed and turning away from him; Kyan sat up against the headboard and began moisturizing her back. “How about we spend a nice week in Milan? Fashion Week is coming up. I could wrangle a stint from Vicente, I’m sure. You could publicize your colony then, too.”
Anointing her spine perfunctorily, Kyan murmured, “I notice you didn't say ‘our colony’.” She stiffened in surprise, but he kept applying the oil as if he hadn't noticed. “If you want to go to Milan for Fashion Week, feel free.”
“Yes, but people always ask where you are. I always get uncomfortable regards,” she complained. “I feel vulnerable when I go places by myself.”
“That’s why we have bodyguards.” He capped the oil and set it aside.
Monique turned to straddle his thighs, though she was still wearing her thong. Reaching for the oil, she began slicking him up in turn. He stiffened quickly, wondering why her beauty wasn't enough to get him aroused anymore.
While she played with his balls and gave him a glittering smile, Kyan swept his hands up her thighs and sides to cup her breasts briefly before lightly grasping her shoulders. “Monique. Why are you here?”
He could tell by her appalled look that she was ready to bolt. They had never had a serious, soul-searching discussion before. “Because I love you,” she finally whispered.
“Funny. We've never said that to each other before. I wonder if it’s really true?” Kyan slid his hands down to take her hands. “Or if it’s just a set of words to us both, without real meaning in the first place, so we've never used them before.” He kissed one of her hands. “Do you think we've just been using each other all this time?”
He was surprised to see tears in her eyes. “I've given you three years of my life, and you can ask that?” Her lip was trembling now, too.
“Well, I've given you the same three years. I've given you a place to live, I've purchased you more clothing and jewelry than you have even worn, I've taken you on trips. You have not needed to spend a single euro on yourself. I would say we have exchanged gifts of equal value, including time. I did not force you to come live with me, after all,” he made sure to point out. “You accepted my offer, and we've had a good time, or so I thought.
“But you want to get out in public, and you don't seem to plan to move with me to my new planet. You've never criticized my goals, but they seem to mean nothing to you. That’s why I asked. I’m simply curious as to why you are still with me.”
“What do you want of me?” Monique appeared to take his gentle honesty seriously, for although she had asked this with wholehearted intent, she was no longer upset.
He stared into her eyes for a long moment before gripping her hands for emphasis. “I want you to be happy. Your presence here has been a great blessing to me, but if you don't see yourself as my life partner, that’s okay. I just want you to be happy. That’s all.” He kissed her other hand. “What do you want of me?”
She sat beside him and held his hand. “I've always wanted your love. You’re a perfect gentleman and an interesting lover, always willing to act out my fantasies. But I've turned myself inside-out for three years now, trying to get you to love me. Although you've gone through all the motions, I wonder if you’re even capable of love at this point.”
He slid down in the bed, put his arms around her, and encouraged her to snuggle in. With a kiss to her forehead, he gazed into her eyes. “I love the fact that you exist. I love your beauty. I love your public coolness and your private vivaciousness. I love knowing I've given you some much-needed stability after your last lover hurt you so badly. I love knowing that you've enjoyed living with me.
“But I have never been a publicity hound, and I know you crave that, you need that. I've tried to be a gracious host to your friends, but I've never been able to relate to their lifestyle. All the possessions I've given you have never meant much to me, because I don’t understand why they mean so much to you. I’m glad if they've made you happy, but since we don’t share the same core values, I truly don’t think you are happy here with me.”
Caressing her face, he planted a simple kiss upon her lips. “Feel free to stay with me, if you wish. Feel free to move on, if you wish. If you do, come back to visit as often as you like, or even visit me when I move to my new planet. But otherwise, I don’t think I can offer you anything I haven't offered before. I’m sorry.”
Eyes luminous, Monique kissed him back. “I’m sorry, too. I do love you, especially for understanding me so well.” Running her hand across his chest, she let it rest over his heart. “I just hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for someday.”
Kyan gave her a wistful smile. “So do I.”