Author’s Note: So… rather than repeat what’s in “Acceptance” and “Rights and Wrongs,” since I figured that would get irritating, I left that out. This conversation between Tynan and the matron falls right in between them.
“You say you are different,” the matron said, struggling for some kind of composure after she had faltered, betraying her fears and emotions with that step. Tynan watched her, waiting for the rest of what she would say. He would not hope, but he did want to see if perhaps she might have been persuaded to listen. If she would listen, if she would hear him, then he might have a chance to tell Luna all that he wanted—needed—to say. “How are you different?”
“Do you truly care?” Tynan asked, waiting for the small signs in her eyes or posture to betray her. He knew how most of the advanced species felt about his kind, and she had made no secret of her agreement with them so far. If her interest was not genuine, he did not know that there was any point in trying to talk to her. He could tell her everything he’d done and everything he’d known, and he would explain all that Luna was and all that she’d taught him, but if the matron did not have any sympathy or even a small part of her that was willing to see him as something different, he knew that any such efforts would be useless.
“I am here to evaluate you. It is therefore my duty to listen.”
“Not everyone who listens hears. That’s what Luna told me, and I think she is right about it. You might process the words, but you would not accept them. That is the difference. You would go on missing the point, over and over, and that is what Luna said I did. I think she is right, but humans are very… confusing most of the time, her more so than anyone else I encountered.”
The matron folded her arms behind her, pacing a short distance in front of his cell as though the action would make her recall something. “So… you were on the human world, were you?”
He almost winced, realizing his mistake. He hadn’t realized what he was doing by admitting that. He had violated their laws, and now he was in more trouble than he had been before. He should not have said anything at all. He studied the woman again, stepping forward. “Yes. I was. I do not deny it. I will not lie about it. I was there. That is where I met Luna.”
He was surprised by the lack of accusation after his admission, but he sat down, leaning against the wall as he tried to determine what to say. “Luna is special. I have seen her happy, and I have seen her angry, and I have seen her grieve, and I’ve heard her laugh. She is fascinating. You would not know this. You have not met her. Curiosity led me to her, and it drew me back. Still, she is something greater than curiosity… And I had once thought curiosity greatest of all I had experienced, the only thing that could keep my hunger at bay.”
“You mean you didn’t destroy things because you were… curious about them? You spared this poor human because you found her… amusing?”
“No.” He rose. “Luna is amusing, yes, in her way, but she is so much more than that as well. For a long time, I relied only on my curiosity, drifting from place to place without eating, without consuming anything but what I could learn without touching. I listened, and I saw, and I gathered all these things together into… into memories. I did not linger long, I did not dare let my curiosity become too sated. With Luna, though, she challenged my curiosity in ways that I had never known before. She made me believe it was worth returning because she had much more she could share and teach—later she made me the teacher, and that was something I’d never been before.”
“You taught someone something?”
He looked at the matron. “You assume a being with a near-insatiable appetite cannot be taught? Or that I lack any knowledge whatsoever? That is erroneous in many ways. You are only proving your ignorance. The children of the vortex can learn. We can be ageless and have eons worth of knowledge, though you do not believe so.”
“You seem quite capable of intelligence or at least the mimicry thereof,” she said. She shook her head. “The question was not a matter of whether or not you were able to perform such an act. I was asking for confirmation that you did.”
He frowned. “I said that, didn’t I? Oh. I see. You think I have broken another of your rules, don’t you? I suppose now I have finished condemning myself and should end the conversation.”
“That depends. What, exactly, did you teach this… Luna?”
He did not think that the matron wanted that answer. She would not like to hear all he had to say about Luna, for she was a subject upon which he would not tire of speaking or remembering. He wanted to see her again, would beg them to let him have that moment before he died, but he did not believe they would give him that. No, they would give him nothing. They saw only one thing when they looked at him.
“I could never convince Luna that I was a monster. She saw what I could do, but she said that I was not one, and so that is something I did not teach her. She taught me about friendship. That, I think, is the most valuable lesson I ever learned.”
“Yes, you said before you were friends. You did not tell me what you taught her.”
“Did you or did you not inform her about space? About life beyond her planet? Did you tell her all of those things? How did she react?”
“Quite calmly. It was her father that thought she was crazy.”
The matron sighed. “You made this human’s sanity something of debate?”
“No. I was never anything less than truthful. Humans were the ones that didn’t understand, the other humans. Luna did. She always accepted me. Always. Well, except the once when her father managed to convince her I wasn’t real, but mostly she knew and understood and didn’t care. She still wanted to be my friend.”
The matron fell silent, and he knew that wasn’t a good sign. “Can I tell Luna I’m sorry and that I miss her? I do not care what else you do to me if you let me do that.”
The continued silence was the most unwelcome answer he had ever gotten in his life.