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Authors: Anne Mccaffrey

Third Watch

BOOK: Third Watch
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THIRD WATCH

Acorna’s Children

ANNE McCAFFREY
and
ELIZABETH ANN SCARBOROUGH

To Liz O’Connell and Frieda Bates

with thanks and affection

Contents

Chapter 1

Khorii left the message on Elviiz’s portable com—the one he…

Chapter 2

Khorii bid farewell to Akasa, who pointed out the way…

Chapter 3

There he is!” Grimalkin in unicorn guise cried, galloping away…

Chapter 4

To think she had imagined that having a sister would…

Chapter 5

Grimalkin dismissed the puzzling disappearance of Pircifir and Ariin and…

Chapter 6

Grimalkin and Pircifir did not actually stick around for the…

Chapter 7

It’s okay now, Pebar. The ship is gone,” Sileg reported…

Chapter 8

Khorii was tired enough to sleep despite captivity, the cage,…

Chapter 9

The snake allowed Khorii to carry the alien disk. It…

Chapter 10

Never send a Friend or a cat to do a…

Chapter 11

We have to save them,” Khorii told her sister. “That’s…

Chapter 12

Now I want to go home, to our own time.

Chapter 13

Just so he knew they really wanted him, they asked…

Chapter 14

At least Ariin can’t blame me for the plague, Grimalkin…

Chapter 15

I don’t imagine it’s worthwhile to try to find this…

Chapter 16

We’ll speak to Uncle Hafiz about it,” Khorii said to…

Chapter 17

Grimalkin faced an unexpected dilemma. Actually, he should have expected…

Chapter 18

Once they entered what had been, until recently, Federation space,…

Chapter 19

Accelerating,” Elviiz said, but though he pushed the engines until…

Chapter 20

Grimalkin didn’t need Pircifir’s ship in order to leave Vhiliinyar.

Chapter 21

The coordinates Odus had provided led Grimalkin to a system…

Chapter 22

Ariin had no idea how to use the information she’d…

Chapter 23

Odussia, red and gold with veins and plains of blue-green,…

Chapter 24

Two of you started this mess,” Ariin harangued the elder…

Chapter 25

Khorii told their friends first, Abuelita, Jalonzo, and the throng…

Chapter 26

Maak was about to take Khindii’s shiny prey from her…

Glossary of Terms and Proper Names in the Acorna Universe

Brief Notes on the Linyaari Language

Acknowledgments

About the Authors

Other Books by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Credits

Cover

Copyright

About the Publisher

Chapter 1

Now and Then

Now

Elviiz, with all of the time changes we’ve been through during our journey and the disappointment of not being able to get Mother and Father out of quarantine, we cannot sleep a wink. So we decided to go visit the LoiLoiKuans and see how they’re settling in to their new home in our ocean with the
sii
-Linyaari. Please tell everyone so they won’t worry. We’ll be back before you know it.
     Love,
     Khorii, Ariin, and Khiindi, too. (You know how he is about fish.)

Khorii left the message on Elviiz’s portable com—the one he needed now that he was fully organic and missing his critical android modifications.

Then, with the moons shining down on them, she and her twin walked down to the pearl-crested sea, Ariin carrying Khiindi.

“He’ll walk if you want to put him down,” Khorii told her twin. “We could stop to graze on the way. It would make our story more believable.”

Ariin frowned. “He really does need to come with us, and he’s so unpredictable.”

Khiindi took matters into his own paws by hopping down, waving his tail as if beckoning them to graze. The girls assumed grazing posture and bent to taste the tantalizing grasses growing in the meadows sloping down to the sea. Their horns, a single shining gold one in the center of each of their foreheads, glowed softly in the silver moonlight.

When they were done, Khiindi dodged Ariin’s questing hands and trotted ahead, just out of reach. The cat was not about to let the young Linyaari use his crono to spirit Khorii off to the distant past and get her into who knew what kind of trouble without him there to protect her. Nor, for that matter, was he going to miss a chance to escape the little kitty form into which he’d been frozen by his fellow shape shifters, all because of a very slight miscalculation during a mission with which they’d once entrusted him. If they insisted on continuing to hold their grudge, he would be better able to act freely back in the time before the monstrous Khleevi had destroyed the large time-traveling device. The buglike aliens wrecked everything they touched, and they had wreaked havoc not just with the time machine, but with the whole planet. The ecological damage had been repaired, but the time machine was no longer functional.

And, of course, the fish were lovely, too. The LoiLoiKuans saw the three of them approach. The younger ones, well trained by Khiindi back in the days when they were pool pupils, or poopuus, at the school on Maganos Moonbase, flipped a sleek, fat fish out of the water directly into his mouth. Good. Delicious. They had not forgotten the tribute due to their patron cat.

He barely had time to devour it and no time at all for a good wash and brushup before the twins stepped into the water. Khiindi jumped in after them. Makahomian Temple Cats, his lineage in more ways than one, did not mind a nice swim now and then. However, he remembered the first time he had met the aquatic dwellers, after suffering at the hands of that brat Marl Fidd, who had hurt him badly, then thrown him into the pool back at Maganos. The large brown LoiLoiKuans with their fused legs and flippered feet swam up to surround them. They were joined by their watery hosts, the sii-Linyaari, who were as indigenous to Vhiliinyar as anybody was.

Aari, the twins’ father, had transplanted the
sii
-Linyaari to the current time from a previous one in which they were about to become extinct. They were not an attractive species, at least, not to anyone except others of their kind. They were examples of a failed attempt on the part of Khiindi’s people, known to the Linyaari and the Ancestors as the Friends, to create the Linyaari race. Like Khorii and the rest of her race, the
sii
-Linyaari also had horns—many little ones growing all over their heads. Some had long, waving hair, some had none. They had fish tails instead of legs, and glistening scales, and spoke only in a bubble-accented thought-talk.

Although they had a reputation for being difficult and even hostile back in their original time, Khiindi figured it probably had a lot to do with their rejection by their parent creators. These days, they were quite happy to see him. If they knew that Khiindi was one of the Friends who had made them, they apparently thought his being a permanent pussycat was punishment enough because they were as friendly to him as they were to the girls and their new guests, the LoiLoiKuans.

“Greetings, everyone,”
Khorii said.
“We thought you might like your waters freshened up a bit. Fancy a race to the island?”

All of the sea people were a bit overstimulated from the events of the previous day, when two tanks of LoiLoiKuans had been decanted into the surface-connected inland sea of Vhiliinyar. A nice sea race was apparently just their idea of a good time.

Popping bubbles and other expressions of assent rose from the water as bodies dipped, tails flipped, and the sea peoples left the twins and Khiindi wallowing in their wake.

“Now!” Ariin said. Khorii held on to her arm and took the liberty of grabbing Khiindi’s tail. And suddenly, they were then.

Then

One moment they were in the water, the next they were inside a room bursting with fancy flowing robes framing a huge mirror and a chest brimming with jewels and cosmetics. Ariin looked around and nodded.

“Where are we?”
Khorii asked.

“Akasa’s wardrobe. That’s where I found this,”
Ariin said, holding up her wrist to show off the crono, which dangled loosely on her small arm.
“No more questions now. It’s complicated. I need to get us back to an earlier time, before we were born.”

“This is before I was born?”
Khorii asked.

“Right. This thing seems to default to the time and place it was before starting the next time sequence, but we’re not ready to be here yet. I have something to show you a little farther back.”

She gave Khiindi a look that was remarkable for its wickedness in one so young. He knew what she intended then, but it fit in well with his own wishes so he sent her the desired information. He could, of course, still converse without resorting to Linyaari, Standard, Makahomian, or even Cat. Nor did he require the cruder forms of thought-talk. He simply formed a picture of the time they needed to go. Back before he had brought Ariin’s egg to his people. Back before he had first befriended her father, Aari. Back when he could walk on two legs. Ariin recklessly tapped the crono without even looking at it, allowing his image to flow from her to the device. He picked the time, but she picked the place.

BOOK: Third Watch
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