Canto 156 – The Return of Tara Salongi
Ged and his students burst through the doorway to Raylond King’s private suite. Phoenix and Rocket Rogers were both blazing in fire-form. Projectiles whirred around Shu Kwai in accelerating orbits. Jackie had brought little Freddy to join the strike team, and the dark-skinned boy was now transformed into were-cat form, half boy, half black panther. Ged himself was there as himself, waiting to see what might be needed before he transformed.
What they burst in upon was easily as disconcerting as anything they might’ve expected. Tara was dressed in luxurious purple silks and holding in her arms a tiny baby, possibly a girl. In fact, Ged immediately felt the baby’s mind probe into his head. It wasn’t just any baby. It was his daughter. Next to Tara, and clutching her right hand like a love-sick puppy, was one of the three rulers of Mingo Sector, Raylond King. King, of course, was nothing like you’d expect from the macabre rulers of a mechano-zombie world of rot warriors and ruined palaces. He wore black eye make-up to make his pale face slightly sinister, but this dark lord had an innocent-looking cherub’s face in so many ways. The horned helmet he wore on his head was in many ways more of a child’s toy than a warrior-king’s helm. He was also dressed in a purple silk robe.
“Prepare to die, King!” growled Emperor Mong from a spot safely behind Ged and his student-warriors.
“Ged!” cried Tara, confused. “You’ve come! But…”
Ged’s eyes grew immediately sad and dark.
“I am not trying to hurt her!” insisted Raylond King as two human torches, a telekinetic ninja, and a cat-child all closed in around him.
“Stop!” ordered Ged. “You don’t require assistance, do you, Tara?”
“No. Not now, I don’t. Where were you all when those Monopoly Brigade pigs were torturing me and having their way with me?” The bright mental fire of Tara’s recent pain burned into Ged’s mind with humbling accusations.
“I’m sorry, Tara. I should have come immediately.”
Ged knew she could read the self-blame and self-loathing that consumed him. Her anger softened like butter on a hot skillet. He could feel it happening, and he felt the baby responding to it too.
“Ged, you know I still love you, but…”
Ged’s mind flitted to the beautiful Lizard Lady. “I love you too, but…” he stammered.
Tara began to laugh a soft, tittery laugh. “We have been foolish,” she said. “Both of us. I want you to get to know Lord King here. He’s a very special man, and he rescued me when my life was at an end.”
Ged stepped forward and bowed to the young ruler.
“I owe you a great debt for saving Tara,” he stated simply.
Raylond King’s eyes dipped downward. He blushed delicately, like a woman. “I didn’t do it for you…”
“It’s all right,” said Ged. “She never was mine to be jealous over. I am honored to meet the one who will be her partner in life.”
King now took a turn at bowing.
“What will you do with the child?” Ged asked Tara.
“She will be yours, more than mine,” said Tara. “As soon as she is old enough to be independent of me, we will send her to you. The planet Gaijin? Is that right?”
Of course, she already knew it was right. She only asked that of Ged to be polite, sensitive to the fact that she automatically invaded the privacy of his mind every time they were both in the same room.
“I am happy for you,” said Ged sadly.
“I am happy for you, too,” said Tara, almost as wistfully.
“Waitaminnit!” cried Mong in frustration. “He’s a leader of your enemies! Kill him! I demand that you kill him now!”
“Actually,” said Ged, “He’s my new ally. He will administer this planet for us, and I will gladly turn you over to his custody.”
Emperor Mong fainted dead away. Rocket and Phoenix extinguished their fire. Shu Kwai let all his small swirling stones settle to the ground. Freddy actually began to purr.
“Thank you, Ged Aero,” said King. Ged smiled. He knew this man was the perfect choice to take care of Tara. The planet would change dramatically under his stewardship.
“Oh! Ged!” cried Tara suddenly. “I found the most terrible thought in Mong’s evil head! Your brother Ham was trapped by Admiral Tang at the battle for the planet Coventry!”
“Ham has found a way out of serious situations like that on his own in the past. I am afraid I have to depend on him to do it again. I have these responsibilities to care for… as well as a doomsday device from the Ancients to deal with.”
While the adults were talking, Jackie had sidled up near Tara where she could look at the baby.
“She’s beautiful,” Jackie said. “Can I hold her?”
Tara handed the baby to her almost without thinking. Without talking aloud she said to Ged, “You must spend some time consulting with us about the planet, the joining with the New Star League, and what to do with Mong. We will also talk about how we are going to help you complete your quest with the doomsday thing.”
“What is the baby’s name?” Jackie asked.
“Amanda King,” said Tara aloud.
“Amanda Aero-King!” declared the baby loudly in everyone’s mind.