my kith, my kin, I give you Matthew, Fiona, and Stephen Dexter."
The shroud came off. Time slipped for Bester, a weird plummet between heartbeats.
He sat in a tree, at the age of six, watching the stars, searching for the faces of his parents. Sometimes he could see a hint of them, of his mother's eyes, a suggestion of auburn hair, an echo of her voice.
He was older, on Mars. The oldest and most successful of all the rogues, Stephen Walters, lay crushed against a bulkhead, one leg bent under him in a very strange way, one arm missing at the elbow. He still had his mask on, but Bester had the distinct impression the eyes behind it were open.
I know you, Walters psied.
The hairs on the back of Bester's neck stood up. I was in New Zealand, Bester replied. I tracked you here.
No. Before that. I know you. Oh, God in heaven. It's my fault. Fiona, Matthew, forgive-
It paralyzed Bester. The sense of familiarity was like a drug. It wasn't pleasant, it was horrible, but he needed it somehow. Somehow-somehow it was a piece of him that was missing.
What are you talking about?
I know the feel of you. I saw you born-after all I had done, after all the blood on my hands, but they let me watch you come into the world, and you were so beautiful I cried. You were our hope, our dream-
My name is Alfred Bester.
We called you Stee, so you wouldn't be confused with me. They gave you my name, made me your godfather. Your mother, Fiona, how I loved her. Matthew, I loved him, too, but God- a terrible spasm of pain stopped him then, and almost stopped his heart. Bester felt it tremble. It was me that lost you, Walters went on. I thought I could save them, but they knew they wouldn't make it. All they asked was for me to get you out, keep you free, and I failed them.