Changes of Mind
This part originally appeared in the September 2015 issue.
226th of 2029 (052-98): Askiafant War Memorial, Daramm
It was raining, a light pleasant fall. I liked the rain. I’d spent the two weeks since the events on Raledenet here in Askiafant. Time with the t’yasa1, telling stories and listening. Eeryn Yasvati had let me help out. It helped, a bit, but I still had nightmares. Not only of him laying there, his blood spreading, but of Sesh Liryn. I thought I'd left those behind long ago. I shuddered; I’d killed him, but he still had power over me.
I heard footsteps. “I thought I’d find you here, my dear,” her voice was calming; odd… “Why don’t you go in?”
“I like the rain, mother. I find it…” I paused, “cleansing.”
“The Luriani word for rain is?”
Her voice wasn’t quite questioning; I didn’t understand her point. “Mother?”
“That is the short form of what?”
“Ydarammtoaali, Daramm’s tears.” It clicked.
“You are more one of us than you realise.”
I wept. She said nothing, just embraced me softly, as a mother should. “I’m sorry, Nashu.”
“No, my dear, that is one thing you should never be sorry for. No Luriani, not even we stuffy Mmarislusant, should ever apologise for tears.”
I clung to her as I wept. She gently stroked my hair saying nothing. Time, it seemed, stood still. She just held me in the rain as the tears just came.
I drew a breath and composed myself. She dabbed my eyes dry with a tissue “Old wounds have a way of flaring occasionally, do they not? But it does not mean they are any nearer than before.”
She always had a way of finding the right words. I drew another breath. “Yes.”
She kissed my cheek. “Your brother is looking for you. He has a meeting with Kirsov Geenal-Lekhtenant. I believe he wishes you to attend.”
I sighed, “Suppose I’d better get going.”
“I told Siishubuu you would meet him there.”
I looked at her suspiciously. “Mother… what are you up to?”
She took the slightest step back and tried to look offended. “Up to? My dear, what ever could you mean?” but she could not suppress her smile.
I placed my hands on my hips. “Up to, mother.”
Her smile broadened. “Vu Agent will need to be repatriated and requires an escort to ensure he… cooperates.”
“And you wish me to provide his escort? Siish will not take kindly to losing his dokhtor, mother.”
“Who said anything of the sort? Vu Agent will need to be transported on a… trustworthy vessel.”
I laughed. “He will take even less kindly to that, mother!” She just smiled. “So, Mother, why us?”
She put on that oh so innocent look. “I need a ship I know and can rely on absolutely. I have plans for him.”
I knew there was a lot more to this than that. No doubt she did have plans for him, but I also knew there was little point in pushing. “I suppose there is no point in asking what those plans are?”
“All in good time, my dear, all in good time.”
227th of 2029 (053-98): Protectorate Military Detention Facility 21, Daramm
Mother was getting irritated. This was not a good thing, especially for the young korneet who was irritating her. “Raslee Korneet, do you know who I am?”
She gulped, her voice almost a squeak, a mix of fear and embarrassment “Yes, My Lady!”
Mother spoke through clenched teeth, “Then we may proceed!”
Raslee Korneet shrunk into her chair “I’m afraid not, My Lady, your papers are not in order.” You could hear her trembling.
Mother lost it in a most un-Mmarislusant fashion: “Korneet, do you want to spend the rest of your career scrubbing out algae ponds on Yasant?”
Her voice a whisper now, “No, My Lady.”
“Then let us through!”
The Korneet’s eyes were locked firmly on the floor, her voice almost imperceptible. “Even with a white five clearance, your companion still requires authorisation from Sung Kolant in charge of detentions.”
Mother screamed, “Get me Sung Kolant now!” the emphasis she gave the word now left no doubt she meant that delay may have been fatal.
Raslee Kornet tapped a few buttons on her terminal; a rather flustered middle-aged man appeared on the screen. He appeared annoyed. “I left strict instructions I was not to be disturbed!”
“Kolant, I… I… I’m afraid to bother you but there’s a… situation that requires your presence here.”
The kolant’s face twisted and you could see the anger rising. “Raslee! I don’t care if all the Gods themselves are there, deal with it!”
Mother smiled and stuck her head in front of the monitor, “No Gods, Kolant, just me.”
Sung Kolant’s face seemed to freeze in place. Then he spoke haltingly, “I’ll be right there, Lady Councillor Manish.”
Sung Kolant had been surprisingly flexible once he arrived. It took less than a minute to get me not only authorised to enter but to escort the ‘prisoner’ out of Protectorate territory. I felt a strange mixture of trepidation and excitement as we approached Agent Vu’s cell; I could understand the trepidation, but not quite the excitement. There was also a tinge of fear, an old fear. Places like that always give me that sense of fear, especially after the events of the last few days. The image of Rinni laying there in a pool of blood had sprung into my mind when we entered the detention block. It disturbed me.
“Are you all right, my dear?”
“Yes, mother, why do you ask?” Clearly my discomfort was more obvious than I thought.
She looked at me “Yes, I imagine these places would be distressing for you. I am still so sorry.”
I forced a smile. “It’s okay, I’m sorry, too. The war was bad for a lot of people.”
She gently took my hand; a mother, my mother. “If you ever need to talk, you do know, yes?”
A smile, not forced. “Yes, Nashu, thank you.”
I was lost in thought when the heavy sound of the lock drove a shiver through me. I flinched, then found my hand in hers. I turned and only the slightest warm smile, a mother. The door slide aside and there, in a three by three metre cell, he sat. He appeared to staring at the ceiling aimlessly, but I could almost hear his mind turning over. I wondered what was occupying it.
He stood and nodded politely ever so slightly “Ah, Madam Manish, Manish Wa, always a pleasure. I assume you’ve come to… further help determine my fate.”
“Your fate has been determined, Vu Agent, within hours of… your slight… oopsy, as it happens.” Mother really did have a habit towards euphemism. But then again, so did a lot of Luriani.
“You will, of course, excuse me if I’m not at all surprised.” You really had to listen to detect the pessimism in his voice. “So, how long will I be an honoured guest of the Protectorate?”
“As long as is required for you to walk out this door, Vu Agent. Despite the… indiscretion, you still have many friends here. Myself included.”
While his relief was as well hidden as his prior pessimism, his surprise was not. “Free to go?”
That particular slight smile, the one that says ‘not quite’ came over Mother’s mouth. “We thought you would wish to return to the Imperium promptly, since your… sightseeing is concluded. So we have taken the liberty of arranging passage for you.” A slight pause. “A token of our appreciation for your honourable nature.”
He chuckled, “Yes, of course, My Lady.” His turn to pause. “I will be accompanied, I assume?”
“Why, yes, Vu Agent; we thought it prudent. We wouldn’t want anything ill to befall you now?”
“And I assume, again, I’ll be meeting my travelling companion shortly?”
I swear, Mother beamed, “Immediately; you will be travelling with my daughter. Oh, and my son.”
More than a chuckle this time, “Oh, I am sure he’ll be delighted at that.” He turned to face me. “But I will be delighted to spend a little more time in your company, Manish Wa.” There was an unfamiliar warmth to his smile.
I returned his smile “And I, you, Vu Lul.”
228th of 2029 (054-98): An apartment in Antiavash
I’d not slept well; nightmares. They were rare now, but still they came sometimes. To be honest, I’d been having a few, lately, and they were wearing me down. I was pouring myself a coffee when my ‘guest’ woke. I must have looked terrible, still in my dressing gown, hair tousled from my restless sleep. For some reason this made me uncomfortable.
“I must say, Manish Wa, your apartment is rather comfortable. Best sleep I’ve had in weeks. I hope you slept well, too.”
“Yes, I normally do,” I lied.
“Ah, coffee, a delightful aroma in the morning. May I?”
“Certainly, feel free.” He poured himself one. “Whitener fridge.”
He paused as he opened the door. “Have I done something to offend? You seem rather curt.”
“Too much blood in my coffee stream; I’m not a morning person.”
I found myself smiling at the chuckle that elicited. “I shall remember that, Manish Wa, and ensure an adequate supply is always on hand.”
I nodded in response, “I have a meeting to attend, so you’ll be on your own until about three this afternoon.”
“As I said, your apartment seems more than comfortable, I’m sure I’ll cope.”
“No need to stay here; if you wish, some excellent shops and food here in the archology.”
“I am allowed to wander freely? The Protectorate is rather more relaxed about security than I’d have thought.”
The very slightest giggle slipped from my lips. I looked down in an effort to hide it. “You will be watched.”
He drew a breath of acceptance. “Yes, I understand.”
I casually tossed a credit chip on the counter. “Should be more than enough for an afternoon on that.”
He picked it up surprisingly gingerly, “Your mother’s generosity is surprising.”
“Not Mother; me.” For some reason I wanted him to know. “And only proper for a host here.”
“But 20,000 keedits?”
“I am more than… comfortable, financially.” For some reason I wanted him to know that, too.
“And from my understanding of etiquette in the Protectorate, it would be exceedingly rude on my part to refuse.”
“Indeed, Vu Lul.” I found myself smiling and unconsciously trying to straighten my unruly hair.
“My thanks, and I shall treasure the honour you do me in this gift, Isabella Sanchez y Montoya Wa. I believe that is correct?”
“You should use my Luriani name and professional title, Isabella Manish Khaadii Mmarislusant Dokhtor, but close enough. You are most welcome, and do me great honour in your acceptance, Fakri James Vu Agent.”
“Thank you, Isabella; I am touched. If I might, the custom of my people in such circumstance is to kiss. May I?” There was a genuine warmth.
I was aware of the customs of the Sesheryn, but still somewhat taken aback. I sighed, attempting to feign resignation. “If you must.”
“I must, Manish Wa.”
I found myself blushing as he lightly kissed my cheek and try as I might, could not suppress my smile.
228th of 2029 (054-98): Dteejkal archology, Daramm
I know they’re safer than flying, but I’ve always found V-trains2 unsettling; the idea of travelling that fast that close to a solid wall is a little disturbing. I guess most people never think of it. But it takes less than an hour for one to cover the 4,000 km from Antiavash to Dteejkal. It’s the closest archology to Central Command, a good place to meet. A small diner for brunch; Ariaryn was playing with his food, so fussy, speaking softly. Guess it goes with being a cook.
“I think Impee food would be better than this.”
Afira looked at him, her voice flat. “No. Three and a half years, trust me on that.” That killed that conversation.
Ariaryn's eyes fell downwards, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too, Oommin.” I chuckled; she’d taken to calling him that. Somehow a small cute cuddly bear-like creature that would rip your throat out seemed to fit him.
I sat between Jane and Sakuya. “So, where is our beloved kaptan?”
She looked up from whatever she was eagerly devouring. “Delayed at the bank, apparently. Seems our funds are now sufficient to warrant ‘personal attention’ which somehow seems to make things take longer.”
I picked up a menu. “Think I’ll try the mreeso.” Arairyn sniggered. “What?”
“Well, a bit tame.”
I sighed; five years I’d lived here, but I’d still not got the taste of Luriani cuisine down. “I prefer my food without high levels of toxins that will make me vomit.”
“Try the shiritsho; Verasti Dtareen, so perfectly safe, but a bit more bite.”
A smile. “I’ll stick with the mreeso.”
My order had just been delivered when Siish finally arrived. Jane rounded on him as soon as he sat “So, Why did the bank take so long?”
“They wanted to discuss ‘investment options’. Seems over ten million keedits should be invested, according to them.”
Sakuya was his usual eager to please self. “Oh yes, my father always insisted on wise investments, safe with secure returns. I can give you a list of his favourites, if you’d like.”
Siish’s eyes bored into him; he looked, then broke contact. Eyes down, his body drew into itself, his voice almost disappeared, “sorry.”
Afira drew him into a hug as she stared daggers at Siish. “It’s okay, it’s okay, honey.”
Siish got the point. “It’s okay, Sakuya, I’m so sorry, too. You can tell me later.” You could hear the concern and compassion in his voice. Sakuya didn’t look up. “Honest, later I’d like to hear.” Sakuya looked up and smiled slightly.
Afira broke the tension. “So, Siish, what’s the plan?”
He was glad of the change of topic. “Pretty simple. Kirsov has another job for us. We go see him, find out the details, then go do it. Should be straightforward.”
Jane snorted “Simple and straightforward, yeah, right.”
“Should be; fly into Imperial territory, find a wrecked cruiser, retrieve the datacore, come home. What could go wrong?”
Ariaryn’s turn to show his skepticism. “Yes, easy, just like delivering a suitcase.”
Okay, so now was my time to put a spanner in the works. “Errr… hate to tell you this, Siish, but Mother has meddled.”
He just looked at me with those oh dear god eyes he gets when Mother is mentioned. “Ohhhhh… should I ask?”
“She wants us to repatriate Agent Vu.”
Swear the entire diner looked. “What?!”
I repeated myself. “She wants us to repatriate Agent Vu. And no point in fighting it. What the head of the Security Committee wants, the head of the Security Committee gets. At least when it comes to Protectorate Security.”
Jane was even less impressed. “He tried to kill us!”
“No, he didn’t. He actually went out of his way not to, Ikark3.” I looked at Ariaryn, stunned.
Jane did not appreciate that from her lover and her look made that plain. “I don’t have a problem with it, personally. I think underneath it all he’s an honourable man. He is Sesheryn, after all.”
Siish simply coughed; ‘accidentally’ the conversation stopped. “So, Isabella, Mother wants us to be the ones to repatriate him; why? And for that matter, why is he being repatriated in the first place, instead of spending a few decades as an honoured guest of the Lord Protector?”
“He is being repatriated because he did something really big for us during the war. No I don’t know what; Mother wouldn’t tell me, but it must have been absolutely enormous. And why us?” I paused to think. I had a suspicion as to the real reason. She was exceptionally perceptive, especially when it came to her children. And she just couldn’t help herself but meddle in our lives. “She wants it to be an ami she can trust totally. She has plans for him. No, I don’t know what.”
He just sat, staring off then sighed, “No point in fighting it. But I just hate Mother’s plans, never go well, do they?”
Sakuya didn’t take this well; he almost disappeared as he sunk into his chair. Afira had already taken his hand and I leaned into him. “It’s okay, it really is okay. You’ll be safe and he won’t take you. All of us will make sure of that.”
2. An ultra high speed maglev train travelling in a tunnel kept in vacuum. Often used for mass transit systems on high population worlds. The V-trains in use on Daramm at that time could reach speeds of up to 5,000 kph and circumnavigate the entire world in less than eight hours.
3. A term of endearment. Old High Vilani for a type of fruit pie.