This part originally appeared in the June/July 2014 issue.
151st of 2029 (342-97): In Jump
I woke in what passed for our sick bay, a converted stateroom. Ariaryn was in the other bunk, still unconscious. Isabella saw I was awake and came over. “Here, thought you might want this.” She handed me a slug. “A centimetre to the right and it would gone straight through your liver.”
I looked at the metal bullet. “Thank you.”
“It’s my job.” Something was clearly bugging her.
“Why did you bring him back? You know he’ll never able to go home.”
“Would you rather I shot him?”
“Might have been cleaner. At least I got to choose my fate.” Her anger was obvious.
“You don’t mean that.”
“No, probably not, but he’s not going to have an easy life now.”
My turn to be irritated. “At worst, he’ll be an honoured guest.”
“Oh, yes, an honoured guest of the Lord Protector. Let me tell you something, your precious Protectorate is not as shiny and nice as you’d like to believe. If they think you’ve got something they want, they’ll get it, honoured guest or not. And they keep you on a leash, better you behave, the looser they hold it, but it’s still a leash.” There was hurt in her voice, so much hurt.
“But he’s not got anything they’d want?”
She snorted “He’s a marquis’ son, that is something in itself. They’ll hand him over to the PEIS or PSB35 when we get back; he won’t last five minutes with them. And pray, just pray, he doesn't end up in Sesh Liryn.”
I was confused. “Sesh Liryn ? What the hell is Sesh Liryn?”
“Sesh Liryn is hell.” There was so much pain in her eyes.
“I’m sorry. It seemed like the best option.”
She sighed “It’s okay; I’m sure he’ll… adapt, in the end. And yeah, I’m sorry, too.”
“Where is he?”
“Siish has him locked in a stateroom while he figures out what to do with him. We’re in jump now, left as soon as you two got back. So he’s fine for the moment.”
“I'll go see him.”
She looked hard at me “You came about a banish’s leg from dying. You are not leaving here for at least a week, doctor’s orders.”
153rd of 2029 (344-97): Ministry of Justice Offices, Winchel
Special Agent Fakri Vu reviewed the evidence, such as it was. Not a lot to go on, one security camera outside the alleyway, some badly degraded DNA, two dead bodies and a heap of personal files. The young woman was a known radical, probably a terrorist, the other one of young Lord Trace’s minders. The camera clearly showed Trace firing three times. Neilsson had been shot three times in the back, obviously one went with the other, there was already a warrant out for that. But who was Trace aiming at after that and who were the other two in the alley? Assistant Director Mushiika entered “Any progress, Fakri?”
“Not much, sir; we’ve got Trace and Neilsson outside the alley on camera, a dead terrorist in the alley and two unknowns.”
Mushiika pondered. “Protectorate agents?”
“That would be a safe bet sir. But the real question is what were Neilsson and Trace doing there.”
“Lots, none of them make any sense.” Nothing about this made much sense.
“Do you think young Lord Trace has been turned?” A marquis’ son, the political fall-out would be huge.
“It would seem possible sir. We know he travelled on a Protectorate ship, the Raledenet, and he clearly aided two Protectorate agents. I interviewed his other escort,” Vu reached for a file, “Yoshi Takawa. He said Trace had become infatuated with one of the crew. It would fit.”
“But the Traces are staunch Makerites, hardly the type to become traitors.”
“I've often found people with a very clear cut vision of right and wrong can be swayed by moral concerns. Unfortunately, the crew member concerned was one of the victims of Interrogation Centre Seventeen and that hardly presents us at us at our most moral. Takawa does mention the crew made a point of informing Trace of the details.”
Mushiika was clearly annoyed. “Damn Darant and damn that centre. It keeps coming back and biting us.”
Vu smiled. “I believe, Admiral, Darant has already paid for that mistake.”
“Flag the Raledenet as ‘of interest’ and bring Trace back.”
Mushiika nodded. “See to it personally, Fakri.”
158th of 2029 (349-97): Layover on Ashmaze
I’d gone to Siish before seeing Sakuya. Isabella was right; he wouldn’t last five minutes with Intel. “Siish, Sakuya, any idea what will happen to him?”
He looked peeved. “You should never have brought him back; you were a fool. I imagine the PEIS will want him and I pity him there.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do? I mean your mother?”
Actually annoyed this time. “Run off to Mother and ask for help? Dinkir, you made a mess; it’s too late to start having second thoughts.”
“I couldn’t very well have killed him!”
Calm and cold. “Yes, you could have, and you probably should have. We can’t let him go, he knows too much.”
“He saved my life, Siish.” I was pleading. “Did you find the bug he made?”
He chuckled. “Eventually, though it took Jane and I hours. A piece of work, I tell you; he’s got talent there alright. Intelligence will be very interested in it.”
“Siish he won’t survive if PEIS get hold of him, please.”
Siish looked at the console awhile and then sighed “OK, dinkir, for you. I’ll talk with Mother and see if anything can be done. But no promises and you owe me for this.”
I grinned. “I already owe you for a lot of things Siish.”
I knocked on Sakuya’s door and entered the code to unlock it. “Come in.” He was sitting on his bed looking miserable but he smiled when he saw me “They told me you were okay, Ariaryn too, thank the Maker.”
I smiled back “Yep, though Ariaryn has our puff-up lungs to thank.”
He looked at the deck. “What’s going to happen to me?”
I sat on the bed next to him. “I don’t know, Sakuya.”
“I’m not ever going home again, am I?”
“You knew this when you asked me to help you, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.” I really was, but I couldn’t undo it.
“Doesn’t matter, Siish lets me read the news.” He pointed at his terminal. “They want me for killing Anna anyway.” He sounded so resigned, the guilt was tearing at me. “I can either stay here and spend the rest of my life as a prisoner or go home and be executed.”
“Siish is going to talk with his mother.”
He shrugged “Isabella tells me the Protectorate treats its prisoners as honoured guests, guess that can’t be too bad. She keeps coming to see me, trying to cheer me up.”
I took his hands “Yes, yes we do, Sakuya, and it’s not that bad. Even if we can’t do anything, it’s not that bad.” The image of the pain in Isabella’s eyes kept coming back to me.
He snuggled into my shoulder, his delicate frame pressing against me. “I really messed it all up, didn’t I?”
I stroked his hair gently, trying to comfort him “No, Sakuya, you didn’t. You saved my life, I’ll never forget that.”
He started to cry, “What am I going to do, yasva?”
I stroked his check with the back of my left hand and ran his down mine “You can start by stopping calling me yasva.”
“What should I call you, then?”
“You could try my name.”
He laughed through the tears, “Afira Renal Wilhem Corig Corig Seshyishinti36, it’s a bit of a mouthful.”
“Then just call me Afira.” He smiled.
35. Protectorate External Intelligence Service and Protectorate Security Bureau. The external and internal intelligence services respectively.
36. Seshyishinti translates as Pilot.