Damn! Flandry thought. I ought to stop letting him startle me.
“My friend,” the other went on gently, “you too play a satanic role. How
many lives have you twisted or chopped short? How many will you? Would
you protest me if the accidents of history had flung Empire rather than
Roidhunate around my sun? Or if you had been born into those humans who
serve Merseia? Indeed, then you might have lived more whole of heart.”
Anger flared. “I know,” Flandry snapped. “How often have I heard? Terra
is old, tired, corrupt, Merseia is young, vigorous, pure. Thank you, to
the extent that’s true, I prefer my anomie, cynicism, and existential
despair to counting my days in cadence and shouting huzza–worse,
sincerely meaning it–when Glorious Leader rides by. Besides … the
device every conqueror, yes, every altruistic liberator should be
required to wear on his shield … is a little girl and her kitten, at
He knocked back his cognac and poured another. His temper cooled. “I
suspect,” he finished, “down inside, you’d like to say the same.”
“Not in those terms,” Aycharaych replied. “Sentimentality ill becomes
either of us. Or compassion. Forgive me, are you not drinking a trifle
“Since you won’t get so drunk I can surreptitiously turn off your
mindscreen, I would be grateful if you stay clear-headed. The time is
long since last I relished discourse of Terra’s former splendors, or
even of her modern pleasures. Come, let us talk the stars to rest.”}
In the morning, Flandry told Susette he must scout around the globe a
few days, using certain ultrasensitive instruments, but thereafter he
He doubted that very much.
Shadow and thunder of wings fell over Kossara. She looked up from the
rolling, tawny-begrown down onto which she had come after stumbling from
the forest. Against clouds and the plum-colored sky beyond, a Diomedean
descended. She halted. Weariness shivered in her legs. Wind slithered
around her. It smelled of damp earth and, somehow, of boulders.
An end to my search. Her heart slugged. But what will I now find?
Comrades and trust, or a return to my punishment?
The native landed, a male, attired in crossbelts and armed with a knife
and rifle. He must have been out hunting, when he saw the remarkable
sight of a solitary human loose in the wilds, begrimed, footsore,
mapless and compassless. He uttered gutturals of his own tongue.
“No, I don’t speak that,” Kossara answered. The last water she had found
was kilometers behind. Thirst roughened her throat. “Do you know
“Some bit,” the native said. “How you? Help?”
“Y-yes. But–” But not from anybody who’ll think he should call Thursday
Landing and inquire about me. During her trek she had sifted the
fragments of memory, over and over. A name and nonhuman face remained.
“Eonan. Bring me Eonan.” She tried several different pronunciations,
hoping one would be recognizable.
“Gairath mochra. Eonan? Wh … what Eonan? Many Eonan.”
There would be, of course. She might as well have asked a random
Dennitzan for Andrei. However, she had expected as much. “Eonan who
knows Kossara Vymezal,” she said. “Find. Give Eonan this.” She handed
him a note she had scrawled. “Money.” She offered a ten-credit bill from
the full wallet Flandry had included in her gear. “Bring Eonan, I give
you more money.”
After repeated trials, she seemed to get the idea across, and an
approximation of her name. The hunter took off northward. God willing,
he’d ask around in the bayshore towns till he found the right person;
and while this would make the dwellers curious, none should see reason
to phone Imperial headquarters. God willing. She ought to kneel for a
prayer, but she was too tired; Mary who fled to Egypt would understand.
Kossara sat down on what resembled pale grass and wasn’t, hugged herself
against the bitter breeze and stared across treelessness beneath a wan
Have I really won through?
If Eonan still had his life and liberty, he might have lost heart for
his revolution–if, in truth, he had ever been involved; she had nothing
more than a dream-vision from a cave. Or if he would still free his