was probably all there were on Diomedes: sufficient to keep scores of
native dupes like Eonan going, who in their turn led thousands.
Though are they dupes? she thought drearily. Merseia would like to see
them unchained from the Empire.
No. That isn’t true. Merseia doesn’t give a curse. They’re cheap,
The office was cramped and bleak. “Sit,” Glydh ordered, pointing to a
chair. He took a stool behind a desk. Snell settled on the left; his
eyes licked her, centimeter by centimeter and back again.
“Khraich.” Glydh laid his hands flat on the desktop, broad and thick,
strangler’s hands. “An astonishing turn of events. What shall we do with
you?” His Anglic was excellent.
“Isn’t this, uh, Captain Flandry more urgent, sir?” his subordinate
“Not much, I believe,” Glydh said. “True, from Vymezal’s account via
Eonan, he appears to be capable. But what can he know? That she
defected, presumably joining a remnant of the underground if she didn’t
perish en route.” He pondered. “Maybe be isn’t capable, at that–since
he let her go, trusting her mere self-interest to keep her on his side.”
Hoy? Chives said Flandry is famous … No. How many light-years, how
many millions of minds can fame cover before it spreads vanishingly
“Of course, we will have our cell in Thursday Landing keep him under
surveillance, and alert our agents globally is he leaves there,” Glydh
continued. “But I doubt he represents more than a blind stab on the part
of somebody in the opposition. I don’t think he is worth the risk of
trying to kidnap, or even kill.”
“We may find out otherwise, sir, when we interrogate Vymezal in detail,”
said the man. He moistened his lips.
“Maybe. I leave that to you. Co-opt what helpers you need.”
“Um-m-m … procedures? Treatment? Final disposition?”
“No!” Kossara heard the yell and felt the leaping to her feet, as if
from outside her body. This was not real, could not be, must not be, God
and saints, no. “I am not a, a Terran agent–I came here to–at least
I’m a prisoner of war!”
“Sit!” Glydh’s roar, and the gunshot slap of palm on desk, flung her
back like a belly blow. She heard his basso through fever-dream
distances and humming: “Don’t babble about military conventions. You are
a slave, property we have acquired. If you do what you are told, there
need not be pain. Else there will be, until you are broken to obedience.
Do you hear me?”
Snell’s fingers twisted together. He breathed fast. “Sir,” he said, “it
could be a long while before we get a chance to send a report offplanet
and ask for instructions about her. So we have to use our own judgment,
“Yes,” Glydh answered.
“Well, considering what was originally intended for her, and the
reason–sir, not a woman among us in this whole region–”
Glydh shrugged. His tone was faintly contemptuous. “Quiz her out first
under narco. Afterward do what you like, short of disfiguring damage.
Remember, we may find use for her later, and the nearest biosculp
laboratory is parsecs hence.”
I will make them kill me! Even as she plunged toward Snell, fingernails
out to hook his eyeballs, Kossara knew Glydh would seize her and not let
The explosion threw her against a wall. It made a drum of her skull. The
floor heaved and cracked. Snell went over backward. Glydh flailed about
to keep his balance.
Faintly through the brief deafness that followed, she heard screams,
running, bang and hiss of firearms. Ozone drifted acrid to her nostrils,
smoke, smells of roastedness.
She was already out of the office, into the central chamber beyond. At
its far end, through the passageway which gave on the garage, she saw
how the main door lay blown off its trunnions, crumpled and red-hot.
Beyond was the ruin of the cannon. Men boiled around or sprawled
Enormous shone the bulk of a suit of combat armor. Bullets whanged off
it, blaster bolts fountained. The wearer stood where he was, and his own
As she broke into view–“Kossara!” Amplified from the helmet, his voice
resounded like God’s. His free hand reached beneath a plate that