“Things have got very complicated.”

Dax opened his eyes, looking up at the dim painting on the ceiling of the Chapel. The interior was dark, the globes no longer lit. He realised he could hear low voices. His first instinct was to speak up and join in the conversation. Then, on a hunch, he decided to listen instead, pretending he was still asleep.

“We should have been prepared for the Evinthei running into us,” Kaire was saying, quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m all right.” That was Athellus’ voice, very soft. “Bit of a headache, though, on top of everything else. Adree was trying to do some digging.”

“Did she find anything?”

“No. I kept her out, put up a good fight.” There was a pause. “Speaking of which, what’s the deal with your new friend there?”

Dax tensed, straining his ears.

“I met him in the outskirts. He was being attacked by a pack of Earthborn…at first I thought he was you.”

“He’s Sundered, isn’t he. I saw the scar through the tear in his shirt.”

 “Yes.”

“How much does he know?”

“Barely anything. Just enough to explain what he’s seen. I think he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He knows I’m not human…”

“Anything else?”

Kaire gave a short laugh. “I’m hardly going to pour out my soul and life history to some stranger. There’s some things even I don’t want to think about. Like Marchion…”

“Well, what are we going to do with him? The mission’s got to come first, regardless of the mess we’re in.”

Kaire’s reply took a while. “He’s not just a Sundered, ‘Thel. He said he’s been ill, that he dreamed about the city, before he ended up here. He dreamed about us, you and I. That must mean something.”

“It could mean anything. Dreams are important…”

“For banru, maybe. He’s – I don’t know what he is, or what he’s really doing here. All I know is, I want to help him out. And besides, I’m the one who found him. I’m responsible.”

“Have the people upstairs said anything about him?” Athellus wanted to know.

Dax held his breath, listening.

“Not so far.”

“Great. So we’re stumbling around in the dark. And our mission’s in jeopardy.”

“Not necessarily.”

“You’ve got a strategy?”

“More of an idea. It involves a little fact-finding.”

“That might help. But we can’t get into the Evinthei computer network. All the codes I knew would have been changed years ago. Besides, the Evinthei computers will have my fingerprints on file. I’d probably get electrocuted if I tried to use one.”

“I was thinking along the lines of something a tad more powerful. Something that the Evinthei can’t touch, but might be able to mess with them.”

“What…” Athellus’ voice trailed off. “Good grief, Kaire, you’ve got to be joking.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Why not? What about the risks –“

“Keep your voice down.”

Athellus’ voice dropped so low Dax had to strain to hear. “You’ve never been capable of coming up with a sane plan…What about the risks? You want to burn your brains out? Or worse -”

“I can handle it – “

“More a case of how it handles you…”

“Look, you need time to rest. A few days at least. I can spend the time building up my strength, and it’s not as if my mind isn’t strong to begin with.”

Kaire paused, then went on, quiet and intense. “Athellus, I can pull this off. And unless you’ve got a better plan, we’re all out of ideas. Are you with me on this?”

Athellus’ voice become harsher and softer at the same time. “Hey. Hey, now. When we teamed up, I told you I would always back your play. Always. And have I ever broken a promise to you?”

“No.”

“No. So if you really think you can do this, I’m with you all the way. It’s just – someone has to be the voice of caution around here. I don’t want to see you hurting yourself for no reason.”

"I appreciate that.”

"So do what you have to do. But be ready, and be sure about what you’re doing.”

“Of course I will.”

“Then I’m with you. One hundred percent.”

There was quiet for a little while, when Kaire continued. “There really is something odd about him…I don’t know what it is. I wonder if there’s anything we can …’Thel?”

Deep breathing filled the silence. There was a rustle as Kaire curled tighter underneath the blankets.

In the dark, Dax lay quite still, his heart racing. He hadn’t understood all of what he had heard, but he had comprehended plenty. Enough to unnerve him, at least.

There was nothing he could do for now. Still uneasy, he turned over and rested his head on the pillow. It was a long time before he slept again: mercifully, for once, a sleep without dreams.

 

 

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