“Well… we heard about Garbeton. How he was killed out on Lailenus Street. And we were – um…” Konna looked uncertain. “We were wondering if that was because he –“

“No.” Adree sat on the edge of her stool and regarded her class. “Garbeton was a good officer and a good man. He was not killed for disciplinary reasons. A death like his is recorded as a ‘pre-emptive kill’, and the officer involved is cremated and buried with honours.”

“Can I ask -?”

“Yes. It’s important that you know.” She tried to think of the best way to approach this.

“Well, the name ‘Ormian Amtino’ should be familiar to you from your history classes, right?” Nods at this. “Well, historical psychiatrists can debate his condition as much as they like; that period is notoriously undocumented anyway, and losing the Archive didn’t help. But Amtino’s mental state had direct bearing and indelible impact on the history of Nones. And now in recent years, as you’ve probably heard elsewhere, reports have been trickling back, showing an increase of individuals known as ‘banru’.” Adree wrote the word on the board, still seated, and underlined it.

“Now, we don’t have much intelligence regarding them, and little of it is local; our intelligence operatives have had to Gate out for it, so it’s unreliable. Our best record is from the Scorpieth attack, and in that instance the banru shunned contact with the Entourage. But what we have indicates, at the very least, a degree of influence on individuals from… outside forces.” She looked askance for a moment. “The symptoms do bear at least a degree of resemblance to what happened to Amtino.

“Add to that the fact that banru experience a heightening of their natural talents and appear to be following some variety of higher plan, and that Nones has experienced more than one banru incursion during our history… they present an unacceptable security risk. And… after… recent events… we’ve become aware that ‘ban-reth’, as it’s called, is almost always initiated after the individual is grievously hurt, and we have no way to be sure that it is voluntary. In all cases.

“Therefore, to save our officers from an invasive procedure, essentially a forced conversion, in cases of critical injury the officer in question is euthanised. It is called a pre-emptive kill because of the chance that, as a banru, the officer may turn on his own people and force them to take him out anyway, for their own protection.”

Another hand was raised. “Did that happen to Captain Telcane?”

“No.” Adree shook her head. “Captain Telcane died as a result of his wounds from the Taugen, which is unfortunate because euthanasia might have spared him some pain. In his case, there was a chance Padrin – Captain Telcane – could have regained consciousness, and given us vital intelligence regarding the Taugen. However, his vitals were monitored constantly for any rapid and unexplained healing, which is the key sign of ban-reth.” Adree swallowed. But the name was well known among the Evinthei; it was hanging in the air now, though no student wanted to be the first to speak it. Not in front of her. She needed to take her medicine.

“The last officer we lost to ban-reth was Athellus Borden. His case, unfortunate though it was, gave us the valuable insight that enabled us to form this policy. Because of him we have lost no more officers to ban-reth, only to honourable deaths. And we’re hoping he will be the last we lose.”

She looked toward another raised hand, then spotted a figure outside the classroom, visible through the glass panel in the door. There were other shadows behind him, other students leaving their classes. She checked her watch. “Okay. We’re just out of time. Sorry about that – hold your questions and page me later. Three chapters from your textbook Four Trial Histories: Event and Elocution for next time.”

 

 

 

Outside, Captain Arawn Lessinger – Padrin Telcane’s friend, who should have been his brother-in-law - was waiting for her. “I heard about the Forum,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I’m not out of it yet. Did you take the DNA sample to the Archive for me?”

“Yeah, but there’s a problem. It’s as we suspected – looks like the Librais did have a connection, right into the Archive through a back door. And whatever that woman did, the feedback blew a bunch of circuitry.”

“Oh no -”

“Oh yes. We lost about a week of analytical data and the Archive’s crashed. It’s going to be a while before that sample becomes priority enough.”

Tired of bad news, Adree ‘listened’ to his mind for a second. “Well, if you’ve put the sample on ice, and tagged it as red-starred with my name attached there wasn’t much more you could do. I’ll go down there later, maybe I can speed things up.”

“I guess.” Lessinger folded his arms. “We scattered Padrin’s ashes. Sorry, I know you wanted to be there.”

“How’s Rachelle?”

“Well, not surprisingly, she’s devastated.” Lessinger shook his head. Adree could feel rage seeping off him, red and raw as grated skin. “I’m so sick of those idiots in the Forum. They’re sending good people out to die, and for what? Because they think animals can be negotiated with. The sooner you’re in power, the –“

Adree cupped a hand over his mouth, only half playful. “Watch it. Any more and I’d be writing you up for insubordination towards your superiors.”

“Superiors?” said Lessinger, bitterly. “The only one who’s my ‘superior’ is your father. And he can’t

be everywhere while he’s sick

keep vetoing what they say. This is nonsense. If he’s in charge he should be able to give orders and make them carry them out, not the other way around.”

Adree looked away. “I’m not one to talk. I’m officially on probation at the moment.”

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about. No one’s better equipped to catch Borden than you. Never mind what other people say. They weren’t there. And what you saw – that’s big news, worth delaying your op for. But all they care about is public opinion, not to mention their own careers. And you can quote me from the rooftops on that, I don't care.” Lessinger paused. “There was something else...”

“Ugh. I don’t think I can take much more.”

“It’s not bad. Just weird. A clearance crew’s reported some territorial shifting in the southern ruins.”

“Oh?”

“Earthborn on the move. Boundary markers have been torn down here, there and everywhere and put up again in new spots. Might be nothing, just some herd movement or whatever, but I know you’ve got an interest in what those animals do.”

“That's odd. It might -” Adree’s stomach suddenly growled, and she laughed at herself. It felt good to laugh; it quelled the bitterness somewhat. “That’s my cue to think about something else. I’ll see you later.”

 

 

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