Through Fire – Snippet 15

Piracy Preferred

And he left me. Standing alone in the middle of his perfectly decorated room, with its white carpet, its polished pine shelves, its low, cushiony seats, its broad glass doorway facing the sea, I tried to think of what to do next.

I didn’t realize I was furious until I noticed the images forming at the back of my mind were of kicking my way out through that glass doorway to the terrace and–

And what? Plunging to the sea below? The idea made me smile, because it was so much the act of a romantic lover, and I wasn’t one — certainly not Simon’s. But what else could I do? Challenge Lucius to a fight. The thought came and for a moment there was a feeling of relief, because Lucius was definitely someone I could with impunity be furious at. If I lost control and attacked him, he’d probably stop me before I landed a single punch. He was as fast as I was, and as strong. No, stronger, because behind his enhanced capabilities were his not inconsiderable bulk and his not inconsiderable masculine advantage.

But then if I attacked him, I’d get no satisfaction either. And besides, what could I get him to do? Send a rescue party for Simon? He’d said he couldn’t, and I remembered Simon telling me that when Nat was captured and condemned to death, the Usaians had refused to help. Lucius and one of Nat’s sisters had gone in, and the young woman had died in the attempt. I remembered that story particularly because Simon had been affected by her death and seemed genuinely fond of her. He’d said she was like a little sister to him.

I took deep breaths. Lucius might have been unpleasant about Simon — had been unpleasant about Simon — in saying no, but he’d also said, and I had to believe it that his “no” was more dictated by circumstances than by his dislike of Simon. And he had to know more about what had happened in Liberte than I did. Could I swear there was no reason at all for him to say that Simon had brought this on himself? Could I even say that Simon’s intentions had been good?

I realized I’d been clenching my fists so hard it hurt, and let go.

Granted that Simon was not the best person in the world, for whatever the definition of “good” might be. I knew that he was manipulative and deceived others and possibly himself, but I also knew how he’d come to it. Whoever had said to know all is to forgive all was a child and an idiot. I could understand most crimes without in the least thinking they were forgivable. But there was a point to it. Up to a point, if you could understand how someone had got twisted and turned inside, you had to forgive them, because — what else could you do?

In Simon’s case I could see all too well how he’d gone astray — how desperate he’d been to survive. And from what I’d heard, from himself and from others, if a Good Man were taken down, it wouldn’t just be him dying, but most of his retainers and dependents. It wasn’t just sheer selfishness and desire to keep himself alive that led Simon to do what he did, to play the fool, to dissemble, to act — often — like saving his skin was the most important thing in the world.

I doubted that it had never occurred to him, Earth born and bred, that as large as this world was he could just have left Liberte, he’d have had plenty of places to hide. Perhaps — I thought — as spoiled as Simon was; as used to being in power and having everything he wanted, it would have seemed like dying for him to go away, perhaps, leave his power and privilege behind, and have to do more than sign forms for a living. On the other hand, considering how many years he’d lived with the dire threat to his life from the other Good Men, even Simon might have considered it a better option.

Then I realized if he’d gone into hiding, Liberte would have been taken over and all his retainers and servants destroyed.

Seen that way, it was almost altruistic for him to stay in Liberte and to pretend to be a fool and inoffensive.

If that was his motivation, then trying to control the revolution he knew was coming was the only thing he could have done.

I had no proof that Simon had ever done anything — much less that — for altruistic reasons. But I remembered his face, his screaming at Alexis to get me out of there. He could have found a way out. He could have disappeared. Or he could have demanded Alexis defend him and die protecting him while he made an escape. Instead he’d chosen to see me safely away.

That action alone argued in favor of a man who had been trying to do the best he could for his dependents and those who couldn’t survive without him.

And that meant–

And that meant, inescapably, that I couldn’t leave him to die.

Even if I didn’t really have a chance of saving him, I’d tried to get help, the sane thing to do. It hadn’t worked. Only the insane thing remained. I had to do it alone.

I didn’t like the conclusion. I didn’t want to go back to Liberte. Lucius Keeva had said it would be suicide, and there was a very good chance he was right. I remembered those heads on poles. Once madness sets in and crowds are out for blood, a place won’t be safe until sanity is restored, and judging from historical reports of such events, that could be years. Or decades.

The French Revolution wasn’t the model for this. The Turmoils were. They’d taken almost twenty years to burn themselves out.

And they’d only really stopped the insane killings when the Mules themselves, experienced and trained at crowd control, had taken over under a new guise again.

They’d gone on long after the mobs had killed every bio-improved person that could be easily spotted and onto killing anyone who was a little too beautiful, a little too fast, a little too smart, though not smart enough to hide it.

But Simon had been captured, and if Lucius — and Alexis — were right, then he’d be used as a bargaining chip in a power game. But bargaining chip or not, he was going to end up dead.


I realized that as satisfying as kicking out the plate glass — if it wasn’t transparent dimatough — window of Lucius Keeva’s room might be, the thing to do was to get out of here as quietly and as quickly as I could, and to find my way back to Liberte.

Fortunately, Lucius had left that option open by telling me I could go anywhere I wished in the house, provided I didn’t upset the guards.

I went back to the bedroom and found my slippers, and put them on my bare feet. They were the dance slippers I’d worn to the ball. Immensely impractical, but better than nothing. Then I tried to think through what I’d need.

Money. That was the first thing. I’d need cred gems. Preferably unmarked credgems. And I’d need weapons, and I’d need — I sighed — to get a lot of awful hair dye again and perhaps a dress even more awful than the pink one.

I had nothing to sell. Robbing Keeva seemed foolhardy, and at any rate what, other than his liquor, could bring any substantial money?

I eyed the cut-crystal decanters with their mysterious contents, and then told myself it was stupid. I had no idea what liquor was good, or even expensive, on Earth.

Then I thought that Simon had opened an account for me. Not much — at least not by his reckoning — but enough to get me immediate necessities or little luxuries if I went out shopping alone.

I’d never gone shopping alone. Unlike most women, I’d never understood the purpose of shopping for its own sake, and he insisted on giving me things before I’d even expressed an interest in them.

But I remembered there was an account with the main bank of Liberte — Finance de Liberte — and that it was coded to my genetic print.

I wondered if the revolutionaries had taken over banks. I didn’t think so. Not yet. They were still very much in the phase of breaking things and killing people, and I doubted they’d thought of more sophisticated things, like hacking into bank accounts.

So, I needed to find a bank.

I headed out of Keeva’s lodgings, in the sort of purposeful walk that makes people assume you know what you’re doing. Which, of course, is particularly important if you don’t.

I wandered purposefully down three consecutive corridors, until I glimpsed what looked like daylight. At which point I collared the impeccably uniformed and very young man guarding the doorway and said, “Pardon me, could you tell me the way to the nearest bank?”