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.” The chief grimaced.“Hell, they can barely talk.Apparently even when they had the chance tonight, they almost didn’t make a run for it.It took a lot of courage for them to do what they did.”Translate ‘Make a run for it,’ I thought.In this context, it means ‘attempt to escape,’ my node answered.No wonder the chief said they had courage.Just to think of escaping, they had to break years of conditioning.“You help them?”“As much as we can,” he said.“When the boy is released from the hospital, we’ll send them to Earth.They’ll have a host family there and counseling to help them adjust.”At least some benefit had come from the mess I had made tonight.The providers had sanctuary, that word the Allieds liked so much.Earth chose no side in the war between my people and the Traders, granting asylum to anyone who gave cause for needing it.I had always regarded them with suspicion because of that.Their sanctuary struck me as a convenient means for Imperial trouble makers to evade the authorities.Tonight I saw it differently.The providers were in a private room.I recognized them as soon as the doctors ushered me in.They looked like fraternal twins, both about eighteen.The boy lay in the bed, propped up on pillows, and the girl sat in a chair next to him, showing him a holobook.They jumped as the door opened, their faces going pale.I came forward slowly.“My greetings.” I spoke Eubian, a language of the taskmaker castes.It was named after Eube Qox, Jaibriol’s great-grandfather and the first Emperor.Eube was also the word the Traders used for their empire, the Eubian Concord.That name had to be one of their more specious creations.I doubted enslaved worlds like Tams Station felt any “concord” with their unasked-for masters.The girl watched me with eyes the color of pale seashells.Her brother sat up slowly.He wore pajamas, but I saw the welts on his wrists and knew worse hid under his clothes.I didn’t want to imagine what his owner had done to him—and owner was the right word despite the Aristos’ attempts to convince the rest of the universe that their providers were “favored subjects” rather than slaves.The youth spoke with diffidence.“Are you the one who came to the house?”I nodded.“I’m glad you got out.”The girl said, “We’re sorry we caused you so much trouble.”“We really are sorry,” the boy said.“We didn’t mean to be a problem.”I couldn’t believe they were apologizing to me.“I’m sorry I couldn’t have come earlier.” Say eighteen years earlier.“We won’t cause any more problems,” the girl said.I gentled my voice.“You never made any problem.”The longer I talked with them, the worse I felt.They kept apologizing.Their minds were open, unprotected; I knew their shame at having been providers, at having caused a commotion, at just plain having been.To say they didn’t like themselves was the understatement of the century.The marks the guard had left on them went far deeper than welts.Hadn’t the heartbender I saw ten years ago, following my experience with Tarque, said similar to me? No, I didn’t want to think about that.After we left the hospital, the police released me.They could have deported me for breaking their laws, but they showed no inclination to do it.I had a feeling the one they wanted to deport was the guard who pressed the charges, the man who had owned the two providers.As I walked to the Inn, I brooded.When I thought of Rex, it hurt.I couldn’t let my memory of Jaibriol become a wedge between us.Nor could I bear the knowledge that the one man who could be my Rhon mate represented everything I most hated.I doubted Jaibriol’s father recognized the irony, that in trying to create the ultimate weapon to destroy my people, he had produced a remarkably decent human being.Jaibriol’s life, once he openly assumed his position as the Emperor’s heir, would be hell.He would have to live as a Highton, trapped among a people who would sicken him.To survive he would have to become, in all appearances, just like them.If they ever learned the truth, they would turn on him in a way that would make the life of the two providers I had just met seem gentle in comparison.What would happen to Jaibriol when he realized the truth?I already knew the answer.I had seen it in my half-brother Kurj, even in myself.The capacity of the human soul to harden was boundless.I didn’t want to imagine Jaibriol as he would become.I wanted to remember the extraordinary man I had met tonight.Maybe he would retain enough of that humanity to meet a Skolian Imperator at the peace table someday.He was the only Highton Emperor I could imagine genuinely talking peace with us.And that was why I could never reveal that Jaibriol was a Rhon psion.I had melded with him.It was an experience my half-brother Kurj would never share.Even in the immensely unlikely event that the opportunity presented itself, Kurj would never consent.And without it, he would never accept my conviction that Jaibriol was our one chance to stop this war.If Kurj ever learned Ur Qox had sired an heir who could take control of the Kyle-Mesh, he would never rest until he stood over the Highton Heir’s body, preferably after Jaibriol died an agonizing death.I could barrier my mind to hide what I know.But it would raise a wall between me and everyone I loved.Rex would realize something was wrong.He would never guess the truth but he would know something had changed.It was past midnight when I walked into the velvet and giltwood lobby at the Inn.As I passed the front desk, the clerk looked up from the holobook she had been dozing over.“Excuse me, ma’am,” she said in English.She pulled out an envelope out form under the counter.“This was delivered for you about an hour ago.”That was odd.Who on Delos would send me a note in the middle of the night? I took the envelope.“Thank you.”As I walked toward the stairs, I tore open the envelope.The handwritten note said: I must talk to you.Come to dock four in the harbor.It had no signature.Damn.I was exhausted.The last thing I wanted was to go run around the harbor.I went back to the desk, where the clerk nodded over her book.“Miss?”She opened her eyes.“Yes?”I held up the envelope.“Who this come?”She peered at me.“Pardon me?”I had never understood why the Allieds asked you to pardon them when you were the one being indecipherable.“This note,” I said.“Who with it come?”“A man.I don’t know who he was.”“How he look?”“Black hair.Dark eyes.He sounded Croatian.”“What Croatian?”“It’s a language from Earth.”Why would an Earth man ask me to meet him at a remote dock in a sea harbor? It was crazy.I should go upstairs and sleep.But I wouldn’t rest until I found out what he wanted.So once again I headed outside.It took ten minutes to reach the harbor, which lay southeast of the Arcade.Breakers rolled in over knife-coral reefs whose spires jutted out of the water, some as tall as a person, others soaring into the air for ten or more meters [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]