The smell of death. Certainly, not one of my favorites, but it’s true: you can get used to anything. Eventually I start to doze. There is nothing to be done.
Somewhere, out there, our people are moving, re-organizing, figuring out what to do next. They will know we are missing. Our rescue will be on their to do list. It won’t be hard for them to figure out where we are. My mission is to stay alive and silent, until I feel them getting close. Then, we make short-range contact and they get us out.
It takes forever. It takes very little time at all. I feel Calinda with relief and gratitude. Her team has us out in quick order. We carry Gray’s corpse with us. There will be farewell rituals for others as well, once more pressing matters are handled.
We are not widely scattered, in makeshift camps secluded in mountain valley woods. Not easily noticed, in position to be alert to intruders, we can take a breath and plan.
The word is that Kore was able to escape in the confusion surrounding Janna’s death by torture. The mercs’ soldiers were able, obviously, to get the compound’s location quickly before she succumbed, but probably not much else. The disorganization she projected in loud agonized vocal and psychic screaming cut short their interrogation. Kore somehow accessed the discipline to race out, mind tightly shut, into the crowd outside the holding room. He and Janna had only been taken a short distance by the soldiers, to a secured room in the Imperial Hotel, which the soldiers had commandeered when they arrived in the Carnival city for their use while putting in place their pre-Carnival security operations.
They let him go, or he got away. We aren’t sure yet. It is believed that he is hiding in a secured squat used by our agents as a sanctuary from the barrage of psychic impressions on the streets.
“A place much like your vacation hole,” Calinda laughs to lighten our grimness. That’s Calinda, always moving to ease the uncomfortable, while never flinching from harsh truths.
“We need more intel, what the mercs are planning, just how much they know about our operations. Yet, after all this … They must be on high alert, watching for us.”
I tell her Gray’s plan, to infiltrate the Central Command Guard as a ghostly whisper in his bio-twin’s ear, and mine — the one to unobtrusively suggest, the other to pass on intel from the inner sanctum.
But, how to get in there? As a flimsy ghost, he needs very close contact to even find his bio-twin. He is linked to me. I would need to get close enough to the Central Command Guard for Gray to make the connection. Yet, they are on alert, watching for us. I would be captured, possibly killed, certainly have my knowledge compromised, before I could even get close enough to do any good. Not to mention, if I am killed so is Gray, his one psychic link destroyed. A conundrum, perhaps a mental labyrinth. There must be a way.
Leave it to Reag, the consummate tactician, to take up the task.
“Dorie, my dear, it seems to me that if we must put you in the lion’s den without them sussing your true identity, we need to send you in, as it were, deaf, dumb and blind. I seem to remember a schizophrenic bag lady of my acquaintance not too long ago. She walked the grimy streets in undetected elegance. Well, except for her old, dear friends who knew exactly whom to look for. And, believe me, it was not without great difficulty that you were found out, even with our advantages. Some random crazy in a crowd will be easily overlooked by the arrogant Command crew.”
At this point I expect Calinda to break in with my defense. Instead, she turns to me, grasping my shoulder while penetrating with her beautiful loving gaze into my eyes, my mind.
“You know he’s right, Dorie. We realize how hard, dangerous, this will be for you. We need to make this work. It’s our best shot at survival. We all know what’s at stake, why we are fighting this horrid, interminable war. Win or die.”
I know Reag’s views are somewhat different; more like win, then die. But it’s Gray’s death I am remembering. This is his shot. This is what I promised, his dying wish. How can I offer any less? We must strategize, get this right, make a foolproof plan, and execute it. It is not “win or die.” There is no option but to win.
“I’m going to make this happen,” I affirm to the ghost flitting about in a corner of my mind.
“No, we will,” he assures me.