In an attempt to keep the story moving, I'm going to change the posting schedule a bit.
Rather than hold to a full-chapter Monday, I'll be posting every section as we complete it through the book's final action. That could occur on more than just Mondays, so be sure to stay on track by visiting the Libra Gambit main page.
Want to learn what happened in The Gemini Hustle? Click HERE and download the first book of The Zodiac Files FREE.
Chapter 38 Pt. 1
For the most part, Siane remained silent as she and Harry continued on towards the lift he meant to take to level forty-two.
Her one comment—on the number of locked doors they’d passed and the lack of guards roaming the corridor—was met with a short, “Part of the plan.”
Harry didn’t elaborate, and Siane chose not to press for more.
She remembered how non-verbal Harry could be when in a mood, and he was in a mood now.
Siane didn’t know if she should be impressed or appalled at how familiar she found Harry, from the bright and bitter concern seeping from his every pore, to the keen-edged blade of his purpose, to the mossy, forested sense of shelter she knew grew over a chasm of loneliness so deep he nearly echoed with it.
She recalled all that, and more, from their brief time together, but it was the chasm she recalled most clearly.
That, and how she’d wanted to fill it.
What she didn’t recall was the hint of smoke weaving through his senses now, so strongly she caught herself checking her surroundings for any hint of fire.
Finding no external source, she focused her attention on Harry, who’d just come up short in front of the lift.
“Locked,” she noted aloud, as the doors failed to open for them. “Was that also part of the plan?”
“Sort of,” he said before addressing the lift’s call-pad with the cryptic, “There’s no place like home.”
“Depends on the home, doesn't it?" she asked.
“There’s kind of a theme going,” he explained, sounding pleased enough that, even without her empathic senses in play, she’d have known he hadn’t been certain that his little code phrase was going to work.
Chaos theory indeed, she thought, joining Harry in the lift.
She waited for him to request the level of the maintenance bay before speaking again.
“So,” she began as they watched the deck numbers flash over the door, “what you do with yourself when you’re not staging prison breaks? In space,” she added, before he could.
“Oh, you know, the usual. Pursuing criminals, going to war, pursuing new criminals. Wash, rinse, repeat.”
“Please, don’t say wash,” Siane said, indicating his pristine uniform. “Nothing like the near occasion of cleanliness to remind me how foul I am.”
Harry glanced over. “You could never be foul.”
“Gallant, as ever,” she said, knowing that, this time, the itch between her shoulder blades had nothing to do with being between shower cycles and everything to do with the fact Harry meant what he said.
She stared at the numbers… wondered if the lift could possibly go any slower. “Pursuing criminals. Does that mean you’re still a marshal?” she asked, returning to the original topic.
“Not anymore,” he said in a tone far more easy than the emotions beneath. “And yes, I’m fully aware of the irony: lawman goes rogue in order to save the woman he loves from prison.”
“Could make a great holo vid,” Siane offered, choosing not to acknowledge the L word. “But on that note, how did you know I was even in a prison to be saved?”
“Right. About that,” he said, and as he did she picked up a hint of pallo, a Rasalkan spice Harry would have termed vanilla. “I’m here because—“
“Because Fayla sent you,” she said, as the scent re-formed into an image of the woman she named. Her brows rose, and her lips twitched, because the image was not only very emotionally charged, it was also lacking any clothing. “Harry,” she said, thumping him on the arm. “Two Rasalkans in one lifetime? You do get around.”
“Ah,” he said. “Well. I can explain.”
“I bet you can,” Siane assured with a small smile as the elevator slowed and bobbed to a halt. “But explanations will have to wait.” She gestured to the lift doors, as the firefly flutter of other sapients touched on her awareness. These flutters of emotion told her that, unlike the hallways of the ore processing level, the scooper repair hanger was occupied. “We’re about to have company. Very anxious company,” she added, her senses expanding to encompass the fear and antagonism of a handful of Libra staff, gathering around the doors of the lift, which, until this moment, had been locked against them.
Not unlike, she thought, the way she'd been locked away from her own gifts.
At her side, Harry’s own emotional landscape flattened, leaving nothing but that keen-edged blade of purpose—that, and the lingering wisps of smoke.
Again, Siane wondered about the smoke, but had no time to ask, as the doors opened to reveal a party of wild-eyed Libra staff—security and techs all armed with batons, pulsers, spanners, or cable hitches raised to fight off whatever monsters might emerge.
“Allow me?” she murmured, laying a hand on Harry’s arm.
He shot her one quick look, and she felt his acquiescence even before his chin dropped to grant it.
“So, it’s a monster you want?” Siane asked, drawing all eyes, and weapons, in her direction. “Then a monster you shall have,” she promised, reaching out and, with the most casual of efforts, plucked the worst of the worst nightmares each held.
Nightmares they all, no doubt, believed to be hidden safely away.
But Siane had learned long ago that there were no doors, no boxes, no prisons strong enough that they could not be opened by the very fear that had locked them away in the first place.
It wasn’t until that moment, as the first screams began to echo through the scooper maintenance bay, that a smoke-thin trail of another fear caressed her… and she understood.
Spinning, she turned to see Harry watching her, or rather, watching a vision of her—one Siane herself had planted in Harry's memories long and long ago, and which even now rose to overtake him, as real and terrible as in the moment she’d first planted it.
The vision of herself, dying.