Part 2: Loose Ends
My thoughts consisted mostly of fart noises and grunts until I returned to the water tower. I’d lost Osret. Fate had him, and their investigators were the exact people I didn’t want investigating me. I suppose Osret might keep his mouth shut, but he had nothing to gain by silence. He’d killed two people, but he could probably pin that on me.
Who was the lady in white? An operator from the Bureau of Sanction, I guessed. I didn’t know her, nor her name. My connection to Fate wasn’t useful.
But I didn’t think that was a weakness. I’d been a glorified file clerk. I didn’t know either of the two operators, and Fate’s profile on me consisted of attendance records, dietary preferences, and pay stubs. Mos Eir probably had a note in there that I liked bad coffee.
Look, I’m a college student. I like liking bad coffee. The longer I can go enjoying the swill I drink, the better, because I don’t have anywhere near enough money to appreciate the good stuff. My favorite flavor of coffee is lots.
‘Who was the lady in white?’ I thought again.
After admitting to myself that I had no meaningful information to base a guess on, I did some wild speculating. I didn’t know if Fate could monitor directly through the clouds. My file-clerking hadn’t exposed me to Observation much, but from paperwork, I had the impression they observed through literal watching from the stars. So maybe she had needed to be close and when things degenerated, she was already nearby.
She’d looked like she was wearing nothing but a splash of milk.
Self. Self. Shut up.
I examined the Drowning Breath of Ogden. This was a named blade, one with weight and history. I did know the weapon, and to touch it, something spoke that history in my mind. It was a blade for revenge that called itself justice. It wanted to be used.
I thought it was going to get its wish.
The water tower hadn’t moved, which was expected but still nice. I climbed the ladder, popped the door open, and found someone sleeping on my pallet. Feet stuck out of the bottom of the blanket, and a wrapped head lay on the pillow. The open door cast very little light. He wasn’t snoring but breathing hard.
“Who are you?” I demanded out loud. Sickness and death, be done with it.
The breathing stopped.
“Kog?” asked a voice.
His word took a while to cut through my thoughts. His voice took even longer.
“Jermaine?” I asked.
There was gasping, stuttering breathing, and someone fumbled on the pallet. I reached out and found an arm.
“Jermaine?” I repeated.
The son of Koru and leader of the assassins said, “Kog?”
It was he. He lived.
Jermaine sat up, unwrapped himself from blankets, and faced me.
He looked terrible. He been beaten within an edge of his life. He stank of sweat, burned hair, and sea salt. Jermaine resembled Koru the way Seraphine didn’t. His super power was growing facial hair. His scruffy beard was thicker than anything I could grow, and it reached down his neck to the chest hair above the blanket. Not length, mind you. There was just so much hair that there was no break between scalp, chin, neck, and chest. He had a big nose, heavy brows, and wide shoulders.
He’d slept with something in one hand, something long and heavy that whacked the floor with a rattle. It sounded like steel wrapped in leather.
I ignored it for the moment.
Jermaine sat and breathed. “How much did you see?”
“A little, from the distance.”
“It was one of his sisters. She saw us when we were too far away.” He sighed. “We went, of course. We had too. We even got Mallens down. But they say us coming. It was his sisters. They spotted us.” He paused before asking, “Did you find any of the others?”
“From Sunrise Group?” I asked. They’d have been the more easterly group, the group that had hid right on the edge of the water.
I asked, “What of Sunset Group? Any of them–”
“None. It– we– it ended suddenly. He struck us down. No one made it.”
“You—” I meant to say ‘you made it,’ but he cut me off too quickly.
“I hid. He didn’t get me. He can’t see too well in the dark, almost as bad as Otomo. We knew that. He stomped, and he missed. His foot broke the earth, drove rock, houses, and trees down. He broke the ground. He missed, but the shock of it nearly got me. I went down.”
“Oh,” I said again.
“I woke up and found my way here. I found the package, ate the ambrosia. I couldn’t find any others. Were you looking for it?”
“Just collecting things,” I said.
“Oh. The other packages?”
“I need it,” said the Prince of Rats.
I thought of Koru. I thought of his son, Jermaine. I thought of Osret and my secrets, the living assassin, and Mallens, Lord of the Titans.
Jermaine carried a blade in a black sheath. No doubt it was a heavy, single-bladed saber with a straight back, forged by Hasso. I’d just gotten another one. Jermaine was weak, injured by the strike of Mallens. I had been shot, but Jermaine was weaker. The Celestial had eaten ambrosia and slept, and he would mend. But right now, I was stronger.
He would never see it coming if I killed him. And they deserved it, after what Koru did to me.
It would be justice.