By R. C. Capasso
“You will help me, Tenrec?” Ginaya’s voice was soft, low.
I wanted to, and she knew it. Oh, she had no special psychic sense but she was beautiful as only a Lorcan female can be, and she’d probably never met a heterosexual Lorcan male who didn’t want to help her. Or please her at least.
I’m not quite average, but in this instance I fell in line with all the rest. Even though I knew better. “I need a little time to look into this. See the lay of the land.”
Her eyes widened and the silky white crest running from the middle of her forehead rose up and quivered over her cranium and down to her shoulders. “You don’t believe me.”
I tilted my head. “It’s not that. I want to see how things stand. What the authorities know. You’d be surprised how often it’s better to do nothing and let a case fizzle out. Getting a private investigator involved makes cops curious.”
“But they’ll know I’m innocent. I’m not worried about the police. It’s just I’m not sure they can do anything, and I so much need to know who killed Ereno. I don’t have much money yet, till the estate is settled, but I can pay.”
I waved my hand dismissively, just as she expected. Someone like her doesn’t pay for things, does she? Literally or figuratively. “I’ll look into the situation and let you know.”
“But when? I can’t sleep, thinking about it. About him lying there…”
I glanced out the window. The buzz of street life was just ramping up as the second moon slipped above the horizon. “I’ll start now. Expect me at your place tomorrow at noon.”
“You’ll know by then? You’ll know who did it?” Her eyes widened so irresistibly.
“I’ll be able to tell you what I can do, if anything,”
She rustled out of the office, giving me one long look from the door. An actress could not have done it better. Even the way she slipped her filter over her face was provocative. Putting something on, to make you think of taking it off.
I sat back down at my desk as the door closed behind her. The calm attitude I’d shown to her face fell away.
Coming to me was her first mistake. She said she’d heard I was good. Well, I am. I’m half Chalean, which means I can read minds. A nice advantage for a P. I. Especially since no one knows I can do it. Good for business, even if it’s bad for life. In this case, bad for my client.
Because I knew she’d killed her mate. She did it for the money, aiming a scrambler at his temple while he worked from home. I saw the whole thing through her eyes.
Besides the body of her mate, one image swelled up to dominate Ginaya’s mind: the scrambler. My guess was that she wanted me to dispose of it. Or, better yet, plant it so someone else was found guilty.
That was something I would never do. Not while I was in my right mind. But since I promised to meet her tomorrow, my mind was clearly not right. My neat Lorcan seven-digited foot had stepped off the righteous path. And I didn’t know where I was going.
For the time being the only advantage I held was that she didn’t know she’d exposed herself to a telepath.
Thanks to the vagaries of genetics, I don’t look Chalean. I don’t have the bluish tinge around the crest, the extra digits or the distinctive gills. My heritage lies internally, just a hidden organ or two and distinctive mental abilities. Externally I pass for Lorcan. And I’m not ashamed to take advantage of the fact. It’s saved me from the repressions enacted on Chaleans since the Chal Ban Acts of 2801-4. I don’t have to live behind the walls in the compounds or register every triad. I carry I.D. without a chip, and as long as I never need a doctor to take blood or look into my gullet, I’m safe. Free to walk around like a normal. Just so no one gets too close.
And yes, I’m good at my work because I can tell if someone is cheating or lying. I can sense where a runaway is holed up and where Grandma put her will. I know what my client really wants, and I only take cases I can live with. Until now.
I slipped on my filter. One of the advantages of being half Chalean is that I can breathe the poisoned atmosphere of Lorchal. True Lorcans can’t. You’d think this physical disability would lead to their being the weaker species, but it didn’t. They were the ones who created the poison with their industries. As the technology advanced, they found ways to protect themselves, from portable filters worn over the head to entire filtered, clean structures for their living and leisure. They used the need to protect themselves as a justification to monopolize resources and funds and to employ the best and brightest minds to build an immense technological state aimed solely at their health and advancement. The hardy, simpler Chaleans kept falling farther and farther behind in all ways economic, social and political. All we have is good lungs and psychic ability. Oh, and walls to keep us away from the ruling Lorcans.
All this to say that I don’t need a filter, but I’ve always worn one. To pass as Lorcan. To stay away from the walled camps.
I had a contact with the Security Corps. Detective Psilo had benefited from my insights a few times back before he got into the Homicide Division. I called him, offered a cup of coffee, and he agreed to meet. Somehow we’d always been able to conduct our business without my needing to go to his office. I was 90% sure I could pass through the security scanners of the Peace and Order building with no difficulty. Even the highest grade current scanners only detect anomalies in cranial features, gills, digits, skin color and temperature. I didn’t expect them to be able to measure my lung quality or the small organ in my throat. But you never know when a bureaucrat might order an upgrade. Lorcans advanced daily in their quest for enlightenment and dominance.
We met in a small refreshment station two blocks from the P and O complex. I arrived first, picking a booth facing the door and half darkening the window beside me. I can read anyone anyplace, but I like to concentrate my faculties when I’m working. Going into the station is a nightmare, almost as bad as a hospital. Too many minds, too much drama.
Psilo parked his anti-grav spinner in a space near the door and ambled in. He had put on a pound or two since we last met, but he was still in his prime. I felt the tidy, almost geometric quality of his thoughts. Some minds are so disordered they make me queasy. But Psilo read like a book, well indexed and with clean margins.
We spent a minute with perfunctory greetings. But Psilo and I were both on the clock. As soon as the bot delivered our drinks, I got to the point. I told him straight out that I was working for Ereno’s widow.
“Well, that’s a vote of confidence for the Corps.” He didn’t seem surprised.
“Hey, I told her you guys could handle it. But I do have to make a living.”
He gave a slight nod. “Sure. I get that. And I suppose you want to know what we know.”
I’d already read him from the moment I said the name “Ereno,” but I looked hopeful. “If you can point me in any direction.”
He gave the basic facts: Ereno’s brain destroyed by a scrambler, no obvious clues, no witnesses, a grieving widow.
Psilo’s faculties were so focused on verbally reproducing the bare file that I couldn’t grasp how he’d reacted to Ginaya. I poked into his thoughts a bit. “Did the widow give you any leads?”
“She was overwhelmed. Not really coherent.” The detective’s brain called up an image of Ginaya, but somehow in his eyes she was only beautiful. I barely recognized the dazzling seductress who’d sat opposite me. I remembered that Psilo was married. His wife must really be something, to render him half blind to other females. Or maybe I was just a weaker specimen.
There was only one more question to ask, and I hated to do it. But I had to know if anyone else would be approaching the case in my particular manner. “Have you tried everything?”
Psilo gave me a look.
With our telepathy, Chaleans would seem natural assets for the police, the military, industrial espionage, etc. However, Chalean religion and ethics forbid our use of our abilities for any unethical purpose or any invasion of the mind of another unwilling sentient. We’re supposed to use it only to establish communion and harmony with one another. I guess I’m living proof that not all Chaleans follow these beliefs. A few scarred souls get used by the Lorcans during civil unrest, major crime investigations, and everyday politics. They’re outcasts from all levels of society, but they serve a purpose. It’s not uncommon to bring one in, like the Ancients used dogs to sniff for clues.
Psilo showed disgust. “I don’t think we need to sink that low. Standard police work will clear this up.”
I nodded. “Good man. I’m sure you’re right. But do you mind if I have a look around? The bills don’t pay themselves.”
He smirked. “I don’t see you making any money if we solve the case. But give it your best shot.”
“I’ll share anything I find.”
He waved me away, dismissive.
So the police had no leads and they weren’t using a telepath to cut corners. That left the field pretty clear for me to work with Ginaya as I chose. If I helped her, or even if I just stood back and did nothing, she had a good chance of getting away with murder.
For once I might have wished the cops were better at their job, even if it cost me income. My profession isn’t pretty, but I don’t go looking for moral dilemmas.
Being a private eye works for me because I can use my skills and stay at the edge of society. I have no employer or co-worker to get close and start asking questions. My clients never look too closely, either. They’re all caught up in their crises and just want to use me for their purposes. As soon as possible they forget me, along with the worst things that ever happened to them. A good system for all of us.
My mother was Chalean, so my gifts come from her. I’ll never understand why she went with my father, since she must have foreseen he’d leave us. That she’d give birth to a mixed species child who couldn’t be with either community. Maybe she couldn’t help herself. Maybe the need to connect to someone—anyone, even if it would all end in disaster—was more than she could resist. With Ginaya’s face in my mind and her voice in my ears, I was beginning to understand.
I showed up at Ginaya’s place at noon as promised. Overnight I’d scouted her security system, and it was high quality but nothing for me to fear. Scanners rimmed all access points, but I only had to flash the guest pass she had sent me and the lights blinked off, the force field shimmered away. Inside there would be no further security. For multiple reasons Lorcans value their privacy. No electronic eyes would see what happened within their walls.
Ginaya’s home rose up like a minor palace. I expected the door to swing open automatically, with maybe a bot to take my hat. I didn’t expect a live Chalean to open the door. People with moderate funds have various bots to do their work. The filthy rich like to employ sentient beings. How superior can you feel to a hunk of machinery?
I didn’t meet the servant’s eyes. Convention dictates that you don’t notice them; they don’t expect it from Lorcans. And I had to pass as Lorcan. But a shiver thrilled down my back and I dropped my hat just to cover it. There was a blank coming from him, like I’d just walked by the edge of a chasm. I bent slowly, retrieving my hat, mentally palpating the space where his senses should be pulsing. Nothing.
I stood slowly and put my hat in his outstretched hand. No flash in his eyes. Not even a question. Just a flat, empty forward gaze.
He was Chalean by birth. But he was no longer a Chalean psychic. Someone, probably his deceased employer or his current mistress, had put him through an illegal process. Illegal but popular among the wealthiest Lorcans. He’d been restrained and wheeled into a small, bright room full of equipment where his mental properties had been incised. The worst was that he’d been conscious during it, a requirement of the surgery. He left the little room a telepathic eunuch. Every criminal household should have one.
It took me a minute to get my head together. I should have expected her to live this way. I should have set the meeting on my turf. But I wanted to see the crime scene, confirm what I’d read in Ginaya’s thoughts. Or, to be completely honest, I wanted to get closer to her. Without her mask, where her scent would fill a room, where any little knickknack could help me read her better. Where she’d feel at ease and open herself to my reading. It was careless, it was unethical, it was invasive. Telling myself that she was a murderer and that I was in search of justice eased only a fraction of my conscience.
The rest of my conscience gave up and died as she walked into the room.
She’d dressed to seduce. Gone was the coquettish but street-legal suit she’d worn to my office. Now she wore something long but filmy, a dress that flowed over her like water. It was as pale blue as the streaks down her flanks, just the right color to make you wonder where fabric ended and flesh began. Not the garment to wear to a business meeting, if you planned to play fair.
She just planned to play. It didn’t really take a telepath to get that. Only the image of her holding that scrambler over Ereno’s crumpled body kept me from being carried away in that first moment.
“Tenrec.” She said my name and came forward, holding out a hand.
I took it, feeling her ripple through me. “I’ll take the case.”
She almost laughed. I must have sounded like an adolescent Corps cadet, leaping to attention. Then her eyes softened appropriately, and she looked down, still clasping my hand. “Oh, thank you. You’re my only hope.”
“Can I…?” I swallowed and pulled my hand away. “Can I see the crime scene?”
She lifted her eyebrows. “If you like.”
“I am trying to find who did this. I might pick up a clue.”
She bent her head in acknowledgment. “I’ll call a servant.”
I lifted a hand to forestall her. “No servants, please. Just point me to the room. You don’t have to go in.”
She studied me. “No servants? Do you suspect…?”
“Nothing can be ruled out right now.” I hated the idea of handing the Chalean doorman to her as a patsy, but I had to play the role of suspicious investigator. I couldn’t just give him a pass. Besides, there was something metallic and hard in her thoughts. She had already chosen the one she would frame. We just had to do a little dance before we got there.
She led me down a hall, the floor Jancon stone and the walls covered in Caissor silk. If she turned out to be as good at crime as she was at marrying for money, I’d have my hands full.
She stopped near the end of a hall and touched a panel in the wall beside her. The wall dissolved, opening a doorway into a large, unlit room.
“Lights.” The room illuminated at her command.
“Light it as it was when you found him.” I couldn’t make myself look at her. Just having her by my side challenged my breathing.
The light dimmed slightly. I felt her memories stir to life, even as she tried to clamp them down. Sunset colors in the floor-length windows at the far end of the room. A man rising from his desk, turning to her with a smile. The smile fading, the man falling. A wave of triumphant glee coursing through her.
“You don’t have to go in.” I kept my eyes from her face.
“The police have searched.”
“I know. Just give me a minute.” I stepped into the room.
“The far windows were open. He must have run away through them. The murderer.”
I nodded, not turning back to her. Took a few steps in. Scanned the room, went to stand over the old-school holographic recreation of the body, peered at the window latches. Everything a non-telepathic investigator would do two days after a crime.
“And you know of no one who would do this?” Now I turned, moving past the hologram, back out into the hall.
She took a moment to close up the wall, as if the room brought her pain. “My husband was not universally beloved.”
Only one face dominated her mind. Strong, masculine, going gold at the temples. He’d normally be handsome, but now she imagined his eyes bleeding, the gills swollen, and long demonic Tarchick braids falling from his crest. She detested this man, this Con Luca. Wanted him dead, wanted him punished. Wanted him.
A potential lover who’d spurned her. A scapegoat for her guilt. Two in one.
My stomach tightened. I’ve read a lot of things in the minds of some damaged creatures. But this took me a step farther than I’d ever wanted to go. At least for this moment she wasn’t looking so good to me. Maybe one less moral dilemma to trip me up.
I slid my filter back on and walked off her property.
She’d slipped me a retainer but hadn’t asked anything of me yet. I suppose she wanted to be sure I was under her spell, before she pushed me toward something illegal. At some point she’d lead me to the murder weapon or find a way to dispose of it while fingering Con Luca. There was no doubt that she still had it in her possession; even as her mind projected her artful little mix of grief, fear and faith in me, she held something covered, like a surprise in a hand behind her back. My guess was that it was the scrambler, her key to freedom and revenge. The only proof against her.
I’d asked for a list of Ereno’s associates, his financials, any activities he did without her. I had to have something to do for my pretended investigation, while she marked time until she could call on me as her puppet.
Con Luca topped the list of associates, but I set him aside for the moment. Maybe it was a hint of pride, not wanting to be completely led by the beak by that woman. Maybe I needed to prep myself with more information about her and the victim. Probably I was just stalling. Whatever the reason, I started my questioning with the second name on her list.
Ereno’s current partner in a Seichen mining business offered nothing pertinent. His brain reminded me of a spiked ball, each spike a venture he pursued cleanly, purposefully. The thought of Ereno brought no emotion, just a column of numbers. The thought of Ginaya provoked the expected, almost physical reaction that practically made me blush. The police Corps scampered across his brain like a group of clowns, and I fought not to smile. I was barely to the door before he gave his mental ball a spin and chose another spike to polish.
Next on the list was a friend from Ereno’s childhood. Here was real grief, the first I’d encountered in the case. It didn’t take a telepath to discover it, and I let myself drink it in for a moment. Glad that the victim had someone like that, remembering him. The memories were instructive, also. At least to some degree. I saw a young Ereno active, laughing, learning, promising. Quick in business but, for a Lorcan, pretty ethical. Then the impressions grew less detailed, thinner, more distant as he retreated toward a shadowy place. A woman’s shape in the distance. Enero’s friend didn’t let his mind go towards Ginaya, but he was obviously no admirer. As bitter waves washed over his memories, he faced them head on. After a moment he wished me well and even shook my hand. Not a typical Lorcan. Someone I would have wanted for a friend. If I had friends.
I got to the main event, Con Luca, as evening fell. I could have met him at his workplace, but I knew he might be more open at home and after the fatigue of a long day. I didn’t want him open, didn’t want to see into the man Ginaya planned to ruin, but I needed to. I needed to see something wrong with him that might render her attack somehow partially justifiable. I wasn’t consciously going to abet her plan; I intended to turn her in when I had the proof in hand. But that law-abiding resolution accounts for only part of my thoughts and none of my feelings. I was on shaky ground, and I itched to see the man she loved and hated at his weakest. Maybe it would clarify things for me.
He lived in a small individual dwelling. No mansion here. An orderly, safe neighborhood, but nothing spectacular. He answered the door himself, and I knew the house was empty. He lived alone, decidedly alone. His brain, when he met me, became smooth, like a wide stone plain. Not cold. Not warm. Calm and bare, unshadowed.
When I asked about Ereno, a wall came up between us. It almost took my breath; I’d never experienced so sudden and solid a block. He spoke, but he gave me nothing else. I could have almost imagined him as the killer, if I hadn’t already read Ginaya. I struggled to hear his words.
“Ereno was a good man. The best I’ve ever known. He was a true friend and I will always regret his loss.”
“I’m working for his widow, trying to find…”
The wall doubled; its thickness muffling even the echo of his thoughts as they retreated back and back. “I hope you can help.” The words rang hollow as a drum.
Ginaya was the source of the barrier, as sure as if her bones had been ground to a powder to construct it. Yet this couldn’t be love or desire. It wasn’t hate either. Con Luca knew she killed Ereno. He knew as well as I did. He wasn’t going to accuse her. He wasn’t going to help. He was barricading himself or her or both of them behind a cold smooth fortification. It was a shame that Ereno was dead and he’d regret it forever but the bulwark stayed in place.
“If you think of anything that could help…” I had already stood to leave.
“If you are working for Ginaya…”
For a moment, I held my breath. But the wall held firm.
“Good luck. Be careful.” He saw me out.
All night I thought about Con Luca and how he blocked his thoughts. I know something about walls; I’ve spent my life avoiding confinement behind them. I’ve put up a few myself, when I thought someone telepathic might be near. I’ve never seen anything like his mental power.
It made me hate him. All I have is my telepathy, and he neutralized it. How? Did he work with Chaleans? Had he learned to protect himself while he abused them? Or was he just stronger than me, smarter than me?
The night wore on. It wouldn’t take much to be stronger than me. And I knew I hated him for something else. For his clean, safe life. His confidence, coming to a door, facing a stranger alone. A Lorcan who wasn’t afraid.
No wonder she wanted him, hated him. And that was my problem, really. I saw why he’d gotten to her in a way I never possibly could. The strength, the potency. The indifference.
I almost wished she could frame him.
There was one more thing. His last words about the investigation. “Good luck. Be careful.” He wasn’t talking about the threat of some unknown killer. He’d said, “If you are working for Ginaya, good luck. Be careful.” He knew she’d done murder and that she could do anything she wanted to me. He was right, and I hated him for it.
“Tenrec, I have something.” Ginaya’s chest rose temptingly with her quickened breath.
I was back in her home, standing close to her, the room dim, no servants in sight. There at her summoning.
“I…I have to show you.” She plied her doe eyes and slowly lifted something out of her bag. She showed me just the tip, but it was enough.
The scrambler. Outdated, absolutely illegal, but certainly capable of doing lethal neuro damage.
I kept my voice steady. “Where did you find that?”
Shades of blue moved across her brow. “You know I have a butler, a…”
She looked around, though no one could hear. I felt her mind center, like an actress getting into a part. “Yes, Taimono is Chalean. I don’t deny it. But he’s loyal and efficient, and I don’t believe in oppressing a species without just cause.”
It was almost laughable, hearing her try to pose as one of those rare Lorcans sympathetic to the conditions of Chaleans. I managed to keep my face straight.
“I’ve always done right by Taimono, and he’s incredibly grateful. He’d do anything for me, so…” She looked down, but her senses were on high alert for my reaction. “So he chose, of his own free will, to use his powers to help me. He ….he mentally searched our property, and of course he could do it better than any Lorcan police officer.”
“He found it?” I nodded toward the bag.
“In the far end of our garden, under some laintel ivy.”
Her mind flashed on a thick cluster of copper leaves, as if to make the story real to herself.
“He could get in trouble. Using powers…” I couldn’t reveal that I knew Taimono was psychically castrated.
She nodded. “I know. I told him never to do it again. But he’s so concerned for me. And this solves everything!”
“It locates the probable murder weapon.” I tightened my lips to keep from grimacing as the fantasy of Con Luca’s head being severed flashed through her mind.
“It does more than that. I know who must have used it. Who must have killed my darling Ereno.”
We waited a beat as she pulled her lover’s face into clear focus. “Con Luca.”
She turned away from me, blue suffusing her face. “He was Ereno’s best friend. He was in the house that night.”
“You never told the police?”
She put a hand up to her throat. “I couldn’t. I was too ashamed. Con didn’t come to see Ereno. He came to see me. He made advances to me…I was so terrified…Of course I rejected him, sent him away. I ran up to my room and I was sure he was leaving. But he must have gone back to Ereno’s study. He must have been furious, jealous. Because he couldn’t have me, he must have revenged himself on my husband.”
I could imagine her in court, holding the jury, the attorneys, even the judge in her hands. Con Luca would be sent to a prison planet before he could offer a single bribe.
“So you want me to take this to the police?”
She leaned forward. “But we can’t. I don’t want people to know I have a functioning Chalean in the house. Some of Ereno’s business associates might question past deals. And I don’t want to challenge the police competence or make them look foolish. I don’t want the scrambler connected to me in any way.”
I studied the scrambler. It was an antique, but well maintained, and that was smart. Ever since the Chalean demonstrations of 2805, Lorcans have beefed up security measures. Chaleans have no legal access to any weapons except simple household implements and tools appropriate to their specific jobs. In addition, in a rare bit of honesty, acknowledging that somewhere a deluded Lorcan might possibly be a menace, scramblers have been modified. Deeply imbedded within each one is a chip that records all shootings, so they can be played back like a crystal-clear movie. The grips detect and record both claw marks and genetic patterns, with a penetrating sensitivity to defy any gloves or masking material. To work around this you’d have to wear mitts made out of shonstone or basically pick the thing up between a couple of bricks, which makes aiming problematic. That goes for the legal weapons, of course.
So there’s a good market for pre-2805 and homemade scramblers. I didn’t want to know how Ereno or Ginaya got the thing, and I couldn’t ask, since I was supposed to believe her story that it was Con Luca’s, left in her garden as he fled the murder scene.
“Our best option is to take it to the police.”
“No!” Only years of practice hiding my feelings kept me from flinching at the blast of anger from her mind. In a second her voice calmed. “What if the police can’t trace it? What if Con Luca isn’t caught? It will just mean a lot of questions for us and no solution.”
I waited, feeling her brain settle and stiffen. This was her next big step. First kill Ereno, then frame Con Luca. “What if you took it to his home and dropped it in his garden? Then we could call the police anonymously and let them find it.”
It’s amazing that people still believe anything can be anonymous. “You’re awfully sure it’s him.”
“I know him.” Passions swirled like clouds, fiery and black, around the stony column of her fixed idea.
“All right.” I slid on gloves and took the weapon from her. “I’ll drop it. I’ll make the call to the Corps.”
She faked a grateful smile, but even she couldn’t soften that taut, eager face.
I pulled on my mask and left the house. Walking casually, hands in my pockets, I fingered the weapon. I would dump the arm somewhere close, then call Psilo and turn Ginaya in. He might ask me for proof, but I’d have to hope that tracing the weapon would be enough. They’d have surveillance of me leaving her house, going to the dump site. And, on edge as she was, she wouldn’t withstand much questioning. Hate like that would spill out eventually.
I should have perceived her sooner. She was just a block behind me, following. Her mind hungry, like an animal hunting. She didn’t trust me to place the gun on Con Luca’s property. She had to see me do it. When I paused for an instant to let a lone glider pass in the street, three bland citizens riding along, I steadied my senses and focused on her plans, not mine.
In her mind about thirty Corps officers tackled Con Luca, pounding his head on the ground, his crest feathers tearing out. Bloodied, he sagged between two more as they took him to some sort of an execution machine that looked like a swinging bladed pendulum. Or he writhed in a chamber, radiation poisoning his body. He disintegrated in a gritty cloud. A hooded figure did something appalling with a rope, like the Ancients might have done on a human planet.
I slid my phone from my breast pocket. Made a call as I crossed the street, turning toward Con Luca’s house.
From the corner of my eye I saw her steps falter as her mind whirred. I was phoning too early. Her mind went black for an instant, then she imagined more Corps units rushing down the streets, circling Con Luca’s home.
I headed toward the back of Con Luca’s place. The garden, she’d said. All right. That was as good a place as any. The wall surrounding the property was high, but I had a good arm. I could through the gun over and run.
Or I could march up to the back gate. Pulling out the scrambler, I held it toward the nearest security camera and yelled, “Con Luca, you need to see this.”
Behind me her mind rocked, nauseating fear washing over her.
Ahead of me something clicked, and the back gate swung open. I pushed it aside and strode in. Con Luca stepped out of his terrace door. With one move of his head he glimpsed her, a wisp of plume at the edge of the gate. In his mind she was ugly.
“What do you have there?” His voice was smooth, faintly muffled by his mask.
“Something you should see. An antique scrambler.”
She rushed to my side, her skin gray, crest shaking. “Con Luca, you killed him!” For an instant she believed it, and I almost did, too. Then her claws scratched across my hand as she grasped the scrambler, aimed and fired.
Con Luca went to one knee but still faced her as his body remained erect. No explosion of blood, no shriek of pain. His murder, her final revenge, was all in her head, and she couldn’t make it real.
I reached for the weapon. “I disabled it.” I’d learned how to do that with one hand in a pocket. Heck, I could do it under water and while skydiving.
A whoosh behind us signaled the arrival of the Corps. Psilo with three antigravs and a hovercraft overhead.
The rage in her mind erupted as she turned toward me. I staggered under it, my own thoughts blank for the second it took her to reach forward and pull off my mask. Willing me to die.
Psilo, Con Luca, Ginaya and a host of worthy officers watched in silence as I sucked in a breath.
I guess I should have at least coughed. But you can’t think of everything.
I’ll testify at her trial, then be sent to the nearest barrier camp, finishing my life behind walls after all. Maybe it won’t be so bad. The Chaleans won’t want me, half Lorcan as I am. But maybe they’ll find a use for me. A camp of telepaths won’t have secrets, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have peace. They might have use for someone who lives by his wits and his fists.
In any case, maybe it’s time I told the truth a little myself.
About the author: R. C. Capasso loves imagining possibilities and exploring them through story. After a career in education, R.C. reads and writes in a variety of genres, realistic and speculative. R. C. draws inspiration from travel, history, and foreign languages and cultures. R. C. has published flash and short fiction in numerous online and print magazines and anthologies, including Literally Stories, Bewildering Stories, and Fiction on the Web.
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