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what did she really know about this man? Was her image of him some sort of
wishful fantasy born of her overactive imagination? Why was he doing all this?
She'd never been a philosopher, never been very intro-spective. She had no
tools to grapple with this land of conflict.
Jindigar sprawled across the bottom of her bed, propping himself up on his
elbows seemingly without pain. He regarded her in silence as she thought. The
image of him lying dead at her feet flashed, vividly enough that she was
surprised when there was no mud left on the sheets. But that bereft, dead
feeling was back full force. She couldn't send him off to face troops again,
while she sat in orbit and waited.
"Yes, I want to go," she answered at last. "If you're not going to give up on
your friends "
"No. I'm not giving up. Arlai intercepted a news traffic-capsule, read it, and
returned it to its route. The situation on Khol is desperate. Several hundred
Dushau were stranded there. They've either all been executed, or perhaps
spirited away by a mysterious resistance movement. But they've only just begun
hunting down my associates.
"Krinata, you know there's always been a large Dushau population on Khol. It's
a prime jumping-off place for expe-ditions, and it has some of the finest
Corporate League libraries and museums left in existence. Fully a third of the
population must be acquainted with at least one Dushau."
"Well, then maybe it won't be so bad there. Maybe your friends will be safe."
He shook his head. "Nothing could save her even four years ago. It'll be worse
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'Terab. She was a space liner captain. My eldest son was deadheading to
Khol he's a freighter captain to meet his ship. In deep space, alone among
Ephemerals, he went into Renewal. She made a nonscheduled stop to drop him at
Dushaun. She was cashiered for it, and blackballed. Now, she and her husband
run a souvenir pottery shop."
The terse recital raised a thousand questions for Krinata, but above that
curiosity, she felt Jindigar's sense of respon-sibility for this Holot, Terab.
She was willing to bet Jindigar had provided the money to set up the shop.
"Jindigar, I want to help you rescue Terab. But I have to ask you something
first." She stopped, not knowing how to phrase a question that wasn't also
"All my resources are at your disposal. Arlai and I will provide any
information we can. But I can't encourage you to risk your life again. I will
go down to Khol alone."
She didn't feel up to arguing, but knew she wouldn't rest until she could
judge him. "Jindigar, societies must have codes of law to function. One who
refuses to abide by its codes can't belong to that society, and thus is
treated with under the rules for strangers or enemies. I've always thought of
myself as an Allegiancy loyalist. At heart I still am, though I've committed
political crimes. But on Cassr, imperial troops died, a moral crime as well as
political. I've become an enemy of the Al-legiancy."
She paused to fight back-tears, and he asked calmly, "What was your question?"
"Were you and Arlai always enemies of the Empire? Some of the things you've
done are simply illegal, some like giving Arlai such freedom seem unmoral.
What code of law do you obey? Is your society an enemy of the Empire?"
His face underwent several transformations as he consid-ered. "Are you asking
if Dushaun is an enemy of the Empire?"
That was her question, but she prompted, "Is it?"
That quiet statement gave her no clue to his sincerity or to the answer to her
question. "Are you?"
"No." Into her silence, he added, "Neither are you."
"People have died!"
"I mourn."
She knew how much more Dushau suffered from death than Ephemerals, but she had
to ask, "Is that enough! Are we blame-less because we mourn?"
"No. And no. Krinata, you're asking me the purpose of life, the nature of
death, the spiritual and material structure of reality, the origin and end of
existence, and my identity within that structure and process. And you're
expecting me to expound all of this in one breath."
"Can you?" [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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