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I pretend to ignore her, and kneel down by the bloodstained chair. It's an expensive job, even fancier and more complex than it looks from across the room. Blood has seeped into most of the visible connectors, and the pins are surrounded by a sort of mouldy, congealed goop. No help there. I move around the side, under the right arm of the chair, hoping to find a-


"He's dead, of course," says Ky. I straighten up. She's still looking at me.


"Oh yeah?"


"Yes. Murdered."


"How long ago was this?"


"Four hours after you left the building," she says. "It would have been faster, but the Polis stayed on to question Aarkel."


I wipe my hands on my coat and stand up. "Continue."


She cocks her head quizzically at me.


"You know exactly what happened, and why. It's written on your face and voice. So tell me."


"Why do you care, Professor Jones?"


"Honestly? I don't really know...I just do. Reminds me of my old life, of who I used to be."


"You are someone different now?" she says.


"No...but I will be. But nevermind..."


Ky walks over to where I am standing. Up close, she looks even harder. "Nothing is the same," she says. "Not even this."


"No?"


"No."


"Why?"


"Why do you think he was killed?"


"I don't really know," I say, my gaze wandering over the odd stains. "Maybe he was too much of a liability to Silva's people, or to his suppliers. Maybe it was something else, some-"


"No."


"No?"


Ky looks at me. "We killed him?"


"We?" I'm starting to feel like an echo, but I can't help it.


"Annn's people. Us. We did it." She looks back down at the body. "Aden himself led the team. Erythrummius gave him the codes he needed. They walked into the building and opened the door. They held him down for an hour while Aden and Zebulon tortured him; cut off his fingers and toes, burned the skin from his feet. He told them everything he knew, and then they sliced him open and hung his body from the inside of the door with hooks and wire- as a warning. They found him two days later."


"Krin..." I feel nauseous.


"Yes." Ky gives me that odd, curious look again, and I can't help but rise to it.


"What ARE you doing here?" I say again. "What do you have to do with this?"


"I came back to consider things."


"What things?"


"My options."


"What options?" I can't just let it go. Never could.


She cocks her head. "She was right about you. Lady Annn. She once said that you could always tell when someone was keeping secrets..."


"I can. Sometimes."


"A dangerous gift," she says.


"You don't know the half of it," I say. "Now do you want to tell me who you are?"


Her eyes get very big when I say this. "Ye gods...no wonder Lady Annn wants you to work for her."


I don't bother trying to correct this.


"I am an assassin," says Ky. "You know this."


"Ye-es..."


"I have been an assassin for nearly two years...but I have only been Annn's assassin for a year...in the time before that, I was working for, of all people-"


"Silva."


"How did you know?"


"Magic. Go on."


"I...I was sent by my employers to kill Lady Annn. I worked my way into the Underground, made my way up the ranks, and managed to gain her personal attention. She gave me a position in her personal staff. I was shown things that would have overthrown the revolution if Silva's people had seen them. I could have killed Annn- probably. But I didn't. I don't know why. I just...stayed on, because staying on was easier. No noble reason. Nothing like that. Just a whim. But I liked it- and still like it here. I want Lady Annn to take control of the city, to fix things. So finally, I couldn't do it anymore, and I told her who I was, and she said she'd known the whole time! I can't even imagine..."


"I can. It probably wasn't any fun for her."


"I...I burst out crying," she looks up at me sharply, as if expecting me to laugh at her. I keep my face impassive. She goes on. "She...she hugged me. Told me that everything was fine. I could stay. She trusted me! I...I don't understand..."


"So you came here to think things over."


"How do you DO that?"


"Lots of practice. So what're you going to do?"


"I don't know." Ky sighs. She looks sad and tired in the light of the utility bulbs. "There's a war coming. I don't even know what side I am on..."


This feels eerily familiar.


"When I was a boy," I say. "I thought that there were good people and bad people in the world, and that the good people always fought off the bad people. But no. It's just people, and no one could really evil or good. They're all just...people. Even the machines." I grin sardonically. "So I picked a side and stuck with it, 'til I couldn't stick with it any more. Once that happened, I had to decide what my values were all over again."


She nods, once, but says nothing. Then: "You fought Aden."


"Yes."


"Why?"




"A lot of reasons," I say, not looking at her. "Part of it was to get his attention- I mean really get his attention. Part of it was to prove that I was willing to risk my life to gain his trust. Part of it was to prove a point to him about humanity...and part of it- the part that still mourns Jaimie's death- wanted to hit him really hard..." I shrug. "I never claimed to be logical. Then again, it worked."


"Yes, but-"


I never get to hear her objection. Just then, my comm comes alive in my ear. Erythrummius's voice- strained and breathy- filters through:


"Professor! Professor! Can you hear me?"


"Of course I can. You sound terrible, Ery. What's the m-"


"Where are you?!"


"Um. Efreet Waters."


"In Krin's name, why?!"


"Long story. Look, what's going on?"


"You haven't heard?! It's happening, Professor! It's finally happening! All of Midport is afire! Revolution! Revolution!"


I've never heard Ery so excited.


"Where are we?" I say.


"Scattered all over the place- um, machine forces mostly moving around Central Industrial- fighting broken out there- um- Connection and a few others are carving through at Solus Square- rebels with us scatterd all over Sector III- Juronco at the Point- heavy fighting- Annn is leading a calvacade down One Street itself!- look-" There was a clattering from beyond the range of the speakers. "I have to go- there's-"


"I understand," I say, and I am amazed to hear how calm my voice is. "I'm on my way. I'll see you soon."


"Car-" The connection drops.


Ky is watching me curiously. I turn to her.


"It's started," I say. "I'm going down to join. You coming?"


"Yes," she says. "Yes. I think I will."


------
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.


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The following comments are for "Stalker - 46"
by Beckett Grey





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