Revelation (Demons Of The Past 01) – Chapter 15
I emerged onto the sun balcony where one of the servants had told me breakfast was being served. Thank the Eternal that it sounds quiet. No mob this morning.
Treyuusei was actually cooking, to my surprise — and gratification, as I got closer. “Sweet Sevens? Trey, you shouldn’t have!”
“You’re going to be spoiled the whole time you’re here, Sash, so get used to it.”
“I don’t dare get used to it, Trey; going back to the standard mealhall — good as it usually is — would seem pretty bleak if I got used to this.” I didn’t protest any more, because sweet Sevens were one of my favorites and I’d never pass up a chance for the seven-sided cakes rolled with a sweet-sour cream and topped with fruit for breakfast. Especially with Trey cooking, since it was one of her family’s traditional recipes, being from Vangen originally.
Taelin waved as I sat down, but didn’t say anything immediately because he was busy stuffing the last of a Seven into his mouth. Lukhas grinned. “Morning, Sasham. Taelin, when you’re done making a spectacle of yourself, say hello to your friend.”
“Hello, friend,” Talin said, grinning back. “Trey, another?”
“You’ll get another after Sasham has three.”
“Oh, I couldn’t –”
“You ate ten the last time, I find it hard to believe you won’t eat that many this time.”
Had I actually eaten ten the last time? Maybe I had. Trey dropped three of the rolled cakes on my plate, one after the other, making the traditional triangle. “Thank you, Trey.” I reached out and snagged one of the jars of fruit.
“Pay up,” Lukh said to Taelin, who grimaced and handed him the Seven that Trey had just put on his plate.
“Sink you, Sash, do you have to be that predictable?”
“Taelin,” Lukh said with another grin, “was foolish enough to bet that you wouldn’t go for the gemberry first.”
“Redfruit’s always been Sash’s favorite, though,” Treyuusei pointed out. “You were betting on the fact that gemberry’s hard to get anywhere but Oro.”
“And that’s why I am White Security,” Lukh agreed. “My hunches are right.”
“Where’s your mom and Mishel?” I asked, ignoring the usual Five Family competition to one-up each other.
“Mom had to go to a Family Council this morning,” Taelin answered, accepting a replacement Seven from Trey, “and Mishel’s got combat training until midday.”
I glanced at his older brother, whose brown hair covered half his face as he looked down at his plate — a current Imperial style but one I found a bit of an affectation and potentially annoying to wear. “And what are you doing here this late?”
“A well-fed security force is an attentive security force!” Taelin said.
“Or one slowly falling into a stuffed stupor,” I said cynically.
“Actually, I have some errands to run but no specific time I have to be back; the Security Council knows I’m expecting to be busy with some personal business for the next few weeks.” Lukhas leaned forward. “So, Sash, anything you can tell us about your meeting?”
I thought for a minute. The Prime Monitor hadn’t said I couldn’t talk about anything yet, though it was clear there was some project involved that would be top-secret. “Well, there isn’t that much to tell. He asked me some general questions — including some really peculiar things, like whether I’d like to be Director of Research.”
“That would be a step and a half up,” Taelin said with a raised eyebrow. “At least.”
“More than that, and I don’t even have the experience you’d want for that kind of position. I’ve got some of the training, maybe… and he did make a point about having someone who understands the demands in the field being in charge… but still, it sounds overly generous at the least.” At the least, given that all I did was somehow survive an attack without even knowing how I did it.
“What do you think of the Prime Monitor?”
Well there is a question primed with explosives. I studied both Lukh and Taelin for a moment, and Treyuusei, who was clearly listening even if she was still cooking. “What do you mean, what do I think of him?”
Taelin grimaced. “Demons, Sash, you don’t need to walk on crystal around us!”
“I’m not one of your Families yet, even if some day you think I will be. I sinking well better walk on crystal on subjects like that. Especially with one of you being top-level security on Silan-Luria.”
Lukh acknowledged the point with a nod. “But I asked the question, and I have my reasons for wanting to know the answer.”
“You two need to stop circling the gate and go through,” Treyuusei said in exasperation. She put her own plate down and turned to me. “Sasham, we rely on the impressions of others for many things — especially impressions of people we know and trust, and who’ve shown they have good instincts.
“Lukhas is almost as high in Intelligence Service as anyone from the Five can get. Once he makes White Controller, there’s only one way to go farther in the security of the Empire, and that’s –”
I realized what they were getting at even as Lukh continued, “And that’s to become a Monitor. I’d get a big jump in the Monitor Corps, coming from one of the Families, but I’d still have to go through all the same conditioning, all the same training, and even disassociate myself from my family to a great extent. But…” I could see he was torn. “…but it’s something I do really well. I want to do my best, just like you, Sash.”
“But,” Taelin put in, “we also need to keep an eye on the Monitor Corps. They keep an eye on us and the Navy and the Guards, the Navy and the Guards keep an eye on the Families and the Monitors, and so on. And Lukhas is one of our best eyes.”
Torline’s Swords! I thought to myself. They… they really must mean to somehow bring me into the Families. They’re talking deep, deep policy. With it laid out like this, I could finally read between the lines. Lukh could continue as Imperial Intelligence and maybe go up one more step, to White Controller, but Shagrath and his Prime Seconds would always be able to overrule him on matters of security, unless it were a Families internal matter. The Families could, of course, always force openness in dealings — that was their primary function and why they had specific codes built into every significant system for Family use — but for security/ intelligence/ espionage work, there wasn’t anywhere else for Lukh to go, and even his work currently was undoubtedly directed, and watched, by the Monitors.
But if Lukhas joined the Monitor Corps, he could watch them from within. Except, of course, that he’d be conditioned to neutrality.
I shook my head. “Well… he’s not entirely comfortable to be with, but given the circumstances, I wouldn’t expect to be comfortable with him. Hard to read — but he’s trained to hide anything he’s thinking, really.”
Trey nodded and looked at the other two. “And what else would you expect? Honestly, you’re making this look like he has to give you a key evaluation right away, when he’s hardly had TIME to speak with the man.”
“Surface, first impressions can still be important,” Lukhas pointed out, soberly. “Sasham, we certainly want information about what he’s doing — and I assure you, he’ll guess that we’re trying to get information on him, just as his people are always watching us, trying to dig out information on every member of the Families. But I don’t mean to interfere with your purpose here. Shagrath’s got to have some terribly important project that he thinks your recent … tragedy can shed light on. I’m not interested in spying on his project,” I could tell that was a partial lie — of course he wanted to know what was going on — but the essence of it was true, “I’m interested in making sure he’s a man I can dedicate myself to before I decide which direction I should go.”
“I’ll keep an eye out and see if I learn anything,” I promised. “I found him slightly intimidating when I first met him, but that was probably your brother’s doing. He told me he found Shagrath uncomfortable.”
That also got a grave nod. “Yes. One reason I’m very cautious.”
“I guess I would be too,” I conceded. “The only other thing I could say is that whatever he’s doing, it’s associated with some alien of a race I’ve never met before… Sooovickalassa, that was his name.”
Lukhas looked up sharply. “Reptilian creature? Golden crest?” At my nod, he looked thoughtful. “Interesting. It was actually a Monitor patrol vessel that made first contact with the R’Thann, and almost no direct information has been made available. I’ve been trying to convince the Controller to let me arrange a Naval expedition to their world, but no luck. Maybe this will jolt her a little, get her to move. What’d this Sooovickalassa do?”
“A doctor of… something, I don’t know what. Mostly interviewed me about Tangia, the battle, and then scanned me with all sorts of sensors — a lot of types I’ve never seen before.”
“Trying to figure out why you survived, obviously. But why he’d need a creature from some race not even in the Empire…” Lukh shook his head.
“I’m sure it will become clearer later,” Treyuusei said, getting up to grab another Seven off the iron. “But no point worrying at Sash any more for now. You’ve given him his trauma for the day, pushing at him as though he was a spy.”
“It wasn’t that bad, Trey,” I said, defensively.
“Maybe not, but she’s right, we probably should’ve just brought it up differently. Anyway, you’d better finish eating up. Old Yourin Khardan’s invited us to go hunting on his preserve.”
“But I probably have to go back to –”
Lukh held up a hand. “No, you don’t. Word from the Monitors is that they expect the analysis to take a couple of days at least, so you’re free until Niaaday.”
Hunting sounded fun — knowing what kind of things Oro preserves would have on them — but… “He knows I’m just Navy?”
“He knows you’re my best friend and that’s enough. He’s wanted to meet you for years. Um, beware, though. He’s got four granddaughters that want to meet you too.”
I winced. “I really am not ready for that kind of thing.”
“Just be polite. I’ll make sure to mention Diorre in the right context; they’ll understand, or else I’ll make them understand. Leave the hard parts to me, Sash.” He flashed me a sideways grin. “Don’t worry, we’ll train you up to being a master of the social arts soon enough.”
I shuddered dramatically. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”