Angry Rose’s Lament
by Cat Rambo
What has happened, I cannot change…what will happen, I cannot decide. I am only responsible for the here and now. I will be honest in my dealings; I will acknowledge the pain I have caused. I can offer amends; I cannot demand that they be accepted. I can ask for forgiveness; I cannot demand that I be forgiven.
–Litany for the Recovering
All his life, Paul Rutter had hated dirt. He’d been raised in a decrepit Project by a foster mother, along with six other children, and those early years had left him memories of stained sheets, maggots in the sink, and grime that you couldn’t scrub away. It was one of the reasons he’d worked to become a Spacer, and when he reached his first station, smelled the tang of recycled air and water, and saw a metal hallway corroded with the effluvium that humans inevitably deposit everywhere they touch, it was a vast disappointment. But better, even so, than the roots from which he’d come. And now his career, such as it was, had brought him back to a place as dirty as he’d ever seen.
The main feature of Linko Port was grease. Greasy dirt, black as tar, lay underfoot, grinding under the boot heels of the Fleet soldiers keeping order. The smell of machinists’ grease from the yard that maintained the ferries coming down from its counterpart satellite far above, circling in unison with the slime green moons, was heavy in the air. Grease and black grime coated the walls of the buildings, assembled from Alliance plastics and weatherworn native woods. Of the dozens of races using this common rendezvous point, all seemed shabby and grubby, particularly the humans.
“Welcome to Linko. First assignment planet side in a while?” his attendant asked as he checked through Paul’s records.
“How can you tell?”
“It’s in the walk. Spacers move their feet a little different, come down flatfooted like they’re not used to the pull.”
Rutter grunted acknowledgement. “What do I need to carry here?” he asked.
“Some form of ID; best not to leave your docco at home. No guns. Credit chits for tipping, if you plan on being out doing much. Your guild marque if you’re dealing as a rep.”
“I’m rep to the Solins.”
The man’s smile faded. “Yeah?” he said noncommittally. “For what company?”
“Little outfit, doubt you’ve heard of it.” Rutter preferred to keep his cards close to his chest. Besides, RecoveryCo’s humble beginnings, compared to the larger corporations, were a little embarrassing. No matter, he thought. They’d done well taking a small company and turning it into an active corp, capable of interstellar negotiations. The resources provided by Solin might be the company’s big strike, help them struggle their way to a respectable third tier status as an all–out, multi–market corporation.
“Not one of the Big Three? Thought CocaCorp would want a piece of that.”
Rutter had wondered that himself. By all accounts, Solin was a plum piece of real estate, the kind one of the big companies like General M or Bushink would snatch up as an asset. Across the galaxies, they’d grabbed small systems every chance they got. Solin did have a native intelligent race to be wooed, but there was a surplus of impoverished races deep in debt to the Companies. Very few, the ones who knew to hire themselves savvy (and expensive) legal counsel, managed to keep themselves free.
There was, Rutter figured, something out of the ordinary about Solin. Not out of the ordinary in a valuable way, but something tricky, something slippery or scandalous, some taint the Big Three wanted to avoid. He’d find out soon enough, he guessed.
“What about hotels here?” he asked.
“There’s a few. Carnival’s a bit swanker than most – it’s where most of the visiting dignitaries stay. The regulars go for the Jewel or the Home House, which is the cleanest. Not so pricey. Only real difference is that the Jewel’s closer to the bars. They’re all on the main drag.”
The Home House quarters were simple but as clean as promised. A holo on the wall offered him his choice of spacescape or uploading his own images. Unlike most, he didn’t carry such amenities. He flipped through the settings on the bed and chose the firmest, then settled himself to look through the docco again.
The Solins resembled nothing so much as giant wasps. Colored in dull reds and browns, they had the habits of hive insects, although the details were sketchy. Morgan had promised him more information soon, but when he checked his mail, it wasn’t there yet. He fired off a reminder; Morgan was increasingly forgetful lately. “Slipped back?” he wondered, and sighed, rubbing his long fingers down the bridge of his nose. Going into the fresher to splash his tired eyes with cold water, he looked into the mirrored wall. He saw an unremarkable face, although older looking than his fifty years. Ten years of addiction to Stardrift had left him there, crevices worn irreparably into his brow and the skin surrounding his mouth, broken veins lacing the sagging skin of his cheeks. But unlike most addicts, he’d broken free, formed a company with five of the men he’d met in Rehab. Now he wondered if that had been the smartest idea; 90% slipped back into the Drift, although they’d all sworn they were part of the lucky 10%.
He slipped into the Litany, murmuring it under his breath. “What has happened, I cannot change…what will happen, I cannot decide. I am only responsible for the here and now.” Muttering the familiar words, he went back to study the information he had again.
The Representative building lay on the outskirts of town, a blocky tower misshapen by the demands of accommodating hundreds of different species. Blue bubbles held the distinctive toxic atmosphere of the Anjelis, and a tank near the ground floor showed swirls of blue and green liquid. Windows were tinted in shades ranging from bloody rust to bilious chartreuse, filtering Linko’s dull and watery sunlight into more palatable shades. Lucky me, Rutter thought. Solins and humans were capable of breathing the same atmosphere, although the compromise was unpleasant to both.
The meeting room lay on the fifth floor. As he paused outside the airlock, a voice hailed him.
“You rep Rutter?”
He turned. A slight figure in Pilot’s Guild green coveralls stood there. “Yes. Do you have some question?”
“Just scoping you out,” the woman said. She was small, dark–haired and olive–skinned. “I flew the initial mission exploring the Solin system. Look me up afterwards and I’ll buy you a drink – I’m curious about your impressions.” She flipped him an ID chip and turned.
He turned the chip over in his fingers once, gazing after her, then turned and pressed his code into the airlock.
Inside the room the air was unpleasantly acrid, stinging his nose with its vinegar reek. At one end of the room the Solin clung to the wall, watching him with its faceted eyes. A small table and chair had been placed in the middle of the room for his convenience.
Up close, the impression of a wasp was diminished but it still sported two sets of paired, pale rose wings. It was unexpectedly beautiful, a creature spun of crystal or sugar, edges sharp and defined as jewels, undulled by time or dirt. A stinger ending its abdomen dripped with a clear ichor that splattered on the floor. A small pool had collected beneath it; he wondered how long it had been waiting for him.
Its eyes were equally beautiful; malachite and lapis lazuli warred for the surface of the bulbous orbs, swirling and coalescing like gaseous clouds. Two business–like mandibles sat on either side of its tiny mouth; segmented, they flexed at intervals as though impatient to be used.
The voice emanating from the waxy collar around its thorax, though, was disconcertingly human, down to a slight, indefinable accent. “You are the Representative?”
“Yes,” he said, setting his documents tablet on the table between them.
“I am called Kizel. You may begin recording,” the Solin said.
He raised an eyebrow. “You have no questions? You are aware of what this contract will mean?”
“Your company will offer certain amenities, payments, and legal agreements in return for rights to planetary resources within our solar system. This negotiation will be recorded, and when it is complete, which may be a lengthy process, the record will be published publicly. Our race will achieve legal status as a result of participating, and we will no longer be vulnerable to those who wish to exploit our planet.”
He nodded. “I’m impressed by your command of Galactic Custom. Not all races come to the bargaining table knowing how it is structured.”
Kizel buzzed, in irritation or amusement, he couldn’t tell which.
“We have accumulated necessary information,” it said. “Assume that we have sufficient knowledge of humans that you do not need to explain each amenity.”
A worm of confusion crawled its way through his head. Most native races weren’t even close to this savvy. He took out his list and began. “Item 1: In exchange for the right to extract 500 kilograms of aurium each solar year, one energy replicator unit, no older than one year from the signing of this contract…”
As the session wore on, he was increasingly puzzled by the intimate knowledge of galactic customs that the Solin displayed. At one point he made a slight witticism that he thought only a human would have caught, and the Solin buzzed.
“What is the significance of that sound?” he asked.
“Your joke pleased me,” it said.
After a few hours, his throat dry and rasping from reciting the lists of what RecoveryCo was prepared to offer for the long, exhaustive list of the Solin system’s resources, he signaled the end.
“We can resume tomorrow,” the Solin said. Traditionally, a trade agreement took three sessions. Even when both parties knew exactly what they wanted — usually not the case — the Negotiation must be acted out.
The pilot was waiting outside the door.
“I didn’t want to wait to talk to you. Hungry?” she said.
“There’s a place near Jewel that makes a mean bowl of noodles.”
He followed her to the restaurant. She walked with the swagger that he’d learned to expect from pilots, an insouciance sprung from their inviolability; harming a pilot could lead to a planet or system being put into Exile, trade withering away.
As they slid into the plastic booth, she signaled the server, a grey–skinned, four–armed Doolah, who brought them menu cards. Rutter fingered the sticky edges with distaste, but the pilot cast a practiced eye down the card and said “Number 3 if you like spicy, number 5 if you like sweet, number 12 if you like bland. The beer’s crap but does the trick. My name’s Angry Rose.”
“Sounds like a Harmonistic name.”
She shook her head. “Self picked, I liked the sound of it. Harmonistics start with the noun, anyhow.”
He studied her. Threads of scarlet worked their way through her dark hair, and her right arm wore a sleeve of faded floral tattoos. Her outfit had the slapdash look of someone who preferred no clothes when on ship.
She studied him back, her look curious but non–sexual. “What did you think of the Solin?”
He used his napkin to wipe at the table in front of him, polishing away a smear of grease as he thought about it.
“I haven’t dealt with that many alien races,” he admitted. “Just in training, mainly. I didn’t expect them to seem so human in their thinking.”
Her lips twitched. “Wanna know why that is?”
She leaned across the table towards him, lowering her voice. “They’re brain eaters.”
He snorted but she pressed on, her voice edged with urgency. “No, it’s true. That Solin you’re dealing with has at least one human mind in its own. I should know, he was a friend of mine. Luke Parse.”
The Doolah slid a plate of Number 12 noodles in front of him, along with his water. Angry Rose took up her chopsticks, starting on her own plate as she watched him.
“Can you explain a little more?” he said cautiously.
She claimed that her friend had been one of the first explorers to make contact with the Solins. “Then they got to him, I dunno how. They left his body there, sitting, drooling…smiling. Smiling like he was at his momma’s tit. I was on the ship that recovered him. The Solin talked to me, said he had Luke inside him now, and that Luke didn’t want me to worry about him. We took the body off planet to a medfactory, but he died a month or so afterwards. Still smiling.”
“How did the Solin absorb him? Did you test to see if it was really him?”
She shook her head. “I dunno much. Went a little crazy when I heard his voice coming out of it.” She gave him a lopsided, halfhearted grin. “They just put me off the world, said don’t come back. Not supposed to go near any of the Solins now.”
He chased a noodle around his plate before his chopsticks seized it. “Why are you telling me all this?”
Her face took on an edge of hostility. “Seemed like the decent thing to do, warn folks before they met the same fate.”
“I appreciate it,” he said, his voice sincere, and she untensed.
“Look,” she said. “If you decide to… do anything, lemme know.”
“There’s at least one human mind in there,” she said. “Trapped in a body they never wanted to be in.”
She slid enough chits onto the table to pay for both meals. “You got my contact info. Call me.”
After she left, he chewed each noodle and washed it down with sips of water. He’d learned over the years that his body would falter if he didn’t fuel it, although the Drift had affected his taste buds to the point where any number on the menu would have been the same to him. Angry Rose had some agenda, but he wouldn’t let it compromise Recovery’s dealings. Too many of his fellows were depending on the company’s success; let this deal fail and half of them – if not all – would let it be an excuse to go back to their old ways. Even he’d be tempted.
The thought ached at him, reaching every corner of his being. The main thing Stardrift did was make you feel connected. A warm, golden glow in which all the minds around you were tied together. No loneliness, no isolation. Knowing that you were just where you needed to be, as though the universe held you in her arms, held you close and warm and loved.
He pulled his jacket around himself, added a few chits for the tip, and left.
Back at the Home, he succeeded in reaching Morgan. Pages of information spilled from the wall printer.
“Thanks,” he said gratefully to the screen where his partner’s face hovered, looking much the same as always. “Hey, do me a favor… look up a name and tell me if it’s got any connection with the Solins?”
“What’s the name?” Morgan said.
Morgan grinned. “Ask and ye shall receive. That’s already in the docco I just gave you. Three explorers made first contact: Conchetta Alo, Tresy Cooke, and Luke Parse. Parse had some sort of accident, and died a month or two later.”
“Are his med records in there?”
“You’re crazy, man. You know how much it costs, getting something like that? No, they’re not.”
“All right,” he said. “Thanks, Morgan.”
They finished as they always did, saying the Litany together. “I am only responsible for the here and now.”
Parse’s fate nagged at him all through the negotiations. Kizel clung to its wall, head downwards, supplying details to match his own. As the dialogue grew towards that day’s end, he found himself asking, against every stricture of his training, “Are you Luke Parse?”
Kizel’s wings stilled before it answered. “Luke Parse is part of us, yes.”
“How big a part?”
“We currently hold four minds. An elder, by Solin standards.”
He frowned, trying to pick meaning out of the words. “Hold the minds?”
The greens and blues of its eyes swirled. “Like all Solins, I am made up of the minds I have absorbed. Three Solin and one human. Luke Parse.”
“Can you start from the beginning?”
This time he did detect amusement in the synthetic voice.
“The beginning of time, or of my life?”
He didn’t find the joke as funny as it apparently did. “Your life,” he said flatly.
“When we are born, we are mindless grubs. Or consciousness–less, to be more exact. The grubs are tended with care until they metamorphose into something closer than my current form, and the best physical specimens chosen. When an elder is ready to die, they go to the nursery. The infant Solin gives them the Kiss for the Dying.” Its stinger twitched. “Their consciousness fades and is absorbed by the new host, who then holds their memories. Throughout an individual’s life, they may be given the opportunity to absorb more minds.”
“Of the dying?”
“Not usually. Older Solins like to choose their mind partner. Someone they feel compatible with.”
“If they hold more than one mind in turn, don’t you end up with hundreds of minds in one individual?”
“The minds are consolidated into a single personality in the process of transfer.”
“I don’t understand why you hold Luke Parse,” he said.
“We needed to understand how to deal with the creatures that had appeared on our world.”
Panic gripped his throat. “So you just killed him?”
Kizel uttered a shrill buzz of negation. “No. He requested the Kiss.”
“It was immortality,” Kizel said. “I had been diagnosed with Pax two weeks earlier. I hadn’t told my co–workers – was still figuring out how to deal with it. So when the process was explained to me, I asked for it.”
“To become an enormous wasp?” He caught himself. “My apologies…I didn’t mean to imply…”
“Understandable,” Kizel said. “But life is life. And I knew I’d be here forever, with a mind that I found… compatible. I don’t know if I’m explaining it well, but you don’t understand the lure.”
Oh, I understand lures, he thought. “What about Angry Rose?”
The noise Kizel made was close to a human sigh. “Rose… I tried to explain after the transformation, but she wouldn’t listen. She thought I didn’t exist any more.”
Silence hung in the room between them like a web, torn only by the shrill whine of Kizel’s wings.
At length, it said, “Perhaps we should end this negotiation here for the day.”
He felt absurdly grateful.
Back at the hotel, he studied his lists. No outrageous demands had been made yet, but usually the third day was the day for tacking on the true bargaining chips. He had hoped that by being straightforward with the Solins, he might persuade them not to engage in this last minute dance, which sometimes became absurd and killed the whole deal.
He called Morgan.
“Sah went back,” Morgan said without preamble.
“Shit.” He rubbed at his face, feeling accumulated grime and stubble on his face. Sah was not the man he had expected. Morgan looked drawn and weary. “Well. Not like we can control anyone but ourselves.”
“I’m starting to have some doubts,” Morgan admitted. “I keep thinking how easy it would be to go around the corner and just keep walking till I find someone with Drift.”
Rutter laid his palm flat against the screen. “Don’t do it, man.”
Morgan’s hand mirrored his. “Thanks.” But the words were uneven and strained.
“Hey, once we get a good deal with the Solins, we’ll be sitting pretty,” he said.
Morgan ignored him. “It’s just that I feel so alone,” he said. “Remember being in the Drift? I never felt that way there.”
“I know,” he said. Like his fellow ex–addicts, the absence of the artificial connections provided by the drug ate at him with a constant ache. “But we’re doing well, Morgan. RecoveryCo will succeed.”
“Yeah,” Morgan said dully.
After he got off the screen, he slammed his fist into the wall in frustration. Every time one of them went back, they knew it dragged the rest of them a little closer. In the fresher, he stood under the cycling water for an hour, soaping and rinsing every inch of skin until he no longer felt Linko Port clinging to him like a garment.
He’d never felt that way with Drift, either. It was as though the drug removed all his anxieties, and what he would have considered filth in any other state seemed like just part of the chain of life. He thought it was the connectedness that did it – it was hard to object to something when you felt yourself so thoroughly a part of it. As though you belonged.
At the same noodle shop he had gone to the night before, he ordered the same tasteless meal. Angry Rose slid into the seat across from him, her eyes expectant. “Didn’t hear from you today,” she said.
He sucked in a long strand, greasy with fat. “It said he’s still your friend,” he said without preamble.
“Shit. That’s a thing. It knows what to say because it ate his mind.”
“Why are you so sure of that?”
“Luke would have never agreed to something like that.”
“He had Pax, he said. “Two weeks diagnosed. That would have meant he had, at most, half a year to live.”
She shook her head, dark hair falling to obscure her face. “He didn’t.”
“How do you know?”
“Because it’s not possible. He kept clean. Look, it’s just not.”
“I know it’s sad to lose a friend, but it’s sadder still to do it when you don’t have to.”
“Fuck you,” she said, loud enough to rouse several other people in the shop. The Doolah glanced over, but did not stir as he took another chopstickful of the noodles.
“Fuck you,” she said again. “That thing isn’t Luke.” Sliding from the seat, she moved out of the shop with furious grace.
He felt tired to his bones. He didn’t need this crap disrupting his first big Negotiation. He didn’t need this crap driving him back towards the Drift. So much depended on this deal. If it failed, all the money the company had spent on training him would be wasted and the company would go down the tubes. Taking all of them with it.
Day three of the Negotiation. List after list of trades, the result of long research on his part, and consultation with his partners regarding what Recovery could and couldn’t afford. The Solin hung motionless on the wall, speaking its assent when necessary. He’d been warned that his voice would go; the previous night he’d spent sucking on restorative lozenges and started the day wintergreen strong, but wavered as the hours progressed. Finally he was ready to hear the additional items that Kizel would demand.
“Your turn,” he said.
“Ah,” the Solin said. Again, Rutter wondered at the humanity implicit in that slight hesitation. How could Angry Rose doubt this was her friend?
“We require one thing only,” Kizel said.
He shuddered inwardly. Single items were usually big ticket items. A spaceship? A station? Bleeding edge technology?
Again, the hesitation before the Solin spoke.
“We require a human mind to join with us. One trained in intergalactic trade negotiations.”
Cold coiled heavy in his bowels as his mouth went dry.
“Mine, in other words,” he said.
“If no substitute can be found. We are willing to give up other items in return for the fulfillment of this request.”
“What other items?”
“Any ten from your list.”
It was a magnificent concession. The sort corporations spent their existences pursuing, hoping for the odd superstitious race that would give up more than they should due to vagaries of numbers, moon cycles, or the whimsy of their gods.
“We realize you may see this as a sacrifice,” Kizel said. “But be aware of what you are being offered. Immortality within a group consciousness that will always be with you. Knowing yourself safe and secure. All your anxieties gone.”
They’ve read my files, he thought. They know how to appeal to me.
The Solin’s voice took on the intonation he associated with Luke. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “You feel connected to things. Like you’re suspended in light, and can reach the stars. You have access to the memories of literally thousands of entities.”
“Ever do Drift, Luke?” he said, his voice harsh. “Or are you taking that out of some junkie’s description of what it’s like?”
“I hoped to put it in terms that you would understand – so you can know what a marvelous chance this is.”
The first word that came to his lips was an unconditional no, but thoughts of the others in the company caught him in the gut long enough to catch the word back.
“I’ll have to think about this,” he said.
The Solin seemed pleased. “We are prepared to meet again tomorrow, if you wish?”
“Very well,” he said. Honesty forced him to say more. “I’m going to say no, you know.”
“We are prepared for that,” the Solin said. “Be aware that you would not just be benefiting your company but our race. We are unprepared for complex trade deals.”
It was true that they had not challenged many of the items. He wondered again that none of the Big Three had approached them before suspicion seized him.
“You’ve proposed this deal to others?”
It buzzed briefly. “We have engaged in these negotiations forty–three previous times.”
No wonder it had come down to RecoveryCo.
At first he sat in his room pretending that none of it had been said, but finally he acknowledged reality and called his partners.
“Shit on that deal,” Morgan said immediately when consulted. The hopelessness in his voice gave way to anger. “Just stringing us along.”
“They’d make good on it,” Rutter said. “Just that… well, it’s a high price.”
“It’s out of the question,” Morgan said.
Outside the window, the greasy smoke of the port roiled like a spreading contagion.
“Look,” he said. “I’m going to try to talk them into the regular deal tomorrow. Maybe they’ll take it.”
“I’m sure the other forty–three guys felt the same.” Morgan’s shoulders slumped. “Dammit, Paul, I thought… I really thought we had a chance at things. And here we are, all the work gone straight down the tube. Out more than we started with. My mother mortgaged her holdings to fund my share. She was that excited about me going off the Drift for good.”
Others had made similar sacrifices. Rutter had been lucky; he’d stopped before the Drift sucked away everything he’d owned. All I lost were family and friends, he thought wryly. He’d also been the one best suited to the training. The training that the Solins valued so highly.
“I’m going to grab a bite to eat,” he said. “I’ll call you tomorrow after the Negotiation and tell you how it went.”
He paused, waiting for Morgan to begin the Litany, but the other man simply nodded and signed off.
Hunger had been gnawing at his gut like a parasite, but once outside he found his appetite had vanished. Instead he walked along the street, keeping to the more solid walkways and avoiding the dirty puddles that lay splattered across the roadway.
I should have expected this, he thought as he turned a corner and saw Angry Rose coming at him. Perfect end to a crap day.
“Well?” she said. She fell into pace alongside him. Her uniform was crumpled and worn, ringed with dirt around the neck.
“Found out what they want yet?”
“Is it common knowledge?”
“They’ve asked a whole lot of other reps the same thing.”
“You could have warned me,” he said.
“I tried to,” she said. “Then you told me that I was wrong and Luke was still alive.”
“I think he is. I think he’s the luckiest man alive.”
Her forehead furrowed in confusion. “What?”
“So you’re going to do it?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’d be giving in.”
“You are one fucked–up individual,” she said. “Look, you’re kidding me, right?”
“Sure,” he said. “Just kidding.”
She thumbed a pocket open and took out a small cylinder. “This is a bio–bomb. Cost me a lot to get one that would kill a Solin and not affect any other species in the room. I want my friend avenged. But now I can’t get close enough to use it. You can. You can free Luke.”
Suspicious, she glared at him. “You’re going to use it, right?”
“I don’t know.”
“Shit,” she said, but she pressed it into his palm anyway. “Tap the red button to set it going. Should take about three seconds, five tops, to work. Good tech.”
He tucked it away without looking at her.
“Buy you some noodles?”
“No,” he said. “I need to get some sleep for tomorrow.”
“Surely there must be some room to negotiate here,” he said to Kizel the next day.
“Not for this.” It was regretful but firm.
He took the bio–bomb on his pocket. “See this?” he said. “Angry Rose gave it to me. She wanted me to kill you, and instead I’m giving it to you. Isn’t that worth something?”
“It is appreciated,” the Solin said. “We will change the number of items you may remove to twelve.”
“I could just set it off right now.”
“It is within the realm of possibility. I do not know what we would do then. It is most probable that we would try to start again before our system is stripped clean.”
“God,” he said. He leaned his forehead onto the surface of the table. Maybe if I just don’t move, nothing will happen. Maybe I’ll wake up and find myself back in my old life.
The Solin let him sit in silence until his cramping limbs forced him upright.
“We cannot survive without this,” the Solin said.
“That’s not my responsibility.”
“No. It’s not.”
“I want to talk to Luke again.”
“We contain Luke. You are speaking with him.”
“What’s it like?” he said. “What’s it really like?”
“Like love,” Luke said. “It’s like love.”
“How do I know you’re not lying? Or that you’re really there? Or that you haven’t been altered by the minds with you?”
Tears ran down his face, washing away the traces of dirt left on the skin by his morning walk to the Representative Building. He thought about the others, of their hopes, of their dreams, of the losses they had already suffered to the drug. He thought about Angry Rose, and her refusal to forgive her friend for changing. And of stardrift itself, of surrendering himself to the drug, feeling that glow, feeling that connection, feeling loneliness slip away. He thought about all these things, the Litany a counterpoint behind them, before the word “Yes” echoed in the room, and the Solin moved forward, sting quivering and poised.
Story © 2008 Cat Rambo. All other content copyright © 2008 ByrenLee Press
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish