Sometimes you come up with these insane ideas. Most of those ideas never end up being put into practice—they’re just too out there. But sometimes, with a little work, those ideas become so crazy they just might work. That’s the feeling we got when we started to talk about Operation: Quebec. Rescuing Grant Channing and America Farragut was something that needed to happen. Sending three men in to do the job? That was the crazy part. We had no idea if it would work or not. All we could do was hope.
— Kara Grace-Forester, member of the Rose Council (5245-5250)
17 Octem, 5249 PD
“Rachel, I need your help.”
Ezra Grace was standing at the edge of her garden, where Rachel was elbow-deep in the dirt, potting some of her plants to start the process of slowly moving them inside for the winter—though there were a few she was probably planning to give away, lined up at the far end of the garden, near her small skimmer. She raised an eyebrow at him, not bothering to stand. “Shouldn’t you be helping other people right about now?”
He shook his head. “I don’t have any appointments today and if base needs me, they know how to find me fast.” He gestured vaguely to the headset dangling around his neck. “I need your help with something.”
The older woman stared at him for a moment, then nodded, going back to her work in the garden. “What’s up?”
“Alana and Kara and I have been working on something. A plan. But I’m going to need your help convincing a couple of the principals it’s a good idea.”
“A plan for what, Ezra?” Rachel frowned at the stalk between her hands and gestured. “Hand me that pot, would you?”
Ezra scooped up the pot that looked like it had been made by one of the other Consuls—Yvgeny Tarasavich was a potter of no small skill—and eased between the wild tangles of greenery to hand her the pot, being careful to not step on the tomato plant especially, spidery and sprawling as it was. It was full of small green tomatoes, each about the size of the last joint of his thumb. “To rescue your sister and her husband from the congloms.”
Rachel almost dropped the pot but recovered quickly, scooping some dirt into it and giving him a hard look. “You’re being proactive about that, are you?”
Ezra frowned. “Kara told me about what happened at the meeting a couple weeks ago. Brendan’s been worried about Lindsay ever since. There’s pretty much nothing I can do about that other than try to solve one problem by solving a related problem. Kara said the Council agreed that Grant and America can’t be left in enemy hands.”
“Enemy hands.” Rachel murmured, almost to herself. “We never really talked about them that way before, did we? Not here. Not since before…” She stared at her dirty hands for a long moment, seeing a time other than the moment they were living in. She sighed quietly and looked at him. “You said you needed my help.”
He nodded. “I think I’m going to. D’Arcy hasn’t come up with any bright ideas, has he? For how to get them out of where they are alive?”
Rachel shook her head. “No. He’s dragging his feet a little.” She glanced toward the house briefly. “Adam is going to pay him an unpleasant visit sometime today.”
Adam? Who’s Adam? He decided not to ask. It was probably safer that way. “Well, then, it’s even better that we’ve come up with the plan we’ve started to come up with.” He almost moved toward her, but then remembered the tomato plant practically tangled around his feet and held still. “We think that one ship, with a three-man team, might have a shot at pulling them out. It’s really cloak and dagger special ops kind of stuff, but Alana’s been helping me hammer out the details and we think it’ll work.”
Rachel sat back against her heels. “And what, exactly, is this amazing plan of yours? And what part of it do you need my help with?”
“We need Brendan.”
Rachel arched a brow. “Why do you need Brendan?”
“Chinasia Corp and the Eurydice Compact have them, right? And Brendan knows the facility where one of them is being held, right?”
Rachel frowned. “How did you—did Brendan?—oh. Kara.”
He nodded. “We wouldn’t have about half the intelligence we have on the situation without her. She’s been keeping me abreast of what goes on at Council meetings.” He scratched his nose a little, nervously. “We need someone who speaks the corporate and tactical languages of Chinasia Corp. He’s the only one on the freaking planet who does.”
She didn’t disagree. She looked back to the pot, scooped some more dirt into it, then started to settle the plant she’d been preparing to pot into the loose soil. “How are you going to handle the Compact end of it?”
“That’s where Alana comes in.”
Rachel arched a brow, looking up at Ezra. “She agreed to go?”
“She’s been helping me plan. It took me two days to convince her that I should be the third person on the team going in.”
“I’m shocked you talked her into leaving the planet. She hasn’t been off-world in eighteen years.”
Ezra licked his lips. “She said she’d do anything to help Lindsay’s parents, Rachel. Anything.”
She sat back against her heels, looking distant for a moment, brow furrowing. “That’s interesting,” she murmured softly.
He raised a brow at her. What’s interesting?
She shook her head slightly. “Brendan and I had been talking about Alana’s attachment to Lindsay. I haven’t shared my theories on it with him yet.”
“Are you going to share them with me?” I knew she was very attached to Lindsay. But if even Rachel doesn’t know why… The mystery that was Alana Chase had suddenly deepened.
Rachel smiled wryly up at him, then went back to potting the vegetable plant she’d dug up out of her garden. “Are you sure you want to know?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
She shook her head a little. “Just checking.” She scooped another handful of dirt into the pot. “I think she may somehow be connected to Grant.”
“Lindsay’s father Grant?”
Rachel nodded, staring at the plant under her hands. “I would know if she was connected to my sister, which she isn’t. A connection to Grant—to the Channing family—is the only thing that I can think of to explain her devotion to Lindsay. She’s been taking orders from her since Lindsay was eight.” Rachel snorted humorlessly. “That’s how Brendan’s still alive.”
Ezra raised a brow. He’d never gotten a straight answer out of Brendan, how he’d managed to be the only survivor of his dropship. “Really.”
Rachel did laugh this time. “Lindsay told her not to kill him. She was about to pull the trigger on him, too.” She shook her head slightly. “She gave him a concussion instead. That’s why he doesn’t remember the particulars of those last few moments before he woke up at the base hospital.”
Ezra shook his head. Never imagined the reason he didn’t tell me was because he didn’t remember what happened to him. “That why she hates him?”
Rachel winced. “I don’t think she actually hates him, Ezra. I really don’t.” She exhaled, standing up and handing the pot to him. She dusted off her hands, her knees. “I think she pretends she hates him because she doesn’t think that he and Lindsay were a good match. Or something like that.” She smiled wryly. “Of course, it didn’t matter what she thought about the match, because they’re the ones that get to choose.” She shooed him out of the garden. He stumbled back, narrowly avoiding crushing something that might have been a carrot, back into the grass. She followed him out of the garden, picking her way carefully but easily. She took the pot from him and set it down in the grass.
“So let me make sure I’m clear on this. You need my help convincing Brendan that this plan is a good idea and that he should come along. Yes?”
“That’s the long and short of it, yes.”
Rachel nodded. “Have you given any thought as to how you’re going to convince Lindsay to let him go?” She dusted a little more dirt off her pants and then headed for the house.
Ezra blinked, following her toward the house. “…it’s her parents. We’d be going out to rescue her parents. Why would that take a lot of convincing?”
“You’re the one that’s asking for my help talking Brendan into this. Why do you think he’d say no?”
“Because he wouldn’t want to leave Lindsay alone. He worries.”
“And you think that Lindsay would worry any less about him if he went flying back into New Earth space with you and Alana?” Rachel turned toward him, leaning in the doorframe of the exterior side door that led into her kitchen. “First of all, she’d worry about Alana deciding to kill Brendan by tossing him out an airlock or something.”
“You said that Alana didn’t actually hate Brendan.”
“I did say that. But that’s not necessarily what they think, or what they fear.” Rachel rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. She left a bit of dirt on the tip. “Second, Brendan is the only person that can help her control her visions right now. Contact with him is the only thing that’s been anchoring her lately, I think. It could be dangerous for them to be apart for very long, especially in the face of an impending war, which is going to make her abilities go a little haywire.”
Ezra frowned. How does she know all this? Or is she guessing?
Rachel shook her head at his puzzled look. If she was doing a surface read of his thoughts, he didn’t notice it. “I’m writing a book on Ryland LeSarte, Ezra. When war broke out during his lifetime between the Guard and the Compact, it almost killed him, and not because he saw any sort of military action. His oracular ability threatened to completely overwhelm his senses. Journals and reports say that the only reason he didn’t end up in some sort of vegetative state was because of Sara Farragut and later their son, Ian.”
“…I didn’t know that.”
“Nobody outside the family knows that, Ezra. Not yet, anyway.” Rachel shook her head slightly. “There are some…things…in place that make me think that she’ll be all right if he goes—if you and I and possibly Adam can convince him to go of his own free will. If the Guardians like the plan, they’ll order him to go even if he doesn’t want to. That’s the way these things work.”
“But it’d be better if he agrees to go on his own.”
She nodded. “Much better, don’t you think?”
He nodded in agreement. “I think so. That’s why I came to you. You…helped raise him.”
“I did raise him, after he came here.” She smiled wryly. “I’d like to think he looks at me like a second mother. Or at least a favorite aunt. It took a lot of work to unknot him, after what Chinasia Corp did to him for sixteen years.” She leaned against the door, now. “I’ll talk to him for you, Ezra. You should try to talk to him yourself, first. See how he reacts.”
“Alone, you think?”
“Definitely alone.” Rachel frowned, shaking her head. “I don’t think that Lindsay’s going to like the idea at all.” There was a voice calling Rachel’s name from inside. A man’s voice. “Keep me posted on how it’s coming together—and when you’re going to present it to the Council.”
Ezra nodded, brow furrowing even as he tried to smother the curiosity suddenly rising. Who’s in there calling for her? “I guess I’ll go, then, since you’re not going to invite me in for tea.” He smiled wryly.
She laughed. “Don’t think ill of me for it, Ezra. We’ve both got our work to do. Take one of the pots of beans to your sister and Gabriel, will you?”
Rachel nodded. “I didn’t think you knew the difference.”
Ezra blushed. “Just because I don’t have a big garden doesn’t mean I don’t know what snap peas look like on the vine, Rachel. The pot on the end okay?”
She nodded. “We’ll talk more later.” The voice inside was still calling for her, starting to get a little insistent. Ezra thought maybe it was familiar.
“Sure.” He backed away, waved a little, then went and got the indicated pot. For a moment, he regretted walking rather than taking a skimmer up.
The exercise will do me good, I guess, he thought. Kara and Gabe didn’t live that far away, anyway. It wouldn’t take long to bring them the peas. Maybe he and Gabe would play some checkers while he and Kara discussed the plan further. Of course, they’d have to round up Alana. That shouldn’t be too hard. She’s probably at home, or lurking around Lindsay and Brendan’s. One or the other. Either way…easy to find.