They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.
— Book of Hosea
13 Novem, 5249 PD
“Perhaps you could explain that?” Kara said after a moment of stunned silence.
It’s as bad as we feared. Adam leaned back in his seat, steepling his fingers in front of him and watching Scarelli’s face. He knew most of the proposal, but by no means was he aware of the full extent of Mission Systems’ plans.
But if they want to move all of their operations here just like that, then it can’t be good back in NeCom space. He tried to keep his expression one of bland interest, even though D’Arcy was gone. It wouldn’t be good to look too intrigued.
Scarelli cleared his throat quietly. “It is becoming clear to our board of directors, our staff and our clientele that the larger conglomerates are beginning to flaunt the regulations that were designed to protect all of us after the wars. Once all of those protections disappear, it’ll be too late. Everyone who can get out needs to do it while they can.” He spread his hands. “The…offer…to take the warship off our hands has afforded us just the opportunity we need to get the hell out of their reach.”
“They,” Amelda said, tapping a finger gainst her lips. “Who do you mean when you say that?”
“Chinasia Corp for one. The Eurydice Compact. Idesali. Take your pick. They’re all trying to stake their claims to whatever’s going to be left when the war finally happens.” Scarelli shook his head. “I’m not delusional. It’s coming. I don’t think it can be stopped. Have any refugees come here yet?”
Adam saw his niece startle out of the corner of his eye and lowered his hands, resting his palms flat against the tabletop. “Should we have seen refugees?”
“Maybe not yet,” Scarelli said quietly. “But they’ll come. Sooner rather than later, they’ll come and they’re going to beg safe haven. It’s not safe for psychics in Commonwealth space anymore, not like it used to be. The protection is still there on paper, but it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I wish it did.”
Lindsay cleared her throat. “When.”
Scarelli looked at her, his jaw firming. “I would say within the week, if not sooner.”
She glanced at Rachel and Amelda, then leaned back, brows knitting. She tapped one gloved finger against her lips, clearly half lost in thought.
“People are afraid,” Scarelli said. “People who never should have had to be afraid are afraid now. It’s not fair.”
“No,” Adam agreed. “It’s not fair.” He chose his next words carefully, hoping he’d get the maximum effect—on the council, on Scarelli, everyone. Too bad D’Arcy’s gone. He’d look like he’d swallowed a sour peach whole. “So to be clear, we could be looking at a situation similar to what occurred before Mimir fell.”
A pained expression washed over Scarelli’s face, his brows drawing together, his jaw growing tight. “Yes, Marshal Windsor. That’s exactly what we’re afraid of.”
It’s what we’re all afraid of, isn’t it? Another Mimir. Another war. Billions dead.
Humanity finally destroyed. I wonder sometimes if that’s not what the universe intends.
He tapped a fingertip against the wood of the tabletop before him. “And that’s why you can’t stay in NeCom space, despite the Commonwealth’s protections for free enterprise.”
“That’s correct,” Scarelli said, smiling faintly, as if he was relieved that someone seemed to understand their motives.
Don’t look so pleased yet, Adriano. You may not like what comes next. “And you’re willing to give up all of those protections and come here, to our corner of space, and play by our rules?”
“You say that as if we have a choice.”
Adam shrugged. “You do. You don’t have to come here. You can stay where you are or strike out on your own, stake your own new claim, start over.”
“We don’t have the resources for that,” Scarelli said without a trace of pain in his voice. “And it’s not the path we want to walk.” A smile ghosted across his lips. “It’s not the one I want, anyway.” His gaze flicked toward Rachel, then back to Adam. “I never saw the writings that came off of this planet as propaganda. I read them all, but I never dared to believe. Then I came here and I can see that it’s working. I can make other people believe that, now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes. There are so many people within Mission Systems, in Commonwealth space, that will believe if they’re given the opportunity—once they can see the truth.
“This world, the way you live, that’s the truth. It’s the only way we can survive. Humanity won’t make it through another exodus. We’ve been dying by inches for centuries. It needs to stop, and if I and my colleagues at Mission Systems have to be the sacrificial lambs falling on our swords to make that happen, to make folks back home believe in the Foundation, then so be it.”
“It won’t come to that,” Lindsay said softly, looking Scarelli in the eye. Adam’s muscles knotted as the man met his niece’s gaze.
“How do you know, Consul?”
“You’re here now, aren’t you? That could make all the difference in the universe when it comes to shifting the tides of war.” Lindsay’s eyes flashed with a determined light, the same that Adam had seen before in her mother, in her father. “Mimir stood alone when it fell—the Guard stood alone. Even the Foundation stood powerless to help them when the bombs fell. That won’t be us.”
Her words shot shivers up and down Adam’s spine. Now I just hope that she’s right. He stared at her for a long moment.
Have faith, Adam Windsor. Have faith. He met Rachel’s gaze, saw only the barest trace of worry there. Faith. They needed to have faith.
Lindsay smiled. The smile was dangerous, a soldier’s smile. It was like looking at Alana Chase for a moment. “When they come—and we know that they’ll come—they’ll find that we here are quite a bit most difficult to take down than they think.”