Frederick Rose could have been anything he chose to be, but he chose to apply his considerable intellect toward problem solving, toward sorting out mysteries and meting out justice. I hope someday to be half the Inspector he was.
— Sephora Damerian, eulogy for Frederick Rose, 5237 PD
15 Novem, 5249 PD
“So the Council actually agreed to let them settle here?” Frederick asked from behind him. Adam half turned toward him and shrugged slightly.
“On a probationary basis, anyhow, and volunteers only. We’ll see how it goes.” He stood among the ripening late summer tomatoes, staring up at the twilight sky. The days were quickly getting shorter as the season wore on. Soon the nights would be longer than the days and summer would give way to autumn and the harvest, then winter.
Will there be war before winter? He frowned slightly.
“Do you think it will work?” Frederick tugged the kitchen door closed behind him and limped to the edge of the garden.
Adam shrugged. “Lindsay seems to think so. The rest of us just have to hope. Scarelli—the Mission Systems rep—is certainly enthusiastic about the idea, and he seems sincere in his desire to stay here.” He crouched, plucking a few small tomatoes from their vines, cradling the orange-red fruits in his calloused palm as he straightened up again. “We’ll have to see if it will work in the long run. They’ll be under significant scrutiny for a long time, I’m thinking.”
“That doesn’t come as any surprise.” The former Commonwealth Inspector leaned against his cane at the edge of the garden, extending a hand to take the tomatoes from his friend. “What did your illustrious spymaster have to say about all of it? I heard minimal complaints about him when you all came back.”
“We kicked him out of the meeting,” Adam said as he handed over the tomatoes and bent to pick some more. “He was against the idea from the first bloody second. Adriano wouldn’t have been able to say a damned word if we’d let him stay. So we registered his vote—his mind wasn’t going to change—and asked him to get back to work on determining exactly how bad the situation is inside of the Commonwealth.” He smirked, glancing at Frederick. “Of course, anyone coming in from Mission Systems is going to be a wealth of unvarnished information for us, completely outside of D’Arcy’s control.”
“Sounds like the man’s feeling threatened,” Frederick said, frowning briefly. “Does he have reason for it?”
“Don’t know,” Adam said, careful not to look at his old friend. “Does he?” The minute Freder knows that I’ve got the idea in my head, he’ll shoot me down. We’re not at a position where I can talk him into it—not yet.
“From the way that you’ve all talked about it, no. You don’t have anyone to replace him with. Never mind that rot about old Foundation stock.” Frederick’s eyes narrowed in the dim. “Are you trying to gather enough evidence to oust him?”
“I’ve been trying for some time, actually,” Adam said. “But it’s for naught until we have someone to replace him. I don’t know who we could use.”
“Dr. Grace seems to have a great deal of contact with the wider galaxy.”
Ezra Grace, a spymaster? Adam snorted. “He’s a doctor, my friend, and a good one. First of all, I’d rather not endanger his reputation by turning him into a spy for us. Secondly, I’m not certain how easily he’d be able to cultivate the type of contacts we’d need in a spymaster anyhow. Yes, he’s known in the galaxy and yes, he’s got contacts, but they’re all in the medical community. I doubt that would be all that useful for a spy.”
“You might be surprised,” Frederick said quietly, then shrugged slightly. “Who would you choose?”
“I don’t know,” Adam lied. “There just aren’t any good candidates yet. Aidan might know better.”
The corner of Frederick’s mouth twitched upward in a smile. “Liar. You have ideas.”
“No good ones,” Adam said, smiling back. Not yet, anyway—still not sure talking you into it would be a good idea. Perhaps another candidate will present themselves” “Not yet, but I have hope.” With another handful of tomatoes cradled in his palm, he picked his way out of the garden and joined Frederick at its edge, staring up at the starlit sky beyond the trees.
“It’s peaceful here,” Frederick said softly. “More peaceful than I ever would have suspected. Reminds me of the retreat.”
“That’s the idea,” Adam said. “I built it that way. Found the spot and did it.” He smiled at the surprised look on his friend’s face. “Didn’t realize that, did you?”
“I suppose I didn’t—though I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me, should it?” Frederick shook his head slightly, eyes distant as he stared at the sky. His voice grew quiet, almost mournful. “How much have I missed, Grumpy? I hid from the galaxy—the galaxy wasn’t supposed to hide from me, but that’s what happened.”
Adam winced. “We did it so you’d be safe, Freder.”
“I know,” his friend said. “And you weren’t wrong. But that doesn’t make it easier. I used to…I used to know what was going on out there. I barely even had to think about it. And now? God help me, I’ve got no idea what’s what, who’s in power, which conglomerates are ascendant…if Sephi could see me now, she’d be ashamed of what I’ve become.”
“Sephora. She was the junior inspector that I worked with—one of the few people in the galaxy that got along with Daci as well as I did.” A ghost of a smile crossed Frederick’s lips. “I like to think I taught her almost everything I knew.”
I wonder if she was working with him on the Mimir investigation.
The question must have been on his face, in his eyes, because Frederick shook his head slightly. “She was with me when Mimir happened—with Daci and I. When I started to get…close…to whatever I must have known before they tried to kill me, I’d recommended her for promotion to First Grade herself. She’d gotten her first assignment. Corporate irregularities at Idesalli. The last time I spoke to her, she was on the way home from their headquarters. That was…a day or two before the gap starts, I think.” There was still pain in his voice, frustration when he talked about the gap in his memory.
He wishes he knew who killed Mimir as much as every refugee wants to know who murdered our homeworld. Adam touched his shoulder lightly. Frederick smiled wryly and shook his head.
“No sense lamenting it again, is there?” he said quietly. “Tell me about the meeting. What else happened today?”
“Why didn’t you ask them?” Adam nodded toward the kitchen door. Inside, their wives and Lindsay were making dinner.
Frederick shook his head. “Daci’s still trying to protect me, and Rachel and Lindsay will only let her—at least for now. I think she hopes that after this is all over we can just go back to Urgarthe and be left alone again.”
“And you don’t want that anymore?” Adam asked, heart starting to lift a little. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed his old friend until they’d been able to start speaking every day again. The thought of Frederick being gone again made him a little sad, a little sick. You don’t have many friends to begin with—friends from back home, from your past are even more rare. Shouldn’t be a surprise that you’d be upset at the idea of one of them disappearing again.
“No,” Frederick said. “And God help me, too, because I really don’t want it and it’s going to upset her more than just a little when I tell her. Baby or no baby, Adam, I don’t want to go back into hiding forever. Maybe…maybe whoever was trying to kill me has forgotten. I certainly don’t know why anymore.”
Fat chance. “We can only hope,” Adam said. “Have you told her?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know how. It doesn’t matter. It’s not a discussion we need to have until this is all over, and this won’t be over anytime soon, will it?”
“No,” Adam agreed. “I’m afraid it won’t.”
“See? Then it’s a moot point.” Frederick’s gaze shifted toward the sky again. “And I’ve got plenty of time to figure out what I’ve missed.”
“You’ll need help,” Adam said.
“Of course I will, but you’re itching to give it to me, aren’t you?” Frederick smirked, looking at Adam sidelong. “You want to put my analytical brain to work on whatever intelligence your illustrious spymaster is bringing in—and then some. Don’t you?”
Adam smiled sheepishly. “How long did it take you to figure that out?”
Frederick shrugged slightly. “You all complain bitterly about the man, but you’re the only one I hear suggesting that someone could do better. Put my hands on what he’s got and what your analysts have and I’ll see what shakes loose.”
Lindsay poked her head out the kitchen door. “Uncle Adam? Frederick? Dinner’s ready.”
“Are you going to tell Daci?” Adam asked Frederick as they started for the door.
“About what? Keeping myself busy?” He smiled. “I don’t see any reason to—not yet. She’s got enough to be concerned with.”
Adam threw his arm around his friend’s shoulders. “I appreciate the help.”
“I’ll make you pay for it somehow.” Frederick smirked.
“You always do.”