Chapter Thirty-six

Sins and secrets—sometimes, they are one and the same.  Advisors and traitors—sometimes, they’re one and the same as well.

— Unknown

 20 Novem, 5249 PD

“You could come, you know,” Rachel said softly, leaning in the doorway and watching Frederick stare silently out the window of the room he was sharing with Daci.  Their spouses had already left for the day, headed for a confab with Aidan Church to prepare a situation briefing before the Council meeting.  Lindsay was out in the garden, taking out frustrations and worries on some weeds that had begun to overgrow the dying tomato plants.  It was only the two of them indoors, two old friends who understood each other more than either cared to admit.

Frederick turned from the window, a brow arching slightly.  “Eh?”

“The Council meeting.  You could come.  It’s the flip of a coin whether someone would notice you or not.  I imagine some would, but they may say nothing of it.”  She straightened and joined him in the bedroom, wandering toward the window to stand alongside of where he stood, leaning on his cane.  “There’s going to be so much going on, Freder.  You should come. Whoever was hunting you…they must have stopped by now, right?  They think you’re dead, and it’s been so long.”

Frederick shrugged.  “I don’t know, Rachel.  Daci thinks if I resurface, then someone will come after me again.  I’m not sure what to think.  I’m not even sure why they wanted to kill me.”

Rachel shook her head.  “It must’ve been something about Mimir, Freder.  What else could it have been?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted.  “But I’m not entirely sure it had to do with home.”  He gave her a rueful smile.  “Then again, I’m not entirely certain it didn’t, either.”

“We never will be,” Rachel said softly.  She startled herself with the admission.  When did I give up on ever knowing?  It must have been when I thought he’d died and took all the secrets with him.  Maybe it was after Aidan told me I was being foolish, worrying about the past when I had a future to consider.

            I don’t know when it happened.  But it did.

“No, we won’t,” Frederick said.  “Not unless they come after me again.”

“They won’t.”

He smiled.  “Your niece is the Oracle, Rachel.  Not you.”

She smiled back.  “That may be true, Freder, but sometimes I see things just as clearly as she does.”  She took his hand and squeezed.  “Come with us.”

“Daci will kill me,” he murmured, eyes growing distant as he stared out the window at the trees.

“If she does, none of us—or whoever wanted you dead back then—will have anything to worry about where you’re concerned, now will we?”  Rachel gave him a cheeky grin and tugged on his hand.  “We just won’t tell anyone who you are.  Won’t be like we’re announcing your presence!  You’ll be there.  You’ll see what we’re all going on about, and probably no one will even notice that you’re around, much less know who you are.  I doubt they’d make the connection.”  It’s been too long and you look different now.  None of them knew you like we did back home.  No one will know.  It’ll be fine.  You’ll be safe.

            Adam needs you, Freder.  He’s got plans.  I just don’t know what they are yet.

“And recognize where the issues and the breakdowns are,” Frederick said.

“Exactly.”  Her fingers tightened around his again.  “Will you come?”

He stared out the window for a moment longer before he finally nodded. “Yes.  I’ll come.”

Rachel tried to smother a triumphant grin as she squeezed his hand one last time.  He shot her a smile that said she’d failed, but it was all right.

“Adam has plans, doesn’t he?”

“If he does, he hasn’t told me.”  Rachel shrugged.  “We can still keep secrets from each other.  Life wouldn’t be any fun otherwise.”

Frederick laughed and squeezed her hand back.  “Give me ten minutes to make myself presentable.  Are you going to tell Lindsay, or is this going to be a surprise?”

“I’ll tell her, but I’m not going to call up there and tell them.”  Let them all be surprised to see him.  We’ll see how well they cover.

The thought must have been loud, because the corners of his mouth twitched upward in a smile.  “It’ll be interesting to see the look on their faces, but if we don’t tell them, they can’t say no.  Better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.”

“Exactly.”  Rachel smiled and let go of his hand.  “I’ll be out with Lindsay.”

Frederick nodded and shooed her out of the room.  Buoyed by her apparent victory, Rachel practically skipped all the way out to the garden as if her body weighed nothing at all.

Lindsay glanced up from the weeding and raised a brow.  “…you’re really pleased by something.”

“I talked Frederick into coming along with us,” Rachel said as she waded between rows of vegetables toward where Lindsay crouched among the fading tomato vines.

Lindsay’s brow creased.  “Are you sure that’s a good idea?  What if…Aunt Rachel, what if someone on the Council is some kind of traitor?”

Rachel’s heart gave a little stutter-step.  “Lindsay, none of us like D’Arcy, but he wouldn’t betray the Colony.”

“How can we be sure of that?” she asked softly, sitting back against her heels.  “How can we be sure, Aunt Rachel?  We can’t, can we?  I don’t trust him, not now.  Not after what he did to try to keep us from rescuing my parents and definitely not after he tried to keep us from welcoming Mission Systems.  I don’t think he’s got the Colony’s best interests at heart.  I really don’t.”

“Just because he doesn’t agree with  you doesn’t mean he’s got it out for the Colony.  He just has other priorities that are different from ours.  I’m sure he’s got his own ides about what would be best.”

Lindsay grimaced.  “I’d love and hate to hear what they are.”

Rachel laughed.  “Me too.  Are you ready for the Council meeting?”

“I don’t suppose I can skip.”

“No.  You’ve done enough of that.  Now’s the time for you to be seen and heard, Lindsay.”  Rachel crouched down and looked her in the eye.  “You’ve got so much more strength in you than anyone I’ve ever known.  You don’t have to hide from anyone, not today and not ever again.  People are starting to see it in you—that strength you’ve been hoarding all this time.  The Council’s starting to sit up and take notice.  You’re not the child they thought you were.  You’re a grown woman with a strong voice and a good heart.  You belong on that Council and the others are finally starting to realize why.”

“D’Arcy hates me,” she said, her clear-eyed gaze meeting Rachel’s head-on.  “He thinks I’m a threat.  He thinks all of us are a threat.  All of us who came from Mimir.  He’s afraid of us.  He honestly thinks that we’re going to somehow destroy the Colony, Aunt Rachel.  How am I supposed to trust that, to believe that he’s got our best interests at heart when he thinks that half the population is going to destroy the Foundation and the dream that’s this place?”

Rachel’s stomach flipped and she fought to suppress a shiver.  I never realized that.  Why didn’t I?  Did I try not to read it in him?  Did I just…ignore any warning flashes?

            You didn’t like him, Rachel.  You never did.  Could his hate be why?  Her lips thinned.  That could be it.

“I guess I understand,” Rachel said quietly as she straightened.  “But we still have to work with him, Lindsay.  At least for now.”

Lindsay nodded, wiping her hands on the seat of her pants.  “For now.  Until something changes.”

For a moment, Rachel was deeply tempted to ask her niece about what might change.  The sound of the back door opening and Frederick’s footsteps kept the question trapped behind her teeth.

“Are we ready, then?” he asked as he approached the edge of the garden.

“As long as you are,” Rachel said, picking her way out from amongst the rows of green.

Frederick smiled.  “Then we are.  Lead on.”

Rachel grinned and headed for the skimmer, leaving the other two to trail in her wake.

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