19 Decem, 5249 PD
The world flared bright and the ground heaved.
Lindsay and Kara sprawled and rolled as the field bucked beneath their feet, their mad dash toward the downed aircraft abruptly aborted. Lindsay gasped for breath as she came to a stop in a shallow furrow between rows of grapevines, all the wind knocked from her lungs when she’d been thrown from her feet.
She tried to orient herself, tried to figure out what had just happened. Her head was ringing, but her vision was clear.
Did they just fire on us from orbit? Is that what just happened?
How is that even possible?
She felt sick, wanted to puke up everything that was in her stomach at the thought. The worst part about it all was that she knew it was possible, she knew it could happen.
She’d seen it happen.
“Lin! Lin, we’ve got to get under cover.” Kara scrambled toward her from the next furrow over, ducking beneath one of the arbors, keeping low as she moved. “I’m not sure what they were targeting, but I can see fires burning in the city proper. They’re firing from orbit.”
Her blood ran cold and a shudder ran through her. No. No, it’s too soon. It has to be too soon.
We were going to stop this from happening.
“Get up! We have to move.”
“The only cover is where—”
“I know it. Get your feet under you.”
Lindsay swore and fumbled to her feet, stumbling a step as her ankle tried to fold underneath her. She grimaced, gritting her teeth as she fought through the pain. Must have twisted it when I went down. Damn it all.
Kara tucked her arm beneath hers shoulders. “Stay low,” she warned. “Just in case.”
“They’re softening us up before they send landers,” Lindsay said, suddenly breathless. “That’s got to be it, Kara. That’s got to be it.”
“Right,” Kara said, her tone anything but reassuring. “A repeat of the Whispers won’t do them any good if they want our trees and our farmland.”
Lindsay shuddered. There were thousands upon thousands of miles of undisturbed forest and plain beyond Nova Spexi. The enemy—whoever was attacking them—could destroy the city and everything in a two mile radius around it without significantly hurting their ability to use the world’s available resources.
“You had to say that,” she said.
Kara glared at her. “Sunshine and rainbows doesn’t exactly strike me as the proper reaction to our current situation.”
Lindsay caught a flash out of the corner of her eye and twisted back toward the city. Something exploded there and the ground moved beneath them again.
This time, the pair was ready for it, expecting it, and they kept their feet. It was less than a dozen yards to the fuselage. They just needed to make it there and then maybe, just maybe, they’d be able to find something like shelter from the bombardment.
Brendan, are you still with me?
His pain clawed at her again, forgotten in the midst of sudden heart-pounding panic and surprise. Barely, came the reply that accompanied the agony. What’s happening up there?
She sucked in a breath. Orbital bombardment. That’s what’s happening out here.
“Frak me,” Brendan groaned, his voice weak. Frederick startled at the sound, looking toward the pilot.
“Still, and barely. Lin’s in my head.”
Frederick swallowed, a shiver shooting down his spine. “Did she tell you what’s going on topside?”
“You don’t want to know,” the pilot muttered, his eyes squeezing shut.
“I may not want to know, but I’m fearing that I might need to.”
Brendan exhaled. “Bombardment. They’re firing on us from orbit.”
“Bloody hellfire,” Frederick said, feeling light-headed. “It really is happening all over again.”
“Mimir,” he said, forgetting that Brendan hadn’t been entirely conscious for their last discussion. “It’s Mimir all over again.”
“Except they didn’t want Mimir’s resources when they came there, right? They wanted something else. Something worse.”
“The extermination of a race,” Frederick whispered, staring blankly at the cellar wall. “The destruction of psychics.”
“More than that,” Brendan rasped. “I can see it, now. Listening’s done me good—reading Lin’s books has done me good. Knowledge, Inspector Rose. They wanted to destroy what Mimir knew.” His eyes fluttered shut again. “What do we know that they knew?”
His blood went cold, ice tumbling through his veins as he stared at the semi-conscious pilot, the Sarah Farragut to Lindsay’s Ryland LeSarte. Frederick’s heart was in his throat as he whispered, “How did you come to that conclusion?”
“It just fits,” Brendan mumbled. “It all fits.”
Lindsay’s voice echoed quietly, barely penetrating the debris above them. Brendan opened his eyes again and stared at the earthen ceiling and the shattered fuselage that blocked access to the cellar.
“They came looking for us,” he mumbled. “They shouldn’t have. It was stupid. They did it anyway.” The ghost of a smile touched his lips. “The fact that she’s stubborn is part of why I love her so much.”
Frederick heaved himself to his feet, limping toward the sound of Lindsay’s and Kara’s voices, barely audible. “We’re down here!”
“How many?” Kara asked.
“Three,” Frederick said, glancing at Brendan and Inspector Winston. “Just three.”
“Hold on. We’re going to try to get down there with you.”
“What about getting us out?” Frederick asked.
“Too dangerous!” Kara called back. “We’re joining you. Safer down there than it is up here. City’s on fire.”
Bile crept up in Frederick’s throat, sickness threatening.
Just like the last time.
Could Brendan be right? Was this about something they knew, not about the resources they controlled?
Bloody hell. That’s something I never thought about.
Or did I? Have I just forgotten?
“Oh Seph,” he whispered. “I hope you’ll be able to unravel whatever I left behind because god knows that I can’t. I can’t.”