Morning in the city of dreams (3 Pesussekhin of Poràkol 1865)

I awoke when strong morning light patterned across my face. The cut from Karatau Meiyenesi’s promise throbbed in time with my heartbeat, and my neck ached from sleeping in a chair. For a moment, I wondered whether the fever would return, but my recent records have been diligent. Sehutannyi sprawled across her bed in a deep slumber, chest rising and falling more regularly than it had last night, her heartbeat normal. The faded henna designs on her arms reminded me of swirling smoke.

Slowly, she moved her arms down to push aside the light summer blankets and wet her lips. I wanted to kiss her and press her against the bed’s mattress. That could never happen again. This relationship between us ended when I saw the name of the woman they intended to murder—the political implications of continuing it could damage my career—even though she does not yet know it. In her sleep, she smiled and moved her body into the warm, streaming light from the window, but the light already worked to pull her into the world.

Aneti, I said. Are you awake?

She groaned and pulled the blankets back up, twisting them around her like she wanted to strangle herself. Just a few more minutes. So tired … Her eyes opened suddenly, panic written clearly on her face, and her hair streamed down her shoulders as she sat up. Why are we in my apartment? What happened last night?

You fainted in the Dream Garden … I’m sorry, I didn’t know what else to do. I sat down on the bed and put my hands on her shoulders.

I don’t faint.

It doesn’t matter … because that’s what happened. Are you all right? Is there something stressful going on at—

Get out, she murmured, pushing my hands away from her shoulders.

The force startled me. I slipped from the bed and grabbed my bag, staring at her. She stared at me as one possessed.

I SAID GET OUT.

I left her apartment as quickly as I could. Tsemanok only knows what she did after I left—called a friend at Daybreak, possibly, to inform them of a possible security lapse—but that would only have worked if she had reason to suspect me. As I ran in the crisp morning air, I remembered every moment she looked at me with those wondering, discerning eyes. She must have known something, at least enough to call a kill. Thinking about a bullet in my brain or electric gun shock only made me dart more quickly along the freshly-trimmed herb lawns until I saw the commuter pod snaking towards me on its sidewalk rails. I stopped at a green indicator sign and waited.

Before it came, I had moments to decide where I would go. Presenting the information to the police would surely put me up on minor charges. Going to the Deimo’s security forces would make more of a difference, and I heard somewhere that they sometimes let anonymous tippers go without declaring their crimes. Finally, I could have contacted Likua—who I am still not speaking to directly—or Karatau Meiyenesi, and they would have taken the information from me, leaving me alone and waiting until they curtailed the plot and proclaimed Equilibrium Nexus the nation’s savior. Nothing in the bond of blood prevents me from withholding information—I tested that last night when I declined to write the time, date, and location where the assassin will lie in wait for the Deimo—and tomorrow’s processional is long.

The pod door throbbed open. Silent moving advertisements flickered on the walls and the six seats in the car waited passively for someone to occupy them. As soon as I sat down, a tray table came out to query my destination and payment method while I took out my journal.

You know me, Likua. It’s pointless to tell you which address I keyed.

Chapter 43

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