As Eidos’ face faded from the airborne projectors, Illander Rehdon side-eyed his companions amid the graveyard copse. The chill wind had swept to a roaring gale and fallen leaves danced about the trio as if agitated by their presence.
“My my. What a showman. You know, I had heard he was a most taciturn fellow. Yet it seems, when the fit seizes him, his perspicacity rivals my own.”
Ryard did not respond to the other man’s observation, for his mind was consumed with dark misgivings. His body bent, brows furrowed.
“You see now how the matter lies, Mr. Vancing?”
“Dimly, I begin to.”
“The Board was in his way. And the seizure of his facility was the final straw. He could suffer no more obstacles. So.” Redon’s voice grew solemn. “He killed them all.”
The declaration tore both men from fixation upon the other to Tatter, whose curious visage was uncharacteristically wracked with emotion.
“Father would not do that.”
“Were you at his side when the blast resounded?”
Tatter said nothing.
“What is it you think I should do?” Ryard asked wistfully.
Rehdon took a few steps between his companions and turned his back to the woman, eclipsing her from the CAV-keep’s view.
“Kryos casts a shadow over the whole of Aecer. If his designs are not interrupted, he’ll mire the land in a red cloak of iron. After the death of their envoy, war with the Federation is inevitable. But war with the deep colonies is not. He trusts you, Ryard. You have sway with his lieutenants.” Rehdon reached forward with his bandaged hand and caught a leaf twisting in the wind. “You can get close. It lies within your power to bring him to heel.”
“Madness mushrooms in your brains,” Tatter protested fitfully as she pushed past Rehdon and strode to Vancing, her large dichromatic eyes boring into his being with plaintive despair. Rehdon looked on with a diffident air and leaned, once more, against one of the nearby trees of the ill-kept grove, twiddling the brown, brittle leaf between his fingers.
Knowing now what he must do, Ryard shifted toward the docks, where black smoke writhed above rooftops. The alarm of his affin module sounded. He looked to the screen. An incoming message: “We’re being overrun. Come to the docks at once.” Signed: Vera Straker.
“Ryard, look at me.”
“I have to go.” The man adjusted his collar and made for the overgrown footpath they had taken through the gorse-ringed forest.
In a matter of seconds, he was swallowed in the swaying foliage. Without hesitation, Tatter followed.
Rehdon watched them decant and crushed the dead leaf in his palm.