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by Miriam English
I stood suddenly and hissed, "What the hell are you doing there?"
He said, "Relax. I have no intention of hurting her. It's just that if I'd simply said I wasn't going to harm her you wouldn't have believed me. I had to actually come here to prove it."
I glared at Henna, who took a step back in surprise.
"How did you find her?" I demanded.
I could hear the smile in his voice. "Oh, I knew from my first day here where she was. At first I was just biding my time with Henna, but then I came to really enjoy being with her. She's a lotta fun, and one helluva smart cookie. She showed me what I was missing out on, and how Earth had short-changed me. She taught me about Natural Morality. It makes a lot more sense than living a short, brutal life following orders from the nasty pinheads on Earth."
Hildebrand continued, "I figured you wanted to meet up with Henna, right? She doesn't know about me coming here. She would've tried to talk me out of it. She's pretty persuasive too. Amazing kid. Anyway, I had to wait till she left before coming to meet Priyanka. I couldn't see any other way to prove it to you. I want to stay here in Selena City, but it's kinda futile without the City's okay. I mean, you probably can't kill me, but I want to enjoy myself, not constantly look out for people trying to hurt me."
I didn't know what to say. This had turned everything upside down. I growled through clenched teeth, "I'll switch you over to Henna. You switch me back to Priyanka."
Then, still frowning at Henna I told her that Marcus Hildebrand was on the line to talk to her. Her face fell and went white. As she stammered a response to Hildebrand I spoke to Priyanka. "Are you alright? Has he hurt or threatened you?"
Pryanka answered, "No. Not at all. He has been a perfect gentleman. Why? Am I in danger?"
"I'm not sure. He's the assassin sent to kill you. He could have easily done so by now if he intended to, but it's probably best to put distance between yourself and him anyway, just in case."
She said, "Uh, no need. He's already left."
"Okay, tell me where you are Priyanka." When she'd told me I said, "I'll have some people there shortly to look after you. Keep your comm line open to me, please. I'll get back to you in a moment with more details." I contacted David and got him to send several armed people to guard her, then I spoke to Priyanka again to tell her that guards were on the way to keep her safe and for her to tell me if anything happened that she felt uncomfortable about.
I closed the connection and turned to face Henna, who gulped.
A soft voice behind me said, "Adele, honey. Sit." Brenda pulled me backwards to the couch and I sat.
Henna put up her hands in front of her, "I had no idea he was going to do that. But you must admit he makes sense. If he wanted to kill Priyanka he had ample time. It was logically the best way to prove his intentions beyond doubt."
"Beyond doubt??" I still spoke quietly, but my voice sounded
murderous, even to me. "His actions haven't left the realm of highly
suspicious, let alone venturing beyond doubt. How can you possibly say
such a thing? He sneaks away to his target and taunts me about how he's
known all the time how to get to her. What if he's throwing suspicion
off himself so he can come back later and do it."
Brenda held my hand. "Calm down, dear. Listen to what Henna's saying."
Henna put her hands on her hips. "And what would be the use in him doing that?"
"I don't know. I have no idea what his motive could be. That's the problem."
"Exactly. That is the problem" Henna said, bristling. "You don't know what his motivation is. But I do."
There was a knock at the door. Brenda went to answer it. Hildebrand was there. I was suddenly standing again, my fists clenched in alarm.
Hildebrand did a little finger-wiggle wave and smiled. "Hi everybody. What's new?" He looked at Henna, who was still frowning. "Sorry Babe. Hope you're not pissed at me. Ummm. That's a frown, right? Oh. You're pissed at me. Oops." His smile fell.
It was weird to see Henna gather herself, force the frown to dissolve from her face, then quickly walk over to Hildebrand to correct him as if he'd made a tiny error in etiquette. It was like watching an octopus change color and shape. She took his hand in both hers and said soothingly, "No, it's alright, Marcus, but in future please let me know beforehand when you want to do something important like that. I can understand how people will react, whereas you know you have that little blind spot."
He nodded meekly, "Yeah, I wanted to tell you, but I didn't want you to talk me out of it and I didn't want to implicate you. It seemed the logical thing to do. It gave me a chance to prove I didn't want to kill Priyanka, which I couldn't do if I didn't go there to meet her. And I couldn't do it with anybody's knowledge, because that'd just complicate matters. They'd have her scared and running away, and people with weapons, and yelling, and all sorts of messy stuff."
Henna turned to me and raised her eyebrows at me, then looked back to Hildebrand and patted his hand. "While I think you were right in this particular case, it is better to risk getting me in trouble in future. Please always run things by me first."
He nodded. It was odd. Although he was considerably taller and more heavily built than her, he looked like a little kid next to Henna.
I was still trying to think what to say, but the surprises hadn't stopped coming yet. Hildebrand looked at me and said, "I thought of another way to prove that I want to stay here and be a part of the City. As part of my, uh, previous job as assassin I had to monitor your security comms and I've been following, with great interest, your problem with Farne. I believe I've figured out how he intends to destroy the City."
We all looked at him in astonishment.
"He'll disable the pressure sensors, then rupture the light tubes
for day 3 by pumping them up with highly pressurised air. But he'll do
it before the date, while the airlocks are all sealed. Then when the
solar concentrators up at the surface have their seals broken he'll
either open all the airlocks, or simply wait for day 3 when they'll
open naturally. I'm betting on the second choice, because it'll give
him a chance to escape the City before decompression."
I thought on it for a moment. It seemed feasible. And it meant we had less time than we thought.
Henna hugged him. He added, "It hit me while we were sailing yesterday. The power of those wind compressors is more than enough to pop the seals on the concentrators. The trick, and what is probably taking him so long, is routing the air into the light pipes. My guess is that he'll use the highest set of access tunnels somehow."
It would explain why we found no tampering in the light pipes. We needed to check into this possibility more thoroughly. I put a call in to David, got him to link up everybody working on the Farne/Mackey case, and I broadcast to them all what Hildebrand had just told us. There was quite a hubbub of discussion, but the consensus was that this felt good. If we could work out how he was engineering the link up between the compressors and the light pipes it might even lead us to Farne himself.
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