Andrew was gently shaken awake and opened his eyes to find Naria standing in front of him. It was dark and silent. He gave her a questioning look.
Sorry to wake you, but it’s the only time no one is watching and your father wants to talk to you, she said. My mirian and I are going to act as relays for your conversation.
Ah! Thank you.
Andrew! Matthias’s voice in his head had a faint echo as he spoke. Yes, that’s from Ystelyan and Naria. Now listen: we think we know where you are, but we’re not sure. We need you to do something tomorrow while he’s distracted by whatever he’s doing. If we’re right it should reveal where you are for certain.
That’s good, Andrew said. But whatever he’s planning I’m sure it won’t be a good thing. We have to stop him. What do you need me to do?
I know. Wait until he and Laxmi are distracted, then grab control of the network and send Naria to Ystelyan. Keep control of it for as long as you can. Matthias hesitated. Timing is everything. Emms will probably hurt you once he regains control.
Yes, dad, Andrew said. But Nari can bring you back here once her collar is gone, right?
Nari? It felt like his father had raised an eyebrow at that. How interesting. But yes, that’s the basic idea. And the better you time the grab, the more leeway we’ll have. If the precogs are right he won’t be able to safely pull away from what he’s doing which will gain us a bit of leeway, but we don’t want to leave it too long because we have to stop him as well.
Andrew swallows back a mouthful of bile. I know. I don’t know what he’s planning, but it’s making me feel sick and Laxmi seems unhappy as well.
That girl is creepy! Naria interrupted. How does anyone miss what she is? She doesn’t taste like a human. She shuddered visibly. She tasted dreadful.
Most people don’t go around tasting people, Matthias said. Though she seems to feel guilty about it if her behaviour is honest.
That would be pretty normal, Ystelyan said. They regain most human faculties when they gain a body and that sometimes even includes a conscience. It scarcely matter though, since she stole the body – and if that young healer is right the real owner is still in there.
I didn’t sense anyone else in there, Naria said. But I don’t think her body was stolen like the Lost Ones normally do – it feels like she scavenged it. Came across it by accident after the original Laxmi died but while it was still usable.
Yes, Ystelyan said. That’s possible as well. That sometimes happens, according to the stories.
We’ll see once we capture her, Matthias said. And we have to; she has information we need.
If she’ll help you, Andrew said cautiously. She both seems to care about Emms and be terrified of him. She thinks he can ‘put her back’ and she doesn’t want that.
She’s probably right, Ystelyan said. And from what I know of the prison I can’t say I blame her for not wanting to go back. The lost one are victims in all this as well, but she can’t keep a stolen body. They may have never chosen to be ripped from their own bodies but it’s far too late to do anything about it.
If Laxmi was already dead and she didn’t kill her, why not? Andrew asked. It’s more like organ donation really. I mean if she carries on supporting him but she’s been kind to me and I don’t think she’s a bad person – just a scared one. She really, really doesn’t want him to succeed at what he’s trying.
No, Naria said. That’s not my impression. She wouldn’t mind if she thought he would succeed, but she’s certain he won’t and she doesn’t want him to fail again. If she is one of the lost ones and my mirian and Matthias-idan are right about who he is, then that would make sense. His last failure is what created her and those like her if I remember my stories.
Indeed, Ystelyan said. And according to Lydia-ida, Fellaris-ida is still freaking out about it.
That seems like quite a fair response to me, my mirian. Naria stiffened. He’s waking up – we’d better end this.
Of course, Ystelyan said. Be well, Naria-kedan.
I will be if the right moment comes in time.