Canorus settled into his chair, let Vivian fuss with his sling, then said, "Okay, now. Tell me what happened after I got shot."
"Borne slammed the Shadow into the ceiling and knocked him out," Jeanette said. "Then Daima took out the Persona."
"That left the boss, up in the cockpit, right?" he asked. Jeanette nodded. "What happened to you?" he asked Isaiah.
Isaiah did not bear any obvious wounds, but Canorus had shared Vivian's sickbay with him, and had seen Vivian dosing him while he, Canorus, slowly recovered consciousness. "I got shot," Isaiah answered. "Stun. Heavy stun, but just stun. I thought the Integral might not have known she was the only one left, so I tried to surprise her. It didn't work, though."
"Well, it did and it didn't," Vivian qualified. "She shot Isaiah, but that left her open for Daima, who snuck up the ladder behind him. Daima shot the boss."
Canorus nodded. "Then what?"
"Then I pumped them all full of sedatives, so we could open psi without worrying about them," Vivian said. "Then I started patching you up." She frowned. "Maybe I should have done you first."
Canorus waved away her doubts. He waved only one hand, the other hanging limp in the sling. The fire from the shock pistols had burned muscle and nerve in his shoulder, leaving his right arm paralyzed, but Vivian had already begun regeneration.
"We had everybody gathered in their main cabin," Jeanette went on, "and were wondering how to restrain them. Then Isaiah woke up. Feeling mean."
"Very mean," Isaiah grumbled.
Canorus nodded. "I feel the same."
"I suggested FX put them in one of his dream-fugues. They're still in it."
"That doesn't sound very mean," Canorus remarked, disapproving.
Jeanette smiled. "Ah, but Isaiah scripted the dream. Don't worry."
Canorus looked at Isaiah thoughtfully, then turned back to Vivian and asked, "Where's FX now?"
"On their ship," she answered, "with Borne and Daima. They're disabling the weapons and setting up a comm link so Wisper can drive their helm. When you feel up to it, they'd like you to sift through the runners' computers, for evidence."
"Sure. Probably won't be much, though."
"Well, you have two days," Jeanette told him. "Then it's Aten again, and we turn in our prisoners."
Canorus sighed and leaned back. "Paperwork."
It was two days since they had captured the neb-runners, and they were a handful of hours away from Aten. Isaiah and Jeanette stood alone in the lounge. The only bit of furniture being projected at the moment was a bathtub. Even Wisper had had difficulty finding the pattern for it, and Isaiah had said it wasn't necessary, but Jeanette said she wanted full immersion. For this reason, the tub was half full of water – a large fraction of all the water on the ship.
Isaiah wore ordinary casual clothes. Jeanette wore a swimsuit. "I used it exactly once all the time I was on Refuge," she said. "For all the prescience they taught me, I never guessed I'd next wear it for this." There was a silence. "What do we do now?" she asked him.
Isaiah shifted uneasily. "I have a ... difficulty. I can hardly object to this, but I worry about your reasons."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, aren't you doing this just because of me?" There, he'd said it. The thought had worried him, but he'd never expressed it to her, even keeping it tucked under light amnesia when they telepathed.
Jeanette met his eyes. "In a way. But I'm doing it because I trust you. Remember when I asked you to step out a window, back on Philippia?"
"Yes, but you still took the step. Because you trusted me. Well, I'm taking this step because I trust you. I've been in your mind enough, after all!" She laughed, and Isaiah smiled, relaxing.
"Just step in and lie down," he told her, kneeling by the tub as she entered. He caught her weight as she leaned back. "Will you be baptized in this faith?"
"I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
As she came up out of the baptismal water, their minds met. Neither could say who had initiated the contact; both were too busy sending the same thoughts:
Will you marry me?
Sarah, lately the Integral of a Vierlinger gestalt, glared at FX. "We will press charges," she threatened. "You tortured us." She and her three partners stood on a landing field beneath the unmoving sun of Aten. TSTO guards and security drones flanked them. Handcuffs shackled their bodies and psilence did the same to their powers.
"Nonsense," FX replied. "You attacked us before, with psychic powers of great ingenuity. We'd just had proof you were willing to kill and eager to fight some more. We had to restrain you any way we could, body and mind. Restraints and psilence? On your own ship, with us light-years from any backup? We had far too high an opinion of your wits to think that would be enough."
"We will remember you," Franz, lately the Shadow, promised darkly.
FX smiled. "You know, I rather doubt you'll be able to, after sentence is passed."
Isaiah watched the neb-runners as they were packed into a van and driven away. "What will their sentence be, do you think?" he asked.
"Depends on the jurisdiction they wind up in," FX answered.
"It'll be somewhere on Hellene," Vivian said, "unless someone else wants them real bad. They could get anything from permanent amnesia to death." She watched the van depart. "I wish we'd seen the last of them, but there'll be the trial on Hellene."
Borne shrugged. "There'll be lots of time we're not in the courtroom. So much paid vacation."
Isaiah turned to Jeanette. "Do you want to have it on Hellene? Or wait until after the trial?"
"Hm. We need to see if my folks can make it to Hellene."
"What's this?" asked Borne. "Have what?"
He knew the answer before they spoke, from their clasping hands and the light in their faces. "We're getting married."
"But– Does that mean–" he sputtered. "Did you convert?"
He got no immediate answer; Jeanette was busy being hugged by Vivian.
Daima bowed to both of them, Canorus clapped Isaiah on the shoulder, and eventually Borne shook his hand, his face a study in caution. FX followed suit, grinning.
"So we'll have our best telepath married to our best clairvoyant," he said. "I wonder if that will affect the team's perspective."
Isaiah and Jeanette traded glances. "I'm not sure we're staying with the group," Isaiah said.
"Oh? Oh, of course! No way to spend a honeymoon! But after?..."
Isaiah shook his head. "I just don't know."
"Look at the beating we took, just on one assignment with you," Jeanette pointed out. "And I want to go on with my researches in comparative psi. And Isaiah wants to take up engineering again, with psionics." She turned and started toward the customs buildings, arm in arm with Isaiah.
FX trailed after her, Vivian and the others in his wake. "Ah, but look at how much you've learned on this assignment!" he countered. "Psionic engineering and comparative psi is a pretty good summary of it, too."
Isaiah picked up the pace. "FX, we want a quiet time. Together."
"Of course. But after that we have a perfect case for you. I got mail about it just this morning." Isaiah glanced up at the Atenic sky that knew neither morning nor evening, but didn't bother to quibble. "It's on Hellene, too. There's a gang of bandits using familiars and were-beasts to make their hits. You could infiltrate with Seer."
"I don't want to infiltrate!"
"But I'm sure you'd be very good at it. I mean, look how you did it to us."
Isaiah stopped dead. Jeanette did the same half a pace later. They stared at FX, then at each other, then laughed. Isaiah shook his head, smiling, and strolled on with his fiancée, bickering, as they went, with their friends.
Back to Chapter 26, Battle
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2013