Shades of Honor(9)

By: Sandy Williams

Magistrate Dietz whispered something into Tersa’s ear. Ash didn’t bother to read his lips. She shifted in her one-size-fits-most armor. It chafed against her rib cage, just like this conversation’s direction was beginning to chafe against her nerves.

“You’ve spent this past month arranging a meeting with the Sariceans?”

Tersa’s cool blue eyes met hers. “We are at war with the Sariceans.”

“They’re not the biggest threat against us.” Valt and his fellow telepaths were the poison that could take down the Coalition.

“You were on Ephron,” Tersa said. “You saw what they did.”

“I felt what the others did.”

“And that’s why you are here. That’s why you are coming with me to the meeting.”

“That meeting is suicidal,” Rykus said.

Tersa turned her attention to him. “I don’t believe it is.”

Dietz started to lean toward Tersa again, but the prime waved him away. This time Ash watched him. He was the person in the room she knew the least about. He’d been appointed to his position of lead magistrate. That meant he’d had a complete and thorough check of his background, but War Chancellor Hagan had been fully vetted too, and he’d become a telepath’s drone. It was possible Dietz or Tersa could be one as well, but no matter how Ash mentally pushed and pulled at their minds—and really, Ash had no idea what she was doing—she felt nothing from either of them. She felt nothing from anyone in the room except her fail-safe, and that had nothing to do with telepathy.

With effort, Ash shifted her thoughts from Rykus back to the prime. “You think the Sariceans have been…” She glanced at Liles. “Affected?”

After a long hesitation, Tersa said, “I do.”

“Affected?” Liles frowned. “I’m not following. What is this other threat? And what does Ashdyn have to do with it?”

Tersa’s blue eyes remained on Ash. “You need to make a decision, Lieutenant. We can continue to speak in vague terms about the other enemy, or you can trust a man we’ve chosen to bring into our circle. You can trust a man that your fail-safe respects. Or we can leave him ignorant and see how that unfolds.”

Another attempt to pretend the power was in Ash’s hands. Tersa’s pretenses were getting old.

Liles turned his body to look at her, a confrontational pose. He had been patient. He’d played the mediator between her and the other two members of her new team more times than she could count. And he knew she was an anomaly and hadn’t told anyone. He was probably trustworthy. But the more people who knew about the existence of telepaths, the greater the risk that the knowledge would spread.

“This is the best lead we have.” Tersa softened her voice as if the hint of sympathy would change Ash’s mind.

“That’s not true.” She leveled a glare at the prime. “You have Valt.”

“Valt is no longer useful.”

“The only way he’s not useful is if he’s dead.”

The sympathy faded from Tersa’s eyes. “He’s told us everything he knows. His people aren’t a society in the traditional sense. They are spread out and compartmentalized.”

“Give me five minutes with him. We’ll see how compartmentalized they are.”

“You’ve assured us you will kill him if you see him again.”

“I will.”

Tersa pressed her lips together. “We can’t allow that.”

“If Valt has told you everything he knows, you don’t need him anymore.” Ash slid her hands down to the sides of her chair’s seat back. She wanted to pick the thing up and throw it at the prime.

“Who is Valt?” Liles pronounced each word separately and in a tone that said he’d had enough.

Tersa looked at Ash and arched her eyebrows. An invisible fist rattled the chains that controlled Ash. She wanted to fight the loyalty training to prove that she could, but there was no credible reason to. Liles was a good man.

She squeezed the edges of the chair harder, then released it to wave one hand through the air in a go-ahead motion.

“Thank you,” Tersa said coolly. Then she turned her attention to Liles. “You weren’t at Ephron, so you didn’t hear the rumor.”

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