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Authors: Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Tags: #Detective and Mystery Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Fiction

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BOOK: Masterminds
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It was only after she had started working for charities—first with Armstrong Search & Rescue, and then with ADVI-RS—that she realized how much alike her father and Torkild were.

And how very different Donal was.

She wondered what he would say when he learned about Torkild’s death. Donal had grown to hate any mention of Torkild. With his reactions and his occasional comments, Donal had helped Berhane understand just how dysfunctional her relationship with Torkild had been.

Maybe that was why she had been so angry in her last meeting with Torkild. She had said some things that appalled her, things that in the past she would have apologized for.

But, on that day, Torkild had made it plain that they no longer had any common ground. And he had been right.

He had been rehired by the law firm that had kept him off the Moon for nearly a decade: Schnable, Shishani & Salehi, also known as S
3
. Rafael Salehi had hired Torkild to start a branch of S
3
on the Moon, and that branch was handling the defense of the Peyti clones that had tried to blow up the Moon not two weeks ago.

A tear ran down her cheek. She wiped at it, then ran a finger over the moisture accumulating under her lower eyelids.

She had been so mad at Torkild. He didn’t seem to understand how devastating that second attack had been. Even though only a handful of Peyti clones had been successful—all of them outside the various domes—the
idea
of the attacks, of the Moon’s continued vulnerability, was bad enough.

And then Torkild felt that those crazy Peyti bastards needed a
defense
.

Berhane’s father said that was probably what had gotten Torkild murdered. Everyone was saying that the police did it, and that didn’t surprise her. Everyone was mad at S
3
. She had been furious with Torkild when she learned what he was doing.

She felt like he was betraying everything and everyone they had ever known. Certainly all of the dead, whom she had come to represent.

Especially since she had lost two of her volunteers at their day job in the Growing Pits during the Peyti Crisis. They had been meeting with the Peyti clone lawyers over some contractual matters when the lawyers activated the bombs in their masks and had blown everyone to bits.

Berhane closed her eyes for just a minute.

She had never told Torkild that she had nearly died during the Peyti Crisis as well. She had been running late for a meeting with the lawyers who were drawing up some documentation for the next fund-raiser she had been planning. Those lawyers included one of the Peyti clones.

The meeting had been delayed because of her and, it turned out, only the Peyti clone lawyer had been in the conference room when it got sealed off and the environment got changed from Earth Normal to Peyti Normal, deactivating the bomb.

Berhane saw that damn clone lawyer just afterwards, and stared in his big eyes, wondering how she had ever trusted him. Then she had turned away, shaking with fury, determined to let the police handle the bastard, because she knew she couldn’t deal with him at all.

Especially after she heard about the collateral damage from the Peyti Normal environmental change, and the successful bombings outside the domes.

Torkild didn’t seem to care about all those new deaths, all those lost souls. He seemed to think that the Peyti clones deserved a defense, as if what they had done was defensible.

She had told her father that, and he had chuckled.
Young Torkild will get his head handed to him
, her father had said.
Clones aren’t individuals under the law. They’re property. And no piece of property has the right to a defense.

She opened her eyes. The train was closer to the Growing Pits now. Their lights illuminated the Moon’s harsh surface.

She hated agreeing with her father. She didn’t think of the Peyti clones—or the human clones that had bombed the Moon on Anniversary Day—as anything other than monsters. Only monsters did such horrible things. Those monsters had no value to the universe.

She couldn’t understand why Torkild hadn’t seen that.

She sighed. It was a watery sound.

He’d still be alive if he had listened to her. She had offered him a job with ADVI-RS. She needed lawyers to represent the victims to the insurance companies, in lawsuits against the cities, and to help with all of the estate issues, especially for those whose loved ones had essentially vaporized.

Sure, ADVI-RS couldn’t have paid him one-tenth what S
3
was paying him, but that hadn’t been the point, at least to Berhane. He would have had the chance to do some good, instead of representing monsters.

She had no idea why Torkild had wanted to represent monsters. He had given her some crap about being a society of laws, and when she had pressed him, he had said,
There’s a lot to dislike in the Alliance system, but there’s a lot to like. We get along with thousands of alien species. We have cultural exchanges and economic cooperation because of this ‘crap’ you’re talking about. That means, sometimes, you have to abide by laws you don’t believe in. It also means that sometimes you have to make sure that a group of bad individuals get the best treatment possible under the law.

The response had made her sick, just sick. He seemed to think that the Peyti clones were equal to the people they killed. Maybe even more important than the people they killed.

She had blurted,
You can’t believe that
.

And he had looked at her oddly for a moment, as if contemplating her statement. Then he had given her a half-smile, the half-smile he used to charm her with.

You know,
he had said
, I actually do.

He
had
believed it. He had believed it enough to keep working at the firm, hiring new lawyers from off-Moon, doling out injunctions to law enforcement, and generally acting as if everyone agreed with S
3
’s position.

And it had gotten him killed.

She had accused him of all kinds of terrible things that day. The thing she had said that bothered her, even before she had heard of his death, was that she had accused him of caring more about money and prestige than about people.

And after she had left, she realized that if he cared about prestige, he would have joined her, not S
3
.

Because these days, everyone was on the side of the victims and no one was on the side of S
3
.

Everyone who knew about S
3
On The Moon actively loathed them. No one wanted to be associated with them. She had gone to Torkild in the first place because her friends had asked her to reason with him.

She had thought, even before she went, that she couldn’t reason with him. For their entire relationship, she had catered to him. Then he had ended the relationship and left the Moon. When he returned, she had mostly avoided him and then, at the end—

She swallowed hard.

At the end, she had treated him as badly—or worse—than he had treated her.

He had refused to fight with her that day. He had claimed he understood what she was doing. He had been
nice
to her, and she had accused him of all kinds of terrible things.

She put her head in her hands, feeling a sob in her throat. But surprisingly, no tears came now.

Torkild was dead, which was hard enough to handle. She would never see him again, never get a chance to apologize, never get to talk to him.

She should have warned him about all of the anger at him and S
3
.

She should have told him how high passions were on the Moon. Torkild had never been good at understanding how the average human being reacted to anything.

He wouldn’t have understood just how hated he and S
3
were.

Berhane?
The contact came through her company link. It was Kaspian. He had probably heard about Torkild.

She sat up and wiped at her eyes. She left the visuals off. She didn’t want Kaspian to know how upset the news made her.

You there, Berhane? We have a problem.

She straightened her shoulders and swallowed hard before answering.
I know about Torkild.

Zhu? What about him?

She felt startled. How could she know this before Kaspian did?

He’s dead. You didn’t know?

What’d he kill himself?
Kaspian made it sound like that had been the recommended option. No one who cared about Berhane liked Torkild.

No
, she sent.
He was murdered.

Silence. For a moment, she thought the link had broken. And then Kaspian sent,
I’m sorry, Berhane. I was being really insensitive. He was
murdered?
By who?

They don’t know,
she sent.
My dad says the reports are that the police killed him.

Again, silence. Obviously Kaspian’s first response wasn’t something he wanted to share.

I’m sorry, Berhane,
he sent again.

Yeah,
she sent.
Me too.

Followed by the third silence. The train was slowing as it approached the Growing Pits. Accidents along this route decades ago had mandated a change in a train’s speed as it went through here. It had to be able to sense something in its path and have enough time to stop.

The longest part of the thirty-minute trip between Armstrong and Littrow was this section by the Growing Pits.

So
, she sent when it became clear that Kaspian had nothing more to say,
why did you contact me?

I need you to talk to the labs.
That response came quickly. Clearly, he was more comfortable discussing this.
We’re getting weird results.

The labs handled the DNA identification. Most of the labs she was working with were off-Moon. The on-site labs were swamped with official business or understaffed due to all the tragedies.

What kind of weird results?
she asked.

I think they’re false identifications
, Kaspian sent,
but I don’t know for sure. I initially worried that one of our volunteers was tampering with the DNA, but these results are coming from sites all over the Moon.

Berhane wiped her eyes again, her brain clearing. She needed something like this to focus on so she wasn’t thinking about Torkild.

I’ll be in the office in about twenty minutes,
she sent.
We can talk then.

Good,
Kaspian sent.
Because I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.

 

 

 

 

NINE

 

 

NOELLE DERICCI WAITED
until Flint and Talia left the office, and then sank down onto the couch. She wanted to pull the scrunched-up blanket over her head.

She was losing track of all the threads of the investigation. Just today, everything had moved forward. She had spoken to Wilma Goudkins about doing an off-books investigations of Jhena Andre and of Mavis Zorn at the Impossibles.

DeRicci had new information from Bartholomew Nyquist that he was getting from one of the Peyti clones who had tried to bomb the Moon, a lawyer they all knew, named Uzvaan. And, DeRicci was certain, there were dozens of other breakthroughs as well.

This new contact, the one Flint had told her about, made her queasy. Well, queasier. Her stomach was beginning to hurt her in general. She wasn’t certain if that was because she’d been eating junk the last six months or because she hadn’t been eating enough or because she was under so much stress some part of her was going to break—and her stomach had volunteered.

She bowed her head and let the queasiness overtake her. She was exhausted and overwhelmed, and despite the help, felt very alone in the middle of this crisis—these crises.

It didn’t matter how much Flint protected her from the political consequences of the decision they had just made, if this contact was going to harm Armstrong, word would get out that she had allowed him to enter. Not that that mattered to her. She often said she was the least political person she knew—even though she had somehow become the most important leader on the Moon.

Even if something went wrong and no one found out, it would still matter. Because DeRicci would know she had let this man in.

And the mistake would weigh on her for the rest of her life.

She burped again, started to run a hand along her stomach to activate a chip that soothed the stomach, and then stopped. She couldn’t remember how many times she had done that already today, and at some point, she would overuse the technology and it would stop working.

Maybe it already had.

She took a deep breath and leaned her head back. There was more to the contact than Flint or Talia was letting on. That man had some connection to their shared past. Clearly, that meant he had something to do with Talia’s relationship with Flint.

BOOK: Masterminds
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ads

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