Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #231

I don’t think that Ms. Moon had been prepared for Alurian’s cool response. She just shook her head, as though she didn’t understand the question.

Alurian’s cybernetic body stood eerily still, like looking at a photograph. The only movement was the blinking of his one biological eye. “What did you mean…” he repeated. “When you said this was all your fault?”

From behind me, I heard the sound of a portal opening. I turned just in time to see Henricks drop through a manhole-sized opening, dragging the briefcase device with them. As soon as they were through, the portal snapped closed with an audible pop.

I stared at the pavement where Henricks had been standing.

Well, I thought, at least they didn’t let Alurian get out.

In hindsight, the alignment of big-picture priorities with Henricks’s own self-preservation instinct kind of made me wonder why they had agreed to come along at all. Still, there was a part of me that was relieved. Whatever else happened here, at least the fates of worlds were no longer at stake.

Just an elf-woman, her brother, and the private-eye who couldn’t stop sticking her nose where it didn’t belong.

“What did you mean,” said Alurian, as though nothing had happened, “When you said that it was all your fault?”

Ms. Moon watched him with tear-filled eyes. When she spoke, her usual breathy melody was tight and wavering. “It was… It was just supposed to be a couple of bruises. Just enough to send a message.”

Alurian blinked again. “Message?” He shook his head. “What message?”

“You weren’t listening to me!” she cried, her voice hitching. “I was trying to tell you that your plan wouldn’t work! Gemdohr would have found us out!”

His one biological eyebrow lifted as his eye widened. “You… You told Thorbek I was betraying him?”

“It was to protect you!” she insisted. “He would have killed you! Killed both of us if you’d gone through with it! I pleaded with him to go easy on you, and he promised!” She sank to her knees. “I would have warned you to run away, but he promised that it would just be bruises. I didn’t know any of this was going to happen!”

Alurian had no reply. His cybernetic body took a step backward, and he looked everywhere but at his sister, as though somehow he would discover it was a trick.

Ms. Moon sat on the broken sidewalk, her head down, her shoulders wracked with sobs.

“Dol,” he said at last, his voice weak and far away. “How could you do it? We were going to run that place together.”

“No!” she cried, pounding one hand on the ground. “No! It wasn’t going to work! You weren’t listening to me!” She looked up at him, and the tears of regret had given way to something angrier. “Even if we’d pulled it off, you had no plan! You’ve never had the head for numbers! No experience! I saw first-hand what it took to run that place, and we could not have done it! I tried to tell you then, and you wouldn’t listen to me! We would have been miserable!”

He stepped forward and went down to his own knees, shouting at her face-to-face. “But we would have been miserable together!

Startled, she pulled back, eyes wide and frightened. Then a flicker of thought crossed her face and her panicked gasp became a laugh of surprise.  It was followed by another and she covered her mouth with both hands, shaking. When she could draw a breath, she said: “Looks like we managed it after all.”


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