8: Emily and Truth
“One of the Aristocracy’s Founding Fathers, Hierodula, has declared that the Donara have plans to take over the town, and that they have allies within Seelie who mean to help them. He plans to capture these allies and extract any information they might have regarding this supposed conspiracy. Some of these allies are your friends.”
Emily pieced the information together with what she already knew of that night. It painted a disturbing picture, but there were some obvious pieces missing, such as what the Sophists’ claims had to do with her parents.
Phoenix and her friends, with less personal investment in that night, looked eager to play the heroes. Then Ms Shimomura dropped one final revelation, and her daughter’s warning made perfect sense—as did Leira’s constant insistence that Seelie could not be trusted.
“Seelie High Command has ordered that you are not to interfere with Hierodula’s investigation.”
The Veritas girls, who had always placed Seelie on a high pedestal, looked confused as their fantasies met reality. “But why?” asked Phoenix.
“Because Seelie has nothing to hide,” said Ms Shimomura. “The Founding Father might well capture your fellow officers but, unless they are indeed conspiring against the town, he will have to set them free.”
“But what about the Donara? Are we to stand by while the Aristocracy assaults the forest? They have a ship! One I daresay could hold a small army.”
“You have your orders, Ms Rogan.”
“And I refuse to believe that Chief Payne would follow them!”
Ms Shimomura frowned, looking lost for a moment in silent contemplation, memories of a time she was not proud of, a moment in her life she deeply regretted. Emily could sympathise. “Sometimes,” the Commander said with a sigh, “we have no choice but to stand by and watch good people suffer. Friends, and sometimes even family.”
“Then what is the point of this simulation?” asked Phoenix.
A few minutes later, and with Phoenix still arguing the situation with Andromeda, the four girls lay in their cocoons, waiting for the seal to close and the simulation to begin. Emily swept a strand of sweat-soaked hair from her face and chewed on her lip as a transparent cover closed, cutting her off from the outside world. Her reflection stared back at her, wrapped in the tight Malkuthian shroud. She missed her clothes already, but Ms Shimomura had said they would interfere with the simsuit’s regulation of her body while her mind was elsewhere. Were she augmented, like Ms Shimomura and her fellow officers, that wouldn’t have been a problem, and were she Malkuthian?
Well, a Malkuthian wouldn’t even need a special ‘cocoon’.
But Emily was neither and, with a sharp jab of discomfort to the back of her neck, the system injected its mind-warping program into her body. As it took root, she began to drift off into a pseudo-sleep, a dream-like reality built from data, where she wasn’t Emily Fomalhaut, but somebody else from a time since passed, when black smoke rose from Torhout Forest and the forces of the Sophist Aristocracy made their move.
And, below them, Pleiades.
Chapter 8 End
You’d lose a bit of yourself too, if you’d fought in the Apostle Wars.