Vision in Silver Page 119

“I don’t know,” Simon replied. “It will depend on what the terra indigene say about the place. By tomorrow, all the governors will know why there was a breach of trust and the consequences of human actions. By tomorrow, the right-of-way through the wild country will be restricted, and no one who belongs to the Humans First and Last movement will be allowed to leave the land that is still leased to humans. In other words, they can continue to live in the cities where they are currently located, but they can’t leave. Not by car, train, or ship. The moment they step outside the boundaries of a city, they will be hunted down.”

Montgomery stirred. “How can they tell if a person belongs to the HFL movement? And if someone from the HFL does try to board a bus or train, how many other people might be hurt?”

“Possibly many. Possibly all. If a human is suspected of being an enemy and is outside the boundaries of a human-controlled city or town, that human will die.” Before Montgomery could protest, Simon told him the one thing that wouldn’t be told to any other humans outside of that room. “Lieutenant, the terra indigene in the wild country are very angry. You’re no longer just a troublesome species; now you’ve shown you’re a real threat to earth natives and to the world.”

“Keeping humans penned in cities isn’t the solution,” Montgomery said.

“No,” Simon snapped. “Extinction is the solution.”

Stunned silence.

He took a moment to regain control. “Do you know why those earth natives are waiting to make that decision, Lieutenant? Because we changed things. Because Officer MacDonald died trying to save a Crow. Because you have helped us. Because this Courtyard, unlike any other, has a human pack. Because Steve Ferryman and the residents of Great Island want more of a partnership with the terra indigene.” He looked at Burke. “This Courtyard. Your police officers. The humans in Ferryman’s Landing. We are all that’s preventing the extinction of humans in Thaisia. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Burke said. “I understand.”

“There has to be something the rest of us can do.” O’Sullivan’s voice shook. “Governor Hannigan is willing to work with the terra indigene to build a prosperous life for everyone.”

“I think we should create some kind of identification for humans like Agent O’Sullivan who need to travel in order to help maintain the peace,” Stavros said. “I will devise something.”

“Identification can be forged,” Vlad said.

“The ITF only has six agents at the moment,” O’Sullivan said. “If you know who we are, then you’ll know if anyone else is trying to travel using forged documents.”

“Then it can be done.”

“We have much to think about and things to discuss with our own people,” Burke said. “Unless there is something else you need to convey, I think we should leave now.” He stood but made no other move. “Thank you for your honesty.”

Simon also stood. “From now on, human survival in Thaisia is going to depend on honesty.”

Burke left the room, followed by O’Sullivan and Montgomery. Before Montgomery left the room, Stavros said, “Lieutenant? Your Lizzy will be safe now.”

Montgomery didn’t respond. Simon wasn’t sure he even heard—or understood what it meant that Stavros had said those words.

CHAPTER 56

Moonsday, Maius 28

“Sweetwater,” the girl said as soon as Jackson entered the room with her next meal.

He set the plate and the glass of milk on the desk before turning to give her his attention. “What about it?”

She could barely sit still with wanting to know, but now that he was here, did she dare ask? “You’ve seen it.”

“Yes. It’s outside.”

“I know it’s outside. Everything is outside. But you’ve seen this place. You took pictures of it.” Something about the place pulled at her, settled her, lifted her. She wanted, needed, confirmation that this wasn’t a made-up place, that the photographs weren’t some kind of trick, because she could live in that place. Truly live beyond the four walls of a room. He said she could ask for anything she wanted, but she wasn’t sure she could ask for that much.

She felt her courage wilting under his stare.

He moved until he stood by the bed and could see the photos that she’d put in order so that the land flowed properly. Then he crouched so she didn’t have to look up at him.

“Sweet blood,” he said gently. “We live in the terra indigene settlement at Sweetwater. This”—he touched one photograph, then raised his other hand and pointed at her covered window—“is outside.”

She trembled.

“Do you want to see it?” Jackson asked.

She nodded.

He stood, walked to the door, and opened it. “Come on.”

She hesitated in the bedroom doorway, then rushed to follow him, barely noticing the big room that might have been the main living area if it had had any furniture.

Another door. Sunlight beyond an open, roofed area. Porch. Steps. And then . . .

She stood in one of the photographs. Grass and trees and the mountains rising as a natural barrier. The glint of sunlight on water. She wanted to touch it all, smell it all.

“That’s far enough,” Jackson said.

She turned to look at him, feeling crushed. Then she noticed the distance between them. Not that far, not really, but he still stood on the bottom step and she didn’t remember moving away from him. “But . . .” A weak protest.

“A pup doesn’t stray far from the den on her first outing. There’s a lot to learn, so she explores a little more each day.” When she didn’t move, he added, “Come back now.”

She obeyed because she didn’t know what else to do.

“Sit there.” He pointed to the top step.

She sat—and Jackson sat beside her.

He allowed her to sit on the step in the sunlight for a little while. He didn’t say much. He couldn’t tell her the names of the different trees. Wolves didn’t care about such things, but the Intuit village down the road had a bookstore and might have books that named such things if she wanted to learn about them.

She wanted to learn.

When he’d decided she’d had enough sun for her first day out of the den, he didn’t make her go back to her room. She sat on the porch, and he brought her the meal she’d forgotten about. She watched how the little bit of the world that she could see stayed the same and yet kept changing, just as she had to change position on the porch to remain in the shade.

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