Vision in Silver Page 13

“Secret handshakes and symbols.” Vlad shook his head. “I received an e-mail from Stavros just before this meeting. Some companies in Toland now require their employees to join the HFL movement in order to keep their jobs—and they won’t hire anyone who refuses to join.”

“This HFL is like a sickness spreading among the humans,” Henry said.

Tess’s hair began to coil. “When one kind of sickness spreads through a population, other kinds of sickness tend to follow.”

A shiver of fear went through Simon as he remembered the other name for Tess’s form of terra indigene: Plague Rider. He almost yelped when his mobile phone rang. “What?” he snapped.

“Simon? It’s Meg. Merri Lee and I need your permission to take some pictures. Ruth has a camera with one of those memory cards that holds pictures, and Lorne says he can print out the pictures from the computer in Three Ps.”

He frowned. “Pictures of what?” She sounded . . . odd. Excited and scared. Like a young Wolf the first time he joined the pack to hunt bison.

“Things in the sorting room, mostly. And maybe the area behind the office. It will help us do what you asked us to do.”

“All right, but those pictures don’t leave the Courtyard.”

“Okay.” Meg hung up.

“Meg, Merri Lee, Ruthie, and Lorne are going to take pictures,” he said in response to all the questioning looks.

“Why?” Henry asked.

“Part of understanding the cassandra sangue.” He continued before anyone had a chance to ask him what that meant. “The terra indigene need to find out if ‘Wolf lover’ is a term only used in Lakeside, or did the HFL movement create that brand to cause trouble throughout Thaisia?”

“I told Grandfather Erebus about Meg’s prophecy,” Vlad said. “An order has already gone out to all the Sanguinati to report any ad for employment or rental property that includes NWLNA in the description. That should tell us if the term is local, regional, or has infected the entire continent. It should also give us an idea of which businesses are owned by members of the HFL movement.”

“Not many Sanguinati in the Midwest and Northwest regions,” Henry said.

“Not that many in the Southwest either,” Vlad replied. “We’re better suited to the coasts and the larger human cities.” He looked at Simon. “I’ll give you a copy of the e-mail I sent to the Sanguinati. You can adjust the wording and send it on to the gards who keep watch over the other human places.”

Simon nodded. He’d contact Joe and Jackson. They would spread the word among the Wolfgard.

“By the way,” Vlad said. “Per Grandfather’s instructions, the Sanguinati will refer to humans who belong to the HFL movement as Venom Speakers.”

“And who is supposed to explain to the Snakegard that it wasn’t meant as an insult to them?” Elliot grumbled.

“I don’t think they’ll be offended, because the name is a warning to all terra indigene that the words these humans speak are dangerous and shouldn’t be dismissed.”

“All right,” Simon said. “This is a start to identifying our enemies among the humans in every city. Any thoughts about the vegetable garden Meg saw in the visions?”

Vlad told them about Kowalski and Ruthie being forced out of their new den and not being allowed to plant their share of the garden for food.

“Then we’ll take care of our human pack, the true Wolf lovers,” Simon said. “We’ll offer them some of the bounty that can be found in the Courtyard. If they share the work, they can share the food.”

“Food grows everywhere on this land,” Henry said. “Sharing the work would mean giving the human pack access to most of the Courtyard and its residents. Risky for us, and risky for them.”

“Sharing the work doesn’t necessarily mean gathering the food or catching the meat,” Simon countered. “Humans preserve foods in jars and make things out of fruit that can be stored and eaten during the winter. The Intuits and the Simple Life folk have been doing that kind of trading for generations, and all of us benefited. Maybe the Wolf lovers are the next group of humans who should be helped, for our sake as well as for theirs.”

He waited while the rest of the Others in the room thought about it.

“We can expand the Green Complex garden to feed a couple of humans,” Henry said as Tess, Vlad, and Elliot nodded their agreement.

“A dozen humans,” Simon said. “We’ll expand enough to feed a dozen humans. If they don’t like what we can offer, they can fend for themselves.”

“Which dozen people did you have in mind?” Tess asked.

He shrugged, but they could guess he was thinking of the other police officers who were making an effort to know the terra indigene.

Ruthie and Kowalski were being driven out of their den because they were smart enough to work with the Others. What could the Courtyard do about that?

“Captain Burke’s friends.” Simon spoke slowly as he thought through the plan. “The ones the terra indigene rescued and brought to Lakeside. The humans selling the houses across the street wouldn’t know them. They could look and report.”

“You want us to buy those houses?” Tess asked.

“Yes,” Simon replied. “A place for Wolf lovers to live.”

“Those houses aren’t part of the Courtyard,” Elliot pointed out. “We’ll have to pay taxes on them, as well as the rest of the expenses, just like humans do.”

He nodded. “And we will control who lives in those dens, just as we will decide who will live in the houses in the River Road Community and who will receive the raw materials needed to make things useful to us as well as humans.”

No one had anything more to say about gardens or houses. After giving Henry a questioning look, no one had any ideas about a brown bear eating jewels.

“Are we done?” Simon waited for everyone to nod. “In that case, I think I should go to the Chestnut Street station and talk to Captain Burke and Lieutenant Montgomery.” And while he waited for Blair to bring over a vehicle from the Utilities Complex, he could find out what Meg and her pack were doing with the camera.

No one lingered to talk except Elliot.

“If we buy those houses, it will cause trouble here,” Elliot said, handing the index cards to Simon.

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