Vision in Silver Page 31

Gods, he hoped that was true.

The B and B was a stopgap solution to housing the cassandra sangue. He had people working as hard and fast as possible to design and build a home for these girls that would give them a chance to thrive.

And the urgency wasn’t just to save the five girls who were here. The girls who were cassandra sangue originally came from his own people, the Intuits—people who had such a finely honed sense of the world around them that they knew when something around them might turn good or bad. Some of them could sense a change in the weather before there was any discernible indication. Other Intuits had a sense for animals, knowing when to buy an animal overlooked by everyone else and when to walk away from a deal. Discriminated against and persecuted by humans who didn’t want to deal with people who had such a sharp internal gauge, the Intuits had fled into the wild country and made their own bargains with the Others.

Now some Intuits worked as consultants for the terra indigene, listening as humans made a proposal to acquire more land, more minerals, more water, more of whatever they wanted that day. Some proposals were honest and sound and would benefit at least some of the terra indigene as well as humans. But other proposals offered nothing that the terra indigene would want.

Even with that sharp internal gauge, his people had made some bad mistakes in their dealings with other kinds of humans. Generations ago, they had handed over daughters who saw visions and made prophecies when their skin was cut in any way—girls who were driven insane by the things they saw and cut themselves for the euphoria that clouded their minds and made them feel good.

Having discovered what had been done to those girls during all the years since then, Intuit settlements throughout Thaisia were offering to take in the cassandra sangue and care for them as best they could.

They needed to learn because the gift, or curse, of prophecy was starting to reappear in Intuit families. Last year, the Sledgeman family here on Great Island had lost a teenage girl who had begun cutting—and threw herself in the Talulah River to escape from visions no one had understood until it was too late.

Yesterday he had typed up the things Simon had told him and e-mailed the information to the network of Intuit settlements in the Northeast Region. Some of them must have been connected to settlements in other parts of Thaisia. By the time he’d returned to download the photos and print out copies for Margaret and Lara to use as a reference, he’d received so many e-mail messages and calls begging for more information and help, he hadn’t known what to do. He’d called his mother, Rachel, and Penny Sledgeman, his friend Jerry’s wife, to help reply to the e-mail and return phone calls. As the mayor of Ferryman’s Landing, he requested a meeting with Simon Wolfgard—and wasn’t surprised to learn that Wolfgard wasn’t returning calls.

But all those things were the reason he was driving out to the Gardners’ farm a day later to talk with them and the one other cassandra sangue who had been brought out of the Midwest compound that had been run by the Controller: Jean, the blood prophet who had helped Meg Corbyn escape.

Parking near the house, Steve picked up the digital camera and got out just as Lorna Gardner walked around the side of the house, followed by her two children. He hadn’t expected to see James. Every family had their own allotment of land, but the Simple Life farmers worked together for the sowing and harvesting, and it was the growing season.

Lorna took him to the guest cottage, a smaller version of the main house.

“Jean?” Lorna called, opening the door just enough to be heard. “Steve Ferryman would like to talk to you. Can you do that?”

She took a step back and lowered her voice. “If you have answers . . .”

“I have some,” Steve replied. “But it will mean allowing some technology into your home. Not equipment you’ll have to use, but you’ll need the results.”

After a thoughtful moment, Lorna nodded. “If it will help her.”

“Come in,” Jean said.

“Come to the house when you’re done,” Lorna said, stepping aside.

Steve entered the cottage, standing in the doorway while his eyes adjusted to the dark room. All the curtains were closed. All the windows were closed. No light. No fresh air.

“Close the door,” Jean snapped.

He closed the door and leaned against it.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I wanted this,” she said. “From the day I was brought to that compound and given a designation, I wanted to live outside; I wanted to be a person again instead of property. But I didn’t realize it would be this hard.” She hesitated. “How is Meg?”

“Meg is fine. She and her friends in the Lakeside Courtyard have found some answers that, hopefully, will make things easier for all the blood prophets who have left the compounds.”

“She sent me a letter. I haven’t opened it yet.”

“Why not?”

“Just receiving a letter was one new thing too many that day.”

“Maybe you should read it soon.”

The curtains didn’t block all the light. Now that his eyes had adjusted, he could see her sitting at a simple wood table, turning her silver razor over and over in her hands.

His heart gave one hard bump, then seemed to freeze in his chest for a long moment before it started beating again.

“What I’d like to do is open the curtains and get enough light in here to take pictures of the rooms,” he said. “Then I’ll take pictures of the Gardners’ house and the barn and other buildings. I’ll take pictures of the animals.”

“So I can stay in here and see outside through images?”

He heard bitter, weary resignation in her voice.

“It’s reference so that going outside and seeing the real thing isn’t as much of a shock. Meg and the women working with her to create a guide for blood prophets suggested this. We did this for the girls staying at the B and B, and it helped them. Today I’m here to do the same for you, if you’ll let me.”

“Meg, the Pathfinder,” Jean said softly. “Meg, the Trailblazer. All right, Steve Ferryman. Show me the first trail marker.” She gave him a strange smile. “I don’t know what such a thing is or what it does, but it was one of the training images.”

“You never saw it in context?”

Her smile chilled him. “That would have provided too much information.”

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