Vision in Silver Page 34

“There aren’t that many of them, so it’s not much of a buffer,” Tess said.

“But those who are trying to work with us are being driven out of their dens,” Simon said. “If we don’t help them, someone else will offer them what they need for themselves and the young they’ll have. Someone else will offer food and shelter and give those humans a reason to feel loyalty.”

“And the River Road Community?” Henry asked.

“I don’t want to lease any of that land to humans again, but having some humans living there along with terra indigene would give humans a reason to protect that land too.” He paused, then added, “And I’m going to increase the pay for all the humans who still work for us. They are all doing more work now, and different kinds of work. They should get more money.”

“You’re making a lot of decisions on your own,” Vlad said. “And you’re making a lot of changes very fast. Maybe too fast.”

“I am the leader,” Simon snarled. But Vlad did have a point. Once they had secured the River Road land and the human dens across from the Courtyard, everyone needed time to adjust to the changes. Including him.

A beat of silence before Vlad said, “Yes, you are the leader.” The Sanguinati glanced at the Grizzly.

“Floodwaters can trap you,” Henry said, looking troubled. “Sometimes there is a storm in the distance, and it looks too far away to matter until the water comes raging through your own territory, sweeping away what you thought was safe.”

Simon nodded. “A storm in the distance, but we’re starting to feel it here. Things between humans and Others have changed in the past few months. The Controller was making drugs from the blood of cassandra sangue. The fights between humans and Others that were caused by those drugs were the start of the floodwaters. Now humans are talking about being entitled to land, to water, to wood, to whatever they want. And there is that group calling itself the Humans First and Last movement goading humans into doing things that will turn the terra indigene against them. And bread is becoming a luxury. Why?”

“Maybe that’s something you should ask Meg the next time she makes a controlled cut,” Tess said.

Simon and Vlad snarled at her.

Her hair immediately turned red with black threads and began coiling. “Be careful, vampire,” she warned, looking at Vlad.

“Yes, the next cut should be a controlled cut,” Henry said. Though he spoke quietly, his rumbling voice drowned out the snarls. “It was different from the ones our Meg made when she was upset. It didn’t strain her body like the other cuts did.”

“How could you tell?” Vlad asked.

Henry smiled. “The weather has warmed enough that she opened the window in the sorting room when she started her work. I could hear her singing.” He thought for a moment. “Well, it was a happy sound anyway.”

“Fine,” Tess said, the black threads fading from her hair. “Humans aren’t the enemy anymore.”

“Oh, most of them are still enemies and meat,” Simon said. “But I think this plan will help us identify the few who aren’t.”

CHAPTER 14

Firesday, Maius 11

For the second time in two days, Monty joined Captain Burke and Pete Denby for a meeting behind closed doors.

“It’s unprecedented,” Burke said after Pete told them about looking at the apartments and the subsequent job offers from Simon Wolfgard. “Of course, Wolfgard has been a progressive leader ever since he took over the Lakeside Courtyard.”

“Did you have the sense they want to expand the Courtyard?” Monty asked.

Pete shook his head. “No, but I do think he’s focused on the survival of the Courtyard’s residents. That makes me wonder what he knows that we don’t.”

Burke opened his hands in a “Who knows?” gesture. “They have a blood prophet. And while Wolfgard has shared information he’s gotten from Meg Corbyn, I wouldn’t assume he shares all of it. On the other hand, there is no other police force on the whole continent who interacts with the terra indigene the way we do, and Lieutenant Montgomery and his team are largely responsible for that. So anything the rest of us can do to keep that communication open is an avenue I’d like to explore.”

“Have to admit, I’m kind of curious too,” Pete said. “So is Eve.”

“You concerned about the children?” Burke asked.

“Some. But I’m more worried about what other humans might do than what the terra indigene will do,” Pete said. “Anyone else notice how yesterday’s news stories about police and Others cooperating to locate and help those abandoned girls have been replaced by reports about the desperate situation in Talulah Falls and how every regional government is reviewing the ration books to determine what foods will be added in anticipation of shortages? Since I doubt there are many Others who pay attention to human news reports, it seems like someone doesn’t want us to see any proof that we can get along. And that scares me. Humans don’t own so much as an acre of land on this entire continent. We can build or farm on the land that is leased; we can extract minerals and fuels; we can harvest timber. Most of the land leases are twenty or twenty-five years for villages and small towns. They get renewed so quietly I doubt anyone but government officials, and lawyers, even think about it anymore. Or they didn’t until the terra indigene refused to renew the lease for Jerzy and all the humans were forced to leave that village. The occasional mention of a city land lease during a government meeting is brushed aside so fast you’re not even sure you heard the words. People in my old town were shocked when they realized that the Others take those leases seriously and are willing to evict any tenants they view as too troublesome to tolerate.”

“Maybe that’s partly what’s behind the talk about shortages,” Monty said. “Maybe some of the leases on tracts of farmland are coming due, and the governments aren’t sure that the leases will be renewed this time.”

Burke nodded. “That’s a possibility. The water tax here helps everyone remember who owns the water that supplies the city. But Pete is right about people forgetting about the leases. Lakeside has been around long enough that most people don’t read the fine print that says when they buy a house, they’re buying the building and not the parcel of land it stands on.”

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