Vision in Silver Page 59

“Maybe men like the Controller were right and the cassandra sangue can’t survive outside of cages. Maybe blood prophets can’t experience the world like other beings because everything and everyone can be an excuse to use the razor. Is that what we should tell the Intuits and other humans who are struggling to help these girls survive? That the blood prophets need limited contact with other people, limited experiences, a limited life? Otherwise you’ll cut yourselves to death over any little thing.”

“No! Henry, I did it for Lizzy!”

“None of us believe that.”

She stared at him, stunned.

“It is said you have a thousand cuts before the one that kills you. How many scars do you have now, Meg? How many years do you have left if you cut yourself every three days? You say you did this cut for the Lizzy? What do you want us to tell Sam when you bleed out one day from a cut you didn’t need to make?”

“Henry . . . ,” she sobbed. His words battered her like fists.

“You hurt all of us. You hurt Sam and Simon and Nathan. You upset the Elementals and the ponies and the Sanguinati. You’re supposed to be the Pathfinder, the one who will consider alternatives to the razor so that blood prophets can live in the outside world.”

Pressing a hand to the cut at her waist, she wept. And when Henry sat down beside her and put his arms around her, offering grumbling comfort as he might do for a cub, that hurt worse than his angry words.

CHAPTER 26

Watersday, Maius 12

Lizzy is fine, and Ruth is well able to look after her for a couple of hours, Monty thought as he and Burke walked into Nadine’s Bakery & Café after the lunchtime rush. Stay focused on the work now.

Nadine didn’t give him her usual smile. Instead she said, “Are you here to ask me to choose a side, Lieutenant?”

“Choose a side?”

“Maybe this has been bubbling under the surface for a long time, but it seems like, all of a sudden, people are expected to declare themselves one way or the other. Either you’re for humans and against the Others, or you’re a traitor to your own kind. Neutral as an option hasn’t been eliminated completely, but it’s getting there. There’s talk that we’ll be seeing shortages of pork and beef by the end of summer because animals are dying due to lack of feed. There’s already a limit on how much flour and sugar bakeries can purchase each week, and prices for some items have already gone up—have doubled in some cases.” Nadine sighed. “You know Chris from Fallacaro Lock and Key?”

“He works with the terra indigene in the Courtyard,” Monty replied.

“His father and I are cousins. Last night Chris slept on my couch because his father joined the Humans First and Last movement and declared that the business is humans only from now on, and if Chris does another job for the Others he’ll not only be tossed out of the business; he’ll be disinherited. And any other employee who doesn’t join HFL will be out of a job.” Her dark eyes held an equal measure of anger and worry as she focused on Monty. “You usually come in on your way home from the Universal Temple. Somehow, I don’t think you’re here to pick up a late lunch.”

“No, we’re not,” Monty said, regretting that Nadine was right—he was going to ask her to choose a side. He just hoped that she would understand that choosing the Others was a way to help humans. “There’s a coffee shop in the Courtyard. It’s no longer open to the general public, but it does supply food for human employees as well as the terra indigene. Two bakeries in Lakeside that were supposed to supply the coffee shop with baked goods and other foods have broken their agreements with the Courtyard.”

“Then the Others should learn to bake or do without,” Nadine replied.

“There are bakeries on Great Island that will supply them with anything they want for the coffee shop,” Burke said. “But there will be penalties to Lakeside if no bakery in the city honors the agreements.”

Nadine studied them. “What kind of penalties?”

“Some of the food needed by the people in this city is grown on farms run by the terra indigene,” Burke said. “All Simon Wolfgard has to do is inform those farms that, from now on, the surplus they had sold to businesses in Lakeside now goes to businesses on Great Island or to other human settlements who do not support the HFL movement. And if Wolfgard, who is the most liberal terra indigene leader I’ve ever met, takes that stand, other terra indigene leaders will adopt that stand as well. And then, Ms. Fallacaro, we will know shortages.”

Nadine stared at Burke. Then she turned to Monty. “Is that true?”

Monty hesitated. “Captain Burke has more knowledge of the terra indigene than I do, so I would take his words as truth.”

She let out a brittle laugh. “So much for wanting to be neutral.”

“You can refuse to supply goods for the Courtyard coffee shop,” Monty said.

“How many other bakeries are you going to ask? Or will you just look for the HFL decal in their windows and not even bother to ask?” Her smile was as brittle as her laugh. “Chris’s father thinks humans will soon have the capability to rise up against the terra indigene and lay claim to every corner of this world. Do you think that can happen?”

Monty looked at Burke, who looked at Nadine.

“I think,” Burke said quietly, “that if we were able to visit some parts of the wild country, we would find the remains of great civilizations that once thought the same thing—and were wrong.”

They waited, giving her time to consider.

“I don’t want to advertise that I’m selling to the Courtyard,” she finally said.

“They have unmarked vehicles. Picking up an order could be arranged,” Monty said.

“I’m not even sure why I’m agreeing to this,” Nadine muttered.

“To keep the peace,” Burke said. “You’re helping to keep the peace.”

“Thank you,” Monty said.

“Wait.” Nadine quickly assembled two bakery boxes and filled them with a variety of pastries. “I have some quiche left from the afternoon lunch hour. I’ll get it for you. Might as well find out if the Others will like what they’ll be getting.”

She went into the back and returned a few minutes later with another box that held pieces of quiche as well as a few sandwiches. She packed those into a small lightweight cooler that Monty promised to return.

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