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Section 1

(Translated from an Ishgiruan diary)

Leti Mabonie is my real name, though for a long time I went as “Selena".

It was after a race that I was first invited to meet the Snake. A little outbuilding of the imperial complex, where his hench-geezers squinted at me in the sun.

"He thinks you're quick, he wants you. Do us a favour. and come out of the light."

So I went into darkness.
Down some steps, and through a cool cellar stocked with beer and pickles. There was a chair in the room, and a pinhole of sky lit it meaningfully.

I sat down, and they gave me terms - what seemed a good offer, i was asked to sign a contract stamped with the seals of the Empress Gloan, and the Elder of Pin. I signed it, writing "Selena" on the paper, instead of Leti. Almost as soon as I had done that, I was hoisted up by the arms. Another door opened, and I was carried through it. More steps, coiling tightly down. Then the grip loosened, the hench-geezers left, and I thought I was alone. But in the darkness a chipping sound. then a spark that echoed all around. A flaming match drops and roars straight back up from a lantern pot swimming with oil.

"Fire." said Snake. "Is what separates us tron the beasts. But beasts we are still. We are brutal, we are selfish, we take for ourselves and don't give back

Then he gave me the knife.


Section 2

I alight at Momoros skyway and look for the woman in blue robes. She is airside as expected. I stop near her and bend down as if looking for something in my bag.

"I'm sure it's here somewhere," I say.

The woman looks around casually. She waits for a group of academy students to push by, then she says, "Oh you've dropped something!"

"Oh yes, thank you," I say, picking up the little book that fell from her sleeve.

Then we exchange quick smiles, and I walk to the gate. I hang back far enough from the booth that they can't see the paling cream on my face, and not so far as to appear awkward.

"Identification please,” says the godhand.

Hopefully, I hand over the book of entitlement. Don't let me down, I say to him in my head. Just in case he does, my hand comes to rest upon the knife hidden in the soft excess of my robe. But the guard returns my papers, happy they are in order.

"We are god," he says. Another little test.

"We are god," I say. The two-pip border guard nods, and the gate opens.


Section 3 MISSING


Section 4

There is no time to thank Thirsus, or to tell him his family will be ok. I don't often lie, if silence is enough. I have to worry about me, you see. This is my last job, and then I'm out. Back to Selene in the meadow.

I take the elevator up to North-East Five. The sky is fresher and bluer, the happy people stroll together. Either they have not heard news of the terror attack, or they do not need to care.

I follow the marker stones denoting the location of the Terminal, and once i reach it, I watch the entrance door for seven guard cycles. Then I head to the hotel, and I feel uneasy but I don't know why.

"You seem dark," says the hotelier. I realise she means my Skin.

"I'm from Conos," I say.

"Ah," she says knowingly, though I know she has never been, "Book, please."

She looks at it. Types like her can be more careful than border guards, and for a moment she frowns, but then she takes her stylus and strikes a line through the yellow stamp on the third page. She returns it to me.

"And what assignment brings you here?" she says, more cheerfully now. I visualise a stab wound in Oro Mounteback's neck.

"I'm just here for the night," I say, "I work in gems."

"Fascinating!" she lies, "Upstairs. The second door."


Section 5

I take my things up to the room. It is decorated like every other Saborian hotel room. I put my clothes on the chair and take a shower, careful not to let the water wash over the make-up. I ruffle my hair, wrap myself in a towel, then I walk up to the window. It is covered by a single opaque blind. Instead of peeling back one corner to look at the man I know has been following me, I yank the string, and glare brazenly out into the piazza. careful to avoid direct eye-contact with him. He is surprised, and moves casually but briskly out of sight.

l watch people for a little while, to see it he, or anyone else comes back, but they do not. I close the curtain and open my bag. I pull a file from the secret sleeve the Warlock of the Hem sewed into it for me. I read over the words again.

"Exus Levit, Saborian counterintelligence. Risk Factor: Grave.”

But I have to concentrate on Oro.
I keep thinking about him, I keep thinking about how stupid he is. I wake early, and since there is no sign of Levit on the walkway, head out.


Section 6

I return to North-East Five and watch the Terminal. The godhand looks sleepy, but it's not enough to give me a chance. I cut through the crowd to the other side, and look up. There's a whirr of propellers, and I see the red-black livery of a gunship. I mould myself to the bulwark of the building and remain still until the noise has passed.

I put my hands on the wall. It is almost smooth, but there is a horizontal ridge-line offering some grip. I have a quick look around, before palming up to it. It's hard work, but I'm only light. I drive up again to a section of embossed brickwork and I'm away.

I shuffle around a right-angle corner of the building so that I'm sure I cannot be seen from the thoroughfare.
Behind me now is a drop to tiny trees and park and below, and I can see over the hills to the dunes. There's no wind, but I'm tense, and the grip is thin.

I am halfway-through the ascent when another gunship scuts overhead. I try to remain still, but I'm exposed. The ship hangs for an eerily long time and I begin to worry. My fingers are trembling but I can‘t afford to look up.
Finally the engine noise fades. Then I hear a clattering inside the wall, and I know I'm on the right track; there must be an opening up above for the gunships.

Exhausted, I reach the top platform. I see the control tower, and roll out of sight. I take a dash of water from my flask, and peer around the low wall. In the centre of the roof terrace is a big hole.


Section 7

I crawl on all fours until I'm beside the hole, and I look in. I'm too high to be noticed if I'm quick. I swing backward under the lip, and slip between the mesh of titanium support struts. I attach a grapple to a thick beam running the length of the hangar ceiling.

I chalk my hands from the pouch, then I swing across to the far wall. I get a better view of the Terminal interior from here. A couple of docked ships, a series of ramps and walkways leading to the various subsections, just like the blueprints I'd seen. I drop down to an empty level, and cling to the topside of a beam.

"Bandinian?" I hear a two-pip godhand shout below, "get him to a cell".

I watch as the young man tries to resist - a shock to the neck pacifies him. I ab-hop carefully down the interior wall, jabbing my knife in the cracks until I am within reach of the two-pip and his prisoner. As they turn, I drop in behind. They proceed through the red-lit landing towards the secure area.

"Clearance?" says another godhand up ahead, and I duck behind an open door.

"74X" says the guard, and they are buzzed through. I don't have time to be looking for another way in, so wait for the three-pip to turn his head, before plunging into his neck. Once he is completely dead, I heave his body into an empty crate under the stairs and close the lid.
A flicker of guilt.


Section 8 MISSING


Section 9 MISSING


Section 10

I remember Oro twitching as he died, and then a look of faint contentment on his face - some final vision of him and his boy skipping happily through a Saborian arboretum. A misguided man, but at least he found something to cling on to. More than I could say for myself. Too many bodies. I dropped Snake's knife and began to sob.

I should have focused. If I'd one out the way I came in, I'd be on a skyship by sundown. But the alarm sounded. I heard the pounding of godhand boots. They would be upon me in moments. I couldn't think, I kept breathing too fast, I was panicking.

Then I was soothed. A clean pain lanced between my ribs, and a hand reached over my mouth.

"Hush," said a bewitching voice, and she moved me to one side. I was paralyzed.

I watched the godhands stream in as if they were a dream. Somehow they found the bodies, but they didn't see us. They looked and looked, and I felt like shouting, "I'm here, I'm here. Why can't you see me!?" because then I knew it would all be over sooner.

I could no longer feel it, but I think the hand was still over my mouth. As they dragged the bodies away, I couldn't keep my eyes open any more.


Section 11 MISSING


Section 12 MISSING


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