Chapter Thirteen; Firebird

Seeing Death

"Priam, wake up..." my hand seems so pale on his sienna shoulder as I move from the bed, "Dalmar approaches."

He springs to a seated position, eyes enormous and I clarify; "Not here," I admit; "my Avatar alerts,"

I leave him in the bed, move to the main room, watching the viewer. I order my dozen dummies to stop the engines of their pods, emerge into space, take up rock form, and drift. Priam slides beside me on the couch. He's pulled on jeans. I can't but lust after his body, because he is that beautiful, but am distracted by the wonder on his face as he sees the viewer.

"I told you they can morph..."

The reason this particular brand of avatar is so expensive is that not only can it take up nearly any shape, but it's fitted with the best camera on the market. Once you link that camera to any view screen you get fantastic resolution.

I have commanded my dummies to focus on the Ship, go to top magnification with extreme
light sensitivity. I then activate my Avatars on the ship; 'me' and 'Priam'.

He makes a slight jump beside me, viewing 'himself' in a hunched pose, now suddenly
vibrating with 'life' (heartbeats cause a certain resonance).

That is 'me' in that chair in one of my languid poses, and 'Priam' in the forcefield.

I switch to an outside view; two Dalmar warships approach.
I hear the orders barked by the Dalmar.
My avatar responds, pressing the right buttons.

Priam has never used avatars, finds it eerie to see himself as others see him. To see
himself as a prisoner in a forcefield, about to be turned over to his enemies.

I don't want to stare at him, but I want to see his reaction, so I kind of sideways keep
him in focus.

A few minutes pass before Captain Arka arrives in the chamber where the prisoner
is held. My avatar speaks in my voice;

"That's Priam Zal, you owe me two million."

Captain Arka has his back to 'me', facing Priam's avatar, so I've got both views.
I can see the evil in Arka's face, his mouth rolling like a worm.

"Lower the forcefield," Arka commands, keeping his back to my Avatar.

"Give me my money," my voice demands.

Arka turns, looks at me with amused contempt, then orders an officer,
"Give her what she wants,"

We know exactly what is going to happen, but it doesn't make it easier.

The Officer fires at my avatar. The beam of the weapon, is a blinding white yellow.
I gasp, seeing it hit me, for I'm seeing through Priam's avatar. Seeing the beam
hit my chest, then, the explosion.

Priam's avatar survives, so we see the blowing apart of the room. Just so easily, the ,
structure pushing out, things flying off into space, Arka sucked out, then, it's to my
dummies in space, watching the ship burst apart, and taking the two visiting Dalmar
ships with it.

Things happen slowly in space, we can see chunks of my ship hitting others, dents, slow explosions, it's almost like fireworks, as each bit flares, moves, dies, until there's nothing
but small chunks of ship, bodies, supplies, floating.

I become conscious of Priam's hand in mine. I squeeze it, order my surviving
avatars to return to their flyers take up default forms, and go to Smudge.

It is now silent in the ship, cold.
We've seen our 'deaths'.
It was not the first time for me, but it was the first for Priam.

Seeing someone kill you doesn't get easier.

Conversation

I lean against Priam's wide shoulder, look into his beautiful face.
Strange emotions flash in his eyes.

"I knew he would not pay you," he says softly. Then; "Why do you work for them?" he asks.

"I don't usually work for Dalmar or Gennies..." I lie, making my face innocent, adding as if
it's not important; "The trick of this business is not to be tricked, " quoting my mantra.

I see his doubts, perhaps a reassessment of me. Yet he is here, he is alive. I start talking
to get us back to where we were when we went to bed.

"The kid who stole this yacht," I gesture, "brought it to Smudge and sold it."

We are not talking about him, about Gennies, about Dalmar.

"When I caught the kid I had him in a small room, barred by a force field. He tried
to bribe me, offering me half of what he'd gotten for the yacht...."

"Have you ever captured someone from Sagir?" He demands, not being distracted.

Lying is always good business. It maintains the status quo ante.

"No." I say, as if Arka was the first Dalmar I'd ever met, as if he was the first Sagir
I'd ever captured.

He studies me, then softly; "Why did you not turn me over to Dalmar?"

I thought I'd explained that. I thought my actions then, my words now...I shrug,
"Feelings." I say, going for a bottle of water, taking a swallow.

"Feelings," he repeats.

I'm not getting away easily I can see.

"You learn to trust your feelings." I say, "You learn to prove you're right. That you
are not capturing a decent guy who is trying to avoid being killed by the mob, but
you're capturing the ringleader of the mob who killed the decent guy."

I took another mouthful of the water, watching him carefully.

"What do you intend?" he demand/asks.

I don't know what he means, but I'll answer as much intent as I have at the moment.

"I'll contact Dalmar, demand the other half of my bounty...."

I see his face, tell myself to shut up.
Give no more details.
Betray no more knowledge of how the Dalmar operate.

"What did you steal from them?" I divert.

"I did not steal from them. They took something of mine, I took it back."

I wondered what he had in his rucksack. With Supers it could be an old pot that had
developed supernatural properties.
With Supers....I was drifting away from him. I could feel it.
I flipped the conversation.

"We took out two warships..."(I gesture to the screen)

"Have you worked for Arka previously?"

Didn't I say I didn't work for them before?

"I appreciated your warning me that Arka wouldn't pay, it made me respect you. "
I non answered.

He looked at me.

I scattered around for something to say, but knew that right now, silence was better.
I moxed a yawn, stretched; "I'm going back to bed."

I slid off the sofa, into the bedroom. The major hurdle was jumped.
He didn't need to know I learned by experience.
That I had captured a Sagir few years ago when Papa still oversaw our operation.

We hadn't felt good about it. Something was wrong with the story, for the Prisoner
had behaved not unlike Priam, save he didn't speak to us.

Papa and I had debated if we had done the right thing. If the quarry was really a
wanted man, or a victim.

We never came to a conclusion. We gave him to the Dalmar, my father 'forgot' to get
the other half of the bounty. Maybe it made him feel less guilty. But it didn't help me.

Dad retired after that, took no more part in the business, going into farming.
He never spoke of it, save once, and then, diagonally.

"Be Sure," he'd said, pausing in his hoeing, looking at me, then back to work.

I hadn't given Priam to the Dalmar.
Let him muse on that.

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