Into the Dark: Three

Co-authored by Ciarente and Silver Night


Ciarente Roth sat as still as she could, her gaze fixed on the cold window between her and the infinitely colder vacuum outside.

If she sat still enough for long enough, everything would stop. All of it. There wouldn't be, wouldn't have been, any blood, any gunfire.

Beside her, Camille squirmed, and Ciarente tightened her grip.

"Hush, Cami, hush now," she murmured.

"But I - " Camille started to say.


"Just this one time, you should listen to your sister, cherie," Jorion Roth said from the front of the shuttle.

His voice broke the spell Ciarente had been trying to weave around herself, and all at once she knew there was no way in the world she could get back to a place where those five or six seconds of gunfire hadn't happened. She began to shiver.

"Cia, you're hurting," Camille protested, and Ciarente tried to loosen her grip.

"What - " Her voice was dry, dusty dry, dry as space, and she had to pause and swallow hard. "What are you going to do? With us?"

"Why, take you home, of course," Jorion said.

"Really?" Ciarente couldn't keep the hope out of her voice, hope that made her heart leap in her chest and for a minute erased the memory of small-arms fire and bodies ... "Really?"

In the dark shadows behind her father, a woman made of fire shook her head. Ciarente looked away, even though she knew that she would come closer when she wasn't watched. Captain Vikarion's prescription is wearing off, she thought. The pills were in her pocket. If she took one, everything would be fine.

But nothing will be fine. Helmi would still have drawn her gun and shot and shot and shot ... Fisk and the others would still be lying with the awkward, unnatural stillness of death on the deckplates where they'd fallen ... Papa would still have lifted his gun and shot Helmi in the face.

"Not right away," Jorion said. "But soon. First you have to be debriefed."


He nodded. "You spent months with these people, these Sansha, cherie. You know more about them than any informant we've ever had."

Informant. "I don't know anything," Ciarente said. "Nothing that the FIO would be interested in."

"You let me decide what the FIO is interested in," Jorion said. "Any information, however trivial - a habit, a residence, a parent's name - you let me decide what's important."

A parent's name. Ciarente swallowed. A name.

Amieta looks levelly over the rim of her brandy glass. "S'not a good name to be using, Cia. Not safe."

"Papa," Ciarente said desperately. "I don't know if I'll be able to remember anything."

The fire was closer now, past her father, coming closer still. You promised. You promised you'd never tell.

It's not my fault, Ciarente thought frantically. It's not! I can't - I can't -

You promised...

"Oh, you will," Jorion said. He fished in his pocket and took out a small clear tube, the curved surface making the trans-cranial micro-controller inside look elongated, like a slim mechanical insect. Just waiting to crawl inside my brain. "You'll remember everything."

Ciarente hesitated. "Papa," she said. "You call them these people. But they're my friends. I don't want to trawl over everything they've ever said - "

"You will," he said. "You will want to. And you will. Every detail, cherie. Don't worry."

Every detail.

She knew it was true. The tiny chip in that tube could make her think Amieta and Silver were her worst enemies, could make her think that Camille's life depended on her answers to every question. It wasn't that she wouldn't be able to keep from answering. I won't want to.

It was even funny, in a way. I spend six months with Sansha's Nation and my father is the first person to try and make a True Slave of me.

The flicker of humour died. I promised. Promised I would never tell.

"Cia?" Camille asked. "Cia? What is it?"

"It's alright, cherie," Ciarente said automatically. "It's alright."

You promised.

The fire was very close to her now, scorching heat a painful contrast to the cold radiating from the window.

You promised.

I know I promised. I know. I can't ... I can't ...

The fire was implacable. You promised.

Then help me! I can't stop him! Help me!

Hands reached out for her, wreathed in flame, blackened and burnt. Yes. You promised.

"Listen, cherie," Ciarente said to Camille quietly. "I have to go away. You'll have to be brave."

"Go away? But - "

"Just listen. I have to. I'm sorry. Can you be brave, cherie?"

Camille nodded. "Of course," she said stoutly. "Cia, I - " She glanced at Jorion and bit her lip. "Yes. I can be brave."

"Good, cherie. I'm sorry." Ciarente pressed her lips to Camille's forehead. "I'm sorry. I can't help it."

The fire was all around her now.

Ciarente closed her eyes, and reached out her hand. It hurt, those burning fingers closing around hers, but not as much as the thought of answering her father Yes, actually, Amieta did say...

She tightened her grip on the fire, and let it draw her, through the flames, into the dark.

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