WHEREIN Things Get Worse
Commodore Hu Mavis stared down at the motionless body of the broken man lying at his feet. The room no longer echoed with the sound of screaming; the man was now mostly silent.
Standing across from Mavis, also looking down at the broken man on the floor, was a servant of God. He was a Sword, chosen by God and the Emperor to defend the Radiant Throne from her enemies. No two Swords were alike, save only in their dedication to the Throne: some kept their names when taking on their new life, others abandoned their names altogether. This Sword’s name was Kyas, but he was known only as the Viceroy.
“He isn’t the one,” the Viceroy said.
The Viceroy was, from what Mavis knew of him, extremely powerful. He was blessed with the ability to read the deepest hidden thoughts of men: it was a painful process, and occasionally fatal to the subject, but it was reliable. Few Swords had this gift with the precision and power the Viceroy had. That the Viceroy had come to oversee the investigation of the Ur Voys break-in meant the Emperor herself was deeply concerned by the breach.
“He isn’t the one,” the Viceroy repeated. “He is loyal to the Emperor.”
Mavis nodded and knelt by the broken man’s side. “You have been a faithful servant to the Emperor this day,” he said, placing a hand on the man’s shoulder. “You submitted willingly, and your innocence has been proven beyond all doubt. Your strength will return, in time, and this will not be forgotten. You and your family will be rewarded for your service.”
The broken man couldn’t speak, but he managed to nod.
Mavis stood. “Take him.”
The door opened. Two men entered, pushing in a medical bed on a grav plate.
“Handle him with care,” Mavis ordered. “Today he proved himself a true servant of the Throne.”
The men lifted the broken man off the floor and laid him gently on the bed. The door opened again, and the men left with him.
“He had a good mind,” the Viceroy said. “Well ordered. I hope it recovers. It may.”
The Viceroy stood unmoving, staring intently at a point on the floor a meter from his feet. This, Mavis had come to learn, was what the Viceroy did when he was troubled.
“I am confused, Mavis,” the Viceroy said. “I know you are telling me the truth. I read your soul.”
Mavis suppressed a shudder at the memory. The Viceroy’s gift was agony itself. the presence of the Viceroy’s mind in his had felt like a searing flame of holy vengeance. Mavis was a sinner, like all men, and he nearly lost himself in his suffering.
“I know you speak the truth,” the Viceroy repeated, “and I know the crime has occurred. But not a single person I’ve questioned has any knowledge of it. Even if their memories were altered, I’d detect traces of the alteration. And yet it seems that this… what is his name?”
“Vindh,” Mavis said. “Grif Vindh.”
“This ‘Vindh’ has managed to enter Ur Voys without being detected by any of our sentries, our sensors… nothing. There is no record of unauthorized life entering the facility. And yet… the drugs are missing.”
The Viceroy fell silent, gazing thoughtfully at the spot where the broken man had lain just moments before.
“If I may be permitted to ask…” Mavis chided himself for his impertinence, but pressed on. “What do you plan to do?”
The Viceroy considered the question. “I can find no evidence of this crime,” he said, “yet I know the crime exists… so I will find the criminal. There is only one man who knows exactly how the Emperor’s gift was stolen: Grif Vindh.”
Mavis thought of Captain Vindh being forced to bare his soul to one of God’s chosen.
“May God have mercy on his soul,” Mavis said.
“He will not,” the Viceroy said, “because I will not.”