Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Part One: Something Old

by llamajoy

author's note: In the year 9990, nine years before Xenogears gametime, Jesiah B. Blanche is offered the position of Gebler High Command. In the real course of events, he declines, escaping with his family to the surface.

In this universe, at that pivotal moment, deciding between the fate of his family and the direction of his country... Jessie says yes. Which means that in 9992, when Solaris launches the attack on Shevat (the same one when Hyuga is famously defeated by Yui), Jessie is the one leading the Solarian forces into battle.


In which Stein makes overtures, Racquel makes a choice,
Ramsus is dismayed, and Hyuga is inimitably himself.

Bishop Stein stood in her doorway, tall enough to eclipse her view of the city beyond. He was not smiling; there was something heated in his eyes that was quite unpleasant to see. "We have come into some intelligence, Officer Blanche."

"Intelligence," Racquel said, her voice quiet, her hand on the doorframe to steady herself. "There was nothing in the news tonight."

"Naturally not. Won't you let me come in, Officer?" Now he was almost smiling, and it was pity in his gaze, far worse. She swallowed the first words that came to her tongue, and Stein went on, "I feel it would be best if you sat down."

She stood unwavering in the entryway, though it took some strength of will to keep her hands from shaking. In the room behind her, she knew, her son was sitting at their tiny kitchen table, not playing with the model gears that her husband had given him-- a going-away present, intricate gatling guns in their small metal hands. Billy was not a foolish child; his father had been gone near a month and none of the newscasts had been particularly favorable. A knock on the door-- and at this hour, the citylights already dimmed for evening-- was no small thing. Better that she keep the conversation quiet, out of the house, that Billy would not have to hear. "I thank you for your concern, Bishop. But there is no news so terrible I cannot bear it on my own two feet. I know as well as you do, the odds we all face."

He pursed his lips into a thin line. "As you wish, Officer. Military intelligence has come to us from Shevat. The battle... went badly, as I am sure you have feared. We have lost several of our finest officers."

Stupidly she heard herself saying, "I haven't heard anything about it-- the broadcast said--"

"Surely you realize the value of well-placed information, Officer," he said, and his condescension disgusted her, made her hold her peace. "If we broadcast the truth, the people would be in an uproar. They would lose their hope, if they knew... This morning we lost contact with Element Ricdeau."

That was unexpected, even in her worst fears. She couldn't stall the hand that came halfway to her mouth. "Hyuga."

"I might have suggested that you would bear this better in the comfort of your--"

"Enough, Isaac," she snapped, her formality dissipating. "You've come here to tell me what you know. What of the Commander?"

"Gone," he said, with ice-cold professionalism, his voice louder than strictly necessary. "Intelligence intercepted communications from his gear during the fight."

Racquel's hands were already cold, now she felt herself going numb, from her fingertips inward. The streetlights dimmed another notch, full nighttime, and in the sudden quiet she heard the sound of a miniature gear being quickly and relentlessly disassembled. "What did he say?"

"Not much, I'm afraid." His lips were a thin, compassionless line, his eyes flicking into the house behind her, as though looking for something. "Very hard to hear above the racket of battle."

"Those communications could have been forged--" she began, but then there were footsteps within the house, starting soft but then running quick as a nine-year-old's legs could go, up the stairs and into the back room. A door slammed, and her voice died.

Stein steepled his fingers before him, looking for all the world like he were in his element, behind a desk, behind an altar. "Would you care to listen to recordings, Officer? That could be arranged, if you liked; I'm sure the sounds of exploding gear parts--"

"Thank you." Her voice had gone flat, her face expressionless, her hand executing a military-style salute without any conscious prompting from her mind. "You've done your part. Sir. I thank you for your... consideration, bringing it in person."

Seeming to smile, he looked again behind her, as if he could somehow see the child behind the master bedroom door, or hear him, stone silent in his grief. "You're taking this rather well, aren't you, Officer? An honor to your country and your husband."

"Bishop," she said, not really knowing what would follow, but that she had to stanch his flow of words, had to hear her own voice. "Would you grant me one request?"

"To the renowned widow of our late Commander," Stein appeared to relish every syllable, "we would be pleased to grant a boon."

She swallowed. "Will you bring us his body? For proper sky-burial?"

"Ah, that." As though he were capable of regret, or compassion. "There is no body remaining, I am afraid. His gear was totally destroyed. How sorry I am, Racquel." He rested a hand on her shoulder, and though she shuddered, she had yet the strength to force it away.

"Go to hell," she whispered, and slammed the door in his smiling face.


"Going to Shevat on your own is madness," Ramsus said the next morning, over what passed for breakfast in those anxious days: coffee, cold toast. "I can't let you do this, Racquel."

"Officer Blanche," she corrected him, but not too sharply. Her own food was untouched. She rested a hand on his arm, knowing he would flinch, wanting the contact anyway. "Please, Kahr. As wife-- widow-- of your commanding officer, I am entreating you."

"And what about your family, Officer Blanche?" He set down his coffee mug forcefully, his amber eyes bright with feeling, meeting hers unblinking.

She watched the coffee swirling in his cup, feeling shaken. She told herself that he could not have known; even Jessie didn't know.

"Do you not have a responsibility to your son, as well? What will become of him if both his father and mother are lost to him? You can't do this."

"Really, Kahr." Her heart beat normally again. "Would you honestly allow my son to come with me?"

"Absolutely not. Already he is a fine pupil, a star for his age. Jugend would sorely miss him, were he to leave the country. A midnight run into Shevat would be far too dangerous for him; he hasn't even been weapon-trained yet. I can't allow that."

Racquel smiled sadly, if unsurprised. "Then watch Billy for me. Just for a few days, Kahr, I'll be back. I promise."

"I can't believe you're asking this of me." He dragged a hand through the back of his hair, exasperated. "What do you hope to accomplish by this?"

"I have to know. For myself," she said, and they looked at another for a long moment, measuring. Unspoken between them was the Bishop's name, the ten years of bitterness between Blanche and Stein, rivalry barely disguised as competition. When Ramsus did not speak, Racquel accepted his silence as his agreement. "I trust you with my household until I return. Billy's upstairs sleeping; I won't be gone more than a week."

"Racquel." He seemed finally at a loss for words. The liquid in his mug had gone motionless; they both stared at it, between them. "I'll ask you a final time not to go. In another two days' time, the report will be official. You need not do this."

"Has there been any word from Hyu?"

Ramsus blinked. "We lost contact with him a day ago--"

"And you're not at all concerned about this."

"Of course I'm worried! What do you take me for?"

"Then let me do this for both of us. For the Commander, for the Elements." She touched his arm again, and her fingers were as cold as his own. "Unless you can look me in the eye and tell me you truly trust the word of the Bishop."

She had ever been impossible to argue with; they all knew that. Only Jesiah had been cantankerous enough to pick fights with her, or worse yet, to win. But remembering another friend and words not nearly so sweet in parting, Ramsus picked up his coffee and took a long drink without tasting it-- unable to watch her go.

He was ill-prepared for the whole ordeal in general, but he certainly wasn't ready for Billy to pad down the stairs right as the door clicked shut.

"Uncle Kahr?" Billy asked, sleepily, then noticed the uneaten toast. "Where's Mom?"

Kahran Ramsus cursed himself for a fool, disposing of the bread too late and wondering how on earth he was supposed to address a child. Of the original four of them, surely he was the least qualified to-- If Sigurd had been there-- But no, that topic was verboten and he knew better than to dwell on it. Only Racquel's sudden departure had brought it to mind. He cleared his throat. "Your mother has asked that I look after you. Only for the time being."

There must have been something official in his voice, for nine-year-old Billy Lee Blanche in his pajamas nodded sharply, just like a junior cadet. "Yes, thank you, sir."

Ramsus felt a little more at ease, perhaps subconsciously.

Until Billy spoke again. "Where did my mother go?"

He took a drink of coffee, trying not to look like he was stalling. "She had some business to attend to, I think." I think. Angrily he berated himself for showing uncertainty. "She has... important government duties to perform."

Billy's throat worked, but it was a moment before the words happened. "Important, like Dad going to Shevat?"

Utterly at a loss, Ramsus tried for a good answer, even if it bordered on untruth. "Yes, much like that, Billy. Secret, important work. For... Solaris." He thought he might have said the wrong thing then, for Billy stared down at the ground, his hands clutching one another.

"Is Mom dead?"

Caught off his guard, Ramsus dropped to one knee, put a hand on Billy's shoulder. He was surprised to find it shaking. "No, Billy, your mother is very much alive."

Billy shook his head, not looking at him. "I know, you know. I know that Dad is-- dead. Just because nobody talks to me doesn't mean--"

"Billy!" Ramsus snapped, more harshly than he meant. "Look at me, Billy Blanche." The boy did, and Ramsus winced a little at the wide-eyed, frightened face presented to him. "We will know the truth by tomorrow, when the reports come from Shevat. Until that time, anything you hear is only conjecture." He held Billy's arms, making the boy meet his eyes. "That means that it's all just rumors until we get the real story."

"B-but he's been gone for a month now, and-- and Mom left without even saying goodbye--"

Kahran Ramsus couldn't say, really, that he'd ever hugged a child before. He supposed he ought not to have been surprised, as he'd known Billy for so many years. But as he patted uncertainly at Billy's hair, he did wonder how in the world he'd gotten into this predicament. "She didn't say goodbye because it isn't goodbye, Billy Blanche. Just sit tight for a day or so, all right? Here, let me make you some coffee."

Billy sniffled, but his attention had been snagged. He looked up, a little wetly, his small hands still wound in Ramsus' jacket. "But mom doesn't let me drink coffee."

Ramsus coughed. "She doesn't? Well... ah, she doesn't have to know, now, does she?" He was deeply gratified to see Billy's tentative smile.


A beam-lantern caught Racquel in the eyes, blinding her. Someone said, "Well, well, what have we here?"

A carbine rifle flashed bright gunmetal in the darkness, and Racquel's heart caught in her throat. "Je--" But when the light came around again, she could see that the gun was aimed at her head, and there were Shevite insignia on his collar. Worse, he was not alone. Outnumbered and feeling for the first time that she should not have come, Racquel lowered her pistol.

"That's right, nice and easy. Don't look so surprised, ladybird. We're a country at war, you know. Got to be on our guard."

As he bound her hands behind her, Racquel got a good look at the man. She did try not to stare, but everything-- the tilt of his chin, the roughness of his voice-- were all familiar. Even with the light on his face, she might have mistaken him again. She cleared her throat. "Thanks for your hospitality."

"Just doing our job, ma'am. Awfully sorry about this." And with a sudden pain at the back of her neck, she lost consciousness.

When Racquel awoke, she was sitting in a bed, her head against a wall, her hair catching in the rough plaster. With a groan she tried to move, remembering all at once that she was handcuffed and a prisoner. But her room did not look like a prison cell, so much as a sickbay. She shook her head, trying to clear away the cobwebs from her vision, but it only made her hair fall into her eyes.

"Why are you here?"

Racquel spun around-- in the shadows at the far end of the circular room, there sat a tiny woman. She stood slowly, as though tired or frail, but Racquel's first impression was that she was a young woman, almost a girl. She was obviously Shevite, with pale, almond-shaped eyes, and delicate hands.

"Where am I?"

"In Shevat, of course," she said. "As I suspect you hoped. We have very few medbays these days, in Aphel Aura. But we had room enough for you." Moving closer, the woman held up a cup, filled to the brim with something clear and sweet-smelling. "Thirsty?"

Racquel motioned to her bound hands. The woman shook her head, lifting the liquid to Racquel's lips with the grace of a physician. She drank gratefully. "I--" Racquel realized she had no idea what she was going to say. It seemed odd, to want to thank her captors, but they had been far more generous to her than she might have been, to a Shevite spy caught on her own doorstep. What did they stand to gain?

"You met Joshua," the woman went on, as though answering a question. "And he convinced us to speak to you instead of drugging you and shuttling you to the surface with the rest."

Racquel blinked. "Drugged and-- You send your prisoners to the surface?"

"Yes, we do," the small woman seemed to smile at the cup that still rested in her hands. "So surprising? We are a tiny country, with barely the food to feed the mouths of our own. Why would we keep them here?"

Her mouth was dry, but she offered the woman the truth. "I thought you killed all those you defeated."

And she laughed, a sound like distant bells twinkling in the wind. "And that tells us where you have come from. Not that anyone without Solarian technology might have found us here, though a few mechanically-minded souls have gotten lucky. But your transport does seem to be Solarian-made, am I correct?"

Nodding, Racquel tried again to ask a coherent question. "What will they do with me?"

"What I do with you will depend, of course. I ask you again, why are you here?" Racquel, faced with the surprising gentleness of the woman's gaze, wondered just who she was speaking to. "Coming in the middle of the night, armed and stealthy, does not speak to me of a friendly visit. Covert surveillance, perhaps? A... rescue mission?"

Racquel's mouth twitched. "I... heard several things about the battle here. But I did not trust the source. I came here to find out for myself-- to find someone."

The woman's smile saddened. "This is a war. There were soldiers wounded, soldiers killed. You may walk through our sickbays, if you like. But we dispose of the bodies of the dead."

Racquel's lips twitched, but she met the woman's eyes, not allowing her gaze to waver. "Then that will be my answer. I trust-- I trust you."

"A rare gift, from one held prisoner." There was no irony in her words. "Shevat thanks you."

A brusque knock on the door proved to be Joshua again, his silhouette somehow more familiar in daylight than under the obscuring cover of darkness. "Your Majesty," he said, one hand over his heart in a gesture of supplication.

Racquel's eyes widened, but neither was looking at her.

"The Council is wondering just how long you'll stay with the prisoner," he said, but with a tone of voice that said he didn't at all care what the Council thought. "And I thought I'd remind you that you promised lunch with the Uzukis this afternoon."

"Yes," she said, amused, smiling up at him. "Thank you Joshua, as ever your services are invaluable. You may tell the Council that I will stay with the prisoner as long as I see fit." Her voice changed a little, and Racquel could tell she was no longer addressing any imaginary Council. "You know, Joshua, I think I know just the person to escort our guest through the ranks of the wounded."

This made Joshua smile, and Racquel felt her heart leaping into her throat. She watched her knees to keep from staring at his face. As the Queen bid her adieu, she could not look up to see that painfully familiar figure closing the door behind him.

The woman the Queen sent to release Racquel was tall and blonde-- a native Shevite and not a settler, Racquel guessed, by the shape of her jaw and the color of her eyes. Those eyes gave her a long, hard glance as she entered the medbay. Assessing the prisoner, of course, her attitude more Shevite than even the tawny color of her hair. Racquel did not lower her chin. She, too, had been born in the sky.

After a moment the woman nodded, no visible change to her expression. Without speaking she flipped out a ring of keycards, passing them over Racquel's wrist-restraints. A tiny line appeared between her brows as she worked, her pale deft fingers working as the twelve circular pressure locks hissed open, one by one. Six counterclockwise around the left hand, then six clockwise on the right.

Again Racquel felt a kind of admiration for her captors. This one was a perfectionist.

She must have mistaken Racquel's small smile for smugness. "Don't fancy yourself a maximum security prisoner, just because you're Solarian. These cuffs are third-rate."

Her words were perhaps not as carefully chosen as they could have been. "You think I came here with only a .09 Armenti to stage a coup? I didn't come to fight."

That might have prompted a smile, a fleeting one, but just as quickly it vanished under the smooth, fair surface of that face. "The battle is three days over," the woman said, and turned so that her long hair obscured her face. "Your country has lost."

There wasn't much to say to that, besides her own private grief and desperate hope. She held her tongue.

With a final click, Racquel's hands fell to her sides, unbound. The woman said, "I am to take you through the ranks of the survivors that remain in Aphel Aura. The Queen has requested this of me," she added, making it quite clear that if she had had any say in the matter, all Solarians would be neatly disposed of-- probably over the side of the city. "If you find the person that you seek, I am to detain you both in military captivity until such time as she sees fit."

"And if I don't find him?"

Again, there was that flickering undercurrent of emotion, curiosity this time, in a quirk of eyebrow and a twist of lip. When she spoke, she was not quite as impassive as she had been. "If you are unsuccessful, you are welcome to continue your search on the surface, of course. But we do not catalogue the soldiers we release. Few enough have the capability to return to our city; that is sufficient for our purposes. And so if you are unsuccessful," she repeated, "you will be shuttled to the surface with the next group of survivors and evacuees." She did not disguise a brief, tight smile of relief. To her mind, the outcome was already decided. "Which leaves, I believe, in half a day's time. Let's go."

Racquel got unsteadily to her feet, and found the woman stood half a head taller than she. Though Racquel thought herself a woman of average height, she felt small and rather foolish beside her Shevite guide. The lack of restraints made her feel no less a prisoner, her patience chafing against each deliberately slow movement the woman made. It seemed to take twenty minutes for her to inspect the room to her satisfaction, locking away the Armenti and finally ushering her out the door.

The Queen was certainly a canny one, to choose her companion so.

She led Racquel through half a dozen seemingly identical circular rooms, each more maze-like than the last. It was at the door of the fourth room that she said, with no prompting, "My name is Yui Uzuki." In the way she spoke the name, more than the name itself, Racquel remembered the Queen's lunch appointment-- remembered her history classes and the names of the fabled Sages of Shevat.

Maybe the cuffs were third-rate, but her personal escort was anything but.

Racquel kept that insight to herself, however, though she thought it politic to allow her recognition to show. She had not yet told anyone her own name, suspecting that it might rather give her away. At this point, though, she wondered what she had to lose. Her Common Tongue was unaccented, she knew, but she hadn't the slightest idea of a proper Shevite salute. She settled for a bow from the waist. "Racquel Blanche."

A smiliar flash of recognition lit in Yui's eyes, but she did not lose her composure-- nor did she return the gesture. "You did not speak so, to Queen Zephyr."

Racquel shrugged. After that intranet interview two years ago, the week after Jessie accepted the High Command of Gebler, her name was hardly a national secret. Meet Racquel Blanche, balancing a career and a family, married to the highest-ranked military man in all Solaris! Billy had just gotten over the summer stomach bug; he looked dreadfully pale in all the 'net pics. She'd just looked tired. "...Maybe I'm a spy, just using that name to get your attention."

That elicited a genuine laugh, if a bitter one. "You think our technology so backwater that we couldn't tell the difference." They stepped together through a doorway, Yui one step behind, long fingers laced together in a way that shouldn't have been menacing. Racquel wondered if she was an engineer, or a philosopher, or a Sage herself. An interrogation on the wrong side of the grate from this woman would have been an ordeal.

"I wouldn't presume to know," Racquel demurred. "The fact that your government didn't dispose of me instantly was a surprise--" She caught her breath. The next hallway was constructed solely of clear plexisteel: nothing but a transparent silver sheen between her feet and a shadowy desert below. Last night in the dark, Shevat looked like any other city: like Etrenank. With the sun shining, no benefit of artificial dimmers-- and the natural landscape a few thousand feet /beneath/ her-- she had to wrestle the wash of dizziness.

Yui had the grace to pause, though not without saying, "You know we won the battle at dawn. Seems the disorientation was my unexpected ally."

They'd walked another handful of steps before Racquel parsed what she had heard. She squinted at her captor, through the unaccustomed brightness, and tried to imagine those hands piloting a gear, or holding a carbine rifle. "Your ally?"

"Here we are," Yui said, and there was no mistaking the spark in her eyes. The door before them looked like every other door they'd passed through so far, but as Yui keyed it open, Racquel saw sickbeds, hands and faces in the dimness beyond. "Only two dozen Solarian soldiers remain in Aphel Aura, all quite recognizable-- if injured. I have lunch with the Queen in an hour. Do try not to waste my time?"

A hundred thoughts kaleidoscoped through her mind, then, and it wasn't just the relative darkness of the sickbay that made her close her eyes. It would end here-- or it would begin. And not for the first time she thought that her mistrust of Isaac Stein might prove her undoing.

Finding a man alive that her country was grieving for dead, she would prove Isaac Stein for a liar. If Isaac wasn't working alone, that would have all the Ethos-- all of Etrenank, knowing him-- out for their heads. (If he was working alone, the thought of facing just him, unctuous and self-assured behind his altar, was little better.)

Not finding Gebler's military commander, that his government insisted was killed, she'd fare no better-- if they discovered she'd left Solaris, if they suspected her traitorous thoughts! If Jesiah Blanche were dead indeed, would her heart rest any easier, knowing that Stein had told her the truth?

But she had to know. There were too many questions, and the only thing she could trust would be her own sight. Whatever the truth, she would accept it. She took a deep breath.

Yui touched her elbow with something almost like compassion, and led her to the first of the sickbeds that lined the walls of the circular room, like spokes of a primitive wheel. Of the men and women she could see, most were asleep. One pale-haired woman with her arm in a sling recognized her, it seemed, her eyes widening though she was unable to speak. Racquel thought she might have known her, a Jugend graduate some years ago. But hers was not the face she was looking for.

Medicine in Shevat was advanced by surface standards, but still rather paleolithic compared to what developments Solaris had made. Racquel winced to see blood-stained bandages, even three whole days since the battle itself.

That was when someone called her name, and she whirled giddily on her axis to see a familiar face. Not the face she had hoped-- though by the gently ironic tilt of his dark brows, she could see that he suspected as much. Element elite and second-in-command of Gebler's elite strike force, Hyuga Ricdeau could take most anything in stride. And, apparently, being flat on his back in a Shevite hospital facility as a defeated military prisoner was one of them. He was smiling mildly.

Regardless of her disappointment, relief was relief, and she gathered up his good hand in both her own and brought it to her face. "My god, Hyu." He looked wretched, one side of his face blue from a spreading bruise, one arm set in a stiff, old-fashioned cast, his hair tangled across the pillow. She wished for a moment that Kahr was there to see him, too. "It is good to see you."

"And you, my dear!" He squeezed her fingers. Under his breath he added, "Though I admit I hadn't imagined such meeting. Did Gebler dispatch you as well? They must be more foolish than expected, to send a second wave after such a decisive defeat."

"Well," she cleared her throat, but Yui interrupted without apology.

"There is no second wave. Black found this woman last night, attempting to infiltrate the Third Sector. Only by orders of the Queen has she been allowed to stay even this long. She's to be escorted to the surface by the end of the day."

"But only if I don't--" Racquel tried again.

Hyuga was unphased, smiling up at the taller woman. "Ah, I see you've met my benefactrix, the noted Uzuki?"

The tall woman made a dismissive noise, but when she spoke it was to Racquel. "Insofar as I didn't finish him off," she said, as if by way of explanation. "I am no one's savior."

"I beg to differ, you see," Hyuga said. Racquel blinked; had Hyu just winked at her? "I believed I was the best swordsman in the battle, and I equally believed I would be offered no quarter should I fail. This woman has proved me wrong, on both counts!" As if the whole matter were nothing more than a science experiment, and himself delighted with the challenge of formulating new hypotheses.

"The man is mad," Yui said, not at all with her usual tone, shaking her head in mystification. "The blow to his head has addled his brains."

Racquel pursed her lips, almost a smile as she looked from one to the other. "You're right on the first part," she said. "But he's always been that way."

"If Gebler did not send you, why did you come?" Hyuga's playfulness had evaporated, and he spoke quietly so that only the three of them might hear. "Shevat has won the day, and it is only thanks to their mercy that more of us were not slain."

Casting a cautious glance at Yui, Racquel picked her words carefully. "I am here on my own, as she said. I was told that--" here her voice failed her, and she looked at her hands. "It was Isaac," she said at last. "He brought news personally, to the house, of-- of the Commander. And I could not believe him. Not that I could not bear the news, Hyu, believe me-- but I can't trust that man, not when--"

"It is Commander Blanche that you have sought?" This from Yui, with quiet interest. "You might just have said so from the start."

Hyuga, without raising his voice, pitched his whisper higher. "Isaac, you say? You should not be here, not at this time--"

"Jesiah Blanche fought bravely." Yui spoke at the same time, their words jumbling together. Racquel could not understand the woman's sudden smile, or the intensity in Hyuga's eyes. "But that shouldn't surprise you, if you are indeed his wife."

"You should return to Etrenank, if they'll let you," Hyuga said urgently. "Or to the surface. Before you can no longer go back."

"But--" Hope was warring with apprehension in her breast, and Racquel struggled to breathe. "I must know, is Jessie alive?"

"Racquel, don't--"

"Quiet, shita; this woman has come for the truth." Yui's grave expression had returned, and she bowed her head. "Commander Jesiah Blanche did indeed survive the battle, Officer Blanche. At this moment he is likely in our deepest prison, awaiting his judgement."

Hyuga shook his head, resigned. "It is not too late for you, Racquel. If you leave now, Gebler will not have to know that you were ever here. You are needed--"

"Your husband has taken full responsibility for the invasion, you see." Yui seemed to consider this a moment, weighing the silence as she watched Racquel's face. "The rest of the Solarians are being released, at his request, as soon as they are able."

"It was Isaac, don't you see?" Hyuga hissed. "You know of his antipathy towards Jesiah! He wants you exiled as well; he wants--"

"Wait-- exiled?"

"With Blanche's final transmission to your country, he severed ties with your government for good. I imagine tomorrow the news of his treachery will be broadcast across your city."

Racquel was numb. In her grief and the rush of preparation, one thing had not occurred to her. One very important thing. Her departure from Solaris was exactly what Stein had wanted, all along. The value of well-placed information, just as he'd said. The information he delivered to her-- regardless of its accuracy-- was solely to precipitate her leaving the country. Tomorrow, as Yui said, the truth would be revealed with the news broadcasts, and Commander Blanche accused of High Treason. And now, Officer Blanche, as well, deserting her country for love of her husband.

She felt as though the floor beneath her had given way, and she was falling countless distances in the ruthless sunlight. She'd fallen for it, in spite of her best judgment; she understood too late. Jessie had bought the freedom of his soldiers by bargaining with his own, and she had unwittingly followed him into exile.

Leaving one very important thing behind them, in Solaris.



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