Lies and More Lies
Sterling ambled down the lush corridor and sighed. He had left his knitting at home, and he missed it. Oh well, he might as well get this over with. He motioned to his Luxonian bodyguards to wait. The door to Governor Right’s office slid open. He threw back his shoulders and marched over the threshold.
Governor Right rose from a luxurious chair behind her mammoth desk, straightened the cuffs of her garish-green, bold- print blouse, and greeted him with a tight smile.
Sterling held his twitching lips sternly in place. To accommodate his human appearance, he had dressed in casual wear: gray slacks, a dark blue sweater, and black shoes. His thick, white hair offered his human associates the comforting assurance that he had years of experience. It was no lie. Except that he never had the same experience twice.
Governor Right gestured to the available seat—a hard, straight-backed chair, similar to ones used in Bothmal and nodded. “Please, sit. I’m grateful that you’ve finally squeezed me into your over-burdened schedule.”
Her sarcasm was not lost on Sterling. He was fully aware that he had waited longer than she liked to arrange this official visit. He wasn’t playing a game, just suffering from dread.
But he could hardly tell her that. Still standing, he clasped his hands behind his back. “Good to see you, too, Governor.” He cleared his throat, segueing into the business at hand. “Cerulean has informed me that the android is now in custody. I have informed the Crestar representatives that we’ll do everything possible to assist in this time of trial…no pun intended.”
The governor’s thin lips tightened into an even thinner line. “I should hope so since it is one of your own who created this mess. Your Cerulean—” Her mouth puckered with distaste. “—has encouraged an android to think of herself as a sentient being with moral rights.”
Sterling inspected the ceiling a moment before he lowered his gaze. “Yes, well, we’ve never quite decided that androids are not sentient beings.”
Jostling around her desk, Governor Right practically flew to the side counter. She reached under and smacked two glasses on the top. Tossing Sterling a look of disgust, she poured the drinks. “I’m not addicted to the stuff, it’s just that I’ve been up all night dealing with one crisis after another.” She eyed the Luxonian like a surveyor considering the landscape. “Every time you come, you seem like a new creature. Last year you presented yourself as Commander in Chief of the Universe. Today, you’re a regular bleeding heart.” She shoved one of the drinks in his direction.
“I’ve taken up knitting, as well.”
Spluttering her drink across the counter, Governor Right tried not to choke. “By the Divide! You’re a worse freak than the Bhuac!”
Eyebrows rising, Sterling sipped his drink with prim neatness.
Sloshing what was left in her glass, Governor Right waved Sterling to her desk. She pulled a large datapad forward and slid it toward him. “Look those over. I had my men follow her.”
Sterling scrolled through a series of pictures of an elfin-looking Bhuac, passing through different parts of town.
“During the day, she presents herself as Faye, a Bhuac who lives here in Vandi. But I’ve seen a different side of her and none too friendly, let me assure you.” The governor tossed back her drink and headed for the door. “It’s hot in here, and I never know who’s listening. Come on!”
Pushing past the waiting guards with a fixed frown, the governor stomped down the steps.
Sterling marched behind in resignation.
They followed the path she and Taug had taken months before. Except this time she did not stop on the curb and call her private secretary. Now she scurried across the street and stepped into the park, still wet from the melting snow.
Governor Right took to the path and, clasping her hands behind her back, she looked like an ardent philosophy student plumbing the depths of truth.
Sterling patted his chilled arms and jogged to keep up. “Why would a Bhuac pretend to be your enemy?”
“She didn’t pretend anything. She simply used me. She wanted to know what I knew and keep me playing her game.” The governor shrugged. “Why do ruthless people ever do what they do?”
Sterling strode along, gazing at the elongated shadows. He shook his head. “Bhuacs have never been known for their aggressive nature. Surely there must be a good reason.”
A cold wind whistled between them.
With a sneer, the governor quickened her pace. “Your sensitive heart is going to bleed all over the grass.”
Suppressing a chuckle, Sterling attempted an authoritative tone. “Bhuacs came to Newearth seeking refuge. Perhaps this one’s smart enough to keep an eye on her enemies as well.”
Governor Right flung her hands wide and turned on him. “So, I’m the enemy—is that it?”
A fallen tree blocked the path ahead, and Sterling saw no way around it. He slowed his pace. “About the android. She killed Mitholie without warning. Would you happen to know why?”
“As I said, she isn’t sentient. She was put together by some mystery race; the creators, some call them. Her only reason for existing is to do what they want. Reason enough to have her disassembled. We have no treaty with them. They could send an army of these things and take over Newearth. You want that?” She stopped and gestured toward a cluster of apartments. “Like that mixed-breed. Mitholie knew he was trouble and warned me. I was a fool to trust Taug.”
Sterling watched as a hesitant squirrel scampered down the side of a maple tree, halted in fright, and assessed the danger through piercing black eyes. “The one named Derik?”
“Derik? I’d give it a more appropriate name: unwanted, a mistake, a risk to everyone. Do you know he actually screamed at poor Mitholie—threatened him?” She twitched a budding stem off a branch and sighed. “But considering how things played out, I should have eliminated the android first.”
Sterling could feel his human heart racing. If he had been in Luxonian form, he’d be glowing bright red. “First?”
The governor offered a sly smile, digging a little furrow in the muck with the toe of her shoe. “My secret. Consider it an act of goodwill toward all beings.”
Turning around, Sterling’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t feel like crocheting anymore. He wrung his hands together to keep them from wringing a neck.
The squirrel scampered back up the tree.
Governor Right frowned at his hands. “You can’t be cold or tired. What’s wrong?”
Sterling paced forward. “Nothing.” Everything. He coughed and wiped his reddened nose. “I have other appointments. Riots are breaking out all over the planet because of this Uanyi business. We should set the trial date as soon as possible.”
Governor Right clapped her hands together. “Sounds good to me!” She hustled ahead. “As long as we see eye to eye, the rest of the planet can go to Bothmal.” She gestured vaguely in the direction of her office on the third floor. “I’ve work to do myself. See you at the circus!” Her bulky, lightly clad form marched off, undaunted by the late winter chill.
Sterling stood in the failing light. He could hear the voice of the reporter, Lang, cajoling him with her byline: “Lies and more lies.” He wasn’t cold or tired, not physically anyway. But then neither was Governor Right—though she should be.
As darkness gathered, Sterling could almost feel himself bleeding.
Derik heard the knock and thought of Taug with a grimace. If that slug thinks he can come here and—The knock repeated itself. Taking loping steps, Derik charged across his living room and grabbed the door handle. He remembered Cerulean’s warning about opening the door without glancing through the peephole first. Like he knows anything! Traitor.
After swinging the door wide, Derik froze and faced the most handsome man he had ever seen. The yellow eyes were especially provocative. “Can I help you?”
“Are you Derik Erland?”
Derik frowned. Solicitations were illegal in this building, and he had a hard time imagining this guy worked for Human Services. “Yeah.”
“May I come in? I have a message.”
Derik snorted and retreated back into his living room. “What? If it’s from Taug or that Luxonian—”
The stranger followed him inside and shut the door quietly. “No. Actually, I am doing a favor for all of humanity, compliments of an interested benefactor.” He pointed a Dustbuster at Derik’s chest.
Derik stepped backward, his eyes wide. Nausea swept up from his middle. He lifted his hands in surrender. “What—? Why?”
The yellow eyes darkened. “Yours is not to reason why. Your is but to—” He fingered the trigger.
Yellow-eyes swerved. His shot glanced off Derik’s leg, blowing it apart below the knee.
With a scream, Derik crumpled to the floor. “God!” His breath came in sucking heaves. “I’m innocent…in love….” He rolled onto his back.
Yellow-eyes approached, aiming the Dustbuster more carefully this time.
Derik’s gaze clouded into a gray mist as his voice fell into an abyss. “I… have…” He shuddered. “…dreams.”
Yellow-eyes shook his head and fired. “Not mine.”
A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live. ~Lao Tzu
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