Taken from the upcoming eighth Fortune's Fools book Iconoclast: Not To Be by E.M Swift-Hook
The following day Avilon had deposited her travel bag at the spaceport and reached her chosen observation point in good time. A bench under a tree. She had identified it as giving her a clear view of three of the entrances to the mausoleum. Like most across Coalition space, it was set in a small park. Many mausoleums were polyhedral with the octagonal format being most favoured. This one was smoothly round beneath its dome, three stories high, with curved alcoves pushing the building’s walls out in bulges, so it looked a little like a sophisticated dessert, upturned on a serving dish.
Considering the venue, she had dressed appropriately and wore a traditional mourning veil over her face. Just as most of the women and many of the men present were doing as a mark of respect or simply to hide the signs of their grief. Except this veil was not as traditional as it appeared. Aside obscuring her features and making her hard to recognise, the fabric was designed to disrupt facial recognition in a way no amount of current technology could correct.
The weather was overcast, which seemed to fit well with the mood of the place. Two funerals arrived as she waited, the people filing in solemn procession through one of the entrances, the coffins bourne on silent gurneys, flanked by smartly clad relatives and followed by friends. Once inside they would be shown into one of the side-chambers of the mausoleum, where they would sit and listen to speeches in praise and remembrance of the one who had died.
After the second of the funerals had gone inside, Avilon checked the time and took the security cameras offline, before walking slowly to join a third funeral procession making its way into the mausoleum. There was nothing preventing her simply walking in to honour the dead, but as part of a larger group she drew less attention from the staff and it was not difficult to detach herself unobserved once inside. She had spotted Car Torbalen walking in the middle of the second procession, a veil over his head and his demeanour as grave as the rest of the mourners, only recognisable by his bulk and the way he moved. She wondered if he was indeed there to attend that funeral. It would have provided a solid pretext to satisfy the Legacy whilst removing him from under their scrutiny. It was a good idea to keep in mind that he was a very clever man.
Even though it was dull outside, the dimly lit interior of the mausoleum seemed dark. Avilon had to allow a few moments for her eyes to adjust as she looked around. The funeral procession she had followed was still slowly filing into a side-chamber, guided by silent ushers. There were also a handful of people in the main body of the building, come to visit their dead. Avilon looked up to where the domed roof was set with thousands of shining points of light. Most were white but there were reds and blues and greens there too, illuminated from around the dome. Each point of light, a gemstone formed from the remains of someone who had died many years before. The gems of the more recently deceased were set in special cabinets where relatives could visit them and place flowers or leave other tokens. These cabinets were in the alcoves, tiered around the walls, accessible by open walkways on each floor so the echoing silence and beauty of the dome was omnipresent.
Torbalen was visible on the top walkway, leaning on the rail and looking up at the dome. He had removed the veil and seemed oblivious to her presence or that of anyone else, lost in thoughts of infinity and mortality, perhaps. It was hard to tell as the lighting was too poor, but it was very clear he was alone.
This was not a place to rush or be seen to move fast, so Avilon walked as quickly as she could without breaking convention and drawing attention to herself. Appearing to be a not-so-recently bereaved relative, moving with purpose to visit her dead. Once she was on the highest gallery she lifted her own veil. Torbalen must have heard her approach as she made no attempt to move silently but he remained, arms folded on the rail, contemplating the starry vault of the mausoleum dome. It was only when she was a couple of paces away, he turned, briefly, met her gaze and stepped into the alcove behind them. Avilon followed.
“My parents are here,” he said, not turning to face her. He opened one of the cabinets to reveal two crystals resting in a soft cloth bed, nestled side by side in the gentle glow of the cabinet’s lighting. “It won’t be long before they are set in the dome – five years I’ve been told. They need the space for the more recently deceased.”
Avilon wondered what to say. Her own parents, dead in an accident that she had long since doubted really was one, would be somewhere in a Central mausoleum. She had never been to visit them and was not sure she would want to even if it were ever possible. She was no longer the child they had raised or the person they had known, in more ways than the merely physical.
“This is your homeworld?” she asked after the silence stretched too long.
“It was. Once. I don’t think any of us really have a home as such now, do we? And yes, I am here for the funeral of a relative. My brother.” He lifted a hand as Avilon drew breath to speak. “No need for condolences and you are not intruding on private grief with this meeting. We were never exactly close. In fact, I can’t recall the last time we had a civil word for each other – and that includes our shared childhood. But it was still expected for me to be here, of course.”
“Thank you for agreeing to meet me.”
Torbalen half-turned to sweep his hand over the cabinet, closing it again, leaving them in the dark of the alcove.
“You didn’t give me much choice. I need the information you have.”
Iconoclast: Not To Be will be out later this year. In the meantime you can catch up with the other Fortune's Fools books in the series.