A Necessary End is the third part of Iconoclast, the final book in the final trilogy of Fortunes Fools. To celebrate its upcoming launch, the entire first trilogy in a single volume, Transgressor, is free to download today.
“Who the fuck do you think I am?” Cista Tyran found she no longer cared if her boss heard her anger, assuming that he was still her boss. “You set me up. You fed Dugsdall to the wolves. You gave me your word you’d let me hold his safety line. You’ve gone back on that. So now you want me out altogether?”
Perhaps if he hadn’t been lying in bed pinned by the weight of her body as she lay half over him and with the flush of exertion still on his skin, she might have responded differently. But she doubted it. She was done playing nice with the man she worked for who had become her lover. And yes, she was pretty confident that he did love her. He had shown it, putting himself out to protect her from events that could have ended her career. On her side, if not love there was real affection. It hadn’t started out that way, but no matter who else she had been seeing, he had been a constant. It wasn’t easy, but they were both highly capable of the kind of subterfuge it involved, finding ways and means to be together.
After all, he was Garn Jecks, head of the Coalition Security Force and she was one of his top project managers.
Outwardly, he seemed unmoved by her words, just shaking his head and remaining stone-faced. But that meant little.
“Right,” he said. “I’m sorry Cista.”
She stifled her usual annoyance that eight years into their secret affair he still insisted on using her given name and refused to call her Ty.
“You’re sorry but…?”
He lifted a hand defensively. Ty realised she had seldom seen him so incredibly distressed. Anyone else would have been screaming in her face, Garn Jecks just lifted a hand. “Right. I am. Truly. Things have changed and we have to change with them.”
“You mean the mad old bitch poked her crystal ball until it burped and you caved in to her crazy?”
He said nothing to that. But what could he say? They both knew it was true. Ty had no idea the nature of the hold Kahina Sarava had over Garn except it was powerful and had something to do with Future Data—the algorithmic crystal ball that seemed to be commanding everything. Sometimes she got the impression Garn was its victim, controlled by it. Which didn’t sit well with her image of him and she knew it must cut deeply into his own sense of self.
Feeling suddenly sorry for her outburst, Ty lowered her head to kiss him, but he moved impatiently and swung his legs over the side of the bed to sit up.
“You don’t understand quite how bad this is,” he said, his back to her. “And it’s not just Sarava. There is some…thing else.”
The slight hesitation made her wonder if he had been going to say ‘someone’. But it was hard to think of anyone with the ability to bring down Garn Jecks. After all, he was the man who was paid to ensure the security of every member of the Central corporate-political establishment. He knew where all the bodies were buried.
“This could destroy me,” he went on. “It will destroy you. Unless you let me get you out. Do you understand?”
A chill in the air made her skin prickle. He did love her, that was really sweet. So why was he being such a bastard about this?
“You think I could just walk away?”
She could feel the tension in his entire body and when he didn’t answer her right away, moved her hands to massage his upper back.
“I don’t want you to walk away,” he said at last. “I want you to run. Resign. Today.”
Something in his tone impacted deep in Ty’s guts. It punched into her anger and knocked the wind out of it. He was afraid. For her. She stopped moving her hands, resting them on his shoulders and leaning in to press her cheek against his, her hair swinging forward in a silver-blonde bell, loving how that was a stark contrast to his dark-complexioned skin.
“Maybe you should take a moment to explain what’s happened, what’s changed things, instead of just telling me you want me to resign from the service.”
“Right. I wish I could. I can’t.” There was an uncharacteristic note of hopelessness in his voice. This the man who was always in control. Always one step ahead in his planning. He turned to draw her into his embrace and buried his face in her hair for a moment. “Knowing would place you in even more danger. I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you because of me.”
“I am all grown up, you know,” she said, squashing the surge of annoyance. “I work for the CSF. You may have heard of them? The S is for ‘security’.”
“You didn’t follow orders.”
That brought her up short and she pulled away. Distancing herself. Then started hunting out her clothes.
“It’s what you pay me for,” she reminded him as she dressed. “If I did everything by the book I’d be as much use to the service as a fractured fusion core.’
“Right. No. This was not that.”
“I told you when I transferred you from the team hunting Dugsdall that you shouldn’t contact him to tell him so.”
Ty frowned, her teeth digging into her lower lip. How could he know…? Of course, Future Data would have thrown it up as a high probability. But she was also certain Future Data had no way of knowing if it had actually happened. No one could know that. She’d used a one-burn link and an anonymised message drop which would self-delete as soon as Grim picked it up.
“Yes,” she agreed. “You did. You said it was important. You didn’t say why though.”
His gaze met and held hers.
“But you did it anyway.”
“No. Not yet.” The lie came easily. But then lying was her day job and she was very good at it. “I was going to, but I’ve been too sick at the thought of how he’d react knowing you’ve cut the line.”
She let how she felt about what he’d done to Grim creep into her voice. This wasn’t the first time Garn had angered her with a work decision, but she had a policy of never allowing work into their relationship. The fact he had dragged it in now was breaking all their rules. It was that which scared her more than anything else he was saying.
He looked away, lips tightening and then stood up to get dressed.
“I’m not sure it makes any difference anyway. If you haven’t, then good. But it changes nothing. You have to resign.”
She finished dressing and then sat and watched as he did the same.
“I don’t see why.”
“Right. You wouldn’t. But you must. Today. It has to be a clean break.”
A clean break? Ty shook her head. Surely he couldn’t mean…?
“You don’t want to see me again?” It was harder to say than she would have imagined it might be. Somewhere along the line this man had crept further under her skin than she’d intended.
He pulled on his shoes and avoided her eyes.
“It is not anything I want. It is, if anything, the exact opposite of what I want. But it’s not anything I have any choice about.”
“And I don’t either?”
“Right. There is more going on than you know—than you can know. It’s not just what you think it is. There are other factors in play here that weren’t before.”
“Can’t you tell me—?”
He cut across her. “I’ve told you all I can. More than I should. Don’t ask me for more.”
And that was that.
She knew there was no point protesting, his entire body language shut her out, until he finished dressing and drew her to him, briefly.
“Put in your resignation—but don’t let what I’ve said today stop you doing what you always planned to do.” He palmed something into her hand and brushed her ear with his lips. “Keep in touch. Please.”
Then he was gone.
From Iconoclast: A Necessary End by E.M Swift-Hook, the final book of Fortune’s Fools which is out 24 March.
The cover is an original artwork by Ian Bristow, you can find more of his work at Bristow Design.