What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted…
Defeat was always a bitter cup from which to have to swallow, but Kahina Sarava determined from the first that it should not define her.
True, she now had to endure exile in the grand house she liked the least of all she owned. It was a sprawling, over-ornate residence built in the heart of great natural beauty and originally intended as a place where she could entertain and impress the powers of Central. It suited her political enemies to have her there, isolated and cut off from any place of influence. But, it was not entirely without benefit. Freed from the endless need to joust for political advantage, she had considerably more time for some of the other things that mattered. Such as pursuing her lifetime’s work: Future Data.
So she stood, back straight, defying her age as the fussily dressed man climbed from his vehicle and walked the short distance to where she waited in front of the main door to her house. The security people who flanked her on either side, guards set to both protect and contain her, stiffened visibly as her visitor approached.
“Garn, what a delight to see you.” She had been expecting him. Though when the brief message informing her of a visitor had come through earlier that day, his name had not been mentioned. “I think this must be the first time we’ve had a get together since you arrested me. What would bring you all the way from Central to visit me in person? I am sure you could gloat quite adequately over link.”
He was a big man in many uses of the word, and it amused her to make him feel uncomfortable. There was little enough by way of human entertainment for her here and no small responsibility for her incarceration rested on his shoulders.
“Right,” he said, and she could see he was sweating despite the temperature being pleasantly cool. “Maybe we could go in and talk somewhere a little more private.”
“I can offer you anything here, except privacy.” She made an elegant gesture with her hands, unfolding them to indicate the attentive security detail. “I am not permitted that even when I sleep. My link connections are watched and my conversations monitored.”
Garn Jecks seemed unperturbed, but then his mind was not very flexible. If he had arrived with a fixed idea of some objective he wished to achieve, that would be both the full extent and narrow focus of his thinking. Laser like — if a laser were some solid substance and not fluid photons. Such inability to embrace the broadest view whilst still keeping the details in sight irritated Kahina. Her own mind suffered no such limitations, and she tolerated it poorly in others.
“I will make the necessary arrangements,” he told her. Matching actions to words, he turned to issue brief orders to the security detail, then added more by link to the invisible watchers who controlled the remote monitoring of her residence. They all moved quickly to obey, but then he was their supreme commander, the man in charge of the Coalition Security Force.
A short time later, Kahina found herself sitting in her favourite room, ambianced to remind her of her mother’s study with shelves of books and curios, heavy looping curtains at the windows and the antique wooden desk. She had chosen not to occupy the desk, Jecks wasn’t someone who would be in the slightest bit intimidated by her doing so. Instead, she sat in one of the comfortable, deep-cushioned chairs set either side of a beautifully carved and inlaid table. Jecks sat opposite her having just dismissed the last of his entourage. He was visibly discomfited. Kahina played the perfect hostess.
“Can I offer you any refreshments? It’s not the shortest of hops here from Central.”
“Right. It’s not. But thank you, no. I’m a bit pressed for time.”
She couldn’t resist another dig.
“I am fully accessible by link, you know.”
Jecks didn’t trouble to answer that. His preoccupation was blinding him and Kahina wondered if the poor man was even aware how much that showed.
“There has been a — a development.”
He almost squirmed.
“I have just received some information which has brought into question our previous conclusions regarding the Future Data project.”
Kahina considered feigning surprise.
Jecks looked as if he had swallowed something that settled ill in his stomach. For a moment, he glared at her.
“So you already knew.”
She didn’t trouble to reply, instead allowing her expression to reflect the untroubled confidence she was feeling. Jecks muttered something under his breath then started pulling up a remote screen of what appeared to be some security surveillance. Not the best quality and from a static camera, but when he zoomed the image and froze it, the result was perfectly clear.
“Oh dear,” Kahina said gently. “How very embarrassing for you. I wonder what you plan to do about that?”