Authors: Steven Harper
Tags: #Science Fiction
“What about the police?” Ben said. “They did a DN” check to catch Petrie. Won’t they catch you?”
“Ched-Pirasku isn’t eager to let the world know that Sufur funded his campaign,” Salman said. “I let him know that investigations often uncover certain sordid secrets, and he said that budgets will probably be too tight for the police to afford a DN” scan. Sufur Silenced Ched-Pirasku, too, so I’m not worried about the police.”
Footsteps tromped down the stairs and toward the living room. Salman tucked her hands under her thighs as Lucia came into the room.
“The babies are fussy,” she reported. “I think they want their daddies to say good night.”
“Duty calls,” Ben said with a paternal smile. Kendi grinned and followed him upstairs to rock their children to sleep, leaving Salman and the broken plate behind.
“I figured it out.”
Ben rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow so he could look down at Kendi’s furry face. “You figured out what?”
“What was bothering me about Sufur,” Koala Kendi said. His eyes were wide and brown, and they reflected the stars. “That plan of his never had a chance, you know.”
“There were thousands and thousands of human Silent before the Despair,” Kendi explained. “Even now there are hundreds and hundreds. We have a lot here on Bellerophon, and Silent Acquisitions has a lot on their station, but even both groups together don’t have anywhere near most of them. Not only that, Sufur was using only two operatives. He couldn’t possibly have rounded up all the human Silent on Bellerophon with just Peg and Boomer. It would have taken decades to get everyone, and he
wouldn’t have eliminated all human Silent from the Dream. Not with more Silent humans being born every moment.”
“Huh.” Ben lay back down. The sand beneath him was pleasantly warm, and gentle sea water lapped at his bare toes. Overhead, the moonless sky showed thousands of stars—milky diamonds pinned to black velvet. Even as Ben watched, another star flickered into existence, faded, then glimmered strong and bright alongside the others. “Maybe he was just crazy.”
“It also didn’t make sense for Sufur to come to Bellerophon in the first place,” Kendi continued. It looked rather odd, a koala bear on a tropical beach, but Ben liked the effect. The out-of-place was Kendi through and through. “Sufur could have overseen the whole thing from the ship or even from S” Station. It made no sense for him to come to a planet where just about everyone would want him dead.”
Another star burst into being, shining more brightly than its fellows for a moment before fading into normal radiance. “So why did he come?” Ben asked. “I have the feeling you’ve got a theory.”
“Sort of.” Kendi scratched an ear with quick, fluttering movements. “It goes back to what Grandma told us Sufur said before he died.”
,” Ben said. “What does—oh. Oh!”
A little wave, more ambitious than the rest, rushed up the beach and wet Ben’s calves, licking them like a warm tongue. Ben remained silent for a while, then said, “So you think Sufur wanted to die.”
“It fits,” Kendi said. “He may not have even realized he was doing it, but Sufur set himself up to be killed. Putting together an impossible plan, living in a house in a neighborhood where someone was bound to see him, inviting people like us and Grandma into his home. And remember the way he talked to us? What he said? Pretty clear that he hated himself because he was a filthy human. I think he wanted to die but didn’t have the courage—or maybe the cowardice—to kill himself. So put himself in a position where someone else would do it for him. And if he took a bunch of Silent with him in the process, so much the better.”
Two more stars slipped into the sky like shy children joining a party of adults. Ben shook his head. “It makes a twisted sort of sense. I guess we’ll never know for sure.”
Another long pause. Then Kendi said, “How do you feel about Grandma killing Sufur?”
Ben thought. “I’m glad Sufur is dead. Killing him didn’t bring Mom back—I never thought it would—but now we know that he won’t hurt anyone else. I guess I feel...relieved. Grandma got rid of him, so I don’t have to worry about...about wanting to break my promise to you.”
“Would you have broken it?”
“No. I would have worked hard to make you release me from it.” Ben sighed. “Actually I’m kind of disappointed. Harenn was right—now that Sufur’s dead, he’s not suffering. If we’d kept him alive, we could have made him miserable.”
“I think he was already pretty miserable,” Kendi said. “A happy person wouldn’t do the things he did.”
“Let’s talk about something else,” Ben said. “We were supposed to come in here to relax.”
A flicker of light heralded yet another star that joined the others. Ben lay there in silence next to Kendi, just enjoying the quiet beach, the night sky, and being with Kendi. He wondered how long it would be before Evan, Ara, and their other eventual children would join them in the Dream and what that would be like. Would Ara continue to be boisterous and loud like her Da? Would Evan be quiet and reserved like his Dad? Or would they change as they grew older?
“What are you thinking about?” Kendi asked.
“The babies,” Ben admitted.
Kendi laughed. “So was I. So much for getting away from them for a while.” He sat up and gave Ben a koala kiss on the cheek. “I love you, Ben Rymar.”
Three stars popped into the sky like popcorn kernels. Ben grinned at Kendi. “I never thought I’d say it to a koala bear, but I love you, too.”
They lay back again, staring up at the sky to watch as, one by one, new Silent entered the Dream.