“You were nothing before my mother found you!” Aurelia shouted at her husband.
Wael, finally having had enough of the constant belittlement – the years of fighting a losing battle against his domineering wife – finally stood up for himself. “We were a great nation in our own right! Before you and your Guardiana forces decided to murder half of us and subjugate the rest!” he yelled back at the angry woman.
“Only a fool would think that your people were anything to speak of!”
Wael glared at her, his eyes smoldering with pent up resentment. “I... will... not... take this anymore.” he seethed. “What you’ve done to me is between the two of us, but what you’ve done to Talonka...”
“What I’ve ‘done’ to her is give her more power than she ever dreamed of. I’ve put her in the ideal position to ascend to Deun’s throne once she has received her inheritance.” the glow in Aurelia’s eyes sent a cold shiver down Wael’s back.
“You aren’t going to force that thing on my daughter.” Wael said menacingly.
“Who’s going to stop me?”
“And you don’t know how any of this happened?” one of the local authorities questioned Aurelia.
“No, no, I don’t.” she sobbed. “I came home an hour ago and he was –” she broke down again. “he was just lying there with that – that knife sticking out of his chest.” Aurelia put on more tears.
“You didn’t see anyone leaving the area.”
“No.” the crying woman shook her head.
“Do you know of anyone who would have wanted your husband dead?” the security agent further questioned.
“No, no one...” Aurelia said quietly, looking down at the ground as she said it.
“Oren,” the man questioning Aurelia turned his head towards his partner. “What does the time-spoor show?”
“Not much, I’m afraid.” Oren said as he walked up to Aurelia and her questioner. “Someone’s been able to tamper with the area before we got here. The only image I’ve been able to exact from the area is a rough picture of someone – it could be anyone really – stabbing the victim. The only thing that can be known for certain is the murderer’s height. The image was so distorted I can’t even tell if the person who killed him was male or female.” Oren shook his head.
“What about tracking the image farther back in time?” the questioner asked.
“I can’t get a reading of any kind before the actual stabbing.” Oren said with a sigh, sheathing the oval time-seeking disc in its case. “I kept the images we were able to get, but they were precious few...”
“Very well then,” the other agent nodded to Aurelia. “We won’t trouble you anymore, my lady.”
With a bow, both men left Aurelia’s home.
As soon as they were out the door, the woman wiped away the fabricated tears. Wael was an idiot if he thought he could really deter her from accomplishing her goals. He knew better now.
The only thing left to do was to let her daughter know about this... unfortunate... turn of events.
“You have a call, my Lady.” one of Talonka’s servants said to the queen, who was sitting at the window reading.
“Thank you, Adara.” Talonka said, setting down her old-fashioned, bound volume. She took a communication device from her pocket and held it out in front of her. The identity of the caller flashed up before her eyes and she could feel bile rising in her throat. A call from Aurelia could only mean bad news.
“Mother.” Talonka nodded, greeting Aurelia in a neutral tone.
“Talonka,” Aurelia said, “I have terrible news.”
The young queen braced herself for whatever would come next.
“It’s... your father...” Aurelia said.
“What about him?” Talonka asked, her eyes getting just the slightest bit wider, imagining all the things that could have happened.
“He’s dead.” her mother said simply. “He had a weak heart, dear...”
“Wh – what...?” the queen was confused. She never remembered anything about her father ever having trouble with his heart. “But – ”
“The arrangements have already been made for his internment. I’m sure he would have wanted you to come.” said Aurelia.
“Yes... I will be there... When is it?”
“He’s to be buried in three days.”
“Thank you, mother.” Talonka replied, resisting the urge to wipe her tear-filled eyes.
“I’ll see you then, Talonka.”
The conversation abruptly ended and the queen clutched the communicator tightly in her shaking hand as she cried for her father.
When her grief had been abated enough for her to think more rationally, she realized
that there had to be a report from the scene of Wael’s death. That report would already have been filed...
An idea sprang into Talonka’s mind and she fished through her brain, finally finding what she needed. As queen, she could get access to anything – even things that the rest of the security force wasn’t allowed to access – such as the video footage from the agents’ in-suit cameras.
The tiny devices in effect could record the entire course of an investigation by linking the agent’s identification number to the case numbers he was working on. When he deactivated his camera – when he was off-duty, etc. – the camera went into sleep mode, turning back on when he returned to duty.
No other agents were allowed to comb through another agent – or pair of agents’ case footage unless duly authorized by the chief of security or by someone whose authority trumped the chief’s – like the Leader or his Queen.
The things her mother said to her had not made sense. There had to be something else going on.
The queen leapt up from her seat and snatched her small computer up from the window sill where she had left it while she read.
She turned the computer on with a gesture and quickly navigated her way through the system and into the security records. She searched for her father’s name, and the report of his death was quickly in her possession.
She easily overrode the permissions on the camera footage and watched as agents Oren and Ilan went through the house that she used to live in with her parents. There, on the floor of the main living area, lay her father. But, contrary to what her mother had told her, it looked as though a stopped heart and not a “weak” one had been Wael’s cause of death.
Talonka’s breath caught as she saw the extent of the damage that had been inflicted on her father. She looked away from the image as the two men discussed the scene. After that the footage split in two. Oren stayed with the body attempting to get a glimpse of what had happened with the time-spoor. Ilan went to question Aurelia.
The whole scene made ice begin to curdle in her gut. Her mother was lying. Talonka could see the deceit in her eyes; the fake tears; the pretending not to know what had happened – she had seen it all before many times with Aurelia. And on top of that, the queen would recognize the knife buried in Wael’s chest anywhere. The mark of the Guardiana was graven on it – the head of a bear – staring into the camera.
Another tendril of fear began to wriggle its way through Talonka’s mind.
If her mother would kill Wael this indiscriminately... what was stopping Aurelia from coming after her now? But surely she would not kill her own child... Would she? There would be no one to leave the “inheritance” to...There was just enough doubt in Talonka’s mind to send her into a state of alarm, her worry made more acute by a discovery she had recently made...
Feeling sick again, Talonka sank down onto the bed and sent the computer into hibernation. She let her face fall into her hands as she doubled-over, the sick feeling getting worse.
After a moment the gut-wrenching sensation passed, but it did not take her fear with it. Her dread was so strong that it moved her to find Deun as soon as she could.
Talonka quickly left her and Deun’s chambers, heading towards the conference theatre as swiftly as she dared without drawing too much attention to herself.
After about ten minutes of walking the queen came to the corridor that led to the theatre. She walked quietly all the way down it, listening to Deun’s voice methodically explaining the military restructuring that his father had begun before he transferred the crown to his son.
Just before she got to the entrance of the balcony from which her husband spoke, a guard stopped her.
“I’m sorry, my Queen, but the Leader has asked not to be disturbed right now.”
“Tell him I need to speak with him about... my inheritance. And please, tell him now.”
“Yes, Majesty.” the guard replied respectfully and slipped through the door-less opening. Talonka watched the middle-aged attendant as he unobtrusively caught the Leader’s attention and conveyed her message.
Deun looked back into the corridor. Seeing his wife, he gave her a concerned look before nodding to the guard and turning to a Captain in the Gamilon Royal Navy (GRN) and saying something in a hushed tone before turning back to the military entourage he was lecturing and saying, “Captain Talan will now explain the reorganization of the space fleets.”
With that simple transference of responsibility, Deun turned his back to the occupants of the theatre and went to his wife who still stood in the passageway.
“What is it, my dear?” Deun asked Talonka, letting one arm drift around her waist.
The queen winced at the term of endearment, remembering the way her mother had said it less than an hour ago.
Seeing her look of distress, the Leader took his wife’s hand and said, “Let’s go somewhere a bit less public.”
The two went back to their chambers and as soon as the door closed behind them Deun asked again, “What is it? You said it was something to do with your inheritance... You told me that you would never speak of it – that it was too horrible.” Deun took Talonka’s partially white left hand in his own entirely blue one and waited for his wife to speak.
However, instead of saying anything, Talonka embraced him, laid her head on his chest and began to cry.
“Oh, Talonka...” Deun whispered and put his arms around his queen.
It was several minutes before Talonka said anything, but eventually she was ready to confide in her husband the fears that were swirling in heart.
“She killed him...” his wife sobbed.
“Who killed whom, Talonka?” he asked gently, brushing a stray strand of her beautiful auburn hair out of her face.
“My... mother killed my father...” she said in a shaky voice. “I – I –”
“It’s alright, my love...” he whispered, stroking her hair slowly.
“No...” Talonka whispered back. “No, it isn’t alright, Deun...”
“Why not?” he asked, continuing to use the same soft tone.
“Because – I – I think she may try to kill me next...”
“She what?!” he exclaimed. “She’ll never so much as touch you! I promise it.” the Leader declared, now holding his wife close, unable to bear the thought of losing her. Even after only a little less than a year of marriage, he had found that he truly loved his queen and that his love was not unrequited.
“Talan should be done educating his peers, I think.” Deun said, trying in vain to lighten the mood.
The Leader addressed the current artificial intelligence that had been interfaced with the palace computer network. “Call Captain Talan. Audio only.”
“Calling requested individual.” the A.I. droned. A handful of seconds later it said, “Call connected.”
“Sire.” came the voice of Raymond Talan. “How may I be of service?”
“Talan, get several Mossad agents together.” Deun’s voice had a sharp edge in it now, “They’re going hunting.”