66

The airlot manager stood with Arcta Hydraia and Wendel Harper by the Drift 9, surrounded by military and council vehicles. The wind was high, and they raised their voices to speak over it.

66

“Ms. Harper. I’m required to use private transport during my consult here at the Spear. I’ll be traveling between here and the Libran Federet. Are you available exclusively for the short term?”

Wendel tilted her head and nodded. She’d been half expecting the offer. Setting herself on an appointed route might be a good way to let trouble blow over. She jerked her elbow toward the ship. “What about the boy?”

The airlot manager considered. “We may be able to offer him clearance.”

“I’ll be here for the night,” said Hydraia. “I’ll get in touch with you soon, if you want to talk it over with him.” The captain shook hands with Hydraia, waving as she re-entered the ship.

She set herself back down in her chair. From where he remained in his seat, Toller looked past the airlot shadows toward the Royal Court. “Dr. Hydraia is hiring me up for a shuttle route. You can stay with me so long as you’ll be handy.”

Toller lifted a hand at the view. “We’re at the capital now.”

Wendel smiled, remembering he’d never seen this before. “Yeah. Old Alisandre.” Her gaze traveled up the dark octagonal obelisk to the sky.

Toller tapped his teeth together in consideration.

“Tell you what,” said Wendel, powering her ship. “We’ll decide over dinner.”

64

“We have to wait. They’re running emergency traffic signals, limiting in and out-bound. There’s a newscast about it.” Wendel Harper reached up to tune in the overhead speakers. The boy sitting copilot and the passenger hushed up to listen.

“The Pyrean Midsummer Vision was interrupted today by Raev Sturlusson, who descended from the skies on the capital during the final moments of the intergalactic solstice celebration. The capsule he descended in was emitting an agent bearing HA235, the disease that decimated the planet Hirylien twenty-five years ago. Many attendees are already experiencing symptoms. The Verdant Plateau of Alisandre Capital is under quarantine, and vision attendants are being held there and at Eldea Hospital.” As this narrated, they silently turned to meet each other’s eyes.

64

Hydraia rose from the fold-down seat to stand behind the pilot’s chairs. “We’re waiting to be let in to the main transport arena, correct?”

Harper nodded. “That’s right. They’ve paged us with a wait time of a couple hours, but there’s no telling how long we’ll be in line.” She pointed to a timer on the air traffic display.

The passenger pulled a piece of paper from her pocket. “Here. Establish a link with this frequency.” Harper checked it and nodded.

After a short moment, someone answered. “Spear Traffic Control, how can I assist you?” At mention of the capital’s towering military building, the captain faced her passenger in mute surprise.

“This is Dr. Arcta Hydraia of the Loramer Institute, requesting entry to the Helianth Airlot.”

“Acknowledged Dr. Hydraia, do you have a clearance code?”

“2-10-6-P-Night-C3W.”

“Thank you, Doctor. Drift 9, new traffic directions have been sent. You may proceed.”