Eitan spun from Conn’s body, blood in his eyes, to see the man who was, even now, wrestling through the slumped wall of snow that Eitan had blasted open minutes before.
“Pyotr?” he breathed the name. “You did not have to kill him.”
“Yes, I did,” Pyotr replied, his breathing labored. “Especially once it became clear you wouldn’t.”
“What?” Jagati, now, turned from the fallen Conn to Pyotr. “Wait, where’s the accent?”
Rather than respond, Pyotr shot a look at John, who sighed. “Pyotr isn’t Stolichnayan,” he explained, opening his coat to holster the now-pointless shooter. “Or Pyotr, for that matter.”
“What?” Jagati, again, and though she peppered John with questions, Eitan heard none of them.
All he knew in the moment was that, now the fight had ended, he could again feel cold, slithering through the slice in his coat, up his sleeve, down the back of his neck.
He thought his face might actually have frozen.
“You’ve been wounded,” Jagati said, and Eitan realized she was standing at his side. “We need to get you inside.”
Eitan and Jagati both turned to see Pyotr, or whoever he really was, had managed to clamber over the icy piles of snow and was now striding over to Conn.
He stopped, briefly, to pick up Eitan’s fallen shooter. As they all watched, he fired three shots, melting streaks in the white walls, and scoring the churned snow on the ground before tossed it at John, who caught it, automatically. “We need to search the body.”
“Search?” Jagati’s question was a bolt, hot and furious as the plasma Pyotr had fired. “For what?”
“For whatever he took from Soshi,” Pyotr explained as John, his expression carefully blank, strode over to join Pyotr at Conn’s side, where both began what, to Eitan, looked like a practiced pat down of the body of his friend.
Eitan gritted his teeth against an anger that had no where to go.
“Better get a move on,” Jagati said, quietly, some minutes after John and Pyotr-not-Pyotr had begun their search.
She had no idea what was going on, she could sure as comb hear what had to be the local police heading their way.
“I haven’t found anything,” Pyotr-not-Pyotr said.
“Nothing here, either,” John agreed.
“Get me another minute,” Pyotr-not-Pyotr muttered, glancing first at John, then in the direction of the crunching footsteps, where, now Jagati looked, she could see the flicker of light above the labyrinth’s wall.
She turned back to see John’s expression change, angry to irritated to a resigned calm—and sensed the echo of the same as he rose and sloughed through the snow to meet the oncoming hordes.
Or, not hordes, she thought, as three figures, two armed, appeared in the fallen wall.
“Keld,” John greeted as the tavern’s bartender, lamp held high, stepped over the humps of snow, and nodded at the two women wearing what Jagati assumed were the Upsilon version of police uniform coats. “Officers. Thank you for arriving so soon though, as you can see, the threat has been… dealt with.”
As he spoke, he angled to indicate the body, while adeptly blocking Pyotr-not-Pyotr’s activities.
Jagati, listening, was agape, and had to force her jaw shut, in case anyone looked her way.
It wasn’t that she didn’t know John could talk his way around anything. Keepers in the apiary, she’d seen enough of his arguments, diversions, debates—even the occasional diatribe—often enough, over the years.
But in the past, John’s verbal engagements had always been based in the truth.
Now? Now he was describing a desperate battle that included Conn being in possession of Eitan’s shooter—which John handed over to the two police officers for inspection.
It was a steaming pile of stuff of quarterstar dreadfuls, but somehow John made it all seem plausible, as if he spun loads of draco guano on the regular.
“Well, shit,” she mumbled, as it became clear that, like John’s singing, his ease at dissembling was yet one more thing she had not known about him.
Tamping down her irritation at that realization, Jagati turned her attention to Eitan’s wound, which was seeping through the slash in his to fall to the snow, where it froze, glistening like dark jewels.
Placing herself so that she could support him if he needed but not stupid enough to offer assistance, she tried to not ‘feel’ his response.
Then again, it would have taken the shield walls around Epsilon Base not to sense his response when John said, “Pyotr had no choice. If he hadn’t fired, that man may well have killed Eitan.”
He was moving almost before John finished the sentence.
She grunted her understanding, but also shifted, ever so slightly, blocking his forward motion.
Sure, she understood his reaction, but she also knew John’s draco guano may be the only thing keeping them all from spending the night in the local—likely swarming cold—police station.
Not really knowing if it would work, she lowered her shields and attempted to send some ‘chill out’ vibes—coollemontart—in his direction, almost wincing at the weirdness. But it seemed to help as, even through their combined coats, she felt the tremor of muscle, and the almost feral urge to charge—something, anything—and she doubled down, grabbing his hand and reinforcing the connection.
Trust she thought, and thought it hard.
Perhaps she thought it as much to herself as to Eitan, but at least he didn’t charge at John, or Pyotr-not-Pyotr was finally pushing himself to standing.
She watched John turn, saw Pyotr-not-Pyotr shake his head, once. “Perhaps we can answer any further questions somewhere else?” John suggested. “As you can see, both Eitan and Pyotr could use medical assistance.”
“Dr. Natsiq is still at the tavern,” Keld said. “They were—amazing—in the way they helped Soshi.”
“Amazing,” Jagati echoed, but the look that she shot John made it clear, at least to him, she wasn’t referring to Kallik’s skills.
He met that gaze, and there was that flicker of resignation again as he said, “I, for one, could use a drink.”
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