Later, Gideon and Mia watched as Ellison, still with his pulse, steamed away on the Amber Queen.
The crew of the riverboat, including Juban, their giant friend from The Old Man and the Sea, weren’t particularly impressed by the fagin, but allowed that he could work off his fare to Upper Allianz, which was as near to Stolichnaya as the Queen sailed.
Once Ellison was aboard, Gideon took Juban aside and asked which Avonian cities the Queen would be stopping in, along the way.
As the boat followed the river’s curve under Dickens Bridge and out of sight, it was Mia who spoke first. “So,” she said, looking up at Gideon, “now what?”
“I think that’ll be up to them,” Gideon said, turning to where a Corps green sedan with CIOD insignia was pulling up at the end of the pier.
At his side, he could feel Mia stiffen with the dodger’s instinctive response to authority. He couldn’t say much, though, as he was just as tense as she was.
Even Elvis, back in his habitual spot on Gideon’s right shoulder, had gone still.
The three waited, a triad of anxiety, as the car came to a stop under the glowing lamp at the end of the dock.
Scanning the vehicle, Gideon felt a tug at the corner of his vision when his eyes passed over the silhouettes in the front seat, but then General Satsuke was emerging from the back, along with DS Hama, and drew his attention from the featureless shape of the officer riding shotgun.
“I see you found our young friend,” Hama called as he jogged up to the waiting threesome, leaving Satsuke delivering an order to someone inside the car. “Tiago would not have been forgiving, were I to have lost his friend,” he told Mia with a formal little bow before turning to Gideon. “Dare I ask what became of the fagin?”
“By all means,” Gideon said, “dare.”
Hama waited, but when it appeared Gideon was also waiting for his cue, he sighed and asked, “What happened to the fagin?”
“He just shipped out on the Amber Queen, sailing northeast to Upper Allianz,” Gideon replied.
Hama stared. “Did it not occur to you that by allowing him to escape, you are also allowing him the opportunity to set up a new hive elsewhere?”
“It did,” Gideon agreed, “but as the Amber Queen will be stopping in Faraday in two days, I’m sure the local police will be able to collect him on your behalf.”
At this point, Mia made a noise that almost managed to sound like a cough.
Hama ignored her. “Would it not have been simpler to hold him here, that the Nike police might take him under warrant?”
“Simpler, yes,” Gideon said, looking out over the dark ribbon of the Avon. “But this way Ellison has two days of hope, two days to plan how he’s going to start over. I’m also willing to bet he’ll put a few brain cells into contemplating a return to Nike to even the score.” He turned back to Hama. “And after two days of building up his ideal future, the Queen will dock in Faraday, and he’ll find the police waiting, and realize that future is never going to happen.”
Hama’s lips twitched. “Perhaps,” he said after a beat, “this conversation should also have never happened.” At Gideon’s raised eyebrow, he shrugged. “I want nothing to add to the amount of paperwork your presence has already generated.”
As he spoke, he heard the tread of boots on the dock and looked to see General Satsuke approaching. “Speaking of paperwork,” he continued, “I don’t see my cycle anywhere, and you’ve no idea what the requisition forms are like, should I need a new one.”
“No worries,” Gideon said, tossing the magnetic key to the detective, who not only hadn’t objected to Gideon haring off after his frantic draco after Mia had gone missing, but had loaned Gideon his own official vehicle to do it. “Parked her between the incoming cotton and outgoing steel, and Mia has the torch.”
“My thanks,” Hama said, pocketing the keys. He looked to his left, where Satsuke was now waiting, then at Gideon. “Perhaps Mia can use the torch to show me to the cycle?”
Mia gave a start, and then looked at Gideon.
“It’ll be okay,” Gideon told her. “And Elvis can go with you,” he added and, with a click and a gesture, sent the draco hopping from his shoulder to Mia’s.
As before, the draco’s presence seemed to steady her, enough that she was willing to head out with the detective.
Gideon, in his turn, strode over to where Satsuke waited. “If you want your knife,” he began, referring to the combat blade she’d tossed to him as he raced off in pursuit of Mia, “you might want to wait until all the fagin’s been cleaned off.”
“Consider it a gift,” she said, not missing a beat, then she simply stood, hands clasped behind her, watching him.
“So,” Gideon said after a suitably tense silence, “now what?”
“A loaded question, Mr. Quinn,” Satsuke replied. “But to begin, there is this.” And she pulled from behind her back a lump of fabric which, when Gideon took it, turned out to be his coat.
“You found it,” he said, then cleared his throat.
“One of my officers did,” Satsuke told him. “It was in a chest at the foot of Rand’s bed, along with a few other—souvenirs—from her various conquests.
“A lucky discovery for us, as many of those items are unique enough to be traced to their owners.”
“I’m not sure they were conquests so much as victims,” Gideon said, looking up. “Given her abilities, manipulating emotions the way she did, I’m not sure how much of a chance they’d have had against her.”
“As much as you, at least,” Satsuke pointed out. “And regardless of where the blame falls, these people have all been compromised by a foreign agent.”
There wasn’t much Gideon could say to that—though he wondered, if Satsuke had been on the receiving end of Celia’s focus, if she would find the issue so cut and dried.
Either way, it was out of his hands, so, rather than pursue the matter, he slid into the coat.
The second it settled over his shoulders, Gideon felt himself relax, possibly for the first time since he’d settled into a bathtub at the Elysium.
Of course, if he were really being honest, he hadn’t been truly relaxed for close to seven years, but that was just too depressing to dwell on, now that the real Odile had been uncovered, and his name cleared.
Assuming his name had been cleared.
He looked up to see Satsuke watching him, and her expression said she’d not only followed his entire thought process, but anticipated it.
“There is also this,” she said, holding out a folded document, several pages thick, and bearing the seals of the Corps Internal Operations Division and United Colonial Judicial System.
He looked from the document to the general, but didn’t reach out for it.
He was, perhaps, less relaxed than he’d originally thought.
“Trust me,” she said, “you’ll want to take this.”
He wasn’t so sure he trusted her, but he did take it.
Holding his breath, he broke the seals.
It was a long time before he let that breath out.
“It’s a bit late, but I hope you will accept this full acquittal, and the accompanying reinstatement of your rank, and all honors earned in the service of the United Colonies,” General Satsuke said formally, while he stared down at the document. “There is also a provision for six years of back pay, to be delivered upon your acceptance of the terms.”
“Terms?” he asked, staring at the repeal of every crime for which he’d been convicted, all laid out in black and white. Then he looked up.
“The unwritten terms,” she said.
“No one can know the truth about Odile.”