“Kafira Kristos,” hissed Saba Colbshallow. “You could have knocked me over with a feather when they told me that building belonged to you.”
“Who else would it belong to?” asked Governor Iolanthe Dechantagne Staff. “Why do you care anyway?”
Unlike other recent meetings, which had taken place in her bedroom, the two of them stared at each other over the vast oak expanse of Iolanthe’s desk, in the office of the Colonial Governor. It was a room designed to impress and intimidate. The ceiling was more than twenty feet high and the entire south wall was made up of large windows that looked out over the now expansive city. The opposite wall was filled with two large world maps. One featured Brechalon, the rest of Sumir, and the western hemisphere, while the other featured Birmisia, the entirety of Mallon, and the east. She leaned back in the leather-clad chair and pressed her fingertips together. His chair was within arms reach of the globe, so large that it took two people to turn it on its axis.
“I’m not talking about the building,” he said with a sigh. “I don’t give a crap about the building.”
“What is it that you think you give a crap about then?”
“It’s that Kafira-damned machine!” He looked at her as if she were suddenly stupid or insane. “That thing is dangerous! You know that it is! Senta’s brother died seeing the original was disposed of.”
“That’s the story, anyway.” She pursed her lips. “All we really know is that Senta destroyed a good portion of Mallontah.”
“Even if you don’t believe it, that thing has been trouble going all the way back to the beginning—to Suvir Kesi.”
“It may be, and I’m not saying that it’s true, but maybe, that particular machine became tainted with evil magic. If that’s the case, it doesn’t matter now. It’s gone. These machines are new. They have not been infected in that way. They are ready to be used as the designer originally intended.”
“For civic planning, for engineering, for education.”
“I guess I mean for whom?”
“For me.” She stood up and leaned over the desk. “They’re mine. They’re my machines. They’re nobody else’s. They are of no concern to you.”
“Anything that concerns you is of concern to me,” he said.
She stared at him, uncomprehending.
“Whatever concerns you concerns me. Whatever this relationship is that we have…”
She laughed. “Is that what this is about? You’re jealous? My husband invented the Result Mechanism and that’s somehow a threat to your manhood?”
“I don’t think you know what you’re saying,” said Saba. “Perhaps we should discuss this later.”
“Upset that another man got to the holy land before you? Other men have. Better men.”
Saba took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He stood slowly up.
“So this is how it ends.”
“Nothing ends until I say it does,” said Iolanthe.
“You just did.” He turned and started the long walk to the door. The trip across the deep red carpet seemed like a journey of a fortnight, like a journey that would never end. He expected at any moment to be stopped with a word or to be called back, but he wasn’t. He put his hand on the knob, turned it, and a second later was in the outer office, next to Mrs. Wardlaw’s desk.
And he knew at that moment that he would never be with Iolanthe again—never be in her bed again. He had loved her as long as he could remember. In fact, his earliest memory was of loving her. But he would never have her again. He would never touch her and feel her purr into his neck. He would never taste her lips again.
“This is what it feels like,” he said. “This is what it feels like to be cast out of heaven.”
“What’s that, Chief?” asked Mrs. Wardlaw from behind a file folder.
“Good day, Mrs. Wardlaw.”
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