We’re working on the edit, so shorter scene today. No worries, we will make it up to you in the next week or two.
Twenty-six hours later, Sean and I sat in front of the communication screen again. The iteration of George in front of us was much more in line with his usual appearance. The elven prince was back. He was still a bit too pale, and there were lingering traces of fatigue in the lines of his face, but he was alert, clean, and well dressed. George’s fashion sense fell somewhere between a musketeer and a gentleman privateer. He was fond of shirts with wide sleeves, beautifully tailored vests, and tall leather boots. The embroidery on his dark blue vest was swoon worthy.
Sean would look great in that vest. Well, not that vest exactly, Sean would need a larger size. Maybe for Halloween…
I stopped myself. I had spent the entire day checking on Gorvar, worrying about Wilmos, and trying to research some way to get to Karron. I was so worn out, my brain had resorted to nonsense in self-defense.
“Thank you for your assistance,” George said. “It was most helpful.”
“I take it, your issue with the Valkkinians is resolved?” I asked.
If one of us didn’t step into the breach, we would be dancing around the Klaus issue all night.
I raised my head. “How is my brother?”
“He is well,” George replied. “A rather unfortunate slip up on my part. I would appreciate it if you would attribute it to fatigue rather than indiscretion. Apparently, one-hundred and fifty hours without sleep significantly impaired my cognitive functions.”
Sean whistled quietly. “Six days is pushing it.”
George grimaced. “So it would seem. Lesson learned. Klaus has his reasons for his current course of action. You and your sister are very dear to him.”
“You don’t have to cover for him,” I told him. “He can explain himself when we meet.”
“You mentioned Karron,” George said. “I understand there was an incident at Baha-char?”
And he knew every detail of it. There was a whole flock of koo-ko present at the scene. By now the furthest reaches of known space were aware that Wilmos had been taken from his shop and only the shocking heroism and tremendous wisdom of the First Scholar had uncovered the kidnapper’s destination. I didn’t envy the juvenile sphinx. He was likely gone from Baha-char and back with his own people, where he would have to explain how exactly he managed to spectacularly embarrass his entire species in front of the known galaxy.
“A being resembling a corrupted ad-hal took Wilmos to Karron,” Sean said. “I need to get to that planet.”
“Quite impossible, I’m afraid,” George said. “Even our office doesn’t possess a craft able to survive landing on and taking off from that world.”
All of the hope went out of me at once.
“Not impossible,” Sean said. “Wilmos was taken there. Someone has the means to take him there and keep him alive, otherwise why not just kill him?”
“Clearly, they would like you to die in the attempt to rescue him.” George tilted his head to the side. “There is, however, a galactic power that maintains a portal gate to Karron.”
I sat up straighter.
“It’s a cluster gate, one they haven’t used in over a decade.”
A cluster gate was part of a group. To function, every gate in the cluster had to be operational, and by entering one gate, the traveler could select any other within the cluster as an arrival point.
“Why would they have a gate on Karron?” Sean asked.
“It is not my place to say why. Only that they do. As it so happens, this particular power is in need of a favor, one the two of you are uniquely qualified to provide.”
“What a coincidence,” Sean said.
George arched his brows. “Not at all. It’s not a coincidence, it is by design. Civilizations bring me their problems, and I find solutions. He has a problem, you are the solution to it, if you choose to be, and vice versa. That’s how the galaxy works.”
“And then both parties owe you a favor,” I said.
“Who is it and what does he want?” I asked.
He told us.
“If you do this and it goes well, you could ask him for almost anything. He will be publicly indebted to you. I have raised the possibility of access to Karron with his chancellor. Not only will they permit you to use the gate, but they will also provide you with a biological vessel that will allow you to survive and return, should the facility on the other end of the gate be in disrepair.”
“Are they unsure of the state of the facility?” Sean asked.
“It’s been abandoned for a decade. They have no further need to maintain it.” George’s expression was solemn. “The universe is full of possibilities so another way to travel to Karron exists, in a purely mathematical sense, but I don’t know what it is. It is my expert opinion that this is your best chance to rescue your friend. I feel compelled to point out that this is a risky venture. The scale of this event would be unprecedented for an Earth inn and even if everything goes well, which we all know it won’t, you will still have to physically travel to Karron and enact the rescue on your own. Please give this matter serious consideration. I have grown fond of both of you. It would be a tragedy to lose you. I will need an answer in twenty-four hours.”
He terminated the connection.
“I can’t ask you to do this,” Sean said.
“Wilmos would do it for either of us, in a minute,” I said. “Well, he would do it for me if you asked him.”
We sat in silence, thinking it over.
“Will Caldenia be a problem?” Sean asked.
“Absolutely.” And I had no idea how I would even broach the subject with her.
We thought about it some more.
“They took him because of us,” I said. “We have to try.”
“For some reason, they want me there.”
Me, huh? Oh no you don’t.
I leaned forward. “No, Sean Evans. Not you. Us. You are not going without me. Let’s settle that right now. If they just wanted you, they could have grabbed you during any of the outings you and Wilmos went on. They want me, or possibly both of us. So I will be going. But first, we’ll have to pull off this nightmare event.”
“Nothing can ever be easy,” he said.
“No. We can’t even just walk into a trap like normal people. We have to work really hard first.”
He laughed, a quiet wolf chuckle.
I raised my hand. “One vote for yes. Any opposing?”
“We haven’t done anything dumb or dangerous for almost six months.” Sean pushed away from the wall on which he was leaning, walked over, and kissed me. “Let’s do this.”