Lars recovers remarkably fast. I mean miraculously. One night, a blonde woman sneaks down the stairs to see him while the woman Sama changes his bandages or whatnot. They, Sama and “Rohan the guard,” start yelling at her to leave, but she ignores them.
The next thing I know, I hear Lars crying for his brother. After that, he takes mere days what should’ve taken weeks or even months to accomplish. I wish I’d known what happened.
He refuses to talk to anyone. All he does is cry.
However, the morning of my trial, he speaks to me. “I don’t know why you want to join them.”
“Sorry, mate. I’ve loathed Reck for ages now. I want to be where Orion is.”
I hear him snort. “Fine. Betray your people and go make your little love-nest with these backwards heathens.”
“Backwards heathens who healed you with some miracle, you mean?”
He gets quiet again. Then he speaks. “Yet they killed my brother.”
I sigh, not continuing our pointless debate. I get it: Odin died because he tried to shoot that man-child. I hope to argue my case that I wasn’t about to try the same thing. I was in a defensive stance when I’d triggered that trap.
Orion comes in, looking upbeat, and he gives me a haircut. I notice he’d shaved, and I’m glad. That beard looked ridiculous on him.
They take me out of my cell, and I wince at the daylight I hadn’t seen for ages. I’m brought into what they call the ‘community center.’ I’m told to have a seat on a sofa, and I count my blessings that at least I’m not handcuffed to a post or something. That’s a good sign. They must not be too worried about me.
They attempt a kind of formal hearing. It’s actually quite precious, and I have to love them for it. They’re trying at least. The whole thing is closer to how the Skeeve council worked where everyone had the opportunity to weigh in, but they do give the woman Sama the final say.
Vik lists the charge against me, but he does it in such a way as to make me think he doubts it’ll hold. Then, Orion stands in my defense.
I smirk. Orion: my barrister. I love that bastard. Oh, I won’t pretend I’m not in some kind of danger, but I doubt they’ll kill me. Sending me back to the fucking Skeeves WOULD kill me, though, and Vik mentioned that as a possible sentence.
Vik and Orion debate back and forth over the big issue: ‘was I about to shoot Asa?’ Of course, the answer is no. I’d been too shocked to see Orion suddenly standing before me.
“I think we should hear from the accused,” Sama says in her adorable accent. I sigh and stand up.
“The question on everyone’s mind,” Sama says, “has to do with your motives.”
Asa pipes in, “Yeah, you show up guns a-blazing and then say you wanna stay.”
“That’s understandable,” I say as I take in several things at once. First of all, I notice Zuri won’t meet my eyes. She’s never liked me much after what happened that one time, but I can’t help but be grateful she’s kept my secret. Rohan looks like he agrees with Brother Asa. Vik and Orion merely act curious as to what I’ll say, but the blonde woman momentarily catches my attention.
Who is she? She’s the one with the mystical healing powers and yet she sits there, silently taking everything in. She’s young, even younger than Brother Asa, I’d wager. Whatever. I have current problems to deal with.
“Firstly,” I begin, “I would love nothing more than to betray Reck the Intolerable Tyrant.”
Asa speaks, interrupting. “Well, that’s a quick show of betraying your tribe. How do we know you won’t go and betray US when it suits you?”
I sigh, working at holding in my aggravation. “Secondly and to answer your question, I want nothing to do with the world he’s creating.” Sama asks what I mean. “Even before I left, the population of Victoria, which is what he named the village once it was too big for a village, was expanding exponentially. At times, logarithmically. Survivors were hearing of this ‘great’ city and started flocking there, thinking living there would solve all their problems. But I have inside information, the inside scoop, as it were.” I pause, waiting for any questions. When none come about, I continue.
“His ambition knows no bounds. He wants to be the world’s hero, and one of the ways he plans on making that happen is to reactivate the power grid.”
She catches on quickly. “But to do that, he’d need resources.”
“Correct. Near the city, there is a plant that required some repair but wasn’t impossibly destroyed. Near to that is a coal mine. As for ‘resources,’ more and more enter the city every week.” I take a breath. “I wouldn’t’ doubt that now, his plan has been achieved. Electricity, but at what a price? He told me in confidence that he wouldn’t object to forced labor if it came to it. I’ve no interest in being part of a society that all but enacts slavery for the ‘greater good.'”
“Tell me you’re joking,” Asa says in angry disbelief.
“I wish I were, mate. Those people are in for a rude awakening.”
“How would he pick them?”
Sama interrupts. “I’m sorry, Asa, but that is not the issue here. Corin was stating his case WHY he no longer wished to be a Skeeve.” I turn back to her. “And personally, I believe him when he says he wants no part of that or anything this Reck has planned for his city. But Corin,” she looks at me, addressing me personally, “could you be happy here with us? We certainly don’t have those kinds of amenities.”
“Sorry for my language, but fuck the amenities.”
Vik looks down at the floor. “I believe him.”
Sama nods as if making a decision. “Are there any objections? Asa?”
Brother Asa looks up. “I’ve thought about it, and I don’t believe he was gunning for me. His buddy on the other hand–”
“Is not on trial here,” Sama reminds him. “But you bring up a good point. What are your feelings towards Lars?”
I have to fight the smirk with her asking about my ‘feelings’ towards Lars. “You mean do I have any loyalty to him? Not really. I’m… I’m loyal to Orion, so whoever he thinks is great is okay in my book.”
Orion smiles at me. Zuri votes me in. Rohan does the same–but not happily. The blonde healer says that if Orion trusts me, they all should trust me as well. I’m momentarily taken aback. Her vote of confidence came as a surprise, especially since she phrased it that way.
“Then it’s settled,” Sama says, looking around at everyone. Did I just get a unanimous vote? She looks at me. “Corin, welcome to the family… and your new home.”