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Senta had leaned forward and begun to breathe in rapid, shallow panting. Quiet now. The wrong words might push her off on some other memory track. He sat down on the sofa next to Senta, peering at her closely. Rob felt a shock of recognition. Her full mouth was curving again into a faint, secret smile. She laughed, deep in her throat, and wriggled against the soft cushions of the sofa.

Her look had become coquettish and full of explicit sexual promise. He paused after the name. Joseph Morel and Gregor Merlin. Say their names to me, Senta. Say them. Her look was blank, confused.


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Gregor Merlin. Yes, I can say them. Her voice trailed away into silence. Once again, the parade of expressions was moving across her face: fear, joy, greed, compassion, lust. As her look stabilized, she bent her head to one side and nodded, then seemed to listen intently. She was looking up, a frown wrinkling her forehead and a look of worry and confusion on her face. I just heard it from Joseph, over the video.

There was a good chance of it, because I used almost the same key words. Senta was listening to unseen companions, until at last she nodded firmly. Her face was changing, again becoming a melting-pot for all the human emotions. Before the change was complete, Howard Anson was leaning forward, ready to speak to her again. Rob put up his hand in protest. But we have to find it before we can exorcise it. Now, keep quiet or we may apply the wrong trigger.

He leaned forward again. Say these names after me. Morel, Merlin, Goblins, Caliban, Sycorax. Do you hear me? Say them, Senta. Even before he had finished speaking the reaction to the spoken trigger began. Her features began to writhe and grimace, a travesty of her usual beauty. As her face twisted into grotesque expressions, the veins in her neck stood out, swollen and congested.

Her final look was one of mounting horror. For a second, her mouth opened and closed wordlessly. She began to rock back and forth on the sofa, her hands clasped tightly in front of her.

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You do mean it. All those innocent people, dead. Why did you do it? There was a longer silence, while Rob and Howard Anson stared at each other. You had known him for years, for the longest time. Anson flashed a look of fierce satisfaction and sympathy towards Rob, while Senta became once more the prisoner of those inner voices.

After a few seconds, tears began to trickle from under the dark blindfold. She was shaking her head. I was watching the display. You said burn the building, and set the bomb. But why? Why that? Nothing could be so important, nothing in the world. She paused again, then shook her head firmly. Someone there will know. After a moment she leaned forward, listening intently. There was a silence, so long that Rob was convinced that Senta had moved to another phase of taliza-trance. He looked at Howard Anson and was opening his mouth to speak when the other man waved him urgently to silence.

Senta gasped with a new emotion and put her hands to her eyes. I have to leave, I have to get away. Somebody has to tell the truth. Once again she was silent, except for the ugly, choked sound of her sobbing. While Merlin and Anson waited, looking at each other bleakly, the tone changed. Little by little it became a harsh coughing, deep in her throat. Would you mind coming through into the next room. You go ahead, and let me do what I can for her. Rob walked past Anson into the bedroom and closed the door. He went to the window and looked out across the pink and yellow face of the old city.

It was almost sunset, a quiet, hushed time. He could hear the bells tolling vespers, far away across the array of rooftops. The evening service would be going on in the great structure two miles to the west, as they had for a thousand years. The air of the city was clear and calm. And somewhere, somewhere far from Earth, the man roamed free who had murdered his parents; the man who had made Senta Plessey a shattered shell of a woman; the man who made it impossible for Rob to draw any pleasure from the scene before him.

That last session opened up more than I expected. Rob had not turned around. His body seemed frozen, staring rigidly out across the face of the city. Murder for both of them. Anson nodded. For one thing, we have no idea why it all happened. It sounded to me as though it was Morel who was responsible for the death of your parents, but we have no proof of that. I have a problem believing some of the things she said. I guess we have to keep digging. There were a lot of other people on that aircraft. Can you use what you have to erase some of her painful memories? And maybe you can help me to delve deeper into these things, they involve me a lot more than Senta.

Rob was beginning to understand the tie between Anson and the tormented woman in the next room. There was a mutual dependence that made simple physical attraction almost an irrelevance. But Senta never would. He leaned back, head against the panelled wall, and closed his eyes. Let me try to summarize. I could show you many similar ones in our files. Strong father, pushing the child along hard from the time that he was one year old.

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Mother in the background, with no say in how Morel was raised. A prodigy in school, then on to the university when he was thirteen. They were just fellow-students. As you might expect, Morel had a brilliant academic record. Howard Anson opened his eyes again and looked at Rob. He ought to have gone on to a career in university research, rising steadily through the ranks until he was a respected, senior authority.

His friends would be other specialists in the same field of research, scattered all over the System. It might have, but another factor came along and broke the pattern. Morel met Darius Regulo. Anson paused as the door to his left opened and Senta entered. She was chalk-pale, even to her full lips, but her movements were steady and her mouth was firm. On impulse, Rob went over to her and took her hands in his. They were warm again, but not with the frenetic heat and tremor of the taliza high.

She smiled at him, the first genuine smile that he had seen from her. He realized how much the two women resembled each other, and wondered why he had not seen it at once. She shook her head, still smiling. You told us things that we had never heard before. Rob and I need to see where they lead, and that will take a while. When he had finished Anson looked at Senta inquiringly.

Thank God for small mercies. Something horrible happened back then, and it sounds as though Joseph Morel is a murderer. Her face was still pale, but a touch of color was creeping back into it. What are the two of you planning to do next? I suppose you could say it can wait a little longer, seeing how long it has waited already. People can be hired to do anything. He had one rejuvenation, but even so he looks younger than he ought.

I think he must have been following his own techniques for life-prolongation. He was twenty-three when Regulo came to see him for the first time. That was soon after he had refused a full professorship at Canberra. For one thing, he has Caliban. When I first met Morel, that was all he would talk about. Caliban can do this, Caliban will do that.

He has been working with that animal for many years. Senta frowned, her dark brows drawn into a line over her wide-spaced eyes. They seem vague, as though they happened to somebody else. It was definitely thirty years ago, and that would make it three years before Regulo moved his operation away from Earth completely. So Morel must have been working with Caliban here, on Earth.


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  6. Morel is supposed to be a big expert on rejuvenation, one of the top authorities in the System. And why does he go around with all the scar tissue on him, instead of using grafts and regeneration treatment? He had stood up and was pacing up and down in front of the window. You must have seen them, he got them from the solar fly-by that he did, fifty years ago.

    Corrie told me all about it. Did you forget all that, too? His face is a nightmare. Senta, seated on the sofa, was silent for so long that Rob was afraid of some new attack from her drug addiction. She seemed to have gone into another trance, her face puzzled and thoughtful. Finally, she nodded her head. But you have a piece missing, because Cornelia left out an important fact. Regulo did get scars from the close approach to the Sun, but they could be removed. And they were removed, soon after he returned to Earth after that fly-by. Removed without trace. When I first met Regulo he was a handsome man.

    I think I started to ask her about rejuvenation and the scar tissue once, soon after I first met Regulo, but something interrupted us and I never got an answer. Rhys bares his teeth. Minister Tassiter clears his throat and the scribe picks up a quill. Nice try. He flexes his hands and curls his fingers around the ends of the armrests.

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    Murmuring fills the room and the Minister curls his lip, unrolling a scroll of parchment the witch sets in front of him. This could take a while. Imperio is the least of it. He wonders how much the Ministry knows; he supposes this is his chance to find out. In the end, however, there can be only one outcome - has only ever been one outcome since Rhys had looked up, head ringing and blood coursing down his face from the concussive blast that had knocked him off his feet, and seen a ring of Auror wands encircling him.

    Azkaban is cold. In the upper levels the inmates draw back from their cell doors, watching with the wary eyes of the recently beaten. No use in freeing traitors when Jack comes for him. Prisoners in the deeper levels move less, and watch them pass with the dull gaze of the resigned or the bright eyes of the insane. The guard comes to a stop in front of an empty cell and shoves Rhys into it, clanging the door shut behind him and locking it with a hastily whispered spell.

    Rhys turns, rubbing his wrists as the bindings on them vanish, but the guard is already retreating, footsteps quickening as they fade back up into the distance. Rhys is out of choices, for the moment. He lifts a hand absently and strokes the mark on the side of his neck. He just has to hold on. His hand falters as the already-low light dims. Rhys takes an involuntary step back, then grits his teeth and steps forward again as the Dementor glides into view, ragged shroud drifting in an unfelt breeze.

    It leans its head forward and a low susurration fills the cell. Rhys, Rhys Rhys shakes his head. No, that was a long time ago, things are - things are different now. Thought I could trust you. Rhys braces trembling hands on the ground, the slimy texture of the flagstones a vague, distant sensation next to the sick feeling in his gut. He breathes deeply and concentrates on not throwing up, even as the remaining warmth drains out of him, drawn out through his skin and toward the monster on the other side of the door.

    He had known this was coming, or something like it; somehow he had thought his worst memory would be waking up to the news of his parents' deaths, or the hollow sick feeling when the family estate had been sold off. Rhys smiles grimly to himself, wiping his nose on the sleeve of the coarse prison uniform.

    Jack had the right idea, with the cruciatus sessions; he survived those, and they made him strong. He can survive this, and Jack will come -. He peels himself up off the ground, inch by agonizing inch, grimacing at the way his uniform sticks to the damp floor.

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    The Dementor appears to have moved on, at least for now; no doubt it will be back when it gets hungry. The cell is small and dirty. Probably not much of a cleaning service in here, Rhys thinks a little hysterically. He moves a few feet toward a slightly cleaner spot on the floor - maybe where the last occupant slept - and curls up with his back against the wall. He seems to be taking notes, holding a small leather-bound book open before him as a quill skritches itself across the pages. It looks up and flaps its wings when Rhys pushes himself up, and Tassiter looks up, shutting the book with a snap.

    Every muscle in his body is stiff, and his bones still ache with the memory of Dementor-induced cold. He presses his back to the grimy cell wall, resting his head against it and closing his eye again. Tassiter makes a tch of impatience. Tassiter taps the bars with his wand and they shimmer, going translucent for a moment as Tassiter steps through them. It feels like clammy fingers rifling through his memories, and Rhys feels his eye twitch in its socket. The incident at the Ministry is of course the first thing Tassiter finds, pulled to the top by the Dementor. Rhys grits his teeth as Tassiter circles the hole in his memory, prodding at the edges to try to learn the shape of it.

    Rhys collapses back against the wall as Tassiter releases his jaw, sliding down it when his legs refuse to support him. Tassiter tucks his wand away and folds his hands behind his back. He puts a hand on the back of the chair and it crumbles to ash, the remains skittering across the flagstones like live things until they melt into the grime of the hallway floor. Rhys forces himself to breathe evenly. In through the mouth, out through the nose. It works, a little; his heart rate slows even as the chill of the prison seeps back into his skin.

    Patience is - not easy , but maybe easier in those first few days, even in the perpetual chill of the fortress prison.