Part Three of Three
Antheri’s desk was somewhere between a mess ans a complete loss. The man had kept everything visible so tidy, Guilian had, naturally, he thought, assumed that the files would be just as orderly.
But the employee files, the production notes, the construction plans, the purchasing and selling paperwork, all of it was jammed haphazardly into cabinets, with labels that made no sense: “Castorry,” “Engaran,” “Tibinibit,” and so on, all in Antheri’s careful copperplate.
It was young Santha, Myrlo the engineer’s daughter, who suggested they could be names. “You said,” she suggested, when he conscripted her to help him sort out the mess, “that he’d been screaming about the governors?”
“He had,” Guilian agreed. That had been bothering him more and more. How long had Antheri been going mad? Worse… had it all been madness?
“Maybe these are the names he thought the governors were called? I heard him, sometimes, muttering to himself,” she added, “and sometimes he’d call me in to take dictation… here.” She pulled out a wide folder full of very tidy notes. “These are mine. I don’t think they make any sense, but they are at least legible.”
He noted that, unlike many of the workers, Santha seemed neither fascinated by or bothered by the young unicorn foal that was still following him around; she fed it, like one would any pet or working animal, and otherwise left it alone. She had come highly recommended as a practical, level-headed young woman, but her reaction to the unicorn made him wonder.
“Do you see it?” he asked, apropos to nothing, as they were still looking at her file of notes.
She was either used to dealing with strange comments out of nowhere, working with Antheri as she had, or she was used to oblique references to unicorns, living in the Town as she did. “I do,” she admitted. “It’s very pretty, but the unicorns frighten me.”
“And why’s that?” he asked, trying to be gentle. The unicorns had frightened Antheri, too.
She looked up at him, meeting his eyes with her own sky-blue gaze. She had, the Administrator was startled to realize, a very piercing, uncomfortable gaze.
“My mother was from a Village, Administrator. The unicorns… they purify the water, of course. But everything has a price.” She took the folder back from him, and flipped through the notes. “Here. Read this. Antheri might be mad, but there were things he understood very well.”
Guilian sat down at his former assistant’s desk and began reading. After a while, he looked up, to find Santha still tidying papers into files, and still watching him. “If a third of this is true…”
“At least a third of it is true,” she confirmed quietly. “Why do you think the Villages hate the town?”
“I don’t know, I thought, the pollution, the people we steal for the factory…”
“All that. All that and everything else,” she murmured. “But what choice does the Town have?”
“Antheri thought none.” He studied the notes. “He thought the governors…”
“Yes. He thought that they demanded sacrifice. And he believed that they would take a higher toll if he didn’t give them what they wanted.”
“And he was right about the unicorns.”
“And he was right about the unicorns,” she agreed. Her eyes seemed to be boring through him.
“What if,” Guilian whispered, “he was right about everything?”
Next: Cleaning House
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