I feel much less confident today, and this is why: I decided that I needed to go back to the Galasu Knowledge Foundation, so I made an appointment with Akah Deohårañi. While Liga did connect us, I don’t know anyone else whom I can trust. I am beside myself with worry.
I had the name of Aneti’s sister — the intimate name, not the formal one. It is Keptar. I have ler family name. I mean, families reuse these names all of the time. One needs both, but — it was all I had.
Deo met me in the shrine vestibule. I went early to make my own offerings in the Shiji style, and le joined me. We lit incense together, and after praying, le brought me back into ler office for a consultation. I sat in the office, not sure what to say given Liga. I tried.
“I want to know about a woman who died several years ago. Young. The family name is Kuresa, and the person was named Keptar. Le has a sister named Sehutañi, informally Aneti,” I said. The sentences pulled all of the air from my lungs because I said them quickly and did not breathe. I didn’t take time like I do in writing. The air in the room became oppressive, almost as if the ghost of the dead sister hovered over the two of us.
Deo smiled sweetly and said, “I had no idea that you were coming, so this could take me a bit of time to find. We’ll start with the Notices, which contain Tveshi births, marriages, divorces, and deaths, and then see what we can find in the newspapers. Untimely deaths sometimes have articles associated with them. Is this the Kuresa family in Galasu?”
“Ah, then this may be easier. They’re in the news sometimes.”
I waited at the desk and looked around the small room at ler personal artifacts. The seaweeds within the water-walls shone bright green — mesmerizing, in fact. If the display broke, it wouldn’t be good for the books.
“Oh, wow,” Deo said after five minutes. Le grimaced across the desk at me. “This took much less time than I thought it would. I was right.”
Le tapped the monitor in the table for me, and it came to life. The table display mirrored lers, so it scrolled through lists of court notices. The obituary was hidden towards the end of the results.
“Oh,” I whispered.
“Who is this that you’re looking on behalf of? Is this for Akah Mainė and Equilibrium?” Le grimaced again and paged through several of the previews. “My gods, this person had a husband in Cradle.”
“They divorced. See this?”
Deo’s searches turned up horror after horror. Oh my fucking gods, this is just one example of how I should have fucking asked Liga. I mean, le wasn’t going to tell me any of this on ler own — the kind of thing anyone else would have done! Instead, I wandered into this like a hotåkhi fool. Anybody else in the Kohjenya would have been better.
Aneti’s sister married a man who turned out to be Cradle operative, and le left Keptar for someone else without formalizing a divorce in 1856. Keptar followed ler husband to Kiaėtha in 1857, where Keptar had a nervous breakdown and tried to kill their daughter. The breakdown was witnessed by about a hundred people. The child survived, but the Kuresa family started proceedings to disown Keptar. At the same time, the state apparently intervened and placed Keptar in a psychiatric facility. The proceedings to expel Keptar from the Kuresa family failed because le would have no social support network left. This is just ridiculous.
Ler now ex-husband was arrested after an attempted train bombing targeting three officials from Vepessa. Le was caught on the Kai River in Aderei, a town known for its foreign religious sects due to its proximity to Narahja. Le committed suicide by placing a poison pill under ler tongue. Authorities discovered the materials to make hundreds of bombs in a small shack near a farming village where the ex-husband had family. The insanity was plainly visible on the walls: Le had scribbled them with every combative piece of text from eighteen Sabaji sacred works. It reminds me of how Aneti has decorated ler walls, and I wonder if Aneti’s family remembers these news reports. I mean, this sounds like a fucking Maðzi soap opera.
On Keptar’s release from psychiatric observation in 1858, le joined the Daybreak Movement and carried out an attack with no remorse in the International Congress in Khessa, killing seventeen, including limself. I must have been eleven. I had exams? Eleven-year-old girls don’t watch the news! No wonder the name sounded familiar.
Aneti, the woman for whom I have fallen so desperately, has given pride of place in ler heart to a despicable sister who murdered people. Aneti has idolized someone who brought shame and government suspicion on ler entire family. Aneti has followed in Keptar’s footsteps, and this afternoon, I wondered for the first time whether something was just not right at all in Aneti’s mind beyond the obvious. This goes beyond grief. This — this raises, suspicions, doesn’t it? Swiftly-fading symbols indeed.
It’s not even that. I understand with complete clarity what has happened with this unknown official. If Aneti’s family is under observation, surely the police would know something. This is not an unknown family. The bottleneck must come from within the intelligence community. If the police prefer Karatha as a source …
It must come from within the Karatha. I could not say something like that in public, on smart paper. Here, I can. It must be the Karatha. It has always been the Karatha. This is not really — I have avoided writing that, I know. It must be them, it must always have been them, and — I’ve avoided writing that even here despite my suspicions — they are that symbol — but it’s unavoidable, how deep this goes. This is why Liga has tried to protect me so much. I’m not naïve enough to forget that the Karatha did nothing during the Occupation. But this?
“How does no one know about what happened?” I asked.
Deo sighed through ler teeth and said, “I don’t know. That is a family that has many roots in Galasu. Everyone would give them the benefit of the doubt. Everyone would sympathize with them. It’s hard to say.”
“I’m dating ler sister, and I think that le might have ties to something,” I whispered. It was the first time I mentioned this to someone other than Liga, and I don’t know if I should have. “Akah Mainė knows, but we don’t have any conclusive evidence.”
Le nodded. “Packets of information have been moving on the old network. I can see them, but I can’t read a word. They’re in a dead language.”
“Do you think it’s the Daybreak Movement?”
“No. What is the sister’s name again?”
“Aneti, formally Sehutañi.”
Deo worked ler database magic again. The computer told me that Aneti had started as a child athlete, with a good mastery of archery, discus, and wrestling. Aneti has never said anything about it. Le married someone in 1858, the same year that ler sister went insane, and divorced that person in 1860. Aneti has worked for the Progressive Movement since 1857, and the Bulletin of the Progressive Movement profiled ler work in Galasu in 1862.
“None of these records provides any—”
“One moment.” Deo reached under ler desk and pressed a button. A hum I had hardly noticed suddenly stopped. “No one is ever alone in Galasu. We have about ten minutes in private.”
I was not ready for that. “I am saying things that should not be repeated. Will you violate my trust?”
“I take questions from tesekhaira. They do not trust one another. As soon as I said that I would answer their questions, I had five competing anti-eavesdropping technologies installed in my office. When they’re all on at the same time, it’s imp—well, not impossible. It’s information technology.”
I nodded. “None of these records provides any motivation. All I have is ler connection to a sister who died doing poisonous work.”
“What about Akah Sehutañi’s ex-husband?”
Before I could answer, le pulled up the ex-husband’s image. I recognized lim instantly—the man whom I saw with Aneti only days ago. This man is Kesetvi Galasu-Kitåhau Meitasela. Le is a member of a male courtesan group in the Galasu suburbs, and le serves upper-class clients from the Senate. Officially, le belongs to the Tveshi Cultural Coalition, but le started out in the Progressive Movement.
On ler courtesan profile, le wears ler hair in two top buns in an elaborate style, and le sports the new bioluminescent tattoos that I have seen from the High Wilds. On ler profile, le says that le knows several Sabaji languages. However, no Ịgzarhjenya language is included. This must mean that le doesn’t serve clients from Narahja or Nasja.
We can’t get a client list. I will need that from someone else if I want to tie lim to others within Daybreak.
“This man is in the Daybreak Movement,” I said to Deo. “Do you think that the divorce was a cover for their activities?”
Deo clicked ler tongue three times and shook ler head. “No. I haven’t found any information linking Akah Sehutañi to the Daybreak Movement, and if it existed, it would have been at my fingertips. My husband comes from the Tveshi Cultural Coalition, and le sometimes voices ler odd opinions, but my sisters and I usually point out the logical fallacies in most of what le says. It’s only after ten years of marriage that I have realized that Coalitionists have good points about a small number of domestic problems. That is how influence happens. A partner does it over years and decades. I could see a change coming over someone during several years of grief, especially if the family has not invested in counseling. But this?”
“How could Akah Sehutañi think well of someone who nearly murdered a child? Someone who murdered people?”
“Le remembers a sister, not a criminal,” Deo said. “That makes the heartbreak hurt more. Gods, just think about what the family — this will be bad for them.”
“Akah Sehutañi has a lightless void inside of lim,” I said.
“That could be the case. An earthquake does not care whether it rumbles beneath the house of a great family or a humble one.” Deo wiped the screens clean and turned to face me in ler chair, hands steepled in front of ler face. “Akah Mainė would have come to me for information if le needed it, but given that le hasn’t, I think that Equilibrium Nexus already knew it.”
“They’ve withheld it.”
“Akah Mainė gives a person things when one asks for them.”
“I am not working directly with Akah Mainė,” I said. “Le and I have met once, and the rest of the time, I have engaged with other members of Equilibrium.”
Deo clicked ler tongue, but said nothing.
I broke the silence and said, “If anything we saw could be of use, please save it for me and give it to me on a disk. I might need it when I approach the authorities about what is happening.”
“Yes, all of them.”
Le saved the information, and while I waited, I listened for the hum to return. When it did, I tried to keep that sound from fading into the background. I never wanted to get used to it again — of course, I have.
It’s odd, but I think that I hear the same thing in some parts of the Skyrail. Somewhere, someone is listening to what people say. I think it’s clear from context that here, someone means the Karatha, and they do not always have our best interests at heart.