Iaian walked through the doorway into Jazmynde’s office and she nearly lept up and throttled him.
‘A dream,’ she thought. ‘I am here for answers, not wish-fulfillment.‘ That was the problem with lucid dreaming: it could too easily veer away into mayhem. The trick in controlling a dream memory is by not controlling it. Jazmynde remembered her teacher telling her, ‘inhabit the dream, don’t master it.‘
She remembered her training. Fall into the patterns of the dream, observe the memory, don’t change things, just pay attention to the details. What the mind chooses to remember is as informative as any actual action.
Jazmynde sighed. She was back on Ganymede, probably not long after Mara came to stay at Jazmynde’s campus. She looked at Iaian and set her information aside.
He walked over and collapsed in the chair in front of the desk, exhausted.
‘I always allowed him to be so casual around me,’ Jazmynde wondered. ‘Is this why he had no problems betraying me? Did familiarity overwhelm respect?‘
“All of the incoming data on supply movements between the Dione, Mimas, and Enceladus campuses are compiled. We’ve had to shuffle through a lot of fuzzy data.”
He shrugged. “You were right. They’re fortifying Enceladus.”
Jazmynde nodded. “It makes sense. They’re dug in deep on Mimas and Dione, but Enceladus… miles of ice deep as a shield, hydrothermal vents for power, and a moon-spanning ocean. If I were going to hole up somewhere and let some idiot launch attack after attack, that’s where I would want to hide.”
Iaian smirked. “From what I understand, Marshall Wilhelm is aching to attack the place.”
Jazmynde harrumphed. “When you’re an asshole, every solution looks like a toilet. He wants to do the one thing he is objectively good at.”
“You think it will be another Io?”
She nodded. “Enceladus doesn’t need a genius to perfect their natural defenses. I’ll have to review it further, but I currently don’t see a military solution to this. It’s going to break Wilhelm’s heart.”
“I would assume he has enough to keep him busy here without flying out to Saturn. The Jovian system isn’t all the way secured yet.”
“We have the four moons now. Every other campus will fall in line soon enough, especially once they receive the promise that we won’t interrupt their research or development. Io was the toughest nut. Once everyone else sees how we are upgrading the facilities there, they’ll line up.”
Iaian nodded. “Speaking of Io…”
“I wanted to talk to you about Mara.”
“Ah,” Jazmynde said. “How is our guest?”
Iaian looked away thoughtfully.
“Oh?” Jazmynde asked. “That good?”
“She isn’t adjusting well.”
“Don’t keep me in suspense, Iaian. What’s happening.”
He sighed. “She hasn’t left her suite and she refuses to let anyone in. She takes her meals by the door. She complains about the smell of the place…”
“The smell, apparently. Ganymede doesn’t smell right to her.”
Jazmynde shrugged. “Io is a sulfur pit. I imagine anything not smelling like rotten eggs is going to smell weird to her. I was there for the final surrender. The smell pervaded every inch of that campus, no matter how air-tight the areas were. It took me multiple washings to get it out of my hair. Mara was born and raised on Io, the poor thing.”
Iaian smirked. “The guards there have started calling her ‘Codename: Stinky Girl.'”
“Well tell them to stop that shit,” Jazmynde barked. “If they don’t think that’ll get back to her, their code name is going to be ‘kicked out of an airlock.'”
“Yes, Marshall. I’ll tell them.”
She waved her hand. “No, no… don’t threaten them. Just tell them that I know what they are calling her and I consider it very rude and cruel. They’ll back off. They’ll grumble – soldiers always grumble – but they’ll come around. So… locked in her suite, eating alone, not socializing. Is she doing anything else?”
“She’s requested tools.”
“Yes,” Iaian said. “Basic tools: spanners, drivers, claw, basic low-level maintenance tools.”
Jazmynde’s brows furrowed. “What is she doing with those tools?”
“I can’t tell. She won’t let anyone in her suite. You gave orders that she was to be left alone.”
Jazmynde nodded. “Not good. I was hoping she would warm up to the place. She’s… valuable. Talented in a way I haven’t seen before. And so young. To be crass, she’s useful.”
Jazmynde stood up. “Let’s go see about our guest.”
The living quarters were generous according to the needs of their society. Well-maintained Garden Mums decorated the hallway, scrubbing the air of impurities. The hallway was gleaming white and metal, and the ceiling was nearly three meters high.
Jazmynde’s purple slippers barely made a noise walking down the hallway. She wore an off-white dressing gown that billowed unpredictably behind her as she walked, the low gravity rippling every movement she made.
The guards were a few corridors down, well out of earshot.
She came to the door at the far end of the hallway and buzzed. There was no response and the camera indicator light never flashed green, indicating that someone was looking at the monitor.
Jazmynde placed a thumb next to the camera and smiled. She could just barely sense heat – a charge was still running to the camera.
“Hi, Mara. It’s Jazmynde. I know you’ve disconnected the indicator from the camera so no one can tell when you are looking. Fair warning, here. I am about to enter alone.”
She waved her hand over the door. It remained closed. She felt along the edges of the door, but the manual release clamps had been tampered with. She walked away.
Five minutes later, she returned with tools. The guards followed her, but she waved them away. “I have this, friends. Don’t worry about me.”
She popped the doorframe off. Mara had been thorough. The opening mechanisms had been tampered with. They were set to lock and brace, and the release switch was on the other side of the door.
“Very clever to manipulate the mechanisms from your side of the door without alerting the guards,” Jazmynde said. “That must’ve been a pain to do.”
She checked the emergency clamps. They had all been fused into a semi-locked position, which would have prevented the doors from easily sliding open. The airlocks were in place as well. She felt along the edge of the door towards the camera. She found the wiring with her fingertips and smiled. It would be possible to re-route the…
Jazmynde laughed. “Brilliant,” she whispered.
She turned to the neighboring door and traced her finger along the front. She moved down the hall to the next door, then the next. On the fourth door down, she waved her hand over the door. It slid open effortlessly.
“Hello, Mara,” Jazmynde said as she entered.
Mara looked up from her terminal. “What gave me away?”
THE CONQUEROR’S WITCH