turned out to be located within the impressive fortifications of Rehan-el'Pacta—The Fist of God's Peace
in English. Originally built five hundred years before by a particularly paranoid
Count on the
Although the original stone bastions of the keep remained in place, it had been greatly renovated over the centuries, and now resembled an opulent retreat. Even though the Count who had built it had died long before—ironically killed by a fall from his horse within the very keep itself—the active defences had been upgraded regularly as well. It was more likely out of habit than anything else. It had become a testing ground of sorts for both new, innovative security systems, and for those in the convert community whose job was to circumvent those security systems. The closest any agent had come to the central hall was the outer curtain wall, which was an impressive feat in itself.
The fortress used the natural terrain in which it was set to maximum effect. It sat near the delta of the Y'ple River, which cascaded down a sheer cliff face some four kilometres from the sea. In fact, cliffs surrounded the entire delta on three sides, forming a rough square of flat land. They continued out into the sea, creating a long, narrow bay. The only way onto the plain was either by air or using a heavy-duty elevator on the southern cliff. A few narrow, treacherous footpaths dotted the walls, a legacy of centuries past.
The citadel itself was actually carved into the northern cliff face, a warren of tunnels and rooms that could house eight hundred people easily. Actually, many of the tunnels predated the rest of the fortifications by millennia, a relic of the antediluvian civilization that had called Atlantl its home. Even today impressive carvings of stylised birds, cats, dogs, elephants, and birds could be found in odd crannies here and there.
Of course, even the most secure keep wasn’t much help if the enemy managed to set up camp outside, so the active defences surrounding it were both extensive and deadly. Manned anti-aircraft batteries dotted the cliffs, along with mortar companies and heavy-weapons posts. The same littered the plain, and there were persistent rumours of an entire battery of medium-range cruise missiles hidden somewhere in the vicinity. The bay and natural harbour were protected by a constantly shifting pattern of both passive and active sonar detectors, and two minelayers were constantly docked at the small shipyard, ready to turn the bay into a very unhealthy place for an enemy ship to explore. The open ocean beyond the bay also just happened to be the most common location in which the Atlantlan Navy conducted its drills and war games.
Even the most militant warhawk tended to think overkill when considering the base.
Claire had learned all of this on the way there from Sergeant Rupert Gyrus, a member of Ally's Personal Guard who had been willing to talk to her while everyone else was busy. It was probably a good thing he hadn't explained the situation to her while their very fragile aircraft had been actually flying through the teeth of those defences. She would likely have jumped out of the plane.
Now that she had been there a few days, however, her initial trepidation was gone, and instead was impressed by the historic legacy of the Fist of God's Peace. Most of the military protections were hidden, anyway, with only a few more overt emplacements. Three artillery batteries were installed on the thick wall that formed a ring in front of the gates to the cliff keep itself, and soldiers constantly patrolled the grounds, but for the most part it was deceptively peaceful.
Claire happily held on to that feeling of peace, however illusory, as she focussed on remaining calm in the midst of the whirlwind surrounding her. The Royals, including Ally and Evelynne, had been meeting almost non-stop for the last two days, leaving her to her own devices. So far she had spent a lot of time with Ally's mother, talking to her when the woman could, and just sitting quietly when she slept. Catherine was in remarkably good spirits, considering her terrible wounds, but Claire wasn't sure how much of that was genuine, and how much was due to the massive amounts of painkillers the woman was receiving. Those drugs made her a little confused at times, and Claire had been mistaken for both Ally and Evelynne on a couple of occasions. Ally's father also spent most of the time with his wife, allowing Claire to form a friendship with the kind, intelligent man.
Unfortunately, her other two friends were markedly absent, and she was missing them both terribly. They had been in each other’s company nearly constantly for the past three months, and the lack of companionship was unpleasant.
This morning, Claire was looking out the window of her room—though not overly large, the room was beautifully furnished, and was one of the few rooms with a window carved out of the very face of the cliff itself—and wondering just what Ally and Evelynne were up to. Her musings were cut short by a knock at the door and she took a moment to come back to herself.
"Come in," she called, standing just in case it was some Very Important Person.
The door opened, and a grin split Claire's face as Evelynne peered in, Ally standing just behind her.
"Hello," Evelynne said, smiling. "Anyone home?"
Claire laughed, meeting her friends in the middle of the room in a three-way hug as Ally murmured her own greetings. "Of course. Long time, no see," she felt comfortable enough teasing.
"I know," Evelynne said, grimacing. "I'm really sorry we haven't been very good hosts recently. It's just been…" She waved her hand vaguely.
"That's okay," Claire dismissed, shrugging. She led her guests to the chairs arranged around the room and sat down. "I can’t even begin to guess just what you've been dealing with. I think I needed a few days to settle anyway."
"And have you?" Ally asked. Claire shrugged and nodded at the same time. "Well, one of the reasons we came by is because we decided to take some time to ourselves for the day, and thought we'd like to go exploring." Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. "I've heard a rumour that there's buried treasure hidden somewhere in this place. You and me, we'll split it fifty-fifty."
Claire laughed. "Okay, I'm in. I don't suppose you have a treasure map."
Evelynne shook her head indulgently. "Unfortunately not." She sobered. "Before we do that, though, there are a few things we have to discuss with you."
Claire became serious as well, a hollow feeling forming in the pit of her stomach. She nodded.
"Well, it basically deals with what you want to do. In the long run, I mean." Evelynne sighed. "I hate to say it, but your presence makes things a little tricky for our situation here." This time Claire couldn't keep the sick feeling from showing on her face, and Evelynne grabbed her hand and held it tightly. "Honestly, it has nothing to do with anything you've done. And it's nothing that can't be worked out, however you decide." Evelynne took a breath. "It has to do with… how you look."
Claire winced visibly, and Ally was quick to reassure her. "It's not because you look bad, because you don't. The unpleasant truth is that that you're very distinctive, and that could cause problems. Simply put, assuming you decide to stay here with us, the chances are fairly good that at some point someone will take a picture or video of you, and someone back in the States will see it. That would open up a whole lot of questions that nobody around here really wants to answer, which would happen if someone recognised you and then started wondering about how much Lady Alleandre and Princess Evelynne resemble Sophia Doherty and Allison Parks."
Ally's tone was calm and gentle, without a hint of condemnation, and Claire found herself nodding in agreement. "Okay, I can see that. I wondered about it before, actually. So what do we do?"
"Well, first of all, it depends on what you want," Evelynne began. "I suppose the first question is: do you want to stay?"
Claire's chest tightened. "Do you want me to stay?" she asked, her voice timid.
"Of course we do," Evelynne said firmly. "I'm not the kind of person to send my qor'ima off to the lions when things get a bit complicated. Neither of us is." Ally nodded vigorously. "On the other hand, we're not going to keep you here in a situation you can't abide."
The band across Claire's chest loosened. "Okay. And thank you." She took a deep breath. "I want to stay," she said firmly.
Evelynne grinned and squeezed her hand, and Ally smiled and nodded happily. "Good. In that case we have to decide how to work this. The way we see it, there are two basic options."
Ally took over. "Basically, the first plan is to disguise you so that nobody recognises you." She smiled apologetically. "We'd have to get someone to help you with covering up your patterns. It's tricky, but not impossible. Didn't you use some kind of body paint sometimes?" Claire nodded. "This is the same, just on a larger scale. We add a wig or dye your hair, maybe add some coloured contact lenses." Ally frowned and glanced at Evelynne. "Frankly, neither of us likes this plan too much. There's too much of a chance that someone will slip up, or see you without your makeup. For that matter, all it would take would be a servant walking in on you when you're still in bed."
Claire nodded. "The stuff rubs off, too, no matter how good it is. I've heard you can dye your skin, and I tried that once, but I had a really bad allergic reaction." This was one of the things she loved about her friends. They didn’t see her first as some bizarre-looking woman. Instead, she was just Claire, and one of her features was her exotic black-and-white patterning.
"We could probably find something that would work with you," Evelynne mused, "but you're right, it would take a lot of work in the long run."
"Which leaves the other option," Ally agreed. "If we can't make you into someone else, we have to come up with a legitimate reason for you to be here. We have a basic plan worked out.
"Within the next few days, you will travel back to Canada, first—very covertly, of course—and then back to the States, openly." Ally ignored the panic that flashed through Claire. "You were off visiting with your friends Allison and Sophia while they relocated to Vancouver. Once you've been back a week or so, you will receive a letter from some department of the Atlantlan government."
"Probably the Foreign Office, Public Relations," Evelynne murmured.
Ally nodded. "You see, at the beginning of the year, you decided on impulse to apply for the Atlantlan government's Page Service, never really expecting to be accepted. They have program where they bring young applicants from other countries to serve as Pages for various Nobles. You'll be very surprised at being accepted, but you're not going to pass up this opportunity. You'll put your affairs at home in order, and move back here for placement. At about this time, either Evelynne or I will feel the need for some additional personal aid, and look into acquiring a Page. We'll interview several candidates, and eventually settle on Ms. Claire Jones, of Horton City, USA, due to the rapport we feel with that candidate."
Claire could only stare for several minutes. "Is all that legal?"
"Eh." Evelynne waggled her hand. "Some of it, certainly not. But then, Ally and I were breaking at least a dozen American laws when we were there. For that matter, your status here and now in Atlantl could be considered quasi-legal." She grinned. "Don't worry, za has granted you a full pardon. On the other hand, other than the bureaucratic legerdemain required to make your application look like it originated nine months ago, the rest will be completely legal, complete with all the visas and Resident Alien documentation to protect you under Atlantlan law."
"Page appointments generally last a year," Ally added, "with the option to renew at the end of that time, assuming both Page and Noble feel they are still compatible." She shook her head in mock sorrow. "I dunno, somehow I think you might be a troublemaker."
"Me?!" Claire exclaimed in a pretence of outrage. "May I remind you just who sang Ride The Wild Wind in the restaurant and practically caused a riot?" As soon as she said it, Claire wanted to swallow the words. That episode had taken place while Ally had been unknowingly under the influence of a drug that lowered her inhibitions. A more concentrated dose weeks later had put her in the hospital and practically destroyed her mind.
To Claire's relief, only a flicker of pain crossed Ally's face, shrugged off as she murmured, "The most fun I've ever had while stoned."
Evelynne wrapped her arm around her fiancée. "Anyway, that's what we've come up with. Unless you have some other idea?"
Claire shook her head slowly. "I don't think so." She looked up and frowned concernedly. "How much trouble could this get you into?"
"Some," Evelynne admitted. "However, the way things are right now, if the only scandal that erupts is some questionable paperwork I'll be happy."
"In that case, the only other choice you have to make is whether you want Evelynne or me as your mistress." Claire gaped, and Evelynne looked at her partner with her brows raised nearly to her hairline, while Ally hesitated, reviewing what she'd just said. "Uh, that didn't quite come out like I thought it would."
Commandant Dumalo Hetstata, commanding officer of the Atlantlan Royal Army Base Hep-shesut, looked up from the piles of paperwork that were the true duty of any serving officer and frowned, trying to place where the sound had come from.
There was the noise again, and with a sigh the Commandant dug through a mound of readiness reports to locate his intercom. He punched a button with perhaps more force than was strictly necessary. "Yes?" he growled.
There was a brief pause, and then the Corporal who acted as his assistant replied, her voice carefully devoid of emotion. "Sir, training group Sierra-Foxtrot-Six has reported back. You asked to be notified."
Hetstata sighed, rubbing the space between his eyes. He knew he was being snappish, but high alert status inevitably resulted in a quantum increase of the amount of paperwork for any commander, and he had been taking his frustration out on his underlings. While Corporal Miller would likely be fine in the long run, she had also been very recently appointed to her position, and had yet to develop the thick skin that every military assistant required.
"Thank you, Bernice," the Commandant said, his voice more even. "Let me know when they're through debriefing."
There was another pause. "Actually, Sir, Lieutenant Jaqamel is requesting your presence during the debriefing. He is reporting a possible Kilo-Seven, Sir."
That brought Hetstata's brows up. Kilo-Seven was a code used to identify the existence of civilian casualties incurred during a training mission. "I'll be there momentarily," he said instantly, already standing and gathering his uniform jacket. "Have the Exec, Master-at-Arms, and Chief Legal Officer meet me there."
"Already done, Sir," Miller said promptly, and the Commandant's respect for her rose a notch. Sensitive she might be, but the Corporal was showing commendable efficiency.
Ten minutes later, Commandant Hetstata sat across the table from Lieutenant Jaqamel as the soldier began his report.
Fifteen minutes after that, he was on the phone to General Devilliers, the overall commander of all military forces on Lyonesse.
Twenty minutes after that, General Devilliers was calling the fortress of Rehan-el'Pacta.
Lieutenant George Jaqamel was sweating, which was a very rare occurrence. His normal demeanour was calm and focussed, rounded off by the steely determination that had earned him a training spot with Oricalc Company, Atlantl's premiere fighting force, comparable to the United States' Green Berets. Temerity in any situation was something that was quickly and ruthlessly removed from every candidate within the first three weeks of training.
Now, however, Jaqamel was suffused with a feeling of dread and something he was reluctantly beginning to recognise as fear.
Since returning from his latest training mission, he had spent some time under heavy guard at Hep-shesut Base, and then had been whisked with dizzying swiftness to the fortress of the Fist of Peace. That was enough to intimidate any soldier. Rehan-el'Pacta was widely rumoured to be where the Atlantlan government took those it wanted to interrogate with a little more force than might have been considered polite. Personally, Jaqamel thought that the rumours were more myth than fact, but the keep's deadly reputation certainly created an aura of fear, which was probably what the government wanted.
So far, the Lieutenant had been interrogated by three different questioners, twice since arriving at the keep, and once with a polygraph. His interrogators had shown absolutely no sign whether they believed him or not, but that was understandable. Now he was waiting for whoever was going to question him next.
As if summoned by his thoughts, the door opened, and Jaqamel shot to his feet, his parade stance only marred by the shackles that bound his wrists and ankles. The first person through the door was a fairly short man in Royal Guard uniform, who made up for his lack of height by being almost as wide as he was tall. It was all muscle, too, and Jaqamel could see the man cheerfully and doggedly pulling a length of train cars across the Nundes Plains. The second person through the door was almost the first's polar opposite; where her companion was massively built, this woman was almost painfully thin, but it was a strong, wiry slenderness. The only thing similar about them was the expressions they both wore, which said that they would, efficiently and without an ounce of regret, proceed to break the Lieutenant down into component pieces at the slightest provocation. Even with his own impressive training and skill, Jaqamel had no doubt that they could do it, even if he weren't chained.
The third and fourth persons were surprising, and Jaqamel didn't recognise them for a moment. As soon as he did so, however, he stood even more stiffly at attention, before saluting as smartly as he was able, given his bonds, in the traditional Atlantlan style—right forearm held vertically in front of the centreline of his body, palm directly before his face, mimicking the Atlantlan greeting of fingers to forehead, lips, and chest in a single gesture. He held the stance unflinchingly, despite the awkwardness of his left hand being cuffed to his right.
The two women looked at him, the brunette cocking her head to the side slightly, as though puzzled. Lady Dame Alleandre Tretiak, he recognised, though she looked quite different from how he remembered, her hair longer and darker, and a series of what looked like red puncture marks in her right ear. Her companion—who was obviously Her Highness Crown Princess Evelynne deMolay—just looked at him curiously.
Finally, seeming to arrive at whatever conclusion they were looking for, they glanced at each other, and then moved towards the chairs set on the other side of the table.
"At ease, Lieutenant," Princess Evelynne said. "Have a seat."
Jaqamel obediently sat, only relaxing in the slightly. Behind the Princess and her Consort, the two Guards stood on either side of the door as though they were made of stone.
"So, Lieutenant. You know who we are?" the Princess asked, her tone neutral.
"Yes, Your Highness," Jaqamel replied promptly.
"Good. So you know why we have a more… personal interest in what you have to say."
The Lieutenant couldn't stop himself from breaking into a fresh sweat, but his response was admirably level. "Yes, Your Highness."
"Good. You have been advised of your rights under military law?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
The Princess nodded. "Then you should be aware that although neither Lady Alleandre nor myself are military personnel, this interview will proceed under the same regulations. You are considered to be under oath, and you do not have the right to remain silent, although you may request the presence of your attorney. You should also know that we have been granted X-Ray Level clearance for the purposes of this discussion. Do you understand?" She slid a small laminated card across the table for his perusal, and Jaqamel nodded at the familiar item. He had seen several during various interviews in his military career, and it stood to reason that someone as influential as Princess Evelynne would have access.
"Yes, Your Highness. I formally waive my right to have my attorney present at this interview."
She nodded again. Lady Alleandre remained silent, just staring at him with a disconcerting gaze. "Very well, Lieutenant. Please tell us what happened during training mission Sierra-Foxtrot-Six."
"Yes, Your Highness. On November sixteenth, at approximately oh-five-thirty hours, my training team departed Hep-shesut Army Base aboard an Upa'uit-class personnel insertion helicopter. Our preliminary orders were to proceed to Insertion Point Alpha, located approximately one hundred twenty kilometres south of the Base, and secure our position."
"Of whom did your team consist?"
"Your Highness, my team included Lieutenant Eileen Hansen, my second-in-command; Sergeant Hamal al-Terriq, the communications officer; Sergeant Fariq Chaisson; Sergeant Holland Llammalos; and Corporal Monika Murthi, the heavy weapons officer."
Princess Evelynne nodded. "Continue."
"Your Highness. We successfully completed our insertion, and the aircraft departed. We then awaited further orders by radio, as instructed by our preliminary orders. At approximately ten-sixteen hours we received such orders."
"And they were?"
"Your Highness. Once decrypted, our orders instructed us to proceed under Condition Black to Point Echo—"
"Condition Black?" the Princess interrupted.
"Yes, Your Highness." Jaqamel explained, "Condition Black instructs the team to maintain cover and avoid contact with all other persons. Radio silence is required except in the case of extreme emergency."
"I see. Go on."
"Yes, Your Highness. Point Echo was a point on the Maaqez Channel two hundred fifty four kilometres north of Be'narrat. We were expected to arrive at that Point no later than November twentieth." Jaqamel saw the Princess' raised eyebrow, and knew she couldn't help but be impressed. That was a distance of just over five hundred kilometres in four days, over rough terrain, with full gear, and a constant requirement to remain unseen. "My team arrived at Point Echo at approximately twenty-three-forty hours on November nineteenth." That brought another impressed nod, and Jaqamel couldn't help but feel a surge of pride. The hike had been pure hell on Earth, through forests and over mountains in weather that had been, if not strictly freezing, at least miserable.
"At that point, I sent a confirmation signal to Command, and awaited further orders." Without realising it, Jaqamel had stopped using the plural form, unconsciously taking responsibility for what had happened next. "At oh-one-fifty-two hours on November twentieth, final orders were received."
Jaqamel hesitated, steeling himself, seeing the renewed tension in the women across from him and knowing the cause. When he spoke again, his voice was steady, flat, and completely emotionless. "My orders informed me that a live fire target was located approximately one kilometre off the coast by my position. I was ordered to destroy the target, without revealing my position." He drew in a breath. "I relayed the instruction to Corporal Murthi. Reconnaissance identified the target as a mid-size civilian-class marine vessel. Corporal Murthi set up position approximately three hundred metres from the team's location, and calculated a firing solution for an Atti'ka shoulder-launched surface-to-surface missile, and requested a release confirmation. I confirmed the weapons release, and Corporal Murthi fired as instructed. Impact and detonation was observed at two-forty-two hours."
Lady Alleandre winced, breaking eye contact for the first time, and Princess Evelynne put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. There was a long moment of silence and then the Lady took a deep, shaky breath and looked back at the Lieutenant, gesturing for him to continue.
"I immediately gave the order to abandon positions and rally with maximum stealth to Waypoint Charlie. Once the Waypoint was reached, my orders were to proceed back to Hep-shesut Base on foot under Condition Void. Condition Void instructs the squad to maintain absolute radio silence for all conditions severe less than the imminent death of a team member," Jaqamel explained. "All radio communications are completely eliminated, save for the emergency override signal. Even personal com units are deactivated.
"We arrived at Hep-shesut on November twenty ninth, at approximately fourteen-thirty hours, and immediately reported for debriefing. Prior to the debriefing, however, I overheard conversation that led me to believe an… error had been made, and I immediately placed myself and my team under conditional arrest and requested the presence of the base commander."
Lieutenant Jaqamel finished his report and wished for a glass of water. As though reading his thoughts, Lady Alleandre grabbed a glass and poured from the decanter on the table, handing it to him, her movements almost on autopilot.
"Thank you, Your Ladyship," Jaqamel said, carefully taking the glass, though he waited for the Princess' nod before drinking.
"I have some questions." Lady Alleandre spoke quietly for the first time.
The Lieutenant nodded and put down the glass, giving her his full attention.
"Were you aware that the orders originally transmitted to you did not include travelling to the coast and destroying a ship? That after you landed you should have headed into the mountains to destroy a simulated ammunition dump?"
Jaqamel was impressed. Op plans remained highly classified even after the operation had concluded, and the fact that Lady Alleandre was aware was interesting. Many Atlantlans, Jaqamel included, had initially concluded that Her Highness' engagement to this woman was a purely romantic gesture. However, the knowledge she was displaying, not to mention the mere fact that she was conducting this interview, revealed that she was far more than just a pretty face, however intelligent, and had somehow become deeply involved in the real functioning of the government. "I am aware of this now, Your Ladyship," the Lieutenant replied. "However, I can state with certainty that those were not the orders we received. Our orders were as I described."
"There's no chance you could have received them wrongly? No way you could have made a mistake in their interpretation? No way Sergeant al-Terriq could have decrypted them wrong?"
Jaqamel shook his head firmly. "No, Your Ladyship. The orders were clear. I examined Sergeant al-Terriq's decryption myself, as is required in the event of a weapons-free instruction. Hardcopy transcript was recorded per regulations."
"What about the target itself? Could you have made a mistake and targeted the wrong one?"
"No, Your Ladyship. With our instructions was included a detailed description of the target, including its name, registration number, mast height, and other physical characteristics. I verified these details before giving the order to fire."
"You must have seen that the ship wasn't some old wreck. Why did you fire on it when it was obviously in good repair and showed active running lights?" There was tension but no condemnation in the Lady's voice.
"I did observe that, Your Ladyship. However, the parameters of the training mission included a Class Two Realism designation. Such a designation instructs the trainees that all targets and opponents will correspond closely to a real-world operation," Lieutenant Jaqamel explained. "Targets will appear fully real and active, with only concessions to the safety of civilians and military personnel as exceptions. A target building will have no inhabitants, for example."
"And you didn't see anyone on the ship?"
"No, Your Ladyship. The vessel was kept under constant observation by at least one member of the team at all times. At no point did any of them report observing personnel on board." Jaqamel hesitated. "In retrospect, it seems obvious that… all those who were on board were below decks, asleep."
Lady Alleandre nodded noncommittally. Then her gaze sharpened, and Jaqamel shivered at what he could see behind her eyes, finally appreciating just how dangerous this woman actually was. "Lieutenant Jaqamel, are you an agent of, or in the pay of, any domestic or foreign person or persons, with the task of committing acts of espionage or terrorism in this nation?"
The question hit him in the gut like a punch, even though he had already been asked the same question several times before, in a few cases practically word-for-word. "No, Your Ladyship," the Lieutenant said fervently. "I have never, and would never, commit any act of treason such as you are suggesting." There wasn't much more he could say.
There was an uncomfortable silence, as Lady Alleandre stared at him with incredible intensity, as though trying to read the truth or falsehood of his words in his face. Finally she nodded slowly. "And, to the best of your knowledge, is any member of your team such an agent?"
"No, Your Ladyship. To the best of my knowledge they are not, and I have great conviction that none would ever do so."
The loaded silence continued, and then Lady Alleandre slowly relaxed. As if on cue, the other inhabitants of the room, who had seemed to fade into the background during her scrutiny, relaxed as well.
"Thank you," she said finally. She turned to look at Princess Evelynne and a brow rose questioningly.
Princess Evelynne shook her head and got to her feet. Lieutenant Jaqamel immediately rose as well. "Thank you, Lieutenant," she said shortly. "You have been very informative."
"You're welcome, Your Highness," Jaqamel said, saluting. He saluted again in the direction of Lady Alleandre. "Your Ladyship," he began, hesitating, "please allow me to express my sincerest apologies for the injuries you mother has sustained as a result of myself and my team. Y'fay-en o leinus madi, Ur-Mesiya Alleandre." The formal Lantlan phrase acknowledging an unrepayable debt rolled off his tongue with sincerity.
Lady Alleandre paused, and then gave Jaqamel the formal Atlantlan greeting, touching forehead, lips, and chest. "Thank you," she said simply.
Princess Evelynne held the door for her, and just before Lady Alleandre stepped out, the Lady turned to look at him. "For what it's worth, Lieutenant, I believe you. What happened was not your fault."
With that, she was out the door.
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