A civilian shuttle landed at the Attila military base in Northern Amapá. Soldiers circled about it, and one tapped on the window. It rolled down.
The soldier peered in. “Welcome to Fort Leguan. I need all of you to step out of the shuttle.”
The door opened. Christof stepped out, then Winnie. To the soldiers, they appeared as a general and an exemplar. Christof held a briefcase by his side. Winnie cradled a tortoise.
That drew the soldier’s eyes. “What is your purpose at Leguan?”
“We’re expected,” Christof said.
“This is for security. I need you to answer our questions. What are you doing here?”
“We’re here to see the queen.”
Christof and Winnie handed over IDs. The soldier’s didn’t react at all to Christof’s identity as General Soto, who was one of the most wanted men in the empire. Winnie wasn’t surprised. Both of the men’s aura’s were exposed.
The soldier handed the IDs back. “Come with me. We’ll get you scanned and checked out.”
“A security screening?” asked Christof. “We’re not to be scanned. There should be a note about that.”
“You’re getting scanned.”
“We’re in possession of privileged information.”
“Listen,” the guard said. “There have been three attacks on the queen in the last month. You’re not getting near the queen without a scan.”
Christof’s hands tightened on his briefcase.
“It’s okay, Private.” Josephine approached from the administration building. “Let them through.”
The guard hesitated. “Minister Molyneux, I have instructions to clear everyone without exception.”
“They’ve already been cleared. They just finished passing through security.”
He frowned. He and his fellow soldiers exchanged glances. Their auras hiccuped in a way Winnie had gotten used to seeing.
Josephine waved Christof and Winnie over.
“Wait a moment,” the guard said, then paused as though lost in thought. His partners weren’t any better.
“Just come along,” Josephine said. “They’ll be fine after we leave.” They walked to the administrative building. “Did you find it?” she asked.
Christof held up the suitcase.
Josephine sighed. “Thank God. You don’t know what it’s been like.”
“It doesn’t sound like it’s been that bad, Minister,” Winnie said.
“That’s just a harmless white lie. No one will remember after I’m gone. Come on. I can’t leave him alone for long.”
They entered the administrative building. People were collected in the lobby. They flocked at the sight of Josephine. Everyone spoke at once.
“I need a word with you.”
“Madame. Where is the queen?”
“Is she okay?”
“I have the Chinese Prime Minister on the line.”
“She needs to make a press announcement.”
“The Ministery of Aviation needs to speak with Helena.”
Winnie could hardly make out what any of them were saying.
Josephine held up a staying hand. “If everyone will be quiet. Queen Helena will be available just as soon as the medical team clears her. Now please, clear the way.” She led Winnie and Christof past guards and up a flight of stairs.
In an office at the end of a hall, Alexander was sitting at a desk covered with playing cards and a cribbage board. Winnie knew from her spying that Josephine had been his playing partner, and he was waiting for her to return. Sibyl sat nearby. She’d been in no mood to play, since unlike Alexander, she knew what was coming.
Alexander smiled. He didn’t mind that no one else did. “Hello. Ah, good. Two more. Perfect. Everyone, come in. Sit down. Do any of you know how to play cribbage? It’s an older game, but I assure you it’s aged well.” He looked from Winnie to Christof, trying to meet their eyes. “No? I guess we’re going to do something else then. I don’t suppose any of you brought anything to drink.”
Christof set the briefcase on the table and popped it open. Inside a manilla folder were sheets of line paper. They were copies of glyphs Alexander had stored in a government-controlled deposit box in Poro Maná, far away from Naema’s destructive gaze. Not even Sibyl knew exactly bank he’d gone to. Tan’s dice had shortened the search dramatically
“What?” Alex peered at the glyph. “Is that a tribal tattoo? Normally those come after drinking.”
Winnie set Helena on the table.
“A turtle?” Alex asked.
Helena stared directly at him. It was looking into her eyes that Alex’s smile finally faltered. For the first time since he’d lost his memory, Alexander had an idea what was about to happen.
“No.” Winnie replied. “She’s a tortoise.”