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Zoe's Tale Part 25

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"It's true," Gretchen said, not unkindly. "It really is."

"Enzo thought of you as his brother," I said. "You're my brother too. You have been all this time. I love you, Magdy."

"I love you too, Zoe," Magdy said quietly, and then looked straight at me. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." I gave him another hug. "Just remember that as your new family member I'm now ent.i.tled to give you all sorts of c.r.a.p."

"I can't wait," Magdy said, and then turned to Gretchen. "Does this make you my sister too?"



"Considering our history, you better hope not," Gretchen said. Magdy laughed at that, which was a good sign, then gave me a peck on a cheek, gave Gretchen a hug, and then walked from the grave of his friend and brother.

"Do you think he's going to be okay?" I asked Gretchen, as we watched him go.

"No," Gretchen said. "Not for a long time. I know you loved Enzo, Zoe, I really do, and I don't want this to sound like I'm trying to undercut that. But Enzo and Magdy were two halves of the same whole." She nodded to Magdy. "You lost someone you love. He's He's lost part of himself. I don't know if he's going to get over that." lost part of himself. I don't know if he's going to get over that."

"You can help him," I said.

"Maybe," Gretchen said. "But think about what you're asking me to do."

I laughed. It's why I loved Gretchen. She was the smartest girl I ever knew, and smart enough to know that being smart had its own repercussions. She could help Magdy, all right, by becoming part of what he was missing. But it meant her being that, one way or another, for the rest of their lives. She would do it, because when it came down to it she really did love Magdy. But she was right to worry about what it meant for her.

"Anyway," Gretchen said, "I'm not done helping someone else."

I snapped out of my thoughts at that. "Oh," I said. "Well. You know. I'm okay."

"I know," Gretchen said. "I also know you lie horribly."

"I can't fool you," I said.

"No," Gretchen said. "Because what Enzo was to Magdy, I am to you."

I hugged her. "I know," I said.

"Good," Gretchen said. "Whenever you forget, I'll remind you."

"Okay," I said. We unhugged and Gretchen left me alone with Enzo and his family, and I sat with them for a long time.

Four days later, a note from Dad from a skip drone from Phoenix Station.

A miracle, it said. I'm not headed for prison. We are heading back on the next supply ship. Tell Hickory and d.i.c.kory that I will need to speak to them when I return. Love you I'm not headed for prison. We are heading back on the next supply ship. Tell Hickory and d.i.c.kory that I will need to speak to them when I return. Love you.

There was another note for Jane, but she didn't tell me what was in it.

"Why would Dad want to talk to you?" I asked Hickory.

"We don't know," Hickory said. "The last time he and I spoke of anything of any importance was the day-I am sorry-that your friend Enzo died. Some time ago, before we left Huckleberry, I had mentioned to Major Perry that the Obin government and the Obin people stood ready to a.s.sist you and your family here on Roanoke should you need our a.s.sistance. Major Perry reminded me of that conversation and asked me if the offer still stood. I told him that at the time I believed it did."

"You think Dad is going to ask for your help?" I asked.

"I do not know," Hickory said. "And since I last spoke to Major Perry circ.u.mstances have changed."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"d.i.c.kory and I have finally received detailed updated information from our government, up to and including its a.n.a.lysis of the Colonial Union's attack on the Conclave fleet," Hickory said. "The most important piece of news is that we have been informed that shortly after the Magellan Magellan disappeared, the Colonial Union came to the Obin government and asked it not to search for the Roanoke colony, nor to offer it a.s.sistance if it were to be located by the Conclave or any other race." disappeared, the Colonial Union came to the Obin government and asked it not to search for the Roanoke colony, nor to offer it a.s.sistance if it were to be located by the Conclave or any other race."

"They knew you would come looking for me," I said.

"Yes," Hickory said.

"But why would they tell you not to help us?" I asked.

"Because it would interfere with the Colonial Union's own plans to lure the Conclave fleet to Roanoke," Hickory said.

"That's happened," I said. "That's done. The Obin can help us now," I said.

"The Colonial Union has asked us to continue not to offer aid or a.s.sistance to Roanoke," Hickory said.

"That makes no sense," I said.

"We are inclined to agree," Hickory said.

"But that means that you can't even help me, me," I said.

"There is a difference between you and the colony of Roanoke," Hickory said. "The Colonial Union cannot ask us not to protect or a.s.sist you. It would violate the treaty between our peoples, and the Colonial Union would not want to do that, especially now. But the Colonial Union may choose to interpret the treaty narrowly and has. Our treaty concerns you, Zoe. To a much lesser extent it concerns your family, meaning Major Perry and Lieutenant Sagan. It does not concern Roanoke colony at all."

"It does when I live live here," I said. "This colony is of a great deal of concern to here," I said. "This colony is of a great deal of concern to me. me. Its people are of a great deal of concern to Its people are of a great deal of concern to me. me. Everybody I care about in the whole universe is here. Roanoke matters to me. It should matter to you." Everybody I care about in the whole universe is here. Roanoke matters to me. It should matter to you."

"We did not say it did not matter to us, us," Hickory said, and I heard something in its voice I had never heard before: reproach reproach. "Nor do we suggest it does not matter to you, for many reasons. We are telling you how the Colonial Union is asking the Obin government to view its rights under treaty. And we are telling you that our government, for its own reasons, has agreed."

"So if my dad asks for your help, you will tell him no," I said.

"We will tell him that so long as Roanoke is a Colonial Union world, we are unable to offer help."

"So, no, no," I said.

"Yes," Hickory said. "We are sorry, Zoe."

"I want you to give me the information your government has given you," I said.

"We will do so," Hickory said. "But it is in our native language and file formatting, and will take a considerable amount of time for your PDA to translate."

"I don't care," I said.

"As you wish," Hickory said.

Not too long after that I stared at the screen of my PDA and ground my teeth together as it slowly plodded through file transformations and translations. I realized it would be easier just to ask Hickory and d.i.c.kory about it all, but I wanted to see it all with my own eyes. However long it took.

It took long enough that I had hardly read any of it by the time Dad and the others had made it home.

"This all looks like gibberish to me," Gretchen said, looking at the doc.u.ments I was showing her on my PDA. "It's like it was translated from monkey or something."

"Look," I said. I pulled up a different doc.u.ment. "According to this, blowing up the Conclave fleet backfired. It was supposed to make the Conclave collapse and all the races start shooting at each other. Well, the Conclave is starting to collapse, but hardly any of them are actually fighting each other. They're attacking Colonial Union worlds instead. They really messed this up."

"If you say this is what it says, I'm going to believe you," Gretchen said. "I'm not actually finding verbs here."

I pulled up another doc.u.ment. "Here, this is about a Conclave leader named Nerbros Eser. He's General Gau's main compet.i.tion for leadership of the Conclave now. Gau still doesn't want to attack the Colonial Union directly, even though we just destroyed his fleet. He still thinks the Conclave is strong enough to keep doing what it's been doing. But this Eser guy thinks the Conclave should just wipe us out. The Colonial Union. And especially us here on Roanoke. Just to make the point that you don't mess with the Conclave. The two of them are fighting over control of the Conclave right now."

"Okay," Gretchen said. "But I still don't know what any of this means, means, Zoe. Speak not-hyper-ese to me. You're losing me." Zoe. Speak not-hyper-ese to me. You're losing me."

I stopped and took a breath. Gretchen was right. I'd spent most of the last day reading these doc.u.ments, drinking coffee, and not sleeping; I was not at the peak of my communication skills. So I tried again.

"The whole point of founding Roanoke colony was to start a war," I said.

"It looks like it worked," Gretchen said.

"No," I said. "It was supposed to start a war within within the Conclave. Blowing up their fleet was supposed to tear the Conclave apart from the inside. It would end the threat of this huge coalition of alien races and bring things back to the way it was before, when every race was fighting every other race. We trigger a civil war, and then we sweep in while they're all fighting and scoop up the worlds we want and come out of it all stronger than before-maybe too strong for any one race or even a small group of races to square off against. That was the plan." the Conclave. Blowing up their fleet was supposed to tear the Conclave apart from the inside. It would end the threat of this huge coalition of alien races and bring things back to the way it was before, when every race was fighting every other race. We trigger a civil war, and then we sweep in while they're all fighting and scoop up the worlds we want and come out of it all stronger than before-maybe too strong for any one race or even a small group of races to square off against. That was the plan."

"But you're telling me it didn't work that way," Gretchen said.

"Right," I said. "We blew up the fleet and got the Conclave members fighting, but who they're fighting is us. us. The reason we didn't like the Conclave is that it was four hundred against one, the one being us. Well, now it's still four hundred against one, except now no one's listening to the one guy who was keeping them from engaging in total war against us." The reason we didn't like the Conclave is that it was four hundred against one, the one being us. Well, now it's still four hundred against one, except now no one's listening to the one guy who was keeping them from engaging in total war against us."

"Us here on Roanoke," Gretchen said.

"Us everywhere," I said. "The Colonial Union. Humans. Us. Us. This is happening now," I said. "Colonial Union worlds are being attacked. Not just the new colony worlds, the ones that usually get attacked. Even the established colonies-the ones that haven't been attacked in decades-are getting hit. And unless General Gau gets them all back in line, these attacks are going to keep happening. They're going to get worse." This is happening now," I said. "Colonial Union worlds are being attacked. Not just the new colony worlds, the ones that usually get attacked. Even the established colonies-the ones that haven't been attacked in decades-are getting hit. And unless General Gau gets them all back in line, these attacks are going to keep happening. They're going to get worse."

"I think you need a new hobby," Gretchen said, handing me back my PDA. "Your new one here is really depressing."

"I'm not trying to scare you," I said. "I thought you would want to know about all this."

"You don't have to tell me," Gretchen said. "You need to tell your parents. Or my dad. Someone who actually knows what to do about all this."

"They already know," I said. "I heard John and Jane talking about it last night after he got back from Phoenix Station. Everyone there knows the colonies are under attack. No one's reporting reporting it-the Colonial Union has a lockdown on the news-but everyone's talking about it." it-the Colonial Union has a lockdown on the news-but everyone's talking about it."

"What does that leave for Roanoke?" Gretchen said.

"I don't know," I said. "But I know we don't have a lot of pull right now."

"So we're all going to die," Gretchen said. "Well. Gee. Thanks, Zoe. I'm really glad to know it."

"It's not that bad yet," I said. "Our parents are working on it. They'll figure it out. We're not all going to die."

"Well, you're you're not going to die, at least," Gretchen said. not going to die, at least," Gretchen said.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"If things really go swirling, the Obin will swoop in and take you out of here," Gretchen said. "Although if all of the Colonial Union is really under attack, I'm not sure where you're going to end up going. But the point is, you have an escape route. The rest of us don't."

I stared at Gretchen. "That's incredibly unfair," I said. "I'm not going anywhere, Gretchen."

"Why?" Gretchen said. "I'm not angry angry at you that you have a way out, Zoe. I'm at you that you have a way out, Zoe. I'm envious. envious. I've been through one attack. Just one missile got through and it didn't even explode properly, and it still did incredible damage and killed someone I care about and everyone in his family. When they come for us for real, we don't have a chance." I've been through one attack. Just one missile got through and it didn't even explode properly, and it still did incredible damage and killed someone I care about and everyone in his family. When they come for us for real, we don't have a chance."

"You still have your training," I said.

"I'm not going to be able to engage in single combat with a missile, missile, Zoe," Gretchen said, annoyed. "Yes, if someone decides to have a landing party here, I might be able to fight them off for a while. But after what we've done to that Conclave fleet, do you think anyone is really going to bother? They're just going to blow us up from the sky. You said it yourself. They want to be rid of us. And you're the only one that has a chance of getting out of here." Zoe," Gretchen said, annoyed. "Yes, if someone decides to have a landing party here, I might be able to fight them off for a while. But after what we've done to that Conclave fleet, do you think anyone is really going to bother? They're just going to blow us up from the sky. You said it yourself. They want to be rid of us. And you're the only one that has a chance of getting out of here."

"I already said I'm not going anywhere," I said.

"Jesus, Zoe," Gretchen said. "I love you, I really do, but I can't believe you're actually that dumb. If you have a chance to go, go. go. I don't want you to die. Your mom and dad don't want it. The Obin will hack a path through all the rest of us to keep you from dying. I think you should take the hint." I don't want you to die. Your mom and dad don't want it. The Obin will hack a path through all the rest of us to keep you from dying. I think you should take the hint."

"I get the hint," I said. "But you don't understand. I've been been the sole survivor, Gretchen. It's happened to me before. Once is enough for any lifetime. I'm not going anywhere." the sole survivor, Gretchen. It's happened to me before. Once is enough for any lifetime. I'm not going anywhere."

"Hickory and d.i.c.kory want you to leave Roanoke," Dad said to me, after he had paged me with his PDA. Hickory and d.i.c.kory were standing in the living room with him. I was clearly coming in on some sort of negotiation between them. And it was also clearly about me. The tone of Dad's voice was light enough that I could tell he was hoping to make some point to the Obin, and I was pretty sure I knew what the point was.

"Are you and Mom coming?" I said.

"No," Dad said.

This I expected. Whatever was going to happen with the colony, both John and Jane would see it through, even if it meant they would die with it. It's what they expected of themselves as colony leaders, as former soldiers, and as human beings.

"Then to h.e.l.l with that," I said. I looked at Hickory and d.i.c.kory when I said it.

"Told you," Dad said to Hickory.

"You didn't tell her to come away," Hickory said.

"Go away, Zoe," Dad said. This was said with such a sarcastic delivery that even Hickory and d.i.c.kory couldn't miss it.

I gave a less-than-entirely-polite response to that, and then to Hickory and d.i.c.kory, and then, for good measure, to the whole idea that I was something special to the Obin. Because I was feeling saucy, and also because I was tired of the whole thing. "If you want to protect me," I said to Hickory, "then protect this colony. Protect the people I care about."

"We cannot," Hickory said. "We are forbidden to do so."

"Then you have a problem," I said, "because I'm not going anywhere. And there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it." And then I left, dramatically, partly because I think that was what Dad was expecting, and partly because I was done saying what I wanted to say on the matter.

Then I went to my room and waited for Dad to call me again. Because whatever was going on between him and Hickory and d.i.c.kory, it wasn't over when I stomped out of the room. And like I said, whatever it was, was clearly about me.

About ten minutes later Dad called for me again. I went back into the living room. Hickory and d.i.c.kory were gone.

"Sit down, Zoe, please," Dad said. "I need you to do something for me."

"Does it involve leaving Roanoke?" I asked.

"It does," Dad said.

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Zoe's Tale Part 25 summary

You're reading Zoe's Tale. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): John Scalzi. Already has 154 views.

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