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       Peacemaker, p.1

           C. J. Cherryh
 
Peacemaker


  C.J. CHERRYH

  THE FOREIGNER UNIVERSE

  FOREIGNER (#1) PRECURSOR (#4)

  INVADER (#2) DEFENDER (#5)

  INHERITOR (#3) EXPLORER (#6)

  DESTROYER (#7) CONSPIRATOR (#10)

  PRETENDER (#8) DECEIVER (#11)

  DELIVERER (#9) BETRAYER (#12)

  INTRUDER (#13)

  PROTECTOR (#14)

  PEACEMAKER (#15)

  THE ALLIANCE-UNION UNIVERSE

  REGENESIS

  DOWNBELOW STATION

  THE DEEP BEYOND Omnibus:

  Serpent’s Reach | Cuckoo’s Egg

  ALLIANCE SPACE Omnibus:

  Merchanter’s Luck | 40,000 in Gehenna

  THE FADED SUN Omnibus:

  Kesrith | Shon’jir | Kutath

  THE CHANUR NOVELS

  THE CHANUR SAGA Omnibus:

  The Pride Of Chanur | Chanur’s Venture | The Kif Strike Back

  CHANUR’S ENDGAME Omnibus:

  Chanur’s Homecoming | Chanur’s Legacy

  THE MORGAINE CYCLE

  THE MORGAINE SAGA Omnibus:

  Gate of Ivrel | Well of Shiuan | Fires of Azeroth

  EXILE’S GATE

  OTHER WORKS:

  THE DREAMING TREE Omnibus:

  The Tree of Swords and Jewels | The Dreamstone

  ALTERNATE REALITIES Omnibus:

  Port Eternity | Wave Without a Shore | Voyager in Night

  THE COLLECTED SHORT FICTION OF C.J. CHERRYH

  Copyright © 2013 by C. J. Cherryh.

  All rights reserved.

  Jacket art by Todd Lockwood.

  DAW Books Collectors No. 1648.

  DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA)

  Book designed by Stanley S. Drate/Folio Graphics Co., Inc.

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious.

  All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

  The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  ISBN 978-1-101-63521-6 (eBook)

  DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES—MARCA REGISTRADA HECHO EN U.S.A.

  Version_1

  CONTENTS

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  To Jane. For the best of reasons.

  Prologue

  By the charter of the Assassins’ Guild, there are several requirements preceding a legal assassination. First comes the Filing of Intent. In this process, a Document of Intent is entered into the official state registry, stating the issue between the parties, so that there is a permanent record, sealed, ribboned, and kept in archive. Any answering document is similarly filed.

  There must then be a public advisement of impending Guild Council action, and an opportunity for the Assassins’ Guild Council to obtain depositions from both sides. Only after determining that there may exist adequate cause for a Filing, does the Guild Council debate the merits of the Filing, and consider the potential for remedy short of lethal action. This deliberation may, at the Council’s sole discretion, entail testimony from Guild members employed by either or both sides of the debate as to whether there can be any settlement. And there may be yet another delay imposed while the Guild urges resolution short of action.

  If all measures have failed to secure a legal resolution, the Filing is approved by Council vote, and there is a date set after which action is possible.

  The Filing is published, and all parties are notified.

  This affords an opportunity for the targeted party’s bodyguard to take precautions, and a date and hour after which the complainant’s bodyguard may initiate offensive action, entering whatever premises it needs to in order to reach their target.

  In the case of lords or officials employing a permanent bodyguard, the bodyguard on either side will be in contact with the central Guild at all steps of the process. No advantage of information will be given to either side, but in the event an attacking or defending unit wishes to suspend action, they may contact the Guild and let the Guild mediate a solution mutually acceptable.

  Generally in small cases, particularly involving property or divorce, approval is given by an office of the Council, without Council debate, but with the deposition of witnesses. Once the Filing is approved by this process, there is a time limit imposed, usually of ninety-nine days, after which all attempts to carry out an assassination must cease and the Filing is set aside.

  In practice, the Guild wishes to avoid bloodshed among its own members, and Guild units may at any time ask a truce in which to advise their lord that their defense has failed and that he must cede whatever is at issue, since he and they will not otherwise survive.

  The number of lords who have pressed a case against the advice of their own bodyguards is relatively small. A unit abandoning its lord or surrendering him to capture or death may be prosecuted, except if the lord has issued a false statement in the Filing or if the lord is judged to have been mentally or physically incapable of sound judgment. The latter escape clause has frequently been supported by relatives and servants.

  In the case of a private citizen who has no regular bodyguard, a complainant must engage the services of the Assassins’ Guild from the date of the Filing, and the case is heard by the Office of the Council. The defendant against the Filing must, on notification, either cede the case, if property or a divorce, or hire Assassins for his protection for the usual ninety-nine days—an expensive proposition for the ordinary citizen to maintain long term, hence a heavier burden of time for the complainant—but there are occasional pro bono Filings.

  Lethal force in civil disputes is common in potential—but far less common in actuality. The Filing of Intent affords a cooling-off period, requires depositions and an official vote at some level acknowledging that a wrong exists, and it offers constant opportunities for Guild to secure a negotiated settlement.

  A Filing of Intent is absolutely required before action may be taken against a person or institution, except in defense against an illicit attack. In that case, whatever force the defender can muster on the spot is legal. An attack is defined as a movement within arm’s length of the defender, or the first use of a distance weapon or weapon of stealth such as poison.

  It is absolutely forbidden for anyone other than a Guild Assassin to bring violence against a fellow citizen, except in defense of self, employer, household, clan property, or national treasure. A person who violates this law is outlawed, subject to lethal Guild action with no time limit.

  In the event a person finds himself thus outlawed, he is permitted to surrender to the aiji’s judgment, in consultation with the Guild.

  Edward P. Wilson, Translator, ret., The Assassins’
Guild, Emeritus Lecture Series #133, The University of Mospheira . . .

  1

  There were rules of operation for every guild—and in the case of the Assassins’ Guild, the rules were literally a matter of life and death.

  There were rules against collateral damage.

  There were rules about specificity of the target. An assassination had to be announced a certain number of days in advance. And the target was limited to the individual named.

  There were rules about protection of children and uninvolved parties, like neighbors, or guests.

  There were rules forbidding aerial attack, explosive traps, and the use of wires where any other individual, including servants, might accidently run afoul of them.

  And there were rules forbidding damage to property. An action was not supposed to happen, say, where it might damage artworks, national treasures, livestock, or a person’s means of livelihood.

  Well, they’d done that, a bit, this morning. There was bound to be complaint.

  Bren Cameron closed the computer file. The last time he’d read Wilson’s paper on the topic, he’d been on a plane bound across the straits to serve a new aiji in Shejidan. He’d been, in that long-ago meeting with the Secretary of State, handed his credentials, computer-printed. He’d been handed the official dictionary, containing all the words approved for him to use in communication with the atevi.

  And with that, State had launched him, the youngest paidhi who’d ever held the office, as Wilson-paidhi’s replacement.

  He’d been excited by the appointment, scared to death of the responsibility—and completely unsure whether a novice in Wilson’s job was going to survive the year—in the real sense of life and death—or even whether he might be met at the airport by some party that wasn’t official, and he’d have no way on earth to know who he was really dealing with.

  He’d studied the Ragi language for years. He was good at math, a requirement for the language study program. He’d qualified as a backup translator for the Department of State, intended to become one of those faceless individuals who sat in little cubicles parsing atevi publications for clues to policy and mining them for new words that weren’t officially approved, but that ought to be known to other translators.

  He’d landed at Shejidan airport on a sunny afternoon. He’d been met by two of the aiji’s own black-uniformed bodyguard and escorted up into the Bujavid, the fortress on the hill that rose picturesquely above the red tiled roofs and maze-like streets of the capital. He’d been assigned living quarters, a modest suite in the servants’ wing.

  Then he’d been handed a small ring with three keys, and had had only enough time to toss his bag into the room before his escort had led him on a confusing route to a barren office roughly three meters by three.

  The office supplies, on otherwise vacant shelves, had consisted of a packet of copying paper, a packet of fine paper, three well-used pens—computers were not part of the technology surrendered to atevi at that point—and three somewhat worn message cylinders. On that small desk had stood a bottle of ink, a bundle of reeds, a pen-rest, a shaker of sand, and a waxjack for the seals he’d create with the re-sized seal ring he’d worn back to the mainland. It was Wilson’s ring, surrendered along with the office.

  He still wore it. And used it.

  He’d had no clue on that day even how to use the waxjack. Left to his own devices, he’d found the lighter beside the device, lit the wick, and discovered that its whole function was to melt white wax from a winding coil on its baroque stand and drip it—he’d hastily inserted a piece of paper to prevent a wax spatter on the brass plate below—into a small, nicely unstained white puddle on a document. One adjusted the flame to prevent the wax collecting soot.

  That, indeed, was what it did. It was the finest instrument in the little office. In point of fact, it was the only instrument in the little office, except a penknife to sharpen reed pens—literally, to shape pens out of the little bundle of reeds, a species that grew to a natural size, of a certain toughness, and that actually made Ragi calligraphy rather easier, once one got the knack.

  He’d made his first impression with his ring of office on a letter to Tabini-aiji officially reporting his presence, his satisfaction with the arrangements, and his hopes for a good relationship between atevi and humans. He’d put his rolled letter into one of the little message cylinders, the nicest. And there he’d sat—Bren Cameron, from the human enclave on the island of Mospheira, on the Earth of the atevi, the sole human allowed to set foot on the mainland—wondering how he was going to get his letter delivered.

  He had become staff to Tabini-aiji, the young ruler of the Western Association, the aishidi’tat, which for complicated historical reasons amounted to the rest of the planet. The wax that would bear his seal imprint was white, like the ribbon that would tie his—at that time—very short queue.

  White was the heraldic color of the paidhi-aiji—a neutral party, the translator who conveyed messages between the atevi world and the human population who’d dropped, unasked, onto their planet.

  All of Mospheira lived on the tolerance of the atevi. And the last decade or so, after a period of progress, had been a particularly anxious time—first the unexpected death of Valasi-aiji, then the rule of the aiji-regent, Ilisidi, Valasi’s mother. Ilisidi had ceased meeting with Wilson-paidhi, who described negotiations with her as like talking to a stone statue.

  Then Valasi’s son, Tabini, had come of age, demanding the legislature elect him aiji and set aside the aiji-regent. And among his first acts in that office, Tabini had indicated to Wilson that he should go back to Mospheira and not come back.

  Wilson’s word for Tabini had been— dangerous.

  Bren had had that warning. He’d read Wilson’s notes.

  He’d come into his office as a babe in the woods, no older in years than Tabini-aiji, and dropped into a very different life, a foreign world to which he was obliged to conform, right down to the clothes he was wearing and the ribbon that had barely enough braid to pin to.

  He’d learned a lot over the years. He’d changed . . . oh, a great deal.

  He sat here now on a regular train, in company with his own bodyguard, the four closest people in the world to him—towering, black-skinned, black-haired, black-uniformed. The only color about them was the deep, burning gold of their eyes.

  And he loved them—loved them, although that had been one of the words not only missing from that early dictionary—but forever missing from the entire atevi mindset. Atevi didn’t love. Everybody on Mospheira knew that. They didn’t love and they didn’t have friends.

  But atevi had man’chi, which in the case of these four, and their Guild, meant everything. They were his. They’d walk through fire for him. And he loved them for it.

  They, of course, still thought that love was for salads and man’chi was for people you’d die for.

  That slightly mismatched feeling wasn’t supposed to go both ways, either, but it did.

  They’d damned near died for him this morning, and Banichi had one hand supported in a half-zipped jacket because he was too damned stubborn to wear a sling. “I can still use it,” was Banichi’s answer, and Banichi’s partner Jago and teammates Tano and Algini simply shrugged off their unit-senior’s hard-headedness as drug-induced, and watched out for him.

  More than physical, that wound. Banichi had taken down a former teammate this morning—an enemy, an old relationship with a bitter history. Banichi was on painkillers and around the clock without sleep. He was finally getting a little on the train. So were his three teammates.

  Banichi’s team hadn’t asked Banichi any deep questions on the matter, not that Bren had heard. Not even Jago had asked, and she happened to be Banichi’s daughter—a fact it had taken Bren years to learn, and that no one within the unit ever acknowledged.

  Most in this very ordinary train car were black-uni
formed Guild, and most were taking the chance to catch a little sleep: Bren’s own four-person bodyguard, Ilisidi’s, and the elder bodyguard of Lord Tatiseigi of the Atageini—all, all had nodded off.

  Ilisidi was sleeping in her own way, fully and formally dressed in many-buttoned black lace, with her cane somewhat before her and her hands on it—she at least had her eyes shut, and one was not always sure whether she really was asleep. The dowager admitted nothing about her age, but it was considerable. Lord Tatiseigi, beside her, attempted to stay awake, but he, of Ilisidi’s generation, was giving way, too. The youngsters at the other end of the car—Cajeiri and his three young guests—human youngsters, all just under or over the age of ten—were all collapsed. Cajeiri’s young bodyguard was cat-napping by turns, that unit stubbornly staying on duty in the presence of so many exhausted senior units.

  Jase Graham, in the seat across from Bren’s, was dead to the world. His two bodyguards, Kaplan and Polano, were up forward in the next car, with their five detainees, who would not be enjoying the trip in the least.

  Jase was one of the four ship-captains—and another of Cajeiri’s birthday guests. At least Jase had come down to the world with the human youngsters. But he’d actually come down, Bren was increasingly sure, because Lord Geigi, atevi master of half the space station, had gotten a briefing that had very much alarmed him.

  Bren tapped computer keys with a code that had to be input, or certain stored data would vanish, and certain hidden files would, at very great inconvenience, expand and install themselves instead.

  The file Bren called up now was simply titled: For my successor: Read this.

  There were several sections to the file that came up: codes, notes on various topics, dossiers on numerous people, who to contact first and second. He double-checked that list in consideration of recent events, and of who was advantageously located at the moment, with the legislature in session. He kept the index of the collection sparse, and frequently updated. If a successor took over in a moment of crisis, that paidhi would need certain information fast. He had duplicated these essential files in Ragi and in Mosphei’, since he had no idea in what language his successor might be more fluent. Both, he hoped. Both, would be good.

 
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