Hurry Up and Wait

“A well coordinated team is one where every member knows their role and responsibilities. The whole machine will collapse if one person takes on too much, or if anyone is not sure of their duties. Thus the leader’s role should be to enforce strict guidelines of behavior.”

-from Ashbridge’s Leadership Guide, 4th Ed

Sid banner

By the time that Sandreas returned from his trip to Vaneik's funeral, Sid was at the end of his rope and ready to tie the noose. He didn't know how Sandreas coped with the constant nonsense that was thrown his way every second of every day. It was hard to focus on the million little things that everyone wanted from him when all he really wanted to be doing was going to look for Yan. It wasn't realistic, but Sid wanted to spend his every second poring over the documents that had come off of the Tranquility, following up on every report, and coordinating every effort to go find her.

Unfortunately, those documents were turning up a whole lot of nothing. There were more qualified people checking over them as well, but even they were having no luck. The more time passed, the more helpless and angry he became. It was made worse by the fact that no one had been told that Yan was missing. Sid had to smile and pretend that everything was alright in public, but it really, really wasn't.

Sandreas came back in the middle of the night, and Sid was awake to see it. He had taken to spending nights in his office in Stonecourt, unable to sleep. He waited for updates and searched for clues in the information until all the words ran together like soup and he was able to pass out. He often wished for Vena, but he knew that wouldn't be acceptable or pleasing to Sandreas. After all, he had only just finished his punishment that was a direct result of his previous drug use.

Sid had gotten updates on Sandreas's travel plans as soon as his ship had jumped back into the system, so Sid knew approximately when to be watching out the windows for Sandreas. The distinctive caravan of car lights coming into the side entrance of Stonecourt tipped him off that he was back. Sid made the long trudge down from his office to the door to meet them as they came in. Hernan had gone home hours ago- though he had stayed with Sid the first few days that he had stayed up, Sid had ordered him to go home after a couple times. After all, even if Sid was going to suffer, that didn't mean Hernan had to.

The group that entered Stonecourt seemed to be in an even fouler mood than Sid himself. Sandreas was scowling in the way he did whenever he was frustrated, Halen wore a look of utter exhaustion, and Kino's fingers were chewed to bits- a new bad habit that Sid had never seen her engage in. Right now, she was yanking on a rubber band, maybe in an effort to stop her from completely eating the rest of her fingernails. Sandreas was surprised to see Sid, probably because it was the middle of the night.

"Sid, what are you doing up?" Sandreas asked as they met in the hallway outside the parking garage.

"Just came to welcome you home."

Sandreas's face twitched into an even deeper frown. "I'll still be here in the morning."

"You're not happy to see me?" Sid asked, unable to resist, even though he could practically taste his own foot as he spoke.

"Not in the mood, Sid," Sandreas said shortly. "Go home. Take Kino with you."

"I'm not a dog," Kino said. "Or a child."

"Oh, for God's sake, Kino," Sandreas snapped, his face red. "Go home. Get some sleep."

Kino yanked the rubber band so hard that it broke, sending a piece flying at Sid. He flinched away from it, not yet used to having the power back to reflexively divert things. It was as though he had to relearn the instinct for it from scratch. He hated the thought. Halen put his hand on Sandreas's shoulder, and he relaxed a fraction.

"Sid, we're glad to see you, we're glad to be back," Halen said. "But we're all tired. We can talk more in the morning."

With that, Sandreas and Halen brushed past Sid, heading off toward Sandreas's apartment in Stonecourt. Sid and Kino were left staring uncomfortably at each other in the hallway.

"I'm sorry that Sandreas yelled at you," Sid said, though he didn't know why he was apologizing for someone else. It wasn't really his fault that Sandreas yelled at her, even if he had done his part to rile him up.

"It's okay. We haven't had a good trip," Kino said.

"What happened?" Sid asked. "I mean, aside from Yan."

"I'll tell you at home," Kino said.

"You're actually going to go home?"

"I'm tired."

"Fine. We should take a car." Sid started to head down into the garage.

"Why?" Kino asked.

"More security, ever since Yan, you know." Sid didn’t love the increased security, and he liked being able to walk around, but Hernan kept yelling at him about it every time he walked out the doors without a guard. At least now taking a car would help avoid some of the nastier cold night weather.

"I'm going to walk," Kino said. She walked past Sid in the opposite direction.

"What, why? It's gross out."

"I've been in space for the past two weeks. I'd rather walk." She didn't pause as she headed up the stairs at the end of the hallway. Sid debated internally whether he should follow her or not. She had left his line of sight already. He dashed after her. As they reached the exit to Stonecourt, two guards peeled off from their contingent and followed them. Sid and Kino both ignored them and continued to walk in an awkward line. Sid didn't want to be next to Kino, so he trailed her. Kino had apparently no interest in appearing more normal, so she stayed comfortably ahead of Sid, even though she must have been aware of his presence.

The night air was frigid. Sid had left his winter cloak up in his office, and he was missing it now. The large moon was overhead, but it was mostly obscured by clouds. All the little trees in the sidewalks were bare, and there were nearly invisible frozen puddles all over the sidewalks. It wasn't winter, exactly, but it was cold. Sid could see his breath every time they passed underneath a streetlight. Kino walked at the same pace, regardless of whether they were going uphill or down, and crossed streets with absolutely no care for her personal safety. They were both lucky that it was the middle of the night and the streets were deserted. Those few cars that did pass paid them no mind. She walked around Yora with absolute authority, as though she knew every street, and didn’t care for anyone else.

Sid briefly wondered where Kino's luggage was, since she had come to Stonecourt apparently without any. Maybe one of the many assistants had brought it back to her apartment for her.

Sid continued to follow Kino all the way inside her apartment. She neither stopped him nor encouraged him to come in. He couldn't remember if he had ever actually been in there before. Despite Kino having been on a trip, the place was a mess. Even Sid at his very worst couldn't compete with all of Kino's belongings scattered across the floor and furniture. The only neat thing in the room was the suitcase leaning right next to the interior of the door. That solved the luggage mystery at least. Kino hadn't turned on the main room's lights when she came in, and Sid wasn't entirely sure that she wanted him there, so he just stood in the center of the living room, waiting for Kino to acknowledge him.

She didn't. She went into her bedroom and closed the door. Sid waited.

After a few minutes, Kino came out, now dressed in her pajamas: warm looking flannel that seemed too cozy for Kino's cold personality. She continued to ignore Sid, walking past him to head into the kitchen. She filled up a water heater and set it to boil. As it heated, unusually quickly (was she helping it boil with the power?), Kino pulled down two mugs from her cupboard and tossed a tea bag in each. Sid was glad that she had at least some clean dishes, considering that there were dirty ones left on the table and in the sink. Who goes on a trip without at least doing their dishes first? Kino, apparently.

Kino poured the hot water into the mugs and carried them both to the living room. She handed one to Sid. They had an awkward dance as Sid tried to grab the mug from Kino without burning himself or intruding on her personal space too much. In their mutual awkwardness, some of the boiling water splashed out onto the floor. Sid could see Kino's chest heave in an uncharacteristic sigh. Sid took the mug.

Kino sat down on one of the couches, using the power to shove a pile of dirty clothes and garbage over so that she had a space to sit. Sid sat somewhat more cautiously, wedging himself in between pieces of mess. They stared at each other. Why did every interaction with Kino need to be such a production? Was she going to start the conversation, or did he have to? Sid gave up.

"What happened on your trip?" he finally asked. Kino sipped her tea.

"Vaneik didn't just die, he was murdered," Kino said.


"You didn't hear?"

"I didn't hear anything." Sid couldn't help it. Kino frowned at him.

"No one told you?"

Sid looked at her helplessly. "After I heard about Yan I was more focused on other things. I told people not to bother me unless it was something I could do something about."

"That's not a good way to run the government," Kino said.

"Like you'd have done any better." Sid didn’t want to admit that she was right. If he had been ignoring important information like that, he wondered what else he could have missed.

Kino's hands were wrapped around the mug; her knuckles were white from how much she was crushing it. How was she not burning herself?

"That's what happened then," Kino said. "Vaneik was murdered."

"How do you know?" Sid wasn't willing to accept it that easily. Kino explained in her usual clipped sentences how Sandreas had found the poison in the body, and then the search that had been conducted of the Oathkeeper's records.

"Did you find anything?" Sid asked. "Who killed him?"

"Halen says that Nomar Thule did it."

"What? Vaneik's apprentice? He was nice."

"Just because someone signs to you doesn't mean they're nice," Kino said.

"What do you have against him?"

"Halen thinks that he murdered Vaneik." Well, yeah, she had just said that. Sid supposed that would be a good enough reason to dislike someone.

"Is there any proof of that?" Sid asked.

"His scheming to get in a position of power. He was on the Oathkeeper when Vaneik died. Halen thinks he felt guilty and triumphant about it."

"None of that is proof, though."

"It fits the puzzle." Kino took a sip from her tea. Sid thought about drinking his, but he didn't actually like tea, and it was still too hot to drink comfortably. He didn't understand how Kino was doing it.

"So what is Sandreas going to do?"



"There's no proof. There's no reason to destabilize the Guild even more."

"Oh my God. This is crazy." Someone murdered Vaneik, Sandreas had a good idea of exactly who did it, and he was just going to let that person continue with no consequences because of the politics of it? Sid couldn't believe it. "Is he at least going to have people keep investigating?"

"Everyone will be watching the new Guild leadership," Kino said. "If they slip up they'll be out of power, I think."

"So Sandreas is just going to wait for them to make a mistake? And then what?"

"Then maybe there will be enough evidence to take them to trial."

"What if there isn't enough?" Sid asked. "If there was some, wouldn't it have been found?"

"I don't know. He could just make something up," Kino said. She wasn't meeting his eyes. "Sometimes we have to live with the situation until it resolves itself."

"But he got murdered." Sid felt just as helpless as he did with the whole Yan situation, but at least this was less personal. He had only met Nomar Thule a few times, and while he had been a charming and friendly person, Sid didn't have much familiarity with his political work. They had danced one dance together at the Governor's Dinner, a lifetime ago. Nomar had held his hand and patiently walked him through the steps, seemingly not caring that Sid was clumsy because he couldn't hear the music. He had been much nicer than just someone who signed to Sid, as Kino had said earlier. Sid didn't feel like he was capable of murder.

"Didn't Halen say ages ago that Nomar wouldn't assassinate someone? Before our first meeting with Vaneik?"

"Someone said something like that. But no one expected this to happen. It came out of nowhere."

"There must be some reason. Why would he kill his own master?" Sid couldn't imagine what would have to happen for him to take up arms against Sandreas. Or, God forbid, the Emperor.

"I don't know."

Sid rubbed the back of his head, feeling the rough beginnings of hair beginning to sprout again. "Okay. Okay. Are you alright?"

"I'm alive," Kino said.

"Heh. That's the best we've got going for ourselves. Did Sandreas tell you anything about how he plans to find Yan?"

"No. I don't think he knows what he's going to do. He needs to consult his advisers."

"Yeah. I guess. He's going to announce what happened, right?"

"He has to. The Guild probably knows by now."

"What do you mean?" Sid asked. "I only told her emergency contact."

"Her uncle and captain were at Vaneik's funeral. Sandreas told them."

"Oh." Sid couldn't imagine how miserable that must have been. He was glad that Yan's emergency contact, Sylva whatever, had lived on the other side of the planet. He had an excuse not to go meet her in person. A phone call had been bad enough. She had clearly been distraught, even without hearing her voice, just seeing the words that she said, Sid felt horrible delivering the news. To give it in person? That was a whole different level. Sandreas was a true professional.

"Do you know what's going on with the Anthus colony itself?" Sid asked.

"No." Kino yawned widely. How long had it been since she last slept? Was Sid keeping her up? He didn't feel too tired, but then again, he had spent the past days restless and awake. "Maybe I cursed it anyway."

"How?" Sid asked.

"They won't be consecrated."

"Oh. Yeah. Well that's not your fault." Sid couldn't imagine how Kino could possibly be blaming herself for what had happened to Yan. She stared at him blankly, which made him uncomfortable. Sid looked away.

"I'm going to bed," Kino said. She stood up. Sid stood as well, not wanting to awkwardly stay in Kino's apartment. She seemed intent on ignoring him as she dropped her now empty mug onto the coffee table and walked away. Sid left, heading to his own cold and sterile apartment. He was glad he was nothing like Kino. Her mess reminded him a little too much of the clutter in his family's home.

Sid’s apartment was clean and looked approximately as it had when he first moved in.He had gotten repairs done on all the damage that he caused, and now, a month later, he regretted his little tantrum. That all felt so long ago, now. It felt better for it to be clean, even if he hated being here alone, sleeping alone. Before everything had gone to shit, he had been half tempted to start dating, maybe try to find someone online. But the dating pool after leaving the Academy dropped significantly, and that was especially true after getting an apprenticeship like his. He couldn't have it, but the comfort of having someone to welcome him home and into bed was something he imagined constantly.

The next day passed in a flurry. Sid barely had time to see Sandreas, as he spent all his hours consulting with his experts and getting back up to speed on what had happened during his absence. Then there was the announcement about the Anthus colony, and that included what happened to Yan. Sandreas somehow managed to keep a stiff face through the whole thing, but Sid knew how much effort that cost. To stand there, to be peppered with question after question, the words a chaotic jumble, all about something that felt so hopeless and out of control- Sid wouldn't have been able to do it.

Thinking about that, he was glad that Sandreas hadn't forced him to practice delivering such bad news to the crowd. But Yan was Sandreas's apprentice, and so it fell to him to announce the bad news. Sid had to wonder how much the press had already known, as all of them seemed to have long lists of questions prepared in advance. The Empire really did keep them all on a tight leash, if they had so much information that they were content to sit on. Their sources sent to cover the Anthus colony launch must have had plenty to write up.

After the press conference, Sid sat in his own office, pondering his options. It was night, but not late. The sun set early this time of year. Now that Sandreas was back, everyone who had been hounding him had largely forgotten about him, so he was free to spend his time thinking of what could be done for Yan. The Emperor's discouragement still lingered in his head, but Sid was like a dog with a bone; he wasn't going to stop until- well, he didn't want to think about what could actually cause him to stop.

The real question was, still, who had taken Yan, and why? If they knew the answer to at least one of those questions, it would be so much easier to find out where she was. She was definitely aboard a pirate ship. That was clear. Maybe…

Was this a stupid idea?

Sid had no shortage of stupid ideas. But he wanted to do something, anything. And Sandreas could hardly say that pirate hunting was a bad idea, considering that was what he had done as an apprentice. In fact, that was pretty much the only thing that Sid knew Sandreas had done as an apprentice. But if it was pirates that took her, then he wanted to go find them. It would be a service to the galaxy to wipe them out.

He thought about this idea, and exactly how stupid it was, for as long as he could. But the more he thought about it, the more it itched in his head that he needed to do something, and this was the only idea he had. So he stood up and went downstairs to find and confront Sandreas.

As it turned out, he didn't have to go very far. Sandreas was on his way up to find him, and they met in the hallway. Halen trailed behind at his usual distance.

"Sid, perfect, I was just coming to talk to you," Sandreas said. "Can we step inside your office for a minute? I wanted to debrief how things went during my absence."

"Sure." Sid turned around and led them back to his tiny office. It was much shabbier than Sandreas's downstairs, and it was very odd for Sid to be the one sitting behind the desk and Sandreas in front of him. Their normal roles were reversed, and Sid was uncomfortable with it. Sandreas didn't seem to mind, sitting and relaxing as much as possible in one of the stiff chairs. Halen stood by the closed door.

"I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to talk earlier," Sandreas said. "There's been a lot going on."

"I've gathered," Sid said. "Kino told me some of what happened while you were on your trip."

"I'm glad that she did. That's not particularly what I wanted to talk about, but I'm glad you've been informed."

"What did you want to talk about then?" Sid asked.

"What you did during my absence. How did you find handling everything?"

"Oh. I don't know. It was fine. I mean, it was until I heard about Yan, then I didn't know what to do."

"You seemed to cope with that crisis well enough, from what I've heard."

"I just ran and asked everyone for help and to tell me what to do. I don't think that's really great leadership," Sid said.

"Being able to consult people who know more than you do is a good strategy. It's impossible to know everything, and sometimes other people have good advice to give."

"Yeah, well, I wasn't feeling particularly effective. I didn't even tell anyone about it. You had to."

"I'm glad you didn't, because having to deal with that while at Vaneik's funeral was not something that I would have enjoyed. The Guild would have had a total fit."


"One of their ships was infiltrated by people who have serious designs against the Imperial Government. There are no good ramifications for that, especially for anyone associated with the Tranquility. At least some of their crew were involved."

"Would that have screwed with the election?"

"I don't know." Sandreas rubbed his temples. "The whole thing was a disaster anyway."

"Because of the murder?"

"That's part of it. If it hadn't been murder… I don't understand what the motive was. It seems like even though Vaneik was murdered, the election played out exactly as it would have had he died of natural causes. Everyone knew he wanted his son to take his place, Thule knew that he could play puppetmaster with Wil Vaneik, and that's exactly what played out. Why go to the trouble of murdering Vaneik if all that they had to do was wait?"

"Maybe Vaneik was going to support someone else?"

"Who?" Sandreas asked.

"Olms, maybe?" Sid proposed. "She can be scary when she wants to be."

"She might be good at commanding, but she's spent years tamping down her ambition into something realistic, as far as I can see. By the end of her apprenticeship, she had her sights so solidly set on getting her own ship, I think she might have been legitimately crushed if she had been made Guildmaster instead." Sandreas laughed a little. "Not that it was too difficult to convince her to run anyway."

"Oh. Well I don't know what the motive was. But I can't believe you're just going to let it all slide."

"The only person in this I had any remaining respect for is already dead, and disrupting the politics of the Guild further would be a disaster. The biggest opposition to Wil Vaneik would be one of those Migollens, who have a nasty bent to them."

"Yeah. Just because of Yan and I, or?" Sid trailed off. The incident aboard the Sky Boat apparently had farther reaching consequences than he had imagined.

"That certainly didn't help. But there have been factions in the Guild like that for as long as both the Guild and the Empire have existed."

Sid decided now was the best time to broach his request. "Speaking of pirates…"

Sandreas looked at him, and Sid could see the exhaustion written in every line of his face. It was almost enough to not make him continue.

"What gives me the feeling that you're about to ask for something impossible?" Sandreas asked, looking Sid in the eye. Sid didn't look away, but his face did heat up.

"About Yan," Sid started again. In the back of the room, Halen was frowning. "I want to do something."

"There's not much we can do until one of our investigations yields results," Sandreas said. "And that's another thing that we have to leave up to experts." He pointed to some of the related papers that were stacked in neat piles on Sid's desk. "You're not going to be able to pull anything out of this that someone else won't, faster, and better."

"Yeah, I know. That's not what I'm asking," Sid said. "Yan had to have been taken by a pirate ship, right?"

"There's an outside possibility that another Guild ship was also involved and has been cooking their travel records, but yes. Pirates are the most likely answer. Why?"

"I want to go and get them," Sid said. "Give me a ship."

"No," Halen said from the back.

Sandreas looked both tired and frustrated, wrinkling his forehead. "Sid, there's so many problems with that request."

"What? You used to hunt pirates."

"That was extenuating circumstances. An emergency."

"And this isn't?"

"Even if you were successful in finding a pirate ship with Yan on it, which, let's be honest with each other here, you wouldn't be, you're as likely to kill her during your rescue mission than not."

"She's probably not still on a pirate ship. I'm sure they're keeping her somewhere else," Sid protested.

"We don't know that for sure."

"It's not really about finding Yan," Sid said. Judging by Sandreas's frown, Sid knew that he had made the wrong argument.

"What is it about then?"

Sid didn't have an answer for a moment. It was about Yan, in a way. "I need to do something," Sid pleaded. "I can't just sit here thinking that there is something I could be doing that I'm not. I know I probably won't be able to find her, but I have to try."

"So you want to go ghost hunting across the galaxy because you're bored?" Aymon was deliberately misinterpreting everything that Sid was saying.

"No! I just-" Sid couldn't form a coherent sentence. The feeling was so real and strong inside of him, but the words weren't coming, just as though he was a child who couldn't, wouldn't speak again. He looked up at Halen, who must understand. Halen was frowning even more deeply than Sandreas was. Why wouldn't they let him go?

"Sid," Halen started. "How could we live with sending you into danger?"

That was their objection? That was the weakest possible reason.

"I wouldn't be in danger. Let me have a Fleet ship."

"You don't understand how lucky you got when you were aboard the Sky Boat," Halen said. "I saw the footage. That ship was weak and held itself back. Most pirates are not so careless."

"But a Fleet ship-"

"Fleet ships aren't built for singular encounters," Sandreas said. "They're meant to engage in groups, and most of them are transports. We don't have specialized pirate hunting ships."

"Then let me take the First Star," Sid begged. That actually made Sandreas laugh.

"No. The First Star is still being worked on, anyway. It won't be back in service for at least another few months."

"The answer is no regardless of the First Star's readiness," Halen said.

"Why not?" Sid asked. He was a bit angry now. A Fleet ship could definitely take on a pirate ship.

Halen stared him down. "How honest do you want me to be?"

Sid glared right back. "Why do you even get a say at all? You're not my boss."

"I take Halen's advice, so you're going to take it too," Sandreas said. He wasn't rising to the provocation as much as Sid had thought he would.

Unexpectedly, Halen switched to sign. Sid had almost forgotten that the man knew it, since he rarely chose to communicate that way. But he had grown up on a pirate ship, after all, and they needed sign just as much as Yan's spacer family did. "What makes you think you can handle more killing?"

"I know what I am capable of," Sid signed back.

"I don't think you do," Halen signed. Clearly Sid had lost a lot of trust after his whole breakdown. But how was he supposed to prove that he could do better if they wouldn't let him?

"I can't just let you go out on some half-baked revenge fantasy," Sandreas said, breaking in between the silent dialogue that Halen and Sid were having. Sandreas seemed to not mind that Halen was deliberately going behind his back to talk to Sid in a language that he didn't know. It was amazing that he trusted him so much.

"But wouldn't it be a good show to the Guild to make a scene out of hunting pirates? Didn't you promise that you would do something about them, ages ago?"

"I stationed a ship in a hotbed area," Sandreas said. "That was the extent of what I promised to the Guild. I am not going to waste manpower or resources on pirate hunting."

"Not even when it would do good?" Sid asked.

Sandreas looked at him with an expression of mild frustration. "I don't see what good it would do to have half of my remaining apprentices out, squandering their time sitting around in space and waiting for pirates to show up. Pirate hunting is tedious work."

"But you-"

"Extenuating circumstances, and Caron Herrault wanted me out of her hair. I was driving her crazy. She sent me away on a wild goose chase for the sake of her own sanity." Sid wanted to know the story behind that pronouncement, but Sandreas didn't seem like he was going to elaborate. Sid filed that away as a thing to pry about later.

"Is there anything I can say to you that would convince you to let me go?" Sid asked.

"No," Halen said. What was his problem? Sid glared at him.

"Asking that is a bad choice of thing to say," Sandreas said. "Did you really not think this request through?" He looked mildly disapproving, which was different at least from the frustrated look he had earlier.

"I honestly thought you would say yes," Sid admitted. Sandreas laughed, wide open mouth, teeth flashing. Sid didn't think it was that funny.

"Maybe you should get your head checked," Sandreas said. "I recall that I grounded you."

"But the Emperor ended my punishment."

"The Emperor is not here," Sandreas said. "Sid, I appreciate your willingness to go out and do something; I feel the same way most of the time. But I think you'd feel even more trapped on a ship. If you aren't used to the life aboard one, the endless waiting can drive anyone insane."

"What good am I doing here?"

"Having you here gives me peace of mind, and you're learning."

Sid scowled at the floor. "What if I threatened to steal a ship?"

"Good luck with that," Halen said. Sandreas was no longer amused.

"Don't try to bully me, you won't win that battle."

"I won't?"

Sid felt the icy, horrible touch of Sandreas's power move through his body. The fingers of his left hand involuntarily twitched, controlled by Sandreas. Sid tried to yank his hand away from him, but it was no use. Sandreas just sat there, staring at him and watching him struggle. Sid had vowed ages ago, back when Halen had first used the power against him, that he would learn how to do the same trick, but he had no success. The power screamed and fought in his mind whenever he tried to touch someone else with it. How Sandreas could casually sit there and invade his body- it made Sid sick, but angry, too. There was no point in trying to retaliate when Halen was in the room. Sid would be completely incapacitated before he could so much as throw a piece ocf paper at his boss. Sandreas dropped the power.

"There aren't many battles you can win against me yet. Maybe in a few years."

"That doesn't count," Sid said, rubbing his sore hand. He looked around the room, searching for anything that would spark an idea that would help his cause. He was better off still begging Sandreas; for all that the man was crazy, he seemed at least slightly willing to entertain Sid's pleas before rejecting them. Halen was so dead set against sending Sid out that there wasn't any point in arguing with him. Halen was an ex-pirate after all; he probably didn't like the thought of Sid going out to hunt his brethren. That was stupid, though, because Halen was… Sid was thinking himself into a hole, circling round and round. He tapped his foot on the floor.

"What about the black stations?" Sid asked.

"What about them?" Sandreas looked at him with an inscrutable expression.

"You want to get rid of them, right?" Sid asked.

"Somewhat. It's not a top priority. And they're good places to send agents to gather information."

"You're allowing them to exist on purpose?" Sid asked.

"For every one we destroy, a new one pops up somewhere, and then we have to work to find it," Sandreas said. "It's easier to keep an eye on things if they don't keep moving around."

"You're dealing with them exactly like you're dealing with a certain murderer in the Guild," Sid accused. Sandreas didn't have any reaction to that. Too bad. Sid thought that at least would get a rise out of him. Maybe Sandreas was becoming immune to Sid's tricks.

"I'm dealing with them in the way my advisers tell me to. I don't have the time to dedicate to thinking about the minutiae of combating the black market."

"What if your advisers are being paid off, and they're telling you to do the wrong thing because-"

"Seriously?" Sandreas looked almost bored. "I'm willing to listen to what you have to say to me because you're my apprentice and you deserve at least that much from me, but if you're going to insist on wasting my time then I'm going to walk away."

"You're the one who came to meet me." Sid was frustrated. Sandreas stood and headed for the door. "Wait!"

Sandreas paused and turned around. "Last chance, Sid."

"I know you don't want to destroy all of the black stations." Sid scrambled to find words. "But I think that you should at least consider taking a stand against some of them. Show that you'll take action for what happened to Yan. Please."

"Is this just because you want revenge, or because you think it will accomplish something useful?" Sandreas asked. Halen was scowling.

"I don't know. But I can't just sit here and let things go unpunished. So, yeah, revenge, I guess. And maybe if you kick the bee's nest enough, the queen will come out."

"I'll think about it," Sandreas said. "That's all I can promise to do."

"Okay," Sid said. That was better than he had hoped for a few minutes ago. "I've just been going crazy these past few days. I need something."

"If you want more work to do, I'm sure I can have that arranged as well," Sandreas said.

"Is there anything that can help get Yan back?"

Sandreas's chest rose and fell as he took a big breath. "If you want, I'll have Ms. Rosario rearrange your schedule so you'll spend part of your time with the task force assigned to her case."

"Thank you," Sid said. He was completely sincere. Maybe feeling like he was involved would stop him from itching so badly. He imagined he knew how Kino felt, fidgeting all the time. He had so much nervous energy to burn. Thinking about Yan was keeping him up all night.

"Goodnight, Sid," Sandreas said. He briefly rested his hand on Halen's arm as the two turned to leave. Sid's own heart ached briefly. He would never admit it to anyone, certainly not them, but he was a little jealous of the casual trust and love that they had. It seemed so natural and familiar. He tried to stop thinking about it.

"Goodnight. See you tomorrow," Sid said.

"Yes. The docket looks much more normal, so meet me in my office at ten hours."

"Will Kino be there?"

"Barring disaster, yes." Why did he have to say things like that? Couldn't he just say 'yes'? Maybe Sid was reading too much into it.

Sandreas must have seen the look on Sid's face, because he smiled sadly and opened the door. He had Halen headed out into the corridor together, leaving Sid alone with his thoughts. At least he had said he would think about sending Sid out. It was better than complete rejection. Not that Sid thought it was going to happen- they needed to milk those black stations for any rumors and information that they could- but he had to ask to do something. He didn't know why wanderlust, or whatever this was, had suddenly struck him. He hadn't enjoyed his last trip out at all, and Yan-

He missed Yan. That was the only reason. And there was no amount of reading reports that would bring her back. There was probably no amount of blowing up black stations that would bring her back either, but maybe the people on them deserved to die.

Yan would probably hit him if she heard him think that.

But he would do anything that he could to get her back. She deserved better than everyone giving up on her.

A note from javert

Sid needs to learn to be a leader, and that means partially learning when to pick his battles against Sandreas. This one is not one that he will win. In the future he'll be a bit more judicious.

Is it clear atm how all the various puzzle pieces of what people are doing will come together? All the major players have their own things to juggle, but there are, as always, ties that bind :p

As always, I wish I could just blast out everything in one giant update so I could tell you what's happening in ~~the future~~ but my backlog has already shrivled a little over the past few weeks so that's not good. I've just been slightly less productive lately + I spent a long time writing the bonus chapter. My usual backlog is ~14 chapters, and right now I'm working on ch60, so that's no good lol. It shrunk by a whole 2 weeks of posting!

Anyway, I hope you all had a great week, and I'll see you on monday. Please consider leaving me a rating or review if you haven't already <3

update 9/25/19 -  added chapter title

About the author


Bio: hi I'm noodle, I studied aeronautical engineering in college, then I taught high school math. now I'm [redacted] and [remainder of message lost].

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