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[ Read more about author Brandy Hunt ]

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In a world full of the relics of the past and the toys of the future, Lila Howell is a psychic who struggles to remain ethical in the face of her government's demands. Currently, her government is demanding that she use her job to retrieve information from Susanne Newton. She must make a decision between keeping her life or reaching for something more.

Promise Kept

by Brandy Hunt

Promise Kept

Brandy Hunt

Published by Brandy Hunt

Smashwords edition

Copyright 2011 Brandy Hunt

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


2008 Obama is elected.

2012 Sarah Palin is elected. She continues to serve for four terms, as the United States becomes more insular and militant.

2015 Afghanistan is declared a U.S. territory. The fighting in Iraq intensifies.

2018 War begins with Iran.

2028 The military overthrows the Palin presidency when General Michael Thackery holds the Electoral College hostage until they elect him. The United States becomes a police state. The wars with Iraq and Iran heat up.

2055 A limited nuclear exchange between Iran and the United States leaves part of the western half of America a barren wasteland. What is left of California, Oregon, and Washington secede from the union. The military dictatorship is overthrown in a series of riots lasting several months. A conservative group called Palin's Pride manages to restore order, and The American States take over the eastern seaboard.

2057 The Congress of the American States decides that too many non Americans are consuming the limited resources the country has left. They begin to deport people who can not prove European or First People ancestry out of the country.

2060 Canada closes its borders. Soon afterward, the military invades and takes over. While the UK tries to regain Canada, they have problems of their own. The climate has begun to fluctuate. This particular year is the coldest and longest winter ever recorded.

2064 A record summer sees snow thaws in areas that have never seen them before like Alaska, Iceland, and Siberia. Heat stroke kills thousands in what is left of the Southern American States. When people from Mexico try to come north to escape the heat, they are shot on sight.

2071 After several cycles of harsh winters and blazing summers, a group of people calling themselves the Religious Majority takes control and the American States becomes a theocracy.

2082-2085 During this time, the American States begin to run out of money. In a drive to pay off the national debt, the Religious Majority has demanded more and more taxes until finally, the country is debt free, but the economy is depressed and money is scarce. People can no longer pay their taxes, and services, such as police and fire suppressant, begin to breakdown. This is the beginning of the Passing, as civilization begins to break down and "pass away."

2086 By this time what was left of the American States is now a series of territories generally protected by a Mayor or Governor. Laws are administered by the Mayor or the Governor, and order is upheld by the men he hires for this.

2089 Susanne Newton is born.

2107-2108 A year-long winter, called the Winter Year, comes.

2139 The last war lord, Heavenly Wind, is defeated, and New Dawn, the first centralized government since the American States, begins the process of becoming the government on the East Coast.

2187 Lila Howell meets Susanne Newton

Chapter 1

Receiving a work order at the end of the day meant her plans for a relaxing evening with Ervin would likely become a pity party. Lila Howell's email dinged as she packed her things to go home. She doubled checked the work order when she saw three names on it. Leann Winters was her direct supervisor, but the other two, Aron Kirby and Brad Colon, were not people she recognized. As an archival historian, she recorded the autobiographies of those who had lived through the Passing, the dark times after the end of what had been left of America. These autobiographies, often called passings, were done in the final days of the person's life unless signs of dementia began to appear.

Because of her psychic abilities, in the early part of her career she had been loaned to the Security Ministry occasionally. After she had refused to work for them anymore, there had been attempts to manipulate her into helping them. As long as the Ministry didn't force her into hurting anyone, she pretended not to notice the manipulation. The extra names on this work order likely belonged to Security Ministry personnel.

Susanne Newton had helped formed the New Dawn government. As a historical figure, most of her life after she started helping the N.D. had already been recorded. The battles and the politics involved in the last few days of forming the civil government and the separation between farmsteads and city government were mostly attributed to Susanne Newton. Normally, her passing would be done by someone higher up in the Archive Department. However, with a question already attached to the work order, Lila suspected the Security Ministry of attempting to manipulate her into helping them again. It was a violation of the agreement reached a few years ago after her refusal to work for the government at all.

Lila sighed and printed out the work order. There was time enough to work on this tomorrow. At this moment, Ervin was supposed to be cooking dinner, and she was in desperate need of a glass of the wine he had acquired a week or so ago. Lila stuffed her papers into her bag along with her equipment and hurried home. She stored everything, and then went out via the balcony and around the corner. Ervin had left his back door open for her, and she walked in to see him pouring a golden liquid from a jar and into a drinking glass.

"What is that?" Lila asked as she picked up the glass.

"Mead. It's a wine made from honey," Ervin said. "I can't tell you how good this is because the wine went through at least two other sets of hands before mine."

Lila took a sip and sighed as the alcohol burned just a little. The taste was heavy with oranges and some sort of spice.

"Sweet and alcoholic. It'll do. What's for dinner?" Lila asked.

Ervin opened a couple of containers and set them down on the table. "Tofu curry with rice and tomatoes."

"I thought we were splurging for actual animal protein of some sort," Lila said as she sat down at the table.

Ervin snorted. "I went by two lunch counters and the allotment center. No animal products are currently available in Macon even if you are willing to pay."

The two ate quietly for a few minutes. The habits of childhood still dictated quietness at the dinner table, and in fact in most activities. Most of the teachers in the crèche had preferred the quiet, well-behaved child rather than the smart one, especially the one that might be affecting their mind. As they finished eating, Lila sat back to take a sip of the mead Ervin had acquired.

"This stuff really puts the fire out after the curry. Is this from the farmstead market on the edge of town?" Lila asked.

"To be honest, I'm not completely sure. I got it from one of the squatters in the old section of town. If actual oranges were used in the manufacture, then it did probably come from the farmstead market," Ervin said. "At the very least, we didn't have to pay the insane tax the Cleansing Council imposed last year on alcohol."

"I agree with most of what the Council has done, but that was taking it a little too far. Remember back at the University, how we used to buy a few bottles of wine and throw a party on the roof?" Lila asked.

"Those poor kids," Ervin said. "Well, what exactly had your tail on fire when you got here? I can see the rant building as we speak."

"I'm not going to rant. Or rave. I'm too tired. I got a weird work order just before going home," Lila said. "I am to ask Susanne Newton who the Southern Dragon is and get the rest of her passing."

"So, I've heard rumors that she's grumpy, but you are the Rock when it comes to getting those old farmsteaders to open up," Ervin said.

"The two extra names on the work order worry me, Ervin. I'm afraid the Security Ministry is involved. I almost went to re-education instead of doing what they wanted. I can't risk hurting someone else with my gift. I came way too close to killing the last guy they had me interview," Lila responded. "Besides, Ms. Newton's health status is listed as good on her work order. The first prerequisite for a passing is a life threatening condition unless dementia is a concern."

"Maybe dementia is a concern," Ervin said as he cleared the table. "Or her attitude. I know one of the historians Ms. Newton ran off. She was insulting and rude to her historian."

"I don't like it. I can't refuse the work order, because this is my job. My precognition says the timing is wonky," Lila said as she sipped more wine.

"I think you should slow up on the wine. Wonky?"

"I just have a really bad feeling. My abilities are not something to play with. Even if I didn't mean to, I allowed the Ministry to push me into hurting someone while using my abilities to interview them. There is also the issue of consent that comes up whenever I utilize my charm ability. I have ethics, and the Security Ministry has tried to push past them before," Lila said.

"I remember. They kept you for ten days," Ervin said as he sat down to his own glass. "But your abilities also give you a huge advantage in our field when it comes to the shy or recalcitrant clients. It was only a matter of time they would call you to do this passing."

"Someone with a higher standing in the department should do it," Lila said.

"They have tried and failed. Yippee, now it's your turn."

They sat in silence for a few moments. Lila finished her glass of mead, but waved away a refill.

"I'm afraid, Ervin. Someone is already pulling strings. There is a procedure we use, and it works for me, for my abilities. What happens when they mess with the way I was trained to work, and I can't deliver when they want?" Lila asked.

"You remember what happened to me last year?" Ervin asked.

Lila nodded. "They kept you for three days."

"I filed a report with the wrong tone thinking that no one would realize it, and then loudly complained about the woman whose passing I was conducting because she was lying through her teeth," Ervin said. "I was given a glimpse of re-education and was offered a chance to retrain or watch who I spoke about, since she was the mother of some high muck in Nashville."

"Yeah, that's when we decided on the no socializing in public thing since we had both had run-ins with the Security Ministry," Lila said.

"I think you need to give them what they want as quickly as possible if you can. If you can't, you need to find a way to cover yourself. With the Security Ministry, at the end of it all, it comes down to the finger pointing and the blame, not ethics or morals," Ervin said.

"I don't know if I can deliver the information in the time they want it in," Lila said. "I don't want to hurt anyone."

"And that unshakable belief that you are right is why people call you the Rock. I'm not going to tell you to do what's right. I'm going to tell you to be careful and do what you need to do to get out of this with your skin intact," Ervin said before downing the rest of the golden liquid in his glass. "Your contract is what keeps you from living on the streets or in the case of someone with your abilities from languishing in Security Ministry custody. Without one, you would have to get something at the University or go hungry until the Security Ministry picks you up. The only one hiring is the government, after all."

"Well, we'll see how this is going to go. I will be talking to her tomorrow," Lila said with a sigh.

* * *

Susanne stared at the woman who had knocked on her door. Young people rarely came to the hospice, but a woman of color was rarer still.

"Who are you?" Susanne asked.

"I'm Lila Howell," Lila said with a smile. "I'm to be your new archivist."

"I'm not dying," Susanne said, blocking the door.

"This is unusual," the young woman said. "I checked everything with my superior. This work order was issued by the Security Ministry."

"What difference should this make to me?" Susanne asked as she began to close the door in the girl's face.

Lila managed to check the door with her shoulder and push inward, surprising Susanne.

"Is rudeness necessary?" Ms. Howell asked as she stared Susanne in the eye. For a moment, Susanne started to gray out.

"I can't help being here any more than you can," a soft voice said. Susanne shook off the feelings the voice tried to give her. This wasn't the first time someone had tried to influence her. She might not be a rated psi, but she had ways of defending herself.

"Those little mind tricks the government is so fond of won't work on me, child," Susanne replied.

"I'm showing how this can happen, Ms. Newton. For some reason, there are people in the Security Ministry who want to confirm the identity of the Southern Dragon," Lila said. "My work order includes the authorization to use all of my abilities, and I'm rated a three. This means eventually I would prevail and find a way into your mind despite your natural resistance."

"Why are you telling me this?" Susanne asked. She was impressed and a little flattered. A psychic who rated as a three had several abilities, at least one which could be considered invasive or affect the ability to give consent. Theoretically, Lila Howell could force Susanne to tell her everything she wanted to know.

"I don't want to hurt anyone, Ms. Newton," Ms. Howell said. "And forcing you to respond to me might hurt you."

"Well, I'm not the Southern Dragon," Susanne said.

"And I will certainly tell them in my report," Ms. Howell said. "As this is our first interview, why don't we introduce ourselves?"

"All right. It's been a long time since I saw a woman of color. Most of the European stock in the farmsteads have intermarried those of color until you can't tell the difference between us anymore," Susanne said as she sat down and started to knit.

"My parents were adopted by the Iroquois nation before they were disbanded by the New Dawn government. Both nations took in several families of color when the American States declared everyone of African or Hispanic background to be non-citizens," Ms. Howell said politely. "And I understand you are from a farmstead. Most of my experience has been in documenting farmsteaders' passings."

"Really, how nice for you. Do you feel you know a lot about the farmsteads?" Susanne asked.

"More than most city folk. I know you think the government is incompetent in its efforts to help the farmsteads since they don't listen to the farmsteaders," Ms. Howell said.

"You know a lot more than most of the regular government buffoons. You would think they might ask what works and what doesn't," Susanne said.

"Several months ago, I wrote a report on this to the Agriculture Ministry on behalf of a couple of my passing clients, and no one responded," Ms. Howell said.

"I wouldn't expect them to. They want to control, not to help," Susanne said.

"It may seem that way, but the New Dawn government is only trying to keep things together," Ms. Howell responded.

"So we should let the N.D. stumble along without comment so they can keep things together," Susanne said. "Life is about more than keeping things together. We should always strive to make the world a better place. Instead New Dawn wants everyone to be identical sheep grunting the same baa."

"I don't know what you mean, Ms. Newton," Ms. Howell said.

"I am talking about the Cleansing and the Council that enforces it. Stripping away anything that might cause aggression and replacing these ideas with fanatical politeness isn't going to make everyone's lives better. Ambition and innovation are fueled by aggression and the need for change," Susanne explained.

"So is harm against others. Better to channel those with aggressive tendencies into the security service within the government so they can be monitored, and those tendencies used appropriately," Ms. Howell said.

They sat staring at each other until the bell for tea rang.

"You bother me," Susanne said. "This is enough for today. Go."

"I'll be seeing you Monday after lunch. I wish you a good afternoon, Ms. Newton," Ms. Howell said before she left.

Susanne sighed. Lila Howell seemed to be made of sterner stuff than the usual archivist. She might not be able to run this one off. As Susanne picked up her knitting, her friend Larissa came in with the tea tray. Larissa had come with Susanne to the hospice to keep her company and get away from her daughter-in-law.

"That is a strong one, Susanne," Larissa said as she sat the tray on the table.

"I know. Whoever is seeking this information is bold. She is a psychic," Susanne said. "An honest one though. Came right out and said she had the means to make me give up my secrets, but since that might cause harm, she would rather work with me."

"Honesty will get her nowhere in the Security Ministry," Larissa said as she began to pour.

"She's an archivist. She's been tapped by Security Ministry, probably because of her high aggression rating. They don't test for ethical considerations, I imagine," Susanne said.

"This might end well for all considering. We just have to wait and see," Larissa said as she settled down with her spindle and began to spin yarn for Susanne.

Susanne grunted. She doubted that anything could end well at this point. They were behind enemy lines, with no way to retreat.

Chapter 2

Lila hurried from the bus stop. Lunch traffic had been heavier than usual, and she didn't want to be late for her first official interview with Ms. Newton. She wanted to make sure she was early in the hopes of getting in Ms. Newton's good graces. However, when she saw one of nurses that she was familiar with looking over something at the receptionist's desk, Lila paused.

"Nurse Meier, do you have a moment to speak with me?" Lila asked.

"I have just a moment, Ms. Howell. We are in the middle of performance reviews," Nurse Meier answered.

"I'm doing the passing on Susanne Newton, and I was wondering if there was any history there that isn't covered by confidentiality," Lila asked.

"Well, she keeps to herself mostly. We don't have a lot of farmsteaders here at the moment, and they tend to stick together," Nurse Meier responded. "Her best friend, Larissa Bergh, came to the hospice with her so she wouldn't be alone. They have been here for five years."

"Thank you so much, Nurse. Good luck with your performance reviews," Lila said.

"You are welcome."

Lila hurried down the hallway, then stopped to catch her breath and walked the last few feet. She knocked and waited for Ms. Newton to open the door.

"So, it's you," Ms. Newton said. "What shall we talk about today?"

"I always like to start at the beginning," Lila said as she began to set up her equipment. "What are some of the first things you remember?"

"And this information is going to keep the Passing from happening again?" Ms. Newton said.

"Well, we analyze the recordings for the Archival Department, and those reports go to the History Department at the University. They try to understand what caused the breakdown in government and how it affected people," Lila said. "It is important to have a proper understanding of the time period for posterity."

"Yes, I have heard the propaganda. You don't want to repeat history. But you must realize that no one goes all the way back to the end of the American States and the beginning of the Passing," Ms. Newton said softly.

"Yet, we do know some things from that time. Some records remain. Adding to it can't be bad," Lila said.

"You don't put everything in. The stories that go on record are decided by committee," Ms. Newton said.

"Not everything is true. We all misremember things. The committees help us by keeping an accurate account of the time," Lila said.

Ms. Newton sighed and sat down. "Well, I was a baby when the Passing started. I suppose we should start with my mother's death. This event was the beginning of my adulthood, I suppose."

* * *

First session: Lila Howell recording Susanne Newton

The last time I saw my mother I was unable to talk to her. Even from a distance, I could see she was wasting from the soul sickness. She had always told me that she was grateful that she hadn't passed the sickness to me, and I think for once I could see why. My mother wasted away because of another man's stubbornness.

We were farmsteaders, and in the Passing, farmsteads were the backbone of what was left of civilization. My mother had told us stories of the days that had Passed. My grandmother had been someone with just enough fame from her stories to secure the farm before the Passing began. I get my storytelling ability from her, so my mother said.

If the farmsteads were the backbone, the small towns provided the shell. The Mayor kept a standing patrol that protected us from marauders and so on. We were far from the wastelands, but there were always bandits cropping up on the roads.

I suppose my mother weighs heavily on my mind in these days before my own passing. She was a strong woman who never broke a promise. The last words she said to us were said in strength. The Mayor had decided that my mother's knowledge should be in his household. His favorite wife was about to give birth, and the Mayor wanted my mother there for as long as need be. He sent four soldiers to collect her and a minor maid from his household to replace her in ours. My father cried silently as she packed. They had been afraid this would happen since she managed to breathe life into a baby born a bit too young earlier in the spring. The Mayor wanted a son who lived more than he wanted to keep the farmsteaders happy.

Before she left, she sent the soldiers outside. I still remember the way they jumped too.

"Bill Johnson, I want you boys to wait outside while I smooth this over," my mother said.

"Missus...," Bill Johnson began.

"Do you think I'm going to try out running you over the pasture, Bill Johnson? I delivered your baby brother just two years ago, if I am remembering correct, and I reckon I should be able to call in a favor over that labor. Let me talk to my family," she said waving them toward the door.

They left, edging out the door. They knew what they did was wrong, but such things were between can and can't. My mother watched them go then hugged my father.

"If Goddess wills, I will be back. So dry your eyes," my mother said as she rocked him against her breasts. Then she turned to my brother, who was a few years older than I.

"You can't go running off now. Your father is going to need all kinds of help. I need you around to make sure that your Uncle Michael doesn't try to take over or marry off your sister before her time. I don't want her married before she is sixteen, you hear?" our mother asked, and my brother nodded, crying.

Then she turned to me and dried my eyes. "I want you to remember what I've taught you. Keep the books for your father just as I have done. Marry for love, for there is precious little in this world. Don't let bitterness poison you against the maid they send to replace me, and for Goddess sake, child, keep your hands busy. Busy hands are a blessing in life," she said then leaned down. "Take care of your father should I not return, for he will need you."

Then she turned away and faced the young girl they had sent to take her place. "Look, learn, and listen. We are a good people, and I doubt you will be treated unkindly. Don't try to change things too much, and they should welcome you with open arms."

With that she walked out of our house. The next time I saw her was in town for a harvest festival a few months later. She had lost so much weight I wouldn't have recognized her except for the woman she was following, the Mayor's favorite wife. That was when I knew her sickness was upon her. Occasionally, her soul would sicken, and the only way to actually make her live again would be to find something for her to do, that only she could help you with. This wasn't hard, as my mother had been the center of our household.

I tried to speak to the woman, to tell her what was wrong with my mother, but got slapped for my trouble. I was lucky to be so young that she did not think to have me whipped for my impertinence. A month later my mother died. The Mayor sent us two young bulls, one to keep and one to use for the fall breeding.

My father didn't talk for almost a year after wards. Eventually, he accepted the young woman they had sent to take her place as a housekeeper, but she never shared his bed. Later he released her when she fell in love with one of our field hands.

The loss of my mother will always be linked in my mind to the Passing. If the Mayor had sent her home as soon as she started to ail, she would have gotten better and lived for many years yet.

End recording.

* * *

"This will be uncomfortable, Ms. Newton, but I've never heard of a reference to soul sickness before," Lila said. "Please describe it."

"I suppose today you would call soul sickness depression. Both my mother and my grandmother had the affliction. Once or twice a year the cares of her life just seemed to collapse over her like a cresting wave. She might cry for no reason or just sit and stare at the wall. This sickness was one of the reasons she liked to say busy hands were a blessing," Susanne sighed as she began to do something complicated with the yarn in her lap. "Work seemed to be the only therapy she needed."

"I was wondering if you could give me some more explanation behind the expression 'between can and can't,'" Lila asked.

"Between what you can do and what you can't do. When you become a soldier, or a police officer, or a fire fighter, you give up some of the control over what you can do and what you can't do, because you are beholden to others. Especially during the Passing when sometimes the only work was as a soldier for the Mayor," Susanne answered.

"What was your grandmother's name and did any of her work survive the Passing?" Lila asked.

Susanne snorted then stood. She grabbed a very old looking book from a bookcase. "The homestead is still there, being run by my niece now. We have copies of most of Fanny Clayton's work, even though it was banned in the Cleansing. Since we are family, we are allowed to keep the originals. I doubt anyone else will ever know she existed."

"What did she write?" Lila asked as she carefully took the book. The title read Zombie Hunters. "This is a horror novel, but she also wrote fantasy adventure. Unfortunately, her work is too violent according to the Cleansing Council."

"I would like to read this tonight, if you don't mind," Lila said as she put the novel back in the protective cover.

"I don't mind. Just bring it back. When I die, the book will go back to my niece," Susanne said.

"It is late. I'll be back tomorrow after lunch," Lila said.

"Of course you will. May your footsteps be safe, Lila Howell," Ms. Newton said as she sat back down to finish what ever she did with that yarn.

Lila finished packing together her computer and microphone and quietly left. On the way home, Lila reviewed the medical file that had been part of the work order. Ms. Newton had pulled though several illnesses including a couple of cancers. It didn't feel right to handle an old woman who had been through so much in the last few years. It felt disrespectful. Archiving was a job that she loved and had always been about respect to her. Susanne Newton's role in history demanded more respect than this.

Susanne Newton had helped the New Dawn government clear out the last entrenched warlord so that the New Dawn Government could begin. Without her and her compatriots, the N.D. government would have faced more bloodshed and more fighting before unifying the eastern seaboard.

Lila didn't understand the hostility from Susanne Newton, and she had never been assigned someone who was so repulsed by the idea of being interviewed. Susanne Newton's politics also didn't make sense. She had been integral to the current solidarity of their society, but she referred to the Cleansing with such disdain. Most of those who survived the Passing seemed to be so grateful for the care of the state. Wasn't it better that Ms. Newton live out her life in some comfort than on a farm with few amenities? And certainly Ms. Newton didn't want to put that sort of burden on her family.

Lila sighed as she got back to her living quarters. The apartment was small, but private. Lila quickly settled herself on her balcony to read the novel her assignment had handed her. Her computer compiled a file on Fanny Clayton as it rested on the table. Lila barely read the first chapter before she had to put it down. The dark humor had taken her aback, and now checking the file on Fanny Clayton, she felt she understood. The woman had been something of an anarchist and nonconformist. In some of her interviews, she had expressed the opinion that the end of their society was coming one way or another, so shouldn't they have fun while they were here.

She turned back to the book trying to navigate past some of the out of date jokes to understand the underlying theme of the novel. Lila sighed as she began to speed read. She had a feeling her head would ache before this was over.

* * *

Susanne knitted socks because she could. Just as Larissa spun the yarn Susanne used because she could. It kept their hands busy. It kept them from going insane so far from their families. Larissa however had it a bit better than she. The oldest Bergh had married a woman Larissa couldn't stand. At least she didn't have to deal with the woman on a daily basis.

For Susanne, the letters from her niece kept her going. Mayme wrote once a week. Listening to her niece go on about how the government kept sticking their nose into the working of the farm, only to get it snapped off pleased her to no end. They had been keeping records on the farm's output and how the weather affected the land through the Passing and beyond. She doubted that her niece was ever surprised with what might happen based on the family records and the stellar Newton intuition.

However, Mayme always seemed to ask for advice. Most of the time, Susanne had forgotten the answer, but she knew which of the old books contained it. She advised Mayme to send one of her young ones to an engineering school or sit them down with the old engineering texts since the answers to most of her questions were found in one of the old textbooks. She always sent a pair of socks or a hat home in her letters.

She carefully collected this week's letter along with a bonnet for one of the younger girl children she could never keep up with all the way out here. She sent the hat out via a bonded personal messenger who she knew named Evan.

"Now, Evan. I want this in family hands. I suppose you could give the package to someone on the farm. I know that driveway is terrible, but I want your assurance that it will be hand delivered to someone in the family," Susanne said.

"You know I wouldn't put it in just anyone's hands. Paranoid much? What do you have in here?" Evan asked.

"No, but the regular mail loses things so easily. I have the money, why not use it on something other than books and magazines," Susanne said.

"I hear ya. Well, I got to go. I'll get it there in about two days or so. I have a lot of stops," Evan said.

"You say that every time and every time I say that's fine," Susanne said as she paid him.

"Yeah, I know. But I like the ritual," Evan said.

"Well, take care, Evan. May the Goddess guard your steps," Susanne said as she patted him on the shoulder.

"Thanks, Ms. Newton," Evan said as he left the lobby.

Susanne sighed. She didn't completely trust the new government's mail system. A bonded personal messenger pretty much guaranteed delivery simply because if they didn't deliver they would never get more business. Besides, the habits of a lifetime kept her careful, even now, stripped of her sword and her knives.

She knew one day her end would come, but she doubted it would creep up in the night. Nothing in her life had yet.


Copyright © 2011 by Brandy Hunt . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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