It turns out, Gator was upset. Though not entirely over his lack of information. I dreaded mildly going to his chambers again. My previous visit to the navigation room was unnerving enough when I had been invited. Interrupting whatever activity Gator was involving himself in was practically a horror in the making.
As it was, though, Gator invited me in and welcomed me to a comfortable sitting room. His observatory was hidden away behind some paneled door or another and the confines of his office were almost business-like. Very much like Gator and unlike a Farseer.
“What can I do for you, hatchling?”
“Um, did you hear about Chief and Tic-Toc?”
“What about them? Did you complete the inventory I requested of you?”
“Um, not yet. But, that’s not why I’m here.”
“Go on then. Say your piece.”
I took a deep breath, but the words wouldn’t come out. They caught in my throat and my heart hammered against them, trying to force them or itself out of my chest.
“It is bad?”
“Are they dead?”
I shook my head. Then the words came. “Chief is. Tic-Toc’s gone. We’re trying to search for him, but Sys is ill and Mearr’s in labor, so Cap is tending to them and Guhle has to man the cockpit.”
“Leaving you and me to hunt for Tic-Toc and whoever killed Chief. Is that why the captain sent you? To tell me?”
“Basically,” I said, the tension rushing out of me with my breath. “Also that you and I need to clean up the galley and take care of the food for everyone until Sys and Mearr have recovered.”
“I see,” said Gator. As usual, I couldn’t read his expression. There were times I really hated Farseer armor.
“So, yeah. That’s that. Oh, and the other Farseers said they’d help us look for Chief’s killer, but they don’t know who it is because of a shadow in their vision. Does…does that make any sense to you?”
Gator didn’t move for a long time. Then he nodded.
“I thought my sight would return once we cleared the ion storm. But it is still clouded. I cannot confirm where we are or where we are headed — I meant to tell the captain at some point but we’ve all been a bit distracted lately.”
“What could be causing it.”
“I do not know. Thought I could theorize.”
I waited. It was obvious that Gator wanted to talk this out, so I just waited for him to continue.
“It is possible that the storm could be casting a ripple effect through the Dreaming. That would account for why I could not see it before we reached it, as well as for why I find it difficult to see now that we have passed through.”
But…I could almost hear it. Hanging in the air between us. The exception to his theory. The evidence that contradicted the simplicity of the idea.
Again, I waited for it to come out.
“But that fails to explain why my vision is so clouded now, when it was clear before the storm — save for the obvious blind spot.”
Understatement. I kept the gripe to myself. That storm had been a disaster all around. In fact, I considered making the case that if it weren’t for that storm, none of the troubles we were dealing with right now would have ever happened. Well, except for Mearr’s pregnancy, I suppose.
“Now, it could be that my blindness has nothing to do with the storm. Perhaps the untempered nature of the tranisium ore that our visitors brought on board is what clouded my vision, blinding me to the storm. And it is also possible that the storm itself affected the ore in such a way that it now clouds my vision even more. In this case, there is little we can do. Jettisoning the ore will allow us to reach our destination safely, and will no doubt clear up the identity of Chief’s killer. But doing so will render us outlaws, and our passengers traitors in the eyes of the Farseer Imperium.”
“Not a good place to be,” i said. “I imagine they’re pretty good at finding you.”
“Quite,” said Gator, leaning over the table between us. “The only other explanation, then…”
I leaned closer, hoping for some revelation that would help us tidy up this mess. Gator was a genius, sometimes, and a madman others. Here I was hoping for the former.
“But no,” he said. “There are dozens of other explanations, surely. Anything is possible at this juncture. We can’t rule anything out.”
“Well, who killed Chief, then?” I said.
“Anyone could have,” said Gator, leaning back in his chair. “Our visitors, you, me, Guhle, Tic-Toc. A stowaway.”
A chill ran through me. It’s what everyone was assuming — that we had a murderous stowaway on board. But it raised all sorts of concerns — who? When? How?
And what was it that kept the stowaway hidden from detection?
“This is a difficult situation, if you think about it,” said Gator — though I didn’t need to think long. “The killer is either one of us, which means we cannot trust anyone, or else it is a stowaway expert at avoiding detection, which means we need to rely on each other to find him. The question is, how can we possibly know which is true?”