The Twisted Skein

2038 -- End of the Beginning

"Croeso i Cymru."

Tia Calinson rolled her eyes. "You know I don't speak Welsh, Maman."

"And I don't speak French," Nyx Hyrax retorted. "Would you prefer Vitaemo v Ukrainu? Although we're not in Ukraine, so..."

"How about we stick with English?" Tia suggested. Nyx nodded.

"All right, dear. How have you been?"

Tia shrugged. "Not bad," she said. "We're living in New Cal again now - HQ's a lot saner than it used to be, but with the little one we still feel safer in the city."

"Ah, yes. When do we get to meet young Moroni, anyway?" Nyx asked. "Or, for that matter, your husband? We've not seen Ether since we were told we couldn't come to your wedding."

Tia winced. "Maman, you know it wasn't like that," she pointed out. "Our religion--"

"Yes," Nyx cut her off, "how's that coming along, anyway? How do you reconcile your beliefs with your job as a murderer?"

Tia sighed. "I'm in Author Correction, Maman," she pointed out. "It's not an Action Department. All I do is email 'Suethors-"

"And kidnap and torture them," Nyx finished. "We old folks do still talk, you know; we've heard about young Daphne." She eyed her daughter with distaste. "I don't even know how my old partner handled killing 'Sues with those cultish beliefs, and now his daughter-in-law is murdering--"

"They're not cultish--" Tia snapped, but was cut off in turn by a third voice.

"Do you two mind?" Dassie Hyrax asked mildly, wheeling his chair into the middle of the room. "Hello, Tia dear."

Tia swallowed her anger, leaning down to kiss her father on the cheek. "Hi, Papa," she said. "How are you getting on?"

"Oh, well enough," Dassie said cheerfully. "It's a pain being in this thing, but I can handle it. It beats not being able to get around." He glanced at Nyx. "Your mother's fantastic," he confided to his daughter, "but when it comes to carrying me, well..." He shrugged. Nyx smiled, letting the tension in the room drop away.

"Well, I did enough of that forty years ago," she pointed out. "I can hardly be expected to start again at my age."

"Nobody loves me," Dassie declared, grinning at his wife and daughter. "So, Tia, is this just a social call? And if so, will you stay for dinner?"

"I'd love to," Tia said, "but... no."

"You're not on the job, are you?" Nyx asked, eyeing the other woman warily. "Neither of us writes, so..."

"Nothing like that," Tia assured her. "I just... well, I'm bringing news. And a request."

"This could be good," Dassie commented. "What's happening in HQ that we need to know about?"

"Politics," Tia said with a shrug. "There's always been contention between the Flowers, but now we think it could go beyond that. We think some of them might be in danger."

"'We'?" Nyx queried. "Why is Author Correction so concerned with this?"

"... ah." Tia glanced around guiltily. "When I said that... I am in the DAC, but, um... I'm sort of an operative for another Department, too."

"An operative?" Dassie tilted his head. "This is getting interesting. What do you mean?"

"I..." Tia sighed, shook her head, and plucked a silvery device from her belt. Holding it to her lips, she said, "Ma'am, you can come through now." As she replaced the communicator on its hook, a blue doorway opened in the Hyraxes' front room and a Flower came through. Her petals were faded, her leaves dry and her stem crooked, but she was nevertheless instantly familiar. Nyx gasped, leaning on her husband's wheelchair for support.

Hello, Nyx, Dassie, the Sub Rosa said. I'm afraid things are in quite a state at the PPC right now. Would you mind awfully if I stayed with you for a while?

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