Chapter 24

A dry, fall wind breezed through the open kitchen windows. I was preparing dinner with Eva on my hip when I thought I heard the whip, whip of Smidge. Grabbing a towel I dried my hands as we moved  to the front hall. “Let’s go and see who that is, Eva. I bet it’s Grandpa Ian!” I said happily, glad of company for the meal. 
        I was surprised to see Ted and Ned giving a helping hand to someone climbing out of the Smidge and then I noticed there was a second overair, was it Monica too? 
        Four heads bent in earnest conversation, no one waved and for just a fleeting second Ned turned a frightened face my way. Their body language sent a warning jolt through me. I must have been holding Eva too tightly because she started to cry.  
        They turned slowly and started to move toward the house, heads down, still talking. My neck prickled with panic and I stepped backward to avoid whatever was coming. The fourth person came out from behind the men. How could this be? But this was good news, it was Mael!
Ned came through the door, face down. Ted scooped Eva from my arms. They left the room with a solemn and silent Ian.
When Mael stepped over the threshold I ran at her fists flying, “How could you do this to me? Why didn't you let me know you were all right? What's going on? What's wrong? Tell me!”
 I was shaking with emotion. She grabbed my hands to stop me flaying and sat me down on the hall bench then said, “Last year when you went to Ian's safe house, I went to one of my own. I knew where you were but I didn't want to take any risks by trying to get in touch. But I had to come now to let you know that there’s bad news. The Celebrities were ousted two days ago and The Corporation is rounding up rebels and anyone else who might have evidence against them. Everyone they catch will be shipped to the Dead Zone. I have it from a good source that they’ll be searching The Hinterland in earnest for ‘loose ends.’ His is name is Fin and he is the CFO of The Corporation. He knew where to find me; he knows everything about me, this strange secret admirer. As a corporate insider he knows what the executives are planning. He has been very much against their unethical practices and he has grandiose plans to replace them and restructure TerrCo. Early yesterday he approached me at the restaurant. It was frightening to be called by my real name and to see videos of myself from a year ago on his UniP. But I listened to his story.   The day that you halted the beef production line, Fin was in the executive meeting when the problem meat was discussed. Furious with their disregard for the public's well being he took the opportunity to gather proof against the others by recording their discussion over your video dot. Later he watched us at noon eating lunch and he knew I would come back to the executive meeting room to retrieve the dishes from the seafood samples. He left the concert tickets like a secret love token. And the overwritten dot was to let us know that you were earmarked as a scapegoat. That afternoon he followed me from work and waited while I stopped at Anons’ to copy the evidence. He kept an eye on us at the Celebrity event from a seat in the gondola bar. After midnight he stuck around guessing that I would make a move and, sure enough, he saw me leave home for a shoreline port and take an overwater bound for a Hinterland fishing village. Apparently for the past year he has been watching me from a distance working in the restaurant.”
Then Mael went on to tell me that in his obsessive way, Finn had gone back to trace my movements as well. It was easy to follow my trail on the overland camera videos as I made my way to west. He guessed that I had faked my own death, and with painstaking doggedness he had checked every video from the area waiting for me to pop up again. The unusual sighting of a Pseudomom wearing an earring caught his eye. Further east, he found the same woman appear with a blanket that looked suspiciously like the one I had bought on my way to Nedlo. He was able to track me as far as Market Stop until my trail disappeared into The Hinterland.
Fin’s surveillance activities were interrupted by the attempted Celebrity Coup and he spent the duration of the uprising surreptitiously copying evidence files. He kept himself busy making plans to leave if the Celebrities should be defeated.
Mael added, “Yesterday afternoon we flew to Capital in his business overair. The Corporation thinks he is still there on business but he has gone on ahead to a rallying point. During our flight Fin said that if you were important to me, he would include you among The Hinterlanders that he plans to spirit away. He warned of a clean up that was coming, the executives were ready to search out anyone who could discredit them.
“I am here to pick you up. I have a tiny, two-seater overair outside. All corporate evaders are on their way north. An underwater is waiting to take us due east under the ice to another continent. Fin wants to regroup there to stage a takeover. Bring nothing. Wear winter clothing. No one knows about the baby so she will be safe here at Sebbartha.”
All that night I stayed awake watching Eva sleep. Before sunup I put my solitary earring in the mending box, hiding it in plain sight. I found the old memory dot – the evidence - and put it inside my boot. My cloth satchel went on a chair in Olivia’s room and I left a note for Ted and Ned.
I went out into the yard and Willie kept me company at the fire pit. We watched as the grey blanket and my clothes turned to ash.
Mael was waiting. I took one last look over my shoulder then we lifted off into the wind...  

       Thus ends the first volume in the Lucinda Kartography trilogy. Lucy's run from danger will continue in Lucinda Kartography Underwater.