Sanko breathed a laugh. “Simpler times, to be sure.”
Then came silence as the Rainlords responded no further, deciding only to wait as Sanko deliberated. In the intervening period, the watchmen that she ordered out earlier arrived through the hole in the gate. She spoke to them in turns, quietly enough that the Rainlords could not hear what she was saying. She showed them the photographs they had taken, presumably attempting to corroborate as much of Parson’s information as she could.
At length, she concluded with the watchmen, took one more opportunity to mull things over on her own, and then returned to speak with the Rainlords.
“I find your demands agreeable,” she said. “I am willing to grant you all three of them.”
Rayen was the one to say it. “But?”
“But I have one condition of my own,” said Sanko. “This matter of potential treason is not something that can simply be overlooked. If not properly addressed, the ripple effects could result in the loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of good Vanguardian soldiers--and by extension, the countless civilian lives that they protect.”
“State your condition,” said Rayen.
Sanko gave her a look. “You must submit yourselves to a formal investigation by the Vanguard so that these allegations against you may be put to rest.”
Zeff saw the shifting postures around him. Already, he could tell that they were going to reject her.
“Once your innocence is confirmed,” Sanko went on, “you have my word that all of your conditions will be met.”
Rayen shook her head. “After everything your people have put us through, why would we ever believe that such an investigation would be fairly conducted?”
“Because I give you my word that it will be,” said Sanko.
“Of course you do,” said Octavia. “But even if we presume that you are trustworthy, your people have already proven that they are not.”
“Your condition is unacceptable,” said Rayen.
Sanko tilted her head. “Can the two of you merely decide that by yourselves? And so quickly? Should you not at least discuss the matter among you? What do the other four say?”
“This is not something which requires debating,” said Evangelina Stroud. “You may consider this our resignation as well.”
“Indeed,” said Socorro Garza. “We have already told you to leave, and you have responded by offering to invade our privacy more than ever before.”
“The Ladies have the truth of it,” said Santos Zabat. “I stand with them.”
And when Zeff didn’t add anything, Sanko took notice, indigo eyes lingering on him.
“...Do not ask my opinion,” said Zeff. “You would like it even less than theirs.”
Sanko exhaled a heavy breath and stiffened. “Well, then,” she said, still with two voices. “It appears there is nothing more to say.”
Octavia Redwater placed both hands upon her cane. “So it does.”