“The Maze gets you home?” she asked. “By yourself? That’s fine. I’ve got a long flight ahead of me.”
“As it happens,” Pickering announced, “the Rules allow me to take you along. And if our path happens to pass the Tunnels, and you choose to depart the path there, that’s your privilege.” Eclipse stared at him, eyes widening. “Under the rules, I’m obliged to carry you.” He leaned over and scooped her up, his arms forming a seat while she clung to his neck.
“Fortunately,” he remarked, “from the Maze to home all paths are but a pair of strides. One.” He took a step…
and they were elsewhere, a circular hole blasted into dark stone.
“The tunnels,” she recognized. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” He lowered her to the obsidian paving of the entrance plaza. She stared, unsure how she might thank him.
“I regret I can bring you no happiness, only a shortcut homewards. May your journey prove well-fortuned,” he said matter-of-factly. Then, to her utter astonishment, he leaned over, kissed her gently on the forehead, and took a second stride…
to his library. It was late afternoon, sunlight cascading from white-painted wood onto the magnificent carpet and drapes. Pickering was utterly alone, his house empty again.
The one thing, he thought, that I could not remember except while she was here, and could not remember if I tried to tell her, was that she is my daughter, a detail that in a few moments I will forget permanently.
He looked around the room, then stared at his calendar. It seemed that the entire week had passed as if he had been in a dream, with nothing to remember, but the word count on his desk display showed that he had indeed been productively busy.
Surprise indeed! Some author has some ‘splaining to do…
The silver general and Pickering. I didn’t expect that.
I thought he wanted the mother of his other kids back.