Part 3: Talon - Chapter 19

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Dorac stared at the dark waters of the Bosporus slipping past the ferry's hull. He wondered vaguely how deep the strait was, how cold, and how many ships had followed its course out to the Mediterranean. Millions perhaps, of all sizes and shapes. Ferries, such as he was on now, rowing boats, fishermen, warships, ocean liners. It was an ancient stretch of water, one of the most important waterways in the world, dividing two continents. There were wrecks on the bottom, no doubt, tales of adventure and sorrow, more stories than could be told in one lifetime. Entire civilizations had come and gone on its shores, whole nations had risen and fallen while those quiet waters bore silent, impartial witness.

He chucked his cigarette butt into the water and turned to look at Istanbul on the distant shore.

He'd seen only a few Earth cities, and hadn't liked them much: too many Sapes in them for a start, and too much foreign food that didn't agree with him, and too much emphasis on history. His people had little history, only a couple of hundred years' worth, which was nothing to this place. Sirians were more concerned with the present and family than with what dead people had done.

But Istanbul was attractive, he'd give it that: sprawling and loud and full of colour. Like the rest of Europe and Asia, it was now a combination of old and new. It had once been a religious city, and the eastern side of the strait still had many ruined buildings, mementos of what had been. Now the modern city, on the western side of the strait, lay sprawled across several low hills, rising up between the ancient buildings.

The ferry pulled into a dock and the passengers began to disembark. He hung back until most of the crowd had left—too often Sapes got the wrong idea when a Sirian tried to push through. A few people turned their heads to stare at him, but most had at least seen pictures of Sirians before. There were a few muttered comments, but Dorac didn't speak Turkish and couldn't be bothered turning his fone's translator on.

He scanned the dock. She was there, waiting. It was hard to miss big-boned, hefty Agnes Lawson. When he finally disembarked he walked forward without looking at her and went through to the street. It was crowded but orderly, as pedestrians used the actual street while cars and other vehicles were confined to raised platforms that criss-crossed between and through buildings. A truck rumbled overhead as he stood for a moment checking a map on his fone.

A message came through from Agnes.

ARE YOU SURE THIS IS THE PLACE?

He didn't look around to see where she was, but she had to be close by. He turned off the map and tapped his keydisc without looking at it.

YES. SHUT UP.

He grinned to himself. He'd never been able to tell a superior officer to shut up before. A year ago Agnes would have had him arrested for that. His day felt better already.

Across the street and a few buildings along was a bakery. The front part was a shop with baskets and tables of wares on display. A young boy was serving an old woman with a basket, a scenario that would have looked the same a thousand years ago. The boy was about twelve. The two were arguing over the merits of some flat, circular loaves.

Trying to appear casual, Dorac walked out into the street. A passing man said something that was almost a hiss, and he presumed he was saying something derogatory at the sight of a Sirian. Best to ignore it.

He reached the bakery and looked at some of the wares. Bread wasn't a usual part of the Sirian diet but he picked up a few loaves and peered at the prices and pretended it all looked familiar.

The argument between the boy and the old woman seemed to be building to some kind of climax. Experienced with itsu, Dorac might have listened to it if he could have understood it. But here was Agnes, also doing her best to look like a customer. He still found it odd to see her in civvies—and her long dark hair, which she'd let grow over the last year. She looked awkward in street clothes. He probably did too.

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