The Last Duty – Dawn Lloyd
The fireworks rocketed past the jagged remnants of the palace’s roof, soared above the razor wire, and then cascaded down behind the wall. The gunpowder boomed. The first four nights, my eyes had jerked to the remnants of the roof still clinging to charred rafters. I was sure the concussion would shake the last pieces lose, crushing me. But I had not been so lucky, and tonight I closed my eyes to shut out the lights.
Huddled in the corner, Petrov shifted. I opened my eyes to see him struggling to pull the wool blanket tight against the snow. Only two weeks before, the gold-rimmed dome of the palace’s great hall had cast a yellow tinge on the empire’s largest silk carpet. Now we sat on rubble and slush. The rebels who thought they could rule better than him had looted the gold.
“Are you awake, Jerov?” He asked.
“How could I not be?” I tried to keep the edge out of my voice. I had nothing but the highest regard for the man who had crushed the Charter Rebellion and held the islands together through the bread riots. I closed my eyes yet again, this time against the images of waves crashing over the torn and broken bodies our soldiers had hurled from the cliffs. The images grew still stronger with my eyes closed. There were reasons I was glad I had been Minister of the Finance and not a general.
“I was just thinking,” he went on, his voice quiet and shaky, “that the map to the caves where the desalination plant designs are kept surely burned with the rest of my office.”