“You are beyond the point where anyone will believe you,” said Simona, “you are far beyond the point where your individual efforts can do anything. Even if you were to stop the cult of Pan now, you would not undo the damage they have already done.”

Mercer and Nicyes stared in disbelief.

“I couldn’t help but notice, you didn’t specifically say there was nothing we could do,” said Alquis. He scratched his chin. “In fact, it sounds like you deliberately avoided saying that there’s nothing we can do.”

Nicyes looked from the bound and bruised woman to Alquis, then back to her, and finally to Mercer.

“You’re saying you found her like this? She came willingly?” said Nicyes. “I’m having trouble with that part.”

“The bonds were her idea,” said Alquis. “And it isn’t like she hasn’t known where we were these past weeks. If she had any intent to turn us over to the cult, she could have done so several times over.” He paused. “And then some,” he added for emphasis.

Nicyes turned an incredulous eye on Alquis. “But we aren’t believing her, are we? This is the woman responsible for our failure on the island. By her own admission, she’s been at the heart of things since the beginning. She engineered their communication network that made everything possible!”

Alquis returned his gaze, “Do you count the fact that she handily informed us of the cult’s activities to make sure we were abreast of the steadily worsening situation?”

“It was never my intent to destroy Chaika,” said Simona. She shifted in her bonds, a look of pleasure briefly crossing her face. “You don’t need to understand why, that isn’t important. Only that I don’t want to see the city destroyed.”

“I don’t understand,” said Mercer.

Alquis fixed him with a look. “She just said it didn’t matter if we understood or not, right? Wipe that idiot look off your face and I’ll explain it.”

Mercer looked at Alquis, who glanced to Simona, and then back to his companions. “Look, I know you aren’t the gambling type, Mercer, but I’ll try to put it in terms you’ll understand.”