by Vanzetti

800 million dollars in gold. Even in Sark's world, awash with cash from drugs and guns, it was a substantial sum. It was the kind of money which would enable a man to do what he pleased for the rest of his life. Would have enabled.

800 million and Andrian Lazarey: now he knew the price of a life.

He kept his face blank as the deal was completed. Shake hands with the bankers and walk out the door. An investment, San'ko had called it while they bargained over his life: his own stake in the Covenant. They wanted the money, but they wanted him--his skills, his connections--as well. And after two years in prison, that could only mean one thing. One person. Derevko. He'd burned all his other bridges, over the last two years.

"You see how easily we arranged you release. I'm surprised she never..."

"Indeed," Sark had said.

"No resentment?"

He had twisted him mouth into a smile. "In this life, one can't afford to bear grudges."

Now it was another round of handshakes and out the door, on the sidewalk under the blazing sun. He considered telling his companions that he intended to walk back to the hotel, just to test his bonds. The final offer had been reasonable, a little too reasonable in Sark's opinion: they must have known that he would have taken less, would have taken nearly anything for the promise of another day of life. Had he stopped valuing his life, he could have freed himself of CIA custody.

Lucky for San'ko that he hadn't. He didn't bother to hide the smile as they escorted him, so very respectufully, into the waiting car. If it disturbed his new captors, so much the better. He had seen the shadow of fear in San'ko's eyes: the Covenant, he guessed, had crossed her one time too many. Business competition, or something more personal. He would need to find that out.

They weren't fools, Sark thought, not the people who had planned Lazarey's murder and his own release so carefully, who had seen the opportunity over time and space and arranged everything just so. Not fools, but that calculation had its own weaknesses; it assumed the same dispassion in others.

Passion and dispassion: he'd learned them both at Irina Derevko's hands. He'd need them both, for what he planned to do. Not business competition, but something much more personal. The price of a life.



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