The Monk carried Tamsin past the console room and into the first gallery, where he kept his most prized possessions. He laid her on the couch in front of Arun Gagnes' Cormocado Night Scene. Carefully he raised her shoulders and sat on the buttery mottled leather with her head in his lap, facing the painting.
It wasn't a particularly famous piece; he'd had far greater, more significant works pass through his hands, but it was his favourite. And that first evening, after she'd praised his cooking but made faces at his wine, he'd shown it to Tamsin. She'd looked at the delicate green of the trees below and the blue shadows above and the small silhouettes, vague and subtle in one corner, of two figures reaching for each other, and then she'd turned to smile at him, and he'd seen she loved it too.
"I rescued that from the Brunenu Palace when it burned," he'd told her. "It was destroyed, you see. Historically. So I slipped in on the last day and replaced it with a facsimile, so it wouldn't be lost."
"That's something you do, is it?" she'd asked. "Go back in time and replace a masterpiece with a fake at the last moment, to save it?"
"Well, yes. Rather against the rules, but . . . " He'd been prepared for her to make a snide remark about greedy art collecting ponces, as Lucie Miller had when he'd told her the same.
"That's --" She'd smiled up at him, laying her hand on his arm. "You're really rather lovely, aren't you?"
"I do try my dear," he'd said.
He stroked her dark hair, carefully working out a tangle. For a moment he looked down at her slack face and then moved his gaze back to Cormocado Night Scene, eyes wet.
"On Ghole Secundus," he murmured, fingers still in her hair, "they create biological androids to order. Any face you like, and personality too. Terribly hard to tell from the real thing. Why, even I could be fooled, in the short term."
For a long time he sat there, eyes now dry, expression what Tamsin had once teasingly called his Plotting a Caper face.
go back in time and replace a masterpiece with a fake at the last moment, to save it
Finally he nodded to himself, stood and looked down at the face he knew so well. "Even I could be fooled," he said, "until . . . yes. Yes. Quite out of character. Calling for him at the end. Him, and not me. Quite -- I'm sure -- quite out of character."
With a grunt of effort -- this regeneration was no longer in its prime -- he lifted the body and carried it down the corridor to be disposed of.