Mysteries of The Hidden Estate, Chapter 27-28

The Mage Academy invades Zirgoccol. The people at the estate are mystified by a ship.

Chapter 27.


Gears sat down at the table where Drannor was eating lunch and said, “I found Wiz in Oceanside. He took one look at the drawing and said that we had been had.”
“Did he explain how?”

“He wanted one hundred thousand for the details. I think that he knew where the drawing had come from.”
“Did he know what those disks were?”
“Yes, but he wanted fifty thousand more and all the money up front before he would say anything other than we should burn all the disks.”

“Did he say why?”
“He didn’t, but I think that he was hinting that carrying the disks around was a very bad thing. He said that he could tell us where they came from and even if we had the disks, it wouldn’t help us without some other things.”

Drannor swore. When he calmed down a bit, he asked, “Do you think that we should pay?”
“If it were me, I would pay. Wiz isn’t the sort to ask for money like that if he couldn’t deliver.”

“He’s an addict on Clear.”
“He didn’t show the signs and he married a sea lady. So he could have purged the drug. He seemed to be on top of things.”
“What is he doing now?”

“He said that he was working for the Imperial navy as part of a program to modernize.”
“With the Inquisition looking over their shoulders?”
“He didn’t say. If the navy was trying to sneak something past the Inquisition, a bunch of foreigners hidden away someplace, especially foreigners with Beinan connections would be the way to go.”

“Does Wiz still have those connections?”
“That’s hard to say. He said that he wasn’t working for them, but he might be talking to them.”

“I think that we need to talk to Elion and get the money.”

“Not Ayre?”
“Not right now. He can be smart, but right now, he’s not thinking and just reacting. I should have paid attention when he asked to set up the Fayspire thing. I should have known that it was just a bit too easy. Do you want something to eat?”
“I already had lunch. Let’s get this done.”

 Vafealine looked over the brief and grinned. She took the brief into the Dragonmaster and said, “Your nephew was in a spot of trouble again.”
“What is it this time?”
“He was suspected of having been somehow involved in the Fayspire fire.”

Qambois grinned. “Somebody was setting him up, weren’t they?”

“It was supposed to look that way. Spitty smelled something wrong when he intercepted some stolen goods and returned them to the Beinans. Orik “arrested” him with that “warrant” you signed and he was off to Fayspire with Trooper Bloodfoot for a chat up there. He hasn’t returned as yet.”

“The Eiljeon made a mistake. Spitty and the Beinans are going to get along just fine. His mother will be ecstatic if he should happen to bring a Beinan home.”

“So will you.”

“I would like for Spitty to find somebody and settle down, yes. I also wish that he would accept more responsibility. The family has tasks and if he would stop trying to put himself in prison, he is needed.”

“You have to be honest and say that most of the risks have been for you and we have taken advantage even when he wasn’t necessarily working for us.”

“That is certainly true.”

Arlayna opened the door and there was Saevel with some other kids. “Saevel, why are you here?”
“Mother sent us.”
“Who are your friends?”

“Kids from the Mage Academy. They are being punished.”

“Punished how?”

“They have to be a place where they can’t use their mage skills. So mom sent them here.”
“I see. So you brought them all down so that you and George could show them how to cause trouble without using mage skills.”

“We have to look for mage books in the warrens and write a report on things we see.”

“George is still at school, but will be back soon. Where are you all staying?”
“We came down with a teacher who was supposed to be arranging that, but I think that she doesn’t know the city and who to talk to.”

“I certainly do. Kids, why don’t you stay here until Saevel goes and brings your teacher here? George should be back by then and he and this other troublemaker can show you around while we get you settled.”

The Grimfrost Road.

One thing that Jorge had learned from his old commanders was that training paid off in saved lives. He had learned that in his Service days from his rather grizzled old marine captain and his platoon sergeant. He had trained the Great Captain’s crews mercilessly and that had paid off in Paeris being as efficient a pirate as his reputation demanded. Paeris had been as aggressive about training as Jorge was.  Now, Jorge and the Special Section were making their way up to Grimfrost along the Post Road, without being detected by some eager senior Post riders and Grimfrost bears looking for them. So far, using training and equipment obtained from the Yllanan for the enhanced troopers and Ishendell for the boys, Jorge’s people had managed to move up the road undetected. The various dragons and fae boys were rather frustrated by the time Jorge and his people reached the junction of the Sanctuary and the Grimfrost roads. Jorge had sent the boys ahead to scout the areas and Jimmy came back and said, “They are waiting for us to show up.”

“I expected that. The bears or the post boys?”
“Both of them.”

Jorge grinned. “Did you go back into the woods?”
“Yes we did. The Sanctuary side has the Horsecaptain’s people covering it, waiting for us. The other side has the hills, but I think that there was a road that can take us most of the way and and we can climb around the mountain and still make our deadline.”

“I expected that they wouldn’t make it easy. Show me on the map.”

Jimmy did and Jorge collected his platoon and team leaders and started them up to the old road. When they reached the first abandoned waystation Jorge wasn’t surprised. The road climbed up the side of a mountain and was fairly undamaged. They discovered why the road wasn’t used any longer as they reached the third tunnel and it was blocked. Jorge looked at the tunnel and said, “We can look into this later. Break out the climbing gear, we’re going over.”

Walnut turned to Yddren and said, “They aren’t coming this way. Do you want to take a flight?”
“We said that if the captain doesn’t call in the two not so little flamers, we wouldn’t do that. That’s sort of the point of the exercise.”

The Horsecaptain rode up and said, “He couldn’t have gotten his people past us. At least not with equipment. Snowball, what’s up that road on the other side of the junction? I didn’t poke around up that way when we were freezing our asses off here.”

Snowball looked at the Horsecaptain and said, “Haven’t they promoted you yet, Belanor?”

“This is my last chance to play, I’m afraid. The promotion has passed the council and I’m being detached to Keerla and outside communications.”

“That makes sense. Ok, that old road has a closed tunnel on the end. Nobody has used it for a long time. If Jorge takes his people that way, he’s coming right back.”

“Are you sure? I’ve been reading some briefs from the Republic and the marine enhanced went over some mountains in the back of the Hidden City to assault the city.”

Snowball cursed. “That’s what the bastard was planning all along. We all need to get moving back to Grimfrost.”

The various groups broke the camp and started up the road. When they arrived, Jorge was sitting on the porch, tankard in his hand with his people having a party. He looked at the others and said, “What took you?”

House Qinvaris.

Richard was in his office when Ayre and Adreth came in. Ayre said, “King Nemes wants to arrange for some training flights out of Freywick with Iezzen.”

“Ok, I’ll sign off on the flights. What’s really going on?”
“I was more or less chasing Elf Omayarus when he went to Freywick and then apparently disappeared. I followed a road that looked like an Imperial road that almost nobody used and ran into some kind of border post where they turned me back, when I was in jewel merchant prospecting mode. I talked to Adnamatus and he said that the place had been like that going back to his grandfather’s time and before and was not part of the kingdom. His grandfather had thought about attacking and taking the place over, but the road is too easy to defend and they have Projectors. There was also some concern that Empire would think that it was being invaded. I did some checking and the Imperial land registry doesn’t even know very much about the place. According to the Portal Service, there is a portal there, but it doesn’t work.”
“So you want somebody to have a look with a plane? Since Elf Omayarus apparently went in there and hasn’t come out, I can ok that. Also, have the road watched.”

“Already done. While there are downsides to what happened in Astaire as far as my cover goes, we have a very deep well of goodwill up there to draw on. Frankly I don’t think that the people in there know that if I even hint that they were in any way connected to the Darkmage, they would have a rather unpleasant time. They may have stopped King Nemes’s grandfather, but if King Nemes knew that these characters were connected to the Darkmage, he would hire Orc mercenaries with modern weapons and storm the place.”

“Hold that thought. If these people are Imperials, he doesn’t have to. Take what you have to Horatio and tell him that I want an operation planned when we have aerials. If they shoot a plane down, we go in anyway.”

“I do hope that you are more subtle than that, Richard.”

“We play subtle as long as they play nice. If they start shooting, they get the hammer. Elf Omayarus almost certainly knows about the Letter of Intent and if he doesn’t let the people know that they are sitting under the hammer, we will make certain that they know.”

Tally opened the door and said, “Lord Quidi would like to speak with you when you are done, milord?”
“Did he say why?”
“He said that it was a discreet matter that you were already involved in.”

“Send him in. Ayre, Adreth stay.”

Lathlaeril Quidi came into the office, bowed and said, “Lord Qinvaris, I want to speak with you about a discreet matter.”

“This is Ayre Qinrale and Adreth Vavaris, who handle discreet matters for my wife and now me. They can keep things discreet.”
“I see. I wanted to talk to you about using some resources that I do not have. I suspect that these elves are part of those resources.”
“Sit and let’s talk. What is this about?”

“This is concerned with the railroad that you have completed, Selnalion and an ancient Imperial smelting facility on a property that came through my great grandmother. The facility smelted Zinc and related metals, including Cadmium. There are still significant quantities of the metals on the site. At least there were, as I have sold most of the metals to people in the Fellowship. At least I sold the Zinc. The Cadmium is a different story, as I have been under pressure from House Eiljeon to sell the property to them and I have been reluctant, because the property would work for a freight transfer facility and is part of some properties that will allow the railroad to continue on into the Empire.”
Richard grinned. “Your attitude must have been a surprise to certain council members.”

“I have hardly told Erlan or Melaris about my plans. Erlan has been surprised at some of my stances. I suspected that was because I had made statements about the seaborne trade and my estate was seemingly not connected to trade. On the other hand I also kept the fact that I knew Admantius D’dolmon since we were boys and was fully aware of what a railroad would do.”

“Are you an investor?”
“I am. I owe Jimmy, Talissa and you something for getting the line finished at last. My House has done quite well from that.”
“At the very least, we share the goal of extending the railroad into the Empire and you were right to bring the matter of the Cadmiun and the Eiljeon to my attention.”

“My rather disreputable sons went over the old facility fairly thoroughly after the rather clowninsh Ayre Eiljeon tried to pressure me into selling the property. He didn’t want to listen when I suggested a partnership and developing the property. He also didn’t want the other half of the property when I offered to split it, which is why my sons started to go through the place. We realized that there was more going on and that most of it was in the Fellowship, where I don’t have a great deal of resources.”
“Did you talk to Admantius?”
“He went back home to the Republic before I could. I was going to have him put me in touch with you in any case.”

“Can Adreth’s boys talk with your sons?”
“I think that would work very well. My disreputable sons, that is. My not so disreputable son is off in the Republic closing the deal on some kilns that I have purchased. He keeps needing to go back for some strange reason. My wife is waiting for him to bring the girl home with him, but he hasn’t managed that as yet.”
“She may be seafolk.”
“That would be fine. Of course, this is just my son afraid that his mother would disapprove of the girl. In any case that is not your problem.”

“Your son might want to talk to my brother about Cadmium. They use it to plate things for corrosion resistance and since the material came from an old Imperial smelter, it is probably very pure. I can make the arrangements for you.”
“The Eiljeon are part of the group that is working with the Darkmage behind the scenes. I figured that much out. What do they want the Cadmium for?”
“I can’t tell you since that information is Proscribed.”

“Even for you?”
“There are things that even I agree with the Inquisition on and I’m just beginning to realize how bad things could get.My brother in law created that book that I handed out as a gift. Didn’t you read it?”
“Not that copy. Most of my fellow seats didn’t realize that they had been handed a true treasure, but I was certainly aware of that. So the book went into a case. I thought that I would wait until the printed version came out and read that.”

“I will send you the reading copy, my daughter’s report on the Scourge and the brief that we have been sending to people. That should at least tell you what you need to know.”
“I will take my leave. This was very productive.”

“Yes it was.”
Quidi left and Adreth said, “That was a surprise. He’s sharp, very sharp. I think he has some shrewd guesses about the Cadmium and what the Eiljeon want it for. He also has a mistress and some sons who probably function very well outside the Empire.”
“The disreputable sons, you mean.”

“They do and he is sharp,” Ayre said. “I’ve run into them before. We need to get the planes set up, so Adreth and I need to get going. That was a very interesting chat.”
“Yes it was.”
“Why didn’t you come out and tell him what the Eiljeon wanted the Cadmium for?”
“First of all, even though the Inquisition is in trouble right now, if I don’t tell him, I don’t risk telling him something that the Inquisition could use against him on the council. Second, he is probably looking into the Eiljeon, might find out things that we haven’t and he doesn’t have a connection to us. That works for him and us.”


Tom was sitting in his office and Petty officer Klurtuk buzzed his intercom. “Sir, a Professor Roger Graymace is here with an Alre Ironaxe and wants to speak with you about something that you discussed with him several moons ago.”

Tom had to think about it and then remembered that he talked to Professor Greymace about artificial objects in the sky. With a grin, he said, “Send them in.”
The professor came in with a young man carrying a brief case. Tom waved for the pair to sit down and the Professor said, “Admiral, you have probably forgotten, but you asked me to look into artificial objects in the sky.”
“I take it that you have evidence that there are some. Things moved on and we are fully aware of at least one of them, the Projector mirror.”
“Yes. The existence of the Projector mirror was rather obvious when the Darkmage used the Projectors to assault the city of Chatsrey.” The professor pulled out a picture. “My Scholar student here took it upon himself to modify an old telescope that almost nobody used to track some things that have been plaguing us for some time.”
“The Projector mirror?”
“Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, no. We found it, but the Projector mirror is in an orbit that allows it to remain in a fixed place in the sky.” The professor handed Tom a picture and continued. “Here is the Projector mirror, which must be quite large, since it is rather far away.”

Tom looked at the circular spot on the picture and said, “It’s impossible to tell what this is.”

“That was taken with the large reflector and yes it is.  Alre took that right after the mirror was used against the castle in Castle Hill Park with such poor effect. In spite of my best efforts, his large telescope privileges were cut off and he decided to work on an issue that has been plaguing the astromomnical community for the last two hundred years.”

The Professor handed Tom a picture where a streak was going across the sky. “The earth has these small moons and they play havoc with long exposures. The assumption was that they were natural objects, caught in the Earth’s gravity and in a close orbit. Alre decided to rebuild an old reflector and use it to track the streaks. The other night he captured this.”

The professor handed Tom another picture. Tom looked at it and said, “This is artificial.”
“Yes it is. We also think that we know what it is.”
“What is it?”
“A large telescope, pointed at the earth. Alre, explain.”
“Admiral, you probably know my great grandfather and certainly know my Uncle Kulgha. In any case, I used family resources to build the tracking mount for the telescope and resilvered the mirror. I then started to collect pictures of the objects. This was the first one, but I have pictures of at least three of them now. They are all exactly alike and all seem to have an increase in albedo when they pass almost overhead. At least they do most of the time. There may be a door that covers the mirror when the telescope isn’t in use.”
“Do you have any idea why somebody would build such a thing?”
“I think that it is used to look at things on the surface.”

“Do you know about my Uncle Romarod?”
“He builds rockets.”
“Yes he does. Would you be willing to make a trip to the Empire with him?”
“What for?”
“We found the place where those things were fabricated and you and he can probably find the parts for one and with some others, figure out how they work. You can also talk to my uncle about ways to cause the things to have an accident.”

“Destroy them.”
“Yes. They may be eyes that the Darkmage launched and while he doesn’t seem to use them, somebody else may.”

“I can do that. If nothing else I can use what I find for my thesis.”
“I hope that we will not have to, but your thesis may have to be classified, depending on what you find.”
“I can accept that.”
“You will get your parchment in any case,” the professor said. “If your work is in fact classified, then the navy has procedures for that. I am giving you leave to work on this in any case.”

“Alre, I am not about to let this mess up your life,” Tom said. “If for no other reason than your uncle and my brother. The last thing I need is my pretty face brother and his orcish sot friend making my life miserable, again.”

The pair left, Tom looked at the picture and then at a report sitting on his desk. He put the picture with the report. Then he picked up the phone and said, “Get me Skychaser Development, would you, chief.”

House Aravaris.

Elwin Wyndove was rather shocked when the pair of landdragons emerged from the portal until he heard the lady landdragon cajoling the other to walk to the House and recognized poor Harry. The pair arrived at the door and the lady said, “I understand that the Lady Lissia is here today.”
“She is indeed. Who should I say is calling?”
“Landdragon Harry and Vestelle Eiljeon. We understand that Lissia is in charge of finding the parents of some people that were rather confined.”
“I see. Wait here while I get the lady. Harry, you didn’t need to stop.”

“I thought that Vestelle would be a shock if we just showed up. We looked at the estate and they said that Lissia was here.”

Elwin called for a messenger and then said, “She should be here shortly. I think that things would be rather inconvenient for you inside, so I will have something set up in back.”

“That would be fine.”

Lissia appeared with a woman from the Republic and said, “We meet again, Harry. Who is your lady? You have not been by lately.”

“This is Vestelle, who is convinced that I am her landdragon, somehow.”

“Welcome Vestelle. Shall we go in back and chat? This is my soon to be sister in law, Stacey. Stacey, this is Biter, or Harry, I should say. He’s been watching the kids for various things, along with your grandfather and his friends for Jorge.  I really should have started to look for his parents.”

Lissia led the group to the back. Of course by the time that they arrived in back, the various children knew that Harry was back and came outside. A rather precocious elf girl said, “Harry, you shouldn’t wander away without telling us.”

Harry looked at the girl and said, “I didn’t wander away, Lussie. Vestelle wanted me to help her at her House for a while and I have been busy at the Conclave and doing things for some people.”
Lusserina pouted. “Playing with other kids.”
“There was some of that. I was also helping the last of the Pen get free, making sure that there weren’t any more out there and having discussions about doing a movie with some people from the Fellowship.”

“Well, you’re back and we will make sure that you and your lady dragon want to come back.”

Stacey laughed and said to Vestelle and Lissia, “I understand why the kids were rather unhappy now. They lost their big friend.”

“I’ve been having him at my House and Harry didn’t say anything about his friends,” Vestelle said. “We will have to make more visits.”

“The girls will want to know how you ended up like that?”
“I took to Harry when he was alone in the woods, went home and was accosted by some rather nasty characters wanting to have their way with me. I transformed and they ran away. Since landdragons are not normally seen in the streets of Zirgoccol, my family insisted that I stay in the garden. My uncle wanted me up here, I could see that landdragons were popular with kids in the Empire and my uncle wanted me to come up and see a faery healer. Harry had been pulled out of the woods, tested and was the darling of the Conclave. I found him and we’ve been at the House, the family estate and in the Empty Lands. Harry didn’t tell me very much about the House here and I didn’t know that you all considered him family. At least the kids do.”
“He isn’t, as far as I know,” Lissia said. “I’ve been looking for his mother, but she was sold out of the Lower City and it doesn’t seem to be to a faery kingdom.”
“Have you tried seafolk?”
“I hadn’t actually. What made you think of that?”
“The fact that a friend went to Oceanside and disappeared for a time. We were first years in college and she went down for break, to a wild party and had an accident. Her mother was rather frantic when Dilly didn’t come back, until she went down there and Dilly was underwater with a bond. Dilly is back up top with kids now, but that sort of thing does happen and if Harry’s mother was seafolk, she might up and disappear.”

“Did you see the faery healer,” Stacey asked.

“Yes I have. According to the healer at the Sanctum where they tested me, since Harry doesn’t want to revert because of me, and I don’t want to revert since I think of Harry as a landdragon since I haven’t seen him any other way. Being a Landdragon also pokes my mother in the nose more than a bit and she doesn’t approve of Harry, since he was just a monster in the woods. I think that I have been recruited.”

Vestelle was dragged off to join Harry and tell her story to the kids as Stacey and Lissia laughed. Galant and Harald came out to see what the ruckus was and walked up to the ladies. Galant said, “I seen that Harry has returned.”
“Yes he has,” Lissia said. “His ladyfriend found him at the Conclave and distracted him somewhat. Vestelle was looking for me so that they can find Harry’s mother.”
“You haven’t found her yet?”
“Harry’s mother is one of the tough ones. First of all, it was a long time ago, and second, she was purchased out of the Lower City. She doesn’t seem to be in a faery kingdom. Vestelle may be right about what happened to her.”

“That is?”
“She was dragged under by a seafolk man.”

Harald laughed. “That has possibilities. I can talk to Admiral Shanelis about the possibility. Let’s join the crowd.”

Chapter 28.

Windergar Aerie.

Iezzen was contemplating the fact, that as chief pilot, he had trouble getting up to fly himself. The cousins that he had learned to fly airplanes with all had jobs at airlines and he was now introducing the next cohort to airplanes. At least he was paid well for being on the ground. Resod came in and Iezzen asked, “Were you grounded by paperwork? I’ve never seen you fly.”
Resod laughed. “I don’t fly very often because the amount of work to get me trained in a new plane would take me out of the office and the new batch need the flight time more than I do. Get up when you can. That was a mistake that I made. I don’t have anything to prove anyway.”

“You were never an officer in the navy.”

“Warrant officer with a training command. When the navy started to fly, aptitude was more important than rank and a junior petty officer who could stay up without losing the bird was more important than an academy type who put the bird and himself in the ground.”
“Thus your disdain for “college boys” and your wife’s black frames.”

“You know that some of that is for show.”

“I figured that out. You start the boys by showing how bad they are. Roger threw that off.”
“Yes he did. I should have been looking out for him. After all, I knew what he could do on the track and in the air, he would probably give the dragons a run for their money.”

“Some of my relatives are saving money for bikes.”

“That isn’t much of a surprise.”

Alinar, Ayre and Adreth came into Iezzen’s office and Iezzen groaned. “What do you all want?”

Adreth grinned. “King Adnamatus wants training flights out of Freywick.”

Iezzen looked at them and said, “That isn’t something that the committee would be involved in. Alinar, that would go through your mother’s office.”

“It did, which is why Sally and I are playing too.”

“I don’t have a problem with taking the boys up to Astaire. So, what are we really doing?”
“There is a place that doesn’t want people poking in,”Ayre said. “There was somebody that attended a little meeting that the committee would really like to discover where he came from. So some accidental overflights, with camera, would be a good thing.”

“Anything special about the place?”
“It is part of the Empire, but doesn’t seem to be connected to a House, the property registration is vague and the portal doesn’t work. They also have Projectors.”

“That last is nice to know. Alinar, I take it that you are running the cameras again.”
“Since the planting is over, yes. I thought that Sally and I would enjoy Astaire for a while and we are inviting some of Sally’s friends and boyfriends.”

Iezzen grinned. “I think that my two nuisance nephews will want to get away from Byddri’s house for a while with their foxy friends. So we can recruit them as well. Some training flights to Grimfrost and back would probably be a good thing. Let me arrange for a fuel tanker and ground support. If some crazy hauls out the Blight again, it will be better to get this set up now, than during the Blight.”

EiMagic Plant, south of Fayspire.

Elion was sitting in his office with George Lightarmor, his plant manager when his secretary buzzed and said, “Mr. Eiljeon, Mr. Broadaxe would like to see you.”

Elion frowned and said to George, “At least we can see if he has some answers. I’m tired of waiting for things to happen.” He pushed the button on the intercom and said, “Send him in!”
Drannor came in with Gears and Elion said, “Drannor, you know George. Sit down and tell us what you want.”

“Mr. Eiljeon, I will let Gears explain.”

Gears looked nervously at George and said, “You know that we acquired some things up the road for your brother, Mr. Eiljeon. I did some checking with somebody I knew and he said that the people that had the material pulled a fast one.”

“Did your friend say how?”
“He said that he would take a consultant’s fee of one hudred thousand for a report.” Gears pulled out a small wooden disk. “He also said that he would explain these for another fifty with money up front.”
“In coin, I presume.”
“He didn’t say, but I suspect that he wants coin.”

“If the Beinans pulled a fast one, your brother could get us in deep trying to reverse engineer things that are fake. You could tell your father, but you know your brother and he will keep trying unless you have a compelling argument. One fifty is cheap compared to what we will spend once we start looking to see how things work.”
“Did your friend tell you how they did it, Gears?”
“That is part of the package that we would be paying for.”

“I will authorize the draft. If that is the last we pay for this fiasco, we will be out cheap. Why didn’t you take this to my brother, Drannor?”

“Mr. Eiljeon, your brother is running on emotion and anger over being crapped on at that thing he attended. The crap was ported in, so obviously the Beinans were responsible and he wanted revenge. He can be smart, but when he gets like he is now, he does really dumb things. I should have been paying more attention when he called me in. I suspect that the Beinans knew what your brother would pull and set us up.”

“Do you think that they are going to act against us?”
“If it’s the Beinans here, probably not. But we have the family from the Republic and you know that they like to play. Also the family has the House back in the Empire and all that means. We don’t know what the Lord of the House will do and what they may have stashed away.”

“Halamar is making noises about restitution and acting as if he knows a lot more than he should. Are you sure that you got away clean?”

“When we did it, I would have said, yes. Now, I’m not so sure. There are these disks and we’ve never seen them before. I hope that we can find out enough to make the right decisions.”

“Drannor, thank you for coming to me about this. I was against Ayre’s actions from the beginning. If you made a mistake, so did I. The thing was rushed and I had other concerns at the time. I should have pulled you and had you keeping an eye on them.”

Drannor and Gears left and George said, “I think that we haven’t seen the end of this fiasco.”
“I know. My brother isn’t always an idiot, but he has never been able to let a slight pass, regardless of the consequences. I hope that Gears’ friend has answers.”
“I hope that Gears’ friend isn’t connected to the Beinans and leading Gears through the nose.”
“If he were, he wouldn’t asked for as much money as he did. One fifty is a nice piece of change, but enough that Gears’ friend knew that we might not go for it. At least we know to quietly pass the word that the Beinan stuff is fake so that our people don’t invest any time looking for deep dark secrets.”

The Hidden Estate

 Varitan looked at the picture and frowned. The Republican ship looked like one of their latest battleships, until you looked closely. The ship was steaming so whatever it did, the ship was finished and commisioned. The ship didn’t seem to have the armarment that the others did. He went to the office where experienced slaves looked at the pictures and tried to figure out what it all meant. The head interpreter stood as Varitan came in and said, “Welcome, Milord. I see that you have discovered our latest mystery.”
“Yes. Do you have a file on this ship, Stadlee?”

“We do, at least pictures of what we think is the same ship. For a long time, until recently, the ship, as well as another one was left unfinished in what we think was the Republic’s reserve. We think that the armarment went to two other ships for some reason. Then this ship went to dock for some modification and emerged as you see. We have a picture of the ship in the dock. Here it is.”

Stadlee handed Varitan the picture. Varitan looked at it and said, “What are these long cylinders?”
“That is the mystery. I think that we have solved it. I had my son look for similar things and he found another one, here in Desert Howl. We think that they are primitive rockets.”

“So the Republic modified a ship to carry rockets. Do you think that the rockets could reach orbit with a payload?”
“That is hard to say. That depends on how they are constructed and how large the payload was.”

“What do you think that the Republic is doing with this?”
“I wouldn’t know. We can hardly ask and looking at the pictures doesn’t tell the story without some background. All we know is that the ship exists and was used to launch rockets.”

“They actually used it to launch rockets?”
“Here. We caught the ship at sea with a rocket being prepared for launch, similar to what they were doing at Desert Howl.”

“See if you can discover more about that ship.”

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