The Landdragon Queen, Chapter 53.

Bill returns home.

Chapter 53.

Desert Howl.

Bill stepped off the train and the detective was waiting with a car. “I thought that I would pick you up and have my chat with you on the drive back, Bill. How was your trip?”

“I shouldn’t have gone.”
“Yes you should. The fact that you were not here meant that they couldn’t take you as well as the rest of the things they did.”

“They got three of my class, and my best friend Jimmy is scaly.”

“He Jumped away to his girlfriend’s family. They like scaly, so he’s fine. As for your other friends, that wasn’t your fault. The Stewards were going after the Beinans and even if they hadn’t wanted whatever it was in your safe, they would have gone after the Beinans here or at another plant. What did the Beinans say about that?”
“The same thing that you just did.”
“Now, there were three incidents involving you, lately. The theft of your solid state thing, the theft of the devise in Ironton and the theft of whatever it was in the safe. Do you think that they were connected? I have been cleared to talk about this with you.”
“The last two were probably connected. The first one was Ayre Eiljeon jumping to assumptions and making a mistake. We found out why up in the Empire. The shop manager at Lain Othrond got Strange Science, needed parts for a furnace of the same kind as the furnace that I made and asked his boss who made the parts for my furnace. Instead, the boss sent the pictures of my furnace to Mr. Eiljeon and said, go get it. That started the whole mess. The other two were me and my friends running that old devise in front of Gatherer so that some people would see that it was broken and them stealing it anyway, probably using the Stewards to do that. The Stewards tried to use a Primary to make the devise disappear. That would not have worked but you will have to ask Mrs. Steelmaker where the devise is, because she was handling that part.

“As for this, I imagine that somebody wanted a crystal that was in the safe. I have already told Mrs. Steelmaker’s office about the crystal. They left my solid state stuff apparently and didn’t look around the lab and tear it apart. At least that was what mother’s message said.”

“They used a chainsaw to cut a hole in the wall so that they could remove the safe. A neighbor took pictures and gave them to your mother.”
“I can guess who the neighbor was.”
The detective started to laugh. “He didn’t want to be involved, but what kind of idiot does that on the street where the Great Captain lives?”

“These idiots. How is mom holding up?”
“She’s gone to royalty mode and started to take things over.”
“She does that. Most of the time it’s just dad and the rest of us, but that was one reason that I didn’t want to end up underwater.”
“Did you see any signs of the characters in Ishendell?”
“If there were any Stewards in Ishendell, they would be in real trouble. The Beinans were not happy, and if the Stewards had a protest or something during the reunion, all the ladies would be coming up with things. Lord Umevan was there too, and would have loved to get off tour guide duty and make the Stewards miserable. I don’t think that they realize what they did to themselves.”

They passed the Beinan plant and the detective said, “We were lucky. I kicked the pipe before it launched the thing and that was probably why it missed.”
“You knew where it was?”

“Some kids called in a truck and we went to check it out. The truck was gone by the time we got there, but it was pretty obvious that something had been put in the pipe. I kicked at it and then we went back to the car. We had just reached the car when the thing launched.”

“Why did the Scourge suppressor not work?”

“The suppressor was not watched so as not to attract attention to it and was just behind a locked door. Somebody apparently knew that it was there and shut it down. We found the lock busted off the door after the Primary went off. Just about everybody is kicking themselves over that and a new building is being built for it with somebody being there to watch the door. Here we are at the house. Your mother is waiting and I will want to do a detailed brief later.”

“When is the ceremony?”
“The day after tomorrow. We’ve been lucky. We haven’t had one in a long time.”

Zirgoccol.

 Merfyr was in the Trooper commandant’s office, with the Counselor general and the commandant. Merfyr had ordered all leaves withdrawn and all Troopers on duty for election day. The commandant had done some shifting and the stations in the provinces with no Senatorial campaigns were half manned to provide extra officers to monitor voting stations in the twenty senate seats in question. Announcements had been made on the radio that if any voter felt intimidated at polling place, to call the troopers and report the problem. So far, the problems had been minor and as Halamar and Qambois came in, Merfyr was looking at a very quiet election. He turned to them and said, “This is like waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“I don’t think that there is another shoe,” Qambois said. “Spitty did something that I would not have thought of, invoked the Ghost contracting the Dancer. Apparently he thought that while they may not believe that you would call on the Dancer, Richard, or the Ghost almost certainly would.”

Merfyr laughed. “That would be frightening. Do you think that Richard would do something like that?”
“If things get so bad that Richard feels that he needs to intervene, the Fellowship is essentially finished anyway,” Halamar said. “The good news is that there were some rather strategic withdrawals in some of the races that changed the game for some of the campaigns. For instance, both Hammer and Oceania withdrew, clearing the field for Chald Bloodfoot.”

“That is a surprise.”
“Not really. Fom was looking at the TAV scandal hanging over his head and Scal decided that if Fom left the game, the game wasn’t much fun anymore and he liked Chald anyway. Some of the other old guard dropped out as well, something that was probably a surprise to some people.”

Oceanside.

Simply by passing the word around about a paid riot on election day, Rydel and his cousins had managed to recruit an amazing number of lifeguards, seamen and beach bums. Rydel had the recruits that could Swim swim along the coast while his brother and the rest walked along the street. Rydel had quietly passed the word about the potential riot to the wolves and he was sure that when he showed up where the rioters were supposed to collect and the potential rioters started some trouble, the Troopers and the flameriders, who had not yet gone home would be all over it. So Reluvethel and the others walked up the street.

Foldwin watched as Reluvethel walked into the empty lot where Foldwin was collecting people and said, “Where are the rest of your boys?”

“Coming.”
“They were supposed to be here. What am I paying you for?”
“About that, you should look more closely at the coin you hand out.”

“What do you mean?”
Reluvethel held up a coin. “You really shouldn’t pay in bad coin. This is an Urdison. It’s mostly copper. The rest of the coin you paid out was that coin that the bank’s scanner said makes you sick and was taken from the dead cities. The way I look at it, you were either trying to cheat us, or kill us slowly.” Reluvethel dumped a pile of coin on the ground. “Either way, the deal is off. My boys won’t work for you.” He called out “Boys, I wouldn’t want to get my head busted for bad coin! I would drop the coin in the pile and go!”

Foldwin cursed. He looked around at the furious faces and other than his action team, he had lost support. Reluvethel looked at him and said, “If I were you, I would get out of town, that is if the wolves will let you. They were rather annoyed at some of the things you’ve been saying and doing.”

Nightslayer walked up and said, “The chief did some checking and it turns out that you are in violation of the terms of your bail agreement. I’m sorry, but you are to be returned to jail until the troopers in Zirgoccol come to get you.”

Nightslayer looked at the others, “Things are going to be peaceful for the rest of the day, I hope. The consul called up extra troopers and we all don’t want to have to work on election day.”

Nightslayer dragged Foldwin off as the would be rioters started to look for something else to do, after dumping the money on the pile. Rydel and the Swimming contingent arrived. Rydel looked around, at the pile of money and at Reluvethel. “Where did everybody go?”

“They didn’t want to get their heads busted for bad coin.”

Rydel started to laugh. “You were always sneaky, brother.”

“Somebody has to be. I don’t have a mermaid princess, so I have to be sneaky.”

Mike drove down past the polling places here in Oceanside and everything seemed to be normal, as did the streets. A group of the Fireriders rode past in the other direction and Mike stopped as a wolf was directing traffic on an Ocean Drive that seemed to be normal. He pulled into his campaign headquarters and the people there all looked dejected.  Bardelic looked at him and said, “I don’t think that we’re going to pull it off.”
“What happened?”

“One of the bully boys that Foldwin was hiring was from the Empire, knew what Urdisons were and ran the rest of coin he had past a bank, where the scanner screamed. He came back and made the case that Foldwin was paying with bad coin. The fixers dropped out, saying that they weren’t going to go up against the Ghost and there are too many Troopers looking at things. We were dicey before the Senator pulled out and frankly Chald made the investment in time and making the connections. He’s going to be the choice when the day is over.”

Chatsrey.

Rob watched as Tim carefully cut into the side of the drum with a straight saw, cutting slowly in between the holes drilled for the borescope. Using the borescope, Joe had discovered that the drums were booby trapped on the lids, but not wired on the side. Since Tim and Gotrid were young and could work prone for long periods, they had been cutting doors in the drums. Chief Ironcutter was going to work through the doors and remove the Primary cores. Then the drums were going to be left where they were. Jorge watched them work, turned to Rob and said, “I don’t think you need me right now. I’ll take a car and driver and hit the university library.”
“What for?”

“I’m poking an idiot. Shael is here collecting things, but I want to introduce myself to the librarians here and get Alinis’s Scourge material.”
“You have a Scourge paper?”
“Ten pages, no more than twelve, using at least three “reliable” sources.”
“The guy sounds like a jerk.”

“Yes. He was babbling on about how Ishendell was abandoned because of food shortages to me, who found Amra’s tablet. He assigned me a paper to prove that Ishendell was Scourged. He’s going to get the ten pages. That was finished on the trip up. There is also going to be a pile of addendums and so forth with the sources provided. Then I go on to the Darkmage’s fortress.”

“Did you do that to yourself?”
“I knew that he was going to fail me, so I decided to enjoy it and make him work for it.”
Rob laughed. “You haven’t changed.”
“Do you want me to?”
“I suppose not. Be where we can find you if things get bad.”

The Steward watched the activity from the truck window as the Cleanser drove them by his family’s plant. He had known that storing ten of the devises here had been a risk, and apparently his brother had found them and not opened them, since none of them went off. The truck was turned away from the evacuation zone and the Cleanser headed them back to the safe house.

Swifty saw the truck leave. The fact that the truck had even tried to go down the street with everybody evacuated was interesting and he thought he had seen the character in the front seat before, in the area. When the chief and the others came out he would tell the chief about the truck.

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