The Trials of Slaves, Chapter 13-14

Jomney has labor problems. Jorge is put on the grill.

Chapter 13.

Neuw Athlin

Queen Cécile looked at the assembled commoners and said, “What is the complaint of the guilds?”

“That slave is not using guild laborers as the law requires.”

Cécile turned to Joram and said, “Find Jomney and have him come here.”

“Should I tell him what is up?”
“Do so.”

Joram disappeared and Cécile turned to the assembled guildsmen. “What is your exact complaint?”
The rather nervous guildsman said, “It involves the pavers, your majesty. The slave is not using the pavers’ guild to pave the streets in the new city.”

“Have you discussed this with him?”
“There is no reason to. The guilds have had their prerogatives for centuries codified into law.”

Jomney appeared with Joram and another man and said, “I have come, your majesty.”
“The guilds want to know why you are not using the paver’s guild to pave the streets.”

“I am.”

The guildsmaster looked at Jomney and said, “Then why are there no laborers wearing the badge on the streets and why are the contractors from the Fellowship?”
“Because even if I used all the pavers in the country, and I am, there simply are not enough to do the work. Most of the guild was killed with the three cities that were Scourged.”
The man with Jomney said, “Dugal, you be a fool. You were so set at maintaining your prerogatives that you lost track of what we are for. There be not enough pavers left to pave a village, let alone cut cobbles and pave a city. The same be for masons and carpenters. Jomney has been working with the guilds, but the guilds canna do the work by themselves.”

Chapter 14.

Beltain.

Jorge looked across at the congressmen and woman of the navy committee and sighed. With a sergeant setting up his slides, he started. “I am Major Jorge Tollings, Republican Marine Corps. I am in command of the special task unit of the presidential detail under the Commandant of the Marine Corps and High Admiral Harper. Our mandate is to take on the special tasks that a larger force will not be able to accomplish without a great deal of collateral casualties or annoyance on the part of the locals. We operate far from the Republic’s shores to prevent something from becoming a war before it starts. The unit was formed after my successful infiltration of the Blight factories on Imperial territory and the destruction of those factories with little loss. We were also present at the takeover of the Imperial Palace, but not ordered to engage. Following that we performed tasks in the time leading up to the beginning of General Headbasher’s invasion of the Peninsula and in support of marine operations on the upper peninsula after the invasion.  

“As the siege was continuing, I was tasked to infiltrate into the captured city of Ishendell in order to evacuate civilians left behind inside the city and conduct actions to mitigate the Inanimate incursions and other actions being taken by the Darkmage and his allies. As part of my tasks, I was to get a record of the atrocity committed by General Headbasher, 2nd Army and the Darkmage. I was also to secure 2nd Army’s headquarters and all records relating to events in Ishendell. This presentation is based on my collection of that intelligence, observations of actions and the subsequent capture of 2nd Army headquarters before anything could be destroyed. Let me begin.”

Jorge went through the events leading up to Ishendell, the evidence that he had collected of the campaign down the Peninsula and at 2nd Army headquarters in Redville. Then he described his infiltration of Ishendell, the rescue of the refugees and the events leading to the defeat of the Darkmage and the securing of the Headquarters. He described the collection of bodies, the creation of inanimates and how the ancient portal was used to send the inanimates to the Republic. He used 2nd Army records to show the casualty records and pictures of the compelled randomly shooting civilians and the monsters slaughtering the people in the city. He finished with, “The final accounting of the deaths on the Republican side of things was about 12,000, most of which were civilian.

“My next task was to ensure that the task supposedly undertaken by the Inquisition to confiscate and dismantle the Scourge devises was undertaken and complete. We discovered that almost all of the Scourge devises assembled before the mage wars still existed and worked with parties inside the Empire and elsewhere to destroy or dismantle all the Scourge devises.

“Trapped in the siege of Ishendell were children including the ten boys that became part of my section. The boys became part of the section as an expedient at first because they had refused to leave the city until the siege was lifted and then a necessity as special equipment was discovered that increased the probability of the trapped militia and regulars as well as my section to survive and conduct operations during the siege. Once the siege was lifted, the hunt for the Scourge devises and the extreme sensitivity of the operations required that I retain the boys if they wanted to stay. They all did. All of them have proven to be excellent soldiers and have provided service above and beyond the call of duty.”

Congressman Seachaser looked at Jorge and said, “If the service was so exemplary, why were the service files of the boys classified.”

“First of all, congressman, the boys were underage, so they should be protected. Second they were operating in places like the Fellowship, the Empire and the Mortal kingdoms where the President and the governments involved did not want it passed around that Republican marines were operating in those countries in matters that were extremely delicate. There was a degree of sensitivity required and we stepped lightly.”

“What was the special equipment that the boys were required for?”
“Congressman, that will remain classified unless the President orders the declassification.”

“Even to this committee? We are in charge of military procurement.”
“The equipment here was not acquired through the procurement process. If it comes to that, since the equipment was discovered in the old city of Ishendell, the equipment is my personal property and will remain classified.”

“That sounds like powerful things to give to a bunch of teenagers.”
“Congressman, at the time, we were trapped in a city, surrounded by thousands of compelled Fellowship soldiers, cannibal monsters and darkmages. If there were tools that gave us an edge, we were going to use them. There were issues that forced me to hand the boys the equipment, but that was a function of necessity.”

“Was it necessity that forced you to turn the boys into ruthless killers?”

“What are you driving at Congressman?”
“You turned the boys into ruthless killers. Cadet Wavechaser has the sharpshooter’s ace button with five or more kills.”
“Yes he does, and yes he has shot and killed more than five targets with a rifle. I’m not going to tell you the circumstances of those kills, but all of them were justified. He received a knighthood from the Kingdom of Vestia to the Order of the Sword, something that is only given for the saving of the king’s life or other extraordinary act, in that case, saving the life of Queen Cécile outside Athlin. In another case, his shot was to deal with a cannibal monster planning on eating a little girl and Jim, Tim’s brother. I’m sure that makes Tim a ruthless killer.

“As for ruthless killing the other side does that, in city sized lots. There was yet another act committed in Chatsrey yesterday and no one knows how many were killed as yet when the Primary went off. I am sure that it was a lot more than five.

“Congressman, before you start spouting words off like ruthless killers about my people, I suggest you go to the five cities to see what a Scourged city looks like. That is what we are faced with. We are the people that are far away from our country and our homes, sometimes abandoned by them, fighting monsters and terrible things in the dead of night so that things like Chatsrey yesterday don’t happen.”

“Real soldiers don’t recruit under age boys. Why did you do that?”
“Congressman, the boys were fighting the fight before I even got to the city. Most of them had at least one parent sent to the warehouse, some of them, both parents. They fought to survive in a piece of hell created by the Darkmage. I didn’t recruit them, they volunteered to stay in the fight and fight until it was over. Would I prefer that they had stayed out of it? Yes I would have. But I am glad that they were there in the fight with the rest of us, risking their lives for others.

“Tim wanted to continue to serve, when he didn’t have to and rejoined the marines as a cadet. Your son, in a fit of pique has been harassing and attempting to abuse Tim since the induction because he doesn’t like the fact that Tim has won some pieces of tin. What your son doesn’t understand is what it took to earn those pieces of tin. I am not sure why you are wasting my time over this when there are crazies out there using Scourge devise Primaries to kill people. If you want to talk about ruthless killers, ask why the Stewards were allowed to bring in those Primaries and hide them for so long.

“Congressman, the one thing I expect from my country is that my people will have their backs covered. We have to operate far away from home with dangerous things in the dead of night and deal with terrible enemies. At the very least, the folks at home can give us a place of respite and rest. Subjecting the people fighting this war to abuse does not serve this country well.”

“My time is up, so Congressman Dennings, it is your turn.”

“Major, tell us more about the circumstances where you recruited the boys. There seems to be some mystery about that.”

“Ok, I had arranged to get the remaining civilians evacuated and the militia and my sections were preparing to retreat to the tunnels when the boys appeared and we were stuck with them. At that point they were experienced in evading or distracting the monsters and enhanced that the Darkmage was using for patrols and the Fellowship army was not exerting itself to maintain patrols.”

“You have testified that the monsters were cannibals several times now, yet you have monsters in the section.”
“There are two kinds of people that came out of the Pen, the Transformed, who did not participate willingly and the monsters, who did. Most of the folk that were rescued from the Pen were the former and one of my corporals, a Transformed, made sure that I knew what the latter were. The fact is that the enemy creates the monsters and sets them on whoever they can. We saw the latter pattern repeated at Lain Othrond.”

“Why did you not prevent the Scourging of the five cities? Surely you could have.”

“Congressman, I and several other officers used facilities to game out assaults on the downstairs of Lain Othrond in order to prevent the other side from using the Scourge. We could never get a less than fifty percent chance in a best case for our side scenario and all the scenarios ended up with one or more Scourge devises being used unless we had people inside. When we did, we went in. Things were falling apart at that point and even with everything going our way, we were not able to get to the devises before five of them were sent through portals whose location we did not know when we went in.”

“How did you game out the scenarios?”
“The Sanctuary, in the Empire, has elaborate game machines where military operations can be gamed out. A group of military commanders and all the officers and noncommissioned officers of my section, using intelligence gained from the slave boy rescued by Lord Umevan planned and conducted operations against the downstairs and they all failed, most bloodily.”

“Who came closest to winning?”
“Tim Wavechaser, one of the boys from Ishendell, did. We were lucky and the Downstairs liabilities decided to not go down with the place, opened all the doors and set the fire alarms off, so that everyone evacuated. Still, even though we went in immediately when we saw what was happening and managed to get to the Scourge devises very fast, we could not stop the devises from being sent through portals.” 
“Do you think that your operations forced the issue?”

“Congressman, no. First of all, the Project leaders were warned beforehand that the devises were going to be used. Second, investigators later discovered that three of the five cities had been protected in ancient times and the protection had been deliberately shut down and third, the enemy took steps to ensure that Scourge suppressors could not be shipped by train to the five cities before the devises were launched. Dúhael and the others had prepared to Scourge the five cities long before the events happened and took steps to prevent any countermeasures from being established.”
“How did you and the boys save Queen Cécile’s life?”
“The enemy had realized that the queen had gone lost child and not been killed in the Scourge. They set up an ambush using the dead king and queen as Inanimates. The queen started to rush out, I stopped her and the boys dealt with Projector armed snipers and their cover.”

“You stopped a landdragon?”

“Briefly, long enough for the queen to realize what was happening and the snipers to reveal themselves.”

“My colleague says that you turned the boys into ruthless killers. Were there any circumstances, other than saving the queen’s life where they saved lives?”
“Frequently, but one case stands out, as the Fellowship effort in Ishendell was collapsing. Jim Wavechaser was hoping to draw the monsters out and get them concentrated before they could run and hide in the countryside. A little girl appeared and he started to take her to safety when the monsters ambushed him. He protected the girl until the rest of the boys could arrive and deal with the monsters.”

“I reserve the rest of my time.”

Congresswoman Marchant.”
“Major did you know that the Great Captain was a mole?”
“Congresswoman, that is not an easy thing to answer. Did Paeris come right out and tell me, “I am working for Admiral Harper?” No he did not. On the other hand, I did do things like fill drops from time to time. I certainly suspected that Paeris was playing some deep game that he wasn’t telling me about, for good reasons. I was collared and under compulsion. It took some time for Paeris to know that I wasn’t going to volunteer anything to the admiral. There was a level of understanding at the end.”

“You conducted raids on the Republic. Wasn’t that a form of treason?”
“Yes I did. I wasn’t exactly a volunteer and if I were planning and conducting the raids, I could reduce the number of bodies.”

“Your troops still killed thousands of your fellow Republican citizens.”

Jorge consulted a sheet. “I was lucky and a first year college student friend has done a timeline for all of Paeris’s raid captains and the casualty totals. My total, not counting the Leomaris trading post for twenty three real raids, was one thousand, two hundred and twenty three dead. The five raids on Racketgarde don’t count as the dead were strangely enough, all condemned criminals. Still I think that an average of below fifty is hardly thousands of Republican citizens.”

“So you were a nonviolent raider?”
“I was an effective raider, who realized that people I killed were people that we couldn’t take back to the Empire. I was compelled, collared and under orders. I wasn’t exactly doing things by choice.”
“You joined the marines after you were recovered. Why?”

“There were several reasons. The first is that my life had been ripped apart, my girlfriend of the time had married someone else while I had been gone, I didn’t think that my family would accept a former Ravathyra raidcaptain, I needed a job and I was good at the things the marines needed.”
“Why enter as an enlisted man?”
“It made things easier and losing people hurts.”

“Why did you volunteer to lead the suicide mission against the Blight factories?”
Jorge smiled. “At that point I had been promoted back to sergeant, but I was still feeling lost and frankly, based on the intelligence I had, I thought that I could pull the thing off and get the troops out. Thanks to the other side trying to preserve security, poor training on the part of the snake lady and my skills, I did better than I expected. Coming out with more recruits than troops that I had gone in with was exceeding even my expectations. I did meet my wife on the mission, so there is that.”

“How did you get Paeris Zylvyre to cooperate with you during Ishendell?”

“First of all, I didn’t order him to do anything. On the other hand, he was rather annoyed at the ineptness of the thing at Flinder’s Island and setting up the fashion shoot was fun for everybody, with the exception of 2nd Army’s people. The coaster was a bit trickier as we couldn’t tell Captain Oceania what was really going on, but it all worked out in the end. The hard part wasn’t convincing Paeris to pull off the capers, it was making the things convincing enough that the Darkmage bought into them. Amazingly he never questioned things like a shipload of cans and Projector parts just appearing on the coast all of a sudden. They were what he needed, so there they were. The fact that the ship was going to be used for something else was something he didn’t think about.”

“Do you think that it was right to involve the Great Captain?”
“I saved over a thousand trapped civilians and messed up the Darkmage’s plans to use Projectors that actually worked. The Great Captain and I were both working to same goals and we got the task done. Would you have praised me if I hadn’t used the Great Captain and let all those people starve?”
“You used the boys.”

“I have said this before. They volunteered. I did not ask them to. I did not want them to. By the time I realized that they had not left, the ship had gone. At that point I had a choice, let the boys roam free without supervision from my people, potentially jeopardizing operations, keep them under guard and use resources to do that or use them for the same things that they had been doing even before I got to the city. They had more experience in the city and I needed that to survive and fight the enemy. If that was “using” the boys, “using” them is what I did.”

“You continued to use them after Ishendell.”
“Yes I did. I don’t think that you have been up to the Empire but the adult short slight elves in the Carran stories don’t exactly exist anymore in my family or any of the families that were talking to me. Maybe there is some House that has family that looks like that, but otherwise, I needed people that fit the equipment and could use it without recruiting from the outside and risking blowing the operation to the Inquisition, say. If the choice was sticking to the boys and being able to be sure that some idiot Inquisitors wouldn’t show up or recruit elves that were spilling everything to High Inquisitor Orijeon or Keaynore, which would you choose when we are talking about Scourge devises?”

“You could not negotiate with the Inquisition?”
“Congresswoman, there is no such thing as “the Inquisition” with one head and one direction. On the one side you have Inquisitors whose goal is to keep the really dangerous things out of the hands of people that might use them. Those people I did and still do work with. For a very long time they were not the ones in control. On the other hand you have idiots like Zylvyre, Orijeon or Keaynore who just want to throw their weight around, but don’t know enough about the things that should be Proscribed to identify a Scourge devise can, even if it says, “Scourge devise, don’t mess with this without training and handling procedures.”

“That sounds rather sarcastic.”
“Have you met the Inquisitors I just mentioned? I have, and believe me, when the first devises were found on the Nerihorn estate, the clowns were so eager to throw their weight around that they were prepared to mess around with an armed Scourge devise that had essentially what I just said written on it. There is a brief on the events at Nerihorn, but I did not bring it with me. I will send a copy to your office so you can enjoy it. The people on the two estates next to the devise that went boom didn’t think it was so funny.”

As the grilling continued, Ivan said to Tom, “We may have to give him another medal. He’s taken the steam right out of their arguments and kept the leaking of classified material to a minimum. He hasn’t mentioned any of the boy’s names other than the Wavechasers, for instance and he hasn’t said what the special equipment is. Using the fact that the equipment was personal property was brilliant.”

“That Primary going off in Chatsrey didn’t help them.”
“Where did he get the material on Paeris’s raids?”

“Jorge Umevan had the raids as classwork assignment. He gave the report to Jorge and said, “This might be useful.” It was, wasn’t it?”

The questioning went around the committee until Congressman Seachaser said, “I think that we are done here. Do you have anything to add, Major?”
“Yes I do. My section has been at the sharp end of a shadow war for the better part of the last year. My first task when I return to Ishendell will be to write letters to the families of the men who gave their lives in the battle of Neuw Athlin. That is ten men that will never enjoy the benefits of the country that they served. They lie in a quiet plot in a space in Vestia because they believed that there was something worthy to protect. The mere fact that you thought that this hearing was necessary tarnishes their sacrifice. We do not ask for much. Some have given all they had, and asked for nothing. The four days that the boys spent in Chatsrey recently were not spent in the activities that so many boys their age indulge in. They spent those days next to instant death so that what happened in Smoky Hill wouldn’t happen to someone else. If you must have hearings, chase after those who failed. Chase after the corrupt Customs Officer who let the cores for the Primaries in because he was eagerly stealing toys from children. Chase after the Federal Service special agent who didn’t chase down the Stewards because he was worried about the political implications. Those are the people that need oversight. I can fight the enemy. What I cannot abide is the country that takes our sacrifices and tosses them in the mud. Thank you.”

Tom collected the major and said, “This is Secretary of the Navy, Ivan Stonegrinder, major. We were rather impressed with your testimony.”

“I was impressed that you had the figures for the raids you participated in at hand,” Ivan said.

Jorge turned around and looked at the table where a page was collecting the papers. “I will be right back.” He strode down and said to the page, “Leave that one, it goes back with me.”
“I can’t do that, major. All supporting documents go into the record.”

Jorge cursed and returned to the admiral and Secretary. “I just made a mistake.”
Tom looked at him. “You didn’t make a copy of Jorge’s paper.”
“I didn’t have time to. I thought that I could have the copy made here and I was rushed to the hearing room. The paper is due tomorrow.”

“The professor will just have to wait.”
“Jorge says that the professor does not accept late papers. I just thought of something.”
Jorge went back to the page and said, “There are classification issues with the paper. I need to have a receipt for the document.”
“That we can do. Come with me and we will get that settled. Why was the document important?”
“You are better off not knowing. I will risk the bears or mud for you.”

“Bears or mud?”
“You can look in the papers for a bear in the Imperial Palace after the Darkmage took over. I don’t think that the mud reached the papers.”

A grinning Tom and Ivan followed them as Jorge collected a receipt for the document. He turned to the pair and said, “Jorge said that there was a classification issue with the paper. I can use that to get this and this to cover Jorge.”

“Let’s go and get something to eat to celebrate your victory.”  

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