The Trials of Slaves, Chapter 29-30

More fun and games at the naval academy. Veral catches a girl, or she catches him.

Chapter 29.

Beltain Naval Academy

After the debacle at Chatsrey and starting the season 1-2, with the two straight losses, the coach made good his threat and recruited some marines to augment the second stringers. He also started the tryouts for first year midshipmen and cadets. Not surprisingly, Wavechaser had signed up. Somewhat surprising to everyone but the coach, Wavechaser was a superb tosser. As the next game approached Wavechaser had been accepted to the team and attended the strategy session. Roger watched him doodle away through the session while seemingly ignoring the session and then dump the doodles in the recycling bin. As they were walking down the hall after the session, Roger asked, “What was that for?”
“The way to win is to know your adversary. We watched Jorge steal the playbook. What made you think that he stopped?”

“Those stupid recycling bins.”

“Yes, though it probably isn’t the only way he is poking in. I will have to teach you about microportals and other ways to listen in.”
“What are microportals?”
“One of Jorge’s favorite toys. They are tiny portals that activate and shut down. You can use them to track things and even better, you can use vibrations to make them work.”
“Sound. Like a microphone. That way he could be a bug on the wall as we have the strategy meetings.”

“Yes.” Tim held up a little metal button. “Look at what I found.”

“I think that we need to talk to the spook club.”
“The spook club?”

“Middies that like to do the same sort of things that Jorge does. We don’t really know how things work in the Empire and Jorge has been playing with us.”

“I can help with some of that.”

“Why?”

“We wouldn’t want Jorge to think that we were boring, would we?”
“He’s a friend of yours and I’m not.”

“So?”

A hulking figure stepped out in the hall and both boys stopped and saluted. Jorge looked at them and said, “This is a surprise. Good, I need to talk to you both.”

“What about, sir?” Tim asked. “We don’t want to use the bladder ball team’s room for anything discreet, sir.”

“Let’s go down the hall.”

“Hold on a bit, sir.”

Tim dropped the microportal and stepped on it with his heel. There was a crunching sound, he picked it up again and threw it into a trash bin they were passing. “We should be fine now, sir.”

“Why did you have that?”
“We were going to show it to the spook club, but I didn’t want to risk what we said getting out.”

“Ok, I want to recruit the bladderball team.”
“What for, sir?” Roger asked.

“Eyes where I can’t go. While I don’t think that the Stewards have a presence at the academy, they do at most of the other colleges. That is where they recruit and gain converts. So they need to maintain contacts and I need to know about the contacts so that I can track them up the trail to the people I want. I also will issue radiation detectors and I want you to carry them.”

“You want the scanners and people looking for booms,” Tim said. “The team travels a lot, so we could trip something from the bus.”
“Exactly. Jorge did that the day before yesterday in a very lucky accident.”

“What happened?”
“Jorge’s grandmother sent Jorge an invitation to a tea. Apparently she doesn’t take no for an answer and has some boys go out and collect people she wants to talk to, mostly family, for the most part. Since Jorge figured that he was going to have to deal with the lady one way or another, he went along and the four guys drove up route 18 and stopped for gas outside Freiberg. Jorge had planned to teach a class and had a radiation scanner in his brief case. The scanner lit off in the gas station and Jorge had bigger problems than his grandmother. I got there after Rob called me and my people were in the background in case the Stewards showed up to recover the stash. Jorge’s grandmother’s boys provided Jorge with some muscle and he kept a lid on things until Rob could show up with the team and deal with the devises.”
“How many?”
“Four, with two cans.”

“Cans? We didn’t think that the Stewards had cans.”
“What is the deal with cans?”
Jorge looked at Roger and said, “I’m going to have to talk to Rob about setting up a course here about the Scourge devises and the rest of it. Tim can explain. The short answer is that if the Primary that the Stewards lit off had gone off where it was supposed to, about two thousand people or so would have been killed and the Office Of Inanimates would have had some clean up to do. If the devise had had a can and gone off where it was supposed to and central Chatstrey had not already been built on a Scourgezero, a million or so people would have been killed, instantly. That is why a can is a concern. I will make arrangements for the radiation scanners, Tim.”

The boys saluted and Jorge walked up the hall. Roger looked at Tim and said, “Is he always like that?”
“Yes, but most of the time, he’s dealing with the troops in the section, so we know what’s going on and we can make it fast. I don’t think that Major knew that at least a basic class on Scourge devises had not been started here at the Academy. That will probably change very fast.”

“He likes training.”
“Yes he does. If the section wasn’t conducting an operation, we were receiving some kind of training. You’ve seen all those buttons I have. There are more things that there aren’t buttons for. For instance, if you need a safe blown, I can do that. We were trained by the best.”

“Blowing safes?”
“Actually cracking or blowing up just about anything. Do you know how easy it would be to sink a battleship? We didn’t get to do that, of course, but we trained in the water and did everything but pop the switch.”

“Why so hard?”
“The major wanted us to be able to do just about any job we had to. Maybe not as experts, but be able to do the job if the expert was out of the picture.”

“Some of that sounds if you were trained for grand larceny.”
“I assert my right to silence about anything done outside the Republic on behalf of random Beinan ladies that may or may not have involved transfers of large amounts of coin or other such activities.”
Roger started to laugh. “I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Some towns here  in the republic are annoyed that certain pigeon perches that they had made arrangements to have disappear now have returned, since we did not use the Statue of Freedom for explosives practice.”

“Since it’s still there, apparently not.”

“Not the big one here, the little one.”

“Where did you find that?”

“That is another thing that I will remain silent about. Two old pirates would get upset. One of whom is a retired high admiral and the major’s grandfather.”

“Admiral Tollings? He’s still alive?”
“Very much so.”

“What’s he like?”
“Like an old retired pirate with fun stories who goes stomping around on a peg leg, getting kids to play with toy boats with his old Ravathyra buddy and go off on expeditions to strange places.”

“That all sounds strange.”

“You had to be there.”

“I think that we have some stories to keep the spook club happy.”

“If that is what they want, I can provide. I have to be careful as some things are classified and I am not sure what they are.”

“Your entire file was classified.”

“That was done to protect us from the likes of Colonel Pikepusher of the Ishendell Tribunal. He was the defense and if I was the ruthless killer your dad says that I was, removing him would be doing the world a favor.”

“Why?”

“As well as being so bad that calling him a sack of crap insults crap, he liked little girls.”

“Oh. How did he get away with that?”

“When the Umevan estate was “managed” by the minions of the Dowager Empress the minions had a little operation where little girls and boys were provided to select people. The lady in charge indulged herself and farmed out kids to friends of the dowager empress to pay loans to fund things that I can’t talk about.”

“Imperial secrets?”
“World secrets. The fact that the thing is there is more or less secret and details are classified by the Office of Inanimates and the Dragonmaster’s office and Proscribed by the Inquisition.”

“That sounds heavy.”

“Five cities have died as a result of the place existing.”

“That’s even weirder than the Jorge the Pirate books.”

Tim grinned. “We had to tone things down a bit. Some of the real things were just a little too unbelievable.”

“Using a portal to break some people out of jail.”
“That wasn’t us, so we stole it. That was Paeris, actually. The Richflights were in jail and Paeris wanted them, so he had his Transformed ported in and arranged a truck with a portal inside to be making a delivery. The Transformed opened all the doors, they and the Richflights exited through the portal, the driver closed the door and drove off.”

“What happened to the Transformed?”
“They are all cops in Oceanside now.”

“We can use that story. Let’s go. Grab that microportal.”

Tim retrieved the microportal and looked at it skeptically.

“It’s broken.”

“We can still show it to the spook club.”

Roger led Tim to a row of sheds under the stands of the stadium and there was a slight tinge of tabac and beer. Roger walked up to a door and knocked. The door opened a bit, a rather disreputable looking midshipman looked at Roger and said, “The captain here to inspect the hole? It’s still here.”

“I should drag you all out and make you see some daylight. You’ve been dropping the ball.”

The middie laughed and said, “We weren’t the only ones. Of course the fact that the caper was pulled off by the High Admiral’s niece and her boyfriend is fae threw us off. Where did Umevan get all those friends?”

“Tim here has stories.”

“I’m surprised that he is even talking with you other than saying, “Yes sir! No Sir!””

“Coach recruited him for the team.”

“I can see the reason for that. You haven’t been doing so hot.”

“No, we haven’t. What have you got on Umevan?”
“Other than the thing with the bear? He isn’t playing for Ironton. His cousin Chris does and another from the other side of the family does as well. He had a run in with the Feds recently and the word has gone out to be careful around him. He went down to Desert Howl, is talking to Tim’s cousin and teaching classes to the Beinans. He is also the center of an academic row over a plagiarized paper that was published in Imperial Studies. He lives on an estate in the Empire that was more or less isolated until recently. He also sells wine, very expensive wine and his dad is Fylson toys. He doesn’t have any money issues other than being really really heavy like the rest of the family. We don’t have good sources in the Empire, but Grindig’s brother is up there with his grandfather so, we are developing sources, if Grindig’s brother will take time from his new girlfriend. She’s a Zylvyre and the daughter of the Grand Master, so I’m not going to poke very hard and old Greldug will keep his boys on the ball.”

“Tim here can fill in some dots and has stories.”

The midshipman brightened and said, “Come in, Mr. Wavechaser. Our esteemed captain has told you who we are. Needless to say we are not exactly at the top of the class. I’m Gary Fishchaser, a fellow Swimmer beneath the waves. Why did you decide to be a sand rat?”
“I was rescued from Ishendell by Major Tollings, who made being a sand rat look like a very good thing.”

“So that uniform the first day and the cover you wear.”
“I got the cover after Ishendell. A top sergeant gave it to me with my stripes when the boys and I became official.”

“Come in and tell us all about it. Was it as rough as it as it sounds? Our esteemed captain and some of the rest of us wanted to get in there and play and the powers that be squashed that because they were concerned that the war would be bigger than it was and wanted us to graduate. So we were out of the fun.”

“It wasn’t fun.”
“Some of it was, or you wouldn’t be here.”
“You got me.”

The midshipman led them into a room that had an old couch, two tables and a desk with maps on the wall and three more midshipmen who were surrounding a radio receiver and writing things down. One of them turned and said, “Army has either screwed up or is pulling our chain, Roger. They haven’t picked up on the fact that we have a transmitter in their strategy meetings. I see that you brought Mr. Wavechaser to us. Mr. Wavechaser, I am also a Tim, Brownlow that is. As far as our unofficial club has a leader, I am it. We are the Academy’s middies who pry into things our adversaries would rather have us not be prying into and the bulwark against their efforts to do the same to us, with some success until this season.”

“If you can, slip somebody into the janitorial staff,” Roger said.

“Why?”

“Jorge is doing it to us,” Tim said. “He probably picked up on the save a tree campaign like I did. Of course, he has ways to do what you are doing to Army.”

“We looked for that.”

Tim put the broken microportal on the desk. “I found this in our strategy room. It’s what they call a microportal. The Beinans came up with them, but a bunch of portal people and others know how to use them. I would have whoever you have in the Empire make a stop at a place in the Lower City and see if you can obtain a Portal scanner from Beinan’s”

“We do not have portals here.”

“That is one. Jorge had Generator offshore during the game. He was doing all sorts of things.”

“That’s why we didn’t pick up radio. We were looking for that. Captain, we owe you for bringing this cadet to us. Mr. Wavechaser, we sense that you are a fellow spook, even if you are a sand rat.”

“He has stories.” Roger said. “Good stories. He says that the Jorge the pirate books were toned down to make them more believable.”

“I know that you are young, Mr. Wavechaser, but would you care to have a beer?”

“I think that I would, if the captain shares.”

“I am not one to turn down beer in off duty hours,” Roger said. “As long as we do not partake to excess.”

“Formalities aside, what can you tell us about Ishendell?” Brownlow asked “Roger has probably told you that a group of us were willing to enlist and serve and were turned down. I expect that it was bad.”
“Very bad, in the beginning. My sister was separated from mom, my brother and me and made it out. Mom and the rest of us didn’t. After a while, the crazies stopped shooting and we found a place to hide. We started to collect other trapped, along with cans and other supplies. We didn’t have guns at first because mom thought that having one would mean using it and that could cause more trouble than running and hiding. Then the monsters showed up and it was obvious what they wanted for dinner. So, Jimmy and I found some rifles and a little bit of ammunition. We still kept collecting cans and watching the compelled and 2nd army. Jimmy and Talissa came through but I didn’t see them and I don’t think that they saw very many of the rats. The militia was hiding too, but they had the tunnels that we didn’t know about. Then the captain arrived, had the Great Captain sail that ship full of Projector parts and cans in and got the civilian rats out. Jimmy, me and some other boys stayed to fight until the end. Jorge was dropped in by the Portal Service for reasons that we discovered later and we found some things that needed to be worn by people that were small and thin, so after Ishendell, the captain kept us for things. With the Scourge devises being found all over the place and the Darkmage’s antics, we were needed. Finally, we were outgrowing the things and the Major had to cut us loose. I exercised the option that I had and entered the academy.”

“Wearing that getup.”

Tim grinned. “They said, “Come in full uniform,” so I did. I hadn’t received all the tin yet.”

“There was a lot of tin with nothing to say how you got it. Very few people have files that say, “Classified, if you even ask for more, you will be shot” on the day of their induction.”

“That was the result of the Ishendell Tribunal and Headbasher’s defense counselor, Colonel Pikepusher. If you look at his file, you will understand. The major wanted us protected somewhat.”

“Your father’s boss didn’t have anything to do with that?”
“I don’t think that Mrs. Steelmaker had anything to do with the files, but she may have.”

“What all were you doing in the Empire?”
“I can’t really say anything about the details, but the short answer is that the section was chasing Scourge devises and finding them. We found other things, but the Scourge was our primary mission.”
“You didn’t find all of them.”
“We had a list and we accounted for all the devises from the time of the Mage Wars. Then another one showed up at the Grand Master’s funeral right in front of Jorge and we were right back to the beginning.”

“How many are still out there?”
“Very few cans are functional. They were dispersed and hidden, we found them and rendered them nonfunctional. The Primaries are still out there as they were kept separate. We think between a hundred and a hundred and fifty.”

“Major Tollings wants Ordnance to have a class here at the academy,” Roger said. “He is recruiting the bladder ball team to look for Primaries here in the Republic.”

 “How come you didn’t bring him to us, captain?” Gary asked.

“He just walked up, said some things, that we were recruited and left. I don’t think he will mind if you are on the bus and we can use you anyway.”

“Why did he do that?”
“Jorge Umevan found some Primaries after his grandmother had some boys kidnap him and take him for a ride.” Tim said.

“We must look into that. Do you have details?”
  “It happened at a gas station in route 18 near Freiberg, Jorge’s grandmother apparently does that and Jorge was dealing with Federal Service clowns,” Roger said. “That should give you something to start with. It probably won’t make the papers. At least the part with Jorge being kidnapped won’t.”

Tim’s stomach growled, he finished his beer and said, “If I am dismissed, captain, I think that I will hit the mess.”

“Dismissed.”

Tim left and Brownlow said, “How did you and he patch things up?”
“After the first game, we both couldn’t watch a movie and we talked.”

“He hates snakes?”
“He saw the Darkmage eat a girl that was looting a store with him. The movie was Attack of The Snake Man. Tim said that the monster eating the girl scene was about right even if the costume was bad.”

“Ishendell was worse than we figured.”

“I had that feeling. Anyway, we aren’t buddies, but I understand some things now.”
“That get up?”
“Tim really likes Major Tollings. He calls him the “best marine” and he apparently was a protector and father figure in Ishendell. Tim has a lot of stories to tell, good ones, if we can get him out of his shell.”

“I think that his father’s employer will appreciate that. Army’s team has seemed to have followed Tim to chow, so why don’t we do the same.”

Chapter 30.

Neuw Athlin

Veral spotted the girl on the street again. She seemed to hang just out of his vision, disappearing when he looked at her directly. She was very good at staying just out his sight while being more than a bit of a distraction. Since his mother had annoyed  his grandmother and not allowed him to be tested, Veral was at a disadvantage because he could not reach into certain things, and he had been busy since the disaster and unable to go to Redwood and visit his grandmother.

Still, Veral was not without some tricks, and using a small doll he made and a light compulsion on his horse, he dismounted when he knew that the tent houses under construction were going to stop and horse and seeming rider following his usual path, Veral quietly moved up the next street and then behind where he had seen the girl previously. As he moved in the shadows, he could hear the glamor laden Lightning approach. The girl appeared in front of him, and looking at Lightning with the seeming Veral, she didn’t notice Veral until he walked up behind her and said, “Hello.”

The girl jumped and disappeared as Veral laughed and collected the plodding Lightning. As he mounted a voice said, “That wasn’t very nice.”

He looked and there she was. “We can talk about it. Why don’t we walk for a while.”

“Maybe we should.”

“You probably know my name, what is yours?”

“Rosie.”
“Where is your grove?”

“Not close by. My parents are working here for the queen.”

“Mine were in the disaster.”

“I know. Have they been put to the fire yet?”

“I don’t think so. At least there has been no ceremony. So why have you been looking at me?”

“You sensed the mana flow in the hill.”

“I haven’t been tested.”

“The Church, right? That seems to happen a lot here”
“Yes.”

“You caught me.”

Veral smiled. “I did, didn’t I? Now you owe me a kiss.”

“That’s fair.”

Rosie kissed him on the cheek and disappeared. When Veral reached the construction site, Dugal looked at him and said, “You are smiling. Did something happen, milord?”
“Nothing important.”

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