The Return of The Silverin, Chapter 59-60

A party at the Residence. Trying to talk to the Cleanser

Chapter 59.

Beltain

The Residence was lit up and welcoming as the various notables arrived, the cars driven up, discharging their passengers and getting out of the way for the next. The prince and princess welcomed the arrivals with smiles and open hands. Moonshine walked in with uncomfortably dressed Bill, followed by his grandfather and aunt. Admiral Harper arrived with his wife, who had shined her scales so that she was respendent in the light and deigned not to notice the looks of the various Plateau ladies. Major Tollings arrived with Lissia, who managed to attract the attention of just about all the guests. Tolly arrived with Livy, who also had shined her scales and her parents, with Neddu even outshining her daughter in a Balladrial that showed her curves to perfection. The cameras flashed as the Umevan arrived, with Shael attracting eyes and frowns as she entered wearing the gown straight from the Empress’s ball.

Guest after guest arrived until finally the stream stopped, filling the spaces of the Residence with talk and glamor as the guest moved and spoke with each other as plates waved through the crowd. Lissia stood for cameras, as did Moonshine and young Sarya. Rather than hiding, the desert ladies entered the crowd, greeting friends and ignoring the looks of some, the opposite of the usual reclusive desert folk. After a twentieth, dinner was called and the guests moved to the dining room.  

The various people sat down to the dinner and before the plates were served, Vindy stood up and said, “You heard my speech yesterday. I wanted this dinner to recognize those who did so much to aid the Mortal Kingdoms during the catastrophe. These folk went above and beyond, taking significant risks to save lives as it became evident that the dark enemy was going to launch their strike. First I want to recognize Master Mage Binorin, who in spite of that fact that being a mage in the Mortal kingdoms was a death sentence, came with the Scourge suppressors to make sure that they were installed and operating. Next, I want to recognize Major Tollings and his men, who came and fought the Inanimates sent by the enemy and when the doors opened in Lain Othrond, charged ahead in an attempt to stop the Scourge devises from being launched. I also want to recognize the folk of the Office of Inanimates who helped folk to deal with the Inanimate onslaughts. Last, I want to recognize Lord Umevan, who used his portal skills to reach into the Scourged cities and assault the Inanimate incursions even before they were launched. These people gave of themselves and took significant risks to help the Mortal Kingdoms in the midst of the disaster. I want to the people of the Republic to know the kind of people they have and understand why we honor them. Thank you and I think that the staff is waiting.”

Naertho had been seated next to Klara and Geral and quietly handed Klara an envelope. “From your daughter.”

“Is she well?”
“She is enjoying herself, even if she gave us a bit of a heart attack in the beginning.”

“What happened?”
“The boy that rescued her spotted the local FSA man, panicked a bit because he was worried that the FSA man would recognize Suzy, so he grabbed Suzy, walked up to the portal and pressed the last port button. Off they went to Innshys. Doesn’t your daughter like to shop?”
“Why do you ask?”
“The portal in Innshys exits into the Innshys market. The market there is a mix of places from the Lower City, the Fellowship and the Sanctuary, filled with the sorts of things that young ladies just love. Of course, the Sanctuary middle mall is one free port away and the directions to the portal are clearly marked. Yet your daughter, other than buying the crystal those pictures were taken on, didn’t stop to shop. She and the boy attached themselves to two disappointed Post riders and got on the bus through the Empire to the Lower City.”

“That sounds like an amazing trip.”
“Not the way they did it. I think it was more exhausting than anything else. The post riders are supposed to make the trip as fast as possible and be efficient. This was their graduation test for the road. Taking passengers was bonus points and the boys thought that they would need them when they were handed the Innshys-Lower City route.”

“Why?” Geral asked.

“The route is heavily traveled, the fares are low and you can use busses for all of it. For the Post rider dragon and fae boys looking for bragging rights, the route is rather disappointing because they don’t have to worry about being short of coin, transferring to a horse or any road hazzards. Dalia fixed that somewhat.”

“What did she do?”
“She drafted the boys into the training that was setup for your daughter and the boys that went up with her. The training starts at an aerie with the Flight Instructor.”

“I hope that Susan doesn’t get hurt,” Klara said.

“I think that she was doing well, at least from the complaints that the boys were making. Apparently Immianthe recruited her to be sort of a corporal.”

“Immianthe.”
“An imperial princess who latched on to a slave on the estate, one Tad Fallingwater. They set up the program for Shael and Dalia, since they were the first to go through it.”

“What is this program.”
“Basically it is learning from some unorthodox experts how to avoid certain things and defend yourself. Other than the Flight Instructor, the others are a retired guildmaster and his high lord friend and the Justiciar’s range officer, whose last name is Ironaxe.”

“So she is learning things that might be considered improper for a girl from the Plateau to know, but can help her in dangerous situations.”

“That sums it up.”

“I approve. I must thank Shael for setting that up, especially since it will be kept discreet.”

“Most of my grandchildren have also been through the program. It is a good thing that Jorge is here.”

“Why?”
“Portal training is part of the program and Jorge used to teach that.”

As the desert was served, the guests were nudged out onto the large patio that bordered the cliff that made up the Plateau’s boundary. Moonshine suddenly started to dance along top of rail that bordered the patio, started to glow as the music changed to a dance number and as the wispy dress she was wearing fell, wings sprouted and she danced out over the cliff and into the air as the gasping crowd watched. For quarter twentieth, she danced until suddenly, she dropped as some of the crowd started to scream as the glow went dark. The crowd rushed to the rail, only to realize that the glow was behind them. They turned and the glowing Moonshine took her bows as the guests clapped.

Vivi Ironforger stood at the edge of the crowd and fumed. For the last ten years she had been the center of attention at every party on the Plateau. At twenty six, she was at the top of her game, and with the match to Jon Holling, son of Senator Holling, later in the year, she was about to take her mother’s place as the matriarch of the Plateau in her turn. Now though, she felt dowdy and outshone by the various exotic ladies.

Even worse, she was certain that now that they had managed to arrive on the Plateau, they would return, acting as rivals for the forseeable future and drawing the power and influence to the old families and their allies. Lady Biqen, as Lady Umevan would certainly be back, exotic, with high elf daughters attracting the attention of the boys here as she attracted the men this evening. Even worse, the Umevan could draw on the Fallingwater winery and the Lower City to provide for entertainment and they had already tried for a Senate seat once. With Tommy gone, the family was in a weakened postion and vulnerable. As she moved through the crowd collecting things for her mother, a musical voice said, “I will be fine, Vindy!”

“Sarya you shouldn’t go back to the city by yourself.”

“Vindy, I walk by myself through the worst parts of the Lower City. Chatsrey was fine.”

“I can’t provide you with somebody.”
“Grandmother will be waiting when I get there and the trains are safe. I will be fine.”

That was the mysterious Sarya Dawkins, who was attached to the prince and looked thirteen trying to dress up, even though she was almost certainly older than that. The Steelmakers and Dawkins were another potential rival and there was an opportunity here even though the thing with Susan Gilders had ended mysteriously. Thinking about that, Vivi passed by Klara Gilders, who did not seem at all concerned about her missing daughter. In any case there was an opportunity here if her mother wanted it. The party winding down, Vivi took her leave.  

Derry prepared to take his leave from the Parks Committee project start dinner that Marian Ironforge was holding. He had had to act as the family’s proxy as his parents had been invited to the prince’s dinner and had made excuses for Mrs. Ironforge’s thing. Mrs. Ironforge said, “Is your mother upset over poor Susan?”
“Mrs. Ironforge, she is, somewhat. The FSA still hasn’t found a clue and all we know is that she did not change trains in Chatsrey.”
“Why did she run off like that?”
“She was upset over the fact that Fylson cut the family off.”
“Why would a craftsman in the Empire care?”
“Apparently his son was involved in that flap over my paper and he decided not to sell his junk to us anymore. I’m not sure why my sister cared, but she loved his things.”
“I do hope that your sister turns up soon.”

“So do we.”

“How are your academic fortunes proceeding.”
“My Paeris paper was retracted, since the other paper was published first by that rag, but I am getting my parchment anyway since I had other work that fulfilled the requirements.”

“What about your opponent? Was he determined to be a spy?”

“The FSA seems to have tabled the investigation. Apparently the Umevan have so many things going on overseas that trying to look for that sort of thing is impossible and Mrs. Steelmaker is not cooperating with the Director, so there is nothing he can do.”

‘That is too bad. I do hope that your sister turns up.”

“We are hoping.”

“My nephew is looking forward to his graduation party. Have the Societies arranged a grand time?”
“He should not be disappointed. There were some setbacks and we were forced to move some rentals to places a bit smaller as a result of the unpleasantness in Ishnedell, but that means that we can be all together for the final party.”

“Excellent! Keral has been looking forward to his graduation party.”

“I think that we have put together a fun time.”

Derry left, leaving Marian with a mystery. She turned to the other guests as they left. Her daughter slipped into things from the other direction, sliding more or less unseen past the departing guests. The guests departed, Vivi joined Marian. Marian looked at her and said, “You look nervous.”
“Mother, I was outshone by low landers. Lady Biqen is a significant threat.”

“How so?”

“Not so much now, since she and the young Umevan from the Empire will return there. On the other hand, the Umevan have already tried for a Senate seat in our state and if they do, with our family not having an eligible candidate and the Umevan’s influence in Ironton, we could be in trouble. Father getting sick could not have happened at a worse time. Then we could be facing Lady Biqen’s elvish daughters here, on the Plateau, with Fallingwater flowing like water.”

“That is very insightful. I will have to keep a closer eye on the Umevan. Was there anything else of note?”
“Miss Dawkins is taking the train to Chatsrey, alone, tomorrow.”

“Alone?”
“The prince is short on staff and can’t send someone. The young lady seems to be able to take care of herself.”

“Perhaps we can take advantage. Gordy has been bereft of late.”
“I already sent the message on my way home.”

“Seizing the opportunity?”
“Yes. I thought that it was something that we could use to our advantage.”

“Was there anything else?”
“I will write a report.”

Tom looked at the message and went looking for Sarya and then the President. When they found a quiet room, Jarfaet said, “What’s going on, admiral?”
Tom handed him the message. “Rob sent this. They found a devise in Luggergate.”

“A Primary?”
“The Primary is in a can and the can has apparently been modified with antitampering devises. There are some other problems as well.”

“What does the captain want?”

“Kevan Hammer.”
“The Cleanser?”

“Yes. He’s on his way to interview him now, but he wants to use stronger methods if necessary.”

Jarfaet sighed. “That goes against everything I stand for, but there are three quarters of a million people’s lives at stake. What does he want?”
“He wants to break the Cleanser out of jail and take him to Luggergate.”
“What does he want from me?” Sarya asked.

Tom grinned. “He wants to borrow some specialists.”

“That can be arranged.”

“This conversation didn’t happen and if it blows up, Tom, you are responsible,” Jarfaet said.”

“Mr. President, I knew that before I brought you in this room. If it were anything other than the country itself at stake I would not even be thinking about doing this. On the other hand, if Luggergate is Scourged, the literal downstream affects will be disastrous. Rob also wants to assert presidential level authority at the scene if necessary.”

“That isn’t a problem.”
“I need to see Major Tollings then and get things set up.”

Tom left and Jarfaet turned to Sarya. “I hate things like this. Especially playing fast and loose with the rights of citizens.”

“The Cleanser was caught red handed preparing a devise that would have destroyed Ironton University. He was implicated in other bombs including Desrt Howl and Smoky Hill. You know that. Now he is going to be implicated in the potential deaths of some seven hundred thousands of people and the potential of causing the major cities of the Republic to suffer food issues. That hardly means that we should be overly concerned with playing by the rules when the other side doesn’t care.”

“I know, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”

“We need to go out there again and do what we can.”

“Yes we do.”

Chapter 60.

Chatsrey Central Jail.

Greatlaf  Swiftflyer had spend his long career in the Federal Service’s holding branch proud of two things. The first was his integrity and responsibility to maintain the rights of the accused under his care. The second was the prevention of the accused removing themselves from facing the consequence of their actions through escape or suicide. He had held to his principle from his Service days, time in the Federal Service as a transportation officer and jail guard and now as warden of the Federal Service’s jail in Chatsrey where he was staring down a naval officer wanting access to his current star resident. He looked at the captain and said, “Captain Bronzerock, you must understand that I can’t just allow you access to the prisoner without his counsel present.”

“I have called his office already. The matter is urgent and there are thousands of lives at stake.”

“That seems rather dramatic even for somebody who deals in large bombs.”
“The matter at hand is a Scourge devise in Luggergate. If it should go off, it could kill the city.”

“Kill the city?”
“Everyone in the city will die.”

That sounds impossible.”

“That was what happened in the five cities. They are still pulling bodies.”

A rather disheveled man came into the office. “What is this about concerning my client, Warden?”

“I didn’t call you.”

“Some rather large marine types showed up at my apartment, interrupted me while I was entertaining and hauled me here, saying that there was an important matter concerning my client.”

“Captain, this is barrister Lemuel Hiram Hammerman, who represents the Stewards in their matters concerning the courts.”

“Who are you, captain, and why did you send those marines for me.”

“Captain Rob Bronzerock and I need information from your client concering some devises he may have modified. The matter is rather urgent.”

“What does the matter concern?”
“The potential Scourging of Luggergate.”

“Is my client implicated?”
“Barrister, I’m not going to take the time playing games. Your client was the explosives and ordnance specialist for the Stewards. He more than likely was responsible for the modification of the devise in Luggergate. I need to know what he did to the devise before dealing with it.”

“My client does not have to give you that information as it will incriminate him.”
“A barrister from the chief prosecutor’s office should be here shortly with a deal. The material obtained by me will not be used against him and the prosecutor’s office will not seek capital punishment against your client. Considering that your client and the other Stewards involved were all caught red handed preparing to conduct mass murder, that should be a consideration.”

“Will the deal be in writing?”
“The deal is being constructed right now. I will add that if something should happen in Luggergate, your clients are heading to the long drop, based on the evidence I have already.”

A man came in and said, “Captain, I am Chris Lion from the Prosecutor’s office. I’m sorry about the delay. I have the deal as you requested, as much as I hate to put something like this on the table. Lemuel, I would tell your client to spill everything he has about this, because if he doesn’t and Luggergate goes boom, I will see that things are unpleasant as I can make them.”

“Hand me the deal, Chris.”

Chris handed Lemuel the proposal and Lemuel looked at it. “You signed this and not your boss.”
“My boss is up on the Plateau for a dinner this evening. This was rather urgent, so I handled it.”

Lemeul put the proposal into his briefcase and said, “Warden, I accept this on behalf of my client. Have somebody bring him to an interview room.”

 Kevan was rousted from his cell by a guard and taken to an interview room where Hammerman was waiting. He sat down, was cuffed to the chair and Hammerman said, “Kevan a deal has been proffered and it could save your life.”

“Get me off?”
“That was not on the table unfortunately. On the other hand, I do not think that you will get a better deal.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Talk to a naval officer. He wants to know about some ordnance that you may have modified.”
“Won’t that be incriminating myself?”
“The evidence obtained in the interview cannot be used against you. That was part of the deal. So anything you say during the interview and anything obtained from the interview cannot be used against you.”

“This will help my case?”
“Very much so.”

“Then it can’t hurt to talk. When is the interview?”
“Right now. Apparently the matter is rather urgent.”

“Then let’s get it done.”

Hammerman went to the door and returned with a naval officer. The naval officer said, “Mr, Hammerman, I have to warn you that matters discussed here are classified and if you leak information from this interview and provide details you will be prosecuted under the classified matters act to the fullest  extent of the law.”
“I understand.”

The naval officer sat down and said, “Mr. Hammer, I am Captain Bronzerock of naval ordnance and I want to discuss the devise in Luggergate with you. Are there documents related to the modification of the devise hidden in some location.”

Kevan started to answer and stopped. He couldn’t say anything. The captain asked question after question and Kevan couldn’t answer them. Finally the captain cursed and left. Hammerman looked at him with a rather shocked expression as Kevan was taken back to his cell.

Back in the warden’s office Lemeul said, “I thought he was going to answer your questions, captain. I truly did.”

“I think I know what is going on. Gentlemen, this will not wait, so I need to be on my way.”

Lemeul looked at Chris and the Warden and said, “Do either of you know what is going on?”
“I’m going to have to talk to some people, Lemeul. Though it would be easier for you to talk to them.”

“Why?”

“My family and I have been at odds with each other for a long time and I know that some members have been clients of yours.”

Lemeul laughed. “I see your point.”

Billingston

Tim looked across the river into the darkness and said to the others, “Would you look who’s here.”

“What do mean, Midshipman Brownlow,” the chief asked.

“There across the water, sitting at anchor, probably because they want to avoid docking fees and yet another ticket from the harbormaster here, is Rivertender.

“What is Rivertender and why would they get a writ, if that is what you mean?” Hal asked.

Rivertender is the vessel owned by the Stewards and it would get a ticket because if you look upstream of the city, there is a riverfolk community and they don’t like it when people dump stuff in the water, with leaky bunkers and shafts being a concern. So, if Rivertender was moored on the quay here, she would be attracting attention. The interesting thing is that she is here at all.”

“You know, we have a portal,” Nebula said. “I’m sure we could come up with something to annoy them and give you characters some practice with portals.”

The little party all shared grins.

Chatsrey.

Rob looked at the gathered people and said, “I’m sorry, but we are going to have to play games.”

“What happened?” Bill asked.

“The defense council went for the deal and Hammer agreed to talk, but clammed up.”

“A compulsion,” Syllia said. “Probably placed by the spider lady. Presumably you want me to remove it.”

“Yes, milady. That is after we play a game.”

“What are you thinking?”
“Bill, you and Tom are officers from the Chief prosecutor’s office, who are transferring the prisoner to Ironton for some trial matters. Durlan, do you have Steward’s uniforms?”

Durlan grinned. “I’m not sure that I should say.”

“I would be surprised if you didn’t. So some Stewards with a truck are going to waylay the officers, rescue the Cleanser and haul him off, to Luggergate.”

“Captain, you are almost as sneaky as Jorge.”
“Thank you, Durlan. I started to think about what I would do if there were compulsions and since my brother in law, I certainly knew about them. The trick is not to trip a suicide, but to stress them.”

“How do you know about such things,” Syllia asked.

“I had a significant motive when Phraan killed himself to learn as much as I could about them, Syllia and I had access to the Mage Academy when I was in the Empire. So it wasn’t hard to ask some questions. I was fairly sure that I would be running into them again.”

“We don’t want to lose the prisoner,” Tom said. “We’re going to be in enough trouble if this blows up.”

“You all are covered. Admiral Harper, Sarya and I, on the other hand, are not. I knew that going in.”

“Does the President know?”
“I don’t know.”

Sal opened his bedroom door, wondering who could get inside the house without him being told and there was Chris. He looked at his youngest son and said, “Why are you here?”

“There are things going on and I think that I need to talk to you about them.”

“Why so late?”
“I was called to work with a Captain Bronzerock concerning a deal with an accused. The deal was a good one for the accused and it seemed like he was taking the deal when he just shut up and stopped speaking. I think that mother and Tony have been talking with you about events in the Empire and I haven’t really been paying attention to those issues or any family things since Kulgha sent that stupid letter and cracked things open.”

Sal looked at the gun in his hand and said, “Let me get dressed a bit, put this away and then we can talk. Have you heard about Sally and her dragonkin?”
“No I hadn’t. How did that happen?”

“I’ll tell you when we get downstairs. Things have been fun lately.”

Luggergate

Special Agent Villings received Detective D’ Magil’s message about half way through the morning after he checked in when he finished a patrol. He called the detective and Detective D’ Magil said, “About time you called.”

“I didn’t get the message until I checked in this morning. So, what is going on?”
“You don’t know Kladia Millings, but she owns some properties off the docks near the center of town. She takes a walk, if you can call it that with Nibbles every morning. Last morning an old garage had apparently been poked into by some kids, the usual thing. I was on the case because about a five day ago a truck had hit the garage and done a little damage.”
“I think I get the picture already. The lady is bonkers.”

“More than a little. Her son Jerom usually handles things, but he was called up and is with the army. Anyway Mrs. Millings called me in and I took a peek into the garage. Inside was a thing that looked very much like a Scouge devise, at least it looked very much like the devise in the pictures in the pamphlet that my lieutenant was handing out. I took some pictures in case I actually needed to prove to the magistrate that something was stolen in the garage, so I have pictures of the devise. We are going to need them.”

“Why?”
“We’re going to need a warrant, because without a warrant, there is no way that Mrs. Millings is going to let us take things out of the place.”

“You have already been in the place. You took pictures. She let you inside.”
“You would think that would settle things. But we aren’t Mrs. Millings. Why don’t I come and pick you up, we take the pictures to the magistrate and get the warrant.”
“Ok, I’ll tell my boss and the bomb squad chief. He’s going have to call his people in.”

“I’ll be on my way.”
The detective hung up and Villers went to Ironcutter’s office. “We have a hot one, chief. A detective says that he found the devise. He has pictures.”

“Good. Are you going to pick him up?”

“He’s coming here with the pictures. He wants to stop at a magistrate and get a warrant before poking in again. Apparently the lady who owns the place is bonkers.”

Ironcutter laughed. “Follow up on it. If we do this right, we look good.”

“Should I call the navy for back up? They have been sweeping for old mines in Billingston.”
“This our case. I think was clear at the staff meeting.”

“That was before we knew that the thing was actually here. If we mess this up, we could be responsible for killing the city. Do you really want to take a chance on that?”
“The navy doesn’t exactly have a perfect record. In any case, my instructions stand unless we get new orders from upstairs.”

“Ok, I’m going to tell George that we have the devise.”

“Tell him what I told you.”

Villers found George looking at a file and said, “The devise may have been found.”
“Are you sure?”

“There is a detective with pictures on the way. I will know then.”

“How did he find it?”
“It was in a garage rented by the Stewards and owned by a lady that is bonkers as the detective described it.”

“What do you mean?”
“The detective has already been inside the garage, but wants us to get a warrant to make sure that we aren’t going to get in trouble with the lady. She apparently thinks that the Stewards are fine people and that their junk needs to be protected. I’ll get the warrant while you get your people together.”

“That works for me anyway. Let me get the bomb truck ready and my people collected. Where is the devise?”

“In a garage at the corner of Temple and Tollings.”

“Ok, I’ll meet you there in two twentieths.”
 Chatsrey Central Jail.

Sergeant Finster, who handled inmate transfers for Chastrey Central, looked up from his morning paper as two men he hadn’t seen before on transfer duty came into the office. “What can I do for you gentlemen?”
“I am Special Agent Dawkins and this is Special Agent Harper from the Chief prosecutor’s office. We are to transfer Inmate 23414, Kevan Hammer to Ironton for an appearance before the magistrate.”

“Why you and not the regular detail?”
The special agent handed him the paperwork. “Sergeant, we couldn’t get the regular detail as the Director has them all over the place looking for that girl. The appearance was scheduled a long time ago and we didn’t realize that the inmate wasn’t transferred until this morning. So we were stuck with it.”

The sergeant looked at the paperwork and it looked to be in order. “Was your boss annoyed?”

“Very, and he came down on us for messing this up. So we have to get the accused down to Ironton today.”

“The paperwork is in order, so I’ll have him sent down.”

The sergeant picked up the phone and called the guard office to have the inmate sent down. After about a quarter twentieth, the inmate was brought down and the two special agents left with him for their car. The sergeant settled back down to his caffee and paper for about half a twentieth when two men came in and said “Special Agent Dillings and Gunter. We’re here to pick up prisoner number 23414, Kevan Hammer.”

Sergeant Finster blinked and said, “Hand me the paperwork.”
“We’ll hand it to you when the prisoner has arrived. That way we can get everything done in one shot.”

“I’m sorry, I need to see the paperwork before I call up.”

“Ok here it is.”
Finster looked at it and said, “Somebody slipped up and this is sloppy. It says that the inmate is being transferred to Stillingfort Prison. Stillingfort is for convicted prisoners and naval cases. This is neither.” Finster looked at the pair and said, “You also didn’t call the chief Prosecutors office. Hammer has a court session in Ironton today. The chief prosecutor’s office already came and picked him up.”

The two agents looked at each other. Dillings looked at Finster and said, “They were fakes. You are in a lot of trouble, sergeant.”
Finster looked at them and said, “The two special agents had the correct paperwork, signed by the assistant prosecutor and their badge numbers checked as being assigned to the chief prosecutor’s office. You haven’t shown me your badges. Now I’m not one to want extra paperwork, so if you leave this office, I will forget this. If you push, first of all, it won’t do you any good, and second, it might make me suspicious. So, I would clear out of my office before you raise my suspicions and I call for the guard.”

Without another word, the two special agents left. As they left the jail for their car, some dragonkin boys were playing in the street and another dragonkin man bumped Dillings avoiding a boy chasing a ball. Dillings called out, “Watch it!” and then checked his purse. Satisfied that his purse was intact Dillings waved to his partner and they continued to the car. Once they reached the car, they drove off and when they were a distance away from the jail, Dillings stopped the car, went to a phone booth and dialed a number. “Milady, the Chief prosecutor’s office came and picked up the Cleanser. We were too late.”

“Very well. Ditch the car.”

“We will, milady.” Dillings returned to the car and looked at the blanket covered shapes in the back seat. “We will definitely ditch the car.”

They didn’t notice the eyes following them as they drove off. Once the car was gone, Gertag Cutflame found Cory and said, “He’s tagged. Purse and pocket. We also tagged the car, but they will probably ditch the car. How did you know that they were sending somebody?”

“Their boat is up near Luggergate. As long as the Cleanser was alive, he was a loose end.”

“The car stunk a bit as if there was something dead in there.”

“I’ll let you report that when they ditch the car.”
“I’m glad that Swifty put me on to you.”
“You are about to graduate. What are you doing for your Service?”
“Army. They like dragonkin, because we are tough and have a good program for college if we stay in the army. That was how dad got his start.”

“How does a man with his job in the army just drive a truck?”

“You’ll have to ask mother.”

  “When your father leaves his reserve service, I know a not a lady who will want to talk with him about moving to the Empire. For that matter, I could see if somebody wants him here.”

“Not a lady?”
“Don’t ask and your mother and the not a lady are a lot alike.”

“That’s scary.”

“You don’t have to worry. You are not a dwarf.”

Route 18, Freiberg.

Kevan didn’t say anything as the two Special Agents chatted away as they headed down Route 18 toward Ironton. A minor accident with a truck slowed traffic and as they passed the truck, two men pulled guns and pointed them at the car’s tires, shooting them out as two other men covered the special agents. Two more men dragged Kevan out of the car and pushed him into the truck as the rest followed, after two more shots rang out. In the back of the truck were two more men in Steward’s uniforms. One of them said, “Cleanser, we have you!”
As the other started in on Kevan’s cuffs, the steward said, “I am Stoutwood. We were sent to retrieve you and take you to Luggergate.”

“Why there?”
Rivertender is picking up some Stewards that need to leave the country for a time and taking them to a ship offshore.”
“We don’t want to go to Luggergate.”
“Why not?”
“The Scourge devise there has been discovered.”

“How do you know?”

“A captain in the navy came to talk to me about the devise. He had pictures.”

“Then he will play with it. In the end it doesn’t matter as the Steward wants to have a clear trail behind him.”

We should make rendezvous elsewhere.”
“We should be fine.”

Kevan stopped arguing, becase it was pointless. He thought that the truck was on its way to his doom. 

Tom and Bill came out from the fence as Naexi drove up. Tom smiled and said, “Teaching you to drive was a smart decision, Mrs. Dawkins.”

“Yes it was. What do we do with the other car?
“Leave it. Somebody will call the office and ask some questions. We need to get to Chatsrey and our next job or Sarya is going to be annoyed at us.”

“What about Gordy Shieldbasher.”

“I imagine he will be very cut up about it.”

Luggergate

Villings and the detective took two twentieths to get the magistrate to sign a warrant, dodging traffic that seemed to be leaving the city. When the magistrate saw the pictures and heard the explanation, the warrant was signed with dispatch. Warrant in hand, they went to the garage. Mrs. Millings was standing there and when they drove up, she bellowed, “Who is this?”

The detective grimaced. “Mrs. Millings, This is Special Agent Villings. We want to look at something in the garage.”

“What do you need to see?”

“That large object that we saw yesterday.”

“I can’t let you just march in there, detective. The Stewards have rented the space.”

“Mrs. Millings, I have a warrant. This is very serious. We think that the object is a Scourge devise.”

“What is that?”
The detective held up the warrant. “Mrs. Millings the thing could kill the city. In any case we, have a warrant and we are going in.”

“I can’t stop you, so go ahead. I will want an accounting of everything you remove for my tenants.”

With Nibbles barking and charging around, the detective and Villings went into the building. Villings took out a camera and using flashbulbs, started to take pictures. They went into the back room and Villings looked at the devise. “It’s scary sitting there. I think that this is what we think it is.”

Senior agent Ironcutter came in and said, “That is the devise. Is this the Detective?”

“Senior Agent Ironcutter, this is Detective D’ Magil of the Luggergate police force.”

“Did you get pictures?”

“Yes.”

“Then let’s get the thing out so that forensics can get good pictures.”

“I’m not sure that we should touch it, Senior Agent,” the detective said. “The pamphlet regarding these things says that they should not be touched until there is somebody trained on these things on site.”

“We’ll be careful and check for any wires. The bomb squad should be here soon.”
Billingston

The truck that Kevan was on drove into a building and stopped. No amount of arguing had stopped the other Stewards from continuing on to Luggergate. The various Stewards left the truck and Kevan emerged into an empty warehouse. It was almost with a sigh of relief that he saw the captain and elf lady next to a table. The elf said, “His compulsions have collapsed and I removed the traces, captain.”

“Good. Mr. Hammer, you seemed willing to cooperate last night. Are you still willing to cooperate?”

“Are we in Luggergate?”
“I’m not going to tell you where you are. I will arrange your transport back to Chatsrey. By the way, we saved your life.”

“How so?”
“After the Chief Prosecutor’s people picked you up, two other Special Agents showed up. At least they were supposed to be Special Agents. The real Special Agents were found later in the car, dead, with the car in a wrecking yard. I doubt that the fakes were going to drive around with you in the car alive for very long as the bodies had already started to get ripe.”

“Ok, I said last night that I would accept the deal. My files are in an office in Ironton. Here is the address.”

“Ok, I will send someone for them. Now tell me what you did to the Primary.”

“First of all, don’t move it very far. The devise is set to arm if the cart rolls very far.”

“How do you disarm that?”

Kevan explained as the questions continued.

Hal and Nebula watched as the portal was being lowered on the truck using Defuser’s derrick. When the portal was about ten feet above the truck, something sprang loose and the portal dropped into the truck, fell out again, and with a crash and shedding some parts, the portal fell onto the ground after striking the corner of the truck bed. Hal looked at the mess and said, “That tears it.”

“Let’s see what we can do. It might not be as bad as it looks and I can Jump up, get spares and port them back. For that matter, I can port a portal and a truck.”

The other boys gathered as Hal and Nebula started to dig into the shattered portal. Rob walked up and asked, “How bad is it?”
“I’m not sure yet. I don’t think that this is irreparable, but I haven’t dug into these old portals like Jorge has. I wish that he was here.”
“Did someone speak my name?” Jorge walked onto the quay. “This is a mess. The good news is that we can fix it.”
“How did you know where we were?” Rob asked.

“The admiral told me last night. He wanted me to take the night train from the Plateau. I was glad to.”

“What was your first experience like?”
“I needed a long shower afterwards.”
Rob and the others laughed. “Was it the climate or the people,” Rob asked.

“Since the weather was actually moderate, the climate was not an issue. Having been there, I understand why her birthday present was such a big deal for Suzy. She needed something as a reward for putting up with all that. So, what is the situation?”

“We are hoping that we could get the portal in and the devise out before the FSA puts its nose in. The devise is rigged and moving it very far arms it. I was about to get the portal loaded and just send the thing to the Deadlands and let the timer wind down. If the FSA has found the devise and they probably have, they may have moved it and that means we are on the clock. Jorge, I need you and the others here to do what you can to fix the portal. Roger, I need you to find your friend, hand him these notes and come right back. Take the chief with you. He knows the back roads, since he grew up in Luggergate. If you can’t get out using the roads, Swim.”

“How long is the timer?”
“Ten twentieths. So, if the devise was moved, that is our time window unless something else goes wrong. Ok, Tim and Mr. Brownlow, I need you to fly down to Ironton, stage a break in, get the Cleanser’s materials and Tim, you Jump back here with them.”

Jorge wrote down some phone numbers, handed the sheet to Tim and said, “Tim, this is some friends at college, my Uncle Jhaan and the local FSA chief. Mr. Brownlow, do you know your relatives in the Hidden City?”

“No, why?”

“Because if you did, I would arrange for them to be the getaway pilots. I’m not sure what field they are operating out of, so that is not an option. Tim, there is a small portal in my dorm and I brought Adiun’s with me from the Plateau. I gave you the code.”

Tim grinned. “I think that I need to meet them. Sergeant, let’s go.”

They headed to a GP and left. Roger and the chief followed them.

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