The Great Dance, Chapter 39-40

Filia is very persuasive. A cargo is transferred.

Chapter 39.

Chatsrey.

Bob gathered his people for his once a tenday meeting. When it was his turn, Tomas said, “I’m not sure about the rules concerning discovery of evidence, but isn’t it illegal to ask for a juvenile record without notifying the parents.”

“Yes it is,” Chris said. “What case and who is asking.”

“The District 5 case and Bront Steelmaker, the barrister for the defense is asking for Swifty’s juvenile rap sheet. The clerk told me about it when I was dealing with some paper. She was laughing because Swifty doesn’t actually have one.”

“He doesn’t?”

“There were some police reports of things that he may have been involved in, but nothing that came across a magistrate’s bench. For the last two years or so, most of what anyone knows about are things where Swifty was working for Ironaxe or assisting law enforcement, the Office of Inanimates or the navy.”

“He’s helped our people too,” Bob said.

“The clerk knew that, which is why she wanted to let me know.”

“The Shieldbashers went after Swifty again,” Chris said. “That was stupid even before Swifty beat the two up.”

“I think I know what’s going on,” Bob said. “Find out who Gordy’s defense attorney is.”

“What’s going on?” Tomas asked.

“You don’t have the experience, but this probably involves upper school pecking order games, along with Suzy, and Swifty being interesting and charismatic. Suzy would be a good catch and I imagine that some people who were at the top see Swifty as a threat. I doubt that it is that serious, but keep an eye on things, discreetly.”

Arlayna unpacked her tools from their case and started to prepare. As the diversion, there was a very good chance that her debt to the Project would be at an end. If the girl was taken, that would be acceptable. Pulling her harness on, she started to place her tools in their places. The tools in place, she dressed. When she was ready, she left the apartment and dropped the key in the manager’s mail slot. Then she went to the goblin restaurant for a last meal. That done, she was off to the el and the university.

Filia walked into the building and Rachelle said, “May I help you, Ma’am?”

“Yes, I want to speak to the head of this office.”

Rachelle looked more closely at the woman and suddenly was overcome with a desperate desire to do what the lady wanted. “Yes, milady.”

The lady touched a slave’s collar and said, “Not a lady.”

“Take the elevator to the top floor.”

“Very well. Thank you, dear.”

Mark was getting ready to leave for lunch when the lady entered his office. He looked at her and said, “How did you get in here?”

“I persuaded some people. You are responsible for Lady Alinis’s security, I believe.”

“Yes.”

“Good. You will have noticed a Dancer. It is imperative that the Dancer remain alive. I have already made arrangements to remove her compulsions. This is an important family matter.”

Mark was about demand an explanation and instead said, “Yes, milady.”

“Not a lady. I will return later, introduce myself properly and explain. I need to go to the University. Unfortunately, I think that my time grew short before I expected it to.”

Mark called in Alinis’s detail, with the exception of Lilly, who was in class, and said, “I want the Dancer alive, if you can.”

“Why?” Nat asked.

“For family reasons. That’s all I know for now.”

“Ok, then, but if things get tight or uninvolved are at risk, Charlie shoots her.”

“Agreed. A Dance with Lilly is one thing, a bloodbath is another. You have your instructions, so get going.”

“Do you think that she is going to make her move, today?”

“Somebody does and I am not asking any questions right now.”

Alinis said good bye to her friends in the study group, packed her books away and headed across the quad. She was done with her last class and there was no work at the library, so she was heading to the car and the townhouse. Lilly walked with her, but had to adjust her shoe and Alinis had walked out onto the quad, waving at some film students who had filmed the play the drama club had put together.  As she walked across the quad, Arlayna walked toward her with a determined expression on her face. She drew a knife and charged toward Alinis. As she got close, Alinis microJumped away and behind the lady. She turned around and suddenly Lilly was there and said, “I will handle this, Alinis! Go to the car. Hurry!”

Alinis suddenly felt it necessary to do what Lilly said and rushed to the car. She got in and the car drove off. That was when she realized that the drivers were not right. Unfortunately she couldn’t Jump out of the moving car, there was a hissing sound and everything went black.

Lilly looked at the woman with the knife, drew and said, “Shall we Dance?”

The woman grinned and said, “Why don’t we. I can evaluate your training.”

“I was trained very well.”

The Dance began and Lilly realized that she was potentially in trouble. She was younger than the lady, and if the fight went on for very long, that would be important. On the other hand the lady was far more experienced and that meant that Lilly could not afford to make any mistakes. At least Alinis was away to the car and out of the danger if the Dancer had any associates waiting for her.

Arlayna knew almost immediately that she could be in trouble. The girl was well trained and younger than she was. Arlayna was going to have to end this quickly, but that was not going to be easy. At least her last fight would be with a worthy opponent and the objective had been achieved. She entered into the fight with a joy that she had rarely felt.

Filia arrived at the open quad just as the two ladies started the Dance with students and professors getting out of the way as fast as they could. Their clothes disappeared fairly quickly as both of them danced around the quad, the Dance barely seen as the slashes and cuts failed to land. Filia wished that she could give them their Dance, but the likelihood that either the girl or Arlayna would be hurt or killed was too great. So Filia dropped her Glamor fully and said, “Stop this now!”

Lilly was in the middle of a spin and fell over as she stopped in the middle. She hit the stones of the quad fairly hard and her breath was blown out by the shock. Arlayna was moving forward and leaning, she fell flat on her face. She looked at Lilly and at the almost divine lady and said, “Who are you, Milady?”

“Family. Now both of you, come with me. Get your clothes. Syllia, are Arlayna’s compulsions cleared.”

“She won’t commit suicide. She has the same sort of compulsions that the Silverin at Bubil Kil did.”

“A debt to the Dark.” Filia turned to Arlayna and said, “The family will clear your debt one way or another. Come now and we will take you to a place where we can discuss this.” Filia turned to Lilly. “Make sure that nothing happened to Alinis and then return to your office. I will be there in a twentieth to explain. Here are Durlan and Nistra to take care of Arlayna.”

 Fuzzy headed, Arlayna followed the lady. She did not know who she was, but she was family and she was pointing a way to live, free at last. For that, Arlayna would willingly follow the lady forever. As they left the quad, she said, “Thank you, milady, for doing that.”

The lady tapped an Imperial slave’s collar, of all things, and said, “Not a lady, and it is time that the family was healed.”

Tim Kellet removed the film magazine from his camera, dismounted the camera from the tripod and put the tripod away. Magazine in his bag and camera on his shoulder, he went looking for Colin Leathercutter and Vince Bretling, the other two students that were shooting a student documentary on the habits of the various people going through the quad every day. Colin and Vince had already found each other and when Tim joined them, Vince said, “Did you get it?”

“What I could. Let’s get the film developed. This could be amazing.”

Filia and Syllia led Arlayna to the car where Durlan and Nistra were waiting. As they got in the car, Durlan said, “There’s something not right. That was too easy. I suppose that we can’t ask the lady certain questions.”

“Not at present,” Syllia said. “First of all, the effects of what Filia did are still present and second, as long as Arlayna feels that she owes a debt, that part of the compulsion remains. Removing that will take time.”

“At least Alinis got in the car.”

Durlan looked in the mirror and said, “It may not have been the right car, though.” He turned to Arlayna and said, “Very clever, milady. Filia do you want to get involved with Alinis’s people?”

“Let’s take Arlayna to the portal and port her to the estate. If they took Alinis, they are already gone and Alinis was not our concern.”

Vince parked the car and got out to wait for the young lady. One of the young lady’s friends walked up and said, “Why are you still here and where is Alinis?”

Vince looked at her and said, “I had a flat. What do you mean, where is Alinis?”

“She got in the car. I saw her.”

“I just arrived. What do you mean, she got in the car?”

“Do the Harpers have another car, just like this one?”

“A white one, why?”

Another man appeared and said, “Why is the car still here and where is Alinis?”

“I think that somebody got the same kind of car and arranged to have the Harper’s car to have a flat,” the girl said. “Call this in and call the police. Where is the Dancer?”

“That lady took her. They left in a car.”

“I hope that she can explain that.”

The two men parked the car next to the waiting truck. Reaching into the back seat, they retrieved the girl, stripped her to her underwear and placed her in a waiting crate. The crate was placed on the truck and the two men left in the car. Shortly afterwards, Tony and Batlug got in and took the truck to the Shahana Freight depot and the driver and the rest of the load waiting for it. The truck loaded, it started on to Crowburg.

The car was parked under an el station, the two men went to the platform and got on the next train.

Mark put the phone down and went out into the office. “I want all hands on deck! Alinis Harper was apparently just driven off in a car used to replace the Harper’s car. I want that car found, soonest! Get on the phones and get our people on this!”

He returned to his office to make another call.

Lythienne put the phone down, turned to Dan and said, “They took Alinis?”

“Who took Alinis?”

“The Project.”

“How? Mark’s people were watching the Dancer.”

“Mark didn’t say very much, but apparently Vince had a convenient flat tire, they switched the car, the Dancer started a Dance with one of Mark’s people and Alinis got in the car and was driven away before she realized that anything was wrong.”

“Where was Fire?”

“Still in class. He has a class and a lab session today. Alinis was coming home and then Fire was coming later.”

Dan cursed. “They were watching the schedule. That way, Fire wasn’t involved. Alinis didn’t like to carry a gun and she couldn’t shoot the driver in a car she was riding anyway. The lady set this up very well. I want to talk to her.”

“Mark said that Filia left with her.”

“Filia? She was here?”

“Apparently. I don’t know why, but she was apparently focused on the Dancer and not Alinis.”

“The Dancer is Silverin. The family would be Filia’s concern. We will have to find out Filia’s reasons. She probably thought that Alinis was away in the car and safe.”

“Mark said that Filia came to the office and ordered him to not kill the Dancer. Apparently she was very persuasive. On the other hand, she is Silverin high family and there are legends.”

“I don’t think that Filia would let anything happen to Alinis deliberately. On the other hand, she has her own goals and Alinis was not her primary concern. Also, keeping the Dancer alive could be crucial.”

Mark was looking at a map of the city and trying to think how to focus his resources when Lilly and the rest of the team on the Alinis detail came in. He looked at them and said, “What happened?”

Lilly looked at him and said, “The Dancer went after Alinis, I blocked her and sent Alinis off to what I thought was her car. The Dance started and Nat and Charlie didn’t move in, so I was in the middle of a serious dance. The lady arrived and using Persuasion, told us both to “Stop!” and we did, which was painful and rather embarrassing. The lady took the Dancer and the Harper’s car showed up. That was when we realized that the cars had been switched.”

 “Why was the car late?”

“Vince had a flat and had to fix it. There was a spike that looked like a throwing spike in the tire.”

The lady came in with two elves and two Silverin ladies and said, “Mr. Silva, I apologize. We were rather rushed and I did not have time to explain or be polite. I am Filia Fallingwater. This is Durlan and Wyrran Fox and Nistra and Vivia.”

“Where is the Dancer?” Lilly snarled.

“Ported to the Silverin Estate. Keeping her alive is more important than you know and her employers will be looking for her. Do you want to complete the Dance? I will allow you both to do so, as long as you have healers available and commit to no fatal wounds.”

Lilly grinned. “I will consider it. She is more experienced than I am. The Dance was a true challenge.”

“Why did you do all this, milady?” Mark asked. “Why didn’t you tell us what you were doing?”

“I did not want to risk that the Dancer would discover that she was being watched and risk her aborting and committing suicide. I was also busy with my son and his girl and other things. We expected that she would act sooner than she did, but she was apparently waiting for something. She also arranged for Alinis to be switched to another vehicle very quickly.”

“You know where the car is?”

Durlan held up a portal scanner. “Apparently the Harpers did not make sure that you had these and knew that Alinis had a tagged pendant. Mrs. Harper may not have known, since the Committee was handling that. Unfortunately, the other side knows about microportals, stripped Alinis and left her clothes in the car.”

“Who has the car?”

“The FSA is going over it.”

“Those clowns? There goes any evidence.”
“Not all the FSA are clowns and these agents work for Bob Harper.”

“Who do you work for?”

“I’m not going to say, as this thing is unauthorized and we’re moonlighting. My boss wouldn’t like it.”

“Would you be willing to ask your boss if you could show us more about these microportals?”

“You would be better off going to the Beinans or the Umevan for that.”

“Ok, I understand the Beinans, but the Umevan?”

“Ask for Jorge. You can talk to Ironaxe and figure out why.”

“Mr. Silva, you are busy, but your cousin here would like to invite you to dinner soon,” Filia said. “We can meet at the house.”

“My wife will make the arrangements. We will also want to talk to the Dancer.”

“When she can. Right now she is bound in a web of deceit and lies very tightly and the weave has to be unraveled with care. When you come, the family will explain. I need to go.”

The lady and the others left and Lilly said, “That was Aunt Vivia. Just what is going on, uncle?”

“I’m not sure. One thing is that the old portal at the house is working again. Also, I am going to have to make some calls to the Umevan and find out who Jorge is.”

“I think I know. He’s a friend of Alinis’s and goes to Ironton. The story going around is that he is master prankster.”

“Really? What has he done?”

“He ported a bear into the Darkmage’s quarters in the Imperial Palace when the Darkmage took over.”

“That sounds rather fantastic.”

“Alinis swears that it was true and showed us a newspaper story. The Darkmage had been screaming about bears in his quarters.”

The Silverin Estate.

Arlayna emerged from the portal and there were two Silverin ladies waiting for her. One of them said, “Welcome to the Silverin Estate, Arlayna. I am Aelua Silverin, Lady of the House and this is Ilseval, the holder of the estate.”

“I am pleased to meet you. Where is the estate? It is rather cold.”

Ilseval handed Arlayna a coat. Aelua said, “My daughter neglected that. Come, let us go to the house, where things are warm.”

“You know what I was doing, don’t you?”

“You had a task, and a debt. We will be discussing those things with your principle when we can. Since your principle insists on hiding, that is difficult.”

“I cannot help you with that. I do not know where the Center actually is. For that matter, until I was set to my task, I did not know what year it was.”

 “They kept you stowed away until you were needed. I think that we are going to have a long chat.”

Chatsrey.

Fire went across the quad in the growing darkness to find Dan Harper waiting with another man at the car. Dan said, “Fire, this is Mark Silva. His company has handled security issues for me for a very long time. Unfortunately, he and I slipped up and Alinis was taken. Can you sense where she is?”

Fire reached out and just got a faint trace to the south. “I just have a faint trace to the south. She is alive, but probably unconscious. What happened?”

“Why don’t we go to Mark’s office and he and his people can tell you.”

“I can get my family to help.”

“Your fae family in the Empire?” Mark asked. “That would be difficult for them.”

“My family here, in Racketgarde. They live to the south and if they try to take Alinis to a ship there, they can find out which one.”

“We can use more shoes. So I accept the assistance.”

“I would get my brothers, but that is probably not a good idea, unless we need people from the Portal Service.”

“Fae work for the Portal Service?”

“I will explain in the car.”

When they reached the office, in addition to the Silva people there was a group of dragonkin and some others. Mark spotted Torald Ironaxe and walked over. Torald spotted him, Dan and Fire and said, “Mr. Silva, you have my people to help you on this. We were watching the lady and either she knew about microportals or guessed that Alinis would be tagged and that she would be as well.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“I will say one thing. She talked to the older spider, several times.”

“Why is that important?” Dan asked.

“That makes all sorts of connections. I think that our biggest problem is that we didn’t talk to your part of this, Mr. Harper. We were working for your son, but since you were not one of my clients, I didn’t think to talk to you or your people until Mr. Silva approached me and I assumed that he was watching the Dancer like I was. I also did not share some things, since I assumed, wrongly, that Richard had made sure that your people would know about things like microportals.”

“We all slipped up,” Mark said. “Torald, let’s get together and fix that. Are these your boys?”

“Yes. The advantage is that they can move in Industry City and Smoky Hill invisibly. The disadvantage is that the kidnappers got Alinis out of town, very fast.”

“How?”

“They had two people that we knew about because they used Vivia’s portal and were picked up by the lady in a park. We knew that she was planning something. What we did not pick up on was the car, since she had a shop do the work. The lady has been in and out of the Republic and the other Blasted Lands countries for a long time and is a very good operator.”

“You know more about her than you did when we talked.”

“There are advantages to trading favors with some people and that is access to some files. So we were able to get information on the lady’s previous activities.”

“Were you trading things with Filia?” Dan asked.

“There was some trading of things, not with the lady in particular, but with some others. What did she do?”

“She made off with the Dancer,” Mark said.

“You would know more about that than I would. We were watching the lady because of her connection to the spiders.”

“I need to send something off to Richard,” Dan said. “I will get him to clear me for speaking to you about client related issues. I’m also going to talk to Naertho and probably the old sot as well.”

Torald laughed “Those are very shrewd guesses, Mr. Harper.”

“Not really. Jorge has been around things for some time now and your grandfather is certainly involved in your great aunt’s warpath. So getting Naertho’s and your grandfather’s permission will clear the client issues and that will cover Filia the slave as well.”

“What about the other strange elves?”

“I will handle them, but that requires that I be a bit discreet about talking about them. Mark, why don’t you and Torald put together a brief and see if you can puzzle out some things, not least is why these people did something so stupid.”

“I think I know what they want,” Torald said. “Richard and Alinis probably annoyed them with that caper over the things under Castle Hill and they want them. So they took Alinis to exchange.”

“They were a bunch of idiots, then.”
House Qinvaris.

Rosa came into Richard’s office with a telegram in her hands and said, “Your mother just sent a wire. The other side kidnapped Alinis.”

Richard cursed. “We were afraid that that might happen. How did they do it? Mother would not leave Alinis unguarded even if it looked to Alinis that way.”

“That Dancer that was at Paeris’s party appeared and went after Alinis. That drew out the security detail and one of them sent Alinis on to the car. The car had been switched and drove off with Alinis inside. They found the car later, with Alinis’s pendant and clothes inside.”

“They knew about microportals.”

“Apparently. Fire thinks that Alinis is unconscious, to prevent Fire from tracing her.”

“What about the Dancer?”

“She was taken by Filia and ported someplace.”

“Filia wanted the Dancer. I would go up to the estate and talk with her, but she probably isn’t there.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Wait here for their demands. I hope that they take their time, as the thing they want is travelling through the Fellowship right now, on its way to Kugrim. At least that was where Tarranth said it was. There’s no point in me charging down to the Republic and I’m going to take a page from Vesryn’s book. Dad can handle things better than I can. I will send Elred and some more committee people down, but I suspect that it won’t help very much.”

“Why not?”

“Whoever came up with this planned it very well. I’ll know more when we get the report, but I imagine that Alinis habit of gathering people around her made taking her without a big fuss rather difficult. Also, Alinis will not be easy to keep in a place and your grandfather and the others will be disappointed if she does not do as well as Bill did.”

Rosa laughed. “I think that you are right about that.”

“Another thing. They know that Alinis is bonded and since they did not take Fire, they know that we will know if she is killed, or even tortured for that matter. They have to negotiate for what they want and if they kill or hurt our daughter, that gets much harder. I don’t think that they are that stupid.”

Chapter 40.

Kugrim.

Daylor frowned as Aien came up the gangway. “What kind of trouble are you getting me into this time, Aien?”

“This has to do with your special cargo.”

“The one that is due to arrive any time now.”

“Yes. In fact, it is here now.”

“Another library?”

“Not this time, but it is similar.”

“Is there going to be any trouble on the other end?”

“Some people will be disappointed if there isn’t.”

“You are expecting the shipment to be seized.”

“Yes. We are also expecting the seized cargo to be stolen, but that isn’t your concern.”

“Just what is this?”

“Something that somebody has wanted very much for a very long time.”

“The thing from the vault in the south.”

“No, not that. This was in another vault, though. Alinis found it, some people have already tried to steal it once and had a rather large prank played on them.”

“So you want them to try again. Why?”

“We’ll tell you after it is stolen. We don’t want to spoil the surprise. There is our delivery now.”

A young dragonkin came up the gangway and said, “Mr. Zumkas, I have your load.”

“Gerdug, it’s Aien when you are aiding the Committee or involved in a caper. We keep things on a first name basis for these things. Captain, this is Gerdug Cutflame. Gerdug, this is Captain Daylor Zylvyre, a captain with a moderately checkered past.”

“You look like a smuggler,” Daylor said.

“Captain, I have to take offense to that, since my grandmother is fighting a school district over my brother being called a criminal, along with my father and grandfather. On the other hand, I do get the load where it needs to go and I don’t necessarily check the manifest.”

“Just what is this load?”

“Something with Inquisition issues. Since I am not an Imperial Citizen, I’m not too concerned about things like that. It’s not a Scourge devise or Clear making equipment.”

“You have transported those things?”

“I’ve never transported a Scourge devise. There may have been loads that were sketchy delivered to strange places. Since there is no evidence connected to me, that is all I am going to say about it. Let’s get this unloaded.”

“Speaking about the Inquisition, I see one of their people watching us,” Aien said. “At least he was an Inquisition spy.”

“How do you know?” Daylor asked.

“When a bookseller named Bidove had dinner with a snake, all sorts of things were discovered, not all of which were technically illegal here in the Fellowship, but were interesting, such as who the Inquisition’s spies were. Dan has created a lot of good will and certain lists were exchanged. So we know who the Inquisiton’s spies are in the Fellowship.”

“Is that all that useful?”

“Not really at this point.”

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