The Great Dance, Chapter 55-56

Toll visits Jorge with some news. Diligent gets some pictures.

Chapter 55.


Jorge looked at the message and at Toll. “Is your father really saying what I think that he is saying?”

“Major, I was in Innshys when Saevel locked the mana source. The third portal went glitch and the market wanted it fixed. So we contacted the Portal Service and they contacted the Mana Service and Saevel. They found the tap and the drain, cut the drain and Saevel locked the source.”

“Does your dad know how involved you are with the market?”

“We haven’t told him, because what he doesn’t know, he can’t talk about and up until recently, being involved with something like the market would have been very bad for him. My sister pushed the estate up to Innshys, so when the House becomes official we will be next door.”

“So, what happened with your squatters?”

“They showed up and started to demand things; my brother helped the clown take all that camping stuff to the portal and sent it through. We were lucky and the truck came down the road after the clown had returned through the portal. The microportals all ended up in that underground place. As far as I’m concerned, they must have messed up and are having severe mana issues.”

“Do you think that the bosses will come out too?”

“I don’t know. I do know that the clown showed up and demanded that dad hand him a load of food. Dad played along so that he could see what was going on. Then the clown showed up again and demanded all that other stuff. The thing is that I don’t think that the bosses understand where the guy is getting the stuff, or that the Camp, or for that matter, the rest of the Empty Lands are not their territory anymore.”

Jorge grinned. “The other question is what we want and when. Of course another matter has come up, and while I haven’t been pulled away, there is a good chance that I will be. So, if we do this, we have to do it soon. I’ll port to the Camp with a team and see what they are doing. If we play this right, we can lock them inside without any support at worst.”

“I’ll tell dad that you are on your way.”

“Has your dad talked to the Qinvaris?”

“Not yet. I think that he wanted to limit this to people already involved. On the other hand, I imagine that the Qinvaris boys will play if you can’t.”

“I would talk to Roger about that.”

“Him and Denny’s boys. I will see you, major.”

Toll disappeared and Jorge started to put things together. A twentieth later Captain Duggings appeared in his office and Jorge put the plans aside, stood and saluted. “What does the admiral want?”

“A plan for moving your people into Bubil Kil as discreetly as possible.”

“He wants me to poke into the dead zone from one side while a bunch of noise is made on the other side.”

“That’s about it.”

“Ok, I’ll set that up. An opportunity has arisen and I think that it is more than worthwhile.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Project’s secret underground headquarters was connected to the Mana Service, without making sure that the bill was paid, so they were cut off. They reconnected to the Zylvyre mana source and that messed up one of the portals connecting Innshys to the Sanctuary. That annoyed some kids, who called the Portal Service and said, “Fix this. The Portal Service just did, by having Saevel come and lock the Zylvyre mana source. So the secret headquarters is without power.”

Peble grinned. “Who were the annoyed kids?”

“The candy kids that started the market. Toll Themaer just left, after delivering a message from his father and telling me that he and his buddies dealt with a problem. I don’t think that Jomney knows how heavy his kids all are. But all of them are holders in the Innshys Market with some kids from the Sanctuary that were the other side of the trading. So is Saevel.”

Peble laughed. “I can see why they were annoyed.”

“If the lines get too long, they lose business. Having a portal glitch is a big deal. Ok, I will let the admiral know that you are working on the problem and about this other opportunity.”

“I want to get a Scourge suppressor on top of the place before doing anything. On the other hand, that isn’t that much of a problem. I also want to see how they set things up if they live outside. I don’t think that this will take too long.”

“You may not get the Project heads.”

“I don’t really expect to. I will settle for pushing them out a portal and they probably have an emergency portal. But they may leave everything behind, relying on a Scourge devise to hide everything, not knowing how many Scourge suppressors are available.”  

“The Admiral will want you on the other project as soon as possible.”

“I can do both from here.”

“That’s all then.”

Chapter 56.


When Diligent was pushed into her berth, Commodore Marlinhunter and Tad were waiting. They came up the gangway, the Commodore returned Roger’s salute and said, “Is the captain on the bridge?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Have you and the other officers join us if you would.”

“Aye aye, sir.”

When Roger had collected the other officers, and headed to the bridge, the captain and the commodore had put some pictures on the chart table and Tad was explaining what was on the pictures. The captain looked at the other officers and said, “When Tad here was preparing the pictures for our voyage, he discovered something very interesting. Around this volcano here, somebody, about ten years ago, Scourged ten different places. With that in mind, we will be looking into this bay, here, for potential survivors and witnesses. Looking at some of the other pictures, there were seafolk communities that have been destroyed. Somebody obviously conducted a campaign to ensure that whatever was in the center of those dead zones would not be discovered. Well, discovery is our job and I want to find whatever we can about these people. I also want to bring back a survey of a coast that has been ignored for a very long time and has been considered hazardous. I hadn’t intended to do a detailed survey of the coast here, but obviously that has changed. Finally the wives will go ahead to Lain Othrond. Are there any questions?”

“How do we know that those places were Scourged?” Washout sneered. “This is just a boy.”

“We used his work on our last voyage,” Roger said. “If he says that a place was Scourged, he did his homework and he is an expert on the analysis of these kinds of pictures.”

“How were they taken, anyway?”

“They were taken by orbital satellites. Other than that, how Tad does his work is classified.”

“Then how do you know about it?”

“That’s also classified, but as I said, he did the work for our previous voyage.”

The meeting broke up and Washout was, finally, able to get to a telegraph office and send a wire to Guns. The list of irregularities was long and Washout was sure that the commodore would be pleased with what Washout sent. He had been surprised how quickly everyone had taken the pictures the boy had at face value and eyes in the sky were preposterous stuff from those trash books. In any case, the ship was going to be in Milport for five days. He should be able to get another report out. Right now, he had to find the army supply and replenish the expended cartridges that had been fired the first day. That was another thing on Washout’s list.

Roger grinned as his brother drove up along the pier. He parked his car and came up the gangway with Roger’s rifle case in his hand. Handing it to Roger, he said, “Here Roger. I brought it like you told me to.”

“Thanks Gary. Would you like a tour of the ship?”

“I think I would, actually. This is a bit of a tub, isn’t it?”

“It has its virtues. The crew is small and with some exceptions, we get along very well. The last voyage was very interesting and I am one of the few officers with a hostile submarine sunk to his credit. Having my first commission on a battleship wouldn’t have done that. Then there is my lady, who is in the water waiting for me. So there are compensations.”

“You have changed a lot since I last saw you. What happened to your battle with that cadet?”

“We found a common enemy, to wit, a master prankster and troublemaker named Jorge Umevan.”

“He and his friends came up with that giant dog that woke up the Society boys at the beach last year.”

“That was him. You can imagine what the bladderball season was like.”

“At least you haven’t had to deal with the Transformed and their friends.”

“What do you mean?”

“We local slugs have been forced by circumstances to have a sort prank war with Jorge the Pirate’s Transformed. We could deal with that, but the portal fae are buddies with the Transformed and they like to play too. On the other hand, the seafolk are on our side.”

“The major allows this?”

“I think he encourages it. If we can be worthy adversaries, the Transformed get better at what they do, with nobody getting hurt. Also, we local slugs in the militia get better and that means that if the Project comes back, they will have a very bad time in Ishendell.”

“You were stuck in there. I got a bunch of the boys together and tried to go and help.”

“The navy turned you down. I know. That’s why you went after Tim, which was plain stupid.”

“I know. Here’s the thing that made me a success and the object of my current conflict, the main gun.”

“What is so special about it?”

“This gun has an anti aircraft gun barrel and the army, during the event, produced armor piercing shot for it. Shot suitable for TAVs and sinking submarines, even super submarines from strange elves. Of course this gun is not the obsolete pea shooter that Guns, in its infinite wisdom, has assigned to the Survey ships, since we are supposedly not expected to shoot at anything. Unfortunately somebody forgot to tell the enemy that. A lapse on staff’s part, I expect. Let me show you below and the labs.”

As they poked in, Gary asked, “Who are they?”

“Some people from the Office of Inanimates who want to do a coastal survey of radiation and what not after the five cities. They are also performing a survey of the five cities. Of course they may change their plans somewhat.”

Vince frowned as Roger Lore came into the lab with Ben Harper. “Why are you here, Roger?”

“Circumstances changed and I wanted to let you know. Has the captain spoken with you yet?”

“Not yet, why?”

“A young man discovered ten places that had been Scourged in the Junglelands.”

Vince cursed. “We were going to use the Junglelands for a control. That’s why we were using the ship. Why bring this to me now?”

“I wanted to give you and your boys a chance to move forward to Lain Othrond.”

“Where we will be stuck more or less for the winter. We’ll stay aboard. Somebody must think that we are at risk.”

“The boss thinks that something very hot is there.”

“I don’t think that they will bother a survey ship and attract more attention to themselves. Do you have map of the Scourged places?”

“Your captain does.”

“Then we can see him later. Why don’t we show you and Ben what we have set up? Why are you here, Ben? There shouldn’t be any Inanimates to blow up.”

“Actually I think that there will be,” Ben said. “The question is how many there will be. There were probably people in those dead zones and these people have been using Inanimates for a very long time. I think that you will encounter some and I want you to know that you have resources that I don’t think that you know about. So Roger and I are going to take you to Ishendell and show you the shop there.”

“Ishendell is a long way from the jungle.”

“Not if you think about it the right way.”

Alb looked at Raela across the table in the seaside café and said, “I’m sorry, but the commodore says no ladies aboard until Lain Othrond.”

“Can you tell me why?”

“Not right now. The navy wants a lid on things. At least they don’t want the people where we are going to know that there is anything other than us and a survey voyage.”

“What if you encounter seafolk?”

“We will have to suffer without you. It certainly won’t be the first time. We can come back and introduce you later.”

“Do things seem to be risky?”

“At least this time we know that there is something there. We will avoid any encounters with cannibal monsters and we have Office of Inanimates types and the weather people, that is if they stay. I’m going to have chat with the contractors later, but I think that we will have them aboard.”

“The weather people stuck with you in the northlands. I think that they liked the adventure.”

“So do I.”

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