The Intrigues of The Plateau, Chapter 25-26

Bill encounters an old teacher. The Prophet visits Iyanalion

Chapter 25

Desert Howl

“What’s HE doing here?”

Bill and Nat were in the cab of a truck making a supply run when Bill spotted someone he never expected to see in Old Town. Nat looked at the man in front of the hotel said, “Who is he, Bill?”

“That’s Professor Willets, one of the physics teachers at Ironton. His class had things that were wrong and so did the texts he used, if what I had in those old books and what I was doing were any indication. If things were they way they said in the books, the things I was doing wouldn’t even work. That doesn’t even include the atomic stuff and things like isotopes.”

“What did you do?”

“I kept my mouth shut and did things the way that I was supposed to. The early stuff, forces and such, didn’t change, and the next class, with Professor Clarinbold, was better.”

“Let’s get our pick up and the groceries. We don’t want to be spotted.”

“Ok. I have some things to send off.”

When they went past the hotel in the other direction, the professor was talking to some men in green shirts and obvious FSA types. They turned the corner for the road to South Hollow and Bill gunned the truck. He looked in the mirror and said, “They didn’t spot me.”

“There’s just one road. They could call ahead and have somebody waiting.”

Bill grinned. “That’s probably what they think. I grew up here and while we went through South Howl on the way up, I wasn’t planning to on the way back.”

After about a twentieth, Bill turned off, drove over the railroad tracks, up to a gate and said, “Open the gate and then close it when we go through.”

Nat did and got back in the truck. Bill started up again and said, “We have another gate about ten miles ahead, but unless Mr. Golens is herding the sheep, we won’t have any trouble.”

“How big is the place?”

“This is a sheep station. It’s about ten miles across, but most of it is dessert.

This is the time of year that the sheep are brought in for shearing.”

They passed wind mills with water tanks surrounded by sheep and random ranch structures until they had to stop for a herd of sheep. A man on a horse rode over, saw Bill in the truck as Bill rolled the window down and smiling, said, “Looking for treasure again, young Bill? This is a bit big to be sneaking through my place. Who is that with you? I haven’t seen him around these parts.”

“Mr. Golens, this is Nat and I’m using the back road to avoid some trouble in town.”

“Those new characters nosing around and their Fed friends. Did you close the gate on the way in?”

“Yes I did, Mr. Golens. You know that I wouldn’t leave it open.”

“I heard that you found a very interesting girl up north, way up north.”

“I did.”

“Mabel will be glad to see you if you sneak by sometime. I better get the flock out of your way. Shearing is coming up if you and the boys need some extra money.”

“I’ll pass it around. The younger boys might.”

Golens called to his dogs and they moved the flock off the road. Bill started the truck again, they passed the flock and Nat said, “Did you shear sheep?”
“No, he has shearers that come for that. Kids would be too slow and maybe hurt the sheep. We did handle the gates and so forth as well as bundling the wool. The job has to be done fast and Mr. Golens pays pretty well. We’ve all outgrown the work somewhat, but I will pass it to my old teachers.”

They reached the other gate, passed through and down the rather rough road. “What was this?”

“Old mining road. There are some played out copper and gold mines that closed about fifty years ago. There’s a town back here too, but the desert folk live there and we aren’t going in that direction.”

“It sounds like an interesting place to visit.”

“It is, if you like eating lizard stew. They serve it to the tourists as real desert folk cooking. My family is seafolk so we didn’t go there. I’ve been there with school trips and after I learned to drive, some friends and I did some digging.”

“Did you find anything out here?”

“I’m not going talk about that. There are places out here, but I haven’t had the chance to talk to somebody about them and I don’t want my finds jumped.”

“They could be more libraries.”

“Then I’m not going to look for them. There are also some battlefields from the interregnum and other stuff. Nobody has made a good map, so a lot of stuff is just forgotten.”

“You could talk about that to Tad and get pictures. He’ll like that.”

“Maybe for a college project later this year. We have enough to do now.”

“We do. That professor of yours was very friendly with the Stewards and the FSA types. What does he know about atomic physics?”

“If I went by his classes, I would say, almost nothing. On the other hand, he is here, and not on the beach. We can ask Mr. Umevan what he knows.”

“I think we should. If the FSA has somebody who knows what they were looking at, the Umevan could be in trouble.”

The sky was getting dark as they pulled into the lot in front of the building and Bill backed the truck up at the dock. Smiling people and a cart showed up to unload the groceries as Haral appeared and said, “Did you have any trouble. You took your time.”

“None and I used the old road coming back. Mr. Umevan, do you know Professor Willets?”

“Borag Willets? I do. We played around with things here. Very bright, but tended to be a bit strange about things. Why do you ask?”

“Would he be involved with the Stewards?”

“He was always going on about protecting nature and the polar ice caps melting and drowning everything. Bill Tollings did a calculation and the amount of energy required to melt that much ice was rather preposterous. He might see the Stewards as a place where he would be comfortable, why?”

“He was my professor last year and now he is here, with the Stewards. If you were to go by what he taught in class, he wouldn’t have a clue about the things we are doing. If he was with you, would he?”

“Yes he would.”

Jorge put the box he was unloading on the cart and said, “The cleanser was in Ironton. The professor was in Ironton. The stewards set up a bomb to make the University go away. The Project had lost Nat, the estate and the things there. There was that enrichment plant and transmuter that the Eiljeon never finished. They tried to buy Cadmium in the Empire. Professor Willets is not married. If he were to disappear, supposedly in an explosion, there would be no one to ask why.”

“What are you saying, Jorge?” Haral asked.

“Here we have a man with skills the Project probably needed, working for the Stewards. I just made a big mistake. Alre introduced him to my building in Ironton and he rented space in there.”

“You have a building in Ironton?”

“There was this building that was essentially abandoned that I was looking at and the family bought it because I wanted a shop next to campus. I can run you by when we go back. Alre Ironaxe, Bill, Jimmy and some others rent space there because we want things to be discreet. So nobody looks into what anyone else is doing and the company provides security. The professor rented a space. That means that he can get in and I left something there that the Stewards probably want very much.”

“What?”

“One of the seemings that the Project uses to communicate. I was going to take it back to the Empire and forgot about it when I went home. It was still there on the shelf when I came here. If the Professor was high in the Stewards, he may have known what it was. Let me make a call.”

Jorge went to the telephone and came back. “The seeming is not on the shelf. I think that the professor is a Steward. On the other hand, the seeming is useless until the suppressors are shut down.”

The phone rang, Bill picked up and said, “Mr. Umevan, it’s for you. The FSA is raiding the plant here and going through your stuff.”

“They found somebody to tell them what they were looking at,” Jorge said, sorrowfully.

“Bill, let’s go and talk to the desert folk in the morning,” Nat said.

“Why?”

“We can rig phones and have eyes out there that the FSA won’t see. The Stewards are going to be looking for this place and at some point the Project is going to hand them maps from the eye room, now that they have it. If the Desert folk can mess things up out there, the better off we are.”
Bill grinned. “I need to make a call. We can get a crazy lizard girl and her prince to help.”

Chapter 26

The Istrosia Region
Iyanalion was bustling with yet another market day as the Prophet and his Illuminants entered the market square. While much was as it should be, heresy and anathema surrounded the Prophet. At least he would give the obedient the chance to repent and send the heretics to the fire. This time he would not have to be restrained.  Frowning, he looked around and then Called out. “Hear the voice of the New Gods! The new ways are heresy and anathema to the new gods! The heresy must be stamped out and destroyed! The new gods demand that the heresy be stamped out in this place!”

The flock that the Illuminants had brought with them raised staves and axes. Some of the crowd had glazy eyes and joined them. Others screamed or looked in panic and tried to leave the market square, only to find other cultists at the exits. The prophet bellowed, “Begin!”

The Qinvaris estate.

Darfin looked at the message and cursed. He had known that there would be a time when the cult would turn violent. He had hoped that it would be after the suppressors were shut down and the compulsions removed. That hadn’t turned out to be the case. He handed the message to Horatio and said, “This is bad.”

“Richard is NOT going to be happy, especially since the Prophet started things up in Istrosia. Let me get Harral and Gertald. We’ll get reinforcements on the way for the guard right now. We are going to need Evin and portals or this is going to get ugly, fast. We all knew that this was coming. Send a message to the House. I am so glad that Richard isn’t here right now.”

Denny came in and said, “What happened?”

“The cultists showed up at the market in Iyanalion during market day. They blocked the exits, the Prophet declared heresy and started breaking stalls and heads. The guard says that there are at least a hundred killed and the same number badly injured.”

“Where are the cultists?”

“The guard didn’t know. They took the compelled from the town and marched off, leaving the mess.”

“Keryth and Roger are in Allaneas and can get some riders together. Has anybody sent a message to Richard yet?”

“Not yet,” Darfin said. “He should be here. He was at one of the camps yesterday.”

Richard came in, looked at the people in the room and said, “What happened?”

“The cultists showed up in Iyanalion and smashed up the market on market day.”

“How many?”

“About a hundred.”

“Ok, we stop coddling the cultists. They show up anywhere on the property, they are to be arrested. We’ll use the estate we set up for the Sanctuary’s army. When we have rounded them all up, we will march them to the Silverin estate and put them in the camp up there. Any that were involved in what happened at Iyanalion are subject to the axe. Was the Prophet there?”

“We don’t know.”

“They will be recruiting,” Horatio said. “Probably in the fifty estates and our towns there in Istrosia. That is why they hit there first. There are enough people that they can have a critical mass of compelled and can get control of things. Then they can get everyone else as well. We’re going to need the portals or we are going to have a disaster very fast. The bastards know that we will not want to kill our own people and they are counting on that.”

“Do what you can. Darfin, make sure that the Beinan crews shutting down the suppressors can get to them. I have to send some messages.”

Bighagh.

Xolag passed the message around and grinned. “Our man in Fayspire just sent this. The Prophet has drawn blood.”

“Not that much and there were be actions taken against the cult,” Raguk said. “We should wait and see how things develop. On the other hand, this is a good sign. I wouldn’t want to work with somebody all mushy.”

There were grins all around the table.

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