The Intrigues of The Plateau, Chapter 27-28

Jreghug and Faghig break into a garage. More suppressors are shut down.

Chapter 27.

Chatsrey
Jreghug said, “Go.” Faghig ran across the lot and to the door. After placing a magnet to lock the alarm relay, he quickly picked the lock as Jreghug locked the gate and joined him as the door opened.  Closing the door carefully, Faghig. pulled the magnet just before the door closed again. Keeping low and pointing their head lamps at the floor, they moved swiftly through the building until they reached the files room. Jreghug pointed at his watch and said, “Guard.”

They turned their headlamps out and waited. After they heard the guard use the key in his clock and then leave, they continued to the file room. Changing flashbulbs, they took pictures and poked through things. Jreghug looked at a file, grinned and said, “We’ll take this one.”

Faghig grinned. “Ok. I think that we are done.”

They left went to the end of the hall and headed to the window that overlooked the one story building next door. Jreghug put a glove on, hit a pane in the window with his hand and broke it lifting the window he held it until Faghig passed through and then climbed through himself. Then he let the window drop, tripping the alarm. They quickly crossed the other roof to the access ladder on the other side, dropped down the ladder and the final few feet to the alley below. Faghig held a paper bag, they put the black cotton jackets they had been wearing inside and Faghig tossed the bag into a handy large trash can. Then they sauntered along toward the el. A figure grabbed Faghig as they entered the lit street and said, “That looked fun. You are right about training though. There are a lot of things I can’t do yet.”

“Tigerlilly, we will introduce you to Moonshine,” Jreghug said. “She is a dancer at the mermaid theatre and has things that make life for a fae easier here.”

“Then I want to meet her. Now why don’t we go and get a snack. After all, we just left the movies.”

“We’re back.”

“I’m glad that you are, father,” Ialantha said. “Things are a mess. They hit the bank and then used the money that Richard sent to make the case that we were planning a Scourge devise project. Unfortunately, we had all the businesses we’re involved in and the FSA has been trying to get into all of them.”

“I will send messages explaining what happened and telling them that they have my full support.”
“I already did. That doesn’t mean that they, and we, will not be hurt. The good news is that Onia’s suit has gone forward and it is getting good press. That means that the scandal value of the raids is reduced and we and the other Old Families are looking like the victims of a FSA run amok and greedy termite types. The bugs were not helped by how the case with the Cotton Exchange ended.”

“How did that end?”

“The Exchange has to pay the back rent and a huge fine, since the evidence showed that the Exchange essentially stole the property after trumping up that charge against Gertald. The Exchange bosses were lucky that the Statute of Limitations had run out. They are appealing, but Kulgha says that it is hopeless.”

“So Onia won again.”

“Yes she did. Let’s get you settled and I will give you the long story about everything.”

Jreghug went into the bar and handed two rolls of film and an envelope to Gradal. “That was easy.”

“What’s in the envelope?”

“A sample. Some papers were there on the desk, so I lifted them. They came from a duplicator anyway, so I doubt that they will miss them. I thought that the principle would like to know what is going on.”

“Very good. I will send the payment to the usual place. Where is your brother?”

“You know those stories about faerywives? Well, we went back home to do a job, she popped out of the jungle, grabbed my brother and hasn’t let go. We didn’t think bringing her here was a good idea, so they went to the mermaid dancing while I took care of business.”

“Will she be a problem?”

“Not really. She doesn’t know very much and we can park her someplace while we do a job. We’re thinking that we can see if she can get a job at one of the shows, but she may need classes for that. If nothing, else she is a good distraction. You could smuggle just about anything and the customs people would be slobbering over her and not even notice.”

Gradal laughed. “About that. An item had an accident in shipment and a client is hoping that it can be retrieved.”

“From customs? That won’t be easy.”

“The client believes that the Office of Inanimates has it. If you can retrieve it the client will pay fifty thousand for the retrieval.”

“We’ll see what we can do.  A lot is going to depend on the Office’s security and where it is.”

“Ok. The client would prefer not to have any contact with the authorities and the shipment was not illegal, but there were irregularities.”

“We’ll let you know if we pull it off and where to pick the thing up.”

“No, I will not transform and take you boys to the amusement park.”

Geral held up a piece of paper. “The admiral has given the permission.”

“Do you know what a chain of command is?”

“Your boss has a boss.”

“Right. Now, I have a boss at the base, Ensign Fishchaser. He has a boss, Commander Baltrog, who has the admiral as his boss, since he runs intelligence. Now, I can take this permission and hand it to the commander and he can still say no, even if the admiral says yes, if the commander needs me to do things that I can’t do transformed, like write, type or fit inside small spaces. If I were assigned a task that needed me to fly, taking a message out to an airship, for instance, I would transform. That is what that permission slip does.”

“You are just making excuses.”

Swifty sighed. “Have you asked grandmother for a dragon sized lunch?”

The boys looked at each other and said, “No.”

“Dragons eat a lot, like a whole roast pig or half a cow. Then there is Susan, who if I transform, will want to as well and then you are feeding two dragons. Both of you are going to Gallington heights, so you aren’t stupid. How come you don’t come up with a way to make time to go to the park and not tell grandmother?”
The boys grinned. “What makes you think that we haven’t?”

“I see. You want me to cover you if you suddenly have friends you met at the park. The kinds of friends your mother and grandmother are worried about.”

“Sort of.” Ben said. “The girls like us, but wear collars.”

“You could arrange to be kidnapped.”

“How.”

“I charge a lot for that kind of information. I have some friends with kidnap information, but they don’t want to just talk to anyone.”

“Gangsters?”

“Some may be. Others may go to the same school that you do. At least they did, since they graduated. You can figure out who, if you think about it. Anyway, I just met grandmother and mother will be angry with me and you if you get yourselves kidnapped and I was in any way connected with it. Why don’t you plan to join the adjuncts next year, Ben. If you have your grandfather pull some strings you can get assigned to a survey ship like I was.”

“My friends say that the survey ships are the bottom ships in the navy.”

“Your friends don’t know what they are talking about. The survey ships are small and use sails, true, but the officers and crew are the smartest in the navy, because they have to work with scientists and meet people from faraway places. So you learn a lot on a voyage on a survey ship.”

“Did you?”

“Yes. That was even after I had been to the Empire. I met whale seafolk and am a member of their tribe now. I also collected information on whales and learned how to hunt submarines.”

“Why aren’t you on a survey ship now?”

“This is my second year as an adjunct and when I started, I was preparing for my first year at the Academy, so I was working shoreside and learning how the shoreside part of the navy works. Diligent had sailed and Persistent is in refit anyway, so there were no opportunities for a survey ship this year. I need to go.”

As he walked back through the house Swifty’s grandmother said, “No dragon?”

“I think I made some very good arguments, not least of which is that you have to feed the dragon. That happened to the midshipman captain when he asked a friend of mine to transform. A hundred sandwiches at Kellam’s were expensive.”

Gail laughed. “Are they as good as Tomas said they were?”
 “Yes. The bad thing is that the admiral knows that and could show up for lunch.”
Gail laughed even harder. “Drannor or Tom?”

“Both of them, at different times. They both bought lunch, but it was nerve wracking.”

“You had other people there and wanted to talk about things.”

“The first time it was my shipmates from Diligent. The second time, it was me, Susan, Sthisse and Vince. They wanted to catch up with what I was doing, so we agreed to meet for lunch, but I was on duty.”

“By the way, Tomas is still pushing at the Secretary over the appointments and he may be bending a bit.”

“If a certain Senator knew what my sister was doing, he would want me in the Academy and not loose to dig into things. He’s the one messing things up. I need to go.”

Cain grinned as Mora came into the café and sat down across from him. She handed him an envelope. “I have some pictures of the event. Since you were so generous, I thought that you and your people would appreciate them. There are some programs and other material that are rather interesting.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Chambers. They will be appreciated.”

“I must be going now. I have tasks and people that need me.”

Mora got into her car and Durlan said, “Delivered?”

“Delivered.”

Beltain Naval Academy

 Grad grinned as the immaculately turned out marine appeared at the gate. “Major, I have our first assignment.”

“I have a GP and we can go to my office.”

“You set up quickly here.”

“There is a space sort of hidden that I was able to grab.”

They got into the GP, the major started the engine and drove toward the stadium. When they reached the stadium, the major drove around the outside until they reached a row of shacks underneath the stands. He stopped the GP and said, “I discovered these places when some middies introduced me to them. I’m borrowing the spook club’s shed.”

“The spook club?”

“Don’t ask. They may get annoyed.”

They went inside and the headquarters squad has a map of the Republic up and was looking at a brief from marine headquarters. Grad looked around and asked, “Where are the Transformed? I was hoping that I could meet Sergeant Nightblade.”

Jorge laughed. “I thought that they would have issues with assisting the police and the general was probably going to need them, so they stayed behind with the general.”

“My son likes those books very much.”

 “A lot of people do. That has been a bit of an issue.”

“If the story about the Scourge devises in Fayspire is true, I think that you are wrong about police work. The Sergeant did very well in tracking down those thieves.”

“His methods were more than a bit unorthodox and that caused some trouble at the tribunal later when the defense’s counselor tried to make an issue out of the fact that he had broken into that hardware store and removed some paint.”

“He didn’t really have a choice, did he?”

“Not really. With Scourge devises involved, he had to figure out if it was just a robbery or something else. What is the assignment?”

“I would like to you to provide support as the FSA searches the Harper ranch for Admiral Harper’s files. They were removed from navy custody before the FSA could request them and we would like a look at them.”

“Ok, but we do this by the book.” Jorge held up the FSA procedures manual. “I’ve heard about some of things going on and any operation that I and my people are involved in goes strictly by the book. We have warrants signed by the local magistrate, we treat people with respect and we will play by the rules explicitly.”

“That is remarkable coming from an ex pirate.”

“Look, I have to answer to the Commandant, the President and the navy committee in the Senate and Congress. I have been called up on the grill over the boys, and over those books we were just discussing. We have a new administration and if I’m seen violating the rules, they aren’t going to be happy with the splash of a scandal. I can’t risk that right now, so we play things tight.”

“The fact that Admiral Harper is a friend has nothing to do with it?”

“I would behave the same way if we were raiding the Great Captain’s house.”

“That is in the Empire.”

Jorge grinned. “I wouldn’t be so sure and the FSA is lucky right now that he isn’t home and they haven’t annoyed him.”

“Do you think that he transported Scourge devises for Admiral Harper?”

“No. First of all, the first time that admiral even knew that Scourge devises existed was after Paeris had stopped his raids and second, I would remember if there was a drop off of something that large and there was not. I was there for most of it and the first time that anyone even suspected that the ancient Scourge devises existed, let alone the new ones was when the five were found on the Nerihorn estate. If the admiral had suspected that Scourge devises were present, I would not have been sent into Ishendell, regardless of the need to evacuate the trapped civilians. The only two devises that anyone had encountered were sunk off the Peninsula in very deep water and even then, the exact nature of the devises was not known, other than the fact that they were very dangerous. The fact that nobody understood what the Scourge devises were allowed the Project to build all the facilities and fabricate devises.”

  “You seem to know a lot about the Scourge.”

“I was there at the beginning and dealing with them was why they paid me for some time. Let’s get this set up.”

Jorge and the senior agent set things up, Jorge took the senior agent back to the gate and was turning to leave when he spotted a dragon he knew. “Swifty!”

Swifty turned, smiled and saluted. “Yes sir?”

“Swifty, is Dan Harper back?”

“Sir, I’m not sure.”

“I see that the admiral put you in a uniform.”

Swifty frowned. “The Secretary wants me out of the uniform.”

“What does the admiral think?”

“I haven’t spoken with him about it, but he was in charge of Albatross when the test program was put together.”

“He wants dragon pilots and planes on decks.”

“Yes sir.”

“What have you been doing?”

“Running errands for intelligence.”

“Would you do something for me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Would you drop by the Harpers and tell Mr. Harper that there will be serious raid at the ranch looking for Admiral Harper’s papers in three days.”

“Yes sir! I think I know why. Actually, I don’t think that they will find them. At least not the ones they are looking for.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve been to the Harper’s library and met the librarian. The ranch is a small town and if she hides something, no one is going to find it.”

Jorge laughed. “Maybe you shouldn’t have said that.”

“Major, I doubt that you want to risk me and the boys without your boys and they aren’t here. If they were, that would be a different story.”

“You have a point.”

Beltain

Bradal grinned as Cain came into the café. “You are smiling, though most people would not know.”

“Mora Chambers had some pictures of her latest little project and I have obtained an interesting book.” Cain put the Advanced Reader copy of the spider book on Bradal’s table with an envelope. Bradal opened the envelope, looked at the pictures and said, “Somebody has made some connections that they shouldn’t be looking into. Who is it and where is this?”

“I’m not sure who the people in charge are. The place is a garage on Waterfront St. I checked and the place has been owned by the Cutflames for a very long time. They may have rented the place. The book came from Izzie Dantas, who was investigating the Stewards and then the Spider.”

“Does Mora know?”

“She didn’t say. She would probably not be too concerned, as Marian is gone.”

“Unfortunately I am still tied up in the special session and cannot leave the Plateau. Is there anything special about the Cutflames that I should know?”

“The family patriarch runs those photobooths that are all over Chatsrey. He’s also a heavy on the committee. The son, Gertald, was railroaded by the Cinders so that the Cotton Exchange could have a new facility on the property that had been an amusement park owned by the Cutflames. Recently, Onia Cutflame hired Jon Tollings and filed for the Cotton Exchange to be evicted. The Cotton Exchange is in real trouble right now.”

“Could the FSA search the property?”

“There would have to be a serious and obvious crime going on, such as there being Scourge devises in the garage before the FSA would be able to get in there. The lady does not like the FSA, knows all the rules and has a book on how to deal with pests. The book is very good and I recommend it to clients.”

“Is she responsible for the difficulties that the FSA is having?”

“By and large, yes. The Old Families made sure that the book was distributed and she made an impact when she forced the FSA to back off. She has also filed suit against the FSA concerning the attempt to search her premises and the suit is going poorly for the FSA.”

“That is not good. On the other hand, this material has not reached the papers as yet. See what you can do.”

“The Tincutters will be resistant. They did publish the Crowburg title and they know me.”

“Talk to the dwarf. I can push his people off the Plateau if he delves into things that he shouldn’t. Remind him of that. Why are you here, Tomas?”

 “I’m passing the legislative agenda for Congress around. We put it together last five day. Here it is.”

Tomas handed the agenda over and Bradal looked at it. “You do not seem to have the President’s new budget on the list.”

“We think that we can leave things as they are and pass a continuing resolution. For that matter, the appropriations were all settled before Jarfaet left office and we don’t see a need for a big need for changes until the turn of the year.”

Bradal looked at Tomas. “The Administration will not be happy with that.”

“The Administration should have thought about that before setting the FSA on businesses all over the country, causing many of the people in government to resign and messing with things like Spike’s Point and Cleadsgate appointments. The Administration has been stepping all over things with great big boots and has annoyed a lot of people. You railroaded the President out of office and you and your buddies have been pulling all the strings since. The Congress has tried to communicate its concerns to the Administration and not received answers. So the Congress is going to treat the Administration’s new agenda in the same fashion. Some people here on the Plateau and elsewhere seem to have forgotten that the Republic is not their piggybank and playground and that there others who have a voice as well. Good day, Senator.”

Tomas left and Cain said, “What has made him so angry?”

“I wouldn’t know. Tomas isn’t usually so aggressive.”

“I need to go on some other errands, so I will go on my way.”

Cain started to leave. George Cinders joined them before he could. “I’m not going to be here after the election.”

“Why not?”

“The Cotton Exchange. After the fine and the scandal, the family will not have any resources to help with the campaign and I will have difficulty drawing on any. Also, the scandal over the Cutflames has spilled all over me and the potential Liberty Party opponents are already sharpening knives.”

“That’s not good.”

“There are rumors of something worse dropping, so be wary. The dwarf at the Press Service has something big coming and the thing against the Old
Families is not going well.”

“What is worse?”

“There are some rumors that somebody in the Empire or spying on the enemy found out that some people here are in communication with the enemy.”

“Did they say how?”

“It’s just whispers at parties and so forth.”

“Any source?”

“The office in the Empire seems to be original source, but it may have come from the Fellowship.”

“Do the sources have names that you have heard? Where is this coming from?”

“No one has mentioned any names that I know of. This was just whispers and has come from things that were going around.”

“That is very interesting. Are you with us for the coming session, still?”

“I will be. On the other hand, if the Cotton Exchange thing gets back to my state, where there are a lot of cotton growers, that could be ugly.”

“The property was owned by Dragonkin,” Cain said. “They won’t get too upset. After all, the cotton farmers “recruited” the Dragonkin for the farm work.”

“That was a long time ago. You know how dragons make great pilots? Dragonkin, it turns out, are great with farm machinery. That is making new kinds to save work and money. They also work hard and save their money until they have farms of their own. The result is that the Dragonkin that went down there as farm labor took over.”

“Didn’t people complain?”

“I didn’t spend as much time there as I should have, but it was more  competing with them, drinking with them and marrying them. I need to go.”

“I will go as will.”

They left and Bradal looked at his lunch. The rumors were worrisome and if Old Admiral Tollings had somebody in the Base as a spy, that was even more so. He was going to have to take the risk and send a wire.

Klara looked at her daughter and said, “You are a surprise here.”

“Swifty has been busy on the base, and I wanted to see what I could do to push for his appointment being reinstated.”

“That is a good thing for a young lady of the Plateau to do. Where is Carrie?”

“In Chatsrey, still taking dance lessons. I’ll be back and forth, but I want to get a feel for just what is going on up here.”

“How are things going for your aunt?”

“Just fine. The raids haven’t hit the Crystal Palace yet.”

“How bad have the raids been? Your father will want to know.”

“Not so much bad as annoying, for a lot of places. Getting raided means that you have to shut down and then pay for a barrister to force the FSA to hand your books back. That’s causing all sorts of issues. Most people know about Onia’s book now and that has helped a lot. So the FSA is getting frustrated. Has the Attorney General noticed what is going on?”

“Not enough that he stops it, apparently. The whole Administration was apparently selected for their loyalty than their ability. The campaign against the Old Families is not helping.”

“The thing is stupid. Admiral Harper didn’t do the Scourge devise experiments on his own, the President asked him to, and as far as I have seen, that was with good reason. Some very scary things are coming out of the Empire and the jungle. I’ve been helping Captain Flamespitter and Mrs. Steelmaker with the files and they are scary.”

“Is Senator Steelslash in the files?”

“All over them, along with the Cinders and some others. That’s one reason that I’m here.”

“How are Vincent and Sthisse doing?”

“They are going just fine. Vincent has been working on the files because he is invisible and if they see him with Sthisse, they are just a couple of college students. If the airlines start operating again, the general wants to send them through the Program.”

Klara laughed. “They are probably not the only ones.”

“No, but I’m not telling Vincent about the Program very much.”

“That may be the smart thing to do.”

“I have a promise with Immianthe and Tad not to.”
Chatsrey

Gradal frowned as the four walked into the bar. “You have returned.”

“We figure that the heat is off,” Murty said. “The old lady probably isn’t looking for us and there should be work with us gone.”

“Not at all. We have found some capable people who have worked out very well.”

“Do you trust them?”

“They don’t know enough about the lady to be dangerous and they have done some tasks very well. Do we trust them? Not completely. On the other hand, once they say that they are going to perform a task, the job is done quietly and without further issues.”

“What are you saying about us?”

“You can guess. Your last few jobs were sloppy and the last one should have finished you and could have finished the lady. She was not happy. At least you warned us that things had gone bad.”

“We’ll find other employment unless the lady needs us.”

“Frankly you should not have returned. The FSA is on a rampage and the spider on the Plateau is gone, along with some others.”

“The Senator?”

“He is still there, but his nephew was rather embarrassed and the lady told the Senator that we would not be taking work from Barry anymore. That became unnecessary as the spider consumed him during the last hunt. She perished in as public and nasty a way as could be possible.”

“Ok, we understand. We’ll be on our way.”

The four finished their drinks and left. As they headed to the el, Dillon turned to Murty and said, “Now what?”

Murty grinned. “The lady made a mistake. If we aren’t working for her, that file we have on her has no value to us. So we see if somebody else will spring for it.”

“Who?”

“The old lady. I’m sure that she will want to know about some of the people selling the country out.”

The others grinned. “She might be interested,” Dillon said. “I want to find those mutts and put them down before they look for us.”

The others nodded agreement and Murty said, “I’ll pass. That kid was a nasty surprise.”

“The fact that he was a dragon, rather than a Dragonkin?”

“That, and who he was connected to. The Qinvaris were working with the kid and that means the Harpers.”

“The FSA is keeping them busy.”

“Do you think that the FSA clowns could be more than a nuisance to an Old Family if it came right down to it? I don’t.”

Gerty watched the four walk up the stairs to the el and then went in the other direction. Some people would want to know that the four were back in town.

When he was sure that the four were not returning, Gradal picked up the phone, dialed and said, “The boys have returned. I sent them off, since I didn’t think that we wanted to employ them any further.”

Mora replied, “I think not.”

“Should I have them dealt with?”

“I think that I will deal with them using a channel that does not connect to me. You might hint that Mr. Bellot is looking for help. He will probably want to act more directly soon.”

“That was a good thought. If I see the boys, I will pass a hint.”

Lythienne grinned as Swifty was let into the workroom. “Don’t you look smart, young dragon. How is your mother?”

“Fine, as far as I know. She went back to the Empire.”

“Yes she did. Apparently she trusts Solicitor Tollings to handle the business. So what brings you here?”

“Officially I am dropping off some things for the Representative from the navy. Unofficially, the major wanted Mr. Harper to know that the FSA is going to invade the ranch looking for Admiral Harper’s papers tomorrow.”

“Thank you for telling us this, Swifty. How did the major let you know?
“The major and his people are set up in Naval Academy. The shoreside adjuncts are quartered there. So we were both in the same place.”

“Of course you met the major while you were on Diligent.

“Mrs. Tollings had the adjuncts over for dinner when we were in Ishendell.  Jimmy, Jonny, Teonag and Brilbrun all knew the major anyway. I need to be off before the FSA man watching the house realizes who I am.”

“Is that an issue?”

“Not yet. I’m not going close to the garage and my sister has taken that over for Mrs. Steelmaker. So, even if the FSA picks up on me, that won’t lead them anywhere that they can use. Bye.”

Swifty left and Dan came in. “That was a mess.”

“How did the meeting go?”

“A lot of the family is rather upset, for very good reasons. They are mostly upset that they weren’t warned that the assault was coming. I had to tell them that I hadn’t known either. We figured that Desert Howl would be the focus. We never considered that the termites and the Director would use Jarfaet’s resignation as an excuse to poke into every little bit of the family’s business looking for irregularities and hidden crimes. At least we have a handle on things now.”

“Swifty was just here. Major Tollings is assisting the FSA as they raid the ranch. They are looking for Tom’s papers.”

Dan grinned. “Rose has taken care of those. You know how she is about things in her care. The library isn’t even on the ranch, officially. I need to make some calls.”

The Harper Ranch.

With a small grin, Bill watched the convoy approach, government cars from the FSA followed by trucks that disgorged a full company of marines. A FSA man approached the door, and when Bill opened it, said, “I have a warrant to search these premises for the missing papers of Admiral Tom Harper.”
Bill looked at the warrant, turned to his brother, handed it him and said, “Bob?”

The senior agent gulped as the former Chief Prosecutor looked at the warrant and said, “This looks to be in order, senior agent. Good work, unlike some that have come from the Agency of late. You have even had this signed by magistrate Greinder. Very well, we will cooperate. The major can cover any classification issues and I will supervise.”

“Barrister Ironaxe is not here as well, is he?”

“Kulgha is not here at present. I do hope that we can keep him out of it.”

“Shall we start at the library?”

“The library is not on the property. Didn’t anyone tell you? The town, with the sheriff’s station, the school, the library and the stores were made common property by my grandfather. They haven’t been part of the ranch for over seventy five years. You are going to have to get another warrant for the library.”

The senior agent cursed. He looked at Jorge and said, “Did you tell your old boss that we were coming?”

“Senior Agent, first of all, the admiral is not even in the country. To my knowledge, he is at the Junglelands, according to the daily brief. Second, I told you to get a map and check property records when making the requests for the warrants. We have warrants for the ranch and the admiral’s residence. We can start the search while you get the others. Let’s get set up.”

The major’s people setup a headquarters tent and the work started. Jorge stood aside as the people worked and Bob and Bill joined him. Bob said, “Major, have you met my brother, Bill?”

“I do not believe I have. Mr. Harper, I am glad to meet you. Your brothers all know me, of course.”

“Where are the Transformed, Major?” Bill asked.

“Not in the country. I didn’t want them to be exposed to the FSA and lose their innocence and creativity when it comes to this sort of thing.”

“What do you mean?” Bob asked.

“The sergeant and his buddies have a rather loose approach to things when it comes to getting things done. That may be at odds with the FSA’s approach, or worse, encourage the FSA to convince the Transformed to do certain things. So I left them with General Ironaxe and the orcs, who will appreciate them.”

Bob and Bill laughed. Bill said, “When my boys heard that you were coming, they were hoping that they could meet the Transformed.”

 “That was another reason to not bring them. They are well known already and if we are involved in one of these that gets messy, they might lose some of the good will that they have built up. Frankly, I thought that no one would notice that they were not here and it hasn’t worked out that way. Mr. Harper, why don’t we grab a GP and you show me the places that are not part of the ranch and off limits.”

“Ok. Most of those are private residences owned by various family. My sister Niphinae’s is rented since she can’t live in it and there is one that is empty.”

“Richard’s. He set the same thing up for his kids.”

“How do you think he’s holding up?”

“If the clowns don’t push, just fine. If they pull something else and hurt a lot of people on the farms, things could get messy. You are worried about the Ghost, aren’t you?”

“The entire family is. Have you seen it?”

“I haven’t, but Paeris certainly has and he certainly talks about what happened after we have a few tankards.”

“You drank with the Great Captain?”

“There are very few people that he trusts to let himself release somewhat, yet even he needed to. I was one of those people.”

“Who does Richard drink with?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think it is with my grandfather. It may be the Emperor.”

“At the palace?”

“No. Supposedly there is some place in the Lower City. In any case, Richard Harper hasn’t been one of my problems.”

“How did you get involved in this mess?”

“I was just about to possibly win the war when I received orders to return home and carry the FSA’s cloak for them. So here I am. The Director will probably not like how things go when I am involved, but whoever replaces your brother will, as his office will not have to deal with a stack of mistrials due to poor evidence collection and other such things. If I am to be involved in this circus, it will be by the book.”

Bill laughed. “That isn’t going to make things easy.”

“Mr. Harper, my former bosses were the Great Captain and your brother. Both of them share certain personality traits that make them very good at their jobs. Neither one is stupid. If the papers do show up, they will not forward the FSA’s case against the admiral in any way. The people running this mage hunt should have stopped when they got the President. Instead, they have pushed the thing forward, digging themselves into a deeper hole.”

“Should you be telling me this?”

“Why not? Nothing involved is classified, I’m sure that you want to know what your brother got up to while he was overseas and I’m not here by choice.”

“You almost argue like Bob does.”

Jorge grinned. “You are not the only one with a brother that went through law school. My brother did as well and before the snake did her little enhancements on me, I was the runt in the family, as well as not being undersea. So, developing skills of persuasion came naturally.”

“Here’s Richard’s house. As you can see it’s empty.”

“Alinis and Fire haven’t taken it over?”

“They haven’t come up here to the ranch very often. They may not even know that they could use it. I should ask mother about that.”

“How old is the house?”

“A couple of centuries. The house was rebuilt when dad gave it to Richard, but it’s been empty since he went to the Empire.”

“I will have Lissia tell Rosa about the house, if she doesn’t already know.”

“She knows about it, but things have been rather chaotic the last few years and the house in Chatsrey is more convenient.”

“Buying the place in Ishendell doesn’t help either.”

“I know. Rosa can even bring staff down from the estate and immigration ignores the fact that they wear collars.”

Jorge laughed. “I know who you are talking about and collars or not, most people don’t mess with Richard’s people. He finds good people and it shows.”

“Tell me all about him.”

“I’m not sure if I should.”

“Why not?”

“He might find out and then I’m in trouble.”

“You? What about me?”

“You’re his brother. You’re safe.”

“No I am not.”

Chapter 28.

Outside Eryding.

Wyrran looked at the scanner and said, “It’s over there.”

Tanyl waved to a crew and they opened the door of the shed. “This shed has been repaired.”

“I think that we know why. There it is.”

“Could you haul it away?”

“We will, once we get them all handled.”

“What if they come back and take the cage off?”

“That won’t be easy, and you can have people watching. Of course we also left you a spare cage.”

“That was what you want, isn’t it?”

“If they show up and pull the cage, they have to either keep guards here, which means that they are not someplace else, or keep coming back. We’ll see what they do. In any case, this is another one.”

The Base

The technician watched as enhanced soldiers loaded into the ten Jumpers, turned to the chief and said, “This makes me nervous.”

“I don’t blame you. I tried to keep it to just us and our teams. Lord Ornthalus insisted. If our enemies are watching, this will be impossible to hide. Let’s get our teams and go.”

“This is just the first two. Seven of the devises are down. If the enemy knows that we are sending teams, they will take measures to ensure that they stay down.”

“That is apparently no longer a concern of the Lords.”

Herdir watched the Jumpers taking off and grinned. Things were not going well for the Project.

Arafiel found Amaris supervising a crew going through the material that had come from the vaults under the castle. “What are you doing?”

“I thought about this material. We haven’t taken the time to go through it and I imagine that Lyrei put everything she could think of to help her children inside.”

“So?”

“I am guessing that the code to operate Harald’s devise is probably here.”

“This material has been in the hands of the enemy.”

“Yes it has, but even if they copied it, and they almost certainly have, as well as altering certain things, they probably did not have the resources or the understanding to go through everything and they already had the control code for the devises, since they opened the vault, so they didn’t need to look for it. Also, the people that had the treasure may not have known the significance of the code. In any case, looking here, where the enemy cannot see us look, is better than fruitlessly looking about the estate, where the enemy is looking to confound us.”

Arafiel laughed. “That is certainly true. Are you prepared if we lose Semmont and the panel?”
“Yes. The back up control was fabricated and emplaced long ago. Are you concerned about losing Semmont?”

“I think that we will, at some point, soon. It is an obvious target.”

“I cannot argue with the logic. I am surprised that it has taken this long for the enemy to strike.”

The Empty Lands.

The five Jumpers emerged, landed and the enhanced stood guard as the team of technicians removed the cage and checked the suppressor before reactivating it. Then they left. None of the enhanced noticed that the entire operation had been watched. Once the Jumpers were gone, a truck appeared, the cage was replaced and secured with spikes and concrete. The grinning crew got back in the truck and back to the road and Fayspire. 

The Fellowship, outside Zirgoccol.

The lieutenant watched as the five Jumpers emerged. Waving in a flat motion he ordered the quad machine gun antiaircraft turret that was camouflaged alongside the road to hold fire. Then the lieutenant watched as enhanced set up a perimeter around the barn, a team went inside and reemerged. The Jumpers left again, a truck appeared and carrying a new cover for the suppressor, a crew went inside. Shortly afterwards, carrying the ruins of the old screen, the crew reemerged and left in the truck and some cars.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s