The Intrigues of The Plateau, Chapter 31-32

Faghig and Jreghug make a pickup. Bill and the others visit Gold City

Chapter 31.

Chatsrey

In the end, Faghig and Jreghug decided to keep things simple and with a rather tattered shipping slip, went to the Office of Inanimates. Thaetmaeg grinned and said, “What can I do for you two?”

“Mr. Steelmaker, we are acting as agents for a client. Recently the Office of Inanimates recovered an object that belonged to our client after it was damaged in transshipment. We are here to recover the object.”

“It’s just us in the office, so why does Sarya want the thing?”

“She doesn’t, but we were told that if we picked the thing up and arranged delivery, doing that would be a good thing. We think that the delivery will lead to interesting places if we handle it.”

“It’s just cluttering up the place and Tarranth hasn’t sent back and told me what it is, so it’s yours.”

“Thank you for making this easy. So far, we’ve been able to keep things tight, but the other end is going to mess up at some point.”

“We’re all looking for that. I’m glad to meet you two. Where is your lady friend?”

“Out in front, chatting with your receptionist,” Faghig said. “She’s been making all sorts of friends as we go along.”

Thaetmaeg laughed. “Let’s get your truck around and get the thing loaded.”

“I found you!”

Katar jumped and said, “What do you want, milady?”

“Not you, Katar; Lilly.”

“Me, Mrs. Fallingwater? What do you want me for?”

“To see if you can infiltrate some fools.”

“Why me?”

“Your experience and the fact that you are Silverin. Katar can join you, though looking like he does is a liability.”

“If I say no?”

“Then you say no. You are not a slave. On the other hand, what you are doing is probably pretty dull, and you and Arlayna can work on this together.”

“What is going on, Arlayna?”

“There is a cult of Silverin that suddenly appeared all over the Empire, the Fellowship and the Orcenlands and are taking over the compelled the suppressors created. The suppressors have been shut down, but the cult is still active and a problem. The larger problem is that the cult has been having the compelled commit violent acts to cement their membership and if things go along as they have been, things will get ugly.”

“Have you cleared this with the Company, Mrs. Fallingwater?”

“I have. If you know some other girls with experience, we can certainly use them.”

“I will see what I can do. This could be risky, but we would be bringing the family together again, something that has been a family dream since we arrived in the wildlands long ago.”

“So that is settled. Have my son and his princess behaved?”

“They have.”

“That is a disappointment. I was hoping that they would enjoy themselves far away from responsibilities.”

“Immianthe has been taking advantage of the fact that she and Tad had been here several times to take the kids places. The bad news is that the old dwarf at the Press Service found out and we have to make the trips planned rather than spontaneous so that the press can come too. Immianthe is rather annoyed but puts up with it.”

“What about my son?”

“He just goes along, camera in hand and keeps an eye on things. He makes our job easier and we haven’t had any kids from the Empire get lost yet.”

“So you are saying that the kids from your families are the ones getting lost.”

“That does happen and we rarely have any problems. If I’m cleared, I’ll go up to the Empire.”

“Excellent. Now why don’t we find my son and his princess and surprise them.”

Swifty wasn’t sure how things had ended up the way they had and he was sure that the commander was laughing at him, but there he was, in the amusement park, with his cousins, his sister, Susan and Vince. He was at the park to pass some discreet material to the Fellowship naval attaché in an exchange for some intelligence from them. Commander Baltrog had thought that the amusement park was the perfect place to make the exchange and bringing the cousins and the rest made a good cover, so Swifty was stuck with it. He was sure that the whole thing was his grandmother’s and the admiral’s wife’s idea. He had been forced to wear his uniform while the others could wear things more appropriate to the park, so Suzy was on the waterslide as Swifty was sitting by the side of the pool waiting for his connection when he saw Tad and Immianthe and even worse, Tad and Immianthe saw him. They walked over, Swifty stood up and bowed. “Hello princess.”

“Why are you here, Swifty?”

“I can’t say. Uh oh.”

“What’s wrong,” Tad said, looking around.

“That elf that looks like he stepped right out of a High Elf comedy, the one with the camera? He works for my grandfather and my boss is going to be annoyed if I show up in a picture with the man I am supposed to meet.”

“I doubt that Mr. Ironaxe will care.”

“My other boss, who, I think, is playing a rather large joke on me.”

“We have it handled,” Immianthe said. “Come on Tad. Swifty, we can meet later.”

Immianthe swept right up to the elf with Tad and then seemingly without effort, acted the princess and attracted a crowd. A man joined Swifty watching as Immianthe played the crowd and the cameras and said, “It’s hotter here than Zirgoccol this time of year.”

“I wouldn’t know, I have never been to that city. I have been farther north and the breezes are cool.” Swifty handed the man the packet and the man handed one to Swifty.

“The princess has attracted attention. Do you know why she is here in the Republic?”

“The events in the Lower City and she’s been here several times before.”

“You know her, then?”

“I do. I need to go and pay for the distraction.”

“She was doing this for you?”

“I spotted the elf with the camera. He could have messed this up and Immianthe took charge.”

The grinning man disappeared and Swifty joined Tad and Immianthe as the crowd moved on to other things. The elf spotted Swifty and took their pictures as Swifty said, “Thanks for dealing with that. I’ll buy you lunch at a place I know.”

“A secret?” Immianthe said.

“Sort of. A lot of people know about the place, but most people don’t know the real secret. The cooking is palace quality.”

“A big secret, then. Tad and I look forward to it.”

“Let’s head over to the water slide and collect my cousins, Susan, my sister and her boyfriend.”

“Your sister is here? I want to meet her.”

“Then let’s go.”

They wandered toward the water slide, found Susan and the others and were heading for a snack when a voice suddenly said, “Found you!”

Tad jumped at his mother’s voice and groaned. “Why are you here, mother?”

“I had some recruiting to do. Who are all your friends?”

“This is Swifty, his cousins and his sister, along with Vince and Susan Gilders.”

“Swifty and Susan have been to the Empire. Folk, I am Filia Fallingwater. You do not need to be concerned. I was just seeing what my son and his princess were doing today.”

“What were you recruiting for, Lad-Filia?” Susan said.

“There are some family that are doing some bad things and need to be brought under control before they put the family at odds with most of the Empire. Susan, your mother knows all about this, because your brother has been assisting us in this.”

“That doesn’t sound like Derry at all,” Vince said. “Apparently he found that mysterious mystery lady he was chasing.”

Filia grinned. “He may or may not have. I think that you will find that he has changed more than somewhat. The change has been good for him.”

“That is only a good thing. It’s about time that he actually accepted responsibilities.”

“So what have you all been up to?”

“Things we can’t talk about,” Swifty said, “At least I can’t talk about them. I am an adjunct, running errands for my boss at the navy. The errand is over, so I am having fun with my cousins, who were part of my cover.”

“That sounds suspicious.”

“Not really, other than we needed to keep things discreet and Tad and Immianthe helped.”

“How?”

“We distracted a photographer,” Immianthe said. “Swifty, you didn’t explain why he would pay special attention to you.”

“The photographers here and a lot of other places work for my grandfather. So they know who I am. Grandmother likes pictures of me, so they take them. Most of the time, that isn’t a problem, but I was working and my boss would not have liked it if a picture of me showed up with the man I was meeting. An apparent accidental picture with you and Tad is fine.”

Immianthe laughed. “We could arrange to have the kids come to the navy base for a tour.”

“The Umevan can set that up with my other grandmother and the admiral’s wife.”

“Mrs. Harper?”

“Admiral Harper resigned. The new admiral, who supposedly doesn’t like Dragonkin. He knows my other grandfather really well and my boss sends me out with the daily briefs to the navy committee members that are in the area like my grandfather and Congressman Wavechaser. Since I can drive, that helps.”

“Good. Now where this hidden palace cook?”

“Kellam’s in Cleadsgate. I first went there when I was with the Diligent crew and the Wavechaser boys and most of the crew knew about the place. So did Cory and Maldin from Ironaxe and Captain Bronzerock.”

“I have other errands, so I will leave you all,” Filia said. “Tad, get those addresses for me and meet me later.”

“Yes mother.”

As they walked away, Lilly said, “Swifty works for Ironaxe Asset Protection, at least he did. He was more connected than most people realize.”

“What happened to Admiral Harper? He was a good man.”

“Some of it hasn’t reached the papers, but the President asked the admiral to start a program to see if Scourge devises could be placed on a rocket. The admiral did. What they didn’t do was consult with the committee chiefs in Congress and the Senate like they were supposed to. That lit off a storm, the President resigned, the current President is an idiot who is having his strings pulled by certain Senators with dirty hands and most of the government resigned rather than get the axe, one by one. Then the FSA, using the Scourge devise program as an excuse, has been going after Old Family businesses. The thing turned into a mage hunt rather quickly and I have been here and not working because the rest of the family is tied up at work and somebody has to watch the kids. Fortunately, the fact that Mr. Umevan rented the park, essentially, for the season helped with that as the kids here are family.”

“That explains why Silva’s has not been able to provide the resources that they said that they could.”

“The mage hunt just kept getting bigger and most of the targets are clients. I should talk to Sthisse about more of those books from her mother. For that matter, when we get to the Empire, I am going to look up Mrs. Cutflame and see what I can do to set up a training session on how to deal with some pests.”

 Henri looked at the agents that had just returned from the Harper ranch and said, “You didn’t find the admiral’s papers.”
Grad gulped. “Director, there were a dozen buildings on the ranch alone, including machinery and cow sheds as well as several large barns. Then there were the residences, two of which we could not get warrants to search.”

“Why not?”

“One was Mrs. Oceania’s house and the place was rented. The other was Richard Harper’s house and was unoccupied and had been for over thirty years. It was apparent that no one had been inside for a very long time and the magistrate was not about to give me a blanket warrant for an empty house.”

“Were there any obstruction issues?”

“Not at all. The search was supervised by Barrister Harper and as long as we played by the rules, so did the Harpers. That did not mean that we had unlimited access to everything, but we had enough to see that the admiral’s papers were not where we were looking.”

“Did you sweat the person in charge of the family papers?”

“We spoke with her. Director, that woman is an old dwarf lady who spent fifty years on the ranch, on a horse. She wasn’t somebody you could just sweat. You can mess with her if you want, but I wasn’t going to push.”

“We need those papers.”

“Then have the Senate Request them during a hearing.”

“Dismissed.”

Kredror looked at the man across from his table and frowned. Whenever he showed up, it was bad news, usually involving the mound. Bellot had asked for a discreet meeting and Kredror had told him where and when. Bellot had been late and Kredror had finished his caffee and been about to leave when Bellot appeared. “Sit down, Mr. Bellot. What matter did you want to discuss today?”

“Some people may be pursuing some conspiracy theories and trying to create a scandal. The Senator is concerned that there could be slander coming in the direction of some people and wanted to get in front of the problem.” Bellot put a photo of a bulletin board with yarn connecting various people. “The Press Service relies on access and the office on the Plateau is an important resource for your firm. If it should be forced to close because the building was declared unsafe, that would hamper your ability to report on the happenings in the capital.”
“Essentially you are saying that if a certain emerging story is not squashed, the Plateau Committee would condemn my building on the Plateau.”

“I would not put things quite that way.”

“Who is working this story? You probably know?”

“I believe that it is a reporter named Dantas. He has apparently been offered a publishing contract by a rather disreputable publisher and is about to release a rather fanciful book about a murderess that transformed into a spider monster, something that is obviously preposterous.”

“We printed the story and Izzie did a good job with it. I know that the story sound incredible, but Izzie had pictures, witnesses and police reports showing that the spider killers had been committing murders for a very long time.”

“What is Mr. Dantas working on now?”

“Nothing assigned by me. He’s working freelance and hasn’t turned any copy in recently.”

“You do not know what your people are doing?”

“Mr. Bellot, I have stringers, who are on salary, and overseas reporters who may or may not be on salary, as well as the people that work directly from the offices. Then there are the freelancers, who cover what they want and send material if they think that I will buy it. Your friend Inky is one of those, though I have told my people to stop accepting things from him. I do not want to be in the position of accepting material with Classified Matters concerns again, Mr. Bellot. You can tell the Senator that I have not forgotten being used as a patsy to bring down the President. If this picture is any indication, with the Senator sending you to squelch this, this is very hot indeed and now that you have brought this to my personal attention, I will have to see what Izzie is up to. He may want more resources.”

“You could be shut out of the capital.”

 “I will take that risk, Mr. Bellot. The Senator is not the only one on the Plateau committee and his wife may not like it if her things no longer received press attention. The Senator has an election coming up and while the Press Service has traditionally taken a neutral position during an election, the Senator has been in the middle of a lot of strange things and who knows what may pop out if my people look. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have other matters to attend to, so good day.

Fadlaig joined his father as he left the café and said, “That character creeps me out.”

“What have you and Garrat been up to at that garage of the Cutflames?”

“Is that what he was looking for?”

“He apparently was looking at what Izzie was digging into.”

“He’s taken the bait, then.”

“Interesting. Would anyone have any problems with me stopping over and getting a discreet peek into what have found? I’ve been staying out of it.”

“I doubt it, as long as you aren’t obvious. At this point, the hard part is finding somebody to turn the stuff over to.”

“It’s THAT hot?”

“Dad, haven’t you noticed that Garrat and I stopped talking about what we were doing? At first it was old files and old stories. Then we started to make the connections and suddenly we were in the midst of things that were very dangerous with Mrs. Steelmaker set up down the hall.”

“Why couldn’t you turn the material over?”

“Dad, think about who that creep works for. We can’t turn it over to Bob Harper because he isn’t the Chief Prosecutor, the Attorney General is incompetent and the President’s strings are pulled by the Senator.”

“I’m surprised that Sarya let you stay around.”

“She didn’t have much choice. We were already in too deep and she needed us, because we are invisible to the people responsible. If Bellot sees me, for instance, I’m just a kid, with other kids.”

“I see your point. How did Bellot find out about it?”

“We led him through the nose to the place. Izzie and Frank spilled some things while they were talking about Izzie’s book in front of Bellot’s spy at Tincutter’s, Vinnie arranged to get himself hired by Bellot and there are other people that I won’t talk about. We think that the Senator will realize just how much trouble he is in, do something really stupid and then the Senator and Mr. Bellot are going to get a nasty surprise as the entire story with all sorts of other stuff is dropped on you.”

“Son, I am proud of you.”

“You have to appear neutral or lose your credibility. We don’t.”

Chapter 32.

Desert Howl

Haral looked at Borag across the table and said, “What are you doing to me and the rest of us, Borag?”

“I’m not doing anything other than dealing with some problems that you wouldn’t. We were digging into dark things that we shouldn’t have been.”

“We stopped, more than a little because you insisted. You’ve brought your friends down here and are creating a mess that could hurt the country.”

“The admiral was planning to make Scourge devises.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Where are your cousin and his friends? They are out there, doing something.”

“Jorge? I’m hardly going to tell you where Jorge is. First of all, what Jorge is doing is considered by my father to be a top priority for the company. Second, Jorge is family and getting him booted out of the country will annoy mother and grandmother. Third, keeping Jorge occupied is a very good thing and since the estate has been occupied, having something that will keep his attention is something that the family wants.

“What he is doing is dangerous. It could involve the Scourge.”

“Borag, if Jorge wants to make Scourge devise cores, he would be doing that at home, on the estate, in the Empire, that is if his Inquisitor would let him, which he won’t. I’m not going to tell you where Jorge and his people are. Don’t bother having the FSA or your friends follow me, because I am setting up for the Advanced Physics Society annual meeting here and not going in their direction. Jorge and Nat will not be attending this year, since getting raided ruins the conference a bit. Since the FSA and your friends have dug the old stuff out, we will take people on tours and I will give a presentation about the estate in the Empire. You are still a member and welcome to attend. We will not be happy if your friends show up and try to disrupt things.”

“What they are doing is dangerous to the planet.”

“You are welcome to make a presentation and make your case. Since I do not believe that you were ever in the position to see the inoperable devise, let alone the three that are currently operating in the Empire and probably do not have a good grasp on how the thing works, since Bill was smart enough not to reveal certain things when he was taking your class, you will have some issue with people accepting what you say.”

Livy grinned as she opened the door and saw Bill and Moonshine. “Hi Moonshine! What brings you here?”

“We want to arrange a little trip to Gold City,” Bill said.

“Moonshine hasn’t seen it?”

“I never had a chance to take her. I wanted to take Jimmy, Maray, Moonshine, you and Tolly with me back up there and make a day out of it. I also want to talk to your uncle when we get there.”

“What about?”

“I want to talk to your mom about that.”

“Ok, come on in. Mom’s in the kitchen. Watch out for lizards.”

“I am not a lizard!” Nildi cried. “Hi Bill. You brought Moonshine!”

“Yes I did, since the suppressors have shutdown and she can jump. So how have you been, lizard?”

“On the beach and swimming. Lizards don’t swim, so I’m not a lizard.”

“You don’t have a tail.”

“I don’t?” Nildi said, waving her tail around.

“Wrong kind of tail. You can come tomorrow if you like.”
“I think so. Tolly hasn’t been to Gold City yet.”

“Let’s go get your mother and get things arranged.”

Neddu grinned as her mob escorted Bill and Moonshine into the kitchen. “Something must have happened to the suppressors, Moonshine, since you are here.”
“I could just be off work.”
“I doubt that, though the newspapers said that the theatre was shut down for a time. Was the case brought to a conclusion?”
“There really wasn’t a case, so yes, it was. It was frustrating for me and the other girls, since we didn’t know from day to day if we should go to work or not. You are right, the suppressors have been shut down and I Jumped down to see Bill, who wanted to speak with you and arrange a trip out to a ghost town.”
“Gold City. It’s a bit hot to go out there this time of year, so what is going on, Bill?”
 “I wanted to talk to your brother, Mrs. Binorin and see if I could hire some of his boys.”
“What for?”
“Eyes on the road. My partners are concerned that the Stewards and the FSA will come in through the back way and find our plant.”

“You don’t want to get raided.”
“It isn’t so much the Stewards as some friends of theirs that might show up. In any case, Jorge and his uncle want eyes on the road, so that we can close things up if they show up.”

“So you want my brother and his people. They certainly were good at finding you and your friends out there.”
“Yes they were. I hope that you can tell Sheriff Qin to not say too much.”

“And give up the chance to embarrass you in front of your friends.”
“I’ll trade three finds for that.”
“Three places that you found out there in the desert. That is a deal I think that my brother will accept.”

“Just what is going on here?” Moonshine asked.

“Bill and his friends, like Divad and his friends, went digging for places out in the desert. The desert has quite a few old mines, ancient Imperial places, abandoned castles, battlefields during the interregnum and other such places. So the boys looked and found places. The various places and the maps get traded and my brother is, among other jobs, including Gold City sheriff, a guide for people looking for such places. Bill is offering three of his finds to my brother if he keeps quiet to his friends about what Bill got up to.”

Moonshine smiled. “What if I make a better offer.”
“What could you offer?”
“I imagine that thing are pretty dull out there in Gold City and I could, if persuaded, give one of my little performances.”

Neddu laughed. “Bill, she may have you outbid.”

“I was afraid of that,” Bill groaned.

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