Those Who Would Be Gods, Chapter 17-18

Jorge meets with the admiral. The plotters are mystified over the events in the market.

Chapter 17.

RNS General Ironaxe-Milport

The captain came into Jorge’s office and said, “Major, the admiral wants to see you as soon as we port. There will be a GP waiting when we dock here in Milport.”

“With Captain Duggings, if he is still chief of staff.”

“I believe he is, so probably. The message didn’t say, but I think that the admiral wants things discreet.”

“How close are we to dock?”

“Two twentieths.”

“Can we leave on the morning tide?”

“We are topping off bunkers as soon as we are moored. I imagine that the admiral has someplace for us to go and something for you to do.”

“Better him than the Director.”

Del laughed. “Think of it this way. You have more material for those books.”

“You say that as if it was a good thing.”

“It is for me. You make Winterfaire so much easier and when I get home, I will have some very happy boys when I tell them that I was the ship for one of your things.”

“It’s going to get better. We have to pick up the Transformed, some auxiliaries and my Swimmers here.”

The ship docked with the fuel barge being brought alongside almost immediately. At the bottom of the accommodation ladder was a GP and Peble. Jorge walked over and saluted. “Get in major, we need to rush a bit.”

They got in and Jorge said, “I don’t know the admiral. How have you been dealing with him, sir?”

“Very well, actually. He’s sneakier than Admiral Harper was and appreciates your work.”

“I messed up a bit in Desert Howl.”

“You played by the rules where the Stewards were concerned and got a warrant. That let them be warned.”

“I should have been looking for them to be working directly with the enemy and should have picked up on the fact that Bekka attracted their attention.”

“You had a lot on your plate and performed most of your tasks. We were lucky you were there in the first place.”

“They were being foolish. Another day and I would have had antiaircraft guns to cover things. The Jumpers were the big thing and we didn’t have any turbothrust aircraft, since production had been messed up.”

“We can go over all this at the briefing. How is your wife?”

“Getting close with our second and annoyed that I was sent away. She and my sister are plotting something down there in Desert Howl. She wants me to collect the girls, of course.”

“What about Lyari?”

“He keeps getting bigger every time I look. He’s also a typical two year old and wants Willia. Fortunately Lissia is going home, since we aren’t on the Mainland at present.”

“He wants Willia’s cookies more than likely.”
“There is that.”

“Here’s Fearless, so let’s get aboard.”

Drannor grinned as the large major that he had heard so much about came into his office and saluted. “At ease major, and sit down. I have a bit of a task for you.”

“What is it, sir?”

Drannor pointed to a map that had been hung from the wall. “A lot of ports have been ending up here. I want you to go there and see what you find.”

“That is a bit of a hike without support.”

Drannor grinned. “That’s probably what they think. On the other hand there is this.” Drannor pointed at a deep bay that drained a river. “I’m sending Diligent ahead to finish the survey they didn’t complete and sent to your young friend to do some poking around up there. He should be here with the pictures tomorrow and we can go over things in detail when we have the pictures.”

Jorge looked at the map and brushed his chin. “You are thinking trucks and GPs from the river and a quick dash. They probably think that they are far enough away that we can’t reach them with a real force and they probably don’t know about on water replenishment.”

“That is my thinking.”

“I will want antiair at the base camp. We will be dealing with Jumpers.”

“That will be part of your package. Get together with Peble and put what you think you need together. You were obviously thinking about this.”

“Sir, I have known where a bunch of the enemy’s portal games ended up for some time and had been working on making the logistics work, which was tricky using a land approach and trying to be discreet. I have to say that an assault from the sea that far away from any Republican base didn’t seem possible and I should have considered the possibility after the Machinery.”

“You had a lot on your plate and were serving with Tom’s pirate when the fleet exercises were going on, so you wouldn’t have known about how things had improved. In any case, time is short, so get a plan together. Dismissed.”

As they left, Jorge turned to Peble and said, “You were right about him. He is sneakier than Admiral Harper. How does he feel about auxiliaries and some piracy?”

“What are you thinking, Major?”

“I am thinking that I should call my grandfather and tell him about two ships that passed Desert Howl recently that were implicated in a recent event. The family has Collector and Ratcatcher and I think that the family should get some use out them, discreetly.”

Peble smiled. “I didn’t hear about any thoughts about acts of piracy against innocent vessels that may have passed Desert Howl recently. Why now?”

“Because if things are heating up, they may be supposed to end up where we are going and we may be able to keep the fact that they are under new owners discreet. Let me make a call.”
 

RNS Progress

Vince watched as the crew and a tug brought the ship to dock behind the transport Ironaxe. Progress had been ordered to make best speed from the Hidden City where she had been replenishing and getting some minor refit work done. So Vince had had the crew finish what they could and departed for Milport where it seemed most of the fleet had gathered. Looking down the quay, Vince could see a GP approaching with the High Admiral’s banner, so he turned to the lieutenant of the watch and said, “Get a side party ready to greet the admiral. I will be in my office.”

“Yes sir!”

Vince went to his office and shortly afterwards, the lieutenant arrived with Admiral Steelshaper and Captain Duggings. Vince stood and saluted as Drannor grinned and said, “They finally gave you the big hat, Vince.”

“Yes they did. You weren’t part of that, were you, sir?”

“Not at all. That was Tom and Peble.”

“What do you have for me, sir?”

“You are going to be the middle prong of the offensive we are engaging in. A certain lady has been making visits to a city with a spider problem and you have been recruited as exterminator.”

“What went on?”

Diligent ported in the City of Bompei as part of her survey of the coast and the radio chief had a run in with a spider.”

“Is he ok? His wife would be rather annoyed if he played around, let alone became spider food.”

“He was fine. Apparently he was shopping for his daughter’s birthday present and since the spider could not seduce him, she went for the attack, the chief defended himself and killed the spider.”

“So you want me to send crew ashore and hope that the spiders go on the hunt. Timing may be important.”

“The spiders aren’t the important part. What we want is the portal that the spider uses. The Portal Service is loaning us two of their top people and your mission is to find that portal and let the Portal people do what they do to it. This is absolutely vital.”

“So if I lose crew to the spiders without exterminating them, that is ok, but we need the portal.”

“Yes. Preferably so that the other side doesn’t know that we did it.”

“Why me, sir?”

“First of all, I know that you are as sneaky as I am. Second, I want to rub you in some people’s faces. You don’t want to know how bad things are at home.”

“We’ve been receiving updates.”

“It’s worse. The Navy Secretary is an utter incompetent who managed to annoy a chunk of Congress over some Academy appointments and tried to get all the officers with Old Family last names drummed out of the navy, squelching most of the promotions I needed to keep the fleet running, including yours.”

“Mine?”

“Admiral Harper slated you for Peble’s job.”

“Sir, you and I have despised each other cordially since I was your first officer on Kraken. I’m not sure that I would be the chief of staff you wanted.”

Drannor laughed. “I’m not going to disagree, Vince. On the other hand, you would have kept me on my toes. In any case, I am looking to lose a big chunk of the officer corps if I can’t get a lid on things and the officers that the Secretary will allow promotions for are the kind that you are all too familiar with.”

“Ironforge.”

“There was quite a bit of talk of about loyal officers. He also doesn’t believe that Ironforge was guilty. Of course, in an act of pure stupidity, he lined out the Academy appointments that he deemed inappropriate and allowed the FSA to run rampant all over Desert Howl.”

“Is he working for the enemy?”

“I have the feeling that there are strings being pulled.”

“Should I send some messages home?”

“You won’t have time now, but when you return, definitely. I need to go. Peble has the briefs and can get you updated.”

The admiral left and Vince turned on Peble. “I’ve been at sea for the most part, on routine patrols. Just how bad is it?”

“The admiral has managed to keep the drain from being a catastrophe, mostly by being out here and away from the mound. Most of the officers with Old Family backgrounds have had their careers stalled, at least temporarily and the Secretary lined out the Academy appointments of among others, Swifty Cutflame. The others were either Dragonkin or Old Family.”

“As connected as Mrs. Cutflame is, probably.”

“What do you know about her?”

“I know that she and her father haven’t been speaking to each other for a long time. While Diligent was in refit, I was handling matters with Congress for you, if you remember.”

“I certainly do. That was one reason I wanted you for my job.”

“How did this happen?”

“Jarfaet asked Tom for something that he shouldn’t have and Tom went to his Uncle Rom, who wanted a lid on the whole thing for obvious reasons. Somehow, Senator Steelslash got his hands on some communications in Ivan’s office and used them to assault the President. The Senator had a little list, the Vice President turned it over to Jarfaet, and to prevent the Senator from essentially ruining a lot of people, they resigned pending the change of Administration. Then the Director went on his mage hunt against the Old Families and we ended up where we are. The good part is that the Administration has been rather ineffectual. That bad part of that is that the Administration is incompetent.”

“Not just the Navy Secretary?”

“The Secretary of State apparently did not know that Princess Immianthe was in the country for moons. We only discovered that when Elista and Swifty’s grandmother arranged a tour at the Arsenal and we ran into the princess at Kellam’s.”

Vince laughed. “The princess ate at Kellam’s?”

“It was Swifty’s idea, apparently. He took her there in exchange for covering for him at Waterland.”

“Kellam was probably ecstatic.”

“He was. The Cutflames made a lot of points with him.”

“The State Department didn’t even know? Where was Mrs. Steelmaker?”

“Resigned, along with most of the people that would otherwise keep an eye on things.”

“How is the President keeping up with things?”

“As far as I know, he isn’t. I haven’t had any requests for briefs from his office at all. Greldug resigned as well and the President certainly isn’t getting reports from State.”

Vince must have looked rather shocked as Peble continued, “At least the Administration isn’t meddling in direct operations overseas. We are having supply issues, but we avoided a disaster when the Director sent Major Tollings to Desert Howl by accident just before the Project raided the place.”

“How did the Director get his hands on the major in the first place?”

“The way the law was written when Tom and Jarfaet set the special section up  specifically to deal with threats on the Mainland. Since, officially, the special section is part of the President’s marine detachment, they can function on the Mainland. The Secretary detached them to the Director when the Director wanted resources.”

“Is the special section still there?”

“They are aboard Ironaxe and that is all I will say about it.”

“I think that you want me turned around, so let’s get the brief out of the way so that I can deal with the shoreside issues.”

Hal looked at the strange ship, turned to the rating driving the GP and said, “Are you sure that this is the right ship?”

“This is Progress, sir.”

“Hal is fine. We’re just here to do a job.”

“Something you can’t talk about, probably.”

“Once it’s done. Until then, no.”
 
 

Chapter 18.

The Fellowship, outside Zirgoccol.

Foldwin entered the barn that had become more or less the headquarters of the venture that he and the rest had started and Raguk asked, “How did Innshys go? Nothing seems to have reached the papers.”

“I’m not sure. Can you get somebody who knows something about portals?”

“Why?”

“The Illuminates charged into the market, with the guards not even trying very hard to stop us and we were sent into this sort of fun house. When we got through that, we exited through a door, but most of us ended up in back of the market with no door behind us and the Illuminates disappeared completely. They never showed up back at the meeting house or anyplace else. The only conclusion I could come up with was that a portal was involved.”

“We could make a stink and see what happens.”

“This was in Innshys, in the Empire and the rules are different there. I doubt that the Houses involved would care very much.”

“That is a setback.”

“The good news is that the cultists are willing to push and with a little nudging, could attempt to shake things up.”

Raguk grinned. “With us providing the push.”

“We do know how to do that. I did get one thing. I found where the Prophet has holed up.”

“Where?”

“On a more or less abandoned estate that the Qinvaris lease, the Carayarus estate.”

Raguk grinned. “We can take advantage of that.”
Innshys.

Roger grinned as he spotted Jreghug getting off the bus. “It’s good to see you again. Let’s go.”

Jreghug tossed his bag in the car and Roger put it in gear. “So what did you want to talk about?”

“A back door to your grandfather for one thing. He’s going to be more sensitive to the orc nuances to what I’m looking into than the Dragonmaster.”

“What’s going on?”

“I’m not sure yet, but my uncle and some high status orcs that usually would never dream of leaving the Orcenlands have been spending time in the Fellowship. They haven’t been meeting in Zirgoccol, so making a connection hasn’t been easy.”

“Why me?”

“Because I know you, and more importantly, the whispering that is going around is that people that had relatives or connections to Bloody Ridge and 2nd army are being discreetly recruited.”

“They want people who have some resentment toward the Qinvaris.”

“Yes. I also think that they have been attempting to make a connection to that cult. I think that the disappearance of the cult at the market in Innshys was more than a little bit of a setback.”

“Ok. I’ll give you an introduction letter for my grandfather. Before that, I want us to port to the Qinvaris estate and you brief me and some others on what you know.”

“I can do that. I don’t have very much as yet.”

“You have more than we do.”

“I can also give you all a brief on the craziness in the Republic. Faghig and I were there for most of it.”

“Where is your brother?” “He’s still in the Republic with his faerywife. He and Tigerlilly are enjoying themselves and keeping an eye on the craziness while I have to chase after my uncle and his friends.”

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