Those Who Would Be Gods, Chapter 85 And The End Of The Book

Some girls are rescued.

Chapter 85.

Beltain Naval Academy

His sword feeling like it weighed a ton, Swifty dragged himself across the quad. Tim and Jimmy appeared in the gloom and Tim quietly said, “Send a message to Suzy. We’re going in tonight.”

“Ok. Get them all out and get yourselves out.”

Tim smiled. “Don’t worry about that. We need to Jump out.”

 Midshipman Lieutenant Wavecutter joined them and said, “Cutflame, you are really annoyed at Perfect tonight.”

“I am?”

“Yes. When he gets back from his last class, tear into him a bit.”

“Why?”

“So that I can intervene and assign you to quarters tonight, visibly. We need to establish that you were there all night if we can.”

“How angry should I get?”

“Don’t transform, but as close to that as you can get.”

Swifty grinned. “Can I hurt him?”

“Shake him up a bit, but nothing that sends him to the dispensary.”

Geral was passing Cutflame’s open door. He looked in and sneered a bit. “Having it rough a bit, Cutflame?”

Swifty turned around and bellowed, “What do you know about having it rough! You don’t know how lucky you are!”

“If you can’t hack it, maybe you shouldn’t be here.”

Swifty jumped up from his desk and charged Geral. “That’s what you want, isn’t it, Perfect! What is it with you?! You have been on my case because I have this billet! You have been making a deal about how I shouldn’t be here all session to your buddies and reporting me for all sorts of stupid stuff! Reporting me for eating in a diner for crying out loud! Just because some guy my grandpa knows bought us lunch and didn’t buy you lunch. Telling the Midshipman Lieutenant that I was bringing in Enhance in or something. All because you’re so jealous because you didn’t get the corner Billet.

“Do you know why I have this billet? I have it so that the Chief of Staff’s office manager can have me do little jobs and I won’t wake the other guys up. You were tops in all your classes. At least your teachers didn’t require lawsuits to hand out fair grades. You had a cruise on a battleship and had to put up with some other boys who weren’t from the Plateau. That was so hard. I had to fight a hostile submarine and kill mammoths on my cruise. You had your faerydance. I had sadistic dragon boys for the other side and a guild assassin and his crazy High Elf buddy for trainers. You worked so hard to be here? What a wimp. You don’t know what hard is, up there on the mound.

“You want this billet? You can have it. You can have the lost study time because you have to be hauled out for events by politicians. You can have the office manager and her little errands. “Go and get some things for the Dragons since you can drive a truck, would you, Swifty. We need you for an event, Swifty. You can’t help rescue your girl, Swifty, because it might hurt your grandfather’s chances in the election.” You don’t know how easy you have it, Perfect. You’ve always had it easy, so you don’t know what hard looks like.

“You don’t know how lucky you are, Perfect. The High Admiral doesn’t know you by name. The Secretary of The Navy isn’t holding your appointment up because he doesn’t like your name. You aren’t being called a crook all the time. All the while you bugs on the mound are the biggest crooks out there! I don’t know about your uncle, but his buddies are! Senator Cinders and his family are big crooks, taking my family’s park on the water and turning it into warehouses! There are the Ironforges, where Marian was a monster who tried to have a procurer go after my girl. Then there are the Steelslashes, who allowed the city of Crowburg to be raided because the city didn’t vote for Senator Steelslash. What kind of crooks are your family, Perfect?! Who do they rob to stay up there on the mound with the rest of the filthy bugs, Perfect?!”

Gerel had taken Swifty’s rant with a bit of a grin until he started to hit toward home. “You don’t know what you are talking about!”

“Don’t I? Have you looked at the papers recently? Do you know where that stuff came from? Some files disappeared from a warehouse that burned and ended up in the Chief of Staff’s office. My adjunct assignment was straightening them out. I had some friends start to help and we found all sorts of things. Then we brought in some other files and the stink just got worse. You mound types live in crap so deep that you don’t even smell it anymore. I’ve been watching you and your buddies take on that air of superiority and all the while, I have been forcing myself not to gag from the stench.”

Furious, Geral dropped into stance and did the one thing that his teacher had said never to do, start a fight in anger. He threw a punch and Swifty brushed it aside. Geral then started to see the scales on Swifty’s face start to grow and he stepped back.

“What’s going on here?!” Midshipman Lieutenant Wavecutter bellowed. He looked at both Midshipmen. “If you two want to have it out, do it on the training floor, not in the barracks. Now both of you are confined to quarters!”

“He started it,” Swifty said.

“I don’t care. You two have been at each other since the session started. I’ve tolerated it until now, but going forward, both of you better tow the line or there will be consequences. Is that understood?”

“Yes Sir!”

“We will discuss this in the morning.”

In the twilight, the two Jumpers were loaded with men and equipment in the Dragon’s compound and rose into the air. After a short time they returned and loaded what remained.

Clikitat

The pasha grinned as Ahba came into his private chamber. “You have returned, Ahba.”

“I have. I had an interesting journey in many ways. I understand that you were invaded, but things seem very peaceful now.”

“We were, but the pirates were looking for larger prey than a small city.”

“I know. The road back was remarkably free of bandits, since some pirates cleared them out on their way inland.”

“So what did you discover?”

Ahba held up a journal. “I have it here. The Community was rather nervous even before the pirates were in the area and there were some girls taken hostage that bothered the Community more than a bit. The folk there are not used to having so many away and being occupied by ancient soldiers.”

“The ancient have returned?”

“Yes, and they have been causing discord. One of the leaders wanted to start a hunt of some of the girls and discovered that one was a dragon, the hard way.”

“What did the girl do?”

“She tore a Protector in half with her hand, apparently. That made an impression on most of the Community.”

“I imagine that it would. Now that you have returned, I want to introduce you to some new folk that have been rather friendly. They have taken over the hidden and opened it up.”

“They took the hidden?”

“Yes.”

“Have there been any Mediators of late?”

“Surprisingly, there have not been any.”

“I think that we are not as important as we were.”

Terrel looked as his son maneuvered the boat and grinned. The Chief expertly brought Diligent’s boat to the accommodation ladder and held it there until the Alb and Roger got off the boat. He started to pull away from Ironaxe when Alb apparently told him to follow them as he took the boat, tied up and followed the other two. Alb reached the top and obtained permission to come aboard and then walked toward Terrel who saluted. “Welcome aboard, captain.”

“What are you up to, Terrel?”

“This and that. I am surprised to see you still here.”

“We found some interesting things after we departed here. I wanted to make sure that some things that we found were picked up.”

“We were thinking of cutting Scylla to pieces with anchor chain, so we could raise her, but decided not to.”

“That would really annoy some people. What have you been doing otherwise?”

“Making sure that Clikitat is protected from their neighbors a bit and some other things. Apparently the Project discovered that they had too much mana, as they want the sources all closed now. That hasn’t happened yet.”

“You haven’t extracted Bill and the girls.”

“Not yet. Jorge is in the area and has a good idea where the girls are, but hasn’t gone in yet. The enemy has unboxed some troops including Redhand, who made off with about half the operable Jumpers and hasn’t come back from assignment.”

“Redhand was placed in stasis?”

“Apparently. Bill has been speaking with his keepers and apparently some ancient soldiers were unboxed for something about seventy years ago, ported someplace and never came back.”

“So you have contact with Bill.”

“Jorge sent a small portal and the girls use it. Moonshine and Bill can see each other and she passes messages to me and other people.”

“That is good to know. I see Captain Greenwater looking for me, so we can speak later.”

“Go ahead, I’m not here in an official capacity. I think I will speak with the Chief here.”

Ald and Roger headed toward the captain and Rod said, “What are you doing here, dad?”

“Making sure that some people learn better than to raid Desert Howl, twice. So far it has only been camera buzzdrones, but we have things coming.”

“What do you mean?”

“Before we left, we had the large portal pulled from the vault and we have a lot of mana to play with. We also have a full shop here. The important thing is to get the girls out. Then Bill is going to hand Blackfire an ultimatum. Against my better judgment, he is staying behind when the girls go, with Moonshine. Your mother will probably be annoyed, but there it is.”

“This isn’t like you, dad. What happened?”

“They hit the town and took some girls as well as the thing they wanted. Then, when the various families complied with their demands, they sent demands that contradicted the previous demands and have not yet seen fit to return the hostages. At this point we don’t see any alternative other than to take the entire Community as our hostages, so to speak. That’s why Bill is staying.”

“That would be a violation of the rules of war.”

“Those went out the window with these people a long time ago. Too many have died already.”

 “How are you getting the girls out?”

 “Some others are handling that.” 
Qinvaris Estate, the Triphine lease.

The portal activated and a group of boys and young men emerged. They setup mana lamps on the ground as others drew wagons of equipment through the portal. Two Jumpers emerged and landed where the lamps had laid out a place to land. The various people gathered and Tim said, “It looks as if we are all here. Captain Shahana, you have command.”

Victor grinned. “I think that the enemy had forgotten about me and my people, the fools. Let’s get the Jumpers set up and get going. We need to be ready.”

Ironton

Jorge looked at the return that said that the port had completed and that the microportal had ported to the community and grinned. He said to the others, “We’re in. Let’s let them know what we think of them.”

The Lower City

Rolim grinned as the small portal activated and there were some adjustment instructions for the portal. He handed them to Peri, who looked at it, grinned and said, “This is going to be fun.”

The first portal activated and the little cars started to roll through.

The Community

The entire Community was awakened by the first flash and boom. That was followed by a series of flashes as one by one, the large Projectors were hit by things that destroyed them. Flashes and rockets flew across the Community and the Lady’s compound was covered in flashes and explosions. The Jumper park received explosion after explosion and the barracks were rocked by explosions and smoke.

Abriel tried to make sense of it all as some things caught on fire. The Projectors were lit by the fire of their own destruction. Suddenly Jumpers appeared and the Community was filled with the sound of repeated small explosions and still more flashes appeared in the Jumper park as something went boom at the armory.

Blackfire appeared with Mórsairon and said, “Don’t try to get to the girls!”

“What?!”

“Don’t send any troops in that direction!”

“Is that what this is about?”

“Yes.”

The girls were waiting as the Jumpers landed. Doors opened, the girls boarded, two of them helping Kelpa and the Jumpers lifted off again. The two that had remained above dropped down and then, spraying more fire, lifted off again.

Fires were still keeping things lit as silence settled on the Community. Tim tracked the microportal that Bill had activated and said, “We’re pulling you, Bill.”

“Take Ald and get him out. Moonshine and I have some things to tell some people in the morning.”

“What’s going on?”

“Get going. We’ll explain later.”

Tim looked at Ald and said, “Let’s go.”

Clikitat

The Jumpers appeared over the sub base and landed on the cross that Saevel had marked with more mana lamps before porting to the estate. He waved forward two men in Zylvyre tunics to collect Kelpa and said, “The portal is over there. We need to keep moving.”

The girls exited the Jumpers, which lifted again and returned to Jump. Saevel, Sudyral and the rest shepherded the girls to the portal and away.

Beltain Naval Academy

The two Jumpers landed, were stowed and the occupants dispersed for their billets. It had been a good night. Since the training missions had been going on day and night, no one paid any attention to the activity that had gone on that night.

The Community

Dawn found the Community still taking stock of what had happened. After a sleepless night, Abriel, Blackfire, Mórsairon, Dúgirhael and Cantgúl were meeting with the various leaders of the Support, the Military and the Community to take stock and figure out just how much damage had been done. The general said, “Other than the Projectors, casualties were light and mostly among the Protectors. We lost almost all the Projectors to ported in explosives even before the Jumpers arrived and when they did, they acted quickly to deal with the rest, even before crews could reach them. Then they struck the barracks from the air and the ground.”

“The ground?” Abriel asked.

“There was a significant ground based element that may have been ported in, infiltrated at night and were in position when things started. They laid down a portion of the suppressing fire on the Protector’s barracks, removed significant numbers of sentries and then exited in the chaos. The hostages are gone, obviously.”

“Have you searched the compound?”

“We did.” The general held up a strange devise. The girls had some of these and some other things in the compound. This is obviously a gun of some sort. There were some other things with them. I suspect that they arrived during Irial’s birthday.”

“So the girls were armed all along,” Mórsairon said. “Cantgúl, didn’t you perform inspections of the compound?”

“I didn’t see the need. They hadn’t brought anything much more than the clothes they came with, so there was no point in conducting searches.”

“Apparently there was,” Abriel said. “On the other hand, Bill armed himself without great difficulty and I doubt that even confiscating the weapons would have discomfited the girls very much.”

“They would have been a nasty surprise for Redhand,” Dúgirhael said. “That was probably why they were sent.”

“How many Jumpers were lost?” Blackfire asked.

“Ten, and five damaged,” Sharian said. “That includes one of the heavy lift Jumpers. I can fabricate replacements if I have the parts. Unfortunately the parts used to come from the Sanctuary or the Machinery and they are both lost to me. The portal control board was damaged. The good news is that the bomb aimed at the mana board missed. So that is still locked.”

“So, the news isn’t all bad. On the other hand, Bill is no longer here if the fusor should go down.”

“I am still here.”

The entire room turned as Bill entered. “I have a message from some people. One problem we have had is that you folks didn’t have any civilians that you cared about, at least as far as we knew. So you left behind all those people in places like Lain Othrond and killed all sorts of other people. Well, the Project needs the people here. The Community has the only people that really truly believe in the new gods. So, if the Community should go away, so does the Project. As of now, the only thing between the Community and the Community going away is me.

“Now House Silverin wants the folk here brought back into the family. They are starting a project to come here and see if you can behave in a civilized manner. Until that time, I have an ultimatum and a series of demands. Here it is. If you don’t want to meet them, you should hope that I repaired the auxiliary shield generator and that the primary shield generator continues to work, because you lost control of the Projector Mirror again and Desert Howl has it back. You all can thank your new gods for the fact that Susan and none of the other girls were hurt. There is a lot of work to do out there, so I think I need to be going.”

Bill left and Abriel looked at the ultimatum. “A group of people are essentially holding the Community hostage for the Project’s good behavior unless we visibly separate ourselves from the new gods.” He handed the ultimatum to Blackfire. “Do they have a large Projector that works?”

“Probably several,” Mórsairon said. “There may be two in Desert Howl alone and there is certainly another at the Umevan estate. I think that we can take it for granted that there are more.”

Jorge grinned as Victor and his people appeared. “Lost your ride, captain?”

“I thought that we would poke around here for a bit. These people seem to have forgotten us. Did they think we wouldn’t act when they started taking family?”

“You didn’t bring any bears.”

“We thought that they would be too obvious. We also think that the Project will try for the northlands again at some point. So Snowball is watching up there while I came here.”

“Are the girls out?”

“All the hostages are out except Bill and Moonshine.”

“They stayed?”

“They did. There was some thinking that somebody needed to be on the inside going forward. So Bill and Moonshine stayed.”

Jorge cursed. “That complicates things.”

“A bit. On the other hand, they can both Jump out if they need to.”

“Let’s go over what you did. I want to get a feel for what I can do.”

The Sanctum

The various girls were awakened mid morning by the peal of a bell and a call of “Breakfast!”

Groaning, they came out of the various rooms they had been sent to when they arrived, washed their faces and shambling, followed the voices to the great hall of the castle. An elf woman was waiting and said, “I am Elincia Zylvyre. Welcome to the Sanctum. I’m sorry to drag you out of bed, but some people will want to see you to discuss where you were before you all disperse to go home. So, dig in, because I think that you all are going to have a long day. Lastly, we are so glad that you are out and safe.”

Susan felt isolated and alone as the others had family and she did not. She looked at her right hand and wiped it on her dress. She could almost feel the blood and hear the screams again, smell the Protector’s absolute terror. An elf lady in a Justiciar’s tunic sat down and said, “Hi. I’m Naexi. You are Susan, right?”

“Yes.”

“You seem upset about something. Care to talk about it?”

“I killed somebody.”

“You killed somebody?”

“I am a dragon. I had a Protector in my hand and squeezed. The Protector’s head flew off.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Colonel Redhand was going to let the Protectors hunt Carrie and me, since we were not connected to a mana source. I transformed and grabbed a Protector. Blackfire and some other people showed up and Redhand went on about restraining me and allowing the Protectors to hunt Carrie and me. Moonshine said some things and Redhand said that he didn’t care about threats. That was when Moonshine told me to squeeze. I did, the Protector screamed and then his head popped off.”

“Was the Protector going to eat you if he caught you in a hunt?”

“Probably.”

“Where did this Redhand come from?”

“He was unboxed. The project has a lot of troops in stasis left over from the Mage Wars. Redhand was one of them.”

“I take it that the Protectors were as well.”

“We thought so.”

“Were the other girls at risk if you had not killed the Protector?”

“We thought so. The Protector getting killed meant that they wouldn’t be used to guard us again and Blackfire kept Redhand away from us. Bill burned Redhand with a Projector a bit later.”

“Just burned?”

“His face.”

“After the events of that day, did you get better guards?”

“Yes we did. They came from the Community and we got along very well.”

“Why didn’t you escape? A dragon can take care of herself.”

“When it was just the first four, we could have. We had two powerful fae and two dragons. Even if we didn’t know where we were, we would have been fine, probably. But then there were the other girls, who hadn’t gone through the training and we couldn’t leave them.”

“So you were hostages for each other.”

“Yes.”

“The Protector couldn’t have hurt you unless you were caught unawares. You were protecting the other girls, then.”

“I guess so.”

“Why don’t we go back to the day of your kidnapping? Do you have any idea how the kidnappers knew that you were in Market Square?”

“I don’t. I do know that Carrie and me were just dragged along. They wanted Moonshine and Galaxa. We did discuss the shopping trip with some other friends, but we didn’t tell too many people about it.”

“Was there anything special about the kidnappers?”

“I am fairly sure that they were all Silverin.”

“You are Silverin as well.”

“I shouldn’t say.”

A Dragonkin man sat down and said, “Susan, I am Gertald.”

Susan smiled. “Swifty’s dad?”

“Yes. While my wife has been entertaining me with your antics with Swifty, I actually hadn’t met you. I know both your brothers, actually, but not you.”

“Both my brothers?”

“I worked with Vincent at Luggergate and Derry is here in the Empire. He had another task this morning, so he isn’t here yet.”

“Derry is still here? Did he find his lady?”

Gertald grinned. “He certainly did. Derry and Roshia are talking to some folk in the Lower City at a meeting they set up some time ago. They are slaves from the Republic and it wasn’t something that could be avoided.”

“That is strange for Derry.”

“Derry has changed a lot. Justiciar, do you have enough from Susan?”
“I want to go over the events in Market Square. The FSA and the Office of Inanimates will want details from the victims. So will House Silverin.”

Susan frowned. “Ok, there isn’t much. We were shopping when suddenly a lot of the people in the square transformed. Some men appeared and told us to get in a car. We did and they collared us. After that, we all woke up at the Community. They left our shopping bags and things with us.”

“You didn’t see much of what was happening in the square?”

“Not at all. It all happened so fast.”

“Did you see the people who kidnapped you in the Community?”

“No. On the other hand there was some concern about the people who had gone missing.”

“You apparently were able to get out and about.”

“In the beginning we were confined in the compound, but later, we just did things for ourselves. There was a staff at the compound, but they just did some cleaning of the central areas and the cooking. We were able to stash some things that Jorge sent.”

“Jorge sent things?”

“For Irial’s birthday. He sent some submachine guns, grenades, a small portal, some Jimmy packs and other things. It turned out that we didn’t need the things, except for the small portal, so we left them.”

“I think that we have everything.”

“Have you ever had to kill somebody?”

“I have been lucky and haven’t. I will talk to Jimmy and Talissa and see if they will talk to you about what they went through. Are you staying here in the Empire or returning to the Republic?”

“I don’t know. Swifty isn’t here. He wasn’t part of the rescue.”

“He couldn’t be,” Gertald said. “There have been issues with my father in law’s coming run for President and Swifty has been put in the middle. He was caught transporting the Jumpers to the Academy by a classmate, Geral Silverforge and reported. There were some other things that happened and a splash was made in the press about Swifty. So he couldn’t be part of the rescue.”

“I know Geral. He was on the short list of appropriate people that I could date. He was also a jerk. He was always going on about how hard he worked in class and how he was a member of all the right things. He was going into the navy to be a captain or higher and then run for Congress. I don’t think that he would like Swifty at all. What happened?”

“Have you been to Kellam’s yet? Swifty has been letting the secret out.”

“Yes. We took Tad and Princess Immianthe there earlier in the year.”

Gertald and Naexi started to laugh. “Did you know Kellam’s history?” Naexi asked.

“He had been an Imperial chef. That was why Sthisse arranged it after Immianthe did Swifty a favor in Waterland.”

“The Imperial Princess was at Waterland?” Gertald asked.

“When the Project invaded the estate, Lord Umevan took all the kids, ported them to the Republic and rented Waterland. We didn’t know that and Swifty’s boss at navy intelligence sent Swifty there, in uniform, to make an exchange with the Fellowship naval attaché. That would have been fine, except that one of Swifty’s grandfather’s people was there. Immianthe and Tad saw Swifty and Immianthe offered to be the distraction. Swifty offered lunch and Immianthe distracted the elf with a camera while Swifty was making the exchange.”

“Elf with a camera?” Naexi asked.

“Swifty’s grandfather runs photo booths and roving photographers in places like Waterland. Since Dragonkin might offend some people, Swifty’s grandfather hires exiles and other people too.”

“That’s because my father is a soft touch,” Gertald said. “Also, Waterland was started after we lost the park to the Cotton Exchange. At least that was when we started to make it bigger. So my father has people there and my children are aware that my mother likes pictures of her grandchildren. So are my father’s people. That annoys my children and their cousins more than a bit. Apparently you and the princess ran into the ongoing conflict.”

“Swifty said some things about that. So did Sthisse. Anyway, Immianthe provided the distraction, Swifty made the exchange and had to pay up, so Sthisse arranged to reserve the diner, since Immianthe meant that a crowd was coming with us, and then we toured the Arsenal. The strange thing is that the current State Department had no clue that Immianthe and several thousand slave kids had been running all over Chatsrey for moons, even though the princess was in the papers, frequently.”

“As entertaining as this is, I need to move on,” Naexi said. “Susan, I will arrange to have Jimmy and Talissa speak with you.”

Naexi stood up and left. Gertald looked at Susan and said, “What happened?”
Susan told him. When she finished, teary eyed, she said, “Do you think that Swifty won’t like me?”

“I think that Swifty will admire your courage and fortitude.”

“Have you ever killed someone?”

“What do you know of my history?”

“You were railroaded over the Cotton Exchange property.”

“Yes. You know about the Shieldbashers. The Cinders and some others on the Plateau were willing to protect the Shieldbashers in exchange for certain favors from the Shieldbashers, especially if the orcs would stomp the Dragonkin, who were becoming a bit too successful. So the orcs started to go after Dragonkin and me in particular, because I refused the sell the property or lease it to the Cinders. That was because my grandfather wanted the property to remain a place where people could gather and have fun and placed restrictions on the deed.

“Since I was the property holder, if I were out of the picture, the Cinders thought that they would have smooth sailing. So, suddenly I was a target and there were encounters, one of which ended up with a Shieldbasher enforcer in the river and me at the hospital, where fortunately, Miriam patched me up and didn’t ask too many questions. I was sure that if the thing came to light, I would be up for a convenient murder charge.

“After that, there was that load from Westerville, one of my drivers was beaten up and I had to take the load, since it was urgent. I hit the bridge and was surrounded by FSA and State police. They searched the truck, found several cases of Brilliant and busted me for smuggling. Then things went forward, with the raid on the garage and the rest of it. They tried to “arrange” my death in prison, but that didn’t end well for the orcs and there was another thing on the Peninsula, so Norman needed me and got me out of prison.”

“Did you kill anyone in a war?”

“I think that I will save that for another time. I can understand that you feel differently now, but life isn’t always what we want.”

“I am afraid that Swifty will not love me anymore if he knows that I am a killer.”

“I doubt that he will look differently at you because you did what you did to protect yourself and the other girls. Men like Redhand only respond to strength. They lack the empathy of the rest of us and see that empathy as a weakness. The fact that you were concerned about that Protector, who would have eaten you and enjoyed it, makes you far better than Colonel Redhand. Why don’t we port to my house and then do some shopping at the Sanctuary tomorrow.”

Susan’s face brightened. “May I bring some of the other girls?”

Gertald groaned. “Yes. I suppose that you all left your Sanctuary cards at home.”

“We did, since most of us were in the Republic.”
 Beltain Naval Academy

Swifty looked at the others at his usual table, all bleary eyed and exhausted and said, “You all look as if you were up all night.”

Tim looked around and said, “We got something done last night. Have something nice for Susan. She had it rough.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. One of the other girls said Susan had it rough. We didn’t get much time to talk to the girls as we had to wait for pick up and Jump back to the Jumper factory.”

“Did it go well?”

“Very. They never saw us coming and we weren’t even shot at.”

“I did my part, which is why I am on kitchen duty after class tonight.”

“You beat up Perfect?”

“It didn’t get that far. I was confined to quarters and both of us have kitchen duty, me tonight and Perfect tomorrow. When I can, I will buy you all lunch.”

Tim laughed. “You could arrange for your Uncle Ardag to do it.”

“Not again. Do you know how much trouble I would be in?”

“Better you than us.”

Peble came into Captain Dowling’s office and said, “There are rumors that some girls have been freed. Was there any strange activity here last night?”
“Not that I noticed. The only thing on the board was an altercation between Midshipman Cutflame and Midshipman Silverforge. Other than that the board was quiet.”

“Then some boys covered themselves very well.”

“Do you have a report yet?”

“Major Tollings hasn’t sent a preliminary. If you would, see if you can get a under the table report from the boys. We might need what they saw.”

“I’ll have Mr. Short arrange it, discreetly. One thing we did do was make sure that Swifty was visibly here all night. On the other hand, if some people want to make a stink over some midshipmen using resources and talent to do a job the navy needed done, I won’t mind a good fight.”

“Have the little dragons make the report a hypothetical on using the Jumpers for an assault. Since it didn’t happen, the assault was all just an exercise.”

“Ok, I’ll arrange that.”

“The admiral is pleased on how things turned out.”

 “I will tell the boys that.”

The Carayarus Estate.

Redhand looked at the message that had come through the small portal and grinned. Blackfire had been raided, the hostages retrieved and some damage had been done. He wanted to know what Redhand was doing and why he had not returned. Apparently the Community had been complacent, somebody had taken advantage and conducted a raid, recovering the hostages and damaging some things. The Community wanted to know what he was doing. Redhand looked at the map. The Community was about to find out. Calling in his lieutenants, he said, “Here is what we are going to do.”

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