The Return of Redhand, Chapter 7-8

Redhand drops some bombs. The girls go home.

Chapter 7.

The Qinvaris Estate

The Jumpers started to appear over various unharvested fields in the evening twilight. Flying down from the Jumpers, glass jars loaded with the Blight smashed, throwing the Blight around over the ripe grain below. The Jumpers disappeared again before aircraft could get close enough to shoot. After a hundredth long invasion in various places on the Qinvaris farms, the raid on the fields was over.

Storage house #14 was a market refrigerated storehouse for meat and poultry. The guard staff was two aging slaves mostly to look out for boys playing at night. The day staff was just leaving when the Jumpers appeared. A couple blasts with a Projector convinced the staff to go elsewhere and enhanced emerged from the Jumpers and started to load sides of beef aboard the Jumpers. By the time a squad from the Qinvaris guard arrived, the Jumpers were gone with their loads.

The Beinan Estate

The Beinan estate’s Mark 4 RDR unit had been loaned to the Qinvaris for the Blight patrol. So the estate had no warning as in the evening twilight, the Jumpers descended. Before they arrived, squads of enhanced sauntered up to the gate and then, without warning, lifted Projectors and opened fire. The squads marched in behind Projector bolts until they reached the place where the mana batteries were stored. Breaking the doors open and clearing the building with a few more Projector blasts, the enhanced used the easily available handtrucks, roller convyers and jack trucks to move mana batteries to the doors. As the Jumpers dropped, the batteries were loaded and finally the two squads lifted out as well, leaving chaos behind them.

The Carayarus Estate

“I will wait here and speak with the man,” The Prophet said. “If the course of the new gods is true, then there may be some common goals.”

Ruith and the others gnashed their teeth in frustration as Zelphar said, “I don’t think that Redhand is going to want to cooperate with us. We will be facing the wolves before the colonel in any case. The Obedient with me were all killed and eaten.”

“They gave of themselves in the service of the new gods as all must. I am not concerned.”

Redhand looked at the prisoners and grinned. He hadn’t gotten the Leader’s son, but the five prisoners he had taken had all sorts of interesting information and with a little persuasion had been willing to say quite a bit. The Jumpers should be returning and that should give him some more resources. The next step would be to secure the Prophet and convince him to do things Redhand’s way. In Redhand’s experience, that would be remarkably easy.

Pyria looked at Zelphar, the Illuminates and the attendants he had with him.

“Why are you here, brother?”

“The Prophet wants to negotiate with Redhand and work together. That can only go badly, so I withdrew with those who would leave.”

“What do you think is going to happen?”

“I don’t know, but the Prophet has wanted be more aggressive and now he can be.”

Foldwin stopped the GP as he and Raguk looked at the panic in the village and the Qinvaris guard starting an evacuation. He turned to Raguk and said, “I think that we found the right place.”

Raguk grinned. “It looks like it.”

The Qinvaris estate, Main estate and Farm Headquarters.

Richard looked at the report and across the desk at Horatio. “He spread some Blight this time.”

“He did. I’m more concerned about why he raided Beinan’s.”

“Mana batteries for the Jumpers.”

“Yes. That says that he is cutting himself off from the Community. What really bothers me is what he didn’t do.”

“What do you mean?”

“He hasn’t pushed the Prophet out of the estate after the incident. The Carayarus were getting ready to make things nasty for Redhand if they were attacked and Redhand never showed up. A good part of the cult did, led by Pyria’s brother, who had been caught in the middle of a fight between Protectors, enhanced with Projectors and the Obedient that Zelphar had with him. The Obedient kicked up a fight and Zelphar managed to escape.”

“Why are you wearing that funny hat?”

Horatio grinned. “Roger didn’t tell you? This is a hard hat. It’s made with leather reinforced with screen to give it strength. All the crews have to wear these now to reduce head injuries.”

“Has it worked?”

“Actually it has. Even better, the crews like the hats.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Talk to your minion. He certainly does.”

“To get back to the topic at hand, what do you think is coming next?”

“That depends on Blackfire. The problem the Project has now is that they are being rushed. They have been rushed since Admiral Ehlark was killed. I’m not sure why Ehlark ordered the assaults on the trading posts, but that started the chain of events that led to where the Project is now. The Project has been making wild tosses because you caught them by surprise and they didn’t back off and take stock of what was really going on.”

“I caught them by surprise? Me coming to the Empire was an accident.”

“Yes it was, and they did it to themselves because things here were collapsing and the Ravathyra were bringing in more people from the Republic just to keep things going.  I spoke with Connak about this and before he was murdered, Lord Tarranth was expanding the farm and getting people discreetly from the Fellowship.”

“They were gone by the time that we arrived.”

“The House was hit, badly, Taeren was gone and Rosa was left with more than she could handle until she grabbed you. The House discreetly got them back to the Fellowship after the strike at the House. That was also when certain business arrangements started. We should have been looking into that when we got going, but there were reasons to keep that quiet and the Regency covered a lot of things. That gave you the time to turn things around, which saved everybody. As long as things were seemingly going as the Project expected, they weren’t really paying attention to the Empire. The Project didn’t even notice you until Durlan took the girls and Stormfire realized what he was dealing with.”

“You’ve been talking to people.”

“I have been. I have a report written up for you.”

“What do you think that the Project is going to do now?”

“They have all the mana they could want, so they are going to start their devise. They will want to retake the jungle as best they can, but they won’t be able to sustain that for very long. Blackfire will withdraw from the Community to protect it and give himself tactical flexibility. Redhand will probably start talking to the Prophet and they will start being more aggressive.”

“Redhand and the Prophet?”

“Yes. Redhand probably knows that he has been a tool from the beginning and needs a degree of legitimacy. The Prophet needs something to hold over the Disobedient. Redhand will give him that.”

“Thank you for more headaches I did not need.”

“I didn’t want this job either. I have it and part of that is keeping things at the headache level and not the “we’re in real trouble” level. I’m more concerned that somebody from the Orcenlands or Fellowship will tie on with Redhand or the Prophet.”

“Do you think that could happen?”

“If Redhand were smart and knew about the connections that the Project has, he could pick up a 2nd Army staffer or Headbasher clan member and we would have real trouble. We were lucky and probably got the Ravahana treasury out of the picture. Of course the Prophet can hand Redhand and our hypothetical mercenary, coin. Enough coin and the thing will be a cancer that will be very expensive to kill.”

 “Get together with the Committee on that.”

“I already have. So far, there hasn’t been anything that they ran into in Zirgoccol or Bighagh, but there are quite a few mercenary commanders looking for work right now.” 

Chapter 8.

Chatsrey

Klara was waiting with Liddy Burnett and the other mothers as the girls got off the plane and came through the terminal. She ran forward and grabbed her daughter. “Susan, I am so glad to see you home at last!”

Susan hugged her mother and started to cry. “I’m so glad to be back, mother.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I will talk about it later. Right now I need to get my luggage.”

“You have luggage?”

“Gertald and the Qinvaris took us shopping for clothes and things at Inshys and the Sanctuary.”

“I will have to tell Onia that. You seem to have survived well. Did they treat you well?”

“We can talk about that later.”

Inky was watching the whole thing when Izzie appeared in front of him. “I think that your boss will be disappointed. The girls are back and you weren’t able to pin the kidnapping on the Cutflames.”

“That crook was willing to talk to you well enough,” Inky sneered.

“I would be careful about throwing words like crook around. You never know who might take offense. Since Gertald Cutflame has been cleared of all charges, he isn’t a crook.”

“That was the Cloudrunner Administration doing favors for their Liberty Party buddies.”

“Keep it up, Inky. Just keep on believing that.”

Swifty was on duty at yet another event at his grandfather’s when a vision ran toward him and grabbed him around the neck. “Swifty, I am so glad to see you!”

“Suzy?”

“Yes. I was rescued. How come you weren’t part of that?”
Swifty swallowed. “I couldn’t be. I wanted to be, but I had other duties.”

“For instance?”

“Being here. We can talk about it later.”

The flash of a camera went off and Swifty groaned.

“Ok, mother is dragging me around right now, so we will do that. I want to know what you were up to while I was away.”

Swifty was able to grab a snack and a quiet corner where Susan found him and said, “Ok, what were you doing while the boys came and got us?”

“Covering for them. Since grandfather is running for President, if I am seen stepping the least little bit out of line, that will splash on him. The Democracy party and their papers have already tried. I had lunch at Kellam’s with the Great Captain and Jorge, Midshipman Perfect reported on me and sent a letter to his uncle. Since one of my other grandfather’s friends bought us lunch, the thing was turned into a scandal.”

“Is Midshipman Perfect, Geral Silverforge?”

“How did you know?”

“Your dad mentioned him and the incident at Kellam’s. Why were you driving Jumpers around?”

“The little dragons wanted to use them to train the rest of us on how to fly Jumpers for the rescue. Jorge arranged for them to be shipped to Chatsrey and I picked them up to run to the Academy. We were trying to keep the things hidden, but I messed up, a cover came off and I was late with the second load, so I parked at Kellam’s so I could have lunch with Jorge, Shael and the Great Captain.”

“That sounds fun. Was it?”

“It probably was, for grandfather and Congressman Wavechaser. The boys followed up a tip and joined us for lunch, a FSA type followed me from the bridge, but didn’t do anything and the Midshipman Perfect and his buddies show up, followed by Uncle Ardag.”

“Uncle Ardag? I haven’t met him.”

“He’s not really a relative. He’s on the Committee and knows my other grandfather and the family. He’s also the boss in Cleadsgate.”

Susan started to laugh. “That sounds like a gangster.”

“Perfect and Inky Barrin thought so.”

“How was that slug involved?”

“He was at the press conference when grandfather was opening a library and started to spout off about the family being a bunch of crooks. That got me in trouble at the navy because some people thought that I should have been more careful in the restaurant. Honestly, I never thought that Perfect and his friends would be caught dead in Kellam’s. The incident at Kellam’s caught the attention of the commandant and he made it clear to me that I was not to be part of the rescue. I covered the rescue by starting a fight with Perfect and getting sent to quarters and kitchen duty. Since I was visibly in my quarters all night, I couldn’t have been on a rescue mission and none of other boys in the Academy had their girls kidnapped.”

“Geral is trained in Faerydance. I would watch starting a fight with him.”

“That is another thing he was throwing in our faces until it turned out that the unarmed combat instructor knows the Flight Instructor and I could get through the course without being beaten up too badly. The chief wants to see Imminanthe do it in her dress.”

“We could possibly arrange that, but it would have to be private.”

“Geral threw a punch at me and I dodged. Are you ok?”

“Mostly. Some of it was pretty horrible and there was one incident that was really terrible, but we can talk about that later. I made all sorts of friends and the other girls were a lot of fun.”

“I could sense that something was wrong in the messages that you sent through the small portal. I’m really sorry that I wasn’t there in the rescue but there were bigger things at stake.”

“The Presidential election?”

“It was made clear to me that if I had Perfect sending reports about me, I was in for endless kitchen duty.”

“Then you were at risk when you fought with him.”

“A bit. That fight was ordered to cover the rescue.”

Susan kissed Swifty. “I am so glad that I am back.”

“I missed you so much.”

“I am back now. So what should we do about Geral?”

Swifty grinned. “We can talk about that later. I think that you and the other girls and the rest should come to the game three days from now.”


Beltain Naval Academy

Freadeal entered the Commandant’s office, saluted and said, “I have the report from the boys, sir.”

“Very good, Mr. Short. Did they see any sign that anyone not involved knew that they did it?”

“Sir, no I did not. The boys were very good about that and they had been planning things for moons, even before Cutflame was inducted. They had assistance from others, but that would be something that could be expected and just who was involved isn’t in the report.”

“The boys were probably mostly pilots and infiltration. There were probably some experienced combat types dropped in and they left on foot to tie in to the major.”

“We can guess some of the other players, sir. Just look at who the girls were attached to. We’ve seen what Jorge can do and there were probably others in the Empire.”

“We’ll see the report, someday, or the story will appear in an Elf Carran book. I’ll hand this to the admiral.”

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