Chapter One: Ladies in Hating (Part 2 of 2)   Leave a comment

Manx returned to the pilgrims’ apartments in the Basilica with the good news that he’d secured passage. He noticed that Victor, who he’d been counting on to sweet talk Lady Corezza, wasn’t there. Lady Corezza was also absent. “They boarded her yacht a few hours ago,” said Acolyte Gwinn. “Then they took off about an hour later. I’ve been keeping an eye on folks. Sorry.” Gwinn then hushed the pilgrims and sneaked into the hall outside their room. She returned a minute later with a struggling lady locked in her arms.

Acolyte Huifang Gwinn, Brother Battle

The captive introduced herself as Lady Maryam Windsor, “Sir Victor’s betrothed.” Victor had apparently been neglecting his filial obligations and Maryam had been sent to remonstrate with him. Captain Manx let slip that Victor had last been seen boarding a private pleasure yacht in the sole company of a very fetching al-Malik lady. “What would she want with …” Maryam wondered. “Of course! Some noble intrigue between al-Malik and Hawkwood! Well, she won’t get away with it that easy!” Lady Windsor agreed to bankroll the pilgrims’ trip to Sutek if they would help her “ambush” him once they arrived.

Lady Maryam Windsor

En route to Sutek, Lady Corezza and Sir Victor shared a glass of exotic wine in her stateroom. She showed him a map of Sutek, indicating a ruined Second Republic arcology on the eastern edge of the sole populated continent. In the chaos that marked the fall of the Second Republic, a legendary saint supposedly protected his followers from a mob with some relic that blazed with the light of the Empyrean. “Most likely a neutron bomb or a device that projected magic lantern shows in people’s minds,” she said. “Still, wouldn’t it be exciting to find it?”

“Certainly,” Victor said. “I’m always up for adventures that could expand the mind.”

“Just the mind?”

“… and the spirit.”

Just the spirit?”

“… and the body as well.”

“That’s what I was hoping to hear,” said Corezza, leaning in for a kiss.

The other pilgrims did not have as stimulating a voyage, camping out in steerage on Charioteer Tomas’s run back to Sutek. Sutek is a largely commercial and residential world: lots of warehouses and shipping centers, lots of noble holdings, little in the way of fine culture. No sooner had they disembarked than Lady Maryam had a series of tasks for them, chief among them organizing a party. “You,” she told the Engineers, “will come up with some … device that will embarrass the al-Malik woman.” Maryam’s plan was to publicly shame her, thus driving Victor back where he belonged.

Apprentice Fannagus checked in with the local Engineers chapter to see if he had any messages. They had heard of his pilgrimage and were honored to have him as a guest. When Fannagus mentioned his need for funds, the local Fellow said that he had a task that could benefit from Fannagus’s assistance. An arcology far to the east, designated 707C by the Engineers, had been powered in the Second Republic by a complex but non-sentient computer. At the heart of this computer was a quantum core, a processing unit that enabled the machine to deliberately deviate from its programming and see if it could still attain the same results. Such a breakthrough allowed its intelligence to evolve generationally, a power which still eluded modern Engineers.

Captain Manx sought audience with Countess Elena Castenda Hazat, hoping to announce Lady al-Malik’s arrival on Sutek and throw a party that way. While waiting in court to attend the Countess, he was recognized by a local Scraver functionary, Bertrick Malloran. Malloran pulled the Captain into a nearby salon and plied him with wine, eventually offering to introduce him to a ranking Scraver who might be able to help him. Manx agreed.

Malloran drove Manx to the Landsky Geodesic Dome, headquarters of the Scravers, and escorted him through several layers of security. Eventually Manx was brought to the plush office of Dean Patroclus Toth. Dean Toth got straight to business, making clear that he knew the circumstances of Manx’s departure from the Muster. He made him a very tempting offer: if he would ask the Gargoyle a question of the Scravers’ choosing, the Scravers would tell Manx the whereabouts of his son. “The Gargoyle might tell you nine months from now,” Toth said, “and he might tell you in a hazy dream instead of in clear and actionable language. I can tell you where your son is today.”

Dean Patroclus Toth, Scravers Guild

Manx brooded over the offer. He countered that he would need solid proof that the Scravers knew whereof they spoke. “I’ll ask your question,” he said. “But when I return from Nowhere, you take me to my son. Then I’ll give you the answer.” Toth said he would need to check back with the rest of his Guild, but that the terms would probably be agreeable.

Back at the docks, Fannagus outlined the task the Engineers had set out for him. To his surprise, Deacon Nedeau volunteered to come along. “Only those with special dispensation may handle Republican tech,” she said. “I’d rather see it in your hands than anyone else’s.” Fannagus was relieved that the Avestite was willing to cooperate. Nedeau explained that she disliked the popular image of her order as fanatical, humorless flamethrowers.

Deacon Saundra Nedeau, Temple Avesti

And so Fannagus, his companion Ferezzio, and their fellow pilgrims Gwinn and Nedeau sped off into the east, a mere seven hours behind Sir Victor and Lady Corezza. Their destination: arcology 707C, filled with scavengers, predators, traps and the lore of the Second Republic.

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Posted September 12, 2011 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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