Chapter 100: Consequences
We left our heroes in the midst of evacuating the City of Tears. We've
never evacuated from the middle of a city before, or on such short
notice, and this one is
heavier going than others. Still aside form the odd stray sheep or
hysterical refugee, we're chugging along.
Then, Robbie notes some kind of traffic jam in the tube. There's an old, bent-over man coming down, and people seem reluctant to pass him, thus slowing everything down to his shuffle. Robbie contacts N'Tabo Bey; should he offer to help? If no one else has, no, probably not. But, eventually, when the elder reaches the threshold of the tube, Robbie offers an arm and asks if there's anything he can do.
"Yes, you can ... DIE!" And the "old man" straightens up, whips out a dagger, and stabs Robbie. This might well have killed a human. As it is, Robbie is stunned and falls to the ground, leaking what looks like burning oil. Two young men from the crowd hanging back then add some more stab wounds.
Aside from the refugees, who are starting to exclaim and dither, the receiving hall contains the Gargoyle, Katrina, Metalais, and a Kraslk stevedore (one of the bipedal-wart-hog aliens). Three assassins go after the hapless alien, since he looks big and dangerous, two go after Metalais, and one threatens Katrina. No one has realized the Gargoyle is not a statue. (Or not just a statue.)
Kraslks turn out to be from a high-gravity planet and therefore very strong and fast, so the stevedore defends himself fairly well, despite a lack of training, throwing his first attacker fifteen feet and breaking the wrist of the second, who is the "old man" who started this.
Metalais goes down after a brief scuffle. Katrina and her attacker struggle over her stun-gun, which she tried to draw. The Gargoyle disillusions people and starts attacking.
Meanwhile, we're all connected by the telepathy net, and Daphne and Dafnord, up at the receiving end of the tube, know exactly what's going on. Daphne flits down the tube, with Dafnord thundering after. Mithriel and Runyana, meanwhile, block further entrance to the tube until all this is sorted out.
Dafnord bursts through the crowd and into the melee, where his armor (concealed under his uniform) comes in very useful. Meanwhile, far away in the ship, Gannar seizes control of Robbie's floating gun platforms and starts stunning people. Soon, we've won.
We hustle the Kraslk and Metalais to infirmaries, pop the now-unconscious assassins into brig cells, and get the flow of refugees started again. Dafnord returns to the city end of the tube. Tom drags Robbie off to the pantope for repairs. Gannar comes up from the engine room to take Robbie's place, and Daphne orders more guards posted in the receiving area.
Meanwhile, back in the city, Runyana takes off through the crowd, shouting "Suspicious!" Dafnord and Markel run after her, learning via telepathy that she thinks she's spotted another assassin. Two, actually. Well, three. Soon, they are all apprehended.
Tom uses various tricks (Glamour, mostly) to repair the Gargoyle and Robbie, who is grumbling about security procedures. That done, he leaves the pantope bridge to Kate and goes to the brigs to make a quick, telepathic memory-audit of the assassins.
He learns we've stirred up a "fraternal order" called the Kashashi, who are not primarily assassins, but who hold grudges against us for all their frat-brothers whom we accidentally killed. Seems their guild hall was in the civic building we leveled to off the dragon lord.
There are also three members of the "order" who snuck aboard before the attack. We eventually locate and brig them all. Desmond uses his temporal powers to put them all in stasis, or something close to it.
Dafnord, at first, is all in favor of recycling with extreme prejudice all of the assassins that are left. Tom understands, but points out that they have some justice on their side, and if we do that, we'll have to do the same to the people who come to avenge them, and so on, in a grand tradition mapped out in places like Palestine, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, and so on ad horrificum.
Tom turns to N'Tabo Bey and asks if there is any tradition in this culture analogous to wereguild -- paying for unintentional manslaughter. Conveniently, there is. you pay in gold, of course, but also in dates, for symbolic reasons, sheep and salt, for traditional reasons. We arrange with the caliph's vizier to get the particulars and a complete list of the deceased.
Back in the reception area, a nephil from another area approaches Dafnord and tells him it would be wise if his folk were housed somewhere far away from these folk. The smell of sheep and goats... Right. Got it.
Once the City of Tears is loaded, we disconnect the pantope from Yazatlan and take a little breather. Markel takes his dragon walkies in the forest-sized arboretum. Tom, wandering in the same area, encounters a nephil named Kassimir, who requests with a certain icy politeness that Tom refrain from any tactical devastations in other areas, e.g. his own. Tom replies that we will try to learn from our mistakes.
Robbie, meanwhile, arranges for the Tellemataru ship computer to ping him every fifteen seconds, whenever he's supposed to be in the reception area, and close the doors if there's no answer, until countermanded by one of us. Then he wonders why he leaks flaming oil when wounded.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.