Wednesday, August 18, 2010

325 - I've Got You

Ser!” Perisalas looked up, startled that Dagasas would burst in and -- armed in the Marble Palace? “A break in the case! There’s been a Mahid sighted in the crowd! The Minister of Serenity is mustering his own Sereniteers and called me to inform you!”

“Good!  Get the squad right now!”

He paused to arm himself with his kit, rather than the showier sword, and followed Dagasas at a run.  At last.  One has been careless. Oh, shen is he making a try for the Imperator in the crowd?

Outside the Minister’s office there was a bustle as Sereniteers mustered and his own squad… solas, already half armoured.  Intent and intense.  He caught his breath and slowed to a brisk walk, tapped upon Rafas’s door and let himself in.

The minister looked up from his conversation with… a street kid.  A junior Dyer it looked like.  Clean enough, intelligent enough if he could spot a Mahid.

“Ah Perisalas, I have our witness.  He’s pointed out the man we’re interested in, in the crowd.  I have someone watching discretely from a window.”

“Excellent!  This isn’t another glass-dog chase is it?  This one is concerned.” It was good to work with Rafas… one of those rare men who never let his caste interfere with his job.  He was one of the new guard, who’d survived and been promoted to his place after the sack.

“No. No. It looks like it’s just the one… we couldn’t spot his back-up and if it’s just a fessas fellow who happens to be an incredible physical specimen we’re best to check and be embarrassed if we happen to dart an innocent man from behind.”

“Of course.”  The Minister would already have asked the boy if he were willing to be truth drugged to give his testimony… it tended to cut down on gratuitous accusations.  “I’ll want to speak to our informant after we’ve secured the suspect.”

“Ser… a young man paid this ‘un to point out the man… the Mahid, ser!”  The boy spoke up.

“Noted, lad.  Stay safe here,” Rafas said and called a Sereniteer to keep an eye on the boy.  It didn’t hurt that it was one of the young women spreading through the city force.

It only took a moment or two for them to hurry through one of the passages in the Palace that brought them to a spy-hole just behind where their suspect was lounging, a feast-plate held in one hand, watching the crowd.  “He’s good, if he’s not just a fessas,” Rafas said.  “He looks like an under-craftsman… a glassman.”

Rafas’s Sereniteers sauntered out of the Steel Gate as if they were newly off duty and going to join the city feasting.  “Thank the Gods, he hasn’t made a try for the Imperator!”  Perisalas broke into an unaccustomed sweat thinking of his namesake so vulnerable, carried through the city, trying to touch everyone.  A needle in the mob and it would be all over.  But most people knew about that sense for weapons of his.  A needle hidden in a glove pocket wasn't hidden to the Imperator.

Perisalas and Rafas both snapped open their blow-tubes and loaded them.  Two more Sereniteers were already out in the crowd, in plain sight, leaning on their black and whites that actually had tubes built into them… an innovation from some Yeoli genius.

“Ready…”  Rafas, from his own spy-hole.  This would take perfect timing if they wanted the man alive… if he was a Mahid.  Perisalas slid his tube through the slot and took a deep breath.


The man jumped as if stung, swung upright fast as a cat… and crumpled with the number of darts in him.

“Now we find out if he’s Mahid and if he had a poisoned tooth,” Persialas said.  I will do my best to not be smug if this is, indeed a Mahid.  The Sereniteers converged on the fallen man, calling for a medic as if he were merely a man overcome with heat or sun… the darts vanished from his shoulders and back as if they’d been imaginary as he was loaded onto a litter and carried off for ‘assistance’.

“This one is impressed with the Minister’s people.  This could have been a disaster with a fight in this crowd…”

“Nicely shot, Perisalas.”

“This one thanks the Minister.”  And an officer not afraid to get his own hands dirty, if the case is important enough.

By the time they got down to the cells, Dagasas was just straightening from the unconscious man, with a syringe in his hand.  “He’s a Mahid all right. He had a tooth, Sers.  Didn’t use it.”

Unconcious, it was more obvious, the slack face very like the unexpressive face usually on a Mahid. Perisalas took the half-step back, letting Rafas lead, after all, he was still merely solas and the Minister Aitzas—and a competent one at that.  “Secure him, make sure that empty tooth is yanked.”  Standard operating procedure turned the Mahid into a gagged prisoner on one of their own tables in their section of the Marble Palace, since those rooms were the least likely he would have any chance to break out of, or succeed in getting hand free to kill himself.

“Well, Perisalas.” Rafas said.  “Come talk to our informant while our snoozing black dog sleeps it off.  I’d give him the stun drug antagonist but he has enough in him that I don’t want to risk it.  I am truly glad he didn’t use that tooth of his.”

“Of course, Minister.”

And why did he not? One would think that the Mahid sent with Minis would be among the best.

“Here we are.  Thank you, An-Kurias Shafa, dismissed.”

“Yes ser.”

“Sers,” the boy spoke up even before they’d sat down.  “Like this ‘un tol’ the High Ser here…” he nodded at Rafas.  “A Dyer paid me, Ser tah make the report.  Three whole coppers, ser… just ta rat on a Mahid.  Arkan kid. He showed me… pointed ‘im out…”

“What did this Dyer look like?”

“Blue hair, ser.  Skinny kid. Really rev kilt an’ a nose-ring w’ a blue stone in’t.  Mebby tall when he’s a man, ser, but not much oldern’ me.  Hair tied back couldn’t see how long ‘t was.”  He ran out of words then.

“Was he by himself?” Perisalas prompted.


“Anything else?”

“Rev eyes, ser… ta match his hair mebby.”  The kid was coming down off a herb high… jittering now.  “He din’t say how he knew the jefalla” – the dyer slang for a man – “was Mahid, ser but he knew.”  Rafas had the truth drug vial on the desk already and it was a moment’s work to have the boy lie down for it.

Perisalas folded his arms, his narrow face thoughtful.  He didn’t really need the truth-drugged confirmation of the boy’s testimony, but it would be good to have the transcript.  If the blue-haired boy were Minis…and he didn’t think it could be anyone else but the Aan… he was in the city, and rather than having his squad chase all over the Empire, he would be able to have a man at the Main Gate and every laefetas around the Rim with this description.

A slow smile spread across his face as Rafas began questioning the boy under truth-drug and getting essentially the same answers.  I’ve got you, you pup.

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