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Thread: The Liard River Stories

  1. #11
    Chapter 10: Investigation


    “In the conference room Carl.”

    Margo turn to her right as the door opened. Carl gave a startled gasp as he nearly ran into a dividing wall Margo had placed to prevent people from opening the door and seeing what was being worked on. Margo waited as Carl walked along to makeshift hallway and turned the corner into the rest of the conference room, a bemused look on his face. Margo just smiled and waved.

    Carl started to speak, but then thought better of it. Instead he looked at the sheets of blank paper Margo had placed on the wall. Nearby were a pair of white boards with the names of every member of the haven along with a few others in fine lettering. A few were crossed out already.

    “Where did you get the paper? And the marker?” Carl eventually asked.

    “From Reg. Apparently there is an entire room in the library archives that is nothing but stationary, pens and pencils. Morning by the way.”

    “Morning. Why have we never heard of this before?”

    “To quote Reg: 'It has to last us until we create a paper mill and the ability to create our own inks, unless you want to write with charcoal, and before you ask, no you don't.' I didn't argue.”

    “I take it this is all the paper we get?”

    “Pretty much,” Margo said with a sigh.

    “We are sure the saboteur is a person right?”

    “Well it isn't someone or something the Pandoravirus has co-opted. I personally checked the sensor grid. It is fully functional. The only mutant in the haven is the mouse, and there has been no breach there either.”

    “Human it is. Speaking of cells, I notice Vincent is in the brig, and is not happy, even for him.”

    “Good. Even the Commander couldn't argue against this transgression. Vincent is in there for a couple of days, and they do not count to the days he is banned from the library.”

    “You enjoyed locking him up didn't you?”

    “Slightly. Hopefully some intelligence sinks in while he is in there.”

    “Not likely,” Carl grumbled. “Back to business, is Reg a suspect?”

    “Not a chance. I asked him point blank to tell me he was a saboteur. It's kind of adorable how bad of a liar he is.”

    “Good. We need all the big brains on this we can get. I assume you two spent the night brainstorming ideas?”

    “No actually. He called it quits at midnight. Something about thinking better with a full night's sleep.”

    “So did you two get any sleep?” Carl teased.

    “Yes we did, thank you very much,” Margo said flushing. “I'm not his girlfriend.”

    “Your loss. Please tell me Vincent is a suspect still.”

    “Not sure.”

    “You want to run that by me again?”

    Margo walked over the conference table, which had a few sheets of paper on it as well. She picked up one that had a drawing on it. She then attached it to the wall with a magnet. Carl looked at it and his shoulders sank.

    “That is the toy Reg has been having the field team search for for the past couple of years.”

    “And was 'lost' within a month of finding one.”

    “Yeah, 'lost.' I'll bite, how is the toy involved?”

    “It is a mechanical spider robot with magnets for feet and a camera on it It could have easily snuck into the workshop weeks prior to the actual sabotage and hidden in the rafters. Then after the final inspection prior to leaving the haven, it could have climbed inside the TAPV's engine compartment and waited until it was in the courtyard before punching a hole in the fuel line. Then when the TAPV had left the haven it could have jumped out anywhere within five hundred meters of the haven. That's the ranged of the transmitter.”

    “That is pretty diabolical.”


    Carl looked at Margo.

    “You asked Reg how he'd do it didn't you.”

    “And that is what he came up with within a few seconds.”

    “Who creates a toy like that?”

    “The CIA probably. I mean they did bug TVs to spy on people so I wouldn't put it past them.”

    “Back to suspects, with a range of five hundred meters anyone in the haven could have done it.”

    “Which is why the current population of the haven is on that list along with any transfers out that were here when it happened.”

    “Field team is out of the question because they'd already left when the sabotage occurred.”

    “Crossed them off the list already, along with Reg and yourself.”

    “How do you know I'm not a suspect?” Carl asked mischievously.

    “Because you were in Ross River for the week prior you twit.”

    “Just checking. Any others off the list?”

    “Carson obviously.”

    “Good point. How is he?”

    “Still in a lot of pain. Even regular doses of opium aren't helping.”

    “Geez. Hang on, your name isn't crossed off.”

    “I'm still a suspect.”

    “Without you knowing about it?”

    “We live in interesting times.”

    “Ugh. Personally I don't buy it. Where were you when the sabotage occurred?” Carl asked in his best interrogator voice.

    “In bed, asleep.”

    “Can anyone verify that?”

    “Not that I know of.”

    “Well that isn't a good alibi. Still don't believe it was you though.”

    “Thanks. Most of the haven aren't going to have alibis as most were asleep at the time.”

    “On the bright side, at least our suspect pool isn't an entire city with airports and trains and so forth.”

    “Instead all we have to go on is a single piece of fuel line with a hole in it and no prints,” Margo countered.

    “We could search the base for a remote control?”

    “That is the plan for the day.”

    “Oh, we should post guards in the rendering plant to prevent anyone from destroying evidence that way.”

    “Already done. Got a couple of guys there already. They are searching everything that comes in and out of there. They are also searching the waste for any metallic components.”

    “Well that's a crappy job. Who got that detail?”

    “Herman, Alita and Maxwell.”

    “So the three people that came back with me. Great. Bet they were happy with that.”

    “They were actually quite understanding about it.”

    “Any other suspects we can cross off before starting the search?”

    “Just some guards in full view during the time window, but that relies on witnesses. Our first stop will be retrieve the security camera footage from the secure hangar. We'll use that as a starting point for witnesses and go from there. After that we'll grab the guards from the secure hangar during that period and have them help us search.”

    “Why them?”

    “They are the only guards on the base we can track the movement of for the entire window the sabotage could have occurred in. They are the only people that work 4 hour shifts.”

    “I forgot about that. Okay, off to the secure hangar.”

    Margo and Carl left the conference room, locking it behind them. Margo didn't want anyone she didn't trust snooping.

  2. #12
    Chapter 11: A Crappy Job

    Maxwell scratched his nose. The stench of the rendering plant had long since burnt out his sense of smell. He did not know how Chen could stand it. Maybe his nose was so burnt out it no longer bothered him. Maxwell did not like that idea.

    Maxwell chastised himself. Back to work.

    Maxwell hoisted his rifle further up his shoulder and continued his 'patrol.' There wasn't a large amount of space to patrol. Mostly he was just there to prevent people from bothering Alita and Herman. He'd drawn the short straw in a sense

    Alita had drawn a different short straw and was sifting through the ash from the wood burnt to run the rendering plant. Herman had drawn the shortest straw in that he was inspecting the interior of the rendering machinery. Both of them were searching for any sign of melted metal.

    “Anything interesting?” he asked, breathing through his mouth.

    “Nope,” came Herman's muffled reply.

    “Not a thing,” Alita replied in her thick Australian accent.

    “What is our time frame?” Maxwell asked.

    “Basically finished,” Alita said.

    “Same here,” Herman replied.

    “Copy that.”

    Maxwell sighed and looked around. The rendering plant was the most dangerous location in the haven. To start with, fallen trees from the nearby forest was brought into a sorting yard. There they were stripped of their branches. The possibility of the trees being infected this far north was low, but every tree was assumed to be infected.

    The trunks were then split into lumber and used to fuel the fire that fed the rendering machinery. Any animals trapped or fished from the river were fed into the rendering machinery along with the ashes from the previous burnings, the branches from the yard, the haven's waste material, and the occasional crabman. The machinery was then sealed and the entire mixture was heated a couple hundred degrees Celsius for several hours.

    The sealed nature of the machinery made it a giant pressure cooker. Maxwell judged the walls to be about a six inched thick. Probably so it could get so hot and have plenty of strength to contain the pressure. The interior structure of the rendering machinery allowed any liquid freed during the rendering to flow into a lower tray where it could superheat. According to Chen the liquid tended to hover around the two hundred degree range. Something about high pressure preventing water from boiling.

    After the prescribed time had passed the contents were then allowed to cool. By this point what remained was mostly charcoal and bones, with the fats and water in the lower tray. The liquid was then tested for the presence of the Pandoravirus. In the extreme remote chance that it survived, the entire batch was sent for another burning.

    Maxwell doubted the Pandoravirus could survive this. According to the scientists not even Tardigrades, whatever those were, could survive the process. Given the way the scientists talked about Tardigrades, this was impressive. In survivability contests the scientists tended to give the Pandoravirus and Tardigrades equal odds.

    Once the liquid was certified Pandoravirus free it and the dried components were shipped to the level above. There everything was remixed and fed to bacteria that used the material produce the chemicals the haven used. These bacteria were also used as a buffer to insure that if the testing missed the Pandoravirus, it'd show up when the bacteria were either killed off or mutated.

    If either of those happened, the entire batch of bacteria was to be sent back into the rendering plant. Then the entire section was to be sterilised with the VHP machine. It was another piece of machinery Maxwell didn't understand, but scared him because of the amount of deference provided to it by the scientists. It was one of the few things stored in the secure hangar that everyone knew about.

    The chemicals produced varied by what bacteria were fed. Some produced nutrients and fertilizers for the greenhouse. Others produced simple chemicals for the hospital and the biochem team. The majority of the chemicals produced were used to make fuel though. In all, almost everything in the haven was recycled. The only way anything left the base was as a trade good or as a gas breathed or vented into the atmosphere.

    Maxwell breathed as deep as he could. He was getting very bored. As such it took a couple of seconds to notice Chen was approaching.

    “Can I help you Chen?” he called out.

    Maxwell heard both Herman and Alita stop working behind him. He could hear Herman moving in the machinery. Alita was less subtle. Maxwell heard her pick up her rifle and drop the safety. Chen raised his hands as he approached.

    “Just wondering how long until we can get back to work. The sewage holding tank is scheduled to be emptied into the rendering machine today.”

    “How we doing?” Maxwell asked still facing Chen.

    “Good to go,” Harman replied. “So long as we go slow enough for me to inspect it all as it is piped in.”

    “Alita?” Maxwell asked.

    “We are good to go.”

    Maxwell stepped aside and waved Chen forward.

    “Right, we'll run this slowly and in discrete steps. I'll be the only one here for the loading. However I will need a second hand to monitor it during the burning. You guys choose one of my workers randomly to do this, then monitor our work.”

    “You are being very helpful Chen,” Herman said climbing out of the machinery.

    “I know exactly how serious the situation is and I intend to co-operate fully with Inspector Brown's investigation.”

    “Inspector Brown?” Herman asked.

    “Margo's last name,” Alita replied.


    Maxwell watched as Chen prepared the machinery. First the ash was shovelled into a sifter to remove anything that wasn't supposed to go in the machinery. The occasional nail or rock got into ash. After all the ash was loaded, Chen opened a valve and the effluent was slowly drained into the feeding tray. Herman carefully searched through it with a rake. Maxwell and Alita stood well back from the smell. Once the pressure vessel had a full load and Herman was safely away, Chen closed and locked the massive hatch used to load it.

    “Right, now we get the wood to burn,” Chen said moving off.

    “How can you stand doing that everyday?” Maxwell asked.

    “It is a very necessary, though dirty, job. Plus it could be worse. I could have to take part in the diplomatic talks tomorrow,” Chen replied.

    “Ugh, I forgot those were happening,” Maxwell said.

    “Yeah. Let's get that wood,” Chen said.

    “Right, Herman stay here. Alita, with us.”

  3. #13
    Chapter 12: Diplomatic Talks

    Breath in, and out. And in. And out.

    Basil straightened his sweater. It'd have to do. He didn't have any clothes that were more formal that it.

    Today was the day that representatives from both the Disciples of Anu and New Jericho arrived to trade with the haven. And to try and convince them to join their faction. Luckily getting drunk wasn't on the agenda.

    What was actually on the agenda was the formal introductions of the representatives, then a proper coursed dinner, followed by the negotiations for the trading of various goods. All throughout that would be some subtle and not-so-subtle hints about which faction the haven should join. It was going to be a long day.

    Basil walked out of his room and started heading for the conference room. He was one of the few people whose living quarters weren't in the barracks. It was mostly the senior staff that did. There were also guest quarters, not that they were going to be used.

    The Disciples were staying on their blimp, rather than mingle with “the unawakened.” They had arrived late last night. From experience he knew it'd be floating above the center of the courtyard, anchored to the ground near the gates. New Jericho's members would just be stopping in on their way up to the Canol Road Haven.

    It was the regular pattern for both groups: bring in fairly valuable items and trade them for fuel, head to the Canol Road Haven, trade more goods and fuel for tungsten, come back, trade tungsten and other goods for fuel and some rarer food items, leave, and come back in about a month to do it again. And somehow both arrive at the same time every time despite seemingly hating each other.

    The thing that was strange about all this was that although New Jericho brought the tungsten back in the form of tungsten carbide, the Disciples never did. It was always just the tungsten powder. Why they did this, they never said. It was not fit for the ears of the unawakened, according to them.

    After a bit of a walk Basil arrived at the conference room. However he first entered a room next door. Inside Garcon was already there putting the final touches on organizing the catering. A large layout of plates, and bowls had been set up.

    A nicer selection of foods than everyone usually had had also been set up. He could quickly see fresh apples, oranges, and strawberries in bowls, a fresh salad, and five warming trays. The trays had creamed corn, a lamb stew, beef tenderloins, mashed potatoes, and cooked mixed vegetables. There were also pitchers of water and grape juice, a container of ice cubes, and a teapot ready to go on a cart. The water and ice cubes were the only things that did not require a large effort on the part of the chefs to make, nor were they in short supply.

    Basil had gotten a number of complaints about the efforts to make the representatives from New Jericho and the Disciples of Anu comfortable, especially the amount of food expended. Given the number of visitors, the haven members rarely, if ever, got to have any of the fancy food prepared. In Basil's mind though, keeping their visitors happy meant they wouldn't try to force the haven to join one faction or the other too hard.

    Excellent job Garcon,” Basil said.

    Garcon nodded and went back to work. Basil left the side room and entered the conference room. Glasses, utensils, and napkins were already in place. In the far corner of the room Vincent was moping. Basil walked over to him.

    Smile. We don't want to make a bad impression.”

    Agreed. Though spending a day in a jail cell hasn't left me in the best of moods.”

    You ignored your restrictions, so you just need to suck it up a little. Speaking of which, take it easy on Reg. He is just doing his job.”

    Ha, he needs to toughen up.”

    Basil didn't comment on that, because at this point the Envoys for the Disciples of Anu arrived. There were three of them, the actual Envoy and his or her guards. The Envoy was taller than the guards who appeared to be the exact same height, and they dwarfed Basil's six foot height. All three were dressed in long purple robes.

    The guards had the hoods of their robes up, but you could see the silver masks beneath them, filigree glinting in the light of the conference room. The Envoy's mask was much more ornate and covered his or her entire head. It was more helmet than mask. Large curved sections decorated the helmet. It was clear they represented something, but Basil had no idea what. Basil could barely see pale lips and dark gray eyes behind the masks.

    Salutations from the Disciples of Anu, pleasure to be unto Anu for the meeting Lieutenant Commander Basil Walter George Wordsworth”

    The Envoy spoke in hoarse voice of indeterminate gender, while spreading his or her arms wide. Basil could clearly see long purple opera gloves on both hands. There was no way to identify the Envoy. He wasn't even sure if it was the same Envoy as last time.

    Greetings and felicitations Great Envoy of Anu, praise unto Anu” Basil said spreading his arms in return.

    How doth Anu find you this day?”

    Anu finds me in good health, doth he grace you as well?”

    I find favours in Anu's ways. Peace be within the Haven?”

    Before Basil could answer the honor guard at the door entered the room. Basil motioned to the honor guard. The Envoy turned.

    May I present the honourable Captain Holden: Diplomat from the brothers of New Jericho”

    In walked three New Jericho soldiers, dressed in freshly polished armour. Captain Holden and one of the guards were familiar to Basil but the third one was new. Things just got more complicated.

    Hey folks,” Vincent Junior said, waving.

    Captain Holden hissed something at Vincent, who reluctantly came to attention.

    Pleasure to see you again Commander, Envoy.”

    Likewise Captain,” Basil said.

    Blessings of Anu be upon you Captain.”

    How are you today Commander?”

    I am well Captain, and you?”

    Very well, thank you. How fairs life on the haven?”

    I too had inquired upon that at your momentous arrival. For the salient facts are of great interest to the Disciples as well.”

    My people are well. How is life in your havens?”

    Anu blesses us with great strength every day.”

    Fort Nelson continues to be quite prosperous.”

    Can we hurry this up, I'm hungry,” Vincent Junior interrupted.

    Everyone glared at Vincent Junior. After a few moments Basil spoke.

    Everyone, please, take your seats.”

    Everyone moved over to conference table and sat at their assigned seats. The Disciples of Anu were seated across the table from New Jericho's representatives. When everyone was comfortable Basil nodded to the honor guard to have Garcon bring in the food. As he did, the Disciples held their hands and recited a short prayer together.

    Glory to the Exalt, may you grant us your strength. Glory to Anu, may you bless our feast. Glory unto us so that we may serve you diligently.”

    After the Disciples had finished reciting their prayer, Garcon and two of the other chefs started to arrive to deliver the food and pour water, juice and tea into glasses and cups. Within a couple of minutes everyone had been served.

    Please, eat,” Basil said as he picked up his fork.

    Dinner was thankfully a quiet affair. Everyone was too consumed with eating. At this point watching the Disciples cut up very fine pieces of food so they could fit through the mouth holes in their masks had lost its novelty. After dessert had been served, fresh sliced fruit, the real business began.

    Commander, the Great Anu wishes to receive ten thousand liters of fuel from you. The Great Anu is willing to compensate you generously of course,” the Envoy wheezed.

    That is significantly more than usual,” Basil replied.

    There is an understatement,” Vincent Junior said. “Ow.”

    The other New Jericho guard shifted in his seat. Basil had a feeling he had kicked Vincent Junior.

    Captain, do you too wish to request more fuel than usual?” Vincent Senior asked.

    No, just our usual thousand liters. We would request that our order be processed first in light of the Envoy's request.”

    Of course. The Great Anu realises that this is an unusual request. The Great Anu does not request this great task immediately however, but for on our return in a week's time.”

    I can offer no guarantees. I will have to consult with my staff on this.”

    Understandable. If you cannot deliver all the fuel, the Great Anu's offer of payment will of course be adjusted fairly.”

    I'm sure it will,” Vincent Junior muttered under his breath.

    I would request that you are more polite sir,” Basil said.

    Vincent Junior rolled his eyes. After a few seconds Captain Holden patted the pockets on his armour.

    Lieutenant, would you please go fetch my ledger. I appear to have left in the truck,” he said.

    Vincent Junior looked at his commander.

    That's an order Lieutenant.”

    Fine. See ya gramps.”

    Basil watched as he got up and left the room. He then turned back to the gathered delegates. The Envoy was the first to speak up.

    You sent him on a Snipe Hunt, didn't you?” the Envoy croaked.

    Captain Holden didn't say a thing. He just pulled his ledger from one of his pockets and placed it on the table.

    The Great Anu used to wonder why that one was allowed into your command. Then the Great Anu met him of course.”
    Last edited by King's Rook; 03-22-2018 at 06:23 PM.

  4. #14
    Chapter 13: Snipe Hunt

    Devon tapped the frame of her Gauss rifle with her trigger finger. Her antsiness was starting to get the best of her as she constantly watched the area around the Armadillos for unauthorized personnel. There were five other soldiers helping her guarding them. The rest of the field team were in the haven's cafeteria trading for food. People begged and bartered and traded to get this dull assignment. Amazing what a change of pace for the palette would do.

    She wasn't worried about most of the members of the Liard River Haven approaching the trucks. They were well behaved. It was only the kids that occasionally caused trouble, and that was only when they tried to climb on the trucks.

    She was worried about the Disciples. She didn't trust them. Always hiding everything about themselves away from view. Never giving reasons for their actions.

    On the other hand, they had nice airships. Devon looked up and admired the airship briefly. It was currently anchored via a guy wire to the ground near the gatehouse. The current wind direction was pushing it in a northwesterly direction.

    A rumble of thunder stirred her from her thoughts. Devon looked to the southeast. A thick line of black clouds could be seen on the horizon, with a thunderhead rising above them. Devon guessed it'd be a few hours before it arrived. From the looks of it it was going to drop a lot of rain on the area. That wouldn't be good for the already high water levels.

    Devon looked back at the blimp, wondering how it dealt with lightning strikes. There did not seem to be any lightning rods that she could see. Maybe they were folded down on the top at the moment. In her mind, if it weren't for the two giant fans it'd look like something out of the Victorian era.

    Nothing like the Armadillos she was guarding. The four trucks were parked in a line by the workshop, but still out of the way. The two on the ends were four wheeled versions, while the middle two were six wheels. The guards rode in the four wheels while the cargo was carried in the six wheels. Right now it was spare radio equipment and a few other odds and ends the various havens needed. On their way back it'd be tungsten carbide.

    In all they expected to expended about two hundred and fifty gallons to get to the Canol Road Haven from where they were now and back to Ross River, where they could refuel. A lot of the trip would be off road. Things would have been so much easier if the mine at Tungsten hadn't collapsed.

    Of course the Disciples didn't have that problem. They could just fly straight there. They could probably also carry a lot more cargo in that blimp of theirs.

    “Hey Max, which would rather ride in: an Armadillo, or a blimp?” she asked soldier guarding the next truck.

    “Not a fan of heights, so Armadillo. Plus the Armadillo has armour.”

    “Yeah, but the mutants cannot fly.”

    “No, but you got to get pretty high to get out of range of a Chiron.”

    Devon conceded the point. Then again she didn't know how much armour was hidden behind the fancy bodywork on the blimp.

    “Why don't we just make a blimp for New Jericho?” she asked.

    “You mean other than not knowing how?”

    “Yes, other than that. I'm sure with the right trade goods the folks here would give us the knowledge needed.”

    “HA, they wouldn't give us anything, the skimping bastards,” Vincent's voice chipped in.

    Devon groaned inwardly. Why was he back.

    “Your just biased because you got kicked out,” Max said.

    “Nuh-uh. I left of my own free-will. They just made things impossible to stay, what with squashing any criticism or free thought. In fact-”

    “Why aren't you guarding the Captain,” Max mercifully interrupted.

    “He forgot his ledger in the truck.”

    Devon and Max looked at each other. That was not like the Captain at all.

    “Riiiight. You start searching for it.”

    Vincent walked off to the last truck in the line. Devon and Max moved in the opposite direction to confer, quietly.

    “The ledger? The Captain wouldn't head into negotiations without it,” Max whispered

    “I know. What is-hold up.”

    One of the Lieutenants was approaching. He walked straight up to them and started whispering as well.

    “Did I hear that right? The Captain doesn't have his ledger?” he asked.

    “Apparently,” Max replied.

    “Got to be a Snipe Hunt,” the Lieutenant said.

    “Snipe Hunt?” Devon asked.

    She hadn't been with the soldiers long.

    “A prank to send a new soldier to find a nonexistent bird in the middle of nowhere for hours at a time.”

    “Oh that wild goose chase you guys sent me on to get various items that were obviously not real things like the keys to the Armadillos, Gauss coil lubricant, or radiator hose for the fuel cells” Devon said, unamused.

    “Yeah, but in your case that was harmless hazing. In this case it'd be to get him out of the way to stop him causing problems. It is Vincent after all.”

    “What do we do?” Devon asked.

    “Send him further a field,” Max replied.


    “Leave that to me,” the Lieutenant said. “Now back to your posts.”

    Devon and Max went back to their positions as the Lieutenant walked to the last truck.

    “Any luck?” the Lieutenant asked.

    “Not a thing.”

    “Okay, go to the cafeteria and ask Lieutenant Willows is he has the Papa 4P dash 3 Romeo Detector.”

    “I'm looking for a book, what good will that do?”

    “All paper in New Jericho has a chemical additive so it can be traced. The detector is used to see the additive.”

    “Oh, right. Forgot about that.”

    Vincent ran off for the cafeteria. Devon shook her head and walked over to the Lieutenant. Max fell in beside her.

    “Paper Detector? Really? Isn't that an obvious lie, and therefore an obvious prank?” she asked

    “Sad thing is, the only fake thing there is the model designation. Luckily Willows knows this prank, and can clue in those that need to know to assist.”

    “I wonder, would the members of the haven would like to get involved?” Max asked

    “Good idea. I'll ask.” the Lieutenant said, walking off.

    “When this over with, Vincent is going to be so annoyed,” Devon said.

    “Feeling sorry for him?”

    “No way. We already have a long drive ahead of us, and Vincent being annoyed will make it longer for anyone that has to ride with him.”

    “Good point. Let's make sure to ride in a different truck.”

  5. #15
    Chapter 14: A Long Drive

    Howard tried to focused on the sound of the windshield wipers. Back and forth they went as fast as they could fighting against the heavy downpour. It was a loosing battle. The sound of the rain was drowning out all sounds, even that of the engine. He'd even turned the volume on the CB radio up to maximum, just so he'd have a chance of hearing it over the din.

    The heavy rain would have been tolerable if it was daylight, but the sun had one down hours ago. It was currently black as pitch out. He could barely see the road ahead, even with the massive headlights and the 'aftermarket' lamps that had been added at full power. All he could see was the gravel road, the short trees on either side of the mining track, and a dim pair of taillights. Occasionally a lightning bolt would briefly light the entire landscape

    Howard was riding in the first of the two tractor-trailers. Fred was driving. In front of him was a pickup truck that was serving as the point guard. Behind him was the other tractor-trailer, the two tanker trucks, and a second pickup serving as rear guard.

    The interior of the cab was dimly lit by the red glow of the controls for the CB and the instrument panels. The clock read 7:30. Howard could barely make out a small dash cam attahced to the bottom of the CB. He reached up and picked up the CB handset before changing channels.

    “Schlep to Canol, over.”

    A second later the CB crackled.

    “Go ahead Schlep,” a static muffled voice said.

    “Schlep checking in. Nothing to report other than more rain. ETA to Ross River unknown, over.”

    “Copy that. How are the roads, over?”

    “Roads remain fair. The bridges will probably be washed out again, over.”

    “Copy. Canol out.”

    Howard hung the handset back on its mount and changed the channel back to its previous setting. He didn't like how far behind schedule they were falling. That was the least of his concerns though. The next bridge was.

    Though the Canol Road had been upgraded after the creation of the Mactung mine, it wasn't meant to have tractor-trailers and tanker trucks on it. It was in the opposite direction the trucks had used to haul away the Tungsten ore for processing down south. As such the heavy trucks struggled with the river crossings any time it rained.

    On the bright side, they had left the treasures they had found in Whitehorse back at the Ross River Haven. No need to carry that weight all the way up and down the Canol Road. Plus it meant they could carry more Tungsten Carbide back with them. These days the processing was done at the mine itself: the Canol Road Haven.

    Still, Howard hoped to find some old military utility vehicles someday, like an AHSVS, or a MSVS. Heck he would even take a MLVW, despite the fact that it was sixty years old now. The chances of finding newer ones were slim to none after all.

    Howard caught movement out of the corner of his eye and looked out the cab window. He didn't see anything now though. Even still he twisted a knob on the cab roof swinging one of the lamps on the truck's roof to shine off into the trees. Howard followed the beam of light as it moved across the scenery.

    “Got something?” Fred asked.

    “Thought I saw something, but it isn't there now.”

    Howard was about to swing the lamp back out front when Fred slammed on the brakes. Despite the crawl they'd been moving at, Howard still lurched forward against the seat belt, arms on the dashboard. Howard looked out the front of the cab.

    With them stopped, the rain wasn't messing with the view so much. Directly in front of them was the pickup, its lights blasting cones of illumination into the night. Thirty meters in front of the pickup were a pair of crabmen, looking at the convoy.

    Howard could feel their gaze boring into him. The windshield wipers creaked. He slowly reached for the handset.

    “Guns and hold. Carefully.” he said into it.

    Stuffed into the door pocket of the cab was Howard's rifle. As it was a C8A5, it had been designed for just that purpose. He pulled it out and opened the door. The sound of rain thundered in his ears. He placed one leg on the steps and dropped the rifle into the gap between the door and the frame. Through the scope he could easily see the crabmen.

    One of the men in the pickup crawled through the rear window and into the bed. The back of it had an M2 Browning on a tripod. The soldier racked the action on it and pointed it at the crabmen.

    In the beams of the headlights Howard could see their breath. Water was flowing off their backs in rivulets. Looking carefully he saw they had claws and shields. They were just simple brawlers. They wouldn't be a problem. The problem would come from any nearby gunners.

    “Are we recording?” he asked.

    Out of the corner of his eye he saw Fred leaned forward and checked the camera.

    “We are.”

    For several tense moments the two groups just stared at each other. Howard could have sworn that the crabmen were miserable. The looks on their faces very much said, I don't want to be doing this.

    Eventually the crabmen turned and started walking down the road. Howard held his position for several seconds longer before pulling back into the cab. He closed the door and put his rifle away. He then wiped some rain away and grabbed the handset.

    “Back to your positions.”

    Howard saw the driver of the pickup bang on the back window. The gunner set the Browning down and hopped out of the bed. He then opened the cab door and got back into the pickup. Howard waited a little while longer, until the crabmen were just barely in view.

    “Slow ahead,” he said over the radio.

    The gunner in the pickup picked up his own handset.

    “Not like we got much choice,” Marcel chirped.

    Howard let it slide. They were all nervous. Slowly the pickup crawled ahead. After a few seconds Fred released the brakes.

    “I am really glad we left the stuff back at Ross River,” Fred muttered.

    “You and me both.”

    The convoy continued its slow crawl forward. Occasionally Howard would see one of the crabmen look back at them. It unnerved him a great deal.

    Again Howard caught movement out of the corner of his eye. This time though he did see something, as he hadn't swung the lamp back ahead. It wasn't anything distinct. It was just a large shape amongst to the trees.

    “There is something big out there isn't there?” Fred asked.

    “I would definitely say that seems to be the case.”


    Howard kept an eye on the treeline, and a hand on his rifle. For the next few kilometers the situation remained the same. Then the other show dropped.

    Fred slowly stopped the truck as they reached a clearing. Directly ahead were at least twenty more crabmen. Some were brawlers and some were gunners. There were also several large four legged monstrosities with giant beetle shells. Though he couldn't see their fronts, Howard figured they had to be Chiron as the New Jericho soldiers called them. This was his first time seeing one.

    Beyond the Pandoravirus mutants Howard could just make out more mutants crossing over a bridge. Even from as far back as he was, Howard could tell the river was very high and flowing fast. Clearly the mutants didn't want to get in it any more than they did.

    “Now what?” Fred asked.

    “We wait.”

    For the next several minutes they waited while the crabmen and the Chiron crossed the river. The last two across were a pair of brawlers. Howard cocked his head to the side: were those the same two as before?

    A large shape moving off to his right snapped him out of his thoughts. Howard looked to his right and stared, his mouth open. Just beyond his sight range something huge was moving. He grabbed the dash cam and opened the door. Standing on the steps again he tried to get as much footage as possible.

    Whatever it was was easily five meters tall. From what little he could see, it looked vaguely horse shaped, except it had what appeared to be a torso attached to the front. The legs appeared to be very wide as well. The shape stopped and turned towards them. Howard could see the eye-glow of six pairs of eyes.

    After a few seconds of staring it moved on. Even in the heavy rain Howard heard the clopping of what sounded like giant hooves on rocks. He expected the shape to move closer to them, but it just plowed on into the river with a giant splash. He heard several surges as the monster moved through the river. Then they stopped.

    Slowly Howard climbed back into the cab. He carefully reattached the camera. He then just sat there for several seconds.

    “What the fuck was that!?” Marcel said over the radio.

    Howard just sat there. Eventually Fred picked up the handset.

    “I have no idea,” he replied.

    “By any chance did it look like a giant centaur?” Sarah's voice said, from the other pickup.

    “THAT is what you guys saw!?” Marcel said.

    Fred elbowed Howard. Howard shook his head and reached for the handset. Fred passed it to him.

    “Okay, that's enough. We'll carry on in a while. Let's put some space between us.”

    “Don't have to tell us twice,” Marcel said.

    Howard changed the channel on the CB.

    “Schlep to Canol, over.”

    There were several seconds of silence.

    “Schlep to Canol, come in Canol, over.”

    More silence.

    “Canol, Ross, this is Schlep reporting in, over.”

    Yet more silence. Howard changed the channel.

    “This is Liard River Convoy One. Can anyone hear me over?”

    Nothing. Howard swore and hung up the handset. After several seconds he remembered to change the channel back.

    “The weather must be blocking the signal” Fred said.

    “I'll try again in a few minutes.”

    “Maybe those things will bypass Ross.”

    “I sure hope so,” Howard replied.

    Howard looked out the cab at where the mutant army went.

    “I sure hope so.”

  6. #16
    Chapter 15: Reporting In

    Agent Craft status report 314
     Situation follows
     Confirmed sabotage
     Source unknown
     Investigation begun
     Suspending regular updates
     Risk too high
     Proceeding to Contingency Echo 4
     If sabotage is parallel operation
     Halt sabotage
     Security compromised
     No priority haven info to report
     Vault still secure
     Safe still secure
     Target Politic still claims knowledge of both
     Still won't speak of contents
     Facilities status normal
     Targets Crown, Gopher, Thoth continue to resist interrogation
     Target Sheep now resisting interrogation
     Suspect Crown interference
     Target Pincer still recovering
     No access
     Enemy 004 still contained
     Enemy 004 believed to have been a mouse
     Congress aware of Enemy XX5 reports
     Congress has no known info on Enemy XX5
     Haven has not encountered Enemy XX5 as of this message
     Target Preacher requested 10k L delivery
     Target Armor requested 1k L delivery
     Tanker behind schedule
     Cause unknown
     Will investigate
     Target Hazard still running amuck

    There was a knock at the door. Matty looked up from her bed. She wrapped her robe around herself.

    “Who is it?”

    “Just your special someone,” Vincent Senior's muffled voice replied.

    Matty got up and walked over to her bookshelf. She saved her report turned off the text processor before hiding it behind a few knickknacks on the shelf.

    “Come in,” she said seductively.

    The door opened silently. Vincent Senior walked in with a swagger. Matty walked over to the door and closed it. She then leaned against it biting her finger.

    “Well hello there,” he said he gaze tracing her body.

    “I take it you avoided the night shift sugar?” she replied, walking over to him slowly.

    “Bah, nothing but a bunch muttie lovers. They couldn't find their way out of a paperbag,” he replied as he ran a hand down her arm.

    Matty smiled at him and started to loosen his belt. Vincent Senior gave her a greasy smile in return.

    The things I do in this job, she thought to herself.

  7. #17
    Chapter 16: Night Shift

    Margo couldn't sleep, again. A million thoughts filled her mind, preventing her from falling asleep. Tired of tossing and turning, she had decided to patrol the haven. Bad idea.

    She wrapped her raincoat tighter around her. Despite having rained all day the storm showed no sign of letting up. The storm had been bad enough that neither New Jericho's nor the Disciples of Anu's delegations had left.

    A flash of lightning lit up the sky. The occasional peal of lighting streaking across the sky didn't bother her. It'd strike the radio tower on top of the mountain before it hid anywhere in the haven. And if it did hit somewhere in the haven it'd be on one of the lightning rods on the floodlights. Or the Disciples of Anu blimp.

    Margo trudged around the walls, the splashes of her footfalls filling her ears. No matter many times it rain it always surprised her how little noise a wool raincoat made. For most of her life it had just been the plastic coated materials that industry came up with. With a bit of effort she could just remember the racket they made.

    Margo's path along the wall eventually brought her to the south face of the haven. Normally it was a fairly empty section, save for the guards. Today wasn't normal. Someone was leaning over the spiky bits on the wall.

    What were they called again? Margo thought to herself.

    Shrugging the thought off for now, she walked over to find out who it was. All she could see from her vantage point was an undyed wool cloak and a pair of boots. Whoever it was leaning over the spiky bits, hands clasped. They were staring off into the distance.

    As she approached the person standing there must have heard her footsteps because they turned towards her. Margo could just barely make out who is was: it was Matilda. Matilda joylessly waved to Margo as she walked up to her.

    “Good evening Matilda. You are out late.”

    “Just getting some air officer,” Matilda replied, her voice filled with resentment.

    Margo squinted at Matilda. Normally she wasn't so rude to Margo. Something was clearly up.

    “Is everything okay Matilda?”

    “Just taking a break before going back to work.”

    Given that it was the middle of the night and Matilda worked in the cafeteria, it was clear to Margo what she had actually meant. The conversation Margo wanted to have with Matilda had been building for a long time. Now was as good a time as any to have it. Plus she could find out where Matilda had been during the sabotage window.

    “Matilda, can I give you some advice?”

    “Do I have a choice?” Matilda snapped back.

    “You need to stop seeing so many people. It's-”

    “You're just jealous because you aren't getting any. Or maybe it's more who I'm sleeping with that is bothering you. Too bad for you,” she interrupted before turning to leave.

    “Matilda, stop right there,” Margo shouted in her police officer voice.

    Matilda flinched and froze. Margo walked over to her. This wasn't going as planned. Time for plan B; B for blunt.

    “Look, I don't give a shit about who you are sleeping with, at least not specifically. All I care about is the sheer number of people you are sleeping with. It's not safe. We have been phenomenally lucky we haven't had an STD outbreak.

    “We don't have the antibiotics to fight a large one. What happens then? How much suffering is there going to be if there is a syphilis outbreak? Or HIV? Or, god forbid, some sort of Pandoravirus mutated STD?”

    Margo took a breath and glared at Matilda. Matilda was looking at her, clearly taken aback.

    “What?” Margo asked.

    “I, uh.”

    Margo just looked at Matilda.

    “I just didn't think you had a legitimate reason for being angry with me. I thought you were just slut-shaming me,” she replied quietly.

    “I would never insult a woman for liking sex Matilda. Also, I'm not angry. More concerned.”

    Matilda nodded sheepishly. She walked over to spiky bits again, and leaned over them again. As she started staring down at the river, Margo joined her.

    “So what are you doing up here anyways?” Margo asked.

    “I am getting some air. Plus I enjoy the view, most days. It helps me think.”

    Margo looked towards the river. All she could really see were the raindrops being illuminated by the floodlights. Beyond that it was just a gray haze, though she could just barely see the river.

    “What do you think about?”

    “Mostly about the way my life has turned out. I'm sorry but this is very weird.”

    “How so?”

    “Think about it. I'm basically the village prostitute, and you are the village cop. We should not be getting along.”

    “Why not?” Margo asked, confused.

    “Um, because I'm breaking the law for one, and you just ignore that.”

    “Since when?”

    “Okay true, you aren't exactly ignoring right now.”

    “No, I mean since when is being a prostitute illegal?”

    Matilda looked at Margo and opened her mouth to speak. She thought better of it for a few seconds before speaking.

    “Well, I guess the lack of countries and states does make the rule of law a bit different.”

    “States? You know, you've never actually told me where you are from.”


    “Ah. Well, we follow Canadian Law here, not US. It isn't illegal to be a prostitute here. And frankly, at the end of the day, I'm not bothered by it. It is above board and safe for everyone, I have no business interfering. It isn't my job. However the health and safety of this haven is, hence my concerns.”

    “Fair enough. Though having sex is good for morale. And isn't the mental health of the haven part of your job?”

    “It is. And if the people you are having sex with were seeking it elsewhere, that'd be fine. But they are all coming to you for sex.”

    Matilda smirked at this point. Margo ran the phrasing through her head, rolled her eyes and continued.

    “The fact that they are all co-, seeking you out makes you a prime vector for disease.”

    “So if there were other women wanting to offer their services, they could?”

    “So long as disease situation stays under control, I'm not worried. Why do you ask?”

    “Well it would be nice to not be the only person everyone seeks out. Though having some help would disappoint Baxter.”

    “Do I want to know why?”

    “He likes hearing about my work.”

    “Yeah, did not need to know that.”

    Matilda laughed a little. It was the first time Margo had ever heard a genuine laugh from her.

    “Not to spoil the mood, but how exactly are you paid?”

    Matilda shifted uncomfortably.


    “Well I do get some of the New Jericho money, but mostly I take news and rumors as payment.”

    “'Knowledge never looses its currency.' I think that is the saying. So, not only are the village prostitute, but you are also the village information dealer. Cannot say I'm surprised. I'd always figured it was something like that.”

    “Yeah, well I try to use that to my advantage. And the havens.”

    “How so?”

    Matilda shifted uncomfortably again.

    “Well, let's just say New Jericho isn't being as aggressive as they could be.”

    “You know for a spy, you aren't very good at hiding being a spy.”

    “I am not a spy. At least I don't think I am, though now I'm not so sure.”

    “Well spend your currency carefully Matty. We aren't going to get many second chances.”

    “Yes ma'am. Um.”


    “Could I work for you?”

    Margo looked at her and cocked an eyebrow.

    “Elaborate please.”

    “Well, I was thinking, in exchange for safety and consideration, I could let you know what's going on.”

    “Why would you need safety and consideration?”

    “I'm pretty sure even spying is illegal, even in Canada. And frankly if everything goes pear-shaped, I'd like to stay here. You guys are a lot nicer than New Jericho.”

    Margo looked at her. Was she being played? Didn't matter in the end, she guessed. Intelligence was always valuable.

    “Before I consider, where were you the four hours before the TAPV left the haven the day it broke down?”

    “I'm not the saboteur, but I guess I haven't been the most trust worthy person out there. I mean it's not like I'm Reg.”

    Margo tilted her head in acknowledgment. She then motioned for Matty to continue.

    “I guess you could say I was with clients. Let's see now. For the two hours before the truck left I was with Baxter. Like I said, he likes to hear about my work.”

    “Indeed. Continue.”

    “Before that I spent about half an hour with Vincent. I know, ew. At least I get news from New Jericho from him via his son. And for the two hours before that I was at work in the cafeteria. I was there the entire time. I was on the chow line.”

    Margo had already known about Matty being on the chow line that day. She'd really just needed to know where she'd been the other couple of hours.

    “Fair enough. I just needed to check. I'll get back to you on the intelligence offer.”

    “Okay,” Matty said looking back over the river.

    Margo started back on her patrol only for Matty to speak back up.

    “Um, Inspector, may I offer you some advice as well?”

    “Go ahead. It's only fair.”

    “Have an honest conversation with Reg about your feelings. Like you said we are not going to get many second chances these days.”

    “I shall try to take that to heart. Thank you Matty.”

    Margo continued on her patrol. It was good relationship advice. Though in Matty's line of work, knowing what a good relationship and a bad one were were survival skills. She'd definitely have to consider it.

    Having Matty working an informant was a tough choice though. Volunteering like that made her suspicious. Could Matty be a double agent? A triple agent? A double reverse quadruple agent? It was something to consider. It really came down to how much she trusted Matty.

    More than before their conversation, and yet also less. Enough to believe her intelligence at least? Was any of her story true?

    Margo pondered these questions and more as she made her way across the haven. It was long passed time for her to go to bed. Hopefully she'd be able to sleep now.

    That last thought didn't last long. As she passed the barracks she was broken out of her thoughts by the piercing scream of a little girl coming from above her. Margo immediately drew walkie-talkie out.

    “Security alert in the barracks.”

    She put her walkie-talkie away and drew her sidearm and her flashlight. She charged into the barracks and headed straight for the stairs. The guards at the door fell in behind her as took the stairs two at a time.

    The screaming was coming from the third floor above ground. That floor had been given to several members of Haven Council and their families. As she reached the third floor she dropped into a shooting stance began to sweep the halls on her way to the girl's room. Her screaming had stopped.

    “There is nothing there. Just go to bed,” she heard Keith's voice say.

    It had to have been Rachel that was screaming. Margo and the guards carefully moved down to Rachel's room. The door was open. Margo swung wide and pointed the flashlight and gun into the room.

    Inside was a simple room. Just a cot, a dresser and a desk. Standing at the base of the bed looking at her and the guards while shielding his eyes was Keith. Hiding in her bed, blankets up to her chin, was Rachel.

    Margo lowered her weapon and holstered it. She pointed the guards to either side of the door. Slowly she walked in, shining the flashlight all over the room.

    “Oh now see what you've done,” Keith snapped at Rachel.

    Margo clenched her fist.

    “What happened?” she asked.

    “Nothing. Nothing happened,” Keith said.

    Margo shone the flashlight straight in his eyes. He flinched and raised the light to protect them.

    “I wasn't asking you,” she said sharply.

    Margo walked over to the bed and crouched beside it.

    “Rachel, what happened?”

    “I saw a monster,” she said sheepishly.

    “Where did you see this monster?”

    Rachel pointed across the room to the only window: a solid piece of six inch by twelve inch glass.

    “Okay this has gone on long enough. Everyone out.”

    Margo stood up and walked over to Keith. She grabbed him by the collar and dragged him from the room. On her way out she spoke to the guards. The security team had arrived by this point.

    “You three guard her. Also get a description of the monster. The rest of you fan out and start a search.”

    She dragged Keith further down the hall despite his squirming and protests. Once they were a fair distance away Margo shoved Keith against the wall and got in his face.

    “Now you listen here, I'm going to give you some much needed parenting advice.”

    “I don't-”

    “Shut up!” Margo hissed in his ear. “You are her father. Your job is to keep her safe. That includes keeping her safe from monsters, both the imaginary ones and the real ones because in case you forgot, we live in a world with monsters.

    “Also, every time you dismiss a child like that you break them a little. Every time, you make them less likely to come to anyone for help because you have reinforced the idea that no one will believe them. Every single time you make them think that us adults are useless and they have to do everything themselves. Every. Fucking. Time.

    “Now you had better shape the hell up, or you'll find yourself in legal trouble. Am I clear?”

    Margo waited several seconds.

    “I said, 'Am I clear?'”

    “Yes Inspector,” Keith spat out.

    Margo let go of Keith, who promptly dropped to the floor. She way have over stepped the line there, but bad parenting was a sore spot for her. When Keith inevitably complained, she'd deal with it. She started walking back to Rachel's room. One of the guards met her on the way.

    “The monster is the size of the window and spider-like,” she said before Margo could ask.

    Spider-like. Margo had a sneaking suspicion as to the identity of the monster. She pointed the guard back to guarding Rachel. She immediately grabbed her walkie-talkie again. She spoke into it as she headed for the stairs.

    “Silent alarm. All stations be on the lookout for a spider-like creature. Repeat, all stations be on the lookout for a spider-like creature. If seen, do not approach. Report its location and wait for backup. Alert team meet me in front of the barracks.”

    Margo placed the walkie-talkie back in her belt and again took the stairs two at a time. As she headed down them, she could see sleepy people and guards slowly but surely locking down the barracks. Back on ground level she met up with the alert team.

    “Right, we are going to start on the south side and start our search at the ammo dump. The creature was last seen in that general direction.”

    The four soldiers nodded to her and followed her out of the barracks. The interior of the haven was lit up by several floodlights that had been directed inward. The path to the ammo dump was lit up like a Christmas tree.

    Margo and the guards splashed their way over to the ammo dump. She directed two of the guards to cover the roof of the ammo dump while she and two others walked over to the door. The door was intact. She stood across from the door handle and the two other guards stacked up opposite her.

    Margo pulled the door open and the two guards walked in. Margo followed them. They were in a small hallway. At the other end she could see the barrier behind which sat their ammo.

    “Call out!” one of the guards cried.

    “Alpha secure,” one the ammo dump guards cried out in return.

    Margo walked to the end of the hallway. Standing to either side of the hallway behind more concrete were the guards, their rifles trained one her. She nodded to them and turned and walked out of the ammo dump. One of the other guards was already on their walkie-talkie.

    “Ammo dump secure, over.”

    “Copy that. Control out,” one of the controllers in the security office replied.

    Margo and the guards started making their way back towards the rest of the haven. Halfway there their walkie-talkies chirped. Margo stopped.

    “Sierra One to Command: target spotted on the workshop roof. Target is mechanical. Repeat target is not a living thing, over.”

    That sussed it. Margo grabbed her walkie-talkie.

    “Command to Sierra One, could I get a more detailed description, over?”

    “Roger Command. Target is a blue metallic spider. It has a square abdomen and a camera on its head. Shall we engage?”

    “Negative Sierra One. Wait for my go single.”

    “Copy. Standing by.”

    It was definitely the spiderbot that Reg wanted to find. Not good. She needed a plan to capture it if possible. Margo started jogging towards the workshop.

    “All free security forces, approach the workshop with caution.”

    “Command, target is moving towards the eastern edge of the workshop.”

    “Anyone else have eyes on it?”

    One of the floodlights swung across the compound, illuminating the eastern edge of the workshop.

    “Command, target has dropped to the ground. We no longer have visual.”

    “Command, Foxtrot Three has visual. Target is moving north from the workshop in the direction of the gate.”

    Straight for the anchor line to the Anu blimp. If it reached that, who knows what trouble it'd cause. Margo came around the corner of the barracks and could just make out the bot skittering across the courtyard.

    “Sierra One has visual again. Do we take the shot?”

    “Scorpio,” Margo said, slowing to a walk.

    Margo waited what felt like an eternity as the sniper lined up their shot. One heartbeat. Another. And another.

    A muffled, but still incredibly bang filled the air as the spiderbot exploded into pieces. The pieces flew all over the courtyard. Margo sighed. It was going to take a longer time to collect all that.

    “All stations stand down. Security teams, post guards around the courtyard. No one enters until I say so. It is now a crime scene.”

    Margo started walking over to debris field. Partway there she noticed Basil, Senja and Vincent Senior walking towards her. She grumbled to herself. She had hoped that Basil wouldn't release Vincent, but apparently not.

    “Senja, go grab my evidence kit and the evidence tents will you?”

    Senja waved and took off at a run for the gatehouse, deliberately going around the courtyard.

    Good girl, Margo thought to herself.

    “Was all this necessary?” Basil asked as they approached.

    “I believe so yes.”

    “You believe? That doesn't count for much,” Vincent said.

    Margo glared at him. As per usual, Vincent was seemingly unaffected.

    “Now what?” Basil asked.

    “Now, I collect the pieces of the device used to sabotage the TAPV.”

    “And how do you know this is the device used?” Basil asked.

    “It fits the description of the only way we have found that the TAPV could have been sabotaged.”

    “And who gave you the description?” Vincent asked.

    Margo just glared at him.

    “Answer him Inspector,” Basil said.

    “I got the description from Reg.”

    “From the saboteur himself! Please, someone with intelligence clearly needs to take over this investigation.”

    “I have already eliminated Reg as a suspect.”

    “Of course you have,” Vincent sneered.

    “We are done here. You can both leave,” Margo said.

    “You cannot force us to leave,” Vincent said, aghast.

    “Oh but I can. I arrest you for obstructing an investigation. If you try to enter the crime scene I can arrest you for trespassing and tampering with a crime scene. And if I charge either of you, you will end up in front of the judge.”

    Basil was slightly taken aback. He'd caught Margo's threat. Vincent blithely continued on, unawares. He just stomped off in a huff. Basil looked at Margo carefully before walking off.

    Margo grumbled. She was getting very tired of Vincent's behaviour. Something was going to have to be done about him.

    By this point there were several guards around the courtyard. Margo thought of something and picked up her walkie-talkie.

    “Attention all security teams. Until further notice, no unauthorised personnel are allowed on the walls and in the waste disposal areas. In addition guards are to be posted to the latrine. No one is allowed to bring a bag or package into the latrine, onto the wall, or into the waste disposal area. If a violation occurs, detain the transgressor and notify me immediately. Finally, be on the lookout for a blue, toy remote control. That is all.”

    As Margo put the walkie-talkie away Senja walked up with the evidence kit.

    “Reporting myself as a transgressor with a bag ma'am.”

    “Funny,” Margo replied without humour.

    “We really could use some jokes these days.”

    “I'm just not in the mood, to be honest. Would you care to assist me while we wait for Carl to get here?”

    “Where is he anyways?”

    “Late,” he shouted running up.

    “You can both still help. Carl, while Senja starts laying out grid markers, you can help me set up the tents and explain your tardiness.”

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