A Direct Approach

11th October- Graymire- late morning

Oakes sat opposite Gabriel in the lounge of the Dusty Oak. The place was empty, the militia in particular conspicuous by they absence. There had been a brief resistance from the local military when the Tin Men had started falling from the sky, but when the airships had arrived late yesterday afternoon there had been a quick surrender and a new order imposed. The Militia were currently being mustered in the main compound for reallocation of duties under an Elesian command. The Ashen had for the most part abandoned the main compound and were sitting in the outer slums looking on. Oaks had no doubt there would be trouble from that quarter before long.

"So what is the plan?" Gabriel asked while absently flipping a coin into the air and snatching it back.

"What do you mean?" Oaks returned the question as he frowned up from his steaming mug.

"I mean do you need to check in with the new management before continuing your little quest?"

"My little quest, as you so eloquently put it is carried out on the orders of the First Citizen of Dusk and until I am told otherwise nothing has changed. I have no intention of getting mixed up in whatever is going on out there."

"So we hunt the scientist?"

"We hunt the scientist." Oaks agreed.

Gabriel shrugged, "Pay is pay." he commented to which Oaks only gave a grunt. He had seen the freelancer handsomely paid upfront to secure his service with the promise of a greater bounty one Mortimer was safely behind bars.

"I suppose our next step is to meet with this Society of Rovers." Gabriel mused.

"Perhaps." Oaks replied, "I do not want to spook the man and risk losing him."

"Where is he going to go?" Gabriel asked, "The word is that the Elesians have the Greenline tied down tighter that an old maids pecker pocket."

"You have such a way with words." Oaks commented drily, but he had to admit the man had a point. They had not confronted the Rovers directly thus far to avoid their prey taking flight back to Dusk where he would be ten time harder to pin down. They were silent for a moment while Oaks considered their options. He took a long swig of the black coffee that he had been working away at and winced at the acrid taste it left at the back of his mouth.

"If you hate it so much why drink it?" Gabriel asked.

"I guess I hate myself more." Oaks said as he came to a decision, "The Rovers it is, lets flush the bastard out."

"About time." Gabriel grinned as they stood and made their way out onto the street.

Outside the town was smothered with an eerie silence. The half light of the mid morning did little to lift the sense of dread that hung heavy in the air. Most of the shops were closed, windows and doors hastily boarded up as a guard against looting. As they walked the people the passed kept their heads down offering the occasional nervous glance towards the giant Tin Men that were now stationed at almost every crossroad.

Several armours squads of Elesians marched past them and Oaks could not help but stare at their unusual uniforms. They were a light grey, close to white, bordered with a darker grey at the trims and collars. They also wore breather masks that obscured their features and gave them an alien aspect. Several of them glanced back towards him as he made his study and he quickly lowered his gaze.

"You need to kick that habit." Gabriel chuckled as the the squad marched by.

"What habit?"

"Staring at people, like you want to paint a picture of them."

"It's a occupational hazard." Oaks grumbled.

"It's going to get you shot one day." Gabriel quipped. Oaks did not answer.

They were passing through the main market square now and to the south they could see the large track leading down to the Delve entrance. Small locomotives called chuggers were used to drag the ore up to the loading stations on the norther edge of town and from there onto the Greenline.

"Will you look at that." Gabriel gave a low whistle as they took in the sight of the two great airships that were tethered close to the loading compound. They were hovering over the entrance of the Delve like two great eagles perched above their young. The vast balloons that held them aloft were of a royal blue with gilt tethers and trims and the sleek hulls that were suspended beneath were of the same blue and gold. They were also armed to the teeth.

They walked on and soon came to the Manor House of the Rovers Society where they paused to peer up at the great black oak doors and the bronze plaque fixed to them which read:

Invenimus in tenebris spem.

"In darkness we find hope." Gabriel translated to the utter surprise of Oaks.

"What?" the freelancer demanded.

"I didn't even know you could read." Oaks said with a wry smile.

"Piss off." Gabriel snapped as he walked up and gave the door a sharp knock.

There was no answer and after a moment or two Gabriel struck the door again. A little harder this time. Still no answer. The two exchanged and awkward glance not wanting to retreat having built themselves up to this visit. Oak opened his mouth to comment but just then the door opened and they turned to see a pair of circular spectacles peering out at them from the shadows within.

"Yes?" as elderly voice enquired.

"I am Inspector Oaks of the Dusk security service." Randall announced taking a step forward, "We have reason to believe that you may possess information that will enable us to locate the person of one Mavromichali Mortimer, a scientist and also a wanted criminal."

"I see." the old man replied sounded thoroughly unimpressed. "And who is your friend?"

"The names Gabriel." the freelancer offered with an easy smile, "I kill people for money."

The old mans eyes widened and so did the door as he watched Gabriel reach down and flick the switch on his safety.

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