The Deserter

Peoples Palace - October 12th - Morning

Ines sat on her new seat and rapped her nails against the polished oak arm rests. This city was wearing on her nerves. The Council Chamber had been completely rearranged over the last several days and was more akin to an audience chamber now with much of the seating being removed and her own seat placed at the head of the room.

She was half listening to the latest reports on the Citys economy from Benjamin Montclaire. Gods the man was tiresome. She looked out of high windows at the strangely still sky. She had not seen the Maelstrom at peace like this in all of her days and she wondered what it might mean. Nothing good she was sure of it. There came a low cough from her speaker Olan and she raised an eyebrow in question.

"I believe the Councilman is done with his report." Orlan whispered and Ines glanced down towards the flustered Montclaire and offered a tight smile.

"Very good Benjamin, will that be all?" she asked.

"I erm... wondered if you had time to reconsider my request?" he asked, shuffling back slightly in anticipation of her anger.

"Request?" she glanced up towards Orland who leaned in and provided the answer.

"His daughter." the speaker said.

"Oh yes." she looked down at Benjamin making a study of the man, "Steps have been taken to ensure she is not spoiled..." Benjamin made to speak and she raised her hand to silence him,

"But before I can consider her retrieval I must be certain of your loyalties Councilor." She raised her hand again to forstall his assurances.

"Actions not words Mr Montclaire. You are such a resourceful man, I am sure that sooner or later you will convince me." She leaned forward then to meet his eye, "Let us both hope sooner..."

She dismissed him then and turned to Orlan, "What is next?"

"A deserter." Orlan replied, looking through his notes. "You asked to speak to the next one we caught."

"Oh very good." she said as she watched a young man being brought into the room under heavy guard. Four Elesian shock troops and a Mark 3 Automaton.

"Is he so dangerous?" she asked leaning forward as they group approached.

Orlan leafed through his notes and coughed, "He killed seven troops during capture, three of out own and... oh, he blew up an Mechan Mark 2."

"Impressive." she smiled down at he prisoner.

"What is your name?" she asked the man. Orlan made to supply it and she stopped him with a gesture, leaning forward she asked again, "What is your name?" he did not answer and she laughed.

"Very well." She turned to the Automaton, "Mechan what is your designation?"

"First troop Alpha Nine." came the response in a deep mechanical voice.

"Alpha Nine, begin breaking the prisoners bones until he provides his name." The Automaton moved forward and grasped the young mans forearm. He struggled but it was of little use. There came a loud snapping sound and a scream. The Mechan grasped the mans other arm...

"Alexander Dewer!" the man roared in pain and anger and the Mechan stepped away, leavin the prisoner standing there nursing his broken limb.

"Alexander, I would like to make you an offer." She waited a moment and when he did not answer she continued, "It is clear from your file here that you are a talented man, I would like to employ you to find other deserters and bring them back into the fold."

The man looked nervously from the Mechan to the Regent. Ines smiled as she savored his fear,

"The Mechan will not harm you again." she assured him, "Regardless of your answer."

He glanced at the thing one last time and then turned to study her. She leaned back in her seat and allowed his eyes to take in the sight of her. Such anger in those eyes, hatred even. She was not surprised when he spoke at last.

"I would rather die." he snarled, and she gave a bored sigh.

"Very well." She gave a signal and one of the soldier pulled a pistol from his belt and shot twice, each bullet shattering one of the mans knee caps. He dropped to the ground in renewed agony. Another signal and the troops began to kick the prisoner until he was near unconscious she then raised her hand for them to stop. Blood was pooling on the floor near her feet and Alexander was struggling to breath.

"You may leave him here." she dismissed the troops and turned to Orlan, "Next?"

Orlan Vord who was well used to the violent tendencies of his mistress simply referred to his notes and read out.

"Barnaby Rust, from the Blackthorn Imaginarium."

"Oh splendid," she replied, "Bring him in."

A few moments later the wide doors to the hall opened to reveal a tall figure dressed for a concert hall. He smiled broadly as he entered, his pencil thin mustache only twitching slightly at the sight of the prisoner near dead and lying at her feet. He bowed low as he approached stopped short of the pooling blood.

"Mr Rust." she greeted him. "You will excuse me if I do not stand, I have made something of a mess on the floor here."

"Not at all." came his booming reply, "Not at all." another deep bow.

"I understand that we are to come visit with you in a few days time?" Ines said.

"Yes my lady Regent. The Blackthorn Imaginarium will be honored by your esteemed presence."

"Tell me Mr Rust, is it true that you have mutants in your show? Aberrations from the Delve?"

"We er... we do have something of that sort yes my lady."

"Excellent." she clapped her hands in delight, "A real mutation, I will expect to carry out a detailed study of the creature. I may even need to borrow it for a time."

"I er.. of course my lady. It would be my pleasure to..."

"Very good." she cut him off, "I am sure you will not disappoint me. In the mean time perhaps you can assist me with a little problem."

"Of course lady Regent, what ever is in my power." He removed his top hat and gave and extra low bow.

"I am troubled by this young man." she mused, "He has asked to die rather than serve me and I have very nearly granted his request, but I falter. What would you advise?"

Barnaby looked down at the man and Ines noted there was little emotion in the glance. A cold hearted bastard then.

"A criminal?" he asked.

"A deserter." she replied.

To her utter delight the man did something quite unexpected then. Giving the handle of his cane a quick twist he drew out a long thing blade and in one fluid movement stabbed the prisoner through the back and pierced his heart. The body flinched in spasm for a moment and was still. Barnaby wiped his blade on the prisoners back and sheathed it back within his cane.

"I look forward to your show Mr Rust." she beamed. An interesting man indeed. She glanced up to Orlan who was as pale as a ghost. He was in charge of security after all and had just allowed a skilled swordsman into the Council hall with a concealed weapon. She met his eyes and smiled. She would not kill the man today she was in a good mood.

Just then there came a commotion from the entrance hall and she rose to see what was going on. Heedless she stepped through the blood leaving red foot prints across the hall as she walked. Before she got to them the door opened and several excited aids ran inside and bowed low seeing her standing there.

"What is it?" she demanded.

"S..snow Lady Regent." one of them managed, "It is snowing!"

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