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Chapter 37 The Marshal's dilemma

A crack appeared in one of Ben's eyes and the other one followed. He looked to the side checking the time and turned back to Celeste. Her eyes were closed and a faint smile on her face. “It must have been a long night for her, I'll let her rest as long as she needs to,” he thought. Quietly he got out of bed and slipped out of the cabin.

The women were huddled together and whispering. “Did everyone see Celeste's message?” asked Lim. Dona and Lora shook their heads no. “I moved my tablet after work yesterday to a new hiding spot outside,” said Lora. “I haven't had a chance to get at it yet. Celeste told me troopers will be looking for me and I must leave here by midday.” “I don't know my letters well,” said Lim, “But the pictures in the tablet show nine other warehouse buildings and a map where they are. Celeste said there will be stuff on the roof tomorrow and the day after. First will be plastic strips we use to tie up troopers, along with black cloth bags.” Lim lowered her voice to barely a whisper, “The next day will be ten stunners for us, just like the troopers have. Hammers and iron bars will be delivered here, but I'm not sure what they are for. We need to watch where they are put so someone should stay on the first floor.”

Lora walked over to a pile of sweepings, scooped up a small handful and rubbed it on her face, arms, and then on her black shift. “I should go now. I will meet up with you at the end of day. I can start to find these warehouses, and take a close look at them.” Lora picked a broom, walked downstairs, and started sweeping the loading dock. A few minutes later she was gone.

“You wanted to see me, Senior Elder?” “Yes Marshal, sit. Where is Ungar?” “We are using every man we have to find him. The entire city is being searched building by building, but it will take time to complete. I sent a squad up to the mines yesterday to see if that's where he went. It's the only place he could go if he left the city. They will be back here around midday. As soon as they return I will immediately report back to you.” “The Oneness doesn't tolerate failures Marshal,” said Davin giving him a hard look. “Find him. You're excused.” 

“Good morning Ben,” said Celeste as she walked into the salon and sat with him. “It was a long night. I didn't have a lot of time and handling all of those microdrones in real time is taxing. I needed the rest. It's finished, and I'm happy with the results. Look at the vid.” A mosaic of downward looking views of the city appeared with lots of colored dots. “The new white dots are the locations of the stunners. The four black ones are the crowd stunners. I paid special attention to critical areas including the security compound, Cathedral, and the square. We need to monitor and advise the women where the stunners are, and of any  other problems or surprises.”

“When will people start feeling the effects of your jakes bug?” “For some later today.  It will start to affect most tomorrow, and it will rage for the next two days after that. Given the poor state of their sewage system, it will be a messy and odorous scene. A few tractors should fail tomorrow and many more the next day. I have Ungar's tablet blinking, and I hope we hear from him soon. We need to know more about the armory.”

Ungar noticed the tablet is blinking, picked it up, and Celeste's face appeared. “Good morning Ungar. How are you doing?” Ungar gave Celeste a wry grin, “My feet hurt. It's all of this most uncivilized walking everywhere. Otherwise, Casi and I are fine, and it's the first time I have ever truly felt safe. I miss the Manhattans and brandy, but their wine is decent.” “Well it shouldn't be too much longer, and you will be needed when you get back. Have you ever been in the armory?” “Yes, a few times when inventory issues have occurred.” “Can you describe it.”  “Sturdy is the word I would use for the building. There is a large door a tractor hauling a trailer can easily fit through and a door for people. A lift provides access to the basement. The original motor that powered it is long-lost to history. A tractor pulls a cable to lift and lower it.”

“Is this where the nuclear mining explosives are stored?” “Yes, there are six of them, I think.” “Do you know what they look like?” “I don't really know. They are inside wooden crates about the size of a coffin.” “Is there any information about them like who made them or where they're from?” “None that I'm aware of Captain. So much information was lost in the bad times.” “Thank you, Ungar, I'll be back in touch with updates.”

“What do you think Ben?” “They have to be well over one hundred years old. The half-life of the radioactive materials used may decrease the yield some, but there would still be a devastating bang if used above ground. Do you have any information on these devices?” “ I have some from three manufacturers. They were lowered down shafts inside a mountain. Countdown timers triggered them.” “There's a lot of ifs here Celeste. Would the batteries still be good in them? The electronics might have corroded into oblivion. And it doesn't seem to be a practical weapon under normal circumstances.” “You're probably right Ben, but they exist, and for some reason, it bothers me. It's time for lunch, and you haven't eaten yet today. let's take a break.”

The door knocked once, and the Marshal's aide stuck his head in. “The squad is back from the mines sir.” "Tell the Sargent I want to see him now."  A few minutes later an older hard looking man rapped on the door frame. "You wanted to see me, Marshal?" "Yes Sargent, did you find Ungar?" "No Sir, he was not there. We questioned everyone, and that fancy carriage of his wouldn't be overlooked. You don't see that kind of finery up at the mines and forget about it. We did find Marshal Bard. He was passed out drunk in the gutter covered in his own vomit. His stench was so bad we tied him to the front of the tractor. We put him in a cell." "That will be all Sargent, Thank you." The Marshal sat and thought for a couple of minutes. "It was lucky they found Bard, it will be a distraction. But If I don't find Ungar, and I don't think I will what then?" He got up and noticed the crowd stunner was still in the box on the floor. He picked it up, set it on his desk and walked out. "I have to see the Senior Elder, I won't return here today," he said to his aide.