Chapter 37 The final niggle

Mindful of his heavy seed oil load the driver gently engages the tractor and huffs into the intersection. Halfway through engine abruptly dies. Sighing in resignation, he reaches under his seat for the crank and climbs down. With well practiced execution he winds the spring and climbs back in. Reaching over he pulls out the knob, gives the lever a sharp pull and the tractor sputters to back to life. Even more carefully he engages the tractor. It lurches forward spewing smoke and stops. He winds the spring again and this time it doesn't start. After a few more tries to start it troopers walk over and begin to direct traffic around the stalled vehicle.

“Senior Elder, may I have a moment?” asked Marshal Jorn “Yes, did you find Ungar?” “No, not yet but we will. The squad I sent to the mines checked carefully and Ungar is not there, but we did find Bard and brought him back. He is in a cell awaiting your judgment.” “He will get that in spades,” said Davin twisting his face into a skeletal grin. “Where do you think Ungar is.?” “I suspect he has hidden his tractor in a warehouse and is hiding somewhere near. Another warehouse or maybe in someone's home. We are methodically searching every single building Senior Elder. It's a large city, it just takes time.” “Could Ungar have gone to Gaia?” “I thought of that but never in anyone's memory since back before my grandsire has those witches ever let a single Eaulander man cross their border. As close as any man is allowed to Gaia is the border market and that is only once a week.” Davin peered closely at the Marshal, “Find him or you will meet the fate of your predecessor. Do you clearly understand?” “I do Senior Elder, I will not fail you.”

As the Marshall stood to leave, Transport Elder Nitz sticks his head in. “Senior Elder, two tractors stopped today. We may have the fuel problem again. I have stopped the refueling and a sample of the oil is on the way here.” Davin stared at him with an incredulous look. “Again for the second time and Ungar disappears about the same time. Banner was right. That whore on the starship must have something to do with this. I want every damn Elder to be in this room tomorrow morning including you Marshal. We are going to put a stop to this,” Davin spat out as he left. Marshal Jorn looked at the Transport Elder who now looked extremely pale and sweaty. “I must leave right now,” he said groaning as he turned and awkwardly half ran out the door.

The Marshal sat by himself in the room thinking. “The Senior Elder isn't right about much, but in this case, he might be. Odd things have happened since the ship arrived here especially Davin being locked in the Sacred Chamber. One of his smaller troopers had wriggled into the chamber and reported the room was empty other than a pair of shackles attached to the wall. Ungar could have been helping the people from the stars somehow to do something, but what?” He pushed himself up the chair and wobbled a bit. “I think I need a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is going to be challenging, if not deadly.”

Ben turned to Celeste, shrugged and said, “Davin was eventually going to figure out we had something to do with what's happening, but he doesn't seem to have a clue about exactly what yet.” “Yet is the operable word, Ben. The thing to ponder on is when he figures it out, what will he do? We will find out in the morning with more clarity what's in his head. I think the Transport Elder wasn't feeling well, and that was an interesting gait he had when he fled. Likely he was heading towards the closest jakes. Most will be very uncomfortable tomorrow, and the day after there won't be enough jakes to go around. I'm also dropping the plastic restraints ties and ten cloth bags on the women's warehouse roof late tonight.”

Lora watches from down the street as a tractor and trailer backs into the loading dock. A few minutes later the loaders began to carry armloads of square staffs to the trailer stacking them neatly. Further down the street two troopers come out of a building, walk in Lora's direction and enter into the next building. Lora turns away and shuffles one building further away and starts again to sweep the curb. The troopers come back out to the street and go into the next building. Lora again moves one building further away. A few minutes later the tractor starts, pulls out heading towards Lora and chugs past her. Head down she follows until it backs into another building.

While sweeping across the street she studies the building carefully and memorizes the location. The personnel door is off to the side and set well back from the street. One hundred staffs are quickly unloaded and the tractor heads off for its next stop and Lora follows. After the fourth warehouse, Lora looks at the low sun, moves one block over and slowly starts sweeping curbs back towards her warehouse. The women come out of the warehouse, Elena spots Lora and heads towards her with the others following. “The troopers came in looking for you. They asked the loaders if anyone named Lora worked here and if anyone was missing,” said Elena grinning. “They are dumb as posts, they said no and the troopers left. Where are going to sleep?” “I haven't figured that out yet,” said Lora. “Then stay with me, I can make a bed out of blankets and you can sleep on the floor next to my cot. We can trade places tomorrow.”