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Chapter 38 The final niggle

Mindful of his heavy seed oil load the driver gently engaged the tractor and huffed into the intersection. Halfway through engine died. Sighing in resignation, he reached under the seat for the crank and climbed down. With well-practiced execution, the spring was wound.  The Knob was pulled, and the lever jerked back sharply. The tractor sputtered to back to life. Even more carefully he engaged the tractor. It lurched forward spewing smoke and stopped. He wound the spring again, and this time it didn't start. After a few more tries 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 was 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 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 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 looked 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 disappeared 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,” said Davin. Marshal Jorn looked at the nervous Transport Elder who was looking pale and sweaty. “I must leave now,” he said with a groan and awkwardly half ran out the door.

The Marshal remained by himself in the room. “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 two pairs of shackles bolted to the wall. Ungar could be helping the people from the stars to do something, but what?” He stood 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 and shrugged. “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 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 used 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 watched from down the street as a tractor and trailer backs into the loading dock. A few minutes later the loaders started to carry armloads of square staffs to the trailer stacking them neatly. Further down the street two troopers come out of a building, walk towards Lora and turn into the next building. Lora turned away, shuffled further away and started again to sweep the curb. The troopers came back out and went into the next building. Lora again moved. The tractor started, pulled out heading towards Lora and chugged past her. Head down she followed until it backed into another warehouse.

She studied the layout carefully and memorized the location. The personnel door was off to the side and set well back from the street. One hundred staffs were unloaded, and the tractor left for its next stop with Lora sweeping behind.  The sun became lower, and Lora cleaned curbs back to her warehouse. Elena saw Lora first, and the rest joined her. “The troopers came in looking for you. They asked the loaders if anyone named Lora worked here and if anyone was missing.”  Elena grinned. “They are dumb as rocks. None of them knew anyone named Lora. 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.”