Chapter 41 The dawning.

Davin's gilded tractor and carriage pulls up in front of the Security Forces headquarters and sputters to a stop. A trooper runs over and opens the carriage door and just catches the Senior Elder as he half falls out clutching his knife whip tightly in one hand. He helps puts him back on his unsteady feet. The unexpected smell makes him step back away in revulsion, and he quickly wipes off his hands on his pants. Davin ignores him and staggers into the building screeching at the top of his lungs, “Where is the Marshal?”

A trooper runs off and a minute later the Marshal's aide appears and is jolted by Davin's appearance and stench. His pallid blotchy skin, stained damp robe, and wild looking sunken eyes physically scare him. “Senior Elder are you ill?” he asks tentatively. Fingering one of the blades on his whip Davin glares at the aide and gasps out, “The Oneness gives me the strength to carry on while half of my worthless city wallows in bed. The Marshal was ordered to meet with me first thing this morning. Where is he?” “I do not know Senior Elder. The Marshal is always very prompt. Perhaps he is ill as well. Many are.” “Perhaps if you value your life you should immediately go to his house with some troopers and drag him back here if need be. Bring me a chair. I will wait here but do not take long for your sake.”

As Lora and Elena walk into the warehouse, Lim locks the door behind them. “We have the stunners,” said Lim, “They're upstairs. Come see.” Lora pulls a stunner from the box and examines it closely. There's a small recessed switch with a red and green dot indicating whether it's on or off and a trigger. “Let's load the bags and see how they feel when we carry them,” says Lora. Boxes get shifted and the bags are pulled out. They are filled with the plastic ties, and stunners. Lora runs downstairs and grabs a hammer and chisel and puts them her bag. The long strap pulls over her head and the bag fits nicely against her left hip. “I need one more thing,” said Lora as she walks back downstairs and returns with a staff in her hand. “How's this look?” she said holding the staff proudly in both hands above her head. “You look fearsome Lora,” said Elena grinning. Lim jumps up and excitedly said, “Let's all look fearsome,” as she took off down the stairs to pick a staff with the others close on her heels.

The Marshal sees a trooper walking down the street at a snail's pace with a pained look on his face. He pulls his cap down a touch and shuffles past without even a glance from him. Mulling over his conversation with Celeste he looks at the rows of bleak gray stone worker's quarters. She's right about the fact the Eauland is an ugly place, and no one would miss the Elders, especially Davin. How can the women overcome the security forces and the Elders? They have no weapons or transportation. Troopers are trained from youth to protect the Elders. They would have to be really sick to not do their job. The cost of failure is known well to them.

Feeling a bit better than yesterday the Marshal's stomach starts to growl. “I'll take a chance on the market off the square and at least get some bread to chew on,” he thinks. He glances, at a public vid for a second as Davin is exhorting more productivity. Having seen this before he looks away. Most he passes look ill, but seem to be functioning at least to some degree. A group of young women cleaners passes him all laughing at some private joke. 

As he passes through the square it's much quieter than usual and several tractors are stalled and abandoned. About half of the vendor booths are closed, but he finds a baker and buys a couple of sweet rolls. A few minutes later sees a couple of pleasure girls deep in an animated conversation, and then it slowly occurs to him. A few minutes later his thoughts finally gel as he stops and looks around carefully once more. “It looks like most of the younger women aren't sick at all.” He remembers Celeste's comment to him “You're already ill and it will get much worse.” Looking over at the very long lines at the public jakes, he wonders what the “will get much worse” part of her comment truly means. Recognizing a couple troopers heading his way the Marshal turns and walks away from the square. “I need to find a place to safely spend the night he thinks.”

The Sargent and aide to the Marshal pause outside for a moment. “You tell him, I'm just a clerk. He needs you and I'm disposable,” whispers the aide. The Sargent looks at the aide with disgust but slowly nods his head. Walking over to the Senior Elder he thinks, “Better I do this than have the Marshal's fancy boy try to get us both killed.” “Senior Elder, unfortunately, the Marshal is not at his home and is considered as missing. I have alerted the troopers to look for him,” calmly stated the Sargent. “What are your orders for me, Senior Elder?” Davin's fists tightly clenched and he stares off into space for a moment. Suddenly they relax. “Sargent,” Davin rasps, “I want you to pick your best ten men. Arm them with both long and short slug throwers with plenty of ammunition. They will guard me continuously. Prepare a tractor with a trailer. Have them both at my quarters in less than thirty minutes.” “As you wish Senior Elder, I am at your service.” The Senior Elder tries to stand and the Sargent reaches over to assist him fighting down rising bile caused by his vile odor. As soon as the Senior Elder totters out of sight the Sargent sees the seat of Davin's chair, holds his hand over his mouth and runs out a side door. After violently upchucking his stomach contents he heads off at speed for the jakes.

The last box is pushed into place hiding the bags. “Let's meet up first thing in the morning here. We have what's left of the day and all tomorrow to make sure every woman knows where she is supposed to be,” said Lora.