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Chapter 30 Keep the ball rolling

As Ben sat down for breakfast, Celeste joined him. “I had a little adventure while you were gone we need to talk about. When you left one of our two watchers immediately disappeared. Before Ungar showed up to pick up the stunners five snipers appeared and positioned themselves on the edge of the woods with long slug throwers. Ungar took the stunners and safely left. I put on a bit of a show recovering the little robot with the lift, and one took a shot at me. I made it look like I stumbled so the watcher would think he missed.”

“And the snipers?” asked Ben with raised eyebrow. “Just ashes.” “And the watcher?” Celeste grinned, “The pudgy guy took off like a scalded cat. I was afraid he was going to run into a tree and knock himself out. I wanted to send a clear message.” “What do you think was going on?” asked Ben. “Probabilities are that Marshal Bard saw an opportunity to capture the ship in your absence and sent the snipers. I don't think Davin will be happy about it. His instructions were he was to be notified if one of us left the ship, and I don't think that happened. He's greedy, but not stupid. There may be some more personnel changes.” 

“Anything else going on?” asked Ben. “A few new things. There was a meeting at the cathedral about the tractor fuel problem. It will take two weeks to get them cleaned up and usable. They have switched to a new fuel tank. All ten of Lora's group is now working in the warehouse as of this morning, and the coins are spreading. About half of them have been passed out. At the current rate, most of the women should have them in about two days.”

“It would be good if we could keep the tractors disabled. It makes it more difficult for the security forces to move around,” said Ben. “I agree, but twice now Davin has been niggled about what we have done. Everything needs to appear as if happened randomly, and events can't occur often. Working backward we need to have everything in place five days before we pull the revolution trigger. Tractors have to be largely disabled, and the general population, and especially the security forces have to fall in love with their jakes. Day one the fuel tanks for the tractors have to have another batch of fungus added. Day two is when the population gets the virus, starting with the security forces and cathedral personnel. On day four everything else has to be in place. The women will be really busy that day. If something goes wrong, it will likely be day four. I've also turned on Lora's tablet blinker.” 

The main salon vid turned suddenly flicked on. “We may find out more about yesterday's sniper incident Ben.” Davin, Captain Jorn, and a terrified trooper were walking into the meeting room. Davin looking at the trooper briskly told him to sit and not to say a word until told to. Ungar walked in. “You wish to speak with me, Senior Elder?” “Just sit and listen,” grumbled Davin. Looking at the trooper, he said, “Tell Ungar what you saw.” Visibly shaking, the trooper started. “I was well hidden and watching. The man left the ship with Gaians and Tomac ran off to report this to the Marshal. I saw Ungar arrive and a platform rolled out with boxes. Ungar loaded them into his carriage, put bars of metal on the platform, and left. The women with the long hair rode down from the ship to collect the platform. She tripped just as a shot rang out. The slug missed her. Right afterward four or five red lances of light struck the woods. I could smell burning flesh. I immediately left to report this to Marshal Bard.” “What did Marshal Bard do next?” asked Davin. “When I saw him last he was on foot heading towards the mines.”

“I warned the Marshal about how powerful and dangerous these people could be,” said Ungar. “I don't think they like to kill, but if threatened they will without a doubt protect themselves.” Looking up at Davin, “You have seen these red lances of light at work before.”

Captain Jorn asked Ungar, “If the man was gone and the women were under the ship who fired the red lances?” “I have no idea Captain, but I'm sure there are only the two of them on the ship. The Captain of this ship is not like our women here. It's a mistake to think she is stupid. They have traded fairly with us. If we don't repair this all of their technology will end up with the Gaian's, and we will be left out. Already we have received hundreds of stunners. Just imagine what they could give the Gaian's if they were angry with us.” Davin digested Ungar's comments for a moment and made up his mind. 

“Captain Jorn, you are now the new Marshal. When you find Bard, execute him on the spot. Ungar, I want you to visit the ship and fix this.” “With apologies Senior Elder,” said Ungar. “My tractor has succumbed to the fuel problem and was towed in.”  “I'll have my driver take you. Report back to me immediately when you get back.” Glaring at the trooper Davin snarled, “One word of this conversation to anyone, and you won't have a head long enough to say the second one. Leave now.”

Celeste's face screwed up. “According to their records, Captain Jorn was up until now the Quartermaster with an unblemished record. He has also declined two promotions to Major. I wonder why? We'll have to ask Ungar about him. He surely must know him.” “Despite Ungar's flabby exterior, he has a very fit brain." "Do you have any new ideas?” asked Ben. “Yes, I was thinking of having Ungar give Davin one of the truth-telling pendants. Paranoia seems to be a requirement of survival here. The only difference is I will control the results, and if he accepts it, I will know where Davin is all the time, or at least when he wears it. Ungar is getting close, and there are no watchers. I will lower the ramp.”

Ben stood at the hatch and watched as the tractor huffed its way into the field, and Ungar's laborious walk up the ramp. “Welcome, Ungar. Is a mid-morning Manhattan in order?” “Yes, very much so. I take it your all-seeing eyes watched the meeting this morning?” “We both noted how quickly your mind works,” said Ben. “If you're not quick, you don't survive long in Eaulander, especially around Davin,” grinned Ungar. “Let's have that drink.”

“Good morning Ungar,” said Celeste as she sat next to Ben. “Tell us about the new Marshal.” “I deal with him often. He's organized and smart enough to understand the higher in rank you are, the closer you are to Davin, and the more dangerous life becomes. I don't think he is happy being the new Marshal. I suspect he felt he had no choice. He will have noted he is the third Marshal in a short period.” “Do you think he would help us?” asked Ben. Ungar paused for a long time. “Yes, but only if he was absolutely sure of success, or desperate. I don't think this is the time to approach him. Davin will want to know why you left the ship with the Gaians. Can you tell me?”

“We were invited to a Gathering. Celeste opted to stay with the ship for obvious reasons,” said Ben. “I have heard about the Gaian's mating ritual,” said Ungar. “We have no such thing in Eauland. If you have enough rank, meaning funds, you can keep a woman at your home. My partner is Casi. We have been together for over twenty years. If not, well there are always the pleasure girls. It is a dictate of the Oneness.”

The small bot rolled into the salon, left a pendant on the table and departed. “This is a gift for Davin. It will vibrate when someone is close and is lying to him. I have control over how it decides,” said Celeste with a wink. “It also comes with a warning. One more stunt like sending snipers, and we will only trade with the Gaians.” “How are we doing with the delivery of the wood staffs?” asked Ben. “The lumber mill is done, I'm just waiting for an available tractor to haul them to the warehouse.” “Thank you, Ungar. You should probably pack a small travel bag for you and your partner. If things get too dangerous for you, we will arrange for a safe place for you to go. Have a safe trip back,” said Celeste.

Nona's face was flushed with anger. “These people from the stars are an abomination. Lycia now demands a public trial, and I don't blame her. She was deprived of her choice and is flaunted by Shella who had the temerity to put a man's mark on her wrist as if he owns her. Even worse it's garish and not  traditional black color.” Lyn stood, “The Chronicles are mute about the color. Yes her mark is not the traditional color, but I point out that black is the only color we have. Nowhere do the Chronicles say she can't have Brule's mark on her wrist if she wants to. Lycia does have the right to demand a trial, but she should be careful what she wishes for.” “The star people are hardly a danger to us Nona. In fact, I believe they are trying to help us,” said Susi. “Celeste's words telling us we are doomed to become slaves to the Eaulander's in time has the ring of truth to it. If Lycia wants a trial, she may have it.”

“I will be Lycia's advocate, the trial will be tomorrow,” Nona quickly announced, “Who will be Shella's advocate?” Lyn's hand immediately shot up.