The young man sat tied to a chair in the middle of the room. “Hei is there anyone there?” he asked in crystal cut tones.
There was no answer at first and he could see nothing through his blindfold.
He heard door open. “What do you want?” a voice asked with growl.
“Er terribly sorry old chap, one has to pee…”
Wilfred Roger Goodwine was an amiable fellow very fond of drink and the company of women, rather like his older brother. He had been at a hostelry known for its loose rules in New Winchester when a pair of attractive ladies in revealing dresses joined him and after separating him from his friends, bought him a drink. The next thing he knew he had woken up here with Wayland Smith striking his anvil in his head. Wilfred wasn’t particularly influential or important but his brother was Theodor Freodheric Osgar Goodwine, better known as Fredi and was married to the Queen of Aengland.
“So have you found my bloody brothur yet?” Fredi asked the people gathered before him. Queen Effie sat behind her husband and he was so driven and animated by his brother’s disappearance that she almost found him desirable.
“No sir” answered Campaeldor Paulinus of the Ward. “We believe it may be the Friends of Frisha. One of their members was spotted on a monitor shortly before your Lord Wilfred disappeared from the Steorradust but they have issued no statement as yet.” The group had sprung up from the old anti-colonial hippy movement and progressed from peaceful protest and vandalism of public buildings to attacks on Witan members and arson, if this was down to them it was a serious escalation.
“It seems unlikely, they have never done anything as serious as this before” piped up the Queen, who being heavily pregnant with twins was taking a back seat for a change.
“I have a saetere within their ranks, majesty” piped up Mina Srivastava, the Highest of the Psi Wing. “If it is them they will be able to find out.”
“Very well Srivastava, I want to see results! You are all dismissed.”
Before anyone could leave a Palace Guard rushed in. “Majesty, we have just received a message from an unidentified source. The Wight activist Gunter Stoltz is to be released within three days or they threaten to send Lord Wilfred back a piece at a time!”
Jocasta Blane lay on the bed, her pulse slowing her body moist with perspiration in the warm room. “Well that was different to how I expected it lufiend” she said with a satisfied smile.
“What do you mean how you expected it?” Lu asked.
“You know, sex.”
He thought about her answer then it dawned on him. “Mithras! That was your first time?”
“Mmm” she kissed him gently.
“If I’d known I’d have…”
“What?” she interrupted. “Made it more special? I doubt you could have.”
He smiled at his latest girlfriend. She was quite pretty with hair the colour of copper, beautiful pale blue eyes and an impressive bust. Jocasta worked in the coffee shop he frequented and Lu was overjoyed when she agreed to go out with him and it was a bonus when he discovered she harboured the same deep hatred for the scunung nova as he did. “I thought you would have done it by now” she was eighteen, he twenty-two. “I mean I thought girls matured early?”
“We’re not all the same you know?” she laughed “I like you Lu.”
“And I think you’re amazing Casta, it’s a first for me in a way too” never done it with a maiden before.
She wrapped herself around him “let’s do it again!”
“I have to go to a meeting soon Casta. I’d like you to come along.”
“Do I have to? There’s a spare shift at the Coffy Stop and I need the money.”
“Oh, well I wanted to show you off to everyone.”
“I don’t know… ooh?” he had moved his hand between her thighs to begin moving his fingers rhythmically, she bit her lip. “If you really want me to I suppose I could come… and maybe to the meeting as well!”
Jocasta did go with Lufian to the meeting which was in a run-down bookshop, the prevalence of A-books was slowly strangling the printing industry yet bizarrely newspapers remained as popular as ever.
“Fellow Friends!” Pol Farley addressed the group. “I have news of a significant blow against the duplicitous regime, I will not elaborate too much but the king’s brothur has been kidnapped. His life hangs in the balance and it all depends on the willingness of the Witangemot to co-operate…” Farley lectured on for another half-hour before the meeting broke up.
“Casta, wait here a moment I have to talk to Pol and the others” said Lu after everyone else had left.
“Check dahling don’t be too long” replied Jocasta before sitting down again to watch her boyfriend walk into the back of the shop with Farley and several others.
“She’s a pretty girl your latest squeeze” remarked Blaise Veritas watching her through a small window in the door.
“Can you trust her?” asked Pol.
“Hej Casta’s alright!” she was more than alright!
“She might be a scunung saetere for all you know?” Farley said.
“Look at her, she looks nothing like one, she’s got pale blue eyes and she’s not tall and blonde!” he retorted.
“They wear lenses to hide their evil eyes, her hair could be dyed and the Psi’ aren’t as tall as the other scunung either. Has she got any tattoos, particularly on her right thigh?”
“No she’s got an unblemished body and that’s her natural hair colour…” he stopped, I’m giving too much away!
“Well at least she’s passed the other test then.” said Blaise.
“What?” he asked.
“Do you know anything about novae you dope?” asked Pastel Wyman “Psi’ don’t do the sex thing.”
Pol coughed. “Ahem, so now we are all agreed that Lu’s new girlfriend isn’t a nova can we get on with this?” all nodded. “Right, we have one high born prat prisoner thanks to Blaise and Pastel and some provocative clothing.”
“This isn’t us!” started Lufian. “We don’t kidnap people!”
“We are raising the stakes! Protests and arson are getting us nowhere, by doing this we will gain a powerful ally.”
“But this is the King’s brothur Pol, they will send soldiers to find him.” suggested Drew, another moderate.
“Gunter Stoltz is one of the Wights best commanders and by freeing him we show our comrades in Frisha that the Reignweald is not all powerful. His return will strengthen their resolve and they may be able to push this corrupt regime back to their borders.”
“This corrupt regime represents us, it’s our country Pol!” Lu cried.
“And this is why we are treating our prisoner’s location on a need to know basis, if you haven’t been told already, you don’t need to know check?”
“Check” they all agreed.
Lufian left taking Jocasta with him, she noticed his consternation. “What’s wrong Lu?”
“Nothing dahling just committee stuff” he replied as they walked back to her flat.
“Are you coming up?”
“No, not tonight Casta I need to think.” They kissed goodnight and he walked quickly off.
Jocasta watched him go with a curious expression then went inside.
“Your highness I have information from our agent that a section of the FoF has taken your brothur captive.” Mina Srivastava informed the king.
“So go and arrest them then.”
“Sir, these people are not stupid, they have entrusted the knowledge of his whereabouts to a select few and our saetere is not yet aware of his location.” She replied.
“And Sir if we start arresting them willy-nilly they may kill him anyway” interjected Campaeldor Paulinus.
“Then arrest them all!” snapped the king.
“Fredi please, the poor Campaeldor can’t arrest all of them” said the queen who was feeling quite uncomfortable, one of the twins had a foot pressing on her bladder.
“Sir, ma’am if you leave this to our agent I’m sure we will find out soon enough” insisted Mina.
“But they may get suspicious if we are seen to be doing nothing, a punitive strike perhaps?” suggested Paulinus.
Fredi perked up at this. “Good man, arrest some of the blighters with all haste.”
Effie groaned loudly and put her head in her hands, we’re going to get him killed at this rate!
They pulled up outside a seedy night club which held FoF meetings in a room at the back. The Ward knew of its existence but nothing of any importance happened there, usually.
Lu got out of the scrid. “I’m going in to see Pol and some of the others. Casta, wait for me.”
“Don’t be too long lufiend” responded the girl, pouting.
“It won’t take much time, promise” kissing her he got out of the scrid crossed to the entrance and disappeared inside.
Jocasta sat playing with the radio for a while then spotted a Ward vehicle drive slowly past to turn the corner and stop. She had a good view from where the scrid was parked and watched curiously as a large black waegn pulled up behind it. Shadowy figures emerged and began moving towards the entrance furtively. More joined them from the opposite direction and they were all armed.
Jocasta slid down in her seat then put in a small ear-jack and brought her left hand to her mouth. “Lufian” she whispered and her palm communicator called him.
“Hei Casta I won’t be much longer” he answered.
“Lu get out quickly the Ward are raiding the club!”
Her warning was just in time. Lufian told Farley who was with Veritas and as officers rushed inside they slipped down a hidden staircase into the cellar.
“Pastel’s still up there” cried Blaise.
“They can’t hold her for long they’ve got nothing on her.” remarked Pol as he removed the cover from a sewer. “It might stink a bit but it leads in the right direction. Top marks to your girlfriend for warning us, by the way. You’d better tell her to get away as fast as she can.”
After hearing this Blane changed seats and surreptitiously drove off…
“You are part of the group that kidnapped Lord Wilfred, do you realise how much trouble you are in?” asked Mina.
“You know nothing scunung” retorted Pastel Wyman.
“Oh but I do Pastel, you are quite transparent to me. Let me see… you and another girl called Blaise Veritas let him chat you up. You were very clever he probably thought it was his idea… then you drugged his drink and smuggled him out of the back door with help from a sympathiser working there. Naturally he has been arrested now, have I missed anything out?”
“You fucking bicce, I know my rights, non-consensual mind-reading is banned!” she snapped.
“It’s surprising how rules can be broken when necessary.” The Psi smiled.
“I won’t tell you where he is!” stated Pastel defiantly.
“You don’t know where he is. Your leader, Pol, isn’t a fool they will have moved him already.”
The abductee in question was tied to a different chair in a new room with three hooded figures standing before him, one was in a skirt. “Ah, I remember those legs you’re one of the ladies who spiked my drink!” he observed.
“And I’m one of the ladies who will cut one of your fingers off next time your friends do something rash,” the masked woman replied. “Actually, I might cut something else off instead.”
“Enough” said another. “We expected the Ward might try something, but they failed Billy-boy!” he held out his left palm so Wilfred could see the golden mesh of a communicator then a lens of light formed in the centre of it. “Smile Billy!” said the man.
The third figure stepped forward and began punching him in the mouth again and again…
The group gathered in the Morning Room to watch the recording of the beating.
“You have one more day then we start cutting bits off!” said a distorted voice.
“They used an untraceable relay to send the message and the room has nothing to give us any clue as to its whereabouts” explained Paulinus.
“What is your agent doing, Srivastava?” asked Fredi with obvious disgust “have you nothing to go on?”
“Sir, we captured a number of the group involved in this, they are going to need extra bodies to guard him and that’s when our saetere can infiltrate further.” She replied.
“But this Pol Farley fella, he’s their top man isn’t he. Why not just arrest him?”
“Sir?” asked Paulinus.
“I know, they’ll probably kill Wilfred if we do, Mina I hope your agent comes up with goods soon.”
So do I, she thought but said aloud. “I’m sure they will sir.”
“So Lu you’re in the inner circle now if you want in.” said Farley “And your girlfriend too, after her opportune warning at the club I think we can bring her in.”
“Count me in Pol but I’m not getting Casta involved in this.”
“Check, I’ll fill you in on his whereabouts” he grinned tonight’s the night Billy-boy…”
“Lu is that a real gun?” asked Jocasta in astonishment. They had parked outside the book shop and he had reached into the glove compartment to produce a Draca pistol.
“Yes” he replied tucking it into his waistband. “I’ve been given responsibility for something very important.”
“Lu, it’s something to do with this kidnapping isn’t it? Please don’t get too involved, I like you a lot and if anything happened to you…” She had tears in her eyes.
He put an arm around her “Casta it’s just like babysitting really.”
“What is?” she asked then the penny dropped. “Oh gods, Lu, tell Pol you’ve changed your mind, please!”
“It’ll be alright Casta I promise. Look, I have to go inside for a minute, Pol wants to see me” he kissed her gently. “I won’t be long.”
“You’re always leaving me outside” she sniffed.
He entered the book shop to find Pol waiting. Taking Lu into a side room he informed him. “It’s time for our guest to donate one of his fingers to the cause.” Lu felt slightly sick at what was coming. “Now wait here, I’m going to fetch Blaise. She’s quite looking forward to it…”
Now alone Mina’s agent quietly moved into the shop. Using their infra-red vision the saetere could see several sets of hot footprints slowly ebbing away. One pair led upstairs, they seemed promising so the agent carefully ascended them.
Someone was standing the top of the stairs there and spotted them. “Hei I didn’t expect…” Stunning the man before he could say more the agent moved on.
The saetere, now stood at one end of the landing, scanned the area psionically and behind the second door along could detect thought patterns. There were two people, both men and one was very scared, this was the place!
The Psi telepathically summoned assistance then rushed into the room and after stunning the guard with a mental blow moved to the seated man and pulled off his blindfold. “I say!” exclaimed Wilf on seeing his liberator. “I never expected a filly.”
“There is help coming sir, hold still while I undo your bonds” replied the saetere.
“Behind you!” hissed the captive in alarm.
“I knew it!” said Pol triumphantly. There were three of them. Farley and Blaise were pointing pistols at her while Lu just stood shocked. “Everything started to happen when you turned up, you even warned us about the Ward raid to gain favour didn’t you?”
Jocasta Blaine, 1st Level Psi regarded them, all were wearing golden torc headpieces made from a special material that suppressed psionic waves.
She wasn’t going to be able to use her powers on them. “The Ward are coming you know?”
Farley shrugged “There’s another way out in the cellar and we’ll use his nibs as a shield, the bahstards daren’t shoot the King’s brothur.” he held out another golden torc. “I hear that even the touch of one of these things causes a Psi pain, I wonder what it will feel like when I jam it on your head, dryicge?”
Jocasta was worried, the agony the torc generated as it cut you off from the psionic world was well documented and she had no desire to experience it first-hand. “You know the torc only prevents me from entering your mind, ever heard of telekinesis? She smiled. “Try pulling the trigger you bahstard.”
Pol and Blaise attempted to shoot her but their pistols were jammed. “You bicce of a scunung” the woman cried and flew at her. Jocasta, quick as any nova was trained in physical combat and Blaise went down at the first blow. Before Pol could move Jocasta kicked him in the balls and kneed him in the face as he buckled, he did not get up.
Crashing noises could be heard in the shop below “Casta how, why? You don’t look anything like a Psi and you… you slept with me?” Lufian was agog. “I thought you were… I…”
“I’m what they call an atypical and as for the sex thing, it was left up to me to get close to the group by any means. I’m so sorry Lu but I really do like you and I did enjoy our nights together, it’s poor compensation I know”
“You don’t have a tattoo, you’re supposed to have a tattoo?” Lu so didn’t want her to be a scunung and was clutching at straws.
“I have a special film fixed over it, sorry Lufian I am a Psi” she went to untie Lord Wilfred who was gawping speechless at the proceedings. “I’ll tell the Ward you’re a decent person.”
“Stop it Casta I’ll shoot!” warned Lu.
“You won’t do it Lu you’re one of the good ones.” She carried on unfastening the ropes.
“You betrayed us Casta and you lied to me! Stop it please!” he shouted.
“You won’t shoot me Lu. I trust you, so much that I’m not even stopping your gun from firing.”
“Casta!” he screamed aiming the gun.
There was a single shot…
Jocasta froze in horror, then realised the shot wasn’t the loud report of a pistol but the suppressed thud and whine generated by a Sterlinger round.
The Ward officer lowered his assault weapon. “I thought he was going to shoot you Mizz, I had no choice.”
Jocasta leaned over his body and her tears fell on his dead face. She looked up at the officer and the still tied Lord Wilfred. “Lu could never have fired the gun, you see he loved me!”