The hurried jumble of stray thoughts and images of my dream were influenced by body warmth. The threads of thoughts and pieces of memories blending together left me with a dozen different emotions swirling around and crashing into each other as I unconsciously began to remember Chelsea. Sorrow mingled with anger, tinged with regret and spiced with pensive longing. I recalled her hair, her eyes, her voice. I recalled the stolen times we had with each other, including our worst, when we snuck a quicky in my car. In all the emotions of all the time Chelsea and I had spent together, the warmest was fondness; there was not even the slightest trace of love. At the moment when anger and bitterness started to dominate my dream, I felt something pushing it’s way through the veil of sleep.
With time and effort I was able to push back the fog of drowsiness to realize that a voice was saying, “Please wake up, Boss,” over and over again while lightly shaking me. It was more like slight nudgings than shakes, really, and because of that it took longer for me to free myself of the jaded trappings of memories that were trying to enwrap me all over again. My eyes fluttered open, and with great effort, I began focusing my vision on the face of-
“Zent Kow,” I said to the face. “What are you doing?”
“I’m… I’m waking you up, Boss. Like the orders said to.”
Slightly belligerent, I said, “No, why are you whispering in my ear and nudging me like a… like a loose tooth?”
“To not wake the others, Boss.”
I turned my head to the direction that Zent was looking in, and lo and behold, there was Mercy cuddling up against me. Mercy’s head was resting on my shoulder with her left arm wrapped over the top of my torso, embracing my body. Mercy’s own body was pressed up against me, allowing me to feel the softness of her adult form and feel it’s heat in my sleep. It’s no wonder I started dreaming of Chelsea, then.
After confirming Mercy’s presence, I started trying to figure out just how she was entangled with me so I could extricate myself. Trying not to move around much, I took in the rest of our positioning, which included one of her legs draped over one of my own. Mercy wasn’t wearing her nylons, and had on a skirt of some loose and thin fabric that draped down over her knees. But Mercy’s moving around had bunched it up enough that her bare thigh was slowly rubbing against my own as she shifted from the intrusive sounds of voices from Zent’s and myself. And it also seemed that I had my left hand firmly planted on Mercy’s ass, through the fabric.
Let’s just make sure. Yup. That’s an ass in the palm of my hand. Probably Mercy’s, but I should verify that. Um-hmm. Um-hmm. Let’s just triple check. Um-hmm. Location seemed right for the ass to be Mercy’s. Let’s just assume this belonged to Mercy. …In that case, I should memorize the feel, just in case something like this happened again. It’s for academic purposes, after all. Yeah. That, was a rather nice ass. If I was reviewing it like wine, I’d say, narrow, with a hint of padding over only partially toned muscles, allowing one’s hand to sink in to enjoy it’s springiness.
One would never think that this bum belonged to an unrepentant mad scientist responsible for the abduction and deaths of over a hundred people, a fate that I and Aase very nearly shared. Funny how that thought could kill a moment. Well, let’s start freeing myself.
I shifted my body position in an attempt to start sliding out from under Mercy’s weight, with the intention of lightly resting her head back onto a pillow in place of my shoulder. But I couldn’t move my arm. Thinking it odd, I investigated some more and found that Mercy seemed to have an extra arm connected to her torso. An arm that was a few shades lighter than Mercy’s dusky complexion. Propping myself up on my right elbow, I looked past Mercy’s head on my left side to see Aase spooning tightly onto Mercy, with my arm caught in between their two bodies.
So that was why my arm was so warm and comfortable. Especially that one part…
So, I just kinda realized that this was why Zent said “others,” plural. Still not fully awake, I guess.
Aase was still dressed in the uniform she was using before, but she had taken off the jacket to crawl onto this bed, so she was wearing only the thin white undershirt the Fulchas military used for their soldiers above the waist. And I really do mean, “only.” There was no one else in the caravan who had the same bra measurements as Aase, and they didn’t sell bras at second hand stores. Meaning there had been no chances for Aase to purchase more than the single bra she had been transported with. And it seemed like that particular bra was in the “to be washed” category for the day, as I could clearly feel Aase’s generous assets embracing my arm around the bicep area, sandwiched between the pair. It may be my imagination, but it felt like I could feel Aase’s slow heartbeat through her exquisite softness.
…I only had to check through my sense of touch that I was in contact with both Aase and Mercy at the same time once more. Okay, twice more. But then I looked up at Zent and whispered, “While I’m sure you’re quite bitter and envious right now, I swear-”
“Not bitter or envious at all, Boss.”
Huh. I think he meant it. “Good chap,” I mumbled in a clipped British accent before properly whispering again. “I’m going to need your help to get out of this.” Zent nodded his head. “Alright. First, gently lift Mercy’s leg up and place it next to her other one.” Zent did so, slowly and gently. “Good,” I said, “Now. Take a firm hold of both of Mercy’s ankles, and drag her off the bed.”
“Drag her off the bed. Quickly, please.”
“I, uh, don’t really want to, Boss.”
“Zent. It’ll be really funny. So please, just do it. I’ll make it an order if it helps?”
Zent sighed and said, “Yes, Boss.”
“Good,” I affirmed. “Do it all in one go.”
Zent nodded, nibbled on his lips a little, took hold of Mercy’s ankles, and then put grunting effort into dragging Mercy. Halfway down the bed, Mercy woke up just enough to squeal in surprise before bodily dropping onto the floor with an audible dump. The sounds were loud, piercing, and impactful enough to send Aase sitting bolt upright on the bed in bleary eyed alertness while I desperately tried to hold in the laughter. In the time it took Mercy to flail around enough to get her knees under her and look around in sleep disturbed hyper energetic focus, Aase asked, “What was that?”
“Oh, Mercy just fell off the bed while Zent and I were trying to wake her. Mercy has some terrible sleeping posture.” I was already standing at the time I said this, and Zent was covering his mouth with a hand. “Weren’t we, Zent?”
Zent nodded at my question instead of trying to elaborate the lie. Good man.
“Well, this is your wake up call, you two. Get ready to face the day. Come on, Zent, let’s go.”
I hurried Zent out the bedroom door as I heard Mercy ask, loud and disoriented, “Where’s my shoes?”
As Zent and I were descending the stairs, he released his mouth and said, “You were right, Boss. It was funny,” through the chuckles escaping him. Zent’s laughter set me off, and we hit the bottom of the stairs, a couple of laughing idiots in front of the seven or eight new captives looking beat up, gagged, and bound on the floor of the hallway. Callic turned to look at Zent and me, demanding, “What’s so funny?”
“You had to be there,” I answered immediately before Zent could finish wincing in front of his superior officer. “This all of them?”
“That’s right,” said Callic. “Every one of Nigeman’s crooks on the list. The kid was a good guide for finding their houses, and none of them were awake enough to put up much of a fight. Now, what are we supposed to do with them?”
Well, the night time raid plan was a success. Way to go, Angry Me!
“Where’s the Urchin?”
Callic pointed with a thumb out the door where Janette was standing with the urchin, who was whining, “Why can’ I ‘ave it now?”
“The- um, Xander’s orders said he wanted to pay you himself.”
Actually they said not to let the lad leave before I could talk with him again, but that excuse worked for me. I stepped through the doorway onto the street and said to the lad, “That I did. Janette, please hand me a Sul.”
Janette did so, and I held the coin aloft in my fingers like it was a precious stone. “You’ve done a good job tonight, Wyatt. You’ve earned all of this Sul. I’m grateful for your work.” I then lowered the coin into Wyatt’s outstretched hand. His face was beaming brightly even through the fatigue of a night of work. Instead of letting go of the coin, I said, “Now, how’d you like to earn bonus pay?”
Wyatt’s face turned aghast and he recoiled back saying, “I shou’a known!”
“No, no, no,” I interjected, calming the urchin down and holding the coin out for him, “This is yours. Go ahead, take it. You earned it.” At my further urging, Wyatt eventually creept back up and took the Sul coin from me. I said, “There. Job complete, payment in full. Now, Wyatt. I want to know if you want to earn even more money, for a faster and easier job.”
Wyatt pouted for a little and asked, “Wha’s the job?”
“So you’ll take it?”
It took a little work, a little explanation, and a written contract at Wyatt’s insistence (I was so proud when he asked for one), but I was able to hire the urchin. And within thirty minutes, as the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon, there were a dozen street kids running through the town waking up the merchants of the city and cajoling them to gather in front of the town’s garrison. I was actually in the inn changing into civilian clothing when one of the hired street kids came around, insisting on being heard, and on getting a promise from the owner to bring everyone he could to the garrison. Those tykes were working hard for the one third Sul that Wyatt had promised them on my behalf. Wyatt though, was earning a five sevenths of a Sul for organizing them.
The kid had potential.
I met up with Aase, who had also changed into some civilian clothing from this world inside the inn. She was wearing a thick sleeveless blouse and a two layered skirt made from a stip of white fabric wrapped about the waist and hanging to the mid thigh, and an orange strip of fabric sewn to the white that hung past the knees. It seemed like a heavier material than Mercy’s skirt, so cheaper design, but it had a lively motion to it as Aase and I walked down the street towards the Garrison, calling out to everyone we passed to inform them that something really important was happening there. I knew that Aase and I were on our way to a conspiracy event that I set up, but there was an excited energy about us, as though I were getting ready for a performance, and Aase was getting ready to see a show.
On arrival to the garrison (we had to ask directions to the place twice) the sun was just beginning to dispel the coolness of the night and the beginnings of a crowd was forming in the plaza before the garrison’s main entrance. Aase and I began to mingle, and the nippiness of the morning began to fade away with the combining of the people’s body heat as more and more people were showing up. There was good reason for people to be pulled to the location, even aside from my hired heralds of street urchins running through the town. Because there in the plaza, fully armed and armored, carrying swords and truncheons, were the soldiers from my caravan, in a crowd suppression line while guarding the bound and gagged criminals from Nigeman’s criminal enterprise. In addition, the body of Nigeman was strung up by it’s heels halfway up the flagpole planted in the cobblestone courtyard. I know I told my people to make the presentation as showy as possible, but that might have been a little much. …Well, it’s fine I guess. He was fully exsanguinated already, so no gross globbits were falling out of him after all.
Looking around, I was able to mark Callic and Gina in the group because of their helmets. I guess it’s nice of the military to make helmets with nondescript bumps on the top to keep from crushing animal eared people…?
Aase tugged at my arm and lightly pointed to some people on a sentry path at the top of the garrison, looking down on the proceedings and standing close together. I smiled seeing that. It was body language of nervousness and confusion. Those people were absent any clear orders. Seemed the garrison hadn’t been galvanized into a plan of action, yet. If they had been, my little plan would crumble to pieces. Or if the commanding officer was an early rising Crack-Of-Dawn type person… but if he was strict and professional, then he probably wouldn’t have become a crook in the first place. Anyway, the absence of clear leadership was giving the townsfolk a chance to gather. Ha. A soldier from the garrison came out but got sent back inside by Gina with a boldly pointing hand. Probably not the first one since my team set up shop judging by Gina’s vehement gestures.
I looked around, and there were at least a hundred, probably a hundred and fifty people. More were joining by the minute. Whoa. Lots more. They were coming in packs! There would be three hundred people here soon.
“Holy crap,” I accidentally remarked in english. Then I said to Aase who tilted her head at me, “I honestly wasn’t expecting so many people to come.”
“You didn’t grow up in a small town, did you,” asked Aase back to me. By agreement, Aase and I had chosen not to talk much of our lives on Earth when we could help it, and never any specifics. We had no idea what personal information could lead to a spell like Enslavement taking effect, and instead of tempting fate, we decided to hold our tongues on any potentially dangerous topics. Hence, why Aase asked about my hometown these weeks after we had already started spending so much time together.
“Medium sized, why?”
Aase nodded and said, “Then you may not realise just how boring small town life is. Any public event, and you’ll have lines out the door. This world probably doesn’t have radios, movies, or TV of any kind, so something like this is probably the biggest thing to happen all year. Why wouldn’t people crowd in?”
“Oh,” I remarked, horrified. Yeah. I think I understand now. I’ve just put in motion something I have absolutely no chance of controlling. If the events unfolding from here heat up too much, then it wouldn’t be strange for a lot of people to die. My people, too. Or a human stampede. Oh, God, I really started hoping no one got trampled to death that day, especially me and Aase.
The soldiers from my caravan forming the human barrier around the Nigeman criminals were beginning to get pushed back by the massive physical presence of the crowd, not because they were hostile or actively trying to push my soldiers around. The crowd was peaceful and curious. There were just so many people that there was no where else for them to go but closer to where the action was. The courtyard was beginning to look like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and the body heat had dispelled the cold completely. I took Aase’s arm in mine to keep us from being separated in the jumbled up humanity on the cobblestones before the garrison. Aase still wasn’t wearing a bra, huh.
Jesus. There was a lake of people extending all the way out through the streets leading to the garrison.
The sharp thudding of the large double doors of the garrison, wide enough for a large horse drawn carriage to be driven through, slammed open and four lines of soldiers marched out with a highly decorated man at their lead, and a few obvious sycophantic hangers on trailing just at his flanks. I may have missed it, but I think the decorated guy said something to his Yes Men, and they started calling out orders. Yeah. He was the garrison captain alright.
The soldiers of the garrison spread out, wearing full armor and carrying truncheons like my own people were. Damn. With all their faces covered, I had no way of telling who was and wasn’t on my side in case things turned violent. I would definitely lose soldiers if I couldn’t support them. Maybe I should have just nuked the garrison after all?
The garrison soldiers reinforced the line and pushed the citizens back some, with a bit of bully tactics. Having nowhere else to go, the space between people lessened even more and Aase and I were packed up tight against one another. My own soldiers stepped back from the line at Callics orders and surrounded Nigeman’s group, which in turn were laid out surrounding Nigeman’s body on the flagpole.
The garrison captain approached my soldiers and started saying something. It seemed like Gina was the one talking to him. Crap. My original plan had me whispering in her ear, like last night with the soldiers who showed up at Nigeman’s mansion. But with so many people around, there was no way for me to get close enough for eavesdropping, so I had no idea what suggestions to buzz in Gina’s ear.
…Eavesdropping? …Well, it was worth a try.
I channeled a few threads of power from my reservoir and made a spell of pure wind magic. I strung the lines of power together and split them apart, sending one half towards where the conversation between the garrison captain and Gina were talking. The other half I moved close to my ear. I experimentally listened to all the sounds that vibrated the part of my spell I was moving through the crowd, and it sounded something like tuning an old timey radio set. Lots of buzzing, half garbled voices from a dozen different sources, and a bit of a tinny quality on the sounds that did make it through intact. Thankfully the time it took to get the magic through the crowd could be measured in seconds, or I might have given up on the idea for the magic completely. Worst still, I might have missed some important part of the conversation. But as it stood, I was able to hear the garrison commander’s distorted voice say, “You don’t have the rank to ignore my order, Specialist. Cut that man down, right now.”
The garrison commander’s voice had an edge of malice in it. He wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
Gina’s warped voice responded, “Well, my commanding officer does have the rank to ignore your order, Captain. And he especially wanted that man’s remains to be publicly humiliated.”
Nice cover, Gina. …And not that far from the truth.
“What are you doing, Xander,” came Aase’s whisper from my non-occupied ear.
“Listening in,” I whispered back.
“Well, let me listen, too,” Aase requested, half surprised and half demanding in a playful way. I didn’t know why, but it was kinda cute. If it was any other situation, I may have toyed with Aase, but not then and there. I swung the receiving end of my magic between our two ears and Aase pulled in closer to hear.
The garrison captain said, with no room for disobedience or interpretation, “You will cut that man down immediately, or my own soldiers will do so, even if they have to go through you.”
“Kinda staticy,” said Aase, with her eyebrows furrowed.
Gina responded, “What does it matter, the man’s dead. Hanging up there isn’t making him any deader.”
For some reason, that remark put a smile on my face.
The garrison captain said, clamping down on bluster in the face of obstruction, “I will not allow your insubordination be the cause of disorder in my city. If the people figure out who is atop that flagpole, there may be dire consequences.”
Oh. He wanted to keep things quiet for a cover up? I might not want a riot, but I sure as hell didn’t want things peaceful.
“Hey,” I shouted at the top of my lungs, “That’s NIGEMAN up there! Nigeman is on that flagpole! Nigeman is dead!”
And from there, echos of my shouts were repeated by various people in the crowd. The chain of shouts carried that info to the ears of every man, woman, and child in the courtyard, and the air of mild curiosity in the courtyard was irreversibly changed.
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