Scene 194 – Recenseamus



“How’s Akane doing?”

“Still in the toy box,” MC responded from a wall speaker. “Her shoulder is mostly repaired, by Doctor Clarke wanted to keep her in for a while longer just in case.”

He fixed a shattered shoulder after just one day? That was pretty impressive, even for him and the toy box. “Okay,” I muttered. “That’s one crisis dealt with. What about those renegades who she was fighting? Any word on them?”

“No, not after they trapped the retinue and Adam. Butler has put G’Hanir under lock down, though.”

“For what good it will do. No way are the Blackguards going back, and the aves there are just bureaucrats and low-level guards plus a few independent contractors doing maintenance and installations.”

“Elizabeth thought they were important enough to send three renegades,” MC pointed out.

I nodded grudgingly. “Okay, I’ll give you that. Have interrogations turned up anything?”

“Nothing useful. A few of them were stealing office supplies and having affairs, but other than that, they’re innocent. We did get some info on previous labs where the toy box had been stored, but it was mostly stuff we already knew.”

I brushed my hair back, eyeing the map in front of me. “Let’s take this from the top. Derek has had Dispater’s warbloods running around the past couple days. Where have they checked?”

“The lab where we think Ling was grabbed, of course, but that didn’t do much good. There was no scent trail for Tecumseh to follow.”

Silver and gold, I had hoped the old wolf would have been the magic bullet to solve this in a heartbeat. But it seemed Soaring Eagle knew how to keep herself from being tracked that way. “What about Dispater’s CSI guys?”

“They found a few weird chemicals in the lab, but nothing really relevant to Ling’s disappearance. What little data they scrounged just leads back to G’Hanir. Dead end.”

“Well…what about that earlier lab? The one Adam and Ling destroyed?”

“Even less. Too old to get much of anything, and what they did get just pointed at the other lab.”

“I refuse to believe that she disappeared two days ago and we have found literally nothing in the meantime.”

“The aves are nomadic, Laura,” MC said soothingly from the wall speakers. “They always have been. That means getting a fix on their position is going to be near impossible.”

“They’re gods-damned anthropomorphic birds. They stick out in a crowd. This shouldn’t be so difficult. Everyone in the city is looking for them!”

“Everyone in the city is looking for the ones who stole the toy box,” MC corrected. “But they’re not looking too hard. The reward for finding it is substantial, but they know the aves will defend it to the death. Most people don’t think it’s worth the trouble.”

I closed my eyes. “Tell me you’re not saying we should announce that one of the Paladins has gone missing.”

“Well, even if it doesn’t help us find Ling, it will probably bring Elizabeth out of hiding…”

“Yes, and for good reason. One of our heavy hitters is gone, and we’re distracted looking for her. Now would be a perfect time to strike, and she’d know it.”

“Fine, fine, we’ll come back to that later.”

I nodded in thanks. “What have the orcs been up to?”

“The usual. Trying to coordinate between the demons and vampires. Other than that, not much, but they’re doing their best. On a related note, the Kellions were quick to offer their assistance, as I understand it.”

“But they’re soldiers. They’re not really useful here.”

“Ah…yeah. They’ve kinda been getting in the way more than actually helping.”

Silver and…of course. This was probably the first time they had ever worked with kemos or warbloods. Neither side had any idea how the other operated, and it was hard to tell which one was worse. The Kellions were a young and arrogant subculture, but Dispater was the most paranoid man on the planet. His men weren’t exactly allowed to mingle with others on a regular basis.

At least there was one bright spot in all this. “But Tecumseh’s smoothing things out, right?” The lupe had a reputation for being a surprisingly good mediator. Sure, he was blunt as a hammer, but in this city, a lot of problems could be solved with a good strong whack. Between him and the orcs, we had a chance.

“He’s doing his best,” she assured me. “But he’s busy with the actual tracking. There’s only so much he can do.”

“Right.” I closed my eyes, searching my memory. “Well, what about the retinue? Alex is a tracker, right?”

“While they’re eager to prove themselves after yesterday’s debacle, they’re having even less luck. They’ve searched everywhere anyone can think might involve the Composer, with nothing to show for it.”

I pulled out the digital pen for the map in front of me. “Where did they search, exactly?”

“The roof of your dorm, where you were ambushed. That alley where Elizabeth was captured. The bar where Mjolnir was murdered. The remains of the warcage, and the South dock on the Ring. Even her old lair, in the sewers.”

I paused as I went to mark that last one down. “The one where we found her, or the one Akane found after the Ring?”

There was a slight pause before MC answered. “The first one. No one’s checked the second yet.”

“Checked ever, or—”

“Just since Ling went missing. We sent a few squads down shortly before Elizabeth was caught, and they didn’t find anything useful. But we didn’t send down CSI’s and trackers.”

We might be onto something now. “Send in the warbloods first. They might not mix well with Alex.”

“Agreed. Anything else?”

“You said G’Hanir was on lock down. Besides the interrogations, what have we gotten out of there?”

“Not much. There’s only so much we can do, since it’s still a sovereign domain.”

I groaned. “It’s a crime scene! Tear the whole place apart to the studs!”

“It’s not that easy. Technically, only the floors where Robyn fought the renegades are the crime scenes. Everything else, we have to stay away from or we’ll hear from the Eagle’s lawyers. Who, before you ask, don’t know where she is. But they’re still on retainer.”

“She’s guilty of grand theft, conspiracy, at least a half-dozen counts of murder she hasn’t paid retribution for—”

“But she’s not the only one who lives in that domain,” MC insisted. “In fact, it wouldn’t take the aves long to point out that she spends so little time there, it shouldn’t count as her residence at all. Yes, we can nail their warlord to the wall once we catch her. But the entire culture is not complicit.”

As I finished marking the map, I slumped into my chair. “You know, I really hate all this legal stuff. Sometimes I think the zombies were easier to deal with.”

“Speaking of which, any luck with the captured ones?”

I waved my hand dismissively. “Haven’t had time recently. But last I checked, Clarke hadn’t found anything new. A few new theories, but…” I frowned. “Shouldn’t you know better than anyone?”

“He doesn’t allow cameras or speakers in those labs. He’s kinda paranoid about the screamers.”

“Huh. I hadn’t heard about that. When did that start?”

“Back when you brought in the very first burner. The dead one, I mean. He didn’t tell you?”

I rolled my eyes. “You know how he is. Sometimes he kinda forgets about other people.”

“Yeah, I guess…anyway, I texted Kelly. She’s at G’Hanir right now, doing what she can, but she’ll check on the lair once the warbloods are through.”

I nodded. “Good. And who’s with her?”

MC sounded confused. “What do you mean? The retinue, of course.”

“No, I know,” I said with a nod. “I mean, are Adam and Flynn with them?”

“Oh. Lemme check…yes.”

“Good, then—” I paused as a thought occurred to me. “You do remember that Adam asked you not to track his phone, right?”


I sighed. “What are we going to do with you? Does Lily need to give you another lecture on privacy? Especially in regards to her boyfriend?”

“Hey now!” I swear the speaker shook with the ‘sarian hacker’s indignation. “I keep an eye on him because he’s a Paladin, not Lily’s boyfriend! I never spied on her other boyfriends, did I?”

“Did she even have other boyfriends? I know she only dates people from outside the city, and even then only baselines.”

“Well, she had a few. There was that one guy who she dumped when he became an angel—”

“Wait—you don’t mean the outsider who ended up assassinating Baal.”

“Technically, he wasn’t an outsider at that point. I mean, not by Lily’s definition, anyway.”

“You know what I mean! She dated him!?” What was with that girl and sociopaths?

“Only for like a month.” She sounded embarrassed that she had brought it up. “Anyway! We’re way off topic! Did you have any specific orders for the warbloods?”

I wanted to argue more, but just sighed and waved my hand. “No, it’s fine. They have more experience with this than I do. Just tell them to be thorough.”

The hacker giggled at my indecisiveness. “As you wish, Honored Paragon.”

I groaned. “Oh, come on, not you too.”

She giggled again. “Sorry. Just kinda need a laugh right now.”

That made my anger evaporate faster than ice in a desert.

“Yeah,” I muttered. “I guess so.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 194)

These basic recap scenes are annoying, I know, but they’re important.