“Noble Nyashk,” my majordomo said, bowing low. “May I introduce Detectives Abraham Gosling and Utako Tora, of Necessarius.”
The two people who stepped into the conference room were obviously Necessarius. While there was no formal dress code, Butler’s detectives liked to wear nice suits that could take a beating, in addition to the ‘sarian armbands and prominent guns. The man was baseline, while the woman was a kemo with just tiger ears.
The conference room was nothing special, just a big room with a long table and a nice wide window. The window was of course polarized to keep light out. It was only two or three—I hadn’t checked the clock—and the sun was high in the sky.
“Thank you,” I said to my majordomo. He bowed and left. I turned to the ‘sarians. “Badges, lawmen. I’ve been feeling paranoid of late.”
They both nodded and pulled out their badges, presenting them without complaint. I peered closely. They looked authentic enough. I could have someone check to make sure later, after they left.
“Thank you,” I said, sitting down. “How may I help you two today?”
They glanced at each other.
“Please, sit,” I said. “Did you want something to drink? We have water, iced tea, whatever you want.”
They took their chairs a little hesitantly, sitting across from me at the end of the table.
“Honored Noble,” the man said. Gosling. “There’s no easy way to say this…”
I sat up, a chill running down my spine. “Is Simon all right?”
“What? Yes! I mean—” He glanced at his partner. “Uh, we don’t know anything about your brother. Someone from our precinct was looking for him a few days ago for something unrelated, but couldn’t find him.”
I took a deep breath. “I’m sure that’s nothing. He’s been spending a lot of time with that girlfriend of his, Yolanda.” I smiled. “He had an… accident recently. He’s resting up a bit.”
“Right,” Tora said. “But that’s not what we came here to talk to you about.”
“This is a very strange situation,” Gosling said. He still looked hesitant. “I’m just going to come out and say it, because I don’t know how to soften the blow. There’s a gargant that’s been killing people.”
Gosling chuckled. “Okay, yeah, that sounds… redundant. But this one is acting like an assassin. Moving intelligently, killing specific people. The current theory is that the fey put a homunculus control module inside a gargant.”
I frowned. “I’m not sure that’s possible.” I shrugged. “Maybe you should go looking for my brother after all. He likes toy maker theory, though he’s not that great at the actual art of it all.”
“Regardless, its latest victim managed to rip a few hairs off it in the struggle. We had them tested, and…” He paused. “We found your DNA.”
I stared at him.
“What?” I said after a moment.
“Necessarius has your DNA on file. Pre-Nyashk, anyway. Something about a blood drive before they figured out how to clone blood with the toy maker—”
“Yes, yes, I know all about that,” I said tiredly. “But… a gargant can’t have my DNA. What did they do, clone me?”
The detectives glanced at each other again.
“Out with it,” I snapped.
“The gargant has half your DNA,” Tora said.
That was how much a child of mine would have.
Like the child I sold to the fey.
“Our first thought was that they stole a sample of your blood,” Tora said. “Mixed it up with whatever they wanted for the gargant. But we got a hit on the other half of the DNA, and…” She paused. “We can stop if you want.”
“Why would I want that?”
“Honored Noble,” Gosling said quietly. “You’re crying.”
My hand went to my cheek. I felt something wet there.
I sniffed and wiped the tears away and forced my voice to remain level. “Thank you for informing me of this, detectives. Is there anything else?”
Gosling nodded. “We didn’t come here just to tell you about… well. We have someone at the precinct with a scrying ability. Uh, that means he can—”
“See distant places,” I said. “Yes, I know. Several of my drakes have variants of it. I also know that it is rarely so convenient as to simply choose who you want to scry on. What do you want from me?”
“His ability is bloodline locked,” Tora said. “Or… bloodline boosted. Not sure about that. Anyway, if this gargant is… what we think it is, he should be able to use you as a focus for his power. Use you to find the gargant before it kills again.”
“He hasn’t had a chance to try it on a homunculus,” Gosling said. “So we’re not sure how it works with clones—”
“The gargant is not a clone.”
The detectives didn’t say anything. They had suspected, but hadn’t wanted to step out of place by saying it aloud.
“How urgent is this?” I asked after a moment.
“Very,” Gosling said. “We haven’t been able to determine any sort of pattern for the attacks. Sometimes they come within just a few days of each other.”
He stared at me. “Good?”
“I just wanted to know if I should wake up Zepar and go with you right now. I’m the only Noble awake at the moment.”
“Oh.” He relaxed. “Okay, that’s fine. So you want to do this tonight?”
“We can even bring him here, if that would make things easier,” Tora added.
I considered it. “No, I will go to meet him. I will be safer than he would be. Besides, I’ve been cooped up in here for too long.”
They both nodded in agreement.
“Is ten PM a good time?” I asked, rising.
They rose as well. “That should be fine,” Gosling said. “I’ll double-check that he’ll still be around and give your secretary a call.”
“You can get his card—”
Gosling flipped out a card. “Got it right here.”
I smiled. “Of course. Thank you both for your attention to detail on this investigation.” I frowned. “Actually, I am curious. Why are you involved in this at all? I thought I heard something about the Paladins and their retinue investigating a string of gargant attacks.”
They exchanged a look again.
I rolled my eyes. “Detectives…”
Tora winced, her ears laying flat against her head. “The retinue…” She shook her head. “They’re having problems. Don’t know the full details. But we got the case because it intersected one of ours. Pure coincidence, really.”
“Ah. Well.” I indicated the door. “Please, see yourselves out. I am sure you have much to do today, and I would like to rest up for tonight.”
They both bowed slightly and left.
I collapsed into a chair the second the door closed.
I put my face in my hands. How long was this going to come back to haunt me? One mistake—a big mistake, but still just one—made years ago. I should never have dealt with the fey. I should have taken off running in the opposite direction the second I had seen that naked bitch.
At least the ‘new’ fey were showing their true colors now. Using an old project to attack innocent people didn’t fit with their friendly new ‘culture.’ Well, okay, innocent was a nebulous concept in Domina City, but—
I frowned. Wait one second.
I flipped out my phone and called the front desk. “Have the ‘sarians left yet?” I asked without preamble.
The secretary sounded surprised. “Uh, yes. They just left. Two seconds ago.”
“Bring them back in.”
“Honored Noble, I don’t have my daygoggles, I’ll need to fetch someone—”
“Yes, Honored Noble.” There was a pause, then he returned, out of breath. “They are on their way, Honored Noble.”
“Thank you.” I took a deep breath. “I promise, this is important.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
I smiled. “Of course not.” I hung up.
A few minutes later, the detectives walked back into the conference room, looking confused.
“Apologies,” I said with a smile. “But I thought of something I would like to ask.”
“All right,” Gosling said. I didn’t sit, so neither did they.
“This gargant,” I said. “My—” I couldn’t say it. “This gargant. You said there’s no pattern to its attacks. But is there a pattern to its victims?”
“Possibly,” Tora said, still confused. “Where are you going with this?”
“Are they all criminals?” I asked. “People who couldn’t be touched through normal channels for whatever reason.” I shook my head. “I don’t even know what I’m asking. Maybe they were escaped criminals who changed their faces or something.”
“Or something,” Gosling said. He kept his face impassive. But I could smell something from him—sweat, mixed with something else. I wasn’t good at determining emotions from scents, but there was something there.
Tora shook her head. “Honored Noble, where is this coming from?”
“I was thinking about the fey,” I said. “They’ve stopped their Hunts. They never act aggressively, but they fight ruthlessly when on the defensive. They’re trying as hard as they can to look like a respectable culture.”
The detectives didn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell if they hadn’t figured it out, or if they just didn’t want to accidentally give me any clues.
“That means that whatever they’re doing with this gargant, they think it’s important. Either important enough to their culture to risk their reputation, or important enough to the city that they’ll be vindicated in the end.”
Gosling shuffled on his feet. “…everyone knows that the fey are crazy,” he said after a moment.
“And everyone used to know the world was flat,” I said. “The fey often have insane goals, but their means are always simple and logical enough. If you want to cause chaos, unleashing hordes of monsters works perfectly. The fact that they have soldiers and so on is proof of that.”
“How are soldiers proof of chaos?” Tora asked.
“I mean proof that they’re rational,” I said. That had gotten away from me a bit. “The monsters weren’t cutting it, so they got soldiers. And apparently that wasn’t working either, so they got a new type of gargant.” I shook my head. “Why my baby, I have no idea. Maybe they wanted to draw my attention for some reason. Who knows. The point is, there has to be a pattern.”
Gosling glanced at Tora. “Are we allowed to tell her?”
Tora closed her eyes. “I have no idea. The boss will get pissed if we bother her with this. She’s still busy entertaining the Senator.”
Gosling scratched his head. “Honored Noble. What I am about to tell you is top secret. If there are any recording devices in this room, you need to turn them off.”
I flipped out my phone and pressed a few buttons. “There we go. All off.”
He still looked hesitant, but he nodded. “Okay. It’s simple, really. The gargant is attacking American spies.”
I frowned. “What? Wasn’t this going on since before the war?”
“America has been sending spies to Domina since before the Fall of Eden,” Tora said. “They normally get eaten up and spat out, but they’ve been getting smarter. And like you said, there was the war. We’ve suddenly become much higher priority, and a number of enemy soldiers survived by hiding out in the city.”
I sat back. “And now the fey are cleaning house,” I said.
“Lady Mab claims that the gargant has slipped the leash,” Tora said. “She refuses to give any more information beyond that. Whether it’s true or not, this gargant is dangerous, and needs to be neutralized before it hurts anyone else.”
“I’m surprised you’re so protective of American spies.”
Gosling sighed. “Honored Noble, how do you think a gargant assassinates people?”
I frowned. “I would assume in a similar manner to my own culture. Swiftly, violently. Why?”
“This isn’t some steel-plated gargant that has learned how to slip through defenses and attack from stealth,”Gosling said. “It’s a big one. There’s some name for it, one second…” He flipped out his pad to check his notes.
“Category three,” Tora said. “The same size as a brick-plated gargant.”
I blinked, then felt a mounting horror in my heart. “Its not just killing the spies. It’s killing everyone who happens to be around them at the time.”
Gosling nodded. “And it’s been getting more violent.” He shook his head. “There are some… oddities. Conflicting reports about the way it kills. Regardless, we need to find this creature as soon as possible.”
“Which is why we are thankful you agreed to help,” Tora said. “We’ll see you tonight.”
“No,” I said. I grabbed my daygoggles off a hook next to the door. “We’ll go now. If my—if this gargant really is the threat you think it is, there’s no reason to delay.”
They both relaxed visibly. They hadn’t wanted to push me, but there did want to rush.
“Thank you, Honored Noble,” Tora said.
Gosling took out his phone. “I’ll call ahead, let them know to be ready for us.”
I forced myself to smile. “Hopefully we can sort this out without too much more trouble.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 312)
I’m certain I put the gargant on the back burner for far too long. But this is still the best time to polish off this old story line, along with a couple of others.