We ventured back downstairs about thirty minutes later. Tanis sat patiently in the living room; she wore the cap and goggles again, presumably prepared to leave.
“Lucy, I need maps of Orc Country. Do happen to have any stashed around here?”
“Yes, I’ll go grab them.” She said and walked off to her workshop. She returned moments later handing me the maps, my pistol and the Apollo’s keys.
“OK Tanis, here’s the plan. First, we are going to visit my friend at the airship docks. I’m going to make arrangements for Braylen to be transported safely from the city.”
Tanis nodded silently in agreement, I continued.
“Then you are going to drop me off at the Founder’s statue where I will meet up with Brill. You will follow Brill’s Zeus at a safe distance. You will have to be cautious once you enter orc country. Any non orc caught in that side of town driving anything more than a Hera or Hephaestus is subject to a heist.”
“She won’t have to worry about that.” Lucy interrupted.
“Why is that?” I asked with an inquisitive eyebrow raised.
“My Apollo is enchanted with an illusion spell. Once the engine is running the spell activates, as long as you keep the steammobile under forty-five miles per hour it will appear as an old busted Demeter.”
“That is convenient” Tanis said.
“The city police commissioned the project. They were looking for a way to infiltrate some of the more volatile areas of Lower City, like Orc Country. They want to crack down on some of the gangs and the black market trade.”
“Cloaked patrol cars would be handy.” I said.
“Yes, I haven’t perfected the process yet. This is a one-time deal. The enchantment breaks down after the illusion drops.”
“OK, we can work with that.”
“Would it not be better if I go in as I can cloak myself and Braylen is familiar with me?” Tanis asked.
“Yes, it would. Brill does not know you and we do not have the time to get you acquainted. In addition, if things get hairy I can fight my way out.” I told her.
I checked Lucy’s wheel and saw it was loaded with standard ammunition. I holstered the weapon and secured the belt around my hip. I put my goggles around my forehead and felt a little sad that I had lost my hat in the scuffle. Lucy must have noticed and handed me a black leather ivy cap. I walked toward the workshop with Lucy and Tanis in tow.
Lucy pressed the combination for the pressure locked door and we went inside. Tanis and I slid into the Apollo onto the red leather seats. I don’t know what it is about leather seats, but they felt fantastic. I started the engine and listened to it purr like a well fed lion. Small puffs of steam vented from the miniature stacks on the car’s hood. Lucy opened the large garage door behind the vehicle. She walked over and gave me a reassuring kiss or a last kiss, I wasn’t sure which it was.
“Lucy, I know you don’t leave this place often. But could you meet us at my office when I summon you in the scrying mirror?”
“Yes, I can do that, you’ll want to switch cars anyway.”
I pulled out of the garage and drove into rain-covered city. The Apollo handled like a dream and shifted smoothly through traffic at the slightest touch. The powerful engine roared and steam puff from the bronze exhaust with the softest touch of the petal. Using the highway, the trip to the airship docks was brief and we pulled into the parking lot shortly after our departure. The gray sky cried quiet tears as I brought the steammobile to a stop. I could see the Sun Bird hovering in the dock next other ships of varying sizes. The Sunbird was a converted brigantine style vessel fitted with a single helium balloon and twin propeller steam engines. I parked the car and silenced the engine.
We exited the car and walked up the wood planked dock. The docks were full of hustle and bustle as the workers loaded and unloaded the shipments. I made my way toward the Sun Bird. Standing in front of the ship at about four feet tall was the most the most uncharacteristic dwarfs anyone had ever seen. His flame colored hair was tied in a long braided ponytail. He wore a brown derby style hat with a large red feather poking out of it. He wore a pair of brass colored goggles with ruby lenses. Under his large nose he had fashioned flame colored handlebar mustaches, big, puffy and curled perfectly on the tips.
Ovur Brassbeard wore a worn violet colored frock coat over a maroon collar vest and a white shirt. He wore gray slacks and rubber sole airman’s boots. He was short and stocky common for dwarfs. I walked over to him with a wave and a smile. He signed a document and the dockworker the dwarf had been talking to walk off in the opposite direction.
“Marcus Moore, how good it is to see,” he said with a warm smile.
“Hello Ovur, it’s good to see you too. Might we have a word in private.” I said looking around. I did not think anyone was watching us. But years as a detective make you cautious.
“Sure, come on aboard”
We followed Ovur up the ramp and onto the vessel. I waved to the members of his crew that I knew. Ovur and I go back a bit. A few years back the Sun Bird had been stolen. I helped Ovur get her back. Now that I think about it that was another unpleasant experience.
Ovur led us to his captain’s quarters. It was a small room, but big enough to fit a small dining table, writing desk and a bed. The place was also littered with random items Ovur had collected over the years. Enchanted scrolls, miniature statues, a bronze spyglass, a horned helmet and the corner he even had a traditional dwarven war hammer.
We sat at the little dining table. Ovur poured us each a glass of fresh orange juice. He offered us each a pastry from a small tray. I took one graciously and settled in my sit. Tanis declined the offer but did partake of the juice.
“Alright mate, what can I do for you?” Ovur asked as he sat back in his chair.
I told him the situation, everything dealing with the kid getting grabbed and the fact that the kid is being hunted by Devlin Works. He nodded in silence until I completed the tale.
“Wow mate, you don’t do anything in half measures.
“You know me. So here’s the deal I’m calling in that favor. I need you to fly the kid to Haven.
“I’m assuming you will be coming in hot.”
“If all goes to plan, we won’t be. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.”
Ovur laughed heartily “They usually go up in flames.”
We both shared a laugh. Tanis stared at us blankly. I don’t think she got the joke.
“All right, mate. I take this is happening tonight?”
“More like today. I’m meeting up with Brill at three. I’m sneaking in and with some luck sneaking out.”
“OK, the Sun Bird will be ready to fly the moment the kid steps on her deck.” he told me.
I rose and shook Ovur Brassbeard’s hand. “Thanks old friend. Three is approaching we must be on our way.”
He shook my hand back and escorted us off the Sun Bird. We walked back down the docks and I handed Tanis the keys.
“Let us make our way to the Founder’s Statue.” I told her.
Tanis backed us out of the parking spot and we made our way downtown toward the heart of Luimere. Through the fog and rain I watched the giants loam over all. The high rises of the city reached fifty to sixty stories. Filled with offices, apartments, shops and even factories.
I never thought about it much but the city had a life of its own. We, the citizens of the great city, are no more than mere insect milling about its great big back. Everyday a new building rises and another falls. A new gang appears and another is wiped off the city’s grime filled streets. Still Luimere is home.
Tanis kept to the back streets and maintained a speed below forty-five. We had already activated the enchantment, which made the car appear to be nothing more than a Junker. I thought about the plan and hoped the faint scent I had gotten from the kid’s sock would be enough. Tanis broke the silence I had grown accustom to when alone with her.
“Is it wise to return to your office if Arlena Silverstein is having it watched?”
“Wise? Not so much, but it is the only somewhat safe place between where we are coming from and where we are going.”
She frowned “You are putting yourself a lot of risk. Why?”
“I believe why not is a better question. Lucy was right. I could not live with myself knowing I turned my back on a kid, particularly a kid in the hands of Morntok. Tell me something, why are you doing it. I mean, why doesn’t your office have a “to do” list when jobs go sour.” She stared silently out the window for a minute.
“This is a personal favor. Dr. Joseph Dorn was a friend. He asked one thing of me. He asked that I keep his son safe and I failed. You present an opportunity to redeem myself and honor my promise.”
“You speak as if the doctor is no longer alive.”
“At this moment he may or may not be. Arlena Silverstein is a ruthless, as she is ambitious.” she said pulling into the drive leading to the Founder’s Circle park.
Tanis stopped the car in the parking lot just in front of the Founder’s Statue. I looked at my pocket watch; it was a quarter till three o’clock. I exited the car and removed the leather case out of the backseat. I walked over to the driver’s side of the Apollo and placed my hand on Tanis’s shoulder.
“We will get the kid back.” I reassured her.
She nodded in silent agreement. I turned around and made my way up the stairs to the Founder’s Statue. The statue itself stood about twenty feet tall and featured the three founding fathers of Luimere. Braddock Chase of human descent, Hiro Leafwind, the elf and Fargus O’Mallroy, the gnome were adventurers as well as scientists. They revolutionized the world with the advent of steam- powered generators. With their wealth and combined knowledge they purchased the land that Luimere was to be built upon.
That was some fifty years ago. Now Luimere was a thriving behemoth that had consumed many of the surrounding towns and villages. The founders created the senate to take the role of the governing body. There are twelve seats on the senate and an elected official holds each. A few years ago the founders seemingly vanished. Some say they died and the government is hiding the fact. Others believe that the founders transferred their collect consciousness to a vessel that stands a counselor to the senate. Personally, I think they just retired and faded from the forefront.
I walked around the statue admiring the craftsmanship in the rain, before taking a seat on the bench were Brill and I first met. Thoughts of that day flashed through my mind. I had tracked down a jewel thief to a street vendor that would sell noodles from a portable cart in park. I was sitting at that bench watching my target when the most attractive orc female I had ever seen sat down next to me.
She was tall, six foot seven inches, in the low heels she wore. She donned a dark purple dress with black lace frills for trim around the sleeves and bottom of the dress. She wore a black corset that pushed up her bust quite pleasantly. Her hair was fashioned in puffy curls with a black and purple feather headdress. Overall, the ensemble went well with her vibrant green skin color and surprisingly her rather defined muscles did not take away from her overall attractiveness, but instead enhanced the appeal.
We made small talk while I kept my eye on the noodle vendor. She told me how she like coming to Founder’s Park because of the contrast to Orc Country in Lower City. The clean streets, the high class people, the complete lack of gang presence. She spoke of how she was surprised that she was not looked down upon or mistreated as she had expected her first time out.
I recalled at some point she asked what I did for a living. That was when the thief went to make the exchange. I hopped up told her it was a pleasure and ran after the buyer. Both individuals leaped in surprised and dashed in different directions. The thief to my surprise sprinted toward me and dashed under my grasping arms. He was a spry little elf. He bolted toward where I had been sitting with Brill.
She stood from the bench and I remember seeing a small smirk on her violet painted lips. She outstretched her right arm as the thief was running passed her. I imagine it must have been like running into a steel girder. She did not flinch but the runner spun three full rotations in the air before land poorly on his back. I recovered the stolen item and with a wide smile extended my arm insisting she walk with me. We went on our first date that very day.
My little way down memory lane faded with a nudge in my side. “I like the beard, sweetie. It suits you well.” Brill said as she settled on the bench next to me.
I rubbed my hand on my chin and turned to face her “I’ve always been a bit fuzzy. I’m glad you agreed to this.”
“It is not like you guilt tripped me... oh, wait,” she laughed. “Besides you did make a tempting offer.”
She leaned closer pressing her body to mine and kissed me deeply. Orc females generally take what they want, so I’ve learned. Now, I don’t want you to think I have those of the opposite sex throwing themselves at me all the time, cause they don’t. OK, well maybe a little bit. It’s a part of those gifts from parent’s thing I’ve mentioned before.
Brill growled in ecstasy and whispered lustfully. “I forgot how much I missed that.”
“I have to say I had forgotten how good you were at that as well. But I digress we have a matter of import to attend to.” I panted between breaths.
“Yes, yes there is a poor little human boy to save. What’s your way out?”
“I’ve got a car that’s going to shadow us. I just need to make a quick summons to my back up and we’ll be ready to go.”
I pulled my portable scrying mirror from my coat pocket and summoned Tobias. He answered after the second chime. I could see he was parked on the side of the street sitting on his steam-powered bike.
“Cousin?” he said.
“Tobias, we are going ahead with the plan. Have your guys ready to back me up just inside orc country. We’ll be in an all black Apollo.”
“An Apollo?” he asked surprised.
“Yes, Lucy lent it to me.”
“Boy, I wish I had you luck with the ladies. Is that Brill I see in the background?”
“Hello Tobias” Brill called.
“Hey there Brill. Good to see you.”
“Likewise.” She said.
“All right, all right.” I interrupted. “See you soon, Tobias.”
“Fates be with you, cousin.”
I closed the connection and turned back to Brill. She looked me up and down like a butcher deciding which bit was the best slab of meat. I shook my head and smiled, “Shall we.”
“I suppose though I’m half tempted to make you pay half up front. And I’m not talking about the sexy little rifle you are carrying.”
“Oh, I knew what you meant. I promise you. I survive this and I’ll give you your fill.”
“Boys and their promises.”