Monday, October 16, 2006

Tales of the Rancid Blade: Part Fourteen: A Commercial Attitude

It was a door. Solid. Grey metal. No exterior handle. A grey metal viewing slot was at eye level. Through the slot a panel slid to one side. As it did it issued a metal on metal sliding sound ending in a solid impact noise that echoed. Eyes could be seen peering through the viewing slot. They regarded a figure that stood on the outward side of the door. The figure was clothed in a heavy brown robe, with hood. The form stood in a dark alleyway, brick below its feet, and the twilight sky of a hive city behind. Dampness hung in the hot air, which was uncanny for this dark metropolis.

"Who comes here?" came a man's voice from behind the door.
"Silver swords only cross at night" a female's voice returned a code phrase from beneath the hood. Immediately the viewing portal closed with a similar metallic issuance. Behind the door the sound of a heavy locking system being drawn back occurred and the large door swung inward. The hooded figure proceeded into the doorway and into the secured room beyond.

Once inside the door the figure surveyed the room with a quick turn of the head. It was about fifty feet wide and slightly longer in depth. Several tables were placed under low lights. Figures huddled over drinks beneath the lights. A bar crowded with hivers was at the rear of the room. Several looked up at the newcomer. Some neon blinked. Some off world music played. The man who had been peering through the hole was large. Large stomach, arms, balding. He wore the colors of Ossymandis' Clan. The Clan was part of House Goliath and serviced this part of the hive smelting and reprocessing disused ore to be shipped up hive. Large protruding lips spoke "ID and Gun check". His hand was held out.

The figure handed over an auto gun with a repeater clip and then pulled back the hood revealing the head of a woman: The Nurse. Her white hair had grown out. It was no longer the close shoulder length favored by The Order of the Cloistered Heart but instead was long and tied back in a tail. She offered an ID card that displayed a House sanction and a fictional name. The fat bald man surveyed her ID and then looked at her scarred face. "Does Ossymadis know you're here? What business does the House want in a clan watering hole?”

"The House is looking someone ~ a girl. The House is prepared to pay" The Nurse said slowly.

The door guy responded, "I don't sell things" he handed her the ID back, "but he does" glancing in the direction of the bar. The Nurse walked across the floor, eyes followed her. She walked to a figure that wore a bright yellow suit of Nylex silk, he wore the sash of a guilder clan. He turned toward her as she approached. He was young. The kind of guilder who was out to prove something, always networking, always looking for a deal.

"A guilder alone at the bar? business must be slow” The Nurse said meeting his eyes.

"Quite the contrary" he responded, offering his hand "I am making a deal right now” She grinned out of the side over her mouth. "What can I do for a Sister of the Adeptus Sorority?"

The Nurse was taken aback, and visibly so. How could he have known her identity? "Don't be surprised,” the guilder said. "There isn't much that goes on in this part of the hive that I don't know about". The Nurse sat at the vacant stool next to the Gilder. How much did he know? "My name is Foilliam Ingram and I am pleased to meet you" he said. They shook hands. His unglove dhand against her crimson leather gloves.

Foilliam took a drink of his Snakebite and swallowed looking back toward the bar. The Nurse raised her hand to order a shot. "I figure commerce diffrently works down in the hive ithan in most of the Imperium" Foilliam said.

"How’s that?" The nurse responded "we're still on Mordian".

He nodded "My guess is that you are used to marching into anyplace you like and taking whatever you like. The power of the Sisters of Battle behind you".

"It is the power of faith that is behind us” the sister responded.

The gilder nodded again in his slow way. He looked about the bar as if he were looking for the faith she spoke about. "Well, down here, in the hive, I put my faith in numbers~ currency” The sister nodded. "You didn't have to kill Luther to find out where I was." Foilliam said as an example "You could have just paid him". The Nurse recalled the snapping sound the ganger’s neck. She had then forced him with his last breath to reveal the location of the watering hole.

"I guess you don't need to pay me either, you could just take me away to the local chapel and have your Excoriatiors pull whatever information I have directly from my mind." Pause. "That’s the one thing I can't figure out, sister, why haven't you already done that? Perhaps you don't need information at all. Perhaps you need something else from me". He joined her silence waiting for a response. The Nurse sipped the snakebite considering her responce. "I don't think you're here with the blessing of the matron." he said "I think you are here gunning solo".

He took her continued silence as acknowledgement. After a moment and the last of her snakebite she spoke. "I need to hire you to help me find a girl. I lost her. SHe is probably travling with an odd stranger. A woman with pale skin. Don't mistake me Guilder, I find your commercial attitude untrustworthy but I am willing to engage you. Not because I think you know where she is but rather because I think you know how I can find her".

"...Or who can find her?" he finished her sentence.

"Yes” pause "I also wish to keep my dealings quiet. And I am prepared to pay to keep it quiet. My sisters do not need to know this,” she said. Foilliam nodded and looked into The Nurses' face. He imagined her stealing away from the other Sisters in her order once she realized the girl was gone. His gaze traced the woman's age. He saw in her eyes war weariness and tragedy. He imagined her comming up with some excuse for the girls absence rather than kidnapping as he suspected. A scar arced down her face. She was well older than he by at least two decades. He had seen this girl. He had seen her with two others passing through the Bellowmarket. They walked past the Haspspa vendors, through the crowd. What had caught his attention was the pale sickly face of the stranger peering from a black hood. They were being led through the crowd by a Goliath that he didn't recognise.

He couldn't figure out why she had come to his watering hole when there were many other gilders who could have helped her. More experienced guilders. But he wasn't about to turn this opportunity down. Helping her, no matter what she was involved in, kidnapping or otherwise, would certainly elevate his standing with the guild. She could also pay ~ he knew that.

"Well, lets visit some friends of mine first” he said standing to leave.

She grabbed his arm "friends?"

"Yes ~ friends. The first rule of the hive is you don't get anything without friends." She let his arm go and followed him as he left the bar "And I know just where to buy them".


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