Amanda began her working morning by giving Maired a guided tour of the facility, satisfying her need to know about power conduits, the emergency sprinklers and the water and waste pipes. The early morning gym users were having breakfast and Gavin was cleaning up in the gym. Dennis and Gwaiva had taken their coffee and retreated to the computer room to “look over the early morning feeds.”
“You know,” commented Mannix, “I don’t know what she thinks but I don’t think he’s moved beyond, ‘Gwaiva speaks tech!’ Does anyone think he realises she’s an attractive girl?”
“Einar Haraldsson,” Cheryl’s screech from the balcony outside Einar’s bedroom cut off any answer. “What is this mess? I can’t vacuum your floor if everything you own is on it!” The blond, seven foot tall frost giant put down his fork with a guilty expression and hurried up to his room while the others watched, slightly surprised at his reaction. As he went in his door Cheryl added crisply, “If that’s dirty washing, it’s not going to take itself to the laundry!”
Later, back at the table to finish his breakfast Einar explained to Calhoun, “But she is scarier than my mother – she’s smaller so all that fierceness is more concentrated!”
Brise was listening to someone else. “I find the construction of this team interesting,” Maired told her quietly as they sipped their tea. “The choice of archetypes as well as the skill sets. There’s someone missing, of course.”
“That’s a conversation for another day,” Amanda said briskly to her as she emerged from the computer room. “There’s a job on. This is what you get paid for, people.”
Inside the computer room a large screen took up most of one wall from seated eye height up. From it a mature man of military bearing, his background a computer room like their own spoke, “Our city has been infiltrated by a group of interest.”
The picture on the screen split in two, one half still showing the speaker and the other showing security footage of five men, each carrying a black case, leaving the arrivals area of the international airport. The camera view switched to the external taxi rank where, despite being part of a group, each man took a separate taxi. Then the picture switched to one still of one man taken from a video sequence they’d just seen. “Your task is to apprehend this man. The others have each been assigned to one of the other teams with Team Three held in reserve. It is preferred that you do not cause him permanent damage.”
“He’s a Knight of the Sun,” pointed out Bolt quietly. “They’re all Knights of the Sun. You can tell by that shrunken cloak brooch they’re wearing as a badge.”
“So they’re agents of the Lord of the Summer Isle?” That was from Brise who looked as if her own words made her a very unhappy blonde quarter-harpy.
“Not necessarily,” Bolt was still quiet and considered. “According to the briefing I got when I first ran into them, they support him but have been known to act proactively and independently on his behalf. Third parties have occasionally taken steps to rein in their...militancy.”
“Yes,” agreed their onscreen briefer, “they could well be acting without the Lord of the Summer Isle’s knowledge. Whatever they’re up to, we need them gathered in as soon as possible. Particularly if they don’t want to be. Fortunately we have your target’s initial destination from the taxi company.”
Emerging from the briefing ten minutes later, Calhoun commented to Amanda, “So there are five other teams like ours. Who’s in them?” That was followed, almost as a throw away line, by, “Why six teams?”
“Six like the sides of a snow flake,” said Cheryl as she went past with a bucket of cleaning equipment and promptly flushed bright red.
“Actually, from what I know of the elf, that could be exactly it,” replied Maired thoughtfully. She gave Cheryl a look that was sharp but not at all unfriendly.
They caught up with their prey on the northern side of the inner harbour. The solidly built, olive skinned man tried to throw his black case into the water when they cornered him, cursing solidly in Spanish, Latin and something unfamiliar when Brise caught it before it hit the water, trailing her feet through the water as the down beat of her wings took her and the case up again.
Hladvic, Gwaiva and Maired agreed that the case wasn’t trapped so Hladvic carefully opened it while Einar and Calhoun restrained the prisoner who was struggling to variations of, “I am Tabnit, Knight of the Sun. Unhand me, ingrate peasants!” Inside the case was divided into six compartments. Three were empty. The remaining three compartments each held a dark, round object with a runic-looking script incised into it.”
“Those are magical,” announced Maired. “Let me have a better look.” The other two made room for her as she knelt down beside the open case. The small-boned woman muttered something under her breath as she held her open hand over the three objects. “Well, these three aren’t active.” She carefully picked one up to look at it more carefully. “It looks like, no, it is a hunting lure.”
“That doesn’t sound very sporting,” Mannix and Brise were standing watch to keep the public away while Vasa was bringing up the van, but Mannix was close enough to hear Maired and comment.
“They’re not,” agreed the wizard, “they’re for when you’re starving or you’re after a dangerous predator. I’ve seen them used on man-eaters in Africa and Siberia. This is unusual though.” She tapped a portion of the writing. “This script picked up some Egyptian influence so proper nouns and names go in cartouches. Normally it would just have deer or wolf or tiger here. This has a name.”
Tabnit the prisoner froze at her words.
“Oh?” Calhoun pulled out a knife as he regarded his suddenly still prisoner with a professional eye.
“Slivvas?” Maired paused, and then shook her head. “I don’t know it.”
“The sea serpent?” That was Einar, shocked.
“It’s supposed to frozen in ice at the far end of-,” Gwaiva whipped out her mobile phone and pressed a button. “Dennis, I need you to look for anything about big chunks of ice breaking off the Antarctic ice shelves. Probably no further back than when the elf took over the city. I’ll wait on the line.”
“Sea serpent?” Mannix was cautious.
“A creature long enough to wrap itself around a frost giant long ship and smash it to pieces,” explained Einar grimly, tightening his grip on the prisoner, “and still be longer than the ship it was attacking.”
“So maybe not a danger to modern ocean-going ships but dangerous to pleasure craft, fishing boats, dhows and that sort of thing?” That was Mannix, extrapolating.
“It used to raid coastal villages,” added Gwaiva and Einar nodded in agreement. “That’s why the ice elves co-operated with the frost giants to trap it.”
“And they’re calling it here?” Brice’s waving indicated the city and suburbs around them.
Tabnit had begun to smirk as they’d begun to realise what he’d been doing, “You’ll never find-.” He froze again as Calhoun’s knife slit his jacket and shirt up his back from behind.
“Hold still and I may not cut the skin when I do the pants, you bastard,” Calhoun was snarling, urbanity gone. “Let’s see what else you’re carrying, right now. Sorry ladies, but he lost all right to public privacy when he started planting a weapon of mass destruction.”
It was a long afternoon and a long evening before all of the Knights of the Sun and their toys were rounded up. Two of Knights were in hospital after resisting apprehension, two no longer had their own clothing and one had been delivered into centralised detention hogtied to a pole.
None of the Knights had co-operated in the recovery of the lures and one was too concussed to be coherent no matter what he wanted to do. Each of the lures could be held in an adult human hand and they had had to track down seventeen of them. Magic had helped as had knowing where each man had been found and where he’d been dropped off by his taxi but they’d still needed emu parades and divers to cover the territory. It was nearly midnight when the last lure was recovered from a grease trap behind a suburban shopping centre three suburbs inland from either the harbour or the coast.
Tom the cook had supper waiting for the team when they returned to the base and Gavin was awake to help them stow their equipment before they cleaned up and ate. Cheryl, who was sleeping, would have noted that there was no snoring to be heard.
Eating before falling into bed, Mannix commented, “It worries me that their first reaction to what the elf is doing, and I admit I don’t understand the ins and outs of these Accords yet, is a weapon of mass destruction.”
“They are loyal fanatics,” Bolt shrugged as he ate.
“They started with a weapon of mass destruction,” clarified Hladvic, “so where do they go next?”