We are searching carefully for any clues, though I notice Serron is filling his pockets from the mini-bar.
I saw the pair of guardsmen walking around the markets, but was paying them little attention when a commotion broke out near them. Two aliens - a Chatka and a Sparrial - seemed to be having a scuffle with the guardsmen. One was already lying on the ground, unconscious. Someone was running off through the crowds and I ordered another constable, stationed on the far side of the square, to pursue the suspect. At that point, the Chatka drew a stunner and fired at one of the guardsmen, knocking him unconscious. Constable Harris McIntyre and myself grappled and pinned the Chatka, suspecting foul play on his behalf.
When we had the Chatka restrained, a Pachekki ran out of the crowd, shouting that he was a doctor, and went to examine the guardsman who had been stunned by the Chatka. The Pachekki loosened the man's clothing and bent to examine him carefully, then jumped up and yelled, "He's got a bomb on him!" He pointed inside the man's shirt, where we could see wires protruding. The Chatka became agitated and started pointing at the guardsman with the bomb. Since neither myself nor Constable McIntyre speak Chatka, I gave the Chatka a pen and notebook to write with. He wrote that he saw the guardsman with the bomb knock out the other guardsman, which he thought was a bit strange. Then he had caught a glimpse of the bomb on the guardsman and acted to protect himself and others in the marketplace from what was obviously an insane terrorist plot.
At this point, the bomb exploded, killing the guardsman and causing minor injuries to a few bystanders.
We have called for ambulance and police backup, and are bringing the Chatka - who claims to be an important guest of the Government - in for questioning.
While walking through the marketplace, which was well populated but not crowded, I had a quick conversation with a passerby. I offered him some money to run, yelling, through the marketplace, in order to create a diversion so we could slip away from the guards. When the man began attracting everyone's attention, Serron injected the guard nearest him with morphazine, knocking him out almost immediately. Spanners then stunned the other guard with a stunner. Unfortunately, two policemen were nearby and saw Spanners firing. They ran over and grabbed him before he could get away, but Serron and I melted into the crowd.
An idea came to me, and I ran back to the stunned guard, claiming to be a doctor. I bent over the guard carefully to conceal my work as a quickly planted some Plastex-B on him, and fitted it with a radio-controlled fuse. When I was done, I leaped back and shouted that the man had a bomb strapped to his body. I was hoping that the police would let Spanners go, but they kept hold of him. I heard Spanners yelling that the police couldn't understand him, but that he would tell them a story about how he saw the bomb on the guard and how the guard must be a terrorist. He told Serron and me that he could look after himself, and told us to go find Paris. I realised that the guard's story would just confuse things when he woke up, so had to detonate the explosives to avoid that situation.
I am now on my way to the gladiator prison where this Sargon is being held. Serron is going to the Green Pagoda. Hopefully one of us will find a clue that leads us to Paris.
I went in the front door earlier. There were only a few customers inside. I sat at the bar and ordered a drink. Paris was nowhere to be seen, so I asked the bartender if he had seen anyone matching her name or description. He said he hadn't, and then immediately went through a door into a back room. I went over to the door and heard him make a phone call, so I decided to distract him and opened the door. He turned around and yelled at me to get out of the room. I closed the door, then went behind the bar and yelled, "Drinks are on the house!" and started pouring as many drinks as I could get my hands on.
The bar patrons all raced over and grabbed drinks. Then the bartender burst out of the back room and said, "What the hell's going on here?!" As he tried to regain some order, I slipped into the back room unnoticed. I picked up the phone, hit the redial button and, when someone answered, said "Get down here right away!" Then I hung up and left through the back door which was in the room. It led to this alleyway, where I'm now waiting for whoever was on the other end of that phone call to show up.
Now back at our hotel suite, I see Serron and Iki Piki are fast asleep. Typical.
Serron: Hi, I'm a hero - perhaps you've heard of me. Serron, the Sparrial who single-handedly rescued Queen Natasha of Rubilith from hordes of heavily armed rebels and brought her here to safety.
Voice: Erm... yes... What can I do for you?
Serron: I'm a keen collector of antique volumes, and was wondering if you might have some of the following titles: "The Malfaesance of Augustus Lane" by Albert Laplace, "Liquidity Preference" by John Snell, "Life with a Dogmatist" by Cornus Octamerous, "A History of the Ochabbian Wars" by Giamo Potenza...
Voice: Wait, I have a copy of that one. A first edition if I remember. Let me go check. [Pause] Yes, yes, here it is. Reasonable condition.
Serron: Excellent! That will make a worthy addition to my extensive collection. I'd like to come down there some time today and see it, if I may.
Voice: Certainly sir. I'll keep it aside for you.
Serron: I'll see you in an hour or two.
We arrived at the restaurant and began eating. Serron excused himself to go to the bathroom. He never came back. We presume he climbed out the window. The guards kept us under an especially watchful eye for the rest of the meal and until we got back to the hotel. It's doubtful we'll get another chance to evade them.
After telling my companions of Kennedy Antoine's plea for help in rescuing Sargon, and seeing their reluctance to get involved, I decided I had to act. I sneaked out of the hotel by knocking out the guard posted to watch the fire stairs on our floor and made my way back to the Green Pagoda.
Antoine was glad to see me, and said that with my help we could free Sargon that night. He took me across town to the prison, and a small used book store across the road. There he introduced me to Gerard Malley, the proprieter of the store and a sympathiser with the rebellion. He had volunteered a back room in his shop as the starting location of a tunnel under the street and into the gladiator complex. Antoine and Malley had been excavating the tunnel for a few weeks, and all they needed was the information provided by the map to locate Sargon's cell so they could make an attempt to rescue him with minimal danger.
The tunnel was cramped and twisty, turning often to avoid water pipes and power and data cables buried under the street. Judging from Sargon's map, we chose a spot to break through into the prison. The tunnel didn't reach far enough for us to break through the floor of Sargon's cell, so we had to choose the nearest cell we could. Unfortunately, we chose the cell of a prisoner whose startled cries alerted the guards, and we were unceremoniously captured and placed in separate cells.
I was in the cell for about twelve hours, when I heard a commotion from some of the guards. Figuring that it might be someone staging a rescue attempt, I decided to attract a guard to open my cell door, hoping I could fight my way out. By feigning illness I coaxed a guard into my cell, where I started throwing punches, but he knocked me out.
When I came to, Serron was standing over me, slapping my face to wake me. As I stood up, he said we had to get out of there in a hurry. Stepping out into the corridor I saw about ten guards, all unconscious, in two groups, one near my cell door and another at the end of the corridor. I didn't stop to ask how he'd managed that - he was already running down the corridor - but I said we had to rescue Kennedy Antoine as well. Serron said we didn't have time, we had to get out now before more guards arrived.
But I had seen how the guards opened the cell doors, and I knew Antoine was being held only a few cells down from the one I was in. I grabbed a communicator off one of the unconscious guards and called the prison command centre. Faking an Invernessian accent, I said there was a serious problem with a prisoner in one of the cells and we needed the door opened. The command centre opened the door remotely and we had Antoine with us.
At this point Antoine insisted we also rescue Sargon, since he would never have another chance like this. Serron became increasingly irritated and ran off to the escape tunnel, leaving us behind. It took Antoine and me half a minute or so to find Sargon's cell, where we ordered it opened from the command centre again. By this time, we could hear a large number of guards entering the wing of the building we were in and racing down the corridors towards us. We fled to the escape tunnel, where there were more unconscious guards. Serron had already gone through the tunnel.
We scrambled in and started moving through the tunnel. A little way in, there was water, filling the whole tunnel as it went deeper to go under the road. We had to hold our breaths as we negotiated the twisty passage. When we got to the other end, we saw Serron dumping books from the shop into the tunnel, in an effort to block it behind us as we escaped. Antoine suggested running a power cable from the shop into the water, to electrify it and prevent anyone following us at all. We did this and then left through the back door where Antoine had a car waiting for us. Gerard Malley from the shop came with us.
Antoine urged us to come with him to his secret base camp in the wilderness outside Albert Town, where he and his band of rebels would lie low for a while, but Serron and I felt we had to return to Spanners, Iki and Queen Natasha. They dropped us off at the hotel and drove off into the perpetual darkness of Inverness.
When I arrived at the Tyrolean Bookshop, I had a look at the old book that the man there said he had for me. I entertained the man with some of my friendly banter, but he looked a bit nervous and excused himself to go into a back room for a minute. When he came back out, he told me I had to leave. Since this was clearly an unreasonable request, I kept on browsing the books and telling him some of my famous exploits. He threatened to throw me out if I didn't leave right away. He was clearly distressed, so I decided to stop beating around the bush and ask him about Paris.
The man almost broke down in despair, telling me that Paris had come to the shop with Kennedy Antoine to use the tunnel from his back room into the gladiator prison to try to break Sargon out. They had gone into the tunnel about ten hours earlier, and hadn't reappeared. He feared they had been captured, which seemed reasonable. Being a fairly old man, he didn't think he could use the tunnel himself. So I did the heroic thing and went in myself.
Exploring the tunnel cautiously, I saw that there were water pipes and cables exposed in the walls. Near the far end I could see light, and hear a pair of guards talking to each other in a bored way. They said something about how long it would be until they got a bomb squad in to check the tunnel for booby traps. I decided a diversion was needed, and cut a hole in a water pipe, hoping to get one of them to investigate so I could stun him easily. They didn't seem keen to enter the tunnel though, so I held on to a pipe above the water level and threw in my supply of catalyst crystals, which caused the water to boil and produced a cloud of steam. The guards didn't investigate, but left the room where the tunnel emerged.
I took the opportunity to climb out of the tunnel unseen, and climbed up above the door. When three guards came into the room, I stunned them from behind, then dropped down and stunned a final guard who was standing watch outside the door. That guard actually saw me, so I quickly made sure he couldn't tell anyone by injecting some air into his veins with my hypo-injector.
I started down a corridor, looking for Paris, when two more guards appeared from around a corner and fired stunners at me. I was hit, but my exceptional stamina let me shake off the effects easily. This caused a bit of noise, and it was then that Paris must have heard me, because I heard her yelling from around a corner somewhere. I decided my best chance was to fast talk the guards, so I told them that there had been a nasty incident around the corner and that they should follow me. This was enough to confuse them, and they followed me to where I'd left the first guards. One of the guards didn't like the look of this and grappled me, while the other ran off to investigate what sounded like a fight from where Paris was.
I took this chance to whirl in the guard's grip and shoot him with my stunner, but the weapon failed to operate! Quickly I got my hypo out and injected him with morphazine - much more reliable! Then I ran off down the corridor away from where the sounds of fighing could be heard, to circle around and approach from the other side. I passed a main guard post and yelled at the guards there that there was a group of traitors amongst the guards who were releasing prisoners and causing trouble. Most of them looked surprised and starting running after me.
I turned a corner and saw a group of guards aound Paris' cell. I dived headlong on to the ground and yelled, "I'm hit!" The guards on my tail rounded the corner into a barrage of stunner fire from their fellow guards, and opened fire in retaliation. Meanwhile, on the ground I fiddled with my faulty stunner and got it working again. By the time I looked up, all the guards except one were unconscious on the ground, so I shot him, but my stunner failed again! This made me really mad, so I charged him and injected him with morphazine as he reeled back in shock.
Paris was in the cell, knocked unconscious. I revived her and said we had to escape. She said something about having to rescue Antoine, but by that time I was halfway back to the tunnel. I was ready to set fire to the books I threw into the tunnel when Paris, Antoine and Sargon crawled out and suggested the even better idea of electrifying the water.
Something has just occurred to me, and I asked Spanners how much he knows about the sort of security systems that might be in the gladiator complex and may have recorded incriminating evidence on video. He answered, "Why do I have the feeling this question is less than hypothetical?" But he's now trying to hack into their security computers and see what he can do about erasing the evidence...
Sergeant Milson: This is the police! Open up!
Iki Piki: Yes officer?
Sergeant Milson: Paris Smith and Serron? You are under arrest for aiding the escape of a convicted prisoner. Iki Piki and Spanners, you are also under arrest, on suspicion of aiding and abetting the aforesaid crime.
Serron: All I see is some Sparrial. He doesn't look anything like me! Don't tell me you humans can't tell the difference? I suppose we all look the same to you...
[Door opens and Captain Poynset enters.]
Captain Poynset: Drop it Milson. They're being released.
Sergeant Milson: What?!
Captain Poynset: Queen Natasha says they're all official ambassadors of Rubilith, travelling in her entourage. They have immunity.
Sergeant Milson: %$*@#!!
Captain Poynset: You lot, you're out of here. Get out, and don't let me see your faces again.
Spanners is calculating astrogation parameters for the skew into hyperspace. Queen Natasha appears relieved to be leaving this planet. A short discussion settled our next destination. With the engine Serron purchased now on board, my paying passengers want to return to Arawne and their own ship. Queen Natasha, looking over our list of possible destinations, decided Arawne was also the nearest planet with a political situation amenable to her making an appeal for help in regaining control of Rubilith. So, in about five minutes when Spanners is done calculating, we will be on our way to Arawne.
I hope that the small rebel movement we managed to help here in a small way can maintain strength and gather support to eventually overthrow this harsh and cruel regime.