Deals and Breakers 5



Lily and I crept along the hallway. By now, she was deeply suspicious I wasn’t a regular servant girl. We’d taken an innocuous side door to get out of the ballroom where guests and servants were all being gathered. It was locked, but I finessed it by using my skilled fingers to break the lock with brute strength.

“So, that back there… you’re some sort of cybernetic robo-nanny, is that it? Part maid and part bodyguard?” she asked.

Sure, let’s go with that. “Yeah. Lot more to me than meets the eye. You’re perceptive.”

“Are you from Earth, too?” She stopped, checking behind her.

“Hey!” Someone called out.

Lily started to run, but I grabbed my belly and groaned. I leaned against the wall. She stopped, panicking. “What’s wrong?”

“The baby’s coming! My water broke!” I called out. The pair of guards who approached weren’t human, just humanoid. They had the same general shape, but one was the same sort with skin like a mosaic and another had big teeth and a fuzzy, tapered tail. They slowed as they got close.

“What do we do?” the rodent-like one asked.

The other shook his head. “I don’t know, get a doctor.”

“Down here,” I said, pointing below my legs. “Get a doctor.”

One of them leaned down. I captured his head between my thighs and squeezed, then grabbed the head of the other, the rodent. Him I threw lifted over head and smacked into the hardwood wall behind me. He crumpled to the ground. I then strangled the one between my legs until he passed out.

“Did you kill them?” Lily asked.

“Probably not,” I answered. I looked around and spotted a door that could have been to a closet. Opening it, I found it was a storage closet for taxidermied animals. A couple tied-up guards fit right in with the collection.

“That lot was heavy. I thought they had us there,” Lily said. “You’re pretty good at using that for sympathy.”

I shrugged. “Might as well. None of these guys know what human pregnancy and birth looks like anyway.”

I took the lead, taking us toward the basement. There were some guards posted. I looked around for anything I could use and a covered dish. I lowered it down to my skirt and let ‘er rip in it. “Just follow my lead.”

I turned a corner toward the guards. “Evenin’ gents. Here with dinner.”

The guards looked at each other and barred the door with their polearm-rifles. “Why did they send you two and not the regular staff?”

I acted surprised. “You hadn’t heard? One of the cooks was in on it. Gossipy lady, knows a nurse and something. They don’t trust the domestics, so Lady Snyders of Hanover offered our services.”

“I’ll check that,” one of the guards said. He lifted the cover, then got a waft of the trapped fart. He started coughing. “That smells horrible! Go on through.” He withdrew his polearm-rifle as much to have something to lean on as to give us entry. The other guard followed suit and we made our way downstairs.

“That was something. I don’t know what, but it was something,” Lily commented.

“It got us in. Getting us out won’t be hard.” We headed downstairs up until one gave way underneath me. I pitched forward, grabbed the handrail, and turned it into an uneasy flip, turning around so that when my forward motion followed through, it was my back hitting the wall and not my belly. Lily clung to the stairs further up while the Mobian came out from behind the stairs.

“Oh my, are you alright? I thought I would get a guard, not you. What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Saving you, you pain in the ass,” I backed away from the wall where an old nail had indeed poked out just enough to give me a sharp pain to my butt cheek.

“She’s a bodyguard or something. I couldn’t have got here without her,” Lily said.

The door at the top of the stairs opened. “What’s going on in there?”

“Damn stairs!” I called out. I nodded for Mobian to get into hiding and moved over toward the stairs with, pretending to be laying on my front down in front of the gap. “Owww…”

“Move, get out of the way,” the guard called out. They both came in, pushing Lily aside so they could get to me. One stepped over the gap, then put his polearm-rifle aside to bend over and try helping me up. The other stood on a step just above the one that collapsed. As the one helped me up, I saw Mobian using some device on the underside of the step that the other was on.

“Oh shit!” I called out as I “accidentally” pushed the guard back down the stairs. The one behind me reached out, but the step gave way and he fell through, collapsing onto the hard stone floor of the wine cellar. The one I’d pushed tumbled down, very nearly bonking his head on the nail that got my butt. Instead, he was knocked out on the wall. I begrudgingly checked him over, pressing my fingers to his neck as if to check for a pulse while a native colony of nanomachines transferred over to check his vitals. He had a little bit of an aneurysm they repaired real quick so he’d survive. Meanwhile, the Mobian and Lily struggled with the other guard until Lily knocked him out with a wine bottle to the back of the head that then bounced loose.

“Ok, brilliant job,” I said sarcastically. I stood up and brushed off my dress.

“Is he dead?” Lily asked. “Did I kill him?”

“No,” Mobian and I said at almost the same time. Then he looked to both of us. “Where is everyone?”

“Ballroom,” I said. “Rounding everyone up to be addressed by Morigoth’s sister, something like that.”

“We need to get back there,” Mobian insisted. “If she picks someone as a scapegoat, this could get nasty fast.”

“Fasty, some might say,” I added.

“What do we do? Do we know who did it?” Lily asked.

Mobian shook his head. “I’m not certain. Not yet. But whoever is murdering people, they want someone to think it’s connected to the locals. I saw the luminescence when Morigoth died, indicative of one of the local natural poisons derived from sea plants.”

“The person who was killed, the laundress, they got her with a distinctive local blade,” I said. “That one centaur guy, Mickledorn, he seemed surprised to find out she made it upstairs.”

“No way she did that,” Lily said, shaking her head.

“You think someone posed her there?” Mobian said. “But why?”

I answered that one. “So I could see if anyone was surprised she’d made it up there. Anyone else would just know she crawled up there. The killer, or a witness like Lily who saw it happen, would know that’s impossible. I figured it’d rattle them, give a reaction.”

“And?” Mobian asked.

I shrugged. “Mickledorn’s the only one I’ve seen with that reaction, but they don’t let me into the hobnobber groups here. Kept the staff and guests separate in the ballroom.”

“Let’s get up there. We won’t learn anything sitting around in a wine cellar,” Mobian said. “We should check Mickledorn’s room,” Mobian suggested. It was awkward getting back upstairs with so many of them out of commission, but we didn’t have to figure out a way past the guards anymore. We opened the door and got out of there, heading toward the rooms. I’d left a marker by Mickledorn’s. It sounded like there was enough excitement elsewhere to hide our approach.

“Gecko, where are you?” called Holly through our communicators. “Something’s wrong. Someone’s dead.”

“What?” I held my finger to my ear. “Did they execute someone, or…?”

We turned a corner toward Mickledorn’s room and ran into a rather large crowd of poofy-sleeved security guards with their polearm-rifles.

“I got this. They don’t know humans, right?” Lily said. She stepped in front of us and growled. “Out of our way, or I’ll burn you with my fire breath!”

I facepalmed.

Some of the guards raised the polearms, stocks and barrels withdrawing to make usable rifles, but immediately one of them with a sash draped over his shoulders pushed the barrels down. “Mobian, Lady Lacastra asks for your aid.”

Mobian brushed off his cuffs and stepped in front of us. “That’s good to hear. What changed your mind?”

The guard nodded toward the door to Mickledorn’s room. “Shortly after he finished speaking with the Lady in the ballroom, Mickledorn was killed. The lights went off briefly, and when they came back up, he was bleeding out all over the ballroom floor.” He looked to Lily and me as well. “These two were with you?”

“Yes, they were coming to get me. So that makes us three the only guests who couldn’t have done it. Other than the guards, of course.”

That rankled the guard, I could tell. “We do our duty to House Morigoth.”

“Oh do you?” Mobian asked. “So we have three dead people because you were doing your duty?”

The lead guard had to hold those rifle barrels down. Then he looked past us. “Lady.”

We turned to see a well-dressed gray-skinned alien with black hair approaching in a pale blue gown. She looked us over. “I am Lacastra.”

The Mobian once again pushed to the forefront. “I’m the Mobian, but you know that because we met briefly. My companion Lily,” he gestured to Lily. “And, uh,” he was at a loss for me.

“Delilah, servant of Lady Snyders of Hanover,” I answered.

Lacastra’s eyes flicked down to my belly briefly. “Right now, you are the only ones I can trust.” I could hear the rankling. “Come with me, let’s look into Mickledorn’s room. Perhaps you can tell me why my late cousin was killed.”

“How he was killed would also be useful,” I said as we moved past the guards into the bedroom of the dead centaur.

“He was killed with an enameled quill,” Lacastra said. “There is a type of fish that lives in the coral shallows, adorned with hardened quills from the coral they eat. The quills are used in various local weapons, including blow guns and concealed daggers.”

The room was messy, but well-carpeted. What confused me was the horse-guy-alien had so many spare sets of hooves. “What’s with these?” They looked just like his hooves, but more of them.

“Spares,” Lacastra answered as if that was enough. I bent down to see inside, then reached a hand in. They had a place to hold.

“He had hands in these things?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mobian confirmed. “His species don’t like to walk on their hands, though. It’s dirty, so when they walk on fours, they keep those spare shoes around. It’s hard to go around on two legs on a planet like this, but they can do it. They keep a pair of their front hands when situations require them to walk on those as well.”

“There!” Lily pointed toward a blanket hanging off the bed. “That’s the cloak worn by the person with the sword who killed the laundress!”

“So he hid under a blanket, walking on two legs to hide it, in case anyone saw him,” Mobian said. “But where’s the sword he used?”

“This didn’t take long to wrap up,” Lacastra said, even though we still had a weapon to search for. “I’ll have the guards start looking.”

I called Lily and Mobian together. “You know this is convenient, right?”

“There’s usually nothing especially complex about murder,” Mobian said. “Especially over long-lost love.”

“Yeah, but then who killed Mickledorn?” Lily asked.

Mobian broke the huddle to walk over toward a shady corner of the room, a sitting area with a small bookshelf all its own. Some of the books were on there unevenly and he pulled them loose. “Look at this…”

It was a pouch of some sea grass, a pale white one with beads of red fluid on it. “That could be our poison.”

“I feel like this is wrapping up. I’m almost embarrassed I had to call on your help now,” Lacastra said. She glanced at the door where her guards stood watch.

“Holly,” I didn’t vocalize the message where I was in case they heard, but it came through clearly in Holly’s ear. “I think this is a big setup, and it’s getting clearer to me who’s pulling the strings. Keep an eye out in there. Watch the guards, especially, but if you saw anyone else close to Lacastra especially.”




2 thoughts on “Deals and Breakers 5

  1. Pingback: Deals and Breakers 4 | World Domination in Retrospect

  2. Pingback: Deals and Breakers 6 | World Domination in Retrospect

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