The ride was more comfortable then Stanton believed it would be at first. The king didn’t seem to notice. He was studying Stanton’s face and if what he saw troubled or amused him, he did not let on.
After a few minutes, the king leaned back and crossed his legs, left atop of right. “The section of town we’re to visit today has been ravaged by outsider raiders. They wait until the section gate opens at dawn, ride in steal what is easiest to locate, and are gone almost before anyone knows they were inside the walls. My hope is to bolster the moods of those stricken, and I will give them the aid they need to recover.” Now he looked directly into Stanton’s eyes. “You are to capture at least one raider, alive of course so he may be interrogated hopefully supplying us with names and places where we can fond their bases and end the raids permanently.”
“Yes, sir,” he said. “That should not be a problem as long as we get in place before the gates open.”
“We will be. I’ve ordered that the daily opening be delaying two hours and that people should be informed there is some maintenance necessary.” He glanced down and Stanton saw he too had a small screen banded to his forearm. “We will be there fifteen or twenty minutes before the gates rise.” He leaned back rolling down the sleeve of his rather ordinary looking denim shirt, which matched his pants. The difference between what he wore, and what he normally wore was that the king’s was shiny artificial denim, not cotton like Stanton’s.
They however, did not ride the carriage farther than a hanger like building. Inside was a line of aircars. The royal car was red white a gold, with the king’s crest on each door. The roof was clear, and Stanton hoped shatterproof. The fittings inside were seriously made for royalty. Gold, silver and what on earth was considered precious stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, added to create details of mythological creatures living in lands filled with life.
They switched vehicles and as soon as the doors were sealed they were in the air. Before reaching the destination where the king would begin negotiations with the guards who worked the last few weeks at stopping the raids, the aircar lowered to just above the ground. The door on my side opened and Stanton jumped out.
“Do what I need,” the king ordered.
“I won’t fail you, sir.” He waved a half salute and turned immediately confronting a group of local militia armed with crude but effect weapons like spears and swords, a couple maces. “Who is your leader,” he asked them and a small dark skinned woman stepped out, walked over and stopped five feet away from him.
“Who are you?” she asked without emotion.
“Name is Stanton. You?”
“Alsia, daughter of Herbert.”
“I’m here to assist,” he said.
“Why we heard it you are here to do whatever needed to stop the raiders. We have not done so, therefore, we will help you.”
Stanton nodded his gratitude. Often in the past when he went to a trouble spot he became the hostile once his mission was completed. Many times he had to fight his way to freedom.
“It would be good if you might show me where you’ve set up and where the raiders normally come through if the two are not the same.”
She pointed and two of her men walked into an alley surrounded by buildings impossibly high with lights in windows scatter across the façade. Stanton heard running water, and knew there was a river nearby. Alsia and he went in after her men assaulted by odors of cooking food, meats and various types of vegetables maybe fruit too.
That made his stomach growl, but it was more reaction than need. After walking for thirty plus minutes, he saw the river with house barges, and ships of all imaginable kinds plying the river. Apparently they didn’t have a way to block access to the village for river traffic.
A weakness, he thought. A wave of heat billowed from an open door. Stanton slowed and peered inside, saw it was a brothel with a gigantic hearth in the room’s center. Flames licked and sparked a pile of logs. Women and men dressed and not, and everything in between lounged wherever they found a comfortable place. Several were engaged in sex.
Internally, he squirmed. Not because he had trouble seeing couples sexual involvement, but because he’d learned early in his assassin career that the best and easiest way to conquer the unbeatable was by using sex. And whorehouses made it possible for him to be inside unseen acting as a waiter, or porter, make his kill and be gone before the party ended.
He shook his head slowly and continued walking until Alsia stopped. She raised an arm to signal the others, and then pointed out the gate they needed to guard.
“This is a good spot,” he said. “If we just want to watch and study them, but you’ve done all that so we need to be closer and well hidden.” He scanned the area and found what He wanted. “Come with me and tell me if this will work.” He moved off without waiting for a reply. Stanton knew what he planned would work efficiently.
When they were where he wanted them, she nodded. “This will work, but a place this close increases the risk of forewarning.”
“The raiders have people on the inside.” He stated the obvious.
“My goal this morning is to capture alive and uninjured if possible one raider which we will take back with us to interrogate. Then I will return tomorrow morning and we will put an end to their endeavors.”
“Then today we are to allow them to succeed in raiding this area?” She sounded angry.
“No, we will prevent that using surprise and superior weapons.” As soon as Stanton spoke he knew he was mistaken. They didn’t have true weapons. She was studying his face the way you do with a person you are sure in insane.
“Sorry, we will have the weapons tomorrow too. The man we capture will inform us of what weapons the raiders have and will we prepare better.”
“Okay,” she said. “But how do we stop them today?”
“Watch,” Stanton said and moved to the point closest to where the raiders entered. As he did, the gate began to rise. Three armed and uniformed men raced in. Stanton moved quickly using every martial arts skill he had. They went down hard and did not get up. The raiders behind them were blocked, could not enter. He squatted, grabbed the closest laser rifle he could get his hands on and began burning his enemies. One or two tried to return fire, but my reflexes were better. They were killed and then the remainder fled back the way they’d come to enter the village.
He passed the rifle to Alsia and grabbed the captive who seemed to be wearing the highest, ranking emblems. Stanton used the ties he brought to secure his prisoner’s arms, hands, and legs, dragged him aside and said, “Those two are yours.”
She grinned waved her companions over and we watched them deal with the unconscious raiders.
He was walking his prisoner down the brothel alley when he saw the king’s aircar parked at the end. The king was on top speaking to the crowd gathered to listen. When he saw Stanton, and what he had, the king pointed and said loudly, “This is the beginning of the end of the raids. Tomorrow we will return with the appropriate weapons for you, and clean this mess up once and for all.”
Cheering boomed around them as they climbed into the aircar and left.