Although Will and Autumn are up at a reasonable time, the same can’t be said of most of the other party members and so the pair of them continue researching Weiss politics while the wait for the others to stir. It’s getting close to noon before Jie is in a fit state to move again.
Once everyone is ready, they leave Autumn with the captives again and head to a restaurant for brunch.
“So what ’ave we all learned from last night then?” Max asks.
“I can’t say that Autumn and I learned a great deal by going through the media,” Will replies, “Except for the fact that it looks as if the media here is heavily censored or that the media owners are in the pockets of the government. By going through the media, anyone would think that Weiss is a glittering example of racial integration and transparency. There were no stories at all we could find about police corruption or ‘bad cops’ in the media.”
“We learned that Broughton’s precinct covered a predominantly upmarket Impie part of town,” Grim says. “We couldn’t really find anyone with a bad word to say about him from the Impies that we spoke to, probably because he looks after them well.”
“He’s got a pretty bad reputation in the Swordie ghetto,” Arvor counters. “He is definitely one of the most disliked officials in the city together with the Port Authority and the Head of the SWAT teams, all of whom are considered to be 100% pro-Impie and 100% anti-Swordie.”
“Are there any senior cops who the Swordies don’t despise?” Grim asks.
“Just one that we heard,” Arvor replies. “Chief Inspector Chance Dewart, who covers one of the worst of the ghetto precincts. They say that he is pretty reasonable for an Impie and is not much liked by his colleagues as a result as they think he’s too soft on the Swordies.”
“We read about him,” Will interjects. “He stood for election to Chief Constable a couple of years back but had little in the way of support.”
Arvor nods, “Vote rigging, naturally, according to the Swordies.”
“It was Dewart who brought in the Swordies who spilt the beans about ‘some high ranking police offers on the make’,” says Taeva, “Which we now know was actually Broughton, so Dewart will be aware of what’s on the disk already. The disk was stolen from his evidence room by Magnus.”
“Quite what Dewart was planning to do with the evidence, we don’t know. Although we heard a lot, it appears that no one on the street knows that it was Broughton who was incriminated, so it looks like Dewart has kept the information either to himself so far, or simply that word has been kept so tight that it hasn’t leaked yet.”
“That figures,” nods Arvor. “If Dewart has few friends and a lot of enemies while Broughton is in favor with his superiors, then it would have been career suicide for him to make accusations against Broughton without some concrete evidence to back up his claims.”
The party members discuss their options for a while, but all realize that the most logical place to start is by speaking with Dewart as he is the most likely candidate to be supportive to them.
Grim pulls on a longer sleeved shirt than normal, making sure to more than cover the 10th ImpArmy Support Group tattoo across his right shoulder and upper arm:
“Let’s go find this Dewart.”
With her head pounding from the tequila pounding she did from the night before, Jie sips on an expresso as she checks and packs her usual gear. Ready for anything she re-joins her fellows.
Leaving Autumn to babysit the still sleeping Axle and Bomber, the others head for the ATV and Max drives them back to the Swordie ghetto. The journey turns out to be a long one due to the celebrations for Imperium Day. Every street corner has at least a squad of cops in full riot gear on patrol and many of the streets are blocked off as there will be a procession right through the centre of the city later in the afternoon.
As a result, Grim has his work cut out in trying to give Max instructions on which route he should take in order to avoid the blocked off route. Upon entering the Swordie Ghetto area, the air of tension is almost tangible. Vast amounts of graffiti has appeared overnight, screaming “IMPIES OUT” AND “FREEDOM FOR SWORDIES” among other slogans. The cleaning drones can’t seem to keep up with the amount as several of them lie broken and burned out in the gutters.
Eventually though, Max pulls the ATV up outside the fortress-like structure of the police station.
“I think I better stay with the ATV,” Max says, checking his gauss pistol is loaded as he surveys the burned out ground cars that litter the area.
The others also check their weapons, secreting their handguns upon their persons in the knowledge that an open carry could get some itchy trigger fingers moving. They make their way up to the entrance. There’s a dozen cops in full riot gear in front of the door. When he sees that the party members are Impies (or at least look like Impies) the Sargent nods them through into the lobby.
Grim heads up to the Desk Sargent, sitting behind a thick sheet of bullet and laser proof glassteel.
“What can I do for you?” the Desk Sargent asks. He sounds tired and harassed.
“We’d like to speak with CI Dewart, if possible,” Grim replies.
“What’s it in connection with?” the Desk Sargent replies. “He’s a bit tied up today, as you can probably imagine.”
“We are here to return some stolen property," Arvor replies. "Just tell him it concerns Broughton.”
“Broughton?” the Desk Sargent says with a certain amount of disdain. “Let me see if I can have a quick word with him. Wait here a mo’.”
The Desk Sargent heads off out of the reception area, leaving the party members milling around in the lobby for a while. He comes back a couple of minutes later.
“The Chief Inspector says that he will see you in ten minutes,” the Sargent says. “He’s only going to be able to spare five minutes though today because it looks like it’s going to kick off in Ward 3 in a bit and he wants to be there to try and calm them all down.”
“Interview Room 3,” he adds, nodding to a room on the left.
Arvor leads the way and the Desk Sargent opens the door electronically.
The party members wait in the featureless room which seems to contain nothing except for a large white plastic covered table which is welded to the floor plus some heavy chairs. There’s nothing that they can do apart from to sit and wait.
It’s 15 minutes later when Dewart finally make his appearance. His Chief Inspector’s uniform is dishevelled, his face is creased and red. He looks a bit like a maverick cop whose wife left him because of his devotion to the job, which led to his having a drink problem. His jaded eyes suggest a complete lack of respect for authority, and a man who is constantly being given 24 hours to do it his way; the kind of cop who is constantly offering to turn in his badge; who would have been fired was it not for the fact that he always gets his man.
“Morning all,” he says with a glance at everyone. “What brings you to the ghetto on today of all days?”
“Well, Mr Dewart”, starts Avor “I guess we’ll start with the easy part. I believe you know what is on this wafer” as he tosses it over to Dewart.
Dewart’s eyebrows raise as he sees the disk. He doesn’t have to say anything for the party members to understand that he knows exactly what is on it.
“Broughton was holding our ship hostage to make us find this data-chip he claimed held evidence of an anti-imperial terrorist group," Arvor says. "He knew who had it but not where it was being held. We tracked it down and got our hands on it, but I didn’t trust Broughton, so I checked it out for myself. Turns out Broughton had good reason to want it back. Such good reason he tried to double cross us by following us with a large squad. They attempted to wipe us out. We can tell you where to find them.”
As soon as Arvor starts to talk, Dewart appears to go into what appears to be a coughing fit. Arvor can tell immediately that Dewart is trying to mask the sound of Arvor’s explanation.
“Excuse me,” Dewart says, covering his mouth. “I seem to have developed a terrible cough. Must be all those cheap cigars I’ve been smoking recently.”
“You are going to have to excuse me but I really need to get back to the front lines as soon as possible.”
Guessing that there was a high chance that the room may have been bugged, Taeva produces her pocket scrambler which she had activated prior to entering the room. Dewart looks relieved to have seen it before she slides it back into her pocket.
He takes out a business card and quickly scrawls something on the back of it which he slides across the table to Arvor.
“Thank you very much for coming to see me,” he says, standing and shaking hands with everyone as he holds the doors open.
Once everyone has filed out of the interview room, he disappears into the back area of the station.
The party members head out of the police station. Once in the street, Arvor flips the card over.
“Meet me tonight at 21.00, Golden Helm.”
The party members return to the ATV, much to the relief of Max, who is keeping an eye on a gang of surly looking Swordie youths who are eyeing up the vehicle suspiciously.
Arvor passes on the news to the others.
Max checks his watch.
“So what are we going to do for the rest of the afternoon?” he asks. “It’s just after 13.00 now and so we have the best part of eight hours to kill before the meeting.”
“On this day of all days, I recommend we lay low,” says Jie. “On Weiss, the Sword Worlder descendants outnumber the Imperials 3 to 1 (or so) and from the booze-induced info-gathering of last night, we can assume the new hard-ass boss of the owning Spinward Development Corporation is going to try to make a name for himself by really cracking down on the ‘natives’. This place is a powder keg ready to explode and so I think we should all stay out of the fire.”
“My only suggestion would be to scope out The Golden Helm. The exits, the clientele, defensible positions and what not. Obviously the detective is expecting some trouble or he wouldn’t have quieted Arvor down when we first met. If something happens, I want to know the meeting place well enough to get the upper hand.”
There are nods of agreement all round and so Max guns the engine and heads back to the motel. The journey back to the Motel proves to be even longer than the one it took to get to the Swordie ghetto area in the first place as much of the city seems to be in total gridlock now that the procession is almost under way. The cops are still very much out in force. From time to time, the party members, still stuck in the traffic sees gangs of Swordie youths running, closely pursued by riot police. Some of the youths stop to throw bricks and other missiles at the cops. On several occasions, the police manage to catch some of the youths and set upon them viciously with their stun batons, before dragging the offenders off into waiting Black Marias.
Eventually through a combination of Grim’s navigation and Max’s driving, they manage to make it through the gridlock by means of the smaller streets and the ring road where the traffic is still moving quite freely until they have managed to return to the Motel.
A rather bored-looking Autumn is idly watching TV with the sleeping forms of Axle and Bomber on the bed opposite her. With nothing else better to do, Max goes out to collect a few six-packs and then everyone settles down to watch the procession.
Watching the TV feed, no one would be aware of any animosity existing in the city as the procession seems to be a very peaceful and joyful procession, with happy Impies and Swordies marching side by side, merrily waving at the crowds with their ‘I Heart the Imperium’ banners waving in the gentle artificial breeze. Careful viewing of the newsfeed, however, reveals from clocks on some of the buildings in the background that the supposedly ‘live’ coverage is actually being delayed by five minutes, giving plenty of opportunity for the editors to cut out any potential troubles before the feed is broadcast.
The party members continue watching the procession in its entirety, seeing it end with a series of backslapping speeches from officials of the Spinward Development Corporation, which culminates in a fake fireworks display across the surface of the massive dome that covers the city.
It’s 7.30 by the time that this has all finished and everyone piles into the ATV once again and heads this time to the Golden Helm in order to stake it out well before the 21.00 meeting.
As they head towards the city center, they see that the situation outside has deteriorated during the course of the afternoon as there are fires burning in several areas. Traffic is moving freely now – it would appear that most people have decided that it is safer to stay at home.
Max parks the ATV a block away from the inn and stays with the vehicle while the others file out and casually head towards the Golden Helm. The inn is located in a middle class area which has less graffiti and squalor than the ghetto. The residents seem to be a mixture of relatively wealthy Swordies and more working class Impies. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of trouble in this area, compared with the fires burning a few blocks away.
Getting closer to the inn, they see that it is another of those faux-rustic Olde Worlde taverns that the Swordies seem to love so much. Looking through the windows, they can see that the inn is around half full at the moment – there are slightly more Impies than Swordies inside. A second floor to the building appears to contain rooms to rent
As well as the main door on the road, a dark alley leads around the side of the building, which leads into a small courtyard, where are few of the occupants are smoking outside. There are a couple of doors leading from the tavern into the courtyard and the toilets are also located in this area.
The tavern appears to be secure, but they call up Max in the ATV to park a little closer in order to keep an eye on the door. The party members then select a quiet corner of the bar to await Dewart’s arrival.
Dewart arrives on the dot of 9.00pm and he arrives alone. As he enters, he scans the room and waves at a couple who are sat near the bar. He then spots the party members and heads up to them, shaking each of them by the hand.
“Do you think that we can sit somewhere out of sight of them?” he whispers with a gentle nod in the direction of the couple sat close to the bar.
The party members agree and so lead Dewart to an alcove in the bar where they are out of sight.
“Thanks,” says Dewart. “That’s Jim Jackson and his wife. He’s the Cultural Attache at the Imperial Embassy. No great threat, but best not to advertise our meeting.”
A barmaid takes orders for drinks. Once they arrive, Dewart starts to talk.
“So I presume that the disk contains the interview tapes incriminating Broughton?” Dewart asks.
The party members nod in agreement.
“I don’t need to know how you got hold of this or what Broughton is doing now,” Dewart continues.
“Broughton is dead,” Taeva says calmly.
“Once again, I don’t need to know the details,” Dewart replies.
There is a pause.
“So why did you bring it to me and what do you want me to do with the disk?” he asks.
The party members look at one another.
“You seem to be the most honest person with power that we can find in this city,” says Grim. “As for the disk, we were hoping that you could answer that. We didn’t really plan on getting involved in all this. We just want to get our ship released.”
“You have a ship? That’s good,” Dewart says rhetorically.
“Why?” asks Grim.
“I don’t really know what is going to happen when I release the contents of this disk,” Dewart replies. “There are a lot of people who won’t want the information to be released and the contents could be made to disappear again – and me along with them. If we can get a copy of the disk offworld though, they aren’t going to be able to cover the whole thing up again.”
“You get us our ship back and we’ll make sure that the disk gets spread around,” Grim replies. “Is this something that you can do?”
Dewart exhales loudly. “I don’t know,” he replies. “Ships are the responsibility of the SPA. I have no jurisdiction over them and the SDC has strong control over the Port. I will give it my best shot though and let you know what success I’ve had.”
The conversation is interrupted by a call from Max.
“Guys, there are four dodgy looking geezers approaching the tavern,” he says. “Wearing long coats. They could be tooled up.”
The party members move to try and protect Dewart but, as they do, they are rocked by the force of an explosion from the centre of the tavern. Although no damage is caused, they are all thrown back by the force of the blast.
A stream of Swordies runs into the tavern – four through the front door, four through the rear door and a further four from the stairs leading up to the rooms above.
It soon becomes apparent that the Swordies are not after Dewart – they’re after the Jacksons. Two of the Swordies coming down the stairs quickly take out the Jackson’s two bodyguards and proceed to secure the stunned Cultural Attache and his wife.
Dewart is immediately on his commo to call for back up, but the party members know that it will be a while before the cops arrive and so they are going to have to deal with the situation themselves.
Arvor, Taeva, Jie and Grim draw their weapons, find cover and immediately open fire into the Swordies. Even before they knew what hit them, four of the Swordies have hit the deck.
While the four Swordies who came down the staircase try and secure their hostages, the remaining members of the Swordie gang take on the party members. One of them brings down Arvor in a hail of machine pistol fire before ducking behind a fireplace. Another one injures Taeva, but she soon gets her revenge by bringing her attacker down with her gauss pistol.
Jie and Grim take down another couple until there are only two Swordies remaining apart from those with the Jacksons. One of the Swordies makes a dash for it while the party members turn their attention to those who are holding the couple hostage. With pinpoint accuracy, they bring down the shocked Swordies one by one, assisted by Dewart who brings one of them down with a tranq round from his snubbie.
Taeva finishes off the last of the hostage takers while Jie takes down the one hiding behind the fireplace. While Will attends to Arvor, Dewart finishes off the fleeing Swordie with another tranq round.
The Swordies are all down now.
The party members urge Dewart to get out before the cops arrive, but Dewart is a man of duty saying that he will have to stay. He tells the party members that the local precinct commander is a decent type and the party members are heroes and so they should have little to worry about.
The party members are still a little unsure, but they see that Dewart is resolute and will not be moved. Fearing for the Jacksons’ security, Arvor escorts the stunned and shocked couple to the party members ATV, where Max drives them safely to the police precinct while the others wait for the cops, who arrive just a couple of minutes later.
Dewart’s information appears to be correct as the officer greets him warmly and congratulates the party members for their heroic actions during the hostage taking event. They apologize for the fact that the party members will need to come down to the station to give witness reports, but promise that they will not be delayed any more than necessary.
It takes an hour for the police to finish their questioning of the party members at the Golden Helm before they are escorted back to the police station.