Kryos: Chapter 39

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The crowd assembled before Sonderon’s tumble-down Southern Block meeting hall rained fists upon the shuttered doors and windows of the dun-colored estate and filled the air with adumbrations of greater violence. A gaggle of onlookers stood upon the street, gawking as might children at exotic animals in a zoo.

Ryard, Tatter and Meris stood the periphery of the gathering on the edge of a SecCom cordoned pedestrian thoroughfare, which ran before the eastern face of the besieged edifice. The former member of the trio spoke into his affin module at a rapid clip.

“You’re sure?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll have it ready.”

“I owe you, Lind.”

“As usual.” Ryard rolled his eyes. “But its not as if anyone is going to be keeping track now.”

“Likely so. Though little would delight me more than to continue listening to your dulcet condescensions, I have to go.”

“Stay safe, Ry.”

“I’m afraid I can’t, so promise to take caution enough for the both of us.”

“I promise.”

He switched off the device and turned to his companions. Meris’ usual melancholia had waxed to apoplexy. Tatter, in contrast, seemed largely unperturbed, so unperturbed that she did not even look to the wrathful crowd, but instead crouched in the observance of a melon-sized isopod that had emerged from the roadside drainage duct. Despite this blase posture, Ryard observed a faint trace of annoyance which could scarcely have been produced by the lilac-hued sea-creature. Whatever the source of her vexation, it vanished the moment he, once more, opened his mouth.

“We have to get through the crowd. I’m going to try and talk to them.”

“That’s barmy. Look at the savages.” Meris exclaimed in a brusque hush as the crowd’s chant assumed greater fervor and the pounding upon the doors intensified. “They’ll tear us apart.”

“Isn’t there another way in?” Tatter queried with only the faintest flicker of interest as the adventurous crustacean climbed upon her outstretched left hand.

Ryard shook his head. “I used to play here when I was a kid. Its completely isolated, unlike the newer tenements. That’s probably why Sonderon chose it as his base.” He gestured to the rooftops. “See, there’s no way in from the top without a cloud racer. And even then, he’s probably got men on the roof. And-” He trailed off abruptly as he noticed a familiar face in the crowd.

“What is it?”

“I’ll be right back. If things go sideways, run.”

“Wait. Ryard.” Meris croaked vainly.

Vancing slipped through the mob until the press made transit impossible and called to the small man before him.

“Wasil.”

The swarthy little man turned around, at first surprised, then apprehensive.

“Mr. Vancing. What on earth are you doing here?”

“No time to explain. What is this all about?”

“Sonderon’s cronies have been at us. Says southers tried to kill him. Says we’re to be routed. If he thinks he can force us out, we’ll do as much to him.”

“You consider this the best use of time as the city is about to be invaded?”

“You mean that crazy message? The Consortium’ll stop it.”

“The Consortium might not be able to. They didn’t stop this.”

As the two men spoke, heads turned with critical eyes and increasing fixity toward the intruder and the standard issue jacket that marked him a CAV-keep.

“Why’d you come here?”

“I need to speak to Sonderon.”

“What? Why?”

“I’ll explain everything latter. Its important I speak to him.”

“Who is that?” One of the souther agitators asked.

“He’s one of Sonderon’s!” Another member of the mob declared.

Ryard raised his voice suddenly. “I am nothing of the kind. I am Major Vancing, of the KSRU. I was hoping to speak with Sonderon, as well as yourselves. You’ve all been had.”

“Had? What do you mean, had?” An incensed, scar-faced youth demanded.

“I mean that the person who shot Sonderon was not a souther, but wanted his target to think he was.”

A long moment of uncomprehending silence descended. “Why?” Wasil wondered aloud.

“To prompt Sonderon to avenge himself upon you, and you upon him.”

“What a load of rubbish, and from a member of the KSRU, we know well enough what they do to us,” the scar-faced man exclaimed hotly.

“If he says it, I believe him.” Wasil broke in stolidly.

“Why? What’s he to you?”

“A friend, Basim. If not for him, my wife would not be with us today.”

“Its his colonel who kills us. Its their master who comes to claim us all.”

“I knew nothing of Kryos’ plan. As for what happened with Colonel Syzr-“

“Murderer!” Someone shouted.

“He killed. But he is no murderer. Listen.” But the scar-faced man, with a snarl of rage, threw himself at Ryard. Before violence could erupt, Wasil broke the two men apart and restrained the youth.

“Let him speak, Basim!”

“But Wasil-“

“If Wasil will listen, I will listen,” an elderly souther declared, taking a step forward. Murmuration passed through the crowd and at length the sentiment was agreed upon.

Vancing adjusted his collar and continued. “Syzr was set upon by those who he is claimed to have murdered. The two he slew and their leader, Kleiner, had attacked a woman named Fawnell. That’s why he intervened. This, Syzr relayed to me personally. I spoke with Fawnell before her untimely death and she confirmed to me the truth of the Colonel’s words. The KSRU is not your enemy. But someone would certainly like you to think otherwise.”

Another wave of murmurs rippled through the crowd. This less furious in character than the last.

“Can anyone corroborate this?” The elderly souther queried.

“They can.” Ryard pointed to Meris and Tatter, who stood uncertainly amid the onlookers in the street.

Before the crowd could question further, the second-story balcony doors were thrown wide and a man, well on in years, with short mottled hair, a weathered face, and a fierce expression, emerged. He wore a gray-black uniform and his arm was confined to a well-plied sling. Ryard instantly recognized the high-perched figure as Kreizer Sonderon, who clutched the railing with his good arm and scanned the crowd until his eyes alighted upon Ryard.

“If we’re to talk, it were better we do so inside.”

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