Monday, January 18, 2010

And here we are. Since so many wait with Bated breath or... haha... hmmm. At any rate Chapter 5, right on time.

This weekend I watched the new Sherlock Holmns movie and since the idea of Jonas was to have him similar to Sherlock and Doctor Who and all the other great detectives who use their minds as their greatest assest, I learned something. Of course, in true John writing style, I haven't actually read any Sherlock and haven't really watched much in the way of his adapted films. So... yeah. Jonas is his own character, and I think if I want to trend him closer to who Sherlock is, I'll need to make it very clear that he knows alot more than most people give him credit for.

Mynfield Mysteries needs stronger characters, more defined characters, characters with enough depth that a reader, once they know them, will be able to tell what the character will do in most situations. Or, when the character does something against their nature then it is an affront to the reader, if that's the desired effect. Once that's in place, stories seem to write themselves, really. I'm striving for that, of course. The only way to create these false people correctly is put them in situations where there are moral choices. I'm starting to understand what sorts of situations those are.

Anyway, first drafts are great for getting things sorted out. I'm getting it sorted out... slowly. Enjoy Chapter five. This one took a while and some editing to get it where I wanted. More to come before the end of the month. Carver gets his own chapter! who wouldn't like that?!

John, the Writer

Chapter Five

"The heat's out again this morning." Carver waddled his way off the lift and into Jonas' labratory. "There's no hot water either and I've got no one sleeping with me to keep me warm, so you want to know what?"
"What's that Carver?" Jonas asked absently. He was bent over a trunk, trying to find a few certain things and not having as much luck as he had hoped. He knew he'd put the solar heater he'd invented somewhere in this trunk, but hadn't he brought it out to impress that Gazo dancer that one time? The one that said that winter in Arconis was a terrible thing and he'd offered to warm her up. She'd called him a sleaze at first, but later she'd called him more flattering things, if he recalled. He remembered her freckles and the way her hips swayed from side to side when she danced, but he couldn't remember where the heater was. Had he given it to her as a gift? Sometimes he did that, his passions often blinded him...
"I'm cold and grumpy." Carver concluded, "now what are you, as landlord, going to do to ensure I don't take my rent check elsewhere?"
"Nothing. I have murder on the mind." Jonas said, taking out a long handled weapon with an end that crackled electricity. He discarded it as fast as he had the three layered belt and the stuffed squirel that ground coffee beans.
"Murder? Who's murder?"
"Mostly my own. Paddy's life hangs mere fractions of inches lower on the scale and at the very, very bottom there's the death of Rupert Taras." Jonas shook his head and closed the trunk, frustrated, "I'm sure that if all the plans that are being plotted run their course there will be others as well, the extra's in this little drama that are, like all good henchman and innocent bystanders, expendable in the eyes of the Taras family. Murders."
"Seems alot to have on the mind," Carver paused, "you mean Rupert Taras the Taras Patriarc?"
"The very same. It seems his childern want him out of the picture and the old boys going to have some sort of deranged sport with them about it. Something like that axe throwing game those old invaders used to play I suppose. Some sort of thrill about cheating death." Jonas moved to a closet, "I will never understand why anyone would want to procreate. Childern end up leaving you, killing you or sticking you in a nursing home agaisnt your will. Anyway, I'm right in the middle of it all."
"Par for course with you." Carver said, nudging what looked to be a toaster oven with blinking eyes with his toe, trying to wake it up.
"Probably going to lose my head over the matter, no matter how it all plays out. Against my will of course."
"Also fairly normal." Carver gave the toaster invention a solid kick.
"Worst is, I could run now, but there's a Von Eskhieser invovled! My own damnable curiosity is getting in the way of my better sense!"
"You know what they say about curiosity and cats." Carver gave up on the toaster when it refused to move and stopped blinking.
"And I can't find my solar heater!"
"Bah! Complain all you want, you're not the one that stepped into the showers this morning expecting a nice blast of hot water and instead getting a taste of the arctic!"
Jonas peered out of the closet at the old man, "I'll do you one better. We leave on an expedition to the Frillda Uplands in one hour. That's the actual arctic, not an Arconis autumn squall."
"Running all over creation, leaving your tenants to freeze in their own beds and you have things you want me to do for you?" Carver crossed all four of his arms, keeping the canes on the ground for support. "I think I should need to be very well compensated."
"I suspected as much," Jonas said grimmly, "while I am not able to attend the boiler myself, I realize that winter is coming. Yohan and Son's pipes and parts has been notified and will be coming when time allows. they've been paid already. In the meantime, this should sufficently warm your old bones." From an end table cluttered with things, Jonas picked up a rose colored bottle with a yellowing lable half peeled off. "It's a good age. I have a few of the good ones left, only for my staunchest friends."
Carver took the bottle hesitantly and stroked the lable flat, peering at the words. He nodded, still grumpy. "A hawat Red, they sell this at Joff's for a fortune per glass. You've got good taste."
"It's one of my many, admirable attributes." Jonas admitted, returning to rooting through the closet for his solar heater.
"And absent mindedness is one of your many unredeemable flaws." Carver said, but he had a small smile on his face. "here, this what you're looking for?"
"Yes, yes it is!" Jonas's face lit up at the large silver disc that Carver picked up off the floor where it had been half buried under an avalanche of pipes and wiring. "Er... how long did you... well no matter, best we don't dwell on such things I suspect." Jonas closed his trunk and tucked the heater under his arm. "Now, I need you to deliver a package, a very important package."
"Deliver? What do I look like, an errand boy?"
"For that bottle, I think I could ask you to be whatever I wanted and you would comply but no, you don't look like a delivery boy, which is exactly the point. You look inconspiceous, and you look old and feeble even though you are not and, most importantly, you are one of the few people that I trust absolutely in this city. I would have sent Paddy but she's coming with me in minutes." Jonas said flatly. He took a brown paper wrapped box from beside him with an envelope fastened securely to the top with packing string. Almost reluctantly he put the package in Carver's outstretched hand. His finger lingered just a moment before he nodded, his mind made up completly and he turned from Carver back to his packing.
"And don't forget," he said over his shoulder, "it is of utmost importance."
"So is my warm shower." Carver grumbled, holding the package up to inspect it. "What is it?"
"It's better that you don't know." Jonas said absently, "now a parka... I know I have one somewhere around here from that trip to Sun's Peak..."
"And who's it going to?"
"The address is on the letter."
"The 'who' part isn't."
"That, my dear man, is on purpose." Jonas said, standing up striaght with a white coat and pants each lined with heavy down, the outsides tough oil sealed leather. "There you are!"
"Hurmph. You and all your secrets, I'll do it though. Not like I have much else going on today." Carver tucked the package under his arm. "When does it have to be delivered by."
"Sooner the better." Jonas said, finally noticing Paddy standing in the doorway. "Ah, Paddy, nearly packed?"
"I was packed a half hour ago. Long underwear and guns." She said stiffly, "mostly long underwear. Pralat females do not do well in the cold, we have cold blood. I'm not looking forward to this trip."
"I did give you the choice to stay behind, you still can."
"Hah!" Carver chuckled, "the heat's out in the building as well, with winter looking like its coming early I imagine this place will be as frozen over as your arctic soon enough."
"I doubt that, Mr Carver." Paddy said, scowling, "if the books I have read are correct, this is the coldest season in the Frillda Uplands. There are wind storms that can strip the flesh off a man in minutes, leave their bones in a frozen heap. What creatures that live there, live deep under the ice in the water or else have thick coats of hair to break the wind. The same can not be said for Arconis."
"Don't fret so much Paddy my dear, the communication I recieved from the Taras' says specifically that the artifact in question is not buried in the ice but in a sheltered area." Jonas said, stuffing the coat and pants into his bag and attempting to close it. He finally succeeded by using a foot and both hands. "There I'm ready to go, the boiler just needs a moments attention. Oh, and here, in case you do start to feel sluggish." Jonas pressed the sloar heater into Paddy's hands. "it's powered by the sun and, you'll find, there is no short supply of that where we're going. It'll warm you right up, I promise. If you are still resolute to accompany me."
Paddy looked at it a moment and then nodded, a rare smile crossing her lips, "Thank you. You are considerate to think of my needs. I will follow you, Jonas Mynfield, unto the very ends of the earth, thus is our contract."
"Well, you're not so much going to the end of the earth as to the top of it." Carver said, he waved the package over his head, "I'll get this little bundle delivered, I'll even drink to you health. Best you both come back alive, I don't want to run this place by myself." He waddled towards the lift and slammed the cage door down with a thump.
"Oh, one more thing Carver." Jonas said through the cage bars
"If the police come calling, asking for me, tell them I'm just out for a moment and will likely be back any hour."
"They don't know I'm leaving the city." Jonas explained. "There was that little incident with the giant turtle the other day, you remember? The Paloscia family was very nice and paid a few people to make the charges less, but Fairweather isn't the sort to be bought off."
Carver snorted, "so you're required to stay in the city?"
"No, I'm required to keep my head attached." Jonas said, tapping his temple, "the best to do that, for now, is to not defy Randal Taras. His offer could not have been refused. The worst the police can do is jail me, the worst our beloved Taras can do is nigh unimaginable."
"And I'm to say you're out to the store quick, is that it?"
"No, you're to say you have no idea where I am, and that will be partly the truth, if you want to get into specifics. Frillda is a very, very large expanse." Jonas winked.
Carver shook his head, "you're lucky I don't mind some antics. Had my own trouble with the law when I was a youth. Mostly disorderly conduct."
"That's not surprising." Paddy said dryly.
"There was a protest and me and the lads got to thinking it'd be a good idea to chain ourselves to the gates."
"Err, right. That always works until they get out the bolt cutters." Jonas said, then added, "or just order the bulldozers on."
"Heh, we thought of that, being smart lads. We put a strong current through the chain and grounded ourselves with rubber overalls and copper line. You should have seen the first officer who tried to cut that chain!" Carver cackled, "lit him up like a Poxard sky rocket we did!"
"I suppose that means your protest was a success?"
"well, not in so many words." Carver scratched his chin, "it was a good way to waste an afternoon that ended us up with a month of hard labor. The look on that afficer's face though, well worth it in my opinion. Plus it was a big hit with the girls, called us 'just maytres'. Well worth the time spent, well worth the time spent."
"So you'll do it?"
"I'll be as ignorant as a rock." Carver said, "but it'll probably cost you another bottle."
"Most likely I have another one," Jonas said, "it's yours when I get back."
"Very good, happy trails Mynfield, Paddy. Try not to die!" And the lift shuddered down, the short man disappearing in the dark.
"He is an interesting man." Paddy observed, "it does not take much to set him off. Often I wonder why he stays."
"Because he's bored." Jonas said, "He's a hundred or so odd years old, the University made him retire even though he was one of the best theoretical combined sciences men they had, and now he stays here because we keep him interested. He'd never admitt it but that little delivery job I just sent him on will be the highlight of his day."
"And what is it you are having him deliver?"
Jonas smiled, "insurance." He said simply trying in vain to lift his overstuffed trunk. "Err.. would you mind giving me a hand with this? Oh... well I could help too but, ok, thank you, Paddy."
The Taras car came early, that was expected. There was also a small bit of fan fair that Jonas hadn't expected. Mrs Moore had found out from Mrs Tump on second floor that Jonas was leaving on an expedition and had proceeded to tell Talas and Atticus Harvington that there should be a little send off, since Mr Mynfield was so adored by his occupants. Carver made an appearance as well, as much to get a glass of Mrs Tump's lemonaid as anything else.
"Still want me to keep the cops guess there Mynfield?" Carver asked with a wicked grin.
"No, I suspect the issue is now moot." Jonas muttered, trying to help Paddy load his trunk into the car. If any watch detachments had been assigned to watch his apartments, then likely they would surmise that Jonas was leaving the city and not heading to the grocers for eggs and bacon. Of course there was a chance that Jonas had been placed on the mystic survielance list as well, and no amount of petty lies would trick a member fo the third eye. Jonas sighed, finished loading the luggage and had a cookie and cup of lemonaid before getting in the car.
"That was interesting." Paddy said, "and uncalled for."
"It's not like you can turn the water hose on them," Jonas said, hesitantly waving as the car pulled away from the curb, "as much as you'd like to some days. Their hearts are in the right place, they're just not the right minds for covert opperations."
"How did they know you were leaving?"
Jonas shrugged, "I haven't the foggiest."
The car was not one of the black coaches that royals were wont to ride in, but instead a plain red one of older make driven by a cabby with a cigar that spoke very little. What he did say was hard for Jonas to understand, his words covered all over by a thick accent. It took nearly half the trip before Jonas was able to discern it.
"You're maltenis, correct?"
"Ja ja, yoo kno eh? No on' kno 'ere." The cabby plucked the cigar out of his mouth and grinned, white teeth in a face as black as obsidian.
"I'm very good with accents," Jonas said, leaning back in his seat. "Do you know where we are going?"
"Yoo no kno? Hah! Fun!" He fell silent.
"And you're not going to tell us where we're going, are you?" Jonas ventured.
"Hah, and roon fun? Hah!" The cabby stuck the cigar back in his mouth and continued driving, snickering every now and again at whatever inner dialog was kept him entertained in a city that couldn't understand him. At times he would shout what sounded like curses out the window as he took corners too fast and cut other drivers off expertly. His driving was perfect but rash. Jonas felt strangely safe in the car and felt a small amount of pitey for those that chanced to meet this black man on the streets unprepared.
The cab wound its way through the city, back past Steph Downing and their tall houses and into the market district. The morning was loud and colorful, as it always was, with the few trees and flowers in the market squares looking orange and colorful in the brisk air. It was fish season and the air was cull of cries of "Artic Tapar, Artic Tapar! Fresh from the sea last morning!" and "Clams, spur fish and crabs, just in from Alberic and Sin-Sin." The cabby had the window open and the thick cool air was full of clinging smells.
"Tis remin me o hom." The cabby said suddenly, "th fish." Then he fell silent again.
They were headed towards the docks, Jonas had surmised a while ago, but not the close end. The car was driving down Saint Jamis Drive, parallel to the bay. Wealthy estates lined the drive, those that had interests in the docks and shipping, merchants and some more hands on royals had property on Jamis Drive, the high walls and large houses tall enough to peer over the warehouses and out to the water where their money was invested. All that could be seen of the estates from the drive was black iron fences, vicious dogs and the tops of peaked roofs. The cabby drove onward and out past the water's edge; leaving the bay behind. Where ever the cabby was driving, it wasn't to the docks.
The red car exited sharply off Siant Jamis drive and ducked under a small bridge and into a factory area of town, driving down streets with names like 'GridIron' and 'Textile Ave.' The beuatiful houses of Saint Jamis melted abruptly to low income housing where factory workers lived and then grew into towering mills and warehouses with smoke stacks spewing heavy grey. The traffic turned from cars to old trucks and heavy haulers, even the animals had gotten bigger. They carefully passed a massive six legged behemoth being driven by a crew of dozens of men, the beast and it's handlers all heavy set and covered in scars from their labors. It was many more minutes through the industrial sector before the caby pulled up at a heavily guarded gate and produced a pass for the guards to scan before proceeding inside. The gate had a blue and black sign over top of it that read "Banning Industries" in bold font. There was graffiti and dirt on the heavy stone fence and on the buildings surrounding the gate, but the sign was pristine. Jonas watched the armored gates close in through the back window.
the cabby didn't speed here as he shared the road with giant wagons rolling on rails set into the street and armored tanks. Grim and heavy set men loaded trucks with machinery and parts as armed escorts lined up to transfer the convoys out of Banning's halls. Banning held several of the governement's arms contracts and drafted many top university graduates into its research corps, making it one of the leaders in combined sciences. Jonas looked through the window with curious eyes, wondering what secrets might hide behind those doors. There was itch behind his left ear when they passed a very secure looking building within the compound that had a lab sign on it's door.
"That's where they make automatic life systems." He breathed as the car slid past, "the labs behind those doors! the resources at their disposal! Do you know they call that facility the Mute Office? Since no one who goes in can speak outside the building. There's a powerful mystic device that captures their voice and only releases it when they return to work!"
"All you can say is things about your silly toys?" Paddy said, her voice tense.
"Hmm, you're right, of course." jonas mused, "it does rather feel like we've entered down the throat of the beast."
"I don't like it." Paddy said, "they have many more guns than me and employ governement troops. If it comes to a fight, we will not win."
The cabby glanced backwards again and chuckled more. Jonas raised an eyebrow and suspected that their driver was not as lingiustically impaired as he had first thought. That or he found life as a whole extremely amusing. It would be rather like a deaf man watching a horror show that seemed fake and funny without the screams. That or the cabby was an excellent spy.
"There won't be a fight, we are under contract." Jonas said, "and thus under the Tara's protection for so long as our services are needed. I suspect we've come this way to throw off pursuit. It would have cost alot for that pass, but the Banning family prides itself on secrecy. No follower could come this way, and no Banning employee can be bought. Even the lowest hand is completely loyal to the Banning family, its why they're so successful." Jonas said, thoughtfully. "Am I getting close cabby?"
"Hah!" the cabby responded and pulled over and into an underground driveway, coming up abruptly in a garage set beside a set of train tracks. On the tracks was a frieght train with six bleak looking cars and one rear car with a turret on it. The cars and engine all looked armored with heavy steel and engraved stripes of rune sign, ensuring protection to those inside from standard as well as mystical means.
"We're departing by train from Banning industries?" Jonas said quietly, no longer trusting their driver.
"Is that important?"
"Heavens yes! I didn't know that Taras and Banning families were working together. They've never been rivals, as far as I know, but they've never been allies either. This is too large a favor for simply money, Banning must be after the something else, the artifact perhaps? It has military potentail, to be sure." Jonas tapped his chin, "I suspect that we shall see things get even more complex before the day is through."
When they exited the car, a man was there to meet them.
"Jonas Myfiled and Padilla Nimmers-Sach?" the man said, it was the same steward from the business lunch. Now he wore a long overcoat with brass buttons in two rows down his front. It was shapeless and Jonas imagined that all manner of deadly devices could be hidden in it's depths. That was fine. He'd brought his own arsanal, in the form of a very dedicated woman with a bag full of guns and long underwear.
"Present and accounted for." Jonas said as cheerily as he could in the chilly garage.
"Excellent. I am Mr. Bullsmith, Master Ronald's stewart. Mr Mynfield, we met briefly, if you remember. Padilla, it is a pleasure. Please, this way, if you would."
The Stewart led the two of them up onto the platform and towards the first car in the train. The last car of the train was being loaded as they watched, with crates and
wooden pallets tarped down tight. From one of the other rear cars a soldier was leaning out and having some last minute words with a foreman standing on the platform. Their words were lost in the sounds of the train releasing steam, a mournful whistle. Jonas didn't have time to stop and try and lip read, Bullsmith was forging on towards their car.
"You can leave your bags on the platform." Bullsmith said, "they will be taken care of."
"There's only the two." Jonas said, wrestling with his trunk and attempting a smile "I think we'll take them carry on, if thats ok."
"As you wish." The stewart said, then opened the door for them.
"This is it my dear Paddy," Jonas whispered to his companion, "we dive into the belly of the beast."
"It's my favorite part." Paddy muttered back, a small smile on her face.
"Just don't do anything rash, these are royals. Let me do most of the talking."
The two acsended the short ladder. Jonas had to blink when he entered the train car, then a small smile spread over his face. The inside of the train car was easily three times larger than physical possible from the dimensions of the outside.
"It's got a spacial distortion engine! I've seen the theory, but never one put into practice in such difficult situation, the power demands alone must be astromomical! And the spacial matrixes, to realign in realtime on a moving object, the cortex must be very advanced!" He said out loud, jaw nearly on the floor, "I must see how it works!"
"Maybe later." Paddy muttered from behind him, pulling his trunk and her duffle bag easily up the ladder
Jonas was suddenly aware that his outburst had drawn the attention of every eye in the passanger car, most had a skeptical gleam to them but some had a bemused glimmer. He striaghtened his collar and stood up striaghter.
"Err... later of course..."
The entrance was elegantly arched and carved with trees and wooden nymphs that held up the roof with outstretched hands. Coat closets and luggage racks were hidden cleverly behind mirrored doors that reflected the small wooden glade into a limitless forest. Past the entrance was a billard room and a bar on one side, coaches on the other. The roof was a crystal sky light that streamed in bright sunshine even though Jonas knew that if he were to climb atop the car he would not be able to peer inside, not to mention the fact that they were underground. What they could see of the train car was lavish and designed to be the utmost comfort and there were further closed doors wrought in the same picturesque style of the arch. There was no telling how far the train car went.
Ronald Taras cleared his throat from where he stood with cue in hand near the billard table.
"Mynfield. Good, you're here." He raised an eyebrow at the bags. "the servants did not relieve you of your luggage? I shall have Bullsmith whip them."
"Oh no, this is carry on. Books and such. Its a long ways to Frillda, I'd rather have them with me." Jonas said with a smile, stepping past the archway so Paddy had room to manuevor.
"Oh Mr Mynfield, you needn't have worried about books." Samantha Taras was lounging with several other women on a couch, "I'm sure you'll find our library very well stocked. Why just yesterday I was browsing through and found a copy of Witless Exploits. It's such a clever read."
The siblings looked much as they had when Jonas had met them previous. Randal wore stark blacks, though this time in a heavier weight, no doubt in preparation for the cold to come. His expression was unchanged, suspicious and hard even in the midst of his most trusted friends. Friends or enemies, Jonas reminded himself, a man as smart as Randal keeps his enemies close. As Jonas smiled towards Samantha he had a sudden thought. Perhaps that's why the Taras siblings stay so close, they might see each other as rivals. Samantha is the dangerous one. Jonas remembered the words of the elder Taras.
Most of the others in the train car were unknown to Jonas, as well two of the ladies had their backs to Jonas as they sat on the ring of couches. Ronald's opponent at the billiard table was a square jawed man in military uniform, the rank of captain pinned to his green jacket. His hair was cut short and there was a cowboyish manner to him; a boy who was playing at soldier but had yet to lift a gun in self defense or anger. Likely his rank had been bought and this was an errand for someone or a favor called in by Randal.
"This is Guy Havoc, of the University Military detachment. He and his squad will be accompanying us to the site to oversee protection." Randal said, "he is a friend of the family."
Guy took his shot at the pool table, knocking a green ball and a pink ball into two separate pockets, he stood with a grin on his face, "good to meet you Mynfield. Heard alot about you, most of it wonderful stuff. We'll have to compare notes, you and I, over some drinks. The trip is long, I'm sure we can find the time."
"I'm sure, yes. looking forward to it, very much." Jonas smiled back, unsure of why Ronald would bring a captain on this voyage.
"My sweet sister has already announced herself, and she has brought a few companions along as well." Randal said, dismissing them as if they were insignificant. It made sense, to a man like Randal women were probably only good for one thing; possibly not even that given the man's tenancy to frown. Jonas had a hard time imagining him with any other expression much less a happy one.
"Randal, you never were a gracious host. Always business. Here, introductions are in order Mr. Mynfield. I'm sure they've heard of you, but since you aren't familiar with societies inner circles anymore, you won't have met them I don't think."
"No I don't suppose I would have..." Jonas said. In truth it had been ages since he had attended a gala or art showing by accident or invitation. There had been a time when the presence of Jonas Mynfield had been manditory for any guest list, but those days were saddly over. The only circles he was familiar with were those that requested his services, and very rarely were the requesters young high born women, the present situation excluded of course.
Samantha looked radiant and wore a tight fitting jacket with an open collar, with a simple brown and white patterned skirt with no layering, hoops or petticoats of any kind. Jonas had never been a fan of a dress too complex for a man to operate, and silently applauded her choice. She's the dangerous one. The words came back to Jonas. They echoed there a while and went a fair ways to chilling his thoughts of her.
"I've brought friends with me, as well." Samantha said, "I sorely wanted to come, but feared for boredom. These wonders submitted to accompany me. There's only so much billiards I can stand to watch. First allow me to introduce Mary Blando. Mary is working at an entrance paper to the university and thought this the perfect chance to get fieldwork into her resume. She's a Happen-Blando, from the island. Her parents are second in line to inherit Millship Air."
"How do you do?" Mary asked politely, her mouth not bothering to smile.
The girl could not have been much older than Samantha, and was probably younger. Her hair was red and but her demeanor spoke of none of the fiery personality that often went with the color. Her features were elfin and fine, her skin porcelain. Her eyes matched her hair, seeming to blaze and crackle like embers when she looked at him. The effect was unnerving. She already had a long parka on, fur lined and white with the hood pulled back and the front undone. Underneath a plain navy shirt with green trim could be seen, complete with pants of the same coloring. A very studious look, Jonas thought, but the cut was tailored and he knew it was aof fine quality.
"Very well, so far." Jonas said, "it's always a pleasure to meet another acedemic. What's your major?"
"I haven't yet decided." Mary said, "but I suppose if I was to choose this instant, theoretical physics would win out over engineering."
"Mary, you're too modest." Samantha gushed, "Mary, here, graduated the top of her class from Bluebell Academy, full science honors. She's a prodigy! More than likely she'll be double majoring."
Mary's mouth twitched at that, a small hint of a smile. "Perhaps." Was all she said.
"Either way, we shall have to engage in discussions." Jonas said, "I find myself fearfully devoid of educated conversation as of late." Behind him, Paddy scowled.
"Oh Mary will talk your leg off, if you get her going. I'm sure you'll both have alot to talk about." The last woman interupted, standing to introduce herself. "I'm Sansha. Sansha Evering. Yes of those Everings. Don't beelive everything you hear, about half of it is absolute rubbish and the other half is greatly exaggerated. Why, the story about father and Uncle Herb and that business down in Camjing Hills is just ludicreous, mother would never stand for it, for one, and for the other, father was away on sahari that whole summer! He's got the Cat hides to prove it, filthy things!"
She was ample in the body, boardering on plump with long lengths of brown curls that cascaded down her back and all over her shoulders. Her dress was heavy and embroidered with a scene of flowers, the vines crawling up her stomache and embracing her significant bodice. There was a laughing quality in her eyes and all the energy that her friend, Mary, lacked. It was evident that this one had fun with life and lived in abundance as well as spoke in abundance. The Evering name, as Sansha had eluded to, was one steeped in controversary. They were very old money and had very few active investments with which to occupy their time. A bored royal was what the dime papers loved, and every other week an Evering seemed to make their way tot he front page, photographed with some street walker, or found drunk in an alley lacking pants.
"I'm very pleased to meet you Mr Mynfield. I save clippings from the paper as to adventurers and what not, it seems I have as many clippings of you as I do of anyone." She said, talking fast, "When you're talking with Guy, I think I might listen in, not to interupt you understand, just to listen. I simply love good stories."
"You interupt? Perish the thought." Mary said dryly. Sasha made a face at her and then returned to Jonas, who stood just a little shell struck.
"And I see you've brought a companion of your own?" Samantha asked.
"Er, yes, yes!" Jonas shook his head, "forgive my manners, as you say it's been ages since I've been in good company. Allow me to introduce my dear companion, Padilla Nimmers-Sach."
Paddy bowed her head in a small bow, it was all she could manage under the wieght of the luggage she was carrying. Samantha was as pleasant as always but the other girls she had brought had small frowns on their faces. Guy had a strange smile on his face as he rubbed his jaw and took her in.
"I hope they're not too dear of companions," Jonas heard Sansha say under her breath and was suddenly accutely aware that the way Sansha was looking at him was usually how he wanted a woman to look at him. In this case, under these circumstances, he wasn't so sure he could afford further complication. But, he reasoned with himself, if you're dead anyway, may as well make it an enjoyable death. There would be worse things that Jonas could think of than being stuck on a train with three beautiful women. Of course, the loviest of those women was also a diabolical Royal...
"A Pralat." Randal said flattly, starting Jonas back from his day dream. "I've heard alot about your people, I've read alot about you Mrs Nimmers-Sach. I'm delighted to finally meet you."
Paddy looked to Jonas a moment. He nodded with a shrug and she responded, "Yes, I am from Pralat." Then as if she thought there should be more she said, "I'm pleased to meet you all."
"And a fine upstanding citizen she's been in Arconis the past dozen or so years. Military service, business in the water markets, every sort of interesting thing you can imagine!" Jonas injected.
"Military service eh?" Guy said, jaw still in hand. It seemed he had forgotten about the game of billards that he'd been losing. "You don't say. Tell me, what unit did you serve under?"
Again Paddy looked to Jonas before responding and didn't say anything until she received a nod.
"I server five years in Arconis armed forces, 5th regiment. The next ten years I served special forces under Admiral Ca'Dil." She said stiffly.
"We'll have to talk about that, sounds like some more good stories." Guy smiled.
"And I'll, of course, need to listen in." Sansha said quickly, fluttering her eyes at Guy and smiling her ample smile, "not to interupt of course, only to listen. I love stories." Mary rolled her eyes.
From the front of the train car a man in a conductor's uniform pushed through a heavy metal door. He stood at rigid attention the starched lines of his uniform falling striaght down this lank body. Black bush eye brows perched atop deep sunken dark eyes and a majestic moustach perched atop his lip. The uniform was in the red and gold of the old rail road companies, he was a relic in this day of aircraft, just liek the train. Randal nodded his greeting to the man.
"It appears we're ready to be under way. Very well conductor." Randal nodded at the man, who returned the nod and left the way he'd come.
"Quiet fellow, isn't he?" Jonas said pleasantly.
"He's trained in the old ways of conducting." Randal said, "he doesn't speak unless it is to command. He can not command us, we are his betters, so he remains quiet. Now, the servants will take your bags and show you to your rooms. I assure you they are quite comfortable."
"I gave up the second master suite for the both of you," Sansha said brightly, "though I can switch back if you'd rather. I'm easy like that. Anything you want to do, just suggest and I'm sure we can come to an agreement."
"Er, I'm sure it's fine." Jonas said, smiling back as confidently as he could, "Is this all your guests then?" He directed the last to Randal.
Randal shook his head, "no there are four more. One of Captain Havoc's leuteinants is staying in this car, though he is starting the voyage in the barracks to ensure that the troops are settled."
"His name's Bradoc," Guy put in, "he'll replace me as captain soon I'm thinking." There was a smug look on his face as if it ahd already been decided.
"Bullsmith of course is here, though he is a servant and not a guest." Samantha said, "and then professor Minx and his two lab assistants. They're in the Orange room. Overall they're more suited to lecture halls and labratories than social situations."
"Still," Jonas said, "It would be rude not to meet them, at the least, and to be introduced. It would be frightful to bump into them and not know a name to place on the man. This train can't be that large, can it?" he raised an eyebrow and Sansha bubbled over with laughter. Randal eyed him suspiciously. Jonas was still missing one important person in teh puzzle. If elements fo the Banning family were in league with the Taras siblings, then where was the Banning man? Or Woman?
Samantha smiled, "it's not as large as some people seem to think it is."
"Sorry, I'm sorry for laughing, inside joke," Sansha wiped at her eyes.
"It's a standard expansion modual," Mary said matter of factly, as if that explained everything. Luckily, for Jonas, it did explain everything. He nodded.
"Ah, I see. Well, then, I guess there is some chance I won't run into them by accident."
The servants had come by that point and Jonas discreetly singaled to Paddy that it would probably be best to reliquish their bags without coming to fisticuffs with the serving people. Jonas was always amazed at how often he needed to make that signal. About the same time there was a very faint whistle and the train car shuddered. Sansha squeeled with delight.
"An adventure! We're off on a real, honest to goodness adventure!" She clapped her hands together and then pulled Mary to her feet, "I want to sit and watch the countryside for a while, come with me won't you?"
Helpless to hinder her, Mary was forced along and down one of the halls. Jonas nodded, an adventure. right. Just as helplessly, Paddy and he were being forced along those tracks.
"We're underway Mynfield," Guy said, hoisting a bottle, "care for a drink?"
"I'd love one."

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