The transport ship eventually lands on the independent world of Impiruil Baile…

Bluefang leans down to peer out of a porthole at the landing pad. “Never been here before.” He swivels his snout to glance at Razorback. “Here’s hoping we weren’t followed.”

“Indeed,” Razorback says with a nod as he rises to his footpaws, “While the Militia has no jurisdiction here, if what you say is true, they are the least of our worries, no? At least here, if someone comes, we can deal with them in self-defense.”

Keth nods. “It’s not really the heavy tourist season, so there’re plenty of available rooms… is the situation something I should be aware of, or is deniability the better course?”

“A fair question,” Bluefang replies. He shrugs. “I’ll leave it up to Razorback. I *can*  say that I need to contact the Consortium government through secure channels. Soon.”

“I have nothing to hide from you,” Razorback says to Kethren, “You may not know me well, but I have known I can trust you for some time. And given that Mr. Rockstepper will need to use whatever diplomatic channels you have access to … I believe it best that we formally request asylum here on Impiruil Baille. Can you conduct that request to the proper channels?”

The pilot du jour taps a few things on the console as he nods. “Yes, of course. Just sent a quick message on a secure channel.  Just letting the diplomatic office know that we’ve got some incoming business of a high priority.”

“Before you do that, it is best that you understand the stakes,” Bluefang says. “Someone wants war. Lord Fagin. Asylum for us may put your world on his list of targets.”

“It is true,” Razorback says thoughtfully, “Whoever is behind this is, as far as I can see, willing to kill to destabilize the relationship between Terra and Demaria. The larger ramifications of which, I cannot say for now. I have no personal loyalty to the Consortium, but with the power of the Nall growing, it is no time for chaos.”

Keth rubs the bridge of his nose. “Officially, we’re neutral, but we’re not exactly in favor of conquering empires rolling through either…  Let’s get ourselves into The Knot, the diplomats work out of a secure suite of offices in the basement there. We’ll see what we can figure out.”

Bluefang bobs his snout in assent. “Lead. I will follow.”

The Cliffwalker lets Kethren lead the way, it is his home, after all. Even here, however, he is constantly checking his surroundings.

The trip to The Knot’s not a long one. Just out of the space port, and a little ways past the fountain at the center of town… a site the architect always smiles a bit at in passing.  For the sake of appearances, he does the tour guide thing he usually does when leading new people through town. It’s a pretty normal sight in these parts.

The limping Demarian takes in his surroundings with less of a tourist’s gaze and more of a tactician’s assessment, with a mix of appreciation and paranoia. “How long has this settlement been here?”

Razorback seems more inclined to seek out changes from his last visit. A stranger whose scent sticks out due to a non-local diet, a change in the silhouette of a building. He pays enough  attention to avoid rudeness, but it is clear that both Demarians have been living on edge for a while.

Keth keeps walking along, pointing out sights as they go. “Well, I first discovered the trees we’ve grown things from about ten years ago… there was about a year of experimenting before I grew that fountain as a proof of concept… the rest of things started coming in not long after, really.”

“How tight is your immigration screening?” Bluefang asks. “Visa procedures? Beyond asylum, which is appreciated, I worry about those who might come in search of us.”

“As do I,” Razorback rumbles as he follows along, “They might be injured, or killed. Worse, their injury might cause collateral damage. “

The architect looks thoughtful as he continues the tour, and scratches the kitten-ferret on his shoulder. “Generally, we’re not that harsh on immigration issues. But then, generally this place is small enough and far enough out of the way that we don’t attract a lot of trouble either. People come to enjoy the unusual wildlife. Some love it so much they stay around. Still,  we keep a supply of Red Eclipse guards stationed around, so if we need to tighten things up for special occasions, it’s not a problem.”

“Red Eclipse,” the limping Demarian growls. “Mercenaries.” He shakes his snout, huffing disdain.

Razorback chuckles faintly, his ears canted forward. “I have had my share of dealings with Red Eclipse,” he says, “Dismiss them at your peril.”

The tour guide du jour nods slightly as they approach the hotel they’ve been heading to. “We’ve had good relations with them for a fair while. Not uncommon for the ones not stationed here to visit on their time off.”

“I don’t question their expertise,” Bluefang replies with a growl. “I fear it, coupled with the right amount of payment from those who would see us dead.”

“That is not a particularly large concern for me,” Razorback says, somewhat cryptically. Nonetheless, he allows the others to enter ahead of him, still seeking out anyone who might be following them.

Kethren leads the way on into The Knot’s basement. Well, as far as the first of the security checkpoints, anyway. Nobody gets down there without being accompanied by someone in government. “As I said, relations are good. I’m not particularly worried.”

Bluefang follows into the basement, but not happily. He looks around, wary of an ambush.

The big Cliffwalker brings up the rear, more concerned about a possible “tail” than what might be ahead of them.

Having passed another of the checkpoints… retinal scans this time, Keth leads the way into a nicely appointed meeting room. Mahogany like table, high end office chairs for many sizes of chair user, drinks cabinet in one wall, and so on.

“So we can die comfortably,” Bluefang observes mordantly. He seems in no hurry to take a seat, finding a wall to put his back against.

“Perhaps,” Razorback says, his muzzle bent into a smirk. He then turns to Kethren, his ears canted forward, “So will you have our tale? Or shall we await others?”

Keth walks over to the head of the table and presses a button. “Security? This is Kethren, I have a couple of guests in the diplomatic suite. Turn on the scrambling circuits, and get Nuala to join the guards at the door upstairs.” With that done, he takes a seat “Let’s get that tale, now. If we need other officials to hear it, there’ll be a secure recording available only in this room.”

Bluefang furrows his brow, whiskers twitching. He bobs his snout at Razorback. “Tell him.”

“It would seem that my friend here was hired to do a task…” the Cliffwalker pauses, his tail twitching as he formulates his words carefully, “To assassinate President Busby of the Consortium. As you may know from news reports, this did not take place. Mr. Rockstepper had begun to believe that the situation was a setup and went into hiding. He was found when an injury placed him in the hospital, and someone was sent to murder him. He survived the attempt, slaying his would-be killer. I arrived about that time and did what I could to assist his escape, until we were able to call you. Our pursuers do not seem to be allies of the Demarian government per se, as they seem to have been using Militia resources without authorization. I am convinced that if we can find a way to prove both his story and my own, those involved can be brought into the light. Assuming we survive, of course.”

Keth nods thoughtfully. “Any idea what their motives might be?”

“War,” is all Bluefang offers by way of motive.

“Yes,” Razorback hisses in agreement, “It would seem to be an attempt to destabilize the Consortium. While I am not great lover of the organization in general, I certainly have no wish to see the  Orion Arm thrown into chaos.”

Keth reaches up to scratch the kittenferret on his shoulder, as she’s looking a bit stressed. “Could do without chaos, certainly. No good for people there, no good for people out here either. Especially not good for neutrality… not that we’re hard lined about neutrality, we’d be nowhere if we weren’t pragmatic.”

“Good for Lord Fagin,” Bluefang replies. Apparently satisfied no one is going to garrote, stab, shoot, or poison him at this point, he pulls out a chair and sits at the table. Still, with his back to a wall and eyes on the stairwell. “Good for anyone who profits from conflict.”

“Or anyone who would prefer to see their enemies tear each other apart,” Razorback adds, his ears swivelling back, “At any rate, we would like to send a warning to the Consortium that there are threats on the President’s life from outside of their borders.”

Kethren looks thoughtful for a bit. “Hrm. Well, I think that could be arranged. “

“What do you have in mind?” Bluefang asks.

“I have a bath in mind,” Razorback says with a low chuckle, “And that right soon.”

Keth drums his fingers on the table for a moment. “Well, one of the simpler options would be to get one of the REM people to carry the message on what would appear to be a routine trip somewhere. Either to the appropriate people directly, or to some as yet unspecified spot to transmit it from.” (edited)

“That should work,” Bluefang replies. He looks over at Razorback. “Thoughts?”

“Agreed,” Razorback says, nodding slowly, “Though I should like to attempt to get to the bottom of this. I would prefer not to be hunted in perpetuity.”

Keth nods “Well then. I’d suggest that you two compose the message to be sent, and then we can dispatch someone to get that warning out… and hopefully the folks receiving it will be inclined to assist in any investigations. Being perpetually hunted is terrible for the otherwise calming effects of a good bath.”

Bluefang gives a casual shrug that fits about as well as a loose suit jacket. “I prefer to be the one doing the hunting.” He takes out his PDA and starts tapping out the message. “I appreciate your help with this. It will not be forgotten and, if I have any say about it, unrewarded.” The assassin glances toward the other Demarian. “Nor will it go unpunished. I have certain debts to repay in pain.” (edited)

The Cliffwalker nods to Bluefang. “I am far more comfortable in the role of predator than I am prey,” he growls, “And I have much work yet to do on Demaria. I will not quit her permanently, nor remain in anonymity forever.”

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By Brody

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