I don't like Fate. People use it as an excuse for weakness, and a justification for power. I like to believe that it is the actions of men that bring us into the darkness, and the actions of men that will bring us out of it.
Do not misunderstand, I worship the same as any other. I give my offerings at the temple of the Lightning King for the health of the Crown, I burn incense in my family's shrine to our ancestors of the Claudia Sabinii, and I have been painted in the sacred blood of Mars. I believe that my ancestors watch over me; I just don't believe they control what I do. I don't like fate.
And I really don't like it when it results in the abduction of 12 hard working men and women of Londinium.
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From the outside, the warehouse was nothing special. Made of sturdy and dark stone, it sported an industrial strength boiler tower in one corner for the works inside; nothing served to distinguish it from one of a hundred similar buildings scattered near the docks of Londinium. A brass plate near the front door proclaimed it owned by a Mr. Submortum and his sons, although whether this was the first generation of such sons one couldn't tell. It looked hardworking and boring, filled with the kind of men who threw heavy things around and then got a pint at the pub after work; if the building had a personality, it would have a rough accent and be slightly unshaved but respectable enough, thank you kindly.
It did not look like the hiding place of the newest cult to hit the Most Serene Republic of Alba.
The Ordo Liber was not, despite its unassuming name, a group of uppity booksellers deploring the state of modern literature. It was, apparently, a religious fringe sect convinced that the end of times were near. They had started out simply enough, marching about with signs and circulating papyri claiming that 'The last story has been told, and our end with it'. It was no different than many other doomsday cults you see from time to time. I had barely paid them notice; normally they have the decency to wait around for their vaunted 'end times' to come, and then shuffle home embarrassedly when it didn't.
The librarians—because really, why dignify them—had not shuffled home. Instead they had staged several daring daylight kidnappings from locations ranging from a workhouse to the Plebean House itself during a debate. The Urban Legion always chased them, but neither the cultist who made the grab nor the victim had been seen from again. The first kidnapping was a month and a half ago. The most recent was this morning.
Which brought me to the roof of the slightly shorter warehouse next door, surveying the drab target before me. Having been in the Senate at the time of the abduction I did not have the opportunity to act directly but had managed to pick up the trail later. A day of searching had brought me, still clad in my Senatorial best suit and cravat, to their headquarters. My greatcoat whispering as I moved, I reached underneath it to set my boiler to pressurizing. It turned on with a familiar thunk-hiss, and I crept up to the side.
The boiler was a legacy of my father, Comes Marcus Claudius Sabinus Scaevola, a brilliant inventor as well as politician. Similar in purpose to the one on the warehouse, he had invented the first personal boiler small enough to fit beneath a greatcoat but strong enough for soldiering and work. When released, pressure ran from the boiler through thin tubes underneath my clothing to my wrists, where they were hidden in the cuffs of my shirt and indistinguishable. One was pulled out, and connected to the other legacy from my father: The Tribune.
A pressure gun of not insignificant size and weight, the Tribune was as much a breakthrough as my boiler. Very few people favored three chambered revolving guns, as the risk of one chamber setting the others off increased as more chambers were added. He had solved that, and been planning a four chambered model when he died. I further supplemented it by firing leather bags filled with buck, to impact and render unconscious rather than kill; these shots were fired by the pressure of the boiler, rather than regular powder rounds. The Tribune could fire regular powder rounds, it did have a switch to engage a firing pin, but dead men make such a mess and speak so very little.
I saw several sentries walking on top of the roof of the librarian's warehouse, and was glad that formal dress for the Senate so often involved black. As I waited for both of them to be facing away from this roof at the same time I fitted one of several other extensions I could into the Tribune. This one was a harpoon, connected to a thin steel cable spooled around the boiler.
They turned, and I fired; one of the benefits of a pressure powered revolver is little noise besides a 'whumph' of steam moving that most people in the city tuned out from hearing so much. The harpoon sunk into its' target, the door leading down into the warehouse. I looped the cable into the retractor, which I clicked into place on to my gun. With a flick of the switch to 'High', I was yanked violently out in to the air between the two warehouses.
Not all of my actions had been quiet; there was a definite thunk of harpoon into wood, and on high the retractor made an audible whirring sound. One of the guards had come over to see, and was looking back by the time I was ready to disconnect the Tribune from the cable. Free-flying momentarily, I was able to introduce him to the heel of my boot before he could draw his knife. My momentum continuing me past him, I hit the ground and rolled to a crouch.
This of course drew the attention of the other guard, who started to run towards us. I cycled the chamber with a low click and fired one of the beanbags into his midriff, sending him doubling over in pain. A shuffle of feet behind me meant the first guard had risen, and I brought the Tribune up just in time to parry the overhead strike he was aiming at my neck. I turned quickly and spun, and as I came back around tagged him ever so gently on the side of the head. He apparently didn't like the Tribune's kiss, and crumpled to the ground.
I turned back to the second to find him standing, and running for the door. I had to admire his dedication, if not his brains, and legged it myself towards him. I may not be in the civic legions, but I can throw a tackle with the best of them, and we went tumbling to the hard ground. Landing on my ribs, I was forced to rethink my tackling performance; air was painful to draw in for a moment, and spots of pain went across my vision.
As I pulled myself up, I felt a thunk at my back, the sound of metal hitting something hard, but non-metallic. I winced, but stood quickly and banished the look from my face; no need to show him that I was worried, for a moment, that he might have breached the boiler and blown us both up.
"Not quite that easy." I said, as I stepped back and brought up the Tribune. But he was staring blankly at his knife, which was apparently a cheap one as he had broken at the handle. "Should go for one with a full tang next time, friend." I advised.
He looked up at me. "She said one would come." He offered, throwing his knife away. He knelt and put his hands behind him in a clear position of submission; or at least of 'not fighting, don't shoot'. "They are waiting for you." He said, and looked to the door.
I didn't back away from him as I went back to the door and retrieved my harpoon, the cable falling away harmlessly. I slid it back into the slot it took on my belt, and stepped through the doorway. The guard never stopped looking at me, his eyes wide…hopeful?