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Old 04/10/2010   #46

= = = M E A N W H I L E , E L S E W H E R E . . . . . . = = =

Donovan Early was not having a good week. For the last two years, he’d found steady employment - admittedly, with multiple employers - in the war-torn country of Damascus. For the last ten months, he had been kept on a retainer by the governor of Chulainn, sometimes doing jobs for him, sometimes being paid for not doing any jobs for his rivals. (There was an old saying in Damascus: a mercenary is worth two men - one on your side, and one not on your enemy’s.)

While working in Damascus, he had become familiar with the name VOLSUNG. Back in the days of Unified Damascus, Volsung had been the name in consumer, pharmaceutical and military goods. To keep themselves “neutral” politically, Volsung had owned facilities in each of Damascus’ provinces. When the provinces began to make war with each other after the loss of the central province - and thus, the Damascan government (Early would love to learn how exactly you “lost” a tract of land) - Volsung splintered and practically ceased to exist. Their facilities ended up as the property of the various governors and warlords who set themselves up in the power vacuum.

So, being called into the offices of the governor and meeting with a former Volsung scientist, only to be told he would have to leave the country… It was fair to say Early was slightly miffed. While he was leaving the country on well-paid business, he had certain side-interests in Damascus that he disliked leaving (a contract was contract, but the contract had said nothing on information brokering).

To cap it all, he’d got as far as the border between Damascus and Artolia, and his van had broken down. Class.

On the plus side, another driver on the Artolia side had just stopped for him, and hadn’t yet tried firing on him.

A man in his fifties, or possibly well-preserved sixties, climbed out of the cab of the other vehicle. He had a fairly solid body shape and short grey hair and beard. Glasses reflected the sunlight, obscuring his eyes.

“Can I help you, lad?” the old man asked.

What Early could see of the face stirred something in his memory. “Are there twelve still standing?” he asked.

The old man froze momentarily, before swearing softly. “I’m Smythe,” he said.

Formerly Doctor Mateus Smythe, Early thought to himself, glad he’d remembered both the face and the code phrase.

“I’m Early,” he said.

Smythe snorted. “Actually, you’re damned late, Mr. Early. But now I see why. Isn’t Chulainn paying you enough for better transport?”

They were. “Call it sentimental value,” he said.

Smythe shook his head. “Fine, I’ll hook your crap heap up to my truck. Sooner this is over with, the sooner Volsung can leave me the hell alone again.”
I work all day and I think all night
I break my body, but that's all right
Cos it'll take all my mind and all my might
To keep one step ahead of you
L.E. Modesitt, Jr wrote: Sometimes cynicism is the last refuge of the idealist.
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn't measure up.
You think water moves fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once and got a taste for murder.
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