“So, how’re we getting in there, then?” I asked from behind the bar, while spit-shining a couple of mugs. “It’s not like they’re going to welcome any old group of Cogs thugs that want to wander in and case the place.”
I peered around at Dale and Duncan, seeing if they had any clever ideas.
Duncan shook his head and shrugged, making a noise like someone pushed the cook into the pantry. That boy does wear an awful lot of tin. Dale paused a moment, made some swooshing hand motions, and snapped a finger to his temple like a sage with an inspiration.
“We can make a night-time insertion!” There were some isolated sniggers from around the bar, the drunks always loved a bit of street theatre. Dale didn’t even seem to notice. “We’ll get a couple skycabs, and they can fly us over the sea side opening. We’ll rappel down on ropes until we can find safe landing in… what’s just inside the opening, anyway?”
“Tanning vats,” came the freeloader’s voice from by the door, “unless you want to smell like better unnamed chemicals and urine, we’ll need a better way in. And by ‘unless,’ of course, I mean more.”
We sneered at each other, while Duncan grumbled uncomfortably.
“I suspect you’ll want another drink?” I sallied, implying that he’d already been at it.
“Why, yes!” He said, cheerfully, “Queuing is thirsty work.”
I frowned, suspicious, and passed him a pint of the more bitters.
“If you don’t like Dale’s Daring… uh plan, then I hope you have something else in mind Mister Citizen Friday.”
“That’s Mister Sanitation Inspector Friday to you,” he grinned, slapping a certificate on the bar, “and that drink better not have been a bribe for me to overlook the violations in here.”
“Ha ha,” I returned, a little shaken, “three things. Who forged your papers? You own part of the bar, and the drink will be added to your tab, which is…”
“Never tell me the price, good woman, I simply can’t afford it.” Dale and Duncan were passing the license between them, doing the silly tests you see amateurs do – holding it up to the light and such. Morty, meanwhile, had saddled up to a stool, waved at me, and pulled a bottle of his reserve stock from behind the bar.
“So,” Friday said, stretching the word out to get my attention back, “let’s take them out of order. Yeah, part my bar; I think the conflict of interest section of the law book went missing some years back. A man needs every leg up he can get.”
“Hey!” toned the crippled ‘forge I had hired to work the bar when I wasn’t there. “No man am I, and more leg than you I need.” The fellow had been doing poorly on the street, and was a rarity in the Cogs, a ‘forged with a disability. Well, more than one, really. The same mage fire that took off his leg also scrambled his brains a little, and made his voice ring like chimes.
I’d hired him, figuring he was at least an armored fellow who knew the way around an edged weapon, and, as a destitute, he wouldn’t want much paying. Turns out I was half right, excellent with a club, he was also a competent bar man. The last thing many a drunk heard in this bar was a squeaky wheel, and a almost celestial voice saying ‘Close the night drawing, time for bed!’ Sometimes just a few notes from a lullaby would be enough to quiet a rowdy bar.
Friday, pinned by the cripple’s glare, was stammering an apology. “Ah! Oh! Singer! Sorry, uh, what…” he gestured frantically, “would be an appropriate article for… well, this?”
Singer, I guess his name was, chuckled like what a babbling brook is supposed to sound like, but doesn’t, and grinned that broken-jaw grin of his. “No fault I find.” The voice suddenly changed to what sounded like an upper Brelish accent, and he said “Though ‘He’ is, by default, an appropriate pronoun for objects, and thus ‘fellow’ (also denoting some measure of brotherhood) would be correct. ‘Man’, however, is more precise, and exclusive. Denoting a particular order of living creature, it would not include myself.”
I tossed him a coin, as a tip, or perhaps in payment for the education. Singer bashed his skull with his fist that caught the coin a couple times, and a metallic jangle rang down into his chest cavity. Whether it was the coin, or some loose mechanism, I had no idea. Singer went back to organizing the merchandise.
“Fellow. Right. Uh, thanks, Singer,” Muttered Friday, a little stunned. Singer just waved over his shoulder as he wheeled down to the other end. “First, it’s not forged, it’s legitimate. I passed the exam this morning.” He pointed to the certificate, which got a fresh round of inspection from Dale and Duncan.
“Hence the queuing.” Morty, muttered, taking a pull from the bottle.
“Hence the queuing!” Friday continued, “and third…” he paused, re-routing the lightning rails in his head, “right! Can’t afford it! Talk to me when the case it done.”
“And yes, I have a plan. I think that the plant we visited yesterday needs a thorough going over by a professional team, to hunt out some violations.” He looked around, with a sneaky smile, checking to make sure we got it. Which we did.
Honestly, call yourself a doctor and suddenly everyone else is a candidate for self-adhering boots or something.
Chapter 4 Part 2