The Spinning Cog’s rich, dark wood paneled interior glowed with light emanating from leviathan-oil lamps that suffused it with a gentle golden colour. It was a large rectangular room with oversized wooden tables and sturdy chairs designed to support the weight of some of the heavier dcmvir. At the western corner, an imposing and intricately carved bar stretched across the back of the room. The carvings were of elegant, interlocking cogs and gears that spilled across the front of the bar.
Behind it, a substantial demvir was smoothly dispensing drinks to the biologicals and the demvir alike. He had a lustrous bronze sheen to his “skin” and wore a leather vest and dark velvet breeches. A pattern that resembled a mustache was etched on his faceplace. As Laermont strode in, the bartender pointed to an imposing set of wooden doors, also finely carved, at the back of the room. Nodding his assent, the quaestor made his way into the back.
As he swung the doors open, Calvinia and Professor Eduard Tersius both rose. After locking the doors, The quaestor gestured at them to sit. They took their places in ornate, high-backed wooden chairs and Laermont sat in his own reinforced chair, designed for his height and weight. Elegantly carved dragons intertwined in rich carvings around it.
The quaestor’s eyeplates flashed as he glanced from Eduard to Calvinia. “We need to talk about what happens next with TorBru, about how far we’re prepared to go outside of official channels to deal with what’s happening.”
Tersius spoke first. “The danger these Outside Ones pose is enormous. I am for any measure at all that will allow us to stop them. The law is of no importance where the future of the peoples of Araevis are concerned.”
When Calvinia spoke, it was with a tone of thoughtful circumspection. “While I agree with Eduard, we need to go carefully. Siding with the wrong people will see all of us imprisoned. Quaestor Laermont, perhaps you ought to tell us more about where you want to take this problem, outside of official channels that is.”
The quaestor laid his gigantic hands on the polished dark wood of the table, looking between his two companions, eyeplates flashing to each. “I believe we’ve got a number of options. One route to take would be to liaise with a contact of mine with connections to an underground group that will remain nameless for now. Another would be to tap into connections I have related to the Societas.”
The younger enlil quaestor was about to break in when Laermont held up a gigantic finger. “There is one more option that I want to discuss. It is by far the riskiest but I feel we ought to consider it. I am sure that both of you are familiar with an organization called ‘The Black Cats.’ “
He swept his eyeplates from one to the other of his companions. “I see that you are. As you know, they are a highly organized criminal group. They are seeking to gain control ovre the underworld in Terminus, so they’re always looking for new opportunities.”
Now Calvina asserted herself and cut in sternly. “You can’t really be considering working with them, sir? It doesn’t seem like you.”
If Laermont could have flashed a sly smile in her direction, that would have been the effect of the feeling that he radiated. “Oh I don’t propose anything nearly as direct as that, Calvinia. I was thinking more of a little misdirection or sleight of hand to....divert...their attention to TorBru.”
The crest of purple and blue feathers on the enlil’s head rose along with her eyebrows. “Ah I see...what did you have in mind?”
The hulking form of the demvir leaned in toward her. “Let us say that the leadership of the Black Cats is lead to believe that TorBru is encroaching on their territory. Let us further say that a suggestion is given that TorBru intends to infiltrate their organization to disrupt it and seize even more control. What do you think they’d do?”
A slow smile spread over the enlil’s delicate features as her green eyes met Laermont’s eyeplates. “Oh I believe they would do anything in their power to force TorBru out of their way. I can well imagine how that’d play out.”
The professor had been sitting, face solemn and lost in thought, but now he spoke. “I believe that a two-pronged attack might be prudent. I concur that the Black Cats ought to be used as pawns, but perhaps while they are creating interference, others can be performing further acts of sabotage.”
Laermont nodded firmly. “I was thinking along those lines myself. I believe I’ll approach the underground group with whom I am acquainted and propose they act as the saboteurs. I can have them in place while we work on maneuvering the Black Cats around and where I want them.”
Calvina caught his attention with a raised hand. “Would you consider using the Societas to help you manipulate the Black Cats? I hear they are good at this.”
The quaestor radiated a thoughtful sensation. “If they are still in operation. I had just realized that a number of rumors had been put about regarding them. I need to check and see the extent of their veracity. In theory, though, yes.”
A lull spread through the richly paneled room, each of the participants seemingly wrapped up in their own minds. Eventually the gigantic demvir broke the reverie with his rumbling tones. “I want you to go back to your research, Eduard. We still need to know as much as we can about what The Others are doing. Calvinia and I will explore liaising with my contacts and I will also learn what I can about the state of the Societas. Are we resolved on this course of action?”
Nods passed between each of them and Laermont stood, looming over the others. “Very well. Barring sudden developments, let us meet here in a week’s time to see where we’ve got to. I’ll let you both know when. I suggest we each leave here individually by different exits. Thank you for meeting me. I believe we can make progress now!”
As the detective stepped out into the alley through the back door, he glanced up towards the distant, hard light of the stars beyond the light of Terminus. Their indifference and emptiness cut through the haze of the world and left him feeling momentarily clean. After a moment, he glanced away again and continued down the street.