Chapter 16

Administrator Bonetti and General Marx sat in a cramped storage room in the Ambassadorial Villa and watched the wall. A three foot square panel had been slid aside, revealing a dark tunnel and Captain Pape had entered that tunnel a full twenty minutes ago.

“Silly old fossil will be giving Pape the run around.” Marx said in irritation. “He dashes from room to room and we have to corner the senile old lunatic.” Loram DeGaise had used this tunnel the night that Kore had been chased around the building. Usually, a very stout lock on the outside of the storage room door prevented any further progression into the Villa but on that night, Loram had been sitting in one of the first floor studies, 'in conference'. Marx had been shocked beyond belief that Ben Astrella's theory that night had been so accurate. Luckily, so much else had gone on that it hadn't been pursued.

“Say please.” A voice drifted down the tunnel.

“I did! You're half way down the damned thing. Come on, move it.” Pape sounded very annoyed indeed.


“For shit's sake. Please? Please Emperor DeGaise? Thank you. Daft old buzzard.”

“I don't like this room.” Loram DeGaise rolled forwards into the storage room, colliding with Bonetti's feet. “Purple for that wall, I think. How about a nice pearly grey for the ceiling?” He sat cross-legged in front of the Administrator. “You could do with a coat or two yourself, Bonetti.”

“Loram we have a problem of a very serious nature.” Bonetti ignored Loram's foolish remarks. “We had a glimpse of just how forceful the Athulan rabble are today.”

“So kick their arses!” Loram shrugged. “Oh you can't, can you? Your own fault for going all democratic. Bunch of milk-maids.” He sniffed. “So they're still behaving themselves eh?” Loram smirked and Bonetti did not look pleased at all.

“We need funding and ... persuasion ... to access records in Tibrae. We need names, Loram. We need descendants. These descendants aren't innocent victims anymore, they've gradually realised that they were mistreated by you and are making moves towards rectifying it.” Bonetti lied. He needed the gladiators provoked and which name out of all other names would cause a negative reaction? The name of DeGaise. Bonetti wanted not the name of Athula descendants, but DeGaise descendants. He'd hoped beyond hope that he could link Toller with the name, but no matter how far he'd looked into their very limited resources, he tuned up nothing. Bonetti needed access to more resources but simply did not have the legal authority to demand it of the Tibrean government and their extensive pre-war library. The Tibreans would not be able to be bribed, Bonetti knew that would be a waste of time, so they needed other persuasions. He had Lord and Lady Astrella right there on his doorstep, now all he needed was a way to persuade them to grant him authority for his research. Loram DeGaise could actually remember details, in his more lucid moments, and that was all Bonetti would need. Even a shaky suggestion in the right direction could produce excellent results if worked on properly. This method would almost certainly succeeded with Leo, had the unexpected factor of Ursus Toller not presented itself. “Loram we need the Astrella's permission to access their library.” Loram nodded slowly, digesting all of this as best he could.

“They'll tell you to piss off, Bonetti, probably have you thrown in the dungeon for being an arse-wipe too.” Loram concluded. “Mistreated by me.” He sighed sadly. “Your words cut to my bones Bonetti.”

“It's a sad fact that these animals still bear the grudge.” Bonetti said in false sympathy. “Hence our utmost attempts to control their presence and role in Azoria.” Loram nodded again, then stood up abruptly.

“Sod off.” He said rudely, and darted back into the tunnel.

“Wha ... ? Get after him Pape!” Bonetti snapped. What the hell was he doing now? The Athulan rabble threat worked every time! Pape dragged Loram back into the room by his leggings.

“I like Ambassadors.” Loram said stubbornly. “Very clever people. If you had a clever Ambassador on your side, then you wouldn't be trying to blackmail their favours. Or are you suggesting that the Ambassador is Athula too? I can tell you, she most definitely isn't.”

“Damn it.” Bonetti cursed. Of all the times to be almost totally lucid, he picked that time. “Loram your life could be in danger, we're thinking of your safety, you know that.”

“The Athulans will kill me?” Loram whimpered on purpose and curled up against the wall.

“Without hesitation.” Bonetti assured him. “We wouldn't let them the first time and we won't this time, but we need identities, Loram.”

“Of Athulans?” Loram simpered, looking wildly round the room.

“Yes but official identities of convicted, documented persons and for that we need the library in Tibrae. Yes?” Bonetti said eagerly. This was more like it.

“I have an idea.” Loram said feebly and Bonetti nodded encouragingly. “Ask Lord and Lady Astrella about the gladiator girl.”

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