Chapter 6

Vespus Creed walked casually over to the Pit's gates when he saw the gladiator approaching them. He'd hidden out of sight but with a good view of the gates, just in case she'd been in the company of other gladiators and was very relieved to see she was alone.

“Excuse me, I need to speak with you.” Creed stood in front of Kore and couldn't help but stare. He'd presumed her stature was exaggerated by the distance he'd been from her, and the size of her opponents in the arena. He was wrong. The woman was tiny! Creed actually peered a few inches closer into her face just to make sure he had the right person.

“I doubt that.” Kore smiled and tried to sidestep the Azorian Captain.

“I came to deliver a verbal invitation from the Governor.” Creed said quickly. He'd decided to give the gladiator the chance to accept the request of her own free will, slim though that chance was. “Governor and Lady Toller request your company at the Villa this evening at the banquet in honour of Lady Toller's birthday.” Kore erupted into laughter and Creed grit his teeth and seethed.

“OK who put you up to it?” Kore looked around herself, and behind Creed. “Either that, or you have the wrong person. Excuse me please Captain.”

“I've just came from your brother's home in Blue Lane.” Creed said as Kore started to walk away. She stopped and turned to face the soldier. “The librarian, Leo. I don't think I have the wrong person. You are his sister, obviously, although I'm unsure of your name even though I've seen you in the arena a hundred times.”

“Which has what to do with my brother?” Kore asked darkly. She could smell a rat a mile off.

“That depends on you miss ... ?”

“Kore. My brother is a librarian, as you said, not a gladiator, and I'm absolutely certain that he isn't going to Lady Toller's party. I don't see the connection so why mention him?” Kore took a few steps towards Creed. Creed smiled smugly. Honour had been right, these two were incredibly close and very protective of one another.

“I mentioned him because I've been asked to look into a few things, namely the smuggling of dissident literature to Plaus. Leo is in a perfect position to carry out such activities and he is not Azorian.” Creed shrugged casually.

“Not DeGaise, you mean.” Kore corrected sharply. “Captain, that is the biggest load of horse-shit I've heard in a very long time.” She laughed. “I presume Leo told you that too.”

“He did, yes, but I still have to research this. I might need Leo to ... vacate his house for a time while I do this.” Creed said meaningfully. “Or I could find other means of investigation that won't affect your brother unless I find anything incriminating.”

“Which you won't. Captain, if you had anything on my brother, he'd be in the jail right now and you certainly wouldn't be here gossiping with me.” Kore said patiently.

“Actually I don't need anything on him. Potential dissident activity is a very serious matter and one of the few occasions where the Military has the authority to act first, prove or disprove later.” Creed told Kore. He was right too. Yet another stupid law that had, conveniently, not been amended. She glared daggers right through the Captain. “Ah I see we understand each other.” Creed smiled.

“Don't flatter yourself. Let me clarify this. If I don't go to this snobby banquet, you'll go and arrest my brother on the suspicion of dissident activity. Right?” Kore snarled.

“More or less, yes. Oh by the way, Leo doesn't know we have this agreement, you weren't even mentioned, that's why I wasn't sure of your name.” Creed said, as though that was a big favour to Kore.

“We don't have an agreement Captain, I haven't said yes.” Kore snapped. “Why in black hell do they want me there?” Kore was quite astonished at this. “I'm not your typical débutante. It's obviously quite important that I'm there too judging by the lengths you're going to to ensure it.” She frowned at the soldier.

“To be honest with you, I'm as surprised as you are.” Creed said truthfully. “All I know is that I was ordered to get you there and a refusal of that order would mean a swift retirement to the out-plains.” Creed shrugged. “I knew there was no chance of you accepting that invitation of your own accord, none at all.”

“Well I thank you for your honesty in telling me that, I suppose.” Kore sighed loudly. “Maybe if you'd offered me that explanation first, before you went to harass my innocent brother, I'd be more approachable. I do understand what it's like to be under orders.” Kore said irritably. It really did annoy her that people presumed that the gladiators needed such a crass incentive to do anything other than fight. This soldier had automatically presumed that intimidation of a family member was the only way to secure Kore's co-operation. He'd never thought for one moment that she could actually reason situations and could appreciate that the Captain was acting under orders.

“Would it have worked? I doubt it and I'm not in the habit of trying to elicit sympathy from gladiators.” Creed said flatly. “I stay with my original plan. I base my method of research into this dissident literature on your decision regarding the Governor's invitation. No, I don't trust you, before you ask. You're to attend the Villa dressed in something a bit more suitable than ... that.” Creed nodded at Kore's attire in general. “You don't show, I pick up Leo at midnight. Good day to you Kore.” Creed nodded and turned to walk away. Kore resisted the urge to draw her sword on him. A Governmental banquet? Were they all insane? Why would anyone want someone like Kore at an upper class function?

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