Chapter 10

Jasper flung himself full tilt into his work. Actions were carried out at a rapid rate based on Minister Jasper Hellion's reports on the instability of the current Cell in Crull. Manoevers were ordered and troops were sent from Brightplain, first, then from Demihold a month later. Foot by painful foot, Crull was being squeezed from both sides and factions split and scattered. Groups formed, resisted, collapsed and fled and were replaced by more groups. It was chaotic. Violence and running battles erupted onto the streets and the terrorist Cells were losing. This Brightplain - Demihold double bulldozer was a drastic and last step resort. There had been no other option.

It was eight months before Jasper received his first reports on The Farm, and when he did, he was physically sick. Decomposed remains had been found in two trenches within the grounds, all riddled with bullet holes. Rotting wooden crates were still perched on top of the converted graves.

Lord Cassidy Hellion arranged for a full memorial service to be held in his own grounds in respect of the women in The Farm and dozens of people turned out. Jasper and Taybor paid for a marble monument and it was set in the orchard, under the apple trees.

"Jasper?" Maya peered through the darkness from the orchard gate. "Jasper, come on."

"I want to stay, Maya. I'm fine." Jasper's voice came from the shadows under the trees.

"Do you know how long you've been here?" Maya sat next to him, by The Farm monument. Jasper didn't answer. "Four days." Jasper looked awful. He was pale with exhaustion and his eyes were red-rimmed with tears. His chin was dark and rough with growth and his long hair was loose and unkempt. Down one side of his hair, a prematurely grey streak ran its length.

"She would have been twenty-four this Yule Time."

"I know." Maya said gently.

"We sent her to that." Jasper's voice sounded empty and hollow. "I know we hounded Taybor, but we were all responsible. I should have kept my distance, father shouldn't have put personal trust in a business colleague. All of us, Maya."

"Jasper you have to start working through it." Maya said. "You have to start accepting and grieving."

"I know. I will Maya, in my own time, when I feel I can."

Demihold had sent a great number of troops from its south border and had pumped a great deal of money into the Bulldozer. North Demihold was attempting to balance the economy by redirecting funds to the south. Brightplain was also trying to send financial subsidies but transactions were difficult cross-borders. Correspondences of every type were delayed and out of date by the time they reached their destinations.

Jasper spent his thirty-second birthday in a frenzy because one particularly elusive faction had managed to get into Brightplain. They'd managed to occupy a very small area of land in the north eastern corner that actually bordered one of the Hellion vineyards. Jasper frantically authorised permits, passes and troops and they were moved into that area. The area had been lightly guarded up to now due to it's geography. It was on a slope, for one thing, and it was also naturally protected by a nasty swamp at it's edge. Jasper cursed himself for a damned fool! He'd been with his father and Taybor when they'd grumbled about the scorching temperatures of late and the direct sunlight spoiling the crops. The blasted weather had dried up the swamp! How simple was that!

"Jasper." Chu came puffing into the office in a sweat. He was hot, flustered and irritable. "I know all of our correspondence has to be ploughed through and not all of it's relevant or useful. Most of it's old news or rubbish. Look at these, though." He handed Jasper some papers and Jasper looked at the dates first. "I know they're all late comers but read them." All the reports had arrived after the events, but they were all extremely accurate. They were all from the same sympathiser too, a man named Andrew Jasper, ironically enough. "It was the surname that first caught my eye."

'Demihold predicts a rise in wine prices. Wine comes from Brightplain. Brightplain will not tax Demihold at this time. Conclusion: Damaged crops. Theory: Hot sunlight on Brightplain's north slopes. ADVISORY: Monitor the foothill swamps for drying out. Andrew Jasper.'

This was followed by ;

'Faction activity headed towards north east Brightplain. ADVISORY: Check the swamps for dehydration. Andrew Jasper.'

"They're all like that. They're all very accurate predictions set out like that. This chap knows his stuff." Chu nodded.

"How is he getting this information to us?" Jasper asked.

"Underground movements for the best part. Once those networks get them to the border, our troops get them here to us."

"So does he claim to be part of any groups or factions? He's obviously on our side but they usually mention who they're working with."

"No. Nothing like that. It's just what you see there. Andrew Jasper. He must be working with others though, otherwise he'd not have knowledge of the Underground networks. It's a pretty shrewd move actually, Jasper. If there's no groups mentioned then there's no potential target." Chu nodded.

"Well there is. Andrew Jasper. Yes I get what you mean. One man would be harder to find if it got uncovered. That's probably an alias anyway, if he has any sense, which he obviously has." Jasper agreed and complimented.


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