by Robert Allen
|Table of Contents|
part 1 of 2
Blue sky hung over the chalet at Kensington. Charlie Littlebear, dressed in the formal whites of his station, walked stiffly and purposefully through the mingling crowd, carrying a tray of canapés stuffed with Sardis liver.
“Boy, over here, boy!”
Grimacing inwardly, yet holding his plastic smile rigid, Charlie hurriedly approached Lord Crayton Malcolm, Kensington’s corpulent owner.
“Give the tray to someone else, and go see if Lady Malcolm would join us here by the pool.”
As he left he heard Sir Malcolm’s comment, “He is quite intelligent, you know. I understand, before I acquired him, he was a ship’s captain with the Terries. Rather odd place for one of his station, don’t you think?”
Quickly about performing his mission, he headed for the kitchen. Hearing his name mentioned as he was about to enter, he stopped outside the door.
“Yes, Lord Malcolm has been watching Littlebear quite closely. His Lordship hasn’t been on a hunt in a long time you know. I am sure that he is planning on Littlebear being hunt master.”
“It is not a job I would like, it interferes with longevity. Still, one does what his Lordship wishes.”
”It’s true, it is, that Victoria can be a nasty lady outside the compounds. And it’s grateful that I am for the twenty foot charged fences. Indeed, some of those beasties cause me to wish they were a wee bit higher. Still, being hunt master for his Lordship is better than being the prey, a choice I’m sure his Lordship will offer our friend Littlebear.”
Banging his hand against the door, Littlebear entered the now silent room and said, “Looks like I will need another tray for the wigs. Never saw the like of it, the way they eat out there. One of you want to fix the next bunch of goodies for me while I take out a refill for the punch bowl?”
Quickly, without giving them any time to answer, Charlie made his way into the wine cellar and gathered the ingredients for the punch, making sure to empty a pint of Blanis into one of the half full wine bottles. “That,” he thought, “ought to make the punch real tasty! After all, weren’t they here to relax?”
Coming back up out of the wine cellar, Littlebear, tray of wine bottles in hand, knocked on the door of Lady Malcolm’s suite, and, when she opened the door, letting the sickly sweetness of her perfume attack him, he gave her Lord Malcolm’s message. Using the tray of wine bottles as an excuse to get away quickly, he again made his escape, before she could attempt to coax him into the room.
Soon, the great punch bowl was refilled and the Lords and Ladies were showing their appreciation for that by having their glasses filled, again. Within just a few minutes, the punch seriously depleted, the guests, feeling a need for sleep coming on, went off to their rooms in groups, and the pool area was vacated with the exception of Lord Malcolm, who was sleeping in his chair.
Littlebear, coming into the kitchen again, said, “You guys might as well bring in the punch bowl. It looks like everyone has had all they wanted. They’ve all headed for their rooms to rest for the Hunt.
“Oh, and dispose of the punch in some way since his Lordship will demand fresh punch later.”
With that Littlebear left the kitchen and went throughout the building making sure that everyone was really asleep. They were and, with the amount of Blanis that he had used in the punch, he knew he had about four hours to get everything done.
Walking by the Library he nodded to Siddris and then made his way to the kitchen to make sure that the help there had been efficient in disposing of the punch. They had been and now they had joined his Lordship in sleep.
Moments later Siddris arrived in the kitchen, passed the small package to Littlebear and made her way out to the poolside to pick up glasses and plates in a general cleanup. It was not her job, but with the rest of the help incapacitated, it had to be done so that those above servant class would not be suspicious as to what had made them seek rest.
Soon, Littlebear was out helping and, using hand code, explaining what had to be done next. Lady Malcolm’s voice did not come as a surprise to him following as it did on the scent of her perfume. “Siddris, what are you doing out here. Get back into the house and do your own work.”
Siddris, not being able to disobey her Ladyship quite yet, gave her a little bow and headed back to her area of work.
“Littlebear, what was she doing out here? You know that she is my servant and she is not to leave her station. Was she here because you were? Answer me.”
“I am not sure, Madam Sahib. She seems to have a good heart and wanted to be of help to the other servants, I suppose. With all the cleaning up to do, it did not seem efficient to send her back too soon.”
“You like her, don’t you? You won’t spend any time with me, but you like her. Well, we can see about that. I am sure she could be a sporting choice for prey in the hunt. I’m sure...” she was saying just as the puffer needle struck her shoulder. “What the...” she had time to say before she, too, was out and lying by the pool.
“That, Siddris, was not the best thing to do, you know. Her Ladyship has a terrible temper and she is likely to take it out on someone later.”
“In that case, Sir,” handing Littlebear a hunting pistol as she removed the dart from Lady Malcolm’s shoulder, “perhaps it would be good if we left the premises in a bit of a hurry.”
Using Lord Malcolm’s keys, they slipped out of the compound, locking the gate behind them, and headed into the forest, tossing the keys into a nearby swamp. “That should slow them down,” offered Siddris, “Malcolm had the only loose set of keys and the others are no longer on the keyboard in his suite. He will have to call for help from another estate to get after us.”
“That means we have three or so hours of respite until they wake up and that might be extended by another hour and half before they can have the copters out looking for us. That is not enough. The safe drop is at least seven hours away even if we are really quick.
“Add to that the fact that they will raise the shields to let the beasties in to catch us if they don’t.”
“No,” said Siddris, “they won’t raise the shields. I left a note at the com station Lord Malcolm has to use to get help. I told him about the package you are carrying. To save that valuable little bit of merchandise he won’t take the chance of the beasties eating it. He will just bring in more copters and tracers.”
“I think that I prefer the beasties. Do you know what they will do with us if they catch us? The beasties will at least be quick.”
“Then,” replied the girl, “we had better move fast, hadn’t we?”
She pulled her bag from her shoulder and produced two sets of titanium climbing spikes and gloves. “How good are you at traveling the high road? It is a lot faster you know, if you don’t fall that is.”
Littlebear, knowing his tight uniform would not get in the way, took the equipment and headed for the nearest of the great trunks calling back over his shoulder as he started up the tree, “Don’t worry about me, I’m not the one wearing a maid’s uniform.”
A very short time later, high up in the trees, Littlebear found himself face to face with a smiling Siddris, who was definitely out of her uniform, having donned a black and green body suit that melted into the trees very nicely.
“Well,” he said, “when the main office sends someone they do pick good ones, don’t they? From your act at Kensington I would have thought that you had been an upstairs maid all your life. Our little trip out of here may be more fun than I had anticipated.”
“I am sure it will, Captain Littlebear, especially if you keep your definition of fun as close to mine as possible.”
“Madam Siddris, we have a long way to go and no time to play. You can be sure that my idea of fun is getting out of here, alive. That means we are partners, each doing our job, and nothing else. Now, let’s get going.”
The mid-range part of the great forest of Lorka trees had branches intermingled every which way and supplied a difficult but passable path towards their goal. Knowing that the pursuers would start out seeking to find them at the ground level, they shot scent tabs every few minutes off into a different part of the forest.
The tracers, not expecting such sophistication, would be locked on to scent tabs and would be confused for awhile. But only for awhile. Once they had discovered that such tactics were being used, they would know that they were not chasing just runaway house servants, but agents of a more professional nature and they would change their tactics to match.
After about four hours the two fugitives heard copter sounds in the distance and realized that either the Blanis had not lasted as long as they had thought it would, or that the emergency response teams of the estates were a great deal faster than they had anticipated.
The safe drop, outside the shields, was still at least three hours away and now, with pursuit coming closer and the need to evade it, those three hours could stretch out a great deal longer.
Finding a cleft in one of the trunks, the two fugitives stepped inside to size the situation up, knowing that good planning could often more than make up the time spent in originating them.
First, Littlebear, knowing how close the copters sounded and how his whites would show among the foliage, started pulling off his uniform and turning it inside out. Soon, the two agents looked very much alike. Then, that done, Littlebear opened his cheap looking watch and turned the inner mechanism over, allowing the small passive receptor screen to show.
He did not like what he saw. They had not been making the progress he had figured on and they were, not three, but four, uncontested travel hours away from the drop. They would have to find some way to fool the pursuit for long enough to give them time to make extra distance.
“Well, Siddris,” he said while showing her the receptor screen, “I hope you have some ideas on how to work out this problem.”
“Captain Littlebear, you’re actually asking for help from a woman. How manly is that?”
Copyright © 2005 by Robert Allen