Out of Shadows
BY SHANEL WILSON AND FRASIER ARMITAGE
Solanio led Captain Ward and her litany of bodyguards along the pier and up the steps of the Guild Hall. Through the large double doors, they entered the Guild’s chambers. Robed figures wound a route between the soldiers to the semicircular desk and took their respective seats. Prospero reclined in the central throne.
Ward crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Are these the city’s leaders?” she asked Solanio.
“Captain Ward of the Polity, may I present you to the Guild of Fisherman.” Solanio gestured in a reverential bow between Prospero and the Polity.
“And why are you not among them?” Ward asked. “You were the one who represented the city on the eve of our arrival. Did Newlondon not consider the Polity important enough to send one of their own?”
Prospero rose from his seat. “Captain Ward, allow me to introduce myself. I am Prospero. And it was my choice to send Solanio to meet with you for the simple reason that he was best qualified in the art of diplomacy. The same reason he was selected as our auctioneer. Surely you can appreciate that holding a rank does not necessarily make a person the best equipped for a given task.”
Ward heaved a sigh. Politicians. How many more of these insufferable double-talkers would she have to suffer? Just once, she’d have liked to draw her weapon and put a bullet through the forehead of these so-called diplomats. Bullets were the plainest form of communication.
Leonardo blundered his way to the front and took Ward by the elbow. “Captain, Prospero is an honorable man. You will find no greater authority in Newlondon.”
At least she wouldn’t have to repeat herself. Saying it once was painful enough. “Very well. Has Solanio informed you of the purpose of my visit?”
Prospero took his seat once again, the balance of power restored. “He advised us of your tour. You would be visiting each city to assess what resources could be of use to the Polity. I trust the auction was an adequate demonstration of the esteem in which Newlondon is held by the rest of the Globe.”
“I don’t care for your little rivalries and power squabbles,” Ward said bluntly. “I’ve seen places like Newlondon on every planet I’ve ever stepped foot on. It has that same stink to it. This city is nothing but bait.”
“It’s a place for reputable folk to hide their dirty, little secrets. Where husbands can attend ‘business meetings’ with their secretaries, away from prying eyes. Where gamblers can place their bets at a card table or backstreet fight. This city’s an enticement, and you think it’s hidden behind the netting and the fishing and the family-friendly amusement arcades. But we both know that nothing remains hidden forever. Time has a way of exposing all things. And the time for Newlondon has come, Prospero.”
“Why, Captain, you make it all sound so unseemly. Newlondon has its fair share of amusements, but we take pride in the services we provide. Wouldn’t your men benefit from a little relaxation when they’re off-duty? Where better to find a pleasant diversion than in one of our motels, where I hear some wonderfully talented ladies are currently performing. Would that not be something of value to men who’ve spent years stuck inside one of your sterile ships?”
The soldiers glanced between each other with a spark of giddiness.
Ward turned her head, her glare snapping them back to attention. “All bait is dressed up to appeal, Prospero. But it doesn’t stop it being bait. Where others might look at this city and see the glamor and the lights, all I see are a sorry collection of ramshackle buildings and some fishing nets. What have you got to offer the Polity which we could make use of?”
“What of the pollium? There are always more krakens in the sea. I’m sure with the Polity’s resources, and our fishermen’s skills, we could collect enough pollium for the entire Polity of Planets.”
Ward cackled a laugh. “You think the Polity have any need of pollium? It’s garbage. We have more power in a single engine cell aboard the smallest of our ships than a thousand eyes of pollium could ever produce. What can you give us, Prospero? Leonardo tells me that you Newlondoners can do much for us. But all I see is trash. Give me one good reason why Newlondon shouldn’t be torn to the ground and stripped for parts like the scrap it is?”
The Guild members turned to their leader, and Prospero clasped his hands together, reclining in his chair. “Tell me, Captain. The other cities you’ve visited—have you found minerals and materials that might be of value?”
“There are resources on this planet that are of value,” Ward answered.
Prospero smiled. “And I take it your men are experts at transporting such ‘resources’ across the Globe.”
“My men are capable of almost anything.”
“Is that so? Do they know where the Mirrim lurk? Have they mapped out every turn of the river? Can they recognize the roar of the savagelands or sense the ambush of bandits? How many of your men can feel a ripple on the river and know whether to run or hide from what rises below? There are beasts on this Globe that would swallow your men without a sound and slither into your skin without you even knowing. And this cargo, these minerals, are fodder for these creatures.”
“We carry weapons. We’re trained in combat. I think you’ll find we can handle ourselves.”
“Of course. Your men have nothing better to do than babysit cargo, have they? And their weapons work against enemies you cannot see, or hear, or touch?”
Ward bit her lip.
Prospero opened his hands and gestured around the table. “We understand if you take no pleasure in our city. But we of the Guild are tasked with the burden of setting the rates of guides and transporters who can protect the many assets of this world. We are its guardians and its shepherds. Ask your friend, Leonardo here. How long would Whitehall last if Newlondoners did not protect the oil pipeline hovering above the sand? All the way from Westminster to Whitehall, we guard it.”
Leonardo blushed, but he remained silent.
“Come, Leonardo, there is no shame in admitting that you wish for us to strike a deal with the Polity for the sake of Whitehall. For the sake of all the cities. And for the sake of the Polity. After all, without Newlondoners, what would be left on the Globe for the Polity to take besides corpses and beasts? These resources you speak of are valueless unless they can be transported safely to your vessel. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Ward gritted her teeth in the knowledge that the old man spoke the truth. She only had so many Marines at her disposal, and she couldn’t afford for her best Marines to become couriers and delivery pilots. Any goods she mined from the planet would be worthless if she couldn’t transport them to her ship and lift them to the UPS Pacifica. “What would stop us from hiring our own guides from among your people?” she asked.
“Newlondoners know better than to work without the Guild’s approval. And they’d never be granted a license unless it was passed by one of us. Without a license, they’d be no better than smugglers. And if you knew anything about Newlondoners, you’d know that they’d sooner kill you than let you call them a smuggler.”
Ward nodded. “Alright. Let’s say we came to an arrangement. What price would you name to extend these services to the Polity?”
“My dear, we would be only too happy to assist the Polity. We Newlondoners are traders at heart. What do you propose would be a fair trade for such services?”
Ward pinched the bridge of her nose. This is the part she hated. Playing diplomat was just another form of haggling. “You spoke of the technology to hunt krakens. Would that make a fair trade?”
Prospero shook his head. “It’s a fair place to start.”
“What else do you want?”
“Were you not at the auction?” Prospero raised an eyebrow and stroked his whiskers.
Ward sighed. “Fine. We’ll match whatever doubloons you deem appropriate. Name your price.”
“Why, Captain. How generous. I believe we have an accord.” Prospero rose and extended his arm to Ward.
She stomped across the chambers and grasped it, grimacing, as if she were dipping her hand in a nest of eels.
“As a courtesy,” Prospero said, “allow us to welcome your Marines in the truest Newlondon tradition. Free drinks at any tavern they desire.”
Ward’s skin crawled, but she could hardly refuse. “Very well. They could do with some time to recharge.”
The Marines around her loosened their shoulders and beamed smiles. Leonardo breathed a sigh of relief.
“If that is all, Captain, then we have business with Solanio,” Prospero said.
Ward stroked her chin. “There is just one more thing.”
“Leonardo was telling me about a group known as Shadow Walkers. I was hoping to meet one.”
Prospero gripped his stomach and howled in laughter. “Oh, Leonardo. You should know better than to play pranks on the Polity.”
Ward scowled. “What do you mean?”
“Stories of the Shadow Walkers are just tales told to children. They’re nothing but myths. I mean, really, who could appear from the shadows to fight for justice and disappear just as quickly? Such warriors exist only in stories.”
“But,” Leonardo spoke up, “if they aren’t true, then what of the rumors about—”
“Rumors?” Prospero interrupted. “Leonardo, you know better than to listen to gossip. The Shadow Walkers are just a fairy tale, I assure you.”
Captain Ward turned to her Marines. “Right, you jarheads. All who wish to return with me, get ready to depart. The rest of you, enjoy your drinks. Dismissed.”
The Marines rushed out of the chamber, their tongues wagging.
Ward marched out of the chambers with Leonardo in tow.
Solanio stood before the Guild. “Fairy tales, Prospero?” he said. “Were not the Polity a mere fairy tale? Yet, here they are.”
“Don’t tell me you believe in the Shadow Walkers, Solanio?”
“Not at all. But who knows what else she might have given us if she’d been allowed to think they were real?”
Prospero nodded, casting his glance across the chamber. “What did I tell you, brethren? Will he not make a wonderful addition to our Guild?” Prospero extended his palm, and inside, a Guild ring shimmered gold.
Solanio stepped forwards and took the ring, placing it on his own hand.
“Congratulations, my boy. You have business to attend to, I believe?” Prospero asked.
The image of Butch flashed across Solanio’s mind. “Yes, I have a customer waiting. Thank you.” Solanio bowed and turned on his heels, cradling the signet ring that commanded the respect of all. Inside the fold of his jacket, the pistol Prospero had given him—the one that would wipe out everything in its path—felt insignificant when compared to the power in the band of gold wrapped around his finger. If only Bianca could see him now.
Perhaps Bianca suffered from the same delusion that Ward did? That there was no value in the Guild. How could a woman so calculating as Ward be so naive? Dismissing Newlondon and all it had to offer—was she even human?
Solanio shook his head.
“Shadow Walkers,” he scoffed below his breath. “The Polity have much to learn.”
Balthasar watched from his skiv on the water. The two men with purple eyes lingered with the crate and the bounty of the kraken’s eye within. Another Newlondoner guided them away from the amphitheater and across the dockyard to a pristine barge. They boarded the polished hovercraft, outfitted with the finest weaponry across its mount, and surveyed it. The men nodded and returned to the dockyard as Newlondon haulers lifted the crate onto the barge.
All the while, the bandit at the window stalked the crate like prey.
Balthasar gripped his buckle in one hand, and the hilt of his sword with the other.
“Grant me patience,” he whispered to the ocean, “so that I do not strike too soon.”
Solanio slipped along the crowded thoroughfare, past the taverns where Polity Marines indulged in pitchers of ale, surrounding themselves in the skirts of blue-eyed beauties.
From the amphitheater behind him, the Polity flier lifted in a whirlwind of salt and sand before it blasted heavenward, its roar fading into the distance. Goodbye, Captain.
Across the docks, Solanio crept to his barge. The brothers Sebastian and Gonzalo of Westminster waited by the hovercraft.
“Gentlemen,” Solanio said, approaching them. “Is everything in order?”
“The eye is on board. But are you certain it’s safe on your barge, Solanio?” Sebastian asked.
“If you wish to tour the barge, I have no objections.”
“We’ve already checked it over.”
“And . . . ?”
Gonzalo shrugged. “It seems in order.”
Solanio smiled. “Excellent. Do you have the contract for the Westminster Brides?”
“Signed and sealed.” Sebastian handed over the documents. “And we deposited the doubloons with one of your Guild people at the amphitheater.”
“Then I wish you well. My men will see you in Westminster.” Solanio bowed and stepped back from the berth. He gestured to the men aboard the barge, and the engines fired, lifting it from the water.
Spray dashed the brothers Sebastian and Gonzalo, and they watched their cargo shrink as it disappeared up the river.
Solanio darted across the harbor, and from his pocket, he removed his chain of keys. He bounded up a flight of stairs to his office on the first floor of a building overlooking the sea. When he reached the top, he selected the key, but the door was broken in two. Splinters of wood covered the floor.
He entered the office, and Butch stood by the window, surveying the dock.
“Was it really necessary to break the door down?” Solanio asked.
Butch bared his teeth, flashing Solanio the look of a growling wolf.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Solanio said. “Are you ready to depart?”
“My crew are waiting in an estuary up the river.”
“Then let’s go and meet these fine fellows of yours.”
“After you,” Butch snarled.
Solanio led the giant down the steps, but he hesitated before emerging into the street. He turned back and placed a hand on Butch’s chest, stopping him dead.
“It’s better that we’re not seen together,” Solanio said. “Watch where I go, and follow without drawing attention to yourself. Can you do that?”
Solanio paced over the cobblestones, through the berths to a sleek skiv with all the trappings. He boarded, and from his keychain, selected the combination of keys that would start the engine.
Butch blundered a path behind him, and when he stepped aboard the skiv, it dipped and rocked under his weight.
“Stay down.” Solanio turned the keys and the engine ignited. With movements swift as a striking snake, Solanio piloted the boat out of the bay and up the river.
He pressed his hand against the pistol in his pocket and prayed that he need not use it. The craft skittered over the waves with the speed of a skycrawler’s dive, following the barge which held the eye. The eye he was about to steal from his own men, trained to withstand any ambush. Trained to kill.
He rubbed the ring on his finger. This had better be worth it, he thought.
Balthasar watched the soldiers emerge from the Guild Hall. They entered taverns and swigged ale in a raucous manner that befitted animals, not officers. He shook his head at these so-called “warriors.” Where was their code, their creed, their honor? The only war they seemed capable of fighting was the one with their liver, judging by the amount they drank.
Through these louts, Solanio–with a Guild ring on his finger!–made his way to the barge, and with a wave of his hand, the kraken’s eye began its journey upriver.
Balthasar’s fingertips bristled with the urge to follow the eye. But the bandit in the window didn’t move. Something else was going on here. Something else lurked in these shadows.
The two purple-eyed men returned to their hovercraft, and its violet sail followed the barge. But Balthasar focused on Solanio. He entered a building and appeared in the upper window with the bandit.
The Guild in league with bandits? No surprise there.
Balthasar traced Solanio and his bandit lapdog as they boarded another skiv and ventured up the river. Balthasar adjusted the mirrored panels of his hovercraft to better reflect the riverbank and struck after them, carrying the storm with him. For plotting with criminals, Solanio deserved all that was coming to him. They all deserved the thunder. And Balthasar would bring it, for there was no stopping the wind.
If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier’s story, feel free to leave comments below.
And in just two more days, on Friday, we’ll bring you the exciting conclusion of “Out of Shadows” in Part 3!
If you would like to read more about Newlondon right now, try “The Beast Below” which kicked off the Newlondon stories in the Globe Folio series.
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:
Act 1: Night of the Rocket
- “Pillars of Smoke” by Frasier Armitage
- “Shadow of the Dunes” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Towers of Whitehall” by Jim Hamilton
- “The Beast Below” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross
- “Kite Night” by Matthew Cross
Act 2: Nights of Revelation
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Sands of Change-Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Sands of Change-Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “A Matter of Principle” by Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Shambles” by Matthew Cross
- “Interrogation” by Matthew Cross
- “The Burning Flame–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Burning Flame–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Song of Thieves” by Frasier Armitage
- “The View from the Wall–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The View from the Wall–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Bounty” by Matthew Cross
- “Feral Fields” by Jeremy Wilson and Shanel Wilson
- “A Matter of Details” by Matthew Cross
- “Siren’s Song–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “Siren’s Song–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Head on the Wall” by Matthew Cross
- “Out of Shadows- Part 1” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- You just read: “Out of Shadows- Part 2” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on the way soon!