Now that the Bodeen Militia was on the scene to rein in the riot, some of his own Nikopols were able to spare several guards to stand watch around the entrance, having at least secured the hall outside. Likely the crowd’s fixation on the gambling money coffers and ganging up on Red-Bands being the only reason none of the rioters seemed to have thought of looting Bertona’s private rooms. Just the fact that it had become noticeably quieter since he regained consciousness a short while ago offered some hope that the worst was over, and the Militia would soon have the Arena District back under their control.
That just left the task of rounding up responsible parties.
“Mr Bertona,” the voice on his desk intercom informed him, “the ship has been taken, and your guards have suffered heavy casualties. Our patrols are currently in pursuit.”
Bertona made the mistake of jerking his right arm, his shattered wrist blasting him with an explosion of agony he bit back with a sharp curse.
“Please, Mr Bertona,” one of the medics pleaded, and not for the first time in the past ten minutes or so, “we need to move you to a proper infirmary so we can fully treat—”
“No.” This time electing to stomp his foot for emphasis. The day’s unpleasant surprises were not all finished springing themselves on him, it seemed, for not even the precaution of placing men to watch that ship for Max’s friends he had spoken of had proven a very effective measure. Glaring balefully at the empty cage in the corner, he declared, “I’m not going anywhere until they have that ship.”
“Sir,” the voice on the intercom responded, “Patrol Cruiser Nikopol reports that they are near the harbor, and in position to intercept the rogue vessel in a matter of minutes.”
“Excellent…” Bertona grunted as the medic finished wrapping an impromptu splint binding his wrist, a grim smile touching his lips in spite of the throbbing bruise that little streetrat bastard had left when he sucker-punched him. The Nikopol, the newest addition to the Bodeen Militia fleet, her armaments brazenly pushing the limits of Bodeen’s arms treaties with the other city-states. More than enough to handle one rogue vessel and its rag-tag crew. Wishing the window overlooking the city afforded him a better view of the coming fireworks, he vowed, “When I get my hands on that ungrateful upstart bastard, I’ll have them break every bone in his fucking body for this…”
“Um, sir,” the medic piped up again, “with all due respect, if they’re about to capture them, would you please reconsider moving to a real—”
Before Bertona had a chance to interrupt, his aide slipped into the room, announcing, “Mr Bertona, I’ve received word that the other heads of Nikopol are demanding an audience with you, sir.”
“Couldn’t they wait?” Bertona muttered, already knowing that the rest of the House, as well as the Patriarchs of Bodeen, were going to want an accounting for this fiasco. Heads were going to roll for this, that he already understood, and he would be damned if his own head was going to be among them. “Very well. Tell them that I will soon have those responsible for this outrage, and I will personally see to it they are punished.”
No way in hell he was going to present himself to those scheming old men without a scapegoat to appease them.
“Very good, sir—”
Before the other could continue, that same voice broke in on the intercom, his tone bringing the entire room to a standstill.
“Um, Mr Bertona…” voice swaying between chagrin and panic, “I’m not sure how to explain this, sir… but we’ve lost all contact with the Nikopol, and the patrol squad reports that the rogue vessel has reached open waters and will soon be out of pursuit range of Sarna.”
And Bertona did it again. Even as the medic stepped very sensibly out of arm’s reach, Bertona again raised his hand. Or tried to, at any rate, ending in an agonized howl that none present could help but wince at.
“Mr Bertona,” his aide suggested, his voice and posture hasty enough to suggest that he would rather be anywhere else on Sarna right now than here, “I will inform the rest of the House of your injuries, and try to arrange for our audience to be postponed. In the meantime, we should retreat to your manor until we figure out just what we’re going to tell them. I’m sure the Patriarchs will send someone soon, as well.”
Even more so, now that this conflagration had spread as far as the harbor, and involved the possible destruction of Militia property, as well. About all that was left to do now was to round up as many of the key rioters as possible and see how much of the blame would stick. Now that the suspense of the pursuit was past, Bertona could really feel the medics’ painkillers kicking in, his whole body, not just his eyelids, starting to turn to lead.
That empty cage in the corner mocking him as he slumped in his desk.