Despite his best efforts, Lord Elect Vladimir Grosnok survived the battle. He and his elite guard had charged into the enemy lines once the forces were good in their advance. Even after he had his horse shot from underneath him, he got to his feet and pressed on. He had taken a fair number of bullets as well, his runic laminar armor and shield saving him from lethal damage even if he did feel them despite that. But eventually he was overcome as one cut through his leg and he stumbled. He limped forward, shooting blindly with a number of double barreled pistols before they were exhausted. When a few of their men came towards him he swung at them with the swords and managed to strike a couple of their limbs before he was eventually subdued.
The next few weeks he spent being moved about bound and gagged, often in a cart, a railcar or on board a paddlesteamer. First with other warriors, then as a sideshow. Drive and General Smedth showed him off to freed slaves, then he eventually found himself paraded around Dalatyr as factory workers cheered the victorious Infrastructural Army and booed the deposed Tyrant. He tried to resist by biting at his guards and occasionally ranting at the Infrastructurals, but the most that ever got out of him was a boot to the ribs and a couple of old potatoes, cabbages and horse turds during the parade. He suspected that he was to be publicly executed as a sign of the Committee's power. This was, to his surprise, not the case. After that, he changed his mind about that. He would be thrown into a labor camp to mine coal somewhere. He saw the chimneys of infrastructural factories belching out smoke and thought that they wanted as much fuel as possible to keep them fed. This thought gave him some comfort, if was thrown into one of those Detentional Labor camps, he might be able to rally the warriors and have them break from their bondage. Strike down the guards, take their guns and lead an uprising. Raiding from the forests and hills giving the committee hell for what they had done.
This was not the case.
Instead after a brief train ride and some time in a cart Vladimir arrived at a complex outside of Dalatyr. A walled off facility with a number of sentries. Outside there was a pigsty. Inside were several buildings built around the wall, including one with a chimney as well as a central main one. It was a strange place, inside there were a few guards, but a fair number of men and women dressed in long white coats and thin gloves. A few of them, he latter saw, had stains on them, many of them were red. But that was just the beginning of it. The first thing that they did was they took him into a room covered completely in glazed tiles, there a white coated women ordered that his clothes be taken off. The guards then did just that, cutting off his garments with no sign of enjoyment and tossed them into a bucket. He was left, his arms and legs tied as they left him on the cold floor. Then a spay of hot soapy odd smelling water hit him. It was kept up for several minutes before it let up. Then the guards came in again and took him.
They cut off his beard and put him before an vent that blasted him with hot air drying him off. Then they undid the cuffs and bindings, strapping him down to a padded bed on wheels and moving him about. They also did the indignity of hooking up a couple of things in some areas he definitely wished they would keep their goddamn hands away from. He was tightly restrained and moved through a hallway. They prodded him with needles a couple of times. It was not pleasant, though compared to what he had seen in his own interrogation rooms it was nothing. They did a few other things and some of them talked using jargon he had never heard before. The atmosphere had an smell to it that he could not describe, but others would say was chemical, mixed in with a couple more organic ones. And there was the sounds, among the sounds of conversation were a few moans and a couple of human noised which might have been words, rendered unintelligible by closed doors and factors relating to the mouth. He was taken to a room where he was parked. He heard some conversation and questions about scheduling which ended with a remark that they were open. He felt a sharp pain in his arm and a building pressure for a few seconds. His bed was parked and he saw a strange face.
It was a member of the Committee, that was certain. It was unlike Drive's as there was some attempt to make it more human, unlike Supernova in that it fell short of an exact replication. It had a mouth that could move in a manner roughly similar to that to a man speaking, but not quite. Said movements were ultimately just window dressing to speech. Excellence In Execution Which Stems From Investing Considerable Attention To Detail Upon Each Individual Facet-57815 (Detail) found this face perfectly adequate. Several boxes were nearby. It wore a version of the long coat that the others did, but made out of a strange flexible material that had a shine to it. But strangest of all were that, in place of hands were a set of cones with doors on the end.
"Is there something you want to know or do you simply take joy in this? Still I am surprised that you are this hands on about it. Never figured it from all that nonsense you spew."
"You are not the first to say that" Detail said, in a quiet tone "And you are quite incorrect. Did you feel that prick?"
"It's nothing to the one hovering above me right now."
"Well that was anesthetic, it's purpose is to dull the senses and make sure you don't feel a thing. It will also put you into quite a deep sleep. Pain is not the objective here. It only gets in the way. The last thing we want is you to just drop dead."
"Then what is, oh mighty metal man?"
"What are you rambling about, you tin shit?"
"To get into more detail, Lord Elect, this is where we make use of the deeply problematic of prisoners. Warriors who just don't know that they have been defeated. Those that get into fights and attack guards and stir up trouble instead of doing the jobs given to them. We could have them killed, but that just produces low quality pigfood. If they will not be productive as workers, we can find other uses for them."
"What are you rambling about?" He said as his mind became fuzzy.
"Its a matter of improvement. Humans are able to do a very large number of things, but they have their weaknesses. Cold, Heat, Drowning, Sleep, breakdowns over time, sensitivities to certain chemicals, inability to heal damage of a certain type, energy inefficiency, limited endurance the list goes on. You are the products of a billion years of blind trial and error, with whatever half baked design functioning just well enough or being lucky to move on to the next generation in enough numbers becoming the new master template. We can do better, we can make considerable improvements on nature's sloppiness. We can create a better man. It just takes a little experimentation to figure out just how to do this."
Detail's two cone shaped hands opened up, revealing a number of small metal arms. Most of them had unknown functions, some he understood. All looked vaguely sinister. "You are ultimately a machine. A extremely complex one, but a machine none the less. We are good with machines. And the thing about a machine is that, if need be, it can be partially rebuilt to function more effectively. If all goes smoothly, you will come out of this with improved strength and endurance. If not, we will gain data that will be useful for the next attempt. Either way, now you be of considerable help to Infrastructure." Vladimir was at this point drifting off, in spite of the fear was overtaking him.
Early in 22 IA Major Petrov N. Miles (a surname that he took on the recommendation of Pastor Recorder Saint Callius, apparently an old word for soldier) was given a new position by Drive, which involved a pay raise. He was quite excited about this, especially since it involved making more money than Sven. That said, after taking the job he got a bit nervous about this.
He was selected for this job for a couple of reasons. The first of which was the fact that was a decent commanding officer and a damn good artilleryman. In his childhood, Petrov would go fishing during the summer on the swamps in an old wooden boat. In service in the Infrastructural Army, these skills were honed as he transported men, cannon and supplies across rivers and lakes, as well as fighting from them in a few instances. In the last few years, this involved taking temporary command of a paddlesteamer on six occasions. He did not know that this was basic training for a new role: the first commanding officer of the Infrastructural Navy.
Everything was a change for him. Supernova had designed him a new uniform and given her a crew taken off artillery crews and Paddlesteamers. He was given the strange titles of "Admiral" and "Skipper" and all of his subordinates save for lieutenants were given new ranks as well. Ensigns, Sailors (even though the ship had no sails) and midshipmen, all borrowed from foreign books. He did not understand why they did not just stick with calling them privates, corporals, sergeants and so forth. He had been briefed and had read up (albeit somewhat slowly) on the craft and what he was to expect. He was impressed before he laid eyes on the Vanguard and was more impressed as he saw her being assembled and eventually launched onto Lake Murnev for trials. He never the less let out a sigh of relief as the craft did not sink.
It was not all bad. For one thing he had a bed (even if it was suspended from the ceiling) in his small, but far more importantly warm bedroom with a few luxuries such as electric lights, a phonograph, a flush toilet and a novel clock that did not have a pendulum. Even more than that, he always had a floor under foot that may get wet but was never muddy. The food was also an improvement on the whole from field rations, even if that was not much of an improvement. The crew consisted mostly of a mixture of artillerymen and people off the paddlesteamers. For the most part a decent lot, a few of them served under him and all were committed to doing their best. Discovery was also onboard as an observer for the first few weeks seeing out how things would go. The Committee Member kept his distance, save for occasionally talking with him, the guys in the engine room or the gunners about his findings and leaving a few notes. They also did some tests firing the artillery, which was one of the more impressive features. The guns were state of the art, nine breachloading 10cm guns for the broadside and chase mounts. The biggest and most impressive weapon was the heavy 15cm gun on its mount. When that gun fired the whole ship could feel it. Never the less, he still felt awkward
Eventually, everything checked out and they made their way to the ocean for sea trials. Once they got to sea, the crew soon came to a consensus. The sea was worse than the lake. The waves were more intense, it was colder and there was more spray. They went through a couple of storms. They mostly stayed within site of the coast, but for two days they went further out. They took it easy most of the time and practiced drills. Occasionally they saw some foreign ship and after ten days at sea, a pirate vessel attacked. A couple of shells quickly dealt with that problem fairly swiftly and before they could do any harm.
After three weeks at sea, the Vanguard put into port in Daagsgrad and the new admiral and his crew was treated to a celebratory feast at the garrison hosted by Drive. An unusual occurrence but quite welcome, as was the banquet held at the garrison and the fireworks that evening. He was allowed a few days of shore leave before going back to sea. Among the more notable things that he heard was that six people in the crew were being swapped out. Drive told him that this was to give more sailors experience at sea. He had asked about recruiting people from the Black Ports or hiring foreigners, but that represented too much of a security risk.
In her office, Doctor Allea Ivanova signed the last few bits of paperwork as the clock ticked quietly and let out a sigh of relief. She then got out the speaking tube and ordered some tea be brought up in anticipation. The tea arrived and shortly after so did, a minute after that came in her guest.
"May this humble Recorder of the Order from intrude on your diligent work?" He said, jovially.
"Most certainly he can. Sergei, please take a seat." The old priest took to a small stool, which he preferred over chairs for some reason. Her family had a closer relationship than most with the local member of the order and given that both of them were involved in reading and writing for longer than most people she developed quite a friendship with the old guy.
"If you would be so kind. How are the children doing?"
"Fine for the most part, Yuri's apprenticeship has got off to a good start and Anya had the third highest mark in her class. There are still a few incidents, but to be honest I just wish I could see more of them. And how are things going with you."
"A bit similar, the wife is doing quite well but I am caught between the new priory, plenty of new materials to document and meetings with some member of the committee or their agents." Allea understood the odd position that Sergei was in. He, like three generations of Pastor Recorders before him was a low ranking member of the order in a position that was never intended to be anything other than a country preacher. Then one day Infrastructure happened and he was left in the middle of it, with a city going up around him. Eventually the Order decided to move the base of local affairs to the new city. Lower ranking members of the order were given a bit more freedom in how they lived their lives and could, for instance, get married but the higher ranking figures in the order were much more monastic, even if what was told of the splendor. He was not willing to give up his old life and family for a promotion, but still the committee was most open to him. So he was given the title of 'Pastor to the Committee', even if he did not do much preaching to them. "But how have this year's batch of teachers been turning out."
"Pretty well. The staff is getting more experienced and we have found out more about what not to do. The only problem is volume; we get more trainees every year."
Allea had become one of the most important people in Infrastructure. The way she thought of it was that her career was the trunk of a tree. She was the first teacher at the first school, teaching the town's kids their letters and numbers. Then the town grew, so the committee gave her four of her former students as apprentices in 3IA, who got their education in education by helping her out in the classroom for three years before being given classes of their own. After which she got four more apprentice teachers. This continued on until 12IA, when Supernova said that they were going to need more teachers to eventually give children in Dalatyr a full six years of schooling as well as a surplus to send out to the garrisons. So they built the Teacher's Academy and made her the teacher of teachers, and eventually the headmistress whose job was to oversee the teaching of new teachers. There were big changes going on, there were more clerks coming up everywhere as well the new Bureaucracy. The Committee's eventual aims were nothing short of making sure that everyone in the Coldlands could read and write and she had become the woman who would make that happen.
"Well there are two quotes that come to mind for your predicament: 'There are few more noble tasks than the cultivation of the mind'. That one comes up many times. But also 'one should forwarned of the rigors of an officious life'"
"I'll drink to that." She said, taking a swig of tea. "But, what do you have to say about cow cheese?"
Soon after the fall of The Yards work began on adapting their shipyards to suit Infrastructure's purpose. They had been nationalized by the infrastructural government and placed under the administration of the Bureau of Maritime Development. A couple were damaged in fights or by spiteful owners who would have rather seen their legacy gone up in smoke than taken and used by their conquerors. Fortunately, before they came the locals had expanded their shipbuilding capacities. There were fewer slaves coming through, so they decided to hold onto more of them for longer and put them to work in other fields to get the most out of them, both in their products and themselves. For the most part trained and ‘broken in’ slaves fetched a far higher price than freshly caught unskilled peasants.
The changes were subtle at first, as they began making wooden hulled sailing ships. While work resumed on a few half-finished vessels, designs were refined to make them quicker, more space efficient and. Many former slaves went home, while those that remained worked shorter days for pay and no one working there was younger than ten. Alongside the freed slaves were a few people brought in from elsewhere on labor programs and locals from the cities themselves and farmers who worked there. There were a few scuffles between the freed slaves and the longstanding free men of the Daagsgrad and Borogskov, enough to warrant soldiers to be deployed to break these up. Work was improved shortly after with the introduction of steam powered circular saws and other mechanized tools as well as other more conventional improvements.
That said a real race happened in a few specially designated yards. These involved Drydocks and were adapted. Around them was significant construction working night and day as complexes were assembled. Large amounts of Dalatyr made machinery was brought in. By 23IA Drydock Daagsgrad-1 was refitted equipped for its new task. Components were shipped up river for assembly from Dalatyr on the new craft, starting with large steel girders for the frame.
Natasha Smedth was one of the Engineers assigned to work on the new shipyards and eventually was sent to Daagsgrad-1. She oversaw numerous instillations, mainly the generators, electrical systems and machine tools. That said, the engineering staff here (and indeed across all of Infrastructure) so she also did various odd jobs in making sure everything went smoothly. She worked on the assembly yard in Lake Murnev. Now she oversaw general construction. She was impressed at how quickly they had managed to get things going, even if all they did at this moment was put together the ribs of the craft. They were made of steel and were fairly simple to put together, even if did require a fair number of winches and coordination. They were mostly hollow and fairly light for their size. Soon they would begin putting the hull on what would be the front of the ship as they moved backwards. It was definitely an impressive site. Some locals were brought by to see it and from what she heard it had been the talk of the town. Just like the Vanguard was when it sailed by, a certain wonder at the work being done happened despite resentments.
She wrote down a few more notes on her clipboard and prepared to go to sleep. At the moment she just wished her dad was here to see this, as well as that bastard Malnov. Just to show him what he gave up when he decided to betray her and Infrastructure before he was carted off to the Dragonspine Mountains to spend the rest of his worthless life digging coal in the company of bandits, old bitter warriors, thieves, murderers and the rest of the scum of humanity the committee dumped there so their lives could be of some use.
In 18IA Inna Jorgeva watched a platoon of Infrastructural soldiers march through her village with their former Chieftain Gerulf the Skullsplitter in chains. They looted the warrior's halls and houses for gold, but left the peasant's and commoner's possessions. Then they held a feast with food and drink from the Gerulf's larder and strong spirits that they brought along with them. They declared Dobromil the Mason to be the Town Foreman. The next few years saw a few changes. There was more trade, both from foreign merchants and new Coldland merchants. More boats would go down the river, including the new Paddlesteamers. Taxes were collected, mostly in the form of grain, vegetables, salted meat and fish, but they also accepted butter, charcoal, bog iron, carts and boats. A few people would work on the road improvement and a few young men volunteered to join the army. She grew up as this happened and, by what her parents said, they wanted to marry her off to Jan. A loud uncouth bullying drunkard who she despised. As such when a party of recruiters asked for laborers for a major project in The Yards, she jumped on it.
The journey was fairly quick as it was mostly upriver to Daagsgrad. She was put up in a Barracks with several dozen other women, all of which were either freed slaves or recruited from well away of the Black Ports. They were rebuilding the Shipyards. There was still some conflict between the Infrastructural and the locals. She did a variety of odd jobs over her first week. She did some work in the laundry, assisted in carpentry, worked in the Worker's kitchen peeling potatoes and on the last day shoveled coal in the machine shop's engine. At the end of that week, she got her first pay. Six credits a day with three credits and five decicredits deducted for food and accommodations over six days, fifteen credits in total. Enough for an order of mutton stew, a hot bun and some vegetables with a tankard of beer for dinner, pick up a few small things that she needed and still have some savings left over. Even though a drunkard managed to get into the compound from the city and raved at her before slinking off into the storage yard. Before dinner, she decided to talk to someone about it.
There were two people in charge around here. The first were engineers, people in gloves, vest and helmets who knew things about machinery and told people how to set it up properly. The other type was Bureaucrats. They were an odd bunch and this was one of the first time she saw them. They dressed in uniforms like engineers or soldiers, but did not carry weapons. They carried books and mostly wrote things down. Oddly enough, most of them were women.
She met with one of the Bureaucrats as she left the store on an errand.
"Excuse me, my lady?"
"What is it?" She said, somewhat annoyed.
"Someone wandered in, smelled of drink, wandering near the timber piles."
"I'll tell the guards to be on lookout. Is that all?"
"If I may be so bold my..."
"Ma'am will do," she said "as will Bureaucrat or Junior Administrative Clerk."
"Ma'am, I heard some of the Black Porters talk about the Credits?" She said as she flourished her life savings before her.
"Going on about how it's not real money and that it’s only good as bum paper?"
"How did you know?"
"You think I haven't heard that line before? They're just clinging on to old nonsense for reasons of bruised egos and a stupid magpie like obsession with shiny things. People work for us, we give them credits. Our stores across all of Infrastructure sell food and goods for credits. You can get a ten kilo bag of potatoes for three credits at the stores and if someone who is not working here gets three credits he can buy the same bag. Ergo it has value. If people try to run a store or bar or something and don't accept credits we fine them and put them in a Detentional Labour Camp if they keep it up. In any case these Magpies are a bunch of hypocrites given that they are working here. Is that all?"
"Well we could use a bit more woodscraps in Barracks-3, it getting a bit cold at nights."
"I'll see what I can do. Good day." The two then parted. Intermediately Inna thought about the bureaucrat and what she said for the rest of the day. Not the least because she found her attractive.
Aslog Velconikivic of the Zolwie was a merchant captain from Borogskov who managed to come out of the war with Infrastructure without being sent off to toil in the coalmines. There were several reasons for this, but several of them go back to his family's success. Over three generations and with the help of prize money his family moved up the social ladder of Borogskov society, acquiring several progressively larger ships and a few ventures. The first thing was that they never got involved in the slave trade, which was quite saturated. The second being the fact that they knew not to take risks when there was other options.
He did his part to defend his city and paid for the rifles and powder as well as some bargain bin second hand armor and helmets for four young peasant boys who were eager to go out to war and a sailor who had to work off a debt and saw army service as the best way of doing that. Of those, one of the peasant boys returned minus a foot. When word came of the defeat, he ferried a few people away and made a note to free the two slaves who were part of his crew. He dumped them in a port well away from the Coldlands leaving them with a bag with a few biscuits, dried vegetables and their old chains because he was not totally unkind. He also left a note to his wife to set free the kitchen girl, which she obeyed as a good wife should. When he returned home, he found a number of soldiers patrolling the streets, a few buildings were in ruins and many more were damaged or looted. Fortunately his house was in fairly good condition with only a few broken windows on the lower story and damage to the brickwork.
Finding business afterwards was not difficult. The slave trade had been trampled out of existence underneath Infrastructural Army boots but the fur trade, which had become somewhat erratic had resumed. He was also given several contracts by the Infrastructurals as well, part of the payment was a Cylinder containing a Payment License. What they asked him to procure, however, puzzled him as did much of what they did. Still coin was coin.
That was a year ago, now he had gotten use to this. After putting into port he went out into a well secured room a warehouse with a couple of men and a Soldier, there were usually a couple of them. A couple of guards were about. A simple desk was set up in the corner as well as a few bookshelves with ledgers. Behind it sat an Infrastructural Bureaucrat. They ran the city on behalf of the Committee and they were, in his mind another example of the oddity. First of all unlike any other group of prominent people he could think of they dressed in a neat but remarkably plain way. But in his opinion the bizarre thing was most of them were Female. He never could fully comprehend why they did such an odd thing. He had it explained to him, there were competitions in which candidates would be locked in cells, were given paper and pens and told to write essays on certain subjects, the best of the lot got a position. He just did not understand why you would let women take these exams. Still, it never got you anywhere to insult those who were handing over money.
"A sample of my cargo," he said in the polite tones of someone who is about to give you a large sum of money "Learned Bureaucrat."
She looked over a sample of it. "Bituminous, respectable quality." She put it back and cleaned her hands on a hankerchief and put the sample back "May I have the Receipt."
"Of course." He proffered the paper.
"Two hundred and thirty tons. Does this check out Corporal?"
"Yes Ma'am. Hold is full of the stuff."
"Sorry if I insult your honor" the short woman said "It is just protocol."
"It is no issue. But what of the payment of what I and my crew have procured to help fuel your efforts?" He said gesturing to the bag.
"Very well," she did some quick on a notebook calculation. "That's will be either 345 Allergonian Marks, 138 Dwarven Thanes, or Thirty Three Kilocredits and a Hundred and Twenty Credits if you have changed your mind."
A few of his men sneered "Which I have not." Aslog said, gesturing to the cylinder containing his License. It specially allowed him the legal right to decline payment in Credits for services performed. She still offered it as an alternative every time he was here, a minor annoyance which ever so slightly soured the experience of receiving payment for an honest day's trading. He knew no-one in Borogskov who was happy about being forced to accept payment in scraps of paper and steel coins like they were real money, even if you saw more people buying stuff with it in the markets. Leaving aside that no one outside of Infrastructure would be dumb enough to see them as being good for anything besides starting fires, lavatorial purposes or in the case of the coins ballast it felt wrong. Had not the gods had veined the earth with silver and gold so that men, dwarves and elves could make trade? He figured that the reason the committee had invented such a daft idea of paper money and stores that accepted like it was truly worth something was simple cheapness. "Marks will do."
"Very well. Pay the man." One of the guards then opened a chained up box and counted out the coins. He accepted the money graciously and then left to the Zolwie to oversee the unloading. As he saw the crates and bags be taken out, he wondered about what it was going to. He knew that they had been working on the shipyards and he had been wondering about the work they were doing there. He saw the Vanguard on patrol and knew that they had resumed working on wooden craft. There was rumour about putting into one of the wooden craft one of Iron Furnace Hearts in fireproofed iron rooms. He knew the Vanguard was manned by a poor collection of peasants and river boatmen that barely had their sealegs. He had managed to accumulate a fair bit of wealth and thought about the commercial opportunities that would be available for a ship that could sail against the wind manned by seasoned and experienced seamen. They needed to get gold and silver somewhere to buy coal, iron ore and copper for their projects; maybe some sound investment could be perused.
The Committee's report said that there was a fair bit of piracy in the Ice Mountain Sea and Petrov found this was the case. In his first year, the Vanguard destroyed four pirate ship. That said, piracy been going down. Villages that were once friendly to pirates had been made unfriendly to them by Infrastructural army forces and any pirate ship that went by the Vanguard or the newly launched Monitor was likely to flee. It seemed as if the job would soon get easier for him and he might spend more time at shore with his wife and new son. Until recently
In the last six weeks the number of attacks on merchant shipping had gone up. Most unsettling was the description of them by survivors of the attacks, these were sleek black sailed ships. The Black Port's former customers and a significant supplier of firearms in their last years. A few of them attempted an attack on The Yards in later summer of 22 before being beaten off by Coastal Artillery. He was worried about them, from what he gathered they were good mariners and fearsome in boarding actions. Then the watch spotted one of them, so he brought the Vanguard into firing position.
It was a rather fast ship, especially when compared to the ships that he usually saw. It had racks of cannons, a ramming prow and was in general spikey, and it moved towards them. Several shots missed, as was expected, but several did not. They impacted and exploded, blowing chunks off large amounts of wood and other shrapnel out and sending a mast falling over. After six hits, she began to tilt and eventually capsize. A few of her crew had made it onto a rowboat and were paddling away frantically, others clung to driftwood or were swimming. A fair number were clearly dead. He heard that they were rather resistant to cold. A few Riflemen were on deck and the Type-1A's were brought out and loaded. After a few minutes, he brought the craft around. A few of its crew got onto the capsized hull with bows and once the vanguard got within about 600 meters of the overturned hull began firing arrows at the vanguard. A few of them exploded on impact. Two sailors were wounded and one was killed. The vanguard responded with two shots from the starboard broadside, one of which hit a powder magazine. The resulting explosion put an end to said retaliatory fire.
Dark Elven Raiders, seasoned combatants and mariners had gone up against the Ironclad Technology of the Infrastructural Navy. Infrastructure Prevailed.
The rowboat was left to leave while six live prisoners were fished out of the drink, subdued and thrown in irons. Three more died resisting capture, and all of them tried to put up some fight. There were a few cadavers that were not Dark Elves, but these were unfortunately dead. The rest of the Drow survivors Petrov left to swim to shore, it was only fifty kilometers give or take to the Great Bog. Surprisingly two of the captives was female, as was one of the ones who died resisting capture. The captives were bound hand and foot, searched for weapons (which produced six knives) and stowed (three in the brig, one in the coal hold and two in the general cargo hold) while he turned back to Borogskov to unload them.
From what he heard, for the first few hours they spat obscenities and curses, by nightfall that had stopped. The next morning went and talked with one of them, to see if anything could be got out of them. He had been bound and was in a bad mood. He had some security on hand and a hot mug of tea. From what he gathered this one was a low ranking officer.
"So, you are the inbred sycophantic serf drunkard whom the Committee decided to intrust this repulsive floating tin coffin with?" he spat every word "I am sure that one of my friends owns one of yours and knows the sting of the Driver's lash all too often."
"Well this 'tin coffin' sent your over spiked relic to the abyss, several more are now home a fair number of crabs a few kilometers from the harbours of The Yards."
"Do not tell me you are naive to believe that the Gorkirath is the only ship we have on the sea, let alone patrolling these waters? You interfered with the slave trade, which has earned you some very powerful enemies indeed."
"And so have you from what I have read. Never surrender, never commit suicide. The ultimate disgrace to the so called 'Rightful Masters of all Life' is to let mere 'clever talking beasts' dominate you. Better to murder one's brother than let him turn over his sword and all that."
"STILL YOUR WRETCHED TONGUE WORM!"
Petrov gave a slight laugh "Why should I? I must of lost count of how many warriors bound in ropes and chains impotently screamed in my face. In any case save your spite for your new foes, your own kind. At their absolute kindest they will send a dagger through your heart on principle. Infrastructure however can always use two more hands working for the benefit of all and it is wasteful to let those two to simply rot away."
"The only 'use' you will get from these hands shall be me relieving you of your miserable life and returning you to the shit from which you sprung!"
Petrov Smirked and walked off "Oh, If I had a Decicredit for every time I heard that one!"
For a number of reasons, the Central Committee of Infrastructure abolished slavery and dismantled an extensive slave trade. This freed many slaves and saw a large number of slave dealers arrested and sent to detentional labor facilities. This gained them the loyalty, adoration and service of tens of thousands of freed slaves as well as being a major propaganda victory for freed peoples. It also won them the ire of a few outside forces, Namely that of the Dark Elves. And part of the response crept over the border in an attempt to cut off one of Infrastructure's twenty six heads.
Kailiniam ti'Quiinel had made her way into the Coldlands in pursuit of her prey and had reached the capital of this new nation. She was not the first assassin to be dispatched. Several others were sent out, but never reached their mark. It was a matter of debate among the guild what happened to them. The Coldlands had their risks, even if the Infrastructurals did everything in their power to reduce them in their attempts at empire building. Never the less, caution was to be advised once she reached her destination.
When she entered the city she concealed herself using her cloak of invisibility and scouted things out. To her annoyance, getting at the committee in their dwelling was very hard. They spent most of their time in a heavily built brick and stone structure with entrances tightly guarded. She did not know what to expect inside or how to get out. That was a mystery even as she looked into the minds of the natives. However, she also had to be cautious. There were patrols everywhere and she had to keep on the move and refresh her spells frequently, as a few disruptive rune stones in strategic places made the illusion of her cloak erratic after a short while. Fortunately there were nooks and crannies where she could recover her strength and plot. There were many other prominent figures, but she ignored them. She had her contract to remove a member of the Committee and she would do it. While there were some exceptions involving guards, witnesses and so forth to get to a mark and get away, Assassins were paid to eliminate specific individuals. It was not good business to give away constant 'freebies' and the leaders of an Assassin's Guild were businessmen who had some formidable means of retaliating against transgressions.
After two days, she finally got her opportunity to make her move. She came across the strange psychic imprint of a member of the committee. She felt the slightest imprint of it around their citadel and it could not be mistaken for anything else. This one was known as Supernova. The crowds around her were dense and she feared revealing herself to soon. She scaled over the rooftops in the cool night air quietly and waited to make her move. Eventually she felt she was in a good position to make her move. She fell off the roof with knife in hand, as well as a specialty item the guild had acquired from a cunning artisan in Venoa who was itching to have his design field tested.
But as she made her move, she did not take into factor critical elements. Among them being the Recon Drones patrolling the sky that had been monitoring her. Her cloak did create an illusion of her absence, it was designed to work for all the 'Higher Orders of Life' and things derived from them. Its creators did not understand of electric cameras, light that was not visible or software. Kailinam did not know of this, nor radio. Moving with speed and precision she did not expect, Supernova pointed her arm towards her. Before she could react, there was a sudden intense sensation of pain and heat in her shoulder announced that was like thunder, but quicker. She saw the explosion of intense flame through her shoulder and the roast pork smell of burning flesh. The shock caused her to drop her pistol and her to stumble, though she gripped her knife even harder. More importantly since all Elves had a natural sensitivity to it she felt that the blow damaged the spell of the cloak. She missed her landing and the Feather Landing spell she had been holding onto was broken. When she hit the ground, so was several bones in both her legs. She noticed that people were looking at her, commenting as parts of her body faded from being fully invisible, transparent and translucent. A few guards came her way. She tossed three throwing knives at them and the dagger. Two of them went down and the crowd began to fleet. But as she reached for a second volley she felt a sudden shock, and then another as they jabbed her with pronged clubs. She was soon disoriented and felt hands grasp. She struck back still, flailing in an attempt. She tried to kill them, to get to her feet to escape, to maybe hit her mark still or at least get them to use lethal force. She did not fear death, assassins did not. All Drow were raised to understand that they might die in battle and assassins knew that fact more intimately than others as that was part of the business. But she would do everything in her power to save herself ultimate disgrace and shame for her family, guild and friends, of being brought low and taken.
But in the end all that was in her power at that time was not enough. She felt a sharp concentrated stab from a needle and a few seconds latter she went out.
After a period of a few hours Kailiniam awoke, finding herself in a unadorned room with her arms, legs and fingers restrained were bound. A light filtered down from a glass orb. She found a few marks from the electroprods and being manhandled, various concealed instruments and weapons had been extracted. But there was two things that were far far worse. In the room were two mirrors well out of reach. One was in front of her, one was behind her and they were positioned in a way so that she could see her back, in particular the back of her neck. On which had been needled in that Hexagonal symbol. And attached to the wall was an image of her, monochromatic but remarkably lifelike. On which was written three words...
"One of Many"
For hours she screamed threats of revenge and thrashed, after that for hours she sobbed for what had happened. Then there was quiet despair. There was a hole in the floor where she lay and about twice over periods of what part of her mind desperate for anything to keep itself occupied reckoned to be a day guards came with either a baked potato or slab of bread and a small paper cup filled with water. She thrashed at them the first four times this happened, but they ignored it. For a while she refused these, hunger and boredom got the better of her. The mirrors were removed eventually, but the picture remained on the wall. After seven days she was hosed down with hot soapy water. It was not a pleasant experience but when it had passed she was soon longing for it to return, simply because it broke the routine of boredom.
This was not what she expected. Drow that were taken alive were to face an interrogation, furious retribution or sexual assault/servitude, either one involving a fair bit of pain. Not to be locked away inside a room like this. The walls must have had wards of disruption in them. She could only sense the minds of the guards involved and while they did think of her, they were more likely to think of potatoes, their children or their wages than of her. When they did think of her, it was not with deep loathing or hatred but rather localized aggravation of having to handle a troublesome task if anything. They were in and out quickly and she could not get a good look through their minds and they never talked.
Then, on the thirteenth day, her target without announcement came in. "I am sure you have some comment of how my death is inevitable on the tip of your tongue." Supernova said in a calm and slightly bemused tone, which she kept up for the entirety of the meeting. "I have heard forty six thousand seven hundred and twenty two of those over the years."
"You mean from the two legged rats the squabbled over this frozen wasteland that no one else wanted?" She said as she began to peer into the strange mind.
"The one's that you were commissioned to avenge?"
"They had their uses." She said bitterly. "Namely in gathering up the starved cowards you have embraced as subjects and making them available to the masters of this planet. Your actions have earned you the scorn of many great houses." This was background activity as she looked into that thing's bizarre mind. To try to find something she could use to her advantage. All Elves are psychic to some degree. For most it was merely the ability to detect the emotions of those nearby. Some could look deeper or relay their thoughts to others. It was possible to train one's mind to make one's thoughts more difficult for a telepathy to scan. This one was not so much difficult to probe as it was strange. She concentrated her mind's efforts to get into the head of this strange being.
Then she broke through.
What she detected shocked her. She looked through the metal and plastic into the black cube at its core. The mind of anything she looked through before was linked with its body rather intimately. This one was merely wearing it like a suit. But that was only the beginning. An Elf, Dwarf, Orc, Even a dog, cow or dragon thought in roughly the same manner. Even the simplistic mind of a golem was based off a rough template of that of its creator. Supernova's mind was like none of them. This mind was vast, cold and utterly alien. The closest thing to it that she ever knew was when she once stared into the mind of someone who was deeply invested in mathematical problems. But that was a mere organic mind twisting itself to do what the smallest section of it's thought processes, which raced by at incredible speeds. Thousands of interconnected ideas and concepts moved together and played off each other, setting off, magnifying and calming others at break neck speed. Of these there were at least seven main sequences of events running at that time independantly. She tried to figure it out she knew there were patterns in there, but she could not make heads or tails of it. Worse still something, be it dread fascination, awe or some subtle quirk of psychology made it hard for her stare deeper.
For three minutes she stared at the female shaped thing silent. Then Supernova walked around her, she continued to face her until she tripped. That broke her concentration and sent he back into the land of the living. "Had a good look? What do you think?"
She recovered "You and your kind are aberrations, perversions of nature. While whatever power decided to spite creation by giving rise to you gave you some faculties of note, you will in the end be brought before the Lords of the Dark Elves and be bound to their will."
"So you claim. However, even if that does happen you shall never see it. That image had been put into the newspaper. You were not the first Drow Assassin sent our way. Merely the first to be successfully captured. For you such a victory means death in agony. We however are not petty, pain is at best a crude and inefficient tool to get motivation."
"You won't say that when you are strapped down in one of our dungeons"
"You had a good look through my mind did you, do you believe we register damage in the same way? But in any case this is about your future. The nature of which is dependent on your utility."
"So you want me slave away digging up coal deep down some hole in some icy mountain for coal until your pets say that I am fit to enter society?"
"That's one option among several. One of them is to stay locked up eating potatoes and bread for the next few centuries like a beast in a menagerie. Something for our citizens to look upon to amuse themselves, to educate them and to expose your claims of supremacy and dominance for the nonsense that they are. Pacing back and forth and yelling threats of bloody vengeance and curses. And like a bellowing wild spawn people will cheer at the show. It would also be useful for when we capture other Drow. 'Here is a great assassin, quick and swift and deadly with a knife. More skilled than you, one of their greatest and yet STILL claimed by Infrastructure.' As well as being bait to trap more assassins sent over to put an end to you in a prolonged and unpleasant manner." She then reached into her pocket. "Or since your anatomy is very similar to that of a human you could be handed over to Detail for his latest battery of tests." She tossed down a set of photographs in front of her. "You would be heavily drugged of course to minimize pain and undoubtedly you would help the cause of our understanding. There are other options that become available with a little cooperation that shall be more comfortable and pleasant for you. The Committee shall give you some time to mull it over.”
As she made her way to the door, she gave her final comment “Also those weapons you came with will undoubtedly fetch for us a decent price at auction and that coin shall help keep our foundries fired."
Supernova left the Room and Kailiniam sitting in it. She did not say anything, but she was not left unaffected.
As its territory increased, Infrastructure took a look into the Mineral resources that were available in the Coldlands, collecting data and sending it back. After the fall of the Black Ports, this was ongoing. Surveyors were taught about mineralogy, talked to the locals, collected samples and sent them back to Dalatyr for evaluation. For their immediate needs, the committee found more than enough basic materials. Coal was comparatively common, as was iron ore, sulfur, copper, limestone and so forth. There were a few that were absent (most notably Uranium, a material which they never found more than the most trace examples of on this planet) or scare. The most notable of the latter was Petroleum. A few small deposits were located in the Southeast, but not enough for the long term projects.
To better evaluate their claims as well as to better map areas far from Infrastructure's borders, a significant amount of fabrication effort was expended on the creation of a long range aircraft. In particular it was a rigid solar powered airship. It took four years to produce, discounting the assembly time and necessitated the creation of several machines, including a device to weave the high strength textile components of its construction. It would fly high, to avoid entanglements with any natives whenever possible. To conserve power, four retractable sails were installed on the side to tack the winds. It was 37 meters long and was solar powered driving two fan assemblies. To avoid coming into conflict with natives and to avoid unpleasant weather phenomenon it carried a payload including radar systems, a miniaturized spectrometer for evaluating samples and a set of small probes for taking samples and running tests and other such instruments to help it examine foreign. Finally, to oversee this operation Discovery decided to pilot this craft. It would be risky, but it would be necessary.
It took six months to completely fabricate in a facility sixty kilometers west of Dalatyr with the assistance of a hundred trusted and well paid workers under the guard of three companies of soldiers. After a few remote test flights, the craft was deemed airworthy. Discovery was disconnected from his humanoid body and installed. Then the craft was taken out and began its ascent on a sunny morning. Slowly it ascended over pine trees and marshes, it would be five years before Discovery completed the evaluation. By which point, preparations would be under way for a new plan.