A Pillar Of Fire By Night – Snippet 05

Corporal Dawes, short himself, had a much taller Gaul in hand, the Gaul’s arm twisted up behind his back, wrist painfully bent, walking on the balls of his feet to keep from having his arm or wrist broken, and just barely audibly whining on the way. Since the good corporal had already demonstrated that whining loudly would cause him to twist the wrist enough to elicit a scream, the Gaul had to content himself with no more than that subdued whine.

Another Gaul, a not unattractive but rather cold-faced woman, Captain Turenge, followed along purposefully. She was Campbell’s liaison with Janier or, rather, his office, when Jan couldn’t meet directly. Somewhat to her surprise, the Anglian had found the Gaul most sympathique, indeed, almost a sister in wickedness and sin.

How fortunate, thought Campbell, that these basement rooms are soundproofed, in the main. How lucky, too, that almost no one is down here.

Someone, nationality indeterminate, did look out from an office, alerted by the whimpering of the Gaul. A quick, infinitely wicked smile from Jan sent that someone reeling back into their office, slamming the door behind him.


Houston, as short as Jan, chubby, and with an anemic caterpillar of a blonde mustache, showed no alarm when Jan entered his basement office uninvited and, smiling sweetly, took a seat. He didn’t know anything much about her but, like most of the rest assumed she was a highly connected bureaucrat. And he’d seen and noticed her physical charms, of course, as had every man–including the gays–in the headquarters.

On the other hand, when the bruiser pushing the Gaul entered, with tears running down the Gaul’s face, Houston took some notice. When the other bruiser and the other woman entered, and the former closed the office door and took a station behind Houston’s own chair, the signaler really began to feel distinctly uncomfortable. And when Jan Campbell, holding two rolled up pieces of paper in her left hand, stood and slapped him across the face with her right, he was so shocked he couldn’t speak initially. And then, of course, bruiser number one, Sergeant Greene, made sure he couldn’t speak at all, at least for the nonce, pulling the desk jockey’s head back by his hair and wrapping a thickly corded forearm across his mouth, almost covering his nose.

Campbell held one piece of paper before Houston’s wide eyes.

“Dae ye nae ken this?” she asked. When she was furious, as she was now, and speaking English, she tended to revert to the thick Scots of her girlhood.

When the signaler’s eyes, wide over Sergeant Greene’s burley crooked arm, showed nothing but incomprehension, Campbell placed a dainty finger on the address block, repeating, “Dae ye nae ken this?”

Houston’s eyes flicked down the page. It was a report originating with a machinist in the enemy’s main armaments complex, detailing the special milling of something over a thousand arrow shells, in 122mm, and the fitting of same with sabots in 180mm, along with the dimensions and threading particulars for the fuse wells.


The eyes only widened further.

“Sairgant Greene, scomfisht him.” The perfect calm with which she said it, after the shouted query, set Houston to emitting a high-pitched squeal–all that he could get through Greene’s gagging arm.

“Bide a wee, Sairgant,” she commanded, then again asked Houston, “Dae ye nae ken this?”

The latter managed the most constrained of nods.

“A see,” said Campbell, then turned her attention to Corporal Dawes’s captive. “Now why, Monsieur,” she asked, switching to French, “did you not inform Houston of the purchase by Balboa of a large number of laser guidance packages and emitters for artillery shells, with the fuse well requirements for the fuses? You had the information.”

The Gaul gave Campbell a pitying look, as if she were an idiot child. That caused Campbell to shoot a glance at Dawes, who promptly lifted the Gaul by his bent wrist, eliciting thereby a most sincere scream of pain, while also illustrating in a very clear way why contemptuous glances were not to be directed at Miss Campbell.

Yes, it is fortunate, indeed, that the walls are thick and soundproof.

When Dawes let the now sobbing Gaul down enough to put his weight on his own feet, Jan asked, rhetorically, “It was the old political game, wasn’t it? The keep all information close hold game? The give away nothing for free game, not even to one’s allies?”

“Yes . . . yes . . . yes,” the Gaul admitted, in a series of sobs.

“And ye,” she accused, turning her attention back to Houston and the language back to something approaching English, “war thay the sel an same games for ye? Or were ye wirkin for the fae’s chief o’ intelligence?”

Houston’s eyes, if possible, grew wider still. The Tauran Union, like all civilized polities, had long since done away with capital punishment even for treason. That did not necessarily mean that death could not be meted out, even on mere suspicion, if the suspicious were ruthless enough.

He gave off another “girl in a horror film” shriek, mostly muffled by his captor’s arm.

“Nae workin’ for Fernandez, then?” Jan enquired, with a dubious moue, her blonde head shaking just as dubiously. “But how can A be certaint? How can A be certaint whan vital intelligence is nae passed on, vital coordination nae done?”

“Shall I kill him now, Miss?” asked Sergeant Greene, on cue. “It won’t take long.”

This time Houston’s scream almost escaped the knotted muscles of the sergeant’s forearm.

She knew that, working in the TU Defense Agency, Houston spoke good French. She switched back to that so that both Gauls present could understand her words, as well.

“The unnecessary dead we’re going to have suffered because the Zhong got hammered by the Balboan artillery, firing these shells from their island fortress, thereby releasing Balboan legions to face our own invasion, almost demands the deaths of these two,” Jan agreed. “Still, we are civilized folk.” She turned to the Gallic captain. “What do you think, Turenge?”

“I think the general would not miss these two,” said the female Gaul, her lip curling in a contemptuous sneer. “I think there would be no serious investigation, even if they were found, each with ‘is knife in the other’s chest, especially after I testify that we were involved in a sordid love triangle. We Gauls understand these things ‘appen, you see.”

“I think I do see,” Jan agreed, with the faintest hint of reluctance in her voice. At her words the other Gaul promptly voided his bladder, much to the worsening of Corporal Dawes’ shoes.

“Bastard,” said the corporal, giving the Gaul’s wrist a vicious, scream-extracting twist. “Tha filt’y fuck.”

“Still, don’t you think something else could be done, Captain? I mean, if these two agree to place themselves under our modest little organization, and to work diligently and honestly for it, to devote their funds to our purposes . . .”

“We don’t, after all, have proof that this chubby pig, Houston, was working for the enemy, do we?”

“Sadly not,” Turenge admitted, then offered, “but a stint with the general’s interrogator . . .”

“But people are so ruined after something like that,” objected Campbell. “Why, no one would get any use out of them then.”

“But, then again, I would personally be inconsolable, just inconsolable, if these two were to fail to cooperate or coordinate in the future, in any way that brought harm to our men at arms or their cause . . .”

Dawes used his right hand to grasp the Gaul’s hair, then bent his captive backwards until his ear was about at a level with Dawes’ own mouth.

“‘Inconsolable,'” Corporal Dawes explained softly, into the captive Gaul’s ear, in an accent not dissimilar to Old Earth’s Tyke, “is Anglian code for I rip thy fuckin’ ‘ead off and shi’ down t’ole.”