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Faith In Others

Arriving at the front desk of the Militia office, Eloise was told that Captain Hienrichs was expected at any time and asked to ‘have a seat’ and await her appearance. Running through everything in her head, she still wasn’t sure how to present all this, but knew she would have to come clean about the team.

Before long, the Captain arrived, stamping the snow from her boots.

Eloise greeted her with a smile and, “Good morning.”

“Ah, Miss Winchester. Good day,” replied the busy Captain.

Pressing on to convey her urgency, Eloise immediately asked, “If you’ve time, I wonder if we might have a word.”

“Certainly. Please, come into my office,” offered the Captain, leading the way.

Once seated, Eloise began while Bookworm made herself comfortable and checked the notes on her desk.

Knowing that her business in the city had always been considered mysterious as a necessary side-effect of the need for secrecy, Eloise took a deep breath and offered a simple explanation, to get it out of the way. “I should begin by clarifying the nature of my own activity here in the city. I am employed by a group of offshore investors who have unique interests here. They only pay me to observe activity here…”

Captain Hienrichs listened carefully, “ Indeed…”

Now that the can was truly opened and she understood that the Captain had already ascertained as much anyway , Miss Winchester carried on, “I –or I should say we– are afforded the freedom to act according to conscience when needed, but never at the direction of our employers, by strictest contract.  In the course of our observations we do stumble upon information which you might use. That has recently happened.” She paused for a breath.

 Captain Hienrichs affirmed, “I would be grateful for such.”

 “People in my organization come from the intelligence community; people who haven’t the stomach for harder, nastier work,” Eloise explained. “ We are acquainted with others from the same background who do have the stomach for those activities. Some of those people work in this city, as I know you are aware.”

The Captain nodded grimly.

Carrying on, Eloise added “ There is however a group, employed—much like our organization—by foreign investors. A very specific unit, tasked like many such gangs mainly with industrial espionage.”

The Captain’s mouth set in a hard line, knowing how well that sort of work was received in Babbage.

“The only real differences between this and most other outfits operating in the commercial espionage sphere are in the quality of their training and in the finite focus of their work. These are high level deep- cover agents. Their regimentation is military and their operations are nearly untraceable. These are no local hoodlums, but military personnel re-tasked.

“Most of their efforts have no effect outside the business world. We monitor them more closely than the others as much as we are able, mainly because of familiarity with the talents of the operatives they employ and a keen sense of what they might be capable of. While they generally cause no mischief outside that darker side of business, that does now appear to have changed. Rather drastically. In fact, we now fear that they may have gotten off their leash entirely.”

The Captain tensed up slightly, “Wonderful.”

Eloise explained, “The group call themselves The Corps, or The Monster Corps—some kind of take on the names of some of their employers. They’ve lately taken to coercing urchins into their brand of footwork.”

 Bookworm ‘s eyes hardened with anger at that news.

“So far it seems to have been localised, and I can’t as yet give you many useful specifics, though you will have those when I do. I do have people working on gathering names at least,” Eloise explained.

Taking a deep breath she continued, “There have been some casualties, and I can only mention them unofficially. Owing to the nature of my relationship with my employers and strict codes preventing personal involvement with military and policing agencies, I must be very careful with specific information.

“However, this case falls wholly within the exclusions I described earlier as our ‘latitude,’ particularly freedom of movement when an innocent is threatened. You will need to be able to link these details into your work, and confidentiality at the expense of someone’s safety is well outside our team’s mandate.”

Captain Hienrichs stopped her to ask. “Do you have any names, or descriptions, of these Corps members?”

“Not the operatives themselves. These people are carefully trained spies. To my horror, I may have trained with some of them myself. It is even possible that some may have been students of mine…” She adjusted her position and tried to stay focused. “If so, it might be of use.

“For now,I do have the names of a couple of victims. One is in the asylum, and should remain there for her safety, though she may be less a danger to anyone than she appears. Another is missing and I fear the worst.”

The Captain looked up from her notes to ask, “Who?”

Eloise resumed, “Jigs, a young girl who attempted to kill my sister. She was brought here after the shooting incident, and then transferred across to the asylum. It’s a complex situation, and I haven’t been able to piece any logic together from my interview with her, and now she is off-limits to me in the asylum. The other is a young urchin named Harold, who was drifting through town.”

The Captain nodded, seeming to know the name.

“Not a thing has been heard from him for some time. I am hoping he grew bored with the ‘work’ he’d been given and moved on. But somehow, I’ve learnt not to expect the best.” Eloise paused, her front of professional calm weakening at the thought of so many innocents imperilled by these events.

Sensing the situation, Captain Hienrichs noted: “I can speak to Mr. Canergak about Jigs, and put out a discrete word about Harold.”

Eloise perked up a bit. “Yes—if you could, please. I’m sure I can get more out of Jigs. And Harold was a bright kid, but got mixed up with Dollianna in some kind of amateur spy ring nonsense. I found out about it because they were working on extorting money for a photograph. A photograph I would very much like to get back.” Here she stopped herself, finally seeing that she had said too much.”

“I see,” said the Captain under a raised brow.

Relieved that Bookworm wasn’t too curious about that just yet, Eloise kept on: “The photo itself is a matter of my organization’s security, and really nothing more, but young Harold seems to have vanished with it” she finished.

 The Captain nodded without looking up from her notes. After writing a few more details she looked up and smiled reassuringly, “We’ll do our best. Do you have a description of Harold?”

Eloise thought for a moment, then offered: “Yes, he was about 12, I believe. Light brown hair. Cockney-ish, but at times he speaks very well; almost surprisingly so. Always wears a cap. He seems a good kid, but possibly a bit too self-assured. Aren’t they all, nowadays?”

Hienrichs nodded, carefully adding the description to her notes.

Eloise then added, “I might also note that Dollianna has been of use to us, and we haven’t yet listed her as a ‘rogue’ construct, but we are monitoring her as usual.

 

“If I can be of any use, I have an office at the mill near the Clarendon. As I have little left resembling field cover, I operate mainly as an administrator and team contact currently, until rotating out. I shall bring forth any news I can gather concerning the ‘Corps.’ After all, there really is no way to fight a ghost.”

Both women wordlessly grinned slightly at the choice of words.

 

Captain Hienrichs added the last details to her notes, then looked up and assured Miss Winchester, “I’ll let you know if we need your help, or more information.”

“Excellent. Have a good day, then,” Eloise wished her, standing.

“And you, Miss Winchester,” the Captain nodded cordially.

Trying very hard to resist the habitual temptation to visually sweep the environment before stepping into the street and carrying on her way, Eloise nevertheless knew that she was being observed leaving the Militia headquarters. The greater temptation was to grin knowing it.

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