Family Ties v1.1
This is what was originally reviewed a few weeks ago. Only the names have changed. No hints about who’s innocent.
Names that changed: Talisman => Omamori; Jack => Truk; Rachelle => Rochelle; Nicole => Nisa; Pete => Petrov; Bert => Brayant
A door latch behind Truk snicked as someone opened it. He had heard it enough times to know it belonged to the door to his father’s office instead of the small catering kitchen or the elevator foyer. He spent another moment gazing at the setting gas giant Epimetheus, custodian of his home moon, Jejune, and the ten or so other moons that were currently visible. Truk turned and smiled as his older sister and his father came around the conference room table to join him at the floor to ceiling window. While Truk didn’t really get along with Nisa, he respected her in the position as the head of Security. Her presence was enough to surmise that Father didn’t ask him to come up for a father-son chat. Truk felt a tinge of disappointment that such visits had become few and far between. It was probably Truk’s fault as he had been spending most of his free time with his girlfriend Rochelle.
Nisa was wearing her typical stern look. It was the rare frown on his father’s face, with deep creases across his forehead, that warned Truk of the tone of the meeting. Father broke the silence. “We have a problem, Truk. It appears that someone is attempting to steal our family’s Omamori.”
Truk’s smile vanished as he instantly understood the concern. While the rock formations from which Omamories were made were rare, Omamories themselves were common. Each family had one and it was the source of a family’s power and influence. The power of each Omamori varied depending on mostly undiscovered factors and Truk's family had one of the most powerful Omamories known to exist. If it was to leave the family’s possession, their standing among the other families would rapidly fall from the First Tier to a lower Tier that their previous Omamori, stored in the family vault, would support. An uncertain future at best.
“Do we know who?” Truk asked.
“No,” Nisa answered, “all we know for sure is that four people who are going to try left the city at Real Dawn this morning through the West gate. While they left on foot, we should assume that they have acquired horses and allies shortly thereafter. Mother’s caravan left through the same gate yesterday, also at Real Dawn, to go the coast to visit Grandma.”
“I’m assuming Mother was wearing the Omamori.”
“Of course she is, Truk. She has worn it since the day I married her,” Father scolded, “and she’ll wear it until the day Nisa weds.”
“What about the previous Omamori?”
“I removed it from the vault and Nisa is now wearing it. It hasn’t been worn in decades, so it’ll take a couple months for it reach its full strength.”
“I think we need to be talking about keeping possession of the current Omamori,” Nisa interjected.
“Patience, my daughter. Understanding what will happen if Taliman is taken from your mother should underscore the importance of preventing it’s loss. Once the Omamori is no longer in contact with your mother’s skin, the power it gives our family will start to fade. Slowly at first. After a few weeks, there will be noticable losses in business negations and control of the city’s outer perimeter will break down. The surrounding wilderness will begin to encroach on the agricultural areas up to the Second Wall, where the previous Omamori should halt the loss of farmland. Fortunately, most of the harvesting has been completed. But once that runs out, many of the citizens that we have been protecting for generations will leave or starve. It’s been a long time since a family experienced the loss of a Omamori.”
Father turned to Truk. “I need you to go to your Mother. Protect her if you can. Recover the Omamori if you can’t.”
“Why not Nisa? She’s head of security and the Travon delegation will arrive in a couple days. We have complex negotiations planned with them.
“Normally, Nisa would handle security matters such as this, but she’s wearing the only thing that would keep our family from complete ruin. Omamories are never as strong when worn by men. As for the Travons, I can lead the negotiations. I’m not senile. Yet. But if the Omamori and your mother’s safety isn’t enough, perhaps I should mention that Rochelle is with your mother’s caravan.”
Truk gave a startled look. “Really? I didn’t know that. She said she was going to be gone for a week or so. She was being secretive and didn’t say where or with whom.”
“Looks like Rochelle is better at secrets than you, Truk,” snarked Nisa, “Rochelle went to get Grandma’s blessing before you proposed. You should know the goldsmith isn’t very good about keeping secrets from his wife. I’ve known that you ordered an engagement ring for almost a month.”
“Ah, so that’s why your mother is travelling to the coast,” Father laughed. “I didn’t even know.”
Nisa’s stern looked softened a bit as she said, “You men think you know everything and have all the power around here. We just let you think so to keep your delicate egos intact. Now that we’ve established who runs things around here, can we go over my plan?”
“By all means, boss lady,” replied Father.
“Truk and Brayant leave within the hour to try to catch up with Mother to warn her. My staff is currently putting together a security force of ten to twelve. They will leave at False Dawn in the morning. Enough light comes from Epimetheus that they can cover some distance before Real Dawn.”
“A reasonable plan. Good luck, Truk.” Father turned and headed back to his office. Nisa and Truk followed him around the conference table and the angled towards the elevator foyer.
Truk and his sister didn’t say anything until they had boarded a waiting elevator and Nisa had entered floor number: four fifty-one. Security’s armory. The elevator began to drop.
“Brayant is preparing horses for you…”
“Why Brayant?” Truk interrupted. “Your boyfriend doesn’t make the best travel companion.”
“Brayant is my best officer. And it’s my decision, Truk, not yours,” growled Nisa. “The two of you should make good time. If you don’t spare the horses, you may catch up with Mother.”
“Fine, have you identified who we are after?”
”We’re still trying to figure out who you’ll be following. I’ll let you know if we have anything before you get out of communication range. Today’s atmospherics will allow that until you reach the final border.”
“That’ll only be a ninety-minute hard ride,” Truk said as the elevator came to a stop.
Nisa pressed her hand against the palm-plate to open the door and they exited the elevator into a small lobby and several doors. All secured with palm-plates.
“What do you want? You’ll need to take weapons for Brayant.”
“An assault with three hundred rounds. A sniper with thirty. A pair of side arms with four large clips. Two belt knives.
“Okay, wait here.”
Nisa disappeared through the center door. Truk thought about Brayant for a few moments before he decided that his sister’s boyfriend wouldn’t be coming with him. He keyed his phone for his best friend, Petrov.
“What’s up Truko?” Petrov answered, “I was just about to call you.”
“What are you doing now and can you clear your schedule for 8 - 10 days? It’s urgent and I need someone I can rely on.”
“I was just going to take advantage of the perfect weather and do some hang-gliding. Nice steady wind to the west. I’ve got nothing going on that I can’t ignore for a while. If you need me, I’m your man.”
“Great. Grab a pack with enough foodstuffs for five days’ travel for both of us and meet me at my place. Wear your camo. I’ll fill you in later.”
“On my way.”
Truk hung up just as his sister re-emerged from the door she had gone through. She carried the rifles and two heavy packs.
“Field rations, communicators, small arms, and ammo,” she said as she held out the gear.
Truk slung the rifles over one shoulder and the grabbed the packs.
“What’s the makeup of the caravan escort?” Truk asked.
“Rochelle, four of my best agents, an equal number of recruits and mother’s usual staff.”
“Should be enough until the security team catches up. I need to swing by my apartment.”
“Okay, I have to set you up with clearance to get outside the perimeter. I’ll meet you down at the stables.”
Truk grunted an acknowledgment as he left the armory.