The Assignment

Captain Von Delgo is a man who is lost. He is known as a turncoat, a hero and a mass-murderer. He has no beginning, and as far as he can see he has no end. Which makes him just about the most dangerous man alive. After the completion of his last job Captain is on his way out to receive his payment and rest up. His plans are delayed when a religious sect known as the Ravens pull him in with an offer. Captain faces a dilemma, he has never once failed in his assignments. But accepting this one and succeeding would change the way of the world, change everything that everyone has ever known, plunge it into chaos. But he has also never once turned down a job, and with his life quickly descending into a chaos of its own despair, he can see no reason why not to accept. After all, how hard can it be to kill an immortal?

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3. Chapter 3

The Captain made his way into town, his hood pulled down low over his face to keep it hidden from prying eyes. Men on horses rode past, shoving people out of their way as they rode through the town. Men and women with carts laden with food, cages of animals, anything to sell, also moved through the busy street on their way to the market. The smell of fresh bread, herbs and cooking meat lay heavy in the air, strange spices also hung in the air, bringing tears and drowsiness to those that inhaled too deeply. The Captain followed the smells in search of a meal and a doctor. No one seemed to pay him any attention as he pushed past those pushing past him, stopping occasionally to glance over wares set out on stalls. Stopping next to a fruit stand he pinched an apple without the owner noticing and moved on, biting into it. Warm juices ran down his chin and he wiped it away with the back of his hand before taking another bite. Stopping in the center of the courtyard where the townsfolk had set up he looked around in search of the medical tent he knew would be set up somewhere close. There was no sign of it. As he stood a man selling clothes ran up to him and tried to make him buy a new wardrobe. Placidly the Captain sent him on his way and continued his search. Another man came up and the Captain started to brush him away before stopping.

I don't want to buy anything, but I'm looking for the medical tent. Do you know where it is?' he asked.

'Maybe,' the man told him, nodding his head. 'Maybe I do.'

'Can you tell me?' the Captain ask, taking another bite of his apple.

'Maybe,' the peddler repeated, obviously not anxious to finish the conversation. 'What's it to me if I tell you?'

'Nothing,' the Captain replied. 'I just want to know where it is.'

'I don't know anything,' the peddler replied sadly. 'If only I did I would help you... but, you see. I'm a busy man, so many things to sell and not enough people buying them. I have my work cut out for me and there is no room to remember where certain tents are. Besides, they change every month.'

The Captain said nothing for so long the peddler began to think that he would get nothing. He turned to go when the Captain called him back.

'I'll buy something if you tell me where it is,' he said, as if making up his mind.

The peddler stopped pushing his cart away and pulled it back to stand in front of the Captain.

'What'll you buy?' he asked suspiciously, in case it was a trick.

'I'l buy anything you sell,' the Captain replied with an easy shrug. 'Just tell me where the tent is.'

'That way,' the peddler pointed behind the Captain to a stop he had passed entering the market.

'Thank you.'

The Captain started to walk away when the peddler behind him coughed.

'But o' course it could be in the opposite direction.'

Turning, the Captain found the man to be grinning. 'You need to buy somethin', then maybe tongues will wag,' the peddler told him.

'I see.' Walking back over the Captain browsed over the man's good on the little cart he pushed. 'What happens if I buy something but you don't point me in the right direction again?'

The peddler shrugged and grinned, showing rotting black teeth. 'You'll just have to trust,' he laughed, jiggling up and down on the spot. He was a short grubby man in desperate need of a wash, but the smell hardly disturbed the Captain or anyone around them. They were all in need of a wash but what was the point if you were only going to get dirty again? The inhabitants of the town worked too hard to afford the simple luxury of being clean.

With enough of chatting when the outcome was possible that he would be forced to buy something in return for empty information, there was a flash of silver and the Captain leveled his gun at the peddler's eyes.

'I don't have to trust when I can't trust,' the Captain's voice was low and firm, just loud enough so that only the peddler could hear him. 'But you can trust me not to pull this trigger if you tell me the incorrect way to the med tent after I buy a piece of your stock.'

The peddler's eyes turned cross-eyes trying to focus on the gun on the tip of his nose. 'You wouldn't pull the trigger,' he gulped. 'Not with all these witnesses about. You wouldn't dare! The Shadows will find you.'

The Captain let a small chuckle escape his lips. It was all an idle threat there was no bases for it. Moving in close he whispered, 'You forget where you are. No one cares who kills who, and the light? It makes death taste better when there are onlookers to the execution. As for the Shadows? They care about no one but themselves, do you really think they would trouble themselves over something as pettiless as this?'

'You aren't seriously going to pull that trigger if I give you the wrong directions, are you?' the man asked, rethinking himself and his situation.

'I said you'll have to trust me.'

'Uh,' the peddler gulped. He was nervous, and the Captain would tell that he didn't know what to think. Finally the man said, 'It's down the right side of Easy Street,' he pointed a shaking finger. 'It's a brown tent with 'Areo' written on a sign out the front on a stand.'

'Thank you.' There was another flash of silver as the gun disappeared into the recess of the Captain's clothes and he took a step back. The Captain returned a hand to a pocket and pulled it out carrying a small pile of blue, square coins. He weighed them out and then tossed them to the peddler. 'I'll buy that,' he said, pointing to a small, red bound book.

'Certainly!' exclaimed the peddler, pleased to have his life still and to have business. He handed the book to me as he saluted with his free hand. 'Pleasure doing business with you!' he exclaimed one last time as he picked up the handles of his cart and pushed it quickly off into the crowd.

'Right side of Easy Street, brown tent, 'Areo' written outside,' the Captain murmured to himself as he looked around. 'Gotcha.'

The tent was indeed brown, and had a sign out front, however, it was on the left side. The Captain stood outside looking at it trying to decide whether the peddler had merely been pushing his luck or had just gotten confused. He wandered in.

It was a large tent, four beds along one side, small tables sat at the end of each bed. They all held bottles of unknown substances, a pan with cotton wool buds, some with blood splatters, and surgical instruments. It was obvious to the Captain that someone had just been operated on recently, but the beds were all empty. Plastic clipboards were connected to the ends of each of the white paint faded beds, but only one had anything written on it. Walking over to it the Captain pulled it off and held it up to the lamp that hung from the roof which offered the only light.

The handwriting was tiny and springy, just possible to decipher. But he couldn't understand the words. They were unknown, he had never seen anything like them before. Positioned all wrong on the page, half the letters were incomplete while others had extra added onto them. A few of the words were crossed out too, but that didn't help him because it was a language he didn't know. That was puzzling. The Captain was a man of many means, many interests, and a very large past. It was full of knowledge that was ungained by ten men in a ten lifetimes. What he knew was impossible to put down on paper, it would fill the world. He knew every species of life on Gamdagleeare Luff, he knew where they lived, what they ate, and what they spoke and how. And so, coming across a language he couldn't understand, the Captain couldn't help but wonder what it was and how it came to be he didn't know it.

The clip board was torn from his hands and thrown across the room. Looking up the Captain came face to face with an arrow clicked into place on a crossbow.

'What do you want?' a strange accented voice demanded harshly. 'Thief are you? Well you won't find nothin' in here that you'll be able to take out of here alive!'

'I don't think that, that,' the Captain pointed calmly to the crossbow, 'is needed.' He tried to peer behind the bow but it was utter darkness. The light from the lamp seemed only to cover him and the tip of the arrow.

He wasn't scared being faced with death, he had luck. A great deal of luck that had kept him alive longer than he should have. He also prided himself on his ability to calmly talk out of a difficult situation. At least, talk long enough for the one attempting to kill him to become placid enough for him to even the fight and pull out his own weapons. Once they were out he would win. He never missed.

'Why not?' demanded the voice angrily. 'Give me a reason why you're in here alookin' 'round as if you were goin' to pinch stuff? And reading my private notes!' the voice rose into one of shrill indignation at the though.

'I'm in here to be looked at,' the Captain told her. 'That's the truth. I'm in a need of a doctor.'

There was a grunt, and then the crossbow was lowered. The dark seemed to depart and brilliant white light filled the tent. Through his tears from the sudden brightness the Captain saw the owner of the weapon to be a woman.

'I'm lookin' at you,' she told him.

He suppressed a chuckle at her humour. 'I mean I need medical attention. More than just a look at, I think.'

'I can do that. All you need. But why peak at my notes?'

The notes seemed to be important, but for the life of the Captain he couldn't work out why. He shrugged. 'I don't understand the language. I know what is out there and spoke, those words are not said.'

'I should say not. It's Tub.'

The Captain frowned at the unfamiliar name. 'What?'

'As in a bathtub. That's what it's called.'

'I don't recognise it.'

'Obviously,' she told him. Laying the crossbow down on one of the empty beds she moved closer. She was, by the colour of her hair, in middle age. It was held tight in a bun. She wore a brown outfit that matched the tent, also the kind that the Captain had seen surgions in the army wear. Though the ones that often wore them were long gone, war was a past time. That was back when there was something to fight for, now the people fought for nothing but sport.

The Captain could see she wasn't going to say anything else about the strange Tub, so he asked her instead if she was the nurse.

'No. I'm the Doctor,' she replied. 'The only one in this town at the moment.'

Moving over to one of the tables by the beds she picked up a pair of old stethoscopes and put them on.

'Aremy Doctor?'

'Yes.' She waved him to take a seat on one of the beds. 'What's the matter with you?' she asked, coming straight to business.

'Difficulty breathing, possible broken ribs.'

'How did that happen?'

'A kick to the chest by a pair of very heavy work boots.'

'Hmm. That ought to do it. Lift up your shirt.'

The Captain did as she requested. He hadn't yet checked himself out to size up the damage the Shadow had inflicted. Purple bruises decorated almost his entire upper body, under a dry coat of blood. The Captain couldn't help but wonder who it belonged to.

Cold metal touched his chest and he flinched, but stayed firm.

'Heart beat sounds normal to me.' Pulling her stethoscope from around her neck she walked over to a table and started to rearrange the equipment.

'Your voice tells different,' the Captain said matter-of-fact, dropping his shirt back down.

'It's not a beat that is normal of anyone around here,' the doctor told him. 'But I have no idea if its normal or not because for you it might be. To me it's irregular. What species are you? That would help me to know.'

She looked at him expectantly, waiting for a reply that was not forthcoming. The Captain held her gaze as a million thoughts ran through his head. What was his species? Well, that was a question to ask all right. It would be even more to be able to answer it. He had no idea.

'I still have trouble breathing,' he said instead, switching the subject. 'What about my ribs?'

'I'll take an x-ray, to check. Lie down.'

As the Captain lay down the doctor pulled a trolley with a x-ray machine sitting on top from a corner of the tent that he hadn't notice before. Not that it was hard for him to miss it. Light and darkness was obeying no rule that he had ever known in the tent.

Taking the x-ray took five minutes, another five was added onto that to get the prints.

'So?' the Captain asked as he watched the doctor studying them intently.

'You have two broken ribs, but they haven't pierced anythin' from the looks of of things. The ribs are on both sides of your cage. Hold still,' she ordered as she placed the prints on a table and picked up a roll of material. After she was down wrapping the Captain's upper body she handed him a small vial with some blue liquid inside.

'This is for the pain. I can't do anythin' else for you. There's no charge,' she added, waving away his hand as he held out two bronze rectangles.

'Thank you for your help,' the Captain told her, pocketing the coins. Jumping to his feet he replaced his shirt which he had had to remove to have the bandages put on, his heavy coat came next.

'It's what I'm here for.'

As she walked him to the door the Captain felt her cold eyes on him. He turned to look.

'You're a stranger in town, aren't you?' she asked him.

'I am.'

'Are you the one the Shadows are looking for?'

It was such an outright question the Captain couldn't help but looked shocked by it. Straightening his face he shook his head. 'Nah,' he replied before wandering out onto the empty street.

A short moment later found him walking into a darkly lit tavern for rest. Ordering a drink he moved away from the bar and sat down. What to do now? Was his main question. He tapped the table absently while he thought, bringing the attention of the barmaid who thought he wanted something. Waving her away the Captain reached into his pocket and pulled out the scroll which he had gained that morning. Placing it on the table he admired the seal on it. He recognised it. Everyone knew who the seal belonged to. Looking up he saw the barmaid approaching once more and hastily hid the scroll. It would do no good for someone to see him with it. He would look at it later, he just hoped that it was worth it.

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