Serial Saturday #2.15: To The Jaipur Palace
Sarah followed the nuns out of the Enugu’s cargo bay and onto the docks. The two nuns both held up their hands and their party stopped. The docks of Samundra City were so different from the docks of New Toliara. Everything was gleaming white, shiny, new. People were shouting in dozens of different languages. A loud series of honks off to her left made her turn. The crowds parted to reveal three Tuk-Tuks, all bright blue which pulled up in front of them.
“Sister Adelaide,” Abbess Hildegarde pointed to the Tuk-Tuk on the left. “You and Sister Michael will watch our backs. Sister Marguerite,” she now pointed to the Tuk-Tuk on the right. “You and Sister Agnes are on point. Sister Monica, you will ride with me and this young lady. Remember, keep your comms active, and rules of engagement are in place.”
The nuns nodded and headed for their assigned Tuk-Tuks. The Abbess gestured for Sarah to precede her, still a little bemused at all the nuns that appeared to be armed to the teeth. Sarah settled into her seat, Abbess Hildegarde beside her and a moment later, their little convoy moved off.
“Are you all right, my child?” Abbess Hildegarde looked concerned.
“I’m… fine,” Sarah gave a half-smile. “It’s just… I’ve never seen so many nuns with…”
“Guns?” Abbess Hildegarde finished. “It was a strange transition for our order, but after the Sixth Vatican Council, the Pope decreed that while we couldn’t be Priests, we could defend the weak and innocent and fight for the truth wherever our order resided.”
“Even on Venus?”
“Especially on Venus,” Abbess Hildegarde smiled. “We’ve been here since the beginning, after all. It took a while, but now, everyone knows we are honest brokers to all, regardless of status or ability to pay. Our fealty is to the truth.”
Sarah snorted. “The truth, now there’s something I’d like to know.”
“You mean Harcourt didn’t tell you?”
“No!” Sarah burst out. “I’ve got bits and pieces and... random people trying to kill me and some kind of a corporate takeover and Abernathy is supposedly alive and…” she trailed off as she saw the expression on Abbess Hildegarde’s face. “I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize, my child,” Abbess Hildegarde smiled.. “I’ll try and be brief as-” she turned in her seat and ducked down glancing out of the small window at the crowded streets they were racing through. “We’re almost there. So, quickly: you know about the Treaty of Ganymede, I assume? What Abernathy did?”
“We believe a coup attempt is imminent. Your standing in the MVA meant you were in a position to resist them or help them- with the proper persuasion of course.”
“The neural links.”
“Exactly,” Abbess Hildegarde replied. “You would have been placed under their control.”
The convoy pulled out into a large plaza and came screeching to a halt in front of a massive domed building. “The Jaipur Palace,” Abbess Hildegarde held up a hand as Sarah made to get out. “Wait for the others.”
The other nuns took up positions around the convoy. At a nod from Abbess Hildegarde, Sarah got out of the vehicle. “Sister Adelaide will be your escort. You know what you’re looking for in the library?”
“I hope so.”
“We will be nearby.” Abbess Hildegarde raised her hand in benediction. “Go with God, my child.”
“Thank you,” Sarah smiled. Then, she turned and with Sister Adelaide beside her, walked up the long, wide staircase to the entrance of the Jaipur Palace.
Getting into the Jaipur Palace had been surprisingly easy. The Peshwa’s quarters were on the far side of the complex, away from the massive dome and the library. So inconvenient things like “guards” and “alarms” were not an issue. What was an issue was the stairs.
“This is crazy,” Harcourt muttered, shifting the flag to his other arm. It was proving to be inconvenient to carry up the narrow staircase. “All this money and they can’t even put in a damn elevator?”
“The whole point,” Ema was breathing heavily- they all were. “Is to enjoy the journey, Harcourt.”
“Ema,” Kamara put in. “This sucks. So many stairs.”
“We’re almost to the top,” Harcourt replied.
They all looked up at the narrow staircase that ran up the side of the dome. Almost was a relative term. They kept climbing, Harcourt muttering curses. Not for the first time, he wished that they could have just flown the Enugu to the top of the dome- attention be damned, alarms and guards and the Peshwa’s armored enforcers be damned.
After what seemed like another eternity, they reached the top, climbing a short little ladder out to the cupola of the dome. The Peshwa’s Flag, the saffron pennant of the Maratha Diaspora, snapped and whipped in the breeze. Ema and Kamara set to work quickly, untying the rope and lowering the pennant. It was the work of a few moments to detach the saffron pennant and put the flag in its place. Then, Ema and Kamara began pulling on the ropes and raising the Black Flag high over Samundra City.