88: Jack

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Rogan and Koursh conferred for a while, until Koursh agreed to Simkit’s demand in the end, and set his people to work organizing the camp.

Koursh’s team spent time reloading weapons as well, which was baffling to him. The ‘daisy wheel rifles’ they carried appeared to be Civil War era technology, using linen cartridges and percussion caps like a vintage Sharps carbine he had once had the opportunity to shoot. It made him wonder why a world which knew about Earth and its 21st century weapons would continue to use 19th century gear.

Fionna and Rogan’s firearms seemed old-fashioned as well, just not by as much. Fionna carried a rifle that look suspiciously like an M1 Garand, and although Rogan’s pistol was a design he had never seen before, it reminded him of a broomhandle Mauser.

Fionna had given him enough rounds for his Beretta to fill one magazine, so he had been reloading as well. The atmosphere sent him back multiple decades to his years in South Asia, sitting with his squad mates in bivouac, cleaning weapons and reloading magazines while the enemy lurked in the distance. It was a strange place for a fifty-year-old man to find himself, no matter how natural it once felt to his twenty-year-old self.

One difference he did note in the reloading process. Yordj and Simkit both ‘charged’ everyone’s rounds first with a flux technique that gave the bullets a similar vague presence to Nam’s unen. He guessed it was something like what Rogan did while firing, and what Nam had done to his weapons, only in a stored form.

Once they were reloaded, Koursh sent Simkit and Yordj out to hunt for dinner. Jack shook his head as he watched the centaur depart.

“Something bothering you about the lass?” Rogan asked him. He was seated nearby, having field-stripped his handgun for cleaning. He was in the midst of reassembling it.

At first Jack was surprised he would even ask, until reminding himself that, in Rogan’s view, there would be nothing surprising about encountering a centaur.

“I guess you could say she’s a good representative of all the crazy things I’ve encountered lately. Are there a lot of people like her?”

“Thamad? They’re not particularly numerous, no.”

“Is that what I’m supposed to call a centaur?”

“Aye,” Rogan nodded. “In the singular, the lass is a Thamadin. But, they do reckon your centaurs are the memory of Thamad who fought for the Ilidi on Earth in ancient times, so I suppose you aren’t wrong to call her one.”

Jack nodded. “I didn’t just mean centaurs though. How many other ‘mythological beings’ am I going to learn are actually people from your world?”

“Worlds. Very plural, and don’t forget it. There are many times more worlds in the multiworld than there are nations in your world.”

He had finished packing up the maintenance kit while speaking, and now stood. Jack remained silent, waiting for an answer to his question.

“The remnants of the Thamadil race live on a world called Cantaree, in the Kingdom of Orosjo. That’s home to Koursh, Rillte and Yordj. Agste and Hemme are immigrants there, from elsewhere on Cantaree. The Orosjoese have made their land something of a sanctuary for refugee races like the Thamad, so you’ll find a number of your mythological beings there.”

“More geography lessons,” Jack grumbled.

Rogan chuckled and clapped him on the back. “The Dominion has members and territories on eleven worlds and autonomous associates like Orosjo on eighteen more. You’ve had an easy time of it in your geography lessons, compared to Parhan pupils.”

“You Dominion guys aren’t just on Trin?”

“We grew quite large during the days of the old emperors. We covered a wee bit more than half of the land area of Trin, and we also expanded into the Multiworld. Our offworld holdings have decreased in size since the old days though. Those ‘associates’ I mentioned were once client states and territories. Over the centuries they’ve become more like members of a Parhan Commonwealth.”

Jack tipped his head toward the soldiers nearby. “What exactly is Koursh’s group?”

“Koursh leads an independent mercenary company. The other Orosjoese work for him. Since he is a Brath House retainer as well, we hire him from time to time. Only a few know about Koursh’s connection to us, so Fionna often uses his company as cover for her people.”

“Like Meadhbh or Simkit, right? They’re wearing the same uniform, but they don’t seem to work for him.”

Rogan grinned. “Aye, they’re retainers of Brath House, just like my grand-niece. Meadhbh and Simkit are students of Fionna’s gram, my sister-in-law. She was Naval Intelligence in her time, so she’s taught them and Fionna quite well. “

Jack rubbed his eyes to hide a sigh, now doubting even more strongly Rogan’s dismissal of his aristocratic title as ‘unimportant’. He wondered about what it must mean to be a ‘vice-minister’ or a ‘lord’ in a government vast enough to reach eleven worlds. Certainly a lot more than the same titles in a minor kingdom in some fantasy world, as he had imagined at first. It was such a significant thing that his ‘House’ had dealings with mercenary companies and that his great niece working for him had people working for her who required ‘covers’ for whatever they were doing.

Whatever it is you really are, Sir Rogan, you’re no mere cop.

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