Swamped Chapter 58 Page 1

You’re Tom Sixth, just returned from leave. And you’ve come back to quite the mess.

For a start, Captain Long is missing, and it seems he doesn’t have a formal replacement yet. Sergeant Burgundy is currently in charge, except you’ve been hearing that she’s been demoted. You haven’t had time to ask anyone just why yet, however.

And apparently, she missed the paperwork marking you absent and temporarily assigned you to another squad a couple of days ago. And you came back just as that had been officially noticed and they’d started making plans to find someone else. Now you’re just being bounced around doing odd jobs while some poor corporal tries to work this mess out.

All of which is to say that this evening, you’ve been assigned to help out Tom First. It seems the Postmaster’s exceptionally busy, and doesn’t expect to leave the roost for several hours, so he needs a meal delivered. And that’s the job you’re stuck with.

It’s very dull. Especially as the roost is a good distance away from the kitchen. So there’s nothing to do but carry this lukewarm bowl of swamp mush across half the base. You don’t even particularly have to worry about spilling it, because there’s a lid on the thing, with a handle to make it easier to carry up the ladder.

And it’s even easier than that now. There’s a rope near the ladder. It seems to be attached to a pulley. All you need to do is tie the rope around the handle, climb up the ladder, pull on the rope, and untie it. It only takes a minute.

You suppose that’s something new since you were last here, but it’s still not all that exciting.

You don’t see the postmaster. You’re just about to call out and ask where he is, when you spy a raised arm behind one of the nests. Well, then, time to take a look.

The postmaster’s there, all right – and so is a sergeant. You can tell from his uniform, though his name escapes you.

You must have seen him before – you definitely remember that handsome face and that muscular figure. But you probably never actually talked to him.

“You can’t delay this forever,” he says, sounding a little gruff.

“I’ve been giving it plenty of thought, believe me. But the roost is still a mess, and there’s a lot of new mail coming in to deal with. My priority is dealing with that.”

“There’s going to be more mail, you know. Demanding to know what we’re doing next now that the captain’s vanished.”

“I know,” the Postmaster sighs. “But I can’t deal with it right now. Look, you made your case for Ash already, I’m mulling it over, I’m also mulling over the cases I’ve heard for Vera. Repeating them isn’t going to help.”

“We’re squandering an opportunity. For all we know, the Marshguards have worked out what to do with their leadership gap by now. What if they start plotting while we’re still dragging our feet?”

Wait… the Marshguards have a leadership gap, too? You’re really out of the loop. Who’s gone on their side?

“You say that like the Marshguard leadership isn’t its own mess. I’ve read the reports, you know.”

It suddenly occurs to you that you’re eavesdropping on potentially sensitive information. On the one hand, maybe you should just hand over the swamp mush and get out before they notice you or think to ask what you’ve heard.

On the other hand, this is the most interesting thing to happen since you got back.

So, what are you going to do?

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Uh. Erryone knows Tom Sixth has a nose for gossip.

But you gotta see if you can catch this sergeant’s name. Is he Kandrian? Also “Ash”? he’s in the running for the new captain? He came in before you but not by much.

Aargh you hate being out of the loop! Wait…didn’t Penelope have the hots for Ash? Maybe that’s gone somewhere.