(1-2) As men are ground

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"Chief, the trail is cold," one of the three figures spoke; a tall man in a long coat wearing an antiquated hat. The man's soft voice was difficult to pick out over the muted cacophony of the City. "No one arrived on the scene in time to pursue our quarry. Whoever it was must have gone to ground."

"I'll have evaluators swarming the area over the next hour, but with his head-start, we can't count on catching this ash-stained little shit. I've asked the Orderlies to take the lead in the investigation while our people focus on the immediate pursuit," the other figure replied as she looked at the bodies. She was a shorter women with a harsh bark of a voice, and badly faded clothes that looked oil-soaked. "At the very least, they can help us determine what to expect from this runaway reject."

Not oil, Samuel corrected himself. The woman's clothes had gone through a chemical treatment, to make her clothes heat-resistant and fire retardant.

That woman was a shadow.

"Speaking of the orderlies," the tall figure in the hat said, as Samuel drew closer.

Samuel held out his badge again, letting it catch the light before he tucked it away. "Inspector Samuel Fraser. I've been sent to assist."

The woman nodded but didn't look his way.

"Good, thank you Mathias. I'll ask around for an artist, to get some sketches of these two," the woman said as she pointed at two of the bodies. "I'll show the sketches to everyone in the bureau until I get some burning answers. We need to know what they were doing here, and we needed to know this about an hour ago. Send the sketches by courier; I can authorise 'Priority Blue'."

"Aye chief. Good hunting," the tall shadow said.

The shorter woman turned away, and marched out into the distance, moving with a disturbing grace that made Samuel suspect he had never really learned how to walk properly.

He only tracked the woman's departure for a little more than a second, but when the tall man in the hat spoke next, he was practically right in front of Samuel.

"Commander Mathias Aranhall, of the Fury of the Dawn," the tall man in the hat said, holding out his hand. "Thank you for coming, inspector. Your partner is up on the ship. We picked her up en route, once we received word from your precinct captain. She'll be down as soon as they get the winch straightened out."

"She's on board your ship?" Samuel asked, the hair on his arms standing on end and an uncomfortable tension forcing his jaw into clenching his teeth. He tried to relax, as much as he could.

"She is. Her apartment was on the way, and marines are always looking for an excuse to use the rappelling equipment," Commander Aranhall said, as he stepped back and stared up at ship. Samuel seethed to himself, unable to express his distress.

But a heartbeat later, Samuel found himself under this airship commander's scrutiny. Beneath his hat, Commander Aranhall's eyes were fixed on Samuel, with an intensity and focus that made him distinctly uncomfortable.

"She hides her distress better than you do," the commander adds. He then holds up his hand and waves it in a circle.

Up above, a figure hanging by the edge of the ship's deck begins to descend.

It only took a moment for Samuel to recognise his partner, Inspector Angela Ostal. Samuel laughed at himself as he looked up, realising what he recognised about his partner first.

Samuel's partner was fond of complaining that her pants never fit right. She blamed it on what she called her army legs, a legacy of the years of conditioning training she had gone through serving at the walls.

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