Chapter 7 - Trigger-Happy

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Down there, first one on the block." Devon tapped the steamcarriage window. "I own the complex, but we use only the southernmost building for storage and office space."

The warehouse appeared through the fog on the right side of the road, a vast gray butte against a grayer sky. Like the rest of the buildings about these industrial outskirts, it was penned in by high fencing and had no immediate neighbors.

"Quite an operation of yours, Mr. Jade," Dennis Harlock muttered through his mustache. "I thought you were only a dealer."

"And as such, I find it useful to keep a stock of all my goods for exhibiting to my clients," Devon replied, shuffling up the passenger bench to a more comfortable distance from the portly Mr. Harlock. "There's an excellent practice range out back, too."

"Did it need much repair?" Cecil asked Devon seated across from him. Magnus and Drake shared the bench with their former guardian.

"Oh, very little. It was only deteriorated, not damaged."

"Lucky," remarked Monty Shale, the Guard captain sitting at the other side of Harlock. "I heard that a couple of factories up this way were found all torched to the ground."

"Recett was known to obliterate any modern construction that crossed his path," said Cecil. "Destruction is more scattered, away from the city center, but still present."

"Devon," Magnus called, almost forgetting to turn from the window he was staring through. "Did you also leave Serenia in the war?"

Devon frowned sympathetically. "I did. I remember being in SwansHill at the time of the last attack. The MorningStar office was decimated, but...hardly a concern, considering I'm still alive."

The great black steamcarriage pulled into a side road toward the complex. They reached a hefty gate stationed with a guard as stiff as a chess piece, who opened the gate to allow the vehicle through. The driver parked the steamcarriage by the side of the entrance doors.

Drake unfastened his seatbelt and dropped a nod to Devon. "Thank you very much for the ride, Mr. Jade."

"Oh, quite welcome." Devon popped open the cabin door and leapt out, followed by his five passengers. "Entrance is right this way."

Alongside Drake and behind the quietly conversing Shale and Harlock, Magnus followed Devon and Cecil to the double doors painted with the identifying letters "B1." For a warehouse, the place didn't look as sterile as what Magnus had come to expect from similar buildings on Earth. There were even a few friendly shrubberies gathered around the entrance.

Devon hauled open the B1 entrance doors and ushered his guests through. Magnus was pleasantly surprised at the quaint foyer and its stuccoed walls, hardwood floor, and tidy array of furniture. Aside from a guard sitting behind an immaculate desk, the room's only occupant was a young lady lolling on a couch-end with her face in a book. Her dress was colored such a gaudy red that it waged war with the plain decor.

"Finally!" the lady exclaimed, tepidly shoving herself to her feet. "I've been waiting here since 10, uncle. Your guards won't let me inside the warehouse without you."

"I told you I wouldn't be here until after 11," Devon retorted, shrugging off his coat. "Everyone, this is my niece, Rose Harmony. Rose, these are our honorable guests, Councilmaster Cecil Handel, Guard Master Dennis Harlock, Captain Monty Shale, and Drake and Magnus Wingheart."

Rose came forward and passed a strange smile across the five. Her features were a palette of glaring contrasts—her ribbons of red hair against her powdered white face, against her painted lips that were like a stroke of blood in snow, against her unadorned eyes of ashen green. She curtsied with a well-hidden angle of sarcasm. "An honor to meet you all."

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