Jake rapped lightly with the brass knocker. He stood silently in the shadows of the porch overhang waiting for someone to answer the door. This was where Fatu lived last time he was on Alta III. Fatu had the trained eyes of a G.O. and spotted Jake at one of the local markets picking up supplies a couple of years back. Jake wouldn’t have risked a stop on Alta III except that he ran out of food for Kay-o. A hungry dar-dolf was not something to be trifled with. They had more destructive power than a Phase III Plasma Laser. Lucky for Jake the dresarge food was compatible with Kay-o’s digestive system.
After the G.O. removed him to his home where he chastised him fully, Fatu let him get away with just a warning. He wasn’t sure the Galactic Officer would be willing to help him this time, but it was certainly worth a try.
He rapped again. It would be mid-day soon and he wanted to get inside. He’d heard about Parnac and his followers. He didn’t fear what he couldn’t see, hear or feel, but he knew the followers were Altan’s that took advantage of the dark time to pillage and spoil. He didn’t want to get involved in any of their antics. He didn’t have time.
Jake heard footsteps on the other side of the door. It swung open and Fatu stood just inside. He was a little older - this kind of work did that to you, a little heavier, and a little meaner looking. He recognized Jake instantly.
“Harcourt,” he hissed as he reached out, grabbed the front of his robe and roughly pulled him inside. “What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded. He closed the door and threw the bolt into place.
“I came to help a friend,” Jake began.
“3su.” It was a statement on Fatu’s part rather than a question.
“Do you know what’s happened to her?” Jake asked.
Fatu pulled a jug and two cups off the shelf behind him. He put them on the table and filled them to the brim. “Sit. We need to talk.”
“The last I heard was from Rand yesterday. He received a bird from his spy among TiSenge’s circle. She was alive, but still being questioned by the warlord’s inquisitor,” Fatu said. “So today would be the third day of her incarceration. She’s a tough one, Jake.” He was trying to instill hope.
“Yeah, she can be really dogged sometimes,” Jake said with affection in his voice.
Fatu took Jake step-by-step through the full story of Aldobi-rand’s set-up - from the attack, through the accidental killing, to the staged murder, the blaster’s change of hands, through to the blackmail and transport to TiSenge in Mazala. Jake just kept shaking his head. 3su was a magnet for the impossible and improbable.
“Have you been able to get your hands on the blaster?” Jake asked.
“Not a chance. He wears it during the day and sleeps with it under his pillow at night,” Fatu said in disgust.
“So what’s the guy’s weaknesses?” Jake asked as he poured himself yet another cup of wine. He wished fervently it was something stronger. He could have used a glass of whiskey right now.
“Liquor, women and cards. Just like any other warm blooded male.”
A gleam twinkled in Jake’s eyes. “Is he any good at cards?”
“I’ve only won once out of all the time’s we’ve played and we used to play a lot before he became so obsessed with Keela and his plan for uniting the tribes.” Fatu looked deep into Jake’s eyes. “Why? You got an idea?”
“Does he play CU?” Jake asked.
“Is there any other game worth playing?” Fatu answered a question with a question.
“Not as far as I’m concerned,” Jake admitted with a smile.