Episode 6 — The Fish People

A week has passed when Sister Theafana al-Malik invites Aquilegia to the Cathedral St. Maya. She offers profuse thanks, then asks whether Aquilegia is available for another task. When Aquilegia accepts, Sister Theafana introduces her to Baronet Rhea Li-Halan who is on pilgrimage on Byzantium Secundus from Rampart. The baronet’s son Armand, aged eight, disappeared two weeks ago at the Veridian Spaceport. The baronet has been searching for him in vain, but must now leave under urgent circumstances and is hoping that Aquilegia, as Questing Knight, can oversee the search now.

The boy let go of his mother’s hand in the busy spaceport and disappeared in the crowd. Baronet Rhea contacted Veridian Spaceport authorities (House Cameton), hired Muster mercenaries, consulted Eskatonic priests, etc. Aquilegia notes all the information and notices the name of Sergeant Jake Wilkinson.

Uncle Senestro Li-Halan on Rampart, who is currently threatening to seize the estate from her older child while she is away, is the only one she can think of who would do such a thing. It is also possible that some troublesome faction from unruly Rampart seized a hostage. Aquilegia obtains a writ from the baronet, then departs.

Aquilegia speaks to Sgt. Wilkinson and gets a download of the investigation he picked up just five days ago; he did everything right and his pursuing all the right avenues, but has found nothing yet. Next, she speaks to the Eskatonic priest who cast the augury spell five days after the disappearance; he can follow Armand’s tracks until the point he disappeared, but nothing after that moment, which is unusual.

Aquilegia and NeVaga go examine the location where young Armand disappears, but spot nothing unusual; it’s a somewhat run-down area where impoverished nobles and modestly successful merchants come shopping. Next, Aquilegia looks for other disappearances in the last few months, and finds half-a-dozen of various people of all ages and walks of life. She maps all the locations as best she can and realizes that all of them happened near the wastewater system.

Aquilegia and NeVaga examine the locations, but are unable to find any signs of tampering. The Eskatonic priest confirms, however, that Armand and at least two of the other missing people went through the now-locked gates to the wastewater works. When they ask potential witnesses, somebody reports seeing a wet footprint “from the Fish People.”

Aquilegia contacts the Supreme Order of Engineers, who controls the waterworks, and meets with Fellow Adam who begrudgingly provides a tour of the pump station near Armand’s last location. Examining the pipe inverts, Aquilegia finds a gloved hand print of adult sized, human, from a latex or rubber glove. Pointing out this threat to the Engineers’ monopoly, she gains some support from Fellow Adam. She contacts Sgt. Wilkinson, she hires a dive team and confirms that someone has tampered with the gate at the outfall far out into the ocean.

Although examination of radar finds no odd pattern in flight patterns or sea vessel, questioning the fishermen reveals many second- and third-hand reports of mysterious Fish-People, an ancient legend that has known a resurgence for the last few years; and even rumours of a submarine seen in the area. Dame Donaldina Cameton owns the area in which the outfalls lay.

After two weeks of research, everyone is stalled and discouraged, when an old fisherman called Andrew says he thinks he has seen the boy rummaging through the trash the night before. He hopes to get the reward for Armand. Aquilegia curtly tells him to take them where he saw the boy. They examine the fish refuse and discover bite marks matching an eight-year old’s size, in clearly rotten fish carcasses. They follow his tracks down the side of the pier – and find webby feet tracks.

Aquilegia calls Sgt. Wilkinson and tells him to bring his team and diving gear, then she sets up a trap to catch the mysterious visitor later that night. The team is hunched over, hidden in the dark, and see half-a-dozen fish people figures climb up and start feeding on rotten fish. A net captures several of them, but the rest go over the pier and outswim the Muster divers.

In the net they have captured an old lady struggling violently. After a great deal of effort, they calm her down and question her. Her name is Ling and she was grabbed off the street one night by a crazy man in a rubber suit who stabbed her in the neck with a needle. She passed out and woke up in a building near the water, transformed, with hundreds like her. Most are mindless but a few still have their minds; with these, she organized an escape a few months ago. They hide in the sewer but every once in a while the other fish people try to recapture them. She fears that her soul may be lost. She says that a few days ago a child showed up, and corresponds to Armand’s description; he’s the one who found the fish waste.

Aquilegia calls Fellow Adam and tells him to find her a good Bio-Engineer.

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