Jingo Page 25


'You can't ask us to go in that thing, sir! It'll be suicide!' said Colon. The Patrician brought his hands together in front of his lips in the manner of someone praying, and sucked air thoughtfully. 'No. No, I think you are wrong,' he said at last, as if reaching a conclusion on some complex metaphysical conundrum. 'I think that, in all probability, going into that thing would be a valiant and possibly rewarding deed. I would venture to suggest that, in fact, it is not going that would be suicidal. But I would appreciate your views.' Lord Vetinari was not a heavily built man and, these days, he walked with the aid of an ebony cane. No–one could remember seeing him handle a weapon, and a flash of unaccustomed insight told Sergeant Colon that this was not in fact a comforting thought at all. They said he's been educated at the Assassins' School, but no–one remembered what weapons he'd learned. He'd studied languages. And suddenly, with him in front of you, this didn't seem like the soft option. Sergeant Colon saluted, always a useful thing to do in an emergency such as this, and shouted: 'Corporal Nobbs, why aren't you in the... the metal sinking fish thing?'

'Sarge?'

'Let's see you get up them steps, lad... hup hup hup.. .' Nobby scrambled up the ladder and disappeared. Colon saluted again. You could usually tell his nervousness by the smartness of his salute. You could have cut bread with this one. 'Ready to go, sah!' he shouted. 'Well done, sergeant,' said Vetinari. 'You're displaying exactly those special qualities I'm looking for–'

' 'ere, sarge,' came a metallic voice from the belly of the fish, 'there's all chains and cogwheels in here. What's this do?' The big auger in front of the thing started to squeak round. Leonard appeared from behind the fish. 'I think we should all get in,' he said. 'I've lit the candle that'll bum down and sever the string that'll release the weight thatll pull the blocks out.'

'Er... what is this thing called?' said Colon, as he followed the Patrician up the ladder. 'Well, because it is submersed in a marine environment I've always called it the Going–Under–The–Water–Safely Device,' said Leonard, behind him. 10 'But usually I just think of it as the Boat.' He reached behind him and shut the lid. After a moment any listener in the boathouse would have heard a complicated clonk as bolts slid into place. The candle burned down and severed the string that released the weight that pulled the blocks out and, slowly at first, the Boat slid down the rails and into the dark water which, after a second or two, closed over it with a gloop. No–one took any notice of Angua as she trotted up the gangplank. The important thing, she knew, was to look at home. No–one bothered a large dog that looked as though it knew where it was going. People were milling about on deck in the manner peculiar to non–sailors on board ship, not sure of what they should be doing or where they should refrain from doing it. Some of the more stoic ones had made little camps, defining with bundles and pieces of cloth tiny areas of private property. They reminded Angua of the bi–coloured drainpipes and microscopically delineated household boundaries in Money Trap Lane, showing yet another way of drawing a line in the sand. This is Mine, and that is Yours. Trespass on Mine, and you'll get Yours. There were a couple of guards standing on either side of the door to the cabins. They hadn't been told to stop dogs. Scents led down below. She could smell the other dogs and a strong odour of cloves. 10 Thinking up good names was, oddly enough, one area where Leonard Quirm's genius tended to give up.

 

 

At the end of the narrow passage a door was ajar. She forced it open with her nose and looked around. The dogs were lying on a rug on one side of a large cabin. Other dogs might have barked, but these just turned their beautiful heads towards her, sighted down the length of their noses and examined her carefully. A narrow bed beyond them was half concealed by silk hangings. 71–hour Ahmed was bending over it, but he turned when she entered. He glanced towards the dogs and gave her a puzzled look. Then, to her amazement, he sat down on the deck in front of her. 'And who do you belong to?' he said in perfect Morporkian. Angua wagged her tail. There was someone in the bed, she could smell them, but they wouldn't be a problem. Jaw muscles strong enough to sever someone's neck help you to feel relaxed in most situations. Ahmed patted her on the head. Very few people have ever done that to a werewolf without having to get people to cut up their meals for them in future, but Angua had learned self–control. Then he stood up and went to the door. She heard him say something to someone outside, and then he came back into the room and smiled at her. 'I go, I come back...' He opened a small cupboard and took out a jewelled dog collar. 'You shall have a collar. Oh, and here is some food,' he added, as a servant brought in some bowls. ' “Knickknack, paddywack, give a dog a bone” is a rhyme I hear your Ankh–Morpork children sing, but a paddywack is a ball of gristle suitable only for animal food and who knows what part of the animal is its knick–knack...' The plate was put in front of Angua. The other dogs stirred, but Ahmed snapped a word at them and they settled back again. The food was... dog food. In Ankh–Morpork terms, it meant something that you wouldn't even put in a sausage, and there are very few things that a man with a big enough mincer cannot put in a sausage. The little central human part of her was revolted, but the werewolf drooled at the sight of every glistening tube and wobbly fat bit It was on a silver plate. She looked up. Ahmed was watching her carefully. Of course, the royal dogs were treated like kings, all those diamond collars... It didn't have to mean he knew–– 'Not hungry?' he said. 'Your mouth says you are.' Something snapped around her neck as she spun around to bite. Her teeth closed on a mouthful of greasy cloth but that wasn't as important as the pain. 'His Highness has always liked fine collars on his dogs,' said 71–hour Ahmed, through the red mist. 'Rubies, emeralds... and diamonds, Miss Angua.' His face came down level with hers. 'Set in silver.'

'…A crucial factor, I have always found, is NOT the size of the forces. It is the positioning and commitment of reserves, the bringing of power to a point...' Vimes tried to concentrate on Tacticus. But there were two distractions. One was that the grinning face of 71–hour Ahmed looked out at him from every line. The other was his watch, which he had propped up against the Disorganizer. It was powered by actual clockwork and was much more reliable. And it never needed feeding. It ticked quietly. As far as it was concerned, he could forget his appointments. He liked it. The second hand was just curving towards the top of the minute when he heard someone coming up the stairs. 'Come in, captain,' said Vimes. There was a snigger from the box. Carrot's face was pinker than normal. 'Something's happened to Angua,' said Vimes. The high colour drained from Carrot's face. 'How did you know that?' Vimes firmly dosed the lid on the sniggering demon. 'Let's call it intuition, shall we? I'm right, am l?'

' Yes, sir! She went aboard a Klatchian boat and now it's sailing! She hasn't come off!'

'What the hell did she go on board for?'

'We were after Ahmed! And he looked as if he was taking someone with him, sir. Someone ill, sir!'

'He's left? But the diplomats are still–' Vimes stopped. There was, if you didn't know Carrot, something wrong with the situation. There were people who, when their girlfriend was spirited away on a foreign ship, would have dived into the Ankh, or at least run briskly along the crust, leapt aboard and dealt out merry hell on a democratic basis. Of course, at a time like this that would be a dumb thing to do. The sensible approach would be to let people know, but even so– But Carrot really did believe that personal wasn't the same as important. Of course, Vimes believed the same thing. You had to hope that when push came to shove you'd act the right way. But there was something slightly creepy about someone who didnt just believe it, but lived their life by it. It was as unnerving as meeting a really poor priest. Obviously, it was a consideration that if someone had captured Angua you knew that the rescue you were going to probably wouldn't be hers. But... The gods alone knew what would happen if he left now. The city had gone war mad. Big things were happening. At a time like this, every cell in his body was telling him that the Commander of the Watch had Responsibilities.. . He drummed his fingers on the desk. In times like this, it was vital to make the right decision. That was what he was paid for. Responsibility... He ought to stay here, and do the best he could.

But... history was full of the bones of good men who'd followed bad orders in the hope that they could soften the blow. Oh, yes, there were worse things they could do, but most of them began right where they started following bad orders. His eyes went from Carrot to the Dis–organizer and then to the tottering mounds of paperwork on his desk. Blow that! He was a thief–taker! He'd always be a thieftaker! Why lie? 'Damned if I'll let Ahmed get back to Klatch!' he said, standing up. 'Fast boat, was it?'

'Yes, but it looked pretty heavy in the water.'

'Then maybe we can catch it up before it goes very far––' As he hurried forward he had, just for a second, the strange sensation that he was two people. And this was because, for the merest fraction of a second, he was two people. They were both called Samuel Vimes. To history, choices are merely directions. The Trousers of Time opened up and Vimes began to hurtle down one leg of them. And, somewhere else, the Vimes who made a different choice began to drop into a different future. They both darted back to grab their Dis–organizers. By the most outrageous of freak chances, quite uniquely, in this split second of decision, they each got the wrong one. And sometimes the avalanche depends on one snowflake. Sometimes a pebble is allowed to find out what might have happened – if only it had bounced the other way. The wizards of Ankh–Morpork had been very firm on the subject of printing. It's not happening here, they said. Supposing, they said, someone printed a book on magic and then broke up the type again and used it for a book on, say, cookery? The metal would remember. Spells aren't just words. They have extra dimensions of existence. We'd be up to here in talking souffles. Besides, someone might print thousands of the damn things, many of which could well be read by unsuitable people. The Engravers' Guild was also against printing. There was something pure, they said, about an engraved page of text. It was there, whole, unsullied. Their members could do very fine work at very reasonable rates. Allowing unskilled people to bash lumps of type together showed a disrespect for words and no good would come of it. The only attempt ever to set up a printing press in Ankh-Morpork had ended in a mysterious fire and the death by suicide of the luckless printer. Everyone knew it was suicide because he'd left a note. The fact that this had been engraved on the head of a pin was considered an irrelevant detail. And the Patrician was against printing because if people knew too much it would only bother them.

So people relied on work of mouth, which worked very well because the mouths were so close together. A lot of them were just below the noses of the members of the Beggars' Guild, 11 citizens generally regarded as reasonably reliable and well informed. Some of them were highly thought of for their sports coverage. Lord Rust looked thoughtfully at Crumbling Michael, a Grade II Mutterer. 'And what happened next?' Crumbling Michael scratched his wrist. He'd recently got his extra grade because he'd finally managed to catch a disfiguring but harmless skin disease. 'Mr Carrot was in there about two minutes, m'lord. Then they all come runnin' out, right, an' they–'

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