Summary: Someone is trying to kill VImes. But why? And what does the royal visit from Lancre have to do with it?
Pairings: People can see any pairing if they're looking hard enough. Knock yourself out, people…
Warnings: Gratuitous violence and bad language
Disclaimer: I'd sell my soul to own them, but it isn't going to happen.
Author's Note: I have attempted to write in the style of the almighty Pterry. Needless to say, it didn't seem to want to happen
The room was dark, secretive. A satisfied air hung over the long table that dominated it, as if a decision had just been made and the outcome had pleased everyone involved.
"So it is decided," someone said.
"The theory is simple – dispose of the bodyguard first, then the target will be all the more vulnerable."
"It won't be easy," another replied; "May I remind you that the man was weathered five attempts to assassinate or otherwise depose him."
"Which is why we are trying this approach. Others must be…dealt with first."
"All the other times…"
"Ah, but this time is different," a melodic but subtly wrong voice replied, and although the speaker could not been seen, the voice indicated a cruel smile; "This time we are involved."
It had been a difficult day for the Watch.
Commander Vimes rubbed his eyes and glared at the report in front of him. There had been a recent spate of unlicensed thefts, and the Thieves' Guild had reluctantly admitted to being absolutely baffled, the Times had published another of those stupid cartoons, and there had been a rather nasty 'suicide' up at Elm Street. Could the day possibly get any worse?
There was an urgent, worried knock at the door. Vimes sighed. Of course it could. It could always get worse.
The door opened, and Vimes was greeted by the sight of Fred Colon in full panic mode, a sight rather distressing even to one accustomed to it. He gave the weary sigh of a man who know that his life is not about to get any easier.
"What is it, Fred?"
"Sir, a riot's broken out up at Five Ways! We just got the clacks in, sir!"
Vimes belted on his sword as he took the steps down to the main office two at a time. Riots were an everyday occurrence in Ankh-Morpork. So if Fred was this worried, it meant either that someone had been killed, or – worse – that Detritus was about to use the riot act again.
Gavin and Elsa Ironfoundersson, Carrot and Angua's six-year-old twins, were sitting quite happily in an out-of-the-way corner, having been given the contents of the evidence locker to keep them amused. Vimes felt, somewhere in the threadbare depths of his soul, that a watch-house was no place for children. He had tried to explain this once to Carrot, but it hadn't made any impression. Besides, from the muffled noises behind him he'd suspected that Angua was laughing at him.
The children were being raised collectively by the entire Ankh-Morkpork City Watch, and Vimes entertained cynical thoughts about just how deeply this circumstance would leave them scarred in later life. Both them and the watchmen – it was actually rather disturbing, the extent to which Nobby's maternal instinct had developed.
He ran almost all of the way, pausing for breath just past Phelan Well as various body parts pointed out that he really was too old for this. Five Ways was the irregularly-shaped plaza where there would have been a crossroads if Ankh-Morpork had anything even vaguely resembling urban planning, and it was packed with angry, screaming bodies.
The mob had a seething life of its own, and the shouting was deafening from streets away. The two groups of riotées were being forcibly kept apart by the Watch, and were none too happy about it. It took the combined power of the Badge, the Voice, and finally the infamous Vimes Elbow to clear a path through.
"What the hell is going on?" he demanded over the noise of the crowd.
"Not rightly sure, sir!" Cheery, the self-proclaimed-female dwarf alchemist, said loudly. A crossbow bolt whirred overhead and clanged off of a watchman's armour.
"Bring up the riot shield!" Vimes yelled. Almost the entire Watch was embroiled in this mess now, and he'd be damned if he was going to stand idly by while some idiot took pot-shots at them.
"Constable Bluejohn's on leave, sir!" Cheery replied frantically. She glanced nervously at the building to their left, on the junction of Quarry Lane and The Pitts – smoke was rising steadily from a large hole in its roof; "Sir, I really think we shouldn't be he-"
The world exploded.
All the glass blew out of the windows in every building for a hundred yards, and chunks of masonry shot skywards. Everyone fast enough – that is to say, the more experienced watchmen and those far enough away to see it coming – flung themselves flat on the ground. The rest were blasted off their feet. There was a moment of silence as everyone frantically counted their limbs and compared the total with previous figures. Then the screaming started.
Vimes cautiously raised his head, dislodging a minor avalanche of debris. He had managed to get down in time to avoid the worst of the explosion, but his arms were pretty badly cut up and part of a roof beam had landed heavily and painfully across his chest. He got unsteadily to his feet, shaking his head in a vain attempt to clear the ringing from his ears.
All around him, people were slowly gathering their scattered wits. Cheery cautiously emerged from behind the shelter of Detritus, while Nobby – having picked himself up – was now picking up any small items of value that happened to belong to anyone too unconscious or dead to object. Angua was already on her feet, nursing a burnt shoulder. People had now been shaken up to the point that they would obey anyone who sounded like they knew what was going on. Vimes was policeman enough to take immediate advantage of this, and began barking orders.
"Reg, get that building roped off! No-one goes near it until Cheery and Angua have had a look around. Visit, run up to the free hospital and get any spare doctors down here. And the rest of you, get these people organised – I want bucket chains to put out the fires, and every free pair of hands helping the wounded! Anyone who wants to argue with you, arrest them!"
It was then that a second crossbow bolt came out of nowhere.
This was not the random potshot of an amateur. This was a professional aiming to kill. But they had reckoned without Vimes' survival skills, honed to a razor edge by a lifetime on the streets. His reflexes saved him – he dived as the crossbow bolt whirred through the air, and the shot that should have taken him in the throat hit his shoulder instead. Another bolt shattered on the bulk of Detritus as the troll took up position as a shield. People were fleeing the area out of a wholly sensible regard for their own skins as angry watchmen ran for the rooftop on which the would-be assassin was perched. Swearing furiously under his breath, Vimes struggled to sit up. He was losing blood at a rather alarming rate.
"Lie still, sir – that's a nasty cut you've got there. Buggy! Go back to Pseudopolis Yard and fetch Igor!"
Vimes struggled to focus his brain; "Carrot?"
"Yes sir. Try not to move too much, sir, you're bleeding quite badly."
He tried to say something scathing and devastatingly witty, but his head was beginning to spin, so he gave up. The area was now populated only by Watchmen and corpses. No-one, even with a Morporkian taste for street theatre, was stupid enough to hang around this many angry watchmen.
Three figures, all but invisible to one who didn't know what to look for, were watching the scene with interest.
"Curious," one said; "That a being so…common…could inspire such loyalty."
"The man has no grace," another replied with some contempt; "No style."
"Ah, but can you not sense it?" the third said; "Have we not watched these watchmen for some time now? They risk their lives to protect him in the certain knowledge that he would do the same for them were their positions reversed."
"Curious," the first repeated; "Completely against every self-preservation instinct, and yet…he is still alive."
"Not for long…"
TO BE CONTINUED
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I'm soory about the formatting, it went all screwy when I uploaded it...