Advent: Collected Shorts

Ignác crept through the quite halls of Feke-Puskís. His cover as a Feke-Odís scholar gave him wide access to the Feke-Puskís School, but it did not make people trust him, and he had less than a week left to expose the weapons smuggling ring being run by Second Apprentice Tarr Andor. Ignác had been afraid it wouldn't be enough time, but he had finally uncovered how Tarr Andor was skimming the weapons he provided the Kezdet.

Now, Ignác just had to mark a crate of weapons for the Orsá to track. Once it passed into Kezdet hands, the Orsá would have the evidence they needed to justify a raid on Feke-Puskís.

Tarr Andor's scheme was clever. Ignác did have to give him credit for that. He wasn't having his associates skim them off the assembly line as Ignác initially thought. No, the skimming started during the inspection phase. Tarr Andor, or one of his associates, would fail a functional weapon, mark it, and then a compatriot in the salvage room would set it aside for Tarr Andor to collect during one of his legitimate part runs. He'd then store it in the workshop he shared with his subordinates until he had accumulated enough to smuggle out a crate.

The only problem with the scheme was the small number of weapons it netted. It was a good way to skim long-term, but it was not a good way to get the Kezdet a large quantity of weapons quickly, and the Kezdet cells the Orsá had broken up had all been well-armed. So either Tarr Andor had a secret assembly line—unlikely since only master gunsmiths had access to the materials and facilities to run one—or the Kezdet had allies in other Puskís Schools, their own production facilities, or both.

His superiors were aware of and investigating the other possibilities. Ignác tried not to let them frustrate him, but he often failed. He could expose Tarr Andor and his associates, could provide his superiors with enough evidence to justify an Orsá raid on Feke-Puskís, and the Kezdet could still receive enough weapons from other avenues to arm its members.

And where would that leave Ignác? The Orsá? The same place they were now, scrambling to identify and cut off the Kezdet's supply chains, to infiltrate the Kezdet's cells, to destroy them as they attempted to destroy the Collectives. And all the while, the Collectives would argue and scheme against each other instead of rallying around the Orsá to combat the threat.

Sometimes, Ignác hated Collective politics. The Orsá was the federal Collective, its Birís School the one that enforced national law and investigated crimes that crossed Collective boundaries.

But here he was sneaking around under a false identity because the Orsá did not yet have enough evidence to justify a raid. They barely had enough to justify Ignác's investigation. He would not be here without the headmaster's permission. Of course, Headmaster Vass Bernát had allowed the investigation after Orsá-Birís officers had presented him with a shipment of weapons they'd confiscated in the Sólvom Collective, weapons that looked and handled like Feke-Puskís guns.

The Orsá had been careful not to say they were Feke-Puskís guns, though there was little doubt. None bore the Feke-Puskís crest, so Ignác and his superiors could not present their suspicions as fact. There were too many independent smiths who made tidy sums copying various Puskís School designs. Headmaster Vass Bernát had been quick to point that out. Better, the headmaster suggested, that the Orsá investigate Feke-Puskís at his invitation instead of forcing the issue, since he was certain he could think of one or two failed Feke-Puskís apprentices with a grudge against the School. Perhaps one of them had made the confiscated weapons.

Ignác smiled, cold and sharp. No, one of them hadn't made the weapons. He'd take great pleasure in proving the headmaster wrong.

Something flashed in Cade's eyes. "That's a pitiful lie, and you know it."