The Soal: The Conspricy

My search started with Darmon's troop.  I wanted to let Nana have a chance to recover from her loss before I started to question her.  The troop was in the city proper doing training so getting to them wouldn't be hard, though I had to get to them by train.  Still, I had to find out what some of his fellow troops knew about him, and more importantly, how his personality changed.

This was a challenge as not just anyone could walk on base, but this was remedies by knowledge that I purchased from a guardsman telling me of an afterhour hangout off base.  It was a cantina that had seen better days, though as the soldiers were their only clientèle, and its frowned upon for a soldier to drink heavily, the money wasn't flowing like milk and honey, but they were earning their keep.

With that I spoke to several men, looking for anyone of the 23rd Battalion who knew of a Sergeant Darmon DelVoro.  There was a lot of blind, deaf, and dumb, especially from one gentleman who did acknowledge that he was part of the 23rd Battalion.  Odd, I thought, as Darmon was a Sergeant: an officer - those are kinda hard to miss.

When confiding in a barmaid I was told that the 'extraction' might have not been authorized, and the men were afraid to tell me about it out of fear of reprisal from their superiors.  This didn't bode well, and the next day when I went to the court archive to look up Darmon's case I couldn't find it.  The district executioner, whom I was able to find on his break, told me that he there hadn't been a soal 'extraction' in two years.  Darmon died a month prior to my visit.

"But don't a lot of executions happen?" I asked him.  The executioner replied "believe me, a soal extraction stands out."  When I asked him to describe an extraction he got weird on me: "lady... its best you don't know."

So it confirmed that Darmon was killed by a lynch mob.  Most likely a lynch mob consisting of his own squadmates.

At the cantina that night I ran into some brass.  A lieutenant-colonel precisely.  I quickly asked him what the protocol was for reporting a soal.  Of course, him having to deal with a civilian in this manner, and a woman no doubt, annoyed him.  I insisted that "for public safety and to maintain the chain of command" that there needed to be a system, he reluctantly walked me through the process:

"First missy, the guy is reported to their commanding officer, or a superior if the accused is the commanding officer.  The superior then logs it, takes it to the court, and the accused is handed over to the court.  I'm don't know what happens after that."

"What if you're out in the field and can't get to a court?" I asked him at that point.  He replied "We wait until we are not... ma'am, unless a soal is killing people or stealing ammunition or something he's still fighting and we don't care.  I've never heard of soal being double agents anywhere."

This I found bizarre.  The military don't like having their soldiers to be dealt with in civilian court.  So why did they see the soal problem as a civilian problem and not a military one?

"What of the families of the person the soal is imitating?" I asked.

"Look miss, there has never been an accusation of soal on the battlefield," he chidded, "In the trenches you are not going to have an investigator who has the training to deal with this, and you are most certainly not going to report your brother in arms unless he refused to carry his gun and follow orders: your life depends on it... not that I expect a pretty woman like yourself to understand that."  Of course, he has to assume that a woman can't imagine what danger is like.

Nevertheless he continued. "Even still, a soal acts no differently from any soldier I've seen, and yes I've known a few soldiers who were soal, and honestly, again, no evidence they sabotaged anything, or conspired with the enemy, or refusal to do their duty or anything: they were simply soal.  and in a battlefield, you can't afford to gut a good man on whim."

The last line got me.  "Gut?"

"Well, 'extraction'... but its just a fancy way of saying it.  What did you think it was?"

"No one will tell me!"

"Course, little lady, they were just protecting your pretty little mind," he replied before I thanked him for his time and sat at a table in the corner to collect my thoughts.  If the military didn't see the soal to be a threat, why did the average person?

In the near darkness I could see a young man approach me.  "Miss," he asked, "what was all that with the soal?"

"I'm investigating the circumstances of my friend's dead husband," I simply replied, "I was told he was soal, and I wanted to know when and how he became soal."

"Sergeant DelVore?" he asked.

I almost leapt out of my seat!  I asked if he knew him.  He told me he was part of Darmon's battalion!

He sat at my table.  "I... I think I need to talk to someone," was all he simply said.

"Well, I would like to ask you about the late Sergeant," I told him.  Again, I wanted to know what the battalion saw to draw the conclusion that they did.  "What... do you want to know?" he replied.

So I asked him: "How did you know he was soal?"

<Continued on The Guts of the Matter>