“We could blast it open.” Trynden surveyed the massive stone door for cracks and other signs of weakness. Moss grew thick on the angular cuts of gray stone. Weeds sprouted in seams like hair from an old man’s ears. Despite the door’s apparent age and neglect, matrices still pulsed inside rectangular windows. Peering through the humming waves of energy, Tryn detected neither light nor movement.
At his knee, an asura sighed. Soffi Sprockets had enough attitude to fill up a Norn. “You would suggest that, Bombs-For-Brains. Rockets might obliterate the treasures on the other side.”
Ravenyth de Vaen had sent the two of them on a search for rare and wonderful items, anything from which they might extract an amount of ectoplasm. All armor and weapons, even buildings for the guild hall, anything worth having, required the magical pink goo, and LegendFire was in short supply.
“Soffi, there is nothing here,” Tryn insisted, shifting the heavy pack on his back. Gyros and rocket casings clanked around inside. “This ruin is a ruin’s ruin. We’d have more luck in the centaur camps. Or even the grawl cave we passed. They’re always worshipping some relic or other.”
Incredulous, Soffi’s little mouth gaped, showing off a row of pointed teeth. “Have you been inside asuran dilapidations before? The probability that the tech inside still functions is astronomical.”
“And will try to kill us.”
“And centaurs won’t? Besides, we agreed to cause as little bloodshed as possible.”
Tryden raised a hand in surrender. The overgrown rat always got her way. Her logic was unsurpassed. At least, Soffi thought so. “Fine. Be my guest.”
Soffi sauntered to the door. “There should be a locking mechanism somewhere.” Her nimble mouse-like hands prodded the carvings to each side of the door.
Tryn slung the pack off his back, stretched aching shoulders, and made himself comfortable on the mossy earth. He had worked with Soffi often enough to know that she wouldn’t give up until she had exhausted every avenue of inquiry. She’d be hanging from the ceiling next or digging through the soil. She wasn’t above brute force either. Once, when faced with an archaic sleeping golem deep under Rata Novus, she had resulted to throwing rocks. Amazingly, the method worked. The golem hummed to life and promptly started shooting at them.
Tryn double-checked his supplies, in case a similar surprise awaited them beyond these doors. Eight rocket shells, a string of twelve grenades, half-a-dozen gyros. He was partial to his gyros. He painted them in bright colors, so he’d know which he was grabbing in a brawl. The yellow one tore through unfortunate limbs with saw blades. The blue one provided stealth that any thief would envy, even Soffi.
He unloaded and reloaded his pistols, doubting the order of his bullets. There were bullets for every occasion: bullets that burst with acid, bullets that exploded with fire or sticky goo, bullets that were just the average kill-a-bad-guy bullet.
He had packed too much. He always packed too much. Damn pack weighed a bloody ton. And Ravenyth always wondered why he needed those spa treatments when he visited Lion’s Arch. How had he ever survived life on the streets without spa treatments?
He was checking the pins on the portable rocket launcher when he noticed he was crouching over an odd pattern of footprints. Three-toed, many sizes, pressed lightly into the moist soil. Asura. Several asura. Aiven or Jib would’ve noticed the tracks right off—and have an explanation for them.
“We should’ve brought one of our rangers,” Tryn muttered just as Soffi cheered in triumph.
“Eureka!” Blue magilight glowed from inside a small square in the stone wall. Her fingers dug inside with the skill of a surgeon. The ancient door groaned and puffed and cracked open.
The alarm blasted immediately. “Aaa-ooo-gah! Aaa-ooo-gah!” Red light pulsed beyond the widening door.
“What did you do?” Soffi shouted, unsheathing her daggers.
“Me?” Tryn shoved a gyro of each color into his coat pocket. “It was your hands in the cookie jar!” He aimed both pistols down the flashing red gullet of the corridor. A golem—sleek, eight-feet-tall, new—ran at them. Pistons hissed. Dynamos whirred.
“Throw rocks at this one!” Trynden snapped and fired once. Ultra-sticky glue puddled in the golem’s path. The machine powered right through it.
“Oh, your ears are too short,” Soffi said, then launched through a Death Blossom that spun her over the golem’s head. Her daggers scored along steel, nicked a wire. Sparks popped. Before she hit the ground, a third arm sprouted from the golem’s carapace and snatched her by the leg.
A voice boomed from inside the machine. “Drop your weapons.”
“C’mon, Tryn, we can take ‘em!” Soffi shouted, upside-down. The golem’s third arm gave her a jostle.
“Drop the guns, genius,” the voice boomed. “Or M-One-Six-Two Thousand starts plucking limbs.”
Trynden swore under his breath and let the pistols fall. If he was lucky, they would fire upon hitting the ground and hit the golem in some magically vital place. Both pistols landed with a silent thud. If he got out of this, he’d design a way to remedy that—for the next time he faced one of Soffi’s rash decisions.
A hatch opened in the golem’s chest. Tryn dived for cover behind the carved stone wall, but the missile was a heat-seeker. It plugged him between the shoulder blades. He tasted lightning in the instant before he blacked out.
(continued, Part 2)