(continued from Part 1)
“Bloody Inquest,” Trynden grumbled.
“Who knew they had a base here?” said Soffi.
“I think that’s the definition of ‘secret’ base, even in your book.” His jaw ached from the spasm that came with swallowing a jolt of electricity. When he shifted, trying to get comfortable on the merciless stone floor of the cell, everything else ached too.
“I have to admit,” Soffi said, “not my finest moment. The Whispers hear about this, I’ll be a laughingstock.”
“You’re worried about the fucking Whispers? I’m worried our guildmates. We ever get back to the Hall, they’ll toast us for sure. Here’s to Tryn and Soffi, LegendFire’s greatest dumbasses.”
“True. They might laugh less if we’d been eaten by Tequatl instead.”
They shared a cell, smack in the middle of a room shaped like a cube standing on one corner. The ‘bars’ surrounding them were glowing matrices, too sizzling-hot to touch. Tryn didn’t fancy another electrocution.
Asura in red-and-black uniforms tinkered at workstations, entered data into consoles, debated and argued and barked orders. Just outside the cell, a pair of asura pilfered through Trynden’s pack. “Primitive,” said one and tossed the rocket launcher in a heap.
“Ach, don’t—” Trynden said, wincing.
“Junk,” said the other, dumping sorted packets of bullets at his three-toed feet.
“Can you not do that, genius,” Tryn said. “You want to blow us up?”
The “junk” asura approached the cell. “For whom are you surveilling, human?”
“We’re not spies,” Soffi said. “We made a mistake.”
“You made a mistake, all right. Your last.” The asura laughed maniacally, rubbing his ratty paws together. “I am Doctor Brix, Certified Mastermind, and my face will be the last you see.”
And what a face, thought Trynden. Prunes were prettier.
Soffi crossed her arms. “Tell me. Are all Inquest the embodiment of bad clichés?”
Brix shook a fist. “You’ll be the cliché when we use your corpses for our latest experiment.” He pointed at a series of tables where body parts of various creatures were being grafted to machines.
The Mastermind strutted away, and a miniature C.L.E.A.N unit rolled behind him, sweeping Tryn’s pack and all his supplies into its torso to be taken out for disposal.
“Since when do Inquest dabble in dead things?” he asked.
Soffi plunked down beside him and hugged her knees to her chest. “Since they were evil. Golemancy and necromancy, the two schools of creation. There’s always some mad scientist trying to meld the two. Looks like Doctor Brix is our latest candidate for the Mad Award.”
“Look, I don’t care to have my brain inserted into one of those things, so let’s get thinking.”
“Don’t worry, Tryn, they wouldn’t use your brain. Mine on the other hand—”
A slash of his hand shut her up. “If you’re so brilliant, think of a plan to get us out of here.”
“Working on it. Check your pockets. Between a thief and an engineer we ought to have something we can use.”
“The gyros!” Trynden patted down his coat. The guards had taken the yellow shredder, but they had overlooked the blue one.
Soffi’s big turquoise eyes sparkled at the sight of it. Her paw pressed it back into Tryn’s pocket before one of the guards spotted it. “Is that the thingamabob that can chew through steel?”
“No, it can hide us though. Maybe. Its propellers are bent. When I passed out I musta fallen on it.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Maybe, I said. What do you have?”
“Fingers and a brain.”
Trynden gawped at her. “Seriously? You’re a thief, for Balthazar’s sake. You ain’t got a pick stashed in those pigtails?”
“Trust me. Fingers and a brain. And a couple vials of sleeping draught. You just get that gyro working.”
* * *
Trynden had to work with his hands tucked under his coat, and only during the brief intervals that the guards’ backs were turned. One guard in particular annoyed him. The asura wore a monocle and circled the cell with the regularity of a machine.
Luckily, the gyro was only the size of a grapefruit and easily concealed under a knee or a flap of leather. Still, watchful guards might’ve thought he was up to something inappropriate inside his own trousers or concocting a way to escape.
Soffi managed to distract the guards as they passed, tossing insults about the length of their ears or the extent of their intelligence.
Some hours after their incarceration, just as the gyro was bobbing relatively upright between Tryn’s knees, a team of asura led in a golem whose arms were attached to what looked like a mining cart.
The asura were armed to the teeth, little rifles poised across their chests. The transigolem wheeled past the cell, hauling its considerable load.
Doctor Brix waved for the golem to be brought to him. He occupied a console on the far side of the room and rubbed his hands together in that excited-villain sort of way.
The transigolem rolled over a metal plate and the console began beeping away.
“Two hundred and eleven units!” cried Doctor Brix. “More than enough.” He flung a canvas tarp off the cart. Semi-liquid ooze glowed pink, casting the entire base in a rosy light.
“Tryn, look!” Soffi hissed.
“I am looking. That’s a lot of ectoplasm.”
“I’ve never seen so much in one place. Where did they get a load like that?”
Trynden grimaced sheepishly. “Sorry.”
Soffi sucked her pointed teeth, then nodded. “This complicates things.”
“We’re not leaving without it.”
(concluded, Part 3)