Worlds Apart, Book One: Below
by Katia Davis and Stephanie Peters
Legal Disclaimer: The characters in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is mostly coincidental.
©2000-2004 All rights remain with the authors. No reproduction of this material is allowed without the express, written permission of one of the authors.
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 (final)
Chapter Six: Getaway
Aljye sat askew on a chair at the head of her conference table. Her foot tapped out an annoyed rhythm on the polished floor. She blinked a couple of times and drew her brows together. What in Earth was keeping Gantar? He had been gone long enough to complete his mission. She shifted, drumming her long fingers on the arm of the chair. If it had not been completely inappropriate for her as the Esteemed Ruler of Below, she would have carried out the task herself. She hated having to rely on others when the safety of her people was at stake. If she had any misgivings about having to dispose of a perfectly good officer and a couple of law-abiding - if somewhat too zesty - citizens, the knowledge that she was keeping harm from her world smothered any doubt. It was for the good of the community. Sacrifices had to be made.
But what in Earth was keeping Gantar?
Just when she was about to rise and pace with displeasure, there came a sharp rapping on the double doors to the audience chamber.
"Come!" the Esteemed Ruler ordered, and straightened in her chair. The doors swung inwards to reveal Gantar, flanked by two guards.
"Enter!" Aljye barked, and Gantar took a few steps into the room.
"The task has been performed, Esteemed Ruler," Gantar said slowly. He looked pale, and his hands were twitching. He was a bit squeamish at times, but not a bad hand otherwise.
"Excellent, you have done well." Aljye leaned forward in her chair, studying the slight figure before her, "You are certain they are all dead?"
"I set the programme in operation myself, Esteemed Ruler." Gantar bowed to one knee and lowered his head in a pathetic show of devotion.
"There is no way they could have escaped?"
"None, Esteemed Ruler. On my life, I swear that the room was flooded with cyanide, nothing could have escaped it by human means."
Aljye's brows furrowed further. "By human means?" she asked, rising gracefully and gliding towards the prone figure. "What do you mean, 'by human means'?"
The man paled, and swallowed before speaking. "A...an expression, Esteemed Ruler. No living thing can survive exposure to cyanide gas."
"Hrmph!" Aljye snorted and turned away, pacing for a moment. She turned, "This you swear? For by all that is held sacred Below, your neck will be wrung if you are mistaken."
"I swear that the room was flooded, Esteemed Ruler." Gantar's fingers began to tremble.
Aljye noticed the slight movement and swung around, her robes billowing behind her. "Do you swear that they are dead, all of them, dead?"
Gantar's fingers trembled harder, "That I cannot swear to until I have seen the bodies, Esteemed Ruler. Perhaps I should return to the cleanup squad and examine them now? I attended your presence immediately, Esteemed Ruler, to make my report on the flooding. I have not had the opportunity to view the remains."
"You are babbling, Gantar."
"I am sorry, Esteemed Ruler, I merely wish to please." Gantar lowered himself still further, ingratiatingly. Then there was a muffled crackle.
"What was that?" Aljye demanded.
Gantar took a deep breath, "My communicator, Esteemed Ruler."
"Then get up and answer it, fool, it is most likely a report from the squad? You do wish to know the outcome, do you not?" Aljye's hand movements belied her excitement at the prospect of hearing about the elimination of the Abover threat.
"Yes, Esteemed Ruler." He slowly rose to his feet and nearly dropped the communicator as he fumbled to lift it from its position on his belt.
"Gantar, report!" he barked his name into the device.
There was the crackle of static for a moment before a thin, reedy voice echoed through the throne room. "Clean up squad wishes to report the removal of contaminated corpses from the laboratory to a secure location by biohazard technicians. Your orders have been carried out."
Gantar's shoulders sagged and he half lowered his communicator. It was only after a few moments that he seemed to remember that he was expected to respond.
"Thank you," he muttered, "Gantar out." He replaced the communicator on his belt and glanced at the Esteemed Ruler, "Now you have your answer."
Aljye's head jittered from side to side in excitement, but then, aware that Gantar was looking at her rather curiously, she caught herself. "Of course you realise this is a matter of public security. I expect all involved to forget anything out of the ordinary has ever happened."
"You have done the community a great service by taking care if this biohazard incident. But I expect you to be discrete. Am I understood?"
Gantar bowed hesitantly. "Yes, Esteemed Ruler."
"Now, for poor Hackyll..." She paced slowly. "We will put out word that he was with the party that went to fight a new invasion of tunnel wyrms to the north. Unfortunately, they have not returned from their mission, although I hear that they managed to put out enough poisoned bait to take care of the threat."
She rubbed her chin. "There will be a service and feast in their honour, and Hackyll's in particular. I expect you to attend. In fact, I will make you my escort!"
Gantar gaped - and well he should. This was a rare honour indeed, one until now reserved for Hackyll - but Hackyll was gone. The loss of Hackyll was regrettable, but she could not afford to let dismay or grief distract her from her duties. Politics were cruel, sometimes.
When the man before her did not reply for several moments, she wiggled her index finger in subtle question.
Gantar seemed to come out of a momentary trance with a start. "Yes, Esteemed Ruler, it will be my pleasure."
"Good," Aljye said crisply. "Make sure to wear your dress uniform to the ceremony, it will make a good impression and compliment me."
"Yes, Esteemed Ruler." Visibly shaken but trying to hide it, Gantar turned and walked out. Aljye chuckled softly to herself. He might be squeamish, but he had good head on his shoulders, that one.
"Well, so far it's been a breeze," Flax murmured after they had rounded a corner and passed through a set of automatic doors that led them out of Section 2a and into 1a. Immediately as they entered the section that was beyond the evacuation area, the corridors became more populated.
"Hang on a moment!" Nexia pulled on his sleeve to slow him down as they were passing a student lab. "Come with me."
They disappeared into the lab, after Nexia had told Gabba to keep their cargo out of sight.
When the emerged again, they were huffing and puffing under the weight of a heavy sack, similar to the sheet that covered the "corpses" on the cart.
"What's that?" said Gabba, as her hands motioned them to hang back until a passer-by had walked past on an intersecting corridor.
Nexia smirked. "Well, we said we had to burn a body, I figure it would be a good idea to have something to burn for real. I know the biology students have been dissecting lupides in there; no-one will miss this little beauty until they go back to class two Cycles from now. Hold your breath, Hackyll, he's a bit rotten."
With a joint effort, they lugged their burden on top of the two figures on the cart. A loud "Ooomph!" escaped from under the sheet. "Heavy, too," Hackyll wheezed.
"Hush, you're dead," Gabba said, and shared a wicked grin with Nexia.
Flax fidgeted. "Okay, let's hurry. The cleanup people are bound to start asking themselves questions sooner or later."
They made their way through Section 1a and over to Wing b through a maze of corridors and sliding doors. The crematorium, which was not so much for funeral ceremonies as for disposal of the remains of laboratory research, was situated on the outermost wall of Wing b, with an outlet into a maze of tunnels that could only be called a wilderness. This, of course, was by design rather than chance; it minimised the exposure of the inhabited areas to bio-organic waste.
Before long, Nexia stopped them again. "Wait!"
"What now?" panted Flax, who had been getting more and more nervous about hauling around a not-so-dead carcass that had been classified as highly dangerous, in plain sight of entirely too many people. A heavy one, at that!
"Surveillance cameras," Nexia said, slightly short-winded herself as she helped push the cart. "You don't come here often, do you?" she added wryly.
Flax mumbled something, but Nexia was going on already. "We should hide Hackyll and Laddie somewhere before we enter the crematorium. If we are caught leaving the place without having burned everything that we brought in, we'll draw more attention that we need." Flax barked a laugh, but she ignored him. "I know just the place."
Gabba gave her a level look. "You're very knowledgeable in these things," she remarked.
Nexia flashed her an uncertain grin. "I have my uses," she said enigmatically.
Without further ado, she led them along a less-frequented corridor that nonetheless was a direct route to their destination; a quick dip into what looked like an abandoned storage room, and they unloaded the live portion of their cargo.
As swiftly as possible, Gabba tried to make Laddie understand that she was to stay put until they returned for her. This actually proved easier than convincing Hackyll, despite the fact that he spoke their language. Gabba had to resort to another reminder of Laddie's ferociousness to persuade him. Laddie, with an acute grasp of the situation, grasped him by the collar to demonstrate, and he nodded fervent consent until she released him again.
"She's scary, Gabba," Flax said when they were back on course, having rearranged the lupide corpse to make it look more voluminous, to compensate for the lost cargo. "How could she have caught on so quickly?"
Gabba shrugged. "Animal instinct?" She looked insufferably pleased with herself for no reason Flax could fathom.
Alone in the dark storage room, the two reluctant allies appraised each other uncomfortably. That is, Hackyll was uneasy; there was no trace of alarm on the Abover's outlandish features, unless the creature's facial expressions were too subtle for him to catch. Its eyes darted this way and that in that disconcerting way they had.
He very much wanted to be somewhere else.
He took an experimental step towards the exit. The Abover made no move to stop him, just waggled a warning finger at him. The gesture was enough to send flutters through his gut; the unpleasant kind. With a sigh of surrender, he sat down on a crate and propped his chin up on his hands.
Seeing that the funny looking man-creature was suitably subdued, Cair turned her attention to the room they were in. Anything she could find out about this strange place and the creatures that inhabited it was welcome; anything that kept her mind off the memories, off the terrible image of a loved face, blue-lipped and still, pale as porcelain.
She squeezed her eyes shut long enough to banish the vision. Then she scanned the room slowly, picking up more detail as her eyes grew more and more adjusted to the constant lack of light that seemed to be a peculiarity of this place.
Even so, this room was exceptionally dark. The little gnome-man was not much more than a shady outline in the faint backlight against the frame of the open doorway.
Crates and empty shelves lined the walls, covered with dust so thick in places that it was hard to tell the underlying material. Their entry had left marks in it, revealing a tiled grey floor. She wished she could communicate better with these beings, she wanted, needed to know what had happened to her, where she was, and how she could get away from here. She wanted peace, and time to mourn her loss. She did not know how she would go on; for now, she lived for the moment, more on instinct than anything else.
"Thrm bdf jdfhb dfjg, dfbn Hackyll."
The man spoke, his owl-like head shifting back an forth as it focused on her. Surely by now, he did not expect her to understand, but as soft as these beings' speech was, she thought she detected a hint of sarcasm in his words. She had half a mind to make him hurt, badly, for the way he had attacked her. However, the other three seemed to have an interest in keeping him around for whatever reason, and going by their judgment seemed a good course of action for now. After all, they belonged in this place. Maybe he was someone important.
That didn't mean she had to like him. She scowled, and gave him a deliberately primitive growl. Whatever he thought she was, it was clear he did not see her as a friend. She doubted he even thought her very intelligent. Perhaps she could teach him a thing or two while they waited. It was better than thinking too much about ... other things.
"Well, then, little gnome, tell me where in Jupiter's name I've ended up this time," she grumbled as she fixed him with a fierce stare. "It doesn't look like anywhere in the Roman Empire to me, that's for sure. Been there, liked it better - chains, blood and all."
He looked at her with obvious fright, his fingers twitching in agitation. Of course he had no clue what she was saying, and with her standing head and shoulders above him while being easily twice as massive, he must feel threatened to the extreme. It was perversely amusing. Also, she figured he deserved a bit of distress.
She repeated her words, slowly, emphasising them with hand gestures that encompassed their surroundings, then spreading her hands in a way that she hoped conveyed her question to him.
"Rome?" she inquired, articulating clearly, and watched him cringe as if she had shouted at him.
"Mheee-now. Thst jdoph eep frouth," he said softly, scowling.
It began to dawn on the gladiator that these people might have more sensitive hearing than she did. That would explain their soft voices and their apparent discomfort at hearing her speak, even if her own volume seemed perfectly normal to her. Experimentally, she repeated her words at a near-whisper, using the same gestures.
The effect was remarkable. The man's eyes widened slightly, and his mouth hung open for a split second, before he collected himself. He gave a soft whistle through his teeth and muttered something under his breath.
He must have seen the smug half-grin on her face, because, reluctantly, he gave her a slight nod of the head. He realised she had figured something out! It was a start.
Without incident, the small party reached the complex that served as the research facility's crematorium, and slunk gratefully inside.
Of course, the next hurdle was now in front of them.
Routinely, there were two staff members here, one inside a small control room that overlooked the furnace room, and another to help with the loading and cleaning of the individual ovens. The latter was usually a student trying to earn some extra credit and not too squeamish about handling corpses in varying stages of decay.
Gabba's spirits rose when she saw that the man working the controls today was an old friend. She was not a regular here, being more at home with fossilised bones rather than decomposing flesh. However, she remembered Anthis from their time as paleontology students as a somewhat wild, but essentially good-natured man.
"Hello there, Anthis," she said, brightly. "I didn't know you were on duty here."
"Being a scholar doesn't pay as well as it used to, and with three kids, a fellow has to supplement his income... " He grinned briefly. "Hullo there, Gabba. What have we got?"
"Hazardous material, to be cremated without delay to prevent contamination," said Gabba.
"Is it sealed?"
"Ah... no, but it has been disinfected. However, there is danger of bacterial development if it's left too long."
Flax scratched his neck, looking ill. The jarring movement of his head as he looked back and forth between the scientist and Anthis chased jagged shadows across cheeks that suddenly seemed hollower than a moment before. Nexia had a death grip on the cart, as if afraid it would suddenly roll away of its own volition.
"I see. I will need the catalogue ID." Anthis went to a terminal and tapped some code onto the touch screen, to a series of beeps and blips. A low whooshing sound answered him from the furnace room as one of the heavy devices unlocked.
Of all the times for someone to go all bureaucrat on me! Gabba thought frantically. "Look, we discovered this thing on a dig, and it turned out rather more than we could handle. There was no chance to catalogue it properly." That much, anyway, was true, even though the subject she was talking about was tucked away in an old storage building. Safely, she hoped.
Anthis looked at her sharply. "No catalogue ID?"
Gabba spread her hands and tried an apologetic smile. Flax looked about to faint. He seemed to want to speak, but his mouth only opened and closed several times. No words came.
"Name your section, then."
"Two B," said Gabba, quickly deciding it was best to stick as close to the truth as they dared. She caught movement at the corner of her vision; Nexia had reached out to support a staggering Flax.
Anthis' head swivelled towards him, sharply. "Not feeling too well, are you?"
"Uh," said Flax.
"Poor fellow, corpses always do that to him," Nexia supplied. "He's a sub today. His regular job's working a Moto-Digger."
That received a brief, sympathetic nod from Anthis, and a silent promise by Gabba to treat Nexia to something big once they were out of this. Yet again the young student's quick thinking had proved invaluable.
"Anyway, I will have to clear this with the Section Supervisor. Won't be a minute."
Damn, was all Gabba could think. This was not going well at all! They would have to have someone here today who took this job way too seriously,old friend or not.
"Look, Anthis, this thing is fast decomposing, and we need to destroy it quickly," she urged. "You know how authorities are - if they have no ID, it will take forever to get this cleared. Do you want an epidemic on your conscience?"
"Them's the rules." Anthis shrugged. But he looked subtly uneasy.
"Come on, you know me. We've partied together after all. Remember the days?" Gabba tried her most winning smile.
"I do indeed," he murmured, and it suddenly occurred to Gabba that this might not be a good thing. From his tone and the flat look on his face, she was correct. There had been some rather wild parties, back in the days... She mentally shook herself. This was not the time for reminiscing. And Anthis hardly looked in the mood, either.
Instead, he punched some more buttons and peered intently at the screen, shooting Gabba's party a glance every now and then.
Time passed, during which an uncomfortable silence spread among the waiting party. Anthis was tapping a finger on the side of the keyboard, irritatingly.
"Is something wrong?" Gabba said finally, when she could stand it no longer.
Anthis fidgeted. "I'm not sure. They seem to... well, they say you violated an evacuation protocol. That you failed to clear an area that was about to be flooded with cyanide." He scratched his neck. "You have been reported deceased."
"What?" all three yelled at the same time. Gabba's voice was taking a hysterical pitch that she could not quite get under control. She glanced at Nexia, saw her gesture furtively with one hand: "We should get out of here". She could barely make out the message with the vocal component missing, but with her own thoughts going along the same lines, it was plain enough nonetheless.
"I believe I spoke clearly enough," Anthis said, suddenly diffident. There was not even a hint of old comradeship in his demeanour now.
"In that case, I guess we'll be going," Gabba said, backing into her friends and pushing them towards the exit.
Anthis cleared his throat loudly. "I'm afraid you won't be. I have orders to detain you."
"What, for not being dead?" Nexia said.
The man looked uncomfortable, but implacable. "Them's the orders," he told them, scratching his neck.
"Great," murmured Gabba, keeping her hands from emphasising the words as was natural - this time, she did not really mean to be understood. Aloud, she said, "You know we won't just stand here and let them arrest us."
Anthis grunted something to the effect that Gabba had never done any such thing in his memory.
Flax whimpered. At Nexia's stare, however, he pulled himself together visibly, and flexed his hands.
There really was no time for big plans - before Gabba could even signal her companions that she meant to offer some resistance, Nexia had taken the matter in hand, giving the cart with the lupide cadaver a huge shove towards a completely unprepared Anthis, who stumbled backwards under its considerable weight with a surprised "oomph".
Things seemed to happen in slow motion after that; arms flailing, Anthis disappeared under the cart as it slammed into his desk and dislodged the terminal sitting there. As one, the three friends whirled and sprinted for the sliding doors at the exit. Gabba hoped fervently the man wasn't seriously hurt, but the thought was fleeting. Getting away was important.
From somewhere, an alarm blared; the doors they had entered by started sliding shut.
"Hurry!" Nexia, the quickest of them, had gained a substantial head start and was just slipping through the rapidly closing gap. With a sinking feeling, Gabba realised that neither Flax nor herself had any chance of making it.
Seeing their predicament, Nexia hesitated just outside the doors.
"Get out of here, Nex!" Gabba shouted, even as she made a desperate dash to reach the narrowing gap in time. "Make sure she's safe!"
She saw the younger woman whip around and take off into the distance, made a desperate dash for the doors herself; felt more than saw that Flax was right behind her.
She never knew if Nexia escaped or not; the doors snapped shut literally in her face, forcing her to brake against them with hastily thrown up arms. A door on the far end of the complex opened and a squad of armed guard came through, UVS guns at the ready.
As one, she and Flax turned and slowly spread their palms out in a sign of surrender.
Being idle had never been one of Cair's strong points, so waiting in the dark with a weird and alien-looking little man, not daring to show her face until she knew more, strained her nerves to near breaking point.
She stood pressed to the doorframe, listening for any noises outside, her pale eyes flitting this way and that in a manner that visibly unsettled her unwilling companion.
It seemed obvious the other three had set out to dispose of a cadaver that they intended to pass for hers. Whatever had been done back in the room where she had originally woken up in, apparently she had not been meant to survive - and somehow, that woman who was the apparent leader had saved her life.
That one was the key - if Cair hoped to find out more, she needed to try and communicate, and there seemed to be a certain rapport there. On the other hand, the man in here loathed her, but apparently had grudgingly acknowledged her intelligence. In the meantime, she had ascertained that his name was Haggle, while he had considerable trouble pronouncing hers properly. But she could live with being called "Kuh-wire" for now. It was much more personal than being grunted at.
Quick, furtive footfalls brought her attention back to the outside of the storehouse. Her hand went automatically to her axe, but of course encountered emptiness. Mentally cursing, she instead made a grab for the curious, small blade she had salvaged earlier. It had been sufficient to impress the others, but she still had misgivings about its efficiency.
Assuming battle-stance, the gladiator cautiously peered outside, in time to see a slender form hurry towards her.
These beings looked more alike to her than a horde of she-lions in a blood-frenzy, but she could tell this one was female, and she believed by the clothing it must be the younger of the two she had encountered. She hoped.
Relaxing marginally, she waited.
Breathless, the young woman stopped in front of her. She was momentarily at a loss, but it was easy to tell the woman was extremely agitated. Wisps of near-white, thin hair - they all had very thin hair! - teetered erratically as she shifted her head in that curious way they had.
Presently, she motioned Cair to go back inside. The gladiator could hear commotion from the direction the three had originally gone, and so she needed no further urging. She complied, though not before giving the other a long, menacing stare just to remind her she was still dangerous, not to be trifled with. She was rewarded with a clearing of throat and a nervous grin.
"Tker dniui ong Gabba poth Flax," the female said urgently once they were back inside. This caused Haggle to jump up, some of his energy restored. The female gave him a dark look. An argument ensued with both of them gesturing and articulating wildly. In the end, the female seemed to get the better of it, and Haggle subsided. As one, they turned to look at their monstrous charge, who by now was barely resisting the urge to tap a foot impatiently. As it was, the gladiator stood towering above them, arms crossed and one eyebrow raised in mild query. Mild for her, that is.
It took a while, but in time she gathered that something must have happened to the other two; Haggle's smug expression being more clue to that than any attempted communication. She felt a pang of regret. The other female had helped her, after all. But from the dejected set of the other woman's shoulders - Nexia, she thought her name might be - they were beyond help, at least for the moment. Hopefully, they were still alive.
Nexia seemed to want them to run away and hide somewhere. Cair, too, thought that might be a good idea. Anything to get her out of this strange place, and back home.
She shook herself. No place would be home for her again, not any time soon. At the very least, she vowed to find Keara's remains and give her soulmate a decent burial. Even this grim task was better than no goal at all; she set her jaw, ready for whatever the Fates chose to throw at her.
So it was that when Nexia led the tiny party out of the storehouse, through narrow back alleys and further away from the noises of civilisation, with Haggle muttering under his breath all the while, she followed, silent as a cat on the hunt.
Briefly, she had considered rushing towards where the clamour of conflict was, hoping to aid the others, but judging from the noise level they were facing overwhelming odds; odds that not even her own formidable presence could sway. Despite the despair that was fast smothering her, she found she had no desire to die. Not yet.
Run today, fight tomorrow. A fighter learned that lesson early, or not at all. And so she ran.
Despite their stealth - astonishingly, the huge Abover moved the most silently of them all! - before long Nexia could hear sounds of pursuit.
The boundaries of the inhabited area were drawing close, but the unmistakable sound of the sirens proclaiming squads of police out on a search were everywhere. On her own, she might have flitted right past them - she had before. Luckily, Gabba had never inquired about the more shady side of her favourite student's existence. Suffice it to say Nexia knew the nooks and crannies of the city as well as anyone.
But slipping a party of three past watchful eyes, not to mention sensors, surveillance cameras and motion detectors - that was another matter. Especially when one member of said party towered head and shoulders above the others. Yet she had promised Gabba she'd see the Abover safe... and she could think of only one thing to do.
Hackyll was still struggling with the fact that his life meant little to the Esteemed ruler; she had, after all, issued a cyanide flooding when she must have known he was in that room. That stung, more so because in fleeing with the creature and its liberators, however unwillingly, he was now effectively an outlaw.
Such thoughts were churning in his mind as they stole through the storage complex of the research facility, several squads of military police - his own men, Hells Above! - hot in pursuit. His musings were interrupted when the girl, Nexia, addressed him quietly.
"Do you know the layout of this area?"
He nodded. What was she up to?
"Do you think you can get her into the outer tunnels? I... there's a hideout there I can direct you to." She looked momentarily uncomfortable. "It's stocked with some dried food and reasonably safe from lupides and tunnel wyrms... well?"
Hackyll hesitated. "What...?"
Nexia looked around nervously. "Look, we've no time. Just get her there, and I'll try and find you, okay? Please! It's not like they'll be so very happy to see you again, you know."
He did know. So he shrugged, and listened to her directions. He would worry about how the girl knew about a hideout in the wilderness when he had found that hideout. When she was confident he'd find it on his own, and that he knew to avoid the surveillance instruments, she turned and sprinted into an alleyway, noisily.
The creature started after her, hesitated when Hackyll did not follow. He waved it - her, he reminded himself sourly - on urgently, hoping she'd get his meaning. For precious moments she stood, chewing her lip, considering.
In the distance, Nexia's overly loud footfalls faded, drawing a subtle change of direction from the sounds of pursuit. Only now did Hackyll fully realise the girl's sacrifice. He turned and slunk away towards where Nexia had directed, and was relieved to sense the Abover following him, quieter than his own shadow.
"I hope you're worth all this," he muttered under his breath. And, as an afterthought, "I hope you let me live long enough to find out!"
Aljye paced the length of her conference room; the only way to vent her frustration without actually exploding. The whole matter was slipping from her grasp, and there was nothing she could do about it.
She hated losing control!
Hardly aware of the two men standing anxiously by the entrance, she continued her pacing; let the miscreants wait, they'd caused her enough stress. Time to give some in return.
Gabba. Flax. Nexia. Three unremarkable individuals until today; certainly not the kind of people she as Ruler needed to be specifically aware of. Their misfortune lay in discovering what they should not have, but she could not concern herself with that. The greater good was more important.
The mystery remained of what had become of the Abover and Hackyll; fortunately that worker at the crematorium had shown such presence of mind! They'd been clever to try and cremate a substitute, but of course that must mean that the creature yet lived, and that Hackyll was now either in league with it or its prisoner. She rather doubted the latter, knowing her head officer's capability. He could certainly deal with a handful of civilians and a prehistoric specimen. Surely, if the creature was humanoid, the reports were exaggerated. After all, how could it be as old as they claimed, if it was alive? Perhaps it was a... but that was impossible. It must be something else.
Whatever the thing was, it must be found!
Too bad this Nexia person was still on the run along with Hackyll, but at least she had the other two in custody. She had no doubt that threatening them with imprisonment or, better yet, with exile in the dread Above, would make them cooperative enough. Eventually, they'd tell her what she wanted to know.
Eventually, they all did.
And just for irritating her, she might exile them anyway. After what had happened this day, she was just in that kind of mood.
After pacing another length, she allowed the waiting men to lead her to the interrogation room.
End of Book One
» Book 2: Between coming soon...
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