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|And it just keeps getting crazier and crazier, eh?||
The unadulterated blackness of oblivion pressed upon him for numb, empty eternities before he finally found the courage within himself to open one russet-gold eye and look into the void gaping beneath his prone form. A masculine voice, beautiful and terrible called out his name; his real name, and he answered warily.
“Sir, it is not finished.”
“Christopher, you have failed me, broken our bargain, as it were.”
Rook stared at the void. He knew it was the power of the one to whom he spoke that kept him from tumbling down, down, down into the cold depths of Hell itself. It was all he could do to keep his voice from shaking.
“I need more time.”
“You continue to say that and I continue to wait.”
Not for the first time did Rook curse himself for his pledge. And yet he remembered that it had been worth it.
“I have given my right eye to you; the eye that would have helped me to see God. What more do you want?”
“Your eye was a good faith promise. In return I gave you control of my servants. And now you’ve let Ti’Ana…”
“You leave her out of this,” Rook said angrily, “She does not belong to you yet.”
“She belonged to me long before she belonged to…”
“Enough.” A cold bead of sweat fell from Rook’s forehead into the void below, “That she performed the ritual upon herself was no fault of mine, so don’t blame me for it. And you apparently made no move to stop her.”
“That is because she will perform far better than you have. I grow weary of waiting to return to the world.” The power holding Rook suspended slipped so that for a moment of panic he fell, but only for a half a yard before the same power seized hold of his foot and dangled him head first toward the void. Rook tried not to make a sound, but his heavy breathing betrayed his fear. “You have broken the stone that binds the will of the shadows to your command.”
“It’s not broken,” Rook said firmly, “It’s barely scratched.”
“Only a pure soul can do that,” the voice replied, “A weak soul. How did you lose to someone like that?”
Rook decided it best to treat that as a rhetorical question, and made no move to answer. He would not have lost, he told himself, had his legions not turned on him for something so small as a scratch.
“I trained you, Christopher. I trained you and Ti’Ana. You were my best students. I have never known you to disappoint, so I will be merciful, but do not disappoint me again. Get this girl, this Cardboard Hut, to build what I need, and we won’t have to chat again in this foul place. Am I clear?”
“Crystal,” Rook muttered.
“Then you may go.”
The power threw him upward as his captor laughed, and the blackness around him became solid as obsidian before he fell from a tear in the dimensional fabric and landed forcefully on a hatched metal floor.
The two female voices cried out at once as their owners’ heeled feet clattered over the metal flooring. Cardboard Hut reached him first, turning him over to face them. She gasped when she saw his marble eye with the scratch down its center glaring like a white pupil against the black.
“Ti…Ti’Ana?” he murmured, touching her face. And then he fainted.
“Ti’Ana?” Hut asked, “Who’s that?”
Hoodwink looked at Rook with a wide eye, glancing sharply at Hut as she spoke, and just as quickly turning her gaze back to Rook. “C’mon Hut, help me get him to his room.”
They lifted him, each supporting an arm over her shoulders.
“What’s happened to him?” Dave asked, making no move to help them.
“None of your business,” Hoodwink snapped. She looked far less intimidating without her makeup, but her voice held a different kind of authority than the captivating power of woman over man.
“I assume that means you know?” Hut asked. Though both were relatively small compared to Rook, she and Hoodwink didn’t seem to have too much trouble moving him. Hut wondered at her own strength. “Please, tell me what’s happened! What should I do?”
They had by now walked past the other villains in the central computer area of Silver Spoon’s base, and found themselves alone in a corridor reminiscent of the room they’d just left, with wires, tubes, and flashing lights running all along the walls.
“All he needs is rest.” Hoodwink replied wearily.
They plodded along in silence for a few moments before Hut spoke. “I know you from somewhere, don’t I? We ran into you on the street when I was with Aunt Nan. You said you were my college roommate…”
“Yes, and that’s only sort of true. The agent with you has never been very fond of me, so she wouldn’t let me be in on your relocation, the stupid…” Hoodwink called Wobbles a very rude name and Hut looked at her sharply but didn’t speak. “You and I were bunkmates at training camp, and then teammates at the agency.”
“I see,” Hut said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t remember you.”
“That’s not your fault,” Hoodwink responded dolefully. “Here’s my brother’s room.”
Between them they got Rook comfortably settled in the sterile, windowless metal bedroom, carefully laying him in the surprisingly soft, white-sheeted bed. As they turned to leave, Rook spoke unexpectedly.
“Ti’Ana,” he rasped.
Both women turned. Hoodwink glanced at Hut.
“I’m sorry, I think he wishes to speak to me. Go back to the control center, Hut, I’m sure the others would be delighted to show you around.”
“Um, ok,” Hut said. She gazed from Hoodwink to Rook for one long moment, then turned and left, shutting the sliding metal door behind her.
Hoodwink walked slowly to Rook’s bedside over the cold floor and took his hand in both of hers.
“Are you feeling better, Ti’Ana?” he asked.
“Don’t call me that in front of the others, you idiot,” Hoodwink said harshly, but her tone softened, “You’ve been to see Father, haven’t you?”
“What happened?” she tightened her hands on his, “Your stone’s scratched. Did the shadows turn on you?”
“Yes, and it was a close call,” he sighed and let his hand slide from hers.
“He saved you at the last minute then?”
“That he did.”
“He brought you to that…that place, didn’t he?” Hoodwink shuddered. “The Chaos Realm.”
“How do you know about the…?”
“When I overdid it at the masquerade, Father brought me there to speak with him. He wasn’t pleased with me, or with you for that matter.”
“When is he ever pleased with me?” Rook sighed, staring up at the ceiling. “He expects me to take care of you, you know. You certainly don’t make it easy.”
“I can take care of myself,” Hoodwink replied none-to-gently.
“Yes, and you got knocked out for a month because your just that good,” Rook said, chuckling softly. “I told you not to summon that many servants!”
“You do it all the time!”
“I’ve had a great deal more experience.”
“A lot of good that did you just now,” Hoodwink said bitterly. “So, did you get her talents?”
“Yes, but let’s worry about that later. For now, I need to rest.”
* * *
She could hear familiar voices calling her name, but didn’t want to give up her hold on sleep just yet. Then someone turned her over, supported her with his arm around her back, and started shaking her so she couldn’t keep her eyes closed any longer.
She moaned, and the two crouching over her cried out in relief.
“Ru, you’re alive!”
“Can’t you guys learn to take a pulse and be done with it?” Rubix grumbled. The rain continued to drizzle around them, catching the last few golden rays of the setting sun. “It’s about time you got here.”
“We heard the greenhouse explode,” Glass Slipper said tensely, “And then we found you here and you looked…”
“Well, it was a pretty near thing. That Rook was no poser; he knew what he was doing.”
“Rook was here?” Dark Horse asked, helping Rubix to sit up a little more.
“Yes, but I think…I think he’s dead. Guys, I don’t think it was Shade Darker doing all that crazy magic at the masquerade.”
Sirens sounded in the near distance, growing closer by the second.
“We need to get out of here before we have to answer any awkward questions,” Dark Horse said, “Can you walk?”
“The bones in my legs feel like they’ve taken on the consistency of Q-Tip’s chocolate pudding supreme, but I’ll give it a try.”
“No time,” Dark Horse said as they heard the crunch of car tires on the gravel path, barely audible beneath the loud drone of the sirens. He scooped Rubix up and they made toward a shattered door in the back.
“Show off,” Glass Slipper snorted, following. She hit a button on her shades, signaling for their plane to come pick them up. It arrived silently a minute later with its cloaking device on, becoming visible only long enough for them to board.
Dark Horse saw to lowering some of the seats for Ru so that she could lie down while Glass Slipper took the controls. After getting stably into the air, they flew a few moments in silence, then all at once began to speak.
“Hut’s gone.” They said simultaneously, and then, “How did you know?”
They laughed despite themselves.
“You tell us about your fight with Rook,” Glass Slipper said, hitting the autopilot and turning her chair to face Rubix and Dark Horse, “And we’ll tell you what we found in Hut’s diary.”
Rubix explained about seeing Hut leave in the ballet mobile and how Rook had stayed behind to fight for the gloves. Gripped by a sudden dread, she sat up and grabbed for the pockets of her coat, but found them to have been torn off with the portion Rook’s servant had caught and thrown to him.
“No!” she moaned, laying back in defeat.
“What?” Glass Slipper and Dark Horse demanded.
“He’s taken Cardboard Hut’s talents!”
“But I thought you said you thought he was dead,” Dark Horse said.
“Yes, and the gloves were with him!” Tears trickled unbidden down Rubix’ face, but she went on to explain the battle, clarify how the gloves were lost, and describe the way Rook disappeared, telling her story with as much coherence as she could muster as she beat back sobs. “All that for nothing!” she finished, hugging herself and starring up at the ceiling of the plane, “I’ve lost a part of Hut!”
Dark Horse and Glass Slipper didn’t know what to say and so said nothing for a long, awkward moment.
A barely audible buzzing broke the silence. Rubix grabbed her earring, which had been lately set on vibrate, and handed it to Slip, who twisted the top and flipped it open.
“Hey there! It’s Chainlink and I have some fantastic news,” he sounded much more like his jolly old self. “Tinkerbell’s back to normal! He’s given us the scores!”
Contrary to expectations, Hut’s team sighed.
“Ok, what’s happened this time guys?”
“Nothing,” Rubix said hurriedly, “What were the scores?”
“Her first score was one-hundred and eighteen percent,” Chainlink said cautiously, “A new record, even for her. Of course, it is sort of cheap, since she did invent the darn thing. Her second was eighty-five percent; an all time low for her, but still a good fifteen percent above passing.”
“Great, so,” Dark Horse didn’t sound as excited as he might have upon hearing such news earlier in the day, “when’s Tink getting his memory wiped?”
“Well, he wouldn’t give the scores unless we promised in exchange to have Hut do the actual wiping, so that’s still up in the air.”
“He wants Hut to be the one controlling the Mnemosyne?” Glass Slipper grimaced.
“Yes. And is there a problem with that?”
“Oh, certainly not,” Rubix said dryly, “Since we’re going to have to go rescue her first, and then, provided she can get her heart and head back, maybe she can have enough courage to fudge her way through.”
The color drained from Chainlink’s face.
“You lost the gloves?”
“Yes.” Rubix replied simply.
“Well, they were more stolen, actually,” Dark Horse said.
“And have possibly been destroyed,” Glass Slipper added.
“I knew you should have had those locked in the vaults….” Chainlink trailed off and took a moment to gather his thoughts, then, “Hut’s been kidnapped?”
“Yes.” Hut’s team said tersely.
“Whom do you think?” Slip asked.
“No, by the mafia,” Rubix said scathingly, “Of course, by Them.”
“And we have reason to believe she went willingly,” Glass Slipper added, “And also that she’s not in danger…yet.”
“Yeah, and by the way, she was convinced to go with Them by a gentleman known as Rook, but more familiar to you as Michael Crow,” Dark Horse spat, emphasizing his distaste for the man who’d so blatantly used Hut, “Apparently he’s been in cahoots with Them this whole time!”
“Rook?” Chainlink cried angrily. He swore vociferously and the color rushed to his face as quickly as it had drained, “You don’t mean Rook, the famous Chaomancer?”
“Oh, so you know him?” Rubix said in curiosity, “We’d never even heard the name until today.”
“Know him?! Of course I know him!” Chainlink spat, “We’ve been trying to track that guy for the past year! He’s a living Dr. Frankenstein!”
“What on earth do you mean?” Rubix asked, “You can’t mean he really…”
“This channel may not be secure. I’ll talk to you three as soon as you can return to base, capiche? Over and Out.”
* * *
“And this, my dear, is my collection of highly sophisticated androids,” Spoon waved his cane over the workshop below. Hut leaned over a metal railing to get a better look.
“They look just like ordinary people,” she said, clearly incredulous.
“Yes, but see there,” he indicated an android welding another android’s arm on.
Cardboard Hut’s eyes widened and she stared silently for a few moments, to the sheer delight of Spoon who’d been long without anyone to admire his genius.
“They look and act so real!” she cried at last, “Do they have real feelings and think for themselves too?”
“No, I’m afraid I have yet to master Artificial Intelligence,” Silver Spoon said, placing his arm around her shoulders as though they were good friends. Hut was so enraptured by the androids that for a moment she didn’t notice, and by then she thought it too late to do anything about it. “These are all programmed to specific tasks. --Like those ones there are assembling other androids for my little android empire, nyeh heh heh.” He let a chuckle escape him and Hut glanced at him sharply, her eyes narrowed for a moment before she glanced back at the lines of very human looking robots.
“Who is the woman in the purple coat?” she asked, pointing forcefully in a failed attempt to dislodge his arm from her shoulders, “And why are there so many of her? She’s oddly familiar…” she was quiet for a pensive moment, then went on as though something clicked. “That’s the woman who came running after the limo, isn’t it?”
“She is made in the form of one of our enemies,” he said, “I have often found it useful to have a few androids like that handy. See that cowboy over there…and there, and there,” he pointed to a number of Dark Horse androids, “And those blonde women with the glass heels.” He jabbed his cane particularly hard in the direction of a cluster of Glass Slipper androids.
“They all look so familiar. I know their faces,” she looked surreptitiously at Spoon from the corners of her eyes, testing to see if he had a theory as to why she’d know them, but he seemed unphased by her apparently vague recognition as he stared through a triumphant visage over his robotic minions. Noting his distraction she made another bid for freedom, “Hey!” she cried, pointing violently and, to her dismay, failing to escape yet again, “There’s one of you too, Spoon.”
“Decoys,” he said, smiling, “They have gotten our little family out of a number of tight spots, if I may say. See, there’s a few each of myself, Shade Darker, Ballerina Man, Dave, Hoodwink, and even your beloved Rook.”
“Wait, is that…is that me?” Cardboard Hut leaned closer, squinting, “What am I wearing?” her nose crinkled, “Those pants are way too big for me.”
“Not too big; just covered in many large pockets,” his arm shifted from her shoulders to her waist and she flinched, “It was an old trademark of yours back at the Agency.”
“But why would you…?”
“Having fun you two?”
“Michael!” Hut wrenched herself free from Spoon at last as she turned around in apparent delight and relief at the sound of Rook’s voice. He smiled at her and returned her sudden, energetic embrace.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, “I was so worried about you.” Tears formed in her eyes and her voice cracked as she spoke, yet he didn’t show any outward signs of guilt at her being so genuinely concerned for his wellbeing. He smiled at Spoon over her head, one eyebrow raised as though to question Spoon’s earlier intimate position with Hut. Spoon straightened his bowtie and grinned. “You were so pale, I thought you were… You seemed so…Oh, Michael, don’t ever scare me like that again.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Glor-- Hut.” he instilled his voice with just the right nuance of guilt, “I didn’t mean to worry you like that.”
She shook her head and responded with a tense voice, holding him very tightly. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”
He shot one final smirk at Spoon before pulling away and kissing Hut’s forehead gently. “I have something I’d like to give you.” He took her hand in his, skillfully masking his amusement at the way she still blushed when he touched her, “Come on, it’s in the control center.”
* * *
“And how are you feeling?” Chainlink asked, offering Rubix his hand as she disembarked from the agency plane.
She let him help her down, “I’m much better, thanks. I was able to rest up on the ride home.”
“Well, let’s go see Swell Well.”
“It’s just a few scrapes, Chainlink,” laughed Rubix, fidgeting with her torn coat, “I’ve had much worse, believe me.”
“And don’t I know it,” Chainlink chuckled, “No; he’s got some information for all of you that I think you’ll find helpful in rescuing Hut.”
The team followed him in bemusement. Though Rubix still felt a bit shaky, and Slip and Dark were both stiff from the long ride, they couldn’t help the enormous wave of relief that washed over them as they walked through agency doors for the first time in months.
“It’s good to come back home, isn’t it?” Chainlink remarked, smiling at the contented expressions on their faces.
“It’s not home without Hut,” Rubix said, and the others nodded their agreement.
Chainlink’s smile faded. “We’ll get her back, don’t worry.”
“But without her talents, she’ll be worthless to the agency,” Rubix sighed.
There seemed to be some truth in what she said because Chainlink didn’t respond. He didn’t say a word, in fact, until they reached an office they all knew belonged to Head Agent Swell Well.
“--You ready for us, Doctor?”
“--With you in a moment, Chainlink,” Swell Well responded. A very feminine giggle resounded from the other side of the door. Rubix and Glass Slipper glanced at each other and rolled their eyes.
The door slid open, but it wasn’t Swell Well who answered it as they’d expected. The soft-spoken nurse bustled past them, looking flushed and ruffled.
“Don’t let him sweet-talk you, Stitch,” Glass Slipper whispered loudly as the nurse passed, “He’s a total player! Everyone knows it.”
Agent Cross Stitch just grinned and blushed harder, keeping her head bowed over her clipboard as she passed.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, Gorgeous,” Swell Well chuckled, “Come on in you guys.”
They complied, filing into his office and taking the seats he offered as he seated himself behind his tidy desk.
“So what’s this all about?” Rubix asked.
“Oh, Stitch and I just had some…eherm…business to attend to.” Swell Well didn’t even try to look innocent as he straightened his crooked tie and rebuttoned the front of his white coat.
“Not that,” Chainlink rolled his eyes, “You were going to give them information about, well, you know,” he looked at the doctor intently, “Peru.”
“Peru?” Dark Horse asked, “When were you in Peru?”
“That was his top secret mission, silly,” Glass Slipper said without thinking.
“Yes, it’s where I was all those months last…wait a minute, how did you know that, Slip?” Swell Well narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously.
She stared back at him for an increasingly awkward moment before laughing. “I guess I might as well say. I was worried you’d be at the agency picnic. I didn’t want you to pull another one of your…ehem…moves like at last year’s.”
Swell Well placed his elbows on his desk and interlocked his fingers, gazing over them at her unabashedly. “Go on.”
“Well, you know, she was in charge of the picnic, and she was making such a fuss about it that I told her you wouldn’t be coming back any time soon,” Chainlink said with a hearty guffaw, “She didn’t believe me, so I told her how far away you were. I figured it couldn’t hurt for her to know just that much.”
“You favor your trainees too much sometimes,” Swell Well sighed. “If it had been leaked, my whole mission could have been endangered. Aren’t you Head of the Security department, Chainlink?”
Chainlink had to visibly reign in his anger at the stab, “You and I both know Slip couldn’t have been part of the—“
Glass Slipper cut him off. “Well, you pretty much scared the pocketed pants off of Hut when you, well, you know, at the other picnic, and I wanted her to come!” She said defensively, glowering at Swell Well, “She was having a hard enough time as it was, what with failing her test.”
He grinned. “Oh, but she’s not afraid of getting mushy now, or so I’ve heard.” He winked. “So, about this Michael Crow fellow…” He’d been about to say something cheeky, but the looks on their faces wiped the smile off of his. “What happened?”
“Swell Well,” Chainlink said weightily, “Michael Crow is none other than the elusive Rook.”
Swell Well’s expression of concern didn’t change except for a slight widening of his eyes at this new revelation. He said nothing at first, staring at Chainlink as though hoping he’d shout out a boisterous, “Just Kidding!” But when the silence dragged on he realized that it wasn’t a joke and he said, very calmly:
“You mean Hut’s new boyfriend is the man we were tracking from the Brotherhood of Chaos all that time?”
Chainlink responded with an emotionless, “Yes.”
“And what has been done to recover her now that she’s been cleared to have her memories returned?”
“She is currently unrecoverable,” Chainlink replied, “She’s been kidnapped.”
“The very same.”
“Rook was working alongside Them the whole time,” Dark Horse said, pulling the diary from his duster pocket and sliding it to Swell Well across the desk.
Swell Well’s executive shell cracked wide open and fell away as he opened the small book and grinned. “Reading a lady’s diary, Dark? How ungentlemanly. Even I wouldn’t stoop that…”
“Will you shut up?” Rubix snapped irritably. Her whole body still ached from the fight, and the last thing she wanted to deal with was Swell Well and his stupid cheek. Swell Well looked up at her sharply, a roguish retort clearly on his tongue, but at the sight of her bruised and battered, exhausted but undoubtedly alert face he checked himself and turned his attention back to the pages before him.
“She recognized someone at the dance,” Swell Well said suddenly.
“You’re on the wrong page,” Glass Slipper said matter-of-factly, but Swell Well ignored her.
“I forgot to mention this after all the hullabaloo at the masquerade, but it struck me as a bit of a funny coincidence as it happened. One of the gentlemen who asked me to dance was none other than Tyler Walker, an old friend of mine from my high school days. He didn’t seem to recognize me, though. I probably should have called him by his name at the time and then we could have reminisced, but I hated the prospect of trying to remember anything. I just think it’s odd, and perhaps important somehow that the most recent things I can come up with from my past are from my high school days, and then here is one of my high school friends. Was it really just coincidence?”
Swell Well looked up at Dark Horse when he finished reading, “So your name’s Tyler? Somehow I pictured something more like Jesse or Bill or…uh, Pecos…”
Dark Horse, now also known as Tyler, leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling, the epitome of nonchalance, “You assume that the person she danced with was me?”
“Come on, Ty, everyone knows you four were all buds together in high school.”
“Don’t call me Ty,” Dark Horse said, letting all four feet of his chair hit the floor as he chose now to sit up straight and face Swell Well.
Swell Well grinned and turned his attention back to the diary.
“What’s really strange, though I don’t know if my memory can be trusted after a certain point in the evening when I became, as I said in an earlier entry, a little bit overly twitterpated, is that at one of those moments when that deranged British guy in the harlequin mask was threatening me, someone fired a gun at him and shouted something like, “These bullets are pure silver.” The voice that shouted; I could swear that it was Tyler.”
“It’s amazing that she recognized you!” Glass Slipper said, looking at Dark Horse.
“Not just him,” Swell Well said as his eyes rapidly scanned the page. He read on excitedly. “Later that evening I think I met some more of my old school friends, but this is where things are at their foggiest. When I awoke from that faint there were four people in the room besides Michael. I’ve mentioned them briefly before – they were some of the “agents” who had come to protect me from whatever that was. One of them was Tyler again, I’m almost sure of it. My mind was pretty clouded from then until when I woke up the next morning, but I recognized his gold mask, even through my slightly blurred vision. There was another man, tall and burly, whom I didn’t recognize at all, but the two women there; I think they were Krista Williams and Megan Torgersen. Why in the world would my old secret agent friends all be there?” Swell Well looked up at them sharply. “Secret agent friends?”
“We used to pretend we were secret agents,” Glass Slipper said, grinning almost sheepishly, “We wrote notes and stories. It was a little game we played.”
“So which one of you is Megan, and which one is Krista?”
Glass Slipper opened her mouth to reply, but Rubix cut her off.
“That is of no consequence.” she answered piercingly.
“Of course not,” Swell Well said, waving her off with raised brows as he returned his attention to the diary.
“This is what makes me think it might have just been a dream, or my own mind playing tricks on me. I probably just thought I saw Tyler in the room because whoever that agent was was also wearing a gold mask or something like that. I thought I saw Tyler and so assumed the rest of the ‘team’ would be there.”
“I don’t see how this has any relevance,” Rubix said scathingly, though she clung to every word Swell Well read. Truth be told, she didn’t like hearing someone so unrelated to their team reading Cardboard Hut’s innermost thoughts aloud so flippantly.
“Really now, Megan?” he looked at Rubix piercingly.
Her eyes widened in shock. “How did you know?” she demanded angrily.
“I didn’t. But now I do,” Swell Well chuckled, “I had a fifty percent chance, you see.”
Rubix glowered at him, clearly taken aback at being so easily outwitted.
Glass Slipper laughed along with Swell Well. “Good one!”
“Enough!” Chainlink said impatiently, “So now you know their real names. Don’t go using them around the Agency, all right? You know that the false identities are for everyone’s protection, so don’t go blabbing like it’s nothing!”
“Who’s blabbing top secret information like it’s nothing?” Swell Well asked with a sickeningly angelic expression on his handsome face. This silenced Chainlink for a while. “Now, Meg…I mean, Babeliscious,” Swell Well turned to look at her, “The relevance in this, I hope you see, is that Hut is a little more aware of her situation and surroundings than we all may think. If it’s possible that she recognized…”
“—that she recognized us at the masquerade, it’s also equally possible that she will recognize Them, and not be taken in by their façade of goodness,” Rubix said, determined not to be outdone again. She snatched the diary angrily from beneath Swell Well’s hands and flipped it to the last entry. -- the entry Slip and Dark had read to her on the ride home. She shoved this under Swell Well’s nose. “This is what you should be reading.”
Swell Well complied, unabashed, and read aloud for Chainlink’s convenience.
“So she knows she’s an agent,” Rubix said, “And knows that she had four enemies at the masquerade. And from that earlier entry you so readily pawed through, she knows that we were there as well. It will be impossible for them to convince her that we are her enemies.”
“Or so we can hope,” Swell Well nodded. His face grew grave, and his voice took on the emotionally detached professional tone once more, “If she discovers their nefariousness they may not be able to manipulate her or use her talents against her as they intended.”
“They won’t be able to use her talents against her anyway,” Rubix sighed, “Rook attempted to steal them from me and…”
“He attempted to steal Hut’s talents from you?” Swell Well asked, intrigued, “How could he do something like that? For that matter, how could you be holding on to something as ephemeral as another person’s talents?”
Rubix glanced at Chainlink. When he nodded his permission, she told Swell Well about the three gifts Cardboard Hut had given them and Swell Well laughed.
“That sounds like Hut; always the dramatic one,” he said, “She could have stored that sort of thing in another memory jar, but no. Well, did Rook succeed in taking them from you? I have no doubt that that’s why you’re currently so grim and battered, Rubix; although you’re no less babeliscious.”
“He succeeded,” she said, ignoring the last comment, “I was lucky to escape the encounter alive. He, however, was not so lucky. Something happened to him where his own shadows turned on him, and I think he and the gloves were destroyed.”
“Describe the scene to me, please,” Swell Well said.
Rubix complied, explaining what had happened with the knife and the strange black eye, and trying her best to describe the inky maelstrom. When she finished, Swell Well smiled grimly at her.
“He’s not dead. At least, he didn’t die then, if that’s what you thought. If he’d been eaten by the shadows, you would have witnessed it. The fact that he disappeared so suddenly leads me to believe that the Master of Chaos called him to the Chaos Relm – not a pleasant place, I assure you.”
“You seem to know a lot about his magic,” Dark Horse said, “Swell Well, what exactly were you doing in Peru?”
|Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part XI C||Bitter Bang (poem)|
|Atalanta and Hippomenes||Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part XII E|
|Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part XI B||Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part I|