“Those Dimensional traps they’re putting up around her,” Garth asked around a mouthful of popcorn. “how good would they be at stopping say, a seventh-tier master of a clan, as a random, nonspecific example?”
“Not at all?” Emilio said.
“Dang. Looks like it has to be context.” Garth sighed and stood.
On the big screen, Alicia was slowly waking up, guarded by three Inquisitors and about to be interrogated by their boss. Things weren’t looking great for her.
The black lab jumped out of his shadow, tail wagging so hard it pulled its butt left and right, whipping across his shins.
Garth leaned down, hands on his knees.
“Who’s a goodboi? Who’s a good force of nature!? You are!”
Shadow’s eyes were bugging out, whining and trying to lick him as he pet him.
“You wanna play ‘save the princess?’ ya wanna get the princess? Get the princess!?”
Shadow whined, agonized by the delay.
“You wanna freak out some squares? Wanna give some people night terrors?”
Shadow’s eyes widened and he barked.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Garth kneeled down and tousled Shadow’s fur, bringing him in for a squeeze. He grabbed shadow’s wiggling head and pointed at the big screen where Alicia was just regaining consciousness, strapped naked to the interrogation table. Dozens of sharp implements were on a table beside her, waiting to be used.
“See that?” he whispered.
Shadow went completely still.
“That’s the princess.”
Shadow’s mouth opened, its tongue hanging out as it panted.
“You wanna get the princess?”
His tail started wagging again.
“Go get the princess!” Garth shouted, standing and pointing.
Shadow burst into black smoke and vanished.
“Guess it’s about time I did something too,” Garth said, adjusting his pants.
The Denton manor hadn’t been touched by the brutal combat, aside from a few flaming pieces of the Campbell manor that had dropped on it, but those hadn’t caught anything.
No, the fire was coming from inside the building, licking up and out, eager to detroy as much evidence as possible.
“Pardon me,” Garth said, opening the front door and dusting off a spell he hadn’t used in a long time.
I’m not trying to be a dick, Hastia, I just want to get through here without burning off my clothes. I’ll light something on fire in your honor after this. You ever been to Burning Man?
Garth used his Mana Control to summon three inches of water across every surface of the manor simultaneously. The sudden blast of steam nearly knocked him backwards, but Garth waved the hot air away and proceeded. There were a fair amount of blackened places in the mansion, where the walls and floor had caught fire. They were obviously deliberate.
Using fire to conceal evidence of crimes. People after my heart.
Garth whistled as he put a bit of extra water on a few smouldering places, raising his hand and created a Maggie tracking device. The delicate flower sniffed around a bit, then pointed downward at a thirty-degree angle.
Basement or secret tunnel? He thought, pursing his lips.
He didn’t want to give away his involvement too much, via tunneling down through the floor straight to them with a plant. That would look bad when people investigate later.
Even worse than the entire mansion being soggy.
He didn’t seem to be moving on his Maggie-Tracker, so he probably could afford to spend a couple minutes finding the way down.
Garth paced around the room, whistling, listening to the acoustics in the room. One hundred and twenty-five Senses was nothing to sneeze at. It was normally something in the back of his head, like white noise, but if he decided to pay attention to it, he could hear the sound coming back to him from the walls.
I’m the bat-man.
eventually the sound resonating from one of the walls came back different. It was situated at a dividing wall between two large, open rooms, and it looked like it had a massive load-bearing pillar in the center, decorated with murals, but it sounded…
Garth tapped on the boxy part of wall.
Rather than looking for a the secret lever, Garth plunged his arm through the wall and tore the secret door off its hinges. Garth felt the floor buck under his feet, just the tiniest bit.
That’s not good.
Garth was able to feel it coming, but he wasn’t quite fast enough to stop the lead-filled adamantium bolt from carving a Saving Private Ryan quality hole through his liver, going all the way through him and embedding itself in the far wall.
“Goddamnit,” Garth muttered, ignoring the pinch in his side and going back to the bolt. He incinerated his blood off the adamantium bolt and anywhere else he could find it. When he finished, he tore the armor piercing death-arrow out of the wall, stowing it away.
In the meantime, his liver repaired itself, and his blood oozed out of the wound, hardening into a pre-designed resin plate, adding a bit of structural integrity on the spot while it healed.
If Garth bled everywhere at once, he’d look a little bit like the Guyver.
Garth grumbled about secret doors and traps as he descended the stairs leading in to the dark bowels of the Denton manor.
“I’m not the goddamn rogue. Freaking trapped doors and shit. That’s only gonna stop one person! How is that a viable strategy?” Garth felt a step sink under his left foot, and a sickle-like blade slammed out of the paper-mache wall and warped against his shin-bone.
Guess they used steel for that one.
“I mean, maybe, just maybe, the very idea of a trap can slow people down, assuming they’re afraid of death and dismemberment,” Garth said, leaning down to wipe his blood off the sickle.
Gotta be careful about where my insides go nowadays. I wonder if there’s some kind of spell or enchantment that can keep my insides inside, you know, without making it so I can never piss again.
One of the stairs refused to bear his weight and tried to sink his foot into a bear trap. Garth was fast enough to pull himself out of that one and continue his amble down the deadly stairs.
“But really, once people know the whole thing is trapped, it’s no longer a mystery. I guess we’re operating on the assumption that the traps are kind of a last-ditch thing. Either catch an intruder/spy off guard and kill them after they’ve already bypassed every other security measure, then dispose of the body later, or buy enough time for the family to escape via underground tunnels.”
“Self-resetting traps, though. Those are tough to build.”
Garth got to the bottom of the stairs, and felt something brush against the doorway as he walked. He glanced over and saw half a dozen poisoned needles sticking out of his right arm and neck.
“A for effort, I guess,” he said, pulling the needles out.
The underground portion of the Denton manor was part bolt-hole, part lab, part smithy. You needed heavy duty, specialized equipment to work adamantium, namely jet fuel.
The room was well lit with magical stones, carved out of the bedrock, with air vents in the floor and ceiling, creating a decent air-exchange. There was a rack full of glass jars full of Swordfish jelly, with tubes connected to a blast furnace where the adamantium was melted, along with several forms to pour it into, an anvil and Adamantium-dipped hammers, along with iron tongs, and a heat-treating oven.
In the middle of it, Maggie and her brother were directing the quickly moving older Denton children, who were packing up the most essential supplies, and arranging to destroy the most damning evidence.
“Hello there!” Garth called, attracting their attention as he approached. “Bit of a low ceiling isn’t it?”
Garth overlooked the tallest of them, the Denton Patriarch with the beard and the exhausted look, and it made it a little difficult to stand up straight.
“I had some things I wanted to discuss,” he said, pulling a chair away from one of the workbenches and sitting down.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” the patriarch demanded. Garth put him to sleep with a wave of his hand.
Kyle was starting to edge toward the exit of the room, so Garth put a Force shield in front of it.
“I think this is the first time we’ve actually talked with each other,” Garth said, addressing the woman in the torn and grimy gown. “I mean we met when I gave you the titty-rings for your impudence, but you don’t remember that.”
Oooh, boy, she looks angry.
“What do you want?” she asked, ignoring the bawling children trying to wake up their daddy. Poor guy was absent for all the big decisions in his life lately. Bummer.
“I wanna express my deepest regret that you chose to pick a fight with someone so far out of your league and my sympathy for the fact that your life is crashing down around your ears. Trust me, I’ve been there.” Garth said, trying to keep a straight face.
“Get to the point.”
“I also want to know what your brilliant backup plan to expose me was if you couldn’t turn me to your side, specifically, what the level of response will be. A lot of attention? A little? What’s the time frame going to look like, and how serious will it be? I’m already committed to this course of action, but knowing exactly how many contributing factors are in play does wonders for my chronic anxiety. So…”
Garth lowered his voice.
“How much are they going to know?”
“You were supposed to be a boy.” She gritted through her teeth. “A simple, stupid, horny, boy!”
“I get that a lot.”
“…I need a guarantee that I’ll receive your protection.” She said.
“Nope.” Garth said jovially.
“Your guarantee that you won’t harm us.” She said.
“Until you’re out of my sight, and as long as you never come back. I could do that.” Garth said, drumming his fingers on the chair.
“Okay,” she said, narrowing her eyes, obviously deliberating on what to tell him.
“Don’t hold back, or sugar-coat it. I need to know exactly what you told, and exactly who you told. Believe me, if I found out you lied here, it would be incredibly easy for me to find you again. I’ve got a device that can track anyone whose nipples I’ve pierced.”
Masochists like body modifications, right? I wonder if Alicia would be into it. Oooh, I could split her tongue, I always thought that was hot. I wonder If the concept of tramp stamps still exist, too. Could make a comeback.
“I forwarded a message to my great uncle in the empire’s Intelligence Division. It has-“
Kyle tried to make a break for the exit, and slammed his nose into the invisible plane of force, knocking himself out with the sheer power behind the blow to his head.
Garth glanced back up to Maggie.
“It has everything we knew about you since you took Alicia out of the Academy…Garth.”
Benedette’s eyes widened, glancing back and forth between him and her aunt.
“Ooh, good guess,” Garth said with a shrug. “But I know you didn’t use the G-word in your letter.”
“And why wouldn’t I use your name, Garth?” She said the name like a four letter word.
“Because you wanted maximum response, am I right? along with maximum deniability. You knew if you said that you were confident that a mythological figure was alive and well, bumming around the streets of Santo Descanso in the shape of a teenage boy…well, they’d put your letter on the top of the Ignore pile. Then when they found out it was actually me, the empire would kill you for only sending a letter instead of ringing the chapel bells and shouting it from the hilltops.”
“So,” Garth said, removing the button sized enchantment that kept him looking human. His skin turned purple in front of their horrified faces.
“What is actually in the letter?”
Maggie broke down and told him everything. It was a lot of information, and it danced around his identity, but anyone who’d spent any time with him would be able to piece it together. And maybe even a few people who hadn’t. The vengeful detective down the hall being the case in point.
“Alright,” Garth said once Maggie had spilled her guts, coming to a stand. About halfway through he’d spaced out and started thinking about what kind of body modifications would look good on Alicia. “You have my word that I will not harm you in your flight to escape the city, nor will I pursue you as long as you act in good faith.”
“They might be a little harder to convince, though.” Garth said pointing at Paul, his tongueless friend, and Ragnar, standing in the narrow tunnel leading to sweet, sweet freedom.
“Thank you so much for the information, your help being a bitch to your niece, she’s a treasure, and I hope whatever god you worship has a swanky afterlife, Bye.”
Garth landed in the practice yard with a rush of displaced air.
The scrying TV he’d set up had been switched to night-vision mode. Apparently the precinct had gotten a little hectic while he was gone.
“Take care of business?” Mrs. Banyan asked.
“Yeah, how about you?”
She held an acorn up on her palm.
The acorn was struck from every angle by thin beams of light, exploding from the sudden heat.
“No damage, either.” Mrs. Banyan said, showing him her unblemished hand with a smile.
“How do you feel about tongue splitting?” Garth asked.