A few days passed with a strange routine. BugleHead stayed in the vicinity of where Nelda had vanished. He would wander off occasionally to play with the Jasper phoenixes, pick fruit or collect shells.
HoneyBeard would keep him company, wandering occasionally inside. The lapis phoenixes had brought out small rolled scrolls and opened them, weighing the corners with stones.
It seemed that one look at the image was sufficient. They held indigo ink in their beaks and inked out lines carefully and in close unison.
HoneyBeard shuddered. This kind of precision and efficiency was beyond anything in his experience. He would be more comfortable with magic than… technology.
He turned his mind to recovering the alicorn. He had buried it in the midden thinking that no one, given the choice, would look for it there. It turned out to be a rather nasty trick that he played on himself.
Nevertheless, he managed to dig the long, straight unicorn horn out. He washed it in the sea, keeping a wary eye out for mermaids.
Returning to BugleHead, he handed it over.
"Oh," said BugleHead glumly. "Treasure."
"Don't sound too pleased."
"It's very nice."
BugleHead looked up at the empty sky. A wet splat that he hoped was rain hit him in the eye. Rubbing his face he offered, "We could just go home."
"It wouldn't be the same. Would it? There's things… I don't mistake myself for a scholar, but there's things I would wonder about. And the harpies said all the peoples of Mirth are needed to stop the burny thing."
"Hmm. And what other satyrs are going to want to get involved."
"Not even me," HoneyBeard admitted. And he was the most traveled satyr in the herd. "It was sort of an accidental adventure."
"I am going to have a nap," HoneyBeard replied.
Phyllis, Manny, Reg, Tyrone, and Jen all thundered down the hallway towards the guard.
The guard seemed young, very alarmed, and well-armed. It gave her an idea.
Nelda chased after them, pulled her hat down over her head, and yelled. "Guard, guard! There's an active shooter in the cafeteria. This custodian offered to let us hide in one of the cells."
"The, the cafeteria."
Team Idiot caught on very quickly.
"…There's shooting and."
"…People are hiding under table…"
"Blood on the floor…"
They babbled and pointed back the way they had come.
Phyllis just shouldered past the guard. "I don't get paid enough to get shot at work!"
Nelda shrugged apologetically. "It's like the employee handbook says, she said—run and hide come before fight. We don't have any weapons."
The young guard, rather to his credit, squared his shoulders and jogged away towards the mythical threat.
Manny fumbled with the cell door and threw it open. SmithGuild shrieked and scrambled backward on his bed.
"SmithGuild it's me; it's me," Nelda yelled. She pushed her way through to find him dressed in pale blue scrubs and looking bleached with fear. "This will all be over soon. The are… my friends? Well, they're going to help, anyway."
She grabbed him by the arm. Team Idiot, Manny excluded, smiled in a way that was probably mean to be reassuring. But it was somewhat out of tone with the weird desperation in the air.
"These people want to go back to Mirth with you if you'll permit it." Nelda propelled him towards the door. He was a little hard to man-handle being about a foot taller than her in his human form. He was also walking in a shuffling way, like an old man.
"How would I stop them?"
Nelda shoved Tyron ahead of them. "Quick, show us the way." To SmithGuild she added, "You'd say no."
"Why would I do that?"
"All right." Question answered then. "Let's all get a move on."
They bustled through the twists and turns to a freight elevator. The two guards outside the plant room were having some kind of argument, one of them holding a crackling walkie talkie.
"They're with me," Tyrone called as they rushed past.
As Phyllis slammed the doors shut behind them one of the guards shouted angrily, but it was too late. Manny had the right key to look after them, and he thrust a padlock over the two door handles.
Prof Parsons was standing in the corner, drinking form s new coffee cup. "Oh, hello," he said.
This was not the aloof scientist who either ignored or railed at Nelda. He seemed tires and sort of out-of-focus.
Tyrone took a breath deep enough to blow him up like a croaking frog. "We're here to send people through to defend the new world, and then destroy the portinator," he proclaimed in a shrill voice.
The prof considered that and took another sip. "That seems like a good idea."
"Uh." Tyrone had not been expecting that answer.
"I don't know if you'll get it to work even one more time." Prof waived his free hand at the smoke-stained face of the machine. "But it f=efineitly needs destroying. I just needed someone to blame it on, so this is all—almost suspiciously—convenient."
Phyllis grasped Tyron by the shoulders and turned it to the machine. "Get it ready it ready to go," she instructed.
"Why?" Nelda sked. "I mean, why would you want to destroy it?"
"Prof leaned his ass on his desk and sighed. "The executives of Fenistrate are venal, grasping mendicants who would inevitably use this technology like a curious infant used a cigarette lighter—to destroy everything."
"But they will still want you to create another one… unless you…?"
"Oh no. I don't want to discover new worlds. I want to retire a moderately respected, slightly mysterious scientist, and go fly fishing. And even if I could recreate this, I don't want to, and I can feign Altzeihmers with the best of them." He winked, "And I'm married to my doctor, so I know she'll back me up. She wanted me to retire years ago."
More Privileged Chapters
Download the app and become a privileged reader today! Come take a sneak peek at our author's stockpiled chapters!Download
Please switch to the pop-up to complete the payment.
Complete daily missions to get rewards.Learn more about the rules
This's an experimental test for reading assistance in case.
We highly recommend you to enjoy the beauty of the original words.