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58.1% Chimera Girl / Chapter 43: Menagerie

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Chapter 43: Menagerie

"Wow, I mean…" Nelda searched for a polite way to say it and gave up. "You normally seem like a bit of an asshole. I don't know if I can believe the new you."

Prof looked very tired. "The old Fenistrate CEO Doug Whats-is-face kept strong-arming me into staying on. He believed the bullshit proposal I came up with to get a job here and thought it would be his big claim to everlasting fame. Having to come into this place, filled with these morons, with my arthritis… it's enough to give anyone a bit of a short temper. But I only had myself to blame."

Team idiot was clustered around the machine, 'helping' Tyrone. Except for Phyllis who hovered behind Nelda in a way that felt both supportive and threatening. Nelda kept her gripe on SmithGuild who was wide-eyed and silent.

The prof put down his mug and beckoned. "Have a look at this," he said. He held up a handset with a large switch, a dial, and a wire trailing away under the desk.

Phyllis put her hand on Nelda's shoulder to hold her back.

"Oh, pffst. Youngster, always over-reacting," Prof said. "I mean it is a bomb, but I made it for the reason you just said. This thing"—another airy wave—" needs to go. It's been the albatross around my neck for over a decade, and things only got worse when baby-genius over these decided to get it to work."

"Ah… bomb?" Nelda asked.

"One designed to…" prof began.

The fire alarm burst into life. "A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO!"

The prof leaned forward, "That's good!" he yelled. "Based … last drill the building should … in three minutes… was planning to do that!" He grinned,

[Okay. He used to be angry, but now he's insane.]

Nelda smiled and nodded as you do with crazy people holding bombs.

A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO!

Nelda took the lapis stones and tucked them in the front pocket of SmithGuild's scrubs. Knowing the lapis phoenixes, they would find them.

Prof turned the dial and flicked the switch. "Three minutes," he yelled. "Don't touch the … or boom … luck to you all!"

He left by a door on the other side of his desk that anyone could have come through at any time.

[Oh, fer fuck's sake.]

A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO!

Nelda started to count out loud. "One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi…"

Three minutes was the evacuation time for the building, but Prof was taking a hell of a chance that no one fooled by the active shooter ruse stayed hiding under their desk instead of fleeing. But it seemed like he said that tampering with the bomb would just set it off, and Nelda wasn't inclined to take the chance.

Phyllis pushed through to Tyrone and shoved the rest of the team roughly back. Nelda could see Phyllis and Tyrone's lips moving but could not tell what they were saying.

A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO!

She could feel SmithGuild shaking with stress. She just tried to reassure him by hanging on tight.

Raising her hand, Nelda signaled to Phyllis "three." It was now a bit of an over-estimate. "Fifteen-Mississippi, sixteen-Mississippi…" [160 seconds, give or take how bad my timing is.]

Phyllis kept everyone back as Tyrone used an electric screwdriver to open a plate on the machine.

A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO!

"Can't we help!?" Nelda shouted at Phyllis.

Phyllis shook her head.

[I can't take the risk. I have to stay behind and make sure no evidence is left. But how long would it take me to evacuate the building?] It was hard to think while also continuing to count.

A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO!

"'Hundred-eleven-Mississippi, Hundred-twelve-mississipi." There was no longer time to evacuate. Either she would go through, or she would stay, and if the bomb was real and went off, she would die. If it wasn't, the machine would remain intact with no one to stop Fenistrate from continuing to use it. Sending whoever they wanted wherever they wanted on Mirth, like inter-galactic conquistadors.

She tried to hand over SmithGuild to Phyllis but she didn't really cooperate, and SmithGuild clung to her like a giant handsome koala bear.

Tyrone slammed the panel closed, pulled out the old cracked fuse that was now charred black and glowing on one end. He jammed it black in place, and ran to the far corner of the room and threw a large guillotine switch.

A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO, A-WHEE-OO!

"' Hundred-forty-two-Mississippi, hundred-forty-three-Mississippi…" The golden light flared out, but more pale and weak than it had been before.

Phyllis grabbed Tyrone by the waistband and tossed him out like bar security evicting a sloppy drunk. Manny went after in a confident leap. Reg and Jen followed, screaming.

Nelda lost count. A buzzing in her head drowned out the fire alarm sirens. She pushed SmithGuild ahead of her, lost count, lost track, lost her mind.

In a small fraction of a second, she felt the explosion blooming around her, as she saw SmithGuild's fingers were latched indelibly to her sweatshirt and jumped.

#

It was some time very much in the middle of the night when one of the stars above HoneyBeard twinkled just a little more than it should have. BugleHead had raided the gryphon's cellar for spirits and was snore-whistle in a deep stupor.

The little golden light shivered, swelling and shrinking. HoneyBeard watched it suspiciously.

"Hey, BugleHead," he said. "I think we are about to be blessed with the presence of idiots."

BugleHead continued to sn-istle like a baby steam train.

"Don't blame me for missing it."

The fluttering yellow light was a good way off the ground. It wavered, drifted slightly downwards. Then a series of dark shaped dropped out and hit the ground heavily like turds from a divine sphincter.

"Hmm," HoneyBeard concluded. "That was unexpected."


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