A large man in a blue suit came in next; the one Dandruff had been yelling at. The suit was even more shoulder-pad-tastic up close. Either he had horrendous taste or this thing wasn't used very often.
Nelda strayed from her plan briefly. "Wow, she was miscast as the good cop."
The man's face remained impassive, but his eyes seemed a little more human. "She is right. Your only option is to tell us everything you know, and hope for the best."
[You stole my gryphon.]
Nelda tied to fold her arms, but the hand-cuffs looped through a link on the table made it impossible.
"Do you think I'm the bad cop?"
[I don't see you fetching me some sweatpants and a latte.]
"I'll try and get you some food, but it will have to be after clock out. Her nibs has to be at a fundraiser tonight."
[He is either really bad at good cop, or really good at it.]
"Nothing to say?" He didn't seem to upset. "Solid strategy I guess. But her highness is under a lot of pressure. So, she's not taking it very well that you're not impressed by her. So try to be careful." He winked and left.
Nelda racked her mind trying to remember where she might have seen this man before. But her job mainly involved walking in from the carpark, being yelled at by Angry Brenda for 7.5 hours while performing highly technical but essentially menial tasks, and walking back out into the carpark.
Nelda was left to sit in the room for what felt like a few hours, transitioning from hangry to harving.
Eventually, Jamie-Ellen returned. She sat down with an expression of premature victory. "Have you thought about what I said?"
Nelda considered the ceiling tiles. If she was uncuffed, they looked like they might punch up. Maybe there would be a share ceiling space so she could get ut if the room. But she did not have the kind of misspent youth where you learn to escape cuffs. Maybe if she used her straying underwire as a pick…?
"You will have until you begin to answer my questions. First, who are you working for!"
The flying leaf seemed to cease to have it's effect immediately upon coming back to Earth. This suggested that some fundamental rules differed between the worlds. But given that gryphons don't seem conventionally flightworthy, that already must have been the case.
"If they threatened you or your family, I can help with that." Jamie Ellen paused, seeming uncomfortable with a conciliatory role. "But I can promise you this. Whatever they threatened you with, I can do a hundred times worse if you don't cooperate."
Nelda placed herself in SmithGuild's parlor on one f the padded couches. There was a very faint scent of dust and varnish and a strong one of salt sea air. A bowl of grapes was within easy reach. She closed her eyes to visualize it better.
There was a scraping sound and then suddenly Nelda's head snapped back under a blow. Nelda's eyes snapped open. Jamie Ellen's face was a zombie-like rictus of rage.
The door to the room slammed open and smashed into the wall. Blue-suit-guy wrestled the old woman of her with difficulty. The woman grabbed a handful of Nelda's hair so as she was dragged away, Nelda was wrenched after her.
While Nelda remained shackled to the table, it became clear that the table was not fixed to the floor. It crashed to the floor. Nelda's injured legs went out from under her. The three of them ends up on a pile with the furniture near the open door. The guard from the vestibule stepped forwards.
Instinctively Nelda cried out in pain, put them noticed that the table top had cracked the hook her shackles were attached to had come free.
[How many chances am I ever going to get?]
Nelda stealed herself to ignore any pain. She lunged to the door. The door beyond it was unlocked. The hallway beyond seemed to be empty, and she turned right just because it was darker that way.
She ran with the desperate speed of a hunted rabbit.
[The rabbit runs for its life, and the wolf only for its dinner.]
Where a door was locked she kept going or turned back, where it was open, she went through. When she had the choice of up or down, she went down because they would not expect it and her first idea was to hide.
Running down a dark hallway with pipe along both sides, she seemed to be going further than Building Three could contain.
[Is this a tunnel between buildings?]
A voice behind her made her turn.
"Nedla. Nelda!" in a strange shout-whisper.
Turning she saw the young scientist she called beaker looking own from the ceiling. She slowed and stopped. [We are not really on a first name basis. Or from y point of view, even a name basis.]
"Quick. Cime with me." Beaker beckoned.
Nelda was torn.
[What do I have to lose?]
[A whole world.]
She took one step towards him.
Beaker was hanging from a hole in the ceiling. It looked like a pipe used to go through there but had been removed. His face was flushed from hanging mostly upside down, making his acned-pocked face a study in pink and red. He breathing was labored, and condensation marked the inside of the large glassed that had half fallen off his face.
[Is this the face of evil. I mean, why the hell not?]
[What choice do I have?]
She jogged forward. He tried to grab her arm but didn't have the strength to lift her up. Riding on the last of her adrenaline Nelda hooked her toes into a pipe on the wall and launched herself up. The hot pipe burned her foot but fortunately ty the pain just launched her forwarded faster, colliding head to head with Beaker as he tried to get out of the way.
She climbed over him into an uneven dark space that seemed more an untidy remnant of bad design than anything that was meant to exist.
"Fuck," Nelda said. "What now?"
Beaker rubbed his forehead; his nose was bleeding.
[I should probably say sorry for that.] But Nelda had aches and pains all over and a terror of what was happening to SmithGuild that dwarfed them all. It left very little room for courtesy for an unproven rescuer. "Where now?"
Beaker pointed vaguely. "You're lucky I'm an urban explorer. Follow me." He started to crawl away.
His skinny ass in over-sized khakis was not an especially edifying sight, but Nelda was hardly Sports Illustrated material even under the best conditions [which these are not] and scolded herself not to be so judgemental.
She clambered after him, into the dark.
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