Fortitude Part 22
“Schvesla’s dead.” The sneer I couldn’t see was readily apparent in my assailant’s voice. I tried to calmly assess the situation; everything from the tension in his body and the minute tremors in the knife to the harsh snarl of his voice was a clue as to how much danger I was in.
How much danger Teddy was in?
Was he alone? I didn’t think so.
“We found a note,” Teddy blurted out. “At the scrap yard. It told us to come here.”
“Some scrap of paper lasted a hundred years at the scrap yard?”
The man’s condescension affected Teddy no more than anyone else’s usually did. He ignored it when people looked down on him for being what he was, even when they acted like he was stupid. I didn’t. I stared hard at Teddy, hoping he’d get the hint to be quiet.
It was time to end this farce.
“No. I expect you to believe we found a scrap of paper behind the mask of Murci in the metal plaque. It had this address, and a saying.” I decided to take a stab in the dark. “We know the hubris of man has to do with Schvesla’s machine.”
“Why?” the man jabbed the knife into my skin. A small trickle of warm liquid tickled my throat. “You want to make it work? Garner acclaim through the streets as the savior of the city?”
“No.” By now, we knew there was a lot more going on than the nobles just not wanting the machine to work. The conspiracy was too deep. Something more had to be going on. “We found out some things from… a friend. We didn’t believe them; we had to find out for ourselves. The monarchy and nobles are doing nothing while the people suffer, if what we know is true.”
“What do you care?”
“We’re the people.”
Finally, the knife was taken away from my skin. I swallowed for the first time, taking a deep breath, but I didn’t try to move.
“What did it say?”
“What did what say?”
The man growled. “Don’t play stupid. What did the paper say, exactly?”
“Beware the well-intentioned folly; such is the hubris of man,” I recited. “The cogs there, on that wall, do they do anything?” I’d been staring at three cogs nestled into the actual wall. Schvesla liked using cogs as a locking mechanism. What was hidden behind that wall?
“That’s not any of your concern. You’re going to walk straight ahead. Don’t look around, don’t do anything untoward.”
I nodded. “Teddy.” I gestured for him to walk ahead of me. I didn’t want a man with a knife behind him. Teddy slipped a hand behind his back. I squeezed it quickly.
“What did you just do?”
My breath stuttered in my chest. We hadn’t held hands, not really. It wasn’t that suspicious of behavior between two men.
“Did he give you something? Let me see your hands.”
I sucked in a much needed breath, relief making me sway. I held my hands out to my sides, palms up. “He didn’t give me anything.”
The man huffed. “No touching!” He shoved my shoulder. “Get going. Straight ahead, then turn right at the upcoming hall.”
He guided us, barking orders, until we’d made more turns than I expected. Then I realized we’d been going downhill, even if we hadn’t gone down any stairs. “Where are we?” I asked.
I clenched my jaw. The lack of information was driving me crazy. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this hostile greeting and being forced by an armed stranger to who knew what end. No one would hear anything down here; even if they murdered us.
At least I knew we were walking toward someone else. The only footsteps that had followed ours had been the unknown assailant, yet there were lights down here. They wouldn’t have lights on if someone wasn’t already there.
Once the door opened I expected to see someone waiting to see the intruders, a leader or something, who would take over questioning us. I didn’t expect to see a young man, a few short years older than me.
Or his twin behind us.
“Who are you?” I asked. I stepped closer to Teddy.
“Shouldn’t we be asking you that question?”
Maybe I should’ve been afraid; one, probably both, had weapons. Of course, so did we, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Teddy wouldn’t harm a fly unless he was forced. I had no such assurances about their intentions.
“My name is Will. He’s Teddy.” I stopped, one eyebrow raised.
“And what are you doing, looking into Schvesla’s machine?”
I tilted my head. “We never said we were looking into his machine. Maybe we’re enthusiasts, following a set of clues on a lark.”
“You expect me to believe that? I’m a gamma; I’m not stupid.”
“Hey!” Teddy objected. “I’m a gamma. Will would never think that, or say it.”
“You’re a gamma?” he asked.
Teddy nodded. “I just said that.”
“And what are you?”
I bristled at the guy’s tone, but I saw no reason not to answer his question. “I’m a beta.”
“A beta and a gamma, together. Brothers?” We didn’t look alike, so I wasn’t sure why they were asking us that.
“No. We’re best friends, have been since we were children.”
The guy who’d grabbed me up in the theater went to join his brother. “You two have no idea what you’re walking into, do you? You’re not of age yet, are you?”
More questions that made little sense, yet I saw no reason not to answer. “Next month. Teddy won’t be of age for another three weeks after that.”
“Soon, then.” The brothers shared a look. “I’m Bart. He’s Chester,” Bart said. He took a deep breath. “Tell me, have your parents had a sudden rush of capital in the last month?”TBC
Where do you think that question is leading? Now go check out more by the other Briefers!