Happy Wednesday! Please enjoy this post based on the prompt: May the circle be unbroken.
Fortitude Part 32
Was the man holding a knife at my throat one of the people helping betas and gammas get away? Or was he part of the king’s circle who were consuming and misusing power? I opened my mouth, and he dug the knife in again; another trickle of blood slid down my neck, the warm slide tickling on its way down to soak my collar.
“You don’t speak,” he said harshly. “One word, and it will be your last.”
He definitely knew what I was.
“Me?” Teddy licked his lips. His eyes were huge.
“Who are you working for?”
Teddy shook his head violently back and forth. “No one!”
The man snorted. “Is that why you seen speaking with Varket at the Royal Pavilioin tonight?”
Someone had been following us; watching. I hadn’t even sensed anything out of the ordinary, even though I’d been scanning the crowd for anyone looking too closely at us.
“He spoke to us; we didn’t seek out his company.” Teddy’s fingers clutched the edges of the sling supporting his arm.
“Why are you here again?”
“Look. If you knew Chester and Bart, they must have spoken about us.”
The man’s fingers dug in when Teddy said their names. I winced internally; if this guy was prevaricating, acting as if Varket were the loathsome worm his tone suggested, Teddy had just given away the game.
And it could have deadly consequences.
The knife wavered at my throat, but didn’t move far enough that I would be willing to try and swallow the saliva pooling in my mouth. The man’s fingers were a vise on my shoulder. “Who are you?”
“My name is Teddy. The guy you’re bleeding is my best friend, Will.”
“Prove it.” He just didn’t give up. “Why are you here?”
“We’ve been following clues Schvesla left behind. If I can move, I can prove it.”
“You can move.” Teddy jerked toward the plaque, and the man barked, “Slowly!”
Teddy grimaced; he had to pull his arm out of the sling in order to work the cogs properly. “We came here for this,” Teddy said. The final cog spun and sank into position. The thunk of the trap door opening vibrated the floor.
Now was the moment of truth. Either we’d signed our own death warrants—and those of any beta and gamma who came after us—or we’d been facing a member of the resistance all along.
The knife was withdrawn from around my neck. I spun, glaring at my attacker. “What the hell is with you people and knives?” He had to be part of the resistance.
“Better safe than sorry,” the man said. He swiped the tip of the blade across his rough-spun blouse. The blood was invisible among the other stains; no way had this man followed us to the Pavilion. He had others working with him, but who? “I won’t apologize for making sure I am not dealing with scum who abuse and rape people’s minds and powers for their own gain.”
I drew myself up, ready to be insulted, but Teddy slid his hand across my back, rubbing at the marks that were probably already bruises on the back of my shoulder. The touch ground me; how would I feel if someone hurt Teddy? This man was trying to prevent that.
“Who are you?” I was tired of calling him the man.
“My name isn’t important; I’m just one part of the whole. May the circle be unbroken.” His response had the intonated sound of an oft-repeated scripture.
“We’ve been searching for a way to stop the king from using Schvesla’s machine to use beta and gamma power to influence the citizens of the city.”
No Name snorted. “We’ve been searching for a way to do that since just after the man himself died without revealing the secret of its location.”
Clearly they’d had no luck, but maybe, just maybe, that was because they hadn’t had us. Teddy and I had a huge motivation to keep each other safe, and we knew more than any other pair according to Chester and Bart.
“They told us about how you got them out, but not until their power had been used up.”
Resignation with a tinge of shame pulled the sneer from No Name’s face. “We had no choice; the only way to get them out was to fake their deaths. No one would believe it if they were to die before they’d been used up. We’ve been searching for Schvesla’s machine for a hundred years, but it disappeared.”
I wanted to shout that a way should’ve been found, that they’d stood aside and knowingly allowed men to be ruined, but Teddy once again stroked my back and pulled me back from a disastrous outburst. I couldn’t judge No Name and whoever helped him; before we’d met Anna, I’d ignored all the signs that things weren’t right in the city. I should’ve known better; I should’ve done something.
But I hadn’t, and that was my burden to bear.
“We found a passageway, hidden beneath the city, that ends in a cell with a skeletal corpse. Schvesla hid clues behind cogs that have to be turned in certain orders. I think, maybe, that the reason this theater was so important to him, was that it allowed him to access his pinnacle achievement.”
“You think the passage goes to the machine?”
“There’s only one way to find out.”
Once again, getting into the tunnel was extremely difficult. No Name helped me lower Teddy down with the rope we’d brought. I left it tied off around a support column so we could climb out when we were done.
No Name allowed me to take the lead, but he hovered close behind me as we walked. I wanted to shove him aside and pull Teddy close to me, but I forced myself to focus.
I strained my senses when we reached the end of the tunnel, but all seemed silent and still on the other side of the stone flooring.