I put the binoculars down and pulled my daygoggles back on. “Did anyone else see that?”
Jarasax lowered his own binoculars. “Damn right I did. Flying screamers? That’s not gonna be fun.”
George leaned forward. “Flying what? What’s going on?”
“Something just flew away from the square where the Paladins were hunting those gargants,” I explained quickly. “Sax, get us as close as you can. George, Alex, get ready.”
Our changeling driver moved quickly, starting up the engine and parking next to the mouth of the alley, the door of the van facing the opening. George wasted no time in sliding open the door and jumping out, pistol at the ready. We didn’t have time for him to lug around the minigun, not when the Paladins might be hurt, but a TK002 ‘Titan’s Knife’ would more than suffice.
Both the ogre and the angel dodged out of sight around the corner in seconds, but Jarasax and I didn’t follow. Instead, we both silently started loading up our guns; me with my Necessarian Saint Euphemia 4.5 mm rifle, and him with his Hellion 93-090 Auto. The latter was a 5.5 mm machine gun. Maybe a bit overkill against normal monsters, but he’d have to get lucky to use it successfully against gargants.
Not that it mattered. By the time we were ready to go, they were already running back with Akane and Adam in tow, and Derek in George’s arms.
“I can walk, man. Seriously, just put me down.”
“Maybe you can walk, but you shouldn’t,” the giant advised. “If not for yourself, then do it for us. Medina would kill us all if you got hurt.”
The injured monster slayer frowned. “What are you talking about? She wouldn’t care.”
George rolled his eyes as he set him down carefully in the back of the van. “He always this stupid?”
“Always,” Akane confirmed, jumping in and sitting at his side. “Remind me to tell you about the time he found a naked girl in his bed and thought she was screwing with him.”
Alex chuckled. “Oh, I’m sure there was very little screwing involved.”
Derek chose to ignore the back and forth, which was probably for the best. “What are you guys doing here, anyway? I thought you were busy.”
“We were,” I lied, glad Laura wasn’t around. “We finished early and decided to come check up on you. Which reminds me—have you called in the screamer yet?”
Adam frowned as he clambered into the van behind George and Alex. “Screamer?”
Derek coughed, spitting up a little bit of blood in the process. “That wasn’t a screamer. It was another Paladin.” He waved his hand weakly. “Not a Paladin, of course…”
“A speaker,” Jarasax put in. “That’s the general term for people like you.”
“Right, sure…” he coughed again, and blood dribbled out of the corner of his mouth.
Akane didn’t say a word. She just placed her hand on his chest and glared at him. He got the message and stopped trying to talk.
Adam took up the slack. “We’re pretty sure we know who it is. We just need to confirm it.”
I looked into those dull eyes of his, and knew he was telling the truth. Some sociopaths have the ability to lie perfectly, as part of their inherent…inhumanity. Adam wasn’t one of those. I could see through him like he was made of glass. He had simply never learned guile.
“Good. Sax, let’s go.” The changeling nodded and we sped off as Alex slid closed the door. “You don’t need to tell me who this flier is. But I need to know if you suspect they’re a threat.”
Akane snorted in derision. Adam glared at her briefly, but answered quickly anyway. “Hardly. She’s no more of a threat than Lily. I doubt she’d be very helpful either, but still.”
“That’s all we need,” I assured him. “I understand if you want to keep secrets. As long as it doesn’t interfere with anything else, I don’t really care. Take a right here, it’s faster.”
Jarasax followed my suggestion with a frown. “I thought we were taking them to their dorm?”
“The lab is closer. Besides, it has better equipment.”
He nodded. “Not to mention it’s on the way to our next errand.”
I almost asked him what he meant until I realized it was a bluff for the benefit of our charges. We both knew we needed to keep direct contact to a minimum. This way, we could drop them at the lab, peel off, and park a good distance away.
We weren’t hiding from the Paladins, not really. It was just the fewer people who knew that we were always just around the corner, the better. Maybe the Composer would think he could easily assassinate them or something, and we’d be able to catch him.
“Wait, errand?” George asked. “I don’t remember anything about that.”
I sighed. Moron. Well, he was a good fighter and made a mean chupaqueso, so I guess we could forgive a few mistakes here and there.
“We have to report to Butler for an assignment. I’ll brief you later.”
“Just get us there,” Adam said calmly. I turned to see him staring at me with those same dispassionate eyes as before. “After that, whatever happens is your business.”
Ah. Perhaps he had some understanding of guile after all.
Behind the Scenes (scene 76)
Yow, short. This wasn’t a very important scene, but I still wanted it anyway.
Extra update Wednesday. Think of it as a Christmas present.