“The murid is dead.”
Veda tried to jump off the cot. Thankfully, she had been given a localized paralytic; otherwise, she would have wrenched her spine and undone days of work. “Delphie? Where is she? I need to see her!”
I placed my hand on her chest, more as a gesture than anything—she wasn’t going anywhere. “In time, little one, in time. Right now, we need to worry about you.”
She settled down, and nodded as best she could. “How…” she teared up. Clearly, she was still fixated on her friend.
“Three days,” I answered her unfinished question. I needed to focus her on other things. “We kept you under for three days straight. It’s Friday now.”
She looked down at her body. “I don’t…look different.”
“Most of what we did was internal,” I admitted. “But we had to cut it short. We repaired your wounds, and made what modifications we could while we were in there, but we were more worried about getting you ready to move as fast as possible.”
The girl blinked, finally realizing that something must be wrong—besides our inability to save the life of Delphie Murinae, that is. “Wait, is something happening? Are you…are we under attack?”
I smiled. Good, she was already thinking of herself as part of a new culture. It could take a while, sometimes.
“Yes and no. We were under attack, but managed to fight them off with…” I searched for the right words. “…a gargant. That’s scared them off for the past couple days, but they’ll be back sooner rather than later.”
She struggled in her restraints again before settling down. “Right. Well…when are we…” she swallowed nervously. “You’re not planning on leaving me here, are you?”
“Of course not.” I produced a small syringe. “This will reverse the paralysis. Be careful, though; you’re still not fully healed.”
She winced. “I don’t like needles.”
I injected her anyway. “Not a lot of options at the moment.”
“It’s all pins and needles,” she muttered with a wince.
“It will pass in a few minutes.” Some dust fell from the ceiling. Not much. I doubt Veda even noticed. But I saw the cause through our cameras.
They were here. And they had explosives. Lots of explosives.
“Unfortunately, that is time we don’t have.” I scooped the surprised girl up in my arms before she could protest. My homunculus had more than enough strength, though I did find myself thankful we had taken the time to decrease her bone density.
“W-wait! Don’t you have defenses—”
“They’re already past the first line, and they’re almost through the second.” I headed towards the hidden door—currently open, revealing a brick-lined side corridor that ran away from the sewers.
“Second out of how many?”
“Three. And the last one is just some frogs and a blast door.” I jabbed the button with my elbow, causing the brick wall to slide into place behind us. That might slow them down.
“I figured the fey would have more robust defenses…”
“We do—for our demesnes. This is just a minor outpost. Doesn’t even have a name.”
The girl fell silent, for which I was grateful. I was having enough trouble splitting my attention as it was. One part of my brain kept an eye on the cameras, while I was also wirelessly setting up a proximity overload on the toy box I had left behind. The box itself was just another cheap knockoff, but it was still worth millions.
The corridor shook, nearly knocking me off my feet. I cursed and struggled on, while I felt Veda’s heart beating like a drum.
“What the fang was that?!” she shrieked, a little too close to my ear for my liking.
“My toy box,” I muttered. “I figure that gives us maybe another five minutes to play with.” It depended on how organized they were. A random mob might see a dead end and turn back. But if they had a leader who knew what they were doing…
“Maeve,” a voice in my head spoke up clearly. “We need to talk.”
I stumbled again. “Ice and shadow—”
Veda twitched. “What now?”
“Don’t worry about it. Just concentrate on breathing.” I turned my attention to Aurora, the one yelling in my brain. “Not a good time,” I snapped at her without moving my mouth. “Running for my life.”
“Just detonate the homunculus and get back here. This is important.”
“Correction: Running for Veda’s life.”
“Oh. Well…” There was a long pause. “How much did you want her?”
I grit me teeth. “A lot. What’s wrong?”
“About a dozen of our outposts are under simultaneous attack. Professional, too. Not like the mob from last time.”
“Eccretia,” I muttered. I was beginning to regret not killing her. We tried to leave changelings alone, but sometimes they crossed the line.
“Probably. I doubt she’s leading the charge personally, but she’s definitely driving it.”
I heard a howl behind me. I didn’t bother turning; they had found my bolt hole.
“We can talk later. Right now, I need to focus.”
“Ah, right, the running. Just kill yourself.”
“I’m serious. Just stash the girl in a corner, and use your homunculus as a bomb against the mob.”
I rounded the first corner and immediately put on another burst of speed, pushing my body to the limit. It’s not like I didn’t have spares.
“Maeve? You there?”
“There’s nowhere to stash her, and Veda can’t even walk right now!”
“What, seriously? What did you do to her, chop off her legs?”
“No, I just gave her a paralytic, and it hasn’t quite worn off yet.”
“Oh. Well, then why don’t you do what I said?”
“Because she can’t walk!”
The Maiden sighed in my ear. “I know she can’t now, but give it a few minutes, and she’ll be fine.”
Actually, that was a pretty good point.
I turned my attention back to my pursuers. They were gaining, but I was still maybe five minutes ahead of them. If Veda recovered fast enough…
“Veda,” I said aloud. “How are your legs? Can you move them?”
“Um…a little. Maybe.”
“Oighear agus sneachta,” I muttered. “We don’t have any other options.” I skidded to a stop, and laid her in a seated position against the brick wall of the corridor.
“Maeve?” the girl asked plaintively. “Uh…Lady Maeve? What are you doing?”
“Sacrifice play.” I pulled a GPS bead out of my pocket and slipped it into her pants. Marvelous things, pockets. I had forgotten how useful they were. “Start running in the opposite direction the second you can. I’ll have some people meet up with you. Password is ‘oíche.’ Repeat that for me.”
“Good girl.” I kissed her lightly on the forehead. No soporifics or paralytics this time; just a simple kiss. I smiled at her wide eyes.
She’d be a good one. I knew it.
“You stay safe,” I ordered. “You’ll see me again soon.”
I made sure to bring the ceiling down where it wouldn’t fall on her.
Behind the Scenes (scene 156)
A little on the short side, but I think it works.