Everyone looked at the door. The voice wasn’t hard to recognise; there weren’t that many little girls intent on our capture.
“That were never an hour,” said Flossie.
She was right. We hadn’t exactly been speeding along but we still hadn’t wasted a whole hour.
“You’re early,” I shouted through the door.
“What are you all doing in there? I’m curious. May I enter?”
“Since when do you ask for permission to barge in?” I said.
“I did promise you an hour, but I saw you get across the street and I don’t really have anything to do for the next forty-two minutes and twenty six seconds.”
We were on the run for our lives, and she was bored. I walked over to the door and opened it. Biadet stood there, in her black outfit and bob haircut like Damian’s little sister. I was pretty sure somewhere on her head was a birthmark in the shape of ‘999’, the emergency number of the beast.
“You can’t wait in here, we’re in the middle of planning how to escape from you.”
“I won’t make any trouble.” She looked at me with cold, dead eyes. She didn’t need to make trouble, she was trouble. “Anything I hear will be held in strictest confidence. I won’t tell a soul.”
It was a bit of a bizarre situation. Your opponent doesn’t generally ask to sit in on your strategy meeting about how to defeat them. Send a spy, plant listening devices, torture you for information, sure. That was standard practice. Pitching up uninvited and asking if there’s room for one more, not so much.
I stood to one side to let her through. “Just don’t interrupt. That includes sarcastic comments.” My logic was that it was better to know where she was than not. It was, I’ll admit, retarded logic, but she’d only make trouble in some other way if I left her out in the hall. Plus, maybe I could feed her some misinformation or even get information out of her. If anyone knew how to get out of town without being spotted, it was her. Once you start using retarded logic, it’s hard to stop.
She walked in, looking around. No one said anything.
“I see,” said Biadet. “Two on the bed, the rest of you watching. So, it’s like—”
“Enough. No talking. And no catchphrases. Twelve year olds shouldn’t have catchphrases.”
“I’m fourteen,” said Biadet. “Very nearly.”
“Yes, must be wonderful. You can join in the conversation once you’re done with puberty. Until then, shut it.” I turned to the others. “Where were we?”
The others still didn’t speak. They stared at me, then at Biadet, then back to me. Clearly, they didn’t think it was a good idea to give the enemy a seat on the escape committee. Which made sense, but that’s the trouble with non-retarded logic, you never get anything done.
“It’s fine, she’ll keep her word.” They still didn’t say anything. Everyone waited for someone else to say something first and to couch it in language that would be clear to each other but not to her. What followed was an awkward silence since none of them had the slightest idea how to do that.
“I recognise everyone here,” said Biadet, “except him.” She pointed at Keezy. “And where is the other male that was with you?” She was giving Keezy a very intense inspection. “Oh. He’s a troll. Interesting.”
“Biadet, this isn’t going to work if you’re going to provide a running commentary. The villain isn’t supposed to be in the room with us.”
“What makes you think I’m the villain? You’re the one working for trolls.”
“I’m not working for trolls, they’re working for me. Or her.” I pointed at Flossie. “And she’s working for me, so same thing. Now be quiet.”
“What about her?” Biadet pointed at Jenny. “Is she a troll, too?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Why, do you think she is?” It hadn’t occurred to me that the reason Jenny didn’t know me was because it wasn’t really her.
“I’m not a troll,” said Jenny, scowling.
“She’s different to before,” said Biadet. “She doesn’t look at you the same way.”
“I know. The Queen of Requbar did something to her. Took away her memories. I don’t suppose you can fix her.”
Biadet furrowed her brow and narrowed her eyes. She could have been trying to make some kind of telepathic contact, or maybe it was indigestion. “Maybe she doesn’t want to be fixed. Some people might consider it a cure for a terrible illness. You feel nothing for him?”
“No. And I’m perfectly fine as I am,” said Jenny. “I don’t need fixing.”
“If you don’t feel anything for him, how did you find him?” asked Claire from the bed where she was still entangled with Maurice.
“She didn’t,” I said. “I found her, leading an army of eunuchs to Fengarad. Don’t ask,” I said to Maurice who I could see was about to launch into some kind of rant, “I have no idea why they think eunuchs would be good at fighting.”
“That’s not what I was going to say,” said Maurice. “Even if Jenny had her memory wiped, her connection to you should still be there. Somewhere. You probably just haven’t had an extreme emotional experience recently. Here, watch.”
Maurice stuck his tongue in Claire’s mouth. Not a quick kiss, he forced his entire tongue down her throat like he was trying to make her gag on it. She ate it up.
“Okay, take it easy, you two. There’s a young mind in this room that might get traumatised watching you two go at it.”
“My mind is unaffected,” said Biadet.
“Good, but the mind I was referring to was mine, so cut it out.”
They kept going. I don’t like public displays of affection. I’m even less fond of public displays of yuck. I winced hard.
Jenny let out a small gasp. “What is… my heart feels odd.” She was pulling a strange face and shaking her head. She began cringing. “Why do I feel so uncomfortable?” She twisted and turned.
“You look how he feels,” said Maurice, disengaging from Claire with an unpleasant smacking sound. And she did. If I had to draw a picture of what it felt like when people around me got all lovey dovey, Jenny’s face at that moment would have captured it perfectly.
Jenny shivered and shook it off. “Even if what you’re saying is true, it doesn’t mean I’m attracted to him or have any affection for him.” Cold words to hear from someone standing right next to you. “That was the old me. This me looks at him and doesn’t get the hots. Believe me.”
I did believe her.
“Can we have ten minutes?” said Claire, working her way down Maurice’s neck.
“We’re in the middle of escaping certain death, you slut. Guards could break the door down any moment.”
“Five minutes?” said Claire, clawing at the sheets to get them out of her way.
“We have to go now,” said Flossie. “We have to find Dudley.”
That stopped Claire’s live sex show. “Yes, sorry. Let’s go.” She reluctantly got off Maurice.
I have to say, I was impressed by how quickly Maurice had analysed the problem and found a way to test it. Jenny might not have had the same romantic attachment to me, but the bond between us was still there. He’d been able to trigger it easily enough. And he was also the one who gave Flossie the means to coerce me into helping her. It was a good thing Jenny was the one who fell into the Queen’s clutches, and not Maurice.
Unlike me, he took the time to gather information and think through the options. I hadn’t bothered to get to know the people around me (je ne regrette rien, bitches) but he had used that information to his advantage. He knew all of us, our strengths and weaknesses, and if ever I crossed the line and went too far (yes, even further than I already had) he would be the one to stop me. Which was probably for the best.
There’s an old Batman-Superman comic where Superman decides to find every piece of kryptonite on Earth and throw them in the Sun so his enemies can’t use them against him. But the very last piece he gives to Batman. He realises there might one day be a need to stop him, and the only one he trusts to do it is the Dark Knight.
I’m not comparing myself to Superman—anyone who thinks a pair of glasses is going to protect their secret identity is a bigger logic-retard than I’ll ever be—but I trusted Maurice.
Mind you, at the end of that comic, Batman takes the last piece of kryptonite to a vault in the Batcave and places it with the dozens he already has locked away for when he’ll need them. Batman doesn’t need anyone’s permission to be Batman.
“Is this really how you’ve been operating all this time?” asked Biadet.
“Yes,” I said. “And I’ve still managed to achieve more than any other Visitor in the last hundred years. Imagine what I could do if I wasn’t surrounded by idiots.”
“So, mainly luck,” said Biadet.
I shrugged. “Ten percent luck, twenty percent skill. Fifteen percent concentrated bullshit.”
“Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain,” said Flossie. “And a hundred percent going to find mah Dudley.”
“Why don’t you help us get out of Dargot?” I said to Biadet. “We’ve got a dragon waiting for us just outside the city walls.”
“Oh, so you have a dragon?” Shit, I probably shouldn’t have told her that. “You won’t be able to leave without being seen. All the exits are well manned. They all know what you look like.”
“What about the others?” I asked her. “Will they be stopped?”
Biadet shook her head. “They only have your description. The Administrator doesn’t like to confuse people. Simple instructions for simple people.”
There was so much I could have learned from that guy, if he didn’t keep trying to get me killed.
“If we can’t get to the dragon,” said Maurice, “maybe the dragon can come to us.”
“Yeah, right,” I said. “Flossie, you and Keezy go get the dragon. It’s dark enough that they won’t really be able to see you fly back in.”
Maurice was out of bed now, testing his legs. He’d been in bed for a long time. “Once we secure an LZ large enough, Colin can send up a flare and we can evac. Make sure you come in hot.”
“Huh?” said Flossie.
“Wait for a big light and then fly down.” I turned to Keezy. “If anyone tries to stop you, kill them.”
“Looks like I should go,” said Biadet. “It seems things are about to get started.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked her. It was good we hadn’t decided on a landing zone, she would at least still not know where we’d be heading.
“I will wait for you to make the first move, and then we shall see. But Colin, whatever happens, I want you to know I will remember you fondly. You made things fun.”
I didn’t like the way she spoke like I’d already lost but in my experience, people with a massive advantage who thought they were going to win, were generally right.
Biadet walked to the door Keezy was standing in front of. She looked up at him, no expression on his face. “Your time will soon end, rock monster.”
He slowly turned back to his true form, arms crossed. “I don’t think so,” he rumbled. Did he plan to take her out now? Not a bad idea.
“Are you as hard as you look?” said Biadet. She reached out her hand and touched his hand with two fingers.
Keezy watched her do it, a certain amount of tension in the air. Two heavyweights facing off before the fight. Biadet twisted her hand so her fingers turned ninety degrees. Keezy’s body spun through the air so he landed with a crash.
Biadet looked down at him. “I find the bigger they are, the more I enjoy beating them into dust.” She stepped over Keezy and opened the door. She seemed to flow through the doorway and closed it behind her all in one movement.
It was good of her to think of me as a positive in her life, even if it was just as a toy. At least she remembered my name. The trolls didn’t and my own girlfriend didn’t recognise me, so it was a pleasant novelty to be noticed. If you like that sort of thing. Personally, I find the less people think of you, the easier it is to get shit done.
“Right,” I said to the others, “enough pissing about. Now for the real plan.”