Orphic Phantasia

34: Beneath the Surface

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Trev, forehead glistening underneath the dull underground lighting, moved to prise the display away from her before choosing instead to bury his hands into his coat pockets. “It’s, eh, Dave’s invention,” he said. “Isn’t that right, Dave?”

Dave, who has disappeared to the other end of the storeroom, poked his head out from behind a crate. “Don’t you go blaming me for all this. You’re the one who found it.”

“Yes, but you’re the one who connected all the wotsits together, aren’t you?” Trev turned back to Emily. “It takes all that rotten alchemium and makes it useful again, see? Genius, really. Can’t let a good thing go to waste, that’s what I say!”

Emily swiped her finger across the cellular screen. “Clothes, medical supplies,” she lifted a curious eyebrow in Trev’s direction, “kitchen utensils?”

Trev beamed. “Everyday goods at rock bottom prices. That’s our slogan.”

Emily handed him the cellular. “My mother appreciates your work,” she said. “It’s always good to know that there are people willing to deliver supplies to those who need them most.”

“Did you hear that, Dave?” Trev called across the room. “I told you the Oracle was on our side!” He turned back to Emily and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Now, eh, I don’t suppose you could—”

Before he had chance to finish, Dave stumbled out of hiding with a squeal of panic. “Trev, th—there’s someone here to see you.”

“Who is it this time, Dave? Can’t you tell them I’m in the middle of a business proposition?”

Dante met Emily’s eye. Her hand fell to her side and into the folds of her skirt.

“It’s the Sultan’s…” Dave’s voice trembled with fear. “It’s—it’s…”

At the far end of the room, the shadows shifted and two shapes, black as night, stepped into the light. They were about the size of wild dogs, and with fangs to match. Their eyes shone amber in the gloom. The moment Trev saw them his face turned a deathly shade of grey.

“G—gentlemen,” he said.

A voice cut through the room, sharp as a knife. “Leave us,” it said.

A second, oily and harsh, almost gloating in its malevolence, added, “Your business does not concern us.”

“We are here for the girl,” said the first. “Do not get in our way.”

Trev breathed a sigh of relief, but the colour did not return to his face. “You hear that, Dave? Now, grab the moolah and let’s scarper.” He turned to Emily. “No harsh feelings,” he said.

Emily offered him a smile. “None taken.”

The thieves didn’t wait around. With Dave clutching a bulging suitcase to his chest, they hurried outside. Dante would have purged them from his memory but a panicked shriek drew his attention back their way, just in time to see the suitcase tumble through the air and into the path of a speeding transport. With no time to slow down, the automated shuttle smashed straight through it, showering the platform in a hail of glittering shrapnel. As Trev and Dave scrambled to scoop up whatever they could, Dante returned his attentions to the real issue at hand.

The creatures had split up and were pacing around the various storage crates to flank the two trespassers, always but a flash of an idea, of amber eyes and cruel fangs, and always in shadow. Shadows with eyes. Shadows with teeth…

“Aliza Adel,” said the one with the sharp voice, “you will come with us.”

Emily’s knife was at her side, its blade catching a slither of blue light from the walls of the room. “I think you’ve got the wrong person,” she said. “My name’s Emily.”

“Yes,” said the second, oily voice, “Emily Fomalhaut. We know who you are.”

“We have been watching you,” added the first.

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Bestes Enys Brenn.