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But that was impossible, from a moral and logistical standpoint. His heart would suffer a lot more if he were to ignore the lies. And the bag with the book and tools to open Turmoil, along with two packs stuffed full of his and Obsidian's clothes and supplies plus the book of fairytales, was already safely tucked away hidden behind the hill that shrouded the gate.
They'd crossed the courtyard without notice, and now the council building seemed as deserted as it had the night before. This time, they'd risen earlier -- it wouldn't be good if they ran out of time to open the gate, and there was no telling how long it would take to get in and out of the lab with Ama.
Damian entered the council chamber, the others close on his heels. At least they all remained silent, though Obsidian appeared as if she might pop a blood vessel in her forehead if she had to stay quiet much longer. He directed them to behind the desk.
"Are you sure the entrance is here? I don't see anything." Bishop knelt down and swept his palms across the floor, shaking his head.
"Positive." Damian groped under the table, attempting to remember just where Bear had touched. Right when he was about to ask for help, his fingers brushed over an obvious circle carved into the wood. "Here it is. Are we ready? Once I press this, I'm not sure what we'll face."
Bishop stood. "Just do it before you think better of it."
Obsidian nodded and squeaked.
Yes, before he thought better of it. He sucked in a breath and pressed.
The door whooshed open slowly, as before. But this time, he could see down it. The light pouring from the opening was as bright as the sun, and stairs spiraled into it. Always a circle, or something similar to one.
"Guess you were right. Me first." The other-worlder descended the steps before Damian could object.
All he could do was follow, and Obsidian behind him.
When they reached the bottom, he wasn't surprised to find they stood at the entrance of another circular hallway, almost exactly like the council building itself, though it looked much bigger.
"How does the shrinking and expanding of the courtyard affect something like this? Same as the other buildings, it just doesn't? Like it's exempt?" She clearly couldn't keep it in anymore.
Damian turned to her and pressed a finger to his lips.
She pressed both of her hands over her mouth.
"I knew it." Bishop whispered and peered up at the ceiling.
The source of the bright light -- exactly like the bulbs in Turss. Yes, he had been right.
Were the Guardians simply thieves? But then why had they stopped going to other worlds to steal this technology? Unless they hadn't...
Dark thoughts of breaking the first precept. Damian needed to shake himself out of this and concentrate.
He slipped past Bishop, who was still transfixed, and glanced down the hallway, left and right. No sign of other life, and just as quiet as it had been above. All he saw were solid gray walls only interrupted by closed black doors. "Let's head left first."
"These walls feel like stone, but in one solid piece." Obsidian tapped her fingernails on the gray.
And Damian touched the first door in front of him, cold like steel. Metal. He turned the knob and pushed it open.
The light in the large room was just as glaring as the hall, and similarly empty, aside from all the dozen odd items lining the back wall. They looked like the reflective box in Bishop's cabin, yet not as square and bulky.
"Computers." The other-worlder shoved Damian aside and entered the room, then spun around. "Come in. There's more."
Obsidian sneaked past first, and Damian finally entered, wary and full of dread. The Guardians' secrets seemed unending. Once in, though, he turned to the wall with the door, and saw it lined with shelves and an array of curious boxes with buttons, knobs, and screens. "Are all these from Turss, too?"
"Honestly, I recognize one or two things, but the rest is a mystery to me."
"I'm beyond curious about all this, but haven't we lost sight of our goal?" Obsidian approached the door. "We have to find Ama."
She was right, they'd all lost focus.
All of them returned to the hallway, and Damian secured the door behind them. "One door at a time like last night, but this time we stick together instead of splitting up."
Just then, a Guardian stepped out of one of the rooms further down the hall. He spotted them instantly. "Hey, what are you three doing down here? Restricted access."
Damian knew the face and the voice. All too well. His father, who was supposed to be off on a mission in Nect. Clearly his mission was closer to home than he'd let on.
Seth drew closer. "Damian? What are you doing down here? And who's with you?"
"Time to do your thing, Bishop. Now."
"You know him?"
Damian swallowed, a lump refusing to go down, and nodded. "My father. Do it now. Please." The trembling started in his legs and quickly traveled upward, until it took hold in his hands.
Both his parents had lied to him, hid things from him, but his father's betrayal stung more. Their relationship had still been distant, but a congenial one. He had entertained Damian's penchant for daydreaming and fairytales, saying not to tell his mother -- it would be their secret.
Secrets. To the Ancients with secrets.
Bishop raised his right hand straight into the air, then brought it down swiftly. Nothing happened.
"Well?" Damian's anger and resentment built. If he could knock his father out himself, he would.
"I said it was an eighty percent chance, right?" Bishop attempted his move again, with the same result. "Maybe that's more like fifty percent."
Obsidian drew her knife, which she was supposed to leave back with the supplies to open the gate.
Seth approached and tugged a black rectangle out of a pocket in his white coat. "Bear, intruders in the lab. Contact Councilwoman Liss immediately."
Damian snatched the knife from Obsidian. This was his fight, his treacherous father. If Bishop's spell wouldn't work, he'd knock his father out.
Though he'd never had a violent tendency before today, he yearned for Seth to reach him, to take his frustration out on one of the many who lied to him all these years.
And then Bishop did the arm motion again, Damian's father dropping to the floor in a heap. The body lay still, breathing not even apparent.
"Did you kill him?" Damian handed the knife back to Obsidian.
"Well, there's a slight chance."
Seth's arm twitched, and he rolled over, a light snort escaping him.
Damian breathed a sigh of relief and realized just how horrible it would have been if he had actually attacked his father. It wouldn't have been out of defense, but anger and a desire to harm.
After all, in the end, that would have made him no better than the rotten Guardians who kidnapped and experimented on the people of Nect.
No, he'd never stoop to that level. Never.
Obsidian took the knife back from Damian, relieved he hadn't accidentally cut himself -- he trembled like a leaf clinging to a branch in a gust of wind. She stowed it back in an inner cloak pocket.
"Now what, Boss?" She added the moniker in hopes of jarring him out of his stunned spell.
No such luck, though she could understand how unexpectedly running into his father in this place, followed by watching him tumble to the floor, would freeze him.
Her turn to take charge. "We don't have much time, since he contacted Bear. Let's start with checking the room he came from. Perhaps Ama's in there." After all, she was supposed to have a guard. Not exactly the kind of guard she'd expected.
Sid snagged Damian's hand, and he succumbed to her tug.
When they stepped around his father, he couldn't take his eyes off the unconscious form, and he almost stopped to stare until she shook his arm to get his attention. "Sorry."
She should have said the same. Instead, she dropped his hand and entered the room.
It looked similar to an infirmary, cots lining the far wall. And in the middle one, Ama lay, tossing restlessly in her sleep, wires all along her arms and coming from under her blouse, which hooked up to a couple machines at her bedside.
"Ama!" Sid knelt next to her bed, ripped off all of the sticky circles that held everything connected to her, and stroked the woman's forehead. "What have they done to you?"
Vials of blood sat on a table next to her. Damian's father must have taken it from her. Perhaps they'd already started their wretched experiments.
"We need to wake her up enough to get her out of here." Damian had finally rallied and started rummaging around in some cabinets on another wall. "What is all this stuff?" He shook some vials of clear liquid. "No smelling salts? Ah, here we are."
He brought them over and ran them under Ama's nose, which caused her to toss more, but not fully wake.
"Come on, Ama, you need to wake up." Sid slapped her cheeks until they were bright red and encouraged Damian to use the salts again.
After he did so, her eyes flew open. "Wha? Where am I?" Her words garbled, whatever they'd drugged her with still had its grip on her. She glanced up, head weaving from the motion. "Sid? That you? Em all foggy."
"Yes, yes. They gave you something nasty. But you have to try to stand and walk. Here, I can support you." She offered her hand.
Ama gazed at it for a moment then offered a jerky nod and gripped Sid's forearm with a fair amount of strength -- a good sign.
Damian helped with guiding her up, and they successfully got her to her feet.
"'Member a bit now. Councilwoman Liss stuck me with something!"
"Rotten woman." Sid slipped her arm under Ama's and she helped her with a few tentative steps, until Damian could slip in on the other side to aid with the weight.
They all shuffled to the door and out into the hall. Damian's father had shifted, but remained asleep. She feared Bishop's spell wouldn't last long enough -- the image of him grabbing her ankle as they passed infiltrated her mind.
"Where's Bishop?" Damian's question yanked her from her mini daymare.
She looked around, and sure enough, the other-worlder was nowhere in sight, and he hadn't gone into the room with them. He'd sneaked off. How maddening. They had to get out of here -- Bear and Liss were on their way. "The Ancients help us. Leave the idiot behind?" She didn't want to, of course, but her mind insisted on flight, and time pressed on her chest like when her brothers rough-housed and sat on her to pin her down.
Damian grumbled and slipped out from under Ama's arm. "Can you try to get her to the stairs on your own? I'll quickly search for Bishop."
This was the Guardian who had originally suggested letting go of Bishop when passing through the portal. Yet now, he risked his own hide to save the other-worlder from his clear inanity.
And she'd considered abandoning him once they reached Turss. The compulsion to open her gate back home had overtaken her common sense and kindness. Something she'd have to avoid in the future.
Though Sid wouldn't allow him to dictate her fate, she wouldn't jump to such rash decisions. "I've got her. Go find him."
Damian nodded and continued down the circular hall.
"You've got to help me a bit more, Ama. Can you put more weight on your feet?"
"I'll try." The woman at least sounded a little clearer.
They wove around the unconscious form of Damian's father. Aside from a small stumble, they passed successfully, no hands shooting out to snag her ankles.
The further they walked, the stronger Ama seemed to get. They were almost to the stairs when a bleary eyed Bear emerged from above.
"Guess Liss was right to be worried. Pity, too. She'll be so disappointed you didn't work out as a match for Damian."
Match? What in the Ancients was he talking about? Well, definitely not what she should be thinking about.
She had no way of getting past Bear, her knife out of reach while supporting Ama. "Let me through." She wouldn't go down without a fight.
He laughed. "You got guts, Girl, I'll give you that."
"The name's Sid." She dipped her voice. "Sorry, Ama." Then she lowered the woman to the floor and pulled out her pocket knife as she rose.
It wasn't much, as small as it was, but it was better than nothing.
Obsidian gripped the bone handle hard, and felt a warmth surge from the tips of her fingers and into the knife. The blade glowed, a brilliant blue light.
Even she couldn't answer him, shock settling in her stomach.
Whatever it was, though, she'd use it to get through this bull of a man and figure it out later.
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