They were all in a clearing a little way away from the bunker. A small waterfall ran past their feet, and the air was filled with a bubbling sound. Derek and Laurie had just finished telling their side of the story, and both of the cubes were being passed around the circle.
Derek was uncomfortable with the amount of attention that Emma was giving the arm. He narrowed his eyes a bit as he watched her as she handled it; even if the arm still creped him out he had come to think of it as his.
Emma didn’t seem to notice the signals that Derek was giving off, but she did eventually pass the arm on. She looked down at the unconscious guy on the forest floor “If we have his arm” she said, “Then what’s with him still having two?”
Derek blinked twice and looked down at the man. Weirdly enough, the fact that the man still had his arm hadn’t struck him as weird while he was carrying him.
The man lay in the rough middle of the circle, taking periodic jolts from Casper to keep him out. He was wearing a suit of fine cut, which had been marred a little bit by desert wear, and had had an especially fine cut remove one of the sleeves.
Derek wrinkled his nose and pulled his head back; he found the effect of the sleeve missing by such a clean cut to be very jarring; the man looked like he belonged at a certain kind of convention.
Laurie indicated to the cube that Casper had claimed, “Casper healed him” she said, “He healed him and that included growing his arm back”
Everyone looked at the Casper in admiration. Or rather all the people who could see him looked at Casper in admiration; everyone else admired empty space.
“Well that’s it then” said Emma, “We go find the basted behind all this, rip him a new one, and all head home.”
Derek didn’t see how the two thoughts were linked. He jumped and said “Wha?”
“Well we got our super weapon right? So let’s go roll the bastards up. With a ghost on the cube there’s no way they could take us.”
“Yeh. Well that’s a great idea Emma” said Derek, “But I can spot two flaws in it. Number one; we don’t know who’s behind all of this and Number two, We Don’t Know Who’s Behind All This.”
Emma nudged the man with her toe. “I bet he knows”
Laurie stepped in, “Alright yes” she said, “We will obviously be interrogating him for that information, but there is a good chance that the other side will be using ghosts as well; if they invented these things then it seems very likely.”
“So we interrogate” said Emma, “It’s the same thing no matter what you do”
Derek was getting annoyed. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t interrogate” he said, “I’m saying that it would be suicide to attack without getting better information.”
Emma opened her mouth
“And yes” Derek went on, “we will be interrogating, but even after we’ve done that we will still have to decide on whether we want to handle this ourselves or bring in an outside party. Hell, do we even know if any corpses were pulled out of the ruins of the office? He glared around the circle.
Everyone either looked back at him blankly or hung their heads and shuffled their feet.
“Right” said Derek, glad that he was having an impact for once, “Then for all we know Tony and Chief could still be alive.”
“And Wellsford” Laurie pointed out
“Right. Whatever. The point is, if they are then we should definitely go and find them; they would be a huge help.”
Derek paused; he had run out of things to say but he didn’t really want to stop talking. “Also” he went on, “Lest we forget, Laurie and I are wanted criminals now; we should really do something about that before the mission’s over.”
One of the twins raised her hand; possibly to ask what they had done, or, in Derek’s opinion, to ask what a wanted criminal was.
Derek didn’t want to spend the time of explaining it to her “Never mind” he said, and the twin put her hand down again, “So we’ve agreed to interrogate” Derek said, “Now you need to tell us what happened here so that we know if the bunker is safe”
Emma smiled, “Hell yeh, it’s safe” she said, “did you see what that C4 did?”
Derek tried to think if he had seen a crater and drew a blank. “No,” he said, “What did the C4 do?”
“Sweet fuck all” said Emma grinning from ear to ear, “Oh and Derek,” she went on, “Your kid’s one of us now”
Derek thought about what would have to happen before he would let his daughter team up with the dangerous sociopaths. “Over my dead body” he decided.
Emma laughed it off. “Well we’re going to see a lot of combat by the time we’re done” she said, “It could happen”
Derek wished he had some way of knowing when Emma was kidding, and he shuddered, “How did they know where we were?” he asked, changing the subject, “The men in the truck.”
“Dunno” said Emma, “But this red flashing light went off right before they showed up so that’s probably linked somehow”
“On that panel on the kitchen pillar?” asked Laurie.
“That’s the one” said Emma, “You know it?”
Laurie nodded, “My father installed it when I was a kid, it means that someone sent a radio signal out; Mckingle must of called for help. I don’t see how though; we emptied his pockets.”
There was silence around the circle while everyone tried to puzzle this one out.
Derek felt something like a jolt of electricity moving up his spine and into his brain. He put his hand to his mouth. “We didn’t check the teeth” he said, “I’ll bet he had a radio transmitter tooth; he’s rich enough to afford one.” He tried to keep his mind clear and let the next stage of the thought rise to the surface.
Laurie beat him to it. “That would make those guys his security detail” she said, “Mercenaries he hired with standing orders to retrieve him if he was captured”
Derek felt the little jar of an inconsistency. “Then why did they set C4?” he asked, “That seems like a stupid way to go about it”
“Oh they didn’t set it” said Emma happily, “They hurled it out of a moving vehicle as they ran away from us.”
Derek could sympathize with the mercenaries. “Ok” he said, “So they underestimated you and had to retreat, but they still have a contract with Mckingle; they’ll be back”
“I don’t think so”, said Laurie, “They deal must have been that they would get paid after they retrieved Mckingle; they may have just decided that we were too tough and decided to go after easier bounties.”
Derek thought about the probabilities involved, and he snorted. “And maybe Chief will drop out of the sky and bring us all explosives so that we can take down the man who is attacking us. Let’s be realistic here; it’s a fifty/fifty chance at best, and that’s still too high to risk”
Laurie thought about this. “Alright,” she said, “Did Mckingle get a good look at us?”
Derek was taken aback. “No” he said, “I don’t think so; we had the light on him most of the time, and he’s been under a lot of drugs”
Laurie nodded; she seemed to be taking charge again. “We can lose Mckingle in a corn field on the way” she said, “I know a place we can go where no-one will notice an unconscious man tied to a chair”