“Okay, from now on, only repeat everything I say.” Garth said, watching Itet’s antennae make the Panic/Fear gestures madly as his spell carried his voice to her ears.
“Okay.” She said.
“Okay, what?” The clerk behind the counter asked.
“Okay, let’s get started,” Garth said.
“Okay. let’s…get started?”
Garth clenched his fist and swallowed back a correction. The last thing he needed now was for her to repeat his instructions to the clerk behind the desk.
“I have a list of names that were misfiled at this facility.”
“I have a list of names that were misfiled at this facility.” Itet repeated, better than last time. She was starting to match his cadence.
“The First Earth company of Beladia. They are being sent to Ubranto on the 2548th layer, and they want their records closer at hand.”
Itet repeated him.
“Where’s the order?” The Orc clerk said, his eyes narrowing.
“Oh, here.” Itet took the forged document out of her purse and practically threw it at the Orc in front of her, who flinched at the sudden movement. By god, this girl is a terrible actor.
The only thing that seemed to be saving them was that very few people learned to read Tzetin body language, and they were generally considered to be completely without duplicity.
“I’ve never seen this general’s signature before.” The orc said, scanning the document. “Do you mind if I show this to my supervisor?”
“No problem.” Garth said. He couldn’t freak out now, or he’d freak out Itet, and if that happened, she’d most likely start stabbing things.
Wait, this could be good! Garth wordlessly motioned for Sandi and Cass to follow him. They began walking around the side of the building as casually as possible. Behind the building was a patch of grass growing in the packed dirt, spread around the employee entrance to the records.
Cass grabbed a stalk and started chewing on it as they stood outside the entrance, thumb tucked into the waistband of his new pants. With his shave and haircut, he looked every bit the weathered farmer.
Garth closed his eyes to focus on the Floating Eye in the lobby. A few seconds later, both of the record keepers came out into the lobby.
“I’m sorry Miss…”
“Tzetin.” Itet barked.
“Your name is Tzetin?”
“No. My name is…”
“Titiz.” Garth said as he knelt down to look at the lock on the door. He couldn’t see any mana, but when he put his hand on the door, he could feel a pulse flowing through it. Garth closed his eyes and did the memory separation trick, viewing the squiggly mana creeping through the door like sap through a tree.
In his memory, the mana was condensed around the lock in an interweaving pattern, designed to sound an alarm if the improper key was used, and only that.
“Don’t fuck with me!” Itet shouted, startling Garth and the clerks.
Seems like he’d have to be ready to bolt. Garth was preparing to bail, when Itet started improvising.
“I don’t have to give you a name! I came here under the orders of General Kinerath to move these soldiers to Ubranto, That is all you should be concerned with!” through the Floating Eye, Garth made out their discomfort. Not bad. Not bad at all, Itet.
“You know what my favorite lockpicking spell in D&D is?” Garth asked, disconnecting from Itet and glancing at the two behind him.
“Shrink,” Cass supplied, and Garth stared at him for a moment before shaking his head and getting back to work.
How does he even know what D&D is, for Beladia’s sake? There were still too many mysteries about Cass, but his info about the warehouse was good enough to let him stay. Hopefully he wasn’t a spy.
“You suck,” Garth whispered, wrapping mana around the lock area and creating a semi-permeable membrane that allowed Mass and Space mana to flow out, before forcibly creating a mana vacuum outside of it. Basically, Shrink worked on the principle of osmosis to draw size and weight out of an object.
Garth’s proficiency wasn’t great, but even a little shrinking was plenty to pull the deadbolt out of its home.
“And we’re in.” Garth whispered, pulling the door open. Garth unlocked the deadbolt from the inside, and the three of them crept into the warehouse.
“I’m telling you, I don’t know who this Kinerath general is, but he’s going to need to come here personally with the appropriate paperwork. The irritated corio in front of her said, pointing to the requisition order in his hand.
Everything was falling apart. Itet felt like she were standing at the end of a long tunnel, watching her body move as though it were a puppet, and she the puppeteer.
“Do you think he’s got time to drop everything he’s doing and kowtow to some fat bureaucratic slime? There’s a war going on! He’s out there is the thick of things, and he needs all the men he can get. Just recently there was a letter from a colleague on Jindar about a group with a one hundred percent survival rate, the ones who managed to kill a mutated feeder.”
“I hadn’t heard about that. If you couldn’t tell, we don’t exactly live on Jindar.” The clerk said sarcastically.
So these men didn’t know about current events on any planet except their own, that made things easier. Just make a game of it, just like playing pretend.
“General Kinerath is recruiting survivors, the best of the best for his push to retake the Hulian Peninsula. These soldiers would be a welcome addition.”
“Ah, I get it.” The corio said with a sly grin as the younger orc watched him nervously.
“Your general wants some disposables to sweep under the rug and make him look him look like a tactical genius.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that.” Itet said. It was true. She really didn’t. When the hypothetical general added the extra troops to his own, he would simply have more troops, would he not? Why would anyone think he was a tactical genius?
A sudden bolt of inspiration hit her. It was like a part of herself, so long withered and dead, had reawakened, coming back to life.
If the troops never officially existed, it would seem the general had done their workload with only the troops at his disposal, increasing the appearance of competence. Afterward, to keep the secret, the extra soldiers would have to be…disposed of. That’s so wrong!
Itet wanted to flinch away from the idea, to dismiss it and force it from her mind and never think of it again, but this was what her queen had commanded her to master, so that she could protect the Hive from it. So she would learn this Con-art, and this Scum-baggery, if only to defend her people. Itet had faith in the wisdom of her Queen.
“Of course you don’t know what I mean,” the corio scoffed, then gave her an appraising look.
“Did this Kinerath fellow send you with money?” he asked, raising a brow.
Greed. Exploit. Sell. Confidence. Trust.
The essence of a con that Garth had laid out flashed in her mind, and Itet began forming a plan to be entirely dishonest.
“Yes, but I’m not sure why,” Itet said, revealing the ten thousand credit coin in her pocket. The corio motioned for his assistant to leave. The young orc reluctantly went back into the warehouse.
There was a bit of noise as the orc tripped over something, drawing their attention, but a moment later the corio glanced back at her.
“It’s meant for me, give it here,” he said, his palm outstretched.
“Oh,” Itet put the coin in his hand, and the smiling corio pocketed the cash.
“Tell your general he’ll have his troops when I get around to it.”
“Oh, I guess you didn’t want the job then.” Itet muttered to herself as she turned away.
“Job, what job?”
“Oh, silly me, I forgot.” Itet said, turning back to them. “The Hulian peninsula has six outposts that need governors. He said he wants to install governors that owe him favors, whatever that means. He told me to offer a governorship and the money, and to let you decide, but it seems like you’ve already made a choice, so I’ll be going.”
“Wait!” the corio shouted, motioning for Itet to return. “I didn’t know there was a choice here. What kind of outposts are available?”
“Well, they were torn down by a Dungeon Surge, and a horde of kipling led by a demon. There’s not much there but rubble.”
The corio’s face turned sour. Itet was starting to be able to read non-Tzetin expressions.
“Nevermind, you can go.” He waved her away.
“There was a surprising amount of Mythril used in their construction, though. It’s remarkable the kipling were able to tear them down. Honestly it was everything except for the mythril struts.” Itet rambled on, feeling incredibly uncomfortable, her blood-pump humming as she set the hook.
“Mythril?” The corio whispered.
“Oh yes, the six outposts were smack in the center of a rash of mutated dungeons. Rare metals grow naturally by the megaton in that peninsula.”
“How many people has your general approached with this?”
“A few dozen, at least. He says he’ll give the governorships to the people that can, and I quote, ‘get the lead out of their bureaucratic asses’.”
The corio’s eyes widened. He practically flung the coin back at her, snatched up the list of names and ran back into the warehouse.
As soon as the corio was out of sight, Itet dashed outside and began ejecting her breakfast onto the street, the goop streaming out between her mandibles. She felt as if she’d been poisoned.
This was in no way natural for a Tzetin.
“Sandi, keep an eye out for the record keepers.” Garth said.
“What should I do if they come back?”
“Hide your Lure and stall them somehow.”
“Okay,” Sandi gave him a little salute and crept off toward the lobby while Garth began checking the aisles for their scrolls. Row after row of red dots studded with the occasional blackened scroll passed across Garth’s gaze, and he realized he had no idea what the organizational structure of the massive warehouse was. His Company was a drop in the bucket compared to the twenty foot shelves filled to the brim with clear glass cases.
“Damn,” Garth said, using telekinesis to float a dozen random cases his direction. Maybe if he could establish a pattern, he could figure out what kind of sorting system they were using to store their information. It sure as hell wasn’t alphabetically or using the Dewey Decimal System.
None of the scrolls he’d selected were even human, and Garth sent them all back to their shelves with a wave of his hand. He started walking down the aisle, using Telekinesis to inspect and return scrolls at a staggering rate, but none of them were people he was looking for.
At the speed he was going, he could finish the entire warehouse in maybe fifteen minutes, but Garth didn’t think Itet could buy that much time.
As he came to the end of the aisle of shelves, Garth walked into a massive common room with piles of scrolls stacked on carts in front of an enormous platform that was honeycombed with holes just big enough for the scroll cases to fit.
“Guess what that is.” Cass said, chewing on his grass, following behind Garth and not bothering to help at all.
“The involuntary teleporting machine.” Garth said, eyeing the group of scrolls inserted in it, and the dials indicating multidimensional coordinates.
“It’s called a Deployer.”
Garth took a moment to think. In order to send troops to a specific location at a specific time would have to require a certain amount of legwork work on the front end.
“We’re being deployed tomorrow. You think they’ve got our scrolls staged and ready to go already?”
Worth a shot, Garth thought, heading toward the piles of scrolls beside the machine.
It only took a minute to locate the First Company of Beladia, all hundred and twenty eight of their red scrolls sitting in a specially designed cart three places distant from the teleporter.
I could send everyone to Earth right now! Garth realized. All he would have to do is set the coordinates, which didn’t look too complicated, and direct mail every single person in his Company to Earth outpost 3502. From what Garth knew about teleportation safeguards, there was no risk of anyone landing in the middle of a wall or another person.
Garth took a moment to stop and appreciate how far he’d come with telekinesis as he removed the previous shipment from the machine a dozen at a time, clearing it for use in a matter of seconds.
“And…everyone but the three of us…” Garth said as he filled a tiny corner of the machine with one hundred and twenty-five people, reserving his, Itet’s and sandi’s scrolls. Garth couldn’t mail himself, because then there’d be no one here to steal the scrolls, and tomorrow they’d all wind up getting sucked off Earth again.
Hopefully no one left behind anything too important from the sudden teleportation, but he was pretty sure they would be too excited being on Earth to care. It was midmorning, Jindar time, so everyone should be dressed.
“Alright,” Garth said, looking over the machine’s coordinate system. It was a more precise version of the portable Gate he’d stolen from Kine.
“Let’s see, 2860th layer. Earth. Outpost 3502. Dum de dum…” Garth hummed as he dialed in the coordinates. About a quarter mile outside the outpost should put them well within visual sight, and in a matter of hours, they’ll hook up with Clark and their families. Excellent.
Garth was putting the finishing touches on the destination when he heard an awkward grunt as Sandi tripped someone a couple aisles over, near the lobby entrance.
Shit, I’m almost done, but if we’re caught this is gonna be a clusterfuck! Garth wove a thin tunnel of air that sought out and connected to Sandi’s head.
“What happened?” he whispered.
“Garth, I tripped the younger clerk, what should I do?” Sandi whispered back
“Distract him for a minute, I’m almost done.” Garth said, dialing in the last coordinate and taking a moment to double check every setting. It never hurt to not send people into a vacuum.
Hemisphere? He thought, seeing the first, most general category represented by two mirrored symbols that he’d overlooked, Garth flipped it up and down, but the coordinates were valid for both locations.
Are there two Earths? Garth didn’t have time to overthink it, he set the Hemisphere to its original location and punched the send button. A quiet rush of energy tingling against his skin was the only indication the machine was working.
“Sandi? Is that you?” Garth was partway through restacking the human’s scrolls when he heard the confused orc’s voice. He resisted the urge to smack his forehead and kept busily stacking scroll cases. I can’t believe she gave him her real name!