Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, Part 2.6

Posted by harmony0stars on January 8, 2010

A chained gate blocked their way as they came to the top of another dirty and disused stairwell. Ehecatl had apparently been there before. Though the chain appeared to be secure, if a little rusty and battered, he silently unwound it and set it aside as quietly as possible. An illusion? Or had he artfully rearranged it to appear secure after his last visit? Having finally stopped long enough to get his attention, Glory gestured to her eyes and then pointed down the stairs. He understood immediately and made no effort to latch onto her elbow again as he led the way down into another warren of tunnels.

Unlike the passages above, these halls were in even worse repair. There had been no attempt to hide the cracked and flaking paint or the fungi and mildew eating away at the brick and mortar beneath. The floor was littered with fallen masonry and other less identifiable debris. Glory expected at any second to come upon rats or other vermin running in the opposite direction. It was unlikely that anyone had visited the rotting halls in years, if not decades.

The gloom between flickering lights seemed to exude a dank, musky odor that bit at the nostrils like a bathroom too seldom cleaned. The darkness seemed to creep up on the bare bulbs set in the walls like a living thing, resentful of the intrusive revelation the lights shed on the spreading decay. The occasional glaring lights were far from comforting however, in their own way every bit as indignant of their presence as the darkness. At least, it seemed to Glory as though both the light and dark preferred to wage their eternal war privately. In her opinion, the university didn’t have to chain the gate. No one in their right mind was going to want to wander the lower tunnels, at least not without a tetanus shot.

After more twists and turns that a miner following a vein of gold, they finally arrived at another gate leading up. Glory guessed that they were at the administration building, but they’d seemed to double back on themselves so many times, it was hard to say if they’d even left the area of the first building they’d entered or found their way out of Arkham entirely. Ehecatl led her through another warren of hallways and rooms until they came to the row of elevators. So far, she’d seen no sign of anyone still in the building, nor had she noticed any cameras, but she didn’t feel their luck could hold out much longer no matter how late it was. She couldn’t imagine their hidden basement laboratory-zoo would be unguarded, though hopefully this time of night it would be understaffed.

Still, she hesitated before pressing the elevator button. “There may be cameras in the elevator,” she whispered.

“So what?” he growled impatiently.

“They may use motion sensors, microphones… thermal imaging…”

“Just like humans to build machines to make up for their weaknesses,” he interrupted derisively.

“Hush,” she said mildly, not offended but a little tired of his snide comments. “I’m not here to argue about which of us is superior. It should be obvious I care more about right and wrong than whose species is better, so can we just drop the human bashing, please?” She continued in the face of his silence. “My point is, there may be sensors in the elevator. I doubt there will be many guards below this time of night, but they may know we’re coming once I use the stone. At the very least, they may call for reinforcements, so leaving will be more difficult. We should plan accordingly.”

Ehecatl grunted. She was just about to try goading him into speaking when he announced in a subdued voice, “Chusi will not be able to disguise herself. She hasn’t had the practice. Once we find her, if there is trouble, you’ll need to hide her beneath your cloak. If something happens to me…” he trailed off as the elevator warbled its arrival and the doors opened. More quietly still, he breathed, “there are not enough of us left that we gather often or meet by chance. Children, especially females, are rare. I… if you will care for her until next summer solstice, she can tell you where to take her then.”

“I promise she’ll be safe,” Glory replied solemnly. “But let’s try to make sure she has a father at the end of this. No needless heroics on your part.” Silently they stepped into the elevator, and she pressed the button to take them down. Without knowing whether the stone could be used on any floor, she felt it best to do things exactly as Professor Scott had. As the elevator came to his floor, she popped open the panel and set the starstone into the lock, gently turning it a half measure to the right.

She couldn’t help but notice that Ehecatl moved into the farthest corner of the elevator as she handled the stone. It had always bothered her that her tattoos had had such a profound affect on Aaron, though once the sword was inside her, it seemed to not be bothered by them at all. Curious that the starstone had no affect on her weapon whatsoever when it made a supposedly “evil” creature like Ehecatl physically uncomfortable. The paradoxes concerning the thing were going to drive her mad yet.

They both tensed up as the doors slid open, but there was no armed welcoming committee waiting for them. Retrieving her stone, Glory tucked it back into her pocket. She cautiously stuck her head out the door, but the three halls were conspicuously vacant. The lights were even dimmed as if to conserve power during off hours. Were they really so arrogant that they’d installed no failsafe in the event that their security was compromised? She’d really thought, given their history and habits, that they were more paranoid than that. Heck, she was more paranoid than that in her own home.

to Book 5, Part 2, page 7

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