He checked a few rooms that proved fruitless, one of them was occupied.
“Don’t move now, sweet cheeks,” he told the woman, aiming his pistol at her. “I am gonna be needin’ two things from you, and if I get those two things, you get to see tomorrow, see?”
“Ye-yes,” she replied, too wide-eyed and too scared to be insulted, which was a good sign. Means she was more predictable and liable to obey.
“First, you’ll give me the key to this room o’ yours so I can lock you inside.” She nodded, assenting. “Second, you’ll tell me where I can find whoever’s piloting this big steel barrel.” She looked up at him and he immediately turned his face at her and opened his eyes, “what?!” She looked back down and nodded again, scared.
“That’s better,” he held out his hand, “key, please.”
After making sure the cabin had no phone or anything, he locked her in and walked off. Luckily, his kidnapper was sending the scouts all by themselves. Lazaros’s keen paranoia helped him see them before they saw him, and his intimidating and empowering charisma made sure they gave him their radios, though these guys, he knocked out with a swift hit to the back of the head. People working regular are one thing, hired militia types are another, much harder to intimidated or manipulate into blind obedience..
By the time he reached the submarine’s cockpit, he had four radios with him.
“Hey, Jun,” was what the pilot said, not looking well enough. Lazaros inspected the room, seeing a number of chairs in front of panels full with flashing lights, knobs, buttons and switches. One particular chair was empty but the other six were full. The man who had just talked seemed to be the captain.
“Jun?” Finally looking back, his eyes landed on Lazaros holding a gun down at him. “Whoah-what?!”
They all looked at him and he stared back at them all, simultaneously scaring them witless.
“This Jun guy, he necessary to pilot this thing?” His voice came out demanding and threatening.
“No,” someone else said.
“Then you,” he pointed at the captain, “lock us from the rest o’ this bucket.”
“What? I will do no such–”
Lazaros smiled, hungrily, and approached the man while keeping his eyes on the others.
“Do it or I’m shooting you in the arm.”
“Ha,” the Captain shook his head, “you don’t have any bullets, we emptied your gun.”
A loud and abrupt bang sounded out, rocking everyone to their core with fear. The man himself took a few seconds to realize a bullet had shot clean through his left arm.
He yelled but Lazaros promptly slapped him across the face and then grasped him by the mouth. He was rough about it.
“Don’t think you did, captain,” he smiled at him, gun pointed at the rest of the crew, “now lock us in or I’m letting you bleed to death.”
With frantic nodding, the man dashed off to lock the door. Meanwhile, Lazaros turned to the rest of the crewmembers there.
“Now, I imagine, what with you being accomplices in all o’ this, that you are not really aware of who I am exactly… so allow me to enlighten you. I am Lazaros Infeperio,” he saw the look of realization in a couple of the crew. “For those who don’t recognize the name, I am a very important person in Igtahlia.” Then the rest of them widened their eyes in realization. “A lot o’ connections, a lot o’ power, see? So you’ll take me up, see? To the surface and to the land, or else… I won’t kill any o’ yous.”
He smiled, pausing for effect,
“I’ll leave it to my associates to figure out what to do with you…they’re a bunch o’ loyal buttons, see? All the way up to the capos, and very imaginative if I can brag about it.
“And I do,” he smiled.
“Well what d’you need then?” Lazaros hated to be interrupted, “an invitation? Get back to your chair! You,” he pointed at someone random, “take off your jacket and tie it around his wound.” The captain whimpered, almost crying, “and stop cryin’, you baby, the bullet went through, you’re fine. I know what I’m doin’.
“Question is…” he looked back at the rest of them, “do you?”
They looked away from him and back at the panels, getting to work on doing what they had been told.
“No choice here, guys. Let’s head up, how far are we from the coast?”
“Couple of hours.”
“Well, nothing’s getting through that door so I guess that’s fine.”
“That’s fine,” Lazaros said, leaning over one of the contraptions, “and no funny business, I’m watchin’ you.”
“Bridge! Why are we going up?”
Lazaros looked at the source of the voice, finding another radio, only it was one fixed to desk.
“I say again, bridge, what’s going on in there? Do we have a malfunction? Why are we going up?”
Lazaros picked it up and looked at the buttons, it was easy to figure out how to use.
“We’re going up ‘cause I told them to go up,” he said, still looking at them threateningly, “and smart people do what I tell ‘em to do.”
“Lazaros, this is ridiculous, how exactly are you expecting to run away from us? Even if you do submerge? The only way out is outside the bridge.”
“Not from where I’m standin’,” he said, looking up at the massive glass wall and ceiling that was the bridge’s window to the exterior. He would break that and get out.
“Are you going to run away on foot? From us? The hatches leading outside are manual, there’s no way you can lock them.”
Lazaros muted the radio and asked if it was true, they confirmed it.
“Well thanks for lettin’ me know,” he laughed and turned to the others, without muting the radio. “What coast you takin’ me to?”
“Grehkia,” he interrupted him, “that’s the coast yer takin’ me to. Now this’s the main compartment o’ this ship, right? Means you have a phone?”
“It only works on the surface,” the captain whimpered, “it’s radio.”
“Well, then surface us for a few minutes,” he commanded to the rest, “I’ll let my associates know we’ll be parking at Grehkia in…?”
“Eight to nine hours.”
“There we go.”
“You!” The voice came from the radio, that rage-filled defeatist tone that Lazaros loved to hear. He had beaten him, whoever his kidnapper was. “I have eight hours, Lazaros, I will find a way into that place. And I’ll-”
“Oh fanabala, ya rat, who do you think you are to kidnap Lazaros Infeperio?!” He rose his voice utterly insulted, “my suggestion to you? Take these eight hours to think what you’re gonna say to me to convince me to just kill you and be done with it…good bye.”
Lazaros turned off the radio and stretched his arms with a long and well enjoyed yawn.
“So, eight hours, huh? Anyone with some good stories?” Nobody said anything, “a deck o’ cards? C’mon, this doesn’t have to be borin’,” he laughed.
In the end, Lazaros had to tell jokes. That was okay, he knew a lot of them. The tension made it hard for anybody to laugh but he started to get some giggles out of some of them.
“Hey, I’m not hurtin’ any o’ you guys, just relax, yeah?”
And he told some stories too, always the funny ones. That got them laughing and, before long, he had gotten on their good side.
It was still a boring wait, and twice did the doors to that room get pounded on and drilled on and whatever else they were trying to do. After the second time, Lazaros admitted to be a bit curious as to who they all were.
“So,” he turned to the captain, “who hired you, captain? Why are they after me?”
“Hnn…trying to get me killed now?”
“No, just curious. My guess’s someone who doesn’t like Shadow Conclave’s influence? Maybe wants my information on them.”
“Your guess is right,” he said with difficulty.
“It usually is,” he smiled, “I know these things. I would assume he went after all the others who were invited… but I doubt he has many of these machines. Did he?”
“We ferried a woman a few days ago,” he told him, holding his arm tightly, “some kind of jungle woman.”
“Okay good, if he had come just for me, then that would’ve meant he thought I was the easier catch,” Lazaros shook his head at this notion, “and that just ain’t nice, not nice at all, see? But ok, so, what happened to her?”
“We don’t know,” he said, “we arrived at our destination, we went to the cabin to retrieve her and she wasn’t there.”
“Yeah, I guess stealth really isn’t my thing, huh? Good for the broad, good for her. Are you scheduled for another pick up?”
“No,” he said.
“And that’s ‘cause I timed it so I’d be the last contestant, see?” Lazaros scratched the stubble on his chin, “so if you only picked one other person, am I to assume everyone else escaped before getting into this bathtub?”
“Heh,” he nodded in respect, “guess I still gots things to learn.”
He didn’t ask the captain who was behind the attempting kidnapping. In all honesty, he wasn’t sure it wasn’t Shadow Conclave behind it all, fashioning one final test for their chosen contestants. His people would figure out what happened, what was important was getting back to the surface and on to the conclave. He needed to win.
“There was also a kid.”
“A kid?” Lazaros reacted confused, “you mean like a guy in his twenties?”
“No, a kid, a street urchin,” he scratched his head, “I…let him go. It was just a kid, no way he was who these guys wanted.”
World is full of surprises.
The underwater vehicle eventually made it to its target point where around fifty of his soldiers were waiting for it. They boarded the vessel and eventually opened the door for Lazaros and Lazaros left in their company like the boss he was. When outside, he requested the presence of his kidnapper, and he was brought in, a bit roughed up from fight to escape.
They did it right there on the beach.
“So,” he said, the man forced to his knees next to him “I know you probably did not suffer any consequences for yer attempts to catch the others, but I am not just any thief, kid, I’m the real deal. You got somethin’ to say to me or what?”
“I have nothing to say to you…”
“Suit yerself,” he nodded at one of his capos and he took him away, “I want to know everyone he knows. You find out who tried to do away with me, and you make ‘im pay.”
“You got it boss,” one said for everyone, just as his consigliere showed up.
“Quite the ordeal you went through, huh, Lazaros?”
“I tell ya, Protos, these goons messed with the wrong Don.”
“Often the case when anyone messes with you, huh?”
Lazaros smiled evilly proud of his reputation. It’s what had brought him up through the ranks, and it’s what had gotten the conclave interested in him. The attitude had never failed him, his mind had never failed him, his men hardly ever failed him because he judged them on attitude and mind, and not simply on how much money they brought in.
“Lazaros Infeperio isn’t some punk, and after I win the Shadow Conclave, no one will ever do to that mistake again.”
Protos, ever the loyal counselor, nodded his head in agreement.
“The real envoy of the Shadow Conclave is here, Don. We checked the underworld for him this time, he’s legitimate.”
“You vouch for him, you suffer the consequences if yer wrong,” Lazaros simply stated in a manner of a jest.
“I’m aware,” he didn’t even flinch, “he’s the real deal, Lazaros.”
“Good,” Lazaros shook his head in impatience, “now ge’ me a cigar before I shoot someone.”
Protos laughed as he got one out. Lazaros put it in his mouth and held it so Protos could light it. Lazaros breathed in heavily and pleasurably, and then sighed out all his tension.
“Freakin’ mooks and their mookin’ plans.”
“No doubt, Lazaros.”
He took another breather of the cigar, and then just held it in his mouth by itself, putting his hands in his pockets.
“Well, take me to this chaperone already. I’m actually dyin’ to see if those guys at Shadow Conclave can walk the talk or not. So far, I’m not impressed.”