The True Shadow Conclave (17.2) The Mad Genius

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PART 2

Despite the Street Rat’s joviality, the Mad Genius did not simply follow him. First, he dragged the bodies into the cell. He then closed it.

“It occurs to me we should have kept one of them alive. To question as to the whereabouts of the others.”

It was very natural, the way the Street Rat decided not to keep walking. Almost intentional.

“So we agree? We’re gonna let ‘em out?”

“Obviously. It is rather inefficient to face the beasts without them. We need the Shadow Conclave’s resources, and without Eliza, I fear we will lack them.”

“Agreed. How to find them, though? I could do it, with enough time, I could go and return with their whereabouts, I can probably move around no problem.”

“We cannot exactly dally around. Fortunately, just because these three are dead, does not mean the rest of the tower is.”

The Street Rat smirked.

“I getcha.”

Without further need to discuss, they moved to purpose. They marched to the end of the corridor, where it turned right. Falk used a contraption to see around the corner and spot a man who seemed to be patrolling. He motioned the number one to the Street Rat and he nodded, before contorting his face into that of a scared little boy on the verge of tears.

He made the corner and moved towards the man. Falk couldn’t hear what he said, but he soon returned with the man. Falk grabbed him out of the corridor and shoved him against the wall, powerfully. Some people sometimes forgot how his arm wasn’t just for gadgets, but an invention itself. It was strong.

Vapor evacuated as he pushed the hydraulics to shatter one of the man’s ribs. He grunted in pain and looked down at him, scared.

“How did he not recognize you? I suppose Griff’s shown them—”

“Maybe he did, so what? Anyone’ll dismiss the pic of a kid, he’s just a kid, no need to worry about that one.” He winked.

Falk shook his head.

“You know who I am?”

He nodded, knowing enough not to scream. He looked pretty young all things considered.

“The good news is I have ways not to kill you. Do you want to not die?”

He nodded vigorously.

“Then you will tell us where our comrades are.” He didn’t stop shaking his head back and forward.

“Along the wall, down the stairs, they’re keeping a couple of them. I dunno about the others, I’m so sorry!”

“That’s okay, man, we’ll just ask someone else.”

Falk pulled the man back and slammed his head against the wall to knock him out.

“Ow!”

The man’s head started bleeding, and he looked groggy but still awake.

“Oh, blast.” He let the man go and engaged his saw-blade wrist, killing him.

“Whoah,” Jaime reacted, “I thought you said you’d lettim’ live.”

“Well, I thought I could knock him unconscious,” Falk gave as a way of complaint. They looked at the body quite awkwardly. “It was my first attempt. Perhaps I will manage next time.”

“Tch,” Jaime shook his head. “Unbelievable.”

He walked into the hall the young man had been patrolling, there was no time to drag the body back to the cell. They walked until they found the stairs and went down to find another guard.

The Street Rat went first and, in conversation, led her to turn his back to Falk. Falk caught her and tried to knock her out, but again, he split open the head and conscience was somewhat retained.

With a sigh of frustration, he crushed her throat with his mechanical hand.

The Street Rat winced.

“Do you have to be so brutal?”

“Well, I am want to not expend ammo unnecessarily. Surely you see how we might need it to escape.”

Jaime rolled his eyes and walked along.

They met with three guards who were standing outside a door. Again, Street Rat went to distract them, why change what worked? Jaime got them to turn their backs to Falk so he could make short work of them. He wasn’t very stealthy so he couldn’t get close enough to risk leaving one of them alive. All three got saw blades lodged into the back of their heads.

They dropped one after the other, in sequence. The Street Rat whistled while looking down at the bodies.

“Griff’s gonna be pretty angry.”

“No one cares. More importantly, let us see what is waiting behind door number one.”

They took the keys from one of the guards and opened the door. Falk immediately winced at the grating voice that came through the opening.

“Really! If you think about it, it makes sense, really!”

The Circus Freak looked utterly ridiculous without his make-up. He had ordinary black hair, short and curly, and a naturally tanned skin that betrayed his Mediterranean origin. His voice, however, it was the same. The Shadow had been slightly giggling when the door opened, or at least he thought she had.

She promptly looked towards them in silence and making full use of the expressionless feature of her mask.

“He allowed you to keep the mask?”

“Why would he not?” She asked, suspiciously.

He thought about it. Fair enough, there was no known advantage to it in anything, but still. Falk would have, just in case. It was priceless and a sought after item that represented Kagekawa. Much like Darkness’s cloak, it’d just be something to get and figure out later. Besides, the beasts had certainly shown their interest.

“Whoah, is that you, Freak?”

The Circus Freak looked back at the Street Rat with a raised eyebrow. The child snorted.

“You look so…normal, I can’t believe this is what you look like.”

The man moved faster than Falk could react. His body but blurred and, next thing he knew, the Street Rat was on the ground with the Circus Freak’s one hand over his throat.

“You’ll never take me seriously again, IS THAT IT?! IS THE CIRCUS FREAK RUINED FOR YOU FOREVER???”

The child looked legitimately scared, but knowing him like Falk now knew, it wasn’t easy to know for sure if he was just faking it. The Circus Freak would believe it, however.

“’m sorry! Tha-tha-that is definitely not what I meant!”

“Calm down, Hugo,” the Shadow asked. She didn’t plea but she didn’t command either, she spoke as an equal, something Falk just didn’t know how to do. He had many faults but dishonesty wasn’t one of them: none alive were his equal. 

“It better,” he snarled, letting the child go. He stood up and looked back at Shadow, as if waiting for her to speak. She, in turn, looked at Falk, waiting for him to speak.

He was always ready to.  

“Well. I believe that’s two missing?”

The Street Rat lazily got up, shivering slightly, and gave no response.

Falk regarded them as a group. It was crazy how they were actually going to go after Eliza and the Hunter, or how they had even gone after the Shadow and the Freak. In any other circumstance, or if they were any other criminals, they would have just scrapped everything and ran for it, to maximize their chances at escape.

Escaping the Tech Tower, they knew, would be a pointless success, if their fighting chance against the beasts perished in the process. With the state of the Shadow Conclave and with how fast the Beasts were rampaging, they knew that if they lost contact with each other, they would very likely be out of the fight. So, as much as they didn’t care about each other, their innate competence coupled with their egoism actually aligned their purposes and interests.

In summary, they had to leave together and properly regroup.

The Shadow seemed relieved to step out of the room of light.

“I will scout ahead. Wait here.”

“You have five minutes,” Falk told her. She nodded in return before dissolving into the shadows created by a door.

The halls were lit by flickering lights that trailed the ceiling, some were candles and others electric. The Mad Genius crouched down and grabbed one of the dead guards, to drag him into the room.

“Ooo, I like that idea.”

The Circus Freak helped, but he seemed to have another idea about what they were doing. He nonchalantly took out one of the small blades from its place and casually dipped his pointing finger in the wound. Using blood as ink, he wrote on the man’s forehead.

He did the same to the other two and sat them up against the wall aside. You wouldn’t see them when you opened the door, not until you looked to the left.

“If only we had make up,” the first one read. “We would look happy,” the second one read. “Thanks, Griff.” The final one said.

It took a while and it was barely readable, but it did provide enough time for the Shadow to return. Her head and shoulders leaned out of a spot in the wall that was not completely lit.

“There are guards taking a break in a lounge room. I think they were supposed to be patrolling.”   

 “Well then, let’s go discipline those irresponsible youngsters. How might we find them?”

Now that they were four, they were far more capable of ambushing. The Street Rat once again played his lost child act, making the four look away from the door. The Shadow came out of the floor anyway behind the one farthest from the entrance. The Circus Freak reached the group in a dash too fast to react to, even if he did feel the need to alert them: “Weeeeee!”

He kicked one of them in the face, knocking him out, and then grabbed another while the Mad Genius shot a blade at the fourth’s arm, to keep him from drawing his gun and to reveal to him that he could shoot more. The Shadow put the other one in a lock.

Some intimidation later, they found out where they were keeping Eliza and the Hunter, and where they might find their equipment. After that, the Circus Freak successfully knocked them out with hard-hitting blows to their temples.

“Now that’s much better. Genius here kept breaking their skulls open.”

“Haha!” The Circus Freak giggled at that, “that’s funny.”

Falk couldn’t argue with that, it kind of was. But mostly, his attention was pulled by his interest in a small generator that the four had been using, which was stored in that break room. It was powered by coal, he could tell, and was keeping up the lights.

“I can cause a black-out in our section of the tower, but they’ll know then that we’ve escaped.”

“I think it’s worth it, we only have to get to Eliza,” Jaime pointed out, “she used ta be the Sorcerer, she can just teleport us away, so long as she has her staff and isn’t being held at gunpoint.”

“Then we’re agreed?”

“Do it,” the Shadow encouraged.

The Mad Genius nodded and crouched next to the generator. It took him a few seconds to fully understand how it worked but, knowing the basics, it turned out to be a simple thing. Of course, he didn’t just turn off the generator. He changed its output type in order to cause most every lamp connected to it to burst.

The lights went off in a torrent of shattering shocks, and they ran out of the room. Before they had left the hall, an alarm started sounding. One of the lightbulbs, that had not broken, lit up with a blinking red light.

That’s what I thought, he has a secondary electric system. Won’t work if the actual bulbs are broken, however.

They ran into a patrol of two men as they rounded a corner. This time, they already had the weapons wielded and stood ready to shoot, two rifles in this case. The Street Rat made them hesitate. Frightened, he yelled for help.

“Wait wait, please! They took me, I’m just a—”

The Shadow emerged from behind them. She clapped her hands very strongly, only she made sure their heads were in-between. She did it again when one of them just moaned, still awake, and then allowed them to drop.

They met with an actually sizeable group outside of where they had been told Eliza had been. There were the three, as there had been in each of their cells, but a pair more seemed to be standing in wait and at the ready, pistols raised and aimed at the inside the room. Because of the alarm, the three were at the ready, but thanks to the darkness, they spotted them out first. The Shadow described them all.

He keeps a constant watch over the magic woman. Jaime must be right, then.

“Shadow, we’ll strike the two first, so that the Hunter can help us. How long until you can catch the one farther away? I will shoot the one nearest.”

She hesitated a second as if she was going to argue. He had the sensation she didn’t like his plan.

Begrudgingly, she seemed to nod.

“Count to eight.”

She was absorbed by the shadows around her and Mad Genius turned his wrist, the gun barrel popping out.

No more need to be silent.

The Circus Freak was hopping anxiously, and Jaime seemed to be doing his best to not comment on anything. He kept glancing around, looking paranoid.

Two…One…

Falk turned the corner and stepped forward, taking the shot. Almost at the same time, the second man aiming at the room was grabbed and pulled out of the way, and the Circus Freak released a howl as he ran past Falk like a madman. He was embarrassed by how he had flinched because of it, but collected himself because no one should have noticed.

The three were confused as to where to turn to. One of them turned away from Falk to get at whatever had pulled his friend out of the way, the Shadow, the other two aimed at the most visible targets that were Falk and Hugo.

The Hunter lunged out of the room like a beast, tackling one of them as he pressed the trigger. The third missed the shot. He had a rifle, he scampered to try and get a pistol out, but the Circus Freak reached him first.

“You know,” Jaime’s voice reached him from the side, just as the third one fell to the shadows he couldn’t see, likely taken out by the Shadow. “We’re actually pretty formidable.”

His wrist whirred and clicked into place as he had his arm resume its idle form.

“Yes.”

Falk had to admit, they were.

He followed Jaime’s run with a speedy march and reached the entrance to the room just as Eliza exited. She was still wearing her robe.

“We need you to teleport us out of this place, Eliza.”

“I cannot handle all of us,” she said, regretful but immediately as she understood the situation and there was no time for drama and discussion.

“What? The other magic lady could, I think,” the Circus Freak pointed out.

“She was more powerful. One will have to remain.”

They looked around, but the choice was obvious.

“Very well, I will—” the Shadow was interrupted, however, by the Circus Freak’s yelling.

“This is great! HAHAHHAH!” He ran off without waiting for anyone.

They all just watched him go.

“There goes a guy who’s not dyin’ from natural causes,” the Street Rat pointed out.

“I will make sure he survives the day,” the Shadow told them, a bit exasperated. “Go.”

“I will find you two!” Eliza guaranteed. “Just get to safety!”

She ran off and Eliza, not wasting time, summoned a staff to her hands.

“Everyone touch me. Let’s get out of here.”

“Hear hear,” Falk complied. If the two wanted to die, that was their business.

In truth, however, he was sure they wouldn’t. Not right then, anyways.

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