Venting Some Issues

“That’s a vent,” Tilly said, looking up at where the Sharkwoman had pointed. “If you’re smelling…sorry, ‘tasting’ Lu Wu’s scent coming from there, then that means he could basically be anywhere in the dungeon, anywhere that’s attached to the ventilation system. Depending on how well designed this place is, or how poorly designed, he could, conceivably, be anywhere in the entire palace.”

“It’s probably not that poorly designed,” I said, aiming for reassuring. “I’d imagine the General has the dungeon air system separated from the rest of the palace. No one wants to smell what’s going on down here upstairs.”

“Still, even if that’s true, how are we supposed to find him? Are we all supposed to go crawling through that vent?”

“Does that opening get larger?” Na Fru asked. “Because, otherwise, I am fairly certain I will not be able to fit in that.”

I gave Na Fru a serious look. “None of us are going in that. None of us would fit in that. It’s not made for anyone to fit in.”

“I could probably fit in it,” Tilly said.

“No you can’t.”

“I mean, if I phased myself I could fit in it. Or at least I’d be able to follow it.”

“I’m not going to let you just wander the palace dungeon all by yourself,” I said, trying to put my metaphorical foot down.

“Why?” she asked. “I’ve done it many times before.” I grimaced because that didn’t make me feel any better, though she was right. After the General had altered reality and I was still under the delusion that he was my husband, Tilly had had free reign. She had certainly had done it enough to find somewhere to create a quantum instability chamber. But even before that, when we had first arrived in Ramstov working undercover for the government, Tilly had wandered off on her own to do some snooping.

Of course, none of those times had I given my consent for her to do that. She had just run off. The fact that both times she had ended up all right didn’t mean that it would work out a third time. “That’s just too dangerous.”

“Dangerous? No one can even touch me if I don’t want them to. Where’s the danger?”

“If the General finds you, nothing your mother gave you will be able to save you. He’s too powerful right now.”

“The General’s not down here.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Ok, Frank. I promise if the General’s down here I won’t let him see me.”

“You can’t make that promise.”

“I’ll be careful, Frank. You have to trust me.” I took a deep breath as I tried to figure out a way to stop her. Her father would kill me if he ever found out I’d let her do this, even if at the moment he didn’t know she even existed. “Come on, Frank. What other choice do we have? This is the only lead we have. We can’t ignore it.”

“I don’t know, Tilly…”

“Thanks, Frank!” she exclaimed, taking my weakening resolve as a victory. “I won’t let you down.”

“You can’t go without me,” the Sharkwoman exclaimed. “If anyone is to find Lu Wu, it will be me!”

“Yeah? And how are you going to manage that? You able to shrink down even more?”

“I will tear this building apart with my bare hands if I have to!”

I immediately stepped in trying to calm her down. “Or…Tilly could phase you with her and the two of you could find him together.”

“What!? Frank!” Tilly complained. “I can’t! She’s too heavy!”

“You can and you will. You need her tracking ability. How else are you going to find Lu?”

“I’m sure my upgrades can…”

“You’re going to do it, Tilly!”

“Climbing up is not really what my…” She started.

“You’re going to do it anyway,” I told her. “I’m not going to let you go alone. If you want to do this, then you’re going to take Shayu with you. At least then you’ll be able to watch each other’s backs.

Tilly sighed. At least, she let me win one. “And what are you going to be doing while we’re doing that?”

“What are we going to be doing?” I repeated, glancing back at Na Fru as a very dumb idea occurred to me. “We’re going to provide you with a distraction.”

“What kind of distraction could possibly take everyone’s attention from a shark-headed woman passing through walls?” Tilly asked.

“The very destructive kind.”

Now, it was Tilly’s turn to look worried. “Frank, what exactly do you have in mind?”

I turned to the stone man. “Just how well can you control rocks?”

“My control is getting better and better every minute since I have been rejuvenated.”

“Good. How do you feel about breaking a few things?”

“What things?” he asked me.

“I don’t know. This entire castle?”

to be continued…


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