As Ariana and Proton made their way through the castle, Archer and Petrel went around the garden. Like they expected the interior of the castle to be, they found the garden, or rather, what remained of it, to be in a sorry state. Where once beautiful rosebushes and lush green trees grew, there now remained only the burnt soil and twisting, dead husks. The summer air was warm, and it whistled as it blew through the dry, naked branches. The sounds of wind, and the nearby trickle of water from the stream that flowed into the garden pond, were the only noises to be heard.
The stream cut across the footpath, and the only means of crossing was a narrow stone bridge which lead to the pagoda that sat in the middle of the pond. Never minding if his partner followed him or not, Archer made the walk across the bridge to admire the stonework of the pagoda.
Moss grew on the wet stone, creeping up the pillars from the floor. A cracked and abandoned bench sat in the middle, encircled by the stonework columns and railings. The bluenette stood, silent, in awe of the majesty that still remained in this largely unblemished structure.
"Quite a sight, isn't it?" he asked his companion. "Makes you wonder just how beautiful the rest of this places looked back in the day."
"It's pretty nice", said Petrel, looking at the building from a farther distance than his partner. "Just imagine the fortune that it must've cost to build it". Saying this reminded him of what the treasure could be. If they had the money to build this castle, just think of how much money that treasure be.
And that brought another question - If the treasure is worth so much, it will be very hard to find it. And while the pagoda seemed like it had better days, the fact it took the burden of time a bit better than the rest of the castle made him think there could be something inside.
"You think there's something in there?", he asked Archer, as he lit up a cigar. "It seems like a place I would hide something".
The pagoda was something of a diamond in the rough, a mostly untouched spot of beauty amongst a dead and blackened landscape. Like the castle in whose shadow it loomed, it conveyed a pride and grandeur despite its unkempt stature. The place must have buzzed with activity before the fire, and now that it was gone it felt as if the land itself sorely missed those feet that once trod upon it.
Unfortunately for purple it seemed that the pagoda was just that: decoration. Casing it didn't really bring anything unusual to the eye, and Petrel knew the tricks from his years. The stones of the floor were cracked and worn by time, water, and root. Anything hidden down there would be exposed by now. The roof hugged the tops of the columns tight, no space to slip keys or buttons.
So how would they get into the basement? A good question.
But what it did provide was a good view of the surrounding gardens. The charred corpses of trees and twisted skeletons of hedges were most of what they saw.
And then their eyes caught it. A ring of trees on the far side of the pond formed a protective circle around the hulks of several statues. No doubt put here to add a human touch to the natural scenery. Well vandalized now, who they depicted couldn't be determined.
"I don't imagine that it will be easy to find" Archer replied. He had seen all of the pagoda that could be offered, and he now made haste back to his partner. "Who knows how long it's been since anyone has seen it? It could be anywhere."
"That's why I split us into two groups, so we could cover more ground, and hopefully find some clues to the treasure's location."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYNvTX_ioYo [Stop at 1.00]
"Perhaps over that way might be a good place to start" said blue, pointing in the direction of a ring of trees. "Seems to be the only other thing alive around these parts. Might be worth our time to take a closer look, see if it's hiding anything interesting."
And, beckoning to his friend's lit stick, he added "Pass one my way, would you?" Now that Ariana was away, the bluenette could have a smoke without bothering her.
>>24994150 As a good friend, Petrel took a cigar and gave it to Archer, to then light it.
Afterwards, while looking at the ring of trees at the other side of the pond, nodded
"Might as well, there's nowhere else that seems interesting enough to look at." he replied. And being honest, he wasn't far from right. Everything else around was dead trees and burnt bushes. "Maybe we'll find something valuable".
The grove of the statues looked a little off from a distance, and they weren't sure why until they got nearer. Upon closing they realized what they were seeing was that the statues stood crookedly upon the earth, as did the trees around them; all leaning inwards towards the center of the circle. The reason for that was readily apparent, a large sink hole having opened in the middle of the ring. Roots jutted out of the exposed earth like crooked, broken bones that grasped with futility at the air. One of the statues had toppled completely and spanned the hole's diameter, forming an unsteady bridge from one edge to the other.
The rock effigies themselves all appeared to depict men in regal garb and holding swords point-down towards the base. The heads were gouged at with tools to obscure the faces, and plaques on the front were too corroded to be read. They too must have been breathtaking in better days. Past kings, maybe?
Looking down, sunlight spilled into the pit and illuminated two floors that the foundation had apparently caved in through. The first looked to be a wine cellar, the other was too far down to see much of. Indeed, the fall looked high enough to break a leg if you jumped straight down.
But it did provide the access to the sub levels that they had been hoping for. But was this hole caused by natural events, or someone else before them with the same idea and less patience?
Archer was silent, staring at the statues surrounding the sinkhole with some hesitation, as though he expected them to get up and begin to move at any second. The gouged-out faces intrigued the bluenette, and he wondered. Were these past kings disgraced and their statues marred in protest? Or had this been done more recently with revolutionary sentiments in mind to the destruction? Seventeen years is a long time, and Archer himself had been but a child when these events had played out.
"Right," he said, breaking the silence. "We'll check the wine cellar first, and then we'll see about making our way down to the lower level."
From a clip on his belt he produced a sphere, crimson and white, and from it sprang forth one of his six, a large, javelin-armed insect of golden-yellow with black stripes. "Beedrill, make us a way down." The bug-type nodded, releasing a thick and sticky string of off-white fluid from the sting at the end of its abdomen. As the liquid released, the bee pokemon used its large, pointed forelimbs to spin the now-hardening liquid into a thick rope, which it anchored around the nearest of the statues.
"Going down" said Archer, recalling his insect before descending to the wine cellar below.
Petrel looked at some of the statues. They were all vandalized, at the point none of them had a face anymore, some of them missing arms. Whoever the statues were meant to be, they would never know. Past kings, honorable warriors...
Archer's words brought him back to reality. He nodded and looked as the Beedrill worked it's magic with the string, making a sturdy rope.
Following Archer, he went down the string rope into the cellar.
The anchoring point Archer picked shifted unsteadily on the sloped earth while they were descending. It held firm, but the swaying of hundreds of pounds of stone above your head would make any sane man wary. Rocket didn't produce the sanest men, fortunately.
The floor of the wine cellar was stained below their boots, cold stone stretching out before them into the darkness. They'd need lights to peer more than 5 feet from where they made their descent. Within the small circle of natural illumination around the hole's lip they could see the beginnings of long rows of wooden shelves, holding casks and bottles in great number. They reached from the floor to the just below the ceiling. Most of the contents smashed or punctured, sourcing at least some of the discoloration on the otherwise ocher stone. Every now and then they'd find one intact with impressive vintage, but the English names on the label meant next to nothing to the foreigners.
The place smelled of rot and damp earth. The nose-turning aroma was reinforced by the faint sent of stagnant water from the level below. A similarly rotten wooden door could be seen at the other end of the chamber, clothed in shadow and caked in dust and off-colored molds.
Beyond the thin ring of light brought in from the sinkhole above, no light would penetrate. What little could be seen, though, was quite impressive. An expansive array of wines that reached all the way to the ceiling. Though most were broken, a scant few remained intact. Archer smiled, saying "And, this is why I chose to split up Ariana-chan and I." Whether by that the bluenette meant 'because she'd want to take all the good stuff home and we don't have that kind of space in the car' or 'we'd have gotten really drunk and done regrettable things on the floor of a dirty wine cellar', he would leave to his partner's imagination.
The cellar was dark and damp, and the scent in the air was an unpleasant earthy stench. To combat the smell, Archer only had the hope that the scent of their smokes would suffice, but that still left the dark. On his person he had brought no torch, and likely all Petrel had on his was a lighter.
Thankfully, one never forgets to leave home without their most trusted companion, man's best friend the dog. Or hellhound, in the case of the bluenette's Houndoom. Calling forth the secodn of his six, Archer commanded "Give us some light" and Houndoom obeyed, calling forth a faint glimmer of blue flame that hovered just ahead of the party.
With the light brought new discoveries. Beyond the ring of light and the gaping hole to the lower level, there now could be seen a door. Wooden and rotted, it seemed an easy task to break down, assuming that by this point the lock hadn't simply given away from years of rust.
Despite the darkness, there were two thing Petrel could notice right away on the cellar. One was the massive quantity of bottles that rested on the shelves. While many of them where broken or empty, there where a few around intact, which Petrel was certainly taking a look at.
The second thing was the absolutely disgusting smell. He immediatly grabbed the neck of his purple shirt and put it over his nose, in a futile attempt to fight the stench that plagued the area. "This place smells awful", he admitted to his partner as he walked towards one of the shelves
As Archer's Houndoom lighted the area, he took one of the bottles that were still around, and looked at it for a moment. He didn't know much about wine, except for the fact that the older, the better. And this bottle was surely very old, so may as well take it for the ride.
After saving the bottle in his backpack, he approached Archer, who had just discovered a door, rotten and rusty.
The bottle in Petrel's hands gave an appreciable slosh while it was held up to the light and examined. It looked like a good find, to his totally untrained eyes. Couldn't hurt to take it, surely.
The addition of firelight to the room only made it feel spookier, rather than safer. Shadows fled to the corners and gathered there, almost thick enough for you to reach out and grab them. The door's metal hinges whined the moment any pressure was placed upon them to complete the horror-show ensemble, the rusted steel giving way and letting the entire door fall backwards into the chamber beyond. It hit the ground with a resounding BANG.
Unfortunately this was no exit, it was a single room with no other doors out. They'd have to use the hole again. But on a positive note, it appeared to be a records office similar to the one the other team found. A desk and chair sat at the center of the room, while a tiny bookcase of similarly rotten wood stood at their left flank. Musty books bound in leather sat upon the shelf, while a corroded globe and other trinkets adorned the desktop.
Niches on the wall for torches sat unused, the single light hanging from the ceiling illustrating that this area had not avoided the march of modernization. Using the switch to power it would probably not be very safe with the building in its condition. The smell in here was worse from poor ventilation.
It looked like the office for keeping record of the cellar's contents. But maybe it's worth a search before passing on?
Indeed, the stench in this new room was only fouler than had been in the previous room, and the faint wisp of smoking tobacco no longer proved enough to keep the smell at bay. Gagging in disgust, Archer grabbed for his crimson tie, using its end to cover his nose. "Now I'm really glad I didn't bring Ariana-chan with me" he said, as his tie did little to stop the inflow of olfactory awfulness. The redhead would have found this stench excruciating and utterly unbearable.
Little did the bluenette know that at this very moment, Ariana was experiencing her own scented horror in the sewers, but that was neither here nor there...
"Search the bookshelf. I'll search the desk. If we're lucky, we'll find something of value for our troubles. When we're done here, we'll head back and try the lower level."
With Houndoom standing in the center of the room, there was, blessedly, enough light for both parties to see their work clearly. And with that, we begin the search, as roving blue eyes and steady, well-worn hands work their way about every inch of the desk, chair, and the surrounding floor. Archer had been a thief long enough that his fingers had grown to know the feel of secrets, and they danced like spiders looking for what could be hidden.
>>24994883 As Petrel entered the room, the smell hit his nose, despite his attempts to avoid the stench with his shirt. At this point, he decided to light a new cigar, as the one he had been smoking was already gone.
By Archer's orders, he looked at the bookshelf as he inhaled some of the stick. The books there, works of literature by some of the greatest by that time - 1984, some works by Verne and Shakespeare, among other authors meant nothing to the foreigner, who passed his fingers quickly through every book, searching for anything that could've been left on the pages, while looking behind every book for something valuable on the shelf itself.
The scope of reading material seemed to imply that whoever worked here spent a lot of time secluded in this little study. The books were old and some of the pages fragmented in his hand, and those that held their form often had ink so faded and smeared as to be illegible. The ones lower down turned from fiction to ledges, inventory lists. Probably not even of interest to a historian.
But one book did catch his eye, it seemed to be an almanac. A quick flip through that brought to bear statistics of the kingdom dating back several generations. Maps drawn in colored ink adorned other pages, annotated with scrawling longhand in the margins. That one may be worth something.
The desk held similar documents, though Archer found a single worm eaten sack that jingled when touched at the bottom of a drawer. A pocket's worth of coins remained within it, the silver tarnished by damp conditions.
The thief's hands also found a button on the underside of the desk, which looking closer would reveal to be bolted to the floor. Wires could vaguely be seen running up through the wide legs if he looked through gaps in the decayed frame. Pushing it would only reward him with a painful shock.
Whatever it did, the poor maintenance down here rendered it useless long before they arrived.
Archer pulled his injured hand back, yelping in pain as the sharp prick of electricity stung his curious finger. The small sack of tarnished coins weren't even enough to make up for his efforts, and he tossed them to the ground, causing them to make an unsatisfying clink as they hit the hard floor. "Stupid desk" he muttered to himself. Between the wine they couldn't carry back with them, the foul malodorous air of the underground, and now his humiliating defeat at the hands of a desk, Archer was, sincerely, quite glad that he had not brought Ariana along with him. He would not want her to see him humiliated like this.
On the other side of the room, Petrel seemed to have fared little better, finding only an aged almanac. Their search in vain, blue and purple had little other choice but to head back and try the lower level. "Come on" said Archer, beckoning for Petrel and Houndoom. "This place is obviously of no value to us. Let's try the lower level now."
He could only hope that Beedrill's string rope, tenuously attached to a fragile statue, would be able to support them on their downward descent without dropping them down some dangerous path.
>>24995047 Among the books on the shelf, there was one caught Petrel's interest. Unlike many others, this one wasn't all full of words he didn't understand. Well, it was, but it also had several maps, so that was at least something. Maybe Archer could make something of the language written on the book. >>24995128 When Archer yelped in pain, Petrel chuckled. "What, did the desk bite you?", he mocked him as they left the room.
Once outside, he looked at the string of rope that was meant to hold their fall. Whether or not would the rope resist wasn't his worry, what he was worried about was if the old statue would be able to hold on enough to reach the bottom of the hole without letting them fall.
Sediments trickled down onto the heads of the two rockets as they rappelled into the next level, a testament to the statue above sliding even further towards the mouth of the sinkhole. The only stones that hit them were pebbles luckily, but it wouldn't do the nerves any favors. If they looked back up they could see the mutilated face staring almost straight down at them, so far had it slid.
The stench on the lower floor was absolutely atrocious, much worse than above. The smell of something having curled up and died combined with the aroma of waste and stagnation. There was about half an inch of cloudy water on the floor that must account for the latter, and the former could probably be attributed to the strange army-green fish (or pokemon?) that laid dead not far from their landing spot.
It seems they had found the dungeon, located in a subbasement. The floor crested and troughed where some great force twisted the tiles like a dish towel, and it slanted upwards as it lead back towards the castle. The opposite direction looked to be flooded by that foul water, having collected at the end of lower hall. Barred cells broke up the otherwise featureless walls and they continued on into the darkness. They appeared rusted, but damage from the fire doesn't look to have spread this far.
For now the only way was forward, unless they wanted to poke around the cells themselves.
To describe the stench of this place using words borders just beyond the realm of the impossible. It is a foul, pervasive rank, the kind that slinks its way into your nostrils and never lets go, not even after a whiff of the most heavenly aromas. Bringing his hand and tie to his nose did nothing, for the smell had already invaded. Archer coughed and gagged, his body so violent in its attempt to reject the foul odor that he almost vomited. Houndoom, whose sense of smell was far greater than that of its master, found the stench literally unbearable, and so the bluenette was forced to recall his hellhound.
"Fuck, this stench is terrible" he said. Yet again, he found himself exceedingly grateful that Ariana had not come with him this time. The stagnant water was a foul colour, almost as foul to the eyes as the stench was to the nose, and despite being so shallow it threatened to climb its way up the thief's pant-leg and down his boots with each step taken.
"Let's each take a side and check what cells we can break into" he said. "And try not to get wet. There's no telling how hard this stench will be to get out of our clothes."
As he landed, some of the water on the floor splashed on his boots. And then the smell hit him. The smell of the wine cellar and the office above were nothing compared to the one found on the lower level. It was probably the worst stench Petrel had ever smelled, it reeked of putrefaction and sewer water.
Unlike Archer's rather violent reaction to the foul odor, Petrel resorted to containing a little vomit on his mouth, before taking a breath from the cigar on his hand.
"And to think I was going to take my new clothes here..." he replied to his Partner, as he walked towards a nearby cell, careful not to get any of that water on his clothes. The brown boots on his feet, however, didn't have the same luck, as the water started to dampen them and stick the foul stench on them.
The going was horrible. The smell was bad enough, but the floor was uneven and it forced them to walk carefully or risk falling. The sump collected in the divots and sloshed with each step taken. The hairs on their necks began to stand on end as they moved, and a sort of pressure seemed to bear down on them. An uneasy feeling.
The first couple of cells were empty, but curiously they found skeletal remains in several of the ones further back. Some human, some otherwise. Maybe the royals weren't as benign as could be hoped? The skinless faces seemed to watch them while they moved by, empty sockets and barred teeth grinning as if they were laughing at some private joke at the duo's expense. Watches and rings could be seen on hands and fingers of a few, if they wanted to be particularly unscrupulous they could take them - the locks had rusted enough that a good kick would act as their keys.
At the end of the hall here they had a choice of four ways to go. A solid metal door to both their left and right, a staircase circling upward, and a collapsed wall straight ahead on the other side of the steps that must have been opened from the same event that ruined the floor and allowed moisture and dirt to seep in through gaps in the walls.
Speaking of moisture, the source of that foul water seemed to be coming from the egress dead ahead. The spooky feeling grew worse as well in that area.
No use robbing from the dead tarnished items that could be stolen new. We'll pass on grave robbing for now. That the skeletons were not all human was... Interesting, to say the least. Perhaps some foreign pokemon species long since deceased? Aliens? Or are the Britons just that far removed from the rest of humanity that their skeletons appear inhuman?
Presently, blue and purple had come to a choice of four. To go up would likely bring the pair back to the castle, and into contact with red and teal, but it was not yet night and they were set to meet back at the car then. Left and right both yielded metal doors. Perhaps they could be broken through with the right equipment? And straight ahead was a collapsed wall, a way not obviously meant for traveling folk such as them.
The way was clear after only moments of deliberation. "Let's keep going straight" said Archer. "If we don't find anything, we'll turn back around and try one of these doors."
As Petrel inspected the cells, careful not to fall, he thought of those skeletal remains that clearly didn't belong to anything human. What they could be, he couldn't know, and being honest, he didn't care much. Maybe some sort of Pokémon native to the region.
>>25001698 Petrel agreed with Archer's decision. The path straight ahead, unlike either of the metal doors, didn't much work to get by, whereas the metal doors to their sides would need them to work their way past them, and due to the stench in the area, staying there was definetively one of Petrel's wishes.
Blue and Purple had to duck their heads to get through the collapsed wall, and the stone was coated with a foul smelling slime that stuck to their hands. Or gloves if they were smart. Good thing they weren't here in a rain storm, apparently this place flooded.
The air was a little bit cleaner in the room they stepped into, by virtue of its expansive width and actual semi-modern ventilation. Grills along the ceiling brought in fresher air from somewhere above. Cots sat on metal slabs bolted to the walls, still hosting pillows and bug bitten bedding. Some also still hosted their occupants, though their bones were less yellowed than those one room over. Everything was covered in a film of that same muck.
Wires were exposed along the wall where erosion had eaten the rock, and they sparked bright blue whenever droplets of water hit them.
Wardrobes and footlockers made up the rest of the furniture in here. Two other metal doors sat hanging off their hinges loosely, one lead into a latrine that didn't need explored. The other looked to open up into a common chamber of a sort.
How about we don't touch that slime? Our hands are dirty enough from years of thieving, let's try not getting them even dirtier. And in case it hasn't been said before, thank the merciful gods for modern air circulation!
Archer breathed a sigh of relief as his airways took in the scent and feel of non-rancid air. It wasn't really that much better, but the lack of a pervasive and rotten stench made it all the more bearable. Too bad about all the slime, though; that's bound to make poking around in this room somewhat difficult. So too would the exposed, often-sparking wires hanging loosely from the wall. This room would be a difficult one to explore, unless...
"Beedrill" said Archer, once more calling forth his poison bee "I need you to poke around where there's slime, and see if you uncover anything." Being a poison-type itself, and endowed with large pointed forearms perfect for poking around in places, Beedrill was the perfect choice for exploring the slime-infested areas of this room, leaving Archer and Petrel free to explore elsewhere.
"While Beedrill is checking this room out, we'll go explore the common area the next room over" said blue, motioning for purple to follow. "And try not to step where it's wet. There's loose wires everywhere and I'd hate to have to carry your electrocuted body out of here."
Petrel followed Archer into the next room. And true to his companion's words, there was a fairly big ammount of loose cables on the floor and hanging from the walls. If he didn't want to end up like the people on the last room, he would have to take care around the place.
And so like that Archer left his companion to the pitiable job of muck raking. Literally. What a guy.
The common room was about twice as big as the barracks they had just left, perfectly square in shape and with a matching door at each cardinal direction leading off into another sleeping chamber. Card tables, dart boards, books, and even the odd TV was set up down here. Most of these were overturned, smashed, or otherwise in disrepair. A ladder lead up to a hatch in the ceiling that presumably was used to access this hidden area. The eerie feeling intensified greatly here.
By now they could probably divine that it was some kind of panic room, which would explain all the secured doors. Much more grimly it would also explains the bones, whoever had took refuge down here never got out. Possibly during the fire? Scratch marks from human hands were dug into the walls, tables, and practically over every inch of the hatch.
The floor was cracked down the center, with the half across from them rising about two feet off the ground. A huge T-shaped fissure rent open the floor, opposite wall, and ceiling. Indeed, that nasty water was flowing down from above in a hole large enough for them to climb through.
Skeletons dressed as servants bobbed gently as the water flowed past them and back into the dungeon after collecting in that fissure. There were even more trinkets here, some valuable looking despite their poor condition, gathered onto a central table that had remained standing despite the ruin. Amongst them a heavily bejeweled mask of ivory fit for a ball, a necklace clasping a pink gem, and some earrings heavy enough to look uncomfortable.
It seems not all of the servants were honest either.
Archer knew value when he saw it, having spent years stealing from jewellery stores all across Japan in numerous attempts to appease Ariana, and he knew he was looking at value when he saw that necklace. Without a moment's hesitation, he grabbed it, squirreling it away in his pocket as a gift for his lady friend. The ivory mask and earrings too, he pocketed, but the value of those items had not caught his attention the same way that the necklace had.
It was then that Archer noticed the... Severity, of the situation, shall we call it? These bones were not like those in the dungeons. No, these were not meant to be here. The locked doors, scratches on every conceivable surface, and the massive fissure tearing the room almost in twain, all indicators that something, or some series of things, had gone horribly wrong here. What had happened was not his place to guess, but it was enough to make him take a moment's pause, as he almost reconsidered stealing from these unfortunate bastards out of sympathy.
Almost. In the end, his desire to please his Ariana-chan won out against his pity for the unhappily deceased. "Nasty looking sort of thing, isn't it?" asked blue to purple. "Would hate to be these guys, dying here, trapped."
Sauntering up to one of the skeletons, Archer gave a kick to the skull, saying "Oh well, nothing we can do to help them, I guess" as he watched the skull tumble down the fissure into the blackness below.
"You check around here for a bit, see if there's anything else of note lying around. I'm going to check in on Beedrill, see if he found anything. When I come back, we'll head up that hole in the ceiling and see what else we can find."
The atmosphere of the room was much heavier than in the past rooms, it was tense, and the objects scattered on the place, untouched for a long time, and the scratches on the walls and tables gave a sense of the despair that the skeletal remains must've felt on their last moments.
But Petrel didn't think much about that. All that went through his mind was the sight of the valuables left on the skeletons and on the center table. At last, something worth his time in this place!
While Archer asserted himself to the most valuable of the possessions, probably taken straight from the royals themselves at a moment of opportunity, Petrel's cat went about scooping up everything below the bluehead's notice. It was dirty work but he came out of it was a decent bundle of gold and silver. Would take some polish, but it'd be a nice payday for Purple. Could buy a few whoppers off of it for sure.
The bee unfortunately came back with little of note. Had there been hidden areas in here prior, these poor gits likely would have used it and not perished. Or they were just equally inoperable, fundamentally the same outcome in the rockets' eyes.
As far as the gap in the ceiling, a steady draft rolled into the flooded chamber from somewhere up there. One's first guess would be that it lead back outside, and that would indeed prove to be the case if another handy rope-spool was provided by beedrill to make the ascent.
Kind of, anyway. The broken stone opened up into a relatively narrow pipe of mortared brickwork that carried the water, sewage they could now be reasonably sure, out of the castle grounds. Tectonic activity apparently also caused a second outflow into the dungeon.
If they really wanted to tromp through more filth they could go further in, but the the opposite side lead to clean air and a grate through which greenery could again be seen.
Beedrill returned to Archer empty-handed. Seems there was nothing of interest in the slime-infested room, be it treasures nor secrets. But the insect's work was not yet done.
Archer and the bee returned to the common area, >>25008044 to find Petrel and his cat rummaging through the scraps of the impact crater. "Find anything good" asked blue of purple in a mocking sort of tone.
The bluenette looked up at the fissure in the ceiling. There seemed to be two possible ways out once up- Through more muck, or through a grate and back out into the fresh air. "I'd say we've spent enough time underground, don't you think?" he asked.
"Beedrill, get up there and make us a way up" was the command, and the poison bee responded in affirmation, flying up through the crevice before spinning another String Shot-strand climbing rope. With no decent point of affixation, Beedrill would have to hold the line himself. Fortunately, the insect was well adjusted to its master's weight, and the task of holding fast as a person climbed would not bother it.
Getting closer to the grate brought them to the sight of the same garden from earlier, albeit a different portion of it. From there, the manmade waterway spilled into the more natural one of a local river. A keyed gate allowed access to this passageway from the outside, and vice-versa, though it'd require them to cross to the other side of the canal to get to it.
What might catch their eye in particular was that the door was already swaying loosely on its hinges at the touch of each rogue breeze. Someone had come through here not long before and undertaken the task of popping it open for them.
If they looked really close they could see the person who probably did this a few dozen yards upstream. Even at this distance they'd have a hard time misidentifying who the figure was, with their long, luscious locks of red hair.
We're almost out. Hand over hand, legs locked together, going up, inch by inch. Hold steady, Beedrill, we're almost up. Archer's head peered over the top of the crevice, scanning the scenery to determine the best course of action.
The light of the setting sun in the distance was but a faint glowing ember when Archer and Petrel reemerged from the dungeons, but it was a bright enough sight that they were still forced to divert their eyes from her radiance. The fissure had opened up into what appeared to be a sewer-way or aqueduct, which would explain the foul stench in the water. Where the trickle of sewer sludge did not fall down into the common area below, it sluiced through a metal grate and spilled out into a stream nearby, possibly the same stream that connected to the garden pond at the castle's front. Someone had been kind enough to leave the grate open, and the bluenette had a pretty good idea as to who this was.
With a heave, he pulled himself out of the crevice and back onto solid ground. The ground was wet, slimy, dirty, nasty, but after what he had been through, what his nose had been through down in the dungeons, he found that he cared very little at this point. Joined by his purple-haired companion, Archer recalled Beedrill. Doing his best to wipe clean his person of filth and grime, the bluenette sauntered out, being sure to grab a handful of flowers growing nearby as he made his way over.
Hearing a voice, Ariana whipped around as if she were at the major leagues and winding up for a pitch. Her eyes were fire, red hot with rage. Now what would make her so mad? Well, quite a few things. For one she smelled like the drainage tunnel they had just left. For two she was alone.
The harsh scowl on her face made it seem like she was going to say some very pointed things, but seeing the flowers brought calm to the redhead. She took a deep breath, and exhaled through gritted teeth while reaching out to take his offering. A weak smile barely supplanted the sour look.
"How is it you always know just the right things to do, to keep me from tearing your arms off? It's a gift." She said. Before continuing the grunt looked over Archer's shoulder back the way they had came. Evidently what she saw, or didn't see rather, wasn't too her liking.
"I've been trying to find you for ages. We have a problem." Although no less upset, she took the time to brief the duo on what had happened on her team's leg of the quest. Both the good news, finding that vault (?), and the bad of Proton being captured. No end to their luck yet, it seems.
Well, I guess your dubs confirm I am lucky, but.. Oh dear, Ariana-chan was angry. 'Think Archer, think, what could you have possibly done to make her angry?' "Look, Ariana-chan, if this is about me splitting us up, I ca..."
But the bluenette needed not explain his reasoning, for the redhead unleashed a torrent of bad news faster than a champion Rapidash at the races. Like, seriously bad news. Game-ending-tier bad news. Proton was in the hands of some unknown enemy, and they had neither the information nor the manpower necessary to recover him. On top of which, it seems that this unknown enemy was also after the treasure, meaning that, manpower or not, the two sides would certainly be coming to blows sooner or later. Archer desperately hoped it would be later, but something in his gut told him that the attack would come sooner.
But more importantly, in her escape, Ariana-chan had gotten dirty that nice burgundy skirt she had gotten for her birthday. Priorities, Archer, priorities. Isn't the fact that your friend has been kidnapped more important than your girlfriend dirtying her clothes? It isn't? Well, okay...
"Don't worry, everything will be just fine" said Archer, placing his hands on the redhead's shoulders. "We just need time to come up with a plan, that's all. And maybe a bath. Definitely a bath. For now, let's head back to that inn we stayed in last night and try to get some food and rest. It'll be easier for us to plan once we've had time to sort everything out."
You think you're upset? Imagine how she must feel. Furious, amongst other things. Ariana liked these clothes and now she'd practically have to burn them to get rid of the smell. Normally warm, she folded her arms and looked away at Archer's touch instead of reciprocating. Not having it so easy this time. If it wasn't for the quick save with the flowers, who knows what'd have happened?
"Hmph. I got a plan for you. I'm going to find them and shove these boots down their throats! This is our time to shine and I'm not letting some two-bit cockney yokels ruin it!" His comrade hissed in a second rising of anger.
"But you're right, let's go back. I want out of these clothes, and to find some real food. I just hope Proton holds on until we figure out what to do." To think, her showing concern for that chav. Good thing only her closest friends are here to hear it.
"Just calm down, Ariana-chan" Archer was upset for the ruination of his clothes too, but he was just a man, and as such he would never be as fashion-conscious as Ariana. It could be worse, though. It could have been more than just her clothes that were tarnished. Clothes could be replaced, dignity and body, not so. "When we get back to Japan, I'll take you shopping and get you whatever clothes you want. My treat."
That alone might not be enough to calm the fiery redhead, and so the bluenette proceeded around to Ariana's backside. The hands of a thief need to be thorough and searching, making them perfect tools for giving backrubs, which the redhead was in obvious need of. "You've been under a lot of stress lately, and I need you to calm down if I'm to have you in top form."
"Here, I got you something else" he said, slipping the necklace out of his pocket and around the redhead's neck. "There's more where that came from, but first I need you to calm down."
Let's not tell Proton that you were concerned for him. Might go to his head, make him think he's important and such. Best to just keep it between the two three of us.
"It had better be one hell of a shopping trip. I want to buy the entire mall. Normally I'd say 'and everyone in it' too, but the person I'm looking for isn't for sale at any venue. Or at least he had better not be." The woman said with no shortage of bitterness in sight. It wasn't clear if she was making a threat or a joke. Maybe both at once. That seemed to fit her style.
Archer would notice her ruby eyes continuing to peer at him from the corners while he maneuvered around, probably realizing what he was trying to do. She didn't stop him at any rate, nor did she offer reply at what came after. Though, she did give a relieved, or maybe exasperated, sigh from the motions of his hands.
That said, the addition of fine jewels to the equation did bring one corner of her mouth to upturn. "Such a charmer, you. Alright, I'm calm. Let's just go home, okay? I don't want to be out in the open if those...'people', come back."
Inwardly, Archer cursed himself for the fact that he had almost certainly promised himself into poverty. Never again would he use the bribe of an all-expenses-paid shopping trip. A part of him found only himself to blame, constantly spoiling her with nice things until they became expected presents for every occasion; or perhaps she had always been a material girl, and he had just never paid notice. Oh, he didn't mind going broke for his Ariana-chan, but it was enough to leave him thinking.
At any rate, the redhead was no longer fuming. The backrub, or the necklace, had done its job. It was time to move out. With any luck, food, bathing, and sleep would come in peace, leaving the trio some time and breathing room in which to plain their daring rescue. "I couldn't agree more" he said. "I think we've all grown tired of castles for the time being, and the sooner we get out of sight the better."
Ariana let him continue for a couple of minutes, until he had agreed with her point of view. Once that condition had been met she reached back to take his hands and tug him against her. Somehow, despite where she had just came from, her hair somehow still managed to smell pleasant. Cinnamon, perhaps, or some other spice-based perfume.
"I promise I'll find you something nice to return the favor before we leave this cursed little kingdom, even if it kills every last one of them." The rocket said just quiet enough to go unheard by their purple haired companion. She was thoughtful enough in her own way. Just now she had the problem of finding out what kinds of things Blue liked that she could acquire...
Matters for another time. For now she lead him off to the car, by force if need be. No more sitting around in stinky clothing and hanging around spooky castles.
Archer walked the lamp-lit streets of the small village, paper bags filled with food held tightly in both hands. All around him were crowds of people, celebrating some holiday whose festivities seemed to have no end. The town had been celebrating hours earlier when the trio had returned to their inn as the last embers of the day sun sank below the horizon, and even now as the clock struck midnight, the festive lights and the sounds of joyous cheer seemed to have no end.
The walk had given the bluenette time to dwell on the perils that lay before the team now, but the constant, low rumblings of his stomach had time and again interrupted his thought process until at last, in desperation, he elected to wait until he had eaten before attempting to iron out a concrete plan. There was, though, one lone possible idea, nagging at the corners of his mind, spinning the wheels inside his head. Perhaps, just perhaps, this lone thought borne of desperation would yield their salvation.
The walk from the market back to the inn was only a few blocks, but the throng of celebrating peoples had caused the trip to take far longer than necessary. At last, he returned. Their lodgings were spartan- Two beds, a table, closet, and a bathroom. Hardly space enough to stuff four now three men into one space, but it had served its purpose thus far.
"I'm back!" he called, setting the bags of food down on the table. "Sorry I took so long, but it's a nightmare trying to navigate around out there."
But I wonder, what have the remaining two members of our party been up to while I was away?
Upon tossing open the door Archer would almost run straight into Ariana's back. Which was probably not the worst turn of events for him, all things considered. She raised a single hand in greeting to the blue haired man only a few paces behind her. The makeup on her face was clear indication that she had been out-and-about as well, if the bags in her own hands weren't enough of a clue on their own.
"Tell me about it, the streets are packed. But at least the locals are in a good mood, could be worse. Makes it even easier for us to sneak around, right?"
She tossed one of the bags onto the floor, and pointed down at it with the hand now freed.
"They whined when I tried to wash our clothes downstairs, so I had to find a laundromat. Small price to pay for not smelling like a ditch." She announced. Archer may just get to see her in that skirt again after all. For the moment she stuck to pants brought along as a backup for reasons just like this. Ever the helpful one, she had seen to everyone's apparel ruined last night and not just her own, but woe be the man who's got the stones to make a joke about 'traditions'.
"So, what'd you get us this time? No more grease I hope?" The redhead then inquired, moving onto the topic of food. She peeked into the bags without waiting for an answer.
We are once more joined by the small, froglike man, servant of the man called "Darwin". Pressing news has brought him ere this eve to his master's quarters. It seems some ill news brews on the horizon...
"Sir, there's been a spot of trouble over at the League. One of the Elite attempted to assassinate the Champion earlier this morning. I saw to it that he was removed from his post, but we're now left with an empty seat just days away from the opening of the season."
"Additionally, the prisoner we took from the castle grounds has thus far yielded us no useful information, despite our best efforts. Neither physical torture nor mental extraction via Reuniclus has been effective at peeling away the secrets of his mind."
"Sir, if I may be bold, might I suggest that we cease our regimen of torture, and instead attempt to treat the prisoner as a friend? He may be more willing to open up to us if we show him kindness. Of course, if you would wish that we continue our current course of action, then I shall see to that as well."
"And one more thing, sir, before I depart- The Prime Minister has extended an invitation asking you to join him and his cabinet for a meeting over dinner a week hence. Shall I RSVP your acceptance?"
After the long shower Petrel had to take in order to take rid of the stench of the castle, he threw himself on the bed, face down to think a bit. The events that Ariana had informed them of troubled Petrel, to say the least. He had almost forgotten his hunger. Almost.
>>25014380 The leader of this mysterious group sat back in his chair, completely befuddled. ''How odd, just what kind of people are we dealing with that have that kind of mental fortitude?.....'' With that kind of information at hand, Darwin was starting to get a bit worried that is nefarious schemes might have been compromised. ''Do as you wish with him, just keep him locked up...and yes, tell the minister I'll be there.''
"Well..." Archer reached into his bags, removing from the paper constructs cartons filled with delicious-smelling treats. "I got curry- Indian, I'm afraid, not Japanese; something the vendor called 'bangers and mash' even though I don't see any 'bangers'. I see sausages though... Let's see, there's some fish, chicken, some sandwiches, and something called an 'Eelectross pie'. Yeah, no idea what that is either, but it's apparently some kind of local delicacy, so who knows?"
"Well, excuse me. I'm not the one that scheduled a festival at this time of night. You can either be glad that I brought us something to eat that wasn't day-old greasy American burgers, or you can spend an hour trying to fend for yourself out there."
Yes, unfortunately things weren't looking so great out there. But all was well now. The food had arrived, and dinner could be had in peace, for the moment.
"Of course sir. I'll see to it that everything is done at once."
And so it was that Proton, were he still conscious after the day's torture regimen, would find himself being dragged from his ten-by-ten cell, and treated to a much larger room, somewhat more... Cozy, perhaps is the right word, than his previous cell. It was still a jail cell, to be sure, but now he had something to look at beyond the brick wall and iron bars. For across the hall from his there sat another cell, equally as... Cozy. Inside sat a girl, perhaps no older than the teal-haired grunt. Who was she, I wonder?
Ariana subtly heel-kicked the rest of the stuff she had been holding under one of the beds while the trio picked at the food. It wasn't entirely up to her standard, but it might as well have been ambrosia compared to what they had the other morning. Or nothing. But nothing almost seems more appetizing compared to that trash.
But this? Well, it would do.
Primarily, she fell back on the sandwiches and chicken. It was hard to screw up chicken, even Brits couldn't easily manage such a feat.
"What are they celebrating anyway? I tried to ask but I couldn't understand the term. Didn't help they were shouting it in the streets. Quaint little berg."
>>25014500 Proton awoke from his pain induced slumber to find himself in a more comfortable room. ''.....What the fuck happened? Am I hallucinating again?'' He attempted to open the door to no avail, finding that despite this appearance of his room, he was still in a cell. ''Nope, still in jail.''
"You know, pants don't look half bad on you" said Archer, eyes running up and down the length of the redhead's body as he munched on a sandwich. "They're not what I'd like to see you wearing, but they're not bad."
The bluenette had made little change in his attire since the trip to the castle dungeons. Everything had gone in the wash, but he had spares of almost everything, save his blue jacket and crimson tie. These he had replaced with a green jacket and a golden-yellow tie. Perhaps not the best-looking combination of colours for someone with azure hair to be dressed in, but those were the spares he had brought, for good or ill.
"From what I gathered, this is sort of like their version of America's Independence Day, where they celebrate their country becoming independent from the rest of England. Or maybe it's the anniversary of the royal family's overthrow. Now really sure which, I'm afraid."
Putting down his sandwich, the bluenette grabbed for a slice of the mystery pie. Hesitantly, he raised the pastry to his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. "... It's good."
A hand veiled the grunt's face at the perfect moment to obscure sight of the blush and smile that the comment brought to it, but the eyes told the full story. Just as they were red as cinders when angry, they were warm as a summer night when happy.
"I like to think I always look nice, but thank you. I prefer slacks when on the job anyway, less of a liability. I've never tripped in a skirt, but I'm not going to take any risks." What did it say about Proton when he was outran by a woman in heeled boots and a dress? Better to not bring it up to him, the wound to his pride might never recover.
She gave a curt nod at his explanation, sampling the meal while considering the occasion. Festivities could still be heard softly through the walls. "I don't know, I think royalty suits the place better. You could stand half of this country against last century's photo album and it wouldn't look out of place. I'd have liked to meet them, the royals. I'd have liked to have robbed them too."
Archer's companion wasn't nearly as brave as he was, and while she watched him carefully during his sampling, the lack of keeling over didn't entice her into dessert. "I need to watch my figure anyway."
"That makes two of us" replied blue, turning his head to stare at the ceiling. In his mind's eye flashed a vision, a chasm springing open to cleave the room in half, as he had seen in the underground. "Just imagine the places we'd go if we could say that we robbed a royal family..."
"I had an idea of how we might go about getting Proton back" Archer sighed, placing the remainder of his slice of mystery pie down on the table with his half-eaten sandwich. Despite the tumult in his stomach, he found that food wasn't doing anything for him at the moment. "Well, not really, more like a half of one, but maybe it's our only hope right now..."
"Our enemy has all the cards right now, while we have next to nothing. Before we can rescue Proton, we need to gather some information about whoever these guys are, and find out where their base of operations is located. I'm guessing that we won't have much luck asking around, and even if we did uncover something, it's likely that we'd just be drawing attention to ourselves. What we need is a man on the inside, who can feed us information which we can then use to formulate a plan of attack."
"We need to let the enemy capture Petrel."
"I know, it sounds terrible when I say it like that, but he's the most suited out of all of us for the sort of infiltration this mission calls for. Unless you have a better idea for how we can get information, that is. I'm all ears if you do."
Ariana ceased eating as well when the conversation shifted back to Proton. It was still a sore spot. She hadn't left him behind purposefully, but if one of them didn't get out who knows what would have happened? Bad choice, no matter what way you played it.
Then Archer deals out another set of bad and worse.
"Are you serious? You want to put us at half manpower and give them an even bigger edge? I mean, he's good, great even, but what if even Petrel can't manage to get out once he's in?" She protests, the two of them forgetting that they were talking about the smoker as if he wasn't right next to him. It seems he was too caught up in his own meal to offer up any commentary yet.
> Unless you have a better idea
"I guess I don't." There was a long silence before she spoke up in resumption. "I mean, it's an idea. But even then there's the question of how we'd get him captured. Send him to ask around and be as blatant as possible? They might realize something's up and not bite."
Archer laced his fingers together, squeezing his thumbs together at the bridge of his nose. Sighing, he attempted to explain to Ariana his rationale, however flimsy that may be. "Look, this isn't something I want to do, okay? If we had any other choice, any other choice at all, I wouldn't have even thought to bring it up. But we are completely in the dark right now, and we desperately need information about our enemy."
The bluenette's voice seemed to waver. For the first time in years, Archer sounded... Scared? That's impossible. Archer never got scared; right? "It's a terrible idea, and I don't need you reminding me of that fact. But I trust Petrel and his abilities completely; if I didn't, I'd have volunteered myself to be the patsy."
"As for how we're going to get him in... That, isn't something I had really given thought to. If we're lucky, we might be able to engineer a favourable outcome through the good use of planning and time. If not, it may be something that's left up to chance."
>>25014500 >>25014570 The girl across from him was observing him with silent curiosity. She sat on the floor leaning against her bed, a book at her side, her fingers bookmarking the page she must have just been on.
>>25014919 Proton noticed the young girl across from him. ''So...what are you in for?'' He said as he leaned against the bars. ''Did you piss off the wrong people too? Use that living Jell-O mold on you to fuck with your head?'' He then shook his head as he realized that there was a small chance that he was speaking an entirely different language. ''You probably don't even know what I'm saying.''
Somewhere within his explanation Ariana had wandered to the window and peered out at the townsfolk on the sidewalks. She didn't seem much more confident than he did.
"It beats doing nothing. I don't know by how much, but it's definitely a step up."
"If we're going to do it. we had better start thinking of how we're going to get him bagged. That has to be step one." She said, brow furrowed in contemplation. "Did the royals have any other crown holdings? Summer estates and such? They're clearly keeping an eye on the castle and that locked room."
"They said they couldn't open it either. Supposing they weren't lying, maybe the king hid the key somewhere else? That'd be the smart thing to do. I'd bet they were hoping someone else would poke around and do the work for them, so they could swoop in and take the prize. It's what I'd do. So maybe we keep poking around and act like we know more than we do to lure them in?"
She shrugged, shoulders rising and falling in just the right way to send her hair flowing down her back like a river. "Best contribution I have right now. If Petrel's in to do this crazy thing, I'm in."
The redhead's words echoed in the Archer's mind. The bluenette reclined back on the bed, legs splayed out as he folded his arms behind his head. His gold-yellow tie flopped unceremoniously over the side of his chest as he stared, first at the ceiling, then at Ariana. If she leaned in close enough, she would almost hear the wheels in his head spinning, faster and faster, roaring like the steam pistons of a mighty machine. Something was forming in his head.
"It's what I'd do..." he said, repeating her words back to her. "It's what I'd do..."
"I need to take a look at that journal you found. There might be some clue hidden there. If you're right and the king did hide the key, he would have been stupid to not record the location in some fashion. Whether because he died or he forgot, if he didn't make note of the key's location it would have been lost eventually without some sort of record of its whereabouts."
>>25014971 ''Oh, so you can understand me?'' Proton said as he leaned against the wall of his cell. ''Well, since we're going to be cellmates, might as well get used to each other, I'm Hugh, nice to meet you.'' He didn't know if he could trust this girl yet, so he had to keep up the facade.
The journal in question hadn't left her backpack since they returned, she had dropped it in a corner and immediately spent her time trying to get the grime from the entire adventure off. It hadn't escaped her mind that she had it, just that there would be a problem in actually reading it. Complying with his request, she fished it out of the bag and handed it over to the leader of the their team.
"I tried to flip through it when I first found it. I didn't have a very easy time of it. Reading type in a foreign language is one thing, handwriting is another. Maybe you'll have better luck."
The springs of the bed creaked softly in response to Ariana dropping down to sit beside him. The pages of the book wouldn't be the only thing he'd have a good view of while in that sprawling posture.
"Maybe the other book would be a useful cross reference? I'd bet it records anything else of importance that he owned, and where it was. I doubt we'll find a historian in this village to ask after all."
As the journal's leather brushed Archer's hand, and as Ariana lay down beside him, he was reminded of the comforts of home. Sprawled out on a nice soft bed, with a wonderful view overlooking the twin peaks of Mount Fuji, he reminisced of home, almost forgetting that this mission had raised the stakes to new heights.
The journal was old, the leather cracked, the writing on the pages worn and smudged. Some letters were indecipherable, causing much aggravation to the bluenette as he struggled through the king's handwriting.
The clock ticked the hours away. Petrel had moved on after devouring most of the food. Save for a brief moment where the bluenette stopped to remove his emerald blazer, the pair remained motionless. As close as the redhead was now, there was no way she could miss the sounds of the wheels spinning in Archer's head, as his azure eyes darted back and forth across the page, occasionally lazing their way over to steal a glance when he thought she wasn't looking.
"I think I've got it" he said, snapping the book shut before bolting up to a seated position.
Every now and then red would attempt to help him, but didn't really contribute much to the process. Most of her efforts in this language had been put towards speaking, which in her mind would provide the most immediate benefit. It wasn't wrong, but it made things more frustrating when it turned out the clues they needed were all in written format. Bummer.
That said, spending a few hours with Archer was never a bad thing. The situation could have been better, but silver linings were something she was good at looking for.
When he finally reached a moment of eureka, she eyed him up with renewed confidence. Quickly, she asked, "What have you got? Don't keep me waiting."
>>25015075 The very idea of being stuck in a cell for that long actually worried Proton, though he didn't let it show, he still had a face he had to keep up. ''That's not right...though it makes me question just how long this whole mess has been going on and just how deep the rabbit hole goes.''
"It's a selection of poetry the king wrote about his wife" Archer replied. Despite the revelation that that their saviour in diary form was naught but a collection of serenades to the queen, the grin on the bluenette's face couldn't have been more triumphant. "But it's so much more than that."
"Each poem is written in code. It's inconspicuous enough that you wouldn't think anything of it at first glance. I didn't, but the longer I stared, the more things started to come together."
"The 'key' is actually two separate keys- Lockets, actually, if I'm figuring this the right way. They fit into the divots in the vault door, and when you rotate them both in on each other, it opens the lock. It's ten feet of solid steel all the way through, which explains why the other guys weren't able to get in."
"And, if I'm reading this second half correctly, it seems that the overthrow of the royals was orchestrated by one of the king's friends, a businessman named Darwin; apparently, he wanted to be the king, and went behind his friend's back to orchestrate the 'revolution'."
Hurriedly, Archer leaped off the bed, grabbing for his travel bag. "If I'm right in the way I've read this, then we have something that these guys will desperately be wanting, and if we're unlucky enough that Proton spilled the beans about you having found this diary, they'll be coming for us very soon." Fingers grabbed for the inside corner, clasping a hidden zipper that, when drawn, revealed a compartment stocked with treats.
Four Norinco Type 54 9mm pistols and eight spare magazines, hidden behind a lead curtain.
"Sorry I didn't let on that I had brought these earlier" he said, handing one of the 'black stars' to Ariana. "Had I known that we'd be getting the shit thrown at us right off the bat, I'd have handed them out right after we got in the car."
Archer's detective work was reward by Ariana throwing her arms around his shoulders and giving a tight squeeze. "Ha! I knew you'd pull through for us and figure something out. You always do."
She was tempted to ask why all of his ciphers weren't written codes about how amazing she was, but that could wait for later.
"So the plot thickens, guess that answers the question of who this Darwin character we had heard about is. Sounds like a real slimeball. Hmph." She proceeded, as the name jogged her memory of their pre-mission briefing. Seemed it was all falling into place.
The redhead released him from her grasp and followed in standing, dusting herself off and waiting to see what he had to show her in his pack. The fact that it happened to be full of guns had her putting on a staunch pokerface. Only because if she didn't put in the effort, it'd have ended up to be something much worse.
"You know, Archer. I'd have liked to have had this when that guy was waving a machine gun around in front of Proton and I. Just saying."
Anything else in mind, she tactfully held back in favor of taking her pistol and giving it the works to ascertain that it was in working order. You could never be sure with these Chinese pieces. A disdainful click of the tongue was only the first part of her impending commentary.
"Better than nothing. Takes me back to before I joined Rocket," she commented, and then quickly added, "I don't like that."
"I don't particularly like it either" Archer replied, sliding his own pistol into the inside pocket of his nearby blazer. "Personally, I'd rather have something I can rely on. Something European; a Walther, maybe. And I'm sure you'd prefer something with a little more class than a Chinese bootleg of a Russian sidearm from before we were born."
"But, on the bright side, I think I figured out how we'll get the enemy to take Petrel in without arousing suspicion...."
Everything the bluenette needed for the mission had been stuffed in his travel bag, and he now hurried to shove his more important toys onto his person. "Get your stuff into the car. We're leaving now; I'll explain everything when we're a safe distance away from here."
>>25015355 ''Well I'll make sure to remember that when I break out of here...'' He says as he gets to laying down on his bed. ''Nice place though, kind of makes me wonder who else is stuck down here.''
The pistol found its way into the waistband of her pants, and she tugged her own shirt and jacket down over it to break up the bulge of its form. A little uncomfortable, but it'd have to do for the moment. She nodded at his commands, taking her own bag and shouldering it in a single fluid motion.
"Alright. After you. The sooner we move, the better. Let's hope Petrel didn't get too far."
The heavier luggage she had to cart out by hand, and it was summarily shoved into the trunk as it had been when they landed. She moved to slam it closed, but thinking twice encouraged the redhead to go back to gather Proton's things as well. If Archer was right and the gunmen knew about their room here, they wouldn't be coming back.
>>25015430 >24 anon posts >4 of them (including your's) are telling us to fuck off >Nearing 6 years into the RP here I'm only replying to tell you that you're tarnishing PC-98 Yuuka with your complaining.
Archer and Ariana departed from their room with haste, leaving behind nothing, save for two items that Petrel, when he returned, would find of use- A small black disc, heavy, and bearing a strong magnetic attraction; and a note describing their plan.
Hopefully, their prodigal purple-haired friend would return to their room before the enemy accosted him, or before they arrived to begin the search.
Petrel wandered around in the streets. As much as he could, anyways. It was hard to find a way among all the people on the town, so he really didn't walk too far before deciding to return to the hotel they were staying at. It was late already, and he was tired from everything that happened that day.
Upon arriving at the room, he expected to find his partners there. Instead, however, he found silence and items: A small magnet and a note. He approached the note to read it, as he held the disc on his other hand.
"Petrel, by the time you see this, Ariana and I will have already taken off. Sorry about making this decision without you, but if I'm right, we're operating on limited time. The plan is simple, assuming the enemy arrives to capture you tonight. Put up a token effort of resistance, just enough to make them not suspicious when you lose. That disc I left you is a magnetic tracking device encased in a non-toxic coating. Swallow it, and it will allow Magneton to track your movements. Once inside the enemy's HQ, you are to locate Proton and gather as much intel as possible before breaking yourselves out. We'll meet up with you later once you're free and figure out how to best use the information you've gathered.
Time is of the essence, Petrel. Better get ready. Oh, and flush the note down the toilet after you've read it. can't let the enemy know what we're planning, now can we?
Meanwhile, thousands of feet away, Archer and Ariana found themselves playing the role of stakeout, watching the movements at the inn from the roof of a building some safe distance away.
"Okay, Petrel's returned to our room" he said, passing the binoculars to his redheaded friend. "That's been the first bit of movement that way since we left, so hopefully that means he got my note before the enemy did."
Ariana took the binocs from blue and used them to gaze down at their former room. Every now and then she could see flashes of purple, indication that their friend was indeed present.
"Guess it's all up to him, now. Let's hope he still has that crazy spy game in him."
While saying that she swept the streets and adjacent alleys for any signs of movement or anything else suspicious. So far, still clear. They were banking on a lot of unknowns, and neither of them liked it.
"I'm sure he'll come through for us. Proton and him are likes peas in a pod, he wouldn't let him down. Right?"
Petrel read the note carefully, then proceeded to walk to the bathroom, crushed the paper with his hand and flushed it down the toilet.
Afterwards, he went to grab a glass of water to pass down the little disc. He wasn't going to gulp it down just like that, right?
While he didn't like Archer taking the choice without him, he would've accepted either way. Proton was his friend, even if he didn't get along with him all the time. He put the magnet on his tongue, to then gulp it down with the water he had just served himself. Afterwards, he lied down on his bed, expecting company soon.
"While I'd love to think that everything is going to work out just fine, we've got too many unknowns in play to say whether this will work for certain" responded blue, as he called forth his Magneton to begin the necessary prepwork that would allow the magnetic trio to track the movement of their purple pal. "That's why I gave him one of my tracking devices. In the event that something goes tits-up, we'll still know his whereabouts and we won't be at a total loss."
And then, a thought occurred to Archer, some critical oversight that he had only just now realized. Breaking away from his work on Magneton, he asked of Ariana "Do I... Do I look good in this thing?" He tugged at the lapel of his green blazer for emphasis. "Because I just realized that you took my blue one to the laundromat, and I probably won't be going back for it until this is over."
"Will that tracking thing really work? I thought that stuff was just a plot device in movies, not something that worked in real life." The grunt replied, still watching the inn.
The question regarding Archer's apparel brought her attention back to him, however; binoculars being set aside so that she could prop herself up an elbow to face him.
"I admit, I do kind of like how we seem to color code these days. But yes, you look great. You always do in fact. They say the clothes make the man, I beg to differ." She reached out to tug on the collar of the aforementioned jacket to straighten it out on his behalf. That her hand brushed his cheek gently along the way was not at all coincidental.
"But if not blue, what I'd like to see you in is white. Like when we're done here and have our promotions, hmm? Maybe offices right next to each other, too. Proton and Petrel can be our secretaries." That idea brought her to smile wickedly. Proton would practically die of embarrassment on the spot if he got a desk job. It would be nothing sort of brilliant to see.
But of course that was just her own way of trying to relieve the tension of the situation. As she often tried to do. If only they didn't have to do this at all...
"Well, if I've got my theory correct, if I overclock its Magnet Pull it should be able to latch on to the magnet inside the capsule I gave Petrel, and use that to give us a rough estimate of where he is" was Archer's reply upon being asked if his idea would work. "In short, yes, it should work."
Getting a glimpse at those ruby-red orbs was always a treat, more so when they were looking back at him. With a coy smile as the redhead elaborated on her plans for their post-promotion, the bluenette could only add "Of course, if I'm wearing white, it's only fitting that you follow suite. We'd make an even lovelier pair."
And of course, the image of of Proton, forced to dress sharply for a desk job, served its purpose to the letter, eliciting a slight chuckle from the male grunt. "You're too cruel, Ariana-chan."
But alas, it's time to cut the lovey-dovey crap and get back to work. Magnet Pull won't recalibrate itself, and the room at the inn isn't going to watch itself...
As Archer finished up his work inside Megneton, the trio of magnets began to violently shake, and the construction leaned forward in the direction of the inn. "Look alive Ariana-chan; seems we've got movement."
>>25020110 The smoke and the blinding light had disoriented Petrel, and he tumbled to the floor after tripping himself trying to back away. Despite his efforts to get up, the smoke, coupled with his pupils still trying to adjust to the abrupt change in lighting just made him fall again.
>>25020155 >>25020146 >>25020140 Four men in black uniforms quickly run in and grab Petrel, placing a burlap bag over his head and tying his wrists together with zip ties, dumping some sleep powder all over his face.
"They haven't come back out yet. The smoke's pretty heavy still, I can't see what's going on." A few seconds passed, then she kept at it. "Alright, I have visual now. They have him cuffed and look to be knocking him out. Expect them to hit the road soon."
"What's the range on that thing? Are we going to have to follow in real time or what?" Ariana asked hurriedly the moment that potential complication came to her mind. If they'd have to stay within a given range, they'd have to get rolling immediately.
Ariana skittered back to her feet and tucked the binocs into a pocket. Once again she snatched up her backpack that was laying beside her, and began to head down to street level so that they could make for their car and give chase.
"Ingested tracking devices and car chases, I take it back. This is a movie, and we're in it. All we need now is for these guys to lead us back to a spooky underground lair or something and we'll be set."
"This can't be a movie" Archer replied as he started the car. "If it were, there would be a girl that the hero would wind up with at the end, but..." A gentle touch, a knowing smile, a kind word. The charmer at work. "... We both know that the hero got the girl a long time ago."
But the time for sweet sentiments and the pleasant memories of touch have passed. Now is the time for work. We've precious little time to act before Magneton's signal is lost to the boundaries of distance, so let's get rolling.
>>25020199 >>25020206 >>25020222 >>25020290 >>25020351 >>25020465 The van this group seemed to be using would stand out to the group....mainly because it was a van belonging to the local police department, two of the men in black quickly dragged over their hostage to the back of the vehicle while the other two quickly got to driving through the streets at a quick pace.
"Oh, this is not good. Do you see that?" Ariana asked, and pointed to the markings on the side of the fan. Either these guys had cops on payroll, or were confident enough to strike the PD directly and get away with it. Either one she didn't like.
"Least it won't be hard to track. Think I'd have gone for an ambulance myself..." She shook her head, they had to focus. While Archer drove she pulled free her gun and checked it a second time. Just in case the goons realized they were being followed and tried to do something about it.
"Yeah, I saw it" Archer replied. His eyes darted madly, glancing at the road, the markings on the van, the piece in Ariana's hands, the rear-view mirror to check on Magneton in the backseat. "I'm not liking the look of this either..."
The pair were, most assuredly, not participating in the car chase scene of an action movie, so distance, not speed, was the crucial element here. Metering his acceleration, Archer made sure to keep a safe and inconspicuous distance from the van, yet stay close enough that Magneton's tracking could still get a bead. A delicate balance to be sure, but one that the bluenette, with a little luck, could execute successfully.
>>25020556 >>25020528 The van didn't seem to make many odd twists and turns, as if they didn't notice the pair on their trail. Although, there was no telling what was going on inside of the van, as it did shake quite a bit whenever it stopped.
"So far so good. Let's hope we don't have to get into a gunfight and ruin everything." She tersely whispered, as if afraid the thugs would overhear her from way back in their own vehicle.
It wasn't an optimal time to be doing this, the lack of other vehicles on the road meant that if they kept an eye out they'd be easy to spot. Worse, they knew the roads better and could lead them into a trap.
So far, there have been no catastrophic failures in the plan, but deep down Archer knew that he and Ariana were on the same wavelength of thought. There was no telling what was going on in the other vehicle, and for all they knew, they could be driving right into a trap. For now though, all they could do was continue their present course of action.
>>25020608 >>25020644 The van's finally stop would make the uneasiness the two were feeling grow, as it had entered the parking structure of the police department the vehicle belonged to. They would watch as Petrel was brought out in handcuffs, bruised and beaten as he was taken into the station.
"Son of a-" Ariana began, but didn't finish. Instead the hammering of her fist against the side door would take the place of profanity.
"I admit it, it's clever and I hate them even more for it." A begrudging amount of respect was given for a good play, but it wouldn't deter them that easily. "What do you think? I'm betting they're going to make an exchange from here. No way their base is in a cop shop."
Despite their earlier string of good luck, Archer had to admit that things had just changed from bad to worse. "Yeah, they're good alright."
Silently, the bluenette pulled the car up along the street by a nearby shop, backing into a nearby alley in such a manner that their vehicle remained hidden, while still allowing them a good vantage point from which to view the station. The engine idled, as driver and passenger could do nothing more than wait.
"Hopefully they didn't notice us as we were following them" he said, motioning for Magneton to duck down behind the seat, out of view. "We might be waiting her awhile, so get comfortable."
>>25020692 >>25020730 Hours passed and nothing happened, though people in police uniforms came and went, no one of any importance seemed to leave the building. There was no sign of the people who had kidnapped Petrel, or perhaps they had already switched out of their disguises....who knew at this point. Though one thing was certain, this place was a legitimate police station, and the people they were dealing with were real police.
The wait was long, but Ariana didn't have anything to say about it. Complaints wouldn't do anything but distract them and ruin their focus. She did look between the magnet pokemon and its trainer from time to time for reassurance that the goons didn't pull any fast ones. No one told her about it if so.
The third hour saw the redhead getting rather tense, and it only got worse by the fourth. It'd be morning soon at this rate.
"Well, we know that they're legitimate. Which probably doesn't bode well for us. Do you suppose they framed us and then called in the police? I mean, they could have got all the intel they need out of Proton; this would theoretically keep us out of their hair for ages."
She rested her head against the window, there was a light thump of impact. "Guess we better keep an eye out for wanted posters."
The situation was indeed grim. Four hours into the stakeout and Archer too was beginning to have doubts. Not that he hadn't had his doubts about this mission before, but that their enemy appeared to be the local police was never a good sign. Back home, his intimate knowledge of the Kanto and Johto sewer systems made evading capture the easiest thing in the world; but here, he knew nothing. "I hate to say this, but I'm almost positive that we're in over our heads."
"I hate to say this, but if things keep getting worse we may have to abandon ship and focus just on getting ourselves out of here. I'd rather we leave empty-handed than dead, and dead's where we'll wind up if we don't get some intel and fast."
''Alright, he should be waking up by now.'' Would be the first words Petrel would hear as the effects of the powder wore off. He would find himself bound to a metal folding chair with his wrists tied behind his back. The pain caused by the beating he was given in the van would hit him all at once now, and a searing pain would hit his eyes as one of the police officers shone a light in his face. ''Alright talk, who sent you?''
>>25026322 As soon as Petrel's eyes opened, the blinding light from his captor's flashlight made them violently close again. And this was when Petrel realized that his face hurt. A lot. He grunted from the pain, then tried to move this hands to his hand, to then realize that he was bound to the chair completely.
It took Petrel a few seconds to remember what happened before he was knocked out, and why. Petrel finally opened his eyes, trying to look away from the light.
"Who are you? Why am I here?", he managed to speak out.
>>25026437 Petrel would find himself in a police interrogation room, with the only means of escape completely guarded by two policemen. Two others, a man and a woman, slammed the flashlight down on a desk in front of them. ''Don't make me repeat myself, son. If I don't get an answer soon, you'll be behind bars before dinner time.''
>>25026567 The male officer took his screaming partner over by the side as he sat next to Petrel. ''Listen, we're really sorry about what our officers did to you, they've been taken care of and we can assure you it won't happen again. But you and some other people have been sighted snooping around some very suspicious areas, if you can just tell us why you were, we can let you go. We have one of your friends here, and he's told us most of what we needed to know, we just want to follow up on it.''
>>25026675 The female officer would quickly throw the table over towards the side as she grabbed Petrel by the collar, pulling him close to her. ''Your little friend tried that already, we know you and group can speak english, now talk!''
>>25026692 The officer's actions startled Petrel greatly. While it was true Proton could speak his share of the language, the purple's knowledge of it was very limited. "I speak very little english, I swear!" he replied, this time in a less broken way.
>>25026736 The male officer placed a hand on his partner as he whispered into her ear, she seemed to calm down quite a bit as she placed the table back in it's place. ''Fine...as much as I don't want to do this, we'll leave you here until we can find a translator, but we're keeping an eye on you.'' Both of them left the room and the sound of the door locking could be heard in the deafening silence.
The moment the two officers left the room, Petrel started to think out his plan. He looked around for any cameras while he started to try and break free from the chair he was in, starting by his hands.
>>25026842 >It's a simple interrogation room, to your right is the door, which is locked, thought there might be some guards behind it. In front of you is a one way mirror, whether or not someone is on the other side is unknown. To your left is a window, it might be large enough for you to squeeze out of but who knows how far up you are. The cuffs around your wrists aren't that very tight, you could slip out of them if you tried, but it could be painful, at best you can try to move around so your arms would be in front of you, but that could be risky. As for the chair, you could try to get out of it if you knocked yourself over, but you risk making enough noise to get the guard's attention.
>>25027385 Proton poked around his plate, a meal like this was way beyond his pay grade, so he was very suspicious as to why someone they had just beaten to a pulp was now getting the five star treatment. ''I don't suppose I could get the key out of this place?''
>>25027419 ''I'll just take some coffee or something.'' He said, completely confused as to why he was being treated like this. ''Though, I don't suppose you can tell me where I am? '' He figured he could at least try to see if the kindness could be extended to help him out as much as he wanted.
>>25027524 ''Yeah, thanks for being specific....asshole....'' He mutters as he goes back to his bed. It seemed like he wasn't going to get many answers here, and escape was going to probably take a while. He eyed the food a some more, it had been a while since he had eaten, not counting that godforsaken american sludge they had bought getting here. ''Hey Martha, was it? Do they drug the food? ''
>>25026919 Petrel looked at the mirror in front of him, finally seeing the bruises from the beatdown he had received, while trying to remove the handcuffs on his wrists. There wasn't much he could do with his hands tied.
>>25033448 Petrel thought out his options. He could either break the the handcuffs outright if they weren't too strong, or he could try and remove his hands from it, but risk breaking his wrist instead.
He focused his sight to the mirror again. That looked like on of those mirrors that went one way, so there's likely people on the other side, watching him. If he broke the cuffs, it would be very noticeable, thus alerting the officers. Having thought of that, he started to work on getting his hand out of the cuffs, hoping not to hurt himself in the way.
>>25033570 >You manage to get your hands out of the cuffs, though your wrists are fairly sprained. You can now look around the room with more freedom, and if you pressed your face against the glass, you'd faintly see that there's no one on the other side of the mirror.
Petrel grabbed the cuffs with his hands and steadily walked towards the mirror. Pressing his face against it, he could faintly see behind it, only to see no one behind it. Taking a deep breath, he walked towards the window, try and see how much up he was. He still had a mission inside, but if things got rough an exit could be favorable.
>Petrel could see that he was on the second floor of the building, he could fit through the window if he tried, and there was some garbage there to cushion his fall. On the desk next to the door was a pair of keys and some doughnuts.
>>25033760 Petrel looked at the height and realized he could get out that way if needed. He then focused on the desk next to the door, walked up to it and grabbed the keys and a doughnut, to then bite it. It wasn't really his favorite, but he was hungry enough to eat it.
>>25033811 >You took the keys and a doughnut! >You gained some health!
>Petrel could use the keys to unlock the door and escape around, though the keys on the ring were only limited to the doors on this floor, looks like you'll need to find other keys if you explore the other floors.
>>25033882 Petrel silently tried the keys on the door. Perfect match, but he had to be careful, there could be guards outside. Petrel laid on the floor, trying to see any shadow or hear a sound that indicated guards outside.
>>25033905 >There were no guards stationed outside, but since this was a police station, there was some hustle and bustle with the officers doing their work. The hallway lead in two directions, to the left was the evidence room and to the right was the elevator. The wrong move could get you caught though, so step carefully.
>Sneaking mission, must be done in three moves, no matter which direction you take
>1, 5, 9, 0 in your posts could catch the attention of the guards >2, 4, 6, 8 mean you're ok >Dubs or higher pretty much make everyone oblivious to your presence.
>>25033933 Petrel silently opened the door and walked outside steadily, then look to his right, in which there was an elevator. Now, he could go that way, but elevators often have people. So he took the other way, hoping nobody would see him. He sticked to the wall and tried to look confident, so nobody would bother looking at him
>>25033969 >You pretty much bump into some of the officers just as you walk out of the room, you can try to lose them in the corridors or in the other rooms but if they get you, you're pretty much screwed.
>Two moves left to escape. Same roll rules apply. >Rooms around to escape to; Evidence room, stairway room, bathroom, locker room.
>>25034039 >Welp, things look like they get pretty worse for you as you get into the bathroom. While you're going, you fail to notice all of the police inside of the room with you. Also, you're in the ladies bathroom So now half of the police in this room are on your tail.
>One turn left, same roll rules. Though, screw this up and it's back to the slammer.
>>25034118 >You manage to evade the copes for now but escaping into the elevator, you feel your body lurch down as the metal box takes you lower and lower, but everyone is still after you. You find yourself deep underground once the doors open, and the area around looks completely different....as if it were a luxury hotel or something...was that steak you smell?
>>25034234 Petrel somehow made it, althought there probably still were cops on his tail, and he had no idea how to find Proton, which was going to be a much harder task with the entire police forces chasing him, in their own home, no less.
As the elevator doors opened, he could faintly smell food... A steak, maybe? No, impossible. Must be the hunger playing tricks on his mind.
...Or not, as the floor he had just arrived to seemed like a completly different place, like if he had gone through a portal to a luxurious hotel. He walked forward, steadily, in case there he was not alone in that place.
>>25039761 >The corridors around him seem to stretch out for miles. Without a map, one could easily get lost down here, and given that Archer and Ariana had no idea where he was, this could prove dangerous. The hallway leading out from the elevator split off into three directions, left, right and forward, each one with rows and rows of doors.
>>25039839 Petrel kept walking forward, into the long corridor. He thought of opening one of the doors, but if there was someone inside, he would be in trouble. He kept walking forward, hoping he would eventually reach something that wasn't doors.
>Every corridor looked exactly the same, almost as if you were in a never-ending hall of mirrors. You walk forward for quite some time, finally reaching some stairs, some leading up and down. The scent of food could be coming from downstairs, while upstairs smelled like fresh laundry.
>>25040087 Petrel walked on and on, eventually finding a pair of stairs - One going down, one going up.
Petrel thought of going down for a bit, but then he realized that where there was food, there is likely to be people, and he would likely be caught if that was the case. That in mind, he slowly walked upstairs, trying to see anything before fully going up.
It had come to roughly the fifth hour of blue and red's stakeout, and still there showed no movement from Magneton. Restless grew Archer and Ariana, doubtless, waiting for some sign, any sign, that their friend was unharmed, that their plan had not gone awry. The minutes ticked away, a slow, agonizing crawl. The bluenette began to grow restless. Dawn was just beginning to poke her head above the horizon, bathing the silent, still streets in her warm golden-red glow.
Sighing, the young thief's thoughts turned away from the motionless drab of the city just waking from its slumber, and towards the redhead occupying the passenger's seat beside him. There were plenty of things Archer would have preferred to have spent his time doing, many things that did not include "stakeout at fuck-o-clock in the morning"
She was beautiful, he thought. The most beautiful girl in the world. To gaze into her eyes, burning with passion like sun-struck rubies, was to gaze into the eyes of God Arceus Himself. Her hair, scented like exotic spices, flowed forth and cascaded down her back and chest like a crimson waterfall. Her face, like an Italian fresco depicting an angel...
Thoughts of scarlet were interrupted, as the bluenette was brought back to the real world by the intrusive banging of a large magnetic object against the back of his seat. "Shit" he spat, jolting upright from his slouched position. "We've got movement."
>Despite how in use this room was, everything seemed to be automated, meaning no one was here, a lucky break for Petrel as he walked through the steamy room. There was a lot of women's clothing and bedding being washed here, all the same style and size, though in one of the boxes marked ''dirty'' he'd find the clue he'd been looking for.
Ariana had begun to doze off from how long this operation had been dragging on for. The wait was merciless and the fact they had no idea on if Petrel was succeeding or not only made it all the worse, anxiety compounding the boredom and unease.
She hadn't quite managed to get to napping, which was good, because the steel type banging around inside their car startled her enough as it was.
"Gah! Is that the sign we're looking for?" She asked, looking around frantically to see if anything else had slipped her notice. It looked like they were still in front of the police department, and that was where the magnet was pointing.
"Shit. Take point and I'll follow. Let's hope he gave the coppers a run for their money, I got a bad feeling about this."
"No, wait" Archer replied, holding his hand up to mime "stop". "We'll look suspicious if we start walking around with a foreign pokemon out of its ball. We'll try to follow the trail in the car for as long as possible."
At the turn of the key, the engine once more roared to life. Slowly, the car began to move, guided forward by the Magnet's Pull. Slowly, meter by meter, the search began anew.
>>25040149 Petrel found no one on the laundry room, much to his relief. He began to search the place for anything useful, but every piece of clothing was pretty much the same. However, on a box labeled "Dirty", he found something he just wouldn't mistake.
It was Proton's hat, which meant he was nearby. He took the piece of clothing and looked for any other helpful thing, otherwise, he would try his luck downstairs.
"I can only assume that, had they seen us, we'd know by now" replied the bluenette. Slowly, they crawled forward, another meter, another meter. "What I'm more concerned about right now, is what the hell is Magneton doing? It's giving me mostly 'down' signals, but still flashing directionals every so often."
"Maybe the place has a basement, or something like that? I hope these goons don't have a base in the sewers or something. If I have to wring gunk out of my hair for the second time in two days I am going to scream."
Oddly prophetic words considering where they would end up to be later in life.
"I wish we had a translator so we could just ask it what it's doing. Hmph...how much earth can that thing get a signal through?"
>>25040191 >There wasn't much else to find in the area, save for more dirty laundry. As Petrel made his way between the floors, he would hear the sound of people running through the halls, most likely some guards looking for their escaped prisoner. The kitchen was of course, fully stocked, filled with ingredients that were well beyond the grunt's pay grade. Just what kind of place was this? There were two trays of food that looked ready to ship out via dumbwaiter, a hamburger and a Waldorf salad.
>>25040328 >>25040347 >Just as they said that, Magneton would slam quickly against the floor of the car, wherever Petrel was, they were right under him. Unfortunately, if the two were to get out of the car, they'd find the one thing they dreaded the most....a manhole cover.
"Okay, I've got some good news and some bad news" said Archer, slamming down on the brakes as Magneton slammed down on the floorboard. "Good news is, I think I have a pretty good idea of where Petrel is."
"The bad news, it's down in the sewers."
Sighing, the bluenette began backing into the alley where the two had spent the last five hours parked. "What do you think?" he asked, turning to the redhead. "Should we go down and see if he's found something, or should we let things go the way they are?"
>>25040343 Petrel decided to move a bit faster, hearing the sounds of what was likely his captors looking for him. Upon reaching the kitchen, to sight of food alerted him. If there was food, there was surely someone that was going to deliver or eat it. And as much as he would've like to take a bit of that burger, he couldn't let anyone realize someone was there.
He gladly took a bit of the salad though, nobody was going to notice a tiny bit of it gone, right?
Oh Ariana already knew exactly where this was going when the magnet thumped against the ground. No one needed to spell it out for her that her worst nightmare had come true. It still didn't stop her from groaning loudly when Archer ran through the options. Why was it always sewers?
"Never leave anyone behind, didn't you say that? Doesn't mean I like it. I'm going to beat both of them when we get back home." She said, rubbing her forehead as if in pain. "Let's go check it out."
"You won't be the only one beating them" was all Archer could respond with as he exited the vehicle, Magneton in tow.
Well, down we go again on our own. Going down the only road fate seems to want us to know. Let's just get this over with. Time, once again, to descend to the sewers, where hopefully things will suck marginally less for red and blue than they did before.
>>25040408 >There wasn't anywhere else Petrel could go, and the sound of people walking towards the kitchen, he could try to hide in either the cupboards or the dumbwaiter, or fight his way out. >>25040480 >>25040440 >The sewers were just as smelly and dark as they remembered them, probably even more so. Though as they walked deeper into the caverns, they'd find a steel bolted door.
Ariana followed the team leader without hesitation, but that was only because she forced herself onwards through it. Otherwise she'd have thought better of this horrible plan and immediately backed out if given any time to think better of it.
But she didn't. So there she was. In the sewer, with Archer, and now in front of a huge door.
"Well at least we're getting somewhere."
The grunt ran her fingers along the cold surface, in particular looking for how it opened and what locked it.
>>25040488 Suddenly, the sounds got much closer than before. Shit, they were too close! Quick, Petrel, think.
He couldn't possibly fight his way off - He wasn't that good to fight an entire police force. He quickly ran over to a cupboard, grabbing a knife in the way, just in case things went wrong, and hid inside.
Archer pressed his ear to the steel door, brushing Ariana's fingers away from the cold metal. "Shh..." he whispered to the redhead, as he lightly rapped his knuckles against the obstructing object. This was just like safecracking, if this door possessed a way to be cracked from this side.
It would also serve as a handy way to learn if someone was on the other side, in the event that the door could not be cracked from this side.
>The cupboard was fairly cramped, why the hell did you hide in there? But the sounds of footsteps quickly filled the room once you went into hiding. You hear a voice ''Send the food down, it's time for the prisoners to eat.'' The sound of a motor running could be heard as they finished up. ''Find that man and kill him, we can't have him finding our guests.''
>>25040550 >>25040594 >The door sounded hollow on the other end when Archer knocked on it, and it seemed unlocked if he pulled on it. There was a stairway that seemed to go down forever.
The door seemed to lead into a hollow space on the other side, and it seemed that it not only possess a simplistic lock mechanism, but was also unlocked. With a gentle push, the bluenette eased the steel barricade open. Magneton, compelled to lurch forward by the draw of the magnet in Petrel's gut, took point.
"Let's go" he said, extending his hand to the redhead.
Ariana eyed the door and staircase beyond suspiciously, the fact it was unlocked made her more wary rather than less. Their luck was never this good, there had to be something more to it. However, it wasn't like they could turn back now.
With a sigh, she took Archer's hand for support.
She declined to say anything for fear that it would echo, and she made a lip-zipping motion to Archer to relay the same precaution. No reason to be more obtrusive than they had to be.
>>25040805 >The people seemed to be gone after having sent the meal down to god knows where. Just who was it that was getting such a great meal? >>25040772 >>25040793 >As the duo made their way lower and lower, they would find themselves in the same fancy hallways Petrel had with the same lack of idea of where to go next. Rows upon rows of doors were ahead of them, with only the scent of food to guide them.
Well, this was certainly new. The scent of a sewer was, most regrettably, quite intimate to Archer; but this was not that same scent. This was... "Food?" Chancing to speak, the bluenette found himself asking "Am I going crazy? Or are we really smelling food in the sewers?"
Just what the hell had the pair stumbled upon? None seemed to know, but the change in direction from Magneton seemed to indicate that they were, at the very least, heading in the right direction.
"No, its food alright, and I don't think we're in the sewer anymore. This looks lived in. Like a house." Ariana said, pointing out the immaculate paint on the walls around them. Someone seemed to live here, or at least put a lot of effort into maintaining it. It was as good a sign as anything they'd get these days.
Archer nodded in affirmation. The redhead was right- Wherever they were, it wasn't the sewers. Someone, probably someone rich or important, lived or maintained these quarters, and they had just broken into that person's domicile. And, despite the ever-mounting risk of being caught, the bluenette found himself strangely aroused at the thought of danger being so close at hand. Aroused, but cautious all the same.
"You know what this reminds me of?" he said, sliding his way through the shadows as he followed Magneton's lead "Remember when we broke into that rich guy's house thinking it would be easy money? Remember how he came home early, and we spent the entire night cramped into his spare closet until he left for work the next morning?"
"That's sort of what this reminds me of, right now."
The redhead followed close on his heels, sticking to darkened corners and spots concealed by opened doors and furniture. She neglected to check any of the rooms they passed for now, they were here to find Proton and not loot.
As much as she wanted to get something out of this jaunt to make it all worthwhile, they had to stay focused.
"That house was a lot smaller. We could get lost in here if we're not careful. Speaking of..." Having given herself a good idea, Ariana lightly scratched the lacquered door frames each time they took a turn with one of her nails, so that they could find their way back. Shallowly and down by waist level so it wouldn't be immediately apparent without outright looking for it.
No way is this rescue turning into another capture.
>>25040989 >>25041029 >The labyrinth of luxury seemed to go on for miles with no end in sight, the only thing ensuring the duo that they weren't going in circles was the odd staircase leading them to different floors. The sounds of the guards chasing Petrel filled the halls, the rumbling of their boots slightly shaking the walls with each step they gave. If Archer and Ariana wanted to hide, they could jump into a random room or attempt to run to a different floor, but who knows what could lie behind those doors?
>Odd numbered post; You hear a guard coming.
>Even numbered post; You're alright for now.
>You can run into a random room or go up or down the stairs. Rooms might contain important items or clues, but going to a different floor could lead you closer or further to Proton and/or Petrel. There are two floors under you and heading upstairs leads you to the surface.
>>25045767 >The dumbwaiter that led to a lower level was now empty, it looked large enough that Petrel could fit in it if he needed to. Despite being inside of a kitchen, there wasn't much to eat, at least nothing he could take without having to cook, something Petrel didn't really have time for.
The sudden sound of approaching feet snapped Archer from his past musings. Their cadence was fast, steady, cacaphonous; at least two persons, both male, fully-grown, one possibly on the cusp of being overweight, based on the sounds of their footsteps. Instinctively, the bluenette drew the redhead in close, pressing their bodies flat against the nearest door. Magneton followed suit, taking great pain to pull itself away from the strong pull it felt coming from the direction where the footsteps of guards seemed to be moving. It too pulled itself against the door as flat as could go.
"Shh" he whispered, cupping his right hand over Ariana's mouth, while with his left hand he attempted to jiggle the handle of the door. If it was unlocked, they could take a moment's solace until the danger had passed. If it was locked...
Ariana made herself scarce, pushing against the papered wall and trying to make her form as narrow as possible. It might buy them precious seconds before they fell into the guards' line of sight. Her eyes followed Archer's hand as it tried the handle of the nearest door.
It didn't budge. Locked. She cursed internally and pulled away from his embrace, so that she could try the next one closest to her position. It was worth risking the brief exposure, or they'd be caught for sure standing in the open.
>>25046457 >>25046499 >Somehow Archer had managed to find the one door in this entire place that turned out to be locked, he should really do something about his bad luck when he got out of this, otherwise that might bite him hard when it push came to shove. Luckily, and the narrator really means this, Ariana got them into the one room that seemed to held the mother load of this entire maze.
>You entered the security room!
>You found two guard uniforms! >You found a map! >You found a set of cell keys!
>On screen, the duo saw what looked like dozens of screens, showing them what was going on in almost every important room in the underground. They could clearly see Petrel skulking around in the kitchen in one of the screens.
To say that Archer was impressed with the Ariana's lucky find was an understatement. Not only were the pair fortunate enough to find some spare uniforms (that, upon closer inspection, appeared to be in their sizes), but they had stumbled into what appeared to be the command center for the entire facility. And a map, which would no doubt come in quite handy when coupled with the mass of screens displaying just about every location in this 'building'.
And look- There's Petrel, skulking about in what appeared to be a kitchen. Maybe we won't need Magneton and its possibly faulty magnetic guidance anymore.
"Ariana-chan, I think I could kiss you." 'I think I will kiss you' could be a more accurate statement, as the redhead would find herself drawn in by the bluenette for a surprise celebratory smooch that maybe lasted a bit longer than *just* a celebratory smooch should... As always, her hair smelled of spices, but the stress-filled hours spent in the car, followed by their brief trek through the underground, had left her with the light, lingering scent of sweat from a day's duties.
Were the two not in such a precarious situation, it was likely that their momentary joining would have lasted longer still, but time was not on anybody's side this day. Their celebrations were broken by the jingling of keys; Magneton had attracked to its 'person' a set of keys on a ring. What they unlocked, none could say at the moment. "Right, back to work."
One uniform for himself, the other for Ariana. "We'd best get changed, and fast. No telling when someone will come around to check this room out."
The luck in finding the security station on their second try had the redhead stunned, but extremely pleased. She practically cheered, but stopped herself short of actually doing so, instead just punching the air triumphantly with no vocal accompaniment. Don't want to ruin it by alerting the guards they had just avoided.
"Think? What's sto-" Is what she began to say to Archer, turning away from their haul and towards him. Likely she had the same idea, but was the slower acting of the two and wound up to turn right into his arms. Which was not unwelcome in the least.
She was slow to pull away from him, the moment ending too soon; even the rattling of magneton was only a footnote at the time Still, she knew Archer was right, and slid away from him after letting delicate fingers drift along his clothed sides for another scant moment.
Those same hands grabbed both uniforms quickly, tossing one to blue while red kept the other for herself. Without a word she plucked off the civilian apparel she had been sporting and replaced it with the guard's outfit. It was starchy and tight, but invaluable as a disguise.
She didn't discourage Archer from watching as this happened, and was surely doing the same in turn while he donned the disguise.
Finally she turned to him and asked, "How do I look?", while pulling the brim of the cap down far enough to shade her iconic, red eyes.
"You look like a movie star" was Archer's reply. "It's a terrible, cheesy action flick and everyone is wondering how they got a gorgeous dame like you to star in this two-bit schlock."
It was a testament to the redhead's incredible form, the perfect blend of toned and feminine, with all the right shapes in all the right places, that even after years of bearing witness to even the mundane act of changing clothes, Archer still found himself entranced by her beauty.
"The secret," he said, adjusting his own cap as he leaned in to whisper in her ear "Is that you and the lead actor are inseparable."
Grabbing the map and the set of keys, the bluenette recalled the now-unnecessary Magneton. "Now's the part where our heroes have infiltrated the enemy's lair. Donning their disguises, they set off in search of their missing friends. Will their valiant efforts be enough? Stay tuned to find out!"
Archer's words made her laugh, her bright smile showing while she did. The redhead lightly swatted his shoulder, as if it would reign in his movie star ego.
Not that hers was any better.
"As if you need to try and leave anyone in suspense. We're going to knock them dead out there, maybe even literally, and anyone with half of a brain knows it."
Before they could set out, Ariana browsed through the displays on the security monitors. This was done both to get a feel for the layout of this place in real time, and also to try and get a rough headcount of the number of guards in this base.
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