Chapter 56

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“That’s odd.” I frowned.

“‘Odd’?” Zack looked at me. “Try ‘twisted’. Who the hell is this guy, and how did he know you’d be with me?”

“He says he’ll tell us where he hid everything if we catch him, but there’s no mention of what happens if we don’t find him. No threats.”

“He probably wants to leave us guessing for a while. Imagining all the possibilities.”

“What did he take?”

“The details are classified,” Jason said, “All you need to know is that the items are extremely dangerous, and their retrieval is the top priority.”

“Oh.” I sighed. “I’m not sure how much help I can be. Especially if I’m not even allowed to know what’s going on.”

“I’m not sure how useful you’d be, either. But the thief wants you to search for him. If he finds out you’re staying behind…”

“Then he might get mad and potentially violent.” I nodded.

“Exactly. Like you said, he didn’t make any threats, which means we have no idea how far he’s willing to go.”

“Just how dangerous are these items?”

“Depends on who has them,” Zack said, “In the hands of someone with the proper knowledge and facilities… he took a sample of a rare parasite. Non-deadly, and not very contagious, but it can take a host of practically any species, and it’s almost impossible to develop a cure for it. If the thief were to genetically alter it, make it deadly, and contagious, it could be a very powerful biological weapon.”

“And the other items… they’re just as dangerous?”

He nodded. “That’s why we can’t take any chances. He wants the two of us to work together, so you’re gonna have to come along with us. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. I–I’ll do whatever I can.”

“The thief managed to hack into the security system and disable the alarms,” Jason explained, “He had to enter a series of passwords, which, judging by the access logs, he must have known beforehand. Our theory is that he managed to steal them from people working at the facility.”

“Couldn’t it have been an inside job?” I suggested.

“Possibly. Not likely. Each of those items was stored in a separate container, with a different passcode. We’ve checked the employee logs, and nobody had all those passcodes, except a few at the very top. It’s far more likely that he simply got these codes off of various low-ranked employees. Sometimes new employees tend to be a bit careless with their passwords.”

“He’s certainly good at gathering information,” Zack added, “Since he knew Luke was here.” He turned to me. “Did you happen to tell anyone you were here?”

I shook my head. “The only way anyone would know I’m here is if they’re here, too. And saw me.” I paused. “Or… or if they saw me fall. They guys chasing me, they’d know I’m here.”


“Chasing you?” Jason asked, “When was this?”

“It’s how Luke came here.” Zack filled him in. “He was under attack by some group–probably one of those radicals trying to kill mortal gods–and he crashed right into the roof of The Lab. He–he was hit by an enchanted arrow. Powerful stuff, drains the magic of whoever it hits. They’ve clearly got an interest in weapons. And if they’re going after gods, this stuff could certainly come in handy.” He tapped the armrest of his chair. “But the note… it doesn’t fit. They wouldn’t toy with us like this.”

“It might not have been them,” I said, “They might have just told someone else about me. Maybe even hired him to steal that stuff.”

“Sounds like our thief has his own agenda, though.”

“Or they told him to get me out into the open. Outside The Lab’s protection.”

A trap.

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