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104 Ambush the Ambush

    After making a deal with Fred, he gathered his four men and took the injured guards into the 'Emergency Shelter,' after that, we left. As of right now, Eden sits on Dolt's shoulder while I sit on Goliaths. Fred and his men all stare at us as if we're aliens about to abduct them via flying saucers or something, but I'm too distracted by thoughts of Essence to care.

    'I still have some stat points I've been saving. Perhaps, I should place those before going in. No, no, I need to be patient! Emergencies only!'

    Goliath saunters through the hallways as I sit on his shoulder, kicking my legs happily.

    'I feel much happier getting a ride instead of having to walk through these muddy halls.'

    "Hey, Fred!" I shout to the old man walking with his four men, "You guys go ahead and go to the Warehouse. Scout the remaining turquoise bulbs, so we will be prepared to shoot them when we are ready."

    He grunts. "Just because I'm coming with you doesn't mean I'm taking orders."

    "Okay, and...?" I ask, with a shrug.

    He and his men sigh in tandem. "Fine, we'll meet you there," he says.

    "Okay!" I reply, making a snide smile, "Thank you sooo much, Fred."

    With a roll of his eyes, the five head for the WarehouseWarehouse.

    'Anyway, this will only take a second.'

    Suddenly, I hear Aponi contacting me through the rings.

    'Eira, some guy with a bleeding forehead just ran out screaming about being attacked by a veterinarian. Things are starting to get dicey,' Aponi says.

    'Attacked by a veterinarian?'

    'Yeah, actually, I said "some guy," but it's the same one that stopped us from shooting the turquoise bulbs the other day-I think his name was Doctor Wright.'

    'Oh. That nimrod. If this veterinarian injured him, then she seems like someone I might get along with.' I laugh to myself, causing Eden to raise an eyebrow. 'Anyway, have you located Kardama or Jimmy?'

    'Yes, we think so, but we need a distraction. They are on high alert, and we're already getting questioned about our identities. It's only a matter of time now until they discover us.'

    'Welp, give me about...' I run the numbers in my head. 'Two hours, and you'll have your distraction.'

    'We can maybe do that. What about the bulbs?'

    'I'm working with someone that is going to shoot them for me.'

    'Someone is willing to work with you?'

    '...Well, you don't have to say it like that, but if you must know, they don't know much about me, and they've been cooperative. They wanna rescue some civilians or something like that.'

    'Ah, so they have no idea who you are. Makes sense.'

    'Yeah. It's perfect. Anyway, see you soon.'

    Thinking about the bear cubs, a thought comes to my mind, 'A veterinarian. I could use one of those.'

    ...

    ...

    ...

    An hour and a half later, Eden, Goliath, Dolt, and I arrive at the WarehouseWarehouse. However, now we have company in the form of twelve additional Brutes who are excitedly shouting "naht guh" over and over.

    "You have more of those things?" Fred asks with a rare look of nervousness, "They aren't going to fly off the handle, are they?"

    "They aren't the brightest crayon in the box, so just stay out of their way. If they start to lose their cool, they may just punch whatever is nearby," I respond.

    "Sounds to me like you could have just said 'yes, they'll definitely fly off the handle.'"

    I shrug with a laugh. "I suppose I should have. Just don't shoot at them, and they will probably ignore you. They like to fight, so the worst thing you could do is fight back."

    "Whatever. We're just gonna grab the civilians, and then we'll be leaving. Just keep those things on a leash before the second door. You can do whatever you want past that point," Fred says.

    'Hmm, he must mean after the door that had that one guard stationed at it.'

    With a dismissive wave, I respond, "Fine; I'll try."

    Fred looks at Eden and says, "Can you keep your friend there from going overboard?"

    Eden stares at me before turning toward Fred with half-closed eyes. "No," she answers flatly, "And please, stop talking about her like that. She can do whatever she deems necessary."

    "Listen, I just need a guarantee that my men aren't going to become giant food."

    Eden scowls at Fred's words. "She already told you she'd try, and obviously, all possibilities cannot be accounted for." He is about to say something, but she cuts him off. "There is no point in talking about it further. Nothing can be guaranteed due to the nature of the situation, so stop talking to her like you're equal to her."

    'Huh. I've never seen Eden so annoyed with someone before. Makes me oddly happy.'

    "Equal? Y'know what..." Fred hesitates, thinking through his next words carefully. Finally, he takes a deep breath and lets out a long sigh. "...Whatever. Are you ready? Let's just get on with it."

    With an approving chuckle, I toss Eden one of the necklaces that will prevent any further Mind Magic from infiltrating her mind. While putting on my own necklace, I contact Aponi.

    'Aponi, I think you're about to get your distraction.'

    '10-4. We need it asap,' she quickly replies.

    With that, I give Fred a mocking smile and a thumbs up. "We sure are Fred. We're ready when you are."

    Fred's four men raise their weapons. Several gunshots ring out, followed by bright blue flashes of light. I take note that there are far more gunshots than flashes.

    'Not the best shooters ever, huh? Not to mention, these guys don't wear the goggles or anything either. Maybe, they are separate from the people beneath the Warehouse. Eh, who knows, the guards beneath the WarehouseWarehouse will mostly be numbers for my status screen soon.'

    Fred nods. "Alright, that should be all of them."

    "You sure? If it isn't, I'll make you guys fight all the eyeless Brutes yourself," I say.

    He ignores my comment, answering, "Brutes? Is that what you call them? And yes, I'm positive. I've been here long enough to know where all the blue bulbs were."

    "Good, and yeah, Brutes are what I've named their race." I slap Goliath's shoulder while pointing at the WarehouseWarehouse. He stares at me, obviously unsure of what I want, but Dolt seems to understand, and luckily Goliath follows him. The ground trembles as the fourteen Brutes enter the Warehouse. Some of the Brutes look around curiously, pushing boxes from the shelves simply to see what happens when they do. When the boxes smash against the floor, they howl with excitement.

    Ignoring them, I focus on monitoring my cognizance while searching for danger. Checking my peripherals, I notice the Palms seem to be dispersing due to the Mind Magic within the Warehouse being suspended.

    'Hmm, wonder where the Palms will go now... Come to think of it, Fred probably didn't know the turquoise bulbs were keeping them in the Warehouse. Oh well, I'll fain ignorance if the subject ever arises. Besides, I assume their numbers are probably finite anyway; once they copy enough people, hopefully, that'll be the end of the Palm race.'

    Once again, Aponi contacts me.

    'Eira, they know you're here. Be careful,' she says.

    'That's fine. It would be nice if they'd all gather in one spot.'

    'Some of them are probably stronger than you think. Just... like I said, be careful.'

    'Aren't I always?'

    Aponi never responds.

    "Eden, and other people," I say with a wave of my hand, "they know we're here."

    "How do you know?" Fred asks.

    Reaching the hatch to the wine cellar, I hop from Goliath's shoulder. Throwing open the hatch, I respond simply, "Intuition."

    Jumping into the cellar, I look toward the open hidden door. Above I can hear Goliath and Dolt grunting at one another. Glancing upward, I see the two of them placing their hands at either side of the cellars hatch before pulling upward with all their might. The Warehouse floor creaks as the two morons rip up a large piece of the floor-the two grunt in satisfaction before jumping down after me. Cracks form in the floor beneath their feet as Dolt mimics the thumbs-up he saw me do a day or two prior.

    Next, Eden attempts to jump down, but as she does, a bit of loose concrete breaks from the weakened Warehouse floor, causing panic to flash across her face. In an effort to catch herself, she reaches out for Dolt's shoulder, who walks further away, not noticing her. Seeing that she is going to miss Dolt, I sprint over and catch her. Surprisingly, I notice in her panic that she seems to have extended what looks to be claws.

    Eden stares at me. "S-sorry, I tripped on some of the loose concrete."

    "Whatever, and hey, you actually got your claws to come out. Good job," I reply.

    She stares at her fingers, turning them every which way to study her incredibly sharp nails. A small smirk passes across her face as she clicks her nails together. Placing her on her feet, I walk toward the door as the ground continues to shake as the remaining Brutes leap into the cellar.

    Having left the hidden door open, I'm a bit surprised that no one is guarding the entrance.

    'Hmm, are they really so low on people? Well, Aponi said they're aware of us, but nothing about coming for us.'

    "You left the door open?" I glance back to find Fred and his men have apparently made their way down.

    "Yeah? Why not?" I ask half-heartedly.

    "Well, I just thought you'd want to be a bit less obvious."

    "I've got fourteen giants with me. Do I really seem like I'm going for the stealthy approach?"

    "Good point." Fred walks to the control panel and fires his weapon at it. "Now, they won't be able to close it on us."

    I raise an eyebrow at his actions. 'That's a bit suspicious. The door could still be closed from the security office. Which they will almost certainly beat us too.'

    Cutting my fingertip, I rub it between the door frame and wall. I solidify the blood, hopefully making it impossible for the door to close. Fred and his men don't seem to notice, but I wouldn't care even if they did.

    Together we enter the white hallways. Some of the Brutes walk with an exaggerated hunch, but others seem to be fine standing upright. The rooms we pass by are as expected, mostly empty, but with the occasional civilians. However, the civilians either stand mouth agape or scream incredibly loudly, causing the Brutes to yell back at them, which causes them to scream even louder.

    "Leave them. Get them on your way out," I command Fred while adding, "If you bring them out now, you'll just get the Brutes all excited."

    He nods. "Once we split up, we'll come back for them. Which should just be right up here if you're gunning to turn off whatever 'it' is," he replies.

    A moment later, we arrive at the point where Fred and I agreed to split up.

    'No one is attempting to hinder us. Weird. They must not care about these civilians at all.'

    Before I can continue these thoughts further Aponi contacts me with an update.

    'Eira, do not walk into the hallway where the second door is without being prepared. They've set up a defense there. This Doctor Wright guy is taking you surprisingly seriously,' she says.

    'What about you and Sam? Where are you?'

    'We're part of the search party looking for the veterinarian, so you don't have to worry about us.'

    'Perfect.'

    "Well, Fred," I say, walking away, "See you soon."

    "Mhm, whatever you say, girl," he replies as if not believing me.

    Splitting from the humans, we approach the corner of the hallway where the second door is located.

    'It is dead quiet, but if Aponi's information is correct, it could have been disastrous if I had walked out unknowingly. With the Brutes, I'm certain they already know we're here, so let's see what we're up against.'

    Removing a mirror from the storage ring, I attach it to the end of my scythe. The Brutes watch with drool leaking from their mouth, showing blatant boredom. I carefully hold the scythe past the hallway's corner, and in the mirror's reflection, I can see dozens of guards standing with guns lifted. On the floor, I make out little silver hexagons that seem to be putting up some kind of blue mana barrier that the guards hide behind. In each corner of the room sits what appears to be a turret of some type.

    I pull the scythe back and whisper to Eden, "There's an ambush around the corner here. After this point, things are going to get dangerous. If we get separated, you leave, and we'll meet at the broom closet."

    "I'm not leaving you behind," she responds immediately.

    "It'll be easier for me if you leave. That way, I don't have to worry about looking for you if things get bad."

    She gazes at me with uncertainty. "...Okay, I understand."

    I nod and cut my palm. "Good. Anyway, I'm sure they noticed the mirror, but they seem to want to stay behind their fortifications. So let's take advantage of that and practice making blood grenades together, okay?"

    She nods eagerly. "I'd like to learn," she whispers.
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