The voices from beyond the door were coming closer while Angus tried to figure out what to do. There were windows , but they had bars on the outside to dissuade people from breaking in while the leader slept. That was both part of the good news and part of the bad news. It would stop their escape, but it also limited the number of assailants that could enter the room at any given time. As it stood, they could funnel their foes through the doorway and hopefully defeat them before they could be outnumbered.
“Lethen,” he said. “I want you and Renala with me. Between us, we should be able to hold back the tide while the others get to work on that safe. I don’t care if you have to cut it from the wall and bring it with you, we’re getting that data if at all possible. Not only does it prove that we were set up, but I want to know what was so important that it couldn’t just be emailed or something. Whatever is on there is sensitive enough to warrant an armed escort.”
The team took up their positions when the voices got to the door and stopped. They started back up again without moving away. Angus didn’t know what they were saying so he turned to Gregor, hoping for some kind of reassurance. The Russian pointed to the door and mimed the motions that Angus had used to pry it open. The sensei guessed that the people outside were noticing the marks his knife had made on the woodwork. At least he’d had the good sense to relock the door once they were inside.
Fists hammered on the door and shouts were hurled at them. Angus didn’t need to know Russian to guess that they were probably asking who was in there and why. The team kept silent, but it wouldn’t be long before the door was forced and a fight erupted.
Angus was tempted to open it and get the wait over with. He hated waiting, but besides that, the longer the guys outside made noise, the more people would be attracted to it and come to find out what was going on. The doorway worked both ways. Just as their foes couldn’t swarm through at them, when the time came to leave, the team would be equally disadvantaged while trying to escape. It sounded like only two or three men at the moment. It might be for the best to take them out before they alerted the whole army.
Angus leaned forward to open the door when he heard the squeal of metal grinding against metal. He turned to see Prolier trying to use his claw to pry open the safe. It wasn’t a half bad idea. Normal metal would’ve been useless, but considering how much stronger daemon metal was, it might just work. Clearly the kid had learned something from seeing how easily his blade had cut through the chain in Selenduma.
“How long do you think it will take you to get it open?” Angus asked, his hand inches from the door handle.
“I don’t know,” Prolier admitted. “The claw is strong enough to bite into the metal, but I don’t know if I’m strong enough to get all the way through. This metal is tougher than the chain I cut through, and that time it had all the strength on a wild wolf daemon pulling on it. Maybe if I had some more leverage.”
Angus looked around and grinned. “How about eight feet of leverage? Renala, trade places with Prolier. If you can dig the end of your halberd into the groove the claw made, between you, Marnie and Angel, you might be able to get the thing to pop right open. If that doesn’t work, I want you to start hacking at the wall around it. I was serious when I said to cut the safe out if you had to.”
Angus watched for a moment as the trio got the tip of Renala’s weapon lodged into place and started pushing as a group. He looked back at the door. “I’m going to open the door and we’re going to take care of these idiots that are shouting in the hall. I want this finished quickly, but don’t kill if you don’t have to. Someone around here has to know something about this farming scheme. They may not have in depth information, but someone has to feed and care for the daemons and I doubt Silva or Nestor did that themselves. We need to salvage as much of this mission as possible.”
“Hold on,” Prolier said, digging through his bag. He produced a few different vials before settling on a small brown one. “This is some fun stuff. One cut from this and they should be in la la land inside thirty seconds.” He then pulled a small rag out and used it to wipe a thin layer onto his blades before handing the rag to Angus.
The sensei’s weapon was still in it’s knife form so he wiped the rag along it’s edge. He held the cloth out to Lethen next.
Lethen shook his head. “My weapon isn’t really sharp enough for that to be effective. I’ll try to herd them to you two and let you put them to sleep. If I get the chance, I’ll just knock them out the good old fashioned way.” He accentuated his point by giving his shovel a few head-high swings.
Angus nodded, handing the rag back to his student. “Are you two ready? When I open this, there may be quite a few men waiting to kill us.”
They both nodded and Angus reached forward and turned the handle.
One man was still in mid hammer on the door and stumbled in when it was no longer there to resist him. Prolier took the opportunity to skewer his calf while Lethen grabbed him into a hip throw that propelled him onto the room’s large bed. The second man took one look at who was inside and how quickly they’d dispatched his friend and fled.
Angus was about to chase him down, but instead just slammed the door and locked it. Looking over at the room’s new occupant, he saw Prolier standing over him with the tips of his claw atop the man’s chest. “Do you speak English?”
“Yes,” the Russian said slowly. Angus wasn’t sure if it was because of what he’d seen Prolier do to his boss or the effects of the drug now coursing through his veins. Probably a little of both.
“Good, that will make things much easier. I’m gonna take a wild stab in the dark and guess that you don’t know the combination for that safe.” Angus pointed to where the rest of the team was still trying to force it open. It looked like they were making little progress.
The man shook his head. Angus saw his eyes wandering around the room and could tell that he knew what many of the tools lining the walls were for, or could imagine. In a way, he had to give Nestor credit. This room was a perfect interrogation room. In most cases, he probably wouldn’t have to even pull any of his toys down to get the answers he wanted. Just knowing that such a wide array of pain-causing implements were in easy reach would make all but the most stubborn confess the world. The look on the prone Russian’s face told him the man would tell him anything he wanted to know.
“How long until he’s asleep?” Angus asked Prolier.
“I didn’t say he’d fall asleep, I said he’d be in la la land. In about fifteen more seconds, he’ll be higher than the moon in the sky.”
Angus rubbed his chin. That wasn’t what he’d expected. “Will he be able to tell us anything?”
Prolier laughed. “He’ll talk alright, the problem might be getting him to shut up. He’ll tell you anything you want to know and probably a great many things you don’t.”
The man’s head was already starting to loll about on the bed. He was smiling and seeing things that no one else could. Obviously, he’d forgotten that he was currently a prisoner.
Angus put on a friendly voice. “Hey there buddy. What’s your name?”
The man only partially focused on the sensei’s face. “Nikolai. Most call me Nick. Who are you?”
“We’re friends. We just need to ask you a few questions, if that’s alright with you.”
“Sure, friends. What do you want to know?”
Angus tried his best to make it seem like a normal conversation and not an interrogation. “This place seems huge, how many people work here?”
“Oh, there are lots of us, but there is much work to be done. There’s Abram and Lev and Makar and-”
Angus stopped him before he could get going on the names of everyone in the building. “That’s great. What kind of work do you do here anyway?”
“Well I mostly cook for everyone, but some feed the animals, others patrol the area. Some of us are even in charge of going into the town to gather local women for the bosses enjoyment. I don’t really like that job. I feel bad for the girls.”
Angus was starting to like this guy. “Really? Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. What kind of animals do they look after?”
The guy’s face took on a more serious cast. “Shhh,” he said, putting a finger to his lips. “They are special animals and we’re not supposed to tell anyone about them.” He cast his eyes about in a parody of secrecy. “Have you ever heard of daemons?”
“Daemons?” Angus feigned surprise. “I thought they were just a myth. A tale told to children to keep them in line.”
“They’re real. Really real. The animals we take care of aren’t normal animals. They are daemons and they are worth a lot of money. People buy them and turn them into weapons.” He held up his baseball bat. “Don’t tell anyone, but this is a daemon. He can turn into other things too, but I’m not quite sure how right now. Some of them even give you super powers. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.”
Angus felt sorry for the man. He looked to be about thirty five and due to a lack of formal training had never unlocked his daemon’s gift. It was such a waste. Russia had a few daemon knight academies, though none as prestigious as Hikari, and if this guy’s potential had been noticed earlier, he might’ve made a great knight. He wanted to console the man, but he had a job to do. “I’m sure it will be. About how many of these daemon things do you think your group takes care of?”
“Oh there’s a bunch of them. I think there are about a hundred spread across a dozens of acres of land around here. We have to keep them close enough to watch, but far enough from each other that they don’t fight. If they don’t think they’re at least somewhat free, they will go crazy and attack. We’ve lost a few men that way.”
A hundred. That was a lot more than Angus was expecting. He was considering the implications of this when he heard a loud crack or splitting metal. He looked at the trio working on the safe and found that they’d finally succeeded. He gave the man a pat on the leg and went to see what was inside. The memory card was there, but so were a few stacks of money and a block of some kind of plastic explosive.
Angus smiled. “I think I know how we’re going to get out of here.”
* * * * *