Swamped Chapter 28 Page 10

You decide to tough it out and go along to the meeting.

“All right, let’s get going,” you say. “Can I have my mask back?”

Crosswinds hands it back to you, and you put it on. Only to find an uncomfortable lump.

You take it back off, and find the darkwood is in there. The flame’s been doused, but there’s still smoke coming off it.

“What’s this doing here?”

“Oh, right, I needed something to carry it in after I checked it out. Gotta show that to Razor, too. But if it’s just smoking, I guess I can put it in my pouch now.”

You hand the darkwood over. Hopefully you won’t regret this.

You follow Crosswinds down under the floor for what seems like quite a length of time. On occasion they stop and tell you to stay down while they talk to someone; it seems Crosswinds does a lot of work here.

But finally, you get to your destination. Crosswinds leads you out of the floor into an empty room, and someone steps in a moment later. Probably Razor.

“Already here,” he says. “I’m always amazed at how you manage to be so punctual and yet I can never actually find you when I’m looking, Crosswinds.”

You decide to sit back and be quiet, at least for now.

“I didn’t come here for backhanded compliments, Razor. There’s something important I have to talk to you about.”

“I assume it involves that guest in the unusual uniform,” Razor says. “From the height, would I be right in guessing they’re another grebling?”

“Yeah. I questioned her already. Seems she’s from the desert and woke up here this morning. Kind of panicked when she realized there was human military around and so she kept a low profile.”

“And you believe that?”

“Yeah, and I’d stake my rep on it. She just wants to get out of here quietly.”

Razor gives you a long stare.

“You didn’t bring her here just so I could lead her out of the swamp, Crosswinds. There’s something she knows that I need to, is that it?”

“A couple of things. First, she thinks the poison’s not from murderflies.”

“Then where is it from?” He’s looking directly at you.

“The desert sands,” you say. “You all thought it was slow-acting murderfly toxin, but the symptoms Crosswinds told me about, on that timing – matches every case of desert fever I’ve ever seen. And I’ve got a hunch that you’ve heard about a lot of weird desert animals popping up.”

“I can’t comment on that either way,” Razor says. “But that’s certainly a theory worth looking into. I’ll ask Doc about it later. What’s the other thing, Crosswinds?”

“This.” They pull out the darkwood, still smoking a bit. “Our friend there found this burning in what looked like a campfire. Under the floorboards.”

Now Razor looks deeply upset.

“Is that darkwood?” he says, almost shouting.

“Sure is. So we need to figure out how it got there.”

And now Razor is looking very pointedly at you. It’s even more unnerving than the last time.

You don’t think he’s going to be satisfied with you just saying you didn’t do it. How are you going to convince him?

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It got here the same way the desert fever did, and the bees did, and I did. And based on the unusual storms I witnessed in the desert before being brought here, it’s not just a one-way street. I need to get back to my group so we can find out what’s going on and how we– how all of us can protect ourselves against it.