Chapter Twenty-Nine: Nootau
The Dragon Aerospace Research Lab the floor above them.
The place where the bastard Dario ran his walker trading business from. If luck ran on Nootau's side, maybe he'd even make it out to get the human's brother-in-law and husband. One could hope. That terrible cruel emotion hope. But Nootau held onto the gleaming black emotion as he pushed, punched and sometimes bit, his way through the mass of bodies.
Blood scented the air. It excited Nootau. He reveled in the taste.
More. He needed more of the stench of fear. The hall's screams and shouts weren't enough.
A body slammed into the back of Nootau. He swung around and punched automatically, not bothering to look at the face. He waited a moment to see if the person got up, but they stayed on the floor holding their nose.
Nootau looked both ways down the hall, trying to figure out the quickest way up top. There was a lot of action down toward the way they came in, less toward the castle. There had to be an elevator or set of stairs. Somewhere. Of course the problem was access.
A shout went out. "Duck!"
Nootau dropped immediately.
Two swords met overhead. Frozen for half a tick, Nootau watched as Akemi battled it out with another knight.
"Aegeus? Edwige?" she grunted out.
"Aegeus was shot. Medics and Edwige are with him in our interview room." Nootau crawled out from under the feet stomping around him, edging toward the wall.
"Where are you going?"
Instead of answering, Nootau shimmied toward the castle and noticed a sign that looked a hell of a lot like stairs.
"Nootau! Don't!" Akemi's sword cut through the air. A yell followed it. Nootau turned just in time to see the man drop.
"He can't get away," Nootau said, meeting her eyes.
"I've got Gian going for the husband and brother-in-law already. Dario's office is in lockdown procedure—"
"Behind you!" Nootau shouted as another man drew up his sword, ready to take advantage of her distraction. He held up his gun the same time Akemi swung around.
She blocked the blow, though the move made her go to her knees. Without a backward look Nootau took off down the hall, avoiding knives, swords and punches best he could. Akemi's growl of frustration reverberated down the hall. He wondered how long it would be before she went foxy.
Ahead, an unfamiliar knight battled it out with a knight that looked vaguely familiar to Nootau. He picked sides and sucker punched the attacker's head. The guy yelped and turned into Nootau's fist. It gave the familiar knight just enough time to knock the guy unconsciousness.
"Thanks," the knight said as he pushed onward into the fray.
Nootau ducked around a few more people before making to the staircase. Fuck me. It was key-coded. Of course. With a sigh, Nootau turned around and went back to the knight he helped knock out. After a minute of going through his pockets Nootau hit pay dirt.
"Thank you gods," Nootau breathed out.
The keycard opened the door to the stairwell. When Nootau stuck his head in, only the emergency lights were going. No one else seemed to be in it. Akemi mentioned a lockdown protocol. He wondered how that would affect him getting into Dario's lab.
"Oh, wait." Nootau stood at the top of the stairs. Numb.
The scanners at the lab door. He could only get in if he had the proper fingerprint and retina scans.
You didn't think you could walk away clean from this, did you?
What's one more guard to you? You've already got me. Why not add to your collection?
You're already chest-deep with nowhere to go.
The voice cackled, sending a shiver down Nootau's back, embedding in his spine. Goosebumps broke out over his arms. You know what you have to do. He did. He truly did. Go on, have another taste. But he didn't want to.
How else can you ring that Dario bastard's neck? Just grab the next sucker like you did with me.
"Shut up." Gods, why couldn't the voice just go away.
Because your soul is blackened, what does it matter now if it gets a little dirtier? You going to leave Ahanu in the ground cold, forget what you owe him?
Nootau shook his head. "No."
Ahanu went to the camps for you. Took the blame for your bite.
His death is on your hands.
Yes, it was.
And Aegeus? You really love the poor schmuck? He's dead because of you too. Poor little walker can't handle his cage.
"I'm not caged!"
Oh but you are walker. You put the bars up yourself. Then you buried everyone else in with you.
The door swung open and a guard stuck his head in. "Guten Tag?"
"Mornin'," Nootau answered as he put his hands behind his back. Looked like Destiny was smiling down on him.
"Sie solltest nicht hier sein." The guard waved for Nootau to come closer.
"Sorry, don't know German."
The guard sighed and stepped into the stairwell. He had one hand on his belt, the other held onto a shoulder radio. He was frowning and talking at Nootau. Irritation laced his voice. Not that any of the words made sense.
Nootau smiled and put his free hand closer to his crotch. The guard looked before rolling his eyes, but his attention still wavered at the move. He stepped closer and the door slid shut behind him. Mistake.
In two steps Nootau was on the guard, dragging him down. He punched him in the face. A solid thwak followed by a spurt of blood as the guy's nose broke. The guard howled and grabbed at Nootau's hands. But he stopped, putting them up as Nootau pushed the muzzle of the gun in his cheek.
"Clothes. Off. Now."
The guy spat at him.
"The hard way then."
Nootau clocked the guy again, getting a nice crack-bounce combo off the floor. This time the guy lay still.
"Naked time. Unfortunately it's going to suck for both of us."
* * * * *
Edwige pressed against the wound in Aegeus' chest as the medics jabbed another dose of morphine into him. An IV port was in one hand with a bag of blood attached to it, but they were only filling a holey bucket if they couldn't get the bullets out. Though Edwige could barely see past all the blood, or the ache of Nootau just leaving them.
The medics had switched to English to keep her in the loop.
"We have to evac him!" one shouted.
"He's not stable," the other argued. "Do you want to enter the passageway? It's a fucking war zone!"
"He's dying. I can feel him slipping away," Edwige replied. "Please, we can't stay here."
The medics winced and went silent.
Several of the knight murmured to each other in German.
"Please. I can't lose him."
Edwige glanced up, finding Mal with Kaden in the doorway. Mal had his knives out. They weren’t shiny silver anymore, but a dull red. Edwige did her best not to think on what he had to do to get to their room.
"Is he—bloody hell?" Kaden echoed.
Edwige sniffed once and shook her head. "He's still breathing, but we have to get him to the OR in M-Wing. They have a hospital floor there?"
She turned to the medics for confirmation. They nodded.
"Then we better get him outta here," Mal said, adjusting the knives in his grip. "We make a path, you follow."
The knights saluted him and hefted their swords. If it had been any other time, Edwige would've laughed. She could see why Akemi wanted him so much. A natural born leader. One who cared.
"Which way to M-Wing?" Mal asked.
"There's an elevator toward the front entrance that goes all the way down," one of the knights answered.
Mal sighed. "Figures. Let's get a move on."
The one who spoke went to the front with Mal. Edwige and the medics shared a look.
The younger one counted, "One. Two. Three. Up."
They stood together. Edwige with her hand still pressed firmly against Aegeus' chest. There was so much red. His breath came out labored, and his usual golden glow had dimmed to a chalky white.
"Hang on, my love," Edwige whispered. "We'll get you fixed right up, then I can go kick Nootau's ass for leaving us behind."
One of the taller knights, a banshee, glanced down at her. The corner of his lip twitched.
"Don't think I can't."
"No, Frau, I most certainly think you can."