Chapter 68:

Bandit Leader 2

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

The captured trio sat in the cell, with their back to one of the three walls. They looked at the center of the cell as if something of interest sat there in plain view.

"Greesoop," Odell said, and his yellow eyes darted back and forth between the other two. Neither Rheba nor Hal replied; instead, they showed a dissatisfied look. Odell had previously tried to start a word game so that the time would pass quickly, and they had flatly refused. "Opera," Odell sadly muttered as he continued to play the game with himself. "Raid... Iduoosmu..." Odell continued.

"You aren't supposed to keep switching languages," Rheba said with a sigh as she stood up from the wall and began to pace back and forth in the cell. Her tall legs made the pacing only take one step to cross the space.

"There are no rules when you're playing alone," Odell said with a smile.

"Now is not the time for games," Rheba replied while slowly shaking her head. Hal nodded in agreement but didn't bother to add to her comment.

The Bentulousian warrior stopped her pacing and stared out to the door. Her tall ears on her head flicked.

Odell was about to say something else, but she held out a hand to indicate that he should be quiet. A moment later, the group of four clad in black clothing entered the prison room.

"Oh, a Bentulousian warrior. You must have heard us coming!" A Netzian none of the others had seen before addressed Rheba as he walked to the center of the room. "Nice to meet you all; I'm Grimes, and I guess you'd say I'm the leader of this ragtag group." The leader spun the metal chair to the center of the room and sat in it to face the cell. For the three captured, it had looked like the chair moved on its own.

"Though ragtag might be a little misleading. We are a group that splintered off of Array; are you familiar with them? We left when things got to be a little too much," Grimes said with a laugh, "Anyway, we have about 30 members out and about in this little town."

None of the trio said anything to Grimes. He chuckled and sighed.

"Well, tough group. I suppose I would be the same if I were imprisoned.... Now let's see, a Bentulousian warrior, though low ranked. A Netzian soldier, also low ranked, and...." Grimes stopped and squinted as he looked at Odell's clothes," Hobusian royalty? Savvy, what were the others wearing?"

"Dast, I've already sent it to you for viewing."

The others could not see, but Grimes pulled up several pictures into his field of vision through his Needaimus. They were rough images taken by Flora's and Icarus' Needaimus in the earlier spat. He squinted and rubbed his beard.

"Their company is interesting as well," he mused, "Sadly, I don't think we will get anything out of these three. Station a guard outside this door. Their remaining members appear to be Aqueenian royalty, a Zenotote officer, ... and a Netzian in Aqueenian clothes.... When the Netzian is captured, have him brought straight to me. Once we have them all, I'd say some hard labor in the mines will be the best."

Grimes stood up and carefully slid the chair back into its place without laying a single finger on it. He twisted his neck as if to loosen it, and it cracked a couple of times.

"Well, it was nice meeting you three. I look forward to seeing your fruitful work!" Grimes happily addressed the three in the cell before turning to leave. The others of his group followed after him, and the door was closed with a loud bang.

Odell frowned and looked down at his clothes. None of the group had any time to think about clothing before they had left on the journey and still wore the same manner of garb they had at the conference.

"Perhaps we should have worn something less conspicuous for this mission?" he said to himself.

Rheba rubbed her chin.

"That may be true, but normally an average Netzian would not be able to tell the difference between civilian and military clothing for Bentulousians, and he could tell it for all of us."

"Is that bad?" Odell asked.

"The spirits of our allies may soon be crushed under the weight of this oppressive force," Hal said with a sigh and shake of his head.

"I suspect they intend to break our spirits as well with whatever hard labor they have in mind. It sounds like, first, they want to capture the others. Does that mean we're bait?" Rheba said as she began to drum her fingers across her long chin.

They were silent for a moment as each trio member entered individual thought.

Odell was the first to break the silence. He did it not with words but instead got close to the bars and bent it. It did not move as well as it had for Rheba, but the bar still gave way to him. The creak caught the attention of the other two.

"I thought we decided that was of no use. What are you trying?" Rheba asked.

"I came up with an idea, but it seemed like a bad one. However, if hard labor is the only option, it might be worth a try!" Odell said as he worked.

The grey Hobusian prince bent the bar back in the opposite direction he had before. Then he continued to move it back and forth until a popping sound was finally made. The whole process took a while, but Odell had caused the bar to split. He bent the two halves away from the cell resulting in a relatively larger hole.

He made a short hum to himself as he looked at Hal and Rheba. Some beads of sweat on his face indicated the process had been rather labor-intensive.

"If we move the bars back and forth enough times, they should give way. We will probably have to do each bar individually... and I don't know how long it will take to make a hole Rheba or I could escape from," Odell explained.

Rheba's eyes lit up.

"Perhaps we do not need enough of a hole for us to escape from; rather, we can have Hal escape and return to us with our Needaimus!" Of the three, the green-haired Netzian had the smallest shoulder width.

They turned to Hal with eager expressions. The Netzian closed his large yellow eyes and shook his head vigorously.

"Escape is but a mere fantasy. Our toil shall be in vain," he said.

"It will be fine; you just have to sneak around for a little bit!" Odell said. Rheba nodded in agreement.

"Don't worry, Hal, we will be able to support you as soon as you get back to us," she added.

The two set out to begin breaking the bars in the corner of the cell with no concern to the wishes of Hal.