Chapter 99:

Chapter 99 - Prince of Lies


The tunnel guard pored over the cartful of granite chunks, tossing rocks this way and that as he worked to expose potential contraband. He’d started at the top of the pile, but his hands were reaching deeper all the time. Inwardly, Marka cursed his thoroughness. At this rate, it would only be a matter of time before he reached the bottom… And then what would they do?

“Sir?” Antony interjected, prompting the gruff-looking man to look up from his work. “Could we hurry this along? My friend here is injured, and I’m supposed to take him up to the infirmary right away. Foreman’s orders.”

The man squinted at him skeptically. “Eh?”

At that, Marka lifted his left hand, showing off the crumpled state of his fingers. After submitting them to so much trauma over the course of the last hour, they were really starting to hurt; even the act of raising his arm to show them off got him wincing. Thankfully, the pain written across his face only ended up strengthening Antony’s argument. For a split second, something resembling sympathy flickered in the guard’s eyes before his usual bored, uncaring demeanor reasserted itself.

“...Fine. I guess. My back’s gettin’ sore anyhow,” he grunted. “But you be sure to come straight back, alright Sequoia? We’ll know if you’re shirkin’.”

“Me? Shirking?” Antony slapped a hand to his chest, as if the man had just dealt his ego a blow it would never recover from. “I wouldn’t dream of it! You of all people should know that my work is my life, Samuel. My life!!”

The guard snorted, waving them through with a hearty chuckle. “Right. It’s not like we catch you snoozin’ in the latrine twice a month or anythin’,” he drawled. “Now get out of my face.”

As they moved on from the long line of luggers, Antony turned his head to furnish Marka with a wink. “I only pretend to be snoozing. In reality I’m–”


They looked down sharply at the rocks in their cart. Antony moved immediately to redistribute a few of them to the far end, cooing softly to their hidden stowaway all the while. “Now, now. We’re not out of the woods yet,” he whispered. “Just keep it together a little longer, okay? We still have to get across the yard.”

Fortunately, crossing the yard proved to be the easiest step of their plan yet. Once out of the mines, a lugger’s cart didn’t seem to be subjected to any scrutiny whatsoever; guards looked on from the watchtowers, but from such a great distance they wouldn’t be able to suss out any irregularities if they tried. Still, most luggers made a beeline for the mineral depot–a small structure standing to the left of the main prison complex–and it was becoming increasingly obvious that they weren’t heading in the same direction.

“Remember: if anyone questions you about rolling your cart into the main building, just act like you thought this is where it was supposed to go,” Antony muttered. “You’re new around here, so they should buy it.”

Marka heaved a sigh. “I am not good at lying, Antony.”

“What? I thought you said you used to be a crime lord?”

“Yes, but my talents were limited to… Other areas.”

Antony gasped. “You mean…”

Marka gave a single, remorseful nod.


“...You are not funny, Antony.”

“Come on now, you don’t mean that!” Antony said fondly, giving him a playful shove. “Anyway, we’re here now. Try to look confused and moronic.”

They strode into the empty foyer without a problem, the rolling of the cart’s wheels reverberating off the high stone walls. To Marka’s great relief, the corridor ahead appeared to be deserted. At this hour, it seemed like every soul on the premises was either out in the yard or down in the quarry… And, with any luck, that meant he wouldn’t have to rely on his sub-par acting skills.

Rolling on through bleak gray room after bleak gray room, Marka allowed himself to be guided away from the cell blocks and communal spaces in favor of the prison’s administrative wing. Here, a series of closed doors lined the long hallway they trod, continuing on toward an intersecting hallway with yet more doors. Here, the building’s sterile atmosphere reached its zenith; with no signage or nameplates to distinguish one door from another, Marka was left reeling by the abundance of available options. How did anyone find their way around this place? Was it specifically designed to confuse prisoners?

Whatever the answer, Antony quickly caught on to his feelings of disorientation. “Overwhelming, isn’t it?” he observed, smiling smugly. “That’s intentional. You’re not missing much, though. Most of the rooms behind these doors aren’t anything special: guard quarters, break rooms, broom closets… That sort of thing. Only the infirmary and the warden’s office are clearly marked–probably because only those in the know tend to have any business here.”

Suddenly, he tapped a forefinger to his chin and cast an uneasy glance back down the corridor. “That reminds me: they usually have a guard posted by the entrance to the administrative wing. I wonder where they–”

Before he could finish the thought, a familiar face meandered into view. Randy, hands in his pockets and a grimace on his face, came around the corner just as they reached the intersection, his eyes flitting from Marka, to Antony… And then to the suspicious metal vessel they’d wheeled all the way in from the yard.

“What the hell’s this?” he sneered, slapping a filthy hand to the rim of the cart and peering inside. “Carts go to the depot, Sequoia. You’re thick as mud sometimes, but I know you know that much.”

Antony laughed nervously, taking advantage of Randy’s fixation on the cart to give Marka a firm nudge. “You’re so right, Randy! I tried to tell that to this knucklehead here, but he’s a stubborn one!”

Randy looked up from the pile of granite chunks and narrowed his eyes at Marka. “Z’at so?”

“Yes. I am lost. Very lost,” Marka lied. “Is this not the way to the depot? I had thought that it was. But now, because of what you have said to Antony, I am beginning to think that it is not.”

The guard’s eyes narrowed further. “Are you stupid or somethin’?”

Marka hesitated, then nodded. “Oh yes. I am also very new here. I have no idea what is happening right now, at all.” He looked to Antony for support, but the strained smile on his face said it all:

Their attempt at deception was not going well.

Randy’s frown evaporated in an instant, giving way to a predatory smile. “Well, if all you are is lost and stupid, I guess you won’t mind if I root around in this cart of yours, huh?”

Neither he nor Antony seemed able to find their voice. They looked on in barely-concealed horror as the man reached into the cart and plunged his hand right into the pile of granite chunks, probing around beneath them with far more gusto than the tunnel guard had employed. He maintained eye contact the entire time, too, grinning from ear to ear at the sight of their resolve crumbling bit by bit.

After a long, uncomfortable moment, Randy’s eyebrows shot up, and his cheeks flushed a deep shade of red.

“...What the hell’s this?” he grunted. “This dun’t feel like any kind of rock I ever felt… I-In fact, it feels like…

“...It feels like…!”


Roulette burst from the pile of rocks with all the force and fury of a volcanic eruption and slammed a hunk of granite squarely into Randy’s face. He dropped like a sack of bricks, blood spurting from his nose in thick, wet gouts as he slumped to the floor. Afterwards the girl sat there panting, whipping her head around in search of another target to visit her wrath upon.

Only after she’d established that all threats had been dealt with did she turn to regard Marka and Antony, her lips curling upward in a breathless smile.

“Don’t think we got the chance to introduce ourselves properly earlier,” she said, tossing the bloodied rock aside in order to extend her hand to Antony. “I’m Roulette.”

“Charmed,” Antony replied, giving her hand a firm shake. “Antony Sequoia. And, if you don’t mind me saying so, I like the way you operate.”

“Likewise,” she giggled. “I heard you coverin’ for us on the way up from the mine. You’re quite the smooth talker!”

“Oh, stop! It was nothi–”

“Friends,” Marka interrupted, “It pains me to cut the introductions short, but should we not clear the hall? We will be in a bad spot if another guard comes along.”

Antony gave a reluctant nod. “I suppose you’re right. Infirmary, then?”

“Infirmary,” Roulette agreed. “I’ve got a hole in me the size of Copperlock’s ego.”

“Great,” Marka said. Then he peered around the corner of the cart and gestured toward the dazed man lying on the ground. “...Should we bring him, too?”

On that topic, at least, it seemed his overly talkative friends didn’t have a single word to say.



I'm back, and now happily married! But I do have one further announcement to make...

Today, I will begin training to fill a new role at my place of work. This training is intensive, and will require me to work many more hours than I have up until this point.

For this reason, I will be temporarily reducing GUN SALAD's chapter output to 2 chapters a week, down from the 3 chapters a week you are all accustomed to. They will be posted on Mondays and Fridays.

I apologize for this, but I truly believe it will be good for the story, and will help me adjust to the new demands of my life without compromising its quality.

As always, thank you for reading!


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