Chapter 4: The Suspicious Staff
Dr. Pandion grabbed two lemonades and gave them to them just as the door opened; a scorpion male strode in, black-armoured with a thick tail.
"This is General Androctonus, the man in charge. He'll tell you everything."
She smiled genuinely and sat, preening a wing.
Sherbie eyed the thick, muscular tail warily, but the guy smiled and shook his organic hand, and Alt's.
Alt pretty much forgot about her lemonade when General Androctonus came in.
"It's nice to meet you, General Andoctr... Andrac... Andri... General A." Damn it. What's wrong with me? My name's longer than his and I remember it just fine.
Sherbie twitched a little, but held it in.
The guy's arms had the pincers underneath, the bulky lower claw, and the underside of his arm was serrated, ready to crush.
Whilst many might be afraid of snakes, or spiders, or the dark, or cramped spaces....
Aside from what Figment had been, Sherbie really hated scorpions.
He forced a grin though as the guy (who was bulkier and a lot more muscled than he expected) sat, and then began.
After a brief, slightly awkward silence, Alt asked the first question.
"So, General, tell us a little about this facility."
Androctonus cleared his throat.
"It's been down here for nearly 13 years now, a flourishing underwater mini-city for those who wish to start fresh. We have a large and enthusiastic crew of scientists and researchers constantly looking for new ways to improve our standard of living, and to preserve this beautiful reef around us."
"You're into marine biology, then."
"You could say that, yes."
That was a new voice. Alt turned her head; it was a bright orange spotted hyena wearing a pair of triangularly framed glasses (who in the world even MADE triangularly framed glasses?).
"Ah, right, I should introduce myself. I'm General Andoctr... Andrac... Andri... General A's primary assistant. My name is Nicholas."
Well, there was at least one thing Alt had in common with this guy.
"General Androctonus, it isn't difficult," the scorpion smiled, scratching just under where his head armour ended, thick and slightly dulled ending above his eyes. It no doubt trailed down his spine as well to protect his inner organs.
Nicholas smiled hopefully at Dr. Pandion, but the osprey didn't even seem to notice.
Sherbie felt a twinge of pity for the hyena.
Alt decided it was time to reveal the octahedron. She took it out of her pocket.
"By the way, I found this outside. Would either of you happen to know--"
"Give me that! I've been looking all over for it!"
Nicholas snatched the octahedron out of Alt's hands, much to her bewilderment.
"Manners, Nicholas," chided the scorpion, standing, and Sherbie inched back a little, eying the stinger. It was huge, the bulky part easily the size of a clenched human fist, the barb itself around three inches long.
"What is it?" asked Sherbie, "Alt found it outside, way out in the reef before we accidentally stumbled on your underwater entrance."
Nicholas turned the octahedron over in his hands nervously. Thankfully Alt had dried it off when she dried herself off.
"It's... i-it's... it'sasmallpersonalprojectyoureallydon'twannaknowaboutsoI'mgonnagoputitbackwhereitbelongsseeyoulater."
He then ran off. An awkward silence ensued.
"...Dr. Pandion, go after him. I'd like to know what that was all about."
The osprey nodded, rising. "Yes Sir."
She headed out of the door.
Alt glanced towards Dr. Pandion, then back at General Androctonus.
"Is Nicholas always so... uh... eccentric, General A?"
"...Yes, especially where dear Hannah is concerned, but poor soul, she has absolutely no interest."
Androctonus sighed, picking up his own glass of bright blue liquid which he downed in one go.
"Might I show you two around? It is, obviously, a great honour having royalty here."
"Yes, yes, please do."
Alt paused to take a gulp of her own lemonade. The taste was less than optimal, as the ice had melted a bit, but she didn't mind.
Sherbie grumbled but rose, fin rotating.
Alt caught the hungry look Androctonus cast over Sherbie's mechanical side, but said nothing; the kangaroo hadn't noticed.
I'm probably better off not knowing.
Alt followed Androctonus at a reasonable distance, not sure what to expect anymore.
Nebula lowered her binoculars.
"Do you think they're coming back anytime soon, Figment? I'm getting a little worried."
"God knows," he muttered, kissing her temple as he passed, "Knowing them, they've been beamed up by a UFO or something similarly disastrous. I should put a permanent plaque on top of the ward doors with Sherbie's name on it."
Nebula couldn't help but smile a bit.
"Those two may have a knack for getting into trouble, but they also have a knack for getting out of it. If they have been abducted, they're probably beating the innards out of their captors by now."
"Then realizing quite abruptly that they cannot pilot it and are stuck in outer space."
She giggled lightly and he grinned.
"And then by some miracle the Queen would figure out how to get the autopilot working and they'd be on their way right back. We could go at this all day."
He grinned helplessly, reaching around her waist to lay his warm palm on her belly affectionately before letting go.
"How's the little one coming along?"
Nebula smiled again.
"Coming along pretty well, I think. Birth's still several months off... I don't know whether to look forward to it or not."
"You can have Franklin put you under if you want, I don't mind."
Figment smiled, nuzzling her forehead gently.
"Now, I want to be very clear on this; green jackal. Can't be a purple roo, already got one of those."
Nebula smiled more.
"Like that's my choice to make."
Nebula turned to face the ocean again.
"I'm going to go check on Beacon. I've left him alone for long enough already."
"Oh god, he'll have been kidnapped too," muttered Figment, following after her.
But Beacon was where they left him, playing a card game with a nanny robot.
Nebula opted not to try to disturb Beacon.
"When I look at him, I can't help but think of that day," she whispered to Figment.
"When we were hiding from Teck?"
"Exactly. That's a day I'd rather not recall, but I can't really help it."
"Mm. Teck has lingered in all our minds, I think, especially Alt."
"I wouldn't be surprised. She probably suffered the second most out of everyone who survived that incident, number one being Sherbie."
Figment breathed out heavily.
"I still get a horrible feeling when I think about Teck. I still don't think that subject is closed and finished, Neb."