Monday, March 27, 2017

Mala Cognitio

     Putting his shoulder to the brick wall, Jougs shoved and as he did so his boots slid across the cement. He quit shoving as he neared a 45ยบ angle to the wall. Pushing himself upright, he asked, “you sure it’s this wall?”
     Glancing from the map to Jougs, the annoyed Inquisitor replied, “use the tools,” and tapped the bag slung across Vorant’s back.    
     Shaking his head, Vorant unslung the duffle, unzipped the main compartment, and proceeded to dig around. After a moment, he held up a short handled sledge hammer. “Here,” he said before disappearing back into the bag to withdraw a rusted railroad spike.
     “Is that all you brought?” Jougs asked. “Seriously?”    
     “Nope,” Vorant said, extracting a hammer and an incredibly long screw driver, “brought this too.”
     “So, we’re just supposed to start banging on the wall?” Jougs’ doubt as to the sanity of the plan had grown exponentially since leaving the Interrogation Room. He asked, “don’t you think someone on the other side will hear us?”
     Though the Inquisitor’s irritation level had surpassed what he normally thought acceptable, he refrained from bashing Jougs’ face into the brick. Instead, he held the map to the wall where he shined the light down and used his other hand to point. “On the other side is heavy machinery. First thing we do is tap through. Then, we verify no one’s around. After that, we break it down.”
     “Um. So. What about the next one?” Jougs asked.
Same thing,” Vorant said, shaking the duffle bag.
     “So. Why aren’t we just blowing them all?”
     Without answering, the Inquisitor stepped back, rolled the map up, and shook his head. He breathed heavily for a moment before slapping Jougs with the map and saying, “we don’t want them to know we’re coming.”
     “So, we’re breaking down four walls?” Jougs asked.
     The veins on the Inquisitor’s neck began to pulse as he ground his teeth. “We’re breaking down three walls and blowing up one.”
     “But. I thought the last one had to be silent,” Vorant said.
     “I don’t mean to rain on your parade,” Jougs began, “just think about it. You want two guys to beat down three brick walls with minimal noise,” he held up the sledge hammer and the railroad spike, “before silently blowing up a fourth wall to extract two other guys who were so stupid they got caught. You’re the Inquisitor and you don’t seem to have questioned this plan.” He paused, while watching the Inquisitor’s jaw clench and face redden in the dull fluorescent light. For a split second he contemplated stopping, but the thought never made it to his mouth. Jougs continued, “it ain’t that I got a problem busting them’s that we’re gonna be worthless after breaking down those walls. I ain’t even joking. Think about it. That last wall goes boom, there’s gonna be fighting and we’re gonna be tired from hammering. Do I look like a mother fucking construction worker? No. See these hands?” He held up his hands, “cold-blooded killers don’t get callouses from hammers.”
     Although Vorant said nothing, his head bounced up and down in agreement.
     The Inquisitor glared at the two concurring men. While one part of him greatly desired to bash their skulls together, another somewhat more rational part of him saw their point. Realizing that for the first time in weeks the duumviri were once again in concert convinced him that the time was right. “I wondered how long it’d take you two to balls up.”
     “Huh?” Jougs and Vorant asked.
     “I just can’t believe you let it go this far,” he shook his head. Tapping his wrist, he added, “time is ticking.” The Inquisitor unrolled the map and began pointing to various boxes with Xs, “air ducts.” He drew his finger across the map, “you see this? This is our way in.”
     “So, the brick walls weren’t the plan?” Jougs asked.
     “Mr. Jougs, I’ve been a patient man,” the Inquisitor smiled as he rotated his hand and used his middle finger to point at the vent over his head.
     “That’s fucked up, Boss!” Jougs exclaimed.

     Shivering, Commander Samuel Felis’ head lolled back and forth as he moaned. In the struggle to get his head up, he managed to drop his chin onto his chest. He fought to lift his eyelids like a kid trying to heft a caber. When he finally got one open the blinding light forced him to close it again. “Come...on...” he growled, blinking that one eye again, and then squinting at the floor. “Wha—?” Grinding teeth, forcing brain to fight fog, and repeating, “come on! Hey ya! Sammy!” Upon getting both eyes to cooperate, the old boy realized his problems lay deeper than whatever drug coursed through his veins. That low-born bastard had done more than knock his head against the wall. And, though his temple pounded, his left side throbbed to the point that every breath felt like a slow death. Breathe shallow, he told himself as he took in the room.

     “Toilet,” Cassie muttered, her eyes rolled loosely as she tried to focus on the young cook.
     “Oh! Uh. Okay,” the young woman nodded emphatically. She unceremoniously heaved the wobbling Messenger off of Preston’s couch. “Can you walk?”
     “I. I. Sure,” Cassie said as she weakly leaned against the cook before bringing them both down onto the couch. “Make the spinning stop!”
     “I. I don’t kno—” Cassie spewed her belly full of water across the arm of the couch, and then held tightly to her lower abdomen. “Oh, Mercury. Just end me.”
     “You can’t talk like that,” the horrified cook said. “We need you.”
     Glaring at her with crossed eyes and wobbling head, Cassie snorted, “and I need to feel normal for five minutes.”
     “Are you pregnant? My sister’s pregnant and she throws up all the time.”    
     “NO! I’m not pregnant!” Cassie growled as she pushed herself off the couch.
     “Why ya mad? I’m just asking.”
     Cassie shot the girl a sideways ‘go throw yourself off a mountain’ look as staggered upright. Weaving, she said, “I’m not mad. And, I’m not pregnant!” She stumbled past the chair, then suddenly gripped its back, “where’s the toilet.”    
     “Oh. This way,” the cook stood up, took Cassie by the arm, and moved toward the door.
      Pulling on his restraints, Felis cursed his luck, takes some kind of damned genius, don’t it? He shivered. Got one choice left, don’t you? Thinking about it too long wouldn’t change a thing. And, while he didn’t know when his captors would return, he did know he needed to be ready for them. When transforming, it always helped him to envision the change as successfully completed. But, as he shivered in the steel chair, his naked ass clenched against the cold, and his normally superb ability at forward thinking vanished. He gasped; pain shot through his ribs and he immediately regretted that breathing was a necessity. Like back in school, when you’d broken your wrist. It’s gonna hurt. Laughing, he said, “oh fuck me. Everything always hurts.” After biting his lip and glancing over at the unconscious woman, he growled. Slowly his features began to morph; hair sprouted from his pores, his ears elongated, and his growl grew into a hiss. Once the transformation was complete, a large tuxedo cat lay panting on the cold steel chair. Upon seeing the unconscious and tied up woman, Commander Felis hopped off the chair, yelped on landing, and remained stationary as he breathed through the pain. His ragged breaths turned into a guttural purring, as he rubbed himself across the woman’s calves. Finally, he hopped into her lap, curled into a ball, and power purred himself into a mini coma. The drugged security guard never even twitched.

     “Gentlemen,” the Inquisitor quietly ordered over his shoulder, “knock it off. Sound travels and we’re almost there.”
     Choking and trying desperately not to breathe in the foul stench of Vorant’s ass, Jougs muttered, “tell it to Stinky.” Jougs punched Vorant in the ass. “Nasty.”
     “Can I help it?” Vorant whispered.
     “Shhh!” the Inquisitor hissed. He resumed crawling through the air duct, the duumviri right behind him. Using a penlight, he rechecked the map at every junction. Once they reached what he hoped was the right spot, he carefully edged up to the vent, and motioned for Vorant to pass him the duffle bag. Cupping the penlight with his hand and shielding the overhead vent with his body, the Inquisitor dug around in the bag. When he had what he was looking for, he passed the bag back to Vorant, and then clicked the penlight from white to red. Shoving the light into his mouth, he took his tools, and stuck his face as close to the vent as he could get. It took a minute to maneuver in the cramped air duct, but once he was properly positioned, he was able to manipulate the retaining clamps and release the vent cover. With a bit of effort, he managed to climb out of the air duct and into an empty hallway.
     “Where are we?” Jougs asked after replacing the cover.
     “Inside Raven’s Drop, you asshole,” Vorant growled. The hair all over his body stood at attention.
     “Shut up,” the Inquisitor ordered without looking up from the map where he was using a finger to follow the air duct. He counted junctions, tapped the map twice while nodding to himself before heading toward the door at the end of the hall. Upon reaching the door, he snapped his fingers and pointed to Jougs, who withdrew his lock picking set from his back pocket and immediately went to work on the doorknob.
     While to two of them were focused on the door, Vorant paced the hall between them and the vent. On his third trip, he realized that the placard on the wall was an Emergency Exit map. When chirping and pointing didn’t get the Inquisitor’s attention, he whispered harshly, “stop!”
     “What?” the Inquisitor mouthed as Jougs continued picking the lock.
     “Wrong way,” Vorant mouthed back as he pointed at the placard.
     The Inquisitor put a hand on Jougs’ shoulder and showed him a solid fist.
     Jougs nodded his understanding and peeked over the shoulder at Vorant, who’s face was six inches from the wall. Jougs waited mid-pick for the Inquisitor’s signal to resume. He watched as the Inquisitor lined the map up with the wall map and made quick notations. Just as he was about to resume picking the lock, the Inquisitor motioned for him to leave the door. Jougs sighed, though he loved conquering locks, he loved his freedom more. Besides, getting lost in Raven’s Drop was not on his bucket list.

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