“A week ago, Zee…Zee…Zeeken Tesdroi managed to discover the location of one of the p…p…portals to the Temple of Morsur Bater. There is a very real d…d…danger that he will destroy the Temple when he gets here. But I am not allowed to ab…ab…abdicate from my position as the Informatrix, except for self-defence. Even so, not unless there is a possibility that a new Informatrix can be in…in…instituted. That is why I need you.”
Michael Craw spoke, as revelation dawned on him.
“And you need us because we’re like the smartest people on the planet or something, right?”
“Actually, no. You’re the only ones I can aff…aff…afford.” Carbon replied simply.
“I don’t follow” said the centaur.
“The only thing I can barter is kno…kno…knowledge. And you are the only people whom I can off…off…offer information that is of some value to you.”
The Angel was now beginning to understand what the supercomputer was saying.
“You want us to rebuild the Informatrix somewhere else, while you escape, and in return you will give us some information that could be of great value to us?”
“Pretty much” Carbon said.
“Have I mentioned ‘eat my tail?’ ” Sedusa yelled, still holding the weapon up.
The Angel moved towards the siren, his hands up in a show of being unarmed.
“Let’s hear the supercomputer out. This might just be of some usefulness, even to you.”
Michael, who was still feeling slighted at the fact that he’d not been chosen because of his intelligence, seemed sullen as he said,
“Sure, maybe we’ll find out we’re the rightful Emperor of Thrae.”
“May…may…maybe. But unless I know you agree to do this, I cannot help you.” Carbon replied.
The Angel looked around at him, at the motley crew of people assembled around him. Maybe Someone up there had put him here for a reason. Maybe He was just looking for a few laughs. But the Angel was inclined to follow his gut feeling that the supercomputer knew something he didn’t. Something that he really wanted to know.
On the other side of the room, the centaur looked down at his rock hand. It was far from glowing, so Vlad didn’t feel too threatened. But he couldn’t help feeling uneasy at whatever it was that Carbon knew about him.
Sedusa was still pointing her guitar-weapon around. In her head, she didn’t know whether she wanted to kill them all or just the annoying little bisected lizard. But she did know there were a few things about herself that she might want to learn from the supercomputer.
Michael was quickly perusing all the possibilities the situation could lead to, and he couldn’t see a single scenario that ended well for him. However, he had to admit that he was intrigued by the offer that Carbon had made. Besides, one did not get a chance to build a new Informatrix very often.
Crexnettle screeched like a mad bird, and asked the one question that every really wanted to.
“Skraaawwwwr!” which roughly translates to ‘How dangerous is the job?’ ”
“Oh not at all, really. You have to re…re…retrieve five items from mostly moderate security locations and assemble them in a particular fashion. And you’re good to go. If you do this, you will get the information I have promised you, as well as the title of Friends of the Informatrix, which entitles you to a lifetime sup…sup…supply of information from the new Informatrix.”
Carbon paused, and then spoke as cautiously as he could.
“Angel, surely you wish to know what the real reason for your de…de…demotion from your original post in the Ministry is. Count Rokkhans, what if the information I could give you cou…cou…could bring Lyra back? And Sedusa, you think your association with Tretch Russ Rocks is over, but what if I told you who gave you your immensely p…p…powerful weapon? I think…”
Sedusa interrupted, yelling, “I know who gave me my N-Uke! It was my father’s gift to me!”
The voice seemed almost a whisper, as it said, “And do you know who your father is?”
A stunned silence reigned, as Sedusa’s arm dropped to her side.
Carbon spoke again.
“Michael, you truly be…be…believe in relinquishing the ways of the Crawsblood?”
The raptor looked up, and then he spoke, but his mouth remained closed.
“I think I don’t really have a choice.”
Horrified, Sedusa pointed at him and shrieked.
“He’s talking through his arse!”
The raptor turned his hind side towards her, and said very calmly, “It’s a part of my extreme mutation. The functions of my two halfs are interchanged. I resort to ventriloquism to keep up appearances.”
Sedusa seemed too shocked to care.
Carbon Sykes raised his rumbling voice.
“Crexnettle, do you not wish to know why y…y…you are undead? All these answers I p…p…promise you if you do this simple thing for me.”
The undead bird screeched and then was silent. Each one pondered the implications of what the supercomputer was offering. It did not take too long for each of them to come to the same conclusion.
“I’m in.” said the Angel.
“Count me in.” said the centaur.
“I’ll be most pleased to accept your proposition.” said the piecemeal raptor.
“What they said, but you better come good on your promise, you bucket of bolts.” yelled the siren.
“Kraa!” said the undead bird.
“Excelle…le…lent!” said the supercomputer. And if Carbon Sykes had a face, there would be a very large smile on it.