“Everybody OK?” Mercury looked around, the noise of the blast still ringing in his ears.
The rest of the team seemed to be pretty much unscathed apart from a couple of minor cuts caused by flying glass fragments. They had all been fairly well shielded from the main brunt of the explosion by the Osprey building itself, but its windows had shattered, raining down little pieces of grimy glass.
“What the hell was that?” demanded Prada, shaking bits out of her hair.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you,” came Teatime’s exasperated voice from down by her feet.
“There was a bomb in the warehouse.”
“Yes! You know: tick-tick-boom. A bomb!” Teatime jumped up onto a pile of boxes (McKinley’s Organic Clam Chowder) which provided a more convenient platform from which to address these maddeningly thick-headed humans. “Someone left us a little present, it seems. Harold found it.”
“And ran off to save itself. “ said India sourly, “Nice.”
“No!” cried Teatime, irritated. “He ran off with the bomb to save us!“
The wail of a police siren insinuated itself into the surprised silence.
“Look, we can’t afford to be found here,” said Mercury, “Let’s go find that demon and get out of here. Shake a leg, people!”
Harold carefully levered himself up into a sitting position, causing little avalanches of dust and debris to cascade off him. He was nowhere near fully recovered yet, but the sound of sirens had started up somewhere in the distance and was getting louder. While he didn’t know exactly what would happen if one of his tribe were to fall into the hands of human law enforcement, he had no doubt that if such a thing were to happen, awkwardness would certainly ensue. He had better get out of here and quickly.
Part of a nearby wall had come down in an untidy pile onto his left foot and lower leg, pinning it to the ground. Sighing, he set to work as quickly and carefully as possible removing the bricks one by one and tossing them aside. They seemed ridiculously heavy in his weakened state. He hoped the humans and Teatime were all safe, that he had got the bomb far enough away and that this had not all been for nothing. Running off with the bomb like that was arguably the most reckless course of action in the circumstances – he might have triggered it himself. Somehow, though, it had seemed exactly the right thing to do and there had been no time to give the humans chapter and verse on the situation anyway.
He wondered if they’d come looking for him or just simply write him off. If the latter, a little voice in his head whispered, he’d be free to do as he pleased, maybe find a quiet little town somewhere, settle down, get a job, compose jazz pieces in his spare time with pretentious names like Blue Dangling Participle, Noetic Concordance or Purity of Possibility. He would stay out of everyone’s way, not attract any attention. After a few years he could give himself gray hair and a few wrinkles to allay suspicion. A quiet life, now that was an appealing thought.
The pile of bricks was getting gradually smaller. Soon he’d be able to get his foot out.
No, he told himself, disembarking reluctantly from the rather pleasant train of thought he’d been riding, the OGS humans would come looking, definitely. They would know he couldn’t have been killed by a mere explosion. He was also fairly certain that Agent India wouldn’t let them leave a loose end like that. No, they’d be here any minute with that useful car of theirs. His foot emerged from under the bricks, decidedly the worse for wear. They’d better be: in his current condition an untidy stagger would be the best he could manage.
“Here!” said Mercury “Turn left and don’t drive over the – “
The car’s tyres crunched over a bent and battered sign - Tired of smelly shoes? Odour-Eater Mega Sale Now On! – flattening it out once more.
“We’re definitely getting closer,” said Othello from the passenger seat. “There’s much more debris down here.”
“How can you tell?” asked Prada, sarcastically, “This whole neighbourhood looks like someone blew it up long before we got here. I bet even the rats have moved to a better area.”
“That demon can’t have got too far away, there wasn’t enough time.” said Othello. “It must be around here somewhere. Keep looking”
Harold heard the welcome roar of the approaching engine. He got to his feet and began hobbling towards it. At last! Those sirens were getting decidedly too close for comfort. When the vehicle appeared, though, Harold was dismayed to see it was not the OGS car – not a car at all, in fact, but a motorcycle. It was piloted by a rider in black leathers whose features were hidden by a full-face helmet. Harold glanced around quickly for possible motorcycle-proof escape routes, but none presented themselves. There wasn’t time anyway. The machine roared to a stop, blocking his way before he could do more than stagger a few feet. The rider jerked his thumb at the pillion seat behind him.
“ Jump on,” he ordered, “The police are almost here.”
Seeing no other option, Harold clambered aboard and they roared off into the night.