Tin Man: Dragons and Ninjas

Chapter Twenty-Two

Longcoats were rushing into the room. Glitch spun, and knocked the first two back. A screen wall had sprung across the center of the room, separating him and Cain from DG. Cain grabbed the staff and used it to sling the guard into the wall. Glitch tossed another Longcoat over his shoulder. He dodged a punch from another one, dropping to kick his feet out from under him.

The sound of cocking guns echoed in the room. "Oh please," a familiar voice goaded, "give me a reason."

Cain put his fists down with a scowl. Glitch turned toward the speaker dropping his own hands. Longcoats lined the wall aiming guns at them, and Akio Zero strode from the door. One of the Longcoats on the floor staggered to his feet, and took Cain's gun.

Zero chuckled. "The Tin Man and the Headcase, you won't believe how long I have waited for this moment." He sauntered to a weapons display picking up a large dagger with a serrated edge.

The screen wall folded back with a slam. Ichiro's hands were surrounded with a purple light laced with red. "Get after them!" Two Longcoats ran across the room and through the west door.

"I thought you had her," Zero said with a sigh.

"That boy had a smoke bomb." He seethed as he joined the greater group. "A smoke bomb!"

Zero shrugged, but didn't look unduly concerned. "Not exactly standard issue for a bodyguard."

"Didn't you pay attention to anything!" Ichiro stalked to Glitch and Cain. "Where in the O.Z. did you find a ninja?"

DG had used that term a lot about Zack, but neither of them had actually explained it. Playing dumb usually wasn't this easy. "What's a ninja?" Glitch glanced at Cain. Cain shrugged back, keeping his eyes on Zero, who kept toying with the knife.

Ichiro's face darkened as his scowl deepened. He also had a bruise developing on his left jaw. "Round up the rest of them and throw them in the dungeon. Kill the boy and bring the Princess to me."

"The two you should worry about are right here." Zero pointed the knife at Cain and Glitch. Glitch steeled his spine against the barely repressed manic gleam in Zero's eyes. "Especially Cain." No, Zero didn't have issues there, not with how he said that.

Ichiro glared at Zero. "I'm not going to fight your revenge-addled mind about this. You have your orders, Akio. Carry them out."

"A squad is already on its way to collect the Viewer and the other children." Zero ran his thumb over the ridge of the knife. A deep roaring reverberated through the western door, only slightly muted by the stone. "Sounds like the Princess found your pet. Maybe you should make sure it doesn't it eat her."

The purple and red light surrounding Ichiro's hands pulsed. "It won't." He pointed to two Longcoats closest to the northern door. "Go to the other entrance and collect the Princess. And kill the boy. Shoot him, don't let him get close." They nodded and ran out the door.

"He isn't even old enough to shave, Ichiro!" Zero snapped.

He rolled his hazel eyes at the slightly taller man. "Now is not the time to explain again Other Side stories that you didn't pay attention to the first time. Take them to the dungeon." He waved his hand at Glitch and Cain as he turned to head back to his desk. Four Longcoats swooped up behind them, grabbing an arm each.

Zero panted as he stared at Ichiro's back. The Longcoats yanked on Glitch's arms to force his feet to start moving. "Like hell!" Zero whirled around and the knife slashed down. Glitch made a noise that didn't even qualify as a word as he tried to break free and stop the Longcoat general.

Cain's wide opened eyes met Zero's before both sets dropped to the knife with the five-inch blade now coiled between the hilt and the Tin Man's chest.

Glitch felt the synapses misfire this time as he stared at the knife too. "That's not possible, that's not possible, that's not possible." One of his Longcoat escorts hit him in the back of his head and he shut up.

"How did you do that?" Zero whispered.

"I didn't," Cain answered.

Ichiro grabbed Zero's arm and jerked him away from Cain. He sighed when he saw the knife. "That had been in the family since the days of the Ancients."

Zero grabbed a fistful of the young Lord's jacket. "It's supposed to be in his heart!"

"How the hell did you survive the Sorceress being this stupid? The Princess has protected them with magic."

He jerked Ichiro closer to his snarling face. "Break it then! I want Cain dead!"

The purple and red light pulsed again and Zero flew back, landing against the wall, and staying pinned there by an invisible force. Ichiro sneered, "I am not my father, Akio, to feel sorry for a Slipper that landed on our doorstep."

Another Longcoat ran into the room and skidded to a stop at the sight of Zero hanging on the wall. He licked his lips before turning to Ichiro. "My Lord, the Princess has escaped via the river."

"Tell Commander Duncan to take his men to the nearest town down river and wait for her." The Longcoat nodded and left.

"She won't fall for that," Zero gasped.

"And this is where I get to prove I'm smarter than you once again." The invisible hold around Zero let go and he slid to the floor. "The Princess was raised as an American," Ichiro sneered as Zero stood up. "Never leave a man behind being one of their more idiotic concepts of honor. She will come back for them. I break her magic to let you have your simple-minded revenge, and she'll know there's no reason to come back. Now take them to the dungeons, before I decide keeping you around is an exercise in sentimentality I don't need."

Zero gestured at the Longcoats holding Glitch and Cain, and they were forced out of the room. He followed, nearly treading on Cain's heels at the points when the corridor was too narrow to walk abreast. Near as Glitch could tell from the meandering route they were taken on, the dungeons were on the north side of the tower in the basement levels. Judging by how slick the stone walls were, they had to be right next to the river. As he was searched and tossed into an empty cell, he did wonder what good it was to know that.

Cain was shoved into the cell next to Glitch's after being searched. Zero tossed Cain's gun and razor and Az's bracelet that Glitch had forgotten was in his coat pocket into a basket at the guard's station. The Tin Man tucked his thumbs in his belt as he stood just out of arm's reach from the cell bars. "So this is where you grew up, Zero? And I always thought maggots like you bred under rocks."

Zero brushed his blonde hair back as he scowled at Cain. "I'm betting whatever protection spell your Princess put on you won't stop the dragon from turning you into kibble." The scowl suddenly turned into a grin. "Ichiro has quite a future planned out for her too. When the time is right, I'll let him know who really stands in his way." He sauntered away, slamming the massive wooden door of the dungeon shut behind him.

Glitch let out the breath he didn't realize he had been holding and plopped down on the bench bolted to the side cell bars. "At least, DG got away. She must have the others with her."

"Yeah, though I don't know where they would put them." Cain looked further into the dungeon. Their cells were the first two just inside the door. Glitch stood up and moved to Cain's side of the cell to get a better view.

The cell next to Cain had a bright green humanoid curled up on the floor. A satyr stared at the wall rocking slightly in the cell across from them. Every cell looked occupied. "The Fae who followed the dragon," Glitch said in a low voice. "But why haven't they tried to escape?"

"They're on vapors," Cain answered. "Bad enough to get humans addicted to it. No telling what the reaction is for one of the Fae."

Glitch sighed and sat back down again. His fingers curled around one of his dreads. "There's only one thing I don't understand."

Even in the dim light, he could see Cain's eyebrow quirked at him. "Just one thing?"

"Well, I'm ignoring the ninja thing until I get a definition. When did DG cast a protection spell on us?"

Cain rubbed his wedding band. "I don't think she cast it on you." He lay down on his bunk and threw his arm over his eyes.

Something that happened during the ceremony or after? Still, there was no telling if the dungeons had listening devices or not; it was best to change the subject. "Then I'll leave the Zero baiting to you."