Should is a very funny word.

Stuart should be ashamed for what he did. He had been invited to play a nice little game but had ended up making one of his friends cry and making mean old Kollkie angry by doing some amateur photo shop.

Now he was behind a set of iron bars, his grin wide and hungry.

John should have known there was something wrong with Stuart, he should have seen the obvious signs, he should have suspected something when Stuart didn’t act like Stuart. But physicists are like that, they try to grasp the secrets of reality when they are blind to the world around them.

Now John was cursing himself for being so blind, about not warning the people of the world about the twisted and perverted science his people worship.

The Lieutenant was the same, she should have known that Stuart was trying to distract with anger, she should have seen the subtle manipulation and held her temper. She should have known that stupid tablet had been shoved straight in her face begging to be taken, a piece of bait that was just too easy to take for her own.

Now she watches from the safety of another’s desk, her attention resting on woman and the thing she fed her to.

Eclipse knows that she should be getting the hell out of there, that there is something not quite right about the man who was not surprised at her entrance. She had hated this job the moment her family had entered the picture, but you did not exactly say no to Auntie.

Now she realises her mistake, that she had her foot levitating over a bar trap and she should just get the hell out of there.

Her eyes tell Stuart all he needed to know, his new toy was thinking about running away. He really should let the poor woman leave, she was way out of her element.

Yes, should was a very fun word.

On opposite sides of the bars Eclipse and Stuart watched one another.

“How about we discuss what you really what to know?” Stuart said.

On opposite sides of the bars Eclipse and Stuart watched one another.

“How about we discuss what you really what to know?” Stuart said.

He didn’t know what this woman’s real name was, not yet anyway, but that was okay. The best women needed a bit of mystery to them, boring ones like Kollkie were just too easy.

Eclipse wanted out of this bloody place, not only did the sight of bars disturb her and bring back a lot of childhood memories but the man inside the cell looked at her in a way she didn’t like. Not like the other man saw her with fear and animal craving, but…

Put on the defensive for reasons she did not know Eclipse stepped back. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stuart cocked his head. “Prison cells are a perfect place to reflect on things. Did you come in here to reflect?”

The smirk covered up the anger well but Stuart could still see it, elf or human they could not fight their body’s natural impulse to betray it owner. Reflection was the last thing this Legen wanted to do, it made Stuart want to know just what skeletons were in her closet.

“Sure.” Eclipse said her tone growing bolder and threatening. “How about you reflect on…”

With a simple hand gesture Stuart interrupted Eclipse, it was an action that had been as good as a death sentence on the Mor-dread. “Remember, you’re meant to play the role of an assistant to a merchant. Or do you want to give the poor Lieutenant a reason to think you’re not a lady or high class?”

There was without a doubt that the guards outside could hear everything that went on within the cell block, a whisper might as well have been a cry from a rabid elephant behind those stone walls.

Eclipse had a feeling that Kollkie already had a good idea as to her identity, Mr Soot had been very aware that every single person here had some agenda and your neighbor could very well be working for several organisations at once. As far as Eclipse was concerned everybody was a spy.

The Dark Elf’s red eyes locked onto the door to the guard’s room.

“As Maween Tubhair Suas assistant you must know everything there is to know about your employer. What allergies she has, what kind of wine she likes. Care to tell more more about the person we have managing our goods?” Stuart asked slyly.

It was hard not to laugh at the trembling Alf, the woman was a perfect example of anger being a useful manipulation tool, she was so easy to read that she was not confident her and her lady’s stories would match.

“I don’t give away my lady’s personal information to vulgar peasants like you.” Eclipse said taking the defensive.

Already Stuart could start to put together Eclipse’s physiological profile. Most of it was fishing but he was sure that she had spent time in jail, and she thought abuse was a good form of communication; highly possible female with a desire to become an alpha male.

This could be guess work but Stuart didn’t think Eclipse was exactly a lesbian, he could not be a hundred percent sure but he guessed she targeted women because in her mind they were easy to dominate which could be cause by abuse or environmental factors.

But this could just be his own wishful thinking as she was incredibly attractive in same way girl with a high powered rifle might be sexy.

No mistake, this dark elf was the one pulling the strings and her so called mistress was just along for the ride.

Stuart imagined his fingers massaging a great big red button with a skull on it, this was getting interesting. “So did you come here to get your mistress a subscription to the company newsletter?”

Eclipse had no idea what the hell was wrong with her, the logical part of her brain knew she held every advantage but somehow this son of a bitch was the one interrogating her. She should just leave and tell her family her cover was blown, but she could not go back empty handed.

The deep intake of breath settled her nerves somewhat, this man liked to talk, so she would let him talk.

“As my mistress is in charge of being the face of your company’s trade she would like to know what you plan to export and to whom.” Eclipse said.

This woman was shifting gears, trying to turn this into business talk, hiding her real question in the middle of a hundred mundane ones or perhaps she was attempting to evaluate the company’s manufacturing capabilities.

“We work with a research company,” Stuart said reluctantly, giving the Dark Elf her deserved bone. “but seeing as though we landed in this bum-hole of a universe it looks as though we have to whore ourselves out to the mighty dollar once again.”

Hearing all of this rubbish all Eclipse could do was say. “What?”

A pained expression was reflected on Stuart’s face. “You see… the company is sort of… I don’t know what you call it here but all were are, are a bunch of researches.”

Researchers? Was Stuart speaking the truth? It didn’t seem likely.

“And what do you research?” Eclipse asked daring the jester’s reply.

Stuart groaned as he tried to think up some reasonable answer. “Most of its pretty random and can be anything from weapons, to working on a new chip flavor. There is around about twenty one departments and each has their individual topics.”

The jailed foreigner looked as if he was trying to work up the nerve to change a baby’s shitty nappy. “The truth is there are at anyone time a handful of large projects and a hundred different piss-ant ones. Most of the researchers just want to work and get their name in a magazine or a journal, they not really care about money.”

It was difficult for the materialistic Dark Elf to sympathise with these researchers, her goal in life was the accumulation of wealth a established body count. Fame she could understand in theory, but it was a reputation of fear and brutality she prized not scientific exploit.

Eclipse shook her head, these foreigners were confusing her, an mental state she did not enjoy. “Than what about the game? What about the beer? What about you, and John, and that boy?”

“The game was part of the psychologist department idea.” Stuart confessed. “The game itself was just a prop, the same with John, all he wants to do is play the game. A diverse group playing a game with a structure that focused on team work and choice. It was not coincidence who you think chose to play, everything was to our design.”

“As for the alcohol, the beer was one of several ideas to introduce a new product into your culture for trade purposes, Jessy becoming our new liaison with the magic academy was simply gravy.”

The micro-expression did not escape Stuart’s keen eye, Eclipse was scared and angry and why shouldn’t she be? Stuart had already testified that the game had been a means to evaluate Peppercorn and that the beer had not been an unintentional by-product of a child trying to impress a girl with a pretty face.

“What will Jessy do now that he is your little mole in the academy?” Eclipse asked keeping her voice calm but her eyes betrayed her, that door to the outside world was looking real friendly.

Stuart thought about his next step cautiously, it would not do him well to scare off his source of amusement. “He will attempt to establish a network within the city. At one stage within the year he will commit a scandal in order to be blackmailed by the Talia government or criminal element, who will use him to get to us.”

The Alf wanted to laugh out loud. Poisoned bait. These foreigners were as crafty as the Devil, using their wayward son as a bleating lamb to lure the nation’s carnivores into a trap. Eclipse would have to warn her superiors about the boy, she would also have to warn Peppercorn about the game.

She wanted to learn more about their plans but Stuart might get suspicious and tell his people to change their plans, it would be best to change the subject matter. “My mistress overheard your people are able to make sugar out of rotten fruit. Is this true?”

From their own history the foreigners estimated that sugar was a high level trade item much like silk, nowadays, sugar was a common element but with there being a finite amount available the company had to get creative.

Stuart’s eyes narrowed, it was time for some fun. “That depends. As somebody with a knowledge of trade goods and the economy, how much would you say sugar is worth by the kilo?”

This just got dangerous. So far the foreigners had no concept what their goods were worth, if they learned what a grain of sugar was truly worth on the common market Eclipse’s other employers might be upset with her, but if she lied and the company learned the truth it might hurt her trust with them.

It might be best if the sea captain played the dumb bitch card.

As if reading her mind Stuart ran his eyes across the Dark Elf’s body, absorbing her willow-like body and sleek frame. “Or is it that you’re just the sex toy your girlfriend brings out to parties to impress the real business men?”

The perverted smile that seemed to heat Stuart’s cold cell caused Eclipse to blush in embarrassment for the first time in eighty years, and here she thought shame was burned out of her long ago.

“Nah.” Stuart said averting his gaze, “I personally don’t see you having much of a future with the company, I mean the company has standards and I’m sure you do your best but I’m sure a gutter orc prostitute would be a better fuck than you are. And no offence but they would probably be cleaner, the guys I work with have this thing about venereal diseases.”

like a hideous cancer a sad expression was featured on Stuart’s face. “Maybe you should update your CV, I’m sure you could get a job asking inbred assholes “Can I take your order?””

In the next room Stuart could hear the odd sound of a middle-aged female elf spitting out a cup of tea; Eclpise, however, did not hear the lieutenant’s blunder as she was about ready to explode into catastrophic thunder.

Trembling fingers wrapped around the cool bars. “You better hope they don’t let you out of this fucking cage, or I will.” Eclipse’s rant was cut short as she violently pulled back the cell door, her blood-lust put on hold as the Dark Elf stared dumbfounded at the now opened cell door.

Oh dear.” Stuart said mockingly as he got onto his feet. Using his hands he patted the dirt from his clothes not shocked at all that his cage had been unlocked.

Look at what you have done.” Stuart said, his voice reminding Eclipse of something that lived under a rock somewhere. “You have just aided an evil villain in an escape attempt. I wonder how the Second Lieutenant will act when she and her bosses find out.”

Eclipse didn’t need to imagine, she knew exactly that if that frigid bitch didn’t hang her immediately her family back in Raithlen Island would turn the Dark Elf into a very impressive example for others who fucked up such jobs.

Driven by fear the pirate tried to close the cell door in the blind hope the guards had forgotten to lock it, there was no such luck. “ bastard. Deliberately broke the lock.” unable to help herself Eclpise stared back to the door that separated the cells from the barracks expecting to see a guard come in at any moment.

It had worked out pretty well, though Stuart had planned to use the broken cell door as a prop to dig Kollkie’s own grave the arrival of this imposter had been an exciting twist.

The step Stuart took was like a nail being driven into Eclipse’s personal callows.

Don’t you bloody move.” Eclipse said trying to think of a way out of this shit she just stepped in.

Or what? You’ll hurt me?” Stuart asked his smile morphed into a maniacal grin. “Even better. Escape attempt turned assassination. Investigation, enquiries, and what will become of poor little Maween?”

He could see it, his prey’s mind trying to come up with the best possible outcome only to end up back to her first assumption. The Dark Elf should have got out when she had the chance.

Out of nowhere Stuart ran into the brick wall of his cell. “Ow.” As if possessed by a demon he began to torture himself by introducing his face to the wall repeatedly. “Ow ow ow.”

The terrified expression on Eclipse’s face was well worth the pain.

Stop it.” Eclipse bit her own tongue, an octave higher and her shout would have been an invitation to every guard in the neighbourhood to come in. “What are you doing?”

I’m being attacked by a corporate spy. Tortured for information.”

Both parties could see where this was going, namely Eclipse waiting in line for a noose.

A wise person would have tried any number of things from a stern talking to or going back to the guards up stairs and telling them that the poor Eclipse had been blackmailed into helping the son of a whore. Another, more cowardly person might have asked what the hell Stuart wanted for not fucking up their life.

Back on her boat Eclipse handled most situations by killing somebody, and as much as she would like to rip Stuart’s neck apart. Unfortunately, Eclipse decided to fall back on her default programming and did the last thing a sane person would have done, she went inside the jail cell to kick the shit out of an obvious lunatic.

Knock it off you fool.” Eclipse hissed and threw a punch right at Stuart’s jaw.

Faster than one would have suspected a thin nothing of a man like Stuart to perform, the wile snatched the pirate’s arm and performed a classic judo throw.

Then it came, a feeling in the back of Stuart’s neck. It could have been the subtle change in the air, a gut feeling, the fact that he had not heard a sound come from the barracks, but he just knew that in two seconds that door to the barracks was going to fly off it hinges and need more than a coat of paint tomorrow.

Guards.” Stuart screamed as he threw himself onto his winded assassin.

Eclipse’s double vision cleared in time to see her own hands around Stuart’s neck, her body above his, the maniac’s hands forcing her to hold onto his throat with a death grip. Stuart was also not moving.

Stern hands embraced the stunned woman, bladed weapons were pushed against Eclipse’s bluish tinged skin, all the while Second Lieutenant Kollkie stared at the Dark Elf in disbelief.

Stuart would have smiled at the damaged he had and would eventually cause, but that was a luxury beyond his grasp as his life less eyes stared up at the ceiling, his body growing colder by the second.

Seeing the man that had framed her for his death Eclipse mentally groaned. ‘Should have staid in bed.


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