Ruby stared up at the statue of Lady Chaos, a perfect copy of herself, but her mind raced in a dozen other directions. Farook stood beside her, showing no outward sign of interest in her.
"Whatever Basha knows about your past and your arrival, he learned it through his surveillance network," Farook whispered.
"So he doesn't have supernatural sight?" Ruby asked. Her ear-translator repeated the words in ancient Greek and she repeated them to Farook.
"He has other supernatural powers. His world transformation is proof of that."
"Do you have powers?"
She caught his smile from the corner of her eye. "Among other things, I can make an already exhausted Ord priest feel a bit worse."
"I'd love to instruct you in the use of magic. Unfortunately, we have little time. We've wasted too much already. I'm here to ask you if you would assist us in an attack on the prison tomorrow morning."
"It would have been better to do it today. So many Ord are gone now, hiding out near a city called Graden, preparing for some sort of rescue. Their numbers in Cavaheim are currently few. But Elric has advised us to wait until dawn tomorrow. They will be weak, and the prison will be full. We intend to rescue all the prisoners and incapacitate as many Ord priests as possible."
"But what can I do?" Ruby asked.
He was silent for a moment. "I don't know. Elric believes you have the power to help us."
"If I do, I don't know about it."
Farook frowned. "I'd leave you behind, but Elric insists it is your destiny to assist us."
Ruby stared at her shoes. She shook her head. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
"Nor do I, but if you are here to help, this may be your only opportunity."
"I'm having dinner with him tonight."
Farook turned to her, shocked. She met his gaze.
He turned away again. "That is an interesting opportunity."
"To do what?"
"No one has gotten close enough to Basha to stop him. If you kill the king when you're alone with him, many lives may be saved. We expect the prison fight to be a bloody one."
Ruby shrank at the thought. Kill him? "How am I supposed to..."
"We'll try to smuggle a weapon to you."
"I don't think I can."
"If you succeed, you'll save the world. We'd have killed him weeks ago if he wasn't guarded."
Running footsteps approached from behind. Ruby and Farook both turned. Democritus approached, followed by a pair of Ord priests and five soldiers. "Master Farook," Democritus called, approaching. "Reinforcements have arrived."
He stopped before Ruby and Farook and dropped his hands to his knees, panting out loud. "Thank you for looking after Miss Tanner. They've told me to take her back to the palace."
* * *
They left Ruby in her room. She sat at a desk beside the French doors, staring out at the city. The request of Farook rang in her ears. If you kill the king when you're alone with him, many lives would be saved .
...kill the king...
Tachma had visited Ruby a few minutes before, offering to take her to the stadium. A game of Pyramid, something the locals favored, was scheduled that afternoon, and Tachma assured her it would be entertaining. The thought of sitting in a crowd of people, all staring at her, made her stomach turn. Ruby said she wasn't feeling well and wanted to lie down.
But she couldn't lay down. She couldn't sit still. She paced in her room for an hour before she finally sat at the desk, her hands clasped together, her shoulders trembling.
Kill Basha? How?
As she sat, she thought about the surveillance Farook had spoken of. Were they watching her now? Tiny scorpion creatures with cameras? She kept her eyes out for any sign of such things, but she saw nothing. When nature called, she was especially fearful of hidden eyes in the bathroom.
A tap-tap at the balcony door shook her from her misery. Who was there? Was it someone bringing her a weapon? Wouldn't the king's surveillance identify a visitor?
She saw no one outside through the French doors. She turned away, thinking she had imagined it when the tapping came again.
She inched the door open. When it was a crack wide, a tiny figure on wings zipped in and darted around the room.
Ruby stepped back and watched. It was Skylar. Ruby had been so caught up in events that she had forgotten the Fixie. Skylar bounced around the room like a rubber ball. Ruby couldn't focus on her movements.
"Skylar, what are you doing?"
Skylar continued to zigzag in the air above, hitting a seam in the wall, spinning around and zipping off to the next corner. It was as if the Fixie had her speed dial cranked up to eleven.
Each time Skylar flew over the bed, she'd drop on object onto the bedspread. Gray lumps piled up on the white surface. Ruby leaned in to see what the Fixie had dropped.
They looked like mechanical scorpions, all curled up like dead bugs on the white linen. Ruby moved in closer to focus until her nose nearly touched them. They were all metallic and where the stinger on their tail might have been was a tiny glass bead of a lens.
When there were fifteen scorpions in the pile, Skylar stopped, hovered over her kills and brushed her hands together—a job well done.
"Skylar, how did you know those were there?" Ruby asked.
Skylar pointed out the window, then held out her arms to indicate a large number.
"Thank you for removing them," Ruby said. "But I suspect they'll just send more to spy on me. Do me a favor and check the bathroom."
Skylar zipped in the bathroom, flew around, pinging off the walls, then returned and shook her head.
"Hmm. So at least they care a little about privacy. That's a relief."
Skylar hovered before Ruby's face and saluted.
"Thank you. Have you gotten food to Hera and Kevin?"
Skylar nodded and saluted again.
"Thanks again. You're a lifesaver."
She stared at the Fixie, wondering how Skylar could help her in her current jam. She frowned and sat down on the bed. Skylar raised an eyebrow.
"Someone's asked me to do something, Skylar. I'm supposed to help this city, but... I don't know if I can."
Skylar pulled out a wrench. She pointed at it and held up her arm to flex her muscles.
"I know, you want to help, but I don't think I could ask you to do anything. You see, someone's asked me to kill a man."
Skylar's face fell. She sank down to Ruby's knee, landing there and folded her wings up behind her back. She shook her head.
"I know. I can't do it. But a lot more lives will be saved if I stopped this guy."
Skylar shook her head more emphatically.
Ruby had never seen this much determination from her mechanical friend. Skylar looked grim, almost angry.
Skylar leapt off Ruby's knee and bee-lined for the desk. She pulled a sheet of paper out of a slot, dipped a pen in an inkwell and wrote. She worked furiously, moving the pen like a farmer on speed hoeing weeds. Ruby stood up to stand behind her. Skylar was communicating in words. This was a first.
But as Ruby read what was written, she realized this was no ordinary communication. When Skylar stepped back from her work, Ruby found the sheet filled with tiny, typewritten text. Across the top read the title Fixie Repair Bot Terms and Conditions .
Skylar examined her work, then jumped to the inkwell one final time. She jumped over the page and circled two paragraphs in the middle as she passed. Ruby leaned forward and squinted to read. Without her glasses, it was a struggle.
The GenCorp Fixie Repair Bot (FRB) will not engage in any activity that will result in the death or dismemberment of any individual. The FRBs are intended only to serve as a benefit to humanity and can in no way be used to cause harm that would result in a loss of life or livelihood. If a FRB is asked to perform any activity that violates the ethics protocols programmed into the FRB's AI, the FRB will refuse. Persistent unethical requests will cause the FRB to be deactivated permanently.
The Ethics Protocols stated above include an allowance for activities and the construction of devices used specifically for personal protection by the Primary User. Be warned, however, that if the Primary User uses such devices in any way deemed malicious by the FRB, the FRB will immediately self-deactivate.
Ruby read the paragraphs twice while Skylar stood with her arms folded.
"So, I guess asking for a weapon to kill the man who wants to destroy the world is out of the question," Ruby said.
Skylar rolled her eyes.