Previously: Yi Fan attacked the Cobalt Czar to keep him from entering the cave until Cole could return with the mask. And now…
Digger emerged blinking into sunlight and stumbled up beside Twain. He heard a growl of frustration and saw the Ghost, gigantic and distorted, pressing the Czar face down into the ground.
Digger glanced at Twain and saw something perhaps even more bizarre. Twain was bigger, slightly taller and broader than Digger remembered, with his veins distended and pressing out blue against the white of his skin. But even his skin had a faintly blue cast, though it was fading away.
â€œWhatâ€™s the deal?â€ he asked Twain, staring at the manâ€™s hands.
Twain looked down and noted the blue, now almost faded to utter memory. â€œI told you I could feel it now.â€
Digger heard another roar of frustration, tore his eyes away from Twain to see a beam of blue radiance carve its way across the ground like a creek bed being formed by a flash flood. The Ghost danced out of the way, and the Czar used the distraction to get up again.
â€œYi Fan!â€ Twain yelled.
The Ghost and Yi Fan both turned their heads in unison to gape at Twain, then said in both their voices, â€œWhat are you doing out here, you idiot? Take cover in the cave! RUN!â€
Cole floated into the Czarâ€™s chambers and settled lightly to Earth. Heâ€™d found the room more quickly than he had expected. He heard the trip-trap of the womanâ€™s heels as she hurried to catch up. Heâ€™d navigated here by following her squeals and scoffs of outrage, like a sort of backwards GPS.
[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]The Ghost and Yi Fan both turned their heads in unison to gape at Twain, then said in both their voices, â€œWhat are you doing out here, you idiot? Take cover in the cave! RUN!â€[/blockquote]He scanned the room, looking for the mask, and spotted it on a side table. The secretary clopped into the room as he was picking it up. â€œDonâ€™t touch that,â€ she gasped.
Cole didnâ€™t reply. He considered the mask in his hands, with its odd face-within-a-face design. It was hard to believe that he and Digger had chased halfway around the world for something so small and ordinary-looking. It should at least glow or hum or something.
â€œThanks,â€ he told the woman as he slipped the mask into the bag that Yi Fan had given him. â€œIâ€™ll be going now.â€
He lifted off the ground again and wobbled. He still didnâ€™t feel entirely like his old self, and his mouth was dry. â€œHey, do you have a kitchen in here someplace? I could use a drink before I head back.â€
â€œYou canâ€™t…â€ the woman began, still panting, but Cole cut her off.
â€œYeah, duly noted, but you might as well just give me directions,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m afraid Iâ€™ll kill you if I make you chase me there.â€
â€œYou! Youâ€™re in this together?â€ the Czar said when he saw Twain standing next to Digger. Then he looked back to Yi Fan. â€œAll of you?â€
â€œDonâ€™t act surprised,â€ said the Ghost. â€œOur arrangement was one of convenience only. There was never any loyalty between us.â€
â€œNo,â€ the Czar agreed. He cracked his knuckles with a sound like gunshots. â€œSo now letâ€™s end our arrangement permanently.â€
Cole had better hurry up with that mask, I’m thinking. Don’t miss the next exciting episode!
To read from the beginning, click here…