"So, you have to stay in hiding." Philey finished.
Trev looked at the five lizards in exasperation. Four kids and an . . . interestingly dressed housekeeper. "I laud your desire to keep me safe from various and sundry Good and Bad guys, but I'm not sure that hiding in my home cave is a workable solution to the problem."
"Oh, no worry, Master," the housekeeper beamed at him. "Everyone knows The Master never comes into the kitchen area. He's very formal and always eats in the dining room. So if you avoid the front rooms, everyone will be sure you are still gone."
"If that C'dasl comes here looking for you, we'll call the police." Philey K'radak was the Trev look-alike child. Metini L'azlod's son. Although now that Trev could see him in good light, he wasn't sure about him not being a her. Everyone else was calling him it, which was a massively conservative habit he wouldn't have associated with L'azlod.
Trev rubbed his muzzle. "I suppose. So long as I can get a bath and a change of clothes." He pondered looking for a comm, but he was in a foreign, and off and on hostile, nation, so maybe that wasn't the best idea. Low profile. In the Bad Guy's home. Sand. "Vee is going to kill me," he muttered.
The housekeeper hesitated, then apparently decided to ignore the mumbling. "Of course, Master. A nice hot bath and clean clothes and you'll be happy as a pike full of cheeper." She headed for a dark doorway.
He followed the housekeeper, throwing a glance back at the kids. "Was it a good idea to involve the kids?"
"Involve them? Master, this is all their idea." The housekeeper frowned. "Probably all that Bad Energy. They've been prowling around in that warehouse where the flows go every which way."
Trev dipped his chin and eyed the fem carefully. "Energy? Flows?"
"Of course. I realize you've never been a true believer, Master, but you do know the basics. Those lizards down there have no idea at all how to channel the Energy. Which, now that I think about it is just as well. I'd hate to see people like that attracting impressionable youngsters, as they would if they had Good Energy." She pulled a candle from her pocket, lit it from one standing in a niche in the hallway and led Trev deeper into the dark, to a small room with a deep basin excavated from the basement rock of the area. Exposed rusty pipes ran along the wall, with two spigots extending over the basin. The Housekeeper twisted them on, shaking her head at the rusty liquid that spurted out. "Let them run until it's clear, then stick the plug in the drain hole." She chirped, "I'll go find you some clothes to wear after your bath." She reached up and placed the candle in a rock niche.
"Plug?" Trev looked around.
"Oh, dear. No wonder I always avoid this room. No plug means Bad Energy. I'll fix that, too." She hustled out without another word, leaving Trev patting his pockets for something to use to plug the hole in the deepest part of the basin. Sand, he was so filthy even that rusty water looked like heaven.
The fem popped right back in though, with a pretty polished round rock that was enough larger than the drain hole to plug it without getting sucked in and, well, plugging it. "Here you go, now towels and clothes." And she was gone again.
The water was finally clearing up, so Trev rolled the stone into the basin and felt the water for temperature. Nice! L'azlo had a good heating system, however his cave looked like something from a horror vid. Or at least the parts he'd seen.
The housekeeper hustled back in, arms loaded, and the rung of a stool hooked over one arm. Trev relieved her of most of the load and watched as she plopped the stool down, and juggled a vase of fresh flowers, placing it with finicky care on the floor on the far side of the basin. As Trev turned off the steaming water, the fem laid clothing carefully over the stool, set the towels down beside the basin and stood back to eye it all carefully. She shifted the flowers forward a hand, and turned them slightly, angled the pile of towels a bit and shifted the stool. She nodded, apparently satisfied. "Now enjoy your bath, I'm going to fix dinner."
Who are you? Trev asked silently to himself, eyeing the subtly pleasing arrangement of the bare furnishings. In a few millisplits the fem had changed the dank forbidding room into a soothing, dim retreat. What are you?
"You have a nice long soak, Master." And she was gone.
Trev looked around helplessly. "Help. I've been saved by feral children and their pet flower arranger." He didn't say it very loudly, though.
"So we can pop back and scoop him up whenever we want to." Xaero said, "Now. Trev."
S'ank's image on the secure vidcomm nodded. "They apparently ran a quick substitution on the monorail when he stepped into the lav. We've just received a ransom demand, and the voice print matched Blozolli C'dasl's, so we're reasonably certain we are in fact dealing with the actual kidnappers. And they threatened to send fingers, so we're also reasonably certain he's alive. Right now, Vee has taken a page from your book and is scouting on the surface."
"Did L'azlod regularly come and go on the surface?"
"We don't know, but he definitely comes and goes without the Union being able to keep track of him."
Xaero got up and paced. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Not that we can think of, at the moment. So far you don't seem to have caught their attention, and we'd like to keep it that way. Come home. Come in as soon as you get here, for any updates."
Philey frowned, turning its head to listen.
"Is he trying to escape, again?" Wef asked.
Ylany poked him. "We're keeping him safe, not prisoner."
Philey hissed, "Father doesn't seem to appreciate the difference. I'll be right back." It hustled out to the main corridor and turned toward the back and nearly ran into . . . it flinched back and snapped its mouth shut. Three of its father's 'business associates'.
Philey hadn't seen these three in the office or warehouse, and they'd often stayed up here in the cave. It hesitated, then said, "Wait here, while I send my friends home."
"Don't tell them . . . " the old male trailed off at its glare.
Philey hustled back to its room. "Some of my father's friends are here, quick, out. Don't tell anyone there are visitors here." They scrambled off, finally looking more scared than excited.
It waited a moment, to let them get clear, then took a deep breath and walked back to the store room.
Philey stared at the two pseudos and the oldster, then, as the awkward silence stretched out, asked, "Did you come in from the warehouse?"
"No, we came down from the surface. It seemed the best route." The pseudo cocked her head at Philey, "what's the problem?"
Philey blinked. Was the mutiny confined to the warehouse, or was it all of Father's associates? "Welcome. Umm, I'll tell Emmo to make up rooms for you."
"Philey, you know us." the oldster shuffled forward, "What is the problem? Your father told us to come here on this date and wait for him to contact us."
It hesitated, but what harm could come of it? Redle H'athan, the old male, was into politics, and the environment, not violence. Of course the two fems pretty well had violence covered, but they were Father's bodyguards. "Father is having a problem with some of his people. Blozolli was holding him prisoner, trying figure out how to get some money for him."
The three stiffened. "Blozolli." The male sneered. "He always was a common criminal."
"He's dead meat, now," the first pseudo said.
"Was holding him?" the second pseudo asked.
"I, umm, released him, but I don't know where he's gone," it lied.
"All right. We'll wait here for him to contact us."
"I'll have the housekeeper get some rooms ready. Are you hungry?"
"Very," Redle said. "Especially remembering how your housekeeper cooks."
Philey darted off, its feelings as knotted as its gizzard felt. Emmo wasn't in the kitchen. With a quick glance back to see that the visitors weren't in sight, it scurried down the back hallway. It tapped on Emmo's door first, and getting no response, went on to the room its father was using. She heard Emmo nattering away from the corridor.
"Now, Master, the flowers must sit in the main energy inflow to a room, to break up the stream and soften it. It's always best to not have to make a wall."
Philey tapped then walked in. "Father, some of your people are here. I told them what Blozolli'd done, they claimed to have no part of it. I told them you were gone, and they said they'd wait here for you to contact them." Philey suddenly realized it had made some decisions that were a bit beyond its authority.
"Excellent." Its father's nodded. "I'll need to get a look, and better yet, eavesdrop on them before talking to them." He eyed Philey, "Are you up to being the host for a bit?"
Philey grinned in relief. "Yes, sir!" Father approved!
Father smiled back. "Just get them settled in, and feed them. If you can leave them alone while they're eating, they might talk more freely."