Hoty watched the pros work with a combination of awe and fury. Sand it! She should in the thick of this fight, not bringing up the rear wearing a miniscule skirt, platform sandals, a stunner, a coiled whip and a dangling necklace of big heavy chains, with manacles and locks dangling. And not a stitch more.
She kept her eye on Vee, just behind the two . . . other underdressed pseudofems. He had a pistol in either hand, laser in the left, stunner in the right. His attitude of alert . . . hunger . . . was a bit disturbing. She'd suspected the Guards were more bothered by the kidnapping than they showed; now she was sure of it. The lizard was on the hunt. Vee's metal studded black leather kilt, black leather boots and studded black leather mantle left plenty of scale covered rippling muscles to be . . . Sand it! She jerked her gaze back to the two pseudos. They were the ones she should be watching!
They wound quickly through the maze of secret tunnel, office and warehouse. Down to a large room, a garage with a couple dozen scattered vehicles that looked rather non-functional, and in the center of the room, a cage.
The pseudos glared at the cage, and without a word turned toward an exit on the far side of the room. They stopped, and darted to the side suddenly. Vee did likewise, guns coming up and training on the door. Had they heard something? Hoty joined Prince Fatreve and Leri in a sudden shift behind a vehicle.
The door opened out into the garage and four lizards walked out, bound on some task unwary and slow to realize they were in danger. The buzz of Vee's stunner dropped a big beefy male in his tracks. The other three grabbed for weapons, running for cover.
"Freeze, you stinking traitors!" Ynno leaped forward, teeth showing.
The three lizards gaped at her, stopping. "Ynno! What are you doing?" and then seeing the prince, "Grab him!"
"My own sibs! I don't believe this!" Ynno's gun was wavering between targets and froze them again. Narmo was following her lead and watching all of them.
Hoty was trying to, also . . . but suddenly realized that Vee, the prince and Leri had targeted one each, and were concentrated on those single ones. Hoty froze her aim on the same one the prince was watching, and received a nod of approval from him.
He lowered his gun as he paced forward, circling to stay out of lines of fire. "They were fooled by Blozolli. He told them I was a DMS ringer, a spy." He shook his head sadly. "I trust them, Ynno. I really do, and so I'm going to give them a second chance. Except C'dasl. No, not C'dasl. Blozolli C'dasl will come with me for a nice long chat."
"Ynno! That's not him!" the pseudo male hissed. "It's Traveler."
The prince ignored him, stroking the secondary spines of his temple. "I'm going to leave you two in charge down here. We can just avoid any . . . further unpleasantness by keeping them out of circulation for a few days. I have some political ambitions, and to carry them out, I need to avoid any time consuming problems with the police. For now, you three can step into my spacious accommodations." He eyed Ynno and Namro, "We're missing five. Let's collect them, and take down the comm service."
His eyes swung back to the three newcomers. "Drop all your weapons, now." his voice got cold and harsh. "Don't make me reassess whose fault this . . . interesting little money raising project was."
Clink, clink . . . clink. The three baffled and confused lizards were herded into the cage. Vee hauled Blozolli over and tossed him in as well.
The prince held the key out to Hoty. "Lock them in and keep an eye on them. Watch C'dasl especially. Kill him if you need to, and watch yourself."
Hoty turned the key in the lock and stood back. I'm about to get left behind she growled to herself, and catching a gesture from Vee, walked over to him. "Stay here, with a solid wall at your back and a cart to duck behind handy. There are five of them still at large and we would prefer to not have them coming up behind us."
Hoty blinked. Nodded. That put a little different color on being left behind. Now all she had to do was decide if she wanted to be needed, or bored. The pseudos led the way through the door, and Vee trotted over to take the rear guard position.
"Hey, fem, if you know what's good for you, you'll let us out." The male called.
The pseudofem who looked quiet a bit like him looked her over. "You think he likes you? You think you can replace us in his organization? Not a chance. A baby like you is for using and discarding."
Hoty refrained from pointing out that she'd as good as admitted Fatreve was L'azlod. The big room echoed with their loud voices. Was that the purpose for their yelling? Were they trying to attract attention? She strolled over into the shadow of the cart and surveyed the entrances. Dialed her stunner down to the narrowest possible beam, which gave it the longest range. Kicked off the stupid high sandals, and ditched the chains. That was much better! Even if she was now three fourths undressed.
More foul language, including, she noted, rather a large number of references to her position. The quiet pseudo fem twitched slightly, and Hoty, turned, slipped to one knee so her left flank was covered by the cart and zapped the huge male rushing silently from the side. She turned back, caught a flicker of movement and snapped a shot at it. A thudding crash and swearing marked a clip. She stepped past the lump at her feet and slid quietly out the other side. She ran lightly to the next cart, swept the new view, and took up a post where she could see the cage.
The trio in the cage weren't going to repeat that error, they were pointing at her, describing her position and thumping and banging to hide the noise of movements from her. She slid back out of their view and rolled under the next cart and started working her way to the right. She checked the cage regularly, trying to not get spotted. No one seemed interested in helping them escape, and over their noise she caught a scrape. Crouched low and waited. The lizard who slipped around the corner was looking everywhere else first and she shot him before his eyes even swung her way. He hadn't been moving like he'd been clipped, so at least one more lizard was in here somewhere.
She checked the caged yelling trio and unconscious Blozolli. Ha! Lizard limping across the open. He folded on the first shot, and she ducked back down and continued her prowl.
Clatter of footsteps from the door her party had disappeared into. Stopping with the door barely cracked. The trio fell silent, apprehensive, and it was Hoty's turn to yell. "Three more bad guys down. No more enemy in sight."
"Vee!" the deep rumble preceded the big lizard as he charged through the door and immediately into the shelter of the cart where she'd started. "Looks good." He popped out the far side and flitted from cart to cart. "Hot?"
"Here, ahead and right." she called back. Hot? He'd called her Hot? A completely gender free nick name?
He slid around the cart and grinned at her. "You did say you were a good shot." He studied the rest of the garage. "Let's play hopper."
He slipped to the next cart, scanned and waved her forward. She passed him and stopped in cover to scan. They circled the room and concluded Hoty had gotten them all.
"Lazlod's still searching," Vee said. "Nobody home where we expected them."
A whistle from the far side brought him around, and Hoty ducking behind another cart. Vee whistled back and the prince entered, Leri and the pseudo's in tow.
The prince surveyed Hoty's victims with pleasure. "Excellent. We're still missing two, but they're the one's I was least worried about." He frowned at the cage, and then at Narmo and Ynno. "I'm counting on you two to not make me regret my leniency. I'm going to need everyone I can get, and I'd like to think I could count on at least your family."
Ynno drew herself up. "You can. They will go nowhere until you say they can go."
"Good. Vee? Load up my good friend Blozolli and let's go."
Hoty pulled the key from her pocket and handed it to Vee. The subdued trio backed off and let him grab Blozolli without hindrance. They didn't look defeated, though, and Hoty worried all the way back through the maze. She jumped when the armored troops appeared in the tunnel to the L'azlod home. They took charge of C'dsal and were apparently settling in to hold the tunnel against an army. Their backs would be safe and a line of retreat open to the surface.
Hoty snickered at the thought.
Vee gave her an inquiring glance.
"A week ago I would not have thought of a line of retreat to the surface being anything but an insanely desperate risk."
Leri snorted. "It is, no matter how that Dry Scale has infected these two with a love of the surface."
The prince laughed, then shushed them all as they entered the back corridor.
"Father?" Philey sounded worried. "Who was that going up the stairs?"
"Friends, and that's all you really want to know." The prince smiled down at the little lizard. "So, I've worked up an appetite. What can Emmo do about that?"