|Inside the facility, a towering construct of shining blue-gray steel greets them with a single word: “ENTER”.|
The machine man’s eyes glow an unwavering yellow that seems to bore into Jack’s mind. The construct has only one hand; the other limb terminates in the wide barrel of a gun.
“Dr. Darr is your friend?” Jack asks Simon. “What kind of doctor is he?”
Simon’s expression is slightly cagey. “Er, friend? More like a business associate. He is researching the technology of the Emerald Dynasty. No better place to do it than here on the Plateau, where the Emeralds had their capital city.”
Jack’s eyes widen. Suddenly the alien feeling of the laboratory makes sense. This place was built by the Emeralds, who came to Malkat from another world – thousands of years ago! He gazes around in awe. Everywhere is metal, with a peculiar crystalline shine to it that is characteristic of the purest Emerald technology. Adventurers in the Mushroom Kingdom often find the relics of the First Men, who learned their FloatStone technology by crudely copying the Emeralds, but rarely is an original artifact encountered. What this laboratory would be worth to the artificers and archaeologists of the Wyvern Sea is incalculable.
“How does such a place remain hidden?” Jack asks.
Simon smirks at him. “Everyone who’s ever talked about it is dead.”
The construct gestures down a long dark corridor. “THIS WAY.”
The huge war machine leads the way, its heavy tread ringing on the metal floor. At last, they emerge into a larger chamber, where menacing looking equipment whirs and clicks all around. A tall powerfully built man stands silently studying an instrument panel. At the sound of their entrance, he turns and regards them with quiet suspicion.
“The Cloak Wizard,” the man says. He takes a small step backward and now Jack can see that like the construct who guided them, the man has a gun barrel in place of one of his hands. Another construct enters from behind the man, and the tension is suddenly thick. Jack’s fingers tense, but he does not reach for a weapon – yet.
“Greetings, Dr. Darr,” Simon replies, raising his hands to display their emptiness. It is a hollow gesture; Jack knows well that Simon requires no weapon to be dangerous. “Be at ease, good Doctor. We’re here to shop.”
Dr. Darr eyes him narrowly for a moment and then bursts out laughing.
“Still trying to bargain for that Sphere?” Dr. Darr asks. “I won’t lower my price; you can tell that to your masters. Or bring them here and I’ll tell them myself. Doesn’t matter.”
Simon shakes his head with a tight smile on his face. “Today I shop for my companion, not myself.”
Does Jack have Alton’s Ribbon? If so, turn to 26.