When Shax stumbles across rumors of an experimental house that responds to the occupant’s brain functions, creating scenarios to please and delight, naturally he wants to steal it. But with the return of a troubled and hunted Julian Parallax and an overabundance of Poe references, even Shax’s scheming may not be enough to get the Brimstone crew out alive this time.
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Forked lightning stabbed the sky, misfiring neural dendrites from some angry god with a migraine. Wind whistled and groaned through the rattling stalks that passed for trees on this planet while clouds hurried to scuttle around a glowering red moon.
Shax sighed and trained his field glasses on their target, a rambling mansion with towers that had seen better days. "My dear Leopold, we seem to have landed in a cliché somehow."
With his new carryall strapped to his front, full of tools Mac had miniaturized and reconfigured for his paws, Leopold stood on his hind legs beside Shax, one forepaw clutching his captain's trouser seam. "It is creepy, Captain. Maybe we shouldn't go on. Clichés can be true."READ MORE
"Nonsense, my intrepid pink progeny." Shax fiddled with the focus, counting windows. "You've apprenticed to a demon thief. We are the nightmares out here, not some flashy meteorological effects and a house that would prompt a realtor listing of needs TLC."
Leopold nodded, ducking his head so he could pull up the hood of his new black jacket with his stubby forelegs. In everyday situations, even an unusually large hedgehog didn't need clothes, but they'd all agreed that his bright pink coloration was too much of a beacon during jobs. Shax had been more than pleased to have proper burglar's clothes tailored. After all, the only son of a demon prince should have every advantage.
"Do you have your route planned?" Shax asked as he tucked the field glasses into his jacket.
"Up the long drainpipe. On the side without windows. The master suite first."
"That's my boy. Remember, only what's out in the open tonight. No looking for safes, trapdoors, or hidden rooms."
An irritated peep followed his advice, accompanied by what Shax was beginning to recognize as a hedgehog glare. "I have it, Captain. You gave simple instructions. I am not Heckle."
"Now, now. None of that." Shax ran a hand through his hair to complete his artful mussing. "Heckle's not stupid. Just… easily distracted."
"And impetuous. And clumsy and so twitchy. Curious fingers."
"He did apologize and has orders not to enter your burrow again. Please let it go." Shax unfastened the first three buttons of his shirt. "Here we go, then. I'll do the best I can to give you time, but when you hear me leaving or when I call for you, it's time to go."
With a last pat to Shax's leg, Leopold dropped to all fours and scurried off through the vegetation. This would be classic accomplice distraction technique, nothing fancy. Start with the basics. He tapped in the code for the Brimstone's pilot pod where Ness was monitoring. "We're going in, cupcake. Radio silence, please. I'll yell if we need you."COLLAPSE