An acrid burning scent prodded Small Packages. “Is this Hell or just purgatory?”
“Neither,” a feminine voice replied.
Small Packages opened his eyes. Across from him sat that maniac Payday tied up. The Empress stood over a campfire roasting a spit of Proto-cabbage, the one edible plant on this rock.
Small Packages rubbed his eyes. “Empress, what am I doing here?”
“I brought you after those three left.”
“Oh. Guess Captain Revolution’s pres-sure points weren’t as good as he thought.”
The Empress laughed. “No, he let you live. If he’d wanted you dead, that wouldn’t be a problem for him.”
“Why are you sticking up for him? You’re not his biggest fan.”
“No, but I can’t deny reality.”
Small Packages looked over at the tied-up psychopath. “What’s Payday doing here?”
“He tried to hang himself. I cut him down and tied him up so he couldn’t try again.”
Small Packages stared at Payday. “You, commit suicide? Why?”
Payday shrugged. “I told the lady if she knew me, she’d help me die, but she wouldn’t listen.”
“Oooh-kay,” said Small Packages.
The Empress shook her head. “He’s not the only one acting peculiar. I’ve been feeling very different since I came here. In Japan, I’m known for my virtue, but it’s been much harder here.”
“Now, that you mentioned it, Sky-scraper and I have thought about trying to kill Payday, but we never tried it until we got here. It’s as if this place is bringing out the worst in us.” Small Packages paused. “Why didn’t Captain Revolution kill me?”
“I’ve been wandering the woods ever since Defender disappeared, and I’ve seen things that indicate there’s a larger plan. This camp is only a short distance from the Peninsula. I think we can rush in behind them when they lure the others here.”
Small Packages arched an eyebrow. “Shouldn’t we warn the others?”
“Sometimes, you’ve got to let the game play out.”
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