Allen Parch drummed his fingers against the wooden table in the corner of the cell. Jonathan Core sat across from him. He had wild, wiry black hair and a beard streaked through with gray. Stark shadows cast half his face in darkness. He raised the glass to his mouth and drank the deep red wine in long, appreciative gulps. He drained the glass and leaned back.
“So much flavor,” he said.
Allen’s green eyes flashed. “You said you knew about nanoblade users…”
The man raised the glass and watched the remaining wine pool in the very bottom. He ignored Allen’s frustrated fidgeting. “At this point in my life, I can really appreciate that it takes strength, cunning, and will to get what you want. And I understand, with painful clarity, that it is strength that I lack. It is the reason why you and your gangsters can buy a small amount of my cunning with wine.”
Allen’s drumming fingers turned into a fist. He struck it against the table. “Enough,” he said. “You said you would tell me how to defeat the nanoblade user for one glass, Core.”
“Seems cheap,” said the man, a rueful frown curling the edges of his mouth. Allen stood and reached across the table. He grabbed the glass from the man and flung it against the cell wall where it shattered, the shards tinkling to the stone floor.
“Lives are cheap,” said Allen. Rage scrunched his lips, bared his teeth, and put blotches of red on his cheeks.
Jonathan Core stared at him evenly. “There was still wine in that.”
Allen twitched, his fingers itching to wrap around the older man’s neck, but Core’s bodyguard was in the next cell, probably listening carefully. It wasn’t far enough away. With stiff movements, Allen forced himself to sit. “Tell me about the nanoblade user.”
Core’s eyes slid from the shattered glass and landed back on Allen. “You aren’t worried about the Hexers?”
Allen blinked then narrowed his eyes. “We tried that before,” he said. “It got us nothing but dead bodies.”
Core sneered. “And you think it’ll be different with a Somatic nanoblade user?” Core shook his head, his sneer turning to an indulgent smile. “Okay, sure.” He shrugged. “I suppose all you have to do is knock him unconscious and take all the metal off of him. If you get his metals away from him, you’ll have your hostage.” Core pushed back from the table and stood.
Allen crossed his arms. “I could have figured that out without wasting wine on you, old man.”
“Then why didn’t you?” said Core, raising his eyebrows. “Your lack of cunning will be your downfall.” He turned to leave.
“Wait,” said Allen. He stood quickly, knocking his chair over.
Core stopped and turned back. “Don’t waste my time, Parch,” he said.
“Help us,” Allen said, his voice low, his eyes on the table.
“From threats to begging,” Core said, a smile tugging at his lips. “The mighty fall so quickly.”
Allen’s gaze slid further away from Core and hid in a corner of the cell. “Will you or not?” he asked.
“I will,” Core said. “And if you live, you will become my strength.”
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