I hurried along after Spark Plug, and the hi-tar clouds left in his wake. Having caught up, I wafted cigarette smoke away from my face.
“I am paying attention,” I said, hotly.
“That from an animal with three hundred and sixty degrees of neck.”
SP: “Be wise not ter upset ‘im. Just sayin’. ‘Dem talons ain’t just fer show.”
“Is that the extent of his powers? I mean, I’m still hazy on what all your ‘special abilities’ include, or what it is you actually do…”
SP: “You-oh ‘as a unique, whajercallit? Dex’erity.”
“Which would be…?”
SP: “Um. ‘e can turn into a sig-nif-i-cant-ly bigger owl.” The time needed to teach him that word had been well spent, apparently.
Two very large and reproachful eyes swivelled upon me, fresh in judgement. I almost cracked several ribs through supressed laughter.
“Of course not. Heh. I can’t wait to see it in action.” With tremendous effort, I disguised a snort into an almost-believable sneeze. “I take it each of you has some form of…”
“I was going to say super-powers, but no, yours is good.”
But whatever the remaining four had hidden up their…well, actually, only one of them was wearing sleeves, but whatever. It couldn’t be better than a significantly bigger owl…
Spark Plug adopted a level gaze with me, although he couldn’t achieve ‘level’ so settled for ‘inclined’.
SP: “Ain’t nothing ‘super’ about us, mate.”
I frowned downwards.
“No extraordinary abilities?”
SP: “I didn’t say that.”
“Ah. Presumably though, you’re not playing the part of ‘heroes’ per se.”
The dwarf shrugged.
SP: “That ain’t no way to make a decent livin’.”
“Five selfish outlaws working together? Seems a little unlikely.”
SP: “Why do wolves ‘unt inna pack?”
Spark Plug grinned an evil grin that was in dire need of some good dentistry.
“Because no matter what one unique individual can do, there’ll always be something a unique group can do better. Yes, alright. Point taken.”
Spark Plug took two more cigarettes; the one behind his ear, and another to replace it. He lit the sweat-stained one, re-positioned the second, and started walking again. His strides versus mine, it was difficult not to accidentally overtake.
“And this ‘pack’ has been…hunting together, for how long?”
SP: “Two years.”
“That’s pretty impressive. Must’ve been some event to unite you all for that long. What was it? Prison break-out? Private army contract? Coincidental costume party?”
SP: “Same reason yer ‘ere, Time-kil’er. We were ‘ired.”
“Hired by whom?”
SP: “Our client. ‘Oo else?”
By now we’d reached a narrow passage way that was receding in height. I stopped in my tracks, only partly due to the lack of room.
“You were hired…two years ago.”
SP: “I know, ‘e is payin’ attention.”
“And you’ve been tracking me, all that time?”
Spark Plug the dwarf looked as though I’d offended mining, gold and inedible bread, all in the same utterance.
SP: “Well you don’t ezzactly make it easy, do ya?”
“How much have you been paid, to hunt a time-traveller, with four other people-”
“-beings, sorry, you’d never met before?”
Spark Plug reached a hand, that was covered in multiple electrical burns, into an inner pocket of his denim jacket. He extracted an item that illuminated the hallway. It would, in fact, have illuminated every hallway in existence, and gone on to fill all the darkest and deepest of caverns with its glow. It could have restored light to the end of the universe.
The owl’s reflective eyes resembled two small suns.
“Fair deal,” I breathed. “One each?”
The dwarf returned the item. Murkiness reclaimed its space. I blinked the retina burn out of the way.
SP: “Don’t be daft. What’s an owl gonna do wiv it?”
SP: “We each got arr own prize. Now c’mon. Me feet are killn’.”
I ducked low and followed slowly behind, wondering in the silence what gifts would be bestowed on the Captain, the Angel Demon, the Ethereal, and the owl.
And by whom?