He slowly opened his eyes. The air stung them terribly. Why did it smell so bad? Why was his head so sore? What happened. He shifted his weight, trying to get into a sitting position and was rewarded with a searing pain through his left side. The pain snapped him out of the daze and clarified the hell on all sides. Fire and smoke on all sides. The Vatican archives were ablaze and he was caught in the middle of it.
His arm was reduced to little more than a blackened stump. The burnt flesh slumping off the bone. The imminent threat of death was the only thing stopping the vomit rising in his gullet. Escape was the main objective now. Get out or burn.
Pushing himself to his feet with the still functioning arm he took a staggered half step forward. Walking proved harder than it should have been. Something was wrong with his eyes his depth perception was completely off.
He stumbled to the stair case and found it collapsed, the burned remains in a pile. There was no way up, no way out. Here was where he burns. The smoke began to overcome him as he collapsed to his knees coughing, the air burning his lungs. His hands hit the floor and found it wet. A layer of water in the middle of a bonfire. Crawling forward revealed that the helical stairway heading down was submerged in water. The archives were flooding. If the water had found a way in, then there had to be a way out. It was an escape, or certain death. Drown or burn. It was a hell of a choice.
The audible cracking of the ceiling above him made the decision for him. With what little strength remained to him he hurled himself down the helical staircase into the water below as 3 and a half thousand years of collected history came crashing down upon him.
Dr. Dumbarton threw the empty bottle across the room smashing it against the wall, glass scattering amongst scientific equipment and chemical flasks. With an unsatisfied swear and a clumsy hand another bottle of indiscernible foul smelling fluid was grabbed up and a long swig taken. It might have been gin, it might have been embalming fluid. The taste provided little insight.
The ancient, priceless, one of a kind book lay open where it had fallen, the traces of torn paper hinting at the page that had once been part of the binding. The stray blood stained surgical tools that it lay amongst were no doubt staining the gold inlayed cover. Had he any concern for the quality of his tools or the value of the book he would have cleaned them and stored them away promptly. His mind was occupied by more important things now.
What to do, what to do. The group he had sent to acquire a book had razed the Vatican archives and probably, accidently, killed the leader of the organisation he was part of. This was bad. If anyone else in the Illuminati found out the part he’d played in the death of Abduh he’d be dead within an hour, or worse. He might soon find himself becoming part of a horrific experiment.
He could run away. No, silly idea, he’d just find him, they always do. This was just a horrible situation and all because he had taken a chance on some new recruits. This whole thing was out of control.
The corridor echoed the soft footfalls of padded slippers as Cardinal, Tomas de Torquemada, weaved his way through the depths of the Vatican. The dark stone around him gave little detail as to where he was within the labyrinth of faith. There were passage ways and tunnels down here that went one for miles. Take a wrong turn and one could find themselves lost forever, even going so far as to end up the crypt of St. Peter.
His mood was foul and his undertaking would now reflect that. An outlet for his frustration. Unfortunate for anyone caught in his way.
He stepped through a large heavy wooden door into a poorly lit room. A single chair sat in the middle of the room, a lone occupant in the otherwise empty space. Martha raised her head and met his eyes.
“Now my dear, let’s have a chat.” He closed the door with a heavy thud.