The woman seemed to be unconscious, thankfully, and there were no obvious injuries on her.
She was middle-aged, white, with salt-and-pepper hair, dressed in bland officewear, and the grenade had been clipped to her simple chain necklace.
“Okay,” Kihri said as she inspected the explosive. “Okay, this is pretty bare-bones work. Pin’s been pulled, but the wire is keeping the lever down for now. If you just make sure you’re holding it down when you cut it away, it should be fine.”
Zarah stepped forward to do just that, then stopped, hand just inches away from the grenade.
“Zarah?” Kihri asked, as she remained frozen there. “What is it?”
Truth be told, she wasn’t entirely certain what had prompted her hesitation. A whisper in the back of her mind, some instinct based on information her conscious brain had yet to process properly – whatever it was, she knew that something was wrong.
“The stairs,” she said slowly, her brain churning over the words as they came. “One obvious trap, to hide another.”
Kihri whistled.“You think there’s one more layer?”
She hadn’t been sure until Kihri said it, but the words slotted neatly into the ideas she’d been forming. “Check underneath, please,” she asked, drawing back from the grenade.
“…shit,” came Kihri’s voice seconds later, half her body submerged inside the woman’s and the floor. “You were right. There’s a mine down here. Can you get some light down here- without moving her?”
Zarah crouched down and held out a hand, flaring the blacklight around it.
“Oh wow that’s still fucking weird. Okay, yeah, it looks like it’s a pressure sensor, so it’ll go off if you move her. But… there’s also wire running up her back. Does it attach to the back of the necklace?”
Now that she knew what to look for, it only took Zarah a few seconds to find the tiny glint of metal running from the necklace down under her jacket. “It is… twisted in, I think. Inner twined?”
“Intertwined. Okay.” Kihri floated back up into view, emerging from the woman’s form. “I… think you should be able to remove the grenade without setting it off, if you’re careful, but it’s going to go off no matter what.”
“How far is safe?”
“How far away? Ten-ish meters, I think – you can probably just chuck it down that corridor there.” She paused. “After I’ve checked that there’s no-one else down there.”
Zarah sat back on her haunches as Kihri darted off to do that. They might be able to get rid of the grenade, but it was still going to be loud. That was probably what Paose had planned – no matter what happened, there was going to be an explosion, and he’d know exactly where they were. And they still had to deal with the mine on top of that.
“All clear,” Kihri said, fading back into view through the wall. “You ready?”
Zarah carefully snapped the wire connecting the grenade to the necklace, holding the lever down with her hand as the wire went slack.
“Not particularly,” she said, and hurled it down the corridor.
Paose’s scowl deepens. “You little-”