“Why are we here again?” Her voice echoed against the dripping stone walls. “If I’d known you were going to be dragging me here, I’d have worn better shoes.” Her expensive shoes were quickly falling apart. She was down to one heel after an encounter with a snake a few floors up. Cave floors were wet and unkind to the spoiled rich.

“If I told you we were going to a cave, you wouldn’t have come.” A quick flash of laser light incinerated a few vines. “We’re almost there. I even made a shortcut for you.” Compared to the ancient cave architecture, Liz’s little renovation was easy to spot. Freshly exploded into the ages-old wall was a portal to a well-lit room and a hanging rope. Cracks branched into the walls in every direction. “I billed you for the explosive. You’re welcome.” Her mechanical arm took the rope and helped her rappel down.

“What am I paying you for?” Sally scoffed. Her descent down the rope was more of a hand-burning slide than a controlled descent. The other heel quickly became a lost cause. “I tell you that magic is in this season, and you run me through the mud to look at a rock?”

The rock in question was about ten feet in diameter, radiating pure golden light, and hovering an inch from the ground. “First of all, there was no mud. Only moss, wildlife, and quicksand.” The colorful layers on Liz’s rubber boots told the same story. The green, red, and tan made the mad scientist half an inch taller, but no muddier. “You’re the second person to see this thing in about half a million years, so maybe I didn’t do this just to punish you.”

Sally took a few careful steps closer. Her silver hair shone in the golden glow. A manicured hand ran down the smooth surface. “I guess I could chip a piece off and put it in a ring or something. Couldn’t you have found something smaller?”

“I have a drawer full of smaller somethings at home. This is the real deal. Real enough that knocking a hole in it going to ruin more than your shoes.”

“Too late for that.” Poor Sally’s shoes. “Whatever harebrained scheme you have better be good.”

“You don’t pay me to come up with bad ideas. All we need is-“

“Hasn’t stopped you before.”

Liz cleared her throat. “All we need are some off-the-shelf parts and-“

A rumble shook the room. Then the temple. Then the walls. Liz’s homemade doorway crashed closed. The original door wasn’t faring much better. “I knew I should have bought pricier explosives. The way in only opens every twenty years. They used to worship these things, you know.”

“Will worshipping it help now?”

“You can try. I think demonstrating it will work better.” Liz cracked her five real and five mechanical knuckles, whipped off her utility belt, and leapt into action. There’s more than one way to make a three-phase power excavator in a cave with a box of scraps and a grumpy heiress. In fact, she had just enough for Way #625.