“The Gatherer?” said Lachlan. “Who’s the Gatherer?”
“That’s none of your concern!” hissed Toxzhesh.
Zarquozi ignored him.
“She’s an adult member of your species, that much we know from her scent,” said Zarquozi, “but that’s really all we know. We only see her when she enters the garden.”
“Why is she allowed in and we’re not?” said Angelina.
“She’s under the employment of She-Who-Wears-The-Stellar-Crown,” said Zarquozi. “She is allowed in the garden at the resplendent one’s discretion.”
“Fantastic,” said Lachlan. “So all we have to do to get back in is convince a temperamental alien goddess to hire us for odd jobs.”
“Somehow I doubt she’s looking for a chicken chef,” said Sam.
Jen whipped around to frown at them.
“We could have found a way to sneak back in, you know. If someone hadn’t let the snake guards know we wanted to get in.”
Lachlan stared at her for a minute. Jen’s demeanor had changed so much since they’d been swept up into the sky in the garden. She and Sam had broken up–Lachlan had gathered that much–but why did she seem angry at him too? He hadn’t done anything to her. He couldn’t have. He’d been unconscious for almost the entire time.
“I realize this isn’t the time for this conversation,” said Lachlan, “but since you seem so intent on having it, I think we need to discuss whatever problem you suddenly have with me.”
“Seriously?” said Mrs. Sharma.
“Yes,” said Lachlan. “Seriously. I don’t think Jen’s personal issues with me should be our priority right now either. But since she seems to want to keep bringing it up, fine. Let’s talk. Let’s hash it out. Jen, what is your problem with me?”
“You were going to sneak into the garden?” Toxzhesh’s hood flared. “No one can sneak into the garden!”
“Not now, dude,” said Sam. He turned to Lachlan. “I, um… I think maybe you’re right. We should talk. But not in front of everyone.”
“How about this?” said Lachlan. “The three of us go over there behind those fucked-up looking rocks and have a little heart-to-heart, and everyone else stays here and finds out more about this Gatherer.”
“Fine,” said Jen.
“No,” said Mrs. Sharma. “Absolutely not.”
Lachlan headed for the rocks. Sam and Jen followed him.
“What did I just say? Come back here this instant. I–” Mrs. Sharma sighed. “Why do I even bother? Whatever. If you three get eaten, I’m not coming to save you.”