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Air, humid and thick, coated the inside of Samuel's mouth with an oily film, sour with the taste of effluence. Sweating, leg muscles burning, he gulped lungful after lungful of the fetid atmosphere, following the directions of the spirit compass in his hand. In the dim light of wall-mounted glow-lamps, he ran as fast as he dared along the slippery walkways. Beside him, a river of rancid sewage water flowed. Behind him, Macy and Bryant, his fellow agents of the Relic Guild, kept up easily. With their endless reserves of strength, the twins were snapping at Samuel's heels, egging him on, pushing him to increase his speed as he led the group further into the sewers beneath the streets of Labrys Town.

According to the spirit compass, the automaton spider was moving steadily towards the eastern district. Invisible to the naked eye, the metal construct, with its melon-sized body, long, spindly legs and the head of a golem, had been climbing and jumping and scurrying its way across town ever since Hamir had released it from the warehouse in the southern district. And the Relic Guild had been shadowing its path from below.

Hamir had warned the group that the spider would move fast, relentless in its pursuit of Fabian Moor, and the agents would have a hard time keeping up with it. Samuel could not allow himself a moment's respite in which to catch his breath. All he could do was keep running and focus on the spirit compass as it tracked the magic of the Genii preserved in the spider's golem-head.

Attempting a sharp left off the walkway and into a tunnel, Samuel lost his footing on the slimy stone. He began skidding and stumbling towards the river of sewage. Just as it seemed inevitable that he would fall in, the strong hand of Macy gripped the back of his coat. She flung him into the tunnel, and Samuel ricocheted off the wall. Macy kept him upright and shoved him back into a run.

'Look lively, Samuel,' she called, clearly amused. 'There's a Genii to catch.'

Bryant laughed along with his sister.

The twins were enjoying the thrill of the hunt, but Samuel wished there was time to give them a splash of cold water. Their confidence should have bolstered his own, but for all their magical strength, Macy and Bryant did not carry the burden of knowledge Samuel did; they had yet to see what Fabian Moor's virus did to a person. They seemed to have forgotten that this mission was not only to hunt and capture a Genii, but also to rescue a fellow agent of the Relic Guild.

It had been more than a day since Fabian Moor had abducted a magical apothecary called Gene. An elderly agent, quiet in his ways, Gene had never been blessed with courage. Fabian Moor wanted to know the identities of the Relic Guild agents; he wanted to extract secrets from them that would show him how to enter the Nightshade. Gene certainly didn't have the defences to stop Moor taking what he wanted. He wouldn't last long under the interrogation of a Genii. Would any of them? Samuel prayed to the Timewatcher that the automaton spider did its work quickly enough to save Gene's life. And perhaps the lives of all of them.

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