Reggie had told the truth the first time, but it was obviously not an answer that would satisfy Wurmhausen. Blinking the stars out of his vision, his mind scrambled for what to say, but the blow to his head seemed to have knocked all his clever responses right out of him.
“Don’t tell him!” Clem shouted. “Scrumtumbler swore us to secrecy—” the soldier behind him slammed his machinegun butt into Clem’s back, cutting off his words.
Reggie stared in confusion at the engineer. Why had Clem brought up Scrumtumbler? He was trying to tell Reggie something, but the director couldn’t seem to work it out.
Dr. Wurmhausen’s eyes first widened in amazement and then narrowed in rage. “So, that pompous fool Scrumtumbler sent you. He sent you here to steal my portal to the Hollow Earth, didn’t he? Tell me what I want to know!”
Reggie bowed his head so that only Clem and Dr. Scott could see his wink.
“Okay,” Reggie said. “Okay, you win: Scrumtumbler sent us.”
“So, you are here for that insufferable Professor Scrumtumbler,” Dr. Wurmhausen emitted a laugh that was somehow triumphant and furious at the same time. “As I suspected. I suppose you were supposed to take footage of the key and the portal with this motion-picture camera of yours? I suppose you were going to film me using my Reverse Bio-mimetic Key so that Scrumtumbler could attempt to reverse engineer my technology and use it with another gate?”
Reggie gathered from Wurmhausen’s gestures that “the gate” was somehow related to the two Egyptian-looking pillars, but Reggie had no idea how a pair of old columns could be a gate, and he certainly had no idea what a Reverse Bio-mimetic Key was. Still, he was ready to roll with it.
“No, we weren’t sent to film you,” he said. “The truth is, that’s not really a camera.” Reggie gestured with his chin towards his Mitchell 35mm cinema camera, now set up on the floor next to them almost as if it, too, were considered a prisoner.
“This?” Wurmhausen eyed the camera suspiciously. “My guards checked it. It contains no weapons or explosives.”
“Oh, it’s not a weapon. We’re not here to blow up the gate… we’re here to use it.”
Dr. Wurmhausen’s head snapped around, those beady black eyes drilling into Reggie. “Impossible,” he concluded, but his voice lacked the edge of conviction.
“No, really. Scrumtumbler said he didn’t need your reverse-bio-kahoosit. He said he’d stake his reputation that his doohickey would work better than yours on the first try, even in the hands of an idiot like me. That’s what he said.”