Eleven

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Gabriel's eyes narrowed, his chin lowering as all his attention focused on the Sigari before them. There was no flipping way they were going to stop here. There was no way he'd let himself fall before Karos, before a Sigari who delighted in mutilating good men just for the twisted pleasure of it.

He hadn't realized that he'd begun to move forward until Candy placed an arm before him. The jack of all trades, as he liked to call himself, gave him a warning look. Despite the fact they couldn't see each other's faces, the message was clear. Don't.

Candy withdrew his arm, then leaned in, his head inches from Gabriel's. "I will clear the way," he murmured. "You go." Then he produced three small, round balls, their surfaces pitted like golf balls. His lips twitched in what could have been an attempt at a smile.

Gabriel had no time to protest the insane idea. Candy threw the three small, harmless looking golf-ball look-alikes. Whirling, Gabriel reached out and grabbed Melassi's hand. Then he surged forward in a sprint, pulling her along behind him. Just ahead of them, the balls struck the ground before the Sigari.

There was an ear-splitting clap of thunder, one that jolted Gabriel, but he didn't falter. Thick purple smoke whooshed out over the room, immediately making the place as dark and impenetrable as the night. His visor reacted automatically, switching into a kind of infrared view that showed him where the Sigari were. He and Melassi slipped between the glowing forms of the Sigari, who had reacted to Candy's efforts by recoiling away from the center of the explosion.

He ploughed through the smoke between them and kept going until they broke free from it several strides later. His throat burned and he couldn't prevent a few hoarse coughs from happening.

Still moving forward, he glanced backwards. He was just in time to see a thin barrage of needle like objects pierce through the smoke and fly towards them. Eyes widening, he planted a foot, spun a leg around and swept Melassi's feet from under her while unsheathing a dagger from behind his back at the same time. She fell, and the odd needles flew over her head.

Gabriel stood above her, managing to deflect a few with his dagger while the rest missed him. A figure broke free from the fog, stepping forward, his long blade leading the way ominously. Of course, Gabriel thought darkly. Of course it had to be Karos. What was he, in a movie full of perfect coincidences?

Keeping his eye on the approaching Sigari, who also bore the 'Zero" insignia on a shoulder, Gabriel lowered a hand towards Melassi.

Cool fingers slipped into his, and he carefully pulled her up beside him before releasing her hand immediately. He felt extremely guilty for tripping her like he had, but there had been no other option. She looked toward Karos, her expression tightening before she quietly stepped around Gabriel, allowing him to take on this threat.

No, that perhaps wasn't the best way to put it. He got the feeling that she trusted him with this situation. And that gave him a little bit more courage to stand his ground.

Warily, he watched the Sigari, while trying to figure out what to do next. Where are Ross and Mick, he wondered. And Shot, who had been behind earlier? What about Zwei - wasn't she supposed to help clear their exit route?

They weren't here, he realized. It was just him standing in Karos' way. A coldness settled over him like a blanket, and he drew his other dagger out of its sheath slowly, the gentle whisper of metal filling the silence.

Yes. He wouldn't have had it any other way. After all, he had business with this particular Sigari.

Karos twitched his lips upwards in crude amusement. Then he chuckled. "Foolish little human. You shall soon join your companion in Shova. Now come."

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