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Chapter 22: Ascent

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411 began his slow ascent. He had to arrive before the children left Barcelona. He had to protect them. The men who had caused so much trouble were the least of his concern now. The Mytro would stop them.

He moved through the darkness to the light. The tracks hummed with energy, and when the pair of hired men—stepped onto the platform, 411 felt them like a spider feels a fly on his web. The silvery rattle their feet made on the brick was as loud to him as their guns. They were nearly lost now. The man who paid them had given them a map, but they could not read it. The Mytro had led them to La Rambla to be rid of them. 411 could smell their fear and confusion like a human smells rotten meat, dark and dead, with nothing new or good in it.

411 would have to move decisively. If the two intercepted the third, the children would be in grave danger. One of the older Nayzuns, 191, had told him of the time the humans had used the Mytro for violence, killing millions. Genghis Khan was one of the combatants, he recalled, and it was years before the stink of elephant dung left the Mytro's caves in Mongolia. Then the humans used wagons, forcing slaves to push them into the darkness. The wagon riders survived because they had maps. The slaves did not.

When it was time to stop the men and their butchery, the Nayzuns had to destroy each of the Mytro carts that carried Khan and his men through the steppes and into Europe. The Nayzuns

burned them in their Hangar, the smoke thick against the ceiling. Many of the Nayzuns didn't survive that destruction. The humans again slowly forgot about the Mytro, and the Nayzuns were idle for centuries, working in silence on the rails, maintaining them for riders that never came. The Nayzuns thought they had been forgotten, but the Mytro had other ideas. Slowly, one at a time, the lines reopened, and by the time the Nayzuns were finished, the Mytro had snagged a new pair of discoverers, the Llorentes.

It wasn't until England learned to use the lines to colonize Africa that the cars were replaced by ornate trains, paid for at great cost by the East India Company. The humans negotiated with the Mytro in a language that had no words: the Mytro told them what it wanted, and the humans turned their effort into its wishes, in the same way, all those ages ago, the Nayzuns had begun to work for the Mytro and the Mytro slowly came to control them.

The humans were willful, but the Nayzuns had been willful as well. Ages before, the oldest Nayzuns said, the Mytro did not control the Nayzuns—the Nayzuns controlled the Mytro. When and where the power flipped was lost to time. In some ways, thought 411, it was better this way.

He was pulled out of his reverie by the voices of the two men. They were rustling a map, discussing where they had to go next. The sound as loud as waves crashing on the shore, at least to the Nayzun's sensitive ears. He wondered how the humans could be so crass, so bold. He rushed toward Barcelona, the tunnel elongating before him into a pinpoint.

He was nearly too late. The men jumped onto another train headed toward another station, closer to the center of the city. They got off. He could hear one of the men trying the door there, but it was shut. If the two men exited the Mytro, they would be lost to the rails.

Suddenly, 411 heard a new sound—the portable door opening somewhere in Barcelona. 411 knew that the portable door was a prize in itself, not to mention the arts that were used to build it. Whoever had found and used it was a true master of the rails, and now these men were about to control it.

The Nayzun knew that whatever was going on near La Rambla, it involved a great many powerful things, and 411, for a moment,

felt something like fear. But his fears were quickly quashed as he remembered what Mytro was capable of.

The tunnel shunted him toward La Rambla, the darkness howling around him as he moved through the Mytro. Near the station where the men were fumbling with the door, 411 prepared himself. The air around him seemed to shimmer with menace, a cloud surrounding him and his long, impossible limbs.

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