Part 2: Fire - Chapter 4

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'Are you all right?'

'Get off me.'

He used one hand to assist her up. The other was instinctively on the hilt of the dagger secured to his right leg.

The harsh light continued to flicker over the crowd. As Maddy staggered to her feet she noticed a hole in the road and pieces of metal scattered along the way. The Nuncio's car was a burning wreck. The motorcycle guards and police held back some of the crowd: the rest of the mob was still clambering to their feet. Some had started to push back, ready to run from the scene. A number of bodies, both Sape and Sirian, lay still.

Beside her, Hera Rani stood and scowled at the destruction. The other Sasha female stepped up to the electric barrier and shouted something to the crowd across the street.

'Let's go!' Dorac yelled at his sister, but she just kept bellowing and waving her dagger like it would make a difference. 'Dorac Hera Rani!' he shouted. 'You will obey me in this!'

It was like spitting on a fire. His sister didn't even acknowledge he'd spoken. A couple of men who overheard just chuckled. Dorac Landa let go of Maddy's hand.

'I'm sending you home with Seth here.' He indicated one of the Sasha men, who was just as surprised as Maddy at the announcement. 'Things are going to get nasty.' Already the mood of the crowd could be felt. Medics had rushed to assist the wounded lying in the street. A clear space was made around the car that still burned furiously. Police shoved people back, who in turn tried to surge forwards. Paranoids could be heard planting their mechanical legs firmly on the road as their AI brains calculated and waited for orders. The heat of the burning vehicle smote Maddy's face.

Dorac was right, this was going to be out of hand soon.

'I'm not going!' she called back.

Seth emitted a harsh laugh. 'You are always a winner with the ladies, Landa!'

'Bite your arse. Look, Maddy, you haven't seen Sirians angry yet. You won't stand a chance if things heat up. And they will.'

She was jostled from behind as several Sirians from another clan pushed at the electric barrier. One of the stanchions emitted an electronic squawk and a paranoid nearby swung its gun on the Sashas. Maddy tried to shuffle out of the way closer to Dorac Landa.

'I'm staying!' she said, not really sure why. 'The safest place is with you.'

He ignored the compliment. 'I have to get Hera Rani to see reason. It could take some time.'

His sister was making what constituted openly rude Sirian gestures with her dagger now. Several women on the other side of the road, dressed in the colours of a different clan, were making gestures back.

The crowd around them heaved as police shoved from in front. A stanchion fell sideways onto the road and emitted a howl that shattered the surrounding noise. Paranoids herded towards the disturbance, attracted like flies to a corpse.

Maddy's view was totally obstructed as giant Sirian bodies pressed in. The police and paranoids activated the stanchions to become mobile; they now barked warnings as they formed a rolling blockade that crept forwards, widening the road between them. People were forced to leave the scene or be crushed up against the buildings on either side. Most chose to stay. Maddy was pinned in from all sides.

A hand grabbed hers and hauled so hard she cried out. Dorac Landa slung her across his shoulder and with his other hand hauled at Hera Rani's arm. His sister yelled an objection but the pressure of the crowd being forced back compelled her to submit to her brother's urgings and be led to the edges of the mob. Even there it wasn't safe as people were forced back further.

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