Chapter 16.5

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Now Carmen had to fight her impatience, because once the chair got going it was difficult to stop. There were some steep hills and it took all their strength to keep the chair from hurtling out of control down them. Carmen's body ached. Her muscles burned. How long since they had passed Parliament? Fifteen minutes? Twenty? There was no way of knowing.

They passed the market and Flag Wood and reached Ironfield, where they turned left for the long descent to the riverside. Sam Sung's came into sight, old and dirty and white like a long-buried bone. Black ship masts stood like skellingtons, interspersed with the monolithic shapes of funnels, some belching smoke that hung in a pall over the docks. The air was stifling. The clouds were low and dark and there was no wind. Thunder boomed away over the Northern wilds.

Carmen remembered fishing with her father in the Yar on a day like this, coming home soaked to the skin and laughing, with two fish in a bucket, her father looking like a naughty little boy as her mother scolded him; then her mother drying her hair with a fluffy towel and giving her a bowl of hot chicken soup, and the three of them talking by the fire as the night came on and the wind howled outside and the rain drummed on the roof. She wanted them back. Everything that had happened since they had been taken away yesterday seemed unreal, like a dream she might wake from at any moment.

At the sound of thunder Grandmere Anna had quieted.

"Grandmere?" Carmen said, but the thunder boomed again, drowning out her voice. The wind rose suddenly, roiling up from the river, thick with charged particles.

They had picked up pace. The descent here was steady, the incline steep enough to keep the chair rolling but not so steep that it accelerated out of control. We're going to make it, Carmen thought. As if hearing her thought, Grandmere Anna looked up at her. "Carmen?" she said.

Then Carmen saw something that made her heart stop.

For as long as anyone could remember the fish market had stood at the corner of Flynn and Spanner streets. Nobody knew what it had been before. Many had wondered at the tower that was attached to it. MarketTower it was called, time out of mind, and the tempus there was renowned. It had come to be viewed as a master tempus for all other timepieces in the city. You're to be home at five by the Tower, mothers would warn their children. When officials forgot to wind their pocket watches they would often take a chaise across the city from Parliament to reset them.

What had stopped Carmen's heart was the time on the Tower.

It showed two minutes past three.


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Looks like Carmen's parents are dead then.

Oh well, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

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