Illustration by Diiki
"What in the hell?" Quincy tore down twisting alleys, fast as his feet could follow.
"General Phinneas Bragg . Higher rank means more... extensive Augments, but he's a special case. You're in hell, Quincy, and you stabbed the devil!" Crichton lashed, "Would you say, thus far, that I seem to know what I'm doing?" Quincy gave a frantic bob. "Then why did you do the direct opposite of what I said!?"
"That kid took our stuff!"
"I told you to forget about it- things can be replaced!"
"Not that," Quincy mumbled. Crichton shot him another look, "My bandanna."
"Are you kidding me? Did you at least get it back?" Crichton growled.
"No," Quincy admitted.
"The pair of the century!" Bragg's voice seeped through he cracked walls. Quincy crashed into Crichton's back when he froze solid. A tall Bolt Ranger stepped out ahead of them. Despite the silvery color of his hair, his face was young, and stern. "Blackstar the vigilante and Crichton DeMarcus. Take a hard look, Raines," Bragg boxed them in from behind, "This is your future. I'd say you've got three more screw-ups, before you're just like him. Useless." Crichton glanced from the General to the Ranger.
"Make it four and you'll be about as useful as Bragg Boneblade," he prodded. Quincy reached shakily for the blade in his belt. Crichton's hand stopped him. "Don't. Pull the loop on the left side of my belt and keep the Ranger off my back," he murmured.
There was no signal to speak of, but Quincy knew to get the hell out of Crichton's way when an ivory arrowhead poked through Bragg's wrist. A long pike of white grew from the General's arm. Quincy shuddered to realize what it was, Bone. In his disbelieving backpedal, Quincy yanked the loop in Crichton's belt. Bragg snapped the bony spear free with his boot. while Crichton spun away. Each side of his pack spit out a metal sheet, which formed a turtle-shell cover for him and Quincy. Crichton searched his belt for something, but lurched with the impact of Bragg's spear. He found it just as Raines closed in on their other side. His wings snapped back, his bewildered face fixed on Quincy.
"You?" he murmured, flashing back through haunted memories of the past months- the detour, Roseyard, the Sunrise Ball, "You." He lunged.
Quincy whipped his telescope blade just in time to have it knocked away. He swung back, but Raines sliced it down. Behind them, Crichton popped open a tiny baton, despite jostling with bone-javelin bombardment. He jammed its pointed head into the wall while Raines slipped Quincy's blade side to side.
"You ruined... everything," Raines growled. Blade and wing scraped together. In the chaos, Crichton clicked a button on his baton handle. Every one of the wall's insecurities fractured. It was reduced it to a mound of pebbles.
"Go!" Crichton shoved Quincy through the opening and rushed after. Raines batted away Bragg's javelin cross-fire the same second it might have skewered him.
"Get as high as you can- use those wings," Bragg shot at Raines. He hoisted himself over the rubble.
"You left your backpack?" Crichton rattled as he and Quincy tore through Silvereach's central bazaar.
"Yeah." Crichton belted his baton for the zip-gun. Quincy had a hard enough time keeping pace without flipping switches and turning dials, but Crichton seemed unfazed. He holstered the weapon and said,
"Remember that when you're sore tomorrow." Quincy and Crichton pierced a fringe crowd of confused Reachers and emerged by the riverside. Halfway across a scrap-metal bridge, Crichton grasped Quincy's shoulder. He brought them both chest-down just before Raines sliced by overhead. His legs cocked against the far side of the bridge and spun like he hadn't just zipped three-hundred feet in two seconds.
"Desist," Raines smoldered. His wings snapped up.
"Or I can skewer you together and feed you to Bregun myself," Bragg's heavy steps rumbled the bridge from behind. "Get them quick, Raines, before that wingless bat has a chance..." Quincy lost the rest beneath Crichton's hoarse whisper.
"Keep your face down, understand?" Quincy hardly had time to nod before Bragg and Raines closed their vice on them. Crichton impaled his baton in the rickety bridge. Raines, knowing his wings would plunge him to a watery death, leaped away at the first splinter. Bragg, however, scrambled for Crichton and Quincy across the shattering bridge. Before he got close, the three of them plunged into the current.
The water's death-grip flung them through debris, but in the madness, Quincy did remember one thing: face down. His scream was heard only by the blue depths when the claw of the zip-gun snared his shoulder. His body snapped against the current. Quincy kicked and flailed, more in rage against the suddenly real prospect of death than to get to the surface- he just happened to be facing the right direction. He burst up in watery shrieks. His muscles convulsed in the grip of the line that bound him to Crichton, and a riverfront building.
"Quincy!" Crichton wailed, "Pull yourself to me!"
"Are... you..." Quincy gargled.
"Bragg!" Crichton pointed his companion's eyes at the titanic menace fording the current towards him. Bragg was feet away.
Quincy thrashed to get at the line in his shoulder. Bragg's finger grazed his shoe. In those critical seconds, a horrendous tremor rattled Silvereach's every bolt and drop. The current picked up with the opening of the dam. Rapids whipped Bragg in his wild eyes, hard enough to push him back. His strength never failed, but the General was whisked away nonetheless. Dam gates that hadn't opened in a lifetime spat him out, at the hands of a little thief with a shark-toothed bandanna in the control room overhead.
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Strand: the Silver RadioScience Fiction
A shape against the night, in the light of a highway construction sign, is a young man in trouble. An artist in an artless place, he must fit into Strand's machine, or be thrown away like garbage. From the best laid plans to hapless coincidence, Qui...