Chapter 32: Shattered

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Jack's legs were a dark, reflective metal. The wind parted for them. Jack was turning to steel.

The boy who had told us to use steel to keep the wind at bay rounded the corner. But where was Jack?

Was his turning to steel at all like my people dying from ingesting too much of it? Was it too much to hope for there to be one cure? Either way, I had to get Jack and the information about vicissim to a Juxtaposition hospital.

"Where's Jack? He's supposed to be with you!"

"That depends. Who are you?"

I'd stopped here to wait for him. He was turning to metal. I needed to get him home.

"I'm Skai," I said, too worried to be irritable. "How'd you know to use steel?"

The kid grinned. "The wind was some wispy natural magic. Steel's the purest form of industrial magic. So. . ." he shrugged nonchalantly.

"The two types of magic, they. . . they can't stand each other. Can they?" I asked slowly. Marrianna had said (well, sung) something similar.

The boy put his hands in his pockets. "You two really don't know much about magic, do you?"

I opened my mouth to answer, when, "Ow!!!"

The kid jerked his hand out of his pocket as if something had bitten him, only his mouth hadn't moved.

"Oops. Sorry Tom."

"Tom THUM," answered the same high pitched voice.


And then a tiny head popped out of the pocket.

I screamed.

"My apologies, fair maiden, for starling you. But it was stifling in there!"

I nodded briskly, pulling my tunic down self consciously. "Right. Well, as soon as Jack gets here we can leave. I don't suppose either of you knows a way out?" I didn't have any real hope, but I had to make sure.

"Of course," the kid scoffed. "I could show you a dozen different ways out."

I brightened. "Finally. Where were you when I was stuck following a giant black creature?"

"A giant. . ." he cocked his brow, then took in my City garb. "You mean the bird?"

"Oh!" So that's what a bird was. Nope, definitely not a brand of shoes. I understood now why Jack had been so offended. Birds could fly.

The kid shook his head pityingly, but I barely noticed; I was checking my watch. It was getting late. If we wanted to be let in before the after-work rush, we'd have to hurry. Though it was probably already impossible anyway.

What was Jack doing? Why wasn't he here?

I turned to the Trader kid. "I'm going back for-"

I breathed a sigh of relief as Jack rounded the corner. "Hurry!" he yelled.

The trek through gray stone hallway after gray stone hallway was uneventful. The most surprising part was when the kid made a door disappear.

"Why are we running?" I asked Jack.

He opened his mouth and for half a second I thought he was going to burst into laughter and reply that it was fun to watch us run when he could glide forward effortlessly.

"Just thought we should," was all he actually said.

Did he never have a straightforward answer? I shook my head. Whatever. It didn't matter. We needed to get to Juxtaposition, and the extra speed really couldn't hurt.

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