It took another half an hour reach the Foundry, but the idyllic ride left Samuel with ample opportunity for his own fatigue to catch up with him. By the time the Songbird was resting above the statue of Olivia Polden, and they were lead down to the cargo elevator in the bottom of the ship, Samuel was struggling to keep his eyes open.
And he wasn't alone. "I would burn someone alive for a cup of coffee," Angela muttered ahead of him, as Major Rustov lead them to a wide platform with a heavily reinforced steel cage.
"I'm sorry I can't accommodate you," Major Rustov said, carefully. "And Angela?"
"Yes?" Angela asked, guardedly.
"I'm glad you're well. Secretary Redgrave will be impressed."
"That I'm doing something useful despite being a cripple?" Angela rasped.
Samuel set a hand on her shoulder, and said, "inspector."
He didn't need to say anything more. Angela squared her shoulders and stood up straighter. She took a long, slow breath, and asked, "Rusty, why aren't you commanding your own ship yet?"
"Rusty?" Amelian asked quietly, leaning in. "I haven't heard that nickname in four years."
"It was Redgrave's nickname for her when he taught her the sword," Angela explained to Samuel. "Redgrave is a burning legend as a swordsman, and she's the only person he ever taught."
"Not the only," Amelain said. "I'm the second."
"Who else?" Angela asked.
"If you've been on the Fury, you may have met him," Amelain said.
Samuel could see something mirrored in Amelian Rustov's stance. The solder's feet were set just a tad wider than most people would at rest, her breathing was slower and more controlled, and her hand instinctively rested close to her sword.
Deeper still, there was something in her mannerisms, in the way she spoke and stood, that seemed to be saturated with some unadvertised competence. Something that left Samuel nervous and wary of the army captain.
It was a feeling he remembered having on a train platform just last night, watching a tall man in an old hat who moved with unnatural grace.
"Oh," Samuel said, nodding in understanding.
"You are perceptive," Amelian nodded.
Samuel pointed to the elevator. "Is that safe?"
"It's rated for a hundred and fifty tons. I expect the three of you will be fine," Amelian replied, slipping back into a more formal bearing. Strangely, to Samuel, she immediately went back to being 'Major Rustov' in his head.
Almost as if it was difficult for him to see the cheerful young woman hesitant over the feelings of an old friend as the quietly dangerous officer he could see in her bearing.
"Step inside and close the gate. Once you're down, close the gate behind you, hold your hand in the air, and spin it in a circle. Clockwise," Amelain said as she shut the door.
"And Ang," Amelain said, just as she set her hand on the elevator controls. "It's good to see you. And if you think there's an ash-speck of pity in me, I'll wrap my left hand in a bundle, and we can spar. Training weapons if you prefer broken bones to bleeding-out."
Samuel barely understood what passed between the two women at that moment, and could only smile in bemused relief as Angela laughed.
"Oh burn me, Rusty, I needed that," Angela said. "Hey, is sparring with you now considered a 21-2 infraction?"
YOU ARE READING
Bitter Cold Truth: A Tale of the Everburning CityFantasy
There is no night in the Everburning City. There can never be. Fourteen people lie dead on the platform of Billows Station, killed by fire and rage. And as the perpetrator hides within the millions of people who inhabit the City, the task of findi...