The fall

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The city was falling from the sky.

Tranton watched cracks snake along the ground and up the sides of buildings as the city shuddered and tilted. He grabbed hold of a nearby bench as his feet shifted beneath him. He remained silent as screams filled the air and a layer of dust was dislodged from ordinarily untroubled surfaces, thickening the air and hazing the sun's normal clarity. The tilting stopped abruptly almost as soon as it had begun, the city holding itself at an angle. A cacophony of creaks and low rumbles reverberated through the streets as buildings strained against their foundations. The earth of the upper-levels garden in which he stood trembled and everybody in Aviar held their breath, as objects rolled and tumbled and slid down unexpected inclines.

The angle of the ground wasn't so much that it made movement difficult and was only noticeable because it hadn't been such moments earlier; under normal circumstances it would barely register as an incline. There was only one place he wanted to be, and he turned to find the spire, towering up above the city's skyline, and started moving through the park. He stepped over a foot-wide crack in the earth, glancing down but seeing nothing but darkness below.

Aviar's inhabitants were breaking out of their collective stupor and were now moving in a more organised fashion, perhaps even according to some previously planned and practised emergency procedure. Tranton pushed his way through crowds heading in the opposite direction as he closed in on the centre of the floating island. Whatever had happened, he knew he'd only find answers there. He also knew that Tarn would have been in the training hall and that there was a good chance that Fenris, Kirya or both would have been watching. Tranton had refused to attend or show any tacit approval of Tarn's involvement; to visit would only have validated Aera's claims and offer in the boy's eyes. The others had felt differently.

The ground began shifting again, tipping back towards its original, stable position. Everybody stopped and looked down at their feet, except for Tranton who kept moving. The street returned to its normal configuration, then a moment later began sliding in the opposite direction, this time reaching a far more extreme angle that prompted Tranton to find himself suddenly running downhill. The facade of a clothes store collapsed and crumbled to the ground, spewing white dust high into the air. That seemed to set off a chain reaction of sorts, with other structures along the street becoming unstable as cracks opened up on their walls and they fell into one another.

Tranton heard a scream and looked up to the high window of a tall, damaged residential building, where a father was holding a young boy and shouting for attention. For a moment he tried to ignore it and remain focused on his race to the spire, then he swore and changed direction, pushing across the panicking, running, falling people in the street.

"The stairs have gone!" shouted the father, his eyes imploring Tranton to do something, anything.

Tranton ducked his head into the open doorway, where the wooden door swung off its broken hinges. The entire lower floor was a pile of broken rubble; it was remarkable that the upper floors were still intact.

"Throw the boy down," Tranton said. The father shook his head frantically. "I'll catch him. Don't worry."

Not seeing an alternative, the man gingerly took the crying boy by his arms and lowered him out. The child scrabbled at the outer wall of the building, desperately attempting to climb back inside to his parent.

"Are you ready?" the father shouted.

"I'm ready!" Tranton said, bracing his legs and gauging the height and angle of the boy's impending fall. It was a long drop and the boy might break a leg, but as long as he caught him he'd live. It wasn't impossible that the act of catching the boy might break an arm or rib of Tranton's, if he fumbled it.

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