"Yeah. The stock and the barrel are shorter, and the rounds supplied to us are half-strength," Angela explained. "Our quartermaster made the modifications himself. I need to thank him soon."
"Grab it and let's go. I'm pretty sure Amanda is at Research right now, and I'm worried Silas is going to try and grab her."
"Isn't that a good thing?" Bertram asked. "Crafter Ratterson is there. He'll make comically short work of Silas."
"I'm worried he's not going to be alone," Samuel replied.
Angela took that as a cue to get to work and started reassembling her weapon. "Yeah, good call Sam."
"How so?" Bertram asked.
"Remember last night? Clovis and those thugs wouldn't just help a High Society reject out of the goodness of their hearts. Whatever Silas knows got their hackles up, and there's a good bet he could get others to do the same," Angela explained as she slid the barrel into place.
Samuel was surprised, and more than a little impressed, at how quickly she was managing to assemble her Salamander with only a single hand.
"Spit and ash, Silas doesn't even need to know the truth. Just what he has is probably enough to get any reject up in arms. They have it hard as it is, if they're being made sick by something deliberately..." Angela said, trialling off.
"We could have a civil war," Bertram whispered.
They raced through the City in a nearly empty train. Their only company was a harried-looking conductor who insisted on passing their trip in complete and utter silence.
And with very little to speak about on a train ride expected to last nearly half an hour, it was only a matter of time before someone asked Samuel a question he was woefully unprepared to answer.
"Did your quartermaster issue you a Salamander, Samuel?" Bertram asked.
Samuel grimaced, but he opened his coat. "No. This was sent by Gerald Raeth."
Samuel decided to cut as close to the truth as he reasonably could. Which was difficult, since he had spent the last year teaching his partner how to tell when someone was trying to do precisely what Samuel was doing now.
Angela held out her hand, and Samuel obliged by pulling the gun out of his coat and handing it to her. Angela excitedly turned it over and started examining it.
"It's a beautiful gun," Angela breathed. She rested the gun on her lap and was tracing the ornate designs on the barrel. "Old Salamander model, the chamber-loaded version they used before the gun wheel. It's Foundry Steel, you can tell by that slightly white colour. This is a piece of art, as much as a weapon."
Angela took the gun in her hand, and after examining the sights for a moment, handed it back to Samuel.
"Captain Raeth sent you that?" Angela asked. "Why?"
"It fires bullets made of Coldstone," Samuel admitted. "It's a creation of the woman who first invented the stuff, before the Fifth."
"Did they find that in Clovis' warehouse?"
"Yes," Samuel said, telling the first lie he had ever spoken to Angela. Feeling it slip past his lips felt like he had just coughed up a small piece of his heart.
"Looks like Clovis built his bar around this Crafter's old workshop. Guess that explains how he managed to keep all of his beer cold," Angela reflected.
All true. So far, only a small lie. But Samuel could feel it driving a wedge between his himself, and his own feelings for his partner. Each lie he would have to tell, to keep her safe, would make it harder to be honest with his own affection.
"We're here," Bertram said, pointing ahead. Samuel pulled himself out of his melancholy and looked ahead.
The Foundry loomed over the surrounding factories and melting plants, casting a shadow nearly as long as the district wall it was built beside. Smoke poured out of over a dozen different stacks. The building itself was so vast it swallowed most of the horizon ahead.
"It didn't look this intimidating the last time we were here," Angela reflected.
"We saw it by airship last time," Samuel agreed, and his fingers reflexively found their way to his pocket. "Even High Central didn't look that imposing from the Songbird."
"Some of that smoke," Bertram mused aloud as he stood up. He pressed his face against the glass and stared for a moment longer.
"It's not just industry. Something is happening over there," Bertram said quietly. The shadow stalked over to the door, and his hands rested on his knives.
"The black smoke? I think some of that is coming from near the doorway," Angela said.
"I agree. That might be trouble," Bertram finished.
"Your instincts look to be spot on, Sam," Angela said.
"I'm starting to hate being right," Samuel replied. "If this is Silas Miller, we need to hurry. Bertram, Research should have evaluators stationed there, right?"
"Yeah. If we see him, we follow without engaging until we get a hit squad together," Bertram explained. "You're both armed, but if we do get separated, don't try to fight him. Salamanders are notoriously useless against Crafters, and some rejects."
As the train screeched its way to a stop, and the platform came into view, the windows flitted by a mob of people. Like a single body, the mass surged towards the train as it stopped, pressing at the doors long before they opened.
The people straining to get into the train were impossible to hear through the doors, but Samuel didn't need to listen to them to see the sea of fear painted in grisly detail on each and every face now pressing against the windows.
But the rattling the train made, as hundreds of frantic hands bashed against the glass and the metal walls, spoke entirely too much for Samuel's liking.
"Conductor, I need you to open this door, and just this door!" Samuel bellowed. "Ang, draw your Salamander."
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...