Soul broken, limbs weeping in pain, Samuel retraced his steps through the unlit corridors of the Foundry. Guiding himself by the sting of recent memories, he made his way through this mausoleum of his innocence.
"She found me broken and weak," Samuel sang to himself, softly, wondering if would be overheard. He didn't need to use his gun as a crutch nor a cane, but the thought had occurred to him.
"Crushed 'tween horror and grief," Samuel carried on into the gloom. He wondered to himself if he was trying to outrun his own understanding; as if Samuel was standing on the tracks, and the horror of what he had seen was now racing after him.
Because he had seen it. The icy cold room where flows of molten stone were turned cold. Seen the identical stone blocks that drank the heat of the room. Smelt the waste and decay.
Stretchers in the corner of the room for when a reject broke themselves trying to make heat-drinking stone. Hospice care for those who could be salvaged, only to be brought back and broken again, the cruelty repeating itself until it killed.
And he was guarding this secret now.
"Abyss take me," Samuel said.
There was a sudden flash of heat in his pocket, and from somewhere behind him, a small red flame began casting light. Samuel turned to look at it. Resting on one of the shelves along the wall, a little burning bird gazed at him.
"Red-tailed chickadee," Samuel muttered, admiring the astonishing detail that went into this Craft. He took out the pad of paper and held it up to the new light.
Even knowing it, seeing that is a terrible thing to witness. I am sorry for it, Inspector.
No Crafter alive would bother to be that polite with him, and Samuel was already starting to learn what the Songbird's Captain's script looked like.
"How are you okay with it?" Samuel asked the little bird.
I am not. Worse still, my invention has put a new and terrible strain on this part of Research. On the rejects who make it. And on Theo.
But it must be endured.
"Right. Airships, pipe regulation, refrigeration. I understand the need. And I suppose you have asked yourselves if you can scale back at all, or make it public and trust the City to sort it out ourselves," Samuel said.
It has been asked every year since the Fifth. Each time we ask, we hope something has changed, but the Bureau of Analytics gives us the exact same answer. The rejects revolt, the Guild refuses to take up the task, the civil war is brutal, the Crafters take over, and the City stagnates until the next invasion. At which point we all die.
"She held me and showed me joy," Samuel sang, as he carried on.
The fire should flow momentarily.
"And laid me down to sleep," Samuel said.
Mister Miller is in the wind. With someone I understand to be a former lover. This secret might now rest on the wavering will of someone badly compromised by her affections.
"I know," Samuel replied.
Then you have my leave to despise me for what I'm about to write next. But I need you to focus. Who would Silas go to for help?
"He's proven he has friends he can turn to," Samuel said to the fiery bird. "But he might have exhausted that option. Oversight keeps tabs on rejects, which makes his friends a poor choice to hide Amanda."
True. And his parents can't help him. So, if Silas does have a plan, who could he have drawn on to help him hide?
Samuel mused over the possibility for only a moment. It was an off-handed comment that Amanda's father had made, only yesterday, that prickled at Samuel's suspicions in a way he now trusted as surely as the rising sun.
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...