(12-5) Shall offer you no relief

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Samuel drew out the pad of paper even as he backed away from the table, keeping his gun aimed with one hand. The message written on the paper was short, to the point, and filled Samuel with relief.

I'm on my way

"Out of curiosity," Samuel said as he tucked the pad back into his pocket. "When you were looking to see if it was safe to murder us, did any of you look up?"

"Look up?" one of them asked. "Why would we-"

"Airships," Silas muttered. "Oh spit and ash, you're not fighting that."

"He's bluffing," Quentin insisted.

"Were you in High Central during the first night of the Sixth? When the Dragon crashed into the sky streets near Grimmauld and Wilkins Reach? When it gutted towers and levelled Hostor's Revelry? A hundred and sixty stories cleaved with a single craft?" Silas said, and he tugged at Amanda's hand, guiding her away. "The Crafters they assign to the airships all fought one of the beasts of fire, like the Dragon."

"Which makes it a very good bluff," Quentin said, and the confidence he projected managed to spur some of the others into action. Fire bloomed in three different parts of the room, just as a hand pulled at Samuel's shoulder and guided him towards an open door.

Samuel dashed through just as Angela shut the door and Bertram shoved a heavy piece of stone behind the door.

Even as he finished, a finger plunged through the door as if it was made of mud. "That won't buy us a lot of time, and they're between us and the stairs down," Bertram said.

"Were you bluffing, Sam?" Angela asked,

"No," Samuel said. "Captain Raeth is on his way. But we need to stall. How many more floors are in this building?"

"Another two. No rooftop," Bertram said.

"We get up high and look for the largest window we can find. Ang, on point. Bertram, rearguard. Keep close and remember we're stalling for time," Samuel ordered, pointing at the next door. "We keep barricading doors and drag this out as long as we can."

Angela was already opening the next door by pushing it with the barrel of her Salamander. She slowly stepped into the doorway, using it as a shield as she scanned one side of the room, then as cover as she checked behind it. "It's safe!"

Samuel went next, pushing at some heavy crates just as Bertram darted through. Angela shut the door as Samuel dropped the stack onto the doorway, and they ran to the next set of stairs.

Something began hammering on the door they had barricaded, and the heavy stone jumped and cracked in its frame.

"Kinda hoped that would hold them longer," Samuel muttered.

"I might have something," Angela said as she dropped her ammo pouch onto the top stair. "Stand clear."

Angela backed up, pointed her Salamander at the ammo pouch, and fired.

The flash of light washed over Samuel, searing his sight and wrenching at his guts in surprise. He blinked and shook his head before he tried to see what had happened to the stairs.

Which had collapsed. Not blown apart, Samuel could see the original shape of each step on the floor below. But there was a sizeable gap between themselves and their pursuers now.

"Good call, Ang," Bertram said. "That'll definitely slow them down."

"Let's not waste it," Samuel agreed. "Look for the next stairwell up. Ang, can you do that trick again?"

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