Chapter 23

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Moonlight never tasted so good.

We emerge from the cavern, placing foot to sand and turning our faces up to the night sky. I breathe deeply, savouring the sensation of fresh air coating my lungs and for the first time in many months, I am full.

Luca looks to the left and I to the right. Without exchanging a word we take flight, releasing the horrors of Babel and her tunnels to the breeze.

Hugging the cliffside as we run, we round the base of the great, stone mountain and leap over the occasional boulder as we prepare to find the dome waiting around the other side. When the ground begins to drop sharply we stick to the high road, eventually finding ourselves running along the side of a gorge. Rounding a corner we slow and finally stop, resting for the first time since departing Simon's flat and slumping into seated positions overlooking the cliff edge.

My heart is hammering madly, exacerbated by the run and the adrenaline coursing steadily through my veins. I consider the view granted by our vantage point, marvelling at the way the dome's mirrored exterior winks the moon back up at us. A shadow drifts across the image and I frown, switching my view to the sky. The spectacle is so rare that I think for a moment that the stress of our escape has brought on another hallucination, before Luca comments.

"Those clouds are moving quickly," He turns to look behind us. "And building." The rarity of clouds in the desert isn't lost on either of us and I can tell Luca is as unsettled by their sudden appearance as I am.

"Good." I say with more confidence than I feel. "It will be dark. We could use the extra coverage."

Luca nods and together we study the dome, scanning the surrounding terrain and plotting how best to approach. He makes to climb down when I put out a hand to stop him. He stiffens at my touch and I immediately draw back, tucking my hand behind my back.

"You don't have to do this with me." I tell him. "You've come far enough."

He merely raises his brows in response, shaking his head a little and climbing over the ledge.

Cheeks burning, I follow him as we pick our way along the side of the cliff, moving silently under increasing darkness while the dome looms larger and larger ahead. When we run out of cliff we are faced with a terrifying plateau; the open ground that surrounds Babel could be home to any number of Brute or beast. I prepare to jump, pausing when I notice that Luca hasn't moved.

"Wait." He says, indicating the clouds gathering above us.

I do, and within moments the moonlight fades away. Simultaneously, we jump. With no idea of what is ahead or beyond, we sprint across the Wastelands. Fear feeds the blood coursing through my veins and some immeasurable amount of time later I am leaping upwards, grappling to hold onto the first crevasse my fingers manage to find.

Only blind perseverance keeps me glued to the wall. The mirrored panels that make up Babel's skin are cut into triangles, the edges sharp enough to slice through my leather-wrapped hands. I keep moving in order to minimize the sting, grunting as I struggle to place my feet within the narrow gaps. Luca and I inch our way up the wall, trading looks only when we can spare them. At one point my foot slips and I slam against the dome, pain lacing through both hands as I heave myself upwards. My laboured breathing fogs the mirrored pane beneath my cheek as I stare down at the distant earth. When a passing cloud obscures my view I look back up to find Luca's concerned expression, his eyes closer to mine than I expected and a question written across his face.

"I'm fine." I say before a rogue gust of wind loosens my hair from it's tie.

At once we double our efforts, our energy rapidly dwindling as we battle the ever-worsening weather. The breeze carries a strange sound, a creaking that jarrs my senses and rattles my bones. When the steep pitch begins to level out we are forced to crawl, intent on the barely-visible hatch that marks the entrance to Babel's airship hangar.

The Rain (Part III of the Runner Series)Where stories live. Discover now