Chapter 24

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The Brutes fall upon us like a pack of wolves.

I stab and slice, striking flesh where I can and dancing backwards, Luca at my side. We tempt the monsters away from the airship's entrance, bringing them aboard and allowing the deck to heave with the weight of armoured bodies. Ignoring my tired muscles I keep moving, one eye on the fight and the other on Luca's back.

When we reach the edge of the ship we hop up onto the walls, holding the ropes that affix the ship's balloon to it's sides. I stomp down on one woman's grasping hand, wobbling on my perch as the ship bucks and sways. Luca has managed to trade his short sword for a bow and is firing off shot after shot, earning us some distance from the encroaching army but steadily depleting his ammunition. Instinctively I reach for my own bow and quiver, finding only a length of rope and cursing as I remember that I chose to leave the rest behind in favour of stealth.

So much for that.

Glancing over my shoulder I spot more Mechs rushing at the ship, aiming for the ladder. Ignoring that small detail for now, I search for the airship's tether.

"Other side!" I shout.

Luca and I split up, running in opposite directions along the ship's ledge. Rain pelts me, coating the wood and turning the surface slick. I keep my steps light and when lightening strikes again I leap, reaching for some of the ship's rigging just as the thunder rocks the hangar and sends the Brutes crashing into one another. I look out across the swell of mechanical bodies and lock eyes with Luca, nodding a mutual understanding. Simultaneously we let go of the rigging and race onwards, taking advantage of the mass confusion and sprinting the remaining length of the ship. Dodging the odd hand or outstretched weapon, my ears continue to buzz with warning. The cloud pulses at the edges of my frayed nerves, tempting me to give in to it's help.

Closing in on the ship's ladder I grab hold of the nearest rope and swing at the Brute standing on the top rung, kicking him squarely in the metal gear protruding from his chest and toppling him and the others behind him. My hands burn as the cords slice into my already-tender palms and I release it prematurely, crashing feet-first. My bad knee spasms when I straighten, nearly sending me back to the ground. Ignoring my body's protests I unsheath my sword and arc it across the shoulders of a charging Brute before ducking beneath the ship's hull, once more looking for it's tether.

"There!" Luca has taken momentary shelter under the ship as well. His eyes are wide as he points behind me so I swipe blindly, severing the rope anchoring the ship to the hangar floor.

At once, the hulking ship is rocketed towards the roof. The storm catches the balloon and sends it spinning into the rafters, leaving Luca and I exposed.

"The door." Luca seizes my elbow and points me in the direction of the hangar's only entrance. Darting behind the nearest airship we run, catching glimpses of the Brutes roving the aisles between the swaying ships. Their pace is relentless, tracking Luca and I with an iron will that sees neither sleet, snow nor rain.

Up ahead, the line of Brutes filing through the door and into battle is never-ending. The Madam's living experiments angle their reinforced bodies through the narrow entryway and stalk down a flight of stairs, continually adding to the horde. My heart leaps to my throat as I realize that this won't be our route out.

Luckily, Luca had something else in mind. "We can stem the leak. Use your rope."

Without slowing down I begin unwinding it from around my shoulders, tossing one end to Luca who catches it deftly. He takes off, breaking away from me and driving the rope across the necks of the Brutes in between us. I boost myself off the shoulder of one falling body and fly at the stairs, grabbing hold of the scaffolding in behind. A flick of the rope calls it from Luca's grasp and I begin to clamber up, the tread of armoured boots rattling the metal in my hands and the teeth in my skull. Near the top I withdraw my dagger, in one motion vaulting myself over the railing and into the floodwaters.

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