Chapter 28

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Through the night and into the day I run, not resting until the sun is at it's peak. Even a short pause causes a flood to catch up with me and so I must sprint in order to keep the fear at bay, forcing it into the dust kicked up by my heels. I run with an abandon that I have never shared, not even with Luca. My flight is reckless, untethered, fuelled by a single-minded desire to outrun every impulse but the ones that keep my legs moving and my heart pumping.

The sky has turned amber by the time the cliff and it's hidden cave appear. Darkness sets my skin to crawling as the air turns stale and the path drops steeply away. Despite my trepidation I rush on, ever-conscious of the fact that I may already be too late. As I pick my way through the collapsed tunnels I strain my ears for sounds of the Scorched, noting with satisfaction that they have grown scarce in recent weeks. I follow the established passage and clamber up some twisted scaffolding, at long last emerging in one of Babel's service tunnels.

The smell of cigar smoke fills the narrow corridor. I jog towards the source, leaning against the concrete wall and breathing heavily when I reach the grizzled old Enforcer waiting for me at the tunnel's end.

"You look terrible." Geoff ashes his cigar over the dirt path outside.

"Maybe I'm just not your type." I clutch my side, cursing a stitch as I double over. "What time is it?"

"Clock just rang nine bells." He speaks with the weariness of someone settling into a long night's work. "Curfew's been in effect since seven."

"Earlier than usual."

"What's usual?" Stubbing out the cigar on the wall, Geoff tucks it into his breast pocket. "This place ain't been usual since before someone stuck a great, bleedin' dome on top of it."

I drag myself upright and push the wayward strands of hair from my face, preparing to step out into the field before Geoff tuts low in his throat, snapping his fingers and striding ahead of me. Frowning my annoyance, I trail him while continually casting glances out into the patchwork of shrubby fields and houses that make up Babel's countryside. Geoff leads me to an armoured carriage parked a few yards off, walking around the back of it and pulling open the doors. I remain rooted in place, fear catching up with me as I take in the carriage's barred windows and heavy locking mechanism.

"While we're young, sweetheart." Geoff whistles impatiently.

Ignoring the pounding of my heart I climb reluctantly aboard, slumping down onto one of the benches and trying not to flinch when Geoff noisily slams the doors shut. There is the sound of standard-issue boots scuffing against the ground and then the carriage lurches into motion. I stare through the minuscule window, watching as the service tunnel and one of my few means of escape fades from view. The hammering in my chest grows louder as we plunge into darkened streets, the water-slicked bridges and narrow alleyways foreboding with the lamp posts providing only the barest amount of light. Enforcers and Brutes line both the roads and the network of walkways above, the clanking and creaking of their heavy armour deafening.

After a while I realize that we are not headed in the direction of Simon's flat. Instead, Geoff has directed the horse on a convoluted route through increasingly-gloomy streets, drawing to a stop only a few blocks from the Tower. I wait tensely for the doors to open, half-expecting to be greeted with an army of Brutes but Geoff appears alone, his grey brows knitted tightly together as he ushers me out the back of the carriage and into the alleyway.

"You'll have to make your own way from here." He growls. "Even Enforcer-issued vehicles look suspicious if they stay in one place too long. Take this street two blocks, then hang a right. They're waiting for you at the bookseller's. Top floor."

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