Chapter 41

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Rain thrums heavily, it's relentless rhythm pulling me out of my head and back into the run. I tilt my chin up to catch the drops, their metallic scent reminding me of Babel's tight quarters and the darkness that lingers there. I have cut all ties to the dome and yet it still feels as though I am tethered to something.

Or someone.

Pushing the image of red hair and green eyes aside I set my pace as though I could outrun all thoughts of her. Over and over I berate myself for being so foolish, for thinking that I could tempt her away from her path. Kay is destined for greatness and I...I am destined for nothing.

Somewhere near the salt flats I finally stop to make camp. Reaching the side of a cliff I toss my pack under an outcropping and sink down beneath it's pitiable shelter, slumping forward with my arms resting on my knees. Absently I watch the rivulets of water fall from my hair and clothes and eventually the leaden weight of the past few days comes for me, arriving in the form of blessed sleep.

A grey haze surrounds me when I open my eyes and it is the taste and smell of damp that reminds me that it still rains. I poke my head out of the cave, wrinkling my nose at the scene. The Vane has never conjured something this persistent before and I wonder if the scientists have finally unlocked it's secrets. Not wishing to subject myself to more of nature's wrath I sit back, chewing absently on a meal of cured venison and staring out at the desert. A strange, low quake sounds in the distance and I frown, straining to listen. Streaks of lightning dance beyond the hills and after a while I dismiss my doubts and turn back to sleep. If I cannot place tracks at least I can use the time to regain some strength.

The rain has not let up when I awake for a second time. Cursing my luck I gather my meager belongings and head into the gale. The rumble of thunder accompanies me into the North where I run, aimless except for a need to be further away. Soft ground and a veil of rain suit my mood, pressing in on all sides and spoiling the sense of freedom I was meant to have won.

I spy movement up ahead and either consciously or unconsciously drift toward it, thinking that I have spotted a slow-moving river. The river breaks apart as I draw closer: a party of travellers is snaking it's way along the base of the foothills. Curious, I keep to high ground and track them for a spell, recognizing their garb as Babelonian. A certain soldier's lopsided gait captures my attention and my suspicions are confirmed when he stops to withdraw a flask from his coat, giving it a shake before tilting the drink down his throat.

I wait until the others have gone on ahead before sliding down the hill and coming to a soundless stop beside Geoff. He staggers back at my sudden appearance, his bloodshot eyes stretched wide.

"Cripes," Geoff pounds a fist against his chest as he chokes on a cough. "Where in the Burn did you come from?"

"Above." I reply. "Where are you going?"

"So much for pleasantries, eh?" The grizzled ex-Enforcer takes another drink. "Funnily enough, I didn't ask where it is we're headed. All's I know is that staying wasn't an option and I'm not keen to join another war."

"What do you mean?" I have to raise my voice to be heard over the rain. "Why could you not remain in Babel?"

He looks at me strangely, "Because it's gone."

The words land like powder kegs. My face must show confusion because Geoff lowers his flask. "Did you really not know about this?"

I shake my head slowly, "What happened?"

"The Runner happened." He huffs. "She got it into her head that the entire power grid had to be shut down and shut down immediately. Never properly said why—something to do with this weather—and pushed us out without so much of a pat on the head. The last I saw of Babel she was crumbling into dust."

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