Friday, 1 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 27

I have no one left to fight. At the end of the ridged corridor, I take a breath, come to myself. I am holding a short blade in my right hand, a gun in my left. My right arm is spattered with blood, up to the shoulder. The sound of machinery is louder than ever.


"Makara?"

"I'm here." She's behind me a little, sounds breathless. I don't want to turn around. I wasn't counting. I lost track. I don't want to see what I did.

"Do you think that's all of them?" Svaathe's voice is cracked, still with the faintest touch of panic.

I take in a deep, juddering breath. Brimstone, engine oil, blood. "No one else is coming."

Svaathe snorts.

I drop the knife and gun where I stand, and the clatter coincides with one of the beats of the machine heart, and is lost.

Thirty paces more, and we turn the corner, and here below us is the floor; row upon row of silver machines; and the slaves chained to them, blue-skinned Rmoahals, not the pale iridescent shade of Makara, but a deep purplish, blackish shade like the night sky in winter, all of them taller than us, whipcord-thin. One turns her face to us; she has no eyes, only burnt out sockets where eyes were. I see another with a ragged hole where a nose might have been, another with a slit mouth. Some are gagged, some blindfolded. They move mechanically, without thought. One lowers a drill, one stamps out pieces of metal. One handles glowing rods with hands so badly burnt they barely have flesh. No one is talking, no one is ceasing to work, even though the sentry posts all around the edges of the floor are unoccupied.

They will know where we are. The city guard, what's left of it. They will not be prepared to agree to us.

To work then. We have manacles to loose.

[Collected Writings Index]

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