The Silverlight Dome – Chapter 2

“That bitch is around here somewhere. Keep your eyes open, if we don’t have her by sunrise I will personally skin every last one of you sorry motherfuckers.” The big burly ring leader that had held Lilth hostage towered over the small pack of ruffians gathered around him. A little stream of angry spittle swung from his chin to mingle with the blood from his broken nose. They shifted nervously from one foot to the other, every man knew what Bolath was capable of and they didn’t want to push their luck.

Sneaking through the shadows the group of six moved like water, silent and sure footed. Not a sound could be heard as their soft, clothed feet padded across the soft sand street. Like cats they surrounded the first door, jimmied it open with an old, rusting screwdriver and flooded inside. A few seconds sweep of the building gleaned no results. Old, worn out furniture was tipped up, cupboards and closets ransacked; nothing. This process was repeated all the way down the street, the homeless and destitute dragged from their make-shift beds, dazed and confused.

They reached the fourth door. Grappling with the door handle the scrawniest of the group twisted and turned the rusted door knob to no avail. The group behind him began to titter and his cheeks flushed an angry red. Bolath, used one large, furry hand to yank the smaller man out of the way, impatience brewing up inside him, making his agitated. Using a little of his strength he ripped the door from its hole in the wall and threw it some way down the street, no longer concerned with the noise it made.

Forcing his way inside he filled the dark room with his vast body. Stooges poured in around him and searched the place.

“There’s nothing here!” One called from the back room. Bolath’s temple twitched and the men closest to him took a few quick paces backwards. In two strides he was in front of the speaker, grabbing him around the throat and forced him back against the wall.

“Nothing?” He snarled. “Is that what you said?” Before he could go on something fell from above, tapping him lightly on his naked head. A few bits of roof tile rolled down his back and plopped unceremoniously onto the floor. He looked up, still gripping his accomplice in a vice, his face turning a nasty shade of blue-purple; he caught the flash of a heel as it disappeared up into the rafters onto the roof. He dropped the man, now unconscious onto the floor and forced his way outside.

“Lilth!” He bellowed into the night as she leapt from her roof onto the neighbours, crumbling abode. His face become a beautiful shade of purple and blue mottled rage as she turned to blow him a kiss before disappearing off down the street; canvas bag draped over on shoulder.

“Get her back!” Bolath screamed at the men already scrambling after her. Pulling out their light dividers they shone the bright beams across the rooftops, catching a gleam of red hair and shinning brown boots.

Lilth could hardly breathe, the stitch in her side rendering her almost incapacitated. She pranced like a deer over the last few rooftops before she came clattering to the end of her tiled road. Without missing a beat she gripped onto the rusting old drainage pipe that was just clinging to life and swung herself around and down the side of the rickety structure. The pipe crunched and swung, the screws that held it in place flaking away from the old walls. Leaping the last two foot Lilth rolled into the dust, losing her bag in the process.

“There she is!” Someone shouted just behind her, the sound of running feet beginning to gain on her made her heart pound in her chest. Snatching up the bag she cursed as a few precious gems rolled out into the street. She gave them a longing look before pelting off down a side road, leaving little skids from the heels of her boots in the dust; oh how she hated anyone else touching her bounty.

Crashing into the next street she headed for the docks, there was a boat leaving for the Outreaches at sunrise, if she could just make it there before the sun started to peak over the horizon she’d be ok. Picking up the pace she ignored the screaming cramp in her calf muscles and carried on. She could smell the clean atmosphere of the air lock. This was it just a little further.

Something whizzed past her, grazing her arm. Yelping her bag slipped down around her elbow; a sudden pain in her upper arm and a warm, flowing sensation apparent to her. Reaching around she touched the hilt of a knife embedded in her flesh, puckering the once taught skin where it pulled and warped it out of shape. She didn’t have to pull it out, she knew if she took even a second longer they would catch her and she’d be dead meat.

She could see it, the great ship filling the dock like a great, flat dinner plate suspended in space. It was gently spinning, getting ready to depart, she was a fraction of a second too late. She was limping now, unable to keep her pace. Skidding to a halt at the end of the dock she cursed her bad luck, the goons were behind her, blocking her in, forcing her towards the edge. A face she recognised peeked out of the crows nest as it began to float down beneath her.

“Jaspen!” She called out, waving with her good arm. “Jaspen, wait!”

“Can’t now lassie! She’s afloat!” Lilth swore at the little old man staring up at her with confusion abound on his face. There was nothing for it, glancing back one last time she knew she had no other options left to her. Her wide eyes took in the sight of the great disk, rotating, floating down towards the hatch in the great glass dome they called home, its shining silver exterior cold and uninviting. It looked like her death. She took a deep breath, shook herself twice and jumped.

Bolath came to the edge of the causeway and looked down as the ship was swallowed up in the cloud that lingered at the bottom of the great glass bowl and howled with anger. He turned and strode away, rummaging in his pocket for his cigarettes and pocket communicator. Lighting a tar black stick of smoke, he kicked the smallest of his bunch of henchmen off the edge to alleviate his rage. Feeling somewhat calmer he raised the little black box to his face and pushed a series of buttons. An electrical crackle emitted itself from the speaker on the bottom of the box. Giving it a swift whack with his palm the static settled down.

“Sir. My most sincere apologies Sir.” Bolath began.

“Did I not make it clear to you how important it was that you recover that gem, Bolath? Perhaps I was not making myself clear?” A whispering, rasping voice echoed out across the musky dock. It sounded distant, far away and muffled.

“No Sir, I understand. It was, just that …”

“Oh Bolath. I am disappointed.” The voice hissed, a little louder now that it had been before. “I’m afraid that I can’t stand for such a thing. I might have to let you go.”

“Sir, please.” He coughed and pulled on his collar.

“I simply cannot afford anymore blunders at this stage, you understand I’m sure.” Bolath heaved, suddenly unable to take in any air. The blood vessels burst in his eyes, filling them with little strings of red. For the last time he flushed his trademark shade of purple before falling unceremoniously to the floor, to the great delight of his crew. As they shied away into the new morning the radio crackled to itself, keeping the cooling body company in the still of the dawn.

War Machine

It appears that we’ve sprung a leak. The water sloshing around my feet is cold, seeping through the worn and splitting soles of my commission boots.  I wriggle my toes, trying to stimulate a little sensation back into them as I whip the hefty flashlight in my hand across the hole that now gapes in the belly of our beast.

The water floods in. In the half light it almost looks like the jagged mouth of a great demon, pouring destruction and black, foul smelling fluid across the floor. It’s mesmerising and unsettling; my stomach churns a little at the rushing, roaring noise as it swells throughout the bowels of the ship.

“Sir!” One of the privates is floundering his way towards me, staggering against the list that I had barely noticed take hold. He grabs hold of one of the nearby crates and heaves a little with the excretion of moving against the swirling current. I forget his name.

“The Captain’s requesting a report Sir.” He’s shouting over the roaring rush of the water. I know there isn’t a way back from the brink we’re now teetering on. I glance around me at the explosives and ammunition in the many boxes surrounding me. Just one spark from the buckling hull and we’d be nothing more than food for the creatures that haunt the bottom of the ocean.

“Sir?!” My brain stutters back into life and I reach out and grab the young man’s arm pulling myself away from the gaping wound.

“Tell them we must evacuate, immediately. She’s lost, I want everyone off as soon as it can be done.”

He plunges back through the water, his pace quickened; fear biting at the back of his heels. I drag myself back through the yawning expanse of hull after him. It takes nearly all of my upper body strength to heave myself and my saturated clothing up the stairs and out of the swirling, misty waters below.

Thumping up the stairs, two steps at a time I emerge onto the deck. The cold night air is chilling my already frozen face to the point of pain; above my head the stars twinkle and laugh at our misfortune.

I can see the ship that hit us, out to the North East, circling back around, guns at the ready preparing for a second attack. Bodies are flying past me at an extraordinary rate, eager hands grabbing at life jackets and spare bullets, a few manning the guns readying us for the last battle. It’s the easy way out really, we’re all going to die in these waters.

The ship is listing dangerously to the right, the water we’re taking on weighing her down with a super human hand, pushing us under. The boys are starting to panic, the water is chomping at the right hand side; over three quarters of the ship already under water. We all know what’s going to happen.

I make a bolt for my cabin, pulling myself along the ship with all the strength I have, my feet sliding away from underneath me, trying to pull me overboard. I reach the open door and fling it wide, heaving myself over the threshold and into the room. Stumbling over to the great desk at the far side I throw myself into the chair, fixed into the floor thank God.

I reach for the second shelf down and give it a tug and a little pull upwards. used to the way it gets stuck in the thick, expanding wood. Throwing a few papers onto the floor I put my little finger into the tiny hole on the right hand side of the bottom of the draw and pull up the secret compartment. Lifting out the Webley  No.I Mk.I issue pistol I pause for a moment to feel the weight of it in my hand. It’s loaded, I always keep it loaded, you can’t be too careful on these ships, months cooped up with nothing to do and no new faces can turn a man real quick.

I pull back the pin. I can still hear someone screaming orders, the rumble of engines in the background; I don’t know if they’re ours or theirs. Everything outside this little room is dizzy and sick with chaos and fear. This sanctuary, this blessed place. It could be my last.

Lifting the gun with heavy shaking hands I place the barrel to my temples. The feel of cold metal against my skin is more shocking than I imagined  and I suddenly feel the weight of what I am about to do. The fear grapples at my throat like a giant clawing hand until my breath is coming in short, sharp gasps. I suddenly realise that I’m sobbing now.

Throwing the gun down I grasp at the edges of the table. Tears still wet on my face; using one roughly sleeved arm I wipe them away. Got to be a man, got to stand up, got to make this right. On unsteady legs I stand and move my way across the listing, groaning ship; its death wail reaching fever pitch, mingling with the yells of my crew mates. Grasping the door handles with sweaty, uncertain hands I wrench them open and step forward into the hellish hysteria of war.