The dark-haired man slowed, at the sounds of an altercation down a nearby alleyway.
The sergeant grabbed his arm, and the man stumbled as the direction of his steps abruptly changed.
“Keep moving,” the sergeant murmured.
“Not our concern. These streets aren’t safe, and we need to get to somewhere we can hold up until daylight.”
“But they could be hurt, and—”
“And they could be beast men quarreling. Until we come along to remind them of who their real enemy is.”
“No ‘buts.’ We move on.”
“It’s not right.” There was a hint of steel in the dark-haired man’s voice.
“No, it isn’t,” the sergeant agreed, “it’s war.”
They pressed onward, reaching the dark-haired man’s quarters on the third floor of a typical middle-income housing bloc shortly before midnight.
The night, however, was anything but restful. Far from it, it was as though the city sat in the midst of a great thunderstorm. But there was no rain, just a roar of distant and not-so-distant explosions, and flash after flash, as bright as— sometimes brighter than— the noonday’s sun. Each followed by a wash of heat, and a screaming wind that threatened to shatter the panes of glass in the windows. With each strike of the monumental lightning, the ground shook, which transmitted up through the building, which seemed unable to decide whether it wanted to shake itself, or sway from side to side, walls and floors and ceilings creaking and groaning like the wakened dead.
(2♠︎) Groggy, grainy-eyed, they gathered up their packs, the dark-haired man hurriedly putting together a duffel. The materials in his box he threw into a sturdy leather satchel, adding a few memory-keep slices of readingglass after a moment’s thought. Last thing before they left, he rummaged through the cloak cupboard, slinging a bolt-action long-arm over is other shoulder, and tossing a half-full box of shells into his duffel.
It took the sergeant’s shoulder to get the door to budge, and they were greeted by a muted, steely light filtering through vast cracks in the overhead glassteel dome that enclosed the Inner City. A fine, dusty powder drifted from between those cracks, floating down, spiraling like snow that never fell in the sealed cityscape.
The sergeant fished a kerchief from one of the pockets of his uniform, and tied it over his mouth and nose. The corporal and the dark-haired man did likewise, after sharing an astonished look at the state of the weather-that-should-not-be.
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