October 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
He pressed himself against the tower. The platform he was standing on was just wide enough for a person to walk comfortably, but not much more. It would be able to hide him from sight from those on the ground, but not necessarily from those on the other refuelling arms and walkways. And if those bercs are going to be armed with something that can hit Rawlins over there, it’ll be strong enough to do for me up here. His legs twitched a little, but he chalked it up to being cold and having to hunch over the platform. Fear could kill him up here, and if the only way he could not dissolve into terror was to lie to himself that he wasn’t scared, then lying it would be.
Knight didn’t think about death too much. Doolan said it was because he was still young and thought he was invincible, and Knight had to agree. Not having killed, he couldn’t imagine what death was, and not having been grievously injured, he couldn’t imagine the powerlessness of severe injury. Bullets and knives were foreign concepts to him. Sure, he’d seen enough of them and even had them pointed at him, but never in situations of real danger. Never in fights he might lose.
He shook his head and huddled closer towards the door. Don’t start this now, he begged his unconsciousness, please. If I start getting worried, I’m going to crack it up. I only do well when I’m not thinking about it. When I just let the training flow. Focusing on wiping away the fear, he looked over the edge. There was a simple podium set up, and a fat Southern man with dusky skin was rising to talk. It might be the Mayor, he thought, but Carson is pretty hefty and pretty dark too.
He leaned against the door which led to the heart of the tower. The lock looked ancient and rusted, testament to the dearth of ships coming to Arcadia. That door, almost two inches of solid iron, hadn’t been opened in years. A dove shifted in its sleep beside his foot.
But Arcadian-made hinges are things of beauty and swung open soundlessly on the first push. Knight toppled over with a yelp as the door bashed into his right side, knocking him to the ground. He tried to turn his fall into a roll, but he only managed to fall on his outstretched arm and cry again at the pain.
Birds exploded into the air around him, cooing frantically and beating their wings like engines, surprising the man coming out the door. Knight looked up from his undignified heap. The man, too short and too broad to be anything but an Agrimmir, was dressed head-to-toe in close-fitting black clothing. A pair of goggles was strapped across his forehead, and a cigar tumbled from his open mouth. A heavy carbine was slung over his arm, ready to be used.
The assassin met Knight’s eyes and they stared at each other for a long second, before the man swore and Knight jumped to his feet, lanny ready. Knight swung his lanny at the assassin as the man fumbled to get his gun off his shoulder, but he caught the blow on his carbine. The assassin was forced back half a step by the power of the blow but he recovered and, reversing the rifle, cracked Knight on the ribs with the butt.
The armour caught the worst of the blow, but the breath was still knocked out of Knight’s lungs for a second. He fell to a knee as the assassin swung again for Knight’s face. Rolling, he felt the air as the rifle came within a hair of smashing his eye to a pulp. Knight felt his foot fall off the edge of the walkway and staggered as he tried to keep his balance.
He needed to keep the assassin from freeing his gun. The snub-nosed carbine was short enough to be used in these close quarters, and Knight had no intention of testing his armour against an up-close shot. He lashed out with his lanny again, the white wood a blur in the sunshine. The assassin cleverly stepped back out of range, putting vital distance between him and Knight. The further away he was, the easier it would be to shoot Knight.
Knight smiled as the assassin moved. He clearly wasn’t trained to fight against someone with a quarter-staff, and had stayed too close. Reversing his grip, he stepped forward into a thrust, knocking the gun from the assassin’s hands. It clattered to the ground, out of the fight for a second. Knight smiled and fell back into a fighting crouch. Come on, he thought, adrenalin and success flushing through his system, come and get me.
The assassin sighed, a look of frustration on his face. Then he shook his head and he pulled a pistol from his pocket. With a bang, he shot Knight in the chest.
The force of it threw Knight to the ground, winding him. He tried to retch, but the lack of air just made him gape like a fish. Nausea filled him, and if he could breathe, he would have vomited off the walkway. His chest was afire with pain, the sharp hot pain that told him he was bleeding.
But he was cogent enough to realize the danger when the assassin leisurely picked up the carbine. Chuckling, the man cocked the rifle and mocked Knight.
“You got grit, I’ll give you that, but you’re damn stupid. Too damn stupid to live, boy, thinking I’d only bring one gun.”
I don’t want to die. Knight thought as the man raised his gun to his cheek.
He thought he heard Doolan’s voice from far away. Then don’t.
Knight stopped thinking and let his training take over.
Knight spun on the ground like a top. The bullet that was meant for his head instead burrowed into the walkway with a snap. Knight lashed out with his legs, catching the assassin behind a knee. The assassin was spun around and stumbled forward, crashing into the railing. The steel, weakened from years without being maintained, gave way with a crash. The assassin nearly pitched over the ledge, but barely caught himself in time. It wasn’t enough, and he started windmilling his arms as he began falling forward.
Knight heard Doolan’s voice again. Don’t ever kill. He picked up his lanny and quickly swung it around his head. The inch of hardwood smashed into the assassin’s lip just below the nose, knocking him back on the walkway with a crash. Blood burst from the man’s mouth in a watery cough, but he rolled on his back and groaned, still breathing. Knight stumbled over to him and threw the guns behind him and off the walkway. It was all he could do before he fell to his knees, the pain throbbing in his side.