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.The marksman is calm; shooting two-handed, pumping bullets into the witches, blasting them away from him.„Ah suggest you crawl towards me, Citizen,‟ says Mr Redfearn, smoothly flicking the smoking barrels open to reload.Hopkins obeys, hearing the dreadful laughter dying behind him.Mr Redfearn helps him to his feet.Hopkins turns and sees the riddled bundles jerk and cease their scrabbling movements.„Nice to make yo‟ acquaintance, ladies,‟ says the sharpshooter.The bundles begin to move.If Mr Redfearn is affected by this, he doesn‟t show it.He raises his guns again.„Well, now there‟s a thing.‟„Get out of here,‟ says Hopkins, „Get out!‟The bundles rise.„Not polite,‟ says Diana.„Most impolite,‟ says Juno.„Feed us!‟Mr Redfearn fires enough bullets to bring them down once more.The air is sickly with cordite and smoke.Hopkins has had enough.He turns and bolts into the corridor.He should have been more cautious.Of course he should.It is his own fault Neville has so successfully routed his entire task force.For the first time in his life, Hopkins has been guilty of overconfidence.Or perhaps over-eagerness; after all, he knows his determination to bring the cult leader in is becoming obsessive.The element of surprise simply hadn‟t worked.These fiendish traps are the result of careful planning on the part of his rival.Pelham must have betrayed him.That is the only possible reasoning.Odd really – he had felt he understood the woman‟s weaknesses better than anyone, her morbid fear of her own mortality that underlined everything she did.This made her particularly malleable, or so he had thought.As he waits for Mr Redfearn in the lip of an anti-grav shaft, he broods over his mistakes.Never blame others.The only failure is the failure of one‟s own conscious will.Still, the game is not over.Neville hasn‟t escaped him yet.There is still time.Gunfire blazes down the corridor.„Redfearn!‟ Hopkins bellows, no longer caring whether he is heard by anything his rival has left prowling for him.Time is of the essence; he must get back to his ship.The gunslinger finally appears, very quickly indeed.The hat has gone, his long grey hair flows behind him.As he runs, he thrusts his smoking pistols back into their holsters.„Ah do believe nothing in creation can satiate that partic‟lar hunger,‟ he says, skidding to a halt.„Even with nothing left of„em but strung-together holes.‟Indeed, Hopkins hears even now their dreadful screeching.Without a word he leaps into the shaft, forgetting his previous suspicions concerning such devices.Mr Redfearn follows, hawk eyes trained on any potential pursuers.„Where‟s the Doctor?‟ asks Hopkins.Mr Redfearn allows an eyebrow to rise, a sure sign of intense rage.„That gen‟leman is full o‟ surprises.Used some underhand trickery to wrap that scarf o‟ his around my legs afore my pistol was even out of its holster.The devil take him for a quick draw; said somethin‟ about takin‟ lessons from Doc Holliday and disappeared with his lady friend into thin air.Ah look forward to sparring with that particular gen‟leman again, trust me on that.‟Hopkins doesn‟t need to berate Mr Redfearn for his failure.He knows only too well how the marksman is feeling.If the Doctor wasn‟t worried about Hopkins‟s avowed intention to destroy him before, he will definitely be worried now.Mr Redfearn looks up at the shaft stretching ahead of him.And then Hopkins takes in what he has just been told.The heights into which they are ascending are turning warmer.„Did you say he disappeared into thin air?‟„Ah am not reputed to bandy falsehoods, Citizen.Especially where the Doctor is concerned.He muttered a few choice phrases, touched a panel on the wall and faded from view, like a phantom.‟„You mean he operated a transmat-beam.‟„Do not presume to tell me what ah mean.‟Their movement seems to be slowing.Hopkins is on the verge of replying when there is a loud boom from above.The lift suddenly shakes and all his old fears of the anti-grav return.He imagines himself and Mr Redfearn dropping to the far-distant base of this shaft.The palace rocks again, violently.„Oh what now?‟ Hopkins moans.„What more?‟Something liquid drops on to his cheek with a sizzling hiss.It hurts, a lot.In fact, it burns into his face.He screeches and clutches at the burning droplet, wiping it away with his gloved hand.All around, similar hisses send up smoke signals from the casing of the shaft.„Acid!‟ he bellows.„It‟s raining acid!‟„The time has come to depart this particular thoroughfare,‟states Mr Redfearn [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]