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.She'd suggested it as a course of action but it didn't think like that.That level of subtlety seemed, like the threat of the Doctor, beneath its comprehension.She'd pulled the veil and headdress off as soon as she'd closed the canteen's shutters, glad to get out of the restricting black clothes.She sat down on the kitchen floor, putting the solid width of the counter between her and any stray bullets.It wouldn't do to be taken out by accident.She checked her watch, an unnecessary action given the way the plan was ticking away in her head.In any case the symbols on its face had lost their meaning to her.It was time to get moving.Benny crawled through the connecting door and into the storage bay.A double line of food lockers were racked against both walls.She stood up and banged on the locker nearest the door.'Rise and shine,' she said.'Up and at 'em.'The locker door swung open to reveal two razvedka curled up inside.One of them craned its neck to look at her.'Already?' it asked.'I was dreaming.''Everything is a dream,' said Benny.'I thought you knew that.''There's dreams,' said the razvedka, 'and there's dreams.''Get up,' said Benny, 'or we'll be late.'The Stunnel gateway shone like a sun, burning a corridor through the smoke.Mariko, with Naran at her shoulder, walked towards the light.There was still fighting to either side.Mariko's mind received impressions of the combat.To her right a terrible figure in armour who moved like the wind and struck like thunder.The razvedka that fought him were filled with admiration, even as they died.To the left, two of the enemy defended a tangle of broken metal beating off repeated attacks by 2krewe's soldiers.Only one of the enemy was left defending the gateway.A man in dented half-armour, blond hair backlit by the intense bronze light of the gateway.He held a long piece of twisted metal in both hands.Mariko could see blood drip down his wrists and on to the floor by his feet.When she was close enough to see his face she smiled.The man flinched at the sight and raised his stick.Mariko thought she recognized the look in his eyes.Behind her she felt Naran's body coiling up in readiness.'Morituri te selutant," she said.Those about to die salute you.She was disappointed to see no trace of recognition on his face.Instead his features seemed to fill up with a stupid kind of determination.There was nothing heroic in his expression, no semblance of valour or noble resolution.No sense of history.It was just a human being with a stick and a dumb refusal to get out the way.Naran leapt at him, six-centimetre claws springing from his fingers.The blond man swung his stick, knocking away Naran's first swing, jumping back to avoid the second.'Get on with it, Naran,' shouted Mariko, 'We haven't got all day.'Naran stepped in under the man's reach and smashed the stick from his hands.His left hand swung in to rip the man's face off but the man managed to grab the wrist.'He's good material,' said Mariko.'See if you can salvage.'Naran's prehensile tongue struck out at the man's face, fingertips snapping.The man had to fend it off with his remaining free hand, leaving his torso exposed.Naran stiffened his fingers and plunged his hand into the man's chest.It sank through armour and flesh, all the way up to the wrist.Blondie heard himself scream as the hand sank into his chest.Automatically he brought up his own hands to tear at the wrist; he could feel the seam at the site of the penetration.There was no pain but the sensation of violation threatened to overwhelm his mind.He looked up and found himself looking into a pair of sad brown eyes.He tried to ask the creature why he was doing this but his voice was no longer his own.There was still no pain, even as he felt fingers wrap around his beating heart, only a sensation of warmth that began to spread from his chest.The world began to fade around Blondie; his vision faded until nothing was left except those eyes, so deep and full of an ancient sadness.The warmth spreading through his body made him drowsy.He began to think that dying wasn't so bad, it was more like drifting off to sleep.His hands fell back to hang loosely by his sides.The eyes expanded until all the world was a rich brown shot through with silver.Sound faded, the gunfire rushing away to become as insignificant as fireworks.Come with us, said the silver streaks.Put down your troubles and we will fill you up with certainty.He let the warmth engulf him.A rose bloomed amongst the rich brown fields, its petals as black as midnight, its thorns the colour of African gold, as sharp as razors.The taste of gunpowder on his lips.The petals opened to reveal Kadiatu standing in the heart of the rose as if she had grown from the same stem.Sunlight flowed across her naked body, making swirls of amber on her skin.He saw her breath colour through parted lips.The streaks of silver became angry and formed into sharp steel needles.The brown fields twisted until they became a cone shaped vortex, the colour changing to the sickly pink of diseased gums.The needles spun in the vortex until they became grey blurs and contracted around the rose.Blondie saw that they would rip Kadiatu to pieces.'No,' he screamed.The real world snapped back.Blondie's heart beat weakly against the imprisoning fingers, once, twice.The cake monster's brown eyes blinked at him in sad astonishment.His heart beat twice more and stopped.Blondie felt the darkness enfold him, as soft and as silent as a fall of rose petals.Mariko watched the body fall to the ground as Naran withdrew.He stared at his hand for a moment and then looked over at Mariko.Then with an angry snort he picked up the body and threw it away.Mariko could understand his anger: like her Naran was a bit of a perfectionist.She put a comforting hand on his shoulder and together they walked to the gateway.They took up a defensive position beside the control equipment and waited.Benny walked in from the galleria through a cone of violence.Around her the canteen razvedka fought short bloody combats to buy her passage.The KGB assault team had been concentrating on getting into the station, they hadn't expected an attack from the rear.The smoke boiled to either side, lurid flashes of colour as the fighting continued.The floor of the station proper was littered with wreckage, bodies and bits of bodies [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]