Downrigger Drift

Downrigger Drift by James Axler Read Free Book Online

Book: Downrigger Drift by James Axler Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Axler
Tags: Speculative Fiction Suspense
if such a thing could be done while hanging from a pipe with his two-hundred-odd pounds pulling on it every time he braced a hand or foot. With every yard he gained, the pipe swayed and creaked ominously, and Ryan half expected that each time he reached up to grab the slick metal, it would be his last. The horde below was erupting into a frenzy, the pandemonium overwhelming, even to their carpet-stuffed ears. As he pushed forward, Ryan swore he felt something brush his back more than once.
    “Ryan…hold up…need to rest…” J.B.’s voice, already weak, drifted to him above the shrieking of the muties.
    “No, J.B., keep moving! We’re almost there. If you stop, you drop!”
    “Gettin’ tired…”
    “Keep moving.” Dipping his head, he saw the elevator doors about ten yards away. “We’re almost there!”
    “All right…”
    Although his fingers felt like numb pieces of wood, Ryan kept bulling forward. Stretch, grab, pull, stretch, grab, pull. Once more, and he was at the door. Drawing his blaster, Ryan hammered on the door with the butt.
    “Clear the entrance, we’re back! Open the doors!”
    The muties were screaming so loud now that Ryan couldn’t hear if anyone replied from inside. He was about to beat on the doors again when the pipe dropped another six inches with a shriek of rending metal.
    “J.B.! Get on top!” Reaching around, Ryan threw a leg over and pulled himself up on top, just as he felt something scrabble through his hair, followed by the click of teeth snapping near his ear. “Fireblast!” The moment he was secure, Ryan brushed a hand through his hair, making sure nothing was about to tear into his scalp.
    “Ryan…can’t make it…up…”
    The weak shout made Ryan whirl to see J.B.’s hands slipping. Throwing himself forward, he stretched out full-length, his hands reaching out to grab the other man’s wrists. The pipe screamed at the impact of his body, but still held, even under their combined weight. He grabbed J.B.’s arms a moment before he would have fallen to the floor.
    “You aren’t leaving this place without me, you hear?” Ryan gritted between clenched teeth. His hands and arms, already sore and unfeeling from the trip to the mat-trans control room and back, radiated pure agony as he held J.B. in place. “On three, I’m going to lift you, and you’re going to grab this pipe with both hands and hold on with everything you got, you understand?”
    “All right… Don’t have to yell…”
    Ryan braced himself for was he was about to do. “One…two…three!” He heaved up with every ounce of strength he possessed, muscles cracking under the strain. One inch, two, three…
    Straining until he thought his arms were going to tear out of their sockets, Ryan pulled J.B.’s arms up until he could get them wrapped back around the pipe, then he grabbed the scruff of the other man’s battered jacket and, with the last of his strength, hauled the man up so he was half on, half off the pipe.
    A feral chitter from J.B.’s knees made Ryan slowly raise his head. There, with its front claws dug deep into the other man’s left leg, squatted a pig-rat easily two feet long, drool oozing from its two-inch tusks.
    “Ryan, what—”
    “Don’t…move…” Ryan stared at the mutie only three feet away from him, pinning it with his hardest stare. The beast gave as good as it received, its large, black eyes gazing back into his, as if it knew it would have to fight to keep this meal.
    Not taking his eye off the abomination, Ryan’s hand slowly crept toward the handle of his panga. The pig-rat tensed in anticipation, hindquarters lowering to J.B.’s stained, bloody pants as it prepared to spring.
    Their eyes locked one last time, and Ryan moved the millisecond he saw the pig-rat jump.
    As the brute pushed off, Ryan drew the heavy blade and brought it around in a short, vicious arc. The flat of the machete smacked into the rodent’s head right before it would have sank its teeth

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