Steamscape by D. Dalton Read Free Book Online

Book: Steamscape by D. Dalton Read Free Book Online
Authors: D. Dalton
the floor, taking an intentional disinterest.
    His dark eyes widened. “This is a cipher medallion! Why do you–?”
    His internal voice cut in and demanded, steal it! It’s worth a fortune to those old, crusty cooks!
    “Some collector will buy this,” he murmured. “I wonder if the Priory really exists.”
    Solindra grabbed at the sancta. “Give it back!” She wrapped her hands around his and jerked. “And I want no truck with stupid secret sects that don’t exist! The Priory isn’t real.”
    Theo had to mentally acknowledge the point. They probably didn’t exist, but persistent stories like that one often had flakes of truth in them. He bet there really were men who sat around in candlelight and heavy robes pretending to talk to the steam. The mysterious “they” even claimed that the Priory owned all of Codic’s higher-ups, including President LaBier.
    He stared hard at the cipher medallion. It seemed to expand in his hand, driving out the noise and smells of the car, pulsing in time with his rising heartbeat. His grip loosened on the device.
    He narrowed his gaze, letting it fall deeper inside the glowing hammer. There was something further down there, hiding in the center. Some image floated like a lily pad. Something bright. Something burning.
    Theo screamed from the back of his throat, the yell bursting up from the pit of his stomach. He tried to shake away the medallion, but the thing seemed glued to his hand. He opened his fingers and hurled it, but it didn’t move.
    “Fire! Fire!” He leaped back, barreling over several people behind him. His free hand flailed at the invisible flames lighting up his body and clothes.
    “What?” Solindra jumped after him, her hand going again for the sancta. “There’s no fire, you idiot.”
    “Fire!” Theo started to tear at his shirt with his gloved hands. He could smell his clothes and flesh, and he knew very well what he smelled like on fire. It had been seared into his memory that day Flame had come to town.
    He heard his mother howling as she died all over again.
    A flash of silver interrupted him.
    Solindra smacked him in the jaw and kneed him in the crotch, just like Drina had taught her to do.
    Theo managed to focus on a pair of steam-colored eyes in the middle of the burning wagons, hanging there in the sky.
    A face faded into view, her red hair mixing with the flames. Then the memory released its hold. The motion of the train rocked him back to the present. He suddenly lurched forward in pain, realizing that he’d been struck.
    Solindra glanced at the scars all across the young man’s torso underneath his torn clothing, but then focused back on the sancta. “Give it back!”
    Theo started to raise his hand to throw the thing clear across the boxcar. The hated part of him wrapped his fingers even tighter. It whispered, it’s worth money!
    Solindra clawed at his glove. “It’s mine!”
    Theo grunted. “Not right now it isn’t.”
    She didn’t let go and stared in concentration at the red device. She let her own gaze fall toward the center of it. Now she was back in the closet, letting the steam rise and dance all around her. She knew she could do it then. “It’s mine.”
    “It’s mine now.”
    “No, it’s not !” The rivets mounting the steampipes popped free from the walls. The pipes crackled like old newspaper, and they danced in the air like snakes on fire. People screamed, trying to stampede away from the steam, but there was nowhere to run.
    The Killing Train’s boxcar exploded into a riot.
    “Kill the crypter!” A woman in a faded bonnet leveled a finger at Solindra’s nose from less than a foot away. “Kill her!”
    Solindra stared, all the words she wanted to say dying in the back of her throat.
    From the corner, the Steampower soldiers shoved their way through the crowd. Solindra cried aloud as someone behind ripped out a length of her hair. Many more hands pawed at her clothing.
    “Stay back!” Theo roared, putting the

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