Steamscape by D. Dalton Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Steamscape by D. Dalton Read Free Book Online
Authors: D. Dalton
    Theo slid sideways and tucked the cipher medallion in between his gloved fingers, avoiding looking at it again. He gasped as a ricochet bounced off the back of his leather jacket.
    The gunmen stepped back and other soldiers leaned in over the hatch.
    One of them slid on massive thermal gloves, and then tossed a handful of burning coal down into the boxcar from the boilerbox.
    “Fire!” Theo covered his face with his hands, heaving for air.
    Solindra slammed her hand over her nose. She still could not hear anything. She could smell it, though. The smells of burning clothes and hair instantly overwhelmed her.
    The train shuddered beneath their feet, and she bobbled for balance. “We’re braking!”
    Theo grabbed her shoulders. He shoved the sancta into her hand. “Get the door open!”
    She cupped the medallion in both hands. “I can’t! There’s no steam!”
    “What?” He turned his back to the hatch and spun in front of Solindra just as the soldiers tossed more coal and it bounced off his back.
    Her boot slipped on an ember. “I think this thing only works on steam!”
    Theo cursed under his breath. The train shuddered again. His eyes flashed back up to the open hatch. The soldiers were pointing to the front of the train and shading their eyes against the desert sun.
    The train’s whistle screamed in sharp bleats. In response, the soldiers shouldered their rifles and moved out of sight.
    Theo shoved several moaning people out of his way and pushed Solindra ahead of him. He interlocked his fingers on his knee. “Go!”
    Solindra stared at him and then looked up. “But…”
    “Now!” He eyed the Steampower soldiers marching forward, shoving bystanders aside.
    She placed her boot into his gloves and then she was flying up toward daylight. Her knuckles banged against the hatch’s edge, but managed to grip the sides. Theo pushed; she pulled. Suddenly, she was up and through the hatch. She crashed down onto the train’s roof and rolled to the side.
    The train was sliding forward on momentum alone now. At the front of the car, the Codic soldiers were gripping onto whatever they could while staring and pointing at something ahead. Her head was too low to see what, and she didn’t have time to worry about anything else – those guards could turn around at any moment.
    She rolled back to the hatch and threw down her hand.
    Theo jumped. His leather gloves slipped against her sleeve. He started to slide back down, but his hand clenched around her wrist.
    Solindra grimaced, but didn’t complain. She let Theo climb up her arm until he could grip the edges of the hatch.
    He kicked a prisoner that had grabbed at his boot in the face, and pulled himself through.
    Wheels squealed against the tracks beneath the car, shooting out sparks.
    “Down!” one of the Codic soldiers hollered to his fellows.
    Theo glanced up past them just in time to see the first telegraph pole shoot up past the locomotive’s engine, spraying sand as the train pulled it out of the ground.
    “Get down!” Solindra covered her face with her hands and dropped.
    The train’s motion ripped more poles out of the ground like a tornado in a grain field. The poles, still tethered by the wires, were helpless against the engine’s power.
    Theo flinched and flattened himself just in time to see the wire flash in the sunlight as it passed inches above his nose. He felt a brief, striking wind with its passage.
    He rolled his head back to see the flying wire finish cutting through the neck of a prisoner just pushing his way up through the open hatch. A thin trail of blood opened up along his trachea, and then the head rolled forward.
    The man’s disembodied head blinked at Theo, then its eyes widened in horror and recognition before going finally still.
    The train finally jerked to a halt.
    Solindra squeezed out a laugh through her dry lips. She immediately slapped a hand over her mouth. She was in shock, but she couldn’t stop laughing.
    The Codic

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