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The air was clean. Clara took a deep breath as she looked out the window. The blue sky was mostly open, showing a few white-grey clouds here and there. The sun shined down upon the muck and mud that scarred the streets of Eastern City, just past the cleared, white-stone train platform.
“We were ordered not to interfere, to observe.” A man said at her side. He had come behind her silently, not a single indication of when.
“Did I interfere?” Standing by the window, Clara responded lightly.
“I just witnessed a pretty ‘awkward’ conversation a few minutes ago.”
Clara didn’t turn around. “If we have plans for her, it’s best we know more about her character. Just watching does not tell us everything. Besides, you can often tell the nature of someone when they are caught off guard. It’s in their facial expressions, their reaction.”
Pressing her palm on the glass, she watched as two figures, not seemingly any different than ordinary, stood, garbed in a hooded cloak, moving off into the city.
“What did you gather from her?”
Clara tapped the glass.
“She has…potential. The mistress has chosen wisely.”
“Doesn’t she always?”
“Yes, she does. Yes…she does.”
Braen spat out water, a red tinge to it. Everything hurt. His chest, his insides; and as he tried to get up, an overwhelming pain came, like a tidal wave capable of surmounting cities, countries. It slammed him from his missing arm and up until it rankled his jaw. His head swam, and he vomited, falling down into it.
His mind had gone blank. He couldn’t think. The pain, the pain from the edge of where the rest of limb was missing, was just too much. He should have known. How could he have been pain-free after only a few days of sleep? Or was it a week? A month? It seemed whatever was holding him together, just broke.
And then he broke down and cried.
Minutes passed, and the cries became whimpers.
It was then that a black mist formed around him, and that pain subsided. And once that happened, his mind drifted…back to what happened at the arena…what he saw…what he had needed to do and did.
The chamber had been large. Steam puffed in the air, gathering in streams and caking the surroundings in a fog. The boiling water made the air heavy and wet. Braen’s hair plastered against his forehead. He breathed in and out.
There is only one chance at this point. 3 bullets left. Gotta make them count.
Blowing out a breath, Brean glanced at the far railing protruding from the cavern wall above the monster’s head.
He looked at the second level, streams of water pouring from slits in the wall. He holstered the gun in his belt, stuffed his pants in his boots, and took off his undershirt, ripped it apart – with his teeth as an aid – wrapping the torn cloth like bandages on his hand.
Looking across the cavern, he saw the water level rising. The entire chamber of this part of the cavern was enormous. It was five stories high, and there were various levels, indicating places where one could walk. There were also various entrances or exits leading elsewhere. Many formations and protrusions from the cavern walls, rubbles, and ruins, scattered around, as tall as Brian himself. It made running around and hiding from the giant creature the half-man was fighting easier. But hiding was near impossible. As hot water pooled from the slits on the walls, it mostly came pouring above those hidden areas. No, Braen needed to win this to survive. He needs to go through with his plan.
Only, to do so, he needed to get up high, and the first stop was the second level. He needed to jump up from high and reach the second railing. The cavern wasn’t completely natural. There were many man-made structures, the water being pumped in was a great indication of it. That, and a few railings on some manufactured flooring along the cavern walls. From there he could pull himself up. But, If he were to get to the top railing and pull himself up, he would then need to pass the entryways gushing out torrents, reach to a side of the cavern with more protruding formations to use as a foothold and climb up even higher. The creature was at least two and a half stories high. He needed to be at least three for his plan to work.
And, he had to do all that with only one hand. He couldn’t take the direct route as it would mean climbing the rock behind him. That rock was too steep and naturally slick from years in this damp cavern.
The best option he had was to use unnatural, man-made industrial steel to start his climb and travel. He would find more traction with that.
Braen glanced right. The half-man and the monster were still fighting, the half-man more keeping to the high ground now, but his skin seemed awfully red from heat.
Braen, himself, felt nauseous now. The air was getting hotter and more humid by the second.
Taking a deep breath, he launched himself to a nearby rock. He quickly found his balance after almost falling down.
“Still not used to my new weight,” he laughed dryly.
*Bshhh!* More slits opened, only this time it was from three stories up, and a gush of water poured from them, the rate of the flooding chamber going up a level.
Braen took another deep breath, and started hopping across the rocks, and soon, boulders and formations, getting higher and higher up.
As he stepped on the closest formation near the second-floor railing, Braen didn’t even think, and jumped, using the momentum he had been building to propel himself upwards.
And with his hand stretched out, he latched onto the metal rail.
“Aaaah” He screamed.
As the water spilled from the second level, some of it splashed on him. It burned his arm and chest and face. The few droplets that splattered on him would cool, but the searing wave of heat from the metal he held onto was overwhelming. He hadn’t thought much of thermal conduction, only using his shirt to guard against the heat, but the cloth was barely enough as protective wear, only enough to prevent his skin from falling off.
Braen roared as he pulled himself up, ignoring the pain as the metal was pressed harder against his palm…this paled in comparison to his missing limb. The pain he felt that day; compared to that, this he could endure…Braen hoisted himself up and swung his legs over the railing. He panted as he began to inch his way across.
The second floor was not natural. It was a thick metal mesh embedded perpendicular into the wall, allowing it’s used as a floor; and as water poured from the side walls through slits, most of it went through the mesh and to the lower level, but some of it managed to splash up on Braen’s skin.
Soon enough, Braen couldn’t’ take it anymore. He jumped down onto the mesh floor from the rail, and ran, sticking to the very edges of it. Although this way the water would splash more on his legs, it spared him of having to spend a long time as he inched himself along the railing.
As he ran around the cavern, and finally to a side where the water was not gushing out of slits, his skin had become red, and there were blotches of discoloration. His eyes were tearing, and he was shaking.
Braen began to climb the to top of the rock, every move hurt, and the rock itself was quite slippery. Fortunately, there were crevices, and he managed to get a proper foothold. Once he reached the top, he would find another to climb until he was high up.
“Don’t look down, don’t look down,” he told himself, but he ended up glancing down anyway. He sucked in a breath. As the ground seemed to narrow in and out, he felt dizzy and almost wanted to vomit.
Although he was not far up, he was still up high. If he fell, he would fall into a vat of boiling water and jagged rocks. He was tens of feet high now, so if boiling water and jagged rocks weren’t enough, he had to think about how the fall would hurt him, probably breaking a rib or two, which anyone could easily puncture a lung.
Braen breathed. There was no choice. Either way, even if he just stayed up here, and far from the monster, at the rate the water was rising, it would reach him eventually and he would drown.
Furthermore, the creature seemed impervious to the water’s heat. The Half-man, of course, was not.
At this time, the half-man had jumped up on a wide, naturally formed rock platform. It was one-third high up to the creature’s height. The water level, too, had almost risen to such a level, completely submerging the second level. Now, other than a few protruding mechanical structures, there were just the natural formations of the cavern itself to use as a footing.
The half-man was panting and becoming sluggish. The heat and his constant motion was a drain on his stamina. The creature’s arms were marked heavily, purple blood spilled from its wounds.
He could see the pulsing glow slow as a semi-clear puss bubbled and spewed from the shots he fired into its abdomen.
Braen was now above the creature. He had climbed almost to the top of the chamber. He was right above the creature, and as it’s bio-luminescence took hold with every pulse, it’s dermis would become transparent, showing the insides. There, a large octopus-like creature swam within.
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