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Section 1 MISSING


Section 2 MISSING


Section 3 MISSING


Section 4

The perimeter of the mine is punctuated by hastily-constructed blockhouses, which are cracked and broken down from the quakes. Holes are filled with bits of debris. The crickets chirp, the moons are half full. Godhands strut rigidly along the wall, stopping at intervals to talk.

"Look, up there," points Lois. Above the command centre is a grey platform docking freight ships. A trio of Essedari scan the horizon with their binoculars from a control tower nearby.

"That's them. Just do what you do, and it'll be fine," says Alika. He takes off his long mantle, and reverses it, so that the lining is on the outside. The lining is white and bears the angel insignia of Sabor.
Lois is dressed head-to-toe in black, her belt heavy with gizmos.

"Do you think what we are doing will help?" she says.

"Not the time, Lois. Focus on the job."

He takes his timekeep from his pocket, and then replaces it.

"Ready?"

"I'm ready," she says. She unpins her glass moustache, and hands it off to Alika, "if I don't come back, you could use one."

"Very funny. Good luck."


Section 5 MISSING

She lopes panther-like to point. She aims for the spot equidistant between two floodlamps, and the godhands don't see her as she takes two long strides, jumps into the fence, and twists over it. Alika swings his goggles up to the control tower. The Essedari are still going about their routines, and he breathes a sign of relief.

Inside the walls there is a general hum of machinery. Signs of occupation. The old Mellifluan buildings are dwarfed by the megastructure that the Saborians have only recently sealed into the rock face. But much of its glass is cracked, and some panes are missing entirely. Mining vehicles chug uniformly in and out of the hangars.
Lois cartwheels across the rubble, and scurries in through the squat door of the old lean-to. It used to be the main office of the mine, but it's token now. She hears voices, and quickly backs against the wall.


Section 6

"I'm not sure there's a reason for you to be here anymore, is all."

An official voice, Saborian.
Blood-red carpets swing from the ceiling, and the shelves are cluttered with copper urns and smoking apparatus. There are paper archives on several large and obsructive bookshelves whose dust show they are now seldom used.

"What do you mean, Durius?"

"Well Okropir, preliminary readings show that if we dig beneath this office, we'll come across the biggest seam on the site."

Lois gets to the near aisle, and peeks at the two men through sand-coloured filing. The Mellifluan is bearded and diminutive, the Saborian is dressed in a stiff white uniform of which Alika's mantle is a copy.

"But this is not yours to demolish. Our agreement is supposed to be temporary, all of this is temporary," Okropir says.


Section 7

"It's been agreed at a higher level. If we win the war, we bring prosperity to Melliflua, and everyone's happy. Look how efficient the mining has been since our arrival - when the war is finished you'll have plenty of Atlas."

'That's if the war finishes. I've spent my whole life with these rocks, and I'm sick of them. I don't give a fig for Atlas. But this office is my office, and I won't let you touch it."

"Obstructing us? There are hundreds of mines like this in Melliflua. A one-man rebellion will make no difference to the war."

"Tis mine is near three-hundred years old, and I have worked here for forty-for years. You might think you have a tradition, but you don't. Your people have no culture, no history. You're blank as a page."

"You and your books Okropir. We'll let the Aetherium decide your fate, stubborn little winkle, or perhaps the bulldozer."

The Saborian turns to leave, but something keeps him there.

"Have you heard the stories of limbo?" says the old Mellifluan, licking his lips, "The mines. Armadas. War. Soon we will all be at the precipice, looking down over Limbo. Limbo is the end, my friend."

Durius scoffs hollowly, and walks away. Lois shadows him around the shelves, until he is gone.

"Limbo is coming, I tell you!" Okropir shouts after him.


Section 8

Before he knows it, Lois has Okropir at the deadly end of her gun.

"What do you want?" he sighs.

"I need you to open the gate. I promise, it't for a good cause."

"You heard us talking?"

"I did."

So, what's this for?"

"It's for Melliflua. Make me a distraction at the gate. I need those Essedari on alert."

Okropir nods, and Lois lowers her gun to her side. He walks slowly past, out of the old mining offices, and calmly across the compound. She watches from the window as he turns the crank, and the main gate begins to open. The godhands get to their feet in disbelief, rushing along the wall to challenge him.

"What are you doing?"

"I was given an instruction buy the commander," he lies. The godhands tune into their radios.


Section 9 MISSING


Section 10

Meanwhile, Alika waits for the right moment. He chekcs his timekeep. She must be inside by now, he thinks. Menizes nods. Alika stands, straightens his uniform, and makes for the gate where the two Essedari have Okopir in custody. Alika had to shut this place down for good.

"I'm ahead of a road transit convoy," says Alika to the Essedari, whose visors are up. They see his uniform and stand to attention, "so why are the gates being closed again?"
Alika hands over a telegram.

Road transit convoy approaching. Open main gate.

"We weren't expecting any delivery today," says the taller Essedari.
Alika points up to their colleague on the tower. "76 replied to say he received the message, and you'd be ready for us, and that someone would open the gates." The Essedari buzz up for 76 to come down. He engages his gymnothruster and descends rapidly. As he lands, the dust billows up beneath him. He lifts his visor, revealing a furrowed monobrow.
"Apparently you ok'd this message?" says the taller Essedari.
"Not at all. Who are you anyway?" he says to Alika. But Alika is looking up at the tower again, where Lois had already weighted anchor from the gunships and the stone transports, letting them drift crewless up into the clouds. The Essedari follow his gaze, and realising they have been tricked, unholster their pistols. But Alika already has them where he wants them. He pulls the fuel cord on the nearest gymnothruster, severs it, and diverts the the jet into monobrow's face, who chokes and falls. Before the other two Essedari can react, Alika has bashed their heads together and knocked them out cold.


Section 11

"Take this," he says to Okropir, tossing him a gun. They are already under heavy fire, but Menizes is a crack shot, and has a vantage point beyond the fence. He picks off the best of them, and leaves the rest at the mercy of Alika and Okropir.

When the last godhand falls, Alika seizes his chance, and signals to Menizes to bring the explosives. Haulage drivers stop, and climb out of their rollers. Good Mellifluan men and women. Alika tells them it's time for them to grab their stuff and leave.

Alika winches Menizes and the explosives down the open shaft on the ropelift. When Menizes has set the charges, Alika winches him back up. Suddenly an alarm sounds from the main building. Lois emerges from the portcullis with Commander Durius at gunpoint ahead of her.

"I couldn't stop the alarm," she shouts through the haze of Atlas dust. A second wave of godhands who have heard the alarm have taken up positions around them. Shots are fired, and Menizes does his best to return them.


Section 12

The rebels take cover behind the lean-to.

"You won't get away with this," says Commander Durius.

"There's three of us, with no back-up. We never expected to," replies Menizes.

"Don't make me hurt you Menizes!" yells Lois, "I won't die here, and nor will you."

Alika hangs his head. For once he sounds sincere.

"I'm sorry Lois."

"You!" she says, aiming her gun at him.

"Had to be this way, and it had to be you Lois. I'm sorry."

At that moment the haulage rollers crash through the gate. Some of the godhands set off in pursuit of the rollers.

"Sorry never means anything form you, Alika," Lois says with feeling, "now shut up, and let's get out of here."

"Well if we try by foot, we might stand a chance. We could hide in the canyon."

"No, I have a better idea," she says, grabbing Commander Durius in a headlock. If they could get through the command centre, and up to the docking platform, there would still be the one gunship waiting. She edges out from behind the lean-to, gun to Durius' head. The godhands cease fire.

As they cross the compound, hands twitch on triggers. Then one shot is fired, then two. The godhands know if Durius dies, he will ascend a hero. Shots rip into him and he lets out a final yelp.

"Run!" Lois says, dropping the dead commander. Bullets come thick and fast as they make for the door. But Okropir isn't with them, instead he is running toward the guns.

"For Mellilfua!" he cries. Then he staggers, blood runs down his beard, and he drops, dead in the dust.


Section 13 MISSING



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