Drive The Cold Winter Away

Rain does not fall here: it fills the air, drifting in shoals blown by the gusts between the tall machines broken down on either side. Neither wind nor rain ever ceases. A constant crashing fills the air, though it is hard to tell the sound of the water from the sound of the machines gradually grinding themselves away. Glacial rust flows from the engines’ sides only to sink below the shallow rivers of water running down every alleyway. They shatter around the feet of the people standing there.

“What is this place?” asks Ashes O’Reilly. They are staring up at the metal walls in bewildered amazement. Jonny d’Ville is watching Nastya. She is looking for the skyline, trying to find something over the heads of the skyscrapers, towering into the mists.

A speaker overlooking the street crackles into life as they walk beneath it. It begins to chant, “Работник Енин! Работник Енин!” before Jonny puts a bullet through it. “It gives me the creeps,” he replies. “I liked it better the last time.”

Ashes coughs. There is something in the rain, or in the space between the rain, which is making even their mechanisms glitch. Jonny’s heart skips a beat, and when he glances at it he sees rainbow sheens running across its surface, breaking out to be kept in check by the device’s self-regulation. He frowns anyway.

“Nastya!” he calls out ahead, to the ghost flitting ahead in the clattering smog. “This place is no good. I say we leave as soon as. There’s nothing left to find here.”

But the ghost has vanished. Jonny sighs and presses on, Ashes close by his side, but she does not reappear. He quickens his pace. Still he cannot see her: they have passed two intersections where she could have turned off already. “Shit.” There is a dull rattle behind them, but it is only a bulkhead sagging with age. “Shit,” Jonny says again. He kicks at the rain.

“Yeah,” says Ashes. “I figure we just gotta wait for her to come back.”

In the end they wait until nightfall before tramping back to the shuttle. It has gone, the rain washing away even the rockets scorches. Jonny rages.

“Didn’t she tell you?” Brian asks Ashes, confused, when they radio Aurora. “She said she’ll be back in a while. She’s going to catch us up later, so she took the hauler. I assumed she’d at least told you two.”

“Nope.” Ashes can almost hear Brian raising his eyebrows in the slightest surprise.

“I’ll send the Baron to pick you up,” is all he says.