The badge was new as the young pilot removed it from the collar of his chestnut leather jacket. Slightly warm, too, the heat of the engravings still glowing from under his touch. A smirk graced his lips as he set it aside on the console of his airship. He knew this would happen. Join the airforce and within a month he'd get promoted to the elite squad. Captain Gil Hawkes, himself of the Argentum air force, had told him personally that he had high expectations for the young pilot. Of course, with a high status came the high ranked missions. He just never would have expected a mission like this.
The badge glimmered as the sun's rays caressed each gold encrusted ridge of the silver medal. The silhouette of the oncoming city was visible against the glorious faded pinks, pastel oranges, and lavenders of the sunset painting the sky. He sure as hell never saw quite a view like this back home. Such a shame that in the course of a few months, smoke and a raging fire will be the only thing visible against the sky's natural work of art. And it would be his doing. How exciting to image. How enthralling the view would be to see plumes of smoke and burning crimsons and gold rising from the once "pristine" and "magnificent city." It made him gag. A little bile rising up to the back of his throat at the thought. Gold, the city was anything but gold.
It deserved to be swallowed by the mouth of hell and greeted personally by the Devil himself. And he would be delighted to provide the escort.
The grip on her wrists became tighter, the man's palms sweating slightly at the force. She felt her arms twitch as the adrenaline coursed through her veins.
"Breaking and entering. Robbing a considerable amount of jewelry and troys..." The Captain continued with his absurd list, naming actions she's performed in the past as well as currently.
"That's quite a long list, how is it that I'm only in your custody now?" She smirked, puffing her chest as best she could against the restraint of the sweaty rook behind her.
The Captain raised an eyebrow, clearly unamused, and lowered his hand to palm the gun protruding from his holster. She eyed the weapon and closed her mouth with an audible click.
"You're an especially slippery character, Miss Forger. I'm surprised and slightly honored to have you in our custody at the moment." He smirked and continued to read aloud the list of law-breaking actions she's had the pride in committing.
At the moment? She caught those three little words trailing at the end of his sentence and smirked. Is that why they had her wrists bound with another man's flesh and not the unforgiving ice-cold brass of the handcuffs? Rolling her eyes as the list continued, she was becoming bored with the Captain's attempts of filthy honor in which he held his most wanted target captive. However, the time he seemed to be stalling gave her a chance to observe the environment around her—and the easy access escape route up to the roof above them. If she could only make it to that rusty ladder on her left...
"And finally, theft from this abandoned building." He ended and smiled up to her, "You must have been busy over the past few weeks."
She felt a smile tug at the corner of her lips, "Alright Quinn, what's the damage this time?" She asked.
The man lowered his gaze to the list in his hands and hummed, "A five hundred troy fine." He smiled while stroking the calico scruff patching his chin and jawline.
"What?!" Her eyes widened as she jerked forward, the man holding her wrists pulling her back forcefully, "You know I can't afford that!"
The Captain smirked, "I know you can with all the valuables you've stolen, which is why it's a completely fair deal. I could have you in jail for four to five years as an alternative."
She felt her heart start to pound in her chest as pure panic seeped through the uninterested mask she wore for illusion. She glanced back quickly at the rusty and unstable ladder hanging from the side of the building, her instincts screaming at her to run. She forced her breath to calm herself as the Captain continued to grin at her as though he had won this round. She scowled back, her fists balling within the grasp of the rookie behind her.
"So what'll it be, Miss Forger? I'll even be the good guy and allow you to choose this time."
She allowed a smile to slip as she spat at the Captain, the ball of saliva hitting his cheek. His form didn't flinch as he kept the same smile, his eyes narrowing to her.
"Alright, you wanna do it that way, huh?" He nodded to the man holding her wrists behind her to follow him, "Five years in prison it is!"
They began walking out from the alley between the abandoned building and a residential house, the man behind her pushing her to follow the Captain as well. Keeping that ladder in sight, she stopped abruptly, causing the rookie to bump against her back. As soon as she felt the contact, she raised a foot to stomp on his with the heel of her boot. The man flinched and let out a cry of pain, but kept a hand on her wrist. She turned swiftly to swat a fist at his nose with her free hand, all while kicking his knees out from under him. She heard the bone under her fist crunch as the man doubled over in pain, both of her wrists now free from his grasp.
Before the Captain could turn to order more men after her, she sprinted to the awaiting ladder. The rusted metal hung a few feet from the ground, challenging her adrenaline to hoist her from the ground; her hands took a hard grasp on the last bar. The ladder shook violently from the sudden tension of her weight, but she sucked in a breath and began to climb.
The outraged voices of the Captain and rookies now yelling at her feet enforced her to grin uncontrollably as she reached for the top of the building, swinging her body over and onto the roof. She panted as she peered over the edge, watching the men scatter and scream at each other for letting her go.
"Must be a new record!" She called down to them. The Captain looked back up to the voice and scowled at her, "Almost had me for twenty minutes there!" She smirked down at the enraged man.
"I'll get you someday, Forger! And next time, you'll be in a cell for the rest of your goddamn life!"
She snickered at the man's ballooning face and saluted to the enraged captain before ducking beyond the ledge. Her feet carried her swiftly across the roof, leaping gracefully to the next. The evening air carried a breeze that sent a chill up her spine, the wind raking its fingers through her curled and cut hair as she spread her arms like wings. Running with the authorities on her back always gave the perfect amount of energy to her demanding body and conscious. A little adventure and risk was all she needed to plaster a smile on her face and reward her with a frolic across rooftops and a glorious sunset painted as a background.
She heard the whistle a few seconds later. Turning her attention behind her, she saw the white steam of the boiling water just a few miles behind. The train was moving fast, however, despite the groaning strain of the couple hundred years making up the transportation device. She calculated its route to the downtown area of the city. She would need to move as far as possible from Quinn and his rooks, if they were still bothering to chase her.
A sickening feeling confirmed her statement as she remembered that the authority's forces had been more active recently. Just a few weeks ago she noticed the rise in numbers of Quinn's troops around the city, making it that much harder for her to perform her acts without being caught. She had been doing considerably well, until today obviously.
The whistle knocked her from her stupor once more as the train approached. Her form perched from the roof's ledge, ready to pounce. She counted silently to herself, the wheels of the train screeching as it sped up.
She gripped the roof's gutter as her feet pushed off, "One!"
A tuck and a roll had landed her just on the edge of a train car's roof. A wide grin graced her lips as she regained her balance, hands firmly bracing herself on the structure of a steam vent. The train continued its venture as if no one had stolen a free ride; the tracks it followed splitting it's way through the center of the city.
Plumes of hot steam continued its steady eruption from the train's exhaust system. The wind wove itself through her hair, combing and pulling it this way and that as the racks turned right and into the South Valley of the city of Aestor. Passing the Poor District once again, she looked on with a wariness. Quinn would probably still be looking for her, searching every alley and rooftop with those directionless rooks of his. Their eyes bugged and blind at an attempt to please their Captain. As long as they tried, she supposed they weren't all too bad at their jobs. Another cloud of steam had drifted her way after catching a gust and her gaze averted the crumbling corner of the city.
A chill ran up her spine, causing her heart to thump harder as it always does when the Center District begins to fill the horizon. The city never glowed, never shone, never sparkled in the rising sun. The buildings never sang with a homely chorus while the streets never laughed with unabashed joy. They did, however, charm its inhabitants and visitors. The brass scarred and rusted. The buildings withering away in the harsh acidic rains. But the city was beautiful nonetheless. Vast and towering structures pointed up to the clouds, to the northern hemisphere where airships travel to and fro. Where balloons dared to venture to great heights, observing the brass city below.
She became nostalgic upon remembering climbing aboard one of the netted balloons as a child. Gazing down at the triangular walls separating the districts and bustling life from the valleys of the surrounding mountains. The mountains themselves and the land beyond the walls, unfortunately were not much to gaze at. The ground was cracked; the same dusted brown she had seen only a decade ago up in that hot air balloon. She remembers stories about how there was a drought that lasted summer after summer, forcing the growing city inside the walls as the citizens hoarded water and what food they managed to take away from the scorching heat. She remembers the trees and plants slowly withering away and being replaced with robust brass tubes and thin delicate brass wires. Emerald glass hanging from the branches of the flimsy and odd looking vegetation, acting as leaves nature had failed to regrow in the years prior to her birth. It was a peculiar beauty, the glass glowing under the setting sun each evening as it would also catch each beam of light from air ships floating above.
Her ears rang again as the train's whistle alerted the crowds awaiting and bustling at the station just a mile or so ahead. She flexed her hand upon the railing she had been clutching to for the ride, eyes on an alley just before the station. After the stunt she had pulled in the Poor District, she had no doubt that Quinn's men had sent messages along the Districts with her name as the key word. The Captain was a pain in her ass, but always a few steps ahead of her if she wasn't careful.
The train began to chug along slower now, the worn tracks clicking underneath and steam coming in bursts from the exhaust beside her. She took the chance to hide herself form within the thick cloud of steam and jumped from the roof just as the train pulled into the station. Her boots met the ground with an angry thud, her balance wobbling as she stumbled into the crowds of people boarding off and onto the train, just barely missing the line of sight of a close officer. Keeping a hand on the pouch of troys she was able to sneak along her belt, she snuck between groups of people huddled around.
They all seemed to be pointing to the airships coming into the ports just along the corners of all three Districts. One of the airships, she was able to glimpse at from the corner of her eye, looked slightly different than the others. It might have been her imagination or a ray of sun catching the trimming along the ship, but she could make out faint hints of silver. Again, it could have just been her imagination.
Someone from Argentum would have to be completely insane to fly over, let alone land, in Aestor during the cold war the two cities seemed to have plunged themselves into. She didn't know the details of the cold war and conflicting situation, but was familiar with the conservation of the city's prized metal. Brass was forged but limited in its use over the past several months. It was a war effort to diminish an individuals use of the material as to keep it out of the hands of Argentum spies and forces.
It was rumored among street-goers that the rivaling silver city had figured out how to combine their metal and brass and desired to melt Aestor into their forging fires to create a new metal. That's why Quinn used his rook and not his own cuffs she's felt countless times, suffocating her wrists all while making her feel like a caged animal. The forces were on high alert. The citizens were on high alert. Herself? If it kept Quinn off her case she was almost thankful for the conflict.
A foot plants itself in front of her, out of nowhere and she trips again. Stumbling as she falls to the ground, stones meeting her hands and knees and scraping the dirty skin through her gloves and tattered pants. Her heart skipped a beat as shoes and bodies moved around her, her eyes constantly spotting the reflection of herself in those goddamn black dress shoes of the officers. One pair of feet does stop in front of her and kneels, reaching for the spilled troys now littering the area around her.
"Lottie, my goodness, girl. I thought you were the smoothest thief in the city and here I am watchin' you trip over your own feet!"
She chuckled and allowed the person to grab her arm and help her to her feet, pulling them towards the alley in the process. Myra, of course she was watching her from the alley. Her brilliant blue eyes seeing all against the contrast of her tanned skin. Watching as her foot had caught a crack in the stones and had sent her flying forward and sending her day's prize under the crowd's feet. Nobody had hesitated to pick up a troy or two for themselves, the greedy bastards.
"So, you gonna get in there and take some of that back? Lottie? That's your prize for the day isn't it?"
Lottie scoffed under her breath, crossing her arms as she watched the crowd of people swarm around the spilt currency. The sun had just disappeared behind the mountains beyond the walls, the emerald glass beginning to twinkle in the streetlights. The train huffed back to life again, the thick white steam pouring from the pipes jutting out of the car roofs.
"Let them keep it." Lottie smiled, "Hell knows they need it more than I do."
About the Creator
Young, living - thriving? Writing every emotion, idea, or dream that intrigues me enough to put into a long string of words for others to absorb - in the hopes that someone relates, understands, and appreciates.