With all the strength he could muster, he grabbed Athellus by the back of his jacket and shoved him across to the right side of the foyer, tripping in the process. The two of them slid across the floor, crashing into the opposite wall. A second later – just as Dax pulled his feet after him – a black marble column dropped from the ceiling and ground into the floor where they had been standing, sending chips of stone into the air and trapping the writhing cables underneath it. Not all were trapped, though. One uncoiled and sprang towards them –

Bang!

Athellus had held onto his gun and shot the cable mid-air. It fell back, crackling with electricity, as he got to his feet. More columns were dropping now, plunging from the tangle of machinery in the roof, as if being fired downwards like pistons. And towards the end of the corridor, Dax saw that thicker, paler cables were falling, dropping around Kaire’s feet in a flurry of sparks. They reared up in front of her like snakes.

Come on, Dax willed her, fight them! Fight back! One slash from her forespines would leave them in twitching pieces on the floor. But Kaire didn’t move. She simply watched as they rose up before her.

Athellus shot another cable. “Dax, we have to go!

“I’m not leaving without Kaire!”

“We have to! This is what we came for!”

What?”

One of the cables rearing up in front of Kaire broke open at one end, revealing an appendage like an organic fan. It was dripping something, some sort of conductive fluid. Then, in a flash, it lunged forward and slapped around Kaire’s hands, binding them together and winding over and over itself. The other cables began breaking open, revealing the same appendages.

Kaire raised her head and met Dax’s eye.

“Go,” she said. There was a smile on her face that might have seemed gentle and innocent, but for the steel and ice that lay underneath it. “This is my concern.”

And then one of the cables lunged towards her back. Dax saw her jerk, heard something tear wetly, and saw a mouthful of blood begin to seep over her lips. Her expression never changed – that was the last thing he saw before a third cable slapped across her face, covering her eyes, mouth and nose.

Even then he might have run to save her, but for Athellus yanking him towards the archway. Then they were outside again, both gasping for air after their ordeal. Dax managed to lift his head and saw that the organic machinery knotted around the base of the Tower was now glowing steadily, getting brighter and brighter as if fresh energy was coursing through them. With a sick wrench in his stomach, he thought of how, deep in the rooms and corridors of that place, this Librais now had Kaire trapped... and her partner had just stood there and let it happen.

 

 

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