Previously: “Prometheus had clawed through the walls of Fortress City - not an outcome we'd expected when we confronted John Kirkham. The future of the city was hanging in the balance.”
Part 46: Sky Spiders Ex Machina
The ground shook as Prometheus ploughed through the buildings of Fortress City. Its impassive face - a perfect likeness of John Kirkham's golden mask - bobbed over chimneys and rooftops as they collapsed into a rising cloud of dust. Behind it, Kirkham's hot air balloon rose into the air, its burner flickering against the dull fabric of the envelope.
Una and I turned to flee from the half-ruined cottage. And right in front of us, Remus' glassy Sky Spider automaton stepped into existence, as if rounding an invisible corner. Its huge, inhuman hands rested on the shoulders of a stocky woman in faded military fatigues, looking rather bemused.
“Sigrid!” I exclaimed.
She grimaced a greeting as the automaton faded away behind her. “Some airy-fairy pretty boy - or maybe it was a woman - snatched me off that rusty old ship and told me you two were in trouble.”
Una shrugged. “Oh, you know: same old, same old.”
Sigrid's eyes widened as she saw Prometheus tearing through mouldy, smog-blackened brickwork to reach us. “I don't see what I can do to help, save give you some company on the passage to the hereafter. Shouldn't we be running?”
“Have you ever shot down a balloon?” I asked.
Sigrid shrugged. “There's a first time for everything. Can I have that rifle?”
I handed Sigrid the rifle Una had borrowed from a deserting soldier, and she immediately dropped to one knee, sighting down the length of the barrel. I was about to say something when she fired. Una and I both jumped.
“Damn it,” Sigrid muttered, and started adjusting the little metal sight at the end of the barrel. “Who was supposed to be looking after this thing?”
Una said, “I got the impression its previous owner wasn't too interested in maintaining his equipment.”
Sigrid pressed the stock to her shoulder again. “Well it's a crying shame.”
Straight ahead, the row of dilapidated houses across the street parted like a veil of filthy mist before Prometheus' clattering, arthropodal legs. Sigrid barely seemed to notice.
She fired. The basket of the hot air balloon suddenly erupted into a shower of flames, disintegrating and dropping detritus onto the rooftops below.
“Shot the fuel tanks,” Sigrid yelled, over the avalanche of footsteps that heralded Prometheus' advance. “Now let's run like mad.”
She immediately sprinted towards the door, only to be thrown back into the room when one of Prometheus' peculiar electric blue missiles struck the side of the cottage. Another hit the wall with the collapsed, gaping window, and the whole rotten building began slowly to topple forwards.
I grabbed Una as she grabbed me, and bricks began to rain down around us.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Next week: We've been sure that it really must be it for our heroes enough times before, but now, surely, it really, really must be all over for our heroes next week! There's no surviving the merciless point-blank assault of Prometheus! Check back in a week's time for the next instalment of Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders!