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Authors: Glen Krisch

Arkadium Rising (35 page)

BOOK: Arkadium Rising
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"All right, that's it. That's all of them," Adam said. "Get it closed. Get it closed right now!" Pairs of men stood on either side of the twin doors, their hands resting on huge wheels. Upon Adam's word, they worked as efficient teams and cranked the wheels as hard as they could. No matter their efforts, the doors closed slowly, so slowly that the Anaki were now clearly visible as they marched down the bridge, now more than halfway across.

Marcus leaned over to catch his breath, but when he rested his left hand on his knee, jagged pain shot through his forearm. The blacked out skin of his arm was half again as big as it should have been. He'd broken a fair number of bones in his life, and this looked like another to add to the list.

The doors finally clanked shut, and then the men moved quickly to lower a heavy reinforcing bar into place. Torches hung from wall sconces, but with the windows and doors closed up tight, the dimensions of the wall's interior were lost in the gloom. Even still, it was much the same as he remembered it from during his time in training. Stone stairwells on either side of the doors led up to the narrow walkway ten feet off the ground. Every few paces along the walkway thin vertical bands of sunlight shone through the wall's narrow gun ports. Men with automatic rifles stood at the ports, awaiting orders. The interior space was really no more than a hallway path leading around the outer edge of the square fort.

"Marcus, that was one fine display. Your Sanctuary is well-earned."

"Thank you, Adam. I'm blessed to see you." Marcus fell to one knee in front of him.

Adam graced him with a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Rise; there is no need for such formality. It's remarkable that you've made it this far with so few…" he paused, "worthy members of your group remaining."

Marcus stood slowly, his swollen and battered arm clutched to his side, the same side as his crushed ribs.

"I'm afraid our work in Concord didn't go as planned. Survivors of the flood came after us. And that, really, was only the beginning. We've been picked off left and right ever since Election Day."

Adam let out a hearty laugh. "That's the nature of the world now, isn't it? That's how it should be."

"True enough. But we needed to regroup, and that's why we came here. We need to rest, to heal. Perhaps strengthen our numbers."

"Very well, but I'm afraid you've picked a bad time to come home," Adam said just as a violent pounding began on the other side of the twin doors. Jason jumped, but Adam and his people seemed unfazed, confident in the strength of their fortification. "We've heard that the Anaki were in the area, that they've decimated the surrounding communities for fifty miles or more."

"We've witnessed it firsthand. Most of the countryside has been emptied out. It's eerie. Whole towns are just… gone." Marcus didn't know if he wanted to embrace Adam or bash him in the face. "I thought the island was supposed to be off limits to the Cleansing."

"So did I."

Jason approached them. "Why would they leave you alone?"

"Well, that's just the way it's supposed to be." Adam gave him a scornful glance. "And who is this?"

"My brother Jason. Don't mind him."

"No, really, if the Anaki are meant to strip the land bare, to destroy any trace of man, why wouldn't they come here? I didn't think the Arkadium were supposed to rely on infrastructure."

Adam rolled his eyes. "We don't have time for philosophical arguments."

"There's no way they can get inside, is there?" Delaney asked.

"We're safe here. These walls have stood for centuries."

Adam looked toward a man lurking at the top of the stairwell, raised his index finger in the air, and twirled it in a circle. The man relayed Adam's command and a steady stream of gunfire exploded from the gun ports above them.

"It won't be long. Just a nuisance, really."

"Those Anaki freaks are a bit different than the Indians attacking your French brothers in the 1700s," Delaney said.

"Sure, but we're not using muskets, now are we?" Adam turned to Marcus. "We have a lot to talk about."

"Yes, we do. But do you mind if I get this set first?" Marcus winced as he raised his injured arm for Adam's inspection. When he got a good look at the distended limb his face blanched. "I'm pretty sure it's broken."

"Yes, I believe you're correct."

"I can set it," Mandy said.

"This is Mandy Miller, our healer. We wouldn't be here without her."

"Very good." Adam turned to one of the men manning the door wheel. "Travis! Show Miss Miller and Marcus to the infirmary."

"Can you find beds for my people?"

"We have room in the barracks. It's austere, but clean. Manuel!" he called out to another man who had closed the heavy twin doors. "Show the others to the barracks. You are all welcome here on Sanctuary Island. Marcus has secured your eternal safety. As long as this building stands, you will have shelter and food."

"Thank you, Adam." Marcus could feel the tension drain from him.

"No need to thank me, brother. Like you said, you fucking earned it. We can all regroup later, once you've rested up." Before anyone could say anything more Adam headed up the stairwell to the overhead walkway.

A man in his mid-twenties with sandy hair and a spray of freckles across his cheeks approached them from his location at the giant wheel. "Ready?" Travis asked.

Maybe it was the pain muddling his thoughts, but Marcus wanted to tell him to get away from this place. Get clear of the island and go anywhere else but here.

"More than ready," Marcus said.

"It's like fish in a barrel!" Adam said as he looked through one of the gun ports.

Delaney latched on to Marcus's good arm and rested her head on his shoulder as they followed Travis and Mandy. "I thought you weren't going to make it," she whispered through tears. "And don't you dare say 'it takes more than eight blood-thirsty killers to take me out.' If you say that I'm liable to take you out myself."

"I wasn't going to say a word, Deli. Not a word." She squeezed his arm. It felt good to have her close. They were like two puzzle pieces fitted perfectly together.

Travis lifted a heavy-looking iron latch on an equally imposing door. When he pulled the door open, painfully bright sunlight spilled into the narrow confines of the wall.

People of all ages, sexes, and races bustled about, a solid hundred or so from a rough count. The island had a lot more people than the last time Marcus had been here. He'd spent almost a year on Sanctuary Island just after he met Adam two years ago. That's when he learned about the One True Word. The Tree of Life. His secret avocation as a leader of men. And it's also when he learned to hone his fighting skills.

Some of the people carried supplies to the outer defensive wall. Others were rushing to harvest vegetables from a large greenhouse that sat along the courtyard's back wall. A few low-slung buildings of similar construction were spread out across an open, grassy courtyard. A four-story circular tower stood in the middle of the courtyard, an impenetrable-looking sandstone monolith.

"What is that tower?" Mandy asked Travis.

"That's the Great Keep."

"Is that where the infirmary is located?"

"No, we're heading over to that building." He pointed to a rectangular single-story stone building. It had a peaked roof covered in gray slate shingles, as did all the other interior buildings. The walls were equally divided between stacked stone below and glass windows above. The newer plate glass technology looked anachronous built into the centuries-old design, but the newer refinement would certainly let in more light, and would be needed during these days of no electricity.

"What goes on in the keep?" Delaney asked.

Marcus said, "Members of the Arkadium study and train in the upper levels of the Great Keep. This is where I… reformed, after I met Adam. This place saved me."

"And the ground floor?"

"That is where the Tree of Life is located. That's where we pray," he said. The pain in his arm was building, becoming almost blinding, and he had to speak through gritted teeth.

Everyone was silent the rest of the way. The interior of the infirmary was cool and dry and surprisingly bright. The walls were whitewashed and the floor was made of flat stone slabs. The narrow, open space had ten beds, five on either side of a central aisle.

Young men were in the three occupied beds. While two were asleep, the third watched them closely, curiously, as they entered. A healer was usually on duty at all times, but there was no one on hand at the moment.

"Where's Gary?" Travis asked.

Marcus noticed a washing area—a simple sink, assorted astringents and antiseptics, and scrub brushes—and hurried over to it and splashed water on his bloody face. He grabbed a sterile cloth from the supplies and soaked it in water from a sink's tap. He rubbed his mouth until the taste of blood was gone.

"I don't know," the young man replied. He wore a plain white undershirt and had a sheet pulled up to his armpits. He looked fit enough to at least reload any weapons on that wall that needed it. "When all the commotion started at the front of the fort, Gary took off. He told me to keep an eye on things. Like I can really do that in my condition."

"And what condition is that exactly?" Marcus tossed the bloody cloth aside.

"Come on, Marcus." Delaney urged him to follow Mandy to a supply cabinet in the back of the room. "Let's just get you patched up."

Marcus followed her, but continued, "You look fit enough to me. More well off than me, and I'm going up front just as soon as I get this bum arm set."

The young man gave him a snarky grin and then leaned back on his pillow. He yawned deeply and feigned sleep. His grin never left his lips.

Marcus wanted to smack the grin from his face, but knew there was no point.

"Looks like I have everything I need," Mandy said.

"I better get back to the front gate," Travis said.

"Good man!" Marcus said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. One of the sleeping men stirred, but didn't awaken.

When Travis closed the door, Mandy turned toward Marcus, a filled hypodermic needle in her hand. "Give me your arm."

"Marcus…?" Delaney said.

"What is that? Morphine?" Marcus asked, and his mind rushed with anticipation.

"You're going to need it. The pain of setting an ulna break is worse than the actual break. If I don't take the edge off, you might pass out because of it."

"Marcus?" Delaney said.

"Just this once, just to get me through the setting."

"Sure, but there's more if you need it," Mandy said, not grasping Delaney's concern. "This infirmary is fully stocked."

"You've done so well," Delaney said. "You don't need it. I know you don't." She took hold of his right hand, and he couldn't stand the pleading in her eyes.

He wanted to backhand her and jab the morphine himself. Instead, he took a deep breath. "No… no shot. Just, I don't know, get me some aspirin for after."

"You're sure?" Mandy asked.

"Yes," he said. Delaney's relieved expression almost made it worth missing out on getting high. Almost. "Now let's get this over with before I change my mind."

Mandy had Marcus place his palm flat against an examining table. Just straightening his fingers was agony.

"Delaney, I need you to hold him. I need to force the lower part of the ulna down and into place. He's liable to lash out."

"I won't do that," Marcus said, hoping to convince himself.

"Want me to help?" the young man said from his infirmary bed.

Marcus glared at him. "Fuck you. Get your beauty sleep."

"I can do it," Delaney said. If Mandy needed her to do something,
anything
, to help Marcus, Delaney would to her last breath. Marcus saw the belief in her eyes, the love, and it strengthened his own will to bear down and get through this. He placed his right arm flat against his side and then she wrapped her arms around his waist, ready to hold him in place no matter what.

"Come on, let's get this over with!"

"All right, here we go…" Mandy gently touched the bump pressing against his swollen skin. He didn't want to believe that was the edge of his bone, but it was. He looked away and tried to step out of his body, to let the pain flow into the empty shell, and just let it wash over him. He took a deep breath. Mandy pressed harder, articulating the edges of the bone with her fingers. "This will be a piece of cake. On the count of three…"

"I love you, Deli," Marcus said.

"One…"

"I've always loved you…"

"Two… three!" Mandy manipulated the broken bone, and the open nerve endings of each separate shattered edge grated against one another. It was like adrenaline-soaked napalm dropped into his bloodstream. It was like the roughest cut of H he ever injected into his body—an H and Drano cocktail, sure to leave you drooling and brain dead.

Heat, fire, open, unending agony.

"That's it, Marcus! We're done… We're done!"

His head swam and he felt light headed as his senses seeped away from consciousness.

He willed himself to remain upright, at least as long as it took to find a place to sit…

"Here, sweetie, here's a bed." Delaney guided him to the nearest bed, and he followed her steady direction. "You did great…" she said and kissed the top of his head. "So great."

He looked up from the stone slab floor. Saw movement swirling in the background. The young man had pulled a duffle bag out from under his bed. He was rifling through an open pocket. Pulled something out from inside. Placed it on top of his head. Something black.

That fucker isn't even hurt, is he?
he thought.
Just some chickenshit…

The young man from the infirmary bed casually approached the sleeping man in the next bed and slit his throat.

"Del…" he said weakly.

"Shh… it's okay. Aspirin's coming." She patted his hair.

The young man lowered his Anaki mask over his face, and then slit the throat of the other sleeping man. He then charged down the aisle at them.

"Deli, look out…!" he finally said. He shoved her aside, too hard, and she tumbled over the bed on the other side of the aisle, where she collided against the wall. She sat dazed for a moment before she realized what was happening.

BOOK: Arkadium Rising
13.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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