There was nothing to throw at it and break it open, and last she checked the windows lining the spires dotting the illuminated City of Jade Spires were fairly dense to ward off the powerful winds that swept through the high reaches.
She pulled the Equalizer from its holster and shot two aether rounds at the window in front of them. The report from the explosion ripped through her eardrums.
The Constellation guard shouted at them to stop as the violet fire of aether collided with the glass and began to erode the material. It spread from the center like an angry wound that grew larger by the second. Holly swore she could hear him grabbing his own gun as her boots carried her toward the gaping maw.
Snow blasted into the room, pushing her back and pelting her in the face like tiny whips, sending a stinging shock through her cheeks. Her eyes watered, her cheeks froze, and still she forced herself to sprint away from one danger toward another.
“Both options suck, Odeon,” she said. “But let’s go!”
Odeon hesitated for a moment and glanced at her. His eyes flashed and a smiled formed.
“This is the life, though, isn’t it?” he said, squaring his shoulders. He knew what was coming next.
“What’s happening, Ms. Drake?” Shiro asked and her heart caught at the worry in his tone. She had no time to catch him up on the unfurling madness. He would just have to trust her—trust her to make the best choice to keep herself alive, to ensure that she’d find herself in his arms once again.
A spike of desire flashed though her gut like lightning at the memory of being with him, at the promise of being with him again.
Holly glanced back at the idiot guard, saw him juggling the aether gun and fighting against the wind blustering in through hole in the window.
“Go,” she said to Odeon. “I’m right behind you. I’ll follow you. I promise.”
“Keep yourself alive. Keep Holly alive, Odeon. We need her, our fearless crew leader.” Shiro’s voice was a plea over the comm The use of her first name ignited those flames in her torso once again. He was going to give them away—the rest of the crew would guess and she didn’t want that yet.
The magic of his need for her kept her sharp—to know that he still wanted her, that he respected her leadership, and that he hadn’t merely jumped away from her after sealing that deal as she’d secretly feared…
Ixion’s shadow, she still wanted him.
She blinked against a sharp gust that pushed her back, her stomach in her throat. Holly gripped the jagged edge of the remaining window frame. It looked like acid had corroded it, but there was no aether left to do further damage.
Without another word, Odeon jumped through the window. Her heart leapt into her throat. She swallowed it down.
Behind her, the guard yelled curses after them as he moved into the wind, approaching her. She aimed her aether gun back at him.
“Back off or I’ll shoot,” she shouted to be heard over the roaring wind.
He stopped, but didn’t lower the barrel of his gun.
“It’s a draw, then!” he shouted.
“No. It’s not. I’m not afraid to kill. I’ve done it before. Are you afraid to kill?” She cocked her head to the side. It was a bluff, but he wouldn’t know. She had killed, but she had no wish to do it again.
From the flinch rippling across his face Holly suspected he never had and didn’t want to. Instead, he began calling her every insult in the book as well as the Official Collection of Constellation Insults, a Primer and Encyclopedia for the Curious (if that wasn’t a book, it should be, Holly scoffed).
Her ears burned.
“All right, I get the point, asshole. You don’t like me. Here’s an easy fix,” she said, taking one last look over her shoulder. She flashed the moron a smirk just as a blossom of violet fire erupted from the barrel of his aether gun.
“Whoa,” she muttered and jumped. “I guess he did have it in him to kill.”
Heat lashed against her left shoulder as she fell into the winds and flying snow. This could be incredibly dangerous, she realized as she turned herself into a falling, human-shaped dart. Below her, Odeon pelted toward one of the sky bridges connecting spire tops. She pushed herself, adjusting her shape like a sail, to get in line with him.
Ignoring the heart of fear pounding in her throat, Holly squinted against the tears pooling in her eyes and slipping out through the corners. Her face turned to a mask of ice. The black knit cap hugging her skull was ripped away in the lashing wind.
“Go for the bridge, Holly!” Odeon’s voice came in her ear over the comms.
She agreed silently.
There really was no time to get her bearings—it was a moment of survival as she forced herself to forget about rational thought and just do.
“Pull your chute, Odeon!” she shouted. He was so close to the bridge, would his parachute have time to break his fall?
Snow flew up her nose. Her eyelids were cold. Everything that could freeze had frozen on her body, she would swear it.
Time to pull my own chute, she told herself, as Odeon’s chute exploded like an orange flower below her.
She held her breath and yanked on the cord, hoping against hope that it would burst open and break her fall before she turned into a pink dot on the skybridge below her.
Odeon alighted on the bridge, his feet tracing lines of tracks in the snow and Holly breathed a sigh of relief. She aimed to land on the same bridge as the winds pulled her back away from it. She kept her eye on her Yasoan crewmate as he fought against the wind that refused to let up. His chute was still open, and then without warning, it was suddenly ripped away on the unrelenting wind and tossed against a nearby spire.
Holly still hadn’t landed. The blustering winds swirled around her.
“Odeon!” she shouted.
“I’m coming,” he called as he caught himself. Without the chute still connected to him, he was no longer being thrown around like a plaything.
Holly strained. Her feet were so close, she was almost touching down.
Odeon sprinted through the snow toward her, his hand stretched out to her.
If she didn’t drop to the bridge now, she’d be thrown back out into the chasm between spires. The storm, somehow, was picking up in intensity.
“I’m breaking free!” She punched the chute release, having used the same chutes before—something Macav Onini sold them for jobs like this one. It didn’t release. “It must be frozen!”
Real panic formed at the edge of her sanity. Shit. Shit. Was this the end for her? Her life began to flash before her eyes.
Bull shit, she thought, and punched the chute release harder. It was positioned over her sternum so it was like slugged herself in the chest.
Still nothing. The release mechanism wasn’t responding.
One more time. Finally, the bastard popped free.
And so did Holly.
In the moment that the release button had been jammed, she’d floated back over the banister lining the skybridge.
Now she was falling to her death. It all had happened so suddenly.
Odeon’s hand connected with her outstretched arm, gripping her wrist tightly.
“Hold still, Holly,” he said, calmly. His voice pierced through the noise of the storm.
Holly’s breath came in short bursts. Indeed, she almost couldn’t breathe. So many close calls. So much danger. Shiro was right to worry. What sort of lover could she be, always on the brink of death?
She wasn’t even out of danger.
“Slowly give me your other hand,” Odeon said.
She obeyed, aware of just how precarious his balance was, of just how easily she could slip from his grip and fall. Her hand was gloved. His hands, at least, were not covered in gloves. She lifted her hand until his other snaked out quickly and latched onto her other wrist.
And just like that he’d pulled her up and dragged her over the banister.
Odeon wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her tight. Holly collapsed into him, beginning to relax, thinking they had time to discuss what their next move was.
And then the bridge exploded beside her. She ducked on instinct as aether blossomed through the snow, tile, and concrete of the bridge.
“Run,” she said. Above them, the idiot Constellation stood in the gaping maw that they’d left in the spire to escape the Megaron building. He kept firing at them.
They had no choice but to keep running.