by Chris Henry
It erupted beyond the gates; fire set the sky ablaze and the shockwave followed shortly after. The sound was deafening. A cloud of dust pushed by the blast rolled over the blockade. Grit bit and stung their faces. Dieb grabbed the rosewood revolver, leveled it and squeezed the trigger. He’d never been much for quick draw, and guns in general were never a forte, but the rosewood revolver felt natural, and traveled cleanly. The hammer cocked, then fell, and the world exploded again. The revolver jumped and barked, and a 125 grain hollow point left the barrel, traveled six feet, and staved in the Thin Cop’s skull. His head snapped back at an inhuman speed, bits of brain and bone and blood fanned out behind him in a bright cloud.
The Fat Cop stood with his mouth agape. Dieb lunged forward and shoved the barrel into his maw. “You’re coming,” he hissed and pushed him towards the gates and the burning sky. Most of the blockade had scattered away from the blast. A few of them knew what it meant and were heading off to prepare for what came next. Others simply ran out of fear. The ones that remained stared at Dieb, guns trained. He spun the Fat Cop around and pressed the revolver to his jaw. “Back up!” he barked. Fat Cop nodded vigorously and the others lowered their guns.
Dieb pushed him through the gate towards City Hall. Even in the dark the plume was visible in the sky, obscuring the usual bright lights of the Tracks. Fat Cop was becoming agitated the closer they got to City Hall. The smoke stayed in front of them the entire trip. It was obvious the source of the fire was City Hall itself. Flames licked the night sky, smoke curled its way up to the scant stars, and the sound of collapsing rubble had reached a crescendo. The proud statue out front was marred by the blast and caked in soot. Dieb stood there gobsmacked, running his options through his mind, when Fat Cop broke free.
He ran towards the rubble shouting, “No no no no”, and collapsed into the heap. He began to tear at it with his bare hands, heaving stones and concrete slabs to the side. Dieb pursued, but pulled up and stared. Years of scavenging had taught him only two kinds of people risk scraping through burning rubble: the mentally unhinged, or people who know there’s something so important they’d risk it all. He moved closer and watched for a moment or two. The cop dug for a few more minutes before he slumped to the ground and looked around forlornly. Dieb stood beside him and watched the fire burn and wondered if Jack and the rest were somewhere under this rubble.
Metal scraped on stone, and the fat cop came up swinging a piece of rebar he’d wrenched from the rubble. His face was twisted in rage or grief or fear, the firelight ran wild on the lines of his face. Dieb brought the revolver up, but it was swatted from his hand and clattered into the stone pile. Felt like he might’ve broken something, it hurt too much to make a fist. He swung the bar again, but Dieb stepped inside the arc and blocked it. The bar went sailing, and Dieb brought his head down fast against the bridge of the cop’s nose. It burst like an overripe melon. The cop reeled back and blood ran down his face. He slumped back down to the rubble and held his face in his hands. Dieb scanned the ground for the revolver.
“Looking for something?” called a familiar voice. Dieb turned and found Dingo as he picked his way through the rubble. He wore armour with a red streak of paint across the POLICE lettering; a shotgun rested in the crook of his arm. Dieb looked at him quizzically.
“Latest insurrection fashion,” Dingo chided. “Saw the fire and some of the lads thought it might be time for a little scuffle. Dusted up some of the more confused officers.”
“What’s going on out there?” he asked.
“Bit of anarchy it seems. The police aren’t sure what’s what. Thought I’d come looking for you.” Dingo eyed the wounded officer, then turned to Dieb with a puzzle look.
“If you say so,” and turned his eye to the rubble that surrounded them. “Any sign of Jack and the rest?”
“Bring a shovel?”
“… Fair point.” Dingo sounded dejected. “Pops won’t be happy. Look, we better get outta here.”
“I’m not going back.”
“South, I guess. I hear it’s warmer there.” He turned and headed back towards the slums, away from the burning mess of the Tracks. “You coming or not?”
“Right,” Dingo sighed, “sorry, boss.”