Another crash shook the dome, and this time Angida extended an arm to the catwalk’s railing to steady himself. This jolt came with orange light, though, and moments later a blast of distant heat. It came from the east, and when Angida looked that way he saw a sizable detonation of fire, steel and glass rubble falling from the dome into the city below. As he watched, a dark-bodied helicopter – one of his Z-19 Black Whirlwinds – fired another missile from where it hovered between the city and the dome, punching a hole through the glowing barrier from inside.
Angida straightened. “Hm.” The detonations were not too near any of the operations platforms, and were over a less-populated part of the city, so immediate casualties were likely negligible.
He turned and paced back toward the platform he had just vacated. The annoyance on his features had softened and sunk beneath his skin, now visible only by the tightness of his lips and his eyelids sinking low over his eyes. On the platform, the soldiers had changed from a relaxed pose to a more ready but equally useless one. The engineers, however, were very busy over their workstations.
The giant demon Marduk surged westward through the sky, emitting a long, earthy sound as it went. The demons covering its body made shrill noises, happy and eager, their bleak gazes transfixed on the hole in the dome.
Angida didn’t have to speak. As soon as he set foot on the platform, an engineer with thick fingers and a round face shouted at him. “There’s a hole in the dome! We need to get some patches in place before the demons get to it!”
“Yes. That’s your job, isn’t it?” Angida looked at each of the soldiers in turn, pointing toward the gap in the dome even as the helicopter that had ripped it open flew through it into open air. “Go.” At that single word, the soldiers ran onto the catwalks, weapons in hand. The engineers shouted back and forth at each other, speaking into microphones to the other platforms, frantic.
Watching them with disinterest, Angida brought his thin, black-gloved hand up near his face. He pressed his opposite fingertips to the underside of a metal gauntlet on his wrist, watching a lighted display flicker at him before he spoke into it. “This is Vice-Chairman Anvidya. All surface defense canons, activate and target Marduk’s head. Use the lowest range and yield weapons available. Remember that we are not capable of hurting him. Just get some smoke in his eyes. However, do not miss any shot you choose to take. Those with poor aim will be reprimanded.” A din of affirmation erupted from his gauntlet, and immediately the dome began to creak with the sound of pivoting guns. Angida took a single breath before going on. “Soldiers manning the dome, get as close to the hole as possible and shoot anything that comes in. Patrols in the area of the Shuizhui depression congregate beneath the incident. Kill and collect every demon. Do not let any evade you.”
Already, small winged demons from Marduk’s body that had first taken to the sky and flown ahead of it, threw themselves through the hole into the city. The soldiers he’d sent ahead opened fire on them, rending their bodies, but allowing them to fall broken to the ground below. If not collected and contained, the demons would heal and return to life. No matter how small or weak a demon was, they were all immortal, and even a single demon inside the city could do incredible damage if it was clever and patient enough.
An alarm went off through the city, a shrill siren that shook the gray, battered buildings and the dilapidated roads far below. The canons that sat on the outside of the dome came to life with concussive blasts, the slam of metal and the hiss of rockets. Gleaming projectiles ripped through the brown clouds outside of the city and slammed against Marduk’s shell. Missiles detonated over its featureless head. The giant demon ignored them, flying eastward, though smaller demons fell from its body temporarily dead.
Angida twisted his hand and moved his fingers, the displays on his wrist changing. He spoke again, “I have a question for you, Réveil.”
A woman’s voice replied from the gauntlet immediately. “I’m sorry! Someone stole one of the Black Whirlwinds. I don’t know how this happened.”
“Your apology is not encouraging. I will make note of your ignorance.” He watched as more soldiers arrived at the hole in the dome just in time to join in the slaying of even more demons. Dozens of winged bodies of all sizes punched through the hole. No human casualties yet, though. “Réveil, why did someone just flee the city in one of my helicopters?”
“I don’t know. I’m trying to find out.”
“I expect you to know very soon. Do not make me inquire with other parties.” He twisted his wrist and the display went dark, his gauntlet silent.
The Dusty Man, book one of the Ruin of the Fifth World, is available for pre-order on Amazon. Get the pre-order for the special price of only $0.99, and read it when it releases on May 15th!