Book 3/Page 99/Transcript

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Freedom was in her ankles. That's where Lilith felt it most keenly. Her feet had been shackled for so long that being able to take full strides felt even better than flying.

So she stayed on the steel-plated floor, walking, crouching, peeking around corners with the pistol drawn. She remembered this place—not these exact floors, but the straightforward military floorplan of Comm Tower, the great central complex of Charlescomm. This was thirty-six, just east of main upshaft. Deep down and in. She'd never been this far down. She hadn't been allowed.

Some distant metallic booms and slams reverberated from high above. Likely they were locking down gates and hatches from the top down, cutting off her routes up and out. They wouldn't be worried about her escaping, since this was still Charlescomm's turn, and she had no move. They just wanted her contained.

Her plan was… nothing, other than to take down as many Charlescomm units as she could before they got her. She just kept advancing through the passages and hatchways, feeling the air kissing her bare ankles, looking for targets.

So far there had only been the one stray (besides the two Fox Forcers). These halls were empty, even quiet. They might be staying clear until they could rush her. Probably they were only being abundantly cautious and organized, because Charlie wanted her alive. She was sure he did.

Of course, it could just be that most of them didn't yet have clearance to come down to 36. Was Charlie back ondish yet? She had no way of knowing. She didn't know where Charlie was now, but he was certainly somewhere safe. She had missed the only chance at him that she was going to get.

And why? Her head swam, trying to make sense of it Things'd gotten crazy there. It was a big blur. Charlie had taken her over, she knew, and mostly taken her apart. Then Mistress Wanda (and …someone else) had seized her pieces and snapped her back together again. They'd freed her bonds, even repatriated her somehow. They had pushed her onto her feet and gotten her fighting.

But then… oh, what happened? When she'd had Charlie in her sights (Titans, he was hideous!), it seemed like… that Mistress Wanda had stopped Lilith from shooting. Hadn't she? It was the other one telling her to shoot. …Maggie, wasn't it? Yes, she thought so. Why would that be?

She shook her head violently, but nothing cleared, nothing fell into place.

Well. Before too much longer, she could ask the Titans for clarification. Lilith's Duty now was to be able to look those Titans in the eye. She had to do all the damage she could to her enemies, and not let herself be recaptured.

She was not worried about that last bit. She gripped her pistol tightly, leading with it to peek through another hatchway. All clear. This one connected to south mainway, so she moved forward a little more carefully.

The sidearms, wow. When she'd been a field unit for Charlescomm, there had been some rumors of a secret weapon, a Dollamancy or Weirdomancy item that was supposed to be like a crossbow that granted the archery special to whoever wielded it. Charlie was stockpiling these things against a time when he needed to suddenly triple his units' firepower.

It was one of many, many rumors about Charlie's future plans—"sister whispers" they called them—and it hadn't meant anything more to Lilith at the time than any other whisper she'd heard. Charlie was the Arkendish itself. Charlie was a fallen Titan. Charlie had a button to blow up the world. Charlie was master class in all branches of magic, including Retconjuration and three others nobody had ever heard of. Charlie had allies on the Moon. Charlie's personal equipment of manhood was so enormous that it occupied all of level 38 and 39 of Comm Tower.

She could now personally verify that last one was false. But the sidearms were real, and it seemed no longer so secret. She held the pistol, knowing that "pistol" was the name of this object despite never having been told. She knew how to load it, cock it, aim it, fire it. This one had six "rounds" remaining, and Fifinella's body had contained three more full clips of eight.

It was the most powerful weapon she had ever seen, and the assault rifle was several times more so. And if Charlie got even close to recapturing her, she intended to put this thing to her head and squeeze the trigger, praying the Titans for a crit. Duty demanded nothing less of her. She could even do it right now, as hopeless as her situation was looking. But there was still some good work left to do.

She froze. Voices drifted down to her ears from the south mainway ahead, but not many and not distinct. A triad, probably. With surprise and firepower on her side, she could take them. And this junction seemed like a nice spot for an ambush.

Lilith stepped back through the hatchway, holstering her pistol and trading up for the rifle. She'd have a clear shot and good cover from the hatch door. In her tactical crouch, she threw on a veil, blending into the door mechanism.

Then she took a relaxed aim, and waited.