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The storm raged, seeking to dislodge her with angry waves that crashed over her tiny island, threatening to carry her away and pull her under but Wyn held on, unwilling to surrender. The mast strained under her grip, bending until the metal warped and bolts came close to shearing, but it refused to break, as determined as the woman lashing herself to it with cables to not go quietly.

Lightning flashed across the sky revealing the oceanic expanse of cresting waves and spray whipped up by a wind given free rein. Thunder rattled Wyn’s brain, stunning her into relaxing her grasp seconds before a mighty wave crashed into the tower shaking its foundations. It swept across the concrete platform knocking Wyn from her feet and tearing her away from the mast, carrying her to the edge. A cable snapped tight around her left wrist, cutting into flesh. Wyn screamed as another bolt of lightning lit up the sea, giving shape to the forms swimming beneath the surface.

Wyn dangled off the side, suspended by the cable, her trapped hand the only thing holding her back and stared in horror at the naked bodies lifted by the swell. The surface coming back up to swallow her and the swimmers surrounded her, pawing at her body with cold flat hands. Voices filled her ears, some she knew and called out for, but others were strangers, demanding she let go, that she give in.

A face came close, worn smooth by time but her eyes were Wyn’s, having stared down at her as she took her first breath.

“Mum?” Wyn swallowed water, filling her lungs as she shouted, not caring that her body was surrendering, that the sea was claiming its last victim all she wanted was to be returned to her mother’s embrace.

The swell lifted her up dumping her back on the tower before retreating. Wyn clawed at the cable straining for the receding wave, fighting to be free, to return to the water. A flash of light and Wyn saw her again, the wave carrying her away. She pulled at the knot, biting and clawing, bruising her flesh and tearing at the skin but it refused to release her. The mast bent under her weight, and she crawled to the edge stretching her free hand down to the water, hands coming up to meet hers, but the swell ended out of reach.

Thunder drowned out Wyn’s cries, and the storm fed on her despair.

 

The dome of heaven was all blue but for the centre where the sun shone brightly. A vista that stretched on all sides to the horizon and the band of grey concrete that was now a sea wall.

Wyn turned her head, too tired to sit up. Dawn had come and gone, the winds fading away and the rain ending. She had watched the clouds recede and the sun climb into the sky, expecting to find the ruined sector still there, but the emptiness threatened to break her. Not a single tower remained apart from her own. A patch of roof, a few square metres of dry land.

Wyn got to her feet, crying out as she put weight on her wrist. The cable had scored a deep groove and crushed something important. She cradled her hand as she walked to the edge of the roof and stared down at the clear water. Blinded by the sunlight bouncing off the glassy surface Wyn closed her eyes and listened. For the first time in her life, there was only silence, no engines rumbling, no neighbours talking loudly, birdsong, nothing, just the sea and the building creaking under her.

She slid a foot towards the edge and stared down into the depths. She wanted to see them again, Bran, Jena, her mother, Misha. It would be the easiest thing she had ever done. Just a step.

The whistle pitched her forward and Wyn teetered on the edge, hands waving to stop herself from going in. She cried out in pain and fell back clutching at her injured wrist.

A splash of oars had Wyn on her feet, spinning around until she spotted a rowboat. The rower had her back to her. Black vest and exposed shoulders, cords of muscle that rippled as the rower worked the oars. Wyn shielded her eyes and took a few tentative steps. It was a woman, small, short hair swept back. The head turned and Wyn cursed under her breath.

“Have you got a gun?” Osiris shouted over her shoulder.

Wyn's hand shot to her missing shoulder strap and then to her belt. Never had she so strongly desired to be armed.

Osiris turned the boat expertly so that it rested alongside the tower, shipping the oars before grasping the ledge.

“A little help?” Osiris said but Wyn made no move to come closer. Osiris squinted as she looked up at Wyn. “I know this is screwing with your head but we’re kind of on the clock.”

“Osiris?” Wyn said. She knew she was in a state of shock. Her legs were weak, and she wanted nothing more than to lay down and curl up in a little ball. “What are you doing here?”

“Rescuing you,” Osiris said without a hint of deceit. “If you’d just hop in, we can be on our way.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you. You helped kill everybody. I don’t know how but you did this.”

“Maybe I’m God.” Osiris winked and Wyn had to restrain herself from launching at her feet first. “I’m not. Just in case you thought I was serious. This isn’t my idea of heaven. There’s not even a beach.”

Osiris held onto the lip of concrete, sweat glistening on her arms. Wyn searched about expecting there to be something more, a sign, anything that told her what was going on.

“That’s it?” Wyn said and gave a sharp laugh. She wanted to cry but couldn’t muster the strength.

“God no, that’s only just the beginning,” Osiris said cheerfully. “Do me a favour though and get in the boat. I’m running on fumes and need to get back before I pass out.”

“Where?” Wyn turned and studied the flat sea again, thinking she’d missed something before.

“Does it matter? It’s not here. If you were going to buy into Tay’s dream, you’d have done it by now. I knew you wouldn’t. I told Mum that and she didn’t believe me, but I was right.”

“Good for you.” Wyn used the corner of her shirt to rub at her eyes. “I’m not getting into that boat until you tell me where we’re going?”

Osiris pointed off towards the wall.

“Central?”

“Somebody wants to meet you.” Osiris flexed her shoulder and momentarily let go of the wall.

“Tay? Is she out there?”

“No,” Osiris said with a sad shake of her head. “She’s down there with the rest of them. Not to hurry you but I’m this close to starting my holiday and I just need to get you to the house, and I’m done.”

“Holiday? I don’t understand.”

“Just get in the boat. Did you hurt your hand?”

“I did,” Wyn said as she let Osiris help her into the boat and onto a bench.

“There’s a first-aid kit in the boot of the car, remind me when we get there.”

“Car?”

“There’s water under the seat and half a sandwich,” Osiris said and then started rowing. She put her shoulders into it, and they headed to the wall. “There would have been more, but I got hungry. The door wouldn’t unlock until Tay finished her tantrum.”

Wyn found the bag, fiddling one-handed with the zip before getting it open. Inside was a glass bottle of water and a sandwich wrapped in brown paper. She took a long swig of the water while watching Osiris row.

“It’s not poisoned,” Osiris said with a grin.

Wyn drank the bottle off and put it back in the bag. She retrieved the sandwich and carefully peeled the wrapping back on her lap.

“I didn’t have to bring that,” Osiris said.

“What?” Wyn croaked.

“I didn’t have to share my lunch with you. There was a packet of crisps, but I ate them. I swear I lost a stone this past month.”

Wyn stared at the water and let out a deep sigh, her body deflating. Now the wind had died down it was a giant mirror reflecting the impossibly blue sky.

“It’s a mind fucker, isn’t it?” Osiris grinned.

“Not really,” Wyn said and took a bite of the sandwich, grimacing at the bitter taste.

Osiris laughed deeply. “The seasoned detective, seen it all. Beautiful.”

“It’s not that,” Wyn chewed as she spoke, unsure about the flavour in her mouth but too hungry to spit it out. “I think I’ve run out of shits to give.”

Osiris laughed and nodded in agreement. “I get that. Mum makes me go to a therapist. She won’t let me work unless I’m being honest about my feelings.”

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.”

“I don’t trust you; you know that right?” Wyn said as she took a last bite of the sandwich. She did her best to rinse the taste from her mouth with the last bit of water in the flask. “What the hell was that?”

“Cheese and marmite,” Osiris said with a grin. “Food of the gods.”

“If that’s what Central has to offer I’ll think I’ll stay.”

“You wouldn’t have liked the prawn cocktail crisps then,” Osiris muttered as she picked up the tempo, straining at the oars.

Wyn watched them as they dipped smoothly into the water, with barely a splash.

“You didn’t learn that in the sector.”

Osiris shook her head. “Hours spent on the river. Beats walking into town.”

“Where’s Tay?”

“Bloody Tay, where isn’t she?”

They reached the wall where a floating gantry had been suspended and Osiris held the boat in place while Wyn climbed out.

“Was this always here?” Wyn asked touching the short metal ladder and staring up at the hatch. The wall carried on for another four metres before curving out of sight.

“I honestly don’t know.” Osiris grabbed the bag before springing onto the dock. The boat scooted back and slowly drifted away.

“What about the boat?” Wyn asked.

“We don’t need it.” Osiris pointed at Wyn’s wrist. “Can you climb with that?”

“I’ll manage.” Wyn took it slowly, careful not to put any weight on her wrist.

“Push it open,” Osiris said from just below her. “It’s unlocked. At least I hope so.”

“What happens if it isn’t?” Wyn asked staring down at her.

“Then we’ll need to swim for the boat.” Osiris grinned up at her and Wyn got the urge to kick her in the face. “Just push it.”

Wyn did so and her jaw dropped as she peered inside. It was one long cavern that slowly curved out of sight, lit along its entire length. At regular intervals, there was a set of steps on wheels and then a railing. Wyn looked down to find that she was at the top of one of them and quickly clambered down. The hatch swung shut behind her and Osiris spun the lock.

“What?” Wyn asked.

There was a railing to her right that surrounded a staircase down to the lower level.

“Just what? Your head didn’t get knocked, did it?”

“I am so close to hurting you,” Wyn said glaring at the younger woman. Osiris’s near-constant smirk wasn’t helping.

“Welcome to the inside of the wall. You’re the first sector citizen to ever see it.” Osiris lifted a jacket from the railing and shrugged it on.

“Other than you,” Wyn noted watching her.

“Second then. Come on.” Osiris skipped down the steps leaving Wyn to catch up.

Below it became a switchback staircase that seemed to go on forever. Wyn was out of breath by the time she reached the bottom and arrived at an open door, light streaming in. Wyn struggled to think what side she was on, turned around by the descent and barely able to stand up. An engine rumbled into life and Wyn raced to the door, bursting out into a carpark surrounded by leafy trees and lush vegetation.

Osiris jumped out of the black sedan and went around to the boot, disappearing behind the lid.

“Is this Central?” Wyn asked taking a tentative step onto the hard-packed gravel. She sniffed the air unable to think of when she had smelt something so clean before. Without a hint of smog just the scent of flowers and trees. Birds swooped over the small carpark and the leaves rustled in the gentle breeze.

“No, but kind of. We’re on the outskirts. It’s only a short drive,” Osiris said poking her head around the boot. “Come over here.”

Wyn approached as Osiris unzipped a red bag and pulled out a clear roll of plastic. “Give me your arm, the hurt one.”

Wyn held it out and Osiris slipped the sleeve over so that it covered Wyn’s wrist.

“What’s this?” Wyn asked.

“So many questions that I can’t be bothered to answer.”

Osiris pressed a button on the plastic and a crinkled screen lit up. Wyn twisted it to look but Osiris tutted and turned the screen so that she could study it. The plastic inflated, applying pressure and Wyn yelped in surprise as it tightened around her wrist.

“No break or fracture. That’s good. Leave it on for the drive and you’ll be all better.”

Osiris closed the boot with a button and then jumped in the driver’s side leaving Wyn standing at the back. She could see Osiris fiddling with something on the dashboard, but Wyn had no intention of getting in the car with her. She could walk off into the trees or go back up the stairs and, what? Her mind drew a blank. She had no idea what was happening or what she should do.

The car honked and Wyn jumped, swearing loudly as she went around to the passenger’s side.

“Buckle up,” Osiris clicked her own seatbelt in and waited impatiently as Wyn did hers one-handed.

As soon as she was done Osiris pulled away, accelerating onto an empty road with enough speed to push Wyn back into the deep seat. Wyn gritted her teeth determined to not let Osiris see her discomfort as they raced around tight bends and lurched into hollows. Green fields and woodland whipped past, blending together into a pastoral scene that left Wyn feeling like she was in a dream. The sun was high, and the sky a deep blue that hurt her eyes.

“If you’re going to throw up say so.” Osiris eased off the accelerator, anticipating a quick stop. “I don’t want to be cleaning that up.”

“Where is everyone?”

“It gets a bit quiet out here, but a mile that way,” Osiris tapped on her window, “is the city centre. It’s not sector busy, but it can get hectic. You’ll get to see it soon.”

“Am I a prisoner?”

Osiris laughed, shaking her head but didn’t answer. Wyn sat back and studied the bag on her wrist, it was warming up and a tingle ran up her arm. The readout displayed her pulse, a little high, Wyn thought but that was only to be expected. She touched the panel and a new screen full of strange symbols and decimal points popped up.

“Don’t mess with that. It’s idiot-proof but not sector proof if you follow my meaning.”

“You really think you’re better than us, don’t you? You were born on the other side of those walls.”

“I’m just trying to save you from the same mistakes I made.” Osiris took her hands from the wheel and sat back to stare at Wyn. The car turned smoothly into a blind corner and Wyn grabbed for the steering wheel, but Osiris slapped her hand away. The car stuck to the road and picked up speed as it came out of the corner.

“What the hell?” Wyn gasped as her eyes flicked from the instrument panel to the road.

“You’ve just gone from the stone age to the space age. My advice is to sit still and not touch anything.”

“Just stop talking,” Wyn said and stared out of the window. Osiris took the wheel again and they drove in silence.


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