Chapter 11: Clinic

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Warning sirens blared through the icy air, and gray smoke was starting to rise up between the buildings of Fall’s End. The streets were chaotic. More chaotic than Fiearius had anticipated. Breathlessly, he jogged down an alley, occasionally darting past armed soldiers running the opposite way. Cyrus was on his heels, breathing hard behind him.

“Gods, I didn’t think it’d be this bad,” he yelled over the alarms, his eyes fixed on a new plume of black that erupted a mile or two off.

Fiearius followed his line of sight. Supposedly the attack had started on the opposite end of the base, but as they exited Carthian-controlled territory and sank back into the civilian areas of Fall’s End, the clearer it became that the incident hadn’t been isolated. Fiearius had heard the Vescentian riots were growing worse, but he hadn’t truly grasped what ‘worse’ looked like until now.

Fiearius spent most of his time in Society-occupied areas, trying to liberate them. He didn’t often get a firsthand look at what he was liberating them to. It made his argument with Gates an hour earlier seem even more justified.

“You didn’t have to come,” he called back to his brother, irritation in his voice. In truth, it would have been easier without him. Cyrus, typical of every stereotype awarded him, was not a great runner.

It hadn’t taken the man long to realize his mistake either. “Oh well, here I am,” he growled, slowing as they came to the end of the alley where he leaned against the wall and heaved oxygen into his lungs.

Fiearius, frustrated, slowed with him, taking a moment to peer out into the main street and get his bearings. “No one said marriage is easy…” he mumbled mostly to himself, but he wasn’t surprised when Cyrus responded bitterly, “Well we’re not married.”

Fiearius cast him a sympathetic glance, but now was not the time to discuss Cyrus’ marital issues or lackthereof. “C’mon,” he ordered, heading out into the street which was thankfully clear for now.

He hadn’t even given a second thought to direction, but suddenly Cyrus called out to him, “Fiear, where’re we going? The bar is that way — “

“I know.” He hurried down a set of stone steps, his voice straining over the noise as another explosion sounded, closer this time. “But Leta’s not there anymore.”

“What?”

He glimpsed Cyrus’ look of shock and ignored it. He couldn’t say how he knew exactly, but he did know with absolute unending uncertainty that the minute that first bomb went off, Leta would have left the bar. And she certainly wouldn’t have headed back to the base.

Fortunately, the path to the clinic was one he’d taken many times, more than any other path on Vescent even, so he had no hesitation as he lead his brother straight through the city’s deserted shopping district and into the abandoned residential neighborhood. He was just approaching the fountain square when he caught glimpse of a familiar whip of brown hair running their way. She locked eyes with him just as he noticed her and started to slow down.

“Fiear? How’d you–”

But Fiearius didn’t even let her finish the question. As soon as she was within reach, he grabbed her forearm and turned around the way he’d come. “Hey, what’re you doing?!”

“Taking you back to the base,” he growled, pulling her along with him. She stumbled a few steps out of confusion, but soon enough her senses kicked in, she dug her heels into the ground and yanked her arm from his grip. As if to punctuate her defiance, when Fiearius looked back, another explosion went off somewhere in the distance behind her head.

“No,” she told him, in exactly the tone he was anticipating, shouting over the noise. “People are hiding in the clinic, I need to make sure they’re safe — ”

“Leta, there’s no time, we have to go,” Fiearius insisted, just as Cyrus said, “Is it just me or are those explosions getting closer?”

Fiearius made to seize her again, but she simply started marching away, avoiding him expertly.

You can go back,” she told him shortly over her shoulder.‘“But I am checking on my clinic. I’ll be alright.”

“Leta–” Fiearius called after her, but this was about the outcome he had expected, really. He’d hoped it would be different, of course. But it was with merely a sigh of acceptance that he picked up his pace again and ran after her.

Hopefully, this would be fast. She could ensure everything was fine, bark out a few orders to up the clinic’s security and they could be on their way. Fiearius didn’t exactly like the idea of any of them staying outside protected territory for long and Cyrus was right, it certainly sounded like those explosions, whatever they were, were headed their way. So make it quick, he mentally willed Leta as he caught up to her just in time to turn the corner onto the clinic’s block.

And at once, all thoughts of quickness fell from his mind.

Fire engulfed the humble building. Its grey walls were tinged in black, its windows broken, it’s sliding glass door smashed straight through. The commotion of people around it was so noisy and tumultuous it was hard to tell the rebels, the Carthians and the desperate clinic workers trying to save their workplace apart.

Fiearius hadn’t realized he’d stopped running or that his breath had caught in his throat, his heart sinking at the sight. Leta’s hands covered her mouth and her eyes were round, lit with taunting orange.

Cyrus  was the first to put the despair into words. “Oh gods…” he breathed from behind them. “Dov’ha, nati e’re…

But Fiearius didn’t need the gods to explain why. No, the gods had no hand in this. These were people and he could feel his rage beginning to grow.

Before he could even think of how to act, however, he became suddenly aware of Leta picking up her heels and darting straight towards the building.

She was going to run in there, he realized in an instant. She was going to run in there to try and save people and get herself killed. Panic gripped him and he bolted after her, reaching out to seize her arm and wrench it backwards just as she reached the edge of the fray. “Leta, no!” he shouted over the crackling flames and violent shouts. The minute she turned her glare on him, though, he knew this was yet another fight he wasn’t going to win.

Damn stubborn doctor, he thought to himself.

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