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Monday, March 10, 2014

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The City of Keys: Prologue




          The wind spiraled as he scaled the apartment building. His jacket swept through the air as he struggled to stay balanced, his feet suddenly landing on the fifth floor ledge. "Twelve!" he screamed. "I can't reach you!"


          She turned, surprised. Her eyes were wide. "What are you -?”


          A flash of feathers and bronze launched at her head.


          Twelve braced herself as the eagle threw another attack. Above them the sky boiled with the incoming snow and the wind climaxed into a gale, slamming into his face with freezing brutality. He managed to glimpse her lunging silhouette before the blizzard drifted in. Charlie was plunged into swirling white blindness, desperately clinging to the brick wall and straining to see Twelve. The night deepened as the battle around him intensified. Traumatized shrieks came to his right, and he considered running before he remembered the sheer fall beneath his shoe tips. He shivered. Senseless fear had just almost killed him. "Twelve!" he called again.


          "She can't hear you."


          Charlie's head spun around, hardly believing his luck. A cadet had broken through the Blockade. In his eagerness he never wondered how the boy could possible stand so calmly above him. Almost as if he was floating.  "Of course she can't! You've got to help me." He glanced down.


          The boy above him didn't reply. Even though the snow concealed his form, his voice was easily recognizable. He had joined his side many times before.


          Charlie frowned. He didn't understand the holdup. "Hey! Twelve's losing! You have to save her - " He looked intently down the chasm, where she had been fighting for her life just a moment ago. Precious seconds were going by, and here he was, stranded on the side of a building.


          "You're acting as if I'm your friend," the newcomer said slowly. "But I'm not. I never was."


          Charlie looked up from the void. He had to be joking. But there was no time for this.


          The snow drifted away momentarily, and Charlie realized there was a knife pointing at his face. Twelve's knife.


          "You know I can't let you live, Charlie." His face was strangely set.


          "What?" This wasn't happening. It just wasn't. "Listen, I don't know what you're doing. But snap out of it! Someone betrayed us, that's why the City's on us - "


          "Oh, I think I know that." He laughed. It sounded so cruel, so unnatural. It couldn't be him. It had to be a mistake.


          He brandished the golden dagger in front of Charlie's eyes, the point intentionally coming close. "I'm the one who betrayed you." He smiled smugly. "Never saw it coming, did you?"


          Charlie stared back. It all came into place. The signs, the disappearances. The marks by the door. It was him all along. And they were all going to die because of this stupid traitor.


          "We're going to fight you," Charlie stammered. "This isn't the end." He reached for his sword, but then remembered that Baila had taken it.


          "It already is," he whispered softly in his ear. He threw Twelve's knife away. It fell into the darkness, its golden light fading away. Charlie already knew what was next.


"So long, loser." The boy pushed him over the edge and Charlie hurtled down the building, disappearing into the snowy streets -

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