Saniette Marches In
Miriael was now
awake. 'What is it, Kiet?'
Kiet turned to appeal to her. 'Something coming! I don't know what!
She gestured frantically towards the side of the overbridge. In
the next moment, there was a flash of yellow robe as Miriael hurried
past. Ferren shook himself and rose on one elbow.
'You too!' yelled Kiet.
She seized him by the hand and dragged him upright. Then propelled
him forward from behind.
Ferren was still struggling to understand. 'Did you follow us? Is
that what you did?'
Kiet kept driving him forward. She didn't bother to reply. He staggered
out beyond the pylons.
'There!' she cried.
Then he saw. It was an ominous cloud of dust in the distance. It
was approaching along and beside the overbridge. Huge black shapes
of machinery loomed through the cloud.
'Must be the Humen,' muttered Miriael grimly. 'Get back. Out of
They retreated behind the shelter of the pylons.
'I was sleeping close by,' Kiet explained. 'The vibrations woke
'It's a Humen army,' said Miriael. 'But not like anything I ever
saw before. Some of those machines are gigantic.'
Ferren was finally fully awake. 'What do we do?'
'Run?' suggested Kiet.
But there was no cover on the bare glazed plain. They would be clearly
visible as soon as they left the shelter of the overbridge.
'No, we'll stay and hide here,' said Miriael. She raised her eyes
to the deck of the overbridge, like a dark roof high overhead. 'Up
in the struts and girders.'
Kiet shuddered. 'And let them roll right over us?'
'As long as they don't see us, we'll survive.'
She led the way to the nearest pylon. She leaped up onto the concrete
base and began to scale the massive iron pier. Kiet and Ferren followed.
It wasn't a difficult climb, thanks to the many projecting bolt-heads.
Twenty metres above the ground, they swung off the pylon and onto
the underframe supporting the main deck. It was a strange dim world,
a crisscross forest of struts and girders. The slatted plates of
the roadway were directly above them. They had to bend and crouch
to keep from hitting their heads.
Then Miriael looked down - and gasped.
Ferren and Miriael had used their packs as pillows during the night.
The packs still lay on the ground between the concrete blocks.
'They'll be seen!' cried Ferren. 'I'll get them!'
In an instant, he was back at the pylon and shinning down as fast
as he could go.
The army had advanced with amazing speed. The front row of machines
was now only a few hundred metres away. They made a thunderous sound,
a rumble of innumerable wheels and engines.
Half-sliding and scraping his chest on the bolts, he dropped to
the concrete block. Then turned and jumped down to the ground. The
glazed surface thrummed under his feet.
He snatched up the packs and slung the straps round his neck. He
had to keep his hands free for climbing. But the packs hung down
awkwardly at his sides.
Crack! Crack! Crack!
Sharp sounds rang out like shots. He stared and saw the glazed surface
breaking up under the vibrations. Small chips flew high in the air,
zinging in all directions.
He clambered back onto the concrete block. The front row of machines
seemed to be racing towards him. They rose up from the ground as
high as the top of the overbridge.
He began to climb. But the packs hindered his movements and slowed
him down. Desperately he fought his way up from bolt-head to bolt-head.
Twice he almost lost his grip. He willed himself not to panic.
He reached the underframe just in time. In the next moment, the
machines came surging past. They moved in a tidal wave of their
own dust. Ferren watched from behind the outer struts and girders.
The machines in the first row were huge cylindrical shapes shrouded
in black material. They were mounted on roller-bogies, each pulled
by three or four snub-nosed traction engines. The engines gave out
terrible screechings and roarings, like animals in pain.
It was Miriael and Kiet calling. They had started to come across
to him, arms reaching to pull him in. He waved them back, turned
away from the side of the overbridge. He made his way through the
underframe and joined them in the middle.
'Get a safe hold!' shouted Miriael.
The vehicles coming along the roadway were almost on top of them.
Loose dirt and flakes rained down from the slatted plates. All around,
the stressed metal squealed under the strain.
They took up positions on the widest girders, arms wrapped around
the most solid struts. The din was earsplitting. Booming and clanking,
grating and grinding . . .
Everything was going blurry around the edges. They looked at one
another, faces white and clenched. Even their faces were going blurry
around the edges.
Closer and closer and closer. The pounding and battering seemed
to beat directly onto their skulls. Their teeth rattled.
And then the slats in the plates went dark. Mighty wheels and caterpillar
tracks passed over inches above their heads. They prayed and hung
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