chapter three, page two, the City of Locked DoorsMature

A world of suspended walkways extended out in all directions, a vista of boilers that gleamed red with heat, engines that churned, and waterways that steamed. Noir slid off the fuming boiler to the walkway that ringed it with a dull thud and stepped up to the railing. He looked outward, past the massive pipe columns and the watermills, searching for, and failing to see, the walls. It hasn't change a bit. He smiled.

"Can I help you sir?" Noir turned, looking up at the Engineer where it hung from the underside of another walkway. It dropped onto the boiler Noir had just vacated, paying no more heed to the red Shadow-Iron than Noir had, and scurried over to him on six, spiderlike limbs. The Engineer came to a halt when it reached Noir and proceeded to hang from the side of the boiler, its long beard brushing the walkway's railing.

Noir shook his head, "I have no need of you, go about your business."

"If you say so," the Engineer moved on, its numerous, grease-blackened hands carrying it dexterously along the boiler.

Noir watched it vanish in silence and then walked around the boiler until he found its door. Doffing his pack, Noir hung his uniform and lieutenants belt over the railing. I wish my hair had the sense not to grow.


Shut up. Sighing, Noir turned to the boiler, grasped its door handle, and dragged it open. The flames within surged upward, towering over him like a wrathful emperor. They clawed at the open air and the walls of their prison with a thousand hungering tongue that lashed and raged, knowing nothing of loyalty or compassion. Noir closed his eyes and stepped into their embrace, bathing himself in their heat. They devoured him instantly, searing away the rotten clothing he wore, the decade of dead Shadow-Skin, and turning his metallic hair red with heat. Even as he burned, however, shadows swarmed in through the door, restoring his damaged body and shielding him from the heat.

Noir reached up a burning hand and raked his hair back, forcing the metallic strands out of his eyes and into some semblance of order. He turned and stepped from the heat, a shadow knife forming in one hand as clothes of Shadow-Silk formed on his body. Raising the knife, he trimmed the back of his hair and then laid it against his cheek. Shaving is always such a nuisance. He drew the blade slowly down, shearing through the now pliable whiskers.

You could always just let it grow out.

Do you have any idea how annoying it is to try and see through iron bangs? Or how heavy an iron beard is?

If you don't want something to change, then don't complain about how it is.

It's not that I wouldn't change it if I could, it just that your alternative sucked. Noir sheared off the last of his whiskers and tossed the knife aside, releasing it to dissolve. He stepped over the railing and donned the white coat.

And now, we wait.


The End

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