Lizabeth knew the tunnels better than any living being.
Possibly because she was not one of them.
Her dirty feet, covered in sewage scum and rust, slid across the floor, leaving skid marks in the accumulated tracks of dirt deep underground in the drainage system snaking beneath the grand City. The task at hand involved two pistols and a red rose, and she could not waste the rose, as vegetation was so hard to come by underground. It was hidden in the pocket of her black pea coat, wrapped in lace. The pistols thumped thanklessly against her leg in her other pocket.
Glimmers of light shown through from shafts far above Lizabeth’s head, fading into mere shadows as they hit her face. Her fragile skin was nearly translucent, like most of the Underground’s inhabitants; they had no luxury of sunlight to tan their bodies, like the City people. Light as a rule frightened the Underground dwellers. They were adept at hiding, at going unnoticed as patrols passed by, as mines were dropped into sewage water, as City guards peppered the filth with bullets, and the light interfered with that.
Lizabeth liked to take risks, however, and she briefly allowed herself to enjoy the warmth of the light on her face as she went down a flight of stairs and deeper into the pit of the tunnels.
Here she was forced to light a candle to make her way. There were trip wires and booby traps mapped across the floor, and if she made a wrong move she would be blown to bits.
They called you because you are the best. They know it. You know it. Now finish the job.
The soles of her feet lifted gently off the floor and onto her tiptoes as she walked on point across the floor. The black satin of her tattered dress hugged her alert body. Her muscles rippled, tensed, and burned as she pushed her way towards the back wall across the narrow shelf above the dirty sewage water. She did not allow herself to relax. Her senses were heightened—she had been trained for this kind of action. It required her full attention. No time for doubts.
Her toe brushed something.
It felt coiled. A wire? She couldn’t be sure. If she moved she could set it off. She froze, breathed deeply, and lifted the candle over her head. Shadows obscured her feet, but something glimmered back in the darkness. Something beady. Alive.
She sighed, nudged it with her foot, and stepped over, heart pounding.
Shuffling along the wall, her feet again felt something cold beneath them. This time, however, it was a metal grate—the one that would lead her deeper into the sewers. She wedged her big toe into the thumb hole and kicked it open, sliding down inside the murky darkness carefully.
The air became thick as she descended down the ladder. A smoky, dead scent filled her lungs, causing grit to collect on her tongue and ivory teeth. Her feet slid on the ladder’s rungs as she retched in protest; she stopped to tie a scarf around her mouth and nose. It was said the ash in the air was burnt bodies.
At the bottom of the ladder it was silent and dark. Lizabeth reached into her pocket and removed the first pistol, clicking off the safety.
“Jack,” she called, scanning the shadows. “I know you’re there. Come out.”