When she stepped through the door, Alix expected to see the front lobby of the Committee building.
She’d only been there in darkness, where it looked like a tomb. The Committee Building’s sharp, high ceilings and blocky Workers of the Future murals would have shown up in her own nightmares, if she’d ever had dreams of her own.
It would have hurt to step inside, but she’d steeled herself. She could have handled it.
But the door opened onto the same cloudy abyss that surrounded the building. The Committee Building was a shell made of wood, fake as a movie set.
Inside, the coloured light shone, hanging in the air like shards of a broken rainbow.
As she stared into the void, the committee building started to fall.
It tumbled over itself like a leaf dropped into a hurricane. The platform dropped out from underneath Alix; the world spun and writhed around her.
Alix grabbed the doorframe. Her nails dug in sharp. It felt like she was clinging for dear life to the back of a giant animal that was trying to shake her off.
The glowing beams of light hardened to sharp angles of glass. They darted around her like crows mobbing an owl.
She shrugged her shoulders up, trying to shield her face without letting go. If you fell in a dream, you’d die when you hit the ground— everyone knew that. The building-shell hurtled through the air, picking up speed.
“Alix-” Nvara hissed in her ear.
“’M fine.” Her knuckles paled as she clung to the falling building. She felt her fingernails dig into the frame, and the wood splinter around them.
“Alix, I’m pulling you out.”
Alix felt something yank at the back of her head- the electrodes and goggles-strap tugging at her hair.
“No!” she said aloud. Glass stung the back of her hand. She tried to push herself back through the doorframe, flattening herself against the wall on the other side.
“Shhh!” Nvara’s grip tightened. “You’re vexin’ shaking.”
“I – I’m fine.” Alix said. “Give me the chance, ai?”
The shards of glass-light zipped back and forth like wasps.
“Chance? What chance?”
“I want to help. I’m not dead weight. Let me prove it.”
“You’re not proving anything if you wind up dead,” Nvara said.
Alix spotted something out of the corner of her eye- a faint glint, warmer and brigher than the glass-light. It fell through the air below her, tumbling over itself like a falling feather.
“Found the lio,” she muttered.
The glass-birds pulled back, flocking together. Glass scraped against glass, like nails on a chalkboard.
“Alix–” Nvara’s grip on her shoulder tightened.
“I’m gonna grab it. When I give the signal, pull me out,” she said.
“How long-” Nvara murmured.
“Five minutes. Maybe less.”
She heard Nvara sigh out. The tug on the back of her head loosened.
“Five minutes. Then I’m pulling you.”
The flock of glass shards rushed towards her– like a swarm of angry birds.
“I’m a rat runner,” Alix said, as much to herself as Nvara. “And I’l prove it. Let me run.”