The alleyway twisted and turned, narrowing to a man’s width in some places, but the sense that he was closing on them was confirmed when he heard the youth whooping a little way ahead. He slowed his pace a little, advancing through shin-deep refuse, until he came in sight of a light. The alleyway ended a few yards from where he stood, and there, squatting with its back to the wall, was the Nullianac. The light source was neither lamp nor fire but the creature’s head, between the sides of which arcs of energy passed back and forth.
By their flickers, Gentle saw his angel, lying on the ground in front of her captor. She was quite still, her body limp, her eyes closed, for which fact Gentle was grateful, given the Nullianac’s present labors. It had stripped the lower half of her body, and its long, pale hands were busy upon her. The whooper was standing a little way off from the scene. He was unzipped, his gun in one hand, his half-hard member in the other. Every now and then he aimed the gun at the child’s head, and another whoop came from
Nothing would have given Gentle more satisfaction at that moment than unleashing a pneuma against them both from where he stood, but he still wielded the power ineptly and feared that he’d do Huzzah some accidental harm, so he crept a little closer, another explosion on the hill throwing its brutal light down on the scene. By it he caught a glimpse of the Nullianac’s work, and then, more stomach-turning still, heard Huzzah gasp. The light withered as she did so, leaving the Nullianac’s head to shed its flickering gleam on her pain. The whooper was silent now, his eyes fixed on the violation. Looking up, the Nullianac uttered a few syllables shaped out of the chamber between its skulls, and reluctantly the youth obeyed its order, retreating from the scene a little way. Some crisis was near. The arcs in the Nullianac’s head were flaring with fresh urgency, its fingers working as if to expose Huzzah to their discharge. Gentle drew breath, realizing he would have to risk hurting Huzzah if he was to prevent the certainty of worse harm. The whooper heard his intake and turned to peer into the darkness. As he did so another lethal brightness dropped around them from on high. By it, Gentle stood revealed.
The youth fired on the instant, but either his ineptitude or his arousal spoiled his aim. The shots went wide. Gentle didn’t give him a second chance. Reserving his pneuma for the Nullianac, he threw himself at the youth, striking the weapon from his hand and kicking the legs from under him. The whooper went down within inches of his gun, but before he could reclaim it Gentle drove his foot down on the outstretched fingers, bringing a very different kind of whoop from the kid’s throat.
Now he turned back on the Nullianac, in time to see it raising its fireful head, the arcs cracking like slapsticks. Gentle’s fist went to his mouth, and he was discharging the pneuma when the whooper seized hold of his leg. The death warrant went from Gentle’s hand, but it struck the Nullianac’s flank rather than its head, wounding but not dispatching it. The kid hauled on Gentle’s leg again, and this time he toppled, falling into the muck where he’d put the whooper seconds before, his punctured back striking the ground hard. The pain blinded him, and when sight returned the youth was up, and rummaging among the arsenal at his belt. Gentle glanced towards the Nullianac. It had dropped against the wall, its head thrown back and spitting darts of fire. Their light was little, but enough for Gentle to catch the gleam of the dropped gun at his side. He reached for it as the delinquent’s hand fumbled with another weapon, and he had it leveled before the youth could get his cracked finger on the trigger. He pointed not at the youth’s head or heart, but at his groin. A littler target, but one which made the kid drop his gun instantly.