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********************“Wait!” I shout, surging forward, shouldering my way through the crowd. I fight my way to the front and pound on the doors of the carriage. “Please!” I shout. “I need to speak to you!” But the stranger doesn’t hear. He brings his whip down hard over his horse’s back and the carriage leaps forward, parting the angry crowd like soil in a furrowed field. “Wait!” I hoist my skirts and chase after the carriage. “Please!” I shout. “Please! Wait!” A second crack of the whip and the carriage moves faster. I race on, struggling to keep up to its side. If I lose sight of the carriage, I’ve lost everything. All hope of ever leading a normal life. I can’t let that happen. Won’t let that happen. He will not take my father’s machine. “Please, I beg you, stop the coach!” I lunge, throwing myself at the back of the coach, barely catching a toe on the edge of the running boards, embedding my nails into the carriage’s seams. The carriage bursts forward through the streets of Gears, the city fast becoming a memory. “Stop!” I plead as my boot slips from the running boards. I swing out to one side and dangle by one arm. The stranger at the mount turns his head. “What are you doing?” he shouts. “Get off!” “Get off?” I kick my way back up onto the platform. “I said get off!” he shouts again. “I won’t!” I say, hoisting, myself up higher onto the cab. My foot slips again and I sink beneath the rooftop, striking my chin hard on the way down. Grasping at the coach’s seams I desperately try to hold on, the toes of my boots burrowing twisted trenches in the dirt road below. My heart lodges in my throat as I lose my grip and swing out again to the opposite side. “Bloody Hell!” I hear the stranger curse. His face appears over the top of the cab seconds later. His eyes are lit like flares. I hang by the tips of my fingers, shocked, staring up at him. I don’t know whether to scream or cry.
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