‘Can you tell what’s happening?’ Dunstan asked.
‘Call it a hunch, but I think someone is attacking us,’ said Reza.
‘I don’t sense anyone flying near us.’ After a beat, however, she said, ‘Oh shit. Brace yourself.’
He did, but he didn’t get the chance to ask why. Another, much louder pop arrived, this time accompanied by the very unwelcome sound of metal breaking. A lot of metal. The cabin lurched again and began spinning much too fast to have been in anything other than freefall.
Then the airplane unfolded. Dunstan watched the walls distort and peel themselves apart. Cabin pressure dropped in an instant, and the escaping wind tunnel pulled the air right out of Dunstan’s lungs. For a moment, everyone dangled toward the hole in the cabin, but that didn’t last long, because the hole grew so quickly that, soon, it ceased to even be so. Rather, it was just the open sky, the sun dawning there over the horizon, beautiful and entirely unfitting as the punishing winds started tearing passengers directly out of their seatbelts, leaving them to be swallowed by storm clouds below.
The plane was not gone, however. The metal had twisted and reformed beneath them. And it was moving now. Up and down like wings on either side. Dunstan, struggling even to keep his eyes opened, saw a metal neck rear up in front of them, rising into the shape of a bird’s head.
It was Sanko, he realized. She had become the plane, integrating herself into it, making her body a bird of literal metal. And then he realized why.
A half dozen missiles were right there on the giant bird’s tail, twirling and drawing closer with each passing second, even as Sanko swooped down to pick up speed. They were heat-seekers, without a doubt--and probably soul-strengthened as well, since it seemed like Reza had been able to sense them at the last moment.
The metal bird shuddered and then rolled forward in midair. Its left wing distorted and then slapped all of the missiles away like flies. They staggered off course, and one detonated, which caused all of the others to explode in a chain that made the air tremble.
The Gargoyle’s body swooped down into a dive again, and Dunstan had to soul-strengthen his own body before the wind and g-forces broke any more of his bones.