“Dismount!” he called. “Off the beasts! Dismount! First squads to the armories!” When he was done he turned and nodded to me, and I let myself drop down along the rope that every mastodon carries along its side. I did not know where the Well of Armor was or what to do, so I stood there shocked as a whole wave of unarmed men and women ran into us from our east flank. They must have outnumbered the Never-born three to one.
Marcus reached me just as the first of them pushed past the Never-born. “Stop standing there,” he said. “The Well is beneath your feet. You already woke it.” And I saw that it was so, for two of the enemy then went through. I stood for a moment horrified. “Now!” he growled, and grabbed my shoulder, and pushed down. “Or it’ll be too late!” There came yet another moment when I panicked, for I had never let a Well admit so many men before. But it sentience opened to me, and Marcus and I and half a dozen of the nearest Never-born went through.
As I fell, I asked the Well to admit then only those like myself, who did not carry the machines called nightwind. It replied that it had not been until we came, when the battle had confused it. Then I fell freely through the air and hit the floor of the Well rolling and saw that we were all indeed too late.
It must take only a moment to don a suit of Profusionist armor, for the two who’d entered the Well first had already done so. They were covered head to toe in silver metal made of the same machines that made the city walls, or the walls of this round Well itself. One turned to face Marcus and the first of the Never-born as they drew up beside me. The other went to the wall behind him and began climbing out. But the one who remained stood with his feet apart and his fists before his face, a classic fighter’s stance. Equipped in that machinery, he was more deadly than any human being, and stood between us and the creches in the wall where the suits were stored. The Well itself, being ten paces in diameter, would never allow us the space to push past him .