The Grimnoir Chronicles: Hard Magic – Chapter 3

The 7 days of snippit rampage continues.  Here is chapter 3 of the upcoming novel, Hard Magic. (coming in 2011 from Baen Books) Feel free to share it if you like it, because that’s how I sell more books, and I always welcome comments.  4 more sample chapters to go. 

-Larry

And if you are just joining us:

Chapter 1:  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/7-days-of-grimnoir-sample-chapters-from-the-grimnoir-chronicles-hard-magic/

Chapter 2:  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/the-grimnoir-chronicles-hard-magic-chapter-2/

 

As soon as the idea was introduced that all men were equal before God, that world was bound to collapse. Behold the failed America, a culture steeped in rot, their magics used publicly in the streets, without control, even allowed to the despicable Jew.

Adolph Hitler, Final Munich speech before his arrest and execution by firing squad,1929

Chapter 3

 

Chicago, Illinois 

 

The paper didn’t have much more about the theft of the UBF dirigible. There had been a small article about how it was found abandoned in a field in Missouri the day before yesterday, but nothing new today. The headlines were mostly about the upcoming election, and FDR was talking about some New Deal, which just smelled a little too much like what the Marxists in Europe were shoveling for Sullivan’s tastes. A group of his fellow veterans had gathered in Washington as what they were now calling the Bonus Army. Some anarchists were going on trial for something or other, but those assholes were always causing trouble. Besides that, the rest of the front page was about how the Bolsheviks had signed a new pact with the Imperium and the Siberian Cossacks to divide up Manchuria. The embargo was forcing the Japs to use Hydrogen in their airships, but other than the inconvenience, they were busy as could be taking over everything in the Eastern hemisphere. The sports page was still going on about the baseball scandal, after the Yankees had been caught illegally using magic to hit more home runs, and the boxer he’d put $5 on to win last night had gotten knocked out in the second round.  Figures…    

The door opened. “We’re ready for you.”

Sullivan carefully folded the paper, put it back on the table, adjusted his tie, and entered the conference room.

“So, how are you feeling, Mr. Sullivan?”

He didn’t answer for a long moment. Mostly he was feeling angry. Lied to, cheated, used… And that wasn’t even counting the physical injuries he was still recuperating from. His back hurt, headaches were making it hard to sleep, his right hand still wouldn’t close all the way, he had itchy stitches in his leg… and he was fighting a miserable cold. So overall, Jake Sullivan was in a lousy state, but when the man asking the question was also the man that had the power to put you back in prison, it did bring out a certain level of politeness.

“Fine, Mr. Hoover, sir. I’m doing fine,” he lied. The bandage around his hand gave him an excuse not to shake J. Edgar Hoover’s hand.

“Excellent,” the Director of the Bureau of Investigation said as his assistant pulled a chair away from the table for Sullivan. It was at the far end of the conference room. “Have a seat. We were just discussing your actions in the Jones case.”

Hoover was a stocky man. His eyes were quick and a little too crafty, and he spoke too well. Sullivan had never liked him, and had developed an instinctive distrust from the first time they’d met in Rockville.

Purvis looked uncomfortable. His arm was in a thick cast. The Fade had broken it in two places with that club. Cowley and the other four agents from that night were also present, as well as a couple members of Hoover’s entourage and a grey-haired secretary who was poised to scribble some furious shorthand.

He was too much of a professional and a gentleman to speak badly about his superior to somebody like Sullivan, but it was obvious that Purvis didn’t like Hoover much. It was understandable. Purvis worked his ass off and had busted some of the most dangerous Active criminals there were, but Hoover was always the big hero in all the papers. And now the Special Agent in charge of Chicago looked real uncomfortable since his boss had felt the need to hop a dirigible and fly all the way here from Washington to get a personal debriefing.

Sullivan had sat out in the hall for that part. He wasn’t one of them. In fact, he was a convict, a low-class criminal dirt-bag. He’d heard how some of these men spoke about him. They thought he was just a dimbulb Heavy that they could bring in once in a while to smack around some Active hooligan they couldn’t handle. Sure, there were a few G’s who treated him with respect, like Purvis and Cowley, or the Treasury guy Ness, but most of the others were openly hostile.

From the beaten feel of the Chicago agents, it looked like Hoover had given them a good ass chewing. “We were just telling the Director about your bravery—“ Purvis started to speak, but Hoover scowled hard and Purvis shut his trap.

Hoover coughed politely before continuing. “These men were impressed by your actions, Mr. Sullivan, but I, on the other hand, am a bit let down.”

Sullivan raised a single eyebrow. Oh, this ought to be rich.

“When you were released from Rockville early, you made an agreement that you would assist the government in capturing people like you… And my understanding is that you now wish to stop helping? Do I have that correct, son?”

Sullivan was pretty sure he was about the same age as Hoover, and he didn’t cotton to being called son. “Yes, sir. That is correct, sir.”

Hoover didn’t like that answer, so he stopped and picked up a piece of paper and began to tap a golden pen on the table in front of him as he pretended to study it. His frown made the other agents shrink a bit. “You’ve been a valuable asset, one which I’m not prepared to lose.”

“With all respect, sir, my agreement with you and the warden was that I would help arrest five Active murderers.” Sullivan held up his bandaged hand and began to count. “Tommy Gun Smith in Philly, Jim McKinley in Kansas City, the Crusher in Hot Springs, the Maplethorpe brothers in Detroit, which should count as two, and Delilah Jones was the last, and I did everything I could to catch her.”

Hoover nodded. “So a Heavy can count. I see we’ve got us a jailhouse lawyer here gentlemen…” the members of Hoover’s entourage laughed. The Chicago agents knew better. “You want math, Sullivan? I’ll give you math. Jones got away. So that makes four.” Now Hoover held up his hand, thumb curled in. “And you did not manage to arrest the Maplethorpe brothers.” Hoover lowered a chunky finger. “You gunned them down, in the streets, in broad daylight. Maybe you’re right. They should count as two.” He lowered another finger.

“They didn’t leave us much choice, sir,” Agent Cowley stated. “I was there. They came out shooting and—“           

Hoover glared at the agent. Purvis shook his head angrily. Hoover had ended men’s careers for far less than interrupting him. Cowley wisely backed down. Hoover turned back to Sullivan. “So by my calculations, that means you owe me three more arrests.”

The big man’s nostrils flared, but he kept his outward cool. “That wasn’t the agreement.”

Hoover leaned back in his chair. “Tolson.” He opened his hand, held it out, and one of the functionaries immediately stepped forward and placed an open folder in it. “Thank you. This is your agreement, Mr. Sullivan. Let me educate you for a moment. An agreement is a contract between two men that is legally binding. Except that’s the rub. You’re not a man, you’re a convict. So…” Hoover pulled a sheet of white paper, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it at Sullivan. It fell short and rolled to a stop right in front of him. “The agreement says whatever I say it says. You will help arrest Delilah Jones, and you will do whatever else I tell you to do. Lincoln freed the slaves, but he never said anything about the convicts.”    

Sullivan just sat there, staring at that crumpled piece of typing paper. His anger fed the Power in his chest, and he thought about just reaching across the table and Spiking Hoover through the floor, then he could pull the pile of smashed guts and pulverized bones up out of there, launch it through the ceiling and spray it as a red rain over downtown Chicago…

But he didn’t, because despite what the jury had said, Jake Sullivan was not a murderer. Sure, he was a killer, he’d lost count of how many lives he’d ended in the war and in fights in Rockville, but he wasn’t a murderer. There was a difference.

He spoke very slowly. “You lied to me…”

“I work for the government, son. Deal with it.” Hoover pushed away from the table and stood. He addressed the entire room. “Carry on agents, and this time, when you let a felon escape, do not let it get in the papers. That will be all.” One of his men opened the door, and Hoover turned to leave.

But Sullivan wasn’t done. “Hoover.” His deep voice reverberated through the room, and there was no Mr. attached. The crumpled paper floated off the table, and hovered, spinning, in front of his face. Hoover visibly paled, hesitating in the doorway. It was a well known fact that the man was terrified of magic. Sullivan slowly enclosed the paper in one big fist and took it away. “You lied about Delilah too. I was suspicious that a bunch of Actives just happened to know we were going to be there to catch her. I did some checking yesterday. I’ve got some cop friends in that area, and they say she didn’t kill anybody during any bank robberies.”

That seemed to take Purvis by surprise. Apparently the Chicago agents had been in the dark too. “So who were those dead men in the photographs?” Purvis asked.

Hoover exchanged glances with the agent named Tolson. The taller man seemed baffled. Apparently they hadn’t prepared an answer. Finally Hoover spoke. “That’s not important. Just know that she murdered them. And the highest levels of government want her caught. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” all of the agents answered simultaneously.

Sullivan didn’t say a word, but inside he was seething. He just squeezed the crumpled contract in his hand, pummeling it with his Power as Hoover walked out. When Sullivan finally let go, a hard ball of compressed wood pulp the size of a marble hit the floor and rolled away.  

San Francisco, California

The room was kept dark, thick curtains closed. The lights hurt the boss’s eyes, and Garrett also knew that despite what his employer said, he was ashamed to let anyone see him closely. He had been a proud man once, an unbelievably strong man, and it hurt Garrett to see him in this state.

“So let me make sure I got this straight,” his employer said from the bed. “A single Heavy fought a Brute to a standstill, caught a dirigible that was already in the air, knocked out Heinrich, beat the ever living hell out of Francis, and resisted your Influence?”          

“That about covers it,” Daniel Garrett replied. It was rather embarrassing to have his entire crew defeated by somebody with one of the most mundane of all Powers. “Every other Heavy I’ve known was employed as manual labor or on a construction job. I thought all they could do was make heavy things light enough to temporarily pick up. This one was different. It was like he had more than one type of Power.”

The General shook his scabrous head in disagreement. Even that small motion seemed to pain him. “No,” he rasped. “There’s only one man in the whole world who possesses more than one type of Power. This man, everything he did came from the same Power, the magical alteration of gravitational pulls. He’s just…”

“Different,” Garrett said. 

“Resourceful.” His employer had to stop for a moment to cough into his towel.

Garrett wasn’t so sure about that. He did not have a head for science, but the tools the Heavy used seemed to go beyond just altering gravity’s strength and direction. His gut told him that something was different about this one.

The General’s coughing fit continued. The sound was painful as his lungs ground and struggled for purchase. The hacking continued for another thirty seconds and Garrett started to rise to get Jane, but his employer waved for him to stay seated. Finally the white cloth came away stained with blood, and the man continued as if the spasm had never happened. “Recruit him,” he gasped.

“Excuse me?”

“Hire him, Garrett. Find this Heavy and make him a job offer.”

“No offense, General, but the new girl threw him through the dirigible. I’m relatively certain he’s dead.”

“No,” he said, gesturing with one skeletal hand at the telegram on the desk next to the bed. “After you reported in I did some checking. Apparently he doesn’t die easily.”

He took the telegram and read it. Finally he whistled. “Impressive.”

“Apparently that power-mad imbecile, J. Edgar Hoover, agrees with you. That’s why he was sprung from jail. Hoover doesn’t understand Powers. He just tries to wield them like clubs. Treats Actives like mushrooms. But we could use a man like this.”

After looking over the telegram, Garrett didn’t feel quite as bad about losing to the Heavy. Very few Actives had survived the battle of Second Somme.

“Time is growing short, Daniel,” the General warned.

Garrett didn’t know if he was talking about his declining health or the impending threat of the Imperium. Either was terrible in its own way. “I’ll be on the next flight.”

#

The General must have fallen back asleep immediately after Garrett had left. It was getting harder to remain conscious for any period of time. He returned slowly, aching, eyes burning at even the tiniest bit of light.  His body was dying, rotting from the inside out, and he had been in such terrible pain for so long that he knew all he had to do was wish for death and it would blissfully come. He was only alive because of Jane’s healing magic and sheer stubbornness.

He still had too much work to do.

There was another reason he’d dispatched Garrett to recruit the Heavy. His sources had confirmed what he’d first suspected when he’d heard the man’s name. It had been too much of a coincidence for there to be another Sullivan out there that was that talented a Heavy.

It seemed appropriate to use this man to balance the scales, he thought, but then a new pain appeared in his stomach that distracted him. It was hard to concentrate when your body was falling apart. Whenever the suffering grew too much to bear, all he had to do was recall the memories of Tokugawa, and he found renewed determination. That man would never rest. If he even was, or ever had been, a man… the General had his doubts.

His memory was still sharp. The spreading tumors in his brain had left that at least. It had been back in ’05 when a handful of western military observers had been sent to document the war between the Russians and the Japanese, and he could still recall it like it was yesterday. The Tsar’s forces had been utterly destroyed, fleets sunk in oily flames, and a hundred thousand men had been butchered in the first engagement.

The Imperium was born.

And that had been the day that Black Jack Pershing had met the devil himself.

El Nido, California

The day was like any other summer day in El Nido, work, work, work. Try to get the hard stuff done before it got too hot so you could take a nap when it was really miserable, and then back to work for the evening chores. Always up way before dawn to milk and feed. Only to dairy farmers did waking up to the cock’s crow at sunrise feel like sleeping in. It had been a long time since the old farmer had slept in. He figured he could sleep when he was dead.

The morning’s work was done. Gilbert and most of the family had gone into town. That just left him and Faye to finish moving hay, but he didn’t mind. The girl worked harder than most boys her age. Better company too.

Usually.

“So I been thinking some more…” Faye said as she threw a pile of alfalfa into the feeder. She paused to lean on her pitchfork, wiping the sweat from her face.

“Uh oh,” he replied, rolling his eyes.

“Is magic alive?”

He kept forking the hay over. He thought about it for a long time. “Is electricity alive? Is fire alive?”

“Hmm…” Faye frowned. “That’s what I thought. That’s bad then.”

“Why’s that bad?” The girl’s brain was always spinning around about something.

“Because if magic ain’t alive, and it’s just stuck to some people, then why couldn’t it be stuck to some thing?”

He froze, pitchfork stuck in the hay. She didn’t seem to notice.

“Why couldn’t somebody figure out how to take someone else’s magic and put it in like another person? Or an animal? Or a machine even?”

“Stop it,” the old farmer ordered sternly.

Faye was confused. “Stop what?”

“Just…” How could he explain? He didn’t want to expose this poor girl to what was out there, waiting. But she was just too damn smart for her own good. “Just, never mind. Don’t think about stuff too hard. Keep working.”

She sniffed. “Are you mad at me, Grandpa?”

“I could never be mad at you, girl.” He kept working, letting the rhythm of the movement calm his thoughts. After a few seconds Faye went back to her fork. Someday he would explain everything he knew to her, but he wasn’t a man that liked to talk, especially about things like that.

A few minutes later the girl looked up. “Somebody’s coming,” Faye said, pointing at the road. Sure enough he could see the dust of approaching automobiles. “Probably more thieving Okies passing through. I’ll lock the tool shed.”

He nodded. He had taught her well. But these autos weren’t coming from the main road. They were coming from the direction of Potter Field, the little airfield a few miles away.

They’d seen a metal single-wing cargo plane fly that way earlier. The whole family had stopped whatever they were doing to watch. It was quite the sight. There were just a few fabric biplanes at Potter. It wasn’t like they got any fancy planes out in the San Joaquin Valley.

The old farmer suddenly had a bad feeling. “Throw the cows over the fence some hay,” he told her, watching the approaching dust suspiciously. “Do the dry cows first. Go.” Faye hesitated, then did as she was told. He wanted her away. The rest of the family had taken the Dodge into Merced, and wouldn’t be back until it was time to start the 4:00 milking.

There was nothing else along this road except for his dairy. The cars pulled up the lane and stopped in front of the house in a cloud of white dust. He went out to meet them. He didn’t bother to hose off his boots.

There were four men in each car, and all eight of them stepped out at the same time. Their clothes were fancy-boy city clothes, black or pinstriped suits and nice hats. The farmer didn’t even dress that nice to go to church. He could tell these men might have been from the city, but they weren’t fancies. They looked hard and dangerous.

The old farmer knew right away why these men were here. His wide straw hat covered his grey eyes, and he risked a glance back toward the barn. Faye had done as she’d been told and was out of sight.

The tallest one seemed to be the boss. He was square and thick, one of the biggest men the farmer had ever seen, with a jagged scar crossing half his face that had left one eye a blinded white orb. “Are you Joe?” that one asked. That didn’t mean much. Half the Portuguese men in the world were named Joe. “Travelin’ Joe?”

They had been bound to catch up with him eventually. The old farmer tipped his hat.

#

Faye was sweating, using a pitchfork to toss alfalfa over the barbwire fence to the dry cows. The hay was dusty, collected in her hair and inside her too-large hand-me-down work shirt, and it made her nose itch. She stopped to sneeze a couple of times, then went back to work.

It was hot. The valley was always extra muggy in the summer, probably from the irrigation, and the sun was always beating down on her head.  Her rubber boots were heavy with dried poop, too big, and made her feet sweat.

And she was as happy as she could be.

The Vierras were good people. They were always loud, frantic, and yelling about something, but that’s just how they were, but at least here she didn’t get beaten daily for having the devil in her. Grandpa was actually proud that she was different. And unlike her life before, there was always food. Faye even liked to work. She didn’t even mind the Holsteins much.

Life was simple, and it was hard, but she was content, because it wasn’t mean.

A cow stuck its head through the fence, curious, smelling her. It chuffed and blew green snot all over her pants. She wiped it off with a handful of hay and patted the cow on the nose. She licked Faye with a giant rough tongue and the girl giggled.

A gun fired. The line of Holsteins jerked, ears all cocked suspicious in the same direction. It had come from the other side of the milk barn. A flock of black birds leapt into the air and flew over the roof. Grandpa was probably shooting at crows, but Faye frowned, since that sure hadn’t sounded like Grandpa’s shotgun. One of the dogs started barking like crazy.

Then there was a whole bunch of guns. A giant mad bumblebee passed overhead and it took Faye a second to realize that it was actually a bullet. Something was terribly wrong. She clutched the pitchfork tight and the dry cows bolted from the fence and ran for the far side of the corral.

The Okies are robbing Grandpa! It was like the bank robbers they talked about on the radio. Still holding the pitchfork, she ran for the barn, big boots clomping, but that was too slow, so she focused on a spot fifty feet ahead, which was as far as she’d ever traveled before, touched the magic, sent her senses ahead, clear, and was just there.

She’d done just like Grandpa had taught, appearing an inch or so off the dirt so she wouldn’t melt her soles to the ground, and hit the ground still clomping forward. Now she could see around the block edge of the barn and there were two black automobiles, and a bunch of men in suits running toward the house and shouting.  There was another boom and one of the men fell off the porch and into grandma’s rosebushes.

A hand landed on her shoulder, and Faye nearly jumped out of her skin. “Girl!” Grandpa whispered in her ear. He had Traveled right behind her. He dragged her back around the corner as he broke open his shotgun, pulled the spent shell out, and fished another one out of his coveralls. He didn’t seem any more upset than when he was dealing with a particularly nasty cow. “Go hide.” He snapped the shotgun closed and pointed with it toward the haystacks, but then he scowled. “Shit. Forgot.”     

“Where are you going?”

“Something in the barn I need. Go hide.” He closed his grey eyes and disappeared.

Faye focused on the haystacks. A man’s voice came from behind her. “There’s somebody el–” And then her boots landed in a pile of straw and she didn’t hear the rest. Scared, she scrambled behind some broken bales. Just her eyes sticking over the top, and she searched for the men. The nearest one was rounding the barn, silver gun in his hand, and he was jerking his head back and forth, wondering where she’d gone. She squeezed the pitchfork even harder, though she didn’t know what she planned on doing with it.            

Then she saw something strange. Another man, a giant, seemed to fly over the edge of the barn and landed easily on the tin roof. It was like he’d jumped right out of the yard, but Faye knew there was nothing to stand on over there, so he would have had to have leapt twenty-five feet straight into the air. The man crouched, scanning slowly, perched effortlessly next to the lightning rod. He reached into his suit and pulled out a huge gun. Faye ducked lower so he couldn’t see her. This man was special too. Like her, but different. Scary.

Grandpa Traveled and appeared right behind the first man, stabbing the shotgun barrel right into him. The man never knew what happened as the Sears & Roebuck shotgun blew him near in half, but Grandpa didn’t see the big man on the roof.

“Grandpa!” Faye screamed.

The old farmer looked up, seeing her, surely focusing on the safety of the haystack and—

BOOOM

Grandpa lurched forward as the man on the roof shot him. He traveled, and was instantly before Faye. Grandpa took two steps and fell to his knees. “Oh…”

Faye dropped the pitchfork, grabbed him by the straps of his coveralls, and dragged the little man behind the broken bales. “Grandpa!” she screamed. Blood was welling out from between the top buttons of his shirt, way too much blood. “Hold on, Grandpa!”

He grabbed her wrist, his fingers hard as rocks, and he shoved an old leather bag into her hand and squeezed it shut. Blood came out his mouth when he tried to talk and she had to put her ear down next to his mouth to hear him. “Don’t let them get it. Find Black—“ and then she couldn’t hear the rest because it turned into a gurgle as he breathed out. He didn’t inhale. Faye pulled away, and Grandpa Vierra’s grey eyes were staring at nothing.

“Grandpa?”

A man in a suit came running around the edge of the hay. Faye saw him coming and she was filled with an emotion she’d never felt before. The wood of the pitchfork was hard in her calloused hands as she rose, straw colored hair covering her face. Fifteen feet away the man raised his gun.

He shouted to the others. “I got th—“ but then Faye Traveled, screaming, and drove the three narrow tines of the pitchfork through his ribs. Still screaming she pushed the man, driving him back, until his knees buckled and she drove the fork all the way through him and into the ground. The man grabbed onto the handle, but Faye put all her weight on the shaft and held him there while he kicked and cussed. After a few seconds he quit moving.

“Hey, girl,” a very deep voice said. She turned, and the giant man from the roof, the man that had killed the first person who’d ever loved her, the man who’d murdered her Grandpa, was standing there, calm as could be, with the biggest revolver she’d ever seen pointed at her head. He cocked the hammer. One of his eyes was white. “No reason for any more killin’ today,” he lied. “I’m looking for something. That’s all.”

Faye wrenched the pitchfork out of the fallen man and pointed it at the big man. Blood dripped from the tines. “You… you killed… killed my Grandpa,” she gasped.

He nodded. “I guess that’s how it’s got to be then.” He pulled the trigger.

The bullet passed through the space where Faye had just been as she materialized off to the man’s side. She gasped in pain. She’d gone too fast, hadn’t used her instincts, and done something wrong, but there was no time, and she stabbed the pitchfork deep.

The man looked down at the iron embedded in his body. The top was in his ribs, the middle had to be through his guts, and the bottom went in just under his belt. Faye drove her weight forward, trying to stick it in deeper, but the man calmly grasped the shaft and wouldn’t let her. It was like pushing on a wall. The man hauled the fork out of his body, several inches of bloody metal from each spot, and in the process knocked Faye on her butt.

Grandpa’s leather bag hit the ground, spilling something metallic into the hay.

Blood leaked out the three holes in the one-eyed man’s side, but he didn’t seem to care. His attention focused in on the bag. Faye scrambled for it, fingers hitting the drawstrings just as he pointed the big revolver at her, and desperate, she Traveled further than she ever had before.

#

The .50 Russian Long dug a divot in the dirt, but the girl was already gone.

“Gawdamned Travelers,” he spat. It was a good thing most of them died young, because he hated them especially hard. He checked his side. The little whore had got him good, but not good enough. It took more than getting stabbed to hurt him, but it sure made him mad.

Carefully scanning back and forth, waiting for the girl to reappear, he picked the small piece of machinery off the ground. He’d been briefed enough to know that this was a part of what he was after, maybe the most important piece even, but it wasn’t all of it, and his orders had said to bring it all back. He carefully stuffed the piece into one bloodied pocket.

Next he checked the old man’s body, but he didn’t have it on him. He must have given it to the girl… His remaining men caught up a moment later. “Have you found it?” he shouted. The men shook their heads. “Find it or I’ll kill you all!” he bellowed. “There’s a girl. She’s a Traveler too. Find her and put a bullet in her. What are you waiting for? Move!”

Terrified, the goons went back to searching. Better be afraid, fucking pussies.

One man hesitated. “You’re bleeding, Mr. Madi.”

The big man just growled at him. “Naw? Really?”

“Uh… what do you want me to do with the bodies.”

Madi scowled. He’d lost two men to that damn Portagee and one to his brat. “Drag ‘em inside. We’ll burn everything ‘fore we go. That’s what they get for being weak. Now quit jawin’ and find that girl.”

Frustrated, he stomped over to the dead Portagee, lifted his LeMat-Schofield and pumped the rest of the hot loaded slugs into the body. Then he thumb cocked the second hammer and gave the old man the 12 gauge barrel just to be sure. He rapidly broke open his empty gun The spent moon-clip kicked out automatically under spring pressure, and he stuffed in another moon-clip of cartridges into the cylinder and a single shotgun shell into the over-barrel, then snapped it shut and shoved the Beast back into his shoulder holster. The bloody mess he’d caused made him smile.

He sat on a bale of hay and waited for the bleeding to gradually stop. Travelin’ Joe was dead, but without all the goods, the Chairman wasn’t going to be happy.

#

Faye watched the one-eyed man from under the overturned trough halfway across the pasture. He yelled at his men, shot Grandpa a bunch more times, and then took a seat. Cows had sensed her, and always curious, were gathering around the trough. The metal was old and had rusted through in places, and she kept her eye against one of those holes, spying, until she could no longer see through all the Holsteins.

She couldn’t stop crying.

Her foot hurt. She’d Traveled without checking first. Grandpa had been gone for all of ten seconds before she had violated his first commandment. She knew that there was something stuck in her heel. Maybe a piece of straw, maybe a rock, and the pain was almost unbearable. Every pulse of her heart felt like somebody was driving a nail through her bones with a carpenter’s hammer.

But that wasn’t why she was crying.

Faye kept Grandpa’s leather bag clutched to her chest. It was splattered with his blood. The pain made her want to just close her eyes and curl up into a ball, but she didn’t know what time it was, and didn’t know how soon it would be until the rest of the family came back from town. If these men were still here, then she knew that she would have to try to stop them before they could hurt her family, but she didn’t know what to do, and she was so very afraid.

Finally, the pain had grown too much to bear. She kicked her filthy boot off, and drew her bare foot into a shaft of sunlight. Faye grimaced when she saw what it was. One of those big black crunchy beetles, the kind that was so tough that you could stomp on them and if the dirt was soft they would just pop back up alive. Its back half was fused into the flesh of her heel, its front legs and mandibles still thrashing.

There was no hesitation. She just wanted it out. Biting her lip, she unfolded her pocketknife, and started cutting. It hurt too bad, so she pulled off her bandanna, rolled it tight and stuck it in her mouth to bite down on so the one-eyed man wouldn’t hear her scream, and went back to digging. Tears poured from her eyes, but she forced herself to keep going. The beetle ruptured, squirting a thick white juice that quickly mixed with her own blood. She knew she had to be thorough. After a few seconds of carving, the beetle was gone, she had a hole that hurt so bad she could barely think, but she felt immensely better.  She stuffed her bandanna into the wound and held it there.

The cows had moved enough for her to see again. The big man had stood, lit a cigar, and then used his lighter to casually set the haystacks on fire before wandering off. A minute later the barn was burning too, and she could see black smoke rising from where the house should be.

She waited until she saw the dust from the cars as they drove back up the road. Then she waited longer, just to make sure it wasn’t a trick. Finally Faye crawled out from under the trough and limped across the pasture to the burning ruins of the only real home she’d ever known.

The grey eyed girl vowed never to cry again.

Chapter 4:  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/the-grimnoir-chronicles-hard-magic-chapter-4/

George Hill needs our support – Good man running for office

Many of you know George Hill as the Ogre of www.madogre.com.  George is running for the Utah State legislature. 

George is a down to earth, normal, level headed, dude.  He’s the kind of guy that you can go shooting with, then eat burgers, and complain about the morons in politics.  When asked for an opinion, he won’t check the polls and the direction of the wind, he’ll just tell you what he thinks.  Basically, he’s one of us. 

I’ve known George for about 12 years now.  He’s an Army vet, and when we met he was a computer geek, and now he’s a friendly neighborhood gun dealer.  He’s got a lovely wife and a mess of sons out in the Vernal, Utah area.   

He’s running for the Utah State legislture, but he needs our help.  Running for office takes money, and if you can spare it, this is the kind of person that we need more of in the government.  There is a donate link on his blog above, and here is a direct link.  EDIT – Paypal link doesn’t work.  Just go to www.madogre.com.

And beyond that, if any of you live in Utah, and you can volunteer your services, I’m sure George would appreciate the help. 

We all complain about the morons in politics and how nice it would be if there were more of “us” in those offices.  Now is your chance to help one out.

EDIT:  Here is George’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Vote-George-Hill/108575745827001?ref=nf

The Grimnoir Chronicles: Hard Magic — Chapter 2

As promised, the snippet rampage continues.  Here is chapter 2 for your reading pleasure.  And to answer an earlier question, no I don’t mind if you share this.  In fact, the whole reason I’m doing this is to get attention for the book, so feel free to post this to your blogs or share it with your friends.  

For those just tuning in, here is the link to Chapter 1 – http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/7-days-of-grimnoir-sample-chapters-from-the-grimnoir-chronicles-hard-magic/

-Larry

 

 

The learned gentlemen from the university have asked me if I relied on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity or if I used the simpler rules of Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation on the evening in question when I accidentally took Sheriff Johnson’s life . Shit. I don’t know. I just got angry and squished the fucker. But I’ve gotten better at running things and I promise not to do it no more.

Jake Sullivan, Parole Hearing, Rockville State Penitentiary 1928

Chapter 2

 

El Nido, California 

The old Portuguese farmer sighed in frustration, ankle-deep in cow shit, as a panicked Holstein ran past flinging shit in every direction with his adopted girl on top trying to ride the animal like a horse.

“Off the cow!” he bellowed, but it didn’t matter anyway, because people rode horses instead of cows for a reason, and a thousand pounds of beef slipped and landed on its side in a great grunting heap. The girl Traveled at the last second to avoid getting hurt. She appeared next to him, still in forward motion, and her rubber boots slid through the muck until she stopped.

She was taller than he was now, so he had to stand on his tiptoes. He smacked her hard on the back of the head as he shouted in English.  “Mean to cows? You don’t be mean to cows!”

“Sorry,” Faye said sheepishly. “I wanted to see what would happen…”

The farmer just shook his head. He’d tried that himself once a long time ago, with similar results, but she didn’t need to know that.  “You upset the cows. Upset cows don’t give so much milk. No milk, no eat.” Times were hard, and they were paid by the hundred weight. There was a 1,000 gallon tank in the barn, and if it wasn’t full when the milk truck came, then that meant less money from the creamery, and they would be eating cows to stay alive instead of milking them.

The cow got up and trotted away, shaking her head and snorting. Its ear tag told him it was Number 155, and she was a pain in the ass anyway. In the barn, she was a kicker, so it served her right. His hand still hurt from the evening milking when that cow had kicked him again.

“Sorry, Grandpa,” Faye said again. “I was done putting grain out for the night and she was just looking at me like she was daring me to mess with her.”  Everybody who worked in the barn had gotten a hoof to the hand by that particular boss cow at some point. 155 was particularly good at pissing on her own tail and then hitting you in the face with it when you were just squatting down to put the milking machine on her. She was an angry cow. “155’s a bitch.”

He thumped her on the back of the head again. “Ladies don’t cuss.” He wanted to smile, but had to stay stern. “So you Traveled and landed on her back?”   

The girl shrugged. She had really grown the last few years. She didn’t really fit in with the rest of the family, being so much taller, paler, skinnier, with hair that was always long, tangled, and the color of damp straw. Her Portuguese had gotten better than his English, she got dragged to a proper Catholic mass most Sundays, and she worked hard for a girl. So it was almost like she wasn’t a damn Okie anymore, but she would certainly never pass for an Azorean Festa princess.

“Never told you not to. Told you to be careful,” he chided her. He had taught her everything he knew about magic. He’d taught her to Travel only to things that were in her line of sight, and how to use her instincts to avoid getting hurt by stray objects. He hated to admit it, but she was already better at it than he had ever been. She could go further, had a better feel for it, and could store more Power than any other grey eye he’d met, but she was still young, and therefore dumb.

“What if the cow moved and you got your foot stuck in it? I’d have a kid with one leg. You can’t milk with one leg!”

“Sure I could. I’d get a stool with wheels.”

“But who’d want a cow with a foot growing out it?”

Faye thought about that problem for a second. “The circus!”

He groaned. The girl’s head just didn’t work in the same direction as most folks. “People like us got to be careful. One mistake…” he made a gagging noise and crossed his eyes. She giggled. She still giggled a lot.

She hadn’t really talked much for the first few months. Faye had always been an odd one, like she didn’t see the world the same way as others, with lots of strange looks and scowls, and when she talked, it didn’t make much sense, usually the first random thing that popped in her head, or things only she could see. The farmer never found out much about her life before, and frankly he didn’t care to, but he knew it must have been lousy, even by miserable Okie standards.

His wife, Maria, may God rest her soul, had taken to the little Okie girl, and doted on her. When Maria had passed on that winter, Faye had watched the family mourn, and he thought that it was probably then that she had figured out she was one of them now. Once Faye decided she finally fit in, she’d been nothing but smiles and mischief ever since. She really brightened the farm up, and though the old farmer missed his wife every single day, the skinny little Okie girl had given him something to live for.

Faye was the best ten bucks he’d ever spent.

“Come on, girl. Let’s feed the calves, then we can turn in,” he said, and the two of them climbed over the corral pipes and dropped down to the hard dirt of the yard. His knees were killing him but there was always more work to do on a dairy farm. She hopped down with the effortless grace of a young woman instead of a clumsy kid. He hated to admit that she was growing up. Even some of the local Portuguese boys from the other families had started sniffing around, but so far he’d kept them at bay with a stern glance and his reputation.

“Grandpa, can I tell you something?”  After the first year she had started calling him Grandpa instead of Mr. Vierra. He’d never minded.

“What, girl? You gonna fess up to scaring more cows?”

She didn’t giggle for once. That got his attention, because she was hardly ever serious. There were always random thoughts spinning in that girl’s head, but it was rare when she shared. “It’s about my magic. Something don’t make sense to me.” He waited for it. None of it really made sense to him. He’d just learned to control it by instinct. Most of the others like them weren’t so lucky. “You taught me to feel ahead before I Travel…”

“And you always do, right?”

“Of course,” she said defensively. “But lately, it’s been more than feeling. If I try real hard, it’s like, I don’t know, like I can see the space before I get there. I don’t know. I don’t have the words to explain it good. It only happens if I try real hard.”

The old farmer nodded thoughtfully. According to everything he had learned over decades of practice, that was impossible. You didn’t see until your eyes actually got there. A Traveler could get a sense of wrongness if he was about to jump into a bad place, and that could save your life, but you couldn’t actually see anything until you arrived. “I don’t know how magic works, just that it does. I teach you what I know, don’t mean you can’t learn more than me.”  

Faye seemed perplexed by that. “Why is it that some of us can do some kinds of magic, but only some of us, and we can only do one kind? If we got one magic, why can’t we get more?”

He knew that she was wrong. There was at least one person out there with more than one Power, but she was too young to have to know about him. “That’s how God wants it, I guess.”

“What if magic was something that could be learned, and not just born with? What if regular people could learn it, like from books or a school or something?”

This train of thought made him uncomfortable. Faye assumed what most people did, that there was only one kind of magic, but he knew that there was the other kind. The old kind, the bad kind. He grunted. “Less talk, more work. Come on. Calves are hungry.”   

Faye sighed. “They’re always hungry.”

 

 

 

Springfield, Illinois

“Sullivan! Are you okay?”

He blinked against the brilliant light. His head was throbbing, pulsing like somebody was running a blacksmith’s forge inside his brain. “Ohhh… that Fade cooled me good,” he muttered, pulling himself up. Cowley was kneeling at his side, blood leaking from his nose. Sullivan wasn’t the only one the Fade had worked over.

The Spiker mashed one big hand against the side of his head, and it came away stained red. He’d really gotten belted. Sullivan knew that he should have been out for a lot longer, but he’d spent a lot of time using his Powers to toughen his body. It wasn’t like there was much else to do inside an eight-by-ten windowless cell all day. “Which way did they go?” He picked his fedora up and tugged it down tight on his head.

Cowley pointed up.

The blimp. Sullivan got to his feet. “How’s Purvis?”

“I’ll live,” the senior agent grumbled from off to the side, his left arm was hanging at a very unnatural angle. “Everybody’s alive, but they’re hurt bad. I don’t know where the locals are. They should have come running when they heard shooting. They’ve got a gang of Actives, Sullivan. There are more of them that went up there. A Mover bounced the boys I left on the door. There was another girl, who knows what she does?”

Sullivan stood. His head hurt, but everything seemed to be attached. No bones were sticking out, and he wasn’t squirting blood, so he’d been worse. He checked his Power. It had automatically returned and he could feel the weight in his chest. He had about half of what he’d started the night with. There was a sudden clank as the docking clamps were retracted from the dirigible. “Take care of your men, Melvin. I’m going after them.”          

“There are at least three Actives,” Purvis warned.

“That’s suicide,” Cowley said, grimacing as he picked up his Tommy Gun. “I’m coming with you.”

That kind of bravery would probably get the agent killed someday, but Sullivan could respect it. “Fine, let’s go.” His .45 was on the ground and he returned it to the leather holster on his belt.

“The car won’t come down from the top. They probably wrecked the controls,” Cowley said. “And the door to the next stairwell landing is steel, and it’s been sorta… twisted. It’s stuck. I already tried– Wait, Jake, what are you doing?”

Sullivan stepped into the elevator shaft. There was no ladder and the interior of the shaft was made up of a grating that would be extremely difficult to climb. The Spiker paused long enough to pull a pair of leather gloves from his coat and put them on before grabbing the swaying cable in the center. It was extremely greasy and he looked with distaste at the mess it was making to his best shirt. Money was tight. “Don’t try to keep up.”

He reached inside and used some Power. It always took less energy to affect his own body than others. Perhaps it was just a question of range, but either way, it didn’t take much Power to make gravity shrink away to nothingness around his person. Sullivan reached high and pulled, launching himself up the cable, hand over hand, almost flying up the whipping strand. Within seconds he had left the first floor behind.

“Wow… and I get a lighter,” Cowley muttered from below.

Why am I doing this? Sullivan wondered, but he already knew his answer. He had a few certain principles, and one of those was that when he started something, he finished it.

The bottom of the elevator car was black with grime and collected petroleum sludge. Sullivan almost collided into the soft mass, so great was the speed of his ascent. He held onto the cable with one hand and dangled, looking for the trapdoor. He found it, but had magically deprived himself of the weight to push it open. He concentrated on the trap’s iron hinges. It took a great deal of effort to channel his Power in two separate directions at once, to make himself lighter, but to make the door heavier than its hinges could bear.

Good thing he’d done nothing but practice for six years…

“Sam! Get out of the way!” he shouted. He had no idea if the Bureau of Investigation agent was actually crazy enough, or physically fit enough to follow him this way, but it was worth the effort to yell. “Incoming!”   

The trapdoor, now drawn toward the Earth as if it weighed five hundred pounds, tore free, and toppled down the shaft. Sullivan reached out with his Power, just in case, and lessened the pull on the trapdoor so it fluttered down with the energy of a broken kite. The length of the reach overcame his concentration, and for a brief moment, Sullivan slipped. He barely held onto the greasy cable as he returned instantly to his natural weight. Sliding, almost losing it, he managed to shove one hand through the open trap. Grasping the edge, he pulled himself through onto the elevator’s carpeted floor with a grunt.

The shaft terminated inside a glass enclosure. UBF signs encouraged mothers to secure their children while on the platform. Sullivan crawled forward, glancing around the darkened enclosure. Rain was streaking the glass and lightning crashed. Three UBF employees and the last of the passengers were standing there, gawking at the dirigible beginning to rise just outside the windows. Delilah was getting away.

“Hey!” he shouted. “Can you clamp it down from here?”

“Are you crazy? You want them to stay?” an older man in a blue UBF captain’s uniform shouted. “That’s my bird they’re glauming out there, and even I don’t want to mess with those freaks! He bent the door with his brain, son!”

Sullivan swore as he tried the door to the platform. The metal frame had been twisted and distorted somehow. It was like what Cowley had said had happened in the stairs. He didn’t even know what kind of Power that was, and if it was the Mover, then it was from an Active far stronger than anybody he’d met before.

That gave him an idea. The dirigible companies were employing lightning directors now, and their safety records had gone way up as a result, but he’d also seen what an offensive weapon they could be during the war. “Who’s the Crackler?” Sullivan asked. “Come on!”

One of the younger UBF employees stepped forward. Sullivan kicked himself. It should have been obvious. His coverall had a big yellow lightning bolt sewn on it. “We prefer being called Edisons,” the young man said stiffly.

“Whatever floats your boat, pal. Can you blast them out of the sky?”

“It doesn’t work like that,” he said quickly. The others looked at him suspiciously. Even if he could, he wasn’t going to admit it in front of people who could get him fired. “Of course I can’t.” 

“It was worth a try.” The dirigible was rising, loose cables whipping about it in the wind. “Cover your ears,” Sullivan ordered as he drew his 1911 Colt. There was no way he could heed his own advice and his ears stung from the concussion in the enclosed space. A hole puckered through the thick glass. He stepped back and kicked the window out, careful not to slice himself open on the jagged edges, and stepped onto the platform. The rain was pounding around him in giant sheets.

The dirigible’s cabin was thirty feet up and rising quick. He could have shot at it, but he might as well try to poke holes in the moon. He could empty an entire magazine into that gas bag and they’d still have enough helium to make it to California. A few .45 caliber holes weren’t going to make a lick of difference. They were far enough away from the tower now to safely fire up the propellers, and they coughed and began to turn. The stubby wedge wings started getting lift and the rate of climb increased dramatically. There was no time for hesitation. Sullivan took three quick steps, vaulted over the railing into space, drawing deep on his Power the whole time.

The safety cable snapped past, slamming into his chest, flinging him about as if he weighed nothing, which in fact was almost true. He wrapped his arms around the cable and his fedora disappeared into the darkness. Sullivan grimaced as the sharp corner of the platform’s metal roof caught his leg and slashed through his trousers and into the muscle of his calf.      

It hurt unbelievably bad. He didn’t know how deep it was. He could let go and float to the ground now, or he could pass out from blood loss and drop like a stone. But Sullivan ignored the pain, despite every rational part of his brain telling him that he was cuckoo, and began to climb, throwing himself up the cable with maniacal force. The wind was increasing as the dirigible picked up speed and the incandescent lights of Springfield were winking by under his kicking legs.

Thrashing through the rain, he could see that the cable terminated on a spool at the aft end of the cabin. There was a catwalk under it, and Sullivan concentrated on reaching it. He blinked away rain and tears long enough to notice the form of a man walking down the catwalk, right toward the spool. Sullivan knew he was a sitting duck. There was no more time.

Altering gravity took Power. The further he reached the more it took, and changing the direction of pull entirely burned up Power like coal in a blast furnace, but he had no choice. Sullivan Spiked as hard as he could as he let go of the rope and returned to his normal weight. There was a rip in space as one bit of it was temporarily wronged and inverted. Up became down and he fell through the sky, upward toward the climbing dirigible.

It was the Fade, moving down the catwalk, reeling the cables back in to avoid lightning strikes. He paused, noticing that something was wrong as the raindrops in front of his face slowed, hesitated in midair, and then began climbing. The German turned just in time to catch Sullivan’s massive fist with his jaw.

“Lights out, Hans,” Sullivan said as he crawled over the railing and dropped into a crouch on the steel catwalk. The German was out cold, flat on his back, one leg dangling off the edge. He knelt next to the unconscious man and patted him down. No papers, no wallet, the only thing distinctive was a gold ring with a black stone on his right hand. Sullivan found a diminutive little .32 in his coat, and frowned as he examined the Baby Browning. “Europeans…” he muttered, stuffing the tiny pistol in his own pocket.

The German moaned, so Sullivan grabbed a handful of shirt with his left, and gave him another big right, before dropping him back to the deck. He wouldn’t be going anywhere for awhile.  “Now we’re even.”

The big man moved quickly down the catwalk. Through the portholes he could see that the lights were on inside the cabin, which meant that he could see in, but they’d have a darn hard time seeing out. But he didn’t see anybody as he passed. The dirigible was going even faster now, and the wind was screaming past, whipping his tie and coat behind. Sullivan leaned into it and plodded on until he found an entrance door and ducked in.

The door opened into a wood paneled hallway that bisected the cabin. It was a lot quieter inside. Sullivan paused, catching his breath, dripping rainwater, and made sure his Power was ready. The cut on his calf burned, but didn’t appear to be as deep as he’d originally feared. The blood was leaking, rather than pumping, and he removed his tie and wrapped it around the cut as a makeshift bandage. Once he caught Delilah, the feds were definitely going to have to spring for a new set of duds. He drew his Colt and proceeded slowly down the hall, boots squeaking slightly.

The next door was marked Galley. Sullivan moved inside. The rectangular space was filled with two long bars and bolted down swivel stools, but empty of people. There was a door at the far end, and Sullivan started toward it. Somebody was driving this blimp, and they had to be in that direction. Delilah was probably with them, and if he could capture her, then he was finally a free man.

There was a tinkle of glass and a crash from the other side of the door and Sullivan automatically raised the Colt to cover it. A head moved on the other side of the circular glass window, and then the door swung open.

It was a young man, tall and thin, with disheveled brown hair and a skinny mustache, wearing a wool overcoat, but no hat, and his tie was undone. He had a bottle of wine in one hand and a corkscrew in the other. He was grinning and all of his attention was on getting that bottle open. Of course alcohol was illegal, but everybody knew that the passenger blimps always had something good stashed for the rich passengers.  

“Hey,” Sullivan said calmly. The 1911 made an audible click as the safety was moved into the off position. 

The young man looked up in surprise. “Hey, yourself,” he replied slowly. “Who are you supposed to be?”

“The one with the gun, so get your hands up.”

He paused. “But if I do that, I would have to drop this…”

Sullivan nodded slowly. “Beats getting shot in the face.”

“This is an 1899 vintage Merida-Claribout. I can’t drop it.”

“Well, I could drop you instead.”

He sighed in resignation. “Fine…” He let go of the bottle and the corkscrew and quickly raised his hands.

But there was no crash. No breaking of glass. Sullivan jerked his eyes down and saw the bottle hovering an inch off the floor. The young man smiled.

The bottle streaked across the galley at insane speeds, faster than Sullivan could Spike, and hit him in the arm as he jerked the trigger. Rather than break, the bottle impacted like a club. Sullivan tried to reacquire his target, but the bottle came flipping around out of nowhere and hit him over the top of the head and this time it shattered.

“Shit,” he growled as he landed against the bar, alcohol burning his eyes. The Colt came up, but pain flared through Sullivan’s hand, and he looked down in disbelief at the corkscrew embedded just behind the knuckles of his gun hand. His fingers twitched uncontrollably and the .45 hit the bar. He grasped for it with his left, but the gun flew down the bar and disappeared. “Damned Movers.”

“Yeah, we get that a lot,” the kid said. There was a sudden noise as several of the drawers on the service side of the counter slid open. There was a flash of silver and a cloud of knives, forks, and even spoons, rose over the bar. All of the items turned in the air so that they were pointed at Sullivan. “So who are you supposed to be?”

“I’m here to help arrest Delilah Jones for murder,” Sullivan said with more calm than he felt as he stared at a particularly large steak knife. He grasped the corkscrew and slowly withdrew it, turning it so as to not pull out a plug of meat, grimacing against the pain. From his understanding of Movers, it took a lot of effort to even direct the smallest of objects with any control. Let alone whole bunches of them. This kid was good.

“You a G-man?” the Mover asked. He was grimacing slightly, so it was taking some effort to hold up all those things, but Sullivan had to admit that it was mighty intimidating.

“Hardly… I suppose I’m a bounty hunter.” Sullivan took his time responding. It had to be using up a lot of the kid’s Power to show off like that. Being flashy was a waste of energy, and everybody had his limits. “Maybe I’ll get a reward for you too. What’s blimp-napping worth nowadays?” 

“Actually this is a dirigible. Blimps don’t have internal frames.”

“Everybody knows that.”

“You must be the Heavy that’s working for the feds.”

“Yeah,” Sullivan answered, Spiking hard. “Guess so.” Each piece of silverware suddenly gained fifty pounds. The kid gasped as he lost control and the objects crashed down.

The kid was at the far end of the bar, which was a little too far for an accurate Spike, so Sullivan reached across his body with his uninjured left hand and rummaged through his right coat pocket.

“You’re going to regret that!” the Mover shouted. “You Heavies can only concentrate on one space at a time. Watch this!” Then he theatrically spread his arms, and every loose object in the room shook. Plates, cups, bottles, trash, silverware, even the stools spun and the light fixtures pulled against their cords. “It’s like a thousand invisible hands, bucko. Let’s see how you do in the middle of a tornado.”

Sullivan came out with the German’s little .32. “You talk a lot,” and then he shot the kid in the knee.  

“Oww!” the Mover screamed as he fell to the floor. “Oh damn!” he grasped his leg and blood came pouring out between his fingers. All of the telekinetic Power was lost and the various objects fell with a clatter.  “You, you bastard! That hurts!”

“You have to learn to focus through the pain to use your Power, kid,” Sullivan said patiently. He’d crossed the room quickly and was standing over the Mover. “You’re lucky. I was aiming for your head, but I’m right handed.” He held up his bleeding hand, indicating the corkscrew hole. The fingers didn’t want to close. “I don’t aim so good with my left.”

The kid gritted his teeth, gathering his Power and a meat cleaver rose from the bar. Sullivan just shrugged, Spiked, and the injured man fell to the ceiling and rebounded off a steel beam in the roof, then Sullivan let gravity return to normal and the kid fell, crashing in a moaning, broken heap at his feet.

Sullivan returned the .32 to his pocket. He removed his handkerchief and wrapped it around his hand to stop the bleeding. The white quickly turned red. It hurt like a son of a bitch. He spotted his Colt near the kid and picked it up, limping onward.

Two down, but how many others were there? Sullivan was feeling woozy. He was losing blood. Had the others heard the gunshot? Would they be waiting for him?

He crossed another empty hallway. The control deck was up a short flight of metal steps at the end. The coast appeared to be clear. Sullivan checked his Power. There wasn’t a whole lot left. He should have just shot the talky Mover again and saved the juice.

There was only one way in, so Sullivan moved up as quietly as possible for a man of his stature. If he hadn’t been so worried about running low on Power, he would have given himself the weight of a dainty ballerina and made no noise at all. He set his boot down carefully, so the steps wouldn’t creak. The space around him was a mass of darkened pipes and shadows. This section wasn’t meant to be seen by the passengers, so UBF had saved the money on making it pretty. This end of the dirigible was noisy and vibrating from the front propellers and the wind. It was possible that the pilot of the stolen blimp hadn’t even heard the guns.

Creeping forward, Sullivan could see a man sitting in the driver’s seat. He could just see the back of a balding head. The captain’s chair was empty. He went a little further around the corner, until he saw a second person, a woman with long blonde hair at the radio operator’s station. She had her back to him and seemed intent on whatever she was listening to.

“All points bulletin. The state police are just waiting for the storm to pass so they can get some biplanes up,” the woman said. She had a touch of an accent like some of the eastern European immigrants Sullivan had served with in the 1st. “They think we’re heading for Canada.”

“Good thing we had Heinrich kill the spotlights,” the driver said. “Canada? Please. That’s like they took Vermont and made a whole country out of it, only more boring, and without the good maple syrup.” His voice was deep and smooth, almost like a radio news man.

Sullivan couldn’t see Delilah, and she was the one he was worried about running into at close range. He stepped into the room and aimed his gun at the back of the pilot’s head.

The girl at the radio turned and spotted Sullivan. “Uh, Danny, we’ve got company.” Sullivan realized she was rather attractive, probably thirty, with her hair bounced up like they were doing in the new color picture movies. “There’s a large man pointing a Colt at you… and he looks mad.”

The pilot chuckled, but didn’t bother to turn. “No need to be rude, Jane. Hello there. My name is Daniel Garrett. You can call me Dan. Pardon me for not standing and greeting you properly, but we’re at two thousand feet and climbing and these winds are getting worse. I’m trying to keep from plowing this unwieldy beast into the ground and being the death of us all.”

“Is that a threat?” Sullivan asked. “Because I can get out and walk.”

Dan laughed. “Oh no, friend, nothing of the sort.” His voice was calming. Sullivan felt like this man was a likable sort, a real reasonable guy. “Please, lower that gun and relax. I’m trying to drive this pig, here, and I could sure use a hand. I’m sure we can work out this misunderstanding.”

The Colt bobbed down. Yes, this was just a misunderstanding. No big deal.  They could always sit down and talk it out over a drink. Dan seemed a decent sort. He reminded Sullivan of an old friend, not that he could think of who specifically.

The entire front of the cabin was glass, and Sullivan could see nothing but blackness. Then lightning struck and he could see again.

Sullivan frowned. He’d felt this kind of intrusion before, though this one was a lot more subtle, a lot more cunning. “You’re in my head.” The Colt came back up. “Get out of my head, Mouth.”

“You’re sharp…” Dan said. “I thought you Heavies were supposed to be dimwits.”

“Not all of us.” He kept the gun on the driver, but kept one eye glued to the blonde. In this crew, he wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d started tossing undead flaming grizzly bears at him or something. “I don’t have time for your games—“

“No kidding,” said the girl. “You’ve got a three inch laceration on one leg, a puncture in your hand, a minor concussion, two injured vertebra in your lower back, and you’ve just picked up a nasty cold, though you won’t know about that until tomorrow morning. And you really need to quit smoking.”

Sullivan sighed. “I’m gonna ask this one time, then I’m gonna beat you until I’m bored. Where’s Delilah?”

A painted fingernail tapped his shoulder. “Right behind you, Jake.”

She’d been hiding between the pipes Sullivan realized as he Spiked, but Delilah had already been channeling her Power, increasing her strength ten-fold as she grabbed Sullivan by the shoulders and slammed him through the duralumin bulkhead and out the side of the airship.

Didn’t see that coming, Jake thought before blacking out, hurtling through the dark night.

#

It was the cold that finally brought him back to consciousness. Jake Sullivan gradually awoke, coughing at the bottom of a hole. He was on his back, soaked to the bone, encased in freezing damp mud. Water was falling down the hole, splashing him in the face, and every inch of his body ached. He was dizzy and wanted to puke, but he knew that was just the blood loss talking.

Not sure where he was, or how he’d gotten there, Sullivan pulled himself out of the mud. Roots and bits of rock were stuck in what was left of his clothing. His right hand still didn’t want to close, and he was surprised to find that he still clutched the Colt in his left, though when he looked at it, found that he only had the badly crushed frame. The slide was just gone. It looked like the magazine had exploded under the pressure and the magazine spring was dangling out the bottom like a half gutted fish. Jake tossed the ruined Colt in the mud with a splash, saddened by the loss of such a good piece.

He checked, and found that he was totally out of Power, utterly drained, and feeling unbelievably weak. It took him nearly ten minutes to crawl to the top of the hole, finding purchase on severed roots and bits of leaking pipe. Finally he crossed the top, where he discovered five splintered railroad ties and one side of a railroad track that had bent into a U before shearing. On top of that was the broken floor of an empty freight car, and above that was a perfect Sullivan-shaped hole through the freight train’s metal roof.

That’s a first, he thought as he crawled out from under the railcar and rolled onto his back into a puddle. He was in the middle of a train yard. The North American logo was right over his head. He’d fallen two thousand feet, blasted through a train car, dug an impact crater, and still nothing felt broken. Somehow he’d used up the last of his Power unconsciously before impact. He must have gone real dense. He hadn’t known he could do that, but then again, he didn’t routinely fall off blimps.        

A shape appeared. “Looks like we got us another filthy hobo.”

There was a second voice. “I’ll fetch my beatin’ stick.”

Sullivan grunted. It was gonna be a long night…

Chapter 3:  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/the-grimnoir-chronicles-hard-magic-chapter-3/

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