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/
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
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.”
“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…