A Prison of Worlds (The Chained Worlds Chronicles Book 1) (3 page)

BOOK: A Prison of Worlds (The Chained Worlds Chronicles Book 1)
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The
other hard part was once I was close to Kingston, and I examined his aura, I
realized that, yes, he was nuts.  So I abducted him, forcibly cured him of his
psychosis through another very exhausting and time consuming psionic procedure
and then bonded with him.  The cure I know is only temporary without reams of
therapy afterward, and it doesn't really change that you’re a bad man.  I put
him in a temporary coma, transferred his money through several accounts,
changed faces, walked in a bank and physically walked out with it, changed
faces again and moved it bit by bit into other accounts.  I did this using
Kingston's own skills as a very unscrupulous but imaginative bookkeeper to
cover my tracks and set up alternate identities.  He was a very talented man.

I
never did figure out why he vanished afterward; when I left him, he was safe
and sound in a hospital occupying a temporary bed in the coma ward.  I looked
into it afterward and he checked himself out a week after I checked him in, and
then just vanished.  His organization sort of fell apart, and I am guessing another
good fellow took over.  I did all of this not because I wanted to be a hero,
but because I was destitute and needed to change this status without harming
anyone that didn’t deserve it.  I am still not sure whether to be guilty about
what I did, so I usually avoid thinking about it.  Denial is comfort food for
the brain.

So
when Jeremy dropped his bombshell I suppose it was silly to be surprised.  I
have always admired his skills as a sleuth, and although strangers may not have
noticed anything, to him I may as well have been waiving a red flag.  After a
moment’s reflection, I just sighed. “No comment.”

“Anyway,
if people ever find out that you took out Kingston they may jump to conclusions
about your orientation.”

Damn,
I hate politics.  Back home in post holocaust-ville all I had to do is worry
about whether our patrols would run across hostile neighbors.    

“I'll
cross that bridge when we come to it.  I have plans in place but I kind of like
my life as it is.”  I paused a moment to clarify this statement. “As
frustrating as my research is.”

“Dead
end,” Jeremy prompted politely, as he got up and walked into the back room. 
Once he left the room, I surreptitiously sidled over to where he had sat and
noted the scuff marks on the table.  I was going to have to buff that out as
well as get the carpet cleaned.  Sometimes, friends are a real pain in the butt.

He
came back a moment later with a shirt and jacket that vaguely fit him, though
perhaps a little baggy.  He usually wore loose clothing so this was actually
not a big change for him, except the better quality material.  “Well, not
completely.  I am going through the last stack.” I winced at the thought of the
last twenty books.  “But I think in the time I have been looking for something
real about magic, I have found maybe five books.  And they weren't very
helpful,” I added sourly.  A couple cantrips and wards for evil spirits.  I could
light a cigarette with my thumb; home dimension here I come!

“It
could be that I have a lead for you,” the rumpled PI dropped with nonchalance.

This
perked me up right away.  “You found something?  Why didn't you say something
sooner?”

“I
think there was something about bullet wounds,” he said, with a slight edge to
his voice.

“Er...
right, sorry about that.”  I kept forgetting humans got worried over this
stuff.  People have actually called me insensitive.  Jerks.

“There's
a new shifter in town.  Girl called Mei Ling.  Some kind of hot shot martial
artist bounty hunter.”

“And
she interests me how?” I prompted.  Not that I doubted the man, I am just like
that.

“She's
hunting some kind of witch or wizard.”

“Huh?”
Disappointment flooded through me.  “The wizard is a villain?  That does me no
good.  An evil wizard is more trouble than they are worth.  They are
notoriously close-mouthed unless you swear eternal servitude to them or some
such garbage.”  I felt myself on the verge of pouting.  “Are you sure it's
actually a witch or wizard?  I thought they hadn't been outed yet.”  I am sure
they exist, but they hide far better than the other supernaturals I had found
in this world.

“Not
officially, but anyone who's not a halfwit can guess some of what's offstage
ready to come into the spotlight.  Besides, can't you…” Jeremy tapped the side
of his head suggestively.

“Bah,
you can't take magic by force... well unless you're some whack job of a blood
mage.” Agitated, my handed gestured to try to get the point across.  I had seen
Italian mafia in movies do it and it seemed cool.

Jeremy
barely ducked my swinging hands, muttering curses under his breath.  It's his
own fault, he was the one that insisted I see
The Godfather
.

“Well,
wizards would have books about magic, right?  You're bound to get better stuff
that what you’re combing through.”

That
thought stopped me.  He was right.  Anything had to be better than the useless
time-wasters I was looking at now. 

“So
are you interested?”

“Okay,
this seems a good lead.”  Getting down to business I continued. “Five hundred credits
in your account now.  If this pans out, one thousand more credits.”

“Great. 
She is staying at this address,” Jeremy said, while pulling a stained folded square
of nupaper from his pocket. I gingerly took the rather abused sheet between my
thumb and pointer finger, and noticed rather fresh traces of blood on it.

“Okay...”
Slightly nonplussed at the tattered state of my directions, I unfolded the cheap
plastic textured sheet and began to read.  “She's at the Hotel Riviera?  That’s
across town in one of the upscale neighborhoods.”

“Well,
not everyone stays at the YMCA when they first visit the city.”  That earned
him a glare.

“By
the way, I assume you took care of the problem you had?” I asked while
gesturing at his side where the bullet wound had been.

“Yeah,
it was just a misunderstanding over a client's possession,” Jeremy said nonchalantly,
waving away my concern.  “Anyway, I have to head home, I need to sleep.  We can
watch
Mad Max
later.”

“You
should get some better protection if you won't let me show you a few tricks.”

“I
was wearing protection. That coat you ripped off me kept that thing from
tearing me in half.”

Looking
guiltily at the coat lying on the floor in pieces, I glanced back at him.  It
hadn't felt that armored.  “Okay, buy another one.  On me.  Maybe have a force
field built in it.”

He
snorted.  “That is restricted military technology.  I'll have to settle for
armored coats.  These days it seems the only time the military lifts a finger
to do anything is if they find someone using their tech.”

I
walked him to the door and looked out as he rode off in his old beat up blue car. 
It was such an old piece of junk that I don't think anyone ever tried to steal
it despite it being an antique.  He had once extolled me with a detailed
description of its history and why it was such a fantastic find.  I think I
purposely blocked out that memory.  Hardly anyone used street cars these days,
although with the recent renewed interest in 20
th
-century fads that
may change. 

The
sun was well up and the city around me was now active.  I suppose some people
just like working at night.  Just to stretch my legs I walked out and made a
leisurely tour around the block.

The
mostly deserted neighborhood was squarely middle class in appearance and well
laid out, which most likely was one of the reasons the crime rate was so low. 
The streets were wide and empty of cars on the surface; there were no hidden
nooks and crannies for criminals to hide.  The other reason may have been that
I had bought most of the houses around me so there are fewer potential
victims.  A piercing, high-pitched whine came from the distance, and I saw a
mag-lev commuter train barreling by on the tracks several thousand feet away,
so fast that it was almost gone before the noise reached me.  I frowned.  I
came from a city full of magic users of various flavors and even now the
technologically oriented city threw me off if I paid too much attention to it. 

I
turned my attention straight upward to see the various air cars, bikes, and scooters
flying high above the street.  At regular spacing, there were floating buoys
that acted as traffic beacons.  I used to love flying.

Absently
fingering my chest where the runes lay under my shirt, I scowled at the hover
cars as I turned back to the house.  A faint humming sound swiftly grew behind
me reached the door.

“Are
you the Professor?” A voice drifted from the lawn at my back and I hunched my shoulders. 
Damn, I hate it when Jeremy's right.

Turning
around, I was somewhat surprised to see a fully uniformed police officer,
complete with rigid light body armor and automatic rifle.  “I have heard some
people calling me that.”  He didn't look hostile, just a bit officious.  The
armor couldn't be comfortable, even if the morning was relatively cool.  Yep,
looking closer, a fine sheen of sweat covered his brow.  Maybe the ‘advanced’
technology required for refrigerated armor was restricted to the military too.

“Sorry
sir, I just had an address and a title.  We couldn't find your phone or vid
number,” the officer said pleasantly.  It didn't look like I was being arrested,
but heck if I knew what he wanted.

“I
don't have a phone, er, working phone,” I said shrugging.  The police man just
looked at me like I was a madman.   Most of the people I know look at me the
same way.  I can't stand the things, always making weird noises just before
they vent a foul smelling gas.  I used to know some psychics that had a special
relationship with technology.  I am not one of them and never even tried to
develop such a thing.  I almost have to be in a meditative state to keep my
energies from interacting with the new chips.

“Um,
right.” He seemed a bit flustered by my flat response.  “I am Officer
Cromwell.  Er... well, Lieutenant Monahan asked me to see if you'd mind
consulting on some crimes.”

This
took me back a bit.  “Me?  I don't have any background in criminology.”

“The
crimes involve magic, sir.”

I
understood now.  It's not like the city didn't have its hidden magic users, it’s
just that most of them were very much like mystics or shamans.  They had an instinctive
knowledge on how to cast specific spells.  To learn more, they would meditate
and become ‘enlightened.’  Useless.  They had no idea how magic worked, just
how to contemplate their navel.  Perhaps that was harsh, but there was some
truth to it.  I couldn't cast verbal spells yet, but I knew magic, felt it in
my bones... and it didn't hurt to have lived in a city full of braggart mages. 
Damn, I missed them.

So
basically the reason they needed me was very similar to why I was looking for
educated wizards.  If a crime involved magic then either a supernatural entity
committed it, a mystic did it, or a wizard did it.  Basically, they needed me
for my ‘academic’ reputation rather than my vigilante experience.  My mind
flashed back to my conversation just a few minutes ago.  A captured wizard
would leave books behind.  Surely the nice police officers wouldn't need all
those books.

“Okay.”

Chapter
2

 

The
air traffic was rather intense, and I assume there was no real time crunch,
because the officer only used his siren once to bypass the gridlocked air
cars.  I enjoy flying under my own power, but sitting in a ceramic and plasteel
can, surrounded by other floating boxes, was boring as hell.  I am trying to
keep a fairly low profile, but if I could still shapechange into something with
wings I would probably just shrug my shoulders and tell everyone I was a mutant
vampire, just to freely fly around.  There was an old cartoon about gargoyles; I
could have faked being one of them.  Some branches of my species can fly with
or without wings.  I ain't one of them.

Still,
it wasn't really far, and the closer we got the less traffic we saw until we
were the sole car in the sky.  Can you say target?  When I first noticed the
traffic go away, I looked down and saw we were over the Blight.  If you're not
familiar with the city, then let me just say it's insanely thick with unsavory
types. Oddly enough, from up here I could see large areas of the slums newly
cordoned off behind semi-translucent tents. That just had to push all the
transients, homeless, and gangs into smaller areas.  I winced.  That can’t end
well.  This worried me since this was where I buy my books.

Technology
allows a minimum level of lifestyle to almost anyone.  If you, for some unknown
reason, don’t want to fit in, are antisocial, or perhaps just bat shit crazy,
you can go to the cities only free ranging insane asylum we call the Blight. 
You can play gangster, road warrior, homeless, or anarchist to your heart’s
content.  If you die, you will be taken to the city hospital and resurrected,
assuming your brain is intact, then sent on your merry way.  The area is
largely unpoliced since, crazy or not, the people have cobbled together some
pretty slick jammers and EMP generators.  It’s safer just to leave them alone,
and not worth calling in the military.

When
my sixth sense went off, I knew we were about to be attacked; sometimes, I love
clairvoyance.  This wasn't really one of them.  I knew a good minute ahead of
the fact that we were going into trouble but didn't know how, when or why.  It
was a very frustrating feeling.

“Officer...”
I began and then trailed off.  How do you tell a non-psychic that you feel bad
vibes and something unfortunate is going to happen?  And, by the way, you can't
say what.

“What
can I do for you, Prof?” the officer asked good-naturedly.

“Um.”
 Hemming and hawing may occasionally work, but it wasn't exactly productive in
this case.  I scanned the area below us for what was triggering my senses, the
adrenalin rush seeming to slow the world slightly as my eyes flicked from point
to point, the sense of danger slowly growing in the back of my mind.

All
I saw were mostly vacant decaying buildings, most with windows broken, some
with holes in walls where shattered brick and wood facing gaped open.  There
were people down there, most ignoring us, some glaring as the vehicle of the
law flew above them.  With a moment of clarity, I saw the source of my
discontent.  Below us, seemingly waiting for us, was a rag tag group of rough
looking youths with tubes of some sort pointing at us.  While I am not a
technophile, Jeremy has brought over enough movies in the last six months to
fill in most of the holes in my knowledge with this dimension's Earth culture. 
That, and they looked a lot like the hi-tech outlaws and hostile colonies who used
to shoot at us, back home.  There’s a certain intense, crazy look in the eyes
that gives them away.

“Missiles,”
I shouted, while pointing over his shoulder.  I was a little too late since I
saw five separate flashes and the too familiar sight of torpedo-like objects rising
through the air towards us. 

I
really have to hand it to Cromwell, he really knew how to fly.  Well, I think
he did.  At least the car bucked and twisted and flipped a lot.  I didn't have
my belt on, and I got thrown around a lot until I managed to shove my hand
through the armored door and anchor myself in place.  Hopefully, my pilot would
be occupied enough not to notice this.  I was trying to stay just a minor human
psychic with an education in the occult, not one of the ludicrously strong supernaturals
that the city teemed with.

There
was a whine and a pop as faint smoke filled the back seat.  That was probably
the kinetic dampeners that were supposed to keep us from being tossed around. 
The fact that they conveniently just self-destructed was most likely my fault. 
While sad, I suppose I should just be happy we were still in the air.  I tried
to think tranquil, enlightened thoughts and dampen my energies.  The sound of
one hand clapping and all that jazz.  Officer Cromwell had his harness on; sometimes
being truly old school pays.

We
avoided the first barrage and I situated myself in a stable enough location to
actually look outside again.  I was just in time to see another set of five fly
towards us.  The thought whispered through the back of my mind that this meant
there were at least ten guys with launchers down there, because there is no way
those things can shoot twice in a row.  At least I hoped not.  I hated
technology sometimes.

Now
that I had gotten my bearings, I placed a hundred-foot-wide psionic bubble
between us and them in time to take that volley.  It was pretty sturdy but
still went down at the fifth hit.  I hope that confused them at least.  My
force fields are invisible, unless you can sense psychic energy or see the unseen
in some way.

The
car rolled over again, still doing those neat evasion rolls that had sent me
spinning like a ping pong ball through the back seat.  I took advantage of the
very clear view of the ground through the window to place a third, smaller
force bubble directly around the bad people shooting at us.

The
next thing I saw was a very bright light show below us as another set of five
missiles rose up, only to impact the interior of the telekinetic wall
surrounding the youths shooting at us.  Okay, I guess those things can shoot
multiple times.  You learn something new every day.

Wincing
in sympathy, I looked to see the shield go down.  Did I mention that my race
can see things that are invisible?  They kind of glow blue to me. I am not sure
how others that can see these things or perceive them.  My glowing bubble
popped as the missiles hit them.  I tried to keep an eye out on the location as
the car continued to make like a roller coaster.  When the debris and smoke
finally cleared I noted that five missiles exploding fifty feet from a human
isn't a good thing.  There was no one still standing beneath us.  On the good
side, I didn't see body parts or blood blanketing the area so maybe they were
still alive.

“Are
you alright sir?” my dear friend Officer Cromwell called from the front.

“Yeah,
just a little motion sick.  I think the car got hit with something though,” I
said innocently.  It's never too soon to cover your butt.

“Well,
we can fix the car.  Good thing their ordinance misfired.  Saved our asses.”

“Yeah,
thank goodness,” I muttered with mixed emotions.  Since the officer had offered
a good rationale, I planned to jump on it. 

We
landed and got out.  I started checking the injuries of the people that were
caught under the explosion.  Cromwell stayed back after verifying I actually
had some medical knowledge, apparently calling in the event to the station. 
Maybe he should have been securing the perimeter or something, but I have no
idea what standard protocol for having missiles shot at you was.

I
walked over and frowned at the first fellow I was starting to tend.  Serious
burns and bruising, blood from the ears.  I looked over at another.  A broken
bone at least.  Bah.  I should have stayed over by the police car; now I felt
guilty.  Sighing in defeat at the assault of my conscious, I knelt down and
touched the first punk, focusing a tiny bit of my power on him to smooth over
the burns.  Not enough to have the guy jump up and make a break for it, but
enough to keep him out of the critical care ward or a resuscitation tank.  I wasn't
that guilty.

I
had heard this neighborhood was bad, but shooting missiles at police were a
first.  None of these kids were supernaturals, either.  While I was
contemplating the situation, I knelt next to the next victim of misplaced anger. 
Bones were a pain; I had to straighten it out and then apply the energy to speed
the natural healing. 

I
moved on to the next unconscious guy, straightening his limbs out in
preparation for a little flesh manipulation.  Afterward, I smoothly set the
broken bone, and with a quick application of energy healed it enough to forgo a
splint, though he wouldn’t be doing athletics any time soon.

I
admit that I have an ego the size of a planet.  My entire race in all its myriad
facets, light and dark, has this condition.  But sometimes the universe really does
revolve around you for just a few seconds.  It’s a scientific fact.  I read it
in a magazine, so it must be true.

However,
it did make sense to me that statistically it would be more likely for people to
be shooting missiles at me rather than at random police.  If I had more time, I
could do a light telepathic probe on these guys and find out why they would
take such a huge risk.

“Looks
like you did a good job of sorting these punks out.” I jumped at the words
behind me.

Spinning,
I noticed that Cromwell had finished his report over the communicator, and was
showing the newcomers from the floating paddy wagon where the downed criminals
were. 

“Can't
believe our luck,” Cromwell said, while gesturing to the youths that were being
carted into the van.  “If one of their launchers hadn't misfired we would have
been nothing but burning wreckage on the street.”

“Yeah,
luck was with us,” I said, trying to keep the irony from my voice.  My acting
skills must have been enough, since Cromwell turned back to the car.

“I
know it's been a tough day for you Professor, but would you mind going on to
take a look at things?” the officer asked, contritely over his shoulder.

Once
more, I was surprised.  I was never in any real danger; why would I mind going
on to look at the crime scene?  I got a hold of myself just before I said
anything.  Sometimes, it's hard to remember who you're pretending to be twenty-four
hours a day.

“Yes,
well as upsetting as this incident is, we can't let the criminals get in the
way of your investigation.”  God that sounded pompous.  Something then occurred
to me.  “Did this attack have anything to do with your case?”

“Doubt
it,” Cromwell stated definitively.  “Totally different MO.  You'll see.”

“Oh,
seems a bit of a coincidence.” I trailed off.

“Not
really, I recognize that gang from their colors.” I must have looked
befuddled.  “They all wore red jackets with the stylized 'X'.  That gang was
raided last week, and the gang members that are still free vowed vengeance on
the police.”

“Vowed...
vengeance,” I said wonderingly.  Okay, maybe this was a complete coincidence
and I was being paranoid.  “I hadn't realized it was that bad.  These guys
seemed really well armed.”  I had no idea what they were, but the missile
launchers looked more advanced that what I usually saw on the vid.  Of course,
Jeremy and I mostly watched movies almost a hundred years old.  Maybe I should
watch the news more.

“Yeah,
it's getting bad out here,” the officer said darkly, as he smoothly raised the
hover car into the air.  “The missiles are new.  I don't think they are common
on the street... thank God.  Usually, we can handle the normals, but the supernaturals
are getting worse too.”

From
what Jeremy said, I suppose the Mayor agreed.

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