Authors: Daniel Ruth
about gas?” Cromwell volunteered.
idea, but zombies are immune and there exist circles that will shield him.
Damn, I hope this doesn't turn into a siege.” Still what were the chances that
a necromancer ritualist had a fortress full of other ritual magic? I mean,
necromancy is a niche that most wackos are happy to stay in.
else you can think of?” Conrad asked. I could tell he wasn't sure if he wanted
to hear more.
more would be sheer guesswork,” I admitted. “All we know for sure is he raises
you find any books, I suggest you have me come by. Some special books are
trapped.” Not only was this true, but I may be able to have the police do all
the retrieval work while I get to do the research.
will send Cromwell to get you if we find anything.” Conrad nodded in dismissal.
nodded back and headed out with one of the nameless officers as my escort.
Looking around and called over my shoulder. “I would hurry up on gathering
these parts. I think I saw an arm twitch.” I think I heard some scrambling
pleasant officer who dropped me off at my house flew off almost as soon as I
stepped out of the vehicle. The backwash of the jet stream made me gently sway
as I watched the police cruiser takeoff at a 45-degree angle and almost
sideswipe a traffic control buoy. I frowned to myself. That couldn't be
legal, could it? I guess this case was really spooking the police involved. It
seemed they really weren't ready for the dark creepy things to crawl out into
the light where they could see them.
I turned and went into my home. Once inside, I could feel the tension from
being around others for so long slowly unravel inside me. I plopped down in my
comfy chair, and my hand absently lifted to caress the fine mahogany wood
bookcase that was strategically in reach. A relaxed sigh escaped me. Home.
Maybe later in the day I would go to the cellar and lift the two-ton duracrete plate
in the ground, under which I kept my more expensive treasures. Touching our
possessions and valuable objects is like therapy for those of our kind. It's
hard to really explain, but trust me it beats a massage.
sat like that for about a half hour, just unwinding. It may have still been morning,
but except for a few hours of sleep I had been up for a while. I would likely
be up for hours yet, perhaps days, since my biorhythm is really not in sync
with local phenomena such as the sun or moon.
I was sufficiently relaxed, I got down to work again. Concentrating a little,
I put myself in the light trance favored for forcing the brain to operate at
increased speed, comprehension, and retention and dug into the remains of pile
of books on the floor. There is a certain rhythm involved in such study that
defies description. I realize that most of these books were written by quacks
and cover silly things such as tooth fairies and the aliens that built the
pyramids; however, with the right state of mind the brain acts like a sieve,
shifting out the nonsense and capturing the few nuggets of truth buried in
these stories. It helps to be psychic in these situations; not only do you go
through these books quickly, but my heightened intuition worked well with my
instinctive understanding of magic to make this kind of study possible.
hours later, I was done with the latest stack of books. A few kernels of new
truths nestled in my mind and I was ready for a snack. I laid the last book
aside and lazily stood up and stretched, hearing the minor pops and pings of
joints just a little too relaxed. I moved over to the fridge and grabbed the
rest of the cooked pig.
willed my nails to sharpen a bit. I couldn't form talons anymore, but my nails
were still as strong as the rest of me, and with a little effort they worked
almost as well. Stripping the meat from the bone, I gulped it down within a
few seconds, paused to look at the big bare bone that was all that was left,
and shrugged. I brought the bone to my mouth and with minimal effort reduced
it to mulch and swallowed it. Good to the last drop. Ever since I arrived
here, I had been almost constantly hungry with only varied degrees. The
ambient energy was low, and apparently I needed to function with a less
efficient energy source. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed eating, but I never had
to spend so much time doing it. Sometimes I even got an urge to raid a farm
for sheep for a late night snack. I would prefer not to get so close to my
my hands, I levitated my coat over to me and slipped my arms in. Now that I
was relaxed and recharged, it was time to completely tense up again and follow
up on the lead Jeremy had left for me. As I left my house, I paused, looking
fondly back at the somewhat humble estate behind me. I still doubted the
missiles were coincidence; it may be time to institute more thorough
protections for my home. I had some minor protection circles that I had
gleaned from my studies since I had started applying myself. Nothing like what
I was looking for, but enough to make supernatural creatures uncomfortable if
they came by. Like a mystic hotfoot. Such measures would be useless against
the more mundane hazards, I did have some contractors build in some large durasteel
beams inside the door and walls that would keep mortals out unless they were
willing to use explosives. Which they just may might. Damn. Now I didn't
want to leave my home where I had all my cool sparkly stuff. After standing on
my doorstep in indecisive idiocy for a good five minutes, I sighed. I couldn't
guard my lair twenty-four hours a day. Only senile ancient lizards did that.
It was a sign that they were due for the big sleep.
I let the energies rush through my brain and with a mental twist impossible to
explain to those that can't do it, moved and locked the sturdy metal beams in
place in the walls across the doors and windows.
a final glance over my shoulder, I started sauntering out of the residential
area toward the commercially zoned area. As I progressed, I passed that
invisible line that only the government knows of. The one that divided homes
and businesses. Slowing my walk, I dawdled to enjoy the shopping center’s tiny
businesses that nestled around the perimeter of the residences. Around my
neighborhood, there weren't any skyscrapers, but you could almost see a linear
progression as the buildings rose in height the further away they were.
around the parking lot and keeping a wary eye on the traffic peppering the air above
me, I headed towards the line of taxis as they rested like boxy-shaped birds of
prey. As one scooped up the man in line before me I handed the dispatcher my
address and credit tag. He in turn gave me an incredulous look for me being
gauche enough to use such an ancient method of payment.
really should learn to use a floater myself. It’s not like I couldn't afford
one but... well, I just don't like machines that much; the newer technology
tended to do odd things around me. The suburban area was the closest you could
come to the wilderness in a city this size, outside the admittedly generously
partitioned state owned parks. It's hard to get a reputation as a respectable occult
book researcher if your address is in the park. It’s a cruel world, but that’s
just how it is. Besides, as time passes I have gotten very attached to my new
watched the world go by as we flew to our destination on the fancier side of
the city. A familiar feeling of nostalgia rolled through me. It was just as
well the trip was short so I didn't have much time to be maudlin. I was almost
grateful for the landing, as uneventful as it was.
in the heart of the city the buildings rose up around me like canyons and the
wind whipped at my coat. I didn't really feel the cold, but there were
homeless people huddled on the sidewalk wrapped in blankets sitting on top
veritable geysers of hot air coming up from the sewer grates. I looked at them
in puzzlement; I could have sworn the police would have moved them on to the
poorer side of town or shuffled them into the Blight. Maybe they just hadn't
gotten around to it yet.
taxi had dropped me off in front of the Hotel Riviera, which was where Mei Ling
was supposed to be staying. I casually strolled in through the revolving door
and walked up to the front desk.
me, I am a friend of Mei Ling,” I offered to the fellow at the console. A
little mental push reinforced that statement to ensure that he knew I was Mei
Ling's friend. The man looked me in the eye with a hint of vagueness that
informed me my suggestion had been accepted. Either that, or he had to go to
the bathroom and his mind wasn't on his job. Sometimes the subtler abilities
are a bit of a crap shoot. “Could you give me her room number?”
2845, here's her room key,” he said handing me a small card. I looked at the
card and at the man and I can't swear that my mouth didn't open in shock. I
had used this trick before, and no one had ever actually given me the key
without me asking. The security here was either really appalling or something
fishy was going on.
thanks.” Gathering my wits, I stuck the card in my pocket and backed away
before he changed his mind. I headed to the stairs and started climbing. It
was only 28 floors so it’s not like it would take long and I needed time to
up the stairs didn't take much energy. I had supernatural endurance; if I
wanted to, I could sprint up there and hardly take a deep breath. My mind,
however, ran in circles. No one just handed the key card to a woman's room
without a little more resistance than that. Even I expected to have to plant a
few more suggestions before I got that far. So either this was a weird case of
mistaken identity or it was a trap. I actually perked up at that. Problem
few minutes later I came to the correct floor and stepped out, walked around
the corner past some big hulking guys waiting for the elevator and continued on
around the corner to the hallway where room 2845 was. I knocked at the door
and waited. Why did I knock? Well, aside from this perhaps being a trap, I
wanted to get Mei Ling's help, and she was more likely to give it if I didn't
break into her room.
knocked once more, and then I waited for a minute. Satisfied no one was going
to open the door, I unlocked it with my key card and walked in. I am not sure
what I expected, but four very large guys in suits wasn't on the top of my
me, but does Mrs. Ling know that you’re here lying in wait for her when she
comes back?” I asked politely while examining their auras. Hmm,
supernatural... probably shifters of some kind. Maybe from that wizard the
girl was hunting. The female sounded more of a loner, though Jeremy didn't
really say much so I could be wrong. Besides, bounty hunters hanging around
with men in suits? Very unlikely.
are you? What are you to the woman?” the man in the middle spat out. He was perhaps
the best dressed, though I am not really a fashion expert.
woman. Not on a first name basis, eh,” I said with a smile. Meanwhile, the
four spread out around me. “I am George Carson, and I am your doom,” I shouted
with theatric growl and eyebrow wiggle. That wasn't really my name; I didn't
want these people following me home. They didn’t look like cute puppies.
must have been on edge because they immediately jumped me. I had kinda
expected that. Shifters of any kind have a fight-or-flight reflex that is a
bit on a hair trigger in high-stress situations. The only thing that seems to short-circuit
them is when another shifter or someone in authority plays dominance games.
Then different set reflexes get triggered.
grabbed me by arms and the third slugged me in the face. It was a pretty good
one too, I actually felt it. I immediately retaliated by slugging him back
with a slight boost of psionic energy. Of course, I still had nimrod number
one holding my right arm, so he went flying across the room when my right cross
landed. The guy I landed my punch on, well it wasn't pretty. It looked like
half his face was caved in and I don't think a man's head is supposed to jerk
on top of his neck that way. It wasn't my fault, no one told me shifters were that
fragile. You always hear 'invulnerable except to silver and magic' and you
built up this image of a juggernaut.
am not completely invulnerable to everything, but I am made of very sturdy
stuff; my entire race is. While I was coming to terms with the unexpected frailty
of shifters when other supernatural entities were involved, the guy holding my
left arm was trying to kick me in the back of the leg while twisting my arm
behind my back. I brought my arm in front of me, which in turn brought the guy
wrestling with it for the ride and smacked him hard on the back of his head.
This time I did not add any psychic energy to multiply the kinetic force. He
went limp, but I didn't see any embarrassing displacement of brain matter.
this time, the man I had incidentally thrown across the room had gotten back up
and looked ready to charge me. What concerned me a bit more was the apparent
leader, who had stood outside of easy reach and pulled a gun. It may have been
a laser gun; I can't really tell about these things. I hate guns. I am not
immune to them and they tend to sting.
started to fire at me which immediately confirmed the stinging thing. I can't
really measure it on a scale, but I would imagine it hurt me about as much as a
hornet would hurt a human. I retaliated by encasing him in a bubble of psychic
energy and watched him twitch as his own bullets bounced around inside the sphere
and riddled him with holes. I suppose they must have been silver bullets or he
would have just ignored them. As it was he fell down in a big puddle of blood
that pooled in on the bottom of the bubble.
fourth man had just leaped at me, apparently not registering that his boss was
shooting me with silver bullets. He did notice that his boss seemed to
mysteriously collapse in a pile from spontaneous holes. I think I mentioned
that werewolves have a fight-or-flight reflex? This was enough to toggle him from
kill mode to run mode because he swerved to avoid me as he headed out the door.
I made a grab at him and came away with the torn rear half of his suit jacket.
out to the hallway, I saw the man turning the corner, and tried to
telekinetically stomp down on the part of his brain controlling his motor
skills. I spat in annoyance as I felt my aim to be off. I think that the attempt
may have made his toe twitch a bit, but no cigar on the paralysis. Sometimes
this stuff is hit or miss.