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Authors: Rajan Khanna

Rising Tide

BOOK: Rising Tide
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ALSO BY RAJAN KHANNA

Falling Sky

Published 2015 by Pyr®, an imprint of Prometheus Books

Rising Tide
. Copyright © 2015 by Rajan Khanna. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopy­ing, recording, or otherwise, or conveyed via the Internet or a website without prior written permission of the publisher, ex­cept in the case of brief quotations em­bodied in critical articles and reviews.

Cover illustration © Chris McGrath
Cover design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht

This is a work of fiction. Characters, organizations, products, locales, and events portrayed in this novel either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Inquiries should be addressed to
Pyr
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, New York 14228
VOICE: 716–691–0133
FAX: 716–691–0137
WWW.PYRSF.COM

19 18 17 16 15     5 4 3 2 1

The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:

Khanna, Rajan, 1974-

Rising tide / by Rajan Khanna.

pages ; cm

ISBN 978-1-63388-100-6 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-1-63388-101-3 (e-book)

I. Title.

PS3611.H359R57 2015
813'.6—dc23

2015026671

Printed in the United States of America

To Elisabeth
I may have built the ship, but you made it float.

CONTENTS

Copyright

Dedication

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHAPTER ONE

T
he lights come and wake me from dying.

At least I must be dying because I'm wet and cold and bleeding and everything seems broken inside of me. All around me I can smell smoke and burning gas and the sea.

Inside of me, a voice insists that there's something next to me. Something good. Something to save me. But when I try to turn, everything goes black again.

Death hovers, close by.

The lights bring me back, dancing over me with a roaring hum. I remember stories I read when I was a kid, stories of angels—bright, blinding, flying angels. Have they finally come for me?

Some moments pass, my head spinning, and then they're lifting me up, out of the raft, and into the sky.
Where are you taking me?
I want to ask. But I can't. And something about leaving the ocean, going up into the sky, feels right.

More time passes—hands touching me that I can't shrug off. I slip away once or twice.

When I awake again, I hear someone saying to take me to the infirmary. It's apt because I'm very fucking infirm. Anyone would be after the last few days I've had. Beaten, shot, strung out on painkillers, beaten again, stabbed, then dropped from an exploding airship into cold ocean waters.

Well, when I say
dropped
, I mean more like I jumped. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Thinking about that makes me think of the
Cherub
, my airship, which was named after angels, and the last time I saw her, ripping apart into a bright fireball as I fell. It brings on pain of a different flavor. She was more than just my home—she was my safety, my security, my freedom.

“Miranda,” I manage to gasp. She's the other woman in my life. Or rather, the one who's left. She fell with me, into the ocean. We somehow both managed to survive, huddled in the bottom of a life raft, clinging to one another, wet and cold, our ears still ringing from the explosion, flames still dotting the water where the fiery wreckage fell.

We lay there, together, and I couldn't even think. All I did was hold Miranda and take comfort in the fact that we were alive and together and she was solid in my arms. Later, I thought that if we managed to make it through the night into the morning, that we might have a shot.

She was what was next to me, I remember. She's what I was trying to find.

“Miranda,” I repeat.

“Who?” a voice asks.

“That's her name,” another voice replies. “The woman.”

“Where is she?” I ask. “Is she okay?”

“She'll be back soon,” one of the voices says.

I reach up for the arms nearest me, grip them as hard as I can. “No,” I say. “I need to know.”

Then my grip wavers and my arms go watery and the person pulls away from my grasp. “Give him another one,” a voice says.

Then I feel a sharp pinch.

And the world draws away around me.

I'm below the ocean, only this time it's warm and thick, not the shocking, freezing thing it was after I fell. It's comfortable. Almost welcoming. I find this amusing since I have always preferred the sky. But slowly I feel myself start to rise and the air gets thinner and brighter, and then I'm opening my eyes to . . . light.

I smell metal and the sea and antiseptic. As my vision clears, I realize I'm lying on a table—cold metal, but with some kind of tarp draped over it. I'm not wearing a shirt, and my wounds have been bandaged. I ache, but the pain is dulled, lost in the wake of the painkillers I've apparently been given.

A woman wearing a surgical mask sees me stir, then leaves the room.

As I sit up, feeling the skin pulling on my wounds, and grunting because of it, the door opens again and a man enters what I now realize is the infirmary. The metal tables and the counters and instruments all paint the picture. But my attention is drawn to the man.

Malik.

He's looking better than he was the last time I saw him. His skin is tanned by the sun to a light-brown color. He's wearing his black hair long and he has an extremely neatly trimmed beard, which is a nice trick, seeing as how most of the tools for that kind of thing have long since turned to shit. He stands at the edge of my table and eyes me up and down.

“Mal,” I say, suddenly on edge. “You're alive.”

“Benjamin,” he says, like he just picked a bullet out of his teeth. “As sharp as ever.”

“My God,” I say. “I had no idea.” I feel something hard lodge in my chest. “Thank you for patching me up.”

He shakes his head. Like everything he does, it's a precise movement, no wasted energy. “That wasn't me. That was courtesy of your companion.”

“Miranda?”

He nods.

“How is she? Where is she? I need to see her.” I start to get up off the table, but he pushes me back, firmly and precisely, and my chest erupts into a constellation of pain despite the drugs I'm on.

“You don't get to make demands,” he says, and I see his carefully cultivated mask slip for a moment. What's behind is rage. And I know exactly why. Mal and I go way back, and our last meeting didn't end so well.

He straightens and examines his gloves. “Miranda is safe and unharmed, Benjamin. That will have to suffice for now.”

My mind races, then falls back into an old, familiar pattern of movement. Even through the painkillers it's a place I'm used to—assess, look for opportunities, survive. It's clear that Mal isn't happy with me, and I'm not sure I blame him. But he still pulled me out of the ocean. Still let Miranda patch me up. So I'm on unsteady ground. I don't know what he wants. And so I can't use that.

“What happened to you?”

He knows what I'm asking. How did he survive? What happened after I saw him last?

He looks away for a moment. “Pardon me if I don't feel like digging up ancient history,” he says. “I have no wish to reminisce about old times.”

“I get that you're mad at me—”

Mal slams his fist down on the edge of the table and I jump, again feeling the pain ripple through me.

“Mad? Mad?” He shakes his head, his face twisted with disgust. “You continue to underestimate me, Benjamin.”

I take a deep breath. “So why am I here? You didn't need to fish me out of the water.”

Mal takes a deep breath, too, smoothing his long hair back from his face where it had fallen. He straightens his jacket. His face returns to its impassive state. “My people saw the wreckage in the water. Fresh wreckage.” He shrugs. “Old habits. They were checking for salvage . . . and information.”

“What kind of information?”

“What do you think, Benjamin? You're telling me that if you saw that kind of fallout, it wouldn't attract your attention? We're operating in these waters. Knowing what's happening around us is only prudent.”

I try to process all of this, and it's hard with the painkillers dragging on my thoughts.
C'mon, Ben. Get it together
. I return to the phrase “we're operating in these waters.” Could Mal be working with Gastown?

I look back up at him to see him examining my face.

“Are you working with Gastown?” I ask. It isn't subtle, and it's not what I had planned to say (as far as I planned anything) but it just spills out.

He squints, then shakes his head. “No. Neither in its former nor current incarnations.”

That's how Mal likes to speak. Never a simple word when a more ornate one will do. In that way he's a little like Miranda.

I nod. “Those were Gastown ships in the water. Them and the
Cherub
.” I feel a pain when I mention my airship. I've heard tell of people having phantom pains in lost limbs. Could you have that for an airship?

“I know this already,” Mal says. “Your companion told me.”

I frown. “You still haven't told me why I'm here, then. If Miranda told you what happened, you could have dropped me back in the ocean.”

“I thought of it,” he says with a smile. “Believe me, I thought of it.”

“But?”

“I wanted you to see me. I wanted you to know that I survived.” He waves a hand in the air, nonchalantly. “I have no illusions that it will provoke a response, but I needed you to know.”

I nod. It's classic Mal. His ego has always been one of his most developed attributes.

BOOK: Rising Tide
10.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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