Excerpt – Untitled WIP Novel

Nov 4, 2017 by

Excerpt – Untitled WIP Novel

Chapter 1 of the current work in progress, about a woman who can travel to infinite worlds by using shadows. Evelyn “Even” Lynch is a shade running thief who brings items from other worlds in the infinite cosmos back to her home world of Ash to sell on the black market. Now, though, the entire infinite universe is threatened by a plot that begins to unravel before her while she’s exploring a world called Terra, taking the identity of a masked vigilante called “The Darkness.”

Chapter 1

The orange glow of the rocket pack receded across the city and the Darkness followed. The rocketeer moved faster than any aeroplane, but that wasn’t a problem. Night cast its arms across the buildings, hugging them tight, and night belonged to the Darkness.

I stepped out of the shadow of a water tower on top of a five-story brownstone. I oriented on the man flying across the city, and folded the mantle of darkness around myself. I reappeared six blocks later, peering out from beside a billboard. The lights that illuminated it were broken, leaving it awash in twilight. The lack of moon made this chase child’s play, and I chuckled as I stepped through shade once more.

The city fell behind, tall buildings giving way to single homes closely spaced, then bigger ones further apart. The flier gained altitude here, and I worried I might lose him as a few low clouds momentarily blocked my view, the glow of fire winking out each time he passed through one. Then he dropped, diving steeply towards the ground. He pulled up to skim over the stone wall of a huge mansion, the length broken by a gravel driveway that passed between two taller columns. The light of the rocket lit the manicured lawns and sculpted topiary in orange tones. Towers flanked the building at either end, everything made of weathered stone, the roofs peaked.

I followed, finding my spots behind trees, cars, hedges. The rocket flyer rose again, but only high enough to pass over the flanks of the house before he dropped behind the thick stone walls. The roar of the engine stuttered and went out. The world seemed silent now, but for a high-pitched whine that dropped down the octaves, fading into silence.

I stepped through the wall and stood next to a bush, my black clothing blending in with the night. Six men paced the grounds, toughs in suits and ties, well dressed and armed with pistols in shoulder holsters tucked under their jackets. They didn’t see me coming.

Goon one stood near a hedge. I stepped out of the shadows behind him and dropped him with a blow to the head. As he slumped, I caught him under the arm pits and eased him to the ground, grunting with his weight. “You guys need to eat less,” I murmured.

Goons two and three stood next to each other sharing smokes when I walked around the tree behind them. I took one down like the first guard, and I took out the other with the Needler strapped to my wrist. A press of my fingers, a tiny puff of air, and a dart sank into his neck. It pumped a mixture of barbiturates—my own recipe, I would be pleased to admit—into his veins, and his eyes rolled up. Six became three. The other three on patrol were as easy, but I felt I could ignore the two at the door, standing in the bright lights of the entry. There were too few shadows to play with for me to get the drop on them, and I wanted my visit to be a surprise. The lights meant they couldn’t see what happened more than a few feet away; they hadn’t even twitched when I dropped their buddies. I kept an eye on them as I hid the unconscious men.

I moved to the bushes near a tall window and glanced through the leaded glass. My face reflected off the surface, but it wasn’t my face that blinked when I did. My disguise made me appear as a man, older than myself, five o’clock shadow darkening his strong, cleft chin.

Beyond the glass was a room with walls covered in book-laden shelves, a ladder on wheels attached to a rail so it could be moved to reach areas. A fire glowed in a hearth made from river stone, and the wood of the shelving and the wainscoting shone a rich, dark brown. Firelight and shadows stained the space in wavering stripes, revealing high-backed chairs with plush cushions, and a divan under the windows, red fabric inviting someone to grab a book and cast themselves upon its length to read the night away.

I smiled when I confirmed the room was otherwise empty. Too damned easy. I stepped through the shadow under the window and appeared inside the room, in the corner near the door. I tilted my head and listened for noises in the hallway beyond.

Once I felt confident no one patrolled outside the room, I moved into the space beyond the door. A hallway ran the width of the main wing of the mansion, punctuated by doorways and arches. There were sideboards and tables decorated with vases, some small statues, and a silver sword still in its scabbard supported by two brass hands that held it up as though offering it to someone. I thought of the sword in the lake, and the silver arm that offered it to the king, and quirked a smile. The same threads run through all worlds.

Through an open door to my left was the conservatory, a high room filled with greenery. A cherry tree dominated the center of the room, the tree blooming with pink blossoms. The outside walls beyond were made of a glass like a greenhouse, and I could see that the mansion formed a square with a large courtyard at its center. The two wings that led away from the main building were narrow, possibly little more than hallways connecting the front of the house with the rear, while the secondary wing at the back seemed almost as large as the one in front, if plainer and without the towers. Granite flagstones covered the ground, and a fountain in the center sported gilded dolphins, squirts of water jetting from their snouts to splash into a circular stone pool below. The left and right sides of the courtyard were marked by a low roof that hung off those sides of the mansion, providing shade for people on sunny days when the smog wasn’t too thick to bear. Carved columns of wood that mimicked Greek statuary held the roofs up, each depicting some mythological creature. Gorgons, hydra, mermaids and more provided a vain setting for a rich dilettante to take their pleasure.

Whoever this is, they’re doing alright by themselves, I thought as I took in the surroundings. Not a surprise, though, for a person who deals in black market weapons.

The rocket man stood with his back to the greenhouse, near the fountain, facing another man who wore a long, white lab coat. I slipped a shadow and moved closer, hiding behind a column carved in the likeness of a large serpent on the right side of the courtyard.

“I’m telling you, he was there,” rocket boy said, and I grinned. It never failed to amuse me that they always thought me a man. I’d adopted my disguise in light of that revelation. “I had no choice but to get out. He’d’ve wound up catching me, and we woulda lost the pack.”

“You were there to wait for the shipment and make sure it met my requirements,” said the other man. His body and face were hidden from view by the rocketeer, but I thought his voice sounded familiar. “But maybe you were right to leave when you did. The Darkness is a problem best left for our supplier to deal with on his own and does not involve us. What about the other situation? Did you meet with the gentleman who telephoned?”

“I did. Everything checked out and he’ll be here soon,” rocket boy said. He shrugged the pack off his back and handed it to the other man. “He wants to meet with our connection.”

“Information is expensive,” said the man in the coat. Rocket boy moved aside as he took off his gloves and revealed the second man’s face. I recognized him from his slicked-back black hair, thinning along the brow, and the octagonal spectacles that rested at the end of a nose that a hawk would have been proud to call a beak. Dr. Euclidean, inventor and scientist. The revelation surprised me, though I wouldn’t admit to complete shock. Euclidean hid behind an aura of respectability, a professorship at Stanford, and the public’s trust in him as an authority on non-Newtonian physics. But of all the scientists I knew working in that field, Euclidean was by far the most glory hounding, publicity seeking one on the list. That had put him in my sights months ago, though I hadn’t been able to prove anything until tonight. Now I needed to use the doctor to find the source of those shipments, and there were only two men left it might be. The next hour or two would lead me to the answers I’d been seeking for the last six months.

Euclidean’s long, slender fingers explored the mechanism of the rocket pack before placing it on the ground against the fountain. “That information will cost him a great deal. The last thing we want to do is get on the wrong side of the people who are bringing in our supplies.”

The employee unbuttoned a pocket of the sheepskin-lined leather jacket he wore and slipped his hand inside. When he pulled it out, his fingers were curled in a ball, but something glittered and sparkled in his fist, catching stray beams of light. It dazzled my eyes, and I held my breath as I craned to see what it was.

He handed it to the Dr. “He says there’s another like it and he’ll part with it if the information is good.”

I almost gasped out loud. The diamond Dr. Euclidean held was beautifully cut, with a hint of blue coloring, and utterly priceless. It was as big as my fist would be. He held a king’s ransom in the palm of a hand. The gem would have a name if it were in the public eye. The Star of Bombay, or the Eye of Athena. Something like that. I didn’t recognize it and hadn’t heard of any recent heists, which puzzled me. Was it a fake? I didn’t think the Dr. would be taken in by a fake. That left me wondering how such a jewel went undiscovered and unreported for long enough to wind up here in New Amsterdam.

The gem disappeared beneath the lab coat. “Show him to my study when he arrives,” Euclidean said. He strode across the courtyard, disappearing through another set of doors to I’s right. The man he’d been following turned in my direction, so I wrapped a cloak of night around my body and slid to the other side of the open space, following the Dr. into his chambers.

His study was small, all dark wood and crown molding. A bookshelf lined one wall, and a mahogany desk took up a considerable portion of the space, squat legs curving down to rest on a blue carpet with a swirling, oriental design. He sat down behind the desk on a black leather chair, riffling through papers that lay on an ink blotter as I stood in one dark corner of the room, watching.

A half hour later there was a knock on the door. “Come in,” Euclidean said.

The flying man stepped into the room followed by a taller man in a light-colored, linen suit, appropriate for the heat if not the location. It reminded me of the type of outfit a southern gentleman might wear on a warm, Alabama afternoon as he sat on his porch and sipped mint julips. He wore a white fedora on his head, his face round with baby soft features, right down to his clean-shaven, chubby cheeks. He gave off a peculiar feeling, at once old and young. I couldn’t put my finger on it, though.

The man sniffed, as though smelling something rank. His eyes scanned the room and it looked like the corner of his lips twitched when they passed over the shadow I hid in, but the expression was gone before it registered and might have been nothing more than a trick of the light. I felt certain the shadows hid me completely.

Euclidean rose and stepped around the desk, offering his hand. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you after our long correspondence. Thank you for your gift, it was very generous.”

“There’s another where that came from if your information is good,” said the man in the white fedora, his voice an oily, hissing baritone.

“Have a seat,” said the Dr., waving at a plush green chair in front of the desk. Once the man sat, Euclidean took a pipe, mahogany bowl and black, curving stem, out of a wooden box on his desk and filled it with tobacco, then lit it with a silver lighter. The man waited patiently, a smile touching his cheeks, crossing one leg over the other.

“Cigar, cigarette?” Euclidean asked.

The man shook his head. “I don’t partake.”

“Would you like a drink? I have scotch, bourbon.”

“Water would be fine, if you please. This damn heat makes me thirsty.”

The Dr. nodded at his man, who stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. They waited for it to click shut. When it did, the Dr. turned back to him and spread his hands wide. “How may I assist you?”

“I need information on your supplier. I have specialty items I wish to procure and have not been able to locate a reliable source.”

Dr. Euclidean nodded in understanding. “It is difficult to get all the equipment I need for my own research. The probability generators alone are priceless and can only be acquired through the military. A risk a man like me cannot take on his own.”

The man smiled. The smile failed to reach his eyes, though it split his face wide. “Yet you seem to have an unlimited supply of everything you could want.”

The Dr. returned the smile, his equally void of humor. “I obtain raw materials for much of my needs and make what components I can.” He spread his hands wide. “Capacitors and probability generators, along with more esoteric and specialized items; for those I turn to my supplier.”

“I need a name.”

Dr. Euclidean drummed his fingers on his desk and puffed from his pipe. He exhaled, and a cloud of blue smoke drifted through the room. “You pay a fair price, but you must understand my position. If anything should happen to my supplier and it gets back to me that I gave out his name, well. . .” He shrugged. “He will either come after me himself, or he will give the authorities enough evidence that my name will become synonymous with mad scientist. I will be put away for a very long time for purchasing restricted weaponry and classified research, and quite probably treason. I would lose the position I have in the world and all that comes with it.”

“You needn’t worry, Dr. I can promise that anything that will happen will be blamed on any of a number of other factors. I am the soul of discretion. Your contacts will never learn of your involvement, nor will the public.”

The Dr. tipped his head and his smile grew wider. “Good, then we have an understanding. I was made aware that you have an additional payment for me?”

The man in the white fedora reached into his suit jacket and pulled out another diamond, as large and perfect as the first. This one had a color more towards the yellow spectrum. “I can offer you this upon confirmation that the name you provide is good.”

“This will fund my efforts for another two years,” said the Dr., his voice distant, perhaps wistful.

“The name?” asked the man in the white fedora.

Dr. Euclidean stared at the diamond, his eyes shiny with desire. “Argo. Argo Formisano.”

The man stood, sliding the diamond across the desk to the Dr. “I appreciate you giving me the information I needed. Thank you for your time, Dr. Euclidean. I do not expect we’ll meet again, unless of course your information turns out to be faulty and I return to collect my goods.”

The door opened and the rocket pack flyer stepped in carrying a glass of water. The man in the white fedora took it with a nod, drank it in one quick gulp, and handed the empty glass back to him.

“Your world is such a dry place,” he said, smiling at the Dr. Then he tipped his hat and stepped through the empty door to disappear down the corridor.

Your world. The words rang in my thoughts. It was an unusual thing to say. That, plus his odd appearance, the wrongness of his being, put me on edge. Now that I knew who was behind the theft of the specialized weapons, I could take down the Dr. and go after Argo at my leisure. On the other hand, I felt a prickle of danger growing in another direction, like a scratch in the middle of my back that couldn’t be reached.

I stepped deeper into the shadow—

—and walked through a forest of thinly spaced trees, clouds obscuring the sun above, deer darting away from me as I strode towards a cottage on a distant dirt lane. I stepped into the shade of a pine tree—

—and out onto Dr. Euclidean’s front lawn, the manicured grass before me as I stood in the darkness of the hedges. The stars wheeled in the night sky this far from the city, with its lights and smog dimming those brilliant points of light into obscurity. The man in the white fedora walked down the front steps and slid behind the wheel of a shiny, black sedan, a Packard or a Chrysler. He tore down the dirt drive, tires kicking up a shower of pebbles as they spun, heading for the road into the city.

He passed within a few feet of the green, horse-shaped topiary I hid behind. I raised my left arm and fired the tube hidden below the sleeve of my coat. The tracker connected with the rear bumper and the magnet stuck it in place. Then the car roared around a curve and out of sight. I listened to the sound of its engine receding, then turned back to the house.

I passed through shadows and into shade of a coat rack in the foyer of the mansion. I opened the front door and said, “Boo.” When the men turn, I planted a fist in each jaw, tumbling them both to the ground. I left them where they lay, deciding the time for discretion had ended.

I stepped back into Euclidean’s study in two heartbeats and a few steps through another place. The Dr. sat behind the desk smoking when I walked out of the corner into the light. To my right, one panel of books had slid aside. Behind the polished wood shelving and musty pages was a small alcove with a metal console full of buttons and knobs. Several black and white monitors were set into the wall above the console. They showed grainy scenes of the grounds, the front door, the courtyard. I could see the bodies of the two guards lying on the front steps.

“I’ve been expecting you, Darkness,” the Dr. said. “I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to meet. Please, have a seat, and we can discuss this like gentlemen.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” I replied, and sat down in the same plush chair white fedora used during his visit. “Now that I know Argo Formisano is supplying you, I’ve got more than enough reasons to take you both out of the picture.”

He nodded his agreement. “I don’t suppose you will let me talk my way out of this. Perhaps bribe you a little? I’ve got some wonderful gadgets a man like you might be interested in.”

“You know what my answer will be.”

“Yes, I’m sure I do,” he said.

The Dr. moved before I could. Something clicked under his desk and the room filled with light. Hidden arc lamps in all four corners glowed like small suns, bathing me in radiance as I sat in the chair. It distracted my long enough that Euclidean’s weapon pointed at my before I could respond. Stupid cocky bitch, I chided myself.

Euclidean’s expression remained blank, his face impassive. It felt as though he were viewing a lab rat, examining it for a reaction. “I half expected you to melt into a puddle, actually. The Darkness, so easily caught. It’s a bit of a disappointment, honestly.” He rose behind the desk and kept his gizmo pointing in my direction.

I put on a placid expression, my mind examining the options, calculating, playing the odds. The doctor had taken away the shadows and had the drop on me. His tension suggested that if I so much as twitched, he’d fire the apparatus in his hands, and I wasn’t yet sure what it could do. Stall seemed to be the best option at hand, so I stalled. “Well, I’m glad I could disappoint you. But why would you think I’d pull a wicked witch because of a little improvement in the lighting?”

“Because you’re not of this world, are you?”

I bit my tongue to keep from jerking my head in surprise, and the doctor gave a low laugh.

“Yes,” he said, “I thought that might be the case.”

I shrugged, carefully so I wouldn’t give Euclidean the jitters and cause him to accidentally pull the trigger. “I’m as human as the next person.”

“I used to think so,” he said, walking over to the console, keeping the thing in his hand trained on my stomach. “I used to read about your exploits and, like most people, assumed you were a man with a variety of gizmo’s you used to execute your skills. I wanted so much to get my hands on those devices and see how they worked. I could never figure them out on my own. All my tests proved . . . disappointing.”

He punched buttons and flipped switches. A shimmer appeared around the chair, a wavering of the light. I reached out tentatively and touched it. A shot of pain arced through my fingers and into my arm, and the strange glow flared and sparked, crackling like a pine needles thrown onto a fire. My teeth ached from the shock.

Dr. Euclidean made a tsk noise. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to touch a hot stove? That’s an electron field, generating 4 amps of power when touched. A normal human would be incapacitated and killed at much lower levels. But then, you’re not normal, are you?”

“What do you want, Euclidean?” I asked, stalling for more time. A half-formed plan took shape in my mind and I began to weigh the potential results.

The doctor stepped over to the cubby behind the shelves and picked up a pair of thick, rubber gloves, which he pulled on. “First, I want you to tell me everything you know already. I’ll need to cover my tracks if I’m going to maintain my sparkling reputation.” His eyes were on his hands as he pulled the gloves up to his elbows.

I shifted my feet under the chair and prepared. “And then?”

“And then,” Euclidean said, looking at me and smiling. “Alien or not, I’ll have to kill you. But never worry, your body will contribute to my growing scientific knowledge when I dissect you. With luck, I’ll be able to determine the location of your strange power to move through shadows. I suspect it might reside in your hippocampus, though I admit I’m neither particularly skilled at biology, nor do I know if you even have such a thing in that head of yours.”

Each glove had lines of slender metal attached to the surface and three small knobs. He turned a knob on each, and his hands began to glow like the field, a nimbus that spread around the device in his hand. When he reached towards me, the gadget and his hands pass through the field of energy as if it were not there.

I lunged for the device, but though fast, Euclidean fired before I could grab it. A dart of blue light struck me from its tip, and it felt as though my shoulder had been hit by a round from a .45. I fell back in the chair, startled, my teeth clenched in pain, clasping my right hand to that shoulder. Something in my head snapped, and I realized my carefully applied disguise had torn, the shadows rearranging my face, blown away by shock. The blue beam played across my fingers, and a million needles passed through my flesh and out the other side.

I screamed. The pain seemed to go on for a short eternity, and then Euclidean turned the device off and pulled it back through the field.

“So, not even a man,” he said with a grin. “The scourge of the underworld turns out to be a woman. A rather plain one, too, even when one accounts for the way your face is twisted in pain. Who else knows about you coming here? Who else is involved with your activities? What about the other vigilantes, like the Blue Bomber, or Cirrus, or the League of Extra Ordinaires? Are they working with you?”

I work alone, you should know that, you fucking idiot, I thought. Anyone else who might have helped, who might have mattered, was far away. But the doctor didn’t know that, and I decided to string him along. “I might tell you, for the right price,” I said, my voice shaking and cracking. I hated how frail I sounded.

“Negotiating? That doesn’t seem your style, Mr. Darkness—excuse me, Miss. Besides, you already turned down that opportunity.” The hand passed through the energy barrier again and the blue beam struck me in the stomach. A meat hook grabbed my intestines and pulled them out one agonizing inch at a time. The air left my lungs in a great whoof of pain, my eyes opening wide, as I writhed in the chair. I threw up all over the doctor’s pretty floor and myself.

Then he aimed lower. I had been kicked in the crotch once, and knew better than to act like it didn’t hurt the same as when a man took one in the balls. Maybe not quite as bad, but it wasn’t any walk in the park. But this felt like someone had taken a blowtorch to my crotch, cutting my most sensitive parts from me without the mercy of anesthesia. I fell onto the floor, the blue beam sending flairs of pain along a line that led across my breasts, shoulder, face, and head before the doctor turned it off again. One of my hands pressed into my sick, and I almost threw up again, gasping for air. My knees rested on the floor, the toes of my wingtips under the chair.

“What’s your real name, Miss Darkness?” Euclidean asked, watching me prostrate myself before him. I think that insulted me the most, bowing before this asshole, unintentional thought it might be.

But I was too busy to answer him, and hoped he would assume I was recovering from his beam. I felt something touching my feet, and squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, silently thanking all the gods of infinite worlds that luck remained on my side, as always. I reached out with my senses and found what I needed, barely enough, but enough.

I lifted my head, coughing a few times, and in a hoarse whisper said, “The Darkness, doctor, and you’re fucked.”

Before Euclidean’s hand pressed the trigger of the device again, I folded myself into the tiny shadow under the chair. Small though it was, there remained enough for me to work with. I heard Euclidean’s oath of anger and felt a tickle of pain from the beam as I disappeared—

—and rested on my knees in the forest once more. I took a deep, shuddering breath and stood, swaying, closing my eyes, feeling a cool breeze on my face, willing myself to calm. I wiped my hands on the leaves of a bush, my face wrinkling in disgust at the smell of my own vomit.

“A damned toddler could have played that better,” I said to myself. A small animal rustled through the leaves, startled by the noise of my voice. I chuckled, and took a few deep, slow breaths, pushing the pain aside. I reapplied my disguise, tacking it in place with the word of command.

Steadied, I took two quick steps, turned—

—and came out in the hall outside of Euclidean’s study. A siren sounded now, and I heard the yell of voices. A man turned the corner, saw me, and ran down the hall in my direction, yelling. I stepped in and out of the shadows and clotheslined him as he passed. He flipped over and landed on his head, and that was one fewer.

A bullet whined past, and plaster exploded from the wall behind me. I cursed and darted back into darkness—took three quick steps through scrubby brush—and punched the man with the pistol in the kidneys. He tipped backwards in pain and I grabbed his collar, helping him along. His feet left the ground and he crashed into a side table and slumped to the floor. That made two fewer.

With a crunch, the door to the conservatory burst open, glass shattering. The rocket-pack pilot barreled into me, fists flailing wildly, knocking me down. He landed on top and his fist connected with my chin, but I turned my face away and the blow didn’t catch me square.

I grabbed his wrist as the man swung again, applying the hold that Ohx had taught me years ago, and twisted hard. The wrist broke with a satisfying crack and the man bellowed in pain, falling back and clutching at it with his other hand. I brought my knees up, connecting with his abdomen and groin and knocking him aside.

Rocket boy lay there wheezing for air and holding his arm as I rose. I kicked him the face. He sighed, slumped unconscious, and I ran towards the door of the study.

The room was empty. The lights in the corners had gone out, the room lit by the glow of the diodes and vacuum tubes attached the console, along with the monitors. I scanned the black and white views of the house and the grounds, and found Euclidean in the courtyard near the fountain. He held the rocket pack, lifted it over his shoulder, and began strapping it on his back.

“Shit,” I said. I stepped through shadows—

—and arrived at the courtyard in time to see the Dr. blasting into the sky, flames spewing from the apparatus on his back. He would be out of range in moments if I did nothing, but I knew from long experience what I was about to do was going to be very painful.

I ran through shadow—

—a flight of stone steps under a cloudy sky—

—snow stinging my cheeks—

—a barking dog behind a chain-link fence—

—a steep hill under a hot sun, rising ever higher, arms churning, my lungs burning as my feet kicked up clods of dark earth, throwing myself from my feet into the shadow of a great, gray rock—

—and into the night sky, falling. An orange glow rose from below and I spread my arms, trying to control the direction of my fall. I would only get one shot at this.

I impacted against Euclidean’s shoulder and bounced away, tumbling. I reached out, grabbing for something, anything, and my heart lurched for a moment when I felt only air. Then soft cloth brushed against the fingers of my right hand and I clamped down, hoping whatever I had wouldn’t rip, hoping my fingers would hold. My shoulder jerked as the rising doctor yanked on my falling body, but I managed to hold on despite the fresh jolt of pain.

My weight threw the doctor off, and we no longer rose but jerked around the sky like birds tumbling in battle. Euclidian kicked his leg, trying to dislodge me from the leg of his pants. But I grabbed with my other arm and hooked it into his belt, hauling myself up, wincing at the sharp pain in my shoulder. I wrapped himself around the doctor’s waist with my arms, my legs swinging around his like pincers. Then I held on for dear life.

“Get off me,” Euclidean said, striking my shoulders and back with his fists. One of my hands held onto him beneath the blast of his rocket pack and I could feel my skin starting to blister and burn. I reached up with my other hand to get a better grip on the doctor’s shoulder and caught hold of the pack itself.

Euclidean fumbled at his belt, but I was helpless to do anything more than hold on, the blast of air against me threatening to tear me free. He drew his gadget, pointed, and the pain struck me in the chest. My heart stuttered and I screamed. Something on the pack tore free in my hand and I lurched outward. I held on by one remaining hand and my legs, my body swinging away from his. A spray of fluid hit me in the face and I choked on it, the strong smell of fuel filling my nose. My swinging hand struck Euclidean’s, knocking the device loose, ending the pain. By then, the chance to capture the doctor had passed. All I could do was snatch the tumbling device and clutch it. My other hand tore free, he kicked my legs away, and I watched the doctor rocketing into the night.

Then I fell.


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