Meanderings

Something I'm writing right now that isn't connected to anything else I'm writing, except that it seems to take place in the same world as one of my many stalled novels.  Anyway...read this.


A hail of thaumic bullets.  Glass breaking in slow motion. Eddie Mayne rolled through the wreckage and came up firing.
“Fucking cover me!” he shouted, and the small man cowering behind the brick wall winced in terror as he fired a few wan bursts over Eddie's head.
“You fucking coward!” Eddie noted.
“Sorry!”  The apology ended with a wet grunt as the man's head was neatly destroyed by a pulse.
“Shit!”  Eddie rolled over to a thing he could hide behind and hid behind it.  It turned out to be an easily vaporized bit of wood, which was easily vaporized a second later, leaving Eddie exposed.  A pulse burst way too close for comfort, and Eddie rolled toward a thing in the corner that looked like a good thing to crouch near, and crouched near it.  He was able to pull off a few pulses of his own, and a satisfying squeal of pain told him his aim had been true.  The firing stopped.  Eddie caught his breath for a second and assessed the situation.  He'd been grazed by one pulse, leaving a nasty burn line along one of his arms, but otherwise he was unharmed.
His antagonist, a four foot tall dwarf named Simon, lay rolling around in a ball of pain five feet away, his gun and the hand he'd been holding it in lying in a bloody puddle nearby.
“Now that was an extremely dumb move, wasn't it, Simon?”
Simon's response was a gurgling noise, which roughly translated as “Owwww you shot my hand off” in Dwarfish.
“Yes I did, but you know why I did, right?  You know why I had to shoot your hand off?”
“Mmmmgggrrrrrr,” Simon pointed out.
“You were a naughty boy, Simon,” said Eddie.  “A very naughty boy.”
“Nnnnnnnnghhh,” Simon argued.
“There's no sense trying to explain yourself, Simon.  You're going to bleed to death in a second, and you should probably know why.”
The ragged stump at the end of the dwarf's arm pumped more blood out of it and into a growing puddle on the concrete floor of the warehouse.  Simon gurgled.
“You told the Gray Sisterhood about me, didn't you?”
“Snnnnnrrrrfffgggrrrh,” Simon complained.
“Yes, you did.  And that's not something you should have done, is it?”
The dwarf's battle with consciousness ended with a flutter of eyelids and a sharp exhale.  Eddie tsked his tongue and shot the dwarf between the eyes.  He shook his head, pitying the senseless loss of life.
 “Are you quite finished, sir?”  It was Eddie's valet, a thin gray man called Garreth, who had been waiting patiently with the car while Eddie dealt with this particular unpleasantness.
“Yeah.  Fucking Simon.  I told him a thousand times, I did.  But did he listen?  Did he?”
“I'm assuming not, sir?”
“No.  He damnably didn't.”
Eddie walked back to his car, the aetheric contacts glowing green as they repelled away from the tarmac of the road.  He jumped in and signaled Garreth to head north, toward headquarters, and the car slid away on a pocket of thaumically charged air.
“He fucking knew better, didn't he?”
“Yes, sir,” said Garreth.
“God damn son of a grinth.”
“Indeed.”
“Now I've got to get back to the High Mage himself and report that I killed Simon.  That bugger won't be happy.  He'll blame me for all of this.”
“That is an unfortunate outcome,” said Garreth.
“Yeah it is,” said Eddie.  He watched the profile of the city slide past, impossible skyscrapers poking needle holes into the sky, glittering virescent in the night, lit by the plasmic energy of thaumatic thorium, the miracle cure to the world's energy crisis.
Ahead, the complex of narrow buildings that made up the headquarters of the intelligence branch loomed like teeth, sharp and inevitable.  Eddie was not happy about the report he would have to give.  Simon had been a valued agent, which made his defection to the Gray Sisterhood all the more puzzling.  And now Simon would have no way of finding out what had made Simon switch sides.
Where the fuck is this going?
The air car arrived at headquarters, the steel door soaring fifty feet above him opening with an echo that reverberated across time and space.  Eddie shivered as he stepped out of the car and entered the cavernous hall, lit by steel torchieres set to maximum flicker.  Surreal shadows jumped greenly at him as he walked down the corridor.
At the end of what, due to the distance charm that had been cast on the space, seemed like miles but was actually only about twenty feet, Eddie came to a set of narrow gold doors, which opened portentously for him with a charmed crashing noise that echoed along the hexed space to give the illusion of maximum power.
“High Mage Pertucken, I come bearing a message,” Eddie bellowed, because bellowing was the only way to force sound through the warped dimensions of the High Mage's audience chamber.  The doors rumbled closed behind him, solid like a tomb.
A voice rumbled at an angle to reality, above hearing but within it, impossible yet clear as day.
“WHAT?”
“I, Eddie Mayne, have slain Simon Bunk, dwarf defector from these orders, sympathizer with the Gray.”
“SLAIN HIM?”  The voice echoed impossibly through Eddie's eardrums, as if both backwards and inside out, the sound wrapping itself around him like a black hole in a blanket.
“Yes.  I had no choice, you see.  He was shooting at me.”
“YOUR INSTRUCTIONS WERE TO INTERROGATE.”
“Well, hard to interrogate someone who's blasting aether at your head, isn't it?”
“I REPEAT.”  The High Mage's last statement stabbed at Eddie's ears like an inverted needle.
“Ow,” Eddie said.  “Look...you weren't there.  You...”
The inverted needles began to penetrate Eddie's brain, probing.  Eddie fell to his knees and cried out.
“Look, I'm sorry,” he managed to gasp.  “I should have been more careful!”
“YES,” said the voice, and fresh stabbing assaulted Eddie's brain.  He began to bleed from his nose.
“What do you want, High Mage?  I supplicate myself to your mercy.”  Eddie's eyes streamed, his nose bled, and his brain seemed to be melting out of his skull.
“PENETRATE THE GRAY SISTERHOOD.  FIND OUT WHAT MAKES THEM TICK.  DESTROY IT.  DESTROY THEM.  THEN YOU MAY LIVE...A BIT LONGER.”
“Thank you, High Mage. I will do that.  I honor you.  I honor the Magehood.  Praise be to Thaumia, goddess of the Magehood.  Praise be to you.”
The stabbing stopped.  The doors behind him opened again, rattling and echoing for maximum effect.  Eddie stood, bowed, turned on his heels, and left the chamber.
Because there was no need for drama on the exit, his journey back to the car was significantly shorter than his journey in had been.  A plain gray corridor led to a set of simple wooden doors, which when opened revealed his air car floating there waiting for him.  Garreth stood there, black suited and white gloved, the most reassuring sight that Eddie had seen all day.  He had an urge to give Garreth a big hug, but he resisted.
“Take me home, Garreth.  Got some thinking to do.”
Garreth nodded and opened the back door.  Eddie slid in to the leather enclosure, finding comfort in being ensconced by the solid lines of the machine.  It was the perfect synthesis of technology and magic, this air car, and the techno-thaumaturges had worked for years to get the balance right.  It was a comforting extravagance, necessary in Eddie's line of work, where every moment of downtime was precious.

***

Eddie poured himself a stiff drink and sipped at it, staring at the notes scrolling down the flexiglass screen in his hand.  They were all he knew about the Gray Sisterhood, those fanatics, and they were all he had to go on in hunting them.  He wished he had more, honestly, but he was out of time.
Headquarters: Silver City.  Membership: Unknown.  Purpose: Unknown, but generally anti-magic, pro-technology.  Tactics: Sabotage, terrorism, kidnapping, protest mobilization.  Known agitators:
And here a roster of names unfolded itself, names that Eddie had collected over the years, known sympathizers and anti-magic extremists.  Simon Bunk's name was there, and Eddie marked it red, indicating Simon's death.  The red names outnumbered the black ones on this list, but only a few of them were Eddie's fault.  Most of the Gray sisterhood's dead activists met their fate on failed missions.






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