The transition from the safety of the wards and the cold
night stole my breath as I catapulted into the air. The arc of my ejection gave
me a good view of the brass back-side of the other car—which appeared to be a
heavily modded Cadillac, fitted with copper trim and heavy, riveted windows.
Weightless for a moment, I used my high vantage to take aim at the fishtailing
caddy as it tried to turn around to face the stalled cab.
From my passenger’s description of the attack on his
balloon, I knew that I was up against a sciomancer: a master of phantom and
shadow. And the best proof against shadow is—
The levinbolt unleashed from my wands rendered
the Cadillac’s trunk into molten slag; smoldering wreckage sprayed like
shrapnel from the blossom of fire and brilliance that once had been its rear
compartment, axel, and tires. The full path of my flight described, I landed
catlike behind the now-burning ruin and stood as much in the pool of light as I
could—spreading my hands, and thus wands, to my sides for wider coverage.
A shambling phantasm rose up to my left. A mockery of the
human form, it lurched as it lunged at me, only to be destroyed by another
bolt. Soon, more came, they rose up from the flickering shadows around me and I
cut them down mercilessly. Wheeling and pirouetting, I circled the vehicle. The
sciomancer must have felt I was the greater threat, else he would have flung
his minions at my passenger already and this would all be over.
I could see my crimson-caped fare working at the engine of
the taxi and I hoped he could get the job done without breaking her.
I didn’t have much time to worry about that because as I
passed the front of the caddy—its viridian lanterns still glimmering feebly
against the ruddy flames—I spotted the sciomancer. He was a tall, gaunt man
wearing a suit and a top-hat. His pale features illuminated by the summoning
sigils he etched in the air, like a painting only half-done, part of his face
was lost in shadow. But there, in that dark, I could see the gleam of a monocle.
“It’s done!” my fare shouted back to me from the cab. “Hurry!
There are more coming!”
It was time to avenge his fallen balloon.
Leveling my wands, I unleashed a fusillade of light and
lightning. Pent up anger about a night ruined by this man-thing fueled my
charge. Many of the levinbolts sloughed off of his wards, but
those were distractions, the rest pierced his hastily created minions as they
attempted to obstruct my path. Intent in my footsteps and murder in my eyes, I
bore down upon him.
The sciomancer threw up one last ditch defense by erecting
a wall of obsidian darkness between us. I put the oak wand between my teeth and
charged headlong into it, steel and quartz leading the way. The wand punctured
the tenebrous wall and slammed into his wards. It crumpled and shattered in my
hand, like I knew it would. But it had give me some important information about
exactly where he stood.
I swung my other hand, already balled into a fist, and put
all my momentum behind it.
His wards folded like a cardboard box, and though I
couldn’t see it, I’m sure the expression he wore was one of shock before my
right hook dislocated his jaw. The satisfying jar of the connect was all I
needed to know I struck home. Owrmf! His wall of darkness gone, the
fragile sciomancer tottered, lolling, and collapsed in a heap at my feet.
For whatever reason, I felt the need to dust my hands over
the fallen wizard.
The taxi drove up next to me, purring like a happy kitten,
with my fare at the wheel.
He opened the door and moved aside as I got in. “She’s all
yours,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said. “How did the installation go?”
“Well... And how did the fight go?”
I flexed my fist. “I avenged your balloon.”
“Good show.” He nodded in approval. “Shall we get a move
I adjusted the rear-view mirror, three more pairs of
viridian headlamps appeared in the distance.
“There’s a ley loci about ten miles that
way.” I pointed. “I can use it to make this new tail a distant memory. How long
do you think it will take us to get there with your device installed?”
He shrugged. “As the crow flies, in the balloon, that
would be about two minutes. And—I noticed—the meter has been running. Don’t worry,
I intend to fully reimburse you for your services.”
“It has been a pleasure,” I said as I gingerly put on the
gas. The cab responded by enthusiastically accelerating, I couldn’t tell if the
device was active or not, but she certainly seemed happy I was once again at
“Are you ready?” My fare asked, gesturing to a blue,
chrome rimmed button, newly installed in the dash near the steering column. The
word “ready” had barely left my lips when he pressed the button and we were
* * *
“I gave you that sticker! And now you actually met Cory Doctorow!”
There were hearts pulsing in her eyes, I swear. “Did you get him to San Diego?
Did you have him sign something for you?”
“Yes,” I said. “After we reached the loci, I
used the focus to apportate us to San Diego. The rest was smooth sailing.” Then
I smirked wickedly at her, knowing she was going to read into my expression.
“However, if I had known he was that famous, I would have gotten his autograph…”
Elaine narrowed her eyes. “You’re not telling me
“He gave you something, didn’t he?”
I reached into my coat pocket and revealed a small
business card, printed with gold filigree, displaying prominently the name CORY
DOCTOROW and the words: If you should ever need my services, fling this
card into the air, and assistance shall be at hand.
“You could say that.”
I think, that was the moment Elaine fainted with a soft
groan. I laughed. Geeks these days, they do the funniest things.