Anna, William's wife of 24 years died of tuberculosis on December 24th, 1881. They had an early Christmas celebration a few days before when the doctor gave her only days to live. William was more than devastated. His amazing inventions had made him the toast of London and he was well on his way to being knighted by Queen Victoria herself. All that changed the day Anna died. William found solace only in his work. Soon he had shut out everything and everyone else from his life. Now, two years after she passed away, he was a complete recluse, mostly forgotten, only coming out of his lab at night to obtain basic supplies in order to keep working.
He started the machine and stepped into the coffin-sized nook lined with vacuum tubes and copper wire. William stood there, covering his ears with his hands as the machine powered up with a deafening hum. Then a sudden flash of light so brilliant that an image of William 's silhouette was burned into the opposite wall. William A. Sinclair was no longer present.
The next morning, housecleaning began their Saturday ritual of cleaning the offices on Fleet Street. As the maid dusted William 's desk a note caught her eye, in bold capital letters it read: "SEE YOU IN 200 YEARS". She nearly jumped when she looked up and saw William's life size silhouette on the wall like some ethereal photograph. The maid described the scene to the Head maidservant who then told the Landlord, Mr. Pritchett.
Now Mr. Pritchett was quite well known for being a greedy and ofttimes heartless landlord. He immediately interpreted the note to mean that Mr. Sinclair had plans to skip out on him before rent was due on Monday. "See you in 200 years... humph! That hornswoggling blagger!", Prichett muttered to himself. "We will see about that." Monday came and went with no rent payment. Later that week Pritchett reported William to the police and seized all his belongings, including the strange machine that William engaged that rainy night.
William awoke with such a headache he had a hard time focusing on his surroundings. When he finally got his bearings, he realized he was lying in a snow drift looking up into the barren night sky. Not one star, no moon, just cold blackness in every direction. He sat up and looked around but could barely see his hands in front of his face. The wind was blowing snow onto his exposed face and turning his beard into a collection of icicles. It was no use... he needed to find shelter immediately before the elements got to him... exploring would have to wait until morning. After stumbling around in the dark for another hour or so, exhausted, he decided digging a hole in the snow would just have to do for now.
When morning finally came, all William could think of was sleep. I'll just rest a little longer, he thought. The morning light was slowly getting brighter yet that seemed to only make him even wearier. Every time he started to awake, he would immediately fall back asleep. He was dreaming of the machine and could hear it's increasingly loud roar. Anna's kind face appeared hovering over him, gently shaking his shoulder. "Time to wake up, breakfast is ready.", she said softly. He awoke to a sudden unpleasant pain in his shoulder. He was being roughly pulled out of the snow by two men.
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He turned his eyes to meet mine through the water and a small smile came to his lips. “You are far more than I ever imagined you could be,” he said and sat forward, his elbows on his knees. “My magic, mixed with Fenrir’s, as well as the magic you inherited from your parents makes you—”
“A weapon, I know,” I interrupted, unwilling to listen to him.
The aid workers fed the children and were attending to the needs of the mothers when Frank noticed a group of small boys kicking a football. He commented to John, “No matter how grim things may be, kids will always find a way to play.” One of the mothers told him that they had found the ball in one of the deserted, burnt out villages they passed through.
During a break, Emile was able to share a coffee with some of the aid workers. He was told that the North Vietnamese had set up overnight camps close to the Ho Chi Minh trail, right through the border region. They were usually under heavy vegetation cover and usually near fresh water. This particular camp was not used as it didn't have enough cover. However, it was used a few times. It was common practice for their camp to be surrounded by several land mine fields. The fields are usually well defined with signs in Vietnamese, along with “skull and cross bone” signs. They were made because they figured that any enemy would attack under the protection of darkness, and if this happened, they would not see the signs.
While Emile talked to the aid workers, Frank and John looked around the camp.
A group of small boys was kicking the ball when suddenly a gust of wind blew the ball into the land mine area. One small boy ran after it. He grabbed the ball and turned to the other boys. The huge grin on his face showed how proud he was. He then heard the other boys shouting at “Stand Still!” He looked bewildered until he saw the skull and crossbones sign. His grin turned into a look of horror as he realised where he was standing.
John was the first who heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on. Frank followed him. When they saw the boy in the mine field, John shouted to the boy. “Vẫn bình tĩnh, và chúng tôi sẽ đưa bạn trở lại đây một cách an toàn, nhưng bạn phải ở lại vẫn rất yên tĩnh.” which meant “Stay still, and we will get you back here safely, but you must stay very still.”
The boy nodded. John ran back to the Land Rover and grabbed a long piece of rope. When he returned, he tied one end around a large tree and the other end around his waist. He then said to Frank, “Feed the rope out as I go towards the boy, but make sure you keep it taunt.” He then shouted to the boy in Vietnamese that he was coming for him.
John carefully and slowly edged towards the boy, at the same time he was looking for any signs of the boy’s footprints. There were very few as the ground was fairly well compacted over time. Finally, he reached the boy who at this time was clearly frightened and a stream of urine running down his leg was obvious.
In one movement he picked the boy up and turned around and faced Frank. By now the entire camp had gathered at the site, including Emile.
John then shouted to Frank to pull the rope tight and tighten it around the tree. No sooner had Frank tied it around the tree, he walked out to John and the boy, using the rope as his guide. When he reached John, he took the boy in one arm and the rope in the other and slowly edged back out of the mine field. As he reached the edge, the whole camp roared into applause. He handed the boy to Emile and turned back to John.
John called to him to untie the rope from the tree and to place it on the ground. John then undid the rope around his waist and placed it the ground. He then took a step towards Frank and then another. Everyone was quiet until he took the third step and the sound of a “click.” John froze, and everyone else gasped. John had stepped on a Jumping Jack land mine.
John had a little knowledge of how it worked. He remembered his father telling him years ago that when someone stepped on it, the fuse was dislodged. Then, as the target person stepped off it, the main fuse ignited the first charge and propelled the unit about 2 metres into the air, where it then exploded. This way one mine could injure everyone within range.
He also remembered his father once telling him that, if you lie flat on the ground and a grenade was set off next to you, you would be unlikely to be hurt. This was because of the angle of the explosion. Provided that both you and the grenade were on the ground.
With this in mind, he shouted to Emile, “move everyone away for at least fifty metres, no, make it a hundred metres.”
“I am going to jump down and lie flat on the ground, If I am lucky, the explosion will go above me, and I should be alright. You both move back a bit!”
As soon as they moved back, John jumped forward, but before he reached the ground, the device exploded in the air.
John was killed instantly!
Frank and Emile were also struck! Emile had several shrapnel wounds on his arm, chest and leg. Frank had his left leg severed. Several of the aid workers gave first aid while their leader had called over the radio for help!
They live among us. We know they are there. No government can control them; no authority can stop them. Some are evil. Some are good. All are powerful. They inhabit our myths and fairy tales. But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers? What if they were called "adepts" and were organized into guilds for mutual protection and benefit? And what if they started mucking around with the affairs of "lessers" (that is, those humans not able to match their powers)? During the height of the Cold War, Michael Vaughan is a rogue without a guild. He survives by working for the CIA as NOC (Non-Official Cover). Shortly after the funeral of President Joe Kennedy, Jr., he is sent to Cuba to assassinate Castro. There he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with adepts working for Fidel.
That used to be Genie’s mantra. Little did she know that the wave would literally take her out of this world. Now, faced with a new life, unbelievable dimensions and unexpected dangers, she’s got to pull off the ride of her life, or wipe out.
The prelude to the EdgeWorld series serves as an introduction both to the new world Genie finds and the plight that has found her.
An American teenager living in Bolivia with her father and younger brother, Genie was trying her best to take care of her family in the wake of her mother’s death. But that was before she crashed headfirst into the curious stranger and her whole world turned upside down. Now new possibilities, good and bad, await her at every turn, but she cannot allow concerns of the outcome affect how she rides – surf’s up!
Rosa sat on the carpeted closet floor, her body slumped against the inside corner wall.
I knelt alongside her and stroked her hair while trying to
keep my composure in the face of a rage that I couldn't quiet. An assassin had taken aim at the lives of my wife and child--the center of my universe. Whoever did this would pay a price, despite the fact that my faith instructed me to avoid revenge. I would have something to repent on the Day of Atonement.
Her eyes opened. She sat upright. "I felt like I was going to faint, so I leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. I guess I must have passed out." Rosa studied my face. "What's the matter?"
"She is fine," a paramedic said after listening to Rosa's heart and checking her blood pressure. "Pregnant women tend to have lower blood pressure. If they stand too quickly, the blood pooled in their feet and legs does not return quickly enough to the heart. Give her a few minutes."
"What about the baby?" I asked.
"The baby should be all right," the paramedic said. "You do not stop breathing when you faint." He and his partner packed their equipment, checked Rosa once more, and left.
A hole in the doorframe, four feet above the floor, was the same size as the one in the wall. The slug must have hit a moment after she fell while entering the closet.
"What are you looking at?" Rosa asked.
"A miracle." I helped her up and drew her close. Her head nestled in my shoulder while I kissed her neck. "Right now, the sound of your heartbeat is all I want to hear."
She hugged me.
"Let's get you onto the sofa." I held her around the shoulders until she sat.
"I am okay now," Rosa said. "What happened?"
"We're in someone's crosshairs. Two shots fired, probably from the building over there." My head turned toward the window. "I want to check it out before the police arrive." I grabbed binoculars from my travel bag and crouched by the lower corner of the window frame.
About three hundred yards from the hotel, on a level parallel to ours, curtains, buffeted by the breeze, flapped in and out of an open window.
The phone rang. Rosa picked up the receiver on the end table, listened for a minute, and hung up. "The manager said the police are on the way. The paramedics reported the incident."
I closed the drapes. "Pack our things. I'll be back soon." I pulled out my shirttails, shoved the holstered Glock through my belt, and kissed Rosa.
Everything starts with little girls.
This little girl was walking down a white dirt farm road one day in June 1954. Her slender shadow was just twice her height. And it crossed the road in a westerly direction, reaching out nearly to the irrigation ditch that ran alongside. A single thick braid was bouncing up and down on her back. The braid was stiff and damp, for the little girl had just been swimming at the big Vanducci house on the hill. Plomp, plomp, plomp went her bare brown feet in the warm soft dirt, little puffs of dust blowing up in her track to settle slowly in the windless air.
Cradled in her long skinny arms she had a big nervous fighting cock with beady eyes. She’d found him by the side of the road just a moment before. And she was very happy to have met him there, for she’d had no idea that he had escaped from his pen in her mama’s backyard. The cock was brown and gold and purple. His feathers shone in the sun. He turned his head all the time, fast and jerky from side to side. Her eyes were like the bird’s eyes, black and darting. She turned her head like him too, looking everywhere.
Her name was Selena Cruz.
Surrounding her were vast fields of alfalfa, tomatoes, and sugar beets, cut through with irrigation canals and county roads, sliced like adobe cakes into gigantic squares. The valley was green where it was planted, brown where it was fallow, and wide: fifty miles from the yellow Diablo Range, which rose up directly behind her, to the blue Sierras on the horizon. Lengthwise its dimensions were beyond her imagination: five hundred miles from Red Bluff in the north to Bakersfield in the south.
I closed my eyes and spoke quickly before my courage failed me. “I am the Fire Wielder of my generation, so I am the sort of weapon which, if the evil of my father comes to life inside me, it will be nearly impossible to stop me.”
Chatham stared at me, his jaw clenched tight.
I let out a deep breath and pulled a blade from my saddle bag. I used the combined power of my fire and the Seal of Solomon to encase the blade with both ice and fire. I stared at it for a moment, then resheathed it and handed the blade to him. “If you see evil come to life inside me, take this blade and plunge it into the base of my spine to paralyze me,” my hand shook with fear. “I am a healer, so it will not kill me . . . unless you then take me to the cliff of the dead . . . and throw me over.”
Chatham gaped at me, his mouth working silently before he shook his head. “Milady, I cannot do such a—”
Tears filled my eyes. “Chatham, please. I cannot allow myself to become like my father. Please. I beg you.” This was the only way. I had to be certain. He had to help me.
After a long moment, he reached out and took the blade. “I give you my oath, Milady, if I see evil inside you, I will do as you ask,” he said earnestly.
Sean woke up from a dream, the same dream, screaming just as he had the previous three mornings. The vision of him strapped to a table and a doctor standing above him was still vivid in his mind. A bright light shone from above and everything was fuzzy. The doctor was masked and the scalpel glistened in his hand. Two masked nurses watched as the doctor made his first cut.
I’ve died and gone to hell, he thought. I’m not dead, but I’ve certainly gone to hell. The pain in his groin was not quite as bad this morning, but he still felt the lingering ache. He reached down and felt for the missing parts, and began to cry.
Why did they do this to me? What are they going to do with me next? Only questions. No answers. Then he began to remember. The men. They took my guns. I asked a question and a sharp pain in the back of my head. Then darkness. Why?
Sean got up and turned on the light. He went to wipe his brow but stopped short and looked at his hand. Blood. Not a lot, but too much. Sweat trickled down his cheek. He walked over to the sink to wash his hands and face.
A banging on his door. Sean looked over at the clock. Then he remembered Sonny, Marcia, and little Lola. Sonny had come to get him and take him to work. He felt tired, his groin ached, and he didn’t want to go to work. The blood reminded him of his sister, Debra. She was always so bitchy when she got her period. He couldn’t help but smile, but it was short lived.
He had to get dressed. Sonny was pissed yesterday and the day before because he took too long to come out. Besides, he would get no answers until he did. Sonny wouldn’t answer my questions. Will he answer them now? And what’s with Marcia? Every time I speak to her, she just gives me a dirty look then turns away. What’s the matter with these people? I’ll get some answers today.
Sean got dressed a little faster than he did yesterday. It was early, the same as the past few mornings. The clock said 4:20. He met Sonny outside and got into the back of their pickup truck. A sharp pain shot through his groin as he lifted his leg over the side. Marcia and Lola crawled into the passenger side. Sonny drove to the boat and cranked up the old diesel motor. While the engine warmed a bit, they loaded their gear onboard. Soon they were headed out to sea.
The shrimp boat slowly chugged along and exited the harbor. Sean sat on the railing around the rear deck. The gentle breeze rustled his hair and was cool on his face. The air was heavy with the smell of the bay. Sean liked the smells—the salty air, the sea water, the aroma of fish and sea grass. He focused his attention on the water quickly passing by the boat. The churning water stirred small jellyfish which glowed green when they were agitated. The luminescent creatures fascinated and mesmerized him. They took his mind off his pain.
Sean looked forward toward the cabin of the boat. He could see Sonny driving and Marcia talking to him. Sean could not hear them over the hum of the engine. He knew, however, the conversation had to be about him. Marcia would occasionally glance back at Sean. Yes, they’re definitely talking about me.
Sean turned his attention back to the water. Robbie and I came here to find wives. I can never have kids now. Can I have sex? If I can’t, what do I need a wife for? I’ll kill those bastards for what they did to me. But who are they? It wasn’t Sonny and Marcia, but who? Sean felt the tears welling up in his eyes again. Maybe I should end it all right now. Just lean over the rail. One second and I’ll be in the water. Let the fish and crabs have me. Take a deep breath of the salty water. I’ll be out like a light. No more worries . . . no more pain . . . no more problems.
A few miles away from the Bayfront, Sean’s best friend, Robbie, lay in a bed, out cold for several days now. His breathing was slow and steady. His face was flushed and a cool damp washcloth was across his forehead. He had not moved a major muscle since he was ambushed and brought here. His eyes twitched from time to time as if he were dreaming, but that was all.
“Why won’t he wake up, Mother?”
“I don’t know. They must have hit him awful hard for him to stay out this long.”
“Is he going to die?”
“He may very well if he doesn’t wake up soon.”
I closed my eyes and focused on the fire in my hand, then sighed in relief when it went out. The trouble was, the heat inside me did not fade. It burned with the anger I could not release, with fury at what my people had endured at the hands of the Puppeteer.
I breathed in slow and deep to calm myself, to find some small measure of peace. This accomplished nothing. I simply stood there and tried to fight back some vicious beast with nothing but breath.
I was the beast. The chimera in my blood had come alive through the anger which could not be restrained. There was a monster in me as well.
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