keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 20: Hastings 7
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 19, Kondor 7
Wednesday's martial arts lesson was not so long as Monday's had been. Lauren surmised that the first session had been at least partly audition, and she had proved in some way that she was a worthy pupil. The lesson continued to be about balance, but this time he had her swing the weapon while walking on the tops of bicycle racks and jungle gyms. Having practiced the acrobatics so intensely before, this was less difficult than it might have been. Lauren worried that she would not prove so apt a student when the lessons advanced into areas in which she was not already capable, but for the moment she was developing important skills.
She was home well before noon, and had a couple ideas in mind. First, October was looming, and she wanted to get a good warm coat, and not just for the cold. Grabbing what remained of her money, she found a parka, slightly on the large side, extending somewhat below her waist, with a full hood. The price was good, and it looked like it would last, although she thought perhaps she might want to strengthen it in a few key places, as she tended to be hard on her clothes.
Back at the house, she gathered her armor. She had spent many hours making this, working with the clay-like resin that they used in that other world, to create a mesh of interlocking rings and form-fitting sheets. As the resin set to a hard resilient plastic, she had pieced together a long sleeved shirt, a pair of pants, and a hood that covered her head and draped over her shoulders, chest, and back. The black glossy material gave a futuristic touch to the otherwise medieval design. She liked the look of it. More importantly, it was very good at deflecting blows and spreading the impact so as to prevent serious injuries.
As she had hoped, the parka covered her well enough that she could wear the full armor, including the cowl, beneath it without looking strange. She wanted to do something a bit dangerous today, and thought it best if she were protected. With the armor beneath the coat, and a few concealed weapons, she caught a bus toward the edge of the city, where she had located what she needed.
She had to walk a few blocks, because the busses didn't run past the address she sought. But that was better. There was no traffic on the street, no pedestrians on the sidewalks, no one to notice her. And across the street was a junkyard, stacks of automobiles giving their body parts that others might continue. She stretched out with her senses. She needed to find a car with a fair amount of gasoline still in the tank. It wasn't easy--gas tanks are generally drained before being tossed about the lot. But there had to be a few somewhere, cars that got missed, or new ones waiting to be processed. Soon she had one. There was about a quarter of a tank of fuel still in it.
Now she extended her pyrokinesis. As she had done with the water and with the steak, she began heating the gasoline in the tank. It was easy to do, quicker and easier than she'd expected. In about a minute the gasoline boiled, burst into flame, and exploded. It worked.
She turned and calmly started walking down the street. She had a couple blocks to go to reach the bus route, and then it might be a while before a bus came through this far off the main track.
A large, dark car turned the corner behind her. At first she took no notice of it; but then she realized that it had stopped closing on her and was falling behind. Either they were looking for an address--or they were following her. Either way, she thought it quite acceptable to look at them, to see who was driving.
She didn't recognize the driver; but he was talking on a car phone. Quickly she pulled the sound in from the car.
"Yes, it's her; I'm sure of it....She's looked right at me, and that's the face, and the right size....No, she's not wearing the robe....A hooded coat....No, I'm sure of it. Do you want me to take care of it now?...Fine. Consider it done, she is no longer a problem."
That sounded ominous; what sounded even more ominous was the acceleration of the car as it began charging up the street. "What good is a trick if you never use it?" she asked herself, and quickly found the gasoline tank and poured on the heat for all she was worth. There was more than a little gas in this car, and the explosion engulfed it in fire, and threw the driver through the front windshield, his clothes flaming.
But even as he hit the ground and rolled forward, he was pulling a very large revolver from his belt. Lauren did not want to see what would happen, and took to the air, leaping and levitating and then flying as quickly as she could manage. The gun thundered, and the bullet struck her left shoulder; but the protective plate on her back spread the impact, and since she was adrift in the air it spun her around rather than piercing the shield. She as quickly grabbed the strange glass psi drill from her belt, and fired back, punching two bullet-like holes in him. His next shot missed, but he was already retreating toward his car. Placing some kind of can on the ground, he popped the lid to release an expanding cloud of black smoke, and vanished beneath it as it filled the air. The fleeting thought of pursuit which passed through Lauren's mind was not even considered. She had seen it thrown through a windshield by an explosion, its clothes aflame, seemingly unharmed. She had drilled two holes in it with her weapon and not disabled it. It clearly was not human. It couldn't be a vampire, as it was out in the sunlight. She could not guess whether the thing needed to breathe, or what kind of poison might be in the smoke to which it was immune. Feeling quite blessed to have survived at all, she continued her flight as quickly as she could.
She landed on a rooftop several blocks away, hoping her picture wasn't going to appear on any newspapers in the morning. Climbing down to the street, she oriented herself to the bus routes, and caught a ride back toward home.
Getting out her traveler's sewing kit, she patched the bullet hole in her new parka. The dent in her armor was minimal, fortunately, as she was not at all certain how she could repair it other than using some of the precious materials in her alchemy kit to mix up more of the polymer and make a replacement. And, she realized, she was going to need this armor more than she expected. Just because the vampires only came out at night didn't mean she would be safe in the daylight.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #25: Novel Changes. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: