Myriasday, 4th of Greengrow, 3830 AR

Duchy of Calyne


            It was sure as shit bigger than Veyd imagined.
            She had parked her Otomo horizontally at the warning and had walked the fifty to the edge of the giant magical made crack in the geography at the southern border of Calyne and Keldor known as the Long Gap.
            It was incredibly deep, a quarter to half a mile or so, jagged on the sides in a spiky, pointed horror-movie way, and spaced across at maybe three miles where, somewhere in the center, the blue sky of Keldor turned the grayish colored sky of the Gray Queen’s domain that people nicknamed the Gray Lands.
            Veyd stood before the Long Gap in her teal leather jacket with her black gloved hands rubbing together and her teal framed glasses on her forehead. “Well, this is goddamn scary,” she told herself. It was warm where she was, too warm for a jacket in the south of Calyne, but a freezing wind from the north came down every now again that would have made her shiver, and was prepared for that in a long gray sleeved shirt, black cargo pants, and heavy black biker boots.
            She had her Veyd Changer on her back, having no intention of leaving that anywhere but on her person ever if she could avoid it. At least, once she was north, where her danger would exponentially greater.
            The sight of that gray contrasting with light was disturbing. She had seen it before, Alan Veyd had to dig through massive graves to find what he needed for Lilia, the first time anyway when it was in fact her real body, but he had never seen it contrast. It had the colored movie edited to half in almost black and white look to it and it made her instinctively uncomfortable.
            That was an effect of the Doranian Power Controller, as Cydra Forne called it, but there were abilities that came with that effect.
            One of them was the ability to destroy or alter the environment.
            The Long Gap was made recently, maybe a decade ago, when the curse-part of Keldor was lifted and crops became extremely profitable as they grew far more abundantly in the suddenly fertile ground while taxes had a funny way of not entering the Gray Queen’s coffers despite the massive increase of crops heading into her lands.
            She used the Doranian Power Controller to split the ground like a melon spreading it out for about five miles in width and hundreds of miles vertically stopping just short of the sea where a wall was built to block the rest. It was illegal to send boats around, illegal to fly over, so all the supplies had to go north down a long, terrifying bridge located in the center of the gap on Veyd’s left.
            She turned to it and looked at it stretching across the partly blue, partly gray, sky like some kind of gateway to a colorless purgatory.
            It was somewhat simple looking, an arch-like ferry with a glass bottom, connected to the inner sides of two asphalt roads intended for trucks, cars, and other vehicles and moved back and forth over the gap where customers could look down and ooh and awe over the sight. It was about a hundred feet wide or so Veyd had read.
            The asphalt roads were huge, four lands on either side, although Veyd had never of them being even remotely that busy, and they glass walkways for pedestrians on either side. In the center, two and half miles in, was Gap Plaza with its famous glass floored Under Hotel and small amusement park of carnival esque games, various eateries that probably over prices and a terrifying rollercoaster that flew over the gap.
            Veyd thought the hotel and rollercoaster were immense thrill-seeker overkill but it was getting dark and she would probably sleep there.
            “The person who made that thing was seriously demented,” Veyd told herself.
            She got back onto her Otomo, and rode down toward the bridge across the various farm houses the tenants were evicted from by the queen with some great plan that never came to fruition leaving them empty to rot along the road.
            They had served the great southern Calynian farms along with a great many miles of crops and homes that were all gone with the past, all gone with that Long Gap of hers, whose only purpose was to increase profits with more money than she could possibly spend in three lifetimes.
            Veyd thought that last part was immense overkill but it was getting dark and she would probably sleep there.
            She made it to the toll bridge and heard the sound of a boy screaming, “—neeeeoooooh! No, I don’t want to! I can’t take it! Don’t make me go!”
            “Grow a pair!” cried a girl’s voice and Ved looked over to see skinny oriental girls dragging a young oriental man over the clear floor, grinning like Cheshire cats as he kicked, screamed and whined in terror.
            “Neeeeoooooh!” His feet were going crazy as he was dragged over a glass plate revealing a thousand plus foot drop. “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!”
            “Good times,” said Veyd with a smile and then she looked up and saw the monitor sign had the words “Beware of Priest” with a picture of a Priest of Talia, her priest, in black plated cleric armor with the golden star on his chest, his helmet down and walking through a street with his head turned toward the camera, his eyes glowing a kind of ugly yellowish light, his blond hair flowing behind his head. “Honovan,” she whispered.
            It was the first picture she had seen of him, the first time he had been seen him in sixty years or so, and he was no longer human. The eyes were the eyes of Talia’s light but corrupted to an ugly insanity. Too long in her light with false purpose driven by stupid vanity did not cause a curse exactly but it had a price to it as well.
            Veyd made it her secondary mission never to get anywhere near that creature although she had a feeling that was going to be easier said than done. She did not know what Honovan would do if he found her but she felt certain it would bad.
            Veyd took a deep breath, the journey beginning than, at that point, and approached the toll booth on her motorcycle with simple task of paying the toll and heading on to the Under Hotel, which she would sleep in because it was late and she was tired after a bad night’s sleep in the woods in her sleeping bag, and then head on north into Calyne toward the next pillar.
            “Simple enough,” she said. “What could possibly go wrong on a giant bridge across certain death?”

            “What the hell do you mean it’s closed?” cried Veyd.
            The man in there was reading a newspaper, the front of it reading, “Second Son for Duchess of Keldor,” when he told her that. He lowered it down, revealing a man with a dark brown large mustache on an angular, long face with a cigar in his mouth. “Don’t know, kiddo,” he told her. “Queen’s all paranoid again.”
            “What do you mean, paranoid again?” Veyd looked down the long, asphalt road with a clear enough sight to see that was literally zero things in it between her and the other end. The Gap Plaza stretched hundreds of feet in either direction but its walkways to the east and west side were under the road and did not block it. “Why the hell is she paranoid?” she asked him, not liking that at all.
            Good gods, she senses me. She knows I’m coming and the pillars are shaking.
            “She gets that way sometimes,” the man said and his face became uncomfortably. “Probably sent her looking around but as the newspaper hasn’t said anything horrid I don’t think it happened.”
            Wyienne the Insane, thought Veyd with a nod. No one knew where Wyienne was but usually she was sent to deal with any problems Cydra had and in general left a trail of wounded, miserable girls behind her every she went in what most described as sinisterly perverse.
            Although the newspapers were in Cydra’s control in some of the districts as a rule the stories would still reach those that weren’t.
            She put it out of her mind and looked down the road bathing in the long rays of the late afternoon light. Some of the shops and games were still open, a two story arcade, one story on the balcony edge, one story below, would be open all night.
            “Is the ferry still okay?”
            “Alrighty then.” She drove her Otomo to the ferry and purchased her ticket from a sweet natured older woman. “You’ve got everything,” she told her when she read her passport. “License for firearms, license for magic, passport for all six districts plus even the satellite kingdom of Walrus 5.”
            “Gram-Gram believes in preparation,” she told her with a smile. Getting those things wasn’t as hard it looked: she merely needed to prove competence with various tests, which no one in town had denied her after her “Gram-Gram” provided so many jobs to their town economy, and the bills barely scratched the estimated crop profit.
            She got her ticket, parked her vehicle in a spot in the tram after locking her gun in its metal holster at its side, and went inside. She mouthed the words, “Queen is paranoid. Road is closed. Blah, blah, blah.”
            Inside the vehicle was white and beautiful, a shiny silvery white with black tables and chairs with golden legs. The dining room, stage, and other such things were built over the glass floor, the left and right side sectioned off and beyond containing seats back and forth with a table between for those who didn’t want to eat over a thousand foot drop.
            She sat in one of the booths. “I’m bored, let’s go, I’m bored.” Veyd suddenly found herself thinking about the Duchess of Keldor and the newspaper the toll man had been reading saying she had a “second son.”
            She saw me and knew, thought Veyd.
            How did that happen exactly? It wasn’t like she looked like Alan Veyd. She wasn’t her own daughter, had no biological connection to her old form, but she had known somehow.
            Veyd went into Keldorvyr, the capital city of Keldor, with a booming population after the curse broke in that kingdom, and watched the duke and duchess proceed in their hover vehicle the crowds looking at them.
            It was not intentional to be there. Veyd just caught in the crowd as she came out, the duchess being shown off after her success delivery with a son and providing future of the Nadorre family. She was with her eldest daughter who was also someone special although only Lilia would have known it and only if her mother or Allayne had told her.
            Veyd looked up at the hovering white and pink limousine-carriage, specialized to show her off with the primary color of white, the female color, more prominent as he came floating by and the duchess looked out and waved pleasantly and the incredibly happy people.
            Veyd recognized the face, a beautiful, modelesque face with purple eyes with straight gold locks hanging down either side of her hair still young and fantastic wearing a dress of white and pink, the color of Keldor, on a body still rather young, not yet touching thirty. She had worn that body once herself, walked it across Walrus 5 to where the queen’s secret chambers were, where the spirit of Lilia Marathir Dethara was trapped in the body of Kalea Forne that rotting away with the unnatural magic that Wyienne had left behind in it.
            Veyd had succeeded in his plan but he ended up in the pillar for thirteen years.
            She had no intention of revealing herself to the duchess but when she got close, like twenty feet close, she felt her heart take an unnatural leap upward, and she looked right up into the woman’s face.
            Their eyes met and there was some kind of recognition in them and the eldest daughter who suddenly stuck her head out, a girl of maybe ten or so years old. Veyd sensed Lilia would have stopped if she understood what she was feeling but as soon as she was gone the feeling ended as abruptly as it came.
            That was bad news.
            Veyd didn’t want anyone knowing she was there. The Order of Three could keep a secret and Marissa Forne took council with no one but Lilia might tell her mother and others might be listening. She was, a queen, after all and the exiled lords of her court all flocked around her, not all of them her friends. Also Queen Elliah and Allayne might come by and try to micromanage her quest.
            The ferry lifted up and went smoothly down the road.
            “Fine,” she whispered still feeling those purple eyes on her and wondering what else could go wrong. “Everything is just fi—”
            A hand came down on her shoulder in a sudden iron grasp and she squeaked.
            “I fucking knew it!” she cried and looked up.
            She looked up at a dark man in gray, the symbol with the letter “F” in white over white on both armbands, various medals indicating an offer, and the black crow of Bloodline of Forne on the hat as well as a medal on his chest. His boots were tall, reaching up to his knees, and he wore a leather jacket that reached down to his ankles split at the back.
            His right hand was on her shoulder, his left holding her gun.
            She looked closer at his actual features, a somewhat handsome, pale as hell as all men born in the Gray Lands, with very light blue eyes. She looked down at his badge on his left shoulder and saw the name “Williams” and knew who he was.
            “Of for fuck’s sake, what now?”
            “You’re a child,” he said in a low, guttural voice and he lifted her gun pointing it vertically. “Why do you need this?”
            “Aren’t you that guy that call Silius Bill?” Silius was not normally pronounced “silly-ous” and she knew he did not like it.
            “My name is pronounced ‘Silus’ Williams,” he stated in a cold voice and squeezed harder. She squeaked and bent over.
            “Is there a problem, officer?” He said nothing. “Cracking into my vehicular lock is not nice or legal, you big meanie, and I need it to, oh I don’t know, protect myself.”
            “This has five barrels and I think each of them do different things.” He looked at the fully functional weapon, with its obvious laser center and its typical energy magazine, its long blue crystal diamond slotted on the left, the long red crystal on the right side, the small canister tinted green on the bottom, and the coil-like yellow thing on the top. “It weighs almost nothing and are these hover stabilizers? Even a girl like you could fire it one handed.”
            Veyd smiled proudly. “It’s a good weapon. Can you please stop squeezing my shoulder?”
            “Where did you get it?”
            “It’s a family device,” she replied and he rested the gun on his shoulder waiting for more. “You’ll never get it to fire without me.” It was DNA coded to fire and if it someone else tried to fire it would actually lock up so even the magazines and crystals couldn’t be removed.
            “We’re looking for a traitor,” he told her. “He or she may be in contact with the priest. It’s not you, is it? Did he give you this weapon as some kind of boon for services?”
            That would be a dangerous mistake, she thought. “Do I look like a rebel to you?” she asked. “I’m freaking thirteen, old man!”
            “I don’t know what you look like,” he told her honestly. “An heiress traveling across country. That is odd, don’t you think?”
            “My Gram-Gram believes I need life experience in order not to grow up into a spoiled brat incapable of understanding the finer attributes of life.”
            Silius Bill gave an ugly smile. “You think you’re funny, don’t you?”
            “I—” she tried to pull out of his grip but he held on tightly “—know I’m funny. Let go of my shoulder.” He leaned down and looked her over and she looked back at him. “You need something?”
            “Who are you, Ms. Amberwood?”
            “I am Alice Amberwood,” she replied. “And yes, I know who you are too.”
            He looked into her eyes with an intensity she knew it was right to be worried about. “No fear in you, Daughter of Doran.”
            “None,” Veyd replied. “Are you going to let go?” He loosened his grip but still held her shoulder gently. It was a sexual touch that was more than a little alarming. “Getting closer,” she told him. “To let go you require no longer making contact.”
            He let go of her shoulder but before she could blink he snatched her arm and pulled her out.
            “Alice Amberwood, age thirteen, appeared out of nowhere suddenly with everything,” he said as he pulled her out to the dining area where all the tables had been moved aside.
            “My Gram-Gram feels this is a good time to start some business. He’s working in Keldor now but also feels that the other countries may have good business opportunities. Perfectly legal, of course. All the bills had been made.”
            It cost several millions, point of fact, but when it was all over that was going to the true queen so who cared.
            “Yes,” he said and he pushed her up against the stage and looked into her face. “No fear in you. None at all.”
            “It makes it so difficult to get hard, doesn’t it?” His eyes bulged. “That was a joke. Funny, eh?”
            His eyes narrowed. “No, that was not.” He wasn’t going to do anything to her. She was the granddaughter of a man putting millions of gray into his queen’s account and to harm her without any real cause would reveal a willingness to harm the merchant class people the Gray Queen depended on. They were on the verge of revolt anyway and many of them had become secret supports of Queen Elliah.
            “We really are looking for a traitor,” he told her. “Do you have anything you want to see?”
            “Yes, of course, because traitors regular seek out a thirteen year old girl to hide valuable information in.”
            “They’ve used children before.”
            “You’re welcoming to search my Otomo. You won’t find anything illegal.”
            He frowned at her. “Why are you heading north?”
            “To visit a family friend.” Veyd was surprised to find coming up with a good reason to head north as a thirteen year old girl was not easy. She had to prove something for a school, she had no bodyguard for being such a rich girl heading into dangerous land which posed more questions: honestly, there really was no reason a rich, privileged girl would head north and she play off being an eccentric.
            Veyd claimed a family friend as a purposeful fake story and if she was questioned hard she would “admit” to running away for a way to see the world. She was young enough that someone would believe her stupid enough to do it and Arthur was posed to imitate a guardian if someone called her tower.
            He didn’t ask though. He just held out his hand as the others in the fairy were pushed into the center of the glass center by his agents who started to question everyone. “We will find who we are looking for.” His eyes narrowed and there was something lust in his eyes. “Even if it is a small, insignificant, part of a little girl.”
            “You will not let down you’re queen again, I’m sure.” She shrugged at his angry expression. “I’ve got nothing to hide. Go do your thing and try to make a jackass out of yourself.”

*          *          *

            It took hours before they found something and it was debatable what he found.
            “Are you done yet, you fucking disgrace?” asked one of the nobleman in the ferry with his family, a Calynian lord evident by his dark skin and extremely well groomed upper class look. He was wearing blue and the ebony wolf on his chest meant he was a Roster, a direct male line connected Lord John Roster who would have been, if the Gray Queen did not deny him his right, the Duke of Calyne. He and his entourage were the majority of people there, maybe five Keldorians and Veyd traveling north or to the Gap Plaza while his family and entourage, a wife, two daughters, three sons, several servants for his wife, several others to his children including a nanny and himself a loyal older manservant, and half a dozen guards who were very surrounding him and looking angry at the fact they were disarmed.
            He very clearly did not like Silius Bill but then no one in Calyne did.
            Silius Bill frowned back at him with equal hate as if it was someone else’s fault.
            “Why are you holding me, my family and these people hostage?” he asked. “Should I expect massacre now, Butcher of Caldarr?”
            Veyd raised her eyebrows at that. She had expected Roster to just blurt it out.
            Silius was a monster, like many of those who served the Gray Queen, and once upon a time he had found a series rebels’ family but, unable to ascertain who was who in the small village, he butchered them all, hundreds of them, including all the civilians who were just there at the time or happened to be part of families who had lived there for generations, in some attempt to break the rebel spirit.
            It made it far worse, doubling, or tripling, or perhaps even quadrupling the rebels and since then it was worse, especially in Calyne, and he had lost favor with the Gray Queen for it. It wasn’t the murder that did it, which was why he was still command, but the bad calculating of doing so at a time and with a method that caused the great increase in rebel activity. It even started rebellions in otherwise peaceful areas.
            “It alls explains why you’re on bridge duty like some inept last of his class green recruit right out of officer school.”
            The lord’s elder son, eighteen or so, laughed and Silius Bill looked at Veyd for a second with dark promise.
            “I wouldn’t get in a dick measuring contest with this guy.” She then whispered with a hand blocking what she would say to Roster, “He’s black.”
            The lord’s son laughed again. “I love this kid!”
            “Are we done now, officer?” asked Roster.
            “Why are you even out here, My Lord?”
            “My family owns a castle by the sea in southern Keldoria. We visit it every summer as a family tradition and would have headed back by our private airship but we’re not allowed to fly over the gap.” Lord Roster was less than pleased. “Are we done now, officer?”
            “Oh I don’t think so,” Silius Bill replied. “We did find something in the possession of something illegal in this ferry and actions must be made.”
            His hands opened and closed frowned at Silius Bill. “Who?”

*          *          *

            “I’m good!” the oriental boy told the oriental girls as he was walking across the ferry. “I’m okay. I just have not to look down.” Veyd smiled at the sight of the boy actually walking, albeit clinging to the rail desperately, as they entered the Gap Plaza.
            The door to the ferry opened downward and a young man was being dragged out by three of the officer’s agents. He was maybe twenty, if that, a pale kid with a mop of brown hair and brown eyes, wearing a long sleeved blue short, a gray hoody zip up jacket, green sweatpants and bright blue sneakers. “I’m innocent! They planted them on me!”
            “It is not acceptable to grow marijuana or tobacco without Queen Cydra’s express permission,” stated Silius Bill.
            His pretty teenage girlfriend had went crazy the instant the accusation came and they were holding her as she kicked and flailed angrily.
            “What’s he going to get?” asked Veyd. “Six months? A year? Nothing like growing two joints of dope to destroy an economy.”
            “Shut up, little girl!” said Silius Bill as he followed his men down the ramp to the Gap Plaza.
            The lord’s body guards went afterward, then the lord, and his family as they stepped out down the ramp. “What is this?” he asked bitterly.
            “Oh he’s a douchebag,” said Veyd standing behind them at the top of ramp. “Silius Bill’s not just a monster, he is also a complete idiot,” she said in a tone like a radio commercial. The boy looked terrified out of his mind. “Do you really think he actually carried that onto a ferry? It would have come up in scans.”
            The boy’s girlfriend almost broke loose but was then punched. Roster’s wife jerked a hand to her mouth in shock.
            “Was that really necessary?” asked Roster coldly.
            Veyd didn’t believe for an instant that boy was guilty. That moron officer had taken over a ferry with a lord and now didn’t want to look like a fool letting him go with nothing. Screwing over that boy would also make him look like a fool, Veyd thought, but the two or three brain cells in his head didn’t seem to connect well enough for him to see that.
            “Officer Williams,” said Roster. “What is his fine?”
            “You’ll have it waved.”
            “I will,” he replied. “It’s the neighborly thing to do as I believe you are vastly overreacting to his crime.”
            “He’s connected deep with the Calyne Resistance.”
            “Really,” said Veyd. “He doesn’t look black to me.”
            “Not every rebel is black,” said
            “They are in Calyne, mostly, Keldoria doesn’t have an actual rebel group. The population here is ninety percent black—” Silius Bill made a motion and Veyd heard the Lady Roster gasp in sudden horror along with her children as the men lifted up the boy with a cry of effort and then shoved him over back first “—holy shit!” Veyd screamed and stared down at him through the glass as he went falling.
            “Neeeeoooooh!” cried the orientalboy and he covered his face and crumpled unable to move. Both girls cried out in aggravation, grabbed his arms, and started to drag him further before they saw what was happening.
            Veyd stared in dumbstruck shock as the young man was sent flying to his death down thousands of feet shrieking into the growing darkness, the last rays of sun hitting him just before he disappeared very small into the darkness all for having a few smokable joints of marijuana.
            His girlfriend was shrieking at the sight of it, staring at him through the glass floor, horrified to her core and banging her hands against it.
            “That was very indecent,” said Roster coldly. “There was no trial, no lawyers, and in front of my wife and children and all these others—” Silius Bill looked at him and he looked back unblinking “—if this man comes anywhere near my family,” he told his guards, “You send him to meet this girl’s boyfriend.”
            Silius Bill’s face fell to one of surprise at that. He wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t a coward exactly, but there was caution there and he clearly didn’t expect that.
            They’re closer to the breaking point here than I thought, she thought to herself. Roster was furious at the denial of his father’s title, she knew, but she had no idea just how much so. Maybe the rebellion was nurtured by the Rosters after all.
            “You find something funny, little girl?” asked Silius Bill.
            “I wonder if maybe the love of your queen will give you wings?”
            He walked up to her, took her chin in his left hand, and said, “You’re sweet vagina isn’t ripe enough to be used to talk yourself out of a dark path yourself should you anger me more.”
            “Classy,” she replied with wide, almost mocking, eyes. “You, lackey, give me my gun back.”
            “Give her, her weapon,” said Lord Roster and, surprisingly enough, the man tossed her the weapon. She caught it in her left hand easily.
            Silius turned his head and looked at the man accusingly but he only shrugged. Roster was a member of the ruling lord of Calyne so what else was he going to do?
            Veyd moved past him, took out her motorcycle, and went over to the hotel. She parked in a space, walked around to the front, and went up to the woman at the desk. Behind her, several servants carrying the supplies for Lord Roster passed her by.
            “Give me a room that is the scariest you have,” she told her. “No bullshit, I want clear floors and nothing below me.”
            The older woman in her pink dress grinned. “Oh you are adorable!” she said. “Is your mother around?”
            “No, she’s not. I’m traveling alone.”
            “Oh that’s neat but there are no rooms without glass floors. This is a bit of a dare-to-sleep place.”
            “No, no, I want scary,” she replied. She didn’t want to get on the ferry again and asked, “Will the road be closed tomorrow?”
            “It’ll be closed all week. There is a military convoy heading south.”
            “Into Keldor? That can’t be good. I’ll just take the cheapest room you got.”
            “That’s all that’s left. Lord Roster has purchased the finer rooms for himself and his family along with his entourage.”
            “Gif gaff Giraffe,” she replied and bought the room.
            Veyd did not feel like sleeping after what she had just seen so she went out, got herself a subway sandwich with pastrami “from the great southern farmland of Keldor,” with Quarranese Far-Roadian cheese, some water because it was late because she didn’t want to stay up and a small salad. She ate them at the restaurant while people were having heated conversation about the man who was thrown off over her head.
            She ignored it as best you could, feel a twinge of worry in their voices, then went to the arcade. There she played Knight Lord 3770, a reference to the year when the comic book mythos exploded in a kind of giant superhero civil war. The game was a side scroller where she played the thief friend of Knight Lord, Ruby Black, out of eight possible characters who, like herself, had red hair.
            She moved across the scene fighting artificial monsters standing on a glass plate that overlooked thousands of feet into darkness mostly alone in the arcade.
            She stuck in white discs, each worth .10 gray, until she almost spent three grays of the five she pulled out from the machine with her card, and beat the game killing the Dark Moon, an evil force from the outer solar system merged with a dark knight named Luther Bane to get a humanoid form to enter Talayne and devour its worlds.
            When she finally left there was a hubbub everywhere, people moving about, talking angrily. Some of them were whispering, turning away when they saw her, Calynian men and women, mostly workers in the Gap Plaza who may have been members of the farming families that used to live there.
            There was a lot of anger in the air and Ved really hoped it didn’t come back to haunt her.
            She went into her rented bedroom, took off her shoes, jacket, and slipped into the transparent bed overlooking the glass floor and slipped under warm transparent colors. Only her body and her gun, if one looked up through the covers, was distorted by the fabric, looking blurry, but everything else was clear all the way to the bottom.
            She fell asleep before a draped window, turned her head, and looked down the glass thousands of feet where earlier a young man had been thrown for having two joints in his pocket.
            She was not in one of those rooms built over the rollercoaster so if she fell threw she wasn’t getting caught on anything until she hit the bottom.
            “Fun,” she said and she slowly, gently, shut her eyes.

*          *          *

            Veyd eyes jerked open at the sound of an explosion in what felt like an instant later.
            “What the hell?” she cried as she grabbed her gun, shoes and jacket and jerked out of the room. She was standing on that glass walkway, moving up to the front desk where no one
            There was another explosion as she slipped outside and felt the ground shake. “Oh gods,” she gasped and then heard the familiar cry from the news.
            “Revolution!” cried someone wearing the bright red of the royalty of Doran in bandanas over their heads, arms, and or thighs. Sometimes they had over just one place, sometimes over many, but usually over their heads.
            They stood on one place, the gray guards on the other, and two of them were face to face.
            Two men stood face to face, one was the gray officer from before, several of his men behind him, and the other was a man in the winged eagle of the Doran House. He was dark skinned, dark eyed, with buzz cut hair and a tight red bandana with the same red eagle over a circle of white on his forehead.
            The other was Silius Bill and he each of them had small group of soldiers behind them. Silius didn’t look at her when her when he said, “Looks like we got a traitor,” in our midst.
            “Are you accusing me of alerting the rebellion of your location or the hundreds of other people you terrorized yesterday evening, you cock monkey.” She threw on her jacket and then her gun right over her shoulder. “You are an idiot and you, rebel, if you are the one set bomb charges in the center of a goddamn bridge with no pillar support below it are also an idiot.”
            They looked at her and frowned with identical expression.
            That’s just what I need, she thought. A friend and an enemy who are identically stupid.
            “She’s not wrong!” stated a voice and Lord Roster came out wearing his pants and both wearing a long sleeved white shirt that went under his regal outfit, his wife and children and behind him. “I’m ordering you both, now, as the son of the highest lord of the realm, to drop this and abandon any ideas of blowing the bridge that my family and these innocent civilians are on!” His men pulled out heavy pistols and held them out in both hands.
            “Ladies, gentlemen and whatever the fuck Silius Bill is,” cried Veyd with her arms outstretched, “Look at the diagram of this bridge!” She pointed partially backward at a drawing of the side of the bridge on the side of the hotel. “It is extremely fine-tuned in design with no added pieces. Under Hotel is a designed to overlap a support beam and before you say anything I know what kind of bombs those were. They will blow the foundation of this thing pretty goddamn easily.
            Veyd knew how to build bombs but she was also a trained architect. Alan Veyd knew he was going to be ripped off by architects who did famously subpar jobs in the Short Belt so he had gotten a degree in interstellar architecture before he had purchased his first asteroid. It was one of the only degrees he had as he was self-taught almost in everything.
            Most gadgeteers were. The Touch of the Machine, as it was sometimes called, required self-teaching more than external learning. It made no sense to Veyd even though appeared to be true.
            “This bridge will hold if the hotel falls,” said Silius Bill.
            “Just like the rebellion would fall if you attacked Caldarr?” He looked at her with sudden venom in his eyes. “Face the facts, Silius! You’re an idiot and you—” she pointed at the rebel leader “—will not get off this bridge before it falls if the hotel goes. As I said it is built into a support beam and if you want to remain popular you might considering avoiding members of your most respected fam—”
            “You’re wrong!” he snarled and he held up his hand with the detonator on it, his fingers just a quarter an inch from it. She saw the problem instantly: he wasn’t holding it, he was simply threating to use it.
            “The fuck I am!” she cried and then she looked at everyone in stupefied amazement. “Am I taking crazy pills or what? We’re on a bridge stretched over miles! There are no supports except on the end! It’s not made of magic, you fucktards!”
            “All the more reason Officer Psychopath will cave in to our demands,” said the rebel leader.
            “The Gray Queen will never give into your demands, you pile of black dog shit!” said Silius Bill.
            “Are you both mentally disabled or what?”
            “You,” said Silius Bill, “Are an ignorant little bitch!”
            “Of course I am,” she replied as she rubbed the bridge of her nose with her left hand. “Of course, I must be a liar, because only I liar would council someone against blowing up the bridge while in the center!”
            “We have a ship,” he replied.
            “Good for you!” she cried. “It’ll fall before you get to it and even if it doesn’t what about everyone else here not the least of which is an entire branch of the highest ranking family in the goddamn duchy!”
            Something about that offended Silius Bill for whatever reason. “John Roster is no duke—”
            “Enough!” cried Roster and everyone looked at him. “You will both drop your weapons immediately and back away!” They stared at him for a moment, some complying, some not. “Now!” he cried and more did, when put side put down one gun, the other did as well. After a few moments he looked around. “Where is the girl?”

*          *          *

            Veyd backed her vehicle out in hover, titled around smoothly to point at the asphalt path, and then saw five individuals walking toward here. “Shit, shit, shit in my shoes!” she cried.
            The Wolf Brigade, wolf men raised under the Gray Queen, had stepped out of a sleek black van and were walking toward her. Many animal races were created on Corvo in the times of the walrus’s dreaming sleep and the wolf men were no exception but they were, uncharacteristically, a serious bunch. Usually he dreamed of herbivores who tended be pacifistic personally.
            The Gray Queen had kidnapped their grand or great grandparents as cubs and bred them for combat they were singular good at it. They had all had black fur, yellow or blue eyes, were over six feet tall, humanoid with the same number of fingers and toes as a man, with wolf-like heads.
            They wore black plated armor from head to toe ending at their necks, no helmets on probably because they were scarier that way, and they carried fully automatic rifles that could cut a man or woman in both hands.
            “Oh this is just what I need.”
            The five of them walked forward, boots clinking in unison as they walked. One of them reached out, caught her by the arm, and yanked her off. She sensed it coming, parked her vehicle right where she was, and let the wolf man drag her away.
            “If you let me go I can get you a kickass chew toy the likes of which you have never seen,” she told her holder. His ears flickered were the indication that he heard.
            They pulled her back to the front of the hotel where everyone turned.
            “No!” cried Roster. “You five back away now!”
            “This is getting out of control,” said the one in the front, their “pack leader,” in a surprisingly normal voice. Veyd was pushed in the direction of the crowd just before he said. “I’ll make it easy for you, rebel.” His yellow eyes narrowed. “Drop your weapons and we won’t kill you all.”
            The rebel’s hand shook and the wolf saw the problem had seen earlier.
            They raised their guns and fired and the rebel had barely a moment to register surprise before he was blown apart, almost in an instant, his hand being the first thing to separate from him.
            The Gray guards started to fire, the rebels started to fire: everyone started to fire.
            Veyd could not hear Silius Bill laughing but she could see him. The rebels were cut to pieces by that wolf brigade for an instant but, then, the leader jerked suddenly with a giant hole in the side of his head.
            Veyd did not see that coming but she thought she should have: the rebels evidently had people on the Keldorian side with military grade rifles. They could fires miles, mounted probably in one of the abandoned houses on the edge that she had passed earlier.
            Silius Bill turned and bullet scraped him across the head doing superficial harm at best but then another bullet came, hit him in the leg, and nearly blew it off. He screamed as he spun around then hit the ground. “Get me to this ship!”
            Rebels appeared in the street, hidden with rifles, and began firing.
            “Get my family out of here!” cried Roster as a partly transparent force field bubble of blue appeared around him from his guards. They were moving toward a black airship as it landed moving past Silius Bill as he was being picked up.
            “That is my airship!” he cried.
            “I don’t care!” Roster replied.
            Veyd jerked under cover and watched the wolves get shot. They were the target, quite outnumbered, and even an idiot can eventually the head with a fully automatic. The sniper was still doing his work and two more were dead from that before the others.
            The last few had pressed the buttons to form their wolf helmets but that didn’t matter because the sniper bullet could cut through their armor.
            Veyd rushed over to her vehicle as soon as they were dead when then heard the high pitched cry. She looked back and saw the youngest Roster in a cute blue dress falling down the ramp as it jerked up. Several of the guards around her were shot the instant the force field vanished.
            She looked pushed, rolling backward as she went.
            “Goddamn it!” cried Veyd.
            She jerked the vehicle around, pulled out her gun, and fired several times into the rebels pointing guns at the little girl. Several were shot by other rebels, an unpleasant sign for the rebellion. They saved the girl form being shot but didn’t do anything to rescue her from that bridge.
            Veyd jerked the vehicle forward and told the little girl to, “Get on!”
            The airship her family was on, pod-like and gray, was flying above, turning and twisting, the pilot fighting with Roster’s men no doubt, on whether to go back down or leave. Lasers and bullets hit the ship that was flying up higher and higher in the early morning misty blue sky.
            The little girl, who must have been maybe six, crawled on top of her and wrapped her little arms around her center.
            Veyd flipped the switch, hover locking them on the motorcycle as long as it was stabling driving, then spun the vehicle around and jerked forward toward the exit. A few shots went after her for gods only knew what reason.
            She drove the vehicle in an arc through the Gap Plaza, almost empty at that time in the morning, a few lovers out holding hands by the edge shaking and frightened with events that had suddenly occurred.
            “Run!” she told them. “Run for your life!” She knew what was coming and it came, unsurprisingly, as she neared the asphalt road. The explosion rocked the entire plaza and after she cast an alteration magic spell on the metal bar blocking it and then broke through to see the ultimate horror.
            Cracks in the bridge.
            “Hold on tight!” Veyd yelled back at the girl. “Break your fingers tight!”
            She lowered her vehicle to the asphalt and her wheels started to move the Otomo full speed. Teal electricity shot through the wheels’ outer rims, as incredible power went through the machine. Her vision began to blue as she went, cracks lessening as she went, furthering from the damage, moving toward the exit.
            To her right she saw guys in jump suit exoskeletons leaping after her. They fired at her too, not able to hit her at her speed, but getting shockingly. They had some kind of aiming technology, something good, but her speed just outdistanced it.
            They were moving at absurdly fast speeds, magical chronolation spells definitely playing a part.
            She slowed her vehicle down suddenly near the wall and pointed the gun with her right hand.
            Good gods, they were close, moving like a movie on fast forward, bouncing like rabbits in black jumpsuits with blood red exoskeletons. She saw the first flying right at her and she pointed down, fired the red crystal powered disintegration gun, hit the plate, and watched as the first went flying right through what she hit. The ray destroyed all inorganic material that it touched of the same kind it initially hit destroying the glass utterly.
            The jumper sensed it, too late, and was screaming as he went flying to his death below.
            The other leapt over the wall and she fired into him one handed. Her gun was stabilized by her gun, noted earlier by Silius Bill, and he was mortally wounded when he slammed onto the ground ten feet from her.
            He looked up suddenly and there was an ugly yellow glow in his eyes.
            “Honovan remembers,” he told her and then he fell forward onto the asphalt.
            Veyd felt it coming then, grimacing as it came, and narrowed her focus as she started forward. “Don’t let go!” she cried as she began to speed up and the little nails dug into her stomach.
            The Otomo was using everything it had, the wheels, the hover supports, everything, as it went flying like a bullet toward the end. Her vision blurred, the speed out of this world, and very far from safe. If she simply fell, she would die. She didn’t need a bridge collapsing into oblivion at that point and the hover protectors from slipping too far right or too far left at that speed were reaching their limit.
            Suddenly the bridge started to fall, but luckily it was slow, and as it slanted she was riding up a ramp. “Shit, shit, shit!” she cried as she saw herself going vertical.
            And then she hit the end and she flew through the air.
            She hit half a hundred to a hundred feet of air, she wasn’t quite sure, and was goddamn luckily the road went straight. She came down, hover supports, wheels, and shocks all so advanced and improved by her, almost broke as she made contacted but was virtually unharmed and alive, and she turned horizontal and slid to a stop leaving a trails with her wheels before turning left into the woods. She flipped a switch that took her any radar now looking for her.
            “What’s happening now?” asked the girl.
            “Now we play the quiet game,” she told her. “Someone wants one of us dead that much is for sure.” It was her, Honovan knew she was there, but she was also important too. Out there away from her guards and family any enterprising scumbag could see a fat ransom in his or her future. She looked over at the bridge falling and watched several rebel airships pass her over while looking around with spot lights through the trees. “I honestly don’t know whether they’ll save you or ransom you.”
            “What will you do?” she asked.
            “I’m going to give you back to your family,” she told her and then she felt the girl loosen up and hug her sweetly. Her entire midsection was in agony, she noticed, the little girl possibly breaking something. Veyd laughed at that and said, “What a way to start an adventure.”
            “You’re on adventure,” asked the girl with bright big eyes.
            “It would seem so.”
            “Who is Honovan to you?” she asked.
            Veyd’s face fell. “An old enemy of my family,” she said.
            “How does your family know the priest?”
            “It’s a long story.” Veyd looked at the bridge and watch the last part of it fall. She was right about that Gap Plaza and no one who was not on an airship survived. Honovan may have been part of that. “A long, sad, tragic tale.”
            She turned to the girl. She was a pretty little girl in a blue dress who looked up at her like an angel too young to be embarrassed at being saved by another girl and loving her unconditionally. She was maybe, what, six? Maybe five?
            “Enough of this crap. Let’s go get some ice cream.” The girl laughed and hugged her. Veyd pretended she hadn’t noticed the girl had wet herself.
            Veyd went through the last few hours in her mind: she was borderline sexually harassed or worse, she was nearly blown up, shot at, nearly blown up again, and then nearly dropped into a giant chasm while being shot at yet again as she fled for her life.
            “Good times,” she said and then watched as one of the two major support beams, the last part to break, slipped forward and fell in. “Goooood times.”



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