Chapter 16 – First Blood

Jeanette and Isaiah met their companions in a conference room at the Kingsport police station. Svetlana and the crew of the Will o' the Wisp sat around a conference table in unaccustomed quiet. Once they were all seated, FX rose and started the briefing.

"We have some results from the genetic side of things," he announced. "Noah is still on Carmel, in TSTO custody, solidifying. So are his personal effects. His clothes are woven from human hair, his boots are human leather, and his ivory knife is human tooth enamel. Or very nearly, and getting nearer every day. We transmitted the genomes from Andre and the other Bourgeois androids to the TSTO base on Carmel. They compared them to genomes from Noah and his boots. They are all the same. We may assume that this is the genome of one of the neb-runners, specifically, their neb-maker."

Vivian took over. "The folks at the Carmel base," she said, "did an anatomical reconstruction from the code. The result is a human male. This one." She tapped a control and an image appeared on one wall – a nude man, standing at attention, slowly rotating. When the image faced the viewers, rotation stopped and the picture zoomed in on the face. "As you can see," said Vivian, "he doesn't look like Noah or any of the androids. Or a pair of boots."

The image looked tall and athletic, a European eo-human with black wavy hair and deep blue eyes. The face looked youthful and nondescript; a genetic reconstruction gave no information about state of exercise, aging, or other historical accidents. But one could guess. As they watched, the face aged from twenty to fifty and back, taking on various degrees of tanning. Popular hats and hairstyles flickered over the head.

"So he looks something like this," Vivian went on. "Maybe. Of course, nothing prevents him having his face and hair changed. He could even change his genetics, if he has the right powers, or encounters them. But that's a lot of work. We'll hope he didn't."

"I sent out query programs," Canorus said, "looking for the genome. But nothing says it was ever recorded."

"He would be very reckless," agreed Sventlana, "to become a neb-maker with his genome on record."

"We've checked the port authority records," said FX. "No ships have arrived or departed Philippia in the last hundred standard days with any recorded connection to the Homunculine company. They may have used a third-party freighter or they may have used another name. We've sent out query programs on the Homunculine name, by the way, with no results so far.

"However, Homunculine did rent a comm account through the spaceport business office, and so presumably worked off of their ship. They also rented space in a warehouse. The comm account closed twenty-four days ago, but they are still renting the warehouse space. I think that means they left Philippia twenty-four days ago but left some property here and so are planning to come back. We've got permission from the Kingsport magistrates to examine the warehouse under Svetlana's supervision."


The warehouse district of Kingsport was like all its kindred across worlds and centuries – giant boxes laid out in a grid. Only the sunlight made it different from the corresponding place on Carmel. Traffic noise was faint and far-off; it was the middle of the thirty-hour day, and most Philippians reset their body clocks by taking a siesta.

"It's locked," said FX, rattling the handle. "Don't the warehouse owners know we're here? Where's the superintendent?"

"The magistrates had to inform the owners when they gave us permission," Svetlana said. "But didn't you make an appointment?"

FX stared back at her and turned slightly pink. "I'll, uh, just phone them." He fumbled for his calling card and asked Svetlana in a low voice, "What's the number here for directory assistance?"

While the others stood watching FX, Canorus walked back to the door. He gazed at it for a moment and Isaiah felt a tingle of psi. "No good," the Melior said. "The lock's mechanical." There was no software for him to meddle with.

"Does it open for in?" asked Daima, joining Canorus at the door.


"I mean, can a person open it if they are inside." She felt at the lock, then along the door. "Yes, they can." And she oozed through the crack.

The humans stared blankly at the door. "It's been a long time since she did that," FX remarked.

"Longer than I've known her, certainly," said Isaiah.

"Most of her psi works only by contact," FX mused on. "Nothing remote. But within that limitation, she's very versatile." There was a click. "Ah."

The door swung open and Daima stood there, blinking. "It is dark herein," she said. "Finding the handle is difficult."

"Never mind," said FX. "That was splendid. Thank you."

They filed in and switched on some lights. This still left most of the warehouse in darkness. Isaiah gazed at the stacks of crates. The nearest pile were all labeled "Mariner Distillery, Cydonia City, Mars. Fine Liqueuers Since 2148." More piles marched off into the gloom in neat arrays. "Where are the Homunculine boxes, I wonder?" he said.

FX sighed noisily and pulled out his calling card again. "This time I really will call the superintendent!"

"Just when it's getting fun?" said Borne, with only a half-note of sarcasm in his voice. "No, really, put your card away." He went over to the panel by the door and turned on more lights. "We'll look for them. There's no rush. We could try dowsing, too."

"Noah's tooth was cloaked," FX muttered. But he put his calling card away.

"But there were holes in the cloak, remember?" said Vivian. "And we all got a face full of the psi inside the cloak. And they may have left other psi hanging around."

"Maybe there's a chart of the floor layout, somewhere," Jeanette suggested. She set off down the aisle formed by one wall and the nearest row of crate-piles. Isaiah followed her. "Poor FX!" she said, once they were out of earshot, and he saw that she was grinning.

"I'll comfort him later," said Isaiah, "by reciting my list of Stupid Things I Have Done. We'll need some time, though. It's a long list."

Jeanette smiled, then said, "Well, let me see what I can dowse." She fell silent and her pace slowed. Isaiah watched her for a few steps, then tried to follow suit. He brought up his memories of Noah's creation and, more important, the minutes before, when he had been in telepathic contact with FX as he probed the tooth. Then he opened his new psi sensitivity and waited for an impression of direction.

He received a strong impression of nearby psi activity, but it was only Jeanette, engaged in her own dowsing. He tried to practice his patharchic skills of perception and hyperesthesia and became aware of the others, each with the characteristic signature of psi. Borne, FX, and Canorus were dowsing, too. Vivian was fanning the floor with sensitive curtains of aura, like a miniature aurora borealis. Daima paced through the darkness, adding a psi edge to her natural stalking instinct.

All of this was interference, in relation to the task at hand. Isaiah nodded silently to Jeanette, then turned away, pacing down a dim-lit aisle. The others would distract him less out here. He silenced his mind and waited for a note to be slipped under the shut doors of the senses.

Maybe process of elimination would help? Jeanette behind him. The others to the left of him. Overhead? To the right? Upward? Ahead? Above? Hmm. Why had he–?

"Got it!" It was FX. His thought followed quickly on his voice, gathering the team into a hurried telepathic conference. "Look." Isaiah's imagination highjacked his attention, swooping first to FX, then ricochetting to a large stack of crates near the back wall of the warehouse. He was visualizing FX's own clairvoyant vision.

"They've got Homunculine written all over them," FX thought smuggly. And indeed they did, in black stenciled letters.

"There must be a couple of hundred in the stack," said Isaiah. "Are they all Homunculine's?"

"Let's take a look." FX started moving toward the stack. All the others did the same, though at leisurely paces. Their attention was chiefly occupied by clairvoyance.

Jeanette, Borne, and Canorus launched their own viewpoints along the bearing provided by FX, and soon everyone's head was swimming with four different visualizations of the stack. Isaiah sensed their mild annoyance at the confusion; the genuine irritation, he decided, was his own. He reclaimed part of his imagination, worked through the multiple images, and edited them into a more coherent panorama. He then presented the combined perspective to the group with a little telepathic nudge.

"An image processor!" said FX gleefully. "You could probably market this service, Isaiah." They contemplated their joint vision. In it, the crates were transparent at will, revealing their contents or the crates behind as soon as someone desired the view.

The first crate contained clothes, all in dull, sturdy fabrics. "Here are some boots," Vivian remarked, locating a crate full of them. "And another."

"What are these?" Borne wondered. "This crate's full of little boxes ... and those are packed with bottles and tubes. And some widgets."

"First aid kits," Vivian told him.

"Toiletry kits here," announced Canorus. "Shaver. Dental tissue. Detergent towels."

"This one contains a mixture," said Jeanette. "No, several mixtures. Duffle bags. It's a crate full of duffle bags. Each bag with some clothes, first aid kit, toiletries, and boots. Oh! And a knife. Or a stick. Or both."

"Here's a crate full of knives," sent Canorus. "And another one full of nunchuks. And these are brass knuckles. And these are impact vests."

"But why should our dowsing lead us to this stuff?" asked Jeanette.

Wordlessly, Daima's viewpoint led the others back to the crate of duffle bags and flitted deliberately from one to another. Besides wardrobe, boots, and toiletries, each bundle contained a tooth like Noah's, wrapped in tissue paper, tucked in the right boot.

"People kits," thought Jeanette.

Canorus refined the thought: "Warrior kits."

Daima's thought urged them on, deeper into the stack of crates. She had no clairvoyant skill of her own, but FX obeyed and sent his viewpoint on. Buried deep lay a small box full of Dragons' Teeth. "About a hundred," Isaiah estimated, "and another hundred scattered through the warrior kits."

"Who do you suppose they were planning to sell to?" FX wondered, directing the thought to Svetlana.

She returned no verbal thought, though they could feel her unease as she speculated. "There are the queens," Isaiah mused. "King Philip has been married twice and divorced twice. The first wife just patched up a civil war with him three years ago. The second fled off-planet with her retinue after her assassination attempt failed. Then there are the rogue lords – started by following the first queen into secession, then didn't rejoin with her. They're off on one of the other continents – or under cover. And of course it needn't be the peerage. There are ambitious commoners who failed to qualify for titles, or prefer other lines of advancement. And some of the peers play rough, too. Plenty of possible markets." Svetlana emoted her reluctant agreement.

"My, my," said FX, his mood wry. "What I've missed by concentrating on current events. Well, let's dig out that box of teeth. We'll clap it in psilence, throw in the other teeth out of the warrior kits, and take them all back to the TSTO base on Carmel for some psionic forensics."

"I'll start," volunteered Borne.

The clairvoyants dropped their envisioning. Isaiah found himself standing in front of the pile of crates with all the others, next to Jeanette. A crate drifted off the top of the stack and settled next to Borne.

"We should contact the Kingsport police," Svetlana said to FX. "It is their jurisdiction, and they can help you with non-psi forensics."

"Right. Who, exactly, do I call?"

Isaiah turned his back on the conversation and wandered back into the gloom. "Let's keep looking," he said to Jeanette. "There may be more to find."

"I think so, too," she agreed, falling into step beside him "I thought I felt some other psi around."

"Did you? Good. I think I did, too."

They wandered out from under the lights that had been turned on so far. Isaiah took a flashlight out of his pocket. "Perhaps we should go back to the door and turn on the rest of the lights," he suggested.

"Mm." Jeanette was half-heedless, concentrating on her ESP. Isaiah decided to use his original senses and played the light about, seeking anything out of place – the ceiling, a dark grid of support struts; the floor, rough tiles of vitrified dirt, bare and clueless; the stacks on either side. He listened, but heard only the voices of his companions, planning. Then a thump and a curse. Apparently Borne was having trouble with the crates. He sniffed – his own smell, sweaty and soapy; Jeanette's sunny scent; a faint mixture of heaven-knew-what from the surrounding crates; something sweet and pungent.

The light slid over a shiny patch on the wall ahead. A cluster of faces leapt out. Isaiah sucked in his breath, then shone the flash steadily on the shiny patch. "Oh!" said Jeanette, behind him, then again, dismissively, "Oh."

It was a cheap, transparent poster, bearing the holo of a cluster of masks. There were theatrical comedy and tragedy masks, mixed with domino masks, in bright colors, arranged somewhat like a bouquet of flowers. A grinning white comedy mask stood in the center. It might have been a circus poster, but there was no printing on it. It was crumpled and creased, frayed at the edges. The transparency of the poster made the masks appear embedded in the warehouse wall. The effect mixed the eerie and the tawdry.

"Oh-ho," said Isaiah softly. He pointed to a crate directly beneath the poster. A cheap plastic plate lay on top, holding a handful of ashes. The sweet, pungent smell was stronger.

"A shrine?" asked Jeanette.

"I think so." Had she plucked the thought from his mind, or had she studied this religion too? He felt her sparkle with psi, calling to the others. There was another thump and curse as Borne knocked over another crate, then footsteps as the others hurried over. "Damn!" Borne exclaimed. "They must have those crates stacked like a puzzle. Every time I moved one, another fell over. What's this?"

Isaiah spread the beam of the flash and held it on his discovery.

"What makes you think it's a shrine?" Vivian asked after glancing at the poster and the crate.

"Smell the ashes in that dish," Isaiah directed. "Incense."

"So what kind of shrine is it?" asked FX. "Do you have any reason to think it's connected to our neb-runners?"

"I think so. Carmel may have been a backwater, but we were careful to keep up with religious news as soon as contact resumed with Terran Space. I think this is a Vierlinger shrine. They're one of the new religions inspired by psi. They combine Platonism with Jungian psychology and as much general mythology as they can fit in. They devoutly believe in Jung's collective unconscious – for them, it's an emanation of the Absolute and the font and source of our souls. It also contains their pantheon, which they draw from Jungian archetypes and blend ad lib with myth figures."

"What myth figure is this?" Borne asked, nodding at the poster.

"Persona," Jeanette answered. "The superficial, public personality. Pose, role, disguise. A shield against others. Sometimes against yourself."

"'Persona' meant 'mask,' originally, in Latin," Isaiah added. "An actor's mask. Then it came to mean a character in a play. Very fitting to those who make and sell instant people. And remember the masks carved on the teeth. And their lapel pins."

"Does this help?" Canorus asked.

Isaiah shrugged. "It suggests they're from Earth, or one of the older, inner colonies. That's where you find most Vierlingers. And Vierlingers work in teams of four, once they get very far into their religion. So we're looking for one or more quartets, give or take a few hirelings. And, if they're at all serious about their cult, they may let ritual interfere with practicality. For instance, they may feel obliged to use this mask symbol, and so give themselves away. Also, Vierlingers really are occultists. They think psi is magic. This may give them an edge in emotional and imaginative intensity, but it may also blind them to technical, objective, scientific problems and solutions."

Jeanette eyed the dish of ashes speculatively. "I want to try something," she said. "Help me," she told Canorus, and "Show this," to FX.

The three stared at the poster with its make-shift altar. A shadowy figure rushed up and threw something into the plate. The smoke started to rise. The figure mumbled and fled.

"They were lightly Cloaked," Jeanette said as the vision ended. "I couldn't get a close-up."

"Well, it comfirms that this is a shrine," Svetlana said.

"How long ago was that?" Vivian asked.

"It was a composite. The track of a repeated event."

"Why the hurry, I wonder?" said Isaiah. "Were they afraid of their own shrine?"

"Can you find the latest instance?" FX asked Jeanette.

Daima held one hand over the dish. "These ashes are warm," she announced.

The chatter of speculation cut off. "The crates," Borne murmurred. "All those fumbles. We have company."

FX pointed at him and snapped his fingers. Borne vanished. FX pointed at each of the others in rapid succession. Snap, wink. Snap, wink. With a final snap of his fingers, he himself vanished. Jeanette, meantime, had raised a telepathy network.

Isaiah's head flooded with battle-thoughts: How many guns have we? (From FX.) How many of neb-runners are there? (Vivian's worry.) I have my shock pistol. (Canorus) I thought there was only one identity (sent Jeanette), but I'm not sure. I make knives. (Daima began forming blades from air.) What equipment have we? (FX again.) The pistol. Two knives. I have one in my boot. Jeanette has the small psi conditioner. She does? Why? Calling cards. Call the police! Dialing... (That was Svetlana.) Three knives now. Canorus has his pocket probe. How do we track this person? Four knives. The door. Have they escaped? Are there any other exits?

"Remember your lessons," Isaiah verbalized into the thought-storm. "Cue your hysterical speed and agility. And scatter. Don't linger here."

"Wait," sent Daima. Though she and he were both invisible, she stepped to his side and placed a handle in his hand. "A knife. Enlarge senses. Seek by the incense smell."

Isaiah took a deep breath and oriented himself. He could see no one, not even himself, but the telepathy made him feel almost crowded. Physically, though, the others were far away, scattering, hunting.

Svetlana cursed in Russian, trying to dial on an invisible calling card with invisible fingers. She summoned up her clairvoyance to pierce the protective illusion.

FX was using his own clairvoyance, seeking the neb-runner beneath any illusion that might be hiding him.

Canorus reported there was only one other exit. Borne promptly sealed it with a massive jolt of bound TK.

Jeanette rummaged in Isaiah's head for his hyperesthesia skill and projected it to Vivian and herself. Isaiah joined in and all three of them cast about like hounds seeking the scent.

"Up," Isaiah sent. "I bet he's hiding in the rafters." And he produced the memory of his fumbling attempts at dowsing. The two women promptly lifted into the air, Vivian taking care to suppress her aura's glow.

Daima was already up there. Isaiah wondered what senses she was using. Smell, certainly, but any others? Echolocation? Infrared imaging? Could those penetrate human-made glamour?

He could see none of them, but the telepathic links gave him good ideas of their directions. He wondered if this was what life was like for spirits.

Svetlana was now trying to speak into a calling card while muffled in a glamour of inaudibility. She cursed again and swatted as if brushing dust from her clothes. The fragile psi-pattern broke. She was audible again. And a visible target.

Meanwhile, what could Isaiah do, stuck on the ground? He continued tracking, but soon lost the scent. It was faint to begin with, and ended suddenly, strengthening the idea that their foe was in the air. How to hunt for a quarry invisible, inaudible, and airborne?

"Telepathy, of course, Isaiah," came Jeanette's thought. "Feel for him – or them – at the presence level."

Isaiah obeyed. He choked his telepathic perceptions down to the low-grade level where they blended with basic psi-sensing. Tingling motes of psi activity wheeled overhead like birds. Count them.

Eight. Right. "There's exactly one extra person here," he sent, moving back up to the verbal level. He reached out to his companions' minds. At the moment, his deeper contact with them was through Jeanette. If he could reach them himself – quickly – he could just as quickly determine which one was an enemy.

He ran through the roll-call of his companions, visualizing their positions as he went and laying the map out before them. And there was one left, the un-friend, the bogey, located ... there.

The bogey jumped. Telepathy is always reciprocal; the bogey felt Isaiah as clearly as Isaiah felt it.

Another contact jumped – Daima. She had been hovering invisibly above the crates. Now she dove through the air, at the bogey. The bogey could not see her, but it must have felt her telepathically. It fled. Its flight wove in and out through the struts of the ceiling, but not straight away from Daima. It must be headed for something, Isaiah decided, perhaps a stowed weapon.

Time to open negotiations. Isaiah had kept his contact with the bogey shallow, to deny it access to his visualized map. Now he deepened it to verbal level. "Surrender," he sent. "You're outnumbered."

Fear. No answering words, just the emotion.

Now Canorus was in the air, pursuing. Now Borne and Vivian. Now Svetlana. Daima was still closest. Deeper, she demanded of Isaiah. He obeyed and read the bogey down to the conceptual level. Surrender, Daima thought through him. Surrender or face wrath.

The bogey was seeking weapons. Isaiah read that much before the target's thoughts were wholly taken up with Daima. It read her attack – a feet-first dive – and dodged it, flashing down and kicking upward into the backs of her knees.

Canorus rose to meet it. The bogey shouted something – a brief word. Now Canorus struggled in a net. It had just appeared. Ectoplasm, triggered by that word.

The bogey had paused to watch. A mistake. Daima, now hidden in shallow contact, dropped on it. But it was still invisible; she had only telepathy to guide her. Her foot struck a shoulder. The invisibility broke. Daima appeared. So did the bogey, one more shadow in the gloom, rolling and diving away.

Isaiah reached for its mind again. Was it after another weapon? "No," came from FX. "No deeper. If you take his surprise away, we lose ours, too." Isaiah obeyed and resumed his map-keeping, watching and showing his friends on his mental map.

Again, the pack of them started to close in, and again Daima was in the lead. Another cry from the bogey, and another net materialized. Daima dodged it. The bogey paused. Isaiah probed just a little deeper, for feeling. Success. Attack. Daima was closing, but, warned by the relayed emotion, dodged aside. Behind her, a ceiling strut sparked. The bogey had a shock pistol.

Canorus vanished. He had been a constant signal of frustration on the mental map. Now he was simply gone. But so was the ectoplastic net. Isaiah fumbled for him and found him. "Psilencer," the Melior sent. He had flicked his psilencer briefly, destroying the net, his invisibility, all telepathic contacts, and his levitation. A moment later and a meter down, he had resumed flying.

Isaiah turned back to his mental map. Jeanette was closing with the bogey. Isaiah's protesting anxiety flooded out, answered by her flash of impatience. The bogey sent four shots toward her contact. Jeanette dodged them all. That must be the short-range precog she had learned on Refuge. "But what'll you do for a weapon?" Isaiah asked.

"Daima's karate. Borrowed," she answered. She and Daima closed on the bogey from opposite sides. The bogey fired wildly, dodged three meters athwart their line of attack, and cried, "Spears!"

A dozen spears shot down from the ceiling. Pain. Daima's pain. And her anger. "How many damned conjurations does he have laid?" FX wondered. By the time he had finished the thought, the spears had struck the floor, shattered, and evaporated – four meters from Isaiah, who suddenly woke to his physical position in this battle.

FX sent a viewpoint to Daima. Through it, Isaiah saw her tumble in the air, holding one thigh and hissing. The clairvoyance, unhindered by darkness, showed bright purple blood oozing through her fingers. Daima glared into the viewpoint. Minor. Annoying. Shoo.

"He's invisible again," Vivian sent. She and Canorus were closing on the bogey now, who had retreated to the tangle of struts. Vivian collided with a strut and lost invisibility. Worse, her aura flared. Attack, said the bogey's emotions. He shot.

But Canorus reached for the software in the gun and mashed it. The controls dithered. They happened not to lock, but the shot that hit Vivian was a weak one. Her aura winked out, she hung briefly from the strut by one hand, then let go and sank gently to the floor. And there was FX, attending her in mid-air, buoying her with TK.

"The roof's packed tight with patterns," he sent to the others. "He must spend his free time building them."

The bogey, meanwhile, had tried to shoot Canorus, then Borne, and finally realized his gun was broken. He fled into the web of struts.

"Vent," Sveltana sent. "Heading for a ventilation duct, I think. Force open. Police are coming," she added.

"Oh, good," thought someone. Maybe Isaiah. He wasn't sure, himself.

Borne was a faster flier even than the bogey. He cut him off and tried to chivvy him back toward Canorus, who was now ready with his own shock pistol. The bogey veered away, only to have Daima spring down on him in a power dive. Her feet landed square in the small of the bogey's back. Winded, stunned, he lost his levitation and dropped toward the floor.

There was a crash, then a slithering rattle. The bogey had landed on a pile of crates, then slid off. Homing in by his psi contact and a scrapbook of images from his friends' minds, Isaiah ran to the quarry. He arrived just in time to see a figure in gray coveralls rise from the floor. Isaiah caught a glimpse of face, pale, commonplace, a tad familiar.

The bogey turned away, staggered a few steps, then began to run. Isaiah turned on hysterical speed. So did the bogey. He turned a corner. Where was he heading? The Homunculine pile.

"Bet he's got some great nasties patterned there," thought Borne.

"Maybe reinforcements," thought Canorus.

As Isaiah pounded after the bogey, FX thrust into his imagination as if snatching a map from his hands; he consulted the mental map and reported, "We have him surrounded. Everyone converge at the Homunculine stacks."

"Arm," sent Jeanette. "He keeps saying, 'Arm.'"

Thoughts flickered through their minds: Guns in the cache. We didn't see any. Maybe cloaked. Triggered to jump to his hand. Or just to fire on us.

"Down," sent Jeanette. "Everybody land. Now I know why I brought the psi conditioner. I'm setting it to psilence the maximum volume."

Isaiah pounded on. He heard other feet hitting the floor. He turned a last corner, to see the bogey skid to a halt before the Homunculine stack. He turned to face Isaiah, his face a mask of panic. "Arms," he panted. Isaiah heard rustling in the stack. "Arms." His face a mask. An ordinary face.

Jeanette fell out of the dark, feet first. The bogey closed his eyes and gasped, "Arms." Rattling in the crates.

A very ordinary face. It relaxed for a moment, exhaustion swamping panic. Noah's face.

Jeanette didn't see. She was gazing at the box in her hand, the controls on the psi conditioner.

"Arms," croaked the bogey. Behind him, a rifle butt slammed through the seams of a crate.

"Wait," sent Isaiah, but she had already hit the button.

The bogey, the neb, flushed bright red and melted.

Jeanette screamed. Her dismay and horror filled Isaiah's mind, all their minds. She grabbed at the controls, but already the neb was dissolving, a bloody froth leaking out of collapsing clothes. Here and there were lumps that might have been the bones, as liquid as jelly.

The mess twitched. It clenched and congealed, and for a moment Isaiah thought the neb was somehow rallying. Then he realized that Borne was doing it – frantically pouring telekinetic power into the shreds of the neb's pattern. The jellied bones grew pale and took shape. Organs – hearts, kidneys, a puff of lung, a tangle of veins, lengths of gut – clotted in the red froth. But then the bones splintered, the organs split into butchered shapes.

"Stop," Jeanette sent. "Let go, Borne. It's too late. He's gone." Was the sick chill in Isaiah's mind his own or hers?

Borne closed his eyes. The melting finished. Jeanette dropped her contacts, breaking the telepathy net, leaving each alone with their thoughts. And only then did she switch off the psilence.

On to Chapter 17, Evidence
Back to Chapter 15, Heights
Return to Dragons' Teeth Introduction
Return to Wind Off the Hilltop

Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2013