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    Sparky shook his head. "That's because at the moment we're not a threat! He's concussed, he's half-burned, we're the only two that are still standing! And J.T.'s gone!"
    "What kind of weapons do you guys have?" Talon asked.
    "We can show you what we've got, it's not very much," Gilly shrugged. "All of our weapons are pretty much designed for dealing with submersible situations."
    While they checked out the Windjammers' weapon store, I took off for an aerial survey. No sign of a floating body that might have been J.T. Maybe a pack of dolphins rescued him. Our base was still on fire.
    Inside, Gilly punched in a code, and the door to the weapons rooms irised open. Pretty good for what it was, but nothing that was going to give us an edge over people like this. There were a couple of empty shelves. Sparky looked a the lock for a moment, then asked, "Anything you can use?"
    "Doesn't really look like it," Thunderbolt judged.
    "Well, we're going to outfit ourselves just in case they come back, and then hang out in the medlab with the communications gear near us. If anything critical happens... we'll do what we can," he stated without much apparent confidence.
    Gilly nodded. "Yeah, we'll—we'll handle it. They can't have killed him. They can't. He can't die like this!"
    "I wouldn't worry too much about it, Gilly. He'll pull through. Somehow."

[Aside: Scott]

    I finished my survey and rejoined the group in the Mariner base as Talon was asking about any other useful objects J.T. might have kept lying around the place.
    "There is always ancient Egyptian technology," I suggested.
    "Well, there is the stuff that J.T. considered to be too dangerous to put in the exhibit," Gilly offered hesitantly.
    "Dangerous to whom?"
    "These were things that Sphinx said we probably wouldn't want on open display," she shrugged. "Did you want to borrow it?"
    "Let's check with him. Did he not want this on open display because it might blow up the state, or...?"
    "He just said it's not the sort of thing that you want on open display. And he's got that, y'know, face."
    "I know." I gave the Blobcave a ring.
    "Hello, K. Robeson Enterprises, um, down?"
    "Hi, Stephanie. Is Felix there?"
    "Hang on just a moment."
    "Yes, can I help you?" he asked.
    "Hi. Is there any particular piece of ancient Egyptian technology that you think would be safe for us to use?"
    "Almost by definition, no," was the immediate reply. "What are you looking at?"
    "The stuff that you said wasn't safe to use."
    "You're at Mariner Island, aren't you?
    "Yes. We're looking for an edge."
    "Any sort of an edge?"
    "Yes. Something they won't expect."
    He thought for a moment. "Actually, there should be on the second shelf up on the right, a small pyramid made out of gold with what looks like a circuit board display on it. Do you see it?"
    "Pick it up FROM THE BASE," he emphasized heavily. "Do you understand me?"
    "Yes. Don't touch the top. Gotcha."
    "When you're in close quarters with them, and you want to make sure that there's no external problems, touch the top."
    "Okay. You're not going to tell me any more than that, are you?"
    "Use this only when you absolutely have to."
    "All right. Oh... oh, no nothing," he decided. "Never mind. Nothing. Forget I said anything. Just don't touch the top until you need it."
    "How wide a blast radius are we talking about here?"
    "Oh, there's no blast radius. More of an edge radius."
    "How wide is that?" I asked patiently.
    "Well, it's kind of hard to say, it depends on how much sunlight it's getting at the moment, what the electromagnetic patterns in the area are like, whether you're on any ley lines, and if you're willing to activate a blood sacrifice."
    "Um. Okay."
    "Scott's just gone off on his appointment," he added in case I was wanting to talk to him.
    "What appointment?"
    "He's getting his palm read."
    I shrugged. Scott generally knows what he's doing. "Is it safe to put in my pocket?"
    "There should be a case for it, leather one," he told me. "Ask Mr. Mariner if he still has it around."
    I hesitated. "We might have some bad news there."
    "We can't find him."
    "Did you find his body?"
    "I wouldn't worry about it, then," he dismissed the notion.
    "As long as the Wuxia don't have him on their coffee table. I suspect he can take care of himself more than any of use were really cognizant. At least that's what I'm hoping. Case, yes, there it is." I put the pyramid in the case and put it in my pocket. "We'll be there shortly. I'm gonna check in at the base and see how bad the damage is, if they've got it under control yet."
    We headed over to our erstwhile home. The firemen were still working on it.

[Aside: Firemen]

    The fire was still raging inside; Thunderbolt walked in without concern and absorbed the flames. Firemen adore him; I think they're setting up a worship cult.
    "So who the hell did this to you guys?" the chief asked.
    I tore my gaze away from the mess. "Huh? I was looking for my cat."
    "You had a cat in there?" He gave me a pitying glance.
    "Had. Yeah." I blinked a few times. With the exception of the concrete outer wall, the front of the building was completely destroyed by the intense heat; the back half might as well have been, with all the smoke and foam damage. The heavily shielded sub-basement with the main computers was still working, although the workstations on the ground floor were puddles of plastic with a few trace metals. Phoenix Talon's comic book collection, gone. Scott's Prairie Home Companion tapes, gone. I went up to my room. The heavy box I put my journals and stuff into after the Winters fiasco looks like it did its job, but everything else.... I picked up half a charred, drenched book, looked at it and put it back down. It was almost impossible to think that two nights before I'd been sitting in this same space entertaining thoughts that now seemed beyond frivolous. Speaking of which, I checked the closet; a couple of things might be salvageable, but it's probably not be worth the trouble. My new costume came through okay, though; arachne fiber is tough stuff. I looked down at what I was wearing, which was not only blood-soaked but held together by safety pins where Chang Yen sliced me open. Might as well.
    "I'll be right back," I said to no one in particular, and hunted up enough privacy to change clothes. Would have killed for a shower, but we can't have everything.
    Thunderbolt got a fresh costume as well, checked his gun collection and hung everything that was still in working order about his person, just in case. We used the waterfront entrance to the tunnels and headed for the Blobcave in a grim mood. Much to our collective relief, Scott had gotten around to putting in some security in the approach tunnels; at least we don't have to include wandering civilians on our list of worries just at the moment.
    "Hi, is there any coffee left?" I asked when the door opened for us.
    "I just brewed up a fresh pot, does everybody need some?"
    "Yes," Thunderbolt avowed.
    "Make your own," I told him, snagging the pot.
    This was the first time Talon and I had been down there since Scott put in the amenities. The floor and walls have been covered to warm the place up and kill some of the echoes. There are actual chairs, a table, a couple of couches, all of which look like they were harvested off the street during Boston's annual student exodus so the color scheme is kind of, um, unique, but nothing has actually fallen apart yet. Stevie had installed a coffee maker, a hot plate, and a discreet alcove for plumbing facilities. Couple of zombie tubes in the corner, in various states of disassembly. There are also what certainly look to me like parts for a jet. I wonder how he plans on getting it out.

[Aside: Scott, Elsewhere]

    We sat around the cave for a few minutes and tried to think up a plan that didn't amount to suicide.
    Scott got back. "Hi, guys. I've got bad news."
    "More bad news?" I groaned.
    "If you're referring to the fact that the Wuxia just shut down K. Robeson headquarters, we've got that covered already," Felix told him. "If you're referring to the fact that ten minutes after that the Wuxia attacked Don Vincent's house and, judging from the radio chatter, killed him, we just got that, too. Or is this new bad news?"
    "This is new bad news," he replied. "Any sign of vast destruction from that Don Vincent thing?"
    "Vast destruction, how?" Felix asked.
    "Large amounts of pyrotechnics."
    "I wonder what they did with Silverblood," he mused.
    Felix shrugged. "I don't know. Judging from the radio chatter, it was Yeh Cha and Liang Hsiang who've been doing most of the legwork on this so far."
    "I wonder if we could catch them before they get home?" I asked the group at large, seeing a slender ray of hope.
    "Looks like they're just leaving there now, judging from what we're hearing. You guys could try and catch them on the way to Chinatown."
    I looked around. "Shall we? If it's only two of them we might have a shot."
    "What was your bad news?" Felix wanted to know.
    "Uh, so..."
    "Could you share it later?" I suggested.
    "The off chance that Fimbulwinter and Xyrgoth are back simultaneously is there," Scott told us.
    "Fimbulwinter and Xyrgoth," I repeated numbly. "When's the new moon?"
    "Tomorrow," Felix replied.
    "Then we have twenty-four whole hours before we have to worry about it. Let's go." Only two nightmares at a time, please.
    "Felix, when you're looking through art experts here, try and factor in daemon-summoning," Scott added on our way out.
    "Have you considered the possibility that you might be a target?" the thought suddenly occurred to me.
    "Because I'm an expert on Egyptian technology? I doubt that they'd make an attack against me," he shook his head.
    "It's going the wrong way, but I understand what you're saying. It looks like they're wandering north through Europe," Scott shrugged.
    We headed out at the best speed Scott could keep up with; I was determined that we weren't going to get separated again, no matter how desperate I was to get to them while we were still far away from Chinatown and the reinforcements that would no doubt be on their way as soon as we engaged. "You two stick to Yeh Cha," I told him and Thunderbolt.
    There they were. No real way to approach unseen, unfortunately. Scott went gaseous and took a look around for Chang Yen; no sign of her, at least.
    They didn't look concerned. In fact, they'd turned to meet us. Yeh Cha stopped on the roof of the post office, a grin on his garishly painted face. I set Thunderbolt down to deal with him. Phoenix Talon tugged on my sleeve and gestured toward Liang; he had his cable ready. It was his funeral. When we were close enough, I slung him directly at her; she looked puzzled as I failed to slow down to attack her, and then the cable looped itself neatly around her waist. She grunted as it tightened, but before she could react Talon had swarmed up the line and was on her. I focused my exhaustion-fogged mind and got a lock on her aura, with its strange, slightly negative quality as she constantly absorbed energy to feed her comrades.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson