20th of 9th Month, 281st Year of the Triumvirate
Another day, another bullet in the shoulder.
It wasn’t long after escaping from the mad woman beneath the pier in Docryville that I found myself in Point Hammond, following up on a lead for another job involving grave robbers in a town called Dundry. It was also where Professor Babin of the Lelina expedition had been found a few months before, thus and the last point of contact for the missing. The lead on the artifacts proved to be a setup by the Cartographers, which I imagined would be the case before hand.
It wasn’t that they got the drop on me. I fully expected the whole meeting to be a set up. I just didn’t expect them to send SO MANY. I suppose I should be flattered.
In any case I met the man who claimed to have more information on why these grave robbers had been targeting specific native-newlander burial sites in the local feed-store. He turned out to be a Cartographer, just as I suspected might happen. That’s when Bianca showed up and started running her mouth, as was to be expected.
What I didn’t expect was the veritable army of Blues who came crashing into the room, all of them with pistols drawn, and all of them pointed straight at me. As I assessed the situation, I considered a sleeping pill might be a solution to throw them off their mark and provide me with an out. That plan was a no-go, however. They were all wearing filtration masks, no doubt at Bianca’s urging.
Time to change tactics.
While I majored in spy-craft, so to speak, I minored in alchemy. I wouldn’t exactly call myself an adept, but I had a good teacher. In addition to giving me the base knowledge needed to create something like my little sleeping bombs, Rigel Rinkenbach taught me a few other formulas, too. I’ve refined a system over the years, taking the most versatile ingredients available to me to create a wide array of agents with an even wider array of effects. Some could induce sleep, some were hallucinogenic. More than a few would increase libido, and even more could explode. There was a new one I wanted to try, and now, standing in the middle of a room with about twenty heaters pointed in my face, I felt it might be a good time for a test.
“Well, then,” I said, putting my hands up. “Alright, Bianca. I can’t really argue with these numbers. You’ve got me.”
I put my hands behind my head. Concealed in a leather brace on my left arm was a tube containing two liquids that, when mixed together, created a highly corrosive gas, undetectable by sight or smell. I discovered the effect quite by accident while trying to create a flameless light source a couple years back. It didn’t affect flesh or wood, but it played hell with anything made of iron or steel.
I reached into the brace and broke the tube. The liquid ran down my arm. It burned a little bit, but the substances by themselves were harmless. Now all I had to do was wait.
“You’re damn right, I got you!” Bianca said. “The great Pixie Sinclaire. More than two hundred successful covert missions behind Crowndon lines, and even more that no one knows about. You’ve put up a hell of a chase but it didn’t matter in the end, did it? I got you!”
“Geez, Bianca,” I said. “Act like you’ve done this before.”
“Enough,” said the man I’d come to meet. “She’s trying to piss you off, Bianca. Stop falling for it. And you, Miss Sinclaire, please. The odds are clearly against you. We don’t want to hurt you. Our Prime simply wants to discuss some things. Something big is about to happen…”
“Um,” I heard someone on the second story landing say. “Sir?”
“Something that will change the course of our society…”
“For the Man’s sake, what is it?”
“I think there’s something wrong with my gun.”
“What do you mean?”
“Uh, well, the, uh…the hammer just fell off.”
I heard a thump from the other side of the landing. I looked over and saw a man with a puzzled look on his face who held nothing but a pistol grip. The entire top half of the gun had fallen off.
Holy crap! It was actually working!
One of the men behind Bianca fell over, holding his knee and screaming.
“What’s wrong with you, now?” Bianca asked.
“There’s a rod in my leg,” he said through clenched teeth. “Got it during the war. Something’s wrong with it.”
Bianca looked at me.
“It’s her! She’s done something!” Bianca raised her gun at me and tried to pull the trigger, but the trigger crumbled under the pressure. With a frustrated howl, she threw the gun at me. I shielded my face with my arms and the gun hit. It exploded into a powder and the wooden grips fell to the floor. Still hurt, though.
The scene repeated itself as the others in the room pulled their triggers, only to have their weapons fall apart. Well, except for one guy, who’d been hiding out in the back of the room.
His weapon actually fired, and the bullet struck the wall behind me. Deciding that the odds had been sufficiently evened out, I turned tail and ran…right into a street lined with Blues and their fully functional revolvers.
They opened fire from the side streets and the roof tops, mud and horse crap and a whole slew of other nastiness spraying up around me. I turned west and started running. I’d cased the town earlier, and knew of an alley that led out of town and into the woods.
I’d nearly made it when a bullet hit my shoulder. I stumbled forward, cursing. Just when my last set of bullet holes had healed up, too.
I ducked into the nearest alley, across the street from the local saloon. One of the Blues was inside the alley, taking a leak against the wall. He went for his gun. I lunged forward and grabbed his arm. The weapon went off next to my ear, and for the next few moments it was like the whole world was ringing bells in my head. I wrenched his arm and threw him out of the alley. He landed in the muck at the feet of about four of his comrades. I aimed and fired, taking a couple of them in the leg. The others scattered and I took cover behind a barrel.
I peeked out and saw a woman standing on a balcony on the second story of the saloon, watching the whole affair. Above her, on the roof, was another woman. Not an employee. She was tall, even crouched on one knee, wearing a duster. Long black hair blew out behind her. She held a rifle.
The mad woman from beneath the pier.
Her again! Had she been the one to shoot me? No…the saloon had been in front of me, and the shot that hit me came from behind. And judging from the rifle she held, a shot from that likely would have left my arm hanging by a thread.
More than that, she didn’t appear focused on me. She had her rifle sighted down the street, and was firing at the Cartographers. Perhaps she didn’t know I was there?
She whipped the rifle toward me and took a shot. I pulled back behind the barrel, just in time. The bullet struck a chicken in a cage behind me. It exploded in a puff of feathers and blood. That might have been my head.
“Up on the roof!” I heard someone yell. Shots rang out and I peeked out. I saw the woman from the balcony run inside, wood and windows splintering and shattering around her. The woman on the roof ducked down.
With both parties trying to kill me occupied, I turned my attention to the back of the alley. There was a fence blocking this one, but it didn’t look very sturdy. I ran toward it and barreled into it with my un-wounded shoulder…and bounced right off, landing on the wounded one.
Pain racked my body and my head spun, but I got back up and drove out with my foot. One of the boards snapped in the middle. I repeated the process a few more times until I finally had a hole large enough to escape through. I squeezed through, leaving the pops of gunfire behind me, and entered the woods.
The events of this story were originally told in Blackwood Gazette #190.
Sorry for the inordinate amount of cross-links to old Gazette entries. I’m not entirely sure how the Pixie Sinclaire side of this story is shaping out…it’s really more of a spy-adventure than a horror story, and I’m not sure how it meshes with the Adella side. The idea was to have Adella visit a place, and then follow up with Pixie following in her footsteps a year later, but it hasn’t quite panned out like that. Perhaps upon revision I’ll separate the two, tell the Adella half first and then the Pixie Sinclaire half.
Anyone who has read this far…what do you think?
BONUS: A while back I posted a picture of my friend Kasey Walton (Kwaltonvx.com) in costume as Rigel Rinkenbach. He’s worked on it a bit more, adding a wig and and a frilly shirt (the i-phone is not a part of the ensemble…unless Rigel invented the smart phone? Hmmm…):
Seeing this gives me great hope that my ultimate dream of making a Blackwood Empire web series will come to fruition!