Women of Power – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Azure Hotel;

Downtown Chicago;

 

Linda Ford stepped out the front entrance of the hotel. The wind whipped around her. With her left hand she held down her pleated miniskirt and with her right hand made sure that none of her honey colored hair poked out from beneath the brown wig.

“Cab Miss?” asked the doorman.

“No thank you.” She smiled sweetly. “I’m going to walk.”

“Might not be safe this time of night.”

“I’ll be fine,” she said, stepping out of the halo of lights around the hotel entrance.

Linda was so happy to be out on the street that she almost started skipping. She turned north up State Street, her oversized Gucci handbag swinging at her side. Once again the brisk breeze blowing in from the lake caught her by surprise. She smiled as she brushed the brown hair out of her face. The smile disappeared however, when she picked up the words of a conversation directly ahead of her.

“If she’s at the Azure, we will have her all to ourselves. All the others are camped out around the Swiss Hotel.”

Coming toward her from the opposite direction were two tabloid photographers. They hadn’t spotted her yet, so she ducked into an alley. Following it till she reached an intersection, she then turned north again into another alley.

Apparently Linda’s plan had worked—for the most part. She had taken a large suite at the Swiss Hotel for no other reason than to mislead the press. Her room at the Azure had been arranged by her business manager and was under his daughter’s name. Though she was now hundreds of yards away from the two men she had overheard, her super-hearing allowed her to determine that she had eluded them. They were still on their way to her hotel.

“Hold it,” said a voice from behind her.

She turned to find a tall, thin man pointing a gun at her.

“Toss your purse onto the ground.”

“You’re robbing me?”

“Throw it down and I won’t hurt you.”

“How really extraordinary. Nothing like this ever happens to me in Kansas City.”

“Throw down the purse, sweet-cheeks. You don’t want to get shot… or worse.”

“I guess you don’t know who I am,” said Linda.

“As long as you’re not All American Girl, and you’re not, I don’t care.”

“Well then, I guess you’ll have to shoot me.” She put one hand on her hip.

The man didn’t shoot. Instead, he rushed forward and slammed the pistol into the side of her head.

“Well, that’s just rude,” said Linda, standing completely unharmed, exactly as she had been. “I can see that this city really needs my help.”

She took a quick, deep breath and exhaled with such force that the would-be robber was thrown across the alley. He landed on his buttocks and stared at her open-mouthed.

Suddenly something going on miles away drew her attention. Her supervision saw spectrums far beyond the range of normal. Usually she just ignored it, but she wasn’t about to ignore this. She peeled off the blouse and miniskirt, rolling down the megamesh sleeves of her costume. Then she pulled the brown wig off.

“Since you didn’t actually steal anything or hurt me, I’m going to let you off with a stern warning.”

“Skygirl?” said the man, now that the symbol on her chest was revealed.

“That’s right.” She stuffed her outer clothes and her wig into her handbag and floated up into the air several feet, where she removed her high-heels and put them in the bag too. “It’s not too late to turn over a new leaf, you know. I haven’t had time to check, but I’m sure there is a twelve-step program available for whatever your problem is. Now don’t let me catch you again.”

She lifted one hand in the air and shot into the sky like a rocket.

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A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 12 Excerpt

Lady Terra held the binoculars to her eyes and examined the battlefield stretched out across the plane. It was a truly horrible sight. The bodies of more than ten thousand lizardmen were strewn across the great field. Hundreds of dinosaurs, large and small, feasted on the remains. Along the nearer side of the war zone, a group of about one hundred lizzies made their way through the bodies, offering aid to any to whom aid would still make a difference. They were easy enough to spot, with their bodies painted half white and half sky blue.

“What do you think, Kaetarrnaya?”

The girl looked up into the cold-blooded eyes of King Hsrandtuss.

“It is a horrible victory, Great King, but you have turned back the enemy.”

“Very little is as it seems in war, my little soft-skin,” the king hissed humorlessly. “This was not a victory.”

“No? But Xecheon’s dead greatly outnumber ours.”

Hsrandtuss’s dewlap flushed.

“Yes, almost three to one,” he said. “This was not the enemy’s true aim though. It was a feint, a distraction, and not a bad one if truth were known. This tells me that their idiot king has found someone with a strategic mind. Where could he have gotten such a genius, Kaetarrnaya?”

“Maybe one of his people have a gift. Or it could be that a new group of lizzies have joined Xecheon. Hundreds arrive at Yessonarah each month. I wouldn’t think they would have as many immigrants, but they could have some. Perhaps one of them is a skilled warrior.”

“That is well-thought-out and very possible,” said Hsrandtuss. He waved and a male brought over two folding chairs, setting them up. The king took one and indicated with a wave that the girl should take the other. “Is there another possibility?”

“Xecheon could have advisors from the humans,” she said. “The Bordonians or the Mirsannans are both looking to expand their power in Birmisia, and there are a dozen other countries that might send weapons and advisors. For that matter, they could be human soldiers of fortune, beyond the control of any country.”

“Could it be the Brechs?”

“That wouldn’t make any sense,” said Terra. “We’re allies.”

“I am your king,” said Hsrandtuss, touching the tip of her nose with a clawed finger. “You must not lie to me. Might they not want revenge on me for defeating them on the battlefield?”

“I will not lie, Great King. I do not think it is the Brechs. Greater Brechalon seldom breaks treaties, though this would not be the first time. Also it might be more likely we would break our treaty with you than with other human countries, since many among my people consider the lizzies inferior.”

Hsrandtuss gurgled in anger.

“But the cost and the danger of destabilization is very great compared to the possible return. My people will often prefer a less than ideal situation to an uncertain one, even when there is a possibility of improvement. There is a much greater possibility that it is a lone Brech who is aiding Xecheon, but I find this unlikely too. You are known to be fair with humans and you have much greater wealth. A single treasure-seeker would be much more inclined to offer aid to you.”

“I am pleased with you, Kaetarrnaya. You have spoken true with me, even when it might not make your own people appear their best.”

“I am a noble female of Yessonarah.”

“Yes, you are,” said the king. “Now I want you to remember that. Who else could be helping our enemies?”

“I don’t know… other lizzie states?”

“No. What is it that makes us so great?”

“Yessonarah is great because it is the chosen city of the God of the Sky, and its people are his chosen people. But there are no other drag…”

Hsrandtuss leaned in close to her face and stared into her eyes.

“There can’t be… there can’t be another dragon leading them,” she said. “There can’t be. Can there?”

Hsrandtuss sat back and reached into his mouth to scratch around one of his back teeth. Then he spat on the ground. A male appeared and handed him a water skin. After pouring a long stream of water into his mouth and swallowing, he handed the container to the girl.

“You know the answer already,” said the girl. “Don’t you?”

He climbed to his feet and stretched himself up to his full height.

“Who do you think you are talking to? Of course I know.”

“Which is it then?”

“It is all three, little soft-skin. Xecheon has chosen as their general an old enemy of mine—a warrior of some skill. His name is Tokkenttot.”

“The one from the story!” gasped Terra. “You stole Tokkenoht from him. You stole his sister!”

The king hissed. “Yes, and he wants his revenge. He has taken twenty great war machines from the humans, the ones whose name sounds like salamander mating calls. They are designed to destroy to city walls and fortifications. They have also sent two hundred human warriors to help operate them.”

“Salamander mating… the Bordonians?”

“Yes. They are the ones.” Hsrandtuss stretched his right shoulder, still scarred from the dryptosaurus bite. “Of course, none of this is as troubling as the fact that they have themselves a new god leading them—a small blue female dragon. They are calling her the Goddess of War.”

Women of Power – Chapter 2 Excerpt

“I want to get away. I want to fly awa-a-a-y. Yeah, yeah, yeah,” sang Stella, to herself. Not that anyone could have heard her. Stella O’Clare, better known to the world as All American Girl, was soaring through the skies over central Pennsylvania. Just below, she could see tiny little cars driving east and west on I-80. She loved flying. If it was for nothing but the fact that the cars looked like tiny little toys, she still would have loved flying. She was keeping an optimal altitude for looking at things on the ground—right around five thousand feet. Airline jets were well above her and birds, as it was not migration season, were well below her. The only thing she had to watch out for was the occasional small aircraft. She had passed one going in the same general direction that she was. She’d waved and the family inside; a man, a woman, and three children had all waved back. They probably didn’t know who she was. She had left her boots, gloves, and the rest of her star-spangled costume at home, wearing instead her little black dress and a sexy pair of black pumps.

It was almost nine when she landed in Manhattan, setting down on west 47th street: a short block from Ditko’s. Ten or twelve pedestrians whipped out their cell phones and snapped pictures of her. They might not be too sure who she was without her costume either, but they knew she was a super. Spying a hot-dog vender twenty feet away reminded Stella that flying always made her hungry. In fact, she was famished. She skipped over to the mustachioed vendor.

“Eight dogs, no onions,” she ordered. “Just mustard, relish, dill pickles, cucumbers, chili peppers, and celery salt.”

“I don’t got celery salt or cucumbers,” replied the man. “This ain’t Chicago, you know. Twenty-four dollars.”

Stella reached between her cleavage and pulled a wad of bills out of the little hidden pocket inside and just below the dress’s plunging neckline. She handed the man two twenties.

“Oh, and give me an extra large papaya juice.”

The man handed her back fourteen dollars, one of which she tossed into a large tip jar on top of the cart. Then she started down the street with a paper cup of papaya juice in one hand and a pyramid of hot dogs balanced in the other. By the time she reached Ditko’s, she had finished the entire meal and tossed the trash into a bin.

Half a dozen spotlights were shooting up into the sky in front of Ditko’s, the hottest superhero nightclub on the east coast. Dozens of paparazzi were out front shooting pictures of everything they could, which wasn’t much. It was way too early for anyone who was really anyone to show up. Stella cut across the street and then back the other direction to do a little shopping. It wouldn’t do to be one of those who arrived before eleven. When she did finally return to walk across the red carpet, past the throngs of rubber-neckers and photographers, she had purchased a very nice necklace and a dozen pairs of shoes, all of which she had ordered shipped home.

The bouncer at the door was nearly seven feet tall and five feet wide, and he looked like he was made of muscles and more muscles, with a few muscles thrown in. Stella could have crushed him with one finger and the look that passed across his face told her that he knew that too.

“Good evening, All American Girl,” he said, as he pulled the rope aside and let her pass. Casting a quick look over her left shoulder at the line of people waiting to get in, Stella could make out half a dozen C and D grade supers mixed in with the normals.

The throbbing music and flashing strobes made stepping into Ditko’s like stepping onto a spaceship. Stella threaded her way between those people who were trying to dance, those people who just wanted to be near the people who were trying to dance, and those people who were trying to hump the people who were trying to dance. It was tough going, and then some idiot stomped on her foot. And he was wearing his costume. Wearing his costume to a club. Lame, lame, lame. Stella grabbed him by the chin and pulled him close, squeezing his cheeks between her fingers.

“Stay off my foot, Maxipad.”

“That’s Maximan,” he said indignantly.

“Whatever.” She tossed him aside, not stopping to watch him crash through a table, and then she continued to the bar.

“What will it be?” asked the bartender when she got there.

“A Manhattan—and don’t overdo the vermouth.”

“Regular or super?”

“Me or the drink?” she asked.

“Either, um both.”

“Super.”

“Yeah, I figured.”

Stella looked the bartender over as he set about preparing her drink. He was a good-looking guy, no doubt about it, but she had always considered it too much trouble dating a normal. It might start out fine, but as soon as things moved into the bedroom… Who wanted to stay in control all the time? Clench your thighs together or thrust at the wrong moment and somebody was in the hospital, or worse. Of course supers always used the line “I don’t want my enemies to find you.” It wasn’t really true though. It just sounded better than “I might accidentally fracture your pelvis or break off your penis during foreplay.” Skyman had managed a relationship with Doris Drake for forty years, but that was the exception. Even so, they had never had a child, so who was to say just how intimate they were.

“Here you go,” said the good-looking bartender, setting a martini glass the size of a small sink on the bar. It had a dozen cherries and a whole orange at the bottom.

“Thanks,” said Stella, daintily picking it up and taking a drink.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 12 Excerpt

If anyone had looked at Ravendeep from the outside, and if that person knew nothing of the history of Ravendeep, they might think that it was a modern correctional facility, a proud part of His Majesty’s penal system. The building, a massive five-story edifice with high, gabled roofs and a great tower with a gigantic clock that called back to Freedonian architecture of a century before, was only possible on such a scale because of the construction materials and techniques made possible by the Industrial Revolution. On Avenue Fox, the structure, which had replaced a twelve hundred year old stone fortress some fifty years earlier, was bordered on one side by Swift Lane and on the other by a street officially named Lord Oxenbourse Lane, but which most everyone called Cutpurse Lane. Of course, if anyone had made such an observation and such a supposition, they would have been very wrong indeed, because the majority of Ravendeep was not in the modern and architecturally renowned building, but in the twenty levels, carved out of the solid bedrock below.

Esther stretched out on her belly on the metal cot, which was the only piece of furniture in the room. Her mind had wondered to the subject of her name. She had thought herself quite clever when she had come up with Esther Ssaharranah. Perhaps she had been too clever. Finding oneself in prison was just the type of situation in which being Esther Staff might have proven beneficial. Iolana had committed any number of crimes from reckless driving to something that at least bordered on treason, and she had yet to see the inside of a jail cell. If that stupid girl at the King’s audience was to be believed, then Iolana’s mother was pretty much a serial killer and she certainly wasn’t incarcerated.

The lizzie looked around. The cell had been hewn out of solid rock, so the room wasn’t quite square at any corner and no wall was completely smooth. Only a door made of rusted iron bars, that somewhat matched the metal cot, broke up the monotony of dull grey stone. A small amount of flickering light, from the gas fixture in the corridor, illuminated the room. Not that one could see anything. Had she been in possession of one, Esther thought that she might be able to read a book, though humans, with their less acute night vision, would have found that impossible. No, this was not a fit place for Esther Staff. Not even Esther Ssaharrahah. No, this place was fit only for the name they had given her—Prisoner 563621A.

“Miss Esther. Are you awake?”

Esther glanced to the doorway. Police Constable Bean was peering between the bars. She climbed to her feet and stepped over to him.

“If ever I’m not awake, you have permission to wake me. Having a visitor is well worth missing a bit of sleep.”

“Now I feel bad that I can’t stay,” he said. “I just came by to check on you and make sure you weren’t being mistreated.”

“Not mistreated exactly. More ignored than anything.”

“That’s sadly the case, most often. Better than being given the third degree though.”

“The third degree? What’s that?”

“It’s all about interrogation,” explained the constable. “The first degree is questioning. The second degree is intimidation.”

“Never mind. I don’t want to know.”

“Well, I don’t think you have to worry about that. Anyway…” He fumbled in his jacket pocket for a moment, before producing a small tin. “I brought you some kippers… I mean… well, it seemed like something you would eat.”

“Thank you, PC. That was very kind.” She reached through the bars and took the tin. “In truth, they’ve been feeding me better than I expected. But I will enjoy thessse.”

“Is there something that you want that I could bring you?”

“I was just thinking that I might like something to read.”

“I’ll have a look around upstairs,” he said. “People leave all kinds of things behind. I happen to know there’s a copy of Odyssey.”

“Anything but that. Please!”

“I thought, what with her being your friend and all…”

“Who do you think had to proofread it over and over and over?”

“Well, I’ll find something,” he said, with a kind smile. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” said Esther. “Thank you for remembering me.”

A little while later, a jailer brought her evening meal, and slid it under the door. The evening meal was always the same—beans with a bit of some indeterminate meat, probably pork. Along with it was piece of bread, one that was fairly heavy and probably had sawdust as a major ingredient. Esther actually preferred it to the light, airy bread that Iolana insisted upon. Finally, there was a quart of water.

After eating, Esther lay back down on the cot. She dozed off thinking about the breakfast that would arrive consisting of exactly what had made up yesterday’s morning meal—one boiled egg, one piece of bruised and probably moldy fruit, and a quart of water. This would be followed by lunch, which would be four savory biscuits, a hunk of yellow cheese and a piece of dried cod, and a quart of water, just as it had the day before and the day before that.

She had just finished her lunch the next day, which had been much more palatable with kippers on the biscuits, when Iolana appeared outside the bars of her door.

“You look well,” she said, her voice full of sunshine, fresh air, and freedom. “The rest must be doing you good.”

“I’m not well, I’m not resting, and if you think I look good, it’s only because there is very little light in which to sssee me.”

“Well, someone is in a bad mood.”

Women of Power – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Night-time in Chicago;

Just south of O’Hare, off Franklin;

The two black Ford Expeditions sat side by side in the darkness on the broad expanse of concrete. The chemical plant had been closed for years now, and this huge cement bowl that had once been a settling pool had been empty, except for a thin layer of probably-carcinogeous chemicals, for just as long. It was the perfect place for the meeting. Badi looked out of his window. He could see the headlights from the silver panel van approaching. He gave Mudar, in the other SUV, a wave then turned back to Fariq and found him punching numbers into his cell phone.

“What are you doing?”

“Dancing with the Supers was on last night. I’m voting for Airstream.”

“Put that away, you idiot.”

“I’m serious. He deserves to win. The judges are fools.”

“Put it away. The Armenian is here.”

Fariq stuffed his phone back into his pocket as the panel van came to a stop forty feet away. Badi got out and Fariq followed him. Mudar and the others climbed out of the other Expedition, all carrying Uzis. The Armenian, Tufenkian, got out of the driver’s side of the van and stepped over.

“He says your deposit is in the bank. The goods are in the back. Trade me keys.”

Mudar started to hand over the keys to his Ford, but Badi held up a hand to stop him.

“I want to look at the goods first,” he said. “Then you can leave.”

Tufenkian nodded his head toward the back of the van. Badi walked around and opened the silver double doors. Sitting inside were six large metal boxes labeled General Dynamics. Climbing up next to them, Badi flipped the six latches to open the first box and looked inside. There it was—a Red Eye IV anti-aircraft missile. And he was now the proud owner of six of them.

Leaning out of the van, he called to Mudar. “Trade keys with him. We’ve got what we want.”

“Good,” said Tufenkian, heading for the SUV. “I’m out of here.”

“Don’t go too far,” said a female voice. “I’m going to want to talk to you about your boss, after I finish with these guys.”

Badi and the others all turned toward the voice. The compact figure of a twenty-year-old blond girl stepped into the beam of one of the Ford headlights. She was practically naked, wearing only a tiny pair of shorts and a crop top, both blue with white stars. She could have been a college student who got lost on the way to spring break, except for the white boots and gloves. They were straight out of the superhero catalog.

“A super!” shouted Badi.

“It’s All American Girl,” said Fariq.

“I don’t care who she is; shoot her!”

Mudar was the quickest, bringing his Uzi to bear and spitting out lead at full auto. The girl was quicker though, leaping into the air and flipping over his head to land just behind him. She kicked Mudar in the back and sent him flying face first into the Ford’s windshield. As Siraj fired at her, she ducked, and the bullets instead hit the other ford, killing the Armenian, who had gotten halfway into the driver’s side door.

The girl flipped around like a top and hit first Siraj and then two of the others, knocking them out. It was the kind of move that would have gone over big on Dancing with the Supers. But she stopped right in front of Fariq, with her back to him. He pulled the trigger and hit her in the back with twenty or so 7.62mm Teflon coated rounds. Most of them bounced directly back at him. She winced in mild discomfort and turned around to look down at his bullet-ridden body.

Badi didn’t wait to watch her kick the crap out of the others. He ducked back in the van, opened the crate and pulled out the Red Eye IV. Jumping to the pavement, he found her looking right at him, standing with the limp form of Sajit in her right hand.

“Die!” he shouted and pulled the trigger.

The really humiliating thing about it was that he would have missed. The rocket would have gone right past the left side of her head and continued on until it hit one of the skyscrapers rising up in the distance. But she reached up and grabbed it right out of the air and looked at it, still spraying out rocket propellant. Then it exploded. Badi threw up his hands to protect his face from the blast, but he was knocked down onto his back. He jumped up, his ears ringing, to see the girl standing right where she had been, apparently unharmed.

Suddenly Badi and the super were bathed in a circle of light from a news helicopter drawn to the sounds of gunfire and explosions.

“It’s all over,” said the blonde, tossing aside what was left of Sajit like a ragdoll. “The only question is whether I turn you over to the cops or deal with you myself.”

“Go to hell, All American bitch!” he shouted.

“Fine,” she said, and reaching behind her, she ripped off the front end of the closest Expedition.

The last thing Badi saw was the oval Ford symbol, along with the rest of the fender, part of the engine, and the front drive train flying at him, along with that stupid personalized license plate—FARIQ31.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 11 Excerpt

The great battleship H.M.S. Minotaur rested on the smooth waters of Crescent Bay. Lieutenant Baxter ordered the men to lower a launch over the port side, and then he climbed down into it and supervised as it was loaded with weapons and equipment. The rest of the sailors boarded and took their positions. They rowed a single stroke that took them to the temporary staircase set up near the bow. One of the men hissed and pointed as the back of a great underwater creature slid above the glasslike surface not far from them, but it didn’t return.

After about five minutes, a dozen mercenary soldiers in khaki made their way down the stairs, rifles slung over their backs. They took their places and waited. Then Augustus P. Dechantagne and his older brother Terrence stepped down into the boat. Baxter started to order the men to row, but Terrence Dechantagne raised his hand.

“Wait.”

A minute later, Zurfina the Magnificent descended the stairs like a goddess descending from on high. Her black dress left little to the imagination, especially to those in the boat below. Following behind her, dressed almost identically was her nine-year-old apprentice, Senta, with the tiny steel dragon wrapped around her shoulders. Once Zurfina and Senta had stepped into the launch, the boat was pushed away from the ship, and the sailors lowered their oars into the water.

None of the men spoke as they traversed the bay and approached the shore. The honking of the iguanodons could be heard in the distance, along with an occasional loud bellowing roar.

“Gawp,” said the dragon.

It didn’t take long for the boat to reach the shore, a twenty-foot wide band of rocks and gravel separating the water from the thick redwood forest. The sailors raised their oars straight up and Captain Dechantagne and several of the soldiers jumped out and pulled the boat up onto the gravel. Then everyone else climbed out onto land.

“What do you think, Baxter?” asked Augie Dechantagne. “This looks like a good place for a dock right here. We can use the wood growing all around, build the dock and extend it straight out into the water thirty or forty feet, and build a couple of warehouses right up here.

“We’ll have to check the depth, but it seems fine,” replied Baxter.

Leaving six of the sailors with the boat, the rest of the party moved past the shore and into the woods. The redwoods were enormous. Some of them were twenty feet or more in diameter at the base. Baxter wondered just how many pieces of furniture could be cut from a single tree. It wouldn’t take many of them to construct a dock.

Once away from the shoreline, the land rose up quickly.

“It’s hard to tell with all these trees, but it looks as though the initial survey was right on,” said Augie. “This ridge runs right out on the peninsula. We can build the lighthouse at the tip, and the fort on that hill to the right.”

“The peninsula is what, about four miles long and a mile wide?” asked Terrence.

“Yes, though there is a narrow spot in the middle of the peninsula, where it’s only as wide as the ridge, maybe a half a mile.”

“How far is the river?”

“About six miles east.”

“Why not build closer to the river,” wondered Baxter.

“The Manzanian isn’t like the Thiss or the Green River in Mallontah. It’s not navigable even around the mouth. Twelve miles upstream you find the first of a half dozen known cataracts. In the short term at least, this little bay will be much more valuable to the colony than the river would be. There are several small streams around here for water and we can pipe in more as needed.”

When they had walked up a few hundred feet, the land flattened out and opened into a clearing. Here was a great group of iguanodons, with several members of another species of dinosaur meandering along with them. This was a low, heavily built, mottled brown creature about twenty feet long, covered with thick plates of boney armor. Its beaked head resembled a horned lizard, with short, thick horns arranged around its face. At the end of its long tail, it sported an enormous two-lobed club.

“I wonder what Mormont called this one,” wondered Captain Dechantagne. “Clubadon?”

“It’s called an ankylosaurus,” said Augie.

His brother looked at him in surprise.

“I’ve been here before, remember? I wonder if it could be domesticated? I’ll bet that thing could pull a pretty heavily laden wagon.”

Captain Dechantagne shrugged, then stopped and pointed.

At the far end of the clearing, the foliage parted and a massive red face pushed its way into the open. The rest of a large blocky head followed it, twenty-five feet above the ground. Slowly the entire creature emerged from the woods. Two tiny forearms dangled uselessly, but two giant, clawed hind feet carried the beast, a great black body, balanced at one end by the enormous head and at the other end by a long, sweeping tail. It gave an awful roar and rushed forward to take a horrendous bite out of the back of the closest iguanodon. The injured creature honked balefully and ran several steps, but it was wounded so grievously that it sank to the ground from shock and blood loss. The reptilian tyrant strode over to its victim and administered a killing bite.

“Bloody hell,” said Augie.

The steel dragon suddenly launched itself into the air. The chain attaching it to the little girl pulled taut and jerked her off her feet. As she fell to the ground on her knees, a weak link in the chain parted, sending the dragon flying up toward the trees in the general direction from which they had come. The girl jumped to her feet and took off running after her wayward charge.

“Come back here!” she called.

Both the little dragon and the girl were soon lost amid the massive trees.

Zurfina looked at Baxter.

“You’re supposed to find her.”

“Bloody hell!” growled Terrence, pointing to his brother and two nearby mercenaries. “You’re with me!”

They went running in the direction the girl had gone.

“What the hell are you waiting for?” Zurfina demanded of Baxter.

He pulled his pistol from its holster and ran after the other men, weaving in and out of the great trees. He had almost caught up with them, when they suddenly stopped. In the clearing ahead, Senta was being attacked by a flock of velociraptors. The creatures were like turkeys from hell, covered in hairy feathers, yellow but green near their small arms. Instead of beaks, they had long mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth. One of the creatures was on the girl’s shoulders, and another was nipping at her legs. One was lying on the ground, apparently injured, while the little dragon savaged another. And several others circled, squawking.

Women of Power

The life of a superhero is tough. All American Girl fights supervillains, alien invaders, and terrorists as she tries to get product endorsements and a magazine deal. That’s nothing compared to her private life though. She’s only just broken up with her super boyfriend Perihelion when he’s scooped up by Omega Woman, and now rival Skygirl has moved into her territory.

Women of Power is available wherever fine ebooks are sold for just 99 cents.  Follow this link to find it at Smashwords.