A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 17 Excerpt

Kieran Baxter stood on the doorstep for at least fifteen minutes working up the courage to knock. It seemed foolish when one actually thought about it.  He had walked in and out of that very same door a thousand times at least, without knocking and usually without announcing himself.  But the heart and soul didn’t function with the logic of the mind. They were full of distractions. Finally he knocked, three times quickly, his knuckles barely touching the painted oak surface.

“That’s not loud enough for anyone to have heard,” he told himself.  “Knock again.  No. Better to wait a while, just in case. I can always knock again later.”

To his surprise, the door opened, revealing a lizzie about his height.  He immediately recognized her as Aggie, the maid.  Opening the door was not usually among her duties, or at least they hadn’t been when he had last been in the house.  That job belonged to Cheery, the butler.  Baxter suddenly realized he didn’t know if Cheery still worked here.  For that matter, he didn’t even know if the male lizzie still lived.

Aggie stepped back to allow him to enter the foyer.

“Sir,” she said.

“Is the lady of the house in?”

“Yesss.  Closing the door the lizzie started into the parlor. Baxter followed her through that room and on back to the library.  Senta, in a simple brown skirt and white blouse stood in the room, facing away.  A bookcase and a chair had been removed from the north wall, and in their place was a huge, ornately decorated oak and glass case, of the type usually displaying fine porcelain dishes.  This one however was almost completely filled with small metal boxes, about three inches square and one inch deep.  There had to be more than a hundred of them.

“You’ve messed this all up,” said Senta.  “When you took them out for me yesterday, I asked you to remember where each went. You’ve got Grand Master Wizard Cavendish and Lord Callingham on the bottom shelf.  They belong on the top, next to Master Wizard Goderick, while Dr. Sykes and Nurse Pyle definitely belong on the bottom shelf.”

She turned and jumped when she saw Baxter standing with the lizzie.

“That’s new,” said Baxter.

“Oh, yes.  I’m a collector now—um, snuff boxes.”

“It’s an odd collection. They all look alike.”

“I can tell them apart,” she said, seriously.

“I came to tell you…” he started.

“Wait.  Let’s be civilized.  It’s almost elevenses.  There should be tea.”

A tray containing a teapot, two cups, and a plate of chocolate biscuits was waiting on the occasional table in the parlor.

“Sit down,” directed the sorceress, pointing at a spot on the sofa.  “I’ll be mother.”

He watched as she prepared a cup of tea just the way he liked it—no sugar, just a twist of lemon. She handed him his cup and then prepared her own, with four lumps and cream.  She sat on the opposite end of the sofa from him, turning so that one leg was up on the spot between them.

“As I said,” he started again.  “I came to apologize for my… behavior… the other day, when you came to see me.”

“Completely understandable,” she said, pausing to sip her tea.  “You suspected I was an imposter, and you could have been right.  But you weren’t.  I’m me.”

“Of course you are. I… my behavior was inexcusable.”

“I excuse you,” she said with a smile.  “I should be the one to apologize to you, after all I’ve done to you… leaving you alone, without a word.”

“Why did you?” he asked, setting his still full cup on the end table, and then turning to face her.

“You know how it is. Sometimes you just need to get away, to be by yourself, to get some perspective.”

“You just left?  You just left me?  For four years?”  His voice rose higher and higher.  “You left your daughter for four years?  Four years!”

She looked like she was going to say something else, but closed her mouth and just shrugged.  “What can I say?” she said, shrugging again, an impertinent smile crossing her lips.

“You bitch!”  He slapped her hard across the face.

Her head snapped to the side, but when it turned back, other than a large red handprint, her expression had not changed.  Then she started laughing and reclined back on the arm of the sofa.

“Come, come,” she said. “Be a man about it.”

He leaned forward, for what, he didn’t know.  To punch her insolent mouth, maybe.  He reached down to balance himself and his hand found her waist.  Grabbing the waistline of her skirt with both hands, he pulled, ripping it open.  She wasn’t completely naked underneath, but she had few foundations, no petticoat—only a small pair of bloomers.  He grabbed them and ripped them off.

“That’s right,” she said, breathily.  “Yes, you know what you have to do, don’t you?”

He looked up into those beguiling grey eyes, but he saw something else.  The side of her face where he had hit her was swelling up alarmingly. He looked back down at her half-naked body, suddenly appalled by what he was doing.

“Don’t think about it,” she said.  “I need to be punished.  Do it!”

The Next Robot Book

The only thing I’ve been working on for the past two months is the new robot book  Sadly, I’ve had precious little time to actually write.  I’ve been squeezing it in here and there where I could, but I am way, waaaaaay behind the writing goals I’ve set for myself.  On the plus side, I have only 32 days of school left, and then I can concentrate on it exclusively.

His Robot Wife: Patience Under Fire takes starts right where A Great Deal of Patience left off, at a point in the escalation of world conflict and an abrupt change in American leadership.  I’ve made a few changes to my original outline to reflect current real life events.

My goal for publication was, and remains, September of this year.  I’ll update you here on how that is going and if there are any changes.  In the meantime, thanks to all of your who have supported this series and my other books.  You are awesome.

Women of Power – Chapter 7 Excerpt

“As many massive spacecraft, each one the size of a city, approach major metropolitan centers around the globe, the people of the Earth wait with baited breath for the answer to the questions that fill the minds of every man woman and child.  Who are these aliens?  What do they want? And do they come in peace?”

 

Smithson Building Penthouse Apartment;

Wabash Avenue;

 

Stella’s cell phone rang again.  She picked it up from the nightstand, slid it open, and held it to her face.

“Yeah?”

“Stella?  It’s Dynagirl.”

“Hey, Dina.  Perry’s not here.”

“I know he’s not there. This is an EAS call.  We have a situation.  We’re being invaded.”

“From Canada or Mexico?”

“From space.”

“What, again?”

“Yes.  Get ready and keep your phone with you.  I’ll call again.”

Stella got out of bed and took a quick look out the window.  A massive mother ship was moving into position over the city.   She hopped into the shower.  There was no way she was going to fight aliens without first washing her hair.  After brushing her teeth and throwing on a little hair gel, she squeezed into a fresh All American Girl costume.   A glance in the other bedroom told her that Linda was still not home—not the best time for Skygirl to go AWOL.  Stepping out onto the balcony, Stella sat down in the patio chair and waited.

The gigantic ship stopped at a point where it was almost exactly centered over the Sears Tower, or Willis Tower as they were trying to get everyone to call it.  Stella estimated it at five miles in diameter and about a quarter mile thick.  Around it were buzzing dozens of small craft, more every minute, though it was unclear to her from what point on the great craft they were launching.

After several minutes, Stella went back inside and sat down in the living room, turning on the TV. Tanya Everson appeared on the screen.

“Word comes to us this morning from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that the spaceships we see above us arrived on a trajectory that seems to indicate they are from 61 Cygni, a double star system that is approximately 11.4 light years from our sun. What else can you tell us, Bill?”

The picture changed to newsman Bill Drake standing in Lincoln Park.  In the background, Stella could see that the statue of Johnny Liberty was back in place.  He was still missing his cape.

“Viewers will remember that it was just three years ago when the Earth faced invasion from Epsilon Eridani. Ironically, scientists tell us that the two space fleets were actually flying through the vastness of interstellar vacuum for much of the same time…”

“That’s not ironic, Bill,” said Stella to the TV.  “It’s just coincidental.”

“…also that the earlier invasion was only stopped at a great cost, including the loss of arguably Earth’s greatest hero, Skyman.”

Stella’s cell phone rang again.

“Linda?”

“No, it’s Dynagirl again. Do you know where Skygirl is?”

“No.”

“Well, if you find her, keep in contact.  I’m on my way over.”

“Really?”

“Yes.  There are no ships attacking Detroit.”

“I guess that’s one good thing about the population shift,” said Stella.

“I suppose so,” replied Dynagirl.  “I’ll see you soon.”

“That’s enough waiting around,” said Stella, and with a leap flew out the balcony door and into the sky.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 16 Excerpt

“Miss Bly, I had heard you were back in town,” said Aalwijn Finkler, with a slight bow.  “It’s a pleasure you could join us this evening.”

“Why Mr. Finkler,” said Senta.  “I thought we were on a first name basis since I was ten years old.  And you were what?  About twelve?”

“Something like that. Still, one doesn’t want to take anything for granted with the world’s most powerful sorceress.”

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.  “Give my very best to your lovely wife.  You don’t need to show me back.  I see my party already.”

“She seems a bit nervous,” he said.

“She should be.”

As Senta slowly made her way through the filled-to-capacity Café Ada, every eye was upon her.  Her black evening dress, trimmed with beige ribbons around the hem and upon the multilayered fall over the bustle, was the height of fashion, newly arrived from Greater Brechalon.  The back daringly displayed her shoulder blades and the magical dragon tattoo between them.  Her small, three-point hat and gloves were matching black with beige trim.  It wasn’t her expensive dress, or her hat, her gloves, her carefully arranged hair, or even her tattoo that drew their collective attention.  It was the simple fact of who she was—The Drache Girl.

She swept into her chair, not seeming to notice the member of restaurant staff who pulled it out for her, and she looked across the table.  Her dinner companion bore more than a passing resemblance, tall and thin, with an expensive dress and carefully coifed hair, though hers was salmon-pink.  Instead of eyes looking back, Senta saw her own reflection in gold-framed dark spectacles.

“So, you’re not a dragon anymore, Zoey?”

“I’m still a dragon,” her companion answered defensively.  “I’m just… I enjoy this form, if it’s any of your business.”

“It is my business. You’re mydragon.”

“No, not really,” said Zoey, looking up toward the ceiling.  “It turns out one can’t own a dragon.”

“I didn’t say I owned you. You’re not a slave.  I’m your guardian.  Who else is going to teach you how to be a proper dragon?  Who’s going to keep you safe until you’re grown?”

“I found someone else to teach me.  Someone powerful enough to keep me safe.  He’s more powerful than you.”

“No one’s more powerful than me,” snapped Senta.

“He is,” she replied, primping her hair with her right hand.

Aalwijn appeared beside the table.  “Ladies, what can…”

“Beef Dechantagne,” said Senta quickly.

“Steamed Lobster,” said Zoey, almost before Senta had finished.

“Right away ladies.” Aalwijn was gone as quickly as he arrived.

Senta stared across the table for a moment.

“Have you finally made friends with Bessemer?  He really is a good role model.”

“No, I’ve not seen Bessemer in a couple of years now.”

“Who then?”

“His name is Voindrazius,” said Zoey, quietly.

“Voindrazius?” hissed Senta. “Voindrazius the dragon? Voindrazius, who terrorized the entire continent of Sumir for centuries.  The one who is in the Holy Scriptures, laying waste to cities and… and… and whatever else the scriptures say he did?”

“Yes, and he’s made friends with your precious Bessemer too.”

“I’m gone for a little while,” snarled Senta, “and the whole world turns upside down!”  She stopped and looked around.  Every single face in the restaurant was turned in her direction. She snapped her fingers and every one of those faces snapped back to toward the centers of their tables.  A few people cried out.  A few others whimpered.

“You didn’t even speak an incantation,” said Zoey, with an air of wonder.

“Don’t change the subject. Voindrazius is evil.”

“I didn’t say he was nice. I said he was powerful.”

“This explains a lot,” said Senta.

“Like what?”

“Like you eating a wizard.”

“I didn’t eat a wizard,” hissed Zoey.  “I would never eat a person.  You have to know that.”

“What did you do with him then?”

“I let him go.”

“You let him go?  You let him go, to terrorize other innocent victims?”

“Oh, I doubt he was in any shape to bother anyone, considering the height I was at when I let go of him.”  Zoey covered a large grin with her gloved hand.

Senta giggled.

“Um, Senta?”

She looked up to see Aalwijn again, his head turned to look away over his left shoulder.

“Yes?”

“My kitchen staff may be unable to prepare your meals if they can’t see what it is they are cooking.”

“Oh, sorry.”  She snapped her fingers once again and his head slowly turned to look toward her.  He reached behind his neck and rubbed.  The patrons of a dozen tables all stood up and headed toward the exit.

“I’m billing you for any lost business,” he said, hurrying away again.

Picking Out Excerpts (and Stuff)

I’ve had a lot of fun picking passages to present here as excerpts.  I have this thing where I  seem to remember my books being worse than I thought.  Then I start reading them and I realize that most are in fact, pretty good.

I’ve also been reading some older books for another reason.  I’m planning on getting all my books published as paperbacks on Amazon.  Most have been available for some time on Lulu, but lets face it.  There just isn’t any better exposure than Amazon.  So far, I have three paperbacks available there– Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar Challenge, Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island, His Robot Wife: A Great Deal of Patience, and Princess of Amathar.

Before I publish the others though, I want to make sure that they are all corrected and properly proofread.  That’s slow going, but it will get done.  I plan to have all books (with the exceptions of my five free books) available in Amazon paperback by the end of 2018.  This will include any new books that get finished along the way.

Women of Power – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Newswoman Tanya Everson appeared on the screen.  “On the world stage today, middle eastern strongman Bloodstone vowed never to relinquish power in his home country of Magogistan—this in the wake of two weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations in the capital city of New Babylon.”

The screen switched to male co-anchor Bill Drake.  “An explosion rocks the downtown area today as resident supergals All American Girl and Skygirl battle two well known villains.  Find out which ones after the break.”

As the television screen switched to a commercial for cholesterol lowering drugs, the house telephone on the kitchen counter rang and Linda got up to answer it.

“Hello?  Yes.  And whom may I say is calling?  Who? Hipp?  Hippo?”  She put a hand over the receiver.  “Do you know a Hippy somebody?”

Stella jumped up and pulled the phone from her hands.

“Hello?”

“Stella?  Who is that foolish mortal?”

“Hi, Daddy.  That’s just my room-mate.  I can’t believe you called.”

“What does she mean by pretending she doesn’t know me?”

“Never mind about that, Dad…”

“All of Greece knows the legend of Hipparion.”

“…cholesterol doesn’t just come from what you eat. Family history, exercise, and the machinations of power-hungry supervillains can all play a part…”

“Can you turn that thing off?”  Stella asked Linda.  Then she turned her concentration back to the phone conversation.  “Look, Dad.  First of all, you’re not that famous anymore.  Secondly, I don’t live in Greece.  I live in Chicago.”

“The land of the Skraelings?”

“No, Daddy.  Home of the Cubs.”

“Hmm.  The Cubs is not a name that would inspire much fear in one’s enemies.”

“Yeah, well their home record was 35-46—not exactly fierce.”

“Your mother told me that you asked after me.”

“Yes, I did,” said Stella.  “I didn’t think you two talked.”

“We bumped into one another.  What did you need—a magical weapon or the answer to a riddle, perhaps?”

“Um, no.  I just wanted to… where did you bump into mother?”

“It was a sort of a… religious festival… event… party.”

“What kind of religious festival event party?”

“It was a Bacchanal.”

“What is wrong with you people up there?” wondered Stella. “Is that all you do?”

“Make war, make music, make dancing, make love—what else is there in life?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe enjoy a quiet evening with your family.”

“What was it that you required, Stella?”

“I don’t need anything,” she said, exasperated.  “I just wanted to say ‘hi’ and, you know… tell you ‘I love you’.”

There was silence and after a moment Stella thought she had lost the connection.

“Are you there, Daddy?”

“Um, yes.”

“Well, I’ll let you go then.  I know you probably have a murder or an orgy to go to.”

“Stella, be sure to let me know if you ever need a weapon or anything.  I have this new magical armor…”

“Yeah, thanks Dad.  Goodbye.”  She dropped the handset onto the base stand of the phone.  “Thanks a lot.”

“So that was your father?” asked Linda.

“Yeah.”

“He has a nice telephone voice.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s nice that you are still able to talk to your dad.”

“I suppose.”  Stella got up.  “I’m going to take a shower.”

She made her way toward her bedroom and its attached master bath and a moment later the sound of running water could be heard from the rear of the apartment.  Linda busied herself cleaning the already clean kitchen.  Then the phone rang again.

“Do you want me to answer that?” called Linda.

“I can’t hear what you’re saying,” Stella called back, and then continued under her breath.  “You’d think you’d remember by now that I don’t have super hearing.”

“And you’d think you would remember that I do,” said Linda, who stared at the phone undecided as it rang again.  When it rang a third time, the sound was followed by a click and the answering machine message.

“This is you-know-who,” said Stella’s recorded voice. “Leave me a message; maybe I’ll call.” Beep.

“Stella, baby!  Irving here.  I’ve got to say it—fantastic, fantabulous, phenomenal, and lots of other f words—good f words.  Not the bad ones.  That was beautiful, my mega-powered babe.  First, you save the city from a really big bomb.  Then you rescue skyslut, who was lying helpless in the middle of the street in front of God and everybody.  Nice.”

“Skyslut?” said Linda.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Hsrandtuss nodded knowingly as he surveyed the forest for miles around from the top of the hill his people had named Dhu-oooastu.  He pointed first to the south and nodded toTusskiqu.  The great lizzie hissed in reply.  Then Hsrandtuss pointed to the southeast and nodded to Slechtiss.  Slechtiss placed his hand to his throat and then hurried off. A dozen brightly painted lizzies hurried after him.  Others went with Tusskiqu.  Still more were hurrying this way and that.

“I can’t tell what’s going on?” said the single tiny human amid the army of lizzies.

Hsrandtuss reached down and picked Terra Dechantagne up, setting her on his shoulder.  Then he pointed high up into the clouds.  The girl could make out little among the great fluffy masses at first.  Then she saw something sapphire blue zipping across the sky at amazing speed.

“Is that it?”

“Yes,” replied the King. “That is Xecheon’s new god.”

“My eyes must be playing tricks.  It doesn’t look any larger than me.”

“It is bigger than you, but not so big that I couldn’t still put it on my shoulder instead of a skinny soft-skin.”  Then he gurgled loudly.

“What?”

“We’re very nearly the same size,” he said.  “Wouldn’t it be glorious to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a god?”

“It wouldn’t be a very long combat,” she said.  “Dragon armor is essentially indestructible.  They have teeth that can bit through steel, frighteningly sharp claws, and a barbed tail.  They breathe fire and usually have some other breath weapon.  They are extremely intelligent and are capable of magic.”

“Why did I bring you along with me?” wondered Hsrandtuss.  “Was it just to depress me?”

“I will be quite honest, Great King.  I have no idea why I’m here.”

Women of Power – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Turvey Trading Card Co.;

Windsor Street, New York City;

“All American Girl, right on time.”  The blond secretary in the grey blazer and gold-framed glasses smiled up at her. “I’ll tell Mrs. Dearborn that you are here.

The executive didn’t keep Stella waiting long.  She didn’t even have time enough to sit down in the chair provided before a smiling woman stepped out from behind her office door.   Dana Dearborn, although well into her forties, was a very attractive woman with long black hair cut across the front in bangs.  Her very businesslike attire extended only to the bottom of her miniskirt, cut well above the knee.  Her platform pumps were definitely on the slutty side.

“How nice to see you again, Stella.  Come with me and I’ll walk you down to the studio.  Andre has it all set up.  I was on the phone with Irving this morning finalizing everything.  As you know, we already have you as part of our Up and Coming Heroesseries and the Chicks Who Kick Assseries.  We thought we’d play a little more to our target demographic this time.  We’re going with Hero Pin-ups.  Irving said you would be okay with that.”

“Why not?  My costume is only a bit bigger than the typical swimsuit anyway.”

“We won’t be doing any nudity.  After all, we’re really aiming at teen boys.  A few swimsuit shots on a beach set and maybe some coquettish poses—you know the stuff, tugging on your lower lip; that kind of thing.”

They passed through double doors and into the photography studio.  A backdrop with a beach picture had been set up and sand toys and inflatable floaties were arranged around it.  A chocolate brown man with a faux-hawk was adjusting the lens of an expensive camera on a tripod.

“Stella!” he squealed when he saw her.  “I have been waiting for you, girl.  You know this just couldn’t be a real pin-up shoot without that luscious bod of yours.”

“Thanks Andre.  You’re always good for my ego.”

“I have two different outfits I’m dying to see you in.  I picked them out myself.  I just knew they would be perfect for you.”

One of the assistants brought out two swimsuits on hangers.  One was an American flag bikini.  While decidedly on the skimpy side, it wasn’t much smaller than Stella would choose to wear to the pool.  The other was a one-piece which, while relatively conservative on the top was cut down to a thong on the bottom.

“This one won’t work,” said Stella.  “I don’t do thongs.”

“I think it would look fantastic on you honey,” said Andre.

“I’ll give you the bikini. I’ll sexy it up by tugging down the side of my bottoms.  Hell, I’ll even do the topless, I’m holding my own boobs thing.  But I have a firm policy against wearing anything that rides up my ass.”

 

* * * * *

 

Stella relaxed at the sidewalk café just across the street from Turvy.  She was wearing jeans, a white top, and a Cubs cap and could have been any attractive young woman.  Her cell phone rang just as the waiter staggered out with a tray containing two chicken Caesar wraps, a steak quesadilla, two bacon double cheeseburgers, an Italian beef sandwich, a walnut-tuna salad sandwich, a cob salad, and a French dip.  As he began arraying the food around her, she pulled the phone from her pocket and slid it open.

“Hello Irving.”

“Stella baby!  Irving is so flattered that you’ve given him his own ring tone.”

“I didn’t give you your own ring-tone, Irving.  I just knew you were going to call me.  The Turvy people are pissed that I didn’t wear that suit, aren’t they?”

“Irving is not their people, baby.  Irving is your people.  Irving cares about what Stella cares about, and what Stella cares about is being on the New York Times list, and guess what?”

Stella waited a beat before asking “What?”

“All American Girl is on the list!”

“No fricking way!”

“Yes baby!  You are on the list my sassy mega-girl, and not at one hundred either.  No, you debuted at number-ninety eight!”

“You’re fricking kidding me! Wait, did somebody die?”

“Nobody died.  Well yes, some people did die, but that’s not why you made the list.  You made the list because you kicked the crap out of some power-suited baddies and saved America!”

“Did Skygirl make the list too?”

“Yes, Skygirl did make the list and that is what Irving really called about.”

“Where did she debut?”

“Skygirl is not important. At least she should not be important, but you are making her important by letting her in on your turf.  Chicago is All American Girl’s territory.  Why are you letting her steal your thunder, my girl?”

Stella was silent for a moment.

“Did you hear me, baby? Are you still there?  Is Irving talking to a dead line?”

“Yes, I’m still here. Where is she?”

“She’s number ninety-seven.”

“Damn it!”

“Irving feels your pain, baby.  So why are you letting this chick hang out with you?”

“It’s just… well, it just kind of happened, Irving.  She sort of saved my life and then she was all nice and stuff, and the next thing I know I’m living with her.”

“Irving understands baby. That’s how it was with his second wife. But you cannot let her steal your thunder.  The thunder is yours.  It’s All American Girl brand thunder, with all the legal rights and privileges there-of.”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“You’ve got to get rid of…”

Stella closed her phone and then accidently crushed it in her hand.  Tossing the pieces down on the table, she looked at the vast array of food.  She really didn’t feel all that hungry now—maybe just the two cheeseburgers.

A Plague of Wizards – Chapter 14 Excerpt

“Kafira Kristos,” hissed Saba Colbshallow.  “You could have knocked me over with a feather when they told me that building belonged to you.”

“Who else would it belong to?” asked Governor Iolanthe Dechantagne Staff.  “Why do you care anyway?”

Unlike other recent meetings, which had taken place in her bedroom, the two of them stared at each other over the vast oak expanse of Iolanthe’s desk, in the office of the Colonial Governor.  It was a room designed to impress and intimidate.  The ceiling was more than twenty feet high and the entire south wall was made up of large windows that looked out over the now expansive city. The opposite wall was filled with two large world maps.  One featured Brechalon, the rest of Sumir, and the western hemisphere, while the other featured Birmisia, the entirety of Mallon, and the east.  She leaned back in the leather-clad chair and pressed her fingertips together.  His chair was within arms reach of the globe, so large that it took two people to turn it on its axis.

“I’m not talking about the building,” he said with a sigh.  “I don’t give a crap about the building.”

“What is it that you think you give a crap about then?”

“It’s that Kafira-damned machine!”  He looked at her as if she were suddenly stupid or insane.  “That thing is dangerous!  You know that it is!  Senta’s brother died seeing the original was disposed of.”

“That’s the story, anyway.” She pursed her lips.  “All we really know is that Senta destroyed a good portion of Mallontah.”

“Even if you don’t believe it, that thing has been trouble going all the way back to the beginning—to Suvir Kesi.”

“It may be, and I’m not saying that it’s true, but maybe, that particular machine became tainted with evil magic.  If that’s the case, it doesn’t matter now.  It’s gone.  These machines are new.  They have not been infected in that way.  They are ready to be used as the designer originally intended.”

“For what?”

“For civic planning, for engineering, for education.”

“I guess I mean for whom?”

“For me.”  She stood up and leaned over the desk.  “They’re mine.  They’re my machines.  They’re nobody else’s.  They are of no concern to you.”

“Anything that concerns you is of concern to me,” he said.

She stared at him, uncomprehending.

“Whatever concerns you concerns me.  Whatever this relationship is that we have…”

She laughed.  “Is that what this is about?  You’re jealous?  My husband invented the Result Mechanism and that’s somehow a threat to your manhood?”

“I don’t think you know what you’re saying,” said Saba.  “Perhaps we should discuss this later.”

“Upset that another man got to the holy land before you?  Other men have.  Better men.”

Saba took a deep breath and slowly let it out.  He stood slowly up.

“So this is how it ends.”

“Nothing ends until I say it does,” said Iolanthe.

“You just did.”  He turned and started the long walk to the door. The trip across the deep red carpet seemed like a journey of a fortnight, like a journey that would never end. He expected at any moment to be stopped with a word or to be called back, but he wasn’t.  He put his hand on the knob, turned it, and a second later was in the outer office, next to Mrs. Wardlaw’s desk.

And he knew at that moment that he would never be with Iolanthe again—never be in her bed again.  He had loved her as long as he could remember. In fact, his earliest memory was of loving her.  But he would never have her again.  He would never touch her and feel her purr into his neck.  He would never taste her lips again.

“This is what it feels like,” he said.  “This is what it feels like to be cast out of heaven.”

“What’s that, Chief?” asked Mrs. Wardlaw from behind a file folder.

“Good day, Mrs. Wardlaw.”

Women of Power – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Azure Hotel;

Downtown Chicago;

The hotel room door opened revealing Linda Ford wrapped up in a fluffy complementary hotel robe. She had obviously just gotten out of the shower.  Her blond hair hung limply down to her shoulders.  Her face was very pale.

“I’m glad to see you’re alive,” said Stella, pushing her way inside.  “I brought your clothes and I picked up our pizzas.  We can eat them for dinner.”

“I don’t think I’m hungry.” Linda closed the door and then walked to the bed and plopped down on it.

“Why didn’t you let me know you were leaving the hospital?  I was sitting in the waiting room, looking like an idiot.”

“Sorry,” said Linda, curling up into a ball and closing her eyes.  “I didn’t realize you were still there.  I just had to get out.  I hate hospitals.”

“Well, who doesn’t? Can you warm up this pizza with your heat vision or something?”

“I don’t really feel like it.  There’s a microwave in the kitchenette.”

Stella found the microwave and stuck three pieces of thick deep dish in it, turning the dial to four minutes.  Just below the microwave was a tiny refrigerator, and she squeezed Skygirl’s pizza slice and side salad into it.

While she waited for the food to heat, she stepped over to the bedside and looked down at the other girl. Her breathing was deep and regular. Stella assumed she had fallen asleep, but when she covered her up with a quilt, Linda responded with “thank you.”

The couch was still covered with the plastic storage boxes filled with Stella’s belongings from her destroyed apartment.  Stacking them off to the side, she made a bed for herself with the extra pillow from the bed and a spare blanket from a closet.  After finishing her pizza, she found a spare complimentary hotel toothbrush in the bathroom, brushed her teeth, then lay down and drifted off into a fitful sleep.

It was not quite 10:30 AM when Stella woke up.  Linda was no longer in her bed.  In her place was a handwritten note from a hotel notepad that said “meet me on the roof.” Stella took the time for a quick shower before putting on her costume and flying out the window and up to the top of the building.

Linda, or rather Skygirl since she wasn’t wearing her brown wig, was lying on a quilt.  She wore a pair of dark sunglasses and a bright purple bikini, which Stella noted barely contained those giant breasts; didn’t do anything for those huge thighs though.  A small cooler filled with soft drinks and a daily newspaper sat beside her.

“Good morning,” said Skygirl.

“Good morning.  You’re looking better.”

She did look better too. The color had returned to her skin and there was no sign of the sickness that had ravaged her the day before.

“I just needed to get out in the sunshine.  What are you planning to do today?”

“I have to find a new place to live.  I can’t crash on your couch forever.”

“I kind of wanted to talk to you about that.”  Skygirl sat up and pulled the glasses down below her eyes.  “I thought that maybe you and I could be roommates, that is, if I decided to relocate.”

“I don’t think so. Chicago doesn’t really need another superhero.  I’m already here and so are those twins with the magic rings—I never can remember their names.  Look, I know you have like, this super-club back in Kansas City with Comet-Knight and the witch, and your brother…”

“Skyboy isn’t really my brother…”

“Whatever.  The point is: I don’t play well with others. That’s why I’m here, you know.” She made air quotes.  “In the mortal realm.”

“I wondered about that. Aren’t your parents gods or something?”

“No, they’re not gods. My father is a demigod, which just means hisparents were gods.  And my mother is an Amazon, which I used to think meant she was a warrior woman, but apparently just means she’s some kind of immortal hoe-bag.”

“What about your name? Stella O’Claire doesn’t sound like anyone from Mount Olympus.”

“Stella really is my name. It’s because my mother said I had stars in my eyes.”  Stella made a face.  “When I got here though I landed on O’Claire Boulevard, so I just went with it.  Now most people think the street was named after me rather than the other way around, which is cool.  But anyway…”

Instead of just standing up, Linda kind of levitated and then turned around so that her feet touched the surface of the roof.

“I don’t fit in.  I don’t fit in there, in Kansas City.  Ebony Witch was Dad’s friend, not mine, Comet-Knight is an old perv, and Skyboy… well, it’s just kind of creepy hanging out with a fifteen year old version of your dad.  Besides, I thought we made a great team yesterday.”

“We did alright…”

“Maybe we could just try it out for a while, you know roommates and partners…”

“Teammates,” corrected Stella.  “Roommates and partners makes us sound like lesbians.”

“Right, teammates.  So we should get an apartment together.”

Stella rolled her eyes and let out a big sigh.  “On a trial basis.”

Skygirl clapped her hands together.  “Yay! I’ve already found a place in the paper that we need to go look at.”