Authors: MJ Fletcher
Tags: #YA, #Fantasy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Mapmakers Union
All rights reserved.
Copyright 2012 MJ Fletcher
Published by MJ Fletcher 2012
Cover design by Marc Fletcher
A Thirsty Mind
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Status: My totally complicated life.
The street was empty, a lamp post flickered throwing shadows in all directions while only lighting a small area. I was crouched in a vestibule and glanced out scanning the road. There was no one, it looked like my late night rendezvous might be a total bust.
I hunched my shoulders and squeezed my arms tight against my chest as a chill wind blew down the narrow pass. A tingling sensation washed over me and the hairs on my neck stood on end. The road took on a crimson hue and I knew my contact had made it after all.
I grabbed the zipper on my hoodie pulling it up, making sure to cover my face and stepped from the shadows walking toward where I had seen the portal open. My hand wrapped around my doorknob tucked securely in my pocket.
“Over here.” The voice was low and anxious.
“Glad you made it.” I peered from under my hood but didn’t pull it back preferring to remain as hidden from my source as he did from me. Covered in black from head to toe, all I could see of him were his eyes peeking out at me from the covering he wore.
“It’s getting harder to do anything these days without being tracked.” My informer sighed deeply and I tensed... something was off. I wasn’t sure what but my instincts went on alert and my nerves stood on edge.
“I know what you mean.” I took a step back toward the street, making sure I had a clear path to escape should this go south.
He was shuffling his feet back and forth, his eyes darting up and down the street. “I need more information on exactly what you want. You were too vague last time.”
“Was I?” Damn it this isn’t good; he’s been compromised. I hadn’t been vague at all, either he was trying to tell me he was being watched or this wasn’t my informant.
“The guild is watching everyone since Nightshade’s death. It’s hard for me to do anything.”
“Perhaps things are too toxic for you now. Lay low and I’ll contact you as usual.” I spun on my heel and started walking off. Something was wrong and I wasn’t going to wait around to find out what it was. I was already taking too much of a risk coming to a meeting like this.
“Wait.” He lurched toward me, his hand grabbing my shoulder and spinning me around. I didn’t lose a step as I spun, brought my leg up in an arc, and kicked him in the side of the head sending him crashing into the wall. I rushed in and brought my elbow around cracking him across the jaw and watched him fall unconscious to the ground.
I didn’t hesitate; I turned and ran out into the street. A rush of power hit me as a portal activated nearby. Bands of crimson energy roiled in the air forming a portal.
“Damn, how’d I walk into a trap?” I was always extra vigilant about these meets, which could mean only one thing... someone, somewhere had been compromised. The street was bathed in crimson light as the door opened. A tall figure was outlined by the light and turned in my direction.
I dropped to one knee and pulled out my doorknob activating it and jammed it into a spot on the street beside me. Lines of azure energy snaked out framing a doorway in the asphalt. I turned the knob on the door and jumped through pulling the portal closed behind me.
I stepped out into a familiar market in China. I had been using the place as a diversion tactic. I quickly made my way passed the vendors hawking their wares and turned into an alleyway shoving my doorknob into the wall and opening another portal. As I stepped into it, I felt my skin crawl... my pursuer wasn’t far behind me.
I slammed the new portal closed as my feet touched the deck of a cruise ship. Moving objects were among the most difficult to portal onto and even harder to track so I had started adding them to my escape route a few months back. Most times it was enough to lose many if not all of my trackers. I moved to the starboard side of the ocean liner and looked over the railing. The dark water spewed up along the side as the ship sliced through the ocean that went on as far as the eye could see. Behind me a large pool was still and quiet, the sounds of music and dancing filtered out from one of the many clubs on the singles cruise. The one downside to this portal was getting hit on by men every time I came here, but it was better than being discovered. Besides, the guys learned fast enough not to mess with me.
I unzipped my hoodie and was about to flip it off when an energy signature rushed over me. “Damn.” They must have sent a new tracker after me, since I’ve made a mockery of everyone they’ve sent so far. I grabbed my knob and was just starting to activate it.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The voice was deep and melodic. I half turned, keeping my face hidden as I spied my latest pursuer. He was tall and lean, his hair in dreadlocks, and his skin the color of caramel.
“They want you brought in, though they didn’t say in what condition.” He smiled at me and flicked his wrist releasing tendrils of red energy to snake around his forearm.
I laughed. “That’s cute.”
He tilted his head and scrunched his brow and I got the sense he was used to people being far more intimidated by him. Obviously, he had no idea who he was dealing with. I had yet to learn when it was best to keep my mouth shut.
“Is it now?” He stepped toward me, his free hand reaching for me.
He was taller than I originally thought and his arms were thickly muscled like someone used to a hard days labor. I could see why people would be scared of him. But I was by no means solely reliant on my Old Kind abilities.
I pivoted so fast it startled him. Before he could react I had already thrust my leg out landing a ferocious kick to his midsection. It bent him in half and left him grunting in pain.
“That sounded like it hurt,” I said with a grin and infused my doorknob, then slammed it into the deck of the ship opening a new portal. I jumped through and yanked it shut behind me. I figured he would be right on me after he got his breath and didn’t intend to wait around. I jumped into three more portals before I even blinked. The Guild was getting wise to me and I needed to be even more careful when dealing with them. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my ear piece and shoved it in tapping it to dial the last number called.
“Hello?” Edgar grumbled.
“Hi cutie, I need some help.” I was walking down Christopher Street in New York. I smiled as two very large drag queens walked past waving at me, I waved back.
“Chloe, what’s going on?” I heard him scrambling out of bed.
“Got someone on my tail and I need to get away from him so I figured I would call my favorite mapmaker.” The sounds of papers being shuffled around told me he was already looking at whatever maps he had handy.
“Where are you?”
That’s why I love Edgar, he doesn’t ask questions he just jumps right in and helps.
“Christopher Street Manhattan.” My stomach turned as I felt a portal opening nearby, damn this guy was good. I walked up to a crowd of people waiting in line for a table in a recently opened restaurant, the signs announcing the opening still being displayed, and tried to lose myself. I pulled off my hoodie and tied it around my waist in an attempt to change my appearance as much as I could.
“How many jumps has he followed you through?”
“At least five and I just felt him portal here.”
“Wow, he’s a good.”
“Thanks for the confidence boost.”
“Let me see where I can find you an exit.” I heard him shifting maps around.
“You might want to hurry.” The line started to move and I glanced down the street to see a hulking figure headed in my direction.
“I’m trying, I’m trying,” Edgar said his breathing rapid.
I knew he was doing his best, not to mention that he was probably worried for me. But my tracker was getting closer and I didn’t think losing my hoodie was going to do the trick.
“I need to run, call me back with a plan.” I clicked my headpiece and looked around. Cars were moving fast along the street and with no place else to go, I figured I had no choice. I bolted just as he approached the restaurant line. I sped into the oncoming traffic and several cars narrowly missed hitting me as they slammed on their brakes and horns. He tried to follow but God bless New York traffic; it bought me a few important seconds.
I darted in between cars and slid over the hood of one and when I reached the end of the block, I turned and ran. I’d learned a few tricks in the last few months and I was going to use every one of them not to get caught.
I spun my wrist around creating an azure energy whip from my doorknob and flicked it out cracking it ahead of me. It grabbed hold of a wall and I let go of my doorknob. The whip pulled it forward slamming it into the wall and opening a portal. I jumped, launching myself into the air and dove through the portal just as a bolt of crimson energy floated past my ankles.
I snatched the doorknob as I flew past it and landed with a roll on the ground, then sprang to my feet in a run. As I said, I’ve learned a few tricks.
I had ported to Cape May. I always defaulted there; it was home after all. I could try to lose him in a place like the Diesel Factories or some other place that would be packed with Old Kind. But I figured this tracker wouldn’t fall for something so basic.
My phone buzzed in my ear and I tapped it answering the call.
“I got an idea,” Edgar said.
“Let’s hear it.” From the tone of his voice, it sounded as if he wasn’t exactly sure about it.
“I’m sending you the coordinates now. I need you to jump through the portal and keep your arms extended as you do.” His voice cracked as he spoke.
“Just trust me, okay?”
“You got it.” The timing couldn’t be more perfect. I was running down Ocean Avenue and caught the shimmer of a crimson portal opening just to my left. My pursuer had found me yet again.
“You’re not getting away,” he shouted as he raced out of his portal toward me.
“Let’s see about that.” I laughed and twisted my knob filtering the coordinates that Edgar had sent me. I twisted into a cartwheel, my hand hitting the ground and the other turning my knob and activating another portal on the ground. I slid through it and pushed my arms out not sure why Edgar told me to do it but trusting him. As I passed through the portal energy, a rush of warm wind washed over me until I exited on the other side. My eyes turned wide when all I saw was the vast ocean beneath me.
Suddenly, a hand wrapped around my wrist, yanked me to the left, and spun me off toward another open portal. My portal remained open and my tracker had made his final play, diving in behind me. He catapulted through, his hands outstretched ready to grab me.
He let out a scream as he raced toward the ocean and I grinned when he hit with a tremendous splash. I looked up to see my cousin Jess pulling me through the portal. I crashed on the floor as she yanked the portal closed and dropped back against her bed.
“What the hell, Cuz?” She was breathing heavy and looking at me as if I had just kicked a puppy.
“What?” I laughed.
“Who was chasing you and what’s going on?”
I smiled at Jess and looked around. It had taken her long enough to settle in, but then she was fussy about more than just her appearance. She and Gran had decided after everything that had happened with my mom that they should move in with my Dad and me. They’d been here a little over six months and Jess had taken a bedroom on the second floor. Like Jess everything in her room had its place, from her perfectly appointed vanity to the window seat with books stacked neatly beside it. I still had my attic space and I had to admit it was nice having more family around— most of the time anyway— when I was trying to carry out secret missions, not so much.
“It’s no big deal really.” I shrugged and stood up.
“Was this mission for your dad?”
I smiled and nodded, letting her think she had guessed right. Ever since my dad, Mr. Miller, and DI Emory had shown us the Reliquary and asked us to find the artifacts of the Old Kind, they had been assigning us secret projects. What Jess didn’t know was that ever since Nightshade’s death I was also working with Gavin, the Polymorph, and his crew. It had been something I had felt compelled to do. Tonight I was supposed to meet a Skeleton Key Guild informant to gain information on members they thought were being recruited by the First Kind.
“Your dad should let us know when he’s sending you out on your own, though I don’t like the idea of you being out there alone.” Jess huffed and sat down on her bed.