Thursday, December 29, 2005

Walking Death, Chapter 7

     Hack dropped Rachel and Frieda off in front of a place called Molly’s Diner. He was heading down the road before he could notice that the two women weren’t interested the blue plate special.

     Rachel gave a jaunty little wave to Molly as she led Frieda by the hand toward the building’s small lobby. The door wasn’t locked in case someone had to see Dr. Moss, whose office shared a reception room with Sam’s, for an emergency. The bulb on the stairwell was out, but Rachel’s eyes scarcely registered the gloom. Between the low-light vision and the beauty of their angelic cousins, all of the Lilliam had the full see-and-be-seen package.

     Enough light came down from the floor above for Frieda to see well enough by the time they reached the first landing. The light, she judged, was from a single lamp behind the frosted glass door labeled “Sam Watson, Private Investigator”.

Rachel stopped for a moment, appraising the door with an unfocused look in her eyes. Her scrutiny satisfied, she squared her shoulders, strode the three paces across the small reception area and knocked on the door. A shadow moved in the office.

“Who is it?” asked a masculine voice.

“Advance agent for Santa Clause, Mr. Watson,” said the dark-haired girl. “I’m here to discuss some irregularities of your behavior for proper listing.”

The door opened. The man inside wore shirtsleeves, suspenders, and an empty shoulder holster. He kept his right hand behind the door. The smile on his face died away as quickly as his eyes went from the girl to the woman behind her.

“Oh,” said Rachel, “introductions as soon as you let us in, Sam.”

He stepped aside with a nod into the room. The two women were barely in before he closed the door and locked it behind them. Sam re-holstered the handgun as Rachel took a seat on the desk.

Frieda chose to remain standing, taking a position along the wall opposite the door. The man, Mr. Sam Watson, Private Investigator she presumed, was of middling height and a fit build. His hair was light brown tending to red in the light of the hooded desk lamp. He didn’t seem particularly young, maybe late thirties, forty at most. He looked the tired of a man who had just completed some vigorous activity. If the girl was bringing her to this man, Frieda concluded that the activity would have been the fight at the warehouse.

Now that she finally had some decent light to make an assessment, Frieda looked at her guide. She had been assuming that her rescuer was young, and now her appraisal confirmed it. The black haired girl was more than a waif, probably sixteen or seventeen, with a pale-skinned, expressive, face.

The question was forming in Frieda’s mind when the girl answered it.

“My name’s Rachel.”

Sam had by then reclaimed his composure.

“May I offer you a drink, Doctor?”

“Are we safe here?”

“So long as you weren’t followed the Imperials would have no reason to look for you here.”

Frieda let out a breath that she hadn’t been aware of holding.

“Then thank you, I need a drink.”

“Set me up one too, Sam,” said Rachel.

Frieda quirked an eyebrow as Sam took a pair of glasses out of a desk drawer.

Rachel smiled and said, “I’m older than I look.” With another look, Frieda saw that despite nothing seeming to change about Rachel, she had to reassess her age into the mid-twenties. Frieda made a note to rebuild her magic sensing glasses as soon as possible.

“I need to make a call, pardon me, ladies,” said Sam, now sitting behind the desk and pulling the phone over to him. He took pains to keep the number he dialed covered up. Frieda was still able to tell by counting the clicks of the rotor.

“Quisitor. I’m checking in for Lamb as well. Yes, about that, Knocker is secure. Yes, Lamb brought her to my office.”

“Tell him I thought there would be road blocks between the pick up and the safe house,” offered Rachel.

“I agree,” said Sam, ignoring Rachel’s intrusion, “the damage has been done, she knows both of our names. Uh-huh, thought you’d say that. She’s right here.” With that, Sam held the phone out to Frieda. “Liberty for you.”

“Thank you. Hello?”

“Dr. Kellner, I am glad to hear you made it out safely.”

“Good to be out, but what about your men?”

“We did lose some, both killed and captured, but we are already working to find them. For now, it is enough that you are safe.”

“Thank you, but what now?”

“For now, I’m going to have you work in Mr. Watson’s cell with Rachel. I had other plans, but it is better that you stay with them for now.”

“How much can I tell them?”

“I would have brought Sam in regardless, so you may tell them everything about the project.”


“I’ll remain in touch to get you set up with a new identity in the meantime.”

“Thank you, again.”

“Thank you for taking the risk, Doctor. Good bye.” The line then went dead.

Sam and Rachel were watching her through the conversation. Frieda replaced the phone onto the cradle.

“Liberty says that I am to trust the two of you with the information I have. That being the case, I need to tell you about Ambulamort.”

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Walking Death, Chapter 6

     Leaping aside from the toppling truck, Frieda reset her grip on her ray gun. She took a quick stock of her situation. She knew that the side of the ambush with the burning truck was clear. What she didn’t know was how long it would take for the Imperials from the front to get to that side, or if that would be long enough to get through the corner and into cover for a stealthy escape. She had her ray gun, no self-respecting weird scientist traveled without one, but she knew that it would not be enough to hold off a company of Imperials.

“We need cover!” she yelled to the Resistance man ahead of her.

“There’s an alley across the street. We can make it if we give these guys the bum’s rush.”

“Go!” she said, following tight on the man’s hip.

The pair spun around the corner of the disguised panel truck. A pair of controlled bursts from his Thompson brought down the first two soldiers in the line. The third one was not completely surprised and let of a blind shot. The man was panicked, and lucky. Frieda’s escort let out a muffled groan and started to collapse.

The doughboy was marveling at his shot when Frieda’s first ray took him in the chest. Her next two went off as she loosened the focus on the emitter with her thumb. The widened beam wasn’t enough to kill any of the remaining three men, but it was enough to catch them all and knock them senseless.

Frieda knelt and rolled the Resistance man over onto his back. The hole, gasping and bloody in his chest, put paid to any idea of helping him escape. She had no false modesty. She knew that the man took the risk to get her safely away from the Empire. There would be no purpose in both being captured in her stopping to render aid.

Instead, she ran, head down, for the now visible alley mouth. She had momentum on her side as she crossed the dangerous open space where she would be visible to the third truck. A shout of “Halt!” and a pair of rifle reports sounded behind her. The darkness of the alley was welcome shelter, an old ally that she worked very well with.

She discovered quickly that she did not have the shadows to herself. A figure stepped out from the cover of a cluster of trashcans. Frieda’s heart almost gave out until the new shadow spoke.


Frieda needed a restarted heartbeat to remember the countersign.
“White Rabbit?”

“Call me Lamb,” her rescuer said with a released breath. “Follow me.”

On closer inspection, Lamb proved to be little more than a slip of a girl. At first, it gave Frieda pause that her fate had fallen into the hands of someone so young, let alone small. A second thought revealed that it could be ideal. If one ever had an image of a fighter, Lamb was not it. If this one had a method of escaping this situation, it would be a stealthy escape and one that had been thought out well before hand.

Whatever plans the girl had had to be put into motion quickly. By the time they rounded the first corner they came upon there were at least two Imperials in the alleyway. A few more twists and turns put them out onto the street on the far side of the block.

Lamb took Frieda’s arm.

“Just look like a fella out with his girl,” she whispered. Frieda had forgotten that she was wearing workman’s clothes and could reasonably expect to pass from a distance.

Sirens sounded in the distance, and as the pair crossed the street they saw police cars go roaring toward the warehouse. Once across the street, Lamb danced up the steps to a tenement call box. She pressed three buttons simultaneously, and the door buzzed open. They slipped through as a sleep addled voice demanded to know who was bothering him at that time of the night.

Their path took them up the stairs.

“We need to get some distance before we get a ride,” said Lamb. “I hope that you don’t mind heights.”

Their climb took them to the roof. Lamb pointed the direction, and Dr. Kellner saw the almost stair like arrangement of rooftops. Before the girl could say anything, Frieda took off at a run and leapt the gap to the next roof. She drew more than a little satisfaction at the girl’s surprised look.

Then Lamb made her jump. Frieda could have sworn that she heard the girl make a quiet “Whee” sound. The two then set off at an easy run across the rooftops, making the leaps across the alleys. Just before the end of the block, Lamb pointed out a fire escape and headed over there. At the bottom was a cab with its engine running.

“Heya, Hack,” said Lamb to the driver. To Frieda: “Don’t worry, he’s one of ours.”

“Is this the Doc?” asked Hack.

“Yep, let’s do the introductions on the road, shall we?”

“Right, safe house.”

“No,” said Lamb. “The pickup got busted, I don’t know if the safe house is safe anymore.”

“So where do we go?” asked Frieda.

Lamb was silent for a moment. Then she smiled.

“I know just the place.”