Oh, hello there! I have a blog!
Having no interest in providing actual content, though, and still not ready to write my handwave-handwave-sexy-dance “review” (rant) about SuckerPunch, here’s an excerpt of book 2 to tide you over (DECEMBER folks, December!!)
Infidel: Chapter 15
Suha came out onto the terrace. “You hear what’s on the radio?” she asked.
Nyx shook her head. A few muezzin calls still sounded at the outer edges of the city, moving out into the desert. Now, though, she could hear the low, tinny murmur of the radio inside.
“They’re opening up Mushtallah tomorrow,” Suha said.
“What’s the final count?
“Eighty-four thousand dead. Already burned to stop the contagion spreading.”
“Any First Families?”
“Huh. Don’t know. I’ll look into it.”
“Do that. I want to know who lost a first born and who didn’t.”
“Sure.” Suha leaned against the railing, looked out over the narrow street below, the flat rooftops. The dark sky had a smoky orange glow, a perpetual haze created by dead and dying bugs of a hundred thousand kinds reflecting the ruddy light from glow globes and other forms of bug light. There were no gas lamps this far from the interior, just the constant piss and reek of the bugs.
“Quiet,” Suha said.
“Usually is, after the muezzin.”
“Eshe’s asleep. Been throwing up since we got in,” Suha said. “Tried to wake him up for prayer.”
“Fuck’s sake, don’t bother him with that catshit.”
Suha’s mouth bunched up. “Don’t go mixing his head up with your ideas about God. Let him make his own mind up.”
“Because those lies worked out so well for us?”
“Not all of us fucked God, Nyx,” Suha said. She leaned over and neatly uncapped the whiskey bottle next to Nyx and poured herself a drink. “Just ourselves.”
Nyx gazed back out over the balcony rail. Suha’s maudlin moods always annoyed her.
“You know I need to look up a guy in Tirhan?” Nyx said.
“The magician? Yeah, I heard about him. You need me to look up a boat?”
“Rather go overland.”
Suha gave a slow nod. “At least we’re not on the bounty boards yet.”
Suha leaned up against the rail. She gazed out over the rooftops, eyes glassy, big mouth set. She worked her jaw for awhile. “One of my sisters is a gunrunner,” she said.
“I remember,” Nyx said.
Suha sighed. “They do a lot of work during the spring and summer running shit up through the mountains and into Tirhan, but I don’t know what they’re running this time of year. She can probably get us overland. Don’t know how long, though.”
“I’ve heard it’s a six or eight day trip.”
“I mean, how long til she can set us up.”
“Tell her there’s a shitload of money in it if she wants to play guide.”
Suha clasped her hands. They were big hands, too, like her mouth – dark and bruised as wine-stained leather. “You want to take Eshe with us?
“Where else he going to go?”
“Dangerous crossing for a boy.”
“He can shift it.”
“Long way to go and stay in that form.”
“Since the fuck when are you his mother?” Nyx said. “I’m not a fucking fool.”
“Just wanted to say it out loud.”
“You think he’d stay behind if I asked?”
“Then don’t nag at me. What the fuck do you think he’s going to be, Suha? A fucking farmer? I’m teaching him how to survive the front. Boys don’t come home, and they don’t come home because they learn shit ideas about honor and sacrifice and oh, I have a stomach ache so some Chenjan isn’t going to chop off my fucking head. It’s not like that.”
“Not saying it is. Just saying… I don’t know.”
“He’s a Nasheenian boy. I’m not going to raise him like some useless Ras Tiegan noble. Whose fault is it then when he lasts half a day at the front before some Chenjan mashes his face in?”
Suha shook her head. “It’s always one shitty thing or the other with you. Ain’t there ever a middle ground?”
“No. It’s easier to make decisions that way.”
Nyx gazed out over the street again. A group of women passed below, talking in loud, drunken voices. They wore crimson burnouses and had the confident swagger of university students. Smart, rich girls – the sort who would never know death or disfigurement at the front. If they had brothers, they had never met them, or they took the Kitab at its word and relinquished their boys to the front with a final thought: thank God I wasn’t born a man.
Nyx let herself wish for a life like theirs; a young body, a future. Why not? She needed a bloody fucking drink. She inhaled the cheap, burnt-fuel stink of the open bottle.
As the girls passed by the dark recesses of an arched doorway mounted with metal studs, Nyx saw a shadow there at the mouth of it, something more substantial than gaping blackness. The door was already cast half in shadow, lingering at the edge of the halo of light cast across the street from the big bug lamps at the front of the hotel.
Nyx moved her gaze away from the door, but kept it in her peripheral version. The shadow moved; a figure pulled in the edge of a dark burnous that had a sheen of the organic about it – far too new and expensive for this part of town.
Nyx set her empty cup on the stool.
“We have spiders,” Nyx said.
“I saw her,” Suha said. “The door? I wasn’t sure.”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“I have us set up with a back exit.”
“If they wanted us, they would have moved already.” Why hadn’t they moved, then? It was a busy street this time of night, sure, but her place didn’t have great security; no filters and one lonely house guard who spent most of her time snickering in the kitchen with the spindly Drucian cooks.
“We’ll need to get out discreet in the morning,” Nyx said. “They may be hanging out to see where we’re going.” Or to see how much we know, she amended. But know from who? Alharazad? Alharazad had told them next to nothing.
“You think they’ll follow us into Tirhan?”
“I’m not looking to find out.”
Suha cocked her head. “You hear that?”
“What?” Nyx twisted to look back into the room.
Suha pulled one of her pistols. “Eshe?” She left her drink on the rail and moved into the room.
Nyx heard a thump, then a big bang. She pulled her scattergun and tried to get up, too fast. She stumbled as she came out of the chair. A gun went off. A blast of yellow smoke filled her vision. The railing behind her splintered.
She ducked behind the door and brought up her gun. Her skin throbbed. Blood ran freely down her palm and elbow where she’d caught herself on the balcony deck.
Nyx chanced a look into the hotel room. The door was busted open. A woman crouched in the hall. Nyx fired. The woman fell back. Nyx twisted into the room. Suha grappled with a second woman near the double beds.
A third came at Nyx from the left, hefting a skinny sniper rifle. Very bad for close combat, Nyx thought as she brought up the barrel of her scattergun and caught the woman in gut. The woman screeched and fell back. Just a kid, really, soft-faced and clear eyed and dangerous as fuck. Somebody fired another shot from the door. Nyx ducked and rolled back behind the tatty divan at the far end of the room.
Eshe leapt up from behind one of the beds and darted into the hall, knife raised. It was already bloody.
“Eshe, goddammit!” Nyx yelled.
The woman on the floor shot at her again. “Fuck!” Nyx swore, and aimed the scattergun at the woman’s face this time. The soft features shattered. Blood splattered across Nyx’s face. She heard more shots outside.
Nyx ran out into the hall. Her legs gave out halfway there, and she stumbled, skinned her hands again. She struggled up and burst into the hall, gun first.
Eshe lay on the floor clutching at his gut. Dark blood drooled from an deep open wound. Nyx saw the tail end of a burnous disappearing down the steps. She leapt over Eshe and pulled one of the poisoned needles from her hair.
She hurled herself at the fleeing figure. Her body connected. The assassin collapsed under her weight and took the full force of the impact. Nyx jabbed her with the needle as they tumbled down the stairs. They came to a halt on the next landing, with Nyx squarely on top of the assassin.
Nyx bunched up her other fist and pummeled the woman in the face. The woman went limp. Nyx hauled herself up. She saw raw, peeling skin on her forearms; felt blood dripping down her face.
The woman she’d tackled lay still. Nyx pulled back the hood of the woman’s burnous. Another kid. Not much older than Eshe. Nyx hit her in the face again with the gun, for good measure, then hauled herself back upstairs.
“Eshe!” she called. She used the rail to help herself up. Her knees trembled. Too much, too soon.
She crawled up the last couple of steps and dragged herself next to Eshe. She knelt in a pool of his blood and pressed her hands to his wound to stop the rising tide.
“Eshe, c’mon, goddamit,” she said. His face was alarmingly pale. He was conscious, though – glassy eyed and squirming.
“Fuck,” he murmured. “Fuck, fuck…”
“Suha!” Nyx yelled. “Suha!”
Suha stumbled into the hall. She was clutching at her hip. Nyx saw more blood.
“They down?” Nyx said.
“Help me get him up,” Nyx said. “There’s a hedge witch across the way.”
Suha tore off the end of her own burnous and knotted it around her waist. Her face was grim.
“Don’t let me die,” Eshe said. His voice broke.
Nyx felt his warm blood pumping up through her fingers. She clenched her jaw, and refused to look at his twisted face. She stared at her bloody hands instead, trying to keep all that life inside such a little body.
“Please don’t let me die.” He clawed at her burnous, left streaks of blood. “Please, please.”
How many boys had she watched die like this? Please, please… Clawing at her, begging for life, destined for death.
“Not this one,” she muttered.
“What?” Suha said.
“Get him up,” Nyx said. “Let’s get the fuck moving.”
Eshe started crying. “Don’t let me die…”
“You’re fine,” Nyx said. “Everything’s fine.”