Wild Cards 15 - Black Trump

Wild Cards 15 - Black Trump by George R. R. Martin Read Free Book Online

Book: Wild Cards 15 - Black Trump by George R. R. Martin Read Free Book Online
Authors: George R. R. Martin
then again, and he heard a sickening crunching sound as cartilage and flesh collapsed. Puckett clutched at his throat, wheezing like an organ with a broken bellows.
    Ray stepped away from him, shaking his head. "Stupid fucking redneck," he said, then he turned and ran down the hall after Johnson.
    He activated his throat mike as he ran and screamed, "Come in, come on in! They're bolting like fucking rats! Don't let anyone get away!"
    He saw no one as he ran through the manor and burst outside. The government cutter he'd called was bearing down on the island at full speed, lights flashing and clarions blaring. Amphibious helicopters were swooping in like birds of prey, guarding the sky in case the Sharks tried an aerial escape.
    Ray went around the back of the manor to the small airstrip where something was taxiing out of a hangar. He put on a burst of speed. He wanted to reach it before the choppers did. He wanted to tear Johnson and whoever was with him to pieces.
    But Johnson's aircraft suddenly rose straight up. It hung there insouciantly for a moment, as if daring the choppers to try to tag it. Then it was gone with a scream of jet turbines, leaving the choppers far behind like the fat, clumsy children they were. Ray's sprint stumbled to a halt and he stared in disbelief.
    "A Harrier," Ray swore under his breath. "A fucking vertical take-off fucking jet." He sat down on the edge of the runway, suddenly very tired. "Where the fuck did Johnson get a fucking Harrier ?"
    He sat with his head in his hands for a long moment, a pose very uncharacteristic for Billy Ray. Then he stood, and strode around the manor to where the assault team had gathered on the beach. The choppers bumbled around like angry, uncertain bees. They knew they had missed their target, but they had no idea what their target was.
    Ray knew. He knew it was the Black Trump, death to all things born from the wild card.

    ♥ ♦ ♣ ♠

    By tradition, the muezzin called when he could distinguish a black thread from a white. In the dim dawn light, the faithful hurried to prayers, dodging their way past vendors who brought polished vegetables down from rooftop gardens. Silent jokers carried plastic coolers on their shoulders, hurrying toward the City Gate where traders would fill them with crushed ice and eggs and farm-raised fish from pens in the Sea of Galilee. Soon, boys would begin their morning rounds, carrying brass trays hung from swinging chains. The trays would be loaded with cups of thick coffee and steaming tea and cans of trademarked, guaranteed genuine Coca-Cola It never tasted right to Zoe, in spite of the logo.
    The air smelled of cucumbers and orange blossoms, of compost and last night's cooking. Zoe followed the vendors toward the souk, the area outside the City Gate where an uneasy truce held, the city's denizens usually kept at peace by the necessities of trade. She stayed in the shadows and walked as quietly as she could. If she found Needles following her, she planned to send him right back home. He would follow, she was sure of it, thinking to protect her, or to protect himself. She watched and listened, but she couldn't see him.
    She hadn't gone half a block before she picked up a tail, a hunched figure in a black cloak. Needles? The figure vanished behind her.
    The street angled sharply. Upper stories overhung the cobblestones in this section, so close that neighbors could borrow a cup of sugar through the opened windows. Or, more likely, exchange insults. The night's shadows lingered here and made the street seem even narrower than it was. Zoe heard heavy breathing behind her and caught a glimpse of a figure in a black cloak. She forced herself not to run. The black cloak brushed against the wall beside her in a passageway narrow enough that Zoe's hand touched a doorway on the opposite side of the street.
    "You look nat." Not Needles, the joker's voice came from the folds of his hood, a cultured British accent, a fine tenor. He spoke in

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