Monday Filler – Lydia Strange

Girl Mechanic image courtesy of David Cousens and Cool Surface. 

Okay, kids. So, I’ve got a heap of shit to do and not enough hours in the day to do it. Since I’ve been lagging on my makeposts here, I figured I needed to get something up but didn’t have the time to wax philosophic about, say, class/level systems. That’s for later in the week. Right now though? Oh, yes. Yes Gentle Readers, it’s time to meet another cast member. This time it’s Lydia Strange, a tall, red-haired drink of water with a tendency toward both fast machines and fire magic. Here she is with everyone’s sidekick Bela, awaiting the arrival of some friends from out of town.

“That’s…odd…” Said Bela.
She and Lydia stood on the cracked plain, considering the thing in front of them. A thin metal pole near thirty feet tall crowned with a round platform ringed by a small rail. On the platform was bright, rotating light shaped like a barrel with a lens at each end, one clear white, the other bottle green. Two small arms stuck out from beneath the platform, one topped with a little airspeed meter, the other with a limp, orange air-sock. The light had come to life at dusk, squeaking about on its ancient bearings and casting it’s searching light for miles into the ruddy Texas twilight. It was the only thing in a hundred miles, this strange beacon. The sun had recently retired and the sky was a deep orange fading through purple to black. Scudding clouds filled the sky like fish scales, black at the bottom. Here and there a star glared down at them.
“What is it?” She asked.
“It’s an airfield beacon.” Lydia said, and watched the lights probe the growing dark.
“What the hell’s it doing way out here?” asked Bela, looking around at the dusty stones and lizards that made up the local scenery.
“Wait.” Said Lydia, and gave Bela a smile.
“For what?” Asked Bela, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Slowly she became aware of a heaviness in the air and a taste like tin in her mouth. Her ears rang and she shook her head as if to shake the sound out.
“Oh no,” she moaned. Lydia nodded. Atop the pole the little airspeed meter spun wildly to life and the wind sock snapped taut in a nonexistent wind, pointing due south. The beacon started to glow. Little arcs of blue-white energy appeared around them and skittered across the ground like nervous spiders. Bela yelped and shied away from Lydia like a stung horse. The little energy arcs were snaking around Lydia’s feet and up her legs. Every bit of metal on her, from the buckles on her boots and gun belt to the chromed hoops in her ears and eyebrow shone blue and crackled with static. Bela looked down to see the same thing happening to her, and she frantically beat at her clothes in an effort to brush the energy away. Her head was pounding and she caught herself whimpering under her breath. Her hackles were raised and all the hair on her body was standing up and sparking with static. She saw the crackling magic dancing over invisible shapes all around them, defining slab-sided bunkers and the great arced walls of hangars. Tiny points of light suddenly flared to life in the ground to the east of the beacon, indicating runways and landing strips.
“Lydia!” Bela whined. “We need to go! Now!” The last word came out in a bark.
“Don’t worry, Bela.” Lydia hooked her thumbs idly into her belt and rocked back on her heels. She turned to Bela, magic energy sparking from her eyelashes and stray strands of red hair swimming around her face. “I’ve got some friends coming I want you to meet.”
Suddenly there was a sound, more a suggestion, like a far off song. It came up through their boot soles, twanged across their nerves, and settled behind their hearts. It grew louder, like a choir in full roar, and filled the space around them. The energy arcs converged on the beacon and crawled up the pole. They sparked and flared into the sky from the top of the beacon like lightning. The choir reached its screaming crescendo, then there was a noise like a sail tearing in a storm and the sky opened above the beacon like a great blue eye. Bela yelped again and reflexively drew her pistol. Lydia put her hand on Bela’s shoulder, pointed into the swirling blue hole above the beacon and said,
“Wait. Check that out.”
As they watched a huge aircraft punched through trailing leyline energy behind it from its wingtips. It was a massive, ancient, straight winged bomber painted in desert camouflage. Its glass nose winked in the last of the dying sunlight, and the glow of the magic showed a young woman painted beneath the cockpit windows along with a name, “Yellow Rose.” The remains of the magic danced over the aircraft and showed the gun barrels bristling from its flanks and the four great propellers on the wings churning up the air. Powerful landing lights flared from the base of the wings, and the running lights winked on at the wingtips and the top of the sail-like tail. The bomber’s engines spun up and it slowly and gracefully climbed away from the beacon and the rift seething above it.
Hot on the bomber’s tail a half dozen mean looking fighters screamed through the rift. They were painted like the bomber, and each had a lurid shark’s mouth painted behind the propeller to accentuate the air intake there. The fighters broke into pairs and climbed into the sky where they set to orbiting the landing site like a swarm of angry hornets. Lydia laughed and waved at the aircraft as they sped overhead.
The pitch of the bomber’s engines dropped an octave and it dipped its starboard wing to come slowly around in line with the ghostly landing strip. The fighters held their patterns as the bomber leveled out and approached the beacon. Landing gear dropped from beneath the bomber’s broad wings and it skimmed over the plain. Lydia and Bela ducked as it passed over them, stealing their breath and snapping their clothes around them in its passing. It touched down, bounced once, twice, then was bowling along scattering sagebrush and lizards and kicking up huge clouds of red dust. The bomber’s speed fell and soon enough its tail wheel hit the ground and it heaved to a halt at the far end of the landing strip. It wheeled around to face Lydia and Bela, squatting there in a roiling cloud of dust, its landing lights stabbing out into the night. The pilot killed the engines and feathered the props and they slowly spun to a stop.
Once their charge was safe on the ground, the fighters wheeled around and dove for the landing strip. They came in hot, at full throttle, and so close to the ground that Bela could see the pilots’ faces lit by their instruments and count the stubby gun barrels poking out from the leading edges of their wings. Lydia and Bela both hit the ground as the fighters passed over to keep from being struck by landing gear and propeller tips. Despite herself, Bela was laughing and marveling at the strangeness the of antique aircraft here in the Texas desert. The fighters came to rest gathered around the bomber like chicks seeking shelter under the wings of a hen.
Above them the crackling rift collapsed with a flash and a clap like thunder. The landing lights and spectral airfield faded, leaving only the lights of the aircraft and the slowly spinning beacon to light the plain. Lydia and Bela stood up and, still laughing, dusted themselves off. There was a commotion as engines sputtered to a stop and men dismounted their aircraft. Bela gaped disbelieving first at the aircraft and then at Lydia.
“Come on,” Lydia said. “Let me introduce you to the Republic of Texas Air National Guard.”

Meet the Cast: Molly Sixkiller

So, last week I got some good feedback on my little piece about Olive. So good, in fact, that I figured I’d do another one today. So, without further ado, meet Molly Sixkiller.

Bela rolled out of her seat and dropped into the brush beside the jeep. Gideon started at the alarm in her voice and heard her hit the ground with a dusty thud. As he tossed the map into Bela’s vacated seat and snatched the old C-12 from the dash where it was humming quietly to itself in the afternoon sun, he reflected that whatever this was, it wasn’t what he had planned for the day.
Earlier that morning the three of them, Gideon, Bela and Molly had set out in the jeep with a picnic lunch, a map and some firearms for a day of range hopping in the greater Atchinson/Arlen/Big Sandy area. It was a Sunday, so Molly wasn’t at her lessons with Brandt and Gideon took the opportunity to get the shy young psychic out into the weather. Now, after a morning of target shooting, a cold lunch and a couple hours of wandering dusty old cow trails something had come to ruin their afternoon.
Gideon swung his rifle up and turned sideways in his seat. He hooked his left boot heel over the door sill, propped his left elbow on his knee and sighted through his big rifle scope. They came by the dozen; ravenous, slobbering, six-limbed things armored in dull chitin loping and gibbering down a ridge and into the little valley where they were parked.
“Well, shit” he muttered. “Grigleapers”.
“Yeah, no kidding!” Shouted Bela as she popped up over the passenger fender with her 227 out and propped her elbows on the dusty hood.
“I make about a dozen of ‘em.” Gideon said as he thumbed the safety off and the C-12 cycled up into active. The grigleapers closed on the jeep and Bela said, “That’s a lot of teeth”.  Gideon nodded and let fly. As he watched the laser bolt burn a steaming hole in the lead ‘leaper he heard a creak and a rustle and the smooth small sound of steel on leather from behind him. The jeep rocked a little and Molly slowly rose from her spot in the cramped back seat. Bela took a shot, missed, and Gideon swore quietly in anticipation.
Once, when he was younger, Gideon had traveled to the dangerous borderlands between Texas and vampire infested Mexico with a troop of mounted Simvan cavalry. There on the border they had discovered an ancient and powerful radio transmitter that had survived the cataclysm, one of those massive fifty thousand watt border radio stations that you could pick up clear in the North. The tower was faded to a desert color and bent halfway up, but the transmitter was still strong and working. Gideon had a small radio and he tuned in to hear a mix of blaring Tejano music and someone screaming the word of the Lord in alternating Spanish and English.
When they approached they discovered a withered old Mexican woman running the board and she cried and fell to her knees and beat her breast at the sight of them. She begged for mercy and cursed them as monsters at the same time, then fled from the station into the desert leaving her ancient recordings to scream and rant to no one. Gideon had stood next to the powerful generators and transmitters as they searched the place and the powerful energy fields caused his hair to stand on end and his head to swim. Since that day, the only time he had ever experienced anything like that was when he was around Molly, and there was trouble.
And here now was trouble. Molly was sixteen, orphaned, and shy yet now before she had blossomed into the full flower of her womanhood, she was perhaps the deadliest and most powerful psychic Gideon had ever known. They called what Molly was a psi-slinger in the Empire, a name Gideon found foolish and distasteful, and the few times he had seen her in the full grip of her powers it had scared the hell out of him.
With the grigleapers howling down on them Molly stood calmly in her seat and drew the two massive Colt Dragoons she wore across her slender hips. These were her father’s guns. The very ones she had drawn from his bullet riddled body and used to kill his murderers. They looked huge and strange, comical in her small brown hands. She slowly raised the massive revolvers and  took aim at the closing beasts. Gideon’s ears began to ring and Bela cried out as Molly’s power washed over them and she began to fire. There was a sharp sound as a hammer snapped down on an empty chamber and a grigleaper crumpled and was rolled along by its stampeding mates. The hair all the way down the psi-hound’s backs stood straight up and their ears rang almost to the point of distraction. They gritted their teeth against it and kept up their withering fire. Gideon took another and Bela dropped a fourth and Molly kept firing and firing, accompanied only by the snap of hammers and the quiet ratcheting of cylinders.
The remaining creatures closed the distance to the jeep and broke around it in a wave of dun colored plates and flashing talons. Bela hurriedly clambered onto the jeep’s hood, narrowly dodging a swipe that would have surely disemboweled her. One ‘leaper jumped and grabbed the roll bar right in front of Molly and she fell back against the opposite bar. As it tried to climb into the seat with her she leveled a pistol, took aim and with a snap and a splash punched a hole in the thing a grown man could have passed his hand through. Gideon looked back to see if she was okay and saw that there were tears streaming down her face. She caught his gaze and her eyes widened.
“Look out!” She cried and Gideon turned just in time to catch a nasty swipe with the C-12. He bashed the ‘leaper across its teeth with the butt of the rifle and it fell into the dust where Molly proceeded to shoot it dead. Bela took another from her perch on the hood and at that point the ‘leapers decided that they had had enough. They broke off their attack and went howling off away from the jeep. Gideon caught one a glancing blow in its back but it ran on, although without the help of two of its limbs.
As they caught their breath, Bela and Gideon looked at Molly who still stood weeping and spattered with black blood in the back seat, her pistols at arms length. The ringing in their heads subsided and Molly slowly lowered the Dragoons but did not holster them. Gideon was startled to see a small trickle of blood had run from Molly’s nose and had stained her mouth bright red.
“You okay kid?” He asked. Molly seemed to snap out of a daze and wiped the blood away with the back of her hand, smearing it on to her cheek.
“Yes Mister Gideon.” she said quietly, and slid the Dragoons into their holsters.