Waylaid

By: Kim Harrison
FOREWORD

The concept to bring the diverse words of The Hollows and The Drafter together was one that I initially considered with equal parts excitement and dread. I wondered if it could ever be done. After all, though taking place in modern America, The Hollows centers around everyday paranormals living among us, their timeline skewing from ours sometime around the discovery of DNA.

Then there’s The Drafter, which takes place in a slightly futuristic world where Detroit has become a Mecca of green technology, the city again a showcase for innovation, music, and corporate espionage.

Suffice it to say, bringing these two worlds together seemed impossible without breaking any rules in either universe. But then . . . just maybe, seeing as the magic in The Hollows is based on science, and the technology in The Drafter has its roots in the impossibility of magic . . . well . . . you tell me.

Waylaid still reads like self-made fan fiction to me, as I dearly like keeping my universes in their separate little dreams, but I had fun with it, and I hope you do, too.

Kim Harrison

1/11/16





1

“You know what I’d like to do?” Jack leaned in to Peri, his hand curving suggestively about her waist, and she breathed in the faint scent of ozone and aftershave like a balm. Under it was a hint of gun oil, and Peri was hard-pressed to decide which one intrigued her more as they stood outside her apartment door with their carry-ons, glad they had the next week off.

“Mmmm, I like games,” Peri said as she tapped her key card to her apartment door pad. It disengaged the lock with an almost unheard click, and she turned to him, seeing the bound heat behind his sandy hair and blue eyes as he leaned to nuzzle under her ear. The tips of her short black hair tickled her neck along with his lips, and she stifled a quiver.

“I’d like to be there tomorrow when they find that ball of wax you left them,” Jack whispered. “That’s all. What did you think I meant?”

Peri exhaled in annoyance, giving him a little shove as he pulled back and took up their bags. Eyes rolling, she pushed open the door, her faint smile widening as Carnac, their cat, came out to weave between their feet, threatening to trip them.

“Hi, Carnac. Did you miss me more than Jack is going to tonight?” she said, scooping up the orange tabby and cuddling him as she followed Jack into the spacious apartment they shared. It was dark, and Detroit’s neon-draped skyline sparkled through the wide glass windows. The lighted mass-transit rail circled to touch upon the city’s hot spots to look like jewels on a necklace, and she let Carnac slide from her. It hadn’t been a strenuous job, but the timing had been meticulous, requiring several days and multiple dry runs. She was mind-weary and ready for some downtime.

“Lights up,” she said, to shake the apartment out of extended leave, and the glow brightened to show the comfortable mix of her and Jack among the modern open-floor plan, everything angled to take advantage of the view of a glittering new Detroit.

“Sure is a pretty thing,” Jack said as she dropped her coat and purse on a chair and went into the open kitchen to give Carnac some soft food.

“The accelerator?” she asked, seeing that he’d taken it from his pocket and was holding it up to the spotlight over the gas fireplace. The walnut-size, meticulously engineered crystal was one-of-a-kind, and it caught the light like a disco ball, sending wavelengths too short to be seen ricocheting around the apartment to make her back teeth hurt. She’d held it briefly before giving it back for Jack to carry. It gave her the willies, the orb’s facets feeling warm and malleable even as they pricked her skin.

Jack lowered the glittering crystal. “Hard to believe something this small is worth an entire city,” he said as he put it back in his pocket.

Hard to believe you can hold it like that in your bare fingers, she thought as she ripped open a pouch of cat food. “When it’s plugged in, sure,” she muttered, watching Carnac weave between her feet as she set the bowl on the floor and fondled the cat’s ears. “Right now it’s giving me a headache.”

The small orb was Event Horizon’s latest wonder, fracturing wavelengths to allow information to be sent out on a particle, instead of an entire wave. In layman’s terms, it was like having a single bandwidth hold a hundred thousand conversations instead of one, and it would revolutionize how information was handled. Whoever held it would own the world.

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