JUDGEMENT: Chapter 3
Kat Dubois Chronicles, book 5
*NOTE - This is an unedited excerpt. Please excuse any typos.*
I jumped off the roof of the SUV and dropped down to one knee, bowing down to press both of my hands flat against the paving stones. I squeezed my eyes shut and sent my focus inward, toward my sheut, thinking only about the task at hand. Not about the lives that would be lost if I failed. Not about the sense of dread that even now, after this most recent explosion, continued to mount higher.
All of a sudden, a swell of electric energy flooded into me. I spooled that energy in my sheut just like Nik had taught me to do, building it up until I felt near to bursting. When I had enough to make the magic work, I opened my eyes and willed the energy out of me in the form of At. It spread out from my hands and covered the street like ice over a lake, but so much faster. Ten yards…twenty…thirty…a hundred…
The earth below continued to break and fall away, but everywhere the At covered it, people would be safe from falling in. I left a meter-wide crack running along the length of the fissure with long, icicle-like strings of At extending deep into the sinkhole for any people who’d fallen in to use to climb back out. If any of them had even survived. It was enough—for now. The crisis was far from averted, and so many more lives were at stake. Too many.
I stood, wiped my hands off on my slacks, and climbed back onto the hood of the SUV. I stood there, scanning the place where I’d last seen the female Nejeret, but nearly a minute had passed since I’d spotted her. A virtual eternity in disaster time. She was nowhere in sight.
“Damn it!” I swore as I jumped down from the SUV.
I dove into the crowd, weaving around people when I could, shoving them out of the way when I couldn’t. I felt like I was playing a life-and-death game of hot or cold, following the burning sensation in my palm and altering my course when the pain abated.
The sense that something terrible was coming increased with each passing second, urging me onward. Now, I really did wish Mari was here with me. She’d be able to come up with a fail-proof plan to track down this murderous bitch in a heartbeat, while without my old partner, I was left to fly by the seat of my pants.
I continued to shove my way through the crowd, scanning every face in hopes that it would be the one to set off the symbol on my palm. Hopelessness was just starting to settle in when I caught sight of a beige headscarf, and the pain in my hand suddenly burned hotter. I had a lock on the Nejeret.
I just hoped that by the time I caught up to her, it wasn’t too late.
The pain in my palm seared even hotter, and I took that as a good sign. I was closing in on the mystery Nejeret. She had to at least have been involved with the bombings. Why else would the amulet inked into my skin be leading me to her?
We’d yet to catch one of the Senate terrorists riddling the world with mistrust for our kind, but now that I had what had to be one in my sights, so to speak, I was determined not to lose her. I would catch this psycho, and the first moment I was able to, I would transport her back to the Heru compound on Bainbridge Island through a gateway, where she would talk. We would make her.
Then, finally, we would have some understanding as to why the Senate was so hell-bent on destroying the human world. Once we knew the reason for their genocidal purpose, hopefully then we would be able stop them. But first, I had to catch this woman.
For a fraction of a second, I caught sight of the Nejeret. She was rounding the block and disappeared behind the corner of a four-story building. I had the briefest glimpse of her before centuries-old, weathered stone and orange-brown stucco blocked my view of her.
I kicked it into high gear, pumping my arms and pushing my legs to their limit. I kept myself in good shape, but I was no sprinter, and my heart and lungs strained under the effort to run at full tilt for more than a short burst. It didn’t help that my ballet flats definitely weren’t made for running.
I reached the corner of the block maybe fifteen seconds after my quarry, but I couldn’t pick her out among the rushing streams of people fleeing from the massive sinkhole that had been swallowing up the street just moments ago. The earth still shook as the sinkhole expanded, but at least the barrier of At would protect everyone from that danger.
I slowed to a walk, breathing hard and left hand pinching my side. Eyes searching, I scoured every potential hiding spot on this side of the street. There was a long string of storefronts, each with a recessed alcove for the door into the shop or restaurant. There were any number of places where the Nejeret could have retreated, but there was only one way to find out where.
Cautiously, I made my way up the street, hugging the building’s exterior where there was a bit of a clearing allowing me to move past the stream of frantic people fleeing the area. There was no sign of the Nejeret, and for a moment, I feared I’d lost her.
But my palm still burned with that telltale warning. I shook out my hand, though it did nothing to ease the pain. Which meant she was close. I hadn’t lost her, yet.
“Ah!” a woman shouted as she burst out through the open doorway to a bakery, beige headscarf falling back from her hair. She rammed into my shoulder, knocking me off balance.
I stumbled to the side, bumped into a passerby, and spun around, only to trip over a folding sign that had been knocked over by the rush of people. I failed to catch myself and went sprawling to the ground. I grunted, my forearm scraping along the loose grit and gravel scattered over the smooth At covering the paving stones. The tiny rocks cut deep gouges, lodging into my skin.
Looked like I’d found the Nejeret. Or rather, she’d found me.
Unlike me, she was able to maintain her footing post-impact. When she saw me falling, she took advantage of the situation, taking off at a dead sprint.
“Oh, hell no,” I muttered, fumbling with the trick latch on my belt buckle. It was a new belt, a classier, more delicate version that matched my new business casual public persona, and I’d yet to master the latch.
Finally, I freed the little push dagger hidden in the buckle and rolled onto my knees. I extended one leg, planting my shoe on the ground to give myself a stead base, waited a half of a second for the perfect moment, and flung my hand out toward the Nejeret, releasing the dagger point first. I held my breath as the push dagger flew through a gap between the rushing people.
The knife hit home, burying its two-inch blade in the back of the Nejeret’s thigh.
Her hamstring seized up, and she stumbled forward, tripping over her own feet. She landed on her shoulder on the sidewalk, her long, dark hair cascading over her face. A few of the fleeing people glanced her way, but nobody stopped to check if she was alright. They were too worried about their own lives to concern themselves with the life of a stranger.
I pushed up from the ground and brushed off my hands as I closed in on the Nejeret, my long strides eating the distance between us.
She rolled partway onto her back, and pushed herself up onto her elbow. Her other hand slid into the opening of her trench coat.
I was five steps away…four…three.
She pulled out a Glock from her coat and aimed the gun straight at my face.
I froze, just a couple steps from her.
And much to my surprise, so did the Nejeret with her gun aimed at me. So did everybody else around me. And not out of fear of the gun.
The world had been muted, and time itself had stopped, holding everyone utterly immobile in that moment between moments.
Everyone but me.
I blinked, breath held. I was afraid to move. I was afraid that doing anything at all would make time restart and leave me with a nice sized hole in my head. But even as I stood there, frozen by fear, my thoughts were free to spin out of control.
Had I done this? Was this some new manifestation of my powers? Was my unique connection to the universe caused by the threads of At and anti-At marbling my ba and ramping up my magical powers now giving me control over time itself? It wasn’t inconceivable; Netjers, the species mine was partially descended from, had that power. It was the greatest, most terrifying power they had. It was the kind of power that could destroy worlds. Or a whole universe.
Not too long ago, it almost destroyed my universe.
I gulped, suddenly afraid for an entirely new reason. I certainly didn’t want that kind of power.
“Greetings, Katarina,” a familiar voice said from behind me.
I gasped and spun around.
And sure enough, there Anapa stood. The real-life inspiration for the ancient Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis, towered over the crowd of humans-turned-statues surrounding us, his angular, alien features marking him as something not of this world. As something not of this universe.
I was so stunned by his sudden appearance—he certainly knew how to make an impactful arrival—that all I could do was stare at him.
Anapa bowed his head in greeting. “I hope you are well.”
I opened my mouth, then shut it again and nodded.
“Apologies, for the interruption, but I’m afraid I need you to come with me.”
My eyebrows drew together. “Come with you?” I said, finally finding my voice. “Where?” I frowned. “Why?” I glanced over my shoulder, just to make sure the Nejeret was still frozen.
She was. And her gun was still aimed at me.
I took a quick step to the side, not willing to chance that time wouldn’t restart at any second, allowing her to blow my brains out.
Anapa clasped his hands behind his back. “You must come with me to the Netjer universe,” he said. “To stand trial.”
That's it for chapter 3! Thanks for reading! :)