Huntress (Chapter 15)

Jez recognized them immediately-not the individuals, but the type. They were 'wolves, and they were

thugs. Somebody's hired muscle.

She didn't have her stick, but she didn't need it. She could feel a dangerous smile come to her lips; part

anticipation and part sheer fury. Suddenly she wasn't tired, wasn't sore, wasn't anything but perfectly in

tune with her body and dying to use it as a weapon.

She launched herself like a streak of red lightning, passing Claire easily and knocking the human girl flat

before landing in front of the 'wolves. A guy and a girl. They snapped to attention in front of her, each

dropping into a fighting stance.

Behind her, she could hear Claire say, "Ow."

"Good morning and welcome to the Bay Area,"

Jez told the 'wolves; then she snap-kicked the girl in the face.

The girl flew backward. She wasn't out of commission, but it had wrecked the joint attack they had been

about to make. The guy knew this, but he was a wolf, so instead of waiting for his partner to recover, he

growled and threw himself at Jez.

Oh, Goddess, this is too easy. As he drove a punch at her face, Jez turned sideways and let his fist

whistle past her. Then she threw her left arm "* around his left hip, holding him in what was almost an

embrace. A deadly one, though. At the same instant she slammed her left hand up to his chin, striking

with enough force to stun him.

He staggered in her arms, snarling. Bristly hairs erupted on his face.

"Sweet dreams, Fido," Jez said. She hooked her left leg around his right just below the knee and brought

him crashing to the platform. His head hit the concrete and he went limp.

Somewhere behind Jez, a sort of thin shrieking had begun. Claire. Jez ignored it, and ignored the two or

three people scrambling for the stairs- avoiding the down escalator because it was right beside Jez. She

was focused on the female werewolf, who was back on her feet.

"Do yourself a favor and don't even try anything," she said, grinning. "You're way outclassed."

The girl, who had reddish-brown hair and a feral expression, didn't answer. She simply showed her teeth

and lunged for Jez.

With both hands reaching for Jez's face. You'd think they would learn, Jez. thought. Especially after what

just happened.

Even as she was thinking it, her body was making the right moves. She grabbed the girl's leading arm

with both hands, then twisted, pulling her off balance. She took the girl down with a pull drop, flipping her

to the platform. As soon as the girl was flat Jez locked the arm she still held and began to apply leverage

against the elbow joint.

"Don't move or I'll break your elbow," she said pleasantly. The girl was writhing in pain, spitting and

struggling and hurting herself worse.

Absently, Jez noticed that Claire had stopped shrieking. She glanced up to make sure her cousin was all

right and saw that Claire was on her feet, staring openmouthed. Jez gave her a reassuring nod.

Then she looked back at the female 'wolf. Now that the fight was over she had the leisure to wonder

what was going on. There were plenty of people who might want to kill her, but she couldn't think of any

reason for them to target Claire. And they had been targeting her; Jez was sure of that.

This was no random thing. This was two 'wolves attacking a human right in public, in front of witnesses,

as if they didn't care who saw them. This was something planned, something important.

She gave the girl's arm a little twist, and the girl snarled wildly, glaring at Jez with reddish eyes full of

animal fury and hatred.

"Okay, you know what I want," Jez said. 'I need answers, and I don't have much time. What are you

doing here? Who sent you? And why do you want her?" She jerked her head toward Claire.

The girl just glared harder. Jez applied more pressure.

"Look, I can make time for this if I need to. I can do this all day. After I break this elbow I'll do the

other one. And then I'll break your ribs, and then your kneecaps-"

"Filthy halfbreed scum," the werewolf snarled.

Jez's heart gave an odd lurch.

She tried to quiet it Well, now, that was interesting. Somebody obviously knew her secret. And since

they'd been going for Claire, they knew Claire was connected with her….

They knew about her family.

Jez saw white light. She threw sudden pressure against the 'wolfs elbow joint. The girl screamed, a

sound more of anger than of pain.

"Who hired you?" Jez said softly, each word coming out like a chip of ice. "Who sent you after my


She stared into the reddish eyes, trying to reach into the girl's soul and yank an answer out of her.

"Nobody messes with my family," she whispered. "Whoever sent you is going to be sorry."

She couldn't ever remember feeling so angry. And she was so focused on the girl, so intent, that it wasn't

until Claire screamed that she realized someone was approaching behind her.

"Jez, watch out!"

The yell woke Jez up. Without releasing her hold on the female 'wolf, she turned around-just in

time to see a male vampire stalking her. He must have come up the down escalator.

And behind him, unbelievably, was Claire, running and getting ready for a flying tackle.

"Claire, don't!" Jez yelled. She struck the female 'wolf once, with deadly accuracy, on the side of the jaw

to knock her out. Then she sprang toward the vampire.

But Claire was already grabbing him-a completely futile and foolish gesture. He whipped around and

seized a handful of dark hair, and then he was holding Claire in a choke hold, putting her body between

him and Jez.

"One more step and I'll break her neck," he warned.

Jez skidded to a stop.

"You let go of my cousin," she spat.

"No, I really think we need to talk first," he said, the beginnings of an ugly grin on his face. "You're the

one who's going to give answers-"

Jez kicked him.

A roundhouse kick to his knees while he was busy talking. She didn't worry about keeping it nonlethal.

She only cared about breaking his hold on Claire.-

It worked. He lost his grip, stumbling sideways. Jez grabbed Claire and thrust her out of the way,

shouting "Run! The escalator's right there!"

But Claire didn't run. "I want to help you!"

"Idiot!" Jez didn't have time to say that Claire couldn't help her; could only hurt her. The vampire

had recovered and was moving toward her in fighting position.

He was big, probably over two hundred pounds. And he was a full vampire, which gave him the

advantage of strength and speed. And he was smarter than the 'wolves; he wasn't just going to lunge.

And Jez didn't have a weapon.

"Just keep behind me, okay?" she snarled under her breath to Claire.

The vampire grinned at that. He knew Jez was vulnerable. She was going to have to keep half her

attention on protecting Claire.

And then, just as he was about to make an attack, Jez heard the smack of footsteps on concrete.

Running footsteps, with a weird little hesitation between them, like somebody with a limp….

She flashed a look toward the stairs. Hugh had just rounded the top. He was out of breath and bleeding

from cuts on his face. But as soon as he saw her and the vampire he waved his arms and yelled.

"Hey! Ugly Undead! Your friend missed me! You want to have a try?"

Hugh? Jez thought in disbelief. Fighting?

"Come on, hey; I'm here; I'm easy." Hugh was hopping toward the vampire, who was also flashing looks

at him, trying to assess this new danger while not taking his focus off Jez.

"You want to go a few rounds?" Hugh dropped into a boxer's pose, throwing punches at the air. "Huh?

You want to try for the title?" All the time

he was speaking, he was dancing closer to the vampire, circling to get behind him.

Beautiful, Jez thought. All she needed was for the vampire to shift his attention for one second-just to

glance behind him once-and she could kick his face in.

It didn't work that way. Something went wrong.

The vampire tried to glance behind him. Jez saw her chance and made the kick, a high kick that snapped

his head back. But somehow instead of falling backward the vampire managed to blunder forward

straight at her. She could easily have gotten away-except for Claire.

Claire had obediently kept behind her-even when behind her meant standing right by the BART tracks,

on the yellow metal squares that marked the edge of the platform. Now, as the vampire stumbled

forward and Jez began to slide out of the way, she heard Claire gasp, felt Claire clutch at her wildly.

She knew what had happened instantly. Claire had tried to run the wrong way and was teetering on the

edge of the platform. More, she was taking Jez with her.

There was a distant rumble like thunder.

Jez knew she could save herself-by getting rid of Claire. She could use Claire's body as a springboard to

propel herself away from the drop. That way, only one of them would die.

Instead, she tried to twist and throw Claire away from her, toward safety. It didn't work. They both lost

their balance. Jez had the strange, surprised

feeling one gets in the middle of a fell-where's the ground?-and then she hit it

It was a bad fell because she was tangled with Claire. All Jez could do was try to keep Claire* away

from the third rail on the far side of the track. The impact winded both of them and Jez saw stars.

She could hear Hugh screaming her name. The distant thunder had become a roaring, whizzing sound,

carried through the tracks underneath Jez. Down here, she could feel a rattling that wasn't audible from

above. It was a noise that filled her head and shook her body.

She knew absolutely, in that instant, that they were going to die.

Both of them. Crushed to pieces under the train. The white dragon would run right over them and not

even know it.

There was simply no chance. Claire was clinging to her desperately, clawing Jez's arms hard enough to

draw blood, and gasping in the breath for a scream. And even if Jez had been a full vampire, she couldn't

have lifted Claire the four feet to the platform fast enough.

There was nothing to save them, no hope. No rescue. It was over.

All of this flashed through Jez's mind in the single instant it took her to look up and see the train bearing

down on them. Its sleek white nose was only thirty feet away, and it was braking, but nowhere near fast

enough, and this was it, the actual moment of her death, the last thoughts she would

ever think, and the last thing she would ever see was white, white, white-


It happened all at once, filling her vision. One second she could see clearly, the next the entire world was

blue. Not just blue. Fiery, dazzling, lightning-shot blue. Like being inside some sort of science-fiction

special effect. There was blue streaming and crackling and sizzling all around her, a cocoon of blue that

enfolded her and shot past her and disappeared somewhere ahead. |

I'm dead, Jez thought. So this is what it's like. Completely different from what people say.

Then she realized that she could hear a faint shrieking sound beneath her. It was Claire. They were still

holding on to each other.

We're both dead. Or we've fallen into some kind of space warp. The rest of the world is gone. There's


She had an impulse to touch the blue stuff, but she couldn't move because of Claire's grip on her arms. It

might not have been safe anyway. Where it flowed over her, she could feel a sort of zinging and tingling

as if all her blood were being excited. It smelled like the air after a storm.

And then it disappeared.

All at once. Not by stages. But it still took Jez several moments to see anything, because her eyes were

blinded with dark yellow after-images. They burned and danced in front of her like a new kind of

lightning, and she only gradually realized where she was.

On the train tracks. Exactly where she had been before. Except that now there was a huge, sleek BART

train two feet in front of her.

She had to tilt her head to look up at its nose? It was gigantic from this angle, a monster of white, like the

iceberg that sank the Titanic. And it was stopped dead, looking as if it had always been here, like some

mountainous landmark. As if it had never moved an inch in its history.

People were yelling.

Shrieking and yowling and making all kinds of noise. It seemed to come from far away, but when Jez

looked she could see them staring down at her. They were at the edge of the platform, waving their arms

hysterically. As Jez stared back at them, a couple jumped down to the tracks.

Jez looked down at her cousin.

Claire was dragging in huge breaths, hyperventilating, her whole body shaking in spasms. She was

staring at the train that loomed over them with eyes that showed white all around.

A loudspeaker was booming. One of the people who had jumped, a man in a security guard's uniform,

was jabbering at Jez. She couldn't understand a word he was saying.

"Claire, we've got to go now."

Her cousin just whooped in air, sobbing.

"Claire, we have to go now. Come on." Jez's whole body felt light and strange, and when she tried to

move she felt as if she were floating. But she could move. She stood up and pulled Claire with her.

She realized that somebody was calling her name.

It was the other person who had jumped to the tracks. It was Hugh. He was reaching for her. His gray

eyes were as wide as Claire's, but not wide and hysterical. Wide and still. He was the only calm person

in the crowd, beside Jez.

"Come on. Up this way," he said.

He helped her boost Claire to the platform, and then Jez scrambled up and reached down to help him.

When they were all up, Jez glanced around. She knew she was looking for something-yes. There. The

werewolves she'd knocked out. It seemed a hundred years ago, but they were still lying there.

"The other guy got away," Hugh said.

"Then we have to get out of here fast." Jez heard her own voice, sounding quiet and faraway. But she

was beginning to feel more attached to her body. Hugh was guiding Claire toward the escalator. Jez got

on the other side of Claire, and they both helped keep her on her feet.

The security guy was behind them, yelling. Jez still couldn't understand him and ignored him completely.

When they reached the lower level, she and Hugh began to walk faster, pulling Claire along with them.

They shoved Claire through the handicapped gate by the ticket window and vaulted over themselves.

From down here, Jez could see that the train was smoking all along its bottom. White smoke that sizzled

up into the muggy air.

"We can't go on the street," Hugh said. "They've got cars out there."

"The garage," Jez said.

They both headed for it, a multi-story brick building that looked dark and cool inside. They were almost

running with Claire, now, and they didn't stop until they were deep within the bowels of the garage, with

emptiness echoing all around them.

Then Jez sagged against a brick pillar. Hugh bent over with his hands on his knees. Claire simply folded

to the ground like a marionette with all its strings cut.

Jez let herself breathe for a few minutes, let her brain settle down, before slowly lowering herself beside

her cousin.

They all looked as if they'd been in an accident. Hugh's shirt was ripped and there was drying blood all

down one side of his face. Claire's hair was wildly disheveled, and there were scrapes and small cuts on

her face and arms. Jez herself had lost a lot of skin to the tracks, and her forearms were bleeding where

Claire had scratched her.

But they were alive. Beyond all hope, they were alive.

Claire looked up just then to find Jez gazing at her. They sat for several moments simply staring into each

other's eyes. Then Jez reached out to touch her cousin's cheek.

"It was you," she whispered. "All that time-and it was you."

She looked up at Hugh and began to laugh.

He looked back, his face pale in the semi-darkness. He shook his head and began to laugh, too, but


"Oh, Goddess," he said. "I thought you were dead, there, Jez. I thought I'd lost you."

"Not while she's around, apparently," Jez said, and laughed harder. She was slightly hysterical, but she

didn't care.

Hugh's laughter sounded a little like crying. "I saw that train-and there was no way it was going to stop in

time. And then-that light. It just shot out-and the train hit it. It was like a physical thing. Like a giant

cushion. The train hit it and it squashed and the train went slower and then it kept squashing-"

Jez stopped laughing. "I wonder if the people on the train got hurt."

"I don't know." Hugh was sober now, too. "They must've gotten thrown around. It stopped so fast. But

it didn't smash. They're probably okay."

"I just-from the inside, it looked like lightning-"

"From the outside, too. I didn't imagine it would look like that-"

"I didn't know it would be so powerful. And, think about it; she's untrained-"

There they were, an Old Soul and a vampire hunter who'd seen everything the streets had to offer,

babbling like a couple of kids.

It was Claire who stopped them. She had been looking from one of them to the other, getting more and

more agitated. Now she grabbed Jez's arm.

"What are you guys talking about?"

Jez turned to her. She glanced at Hugh, then spoke gently.

"We're talking about you, Claire. You're the Wild Power."