My editor is hard at work on the manuscript for A Place for War, and we’re still on track for a release early next month. I’m excited to get it in your hands, the early feedback has been great.
I’m making steady progress on the third Pax book – which is what brings us here today. Read on, with the prerequisite spoiler warming if you haven’t read Night’s Black Agents.
I woke up with a blindfold over my eyes, a foul-tasting rubber block between my teeth, and one hell of a headache.
For a few unnerving seconds, I struggled to recall how I’d gotten into this mess. My memories of the past few hours came back to me through a haze, my thoughts slow and murky.
I’ve been drugged, I realized. I let out a little bit of a giggle before I realized that sort of thing was nigh-impossible with something wedging your jaw open.
Pushing through the fuzz, I forced myself to remain calm and breathe through my nose. The last thing I needed to do was freak out and choke myself into unconsciousness. Focusing on my other senses, I worked my way down my body starting at the top of my head. My scalp felt bare, which didn’t make sense considering until I wrinkled my face and realized that something soft and circular circled each eye. Goggles? Whatever they were, they rendered me blind. I’d have to be more careful—a hood would have obscured any expressions I made, but as I regained more and more of my faculties, it became obvious that most of my face was bare.
I felt a similar pressure to that of my eyes around my mouth and one side of my nose. Cool air tickled my lips, and a I detected a faint, medicinal whiff from the breeze. This was a bit more confusing, until I put two and two together—I’d come awake from an unnatural sleep, and there was something blowing in a small area around my face. Is that an oxygen mask? That, or something similar, I reasoned.
There was a strange hum in the air, though everything seemed muffled. A subtle vibration in my hips, transferred through whatever I was sitting on, buzzed in time to the sound. As I puzzled it over, I swallowed, and my ears popped.
Airplane. That can’t be good.
With each passing moment, my mind was growing clearer. Memory trickled in, and it became harder not to panic. I remembered coming upon the smoldering ruin of my friend Kent’s house, and overhearing that my mother had taken Cassie. I remembered losing my cool and revealing myself to the mysterious Federal agent who’d been haunting my steps over the past few weeks. At once, I realized that there was a sore, throbbing ache in my right bicep—if I’d been drugged, it seemed likely that had been the site of the injection. I tried to reach up to rub at the pain, but straps secured both of my arms at wrist and elbow. A quick test of my legs found I was strapped at the ankles as well as mid-thigh. Whoever had put me on this plane obviously didn’t want me free to cause in trouble.
For your average Joe, that would have been all she wrote. And even though I myself am no master escape artist, Houdini himself would weep in frustration at some of the tricks up my sleeve.
My name is Paxton Locke, and I’m a wizard.
Although come to think of it, I don’t remember Gandalf, Raistlin, or Dumbledore ever getting into this sort of predicament. Perhaps it’s best to not put on airs.
I took a deep breath, gathered my focus, and…nothing.
A few days before, I’d picked up a new spell that allowed me to phase through solid matter. It’s come in pretty handy for avoiding fights and slipping through locked doors, but even though everything felt the same as it normally did when I cast a spell, nada.
Fair enough. On second thought, it was probably a good idea not to phase out on a moving airplane. I concentrated and waited for lines of applied force to slice through the bands around my wrists. Once my arms were free, I could take care of the rest of the straps and figure out where I was, and more importantly, where in the Hell I was going.
I resisted the urge to scream against the rubber block. Since I started down this career path, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time getting my ass kicked, but it has been a long time since I’ve felt powerless. I didn’t like it then, and I for sure didn’t like it now.
Just wait, I told myself. Something in the drugs—when that wears off, you’re good to go.
A sudden noise overcame the drone of airplane engines. The warbling tone sounded like some sort of alarm, and from the shouting involved, that was just what it was.
Two voices converged not far from me, the first crying out, “He’s flat-lined, get the paddles!”
I winced, wishing I could tell them, that no, I was just fine, but no one touched me. Do they have someone else in here with me?
If I wasn’t alone, this was an opportunity—if someone across from me was in the midst of a medical emergency, I doubted that much attention was being paid to me. My magic refused to cooperate. Maybe I could wriggle free?
It was a desperate plan, but something about the feel of the slab between my teeth made desperation seem the proper response. I twisted, tugging at the straps and praying for a sudden release. All I needed was one arm. A free hand and I could get my eyes uncovered, pull the damn thing out of my mouth, and fight back. The push will work.
The mind-control spell wasn’t something I liked to abuse, but it was an old, uncomfortable ally at this point. I’d never go so far as to do so, but if anyone deserved to be ordered to dance around like a fool, it was anyone who’d blindfold and gag someone on an airplane to parts unknown.
My frustrated movements must have garnered attention from another observer, because a new voice barked, “Hey! He’s waking up!”
“Shit! Put him under again!”
This time, I did scream as someone seized my left arm and jammed a needle into my
bicep. The muscle cramped, and I flailed in my restraints as a soothing cold flooded up my arm from the site of the injection. Rough hands pulled on the mask, blasting cold air and who knew what else into my nostrils.
Stay awake, I told myself. Stay awa—
The story will continue in Come, Seeling Night, available early 2019 from Silver Empire Publishing.