Page 51

"Oh. Right. What do we do?"

"I need mist," I said. "A bunch of it. Gimme."

"Oh, ow, I don't know Harry. I'd have to move an awful lot of fire to give you even a little. You know that's not my thing."

"It doesn't have to be real mist," I said.

"Oh!" Molly called. "That is exactly my thing!"


"Fuck!" Thomas snarled. I looked up to see him stagger, holding on to the boat's wheel with his right hand, his face twisted in pain. He'd taken a bullet in his left arm, just above the elbow, and he held it clenched in tight against his body, teeth bared. Slightly too pale blood trickled down his elbow and dribbled to the deck. "Plan B, Harry! Where the hell is plan B?!"

"Go, go, go!" I told Molly.

My apprentice closed her eyes and clenched her fists. I saw her focus, felt the slight stirring in the air as she gathered her will and power. Then she moved her hands in a complicated little gesture, whispering something. She continued making the gesture, and I realized that the motion was duplicating that of weaving three lines into a braid.

From between her fingers a thick white mist began to appear. First it came as a trickle, but as I watched it thickened to a stream. Then Molly bowed her head in concentration and muttered words beneath her breath, and a sudden plume of white mist bigger than the Water Beetle itself began jetting from her hands and spreading out to blanket the surface of the water over the boat's wake, shutting the pursuing Sidhe away from view.

For a long minute we raced across the water, a wall of white mist spreading out to cover our wake. The enemy fire continued for a few seconds, but then dropped off to nothing. Hell, if we could keep this up, maybe we could make it back to shore without doing anything more. I checked Molly. Her face was pale, twisted into a grimace of concentration, and already the plume of illusory mist was beginning to wane. Mist isn't a hard illusion to pull off, and it's usually the first thing an apprentice learns to do with that kind of magic, but Molly was spreading the illusion out over an enormous area, and brute-force approaches were not her strong point in magic. We wouldn't make it back to shore that way.

Fine, then.

"Thomas!" I shouted. "Throttle down! Let them catch up to us and then gun it!"

Thomas slowed the boat abruptly, and the sound of screaming Jet Ski engines rose up over the Water Beetle's motor, growing higher-pitched as they approached.

"Molly, drop it on my signal!"

"'Kay," she gasped.

My brother stood at the wheel with his eyes closed, focused intently on the sound. Then, abruptly, he gunned the Water Beetle's engines again.

"Molly, now!"

Molly let out a groan and the illusionary cloud of white mist vanished as if it had never existed.

The formation of oncoming Jet Skis was only about fifty yards away, charging hard after us over the water, and they were moving so much more swiftly than us that within seconds they were almost on top of the Water Beetle. Jet Skis started swerving left and right to avoid a collision with our boat.

All except for the Redcap. He was guiding the Jet Ski with one hand and held a military carbine in the other. His eyes widened as the vehicle rushed closer, but rather than swerving to one side, he broke out into a wild smile, swung the gun around to point toward me, and accelerated.

Before he could shoot, I unleashed my gathered will into a burst of completely unfocused magical energy, shouting, "Hexus!"

I think I mentioned before how technology doesn't get along with wizards. Put any kind of intricate machine in a wizard's presence, and suddenly everything that might go wrong with the machine does go wrong. And that's when we're not even trying to make it happen. Electronics generally get hit the hardest, like poor Butters's computers, but that particular law of magical forces is good across the spectrum.

Jet Skis, especially the brand-new ones, are intricate machines. They focus tremendous power and energy into a tiny space, and their systems are regulated by little computers and so on. They're a gathering of tiny, nearly continuous explosions in a box, moving water under intense pressure-and a world of things can go wrong with them.

The Redcap's Jet Ski suffered an abrupt, catastrophic engine failure. There was a hideous sound of tearing metal, a flash of flame, and the handlebar twisted abruptly from his hands. The Jet Ski's nose plunged down into the water, flinging the Redcap off of it at full speed. He'd been doing maybe sixty when I hit him, and he skipped twice across the water's surface before he slammed into a swell from the Water Beetle's wake and vanished under the surface.

Thomas, meanwhile, had seized another opportunity. As the Jet Skis split off to swing around us, he whirled the steering wheel, turning the Water Beetle sharply to her left. I heard one scream, and a crunching sound accompanied by a heavy reverberation in the deck beneath my feet as a Jet Ski slammed into our boat's nose-with results very similar to a deer slamming into a speeding semi.

"Hexus!" Molly shouted from where she was crouched on the deck. Her aim was good, even if her hex wouldn't carry the same kind of raw power mine did. The Jet Ski Thomas had missed suddenly began billowing smoke, and its roaring engine cut away to a gasping, labored rattle.

I spun to face the other direction, pitching another hex at the two Jet Skis passing on the far side of the ship. They were at the edge of my range and racing away, so my hex didn't convince their engines to tear themselves apart, the way the short-range, focused curse had the Redcap's vehicle-but one of the Jet Skis abruptly began coasting to a stop, and the other took a sharp right turn and then simply went on turning in a furious, continuous circle.

Thomas opened up the throttle all the way, and the Water Beetle left the lamed flotilla of would-be assassins bobbing in her wake.

I didn't relax until I'd swept the ship's exterior with my eyes and magical senses alike to make sure no one was hanging on to a rail or something. Then, just to be certain, I double-checked the cabin and hold, until I was certain that no one had infiltrated the boat in the chaos.

And then I sank down in relief on a chair in the cabin. But only for a second. Then I grabbed the first-aid kit and went up to the bridge to see to Thomas.

Molly was sprawled on the deck in the morning sunshine, exhausted from her efforts, and obviously asleep. She snored a little. I stepped over her and went up to my brother. He saw me and grunted. "We should be pulling into port in another fifteen minutes," he said. "I think we're clear."

"That won't last," I said. "How's your arm?"