The six months between her visits were enough to let Tom forget why they'd gotten divorced, and the week he spent with her always made him more than happy they had split up.

'What about Valerie or Tark?'

Another shake. 'Val's great, but she's a decker and doesn't like guns. Plutarch is still nursing the chest shot he took in the Night of Fire. His ork chummers are reluctant to put him in the line of fire for something that doesn't directly benefit them, so he's out.' Stealth forced himself to give an especially broad smile. 'I did leave a message for Raven in case he gets back, and I decided not to call La Plante to tell him we were coming.'

I exaggerated a sigh. 'Thank God for small miracles.' His grin became purely evil. 'It gives us the element of surprise.'

That and an army division might get us in. Divine intervention and an army division might get us back out again.

Stealth tossed me the key ring from the top of my dresser. 'You're driving.'

'Guess again, Stealth.' I shook my head and batted the flying keys onto the bed with my hand. 'The Fenris is brand new and I still remember what you did to the upholstery in the Mustang IV.'

Stealth squatted down in that peculiar way only he can, but didn't look the least bit contrite. 'I'll be careful.' Balancing on his left foot, he extended his right leg and plucked the keys off the bed with his claws. 'Besides, you have that new radarbane paint job and a sunroof.'

I took the keys from his foot's titanium talons and suppressed a whole-body shudder. In that ten minutes at the bottom of the ocean, Stealth could only see one thing to do-aside from dying, that is. He'd used his belt and shirt to tie tourniquets around both of his legs above the knees. Then he pulled some plastique from a compartment in his left arm and created some very small shaped charges, which he fastened to his own legs. He set them off and managed to make it to shore.

Raven found him and kept him alive. Both of Stealth's legs were gone from the knees down. He'd taken lots of other damage-his left arm showed scarring from a shark hit-but he refused to die or surrender to the depression that would have swallowed anyone else. Though he never said much during that time-or since-I knew it was his hatred for La Plante that kept him alive, and his awe of Dr. Raven that kept the rest of us alive.

Stealth had worked with Raven to design himself a new pair of legs. The original humanoid design was abandoned when Stealth located a better one while scanning some chips on animal biology. Wearing an expression I've only seen on the faces of lottery winners or the criminally insane, he pointed it out to me. 'Deinony-chus,' he said, reverently chanting the word like a mantra. 'Terrible claw.'

It took some convincing, but he prevailed on Raven to help him. Human thighs grafted down into titanium shins and feet. Birdlike in construction, his new legs featured the elongated foot bones that made it look as if his leg had an extra joint. Each foot had a dew claw and three toes-the innermost of which was truly a thing to behold. Both stronger and larger than the other two, it had a huge sickle-shaped claw that pulled back toward the ankle while Stealth ran. It turned funny-looking legs into razorhook-equipped limbs capable of slicing through foes and, in Stealth's case, let him climb incredibly sheer walls like a fly on a pane of glass4.

No, he hadn't ripped up the upholstery in my Mustang.

The claws just dripped blood all over it.

I tied some rubber-soled black shoes on my street-legal feet, cocked the Viper, and stowed it in my pants at the small of my back, then followed Stealth out to my living room. He leaned over the back of the couch, then turned and handed me my MP-9 submachine gun5and a satchel bulging with clips. I felt the weight of the ammo pouch, then shook my head. 'Planning quite the little war, aren't we?'

He shrugged. 'We'll have surprise, but I don't know for how long.' He pointed at the satchel. 'I handloaded your silver bullets, but I used mercury in them instead

4Raven did insist on making Stealth a pair of normal legs, so I know he can swap the nightmare pair out for regular legs whenever he wants. I've never seen him when he's wanted to-or, he's never let me see him when he was running around on normal feet. That ability to go unnoticed, given his trade, is a useful one.

5Stealth would prefer it if I would get a 'real' submachine gun instead of this HK antique. I think he thinks my weapon choice reflects badly on him. Of course, since he's Kid Stealth, if anyone did think less of him for it, they wouldn't say anything-at least, not in public, and not for long. of silver nitrate. I wanted to try a silver-nitrate suspension in a gelatin of my own manufacture that approaches the viscosity of mercury, but I couldn't finish it this quickly. I also boosted the powder up to six full grains so your bullet will have the velocity you need to make a mess of the target. I hope you don't mind.'

I felt an odd chill run down my spine. I realized he was speaking about loading bullets for maximum effect in the same voice my mechanic used to describe tuning the Fenris' twelve-cylinder engine. I headed for the door as Stealth shouldered his Kalashnikov6, carefully avoiding any bump or jarring to the boxy rangefinder mounted on the barrel. When activated the laser would send out an invisible, ultraviolet beam that would paint a dot on the chest or head of a target. With his eye, Stealth just locates the dot, then pulls the trigger and puts a bullet through it.

I let him precede me from the apartment and locked it. As we worked our way down to the basement garage, Stealth paused on the second-story landing and stared at the door to 2D. 'You've got strange neighbors, Wolf…'

I shrugged. 'The Blavatskys have hired a tutor.'

Stealth's eyes grew wide. 'They have tutors for that stuff?'

I waved him forward. 'Get your mind out of the gutter. I think it has something to do with the new math.'

Stealth remained silent until we reached the basement and stripped the cover off my Fenris' body. The sleek vehicle lacked the sharp angles and lines of a Porsche Mako or a Ford Astarte, but it still looked as though it were moving at Mach 1 while standing still. The flat black finish absorbed the garage's meager light and flashed none of it back. The Fenris might as well have been built out of shadow, so well did the radarbane

6Frankly, I think he could do better than an AK-97, but he's jazzed that baby up so it does everything shy of cooking hot meals for him. coating Raven had given it prevent the reflection of electromagnetic radiation.

I unlocked it and climbed into the driver's side as Stealth folded himself up and dropped into the passenger seat. I slid the MP-9 into the door holster on my side. Stealth laid his Kalashnikov gently in the area behind our seats and produced an ugly little Ceska Black Scorpion machine pistol to use if we ran into early resistance.

I reached over to punch in the ignition commands, but Stealth wrapped his metal hand around my right wrist before I could do so. I looked over at him and frowned. 'You should have gone when we were upstairs…'

That got to even him and his fierce expression lightened for all of a nanosecond. 'We might run into some difficulty before we get there.' His eyes shut for a second, then popped open again. 'There, I'm geared up for anything now. Don't you think you better do your stuff?'

I hesitated. Kid Stealth, being an amalgam of all the best technology money could buy, prepared himself for combat by opening circuits and running diagnostic programs mated with his brain. In literally the blink of an eye he went from being an abnormally vigilant and quick-reacting individual to someone who could move faster and accomplish more in a single heartbeat than even most other augmented people. He was that good- probably the best-and going from idle to overdrive was nothing but a change of perceptions for him.

Me, well, I'm not augmented in a mechanistic way. Growing up in the Seattle sprawl of gray canyons and trash-strewn alleys, I never had the resources for even the most basic of modifications. In a day and age when almost any street tough has razor-claws that pop from under his fingernails on command, or an eye that can see in the dark, I was left to what the gods, in their perversity, had given me at birth. In a world where Man- The- Tool-Maker took great delight in making himself into Man-The-Tool, I was consigned to the slender side of natural selection known as extinction.

I had nothing.

Then I'd discovered the magic.

Actually, the magic discovered me. From the time of puberty, in which the monster inside me festered and grew, to the day I met Richard Raven and gained control over it, my life was indescribably interesting. Street toughs learned quickly that he who assaulted me during daylight hours would end up a bloody smear along an alley at night. Those who lived-the majority, in fact- gave me wide berth, which made life a bit easier; but the blank times of which I remembered nothing made it a living hell.

I gave Stealth a hard stare. 'I don't like driving jazzed.'

Stealth shrugged philosophically. 'You might not get the chance later.'

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