Read The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny Online

Authors: Simon R. Green

Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Contemporary

The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny (6 page)

BOOK: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny
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Lord Screech, on the other hand, was every inch the magnificent amateur; a man who never practised because he didn’t need to. He seemed simply to stroll into the mayhem, and men started dropping to the blood-stained ground. He moved languidly, gracefully, through the confused pack of armed men, and every time his hand shot out, there was the sound of breaking bone and cartilage, and blood flew everywhere. He moved so quickly none of the shock-and-awe troopers could even touch him.

I sat on the bonnet of the Fatemobile, cheering my colleagues on but not so loudly as to draw unwelcome attention to myself. Screech and Ms. Fate didn’t seem to need my help. Until a new pack of troopers, twice the size of the original, came racing round the corner, and charged forward to join the fight. I sighed. Given that Walker was every inch a product of the old public school system, he seemed to have great difficulty in grasping the concept of playing fair.

Screech and Ms. Fate moved quickly to stand back-to-back, surrounded by broken and bloodied figures crawling painfully about on the street. They could have run back to the safety of the Fatemobile, but that wasn’t their style. Ms. Fate was breathing hard, the leather over her fake breasts rising and falling, but her gloved hands were full of shuriken, and her cowled head was proudly erect. Screech wasn’t even breathing hard. He flicked drops of blood from the tips of his elegant fingers and glared arrogantly at the approaching troopers. But there had to be a good sixty armed men heading right for them, and the odds weren’t good.

So I got up off the bonnet, walked casually forward to join Screech and Ms. Fate, waited till the charging troopers were almost upon us, then used a variation on my bullet-removing trick to rip all the fillings, crowns and bridgework right out of their mouths. The troopers skidded to a halt, clutching at ruined, bloody mouths, making quite distressing and pitiful sounds of pain and horror. Screech and Ms. Fate looked at me inquiringly. I explained what I’d just done, and Ms. Fate got the giggles. Screech nodded approvingly, as though I was a rather backwards pupil who’d finally done something right. I stepped forward, and cleared my throat loudly to get the troopers’ attention.

“Yes,” I said cheerfully. “That was me. Now, be good little shock-and-awe troopers and trot off back to Walker, or I’ll show you another disappearing trick, involving your testicles and a series of buckets.”

They looked at each other, put away their various weapons, and trudged off to tell Walker I’d been mean to them. And probably to ask if he knew a good dentist. They looked rather sullen and sulky, as though we hadn’t played the game by refusing to be helpless victims.

“Spoil-sport,” said Ms. Fate, her breathing almost back to normal. “I was just getting warmed up.”

“That was a really nasty trick, Mr. Taylor,” said Screech. “Almost worthy of an elf.”

“Let’s get back to the car,” I said. “We need to remove ourselves from the vicinity, at speed, before Walker decides to send someone or something really dangerous after us. Those poor fools were just a shot across the bows, to get our attention.”

“And,” said Ms. Fate, “now he knows what car you’re using. So much for the element of surprise.”

We all piled back into the Fatemobile, Ms. Fate detaching her cloak and tossing it onto the back seat, where it enveloped Lord Screech. Ms. Fate slapped at various controls, the automatic seat belts did themselves up, and she gripped the ermine-covered steering wheel with her gloved hands.

“Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed!” she yelled joyously, and slammed her foot down.

The Fatemobile peeled out so fast it took a minute for its shadow to catch up, and bullied its way into the streaming traffic through sheer bravado and force of character. The acceleration pressed me back into my seat, and the sudden turns clanged my eye-balls together. Screech finally freed himself from the folds of Ms. Fate’s cape and leaned forward.

“Atomic batteries? Is she joking?”

“Who can tell?” I said. “This is the Nightside. We do things differently here.”

“You humans and your toys,” said Screech. “I think I’ll take a little nap. Wake me up when we get to the Gate.”

We shot through the Nightside at breath-taking speed, overtaking most things, intimidating others, and shouldering aside anything that didn’t get out of the way fast enough. The Fatemobile might look like a contender for Top
Most Effeminate Car of the Year Award, but it moved like a guided missile, and had enough built-in weapons systems to more than punch its weight. Ms. Fate wasn’t above using the front-mounted machine-guns to clear the way ahead if she recognised anyone she disapproved of, and she tossed a concussion grenade through the open window of a taxi-cab when the driver was rude to her. He must have been new. Anyone else would have had more sense. Or at least sense enough to maintain a safe distance. The various bars and clubs all merged into one long blur as we streaked past them, the neon signs a long multi-coloured smear. The Fatemobile’s motor roared like a beast unleashed, and there wasn’t a thing on the road that could match us.

It wasn’t until we were directed off the main road and onto the side routes that our real troubles began.

Walker had set up roadblocks at all the major intersections leading to the Osterman Gate, heavy fortifications topped with barbed wire, leaving only narrow gaps for the traffic to file through. Every barricade was manned with heavily armed and armoured shock-and-awe troopers. Only Walker would have dared interfere with the flow of traffic through the Nightside, and even he couldn’t hope to keep it up for long without risking open mayhem and madness; but it did what it was supposed to do. It forced us off the main roads and onto the lesser-known and lesser-travelled routes. Roads that took you through the darker territories, where the really wild things lived.

Ms. Fate was quickly lost and disorientated. You can’t rely on a sat-nav in a place where directions can be a matter of choice, and reality rewrites itself when you’re not looking. I concentrated on the Osterman Gate, keeping its location fixed in my mind, even as the roads twisted and turned before us. We were in the dog latitudes now, in the raw and savage parts of the Nightside that most tourists never see. Where you can find all manner of terrible things, if they don’t find you first. The traffic was just as heavy, though maybe a little faster and better armed, and Ms. Fate swore constantly under her breath as she fought to keep up with everything else. I guided her through back routes and hidden paths, forced this way and that by blocked-off exits, but always edging closer to our goal. Walker might have his traps and his barricades, and his spies on every street-corner; but I was born in the Nightside, and no-one knows its streets better than I.

We were heading through Chow Down, where we put the seriously extreme ethnic restaurants (cuisine red in tooth and claw), when Ms. Fate glanced in her rear-view mirror and made a clucking noise of disappointment.

“Take a look behind, John; we seem to have acquired unwanted suitors. Really uncouth types.”

I turned around in my seat and looked behind me. Screech gave every indication of being fast asleep, his mouth hanging slightly open. I looked past him, through the rear window, and winced. Walker had put Hell’s Neanderthals on our tail. Now, that was just mean. There were twenty of the massive, hairy creatures, riding souped-up, stripped-down, chopper motorcycles. Great muscular specimens of another kind of human, brought to the Nightside from the ancient past via some travelling Timeslip, and put to work by anyone who needed brawn untroubled by much brain. Hell’s Neanderthals were always ready to do security, body-guarding, or menace for hire, for anyone with hard cash to offer.

They wore long, flapping coats made from the tanned skins of enemies they’d defeated. And eaten. They wore Nazi helmets, lots of trashy jewellery, and a curious mixture of all the major religious symbols. They also wore lengths of steel chain wrapped around their bulky torsos, to use as flails in close combat. Their leaders had swords sheathed on their backs, and I knew from experience that they would be brutal jagged butcher’s blades. Hell’s Neanderthals don’t do subtlety.

They moved up fast behind us, their outriders lashing out with steel-tipped boots at anyone who got too close. I could hear the pack-leaders hooting and howling at each other in their prehuman language, and something in those brutal, primitive sounds made all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I must have made some kind of noise myself, because Screech’s eyes snapped open. He turned languorously to look out the rear window and pulled a face.

“And I thought humans were ugly ... Nature can be very cruel to some people. Any chance we can outrun these evolutionary disasters?”

“Not in this traffic,” said Ms. Fate. “It’s so tightly packed I can’t build up any speed, while those motor-bikes are weaving through the vehicles behind us. It’s times like this I wish I’d invested in that air-to-surface missile system I saw in
Motors of Mass Destruction
magazine. Find me an open road, John, and those creepy bastards can eat my radioactive dust, but as it is ... Prepare for boarding, chaps. And do try to keep them from chipping the paint-work ...”

“Give me a rundown on the car’s defences,” I said. “What have you got that’s new and nasty?”

“Not a lot, I’m afraid. The machine-guns, of course, but only at the front ... The grenade launchers and the nerve-gas dispensers really need refilling; you know how expensive they are to maintain ... And a few other bits and bobs, but that’s basically it. I’m a street fighter, John; I don’t really do that whole
death from afar
thing. I’ve always prided myself on being an old-fashioned hands-on sort of girl, dispensing personal beatings to bad guys.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do?” I said.

“Oh sure! I’ll put on some Evanescence; that should put us in the right mood.”

As the music blasted from the in-car speakers, I remembered why I only ever called on Ms. Fate for transport when there was no-one else available.

A motorcycle’s roar contended fiercely with the music as a Hell’s Neanderthal pulled up alongside. He matched his bike’s speed to the car’s and grinned nastily at me through my side window, showing off brutal yellow fangs. He came in really close, reaching for the length of steel chain wrapped around his barrel chest, and I slammed open the side-door with all my strength behind it. The door rammed into the Neanderthal, and he suddenly disappeared sideways as his bike overturned, leaving him hooting loudly in surprise and pain as the road came up terribly fast to meet him. I looked back as he shot back down the road under his bike, in a shower of sparks and spurting blood, then his cries were cut off as his own people rode right over him. They came howling after us, waving their steel chains in circles above their heads.

One of them pressed in close, right on the Fatemobile’s bumper, and Ms. Fate slammed on the brakes. The other bikers sped past us, caught by surprise, but the rider behind couldn’t react quickly enough, and his front wheel connected with the rear bumper. The bike kicked and dug in, and threw the Neanderthal violently forward over the handle-bars and onto the car’s boot. He clung fiercely to one of the pink tail fins, his bandy legs dangling behind in the slip-stream, then he pulled himself forward and up onto the roof, hooting and howling wildly. A jagged steel blade punched down through the roof, the long blade narrowly missing Screech. The elf grabbed the blade with one bare hand and snapped it off, leaving the Neanderthal nothing but the hilt. He jumped forward onto the bonnet, whirled around, and showed us his blocky teeth in a nasty grin. And while he was busy feeling proud of himself, Ms. Fate hit the brakes hard again, and the rather-surprised-looking Neanderthal was thrown tit over arse off the bonnet and onto the road, where we ran over him.

Up ahead, the other Hell’s Neanderthals had turned themselves around and were now roaring back, weaving in and out of the approaching traffic while waving their various weapons in the air. Ms. Fate opened up with the forward-mounted machine-guns and mowed them down. The night was full of the sounds of gunfire, and the road was full of blazing motor-bikes and dead Neanderthals. Eventually, Ms. Fate ran out of targets, so she shut the guns down and cruised on in quiet satisfaction.

“What depressingly stupid creatures,” she said, after a while.

“Evolution is wasted on some people,” Screech said solemnly.

“Oh ... shit,” said Ms. Fate.

“What? What?” I said.

I looked back again; even more Hell’s Neanderthals were coming. Walker must have press-ganged every rogue Neanderthal in the Nightside. I counted forty before I gave up, and more were joining the chase all the time. I was beginning to grow somewhat annoyed with Walker. Time to show him what I could do when I really got annoyed and put my mind to it. I concentrated, firing up my special gift. My inner eye slowly opened, my third eye, my private eye; and my gift made clear to me all the things that could go wrong with a motorcycle. And then it was the easiest thing in the world to reach out, find what was nearly wrong with each motorcycle, and push them all over the edge.

BOOK: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny
8.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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