Typeset by Windhaven Press: Editorial Services, Auburn, NH Printed in the United States of America
To Jan, with love. And to Steve's dad, who did a good job.
GET USED TO IT . . .
Jackboots walked over the kitchen floor above Jeffrey and Lucretzia, making the planking creak and sending little trickles of dust down into the cellar. To Jeffrey, the dark basement slowly took on a flat, silvery tone as Center boosted his perceptions.
The voice of Raj echoed in Jeffrey's mind: to the right of the door.
Jeffrey's hand reached out to the knob, moving with an automatic precision that seemed detached and slow. He jerked it backward, and the Land soldier stumbled through. A grid dropped down over his sight, outlining the enemy. A green dot appeared right under the angle of the man's jaw. His finger stroked the trigger, squeezing.
Crack. The soldier's head snapped sideways as if he'd been kicked by a horse. Jeffrey was turning, turning, the pistol coming up. The second soldier was leveling her rifle, but the green dot settled on her throat.
Crack. The woman fell back and writhed, blood spraying. The soldier behind her was jumping back, out of sight, almost, but the green dot settled on his leg.
Crack. A scream, as the third soldier tumbled out of sight. The grid outlined a prone figure against the planks of the entranceway, and an aiming point strobed. Jeffrey squeezed the trigger four times. But there was one more soldier, and the bark of the rifle was much deeper than Jeffrey's pistol. The nickel-jacketed bullet ricocheted, whining around the stones of the cellar like a giant lethal wasp.
Jeffrey tumbled back down the stairs, snapping open the cylinder of his revolver and shaking out the spent brass.
"Christ," Jeffrey muttered, staggering. I just killed four human beings.