As an aside before we continue… This is a post for 23 in 2013, a project detailed here. It’s my NaNoWriMo project from 2012, a year I failed to complete the 50,000 words. It’s also the first draft – there will be typos, inconsistencies, mis-named characters and all of the other things that plague a first draft. The comments are there both for you lovely readers to post words of encouragement, point out “but he said… in the last chapter, that contradicts…” and keep me straight, and for me to bash ideas around. File this one under Urban Fantasy | Edinburgh | Parallel Worlds, as they might one day say on Angry Robot.
If you missed the introduction, it’s here – come back when you’ve read it…
Chapter 1 – Welcome to Edinburgh
She is returning.
Is she Aware?
Then stop her. Delay her. Do not harm her. He would not be happy.
Stupid o’clock, Sevenoaks Station. Sarah Huntingdon was not surprised that her train was late. In fact after her alarm clock had failed to go off and her Taxi turned out to have been booked for the next day a late train was to be expected. When the taxi had arrived they’d hit every single red traffic light possible between her house and the station. She’d sprinted to the platform, ticket in hand to find the train due in about an hour following “an incident” in Tonbridge.
“Bloody hell, I could’ve driven to Edinburgh by now!”
Sarah leaned back against the platform wall, all the seats already taken by other commuters in exactly the same boat. No one even batted an eyelid at her exclamation. The wind, bitingly cold, whipped along the platforms, tugging her shoulder-length red-blonde hair loose, and she wrapped her black overcoat more tightly around her glad of the warmth of her travelling clothes – jeans, T-shirt, sensible boots. The formal wear was in her travelling case at her feet.
Predictably the train was packed when it eventually arrived but the past few years had taught Sarah the commuter’s tricks to finding comfort where and when she could on a packed train. She found a gap just big enough to accommodate her 5’6″, lean, frame, tucked herself in and put on her headphones. Only seven stops to London, a short tube journey to Kings Cross and then time to find out what train she would now be taking to Edinburgh. It had already been a long day.
Two men sat in a Cafe just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Above them, the Castle. Below them, the Palace of Holyrood. All around them, the Gormenghast jumble of buildings clinging to the side of the Castle mound. The first, Milo, is completely bald, lightly tanned, handsome enough at first glance but unsettling on closer inspection, something the observer can’t quite pin down. Maybe it’s the way his lips are slightly out of synch with his speech. His T-shirt, currently grey-green, shifts colours when no-one is looking. His right foot tapped the floor, leather boots drumming quietly. The other, Ash, across the table from him is a study in gray. His greatcoat, T-shirt, jeans and boots are all variations on gray. He’s mister urban camoflage. Grey hair topped off an average face made unusual by pale grey skin. Only his eyes have any color, flashing cobalt blue as he smiled. The third chair at their table is waiting for an occupant.
“You’d better bring me up to speed, Milo. I’ve been with Jeckyl all week here in Prime finishing the arrangements for this conference.” Ash gestured around with his left hand, the right holding a thermal mug full of black coffee. He drank. His voice is tired, worn, grey. Too little sleep, too much to do. “Stephen’s been making things interesting.”
Milo almost chokes on his tea. “Seriously? Stephen Hyde’s here? He must be crazy. The Closed Gate are offering a fortune for his head. Murdoch himself wants to perform the chop. If he weren’t such a good friend I’d be tempted to turn him in!”
Ash nodded. “I know what you mean. That amount of money could keep you in spare batteries for quite a while. But Murdoch ebing out for blood doesn’t surprise me. He’s a troll, it’s what they do. It all depends on who’s out of favour with Lady Rocksilver today. Am I still on their list?”
Milo drank more carefully. The cup doesn’t seem to touch his lips, rather it passes through them. he set the cup back on it’s saucer.
“This time it’s different. Apparently Stephen managed to break in to one of their strongrooms, stole Chapman’s Remote, used that to escape.”
Ash grinned. “That’d do it.”