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«Dead Man Rising», Lilith Saintcrow

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To LI.

Peace. The charm's wound up.

Acknowledgments

This book would literally not exist without a number of people, starting with my husband, James. Without his constant support, none of this would be possible; he is far better than I deserve even on my best days. Also due for thanks are my two children, who teach me more about being human than any dry book could.

Danny Valentine and her world would not be without my agent Miriam Kriss, who has believed in me since the very first draft, and Devi Pillai at Warner, the editor every writer wishes for. Not to mention Linda Kichline, who spotted the potential in a battered manuscript and continues to be both a true friend and a stellar editor.

Thanks, also, to the ad hoc writer's community in Vancouver and online: the Write Like You Mean It group; Carolyn Rose and Mike Nettleton, networkers extraordinaire; Mel Sanders (who gets the biggest cookie); Clyde Holloway, the nicest man I know; Jefferson and Janine Davis, true friends even when I'm rude; and the Mighty F-Iist, for massaging my brain every morning.

To the music makers who feed my Muse, thank you. Especially Rob Dougan, Garbage, the Eagles, Delerium, and Frou Frou. Writing is much easier with good music.

Almost last but certainly not least, many thanks are due to Chelsea Curtis, coworker, fan, and righteous babe; and Joe «Monk» Zeutenhorst, whose grasp of technology always stuns me.

Last of all, thank you, my Readers. As always, you are who I write for. Let me thank you once again in the way we both like best: by telling you something really cool. Just settle in, turn the page, and let's get started…

Quis fallere possit amantem?

— Virgil

 

Leaving Hell is not the same as entering it.

— Tierce Japhrimel

 

Since before the Awakening, the world has been aware of the existence of psionics. And since the Parapsychic Act was signed into Hegemony law, the psionic Talents have been harnessed to provide valuable service to mankind. Who can imagine a world without Skinlin and sedayeen cooperating to find new cures for every gene-morphing virus, creating new techniques for alteration and augmentation of the human body? Who can imagine a time when the Magi did not probe the laws of magick and alternate realities, or when Ceremonials and Shamans didn't minister to the needs of believers and track criminals, not to mention provide protection for houses and corporations? Who can imagine a world without psions? The Necromance's place within this continuum is assured: The Necromance treads in that realm of mystery called Death. At hospital bedsides and in courtrooms, Necromances ease the passing of their fellow humans or provide testimony for the last wishes of the dead. An accredited Necromance's work touches the very mundane world of finance, wills, and bequests at the same time that they peer into the dry land of Death and return with absolute proof that there is an afterlife. Necromances also work in the Criminal Justice arm of the Hegemony, tracking criminals and murderers. A Necromance requires not only the talent for entering the realm of Death, but also the training and sorcerous Will to come back out of Death. This is why accreditation of Necromances is so expensive, and so harrowing for even the Academy-trained psionics whose Talent lies in Necromance.

On the flap opposite you will see several careers where an accredited Necromance can make a difference…

— Brochure, What Can Death Do For You?, printed by the Amadeus Hegemony Academy of PsionicArts

Chapter One

The cavernous maw of the warehouse was like the throat of some huge beast, and even though it was large and airy claustrophobia still tore at my throat. I swallowed, tasted copper and the wet-ratfur reek of panic. How do I talk myself into these things? "Come on, do a bounty, it's easy as one-two-three, we've done a hundred of them." Sure.

Darkness pressed close as the lights flickered. Damn corporate greed not putting proper lighting in their goddamn warehouses. The least they could have done is had the fluorescents replaced.

Then again, corporations don't plan for hunters taking down bounties in their warehouses, and my vision was a lot better than it used to be. I eased forward, soft and silent, broken-in boots touching the cracked and uneven floor. My rings glinted, swirling with steady, muted light. The Glockstryke R4 was in my left hand, my crippled right hand curled around to brace the left; it had taken me weeks to shoot left-handed with anything like my former accuracy. And why, you might ask, was I using a projectile gun when I had two perfectly good 40-watt plasguns holstered in my rig?

Because Manuel Bulgarov had taken refuge in a warehouse full of plastic barrels of reactive paint for spreading on the undersides of hovers, that's why.

Reactive paint is mostly nonvolatile—except for when a plas field interacts with it. One plasgun blast and we'd be caught in a reaction fire, and though I was a lot tougher than I used to be I didn't think I could outrun a molecular-bond-weakening burst fueled by hundreds, if not thousands, of gallons of reactive. A burst like that travels at about half the speed of light until it reaches its containment edge. Even if I could outrun or survive it, Jace certainly couldn't, and he was covering me from the other side of the T-shaped intersection of corridors faced with blue barrel after blue barrel of reactive.

Just like a goddamn bounty to hide in a warehouse full of reactive to make my day.

Jace's fair blond face was marred with blood that almost hid the thorny accreditation tat and the spreading bruise up his left cheek, he was bleeding from his shoulder too. Ending up in a bar brawl that alerted our quarry was not the way I'd wanted to do this bounty.