Lead Balloon

She knew how to fly which was great but she also knew because The Ombudsman had told her so that sooner or later it would wear off and if she was too high or going too fast well sorry Charlie but that was all so she didn’t fly very high or very fast. Flying wasn’t as much fun when you were only poking along at ten miles an hour or fifteen at the most because at that point you were getting passed by punks like the Biker on his dweeby six-speed. It was super-frustrating since she knew she could go faster if she wanted to. One time she put on a pair of goggles and a scuba tank and clocked herself at almost 300 miles an hour well 276 to be precise but she didn’t want to be too precise like the nerds who always knew what their SAT scores were because flying was way cooler than a high SAT score except maybe it wasn’t. Meaghan’s parents bought her a motorcycle when she got a 1500 on hers and a motorcycle was maybe cooler than flying especially if you couldn’t really fly.

She kept thinking that she’d just say screw it and go out and save people from burning buildings or maybe they’d need to get a bomb out of the city before it blew up but instead she wasn’t even on the Board and every time she nerved herself up to jump off the roof of the gym she thought what if this time it doesn’t work and she ended up a smear of road pizza and how everyone would pretend like they were sad at her funeral but really they’d be laughing because how stupid would you have to be to cack it like that so she didn’t. Jump off the roof, I mean. She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Instead she just flew to the mall and stupid places like that though one time she did get Jessica’s kid brother out of a tree and that was pretty sweet especially how impressed Jessica had looked so maybe someday she’d really show them something.

George Raft’s Spinning Coins

There were two clubs in the city, one over on 44th and the other one closer to downtown. They weren’t exactly the only clubs in the city, but if you just said “the club” and didn’t modify it beyond that everyone knew what you were talking about. The club on 44th street was a dingy hole in the wall affair, which suited the neighborhood fine. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood, not anymore, but you were more likely to see broken down jalopies parked on the curb than sedans. The club on 44th was open to anybody who wanted to walk in, though few did, and even fewer were allowed to become members. A guy named Rocky Fortune ran the joint and kept his eyes peeled for new talent.

The other club was in the middle of downtown, and was very exclusive. If you weren’t their kind of people, generally speaking you couldn’t even spot the place, though the signs were big enough and garish enough for anyone with the right kind of eyesight. Even assuming you could see the club for what it was, there was still the problem of getting inside. No stairs climbed the twenty stories to its unassuming front, and no door opened in either direction. If you belonged in the club, you knew how to get inside. If you somehow made it inside despite everything and couldn’t convince any of the bouncers that you maybe ought to be on the member rolls, out you’d go again, tied hand and foot and gagged, all the way down those twenty stories, generally bouncing once or twice off the pavement before settling down and spreading out.


As it begins to kick in Polly is fascinated with how the water moves over her hands quite separate from her skin; she feels she could peel it away in one clean sheet and hold it up to the light like a piece of paper. The faint impression of a pencil across the pad, words of warning sliding across the back of her hands and into the drain.

It’s a strange feeling. She soliloquizes:

What is this wonder,
This inexpressible strangeness?

Voices come into the outer room, singing. She recognizes the tune, but the words are distorted and alien.


When it is fully upon her like a pale rider she slips the window open and leans far out into the dry air of October. Far to the north sparks are leaping up from the bonfire and she can just make out, with her augmented vision, tiny figures dancing in front of it. She leans farther forward and lets the air carry her upward.

Flying is wonderful, but she has business to tend to, and the vitamins distort her time sense. How long has passed, how long does she have? She soliloquizes:

What need has the world
Of speed of lightning,
or roar of thunder?

Low Profile

for Simon and Stephen

The good doctor was evasive about where he’d gotten the armor. “It’s spidersilk, that’s all you need to know. Lighter than regular silk, stronger than kevlar; it stops bullets, knives, breathes like it’s not there, won’t burn, keeps you warm at night, etcetera, etcetera.”

“I dunno, Doc,” said Dan, “sounds like science fiction to me. I thought nobody could get enough spidersilk together to make a washcloth, nevermind a whole set of long underwear.” He scratched the back of his neck where the hair tapered off. Wouldn’t the heat ever break?

The doctor laughed and wouldn’t look him in the eye. He was a shifty sort, but he’d saved Dan’s life, so he felt like he owed the old coot something. “Listen, my boy, don’t you worry about any of that. It’s my little secret. Hrm, yes! A special kind of new vitamin, makes the little darlings pump out silk a mile a minute. But no one will believe me, not after… after…” He trailed off and muttered into his patchy beard, slobbering at the fringe around his mouth. “Anyway, you’re going to be my proof. You’re going to be my living legend!”

“Well, maybe,” said Dan. “Doesn’t sound too bad. And the punks in this town have been getting out of hand. I’m not going to wear your longjohns and nothing else, though. That’s out. I’ve got an old army duster that I could use. If anyone asks, though, I’ll let ’em know about my magic underwear.”

The doctor capered in delight, and Dan dripped sweat and cursed the old monkey and the city equally. Wouldn’t this heat wave ever break?

Reclaimed Lands

Team One keeps the golf course in order. Really good order. You don’t mess with Team One. Take a cart off the trails, refuse to let people play through, and they’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks. They’re the first foursome off the tees in the morning, and the last one back in the evening. On the front nine they discuss policy, and on the back nine industry tittle tattle.

“Big changes on the Board,” said Mr. Eagle, on number 12 — a par 3 over a water trap.

“Oh?” said Falcon, leaning on his bag. Team One doesn’t believe in caddies — it’s not like they get tired. They take a different one out every day, though, and tip exceedingly well; it doesn’t pay to have your staff resent you. “I haven’t been following it much lately. What’s the news?”

“Fresh blood, isn’t it?” Blind Justice has the worst handicap of the four — almost twenty strokes! — but he’s held the top spot on the Board for years. “Seems I heard something about that.”

“The Biker’s taken a protege.” Mr. Eagle, true to his name, aces the hole. “Word’s going round that there might be a new team forming.”

Falcon snorted. “The Biker, phoo. No class. No style. Where’s the glitz?” Falcon’s a snob.

“Show some respect, Falcon.” The Ombudsman doesn’t play, but he likes the walk. “Team One’s a job, not a legacy. You could be replaced.”

“You can’t replace me,” screeched Falcon. “My legions of black magic zombies…!”

“Can and will,” said Mr. Eagle. “What have you done for the city lately?”