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[excerpt] Errand Girl for the Dead part 1

It all started with that swirling mass of amber silk and stupidity known as Carmo Tobin. She had brought in one of those popular wide-bodied models, complete with sidesaddle so the riders could put her legs, encased in fifteen yards of silk skirts, over the left side of the bike. That prevented the rider’s clothing from getting caught in the camshaft gears, which were in fact the issue with the bike. I’d been at it for hours, working on the gears with grease, heat and kind words. I‘d been able to make a few adjustments, but the one that would allow me to call this job done still eluded me.

That scab had sworn that all the motorbike needed was an oil change, which was the thing that burned my bum. I had thought that Prainas were smarter. Hell, they had designed ninety-five percent of the technology in Allazar, including the diagnostic app I used in the shop. I knew there was a difference between mechanics and techs; I was a water-born Deveron fresh off the ship and even I knew the difference. A first daughter of a first daughter of Praina should know the last time oil had been added to a machine.

I was running out of the magiera I had to expend to get paid, so I pushed all the clutter from my mind and focused my Sight on the engine.

The Sight is a gift of birth, not magiera. I had often wished I could use it to power my house, or my phone, or pay people as if it were magiera. Then I wouldn’t have needed the magiera power itself to use as currency.

It’s said that the first-born daughters get the most powerful magiera, the second gets the brains, and the third gets a gift like the Sight or perpetual healing, which was why having three girls was the sweet spot. I was a second daughter, but ended up with the gifts. So much for what “they” say, huh?

But it was not all that bad. As long as I had enough magiera available to power it, the Sight would course through everything, even the traces of magiera left behind by the living. The chain on the engine was transparent, except where it was connected. I concentrated on the gear and found a bright spot. I removed the gear just in front of it, then ramped up my magiera until the sounds of waves crashing filled my head—sound effects courtesy of being a water-borne Deveron.

I felt more magiera pool in my eyes with each wave crash, like water filling a bowl. Once I had the amount I needed to finish this task, I pushed a thin strand of magiera out through my fingertips to the bright spot, cutting through the oxidation and whatever else was freezing it.

“Duke!”

Mel called me through the intercom system. Melanie Rothwell owned Rothwell Rollers, the mech shop in Puthia, a city in the far south in Praina. Melanie was my landlord as well as the best—and only—friend I have here.

The lower level of Rothwell Rollers was my domain. I fixed machinery and avoided the rest of the world. It was a sparse cement box, furnished with the tools I had brought from my ship and the parts I had been able to get over the months to turn it into a Deveron workroom. No self-respecting Praina liked my workroom, and that suited me just fine.

The upper level, which housed the showroom and the front desk, was Mel’s domain. She greeted all her customers with spiced tea as she swirled her red hair and flashed her golden Praina eyes at them, laying on the charm, taking in new jobs and giving out bad news.

“Duke!”

The clang on the metal stairs meant Mel wouldn’t bother calling my name again. It sent soundwaves through my Sight; I felt the waves bounce off every solid object. If an object was powered, I could see its magiera coursing through it, allowing me to see the entire room with a magnified clarity. The cracks in the polished cement walls looked glossy and painted. The smallest tools on the bench and every raised surface on the metal stairs came into high relief from the echoes.

 

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