Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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. . .

Bethany ducks under Bernard’s blades.

The Bernard-beast is vicious. He is also quite well-dressed. She finds herself admiring the cut of his garment as he swings invisible blades over her head.

She ducks, planning to catch those blades in the trunk of the tree she’s standing on. His blades scissor straight through the wood, instead, in a great spray of chips and bark.

“Jesus,” swears Bethany. Later, if she survives this, she will add a shilling to her Jesus jar. It’s a swear jar, shaped like Jesus. But that’s not important right now!

Sally has lost the accidental struggle. She has curled up, whining, licking her wounds (except the missing eye) beneath a tree.

Edmund is coming for Bethany.

Bernard punches as if to stab through both Bethany and several feet of wood.

Bethany falls sideways. She twists in the air. She transcends reality. She jogs a few steps downwards, reappears delicately poised one-footed on Edmund’s head, and heel-kicks his nose hard with the other.

Then she twists sideways again as Bernard descends —

Bernard follows her into non-space. His glass weapon here gleams a brutal gold. It cuts her. It tears her side open. She gapes at him and bleeds as he falls back into the world; and has only a second or so to stagger in a random direction away from him before reappearing herself.

He has guessed her place of emergence almost exactly. She loses a lock of hair. That pushes her to the decision point.

She rips the wire from her hair.

He comes at her again. She locks eyes with him. She shoves his consciousness out of the way for a second so he doesn’t cut her again, comes in at him, and wraps the wire around his neck. She pulls —

Lucy seethes up from the ground in a cloud of air and darkness. She hauls around a gunbrella to point at Bethany. It beeps, charging. Bethany can’t intend at her with two hands full of garroting the snazzily fashionable Bernard!

Edmund is getting up.

Bethany tightens the wire. Bernard’s throat begins to bleed. He thrashes —

She still can’t kill another student. She rips his hat off instead. It doesn’t come off. He’s glued it on.

“Gah!” she howls, incoherently, beats his head against the ground twice, and runs.

There is no specific jar for incoherent howls. It is a good mental practice for her to sort through such things later and figure out what swear she would have used, had she had the proper mental presence for obscenity.

She breaks Edmund’s knee fifty yards later, by which time she has a stitch in her side and Lucy’s gun is fully charged.

She drops to the ground as it fires. Lucy fires at the ground. Bethany twists desperately away from reality but she still winds up seared and aching.

She jukes the followup blast onto her shadow. She staggers up against a wall.

She is dirty, beaten, and battered.

She looks up. She looks around her. She scans for hope. There’s a gun emplacement in the bell tower, but — it’s unlikely to have tranquilizing weaponry.

This is a Lethal School.

She sights Tom Friedman, science adventurer.



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