Guns were blazing in the room behind me as I stepped into the elevator and pressed the topmost button. Benedict had passed the line and was going to pay.
Riding the high-speed elevator up, I trumped Anna.
"Anna? You have a cell phone?"
"Good. Come over here." I pulled her over without waiting for her response. "Most of the citizens of Hong Kong will already have voted. Find out where their slips are kept."
"Yes, Furio-tono." She started dialing on her phone.
I trumped Brand.
I was not pestered by Brand's trump answering machine. He answered immediately. "Ah, Keiko. What can I do for you?"
"Brand. Benedict has attempted to knock out both polling places in central Hong Kong. This city needs a fair election. Are you with me?"
"I may need your help in this."
Brand hesitated only a moment. "I will send Steve to help you."
"Steve! Excellent. Just the man I wanted. We may need to ascertain that the gathered voting slips are authentic." I helped Steve through to me and thanked Brand.
I introduced Steve to the situation. He pointed out to me that someone was falling out of a (shattered) window on the floor I had left behind. As we watched, someone disappeared with a flash just before hitting the ground.
The elevator opened up to the penthouse on the top floor of Bank of Hong Kong. I went out onto the terrace overlooking the mainland.
"Anna. How are we doing?" She had been furiously talking to various people on her cell phone. She signed to hold on.
"We need to get the current mayor to sanction us."
Steve looked out across the city in the early evening. The streets were on fire with the battle between the setting sun and the neon signs. "I'll go fetch him."
"You do that."
He jumped off the terrace and fell about halfway before opening his umbrella to break his fall. A taxi pulled up and stood ready to accept him as he landed.
"The slips are at this moment being taken by two lorries to a warehouse in Kow Loon. Foo Deliveries are handling the transport. I would say that they are somewhere on -" she came over to the terrace and pointed "- that street."
"Good. Let's go." I scooped her up into my kimono and blew across town, down along the street and towards the two lorries. I vaulted in front of the foremost lorry as it pulled into a side street and set Anna down beside me.
The driver breaked hard. I stepped aside and cleaned out the cabin by slamming the closest door out through the far door as the lorry passed through. Anna took care of the second lorry.
I opened the first lorry and broke one of the boxes inside. It contained voting slips. I took one in my hand and felt its ki. Then another, and another. They all had different ki imprint from their voters. Yes, they were the real article. And the volume seemed right, too. I jumped onto the second lorry which were standing halfway into the alley.
"Anna. Call all the media." She picked up her cell phone and started dialling.
I trumped Brand. "Would you help me count a few million voting slips?"
"Certainly. I'll be right over."
Two cars pulled up alongside. Anna's mooks spilled out - wearing immaculate black pinstripe suits with crimson shirts and golden button. Perfectly colour-coordinated with Anna's crimson skirt, golden jacket and pinstriped scarf. They secured the area, moved the lorry out of the way and made sure the traffic flowed well.
The reporters started arriving. I gathered them around me and told them all I know of the incident: Benedict's involvement, how he had employed me to take out one polling place, while he had occupied the other and how he had opened fire on Eric, Corwin, Rhiannon and the rest. In the middle of my explanation a bunch of Benedict's mooks came along and looked like they wanted to pick a fight. I went over and made sure they went away quietly.
Brand had counted all the little slips and announced that there was a very slight lead for Corwin. I made sure the press got that, we turned over the lorries to the police and went home.
My image of what actually occured in the polling place is somewhat diffuse, but it ended up with both Rhiannon and Eric in hospital, apparently seriously wounded, having been shot by Benedict. As I gathered, Rhiannon had been trying to protect Eric. Benedict's mooks had been slaughtered to a man, mostly by Mei Li.
Rhiannon: The moment I started a smaller tornado and Mhei-Li tried to grip the guns Benedict's henchmen held, all hell broke loose. Mindful of Darien's visions - he had told me of a similar scene - I had created a bullet-proof vest and a shield-spell. I thought it would hold so I flung myself before Eric. Unfortunately, noone had told me about Benedict's guns. I think I should be happy that I passed out so quickly - although not before I had had an unpleasant talk - or slur, in my case - with Benedict, who seemed to think I owe him a favour for not killing us both. When Random showed up I thought I had the licence to pass out, but eyewitnesses have told me later that he wasn't exactly the best person to put in a situation like that. I do prefer not to get cried over until when I'm well and truly dead.
And I will remember to put a standing order at a florists for the next time I get shot, since most people I know seem to think that trying - obviously in vain - to revenge me would be more comforting for me than company and flowers.Steve discovered the current mayor murdered in his home. This must have mad Steve snap, becausehe headed off to Benedict and got himself shot to pieces. He ended up comatose in intensive care. Rumours were talking about a blood curse.
Some days later, Darien came over to me and he discussed the developments in his home shadow at some length with me. Apparently, someone called Anakin had started dominating the shadow. This someone was Sawall's grandson, according to Darien's sources. He wanted my help with putting a stop to these attempts. As his home shadow - for some reason referred to as the "Star Wars" shadow - was very rich in life patterns, I thought this might be a good occasion to study self-replicating energy patterns such as those that had apparently disturbed my experiment with the polling place some time earlier.
Darien went to a lot of trouble to equip me with a big space ship built entirely out of glass and a crew. I didn't enjoy trekking around the shadow inciting rebellion and messing with Anakin's domination attempts. The research was interesting though, except for the fact that Darien had dumped Quegh Chi on me and she pestered me unceasingly with childish questions about thaumaturgy for three weeks until it turned out that all my studies and work in the shadow was in vain - Anakin had suddenly given up his attempts at domination and gone home.
I suppose my feelings got a little hurt. I disbanded the ship and went to Sam's for some peace of mind. The youngster had grown considerably since my last visit and this time when he joined me in meditation, he found something of his destiny. He started referring to himself as Yama after that.
During my stay with Sam I got a message from Llewella that Corwin had won the election for mayor with a small margin and that there was to be a small ceremony at Fragrant Harbour where he would assume his title.