How do you deal with challenges that can’t be solved with a well-timed exploding bluebird?
The world has settled down remarkably well in the wake of the Change that turned a full third of the Human population into Elves, Dwarves, Trolls and more. People are back at work, buses are on time, and—thankfully for Olivia Mitchell—the hospitals are learning how to care for Dark Elves.Olivia is even behaving like a responsible citizen, using her magic to help drive back the flesh-eating slime creatures and mutant coyotes emerging from the former Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
That part is easy. The rest of her life is as chaotic as ever.Her relationships are up in the air, Mikah’sparents have arrived—doing their level best to disrupt everyone’s lives—and on top of all that, Olivia just might be expecting.
Who—or what—is behind the growing disruption at the arsenal? If Olivia doesn’t want to end up a sacrifice in a fiery ritual, she’d better figure it out.
|Title||Family Values Book 2|
|Series:||Crucible of Change|
|Author||Noelle Alladania Meade|
|Tags||magic, fantasy, contemporary fantasy, elves, urban fantasy, murder, alternative reality, parallel universe, online games, role-playing games, trolls, bisexual, lesbian, wizards, magic, eco-terrorists|
|Release||March 1, 2016|
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The four of us got into the Hummer and Leo gunned it a little faster than I was entirely comfortable with. We crested a slight rise in the road, and the pack of slimes was right there. Leo hit the brakes, and we would have been okay if he hadn’t clipped the one small slime. The Hummer lurched as the tire was consumed, and sparks flew when the rim hit the ground.
We spun to a hard stop, and the truckshook under the onslaught of the slimes. Not only were they eating our ride; they were getting bigger by the minute.
“We have to get out of here while we still can,” Leo said as he and Skeeter lowered their windows. “We’re going to get on the roof. I think we can leap clear of the slimes from there. Olivia, come here and I’ll give you a boost.”
He supported me out the open window as I got a grip on the roof rack and pulled myself out of the window and onto the roof. I helped Sharon climb up from her side and realized the roof escape wasn’t going to work for Leo and Skeeter. They were too big for the windows. I think they knew it.
Leo was on the side nearest to the Arsenal, and there were only smaller slimes on Skeeter’s side.
“You guys get ready,” I told them. “I’m going to plow the road. It’ll probably get a little toasty.”
I knelt, bracing myself against the roof rack. The magic balls of fire scattered, burning the smaller slimes. I had no idea where the gas tank was on this beast. I hoped I was nowhere near it.“Skeeter, now!” I yelled.
He flung the door open and vaulted over the burning slime. Leo scrambled over the center console and was right behind him.
The Hummer lurched as another tire disappeared, nearly bucking me off on my head. Crawling toward the back of the roof, I shot more flame at the slimes behind us. One was already up to the bumper and had a silvery sheen to it. I threw another blast of flame and the damn thing exploded, spraying burning globs of acid.
The whole truck listed to the left and I fell forward, catching myself on the roof rack and finding myself eye-to-whatever a giant slime saw with.
Sharon jerked me backward just as Leo shouted, “Jump!”
She and I scrambled uphill, away from the giant slime, and threw ourselves off the edge of the roof. I landed hard and skidded along the asphalt. So much for the legendary Elven cat-like grace. At least I avoided the slime eating the last rear tire. Sharon landed neatly and rolled to her feet.
I threw flame at the slime I could see, but it was only enough to annoy it. It turned away from the tire and oozed toward me. “Leo, I need you!”
I tore off my glove as he ran over. I put one bare hand on his cheek and pulled at his energy, throwing flame at the slime as it touched the tips of my boots. I yanked my feet free before the bubbling reached my toes.
There was one more smallish slime, and the giant slime was nearly finished eating its way through the Hummer. It was coming this way. I threw one more blast at the smaller one, and it was another exploder. I threw my arm over my eyes in time, but the painful splashes gave me a new appreciation for acid rain.
“Olivia, the big one,” Skeeter yelled. “They don’t like cold!”
More sirens split the air, but I wasn’t confident our backup would get here fast enough. Leo was trying to help, but he had no more energy to spare. The coldest thing I could think of was from chemistry back in high school. I remembered the teacher bringing in an insulated bottle of liquid nitrogen. It was one of the few classes I didn’t sleep through. I loved watching him freeze and shatter things.
“Skeeter, I’m sorry, but I need you,” I said. I put my hand on his neck, and pulled hard on his strong life force. I cast a stream of liquid nitrogen on the biggest slime. At first it did nothing, but finally it was slowing. I poured energy into the magic stream until Skeeter fell away. The slime stood there like an obscene gelatin mold. “Stand back,” I said and held up my hand. “Crom!” I felt the heft of the glowing silver hammer and brought it down on the motionless slime. It shattered, throwing shards in every direction. I was knocked back, slamming into the street.
Strong hands pulled us away from the wreckage and officers formed a line between us and the Arsenal. My head pounded with a relentless migraine. I heard Sharon talking but I couldn’t understand her through the buzzing in my ears. All I could see were starbursts of light in my eyes.
I was pretty sure I’d bottomed out in misery, but I was wrong. I was still waiting for my head to stop spinning when I was shoved into a tent the size of an inflatable porta-john and sprayed with far too much astringent cold water. I was ready to sit on the ground and cry when I was yanked out and wrapped in several layers of heated blankets. I had a vague awareness of the others receiving the same treatment.
They cut my clothes off on the way in, and bundled everything into hazmat containers. I didn’t care what they did with my ruined clothes, but I demanded they empty out my backpack before it suffered the same fate. I couldn’t replace those items.
It was probably a good thing they loaded us into ambulances and hustled us to the hospital. We were fresh out of vehicles. Leo was never going to get his deposit back on what was left of the Hummer.