Book IV of the Order of the Air
By Melissa Scott & Jo Graham
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A Deadly Paradise
It’s the summer of 1935, and Gilchrist Aviation’s owner Alma Gilchrist Segura has brokered a deal that will take herself and fellow pilots Lewis Segura and Mitchell Sorley to Honolulu to test a new seaplane. It pays well enough to take their families along for a working vacation – including the children of the company’s part time handyman, whose father has abandoned them. Better still, archeologist Jerry Ballard is already there supervising a dig investigating whether Hawaii was actually discovered by the Chinese. It’s a crackpot idea, but it’s his only chance to prove that he can still handle field work after losing his leg at the end of the Great War, and he’s determined to restart his career.
However, not all is as it seems. The dig is funded by anonymous sources who seem to have far too much influence on its management, including the hiring of German archaeologist Willi Radke, and who seem to know exactly what they want to find. The seaplane's testing is plagued by mysterious mechanical problems – and rumors of a curse spread through the hangar. Can you murder someone by magic? And who would want to kill a middle aged Army officer who belongs to an allied lodge? Alma, Jerry, Mitch, Lewis and Stasi are determined to defend themselves, but the power arrayed against them is greater than they imagined. It will take everything they have – as flyers, scholars, and magicians – to survive this deadly paradise.
Lewis stepped on the gas, shifting up as they sped down the coast road, distant taillights elusively ahead of them. A curve loomed and Lewis swore under his breath, shifting down and rounding it. The road came out of trees for a moment into bright moonlight, the sea on their right side sighing at the base of stark volcanic cliffs.
"He's going too fast," Alma said. The white car was in view for a moment ahead, and then the road twisted and it was swallowed by trees.
"He knows the road and I don't," Lewis said. He shifted up again, pouring it on while the road was straight.
"Stay with him," Alma said. The sense of dread was rising, but so was power. It bled out of rocks and hills, out of the sea and the air that washed the trees of Hawaii. It was dark as blood from stones, molten and seaward-bound, close to the surface and bright as though only the faintest cinders obscured it from sight. "Close as a wingman."
"Will do." Lewis trimmed the big machine through the curve, his face set in concentration. His headlights flashed over the road ahead.
The white car accelerated on the straightway under the trees, then downshifted just before a turn, the sky lighter ahead.
Lewis had barely breathed a word, but she saw it, a dark shape emerging — no, coalescing — at the side of the road, gathering itself to spring.
"Aegis!" There was no need for subtlety, no need for silence. Alma shouted the word aloud, hands forward to propel the force outward with the strength of her thought, Athena's shield, brazen and solid, Medusa's head with snakes entwining upon it, fueled by the deep earth of Hawaii. She flung it outward, between the fetch and the white car.
In that same split second the driver saw the fetch, a dark shape big as a horse or a cow barreling out of the underbrush directly in its path. The car swerved, brakes squealing.