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198pps
ISBN 978-0-557-02468-1

Fences
Alone
*SmokeStone
Pillow Fight
Pipe Dreams
(* indicates the story featured.)

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SOLITAIRE

Selected text from . . .

SmokeStone

...  After the short drive up the gravel road from the docks, long enough to warm up the bike and thoroughly wake me up, I reached the city streets. The roads were nearly empty of traffic. I was tempted to turn up the CD and haul (bleep), but decided against it. I didn't want to start out my vacation with a speeding ticket. I was risking a ticket as it was with the songs I picked. Three stoplights from the on-ramp, while waiting at a red, I reached to my side and turned the volume up. I increased it until I couldn't hear my engine.(...I even gunned the throttle a few hundred RPM...) The light turned green and I darted forward, the words of the song pounding into my head. Moments later, a few measures, I turned onto the freeway, going entirely too fast, headed north. I signaled and checked behind me; clear. I angled to the fast lane. It would take me close to an hour to escape the city and all the surrounding towns. The traffic was heavier than the surface streets, but nothing to really concern myself with. I reached back with each leg and flicked down the passenger foot pegs. I hooked the heels of my boots onto the pegs and adjusted my seat, then adjusted my crotch. The song went instrumental and I increased speed, leaning forward a little more, balancing on the wind. I increased speed a little more. I didn't notice, just reacted by leaning forward a little more. The strong beat and steady guitar playing filled the space inside the helmet. For the time being, I was part of the road, the song, the bike. Visions inspired by a video game ran through my visor. My speed steadily increased until the tachometer was close to the red and the speedometer read 118. My mind had fallen into the rhythm of the music and the frequency of the bike. The city slipped by in a hazy blur. The cars I passed barely registered. A line, however, from the song did...

...where am I to go now that I've gone too far..?

...    When Highway 190 popped up a some minutes later, I stopped at the intersection and looked behind me. No one. No one following me, nor any other traffic. It had been like that since getting on the highway. Something wasn't right. Where were the police? Where were the road blocks; the helicopters? I had killed three men. Where was the man-hunt?! I looked west and absorbed the sunset. The sun was an hour away from the mountains, the clouds beginning to turn pink. It would be getting chilly soon. I turned on the 190 the only way I could, East. Twenty minutes had passed when I made the turn to Darwin. I needed petrol. It was a long way across Death Valley. After I had filled the tank and paid the attendant, I put on two layers of shirts under my jacket, stuffing the pistol in the back of my pants before getting back on my motorcycle. A man in a business suit stepped out from behind the gas station. This man, too, had a flat-top. I looked in the windows of the building. The station attendant had conveniently disappeared. I quickly put on my helmet, not bothering to cinch it down, and started the bike. The man in the suit started running towards me, shouting that I "hold up". I gunned the throttle and released the clutch. The back tire squealed, then caught. I raced out the gas station driveway pushing the front end down. I looked back at the station after getting on the road. The man in the suit was running back behind the building. A moment later a car was vibrating in my mirrors. I took the first right, pulling onto a dirt road. ...

...    I couldn't tell what I was flying, there was only a few feet of white cone in front of me. But it did feel as though I was flying it; fast and close to the water. I adjusted the screen, then slowly, gently, moved the joystick around. I veered left a little, then right. I nosed up, then back down. I played and played, the songs repeating through the speakers and filling the room with a drum beat that kept me in the Zone.
    I did a roll first. Flying was different than Cycle Sin. You couldn't ride upside down in Cycle Sin. This was great. I did a barrel roll, twisting more than three times.
    The speaker behind my head crackled. "Veer to the right, Smokestone. When you reach the coast, get up over land as soon as possible and follow your course marker."
    Aye aye, Captain. "Yes sir." I veered right.
    Moments later the coast appeared. I eased the Needle over it and was racing on the beach, hurdling rocks and skirting cliffs. The voice broke in again.
    "A little further inland, Smokestone. Follow the course marker. Up and over the cliff, if you will."
    I jerked the nose up and hopped on top the cliff, sliding the Needle right until I was on course. The terrain was rougher here. Over water and the beach was pretty much level flight. There was more to miss here; trees, poles, buildings, hills. I got busy. I glanced at the altimeter. I could climb another three hundred feet. That would clear me of trees and most buildings. But I stayed where I was, zipping through the terrain like a madman. ...

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