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Shadow Unit 3
Shadow Unit 3
Shadow Unit 3
eBook333 Seiten4 Stunden

Shadow Unit 3

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Contains the novel, "Refining Fire" by Elizabeth Bear and Emma Bull, plus bonus material.

There are nightmares humanity doesn't dream are real. Welcome to Shadow Unit.

The Shadow Unit series was created by award-winning authors Emma Bull and Elizabeth Bear.

Erscheinungsdatum16. Juni 2011
Shadow Unit 3
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Emma Bull

Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Her subsequent works have included Falcon, the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-finalist Bone Dance, Finder, and (with Steven Brust) Freedom and Necessity. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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    Shadow Unit 3 - Emma Bull

    Book 3

    Emma Bull

    Elizabeth Bear


    © 2007-2011 Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Will Shetterly, Stephen Shipman, Amanda Downum, Leah Bobet, & Holly Black. Cover design and photo @ Kyle Cassidy.

    First edition. Published by CatYelling.

    Smashwords Edition.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

    All seasons of Shadow Unit are available online at

    Table of Contents


    Chaz Villette's journal, 2008-01-04 09:23

    Chaz Villette's journal, 2008-01-05 16:33

    Chaz Villette's journal, 2008-01-06 08:35

    Hafidha Gates's journal, 2008-01-10 13:52




    Chaz Villette's journal, 2008-02-19 09:03

    Chaz Villette's journal, 2008-02-20 08:08

    Ring Finger

    Return of Pleco


    Hafidha Gates’ journal, 2008-05-08 11:37:00


    Third Base

    Refining Fire | by Elizabeth Bear and Emma Bull

    Day 1

    Day 2

    Day 3

    Day 4

    Day 5

    Day 6

    Day 7

    The Scene


    Therapeutic Policy

    Two-handed Grip

    Fox and Coyote


    Chaz Villette's journal, 2008-06-05 06:14



    Paine Lake, MN, January, 2008

    ...I know how to use a tranq gun.

    Solomon Todd had been expecting the blank look, the disbelieving eyebrow. So he’d been ready with an explanation that wasn’t, really.

    Kenya, he’d said. 1977.

    And Nikki Lau had blinked at him, bitten her lower lip, and slowly nodded. Kenya.


    Right, she’d said, and sucked her teeth in the most unladylike manner possible, So how much sedative do you figure it takes to bring down a gamma?

    And that was how Solomon Todd came to be freezing his balls off at sunrise, in Minnesota, in January, aboard an antique, doorless, bubble-headed game management helicopter while the rotors ground laboriously up to speed. Who, what, when, where, and why: the whole shooting match.

    Five red-feathered syringes rested ready in a case between his legs, one empty space beside them. The .50 cal CO2 rifle was clipped beside the chair. You know, he said, I devoted a tour in ’Nam to not being a door gunner.

    And yet here you are volunteering. His partner on this venture, Special Agent Nikki Lau, looked different with her hair slicked back under the helmet, her eyes puffy from early rising. Older, sterner. Still pretty. She perched on the seat beside him, on-edge as a bird dog, and fussed the headset microphone and said, Chaz is sure he’s on the ice?

    Todd imitated her gesture, sliding the microphone to the edge of his mouth so it would pick up words rather than heavy breathing. Just like old times. Chaz called me up three in the morning his time, fevered off his ass with flu, to make damned sure we looked on the ice. Chaz is sure.

    She nodded without looking at him. He’d be surprised if her eyes left the window until the chopper set down again. Ready? she asked.

    Sunrise glided broken rays between the January trees, casting endless blue ice-shadows across the lake. Daylight, he answered. Let’s do this thing.

    Lau touched her microphone unconsciously, and stuffed her hand back into her armpit. Take us up, she said.

    The chopper tipped and lifted.

    Light, shadow. Ice fishermen’s huts. The frozen surface of Paine Lake, the weary flatness of the Minnesota horizon in winter. And then a moving shadow, black rather than blue, head down across that flatness as if pushing into a brutal headwind. Todd tracked him through the telescopic sight on the CO2 rifle. Useless for sniping—the gun wasn’t powerful enough. But he’d duct-taped it on anyway, so he didn’t have to juggle the weapon and a pair of field glasses like the ones Lau had nailed to her nose. He glanced sideways and caught her adjusting them with an ungloved right hand, fingers paling where they touched icy metal.

    No obvious weapons, Todd said. Knowing Lau would know that left a lot of territory uncovered. Knowing the host could have a concealed handgun. Knowing Lau would remember the unscathed bodies stacked in the cabin, tucked neatly—gently—under newsprint pulled up to their chins.

    She said, He doesn’t need a gun.

    Sure it’s the host?

    There’s not supposed to be anyone else on the ice.

    He didn’t answer, and after a beat, she said, Right, her voice clear and level in his ear despite the thunder of the rotors. Let’s go violate the Constitution, Duke.

    He wished he thought it was funny. Even the ridiculous nickname couldn’t cheer him up.

    The chopper swung wide, kicking up crystal curtains of ice and snow. Through the scope, Todd saw the host lift his head, shading his eyes with hands bulky in two or three layered pairs of mittens.

    Lau must have seen it too, because she drew a breath. He was just cold.

    Todd said, Get us lower.

    Lau spoke to the pilot, and as he came around again, Todd braced and leveled the rifle, cold wind stinging across his thighs and the backs of his hands. He would have bet a vintage Incredible String Band album that Marlon Perkins got paid a heck of a lot more than he did. Lower. Lower. This is not going to work.

    Duke, Lau said, in the kind of low warning voice that tells you your passenger has just spotted an oncoming semi.

    Inevitably, the host reached into his coat. Commit or pull back? Todd paced his breathing. Closer, he said. The trigger lay searing cold against his finger. Despite fingerless gloves, he wondered how many shots he had before his hands froze enough so he wouldn’t be able to feel the trigger pull.

    Lau relayed, and the pilot obeyed. And Todd sighted, took a soft breath, let it out, found the pause before the next one began—and let his finger move against the trigger. Phut, the gun said, and he scrambled to eject the used CO2 canister and slap in another dart, because the host had only clapped a hand to his neck and then started groping under his parka again.

    The rifle whuffed again; the host scrabbled a handgun free. Lau made a noise in her throat like a hunting dog straining the leash. Where’d he get that?

    Victim? Todd asked. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t talk and shoot. One more dart, and the host fought his weapon up through wind-whipped snow. This could kill him,

    Bring it down, Lau said, as the host squeezed a wild shot somewhere in the direction of the chopper.

    Special Agent—

    The pilot’s protest didn’t survive her second order. Way down. Pretend we’re doing an evac.

    The pilot’s helmeted head bobbed, decision made. All right then.

    A vet, probably, because his flying suddenly got a whole lot less conservative. Todd slid a fourth dart into his rifle just in case, flinching back as the hard slap of another handgun shot rose over the chopper roar, penetrating his noise-damping headphones.

    They came in low and he hunkered into his ballistic vest, trying to protect his throat. No use at all—

    The shift of air behind him was his only warning that Lau had just done something mind-bogglingly dumb. He turned in time to witness her helmet and headset hitting the deck as she crouched, hands white-knuckled on the metal edge of the opening. She swung her feet down as he struggled one-handed with his harness release. Nikki! He lunged across the cabin as her slim form vanished over the door jamb, and got there in time to see her swing from the chopper’s runner and thud feet-first, smack in the middle of the host’s chest.

    The host splatted against the frozen lake and skidded several feet, sliding out from under her as she rolled to come up on all fours. Her skinned palms left pink on the snow. She must have ditched her remaining mitten with the helmet. The host scrambled away on feet and hands, and Lau coiled to go after him.

    Get this thing on the ground! Todd snapped, and yanked his helmet off. The chopper lurched down, far enough away that Lau wasn’t under the rotors, and bumped hard. It hadn’t really settled when Todd piled out, running flat-out with rifle upraised like a club. Under his boots, snow squeaked cold.

    Nikki knelt on the host’s back, his left arm bent up between his shoulders, but he still made fishy, swimming progress across the ice. He twisted; she rode him like a bronc buster determined to make eight seconds, groping for her cuffs with her free, bare left hand.

    Todd was never stopping in time on the ice. He dropped the dart rifle aside like a major-league batter and just dove across the host’s free arm, groping for a hold.

    Starvation-stink of acetone. Yes, this was the host. The gamma, incredibly, fought him. Got a hand on the ice and pushed, and neither Todd nor Lau had the weight to keep him down. Todd’s hands stung with cold, numb chill creeping up his wrists, and the hand he had a decent grip with was the weaker left one. Nikki’s shoulder banged Todd, hard, his lower lip and nose mashed bloody, but he locked fingers he couldn’t feel on the host’s wrist, got his right hand into it, braced both knees, and hauled. The gamma was strong enough to resist him—but the host’s shoulder and elbow were not. His trigger finger poked through a ragged slit in the palm of the mitten. Something snapped sharply as the arm came back and around.

    The host screamed against the ice, and Lau twisted the cuffs and slammed them around his wrist.

    Todd rocked back, blood spattering the front of his Kevlar, and slapped his cuffs into Lau’s outstretched fingers with blue numb hands. Lau pushed up the host’s sleeves, peeling off his mittens with seeping hands to add the second pair of cuffs over bare skin.

    It was impossible to overestimate a gamma. Even a drugged and restrained one. Jesus, Lau yelped. Ow. He’s freezing my damn hands—

    Not just her hands. Her breath would have hissed blue clouds between her teeth no matter what, but Todd could see the bruised color creeping up her wrists, and winced in sympathy. Lau closed a hand jerkily over the cuffs and squeezed, and the host shouted. We’ll get you warm, Lau said. Dammit. Ow! Stop. I promise, I promise. I’ll take you someplace warm. Right now. You’ll never ever be cold again, but you have to stop doing that.

    And just like that, the host went limp, collapsing into the ice. Lau looked up at Todd, shaking each set of fingers out by turns while Todd rubbed his own numb ones. She always kept one hand on the cuffs while she did it.

    Let’s get him inside. Now, while the tranq is still working. Three darts, she said with her eyebrows.

    Hands on his knees, heaving from the sprint and the struggle, Todd shook his head. James Unbefucking Bond. Lady, I’m supposed to be the crazy lucky one.

    Knee in the host’s back, shifting her weight before she stood, she grinned. Gotta think invincible.

    Chaz Villette's journal, 2008-01-04 09:23

    Let's split up. We can be spread over more ground that way.

    Current mood: crappy

    Current music: Ramasutra - Kwaidan

    Sleep since 5 am yesterday: 3 hrs, 7 minutes

    Calories since midnight: ~4300, mostly in the form of bean and cheese burritos me and the Wabbit are assembling in the cop shop microwave out of stuff from cans and grocery store tortillas, dousing in Texas Pete, and eating standing up over the sink. One of the local cops (the woman) left a box of doughnuts on our tiny shared desk this morning, and two large coffees from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Maybe there is a God.

    And yet, that was not enough, because...

    [Begin intentionally vague section of post.]

    With both 0metotchtli and I in Vermont, that means I'm (we're) also working Hubbard County remotely. It's just like old times, except trollcatz is home base instead of us. It wouldn't be so bad if Mom were fit for duty, but as it is, all six of us in the field are stretched pretty thin.

    I'm not sure I like this trend of two unrelated incidents at once, and both of 'em sprees. Especially after the thing at Q. And San Diego. But I keep telling myself that it's just a coincidence.

    Please let it be just a coincidence.

    Dad and the Cowboy have been out since midnight in unmarked vehicles, driving up and down and hoping to get lucky. Sun's well up now, so they should be staggering in soon. I made coffee.

    Harpy, fret about them, not us. We're under orders that the only reason we're to leave this police station is if it's on fire, or the Cowboy shows up to drive us back to the hotel, which we might start doing in shifts if something doesn't break soon.

    Chance of snow today down to 30%. Which is good and bad. Good in that there's less chance something will happen, because this guy likes weather. Bad in that there's less chance something will happen, because we need to be there when it does.

    [End intentionally vague section of post, because really, I shouldn't be talking about this stuff, under flock or not.]

    My popper just popped. Time for another burrito. And to beat Wabbit off that box of doughnuts long enough to swipe a couple. They make doughnuts with maple frosting up here.

    Everything maple, as far as the eye can see.


    cvillette @ 02:28 pm

    Whups. ETA. Back up to 60%, but just snow showers.

    Which could be six inches here in the great white North, who knows?

    cvillette @ 02:31 pm

    aaaand in fact just looked outside, and it's actually snowing now. So maybe no Cowboy or Dad for a while.

    0metotchtli @ 02:36 pm

    I like your idea of emergency rations better than the Cowboy's. The ones you just made with cream cheese and black beans are actually really tasty.

    And my god, I would kill for a pizza.

    In fact, I would have killed for a pizza at 6 am.

    trollcatz @ 04:19 pm

    Oooh, black bean and cream cheese burritos. That sounds awright. And they've got to have the little cans of jalapeños there. Because some of them must watch the Superbowl. And it is wrong to watch the Superbowl without nachos, I am reliably informed. (I only watch it for the commercials. Honest. I swear. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.)

    0metotchtli @ 04:38 pm

    Yeah, the Platypus sells himself short. There's sour cream, cream cheese, cheddar, jack, four kinds of beans, two kinds of tortillas, several varieties of hot sauce, pickled jalapenos, two kinds of salsa, and rice pilaf.

    It's a good thing he's on our side.

    trollcatz @ 04:50 pm

    Dude, have you started cooking on the cute li'l woodstove? 'Cause the Laura Ingalls Wilder motif that keeps cropping up around here is due for reinforcement.

    cvillette @ 04:56 pm

    ...I could make the Wabbit her pizza.

    Hang on, gonna call Dad and tell him to stop at the store on the way back from the hospital.

    trollcatz @ 05:05 pm

    Was gonna rag on you guys re pizza, but realized I did not want to Give Anyone Ideas. My best jokes, sacrificed to the greater good. (Yeah, not that good a joke in the first place.)

    cvillette @ 05:08 pm

    Yeah, the locals are a little freaked at the sheer amount of food coming through the improv data haven, here.

    They're too scared of Wabbit to ask, tho.

    trollcatz @ 2008-01-05 02:56 am

    How was the pizza? Are you at the hotel? Any leads?

    I am both weirded and bored.

    I hate this part.

    cvillette @ 04:29 am

    The pizza was actually amazing. Though the volunteers looked a little askance at the dough-shoggoth at first.

    No, we're still on the job. I caught a four-hour nap; Hafs is heading back to catch some zzzz now, then Cowboy relieves me at dawn and I get eight blessed uninterrupted hours of worship of the great God Rack.

    Well, minus commute time.

    trollcatz @ 04:40 am

    ...there was a dough-shoggoth?

    Why do I get the impression the locals will be talking about you guys generations hence?

    cvillette @ 04:43 am

    Well, you can't make pizza without crust.

    It's just yeast, flour, salt, basil, oregano, garlic, a dash of olive oil, and a bottle of beer.

    We are in the land of the microbrews at least. And yes, I am bringing the rest of the beer back to the hotel to consume at my leisure. While I am sleeping.

    trollcatz @ 04:52 am

    You made herb-crust artisan pizza on a wood-burning stove intended for heating rooms.



    I wonder how much it would cost me to hire a video crew to follow you around? I hate missing stuff like that.

    cvillette @ 04:57 am

    Oh come on. It's not like I did anything fancy.

    I used sauce from a jar! (I should have just made white pizza, because the olive oil was okay, but Wabbit does not like white pizza. Wabbit says white pizza is just slimy garlic bread. Wabbit has Strong Opinions. And it was her pizza, after all.)

    Anyway, pizza is the traditional Friday luncheon of my tribe.

    cvillette @ 05:02 am

    And, even. Exhaustion and typing, not like chocolate and peanut butter.

    trollcatz @ 04:23 pm

    Also, I forgot to say yesterday that it was very strong and good of you, Coyote, not to make cat-gakking sounds at the KFC.

    Even though you make the absolutely best funniest most authentic cat-gakking sounds I have ever heard that weren't from a cat. (Actually, funnier, since with the cat one usually has to clean up afterwards.)

    But I am going to figure out something nice to do for the Cowboy when he gets back, for feeding my peeps. *g*

    cvillette @ 04:40 pm

    He remembered no McDonalds, no Burger Thing. He gets points.

    I think Dad sometimes thinks we're like bicycles. You just park 'em in the corner when you don't want to go somewhere. He's not good at the people maintenance thing.

    trollcatz @ 05:07 pm

    Well, if it's any comfort, I think he has the same problem with non-jammers.

    0metotchtli @ 05:10 pm

    Honey, I've been high-maintenance all my life.

    Now I'm just higher.


    trollcatz @ 05:13 pm

    Hee! You are so worth it.

    trollcatz @ 03:52 pm

    I really, really, REALLY hate to be the one to bring this up, but...

    Everyone safe at the copshop. See reference to San Diego.

    Gawd, I am paranoid. Wabbit, once again I ask, How do you not go screaming bonkers doing this?

    cvillette @ 04:04 pm

    Yeah, well. Smaller copshop.

    Like, Danville is a resident-state-trooper kind of town, if they even get that much coverage. Which is why we're in St. Johnsbury and commuting to this temporary forward post kind of a deal. (Improvised storefront cop shop. You thought I was kidding about the wood stove, didn't you? Most of the time it's me and Wabbit and two volunteers answering the tipline, and yes, Dad checked out the volunteers.)

    St. Johnsbury... let me tell you a little bit about the town of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. It has two police cars. Maybe. Nine sworn officers, counting the Chief and the Captain. Most of the town roads are unpaved.

    We have staties coming out our ears, though. It'll be all right.

    I hope he didn't do a runner for Canada. There's a lot of empty to get lost in up here, though, and that's where he seems to want to be. Lost in the empty.

    One thing driving me nuts. I wonder that it's enough for It, that he can just walk away and not, you know.


    His script is totally consistent, there, but it's off the meta-pattern.

    It's no fun if It can't watch.

    cvillette @ 04:48 pm

    Oh, bugger, think I've got it.

    You ever hear of remote viewing?

    trollcatz @ 04:55 pm

    Ohferfukssake. That would cover the necessary ground, all right.

    cvillette @ 04:58 pm

    So he knows exactly where we are and what we're doing all the time.

    Harpy, I'm gonna have the Wabbit get in touch with you through Channels, kay? All of a sudden, I think I better stay off the phone.

    trollcatz @ 05:02 pm

    Roger. Whoever the hell he is.

    0metotchtli @ 04:21 pm

    "How do you not go screaming bonkers doing this?"

    I did.

    Didn't you notice?

    *does the Bugs face*

    trollcatz @ 04:39 pm


    Yer cute when yer nuts.

    Oh, my four-shot latte has kicked in, so I can talk like a tough guy again. Disregard previous paranoia.

    Mom is now sick enough that she has stopped calling. Ben promises to report if anything needs reporting. He says Bekk wanted to stay home from school and nurse, but he assured her he was perfectly competent on that score.

    This just in from Hubbard Co.: search warrant for all the locked-up-for-winter lake cabins around three of the lakes.

    cvillette @ 04:44 pm

    Fingers crossed. Tell Duke and Wonder Woman to be careful. Progress!

    Man, some here too. 8YOF just walked in out of the snow.

    Barefoot. No coat.


    Picture big state trooper in tears.

    Cowboy's on the backtrail. Dad's on his way to the hospital. Film at 11.

    trollcatz @ 05:00 pm

    Oh jesus. tough/lucky/etc. Keep posted. Oh, hell, of course you will.

    trollcatz @ 06:00 pm

    Wonder Woman reports MN lake well-named.

    cvillette @ 06:20 pm

    Brr. I bet.

    Bilateral frostbite, all extremities. She's going to lose at least one foot, toes, couple of fingers. She was out ~7+ hours, at least. No clue how she made it.

    Taken from her bedroom sometime after midnight. Parents didn't find her missing until Dad went to wake her up for school this morning.

    Cowboy lost the backtrail at a paved road.

    But he got a tire impression.

    trollcatz @ 06:51 pm


    We really get the good news, bad news scenarios, don't we?

    trollcatz @ 01:03 am

    Lab results get there okay? I poked them with very sharp sticks. (Wabbit taught me how. If the locals think she's scary, they should see how the labbies quake at the mention of her name.)

    0metotchtli @ 02:42 am

    You have learned well, Grassharpy. We can has tread ID/tire size.

    trollcatz @ 04:26 am

    I just wish it was more help. Sorry.

    cvillette @ 03:22 am

    They live in fear of the speaking of her name, which may only be pronounced in hushed whispers, with appropriate ceremony.

    0metotchtli @ 04:15 am

    They live in fear of the speaking of her name...

    Because they screw it up half the time.

    cvillette @ 04:18 am


    Even *I* can do it.

    0metotchtli @ 04:24 am

    I'm trying to teach them Agent Gates, Ma'am, Your Extraordinariness. They're much better on that.

    cvillette @ 04:36 am

    Anybody ought to be able to handle Special Agent Gates.

    0metotchtli @ 04:46 am

    If they leave off the Extraordinariness, I refuse to acknowledge them.

    They're learning very quickly, really.

    cvillette @ 04:47 am

    *revels in privilege*

    trollcatz @ 12:59 am

    Wonder Woman's earlier report on lake suggests, in retrospect, that she may be even more supernatural than previously thought.

    The phrase stacked like cordwood may be relevant. Bemidji coroner apparently weirded out almost beyond WW's ability to talk him down.

    0metotchtli @ 02:52 am

    That's fairly weirded.

    cvillette @ 02:58 am

    Great. When we get back to DC, we can open a fucking frozen corpse emporium.


    Gah! Getting nowhere.

    trollcatz @ 04:20 am

    Not a good idea. They'd unfreeze. Okay, not right now. The bank thingie says it's 31 F right now. But tomorrow it's warming up.

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