She crashed through the window into the chill of a Calcutta night and proceeded to plummet head first towards the cold flagstones of the courtyard thirty feet below. Behind her, a strange sound still filled the air. A scream of sorts, but not a human scream it was more high pitched, like the whine of an airships propeller. It was a scream of pain, of anger, and of frustration, all rolled into one. She smiled, she had cut one of the bastards. She had made it feel pain.
Now that was a thought that warmed her cold hard clockwork heart.
The plan had worked. Worked perfectly. More perfectly than she could have hoped. If she was completely honest, too damn perfectly. She had not expected there to be three of them. The Ministry it seemed valued their pet idiot more than she had imagined. They must have done, to send three Sleepmen to rescue his worthless hide. One she could have dealt with easily, the adrenaline injection would have fended off the sleep gas long enough for that, and that would have been the only advantage she needed. Even if the auto-injector, hidden in her belt, hurt like… well… like jamming a three-inch needle into your stomach then pumping a hot fluid through it into the nearest vain.
Oh yes, one she could have killed without breaking a sweat thanks to that injector. Thanks to her father, and yes she really should thank him for that one day, well, thank him or kill him, she had never quite decided how she felt about her father.
Three of them, on the other hand, three would have been too messy, and three might not have been the all of it. Others might well have been coming, and the burst of adrenaline was burning fast through her system. Raging like a fire in her blood. Which was a good thing right at this moment, as she plummeted towards the courtyard below head first. All the augmentations in the world were not going to save her skull from being bashed in on the stone slabs below… She needed time and the adrenaline was giving her that, the only question was, would that time be enough…
The trick wasn’t stopping the fall. The ground would do that unprompted. Stopping was never going to be a problem. Getting back up, now that was what mattered. Luckily for her, there had been that summer in Georgia travelling with the Dixarni’s. Another of her father’s idea’s, ‘Spend a summer travelling with a circus, you will learn much of value‘ he’d said. Him and his mad ideas about giving her a wide-ranging education. They had not been estranged at the time, it had been before the accident. Life had been simpler before the accident; she hadn’t need to worry about rust for one thing.
“It’s all a matter of air pressure. we bend into the air, push back at it with our bodies, curve against the air and twist...” Gordo Dixarni had explained to her, repeatably in his south London accent. The accent that became Italian whenever punters were about because no one wanted to watch a trapeze artist from Surry called George Dixon. The Flying Dixarni’s on the other hand… Well, they were a proud family of Italian acrobats with a history that went back to the first days of Victoria’s reign, or so they claimed. A proud family that had been amazing audiences around the world for all two hundred years of the queen’s glorious reign, and certainly not just since George had fled England after a robbery gone wrong five years before.
‘Curve against the air and twist.‘ it sounded simple, but it had taken her months to learn how to do it just right. How to twist your body instinctively through the air and turn so that when you hit the net you landed on your back, arms out, weight dispersed. Months more practice had made it instinct. The muscles, after all, remember even when the brain does not. Even when the muscles are no longer there. Even when muscles had been replaced with brass and clockwork.
‘Curve against the air and twist.‘ get it right and you landed in the middle of the net, your whole body spreading the force of the landing.
‘Curve against the air and twist.‘
And so she did, and doing so tried to blank out the thought that the cold sandstone slabs of the courtyard were not in any way shape or form something you could describe as a net.
‘Curve against the air and twist.‘
A second must of pasted, a second or a lifetime. She had hit the floor, and for a moment she was gone. Should have been gone. Would have stayed blacked out, at the very least, but for the last vestiges of the adrenaline coursing through her system, she had dosed herself with moments before. Her body was screaming. Her left arm had a dint in it that she would have to knock out later with a hammer, metal was so much less forgiving than flesh sometimes. As she stumbled to her feet, she heard a rattle from within and cursed to herself. She would need her horologist’s tools as well, damn clockwork.
“Bloody sight less painful with a net.” she cursed and set off into the night, she had an appointment to keep and the rest of the plan to complete, repairs would have to wait a while. Another shot of adrenaline, that was the thing, just the damn ticket in fact. She thought, ignoring caution as she ever did, and the fire burned through her system once more.
Sometime later she spared a moment’s passing thought for the man she had left tied to the bed when the Sleepmen arrived. Though in utter fairness, the thought was fleeting and a tad unpolite.
Bad Penny (not her actual name but just how old Harry thinks of her, because of her habit of turning up in his life at unhelpful moments) is a character Hannibal Smyth’s world. As Hannibal narrates his own story and is somewhat self-centred in the telling of it, somethings happen off screen and other characters are explored only through Harrys somewhat selfinvolved eyes. So when I was writing A Spider In the Eye, I wrote several third-person bits around other characters, as treatments, just to set them in my own mind, rather than just rely on old Harry’s ‘Hannibal tinted’ glasses. The basis of this post started out as one of them, though it has been adapted and rewritten a little. Bad Penny started out with only a small cameo role but she took on a life of her own and has become somewhat more significant than I ever expected in the forth coming sequal, ‘From Russia with Tasels’