c3 is the third novel in the loosely interrelated collection known as 46. Ascending. Each novel tells the tale of an otherwise normal person coming to terms with having unusual abilities. The stories are designed to be read in any order as they overlap in time and build upon each other in all directions.
This page contains a short description of the book c3 followed by six of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase c3 at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble.
Teddie likes her country music and her old pick-up truck and she’s not sure how she let her best friend talk her into spending a semester abroad in Darjeeling India. Once she arrives, her innocence quickly collides with an underworld in which young women are bartered and sold. As she fights to understand a depravity that she never dreamed existed, Teddie finds that her own mind develops a unique ability for locating her friends and that an ancient group is willing to train her to save others by using her innate skills for out of body experiences. It will require trust in ideas she barely believes, and more courage than has ever been expected of her. When it becomes clear that the alternative may be her friends’ deaths and the unchecked growth of an evil crime lord’s empire, Teddie accepts the challenge and shows those guilty of unspeakable crimes just how powerful a young woman can be.
At night, Teddie took refuge from all the strangeness. The collage of colors and faces and smells that permeated her world now by day subsided into the comforting greys of darkness. She lay in her bed and thought of how much she missed boots. Western boots, on her and others. Pickup trucks and country music and bar-b-que and dead armadillos in the road. Now wasn’t that stupid? Pine trees and Tex-Mex food and front lawns and churches everywhere even though her family didn’t belong to one. It was her world, and she missed its familiarity.
Luckily she had been able to keep her MP3 player, and sometimes she thought that the music was saving her sanity. She fell asleep that night crying softly and listening to the song “Texas Kind of Way” while she smelled the musty non-flower smell of her mother’s geraniums in her head. And that was the night that she starting sleepwalking.
She didn’t remember getting out of bed, or walking down the hall or going out the front door of the school. Didn’t they keep it locked at night? She thought that they must. Maybe she had climbed out the window? Could she even do that in her sleep?
Yet there she was, walking down the street in front of the school in the middle of the night. Lights were mostly off and half a moon was high in the sky. A group of older boys stood huddled together a couple of blocks away, smoking cigarettes. If they noticed Teddie they paid her no mind.
She looked around, enjoying the chance for once just to soak up the view without people jostling her and trying to move her along. The mountains in the distance glistened with snow. The boys down the street all wore jackets, and Teddie wondered if she had thought to grab a coat as well. She glanced towards her arm, and the next thing she knew she was back in her bed, not the least bit chilled, and with no memory of how she got back there at all.
Well, sleep-walking was supposed to be an odd phenomenon, she thought. It had probably been set off by homesickness, to be honest. Luckily her subconscious seemed to have found ways to safely navigate her in and out of bed. This time. Hopefully this wasn’t something that was going to become a habit.
Lhatu came to India often, and he had become adept at absorbing the noise and chaos without allowing it to warp his inner peace. He tried instead to gain energy from the surroundings, energy to do the bidding of those he served.
His large size made travel slightly harder on him, but he recognized that it also made him an unusually capable operative on behalf of his group’s needs. At thirty-one years old he was tall and physically strong by the standards of any race. He could see over the crowds to find others, and thanks to clearly visible muscles he was seldom a target of the pickpockets or scammers that preyed on those who traveled. The simple robes he generally wore bought him a certain amount of automatic respect from those of any faith. The deception of dressing much like a monk bothered him slightly, but he reminded himself that his costume was merely a means to an end.
Today he arrived in Bagdogra, and he had been told to take the train to Darjeeling. He liked Darjeeling. It had a certain spirit about it. There was a girl attending a school there, a young woman whom he had been asked to observe. Do not make contact. Just bring back information.
Very well. Lhatu was used to such odd assignments. He did not question the wisdom of those who directed his life.
So when the three American girls came to her office begging for help to find their friend, Amy sighed. This had all the markings of just the sort of case that would get her in trouble with the agency. The involvement of the three American students only made it more probable that this whole thing would reach the press and ultimately the ears of Amy’s superiors back home. So many reasons to give these girls the brush off.
And only one not to.
“What did you say her name was?” Amy asked.
“Usha.” It was the girl with the East-Asian ancestry who spoke up first. “She’s really smart and so happy to be in school, and she has these beautiful big trusting eyes and you’ve got to help us find her.”
The tall confident girl with the long blond hair jumped in. “The school’s been really busy with the aftermath of the earthquake all week. Last night they finally got a hold of her mother who says she has no idea where her daughter has gone and so the school now says that she is just a runaway who couldn’t handle the advanced classes and they are washing their hands of it!”
The pretty one with the head full of black curls added, “We know better. There is no way that’s true. Usha was doing great in her classes. She is in some kind of real trouble.”
“Okay,” Amy sighed. “Start at the beginning and tell me honestly everything you know. No holding back.”
The three girls sat down eagerly and starting talking all at once. Amy smiled at their vehemence, their innocence and their concern for their friend. There was an uncle from another city, and huge debts to be paid. There was no one local to help. The girl wasn’t even from Darjeeling. Amy looked at the photo one of the girls had on her laptop. She sat for a minute in silence as she carefully studied Usha’s face.
A young hopeful human being, full of potential. Just as all young people were. Was that reason enough to get involved? Of course it was.
“So why not kill her?’ Vasily persisted as they finished their lunch. “You don’t want her. She’s useless.” He was talking about the American girl of course, in which Pavel had no interest and who now sat bound, gagged and heavily sedated in a walk-in closet in a vacant rental home in Manali.
“Because if she is dead, we know that she is useless,” Pavel said. “If she’s alive, it remains to be seen. Get her out of here, far away from this town. In fact, get her to Southeast Asia where she looks like the other girls and won’t stand out. We have a business in Bangkok, send her there. I do not—repeat, do not—want any trouble to come from this one. Make sure that you don’t lose track of her, just in case she turns out to be any kind of bargaining chip down the road. Now go. I need some peace and quiet to drink my coffee and think about what to do next.”
“Okay,” Vasily sighed. He had been looking forward to killing the girl.
Pavel, who knew him too well, admonished him as he started to leave. “I don’t want you or any of your goons laying a hand on her either. I’ve told you before. Your guys do not know the meaning of the word restraint.”
“Plenty of others gonna lay hands on her where she’s going,” Vasily muttered.
“Yeah well most of them don’t like to do so many things that leave marks,” his boss glared back. “I mean it, Vasily. Get her to Bangkok where she can earn her keep and be out of our way. If we can use her, we’ll bring her back.”
“Yes boss.” Vasily thought sadly that power did strange things to men. There had been a time not that long ago when Pavel not only would have okayed the kill, he would happily have joined his men in the fun.
The next time Teddie went sleepwalking, it occurred to her that she wasn’t really walking. She was floating. And she was pretty sure that she was headed towards the train station. It was the middle of the night and this was no time to catch a train. What was she doing going there? Wasn’t this the same way she had gone to check on her brother Zane, when she was only four years old?
She was moving fast now, almost like she was in a car, and certainly like she knew exactly where she was headed. How did she know where she was going?
She thought that maybe she should go back to her bed when it occurred to her that if she actually got to the station, she could take a train all the way to the airport. And if she could just get to Bagdogra where the airport was, then she could get on an airplane and fly far, far away to a place where eleven-year-old children didn’t have to be scared when their mother got a cold, and girls didn’t have to plead to get admitted to classes for men only, and high school juniors from Texas didn’t have to cough up their entire allowance just to keep a roommate from getting taken out of school by evil uncles.
Was the uncle really evil? He must be.
And then she thought that she felt the uncle grab her arm and she jumped. But it was just Usha grabbing her arm, and she was in bed.
“You were making noises in your sleep,” Usha said worriedly. “You were having a bad dream?”
“I didn’t think I was dreaming at all,” Teddie muttered as she turned over, and then she felt confused. So she wasn’t going places in her sleep? She was just having dreams about going? Why?
I want to go to Usha and see if she is unharmed. It was a simple command and Teddie had no idea what to expect. But she began to move, not by force, but by what felt like her own choice, down the hall and out the door and down the street. Teddie had never been particularly comfortable with heights, so she was relieved that while it felt like she was flying, she was flying in just the manner that she personally would have chosen. She was skimming really, just maybe ten feet above the ground, close enough that if she fell she would be okay. She made her path down roads rather than over buildings, but she was certainly picking up speed as she went. It seemed like she was guiding herself, that a part of her that knew Usha’s location was leading the rest of her to where she wished to go.
She was headed north towards the mountains, speeding now over the major road that leads out of Darjeeling into the Himalayas. Weren’t those some of the renowned tea fields off to the left? Teddie looked closer, and the next thing she knew she was standing in the middle of the tea field, examining the beautiful green tea leaves up close and personal. Great. She’d stopped moving and she had no idea of what to do next. She was stuck in a field.
She felt herself about to snap back. No. If my body is safe then I want to go to Usha and see if she is unharmed. With that, she was back on the road and moving again. This time she concentrated on not looking around and becoming distracted, and she picked up more speed as she went. Finally she found herself slowing back down as she entered a large city. Gangtok? She made her way through streets to a far edge of the town, where she found herself standing next to a small old pick-up truck parked outside of a little roadside hotel. Usha was sleeping in the back of the truck. Oh dear. Her friend was homeless, and had stopped to sleep in the relatively soft, warm hay that lined the back of a stranger’s vehicle.