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Wild Cards I
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Wild Cards I

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Author: George R. R. Martin
Publisher: Tor, 2010
iBooks, 2002
Bantam Spectra, 1987
Series: Wild Cards: Book 1
Book Type: Anthology
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Alternate History (SF)
Mutants
Superhero Fantasy
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Synopsis

Back in print after a decade, expanded with new original material, this is the first volume of George R. R. Martin's Wild cards shared-world series

There is a secret history of the world-a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces-those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers-cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo-winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.


Excerpt

Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!

JETBOY'S LAST ADVENTURE!

by Howard Waldrop

BONHAM'S FLYING SERVICE OF Shantak, New Jersey, was socked in. The small searchlight on the tower barely pushed away the darkness of the swirling fog.

There was the sound of car tires on the wet pavement in front of Hangar 23. A car door opened, a moment later it closed. Footsteps came to the Employees Only door. It opened. Scoop Swanson came in, carrying his Kodak Autograph Mark II and a bag of flashbulbs and film.

Lincoln Traynor raised up from the engine of the surplus P–40 he was overhauling for an airline pilot who had got it at a voice-bid auction for $293. Judging from the shape of the engine, it must have been flown by the Flying Tigers in 1940. A ball game was on the workbench radio. Linc turned it down.

" 'Lo, Linc," said Scoop.

" 'Lo."

"No word yet?"

"Don't expect any. The telegram he sent yesterday said he'd be in tonight. Good enough for me."

Scoop lit a Camel with a Three Torches box match from the workbench. He blew smoke toward the Absolutely No Smoking sign at the back of the hangar. "Hey, what's this?" He walked to the rear. Still in their packing cases were two long red wing extensions and two 300-gallon teardrop underwing tanks. "When these get here?"

"Air Corps shipped them yesterday from San Francisco. Another telegram came for him today. You might as well read it, you're doing the story." Linc handed him the War Department orders.

TO: Jetboy (Tomlin, Robert NMI)

HOR: Bonham's Flying Service

Hangar 23

Shantak, New Jersey

1. Effective this date 1200Z hours 12 Aug '46, you are no longer on active duty, United States Army Air Force.

2. Your aircraft (model-experimental) (ser. no. JB–1) is hereby decommissioned from active status, United States Army Air Force, and reassigned you as private aircraft. No further materiel support from USAAF or War Department will be forthcoming.

3. Records, commendations, and awards forwarded under separate cover.

4. Our records show Tomlin, Robert NMI, has not obtained pilot's license. Please contact CAB for courses and certification.

5. Clear skies and tailwinds,

For

Arnold, H.H.

CofS, USAAF

ref: Executive Order #2, 08 Dec '41

"What's this about him having no pilot's license?" asked the news-paperman. "I went through the morgue on him--his file's a foot thick. Hell, he must have flown faster and farther, shot down more planes than anyone--five hundred planes, fifty ships! He did it without a pilot's license?"

Linc wiped grease from his mustache. "Yep. That was the most planecrazy kid you ever saw. Back in '39, he couldn't have been more than twelve, he heard there was a job out here. He showed up at four A.M.--lammed out of the orphanage to do it. They came out to get him. But of course Professor Silverberg had hired him, squared it with them."

"Silverberg's the one the Nazis bumped off? The guy who made the jet?"

"Yep. Years ahead of everybody, but weird. I put together the plane for him, Bobby and I built it by hand. But Silverberg made the jets--damnedest engines you ever saw. The Nazis and Italians, and Whittle over in England, had started theirs. But the Germans found out something was happening here."

"How'd the kid learn to fly?"

"He always knew, I think," said Lincoln. "One day he's in here helping me bend metal. The next, him and the professor are flying around at four hundred miles per. In the dark, with those early engines."

"How'd they keep it a secret?"

"They didn't, very well. The spies came for Silverberg--wanted him and the plane. Bobby was out with it. I think he and the prof knew something was up. Silverberg put up such a fight the Nazis killed him. Then there was the diplomatic stink. In those days the JB–1 only had six .30 cals on it--where the professor got them I don't know. But the kid took care of the car full of spies with it, and that speedboat on the Hudson full of embassy people. All on diplomatic visas.

"Just a sec," Linc stopped himself. "End of a doubleheader in Cleveland. On the Blue Network." He turned up the metal Philco radio that sat above the toolrack.

". . . Sanders to Papenfuss to Volstad, a double play. That does it. So the Sox drop two to Cleveland. We'll be right--" Linc turned it off. "There goes five bucks," he said. "Where was I?"

"The Krauts killed Silverberg, and Jetboy got even. He went to Canada, right?"

"Joined the RCAF, unofficially. Fought in the Battle of Britain, went to China against the Japs with the Tigers, was back in Britain for Pearl Harbor."

"And Roosevelt commissioned him?"

"Sort of. You know, funny thing about his whole career. He fights the whole war, longer than any other American--late '39 to '45--then right at the end, he gets lost in the Pacific, missing. We all think he's dead for a year. Then they find him on that desert island last month, and now he's coming home."

There was a high, thin whine like a prop plane in a dive. It came from the foggy skies outside. Scoop put out his third Camel. "How can he land in this soup?"

"He's got an all-weather radar set--got it off a German night fighter back in '43. He could land that plane in a circus tent at midnight."

They went to the door. Two landing lights pierced the rolling mist. They lowered to the far end of the runway, turned, and came back on the taxi strip.

The red fuselage glowed in the gray-shrouded lights of the airstrip. The twin-engine high-wing plane turned toward them and rolled to a stop.

Linc Traynor put a set of double chocks under each of the two rear tricycle landing gears. Half the glass nose of the plane levered up and pulled back. The plane had four 20mm cannon snouts in the wing roots between the engines, and a 75mm gunport below and to the left of the cockpit rim.

It had a high thin rudder, and the rear elevators were shaped like the tail of a brook trout. Under each of the elevators was the muzzle of a rear-firing machine gun. The only markings on the plane were four nonstandard USAAF stars in a black roundel, and the serial number JB–1 on the top right and bottom left wings and beneath the rudder.

The radar antennae on the nose looked like something to roast weenies on.

A boy dressed in red pants, white shirt, and a blue helmet and goggles stepped out of the cockpit and onto the drop ladder on the left side.

He was nineteen, maybe twenty. He took off his helmet and goggles. He had curly mousy brown hair, hazel eyes, and was short and chunky.

"Linc," he said. He hugged the pudgy man to him, patted his back for a full minute. Scoop snapped off a shot.

"Great to have you back, Bobby," said Linc.

"Nobody's called me that in years," he said. "It sounds real good to hear it again."

"This is Scoop Swanson," said Linc. "He's gonna make you famous all over again."

"I'd rather be asleep." He shook the reporter's hand. "Any place around here we can get some ham and eggs?"

The launch pulled up to the dock in the fog. Out in the harbor a ship finished cleaning its bilges and was turning to steam back southward.

There were three men on the mooring: Fred and Ed and Filmore. One man stepped out of the launch with a suitcase in his hands. Filmore leaned down and gave the guy at the wheel of the motorboat a Lincoln and two Jacksons. Then he helped the guy with the suitcase.

"Welcome home, Dr. Tod."

"It's good to be back, Filmore." Tod was dressed in a baggy suit, and had on an overcoat even though it was August. He wore his hat pulled low over his face, and from it a glint of metal was reflected in the pale lights from a warehouse.

"This is Fred and this is Ed," said Filmore. "They're here just for the night."

" 'Lo," said Fred.

" 'Lo," said Ed.

They walked back to the car, a '46 Merc that looked like a submarine. They climbed in, Fred and Ed watching the foggy alleys to each side. Then Fred got behind the wheel, and Ed rode shotgun. With a sawed-off tengauge.

"Nobody's expecting me. Nobody cares," said Dr. Tod. "Everybody who had something against me is either dead or went respectable during the war and made a mint. I'm an old man and I'm tired. I'm going out in the country and raise bees and play the horses and the market."

"Not planning anything, boss?"

"Not a thing."

He turned his head as they passed a streetlight. Half his face was gone, a smooth plate reaching from jaw to hatline, nostril to left ear.

"I can't shoot anymore, for one thing. My depth perception isn't what it used to be."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Filmore. "We heard something happened to you in '43."

"Was in a somewhat-profitable operation out of Egypt while the Afrika Korps was falling apart. Taking people in and out for a fee in a nominally neutral air fleet. Just a sideline. Then ran into that hotshot flier."

"Who?"

"Kid with the jet plane, before the Germans had them."

"Tell you the truth, boss, I didn't keep up with the war much. I take a long view on merely territorial conflicts."

"As I should have," said Dr. Tod. "We were flying out of Tunisia. Some important people were with us that trip. The pilot s...

Copyright © 1987 by George R. R. Martin


Reviews

Wild Cards I - George R.R. Martin

- valashain
  (6/25/2011)

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