Miss Scarlet had a .30-30 cartridge in her hands, and she was focusing every ounce of the Art she could into it, whispering cantrips for speed, accuracy, and above all, discretion into its very fabric. She felt the power leaving her, and prayed that it would enter the cartridge as she had planned and not simply dissipate as magics sometimes did. It wasn’t a simple spell to charm a rich customer, or frighten off a deadbeat.

One of her girls’ lives was at stake.

“A scab, yes, I see,” she said. “Certainly not a festering ulcer, raw and wet, where people from the east and the wild folk are at each others’ throats for everything from misunderstanding to murder. Certainly not giving people like my girls and the wild folk out there the only tools I can to prevent your boots from crushing them like at New Marvel.”

“That’s not how it is!” Jed screamed. “The wild folk are over! Spent! They only haven’t realized it yet! Just like the mages were over and spent! I’m doing what needs to be done, and if you don’t like my methods, you just need to think how many lives it’ll save! Every dead person under my orders is saving a dozen others!”

Scarlet quietly slid the enchanted round into her repeater and slowly worked the well-oiled action, bringing the hammer back and filling the chamber.

Then she twisted the knife. “And how many dozens do you have to save through murder, Mr. Edenburner, before the ghosts of New Marvel will let you sleep?”

With an inarticulate scream, Jed raised his pistol. It was out, away from his body, exposed. Just what Miss Scarlet had been waiting for. She took careful aim, whispered a last few words of magicks, and pulled the trigger.

True to its commands, the bullet was an avenger of accuracy, cutting through the wooden door like soft butter before impacting the hinge that held Edenburner’s break-action revolver together. The impact jolted the weapon from his hand, and as it sprang free the weapon parted in two, its ejector spitting all his bullets onto the floor. Before Jed could bring up his other gun, Miss Scarlet had kicked in the door with an Art-enhanced kick and a weak but well-placed spell of opening.

She swept Jed’s hand aside with a well-placed buttstroke with her repeater, and brought its barrel to rest square on his chest. The next round was a plain old lead slug, but that was all it had to be.

“The next shot will end you, Mr. Jedidiah Edenburner,” Miss Scarlet said. “So think very carefully about what you say next.”

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