For Jenny Griffee, NaNoNov winner of 2004,

who provided a hell of a good idea for a new class of magical being,

not to mention a slam-bang character


My name is Joanne Baldwin, and in case you haven't been keeping up with current events, we're in big trouble. The world, I mean. As for me, I've been in trouble since... well, always... but this is big. The Wardens--the folks who are supposed to be protecting all of you from the dangers of raging fires, floods, earthquakes, and natural disasters of all kinds--have been compromised. Slowly but surely, they've lost their way and become corrupt and ineffective.

I used to be one of them, until I acquired a Demon Mark and fell in love with a Djinn, but that's another story altogether (Ill Wind, actually, if you're taking notes). The point is that now, the Djinn--who should be the allies of the Wardens--aren't playing by the rules that have held for millennia. A Djinn named Jonathan set up those rules, and now that Jonathan's gone, all bets are off.

And the Djinn's new leader? My lover, David. What that bodes for a stable relationship is still up in the air, but confidentially? I'm worried.

The human race has one chance to keep its place at the top of the food chain: make peace with the Djinn, and that means somehow, some way, making peace with the Earth itself. Which ain't gonna be easy, because Mother Nature is pissed off.

And apparently, I may be the only one able to do something about it.

Lucky me...

Chapter One

I was thinking that the Wardens needed a new motto. The old one, the one on the seals on my diploma, was Defensor Hominem, Latin for "Defender of Mankind," but sometime in the past twenty-four hours, I'd become convinced that I had a more appropriate motto: We're So Screwed.

Yeah, that pretty much covered it.

"Duck!" I yelled as another piece of debris came flying toward us, and grabbed for whatever order I could manage in the chaos of the weather around us. Not the easiest thing in the world, considering that the whole eastern seaboard's system had been destabilized by a gigantic killer supernatural storm--now mysteriously vanquished, through no doing of mine--and all kinds of random, unpleasant, potentially fatal problems were presenting themselves.

Currently, those included a rather large and very aggressive tornado plowing its way across some unoccupied farmland and tossing pieces of broken fence ahead of it like shrapnel.

Cherise--my traveling companion, mainly because she had a kick-ass fast Mustang and I needed wheels--squeaked and hit the dirt, covering her pretty blond head with both hands. I remained standing. It wasn't heroism, exactly, more that I didn't want to dirty up what remained of my clothes. I think about things like that during the more garden-variety apocalypses.

This is what happens when someone like me--a Weather Warden--stops for a bathroom break in the middle of a crisis. And dammit, I hadn't even gotten bladder relief out of it. I had a very personal reason to hold my ground: the tornado was threatening to flatten the only roadside public restroom in forty miles.

I reached out for the wind currents and grabbed hold of the ones that would do me the most good. A sudden gust of wind, generated by a big push of heat in the right area, deflected an oncoming piece of fencepost--a nice big chunk of jagged wood, the size of a fire hydrant--off to the side, where it smacked into an unlucky wind-lashed tree, which it uprooted with a crash. Dirt flew, adding to the general chaos and mayhem. I studied the tornado, ignoring gusts that tried to push me over; I was standing in a bubble of more or less calm air, but the wind was getting through in fits and spurts. Whatever good hair day I'd been having was a distant memory. We were into the scary fright-wig territory now.

Yes, I worry about things like hair, too. Probably more than I worry about world peace, mainly because at least I can usually control my hair.

Unable to do anything about my ruined look, focused on the tornado. They're relatively fragile things, for all the scary woo-woo attitude and screaming freight-train soundtrack. Oh, they're terrifying enough if you don't have the power to do anything about them, but luckily, I was well-equipped for this particular challenge. The twister reeled like a drunken top, right, then left, and headed straight for me with fresh enthusiasm, chewing up crops as it went. I hate it