As Templar Simon Cross fights to lead the hunted survivors of the demon surge toward salvation, time and supplies run short. Simon must penetrate the dark secrets of the demons as well as those of his partner in peril, Leah Creasey to keep his charges safe. But Leah's organization won't surrender their knowledge easily, even as new technology emerges from the Goetia Manuscript that could help Simon's cause.
Warren Schimmer, linked to one of the darkest of the hellspawn the demonic Lilith is himself also targeted by infernal forces. No longer able to hide, Warren must emerge as a leader and turn a ragged band of Cabalists into an army. But when a vicious weapon that uses dreams against the human survivors of the city draws the Templars, the Cabalists, and the Hunters into the same arena, will they join forces...or turn against one another?
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.40(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Shadows meant safety. At least, shadows meant safety most of the time. They didn't offer shelter or a defensive position if those shadows were trying to eat someone hiding within them. And when someone hiding within them attacked, the shadows lost all effect.
Leah Creasey worked to think only good thoughts about what she was about to do. Thinking that she might die at any given moment wasn't conducive to stealth. At the moment, stealth was her greatest ally.
She eased through the alley in southeast London's Greenwich Peninsula. Not much of the metropolis existed here that the demons didn't control. However, most humans stayed out of the area these days and the demons didn't have anyone to hunt. Since they lived to hunt, most of them had gone where the hunting was better.
For the moment, the area wasn't as heavily patrolled as it had been in the past. From personal experience, Leah knew that the demons lived to hunt. They didn't like pulling guard duty or anything that didn't allow them to unleash their blood frenzy.
Halfway down the alley, Leah found a fire escape that zigzagged down the thirty-four-story building. She wore the lightweight black nanoflex aug-suit, built to boost a human's strength and speed. It covered her from head to toe.
Her headpiece was reinforced to provide protection from bullets that caught her at an angle and didn't strike her dead-on. These days it also served to keep demons' claws from slicing off her face. It was also filled with a communications array and vision-enhancement programming. She carried a backpack that held additional munitions, meals, and other supplies. The heavy Poseidon sniper rifleacross her back felt familiar and reassuring.
"Blue Scout, this is Base," a woman's voice said. Commander Jane Hargrove called the shots on the night's operation. "Are you in position?"
"I will be." Leah jumped up ten feet easily with the +Flex nanowire that ran throughout the suit. The suit was cutting-edge, ahead of anything else that had been reached inside the military.
Only Leah knew that the suits, while serviceable and as good as anything she'd ever used in clandestine ops, were no match for the sheer onslaught and defensive capability of Templar armor. After all, the Templar designer of the suits had given the schematics to the military. That secretive order had kept the best for themselves. She didn't blame them. With the enemies they'd planned on facing, they'd needed an edge.
Leah caught hold of the ladder and pulled herself up easily. The suit augmented her strength and speed, putting her far ahead of the abilities of Olympic champions. Almost effortlessly, she ran up thirty-three flights of stairs in the darkness. All power to Central London had been lost when the Hellgate opened at St. Paul's.
At the rooftop, she slid the Poseidon from her back and crawled onto the roof. The LiquidBalance soles of her boots, kneepads, and elbow pads protected her from the rough roofing material and kept her movements soundless. The nonorganic, frictionless liquid didn't deaden her sense of touch, though. She felt the surface, but she didn't suffer injury.
Leah lay prone on her stomach and stared at the dome-shaped white building below. Londoners simply called it the O2. Originally, it had been called the Millennium Dome and had been built to celebrate London's third millennium. Unfortunately, it hadn't proved to be the cash cow investors had thought it would be. The enterprise had since been renovated into an entertainment center that housed shops and a sports arena.
The white dome had been constructed of polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic fluoropolymer that was lighter than the air trapped inside the dome. A network of support cables held it in place. Now, though, several holes gaped in the material and it looked like a battered wasp's nest.
The look suited. From what Hargrove's intel officers had discovered, several Darkspawn had taken up residence there and converted the dome into a weapons manufacturing plant.
Leah and her group intended to cripple the demons' operation.
If they could. At best, it would be a holding maneuver.
"Blue Scout," Hargrove called again. Irritation edged the commander's words. Or it might have been fear. Even after four years of fighting the demons, the fear didn't go away.
"I'm here." Leah leaned her cheek against the Poseidon's buttstock. The electronic connection juiced immediately, and the rifle's telescopic sights fed directly into her right monocular. Her left eye still swept the streets below. Mentally, through years of training, she switched from left eye to right eye without closing either of them.
"All right," Hargrove said, "send in the drones."
Leah put a hand to the side of her helmet and clicked the control pad. The vision in her left eye changed slightly as it acquired a greenish cast. drone/bot tracking enabled tracked across the upper left of her vision. She needed to be able to identify friendlies down in the battlezone.
Almost immediately, dozens of green lights lifted from the surrounding neighborhood. All of them were bots and drones created by Agency tech. Before the demonic invasion, several of the designs had only been computer plans or prototypes. Now the Agency readily produced them. They just couldn't get manufactured quickly enough.
Some of the bots flew through the air like miniature airplanes, while others sped across the rock-strewn terrain with oversized tires, like ATVs. It looked like the attack of children's toys.
Except that no child's toy was ever as lethal as the bots. They were equipped with heavy weapons -- HARP rifles, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, and other munitions -- and operated on the run by the cyber kill squads within the group.
Leah intended to pick off targets that showed up. She forced her breath out, relaxing into that state of near hypnosis she'd learned when she'd first trained as a sniper.
The first wave of bots painted enemy targets with infrared beams. Drones followed immediately behind and opened fire on the designated targets.
With calm detachment, Leah picked up on the infrared targeting beams and tracked one to her first target. No one knew how many Darkspawn worked within the wrecked dome. In bygone days, thousands of humans had shopped and watched sporting events there.
At first glance, the Darkspawn looked like starfish. They had pointed, conical heads, gray-green skin, and multiple eyes on their flat faces. They stood on massive, three-toed lizard's claws that could rip and destroy.
Leah's finger curled round the Poseidon's trigger naturally. Certain of the target, she pulled through the trigger and rode out the recoil. A beam of energy -- something the techsmiths had designated "spectral" because it interrupted the electromagnetic and electrical fields of a human and a demon -- blasted out for just a moment.
The Darkspawn staggered back. Leah shot it again and watched it fall back once more. The demon never recovered this time. One of the tracked drones locked on to it and spewed Greek Fire over it. The flames sucked the demon down and he rolled across the ground in an effort to put them out. Then it collapsed.
Leah moved on to the next target, a Darkspawn Scout. The designations had come down through informants the commander had among the Cabalists. They'd agreed with the information Leah had gotten from the Templar histories Simon Cross had let her have access to.
She pulled the trigger again and again, riding out the recoil and staying locked on to the target. Other buildings held other snipers.
All of them, Leah knew, lived on borrowed time. She looked for the next target as the last one crumpled to the ground and lay still.
"C'mon, baby," Engineer Third Class Geoffrey Baker pleaded. "Get up. Get moving. Don't just lie there and wait to be destroyed."
Through the connection to his drone and bots inside the O2 building, Baker saw his battle drone kicking its legs futilely as it tried to stand.
"C'mon. You're hurt, but you're not dead yet." Baker took cover behind an overturned car. Rust framed the rents and tears in the metal. The rust went against Baker's training, and he resisted the impulse -- even while fighting for his life -- to buff the orange cancer from the metal.
He tabbed the controller sheathing his right forearm. The fingers of his left hand danced across the touchscreen as he utilized the drone's onboard self-repair programming. The drone worked around some shorted circuits, but any substantial damage required attention back in the labs.
Arc-flare from a NanoDyne Shockstorm flared uncomfortably close. Baker instinctively dived away from it and took cover in another position as he brought up the F-S Rail Gun he carried in his right hand.
The electrical energy used by the Shockstorm lifted the Darkspawn out of the darkness as it reached for Baker. The sharp claws sliced within inches of his face.
Terrified even after four years of fighting the demons, Baker brought the Rail Gun up and fired only because he'd been trained to. That was why, his instructor had told him repeatedly, they trained.
The Rail Gun exploded and jumped in Baker's hand. The depleted uranium bullets tracked across the demon's hide and opened craters. Vile purple blood leaked out of the wounds. Instantly the smell of corruption rose up stronger than the stench of ozone from the Shockstorm.
The demon fell back. The rounds amputated one of its feet.
"Hey Baker," the black-suited agent behind the young engineer said, "good thinking shooting his foot off like that. Makes it bloody hard for him to stand up."
"I didn't -- " Baker tried to say mean to, but he never got the chance. The agent patted him on the shoulder and moved to a new position.
Calming himself, Baker turned his attention back to the drone inside the O2. The recircuiting had been finished. Watching from the "eyes" of one of the inhibitor bots he controlled, Baker saw the drone right itself.
From the "waist" up, the drone looked vaguely human. The head that rotated 360 degrees; eyes that saw under low-light conditions, thermal, and infrared; and two arms that held an XMS10 Jackhammer shotgun. The lower part of the drone consisted of a tracked assembly.
The drone pushed up with its arms till it once more sat on the tracks. A Darkspawn attacked at once, firing energy bolts from a weapon Baker couldn't quite identify. There were just too many demon weapons to know at the time, and they continued building new ones.
The energy bolts rocked the drone backward. Through the sim-link connecting him to the drone, Baker ordered the drone to get up and get moving. Locked into the viewpoint of one of his inhibitor bots, Baker watched as the drone pushed with both hands and righted itself.
"There you go," Baker told himself. A wave of relief washed through him. He commanded the inhibitor bot to spin and look around.
Although the bots were equipped with F-S Nitesite, the interior of the dome's interior held impossible darkness. The bot barely saw fifteen feet in the blackness. Thankfully, Baker had also equipped them with sonar. When he switched over to that, his monocular filled with the flat images of the milling demons.
He commanded the drone to fire at will.
The drone opened up at once. Even though he was too far away from the strange happenings, Baker searched the area. It was too much to hope for one of the Named Demons to be in charge of the manufacturing plant.
As the bot jostled about the building's interior, a laser tracking signal suddenly painted the Darkspawn less than twenty feet away. Okay, let's bring him down.
The inhibitor bot was designed to slow down the demon's moves. They didn't offer heavy weapons like those carried by the drones, but they carried a sonic and microwave array guaranteed to throw off most demons with nausea and blurred vision. The effects were also painful.
The Darkspawn raised its weapon, then got hit full force by the inhibitors. The creature lurched to the side and barely caught itself in time to stay upright.
Baker's fingers glided across the touchpad without looking at it. He saw the drone through another inhibitor's lenses as it brought up the Jackhammer, fitted the heavy shotgun to its shoulder, and fired. The drone worked the slide, ejected the spent cartridge, and seated another one. It fired again.
The shotgun pellets were soft metal, designed to shatter after sinking into an opponent's flesh. Half of the pellets contained Greek Fire. The other half held plastic explosives treated to react with liquid. As soon as an enemy's blood touched the broken pellets, they exploded.
Fire spewed from the massive wounds in the demon's chest, then its chest came apart as the explosives kicked in. Almost hollowed out by the blasts, the Darkspawn toppled backward and crashed to the floor in a loose-limbed sprawl.
Baker sent his bots and drone deeper into the dome. He was concentrating so fiercely on what they were seeing that he didn't notice he was no longer alone until it was too late.
Feeling eyes on him, Baker turned to his right, toward his monocled side where his peripheral vision was limited. The Blade Minion standing there grinned at Baker. The thing stood seven feet tall, broad across the head and shoulders, and covered with a dark green carapace that made it look like an insect. Spikes jutted out from its massive forearms.
Baker tried to bring up the Rail Gun, but he knew it was already too late. The Blade Minion stabbed him through the armor he wore and pierced his heart. Judging from the way the demon's fist snugged up against his chest, Baker knew that several inches of the spike jutted out his back.
He tried to breathe and failed. His drone and bots became unresponsive, trapped in the middle of the war zone. Desperate, he tried to bring them to him. They came, but they'd never make it in time. Something that reached out of the darkness crushed one of the bots.
Baker felt the bot go off-line as his own life faded. He tried again to breathe and failed once more; now he felt his lungs filling up with blood.
Where's my cover?
Someone was supposed to be watching over him. His knees folded under him, and his vision tightened to one small dot. The last thing he saw, though, was the Blade Minion's head going to pieces as one of the snipers found the demon too late.
Copyright © 2008 by Flagship Studios, Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the 2nd time around with the series. I enjoyed as much or if not more then the 1st time.
This was my first Game series book, was surprised very intense and entertaining. Recommend highly.
Well, as you can see my old coven has no active members...