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Authors: Mitchell Hogan

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Inquisitor

BOOK: Inquisitor
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INQUISITOR

MITCHELL

HOGAN

 

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

INQUISITOR

All rights reserved.

Published by Mitchell Hogan

Copyright © 2015 by
Mitchell Hogan

First Printing, 2015

 

Acknowledgements

For Angela and Isabelle,

and Rapunzel.

Huge amounts of gratitude to my editor Derek Prior, who has come along on this writing journey with me so far.

I’m indebted to everyone who read drafts and provided invaluable feedback: Ray Nicholson, Matthew Summers, Craig Atherton, and Toby Nance.

And to fellow author DK Mok, more thanks than I can ever say for her guidance and expertise. She selflessly devoted a great deal of time and energy, and with her input this book became so much more than it was.

 

Prologue

Outside the abandoned warehouse, snow drifted down from the ash-gray clouds of Alba Prime, blown sideways by a bitter wind.

Angel Xia hesitated after stepping out of the Inquisitor Modified Armored Vehicle they’d brought down to the planet with them. She looked around at the deserted streets. Leafless trees lined the pavements, branches like skeletal fingers reaching skyward. She sniffed, nose runny, and blew out a steaming breath. Behind her, a door slammed, and her partner, Viktor Lukin, crunched over the snowy ground to her side.

“Well,” he said, “this looks promising.”

Sarcasm flavored his words, but he’d learn. She snorted at the thought. He’d been her partner for almost a year, and she still thought of him as fresh. He’d made a few mistakes, but not as many as her previous partners. He was still alive, at least.

The warehouse walls were sheer and windowless. A main entrance, the only one for a hundred meters, was a metal door flaked with rust.

Her research showed this district had all but completely shut down when a breakthrough in nanochine manufacturing had rendered a whole industry obsolete. So much for progress.

Angel slid fingers down to touch the hand-cannon strapped to her thigh. She preferred this location over a side holster, and it reminded the citizens she questioned of her position. They were more likely to provide cogent answers when her weaponry was on display.

“Check your firearm,” Angel said. “This could get messy.”

Viktor grinned and patted a bulge at his side through his coat. “Always do.”

There was anticipation in Viktor’s voice. He’d trained long and hard, and passed difficult examinations and tests to get where he was.

“Angel, what makes you think the Ghoul is here?”

She grunted softly. The media had come up with the name for the serial killer a few weeks ago. And she hated it. She glanced around then moved toward the door. Viktor followed.

“They’ve messed up,” Angel said. “Hitting different pharmaceutical manufactories, virtually in a circle, around this district. The drugs are all rare and expensive, and they all help to combat genetic decay.” She had her suspicions as to what that meant: the Ghoul was a discarded Genevolve. A failed genetic experiment. Even their discards were stronger, faster, and more intelligent than human normal. And it was a Genevolve that did for her last partner, and the one before that. But she didn’t want to alarm Viktor. “Which brings me to the men and women who disappeared. Have you tried using your neural implants to overlay a timeline of the… abductions?” It was always better to think of the victims as still alive, even if the chances were slim. “I think it’s a Genevolve. But they’ve been too careless to still be with the Genus.”

“A discard?”

“It has to be. And if one heard you call them that, they’d try to cut your head off.”

“That’s what they are,” Viktor said. “Discarded by the Genevolves because of their faults. Whatever that means. They’re all crazy.”

She waited as Viktor ran a few programs. Her own implants displayed the results of her hunch: eleven green dots overlaid on a map, with other red dots. These also appeared randomly scattered in among the green ones. She knew what Viktor would be seeing: green dots appearing at the edge of the circle of red dots, then moving closer to the center. The last few were all within two kilometers of each other.

“Well,” murmured Viktor, “that’s… interesting. They’re spiraling inward. Toward this location.” He growled under his breath. “I missed it.”

“Whoever it is, they’re getting lazy or overconfident or… hungrier. This district comprises warehouses, mostly abandoned, and for the last three days I’ve been going over thermal images of the area—”

“Angel, have you had any sleep?”

“I’ll sleep when this is over. Someone’s been entering and exiting this building. It’s meant to be abandoned.” The discard had to be stopped, the families of the victims required closure, and the victims themselves… they needed peace.

“So,” Viktor continued, “we’re going straight through the front door?”

Angel drew her hand-cannon. “Yes. He’s here. I know it. He or she. Whatever.”

The door opened easily under the ministrations of the Inquisitor programs embedded in their implants. Its lock was old and likely out of date when it was installed years ago.

Inside, it was dark and cold.

“No lights,” whispered Angel. “Let your implants compensate.”

“Damned things make me dizzy.”

“They wouldn’t if you practiced more often.”

Angel’s vision flickered, and the darkness dissipated around her. Her implants overlaid an image of what was in front of her, every few seconds flashing from night vision to infrared and back again. For the uninitiated and unpracticed, it was a confusing transition. Some of the Inquisitor trainees had convulsions the first time they experienced it, and they were failed on the spot.

On the floor, there was a clear path leading down the corridor ahead, where someone’s footsteps had frequently disturbed the dust.

“Stay close to me,” Angel said.

She crept forward, keeping to the path in the dust. It ran for twenty meters, then through a set of swinging doors. She kept her weapon aimed in front of her and poked her head between them.

When she wasn’t shot at, she pushed the rest of her body through and slipped to the side, covering Viktor as he followed. The trail kept going to the right before turning up a plascrete staircase with a metal railing.

At the base of the stairs she paused. Her implants revealed a shiny thread stretched across the bottom-most stair: an anti-intruder device of some sort. Angel pointed at it then motioned Viktor to follow. She stepped carefully over the thread and continued upward.

At the first-floor landing, the trail exited the stairs, but… the apparent lack of another anti-intruder device worried her. She paused for a few moments. Something wasn’t quite right, and her mind itched, as if a sixth sense were telling her something. Angel stepped back and scanned the stairs. On the next flight, the dust wasn’t disturbed, but she ran a hand along the railing and it came away clean. Clever. Their target had laid a false path along the first floor and used the railing to climb further up.

Angel made sure the stairs were clear of more threads before moving up.

A shadow moved, and something metallic clattered down toward them. Angel’s augmented vision tracked the object as it bounced.

Shit
. She sprang up the steps to intercept it, managing to latch onto the device with a desperate lunge. She scrabbled to the inner railing and threw it down the stairs, then grabbed Viktor’s arm—he was standing there, trying to get a clear shot—hooked her leg behind his, and dragged him to the floor. She rolled them both away from the railing.

Angel had time to close her eyes before a flash of light burst from below. Beneath their feet, the plascrete shrieked under the stress. Angel shoved Viktor off and scrambled upright. If it were her, now would be the time she’d attack.

Another shadow moved in the stairwell above them.

Angel flicked the ammo selector to stun and blasted into the darkness. Muzzle flare blinded her for an instant, followed by blasts as her pellets exploded with devastating force.

She flicked her ammo selector again and raced up the stairs, firing blindly. Nothing.

She pressed her back to the wall, breathing heavily. The door to the fourth floor stood open. Viktor edged up behind her.

“Backup is on the way,” he whispered. “And thanks. For back there.”

“Buy me a drink sometime. Do you have a bug on you?”

Viktor handed her a small black sphere. Angel placed it by the door and linked to it through her implants. The sphere unfolded, extending eight legs and looking for all intents and purposes like a metal spider. She selected its scan and recon program and set it loose. The bug scuttled through the open door and into the fourth floor.

Images and plans of the floor began pouring into their implants. The corridor through the door was clear. Breathing a sigh of relief, Angel inched forward, hand-cannon extended.

More images came through, and a layout of the floor grew piece by piece as the bug did its work. Numerous rooms led off the corridor, and most were empty. One wasn’t, and her implants indicated it was drawing power.

She burst through the door and ducked behind a laboratory desk. There was an astringent medicinal smell, and a noise like bubbling fish tanks drowned out any other sound. Her glimpse of the room hadn’t revealed anyone, but she could have missed them. She peeked over the top of the desk and scanned for signs of life. There were five heat signatures, none of them big enough to be human.

Viktor came through the door and ducked behind another desk opposite her. She sent him a directive through their implants, and together they stood, weapons leveled. They moved forward in unison, making sure the room was clear. Only when they were confident it was, did she realize the bubbling came from glass cylinders filled with a reddish liquid.

Bile rose in her throat. There were ovaries and uteri floating in one of the cylinders, all of them attached together with metal filaments.

Viktor retched but managed to hold onto his stomach contents. Whatever was in the cylinder next to him, she didn’t want to know.

It looked like they’d found the missing women. And Angel had seen such experiments before, back in her first year as an Inquisitor. She closed her eyes momentarily, fighting back dread. She’d been correct. The Genevolves were bad enough, but their discards were worse. Usually psychologically unstable, they were ripped from the Genevolve organization, the Genus, and left to their own devices. The Genevolves couldn’t bring themselves to dispose of them, their “children”, so preferred to leave that to the Inquisitors when they found them—usually after a killing spree. The discards felt their loss keenly, and most sank further into madness. Many became obsessed with genetics and the origin of life. Both Genevolves and their discards were outlaws, to be captured or killed on sight.

This one was particularly bad. Each crime scene had been littered with discarded surgical equipment, along with a great deal of blood. Traces of refrigerants had led her to believe the bodies were being preserved… though for reasons she’d yet to determine.

“It’s a discard all right,” Angel said.

“Agreed,” said Viktor.

A signal from the bug reported movement. A shadowy movement only, but it was enough to confirm her fear. The discard was cutting its losses and running. She had to confront it.

Turning so Viktor couldn’t see, she wiped her sweaty palms on her pants. She switched ammunition again. This time, she didn’t plan on playing nice.

The bug pinpointed the person on the floor layout. Angel examined the schematic and, without waiting for Viktor, took off running. One had torn apart her last partner; she wouldn’t give this one the chance.

She bolted out of the room and turned right, sprinting down the corridor. Another right turn. Her implants marked her location on the floor plan along with the person the bug was now tracking. She turned and took the next left, too fast, and careened off the wall. They would hear the pounding of her feet. She’d have to be careful.

Ahead, the corridor opened up into an empty room at the back of the warehouse. One of the windows had been taken out and lay resting against a plascrete pillar. That had to be the discard’s exit point. Her heart hammered in her chest. Her breath came short and fast.

She had one last fleeting glance at the layout and dived into the room. She slid across the floor on her side, raising clouds of dust, hand-cannon aiming where the bug said the discard should be.

The muzzle flashed as she squeezed off round after round. Her high-explosive shots came first. Detonations thundered. The remaining windows shattered, glass flying outward. Chips of plascrete flew around her, dislodged by return fire from her target. Angel continued firing.

There. Her augmented vision darkened to soften the blasts of light, but a figure moved across the room. Angel rolled to her stomach, in the same motion switching to homing-flechette rounds and spraying the area.

BOOK: Inquisitor
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