Read The Darkness of God: Book Three of the Shadow Warrior Trilogy Online
Authors: Chris Bunch
“Not my fault,” Joshua said. “I’m the original hot-dog danny normally. This pig you found in a boneyard and decided would make a good yacht’s got more slop than a hophead’s legs.”
“We had to move quickly.”
“So you did,” Joshua grunted. “Let’s hope it’ll hold together long enough to get us offworld and somewhere.”
“What’s your plan?”
“It’s changed,” Wolfe said. “I was hoping to find the Lumina and go straight after it.”
“What about Aubyn?”
“I don’t give a damn about her,” Wolfe said. “No Lumina, no power. Nor do I give a shit about how Rogan’s World is run anyway. But she’s with the Lumina now, so it’s going to be a two-for-the-price-of-one goat rope.”
“How do you know where she is?”
“Can you take her?” Kristin said.
“That’s what we’re going to find out. Grab the controls, and keep it level. I’m going to be busy for the next few seconds.”
• • •
Wolfe jumped in his seat, feeling the death-sweep rush toward him.
Shit. The bitch is waiting for me. I wonder if she’s got enough power — if she’s used the Lumina enough — to kill me with just her mind.
Breathe … breathe …
All right. We’ll have to go and have ourselves a look.
“I’ve got the con,” he said, and sent the
swooping down toward open farmland below. There were no buildings, vehicles, or workers in sight, and he landed the ship behind a long, high mow of drying grass.
He slid to a com, touched sensors. “Central Library,” he requested.
The screen blanked, lit with a rather unimaginative panel of books.
Wolfe touched keys;
The screen showed a sprawling series of ultramodern buildings, centering around a glass pyramid that might’ve been a cathedral.
“Son of a bitch,” Wolfe swore. “Old Edgar Allan’s got a
to answer for.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing.” Wolfe thought. “Since we don’t happen to have a battalion or two of marines in our back pockets, I guess I’ll just wander in and see what’s going on.”
“Why doesn’t Aubyn have troops surrounding the building, if she controls Rogan’s World? I surely would if I were her.”
A bit of a smile came to Wolfe’s mouth. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “And I’m very glad you’re not. Why no soldiery? I don’t know. Maybe Aubyn thinks the most important thing is for nobody to know who’s the puppet master here. Hell, for all I know, she’s aware of her enormous crimes and doesn’t think she morally deserves the army.”
He didn’t voice his real thought: that Token Aubyn didn’t think she needed any backup.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Kristin complained.
“Since when does
make any sense? All right. I’m betting I’ll find Aubyn — and that other thing — in the main building. I’m bringing this hog down on the other side of that rise. That should give you cover against direct fire.”
He picked up a bonemike from the control board, fitted it around his neck. “If you don’t hear anything — or you hear a lot of male screaming in my general tone of voice, get away from the ship, back into the city, and go to ground. Here. Take the credits we took from the hotel. That’ll get you a good running start in case Aubyn’s the vindictive sort. And good luck.”
“Aren’t you the one who’s going to need the luck?”
“I am. Wish I still believed in it.”
• • •
Not far from Fiscus-MacRae’s central building were two monolithic abstract sculptures, set by themselves in the rolling lawn.
Inside one, two men crouched behind a semiportable blaster, peering through a vision slit just above ground level. One lifted a microphone. “This is Two-Seven. One man, approaching from the east. I think he came from that ship that grounded about fifteen minutes ago. Shall we drop him?”
Inside the building a balding man with the muscles of a weightlifter spoke into his com. “This is Kilkhampton. Stand by.” He looked at the woman once known as Token Aubyn.
Her eyes were closed. They opened. “No,” she ordered. “We’ll let him get closer. Is he armed?”
The bald man looked at another screen. “I see some sort of ferrous material mass at his waist. Probably a pistol.”
“Let him come. He’s outgunned.”
The bald man eyed Aubyn, then opened his com.
• • •
Joshua Wolfe walked slowly, steadily, toward the building. His hands were at his sides, well away from the holstered sidearm. His breathing was slow, deep. In through the nose, out through the mouth, sixteen breaths a minute.
He stopped, held his hands out level, and his breathing slowed, four deep inhalations per minute.
Inside the building, he
the Great Lumina, a deep hum beyond hearing, a glow beyond vision. It swirled in his mind like a maelstrom, pulling him forward, pulling him toward death. He tried to take its power, failed. Another was blocking him, someone closer, more familiar with the Lumina’s power.
her waiting for him, an ant lion deep in her pit, a spider waiting for the web twitch.
for him, for his mind.
He refused contact. Forced himself away.
He noted the men hidden in the statue/gun emplacement, and other armed men equally well camouflaged around the seemingly deserted institution. There were other guards inside the building. They, too, were recognized.
beyond them, beyond Rogan’s World, into space. He felt the shrieking of the “red virus” in space as it clawed toward Man’s worlds.
beyond that, beyond Man, toward a nameless world deep in the void.
the touch of the last of the Al’ar, the Guardians, waiting for him, waiting for the Lumina.
He took strength, brought it back.
this time into memory.
The one he’d thought was the last of the Al’ar, Taen, lifted his head, and a Chitet bolt took him. Taen fell, dying, dead, across Joshua.
Wolfe remembered that moment, brought it forward. His breathing changed once more, quickening, almost panting, but far too regular, coming from his diaphragm.
Joshua felt the roar of life, of death, blood pouring through his veins. As he had once before, he took Taen’s death and cast it forth, like a net. He let it sweep out, around, over the towering glass building.
• • •
“What the hell’s he doing, just standing there — ”
Kilkhampton gagged suddenly, as if struck in the throat, grabbed for his chest, half rose, and toppled across the control board.
Aubyn was on her feet. She grabbed for his com.
“Any station — all stations — report immediately!”
There was no response.
Aubyn started to key the sensor again, tossed it away. She left the room and walked quickly but calmly for the lift.
• • •
Wolfe entered the huge circular room and looked around. There were two mezzanine balconies above, then the diffused crystalline light from the faceted-glass roof. To one side was a large reception desk of exotic woods, with an elaborate com. No one was behind the desk.
There was a body sprawled near one wall, a gun lying not far away.
The marble floor formed a swirl of black and white, leading the eye to the lift at the far end. The air smelled as if lightning had struck nearby not long ago. Wolfe’s breathing was slow, regular, deep.
A woman waited in the center of the room. She was about ten years younger than he was, not pretty, but striking. She wore a hand-tailored deep blue business suit. Her dark hair was cut close and looked a little like a cap.
She appeared unarmed.
Joshua drew his pistol with two fingers and spun it clattering across the marble to the side. Aubyn jumped in surprise, then recovered. Her eyes, hooded, sought Wolfe’s.
“I am Token Aubyn,” she said. Her voice was low, musical.
“You do not need my name,” Joshua said.
“You are not a Chitet,” she said.
“But you were helping them.”
“For my own purposes.”
Wolfe looked up at the glass ceiling. “Congratulations,” he said. “One crystal makes another invisible. Nice way to hide something in plain sight.”
“I am trying to
you,” Aubyn said calmly, not responding to what Wolfe had said. “What I call mind-seizing. But you’re different from others — from other minds I’ve chosen to use for my purposes. Your thoughts are different. Alien. I almost feel like I did when I first saw the crystal, and thought into it and knew I had to have it for my own.”
Again, Wolfe made no reply.
“The crystal,” Aubyn said, “what I’ve heard is called a Lumina, is mine. I found it. I killed for it. And I’ll kill again. This is my world, and soon I’ll be ready to reach out for more.
“You — or those Chitet fools I once believed knew something — cannot, must not stop me.”
discordance, as if someone had rubbed a finger along a wet glass, a glass with a hidden flaw in it, and the growing tone that could not be heard
“I am not a fool,” Aubyn went on. “I know the Lumina, and what it can give. So even though you’re strong, stronger than I thought at first, I must deal with the situation immediately. You must die now.”
There was nothing to see, but Wolfe
it as a flashing ball. He took it, welcomed it, and it was gone.
Aubyn looked startled.
Joshua felt force, coming down, crushing force, coming from all directions. He fought, tried to stand, but it was too strong. He slipped sideways and fell heavily, half-curled, one hand resting on his ankle.
Aubyn walked toward him.
Wolfe lay motionless.
Aubyn’s footfalls were very loud on the marble.
Wolfe’s right hand flickered to his boot top, and a tiny, six-pointed, razor bit of steel flashed.
Aubyn jerked as the shiriken scarred her face and blood spurted.
the Lumina then.
Zai … I welcome this … I accept this
… ku …
reach … reaching …
The room was filled with a great luminescence, hard, cold, all the colors that could be imagined, and he took its power, sending, receiving as it rebounded, building.
He dimly heard shattering glass, then the grating, rending of alloy beams as they cracked, smashed.
There was something floating in the middle of the room, a great gem of many facets, each facet flashing.
Wolfe came to his feet.
All the universe held was Token Aubyn’s eyes, boring into his. Aubyn’s eyes, and somewhere beyond, the Lumina.
welcomed the Lumina’s energy, welcomed the thin Al’ar force from far beyond in interstellar space, shaped the power, focused it, and the room flared with intolerable light.
Wolfe shouted — fear? rage? — as Aubyn’s body exploded into a sheet of flame for a bare instant. Then it was gone, and her unscathed body collapsed to the floor. Not far from her body was a gray, indistinct stone, about the size of Wolfe’s head.
Wolfe stumbled toward her and made sure she was dead. He spoke into the bonemike, “Bring the ship in. We’ve got a cargo to load.”
He let himself sink back to the floor, felt the chill of marble against his cheek, and welcomed nothingness for a time.
“For a renegade,” the comfortable-looking man named Fordyce said, “your Joshua Wolfe has been doing very, very well by Federation Intelligence. Are you sure you aren’t running a
deep private operation here?”
Cisco shook his head. “No, sir. I’ve been with FI too long not to remember my pension whenever I start getting too creative.”
“Of course,” Fordyce drawled blandly. “Certainly
never thought of such subterfuge, but was content to soldier my way up through the ranks, knowing my innate ability would be recognized in the fullness of time.” He roared with laughter.
The title on the entry door to his secured suite read
“You must admit,” Fordyce went on, “he has done us a world of good. Athelstan dead along with almost all of his advisors and security people, which puts a big crimp in the Chitet’s ambitions for a few dozen years. Admirable, simply admirable. If he were still on the payroll, we’d have to promote and gong him a couple of times. And I won’t even consider the seven rather senior officials in FI who decided, after the debacle on Rogan’s World, to either take early retirement or transfer to less, shall we say, active sections of the government. Rather a good job of smoking the moles out, I’d say.”
“Yes, sir,” Cisco said. “So what do you wish done about Wolfe?”
“I’d say nothing. Let him sneak back to his Outlaw Worlds and mind his own business.”
“We can’t do that, sir.”
“We’ve picked up some very strange data,” Cisco said. “You’re aware of those Al’ar objects called Lumina?”
“I am.” Fordyce’s tone became flat, disapproving. “Manna for oo-ee-oo-ee idiots and mystics.”
“The Al’ar didn’t think so,” Cisco persisted.
“That doesn’t mean they have any relevance to us,” Fordyce said. He waited for Cisco to withdraw the point, but the gray man just sat, lips drawn into thin lines. Fordyce sighed. “Very well. What new data about these Lumina further complicates the issue of Joshua Wolfe?”
“We’ve been getting reports of some sort of a super Lumina the Al’ar had at the end of the war. I don’t know if it was a secret weapon that didn’t quite work out, or what, for it was never deployed as far as I can tell,” Cisco said. “Supposedly this is what the Chitet were after, and why they hijacked Wolfe when I had him comfortably zombied and on the way back here for debriefing.”