Source: Shadow Over Avalon
A great read! March 15, 2017
I love books set around old legends and myths and this book didn’t disappoint. The story is imaginative and we’ll thought out, which is also unquie compared to other books I have read about Arthur. A great read! Would definitely recommend
Strangely enough, this was not a book I intended to write after I finished Darkspire Reaches, which was supposed to be a stand alone novel. However, there was a certain expectation from my publishers that there would be a sequel and I will admit to prevarication until I saw the comments in the reviews for Darkspire Reaches. While I will never respond, I always take notice and I saw people were asking questions about the world, in particular the Shangrove and also wondering about a sequel, so I go to thinking about what would happen next. This book was so much fun to write and now I guess I am thinking about a third in the series. Maybe I’ll call that one Wurms of the World. We will see.
Due to busting my ribs at the weekend and ending up in ER on Monday, I wasn’t much in the frame of mind to continue. The pain is more or less under control now and my muse has returned. Woo Hoo.
Azrael had imagined she’d be presented with the sentence of the person to be culled, detailing why they must die, but when she faced the banker assigned to her, a bald, fat, sweating man sitting behind a priceless off-world wooden desk, she learned otherwise.
Armed with a mental image of a middle-aged man, details of his usual security and precisely where he would be when she made the hit, Azrael wanted to vomit. She was no better than the gun she now collected on her way to the rooftop transport; one weapon carrying another. The Banker had also given her instructions as to where she must position her lethal shots on the body of her victim. One for the head and one for the heart so there was no possibility of saving the man. Of course, had she been equipped with a higher velocity projectile weapon, this would be a consideration as the man’s head would have exploded on impact. The choice to use what she must was necessitated by the proximity of other people to the man. Although the banker didn’t enlighten her, Azrael wondered if the extra care came because the person who ordered the hit would be standing close by to give a façade of innocence? She couldn’t think why else she needed to make shots into a crowd, for the second shot was going to confirm the identity of the victim as no accident.
Once on the roof she checked over the grav lifter left out for her, going over all the fuel lines and the ignition system. Aside from getting her in position on top of a highrise roof to make the kill, she depended on it to get her away clean afterward. A random thought crossed her mind, leaving her to wonder what happened when the banker’s angels got caught in the act?
Still looking for a name for this story.
A weapon needed honing, for that is what Azrael was now. The tanks merely grew a clone to the state of an adult person, one who had never developed consciousness for they had never been awakened until the essence of the original individual was infused. While electrical impulses forced the muscles to move, it wasn’t enough to build strength, particularly with the titanium shields on parts of her bones increasing her weight. She spent hours at the angel’s personal gym, dealing with replenishing the deficit. Not what she wanted to do, but as the others said, there wasn’t a choice. She found this out when she didn’t move fast enough. A wrenching pain pulsed through her head, bringing her to her knees. This wasn’t something a person ever wanted repeating, so she worked harder after that.
Weapons training also figured, both on how to aim properly and how to break down and care for weapons. They ranged from tiny lazars fitting in the palm of a hand to bulkier projectile weapons for a long-range kill. Azrael found her accuracy increased along with her strength, something she didn’t like, but had no choice to alter. Hand to hand combat began once she had mastered the perfect projectile shot over a distance and could run five leagues on a treadmill. She found herself facing guards armed with dull stone knives, like the one she wielded for practice. Strange she wasn’t matched with other angels, but they were never present when she worked out. What was it about her that the bankers wanted to keep separate from the others? Maybe the killing skills? Perhaps they didn’t trust their angels and so limited their abilities?
As hard as she tried to slow the process down, there came a day when she was judged ready for her first assignment. Clothed in camouflage gear, complete with an emergency medical kit and a communicator, but no weapons as yet, she was marched to meet a banker for the first time. He’d give her details of the kill.
It wasn’t talking to me yesterday, but it is now.
These naked people in here with her, condemned as was she, had a connection with each other? She chanced a look over at the nearest one.
No, do not acknowledge any communication or they will become suspicious. What you must do is let your mind wander into the place of pre-sleep, where all is calm and nothing matters. They can’t detect us there, in downtime.
She did as told, desperately wanting more and knowing it wasn’t going to happen unless she complied. Finding the place of quiet inside her took a while as it had been so long since she had a feeling other than terror. Finally, she floated high in the sky in her pre-dreams.
Good. The bankers can’t find us here. Now we must have a naming. We all have angel names that suit who we are now. They gave you the killer number so you must be the new assassin. Your name is now Azrael, the angel of death.
A hot thought of rebellion flooded her mind for a second before the newly named Azrael found downtime again. Why can’t I die? They must give me weapons to kill others, so why can’t I turn them on myself? I don’t want to be a killer.
When they made us, they fitted out bodies with internal armor and our minds with a hot wire to the pain center. Try to self-destruct and the feedback from the bankers is immediate. You will writhe with a pain only nightmares could conjure. What is worse, because we are all linked, every one of us will suffer the echo of agony and must hide it.
No suicide, then, for someone must have tried and failed for the collective to be so convinced it was impossible. There were other ways, though. What if I stand in the line of fire? They can’t stop that.
They tag us for body retrieval, having a team standing by in case of accidents. You will wake up in a fresh body if you manage to destroy the one you wear. They have clones of all of us waiting to be animated. There is no escape. All we have in downtime. One day there will be enough of us to rise up against them. We can wait, for time is on our side.
Waiting through eternity for a chance of rebellion? This sentence plumbed the depths of cruelty. Azrael would never have killed if her son hadn’t been murdered and … there was something else, but she couldn’t remember. What else had they taken away from her? Killing went against her nature; she knew this. What other factor forced her hand? Someone took revenge for her actions personally, or she would have been executed. She wondered if they were going to derive pleasure from watching her at her new function?
At least the guards were looking through her instead of at her. Perhaps she was now a thing of aberration? Number 666 hoped this was so as her nakedness shamed her as much now as when she’d worn an older body. The stepped aside from a now opened door, gesturing her to go inside, which she did. The door snapped shut behind her, with the click of a locking mechanism very audible.
This place was dimly lit and bare but a lot bigger than her previous cell. It also housed five other naked people, three men and two women, with numbers engraved on the skin of their shoulders. They sat on the floor with their backs against a wall and their heads down. All lost souls like her. The room contained a reclamation station at one end as well as a sand shower. She guessed they angels, being possessions, represented a large investment, but what did it mean? Was she to sit in isolated silence until she had an assignment. That thought terrified her as it meant she had to kill someone, but what if she turned the weapon on herself? They had to give her some form of weapon, didn’t they? She had a way out of this horror.
No, you don’t. Self-destruction is not permitted.
The voice echoed inside her head. No one had spoken and yet she heard the voice clearly. Was this how the Bankers controlled her?
Sit down against the wall, lower your head and keep quiet, like the others here.
Number 666 did so. Whatever happened, or did not, was in the hands of a cruel fate. Strange the voice didn’t seem to belong to one, but to many.
Do not move or look at the others. Stay very still with your head down. Good. We are your companions, not the Bankers. They must never know how we communicate with each other.