Tag Archives: science fiction

Death’s Angel. A little more.

He had said she would be punished, called Azriel by her Angel name, not her unit designation given by the controllers. Did the centurion know of the mind link between Angels? Of the utter desolation of being cut off from the others? The hurt went far beyond any physical wound.
Azriel lay in isolated luxury, too weak to leave her comfortable bed. Not the med facility; this room and its contents, represented unimagined wealth. Around a metal table, embellished with lighter colored metal, were four padded chairs with ornate, shiny legs. On the wall behind, a large holo picture of a vast area of water crashing against rock, sending spray high, made a disquieting vision for anyone unused to freestanding moisture. The sky was the wrong color, a dull, almost liquid gray.
Set on the wall by the foot of her bed a deep porthole gave a view of endless stars stretching to infinity. The absolute isolation pounded at her sense of self, bringing despair. She willed someone to walk through the featureless metal posing as a door.
Covered by a blanket of natural fiber, Azriel shivered, used to warmer synthetics. The Outworlders had dressed her in a short, sleeveless wrap-around of a light weave. Clothes, being another luxury unextended to off-duty Angels, felt strange.
Time dragged by, ever slower. Silence bounced off the priceless walls. Azriel, alone with her memories, yearned for the other Angels, now lost to her. She desperately tried to concentrate on them and not the victims she had been forced to terminate at the whim of the controllers. When the door hissed open, she almost screamed with relief. The centurion strode through with a blaster leveled at her. He turned one of the chairs around, so the back faced her and straddled it, his weapon held ready. His incredible green eyes held no warmth.
“I’ve just come from an autopsy on your victim. Given your physically weakened state at the time of the incident, our conclusion is the female’s neck was snapped by someone who knew the exact angle and force needed.”
Azriel focused on the blaster, hoping he’d come to use it on her for executing the woman. He had more than enough reasons.
He sighed, not taking his eyes off her for a second. “We also extracted the makings of a garrote from your hair and secreted in your clothing two fixed- blade knives, one stiletto and an assortment of substances capable of causing an explosion. Comments? I know you can understand me from your thoughts.”
She didn’t give him the satisfaction of any reaction. Now he knew her purpose. Surely this must mean death in some form?
“Not talking? I can see strength enough for that if nothing else.” He uncoiled from the chair with a fighter’s grace and began to back toward the door, pausing in the now open threshold. “Food is coming soon. Should you decline, you will be force-fed. Your choice.”
Azriel bit back a cry when he turned to go. Something about the look on his face made her think he expected her to beg him to stay. She would get through this . . . somehow. Until this point, she hadn’t realized how much she relied on the constant mental presence of other Angels.
When the door opened next, Azriel struggled up into a sitting position. Pain slashing through her side, but she needed a shock tactic of her own. Perhaps the centurion watched her from the lens set just under the ceiling-mounted light unit. She had spotted the telltale glint immediately. It didn’t differ much from the vids used on Altair IV.
The young Outworlder with her son’s eyes suppressed a gasp. The tray he held shook. His lips tightened even as he strode forward.
“Our centurion says you understand us.” The door closed behind him with a gentle hiss leaving him alone with her. He came over to place the tray on her bedside table.
A pleasant aroma wafted from a bowl of clear liquid. Soup? Real food? Why had he brought her this when the other women were feed bland protein bars? She was hungry without the feeding pack wired into a vein they had removed. The choice of nutrition astonished her as much as the courage of the young Outworlder, well within her reaches. He had no reason to believe her incapable of another killing after her last exploit.
“I’m Nyka. I am ordered to make sure you eat.” He sat, somewhat carefully, on the edge of her bed, his eyes trained on her. “You’re not going to be difficult, are you?”
A tentative little boy smile caught her off guard. She didn’t resist when he reached for the bowl and began to feed her. The soup tasted like she had always imagined from the aromas wafting from the tables of the rich, a subtle blend of vegetables and seasoning. Nyka gave her time to savor, not hurrying her as if he had all the time in the universe.
Microanalysis of the soup indicated a soporific, and high nutritional supplements.
Nyka paused, his fine black brows coming together in a frown making the scales between his eyes catch the light. “You’ve tensed. Are you in pain? I can give you a shot.”
“Why kindness for a killer?” The centurion promised punishment, yet where were the pain amplifiers? Why send someone in to tend her when two Outworlders fed the other girls? Why give her real food?
Nyka’s face on hearing her speak almost compensated for her confinement. He might have witnessed a supernova by the expression of shock and wonder in his expression. “Finish your meal and I’ll trade you question for question if the answers you want are those I’m allowed to disclose.” He somehow managed to smile his devastating smile. “Thank you for talking to me.”
She wanted to believe, just for once, in kindness and yet she couldn’t. Angels weren’t real people. She pushed the spoon away.
Nyka’s smile faded, but not before Azriel noted his well-developed canine teeth, the mark of a carnivore species. Were the captives no more than livestock to supply the need for fresh meat? While she craved death, the thought of being eaten horrified her. It was what the controllers did with the discarded cadavers when they transferred Angels into new bodies. The discarded carcass was taken to the factory farms to be rendered down for animal feed.
“Azriel, I’m an Urak. Our Centurion is a Sidhe. His race isn’t known for patience. Don’t create problems for yourself.”
She eased down on her comfortable bed. Nyka had the leaf-shaped ears, not the pointed ones of a Sidhe, and the scales on his hide were pronounced. Why should she care if she displeased them? The end of life might come sooner if she resisted the centurion. Azriel turned her face to the wall.

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Death Angel. The rest of that last chapter

Azriel roused to crisp air with a faint hint of antiseptic. She was lying on a firm, but not uncomfortable surface, and the pain had receded to a dull ache. The sounds of movement alerted her to the presence of at least two people. An ungentle hand touched her head, feeling over her scalp. Used to rough treatment, she kept her eyes shut and her breathing shallow.
“Easy with her.” The deep tones of the Centurion no longer rumbled with a hint of boredom. Urgency sharpened his voice.
“She killed without provocation or reason. This wasn’t her fight or the side I would expect such as her to choose.” This came from a nearer voice. “She’s dangerous.”
The examination continued. Azriel guessed the Outworlders thought her loss of consciousness due to a blow when she fell. She hoped they didn’t start moving her hair too much, or they would find the filawires woven into strands near the base of her skull. All angels wore their hair long to conceal the makings of garrotes.
“We knew what she was before we agreed to the exchange.” The centurion’s voice came from much closer. “I’d know the reason why the Altarians are scared shitless by their angels. Perhaps you can enlighten us, Azriel? I know you are awake.”
My angel name, known only to other angels. How did he pick through my mind? No. Not again. Never again would another control her. Azriel started her attack maneuver in the same second she opened her eyes, a movement arrested by restraints on her shoulders and hips. Pain flooded her senses for a brief moment, replaced almost instantly by a feeling of euphoria outside of her control.
Azriel stared, mesmerized, into eyes as green as irrigated grass, different from the other Outworlders she had seen face-bare. His pupils were slitted like a feline’s. An emergent black beard shadow darkened his jaw and upper lip, sprouting from much finer scales . . . or skin? He stood a head taller than the other man and carried the presence of controlled strength. Interest flickered in the depths of those strange eyes and he smiled, slow and lazy. This was the sort of man capable of killing and then going on to enjoy a full meal.
“I can bring back the pain as quickly as I took it away.”
The smaller man frowned. “Centurion, androids don’t feel pain. Altarians believe angels are immortal, so this being isn’t a true life form.”
“Shall I remove my control so Cestus can read your body language, Azriel?” He peeled off a black hide glove to run the sharp claw on his forefinger delicately down her cheek, just enough to break the surface.
She didn’t react. Pain might be gone, but sensation remained. Wetness flowed from her midsection. A cool lassitude seeped through her body. Minutes of life remained, bleeding away while the Outworlders argued. Freedom came on gentle wings.
“I can’t find any sign of a contusion. I’d say this wasn’t the result of an interruption to microprocessor function.” Cestus finished his search and stepped back. “Maybe her power pack needs recharging?”
The centurion sighed. “Since Azriel declines to co-operate, I’ll prove my point another way. She isn’t a full android. Transport on line.”
A faint crackle sounded from within the room. Azriel didn’t care. Whatever they did was going to be pointless. Torture would accelerate her journey into oblivion.
A half-smile quirked the centurion’s lips. “Lock on to the non-living layers covering the prone sentient.”
A buzzing enveloped Azriel, the same sensation she’d felt when transported to this ship from the surface. Her weary brain tried to piece together the centurion’s words, and then she found out what he intended. Her clothes, her hidden weapons . . . gone. Cool air whispered over her skin–all of it. Blood ran from the now exposed wound.
“Stars wept!” The centurion lost his smile along with some of his color. “Cestus, do something. I want her alive.”
Cestus grabbed instruments, handfuls of wadding and dumped them on her chest. “Shit. Oh shit. Keep her with us, or I’m wasting my time.”
The slitted pupils in the centurion’s impossible green eyes expanded. Azriel couldn’t look away, couldn’t think beyond breathing in and out. Somewhere things pushed inside her, but none of this mattered. She had to obey the centurion’s orders inside her head. He was in the controller place. Small capillaries exposed to air must be sealed. Yes, she could make her blood clot now that a medic was working to repair the huge injury. She could focus without the pain gnawing at her. Wetness had ceased to flow from her, and something covered the hole in her side.
“Bad Angel.” The centurion wagged a finger at her. “When and not if you recover, we will discuss your negligence in care of my property. Make no mistake; you are mine. You will obey me.”
Cestus’ eyebrows rose. “She needs blood. I don’t have a match for her type. I can only rehydrate her.”
“Then do it.” Again the index claw traveled over Azriel’s cheek. “Did you see the concealed weapons listed by the transporter? We missed them. She is going to sleep until she is fit enough for a suitable chastisement. I wouldn’t want her to forgo a second of what I have planned.”

Death Angel, a little more.

The next little bit.

 

Pounding pain hammered Azriel back into full awareness, forced from a haven into the real world. She used diminishing energy to release endorphins into her system. Somehow she had to be ready to complete her last contract.
Where are you, Coda? The quiet void grew within her. None of the angels had made contact in her brief downtime. She tried not to think about their lack of presence in her head as the gray walls of her prison hugged tighter around her.
How amusing to end life surrounded by an unimaginable wealth of metal. All surfaces of the cell gave off a peculiar smell, like weapons. She wondered if they oiled the matte surfaces to keep the rust away, for not a spot touched the pristine walls.
Inside her black hide jacket, her undershirt squelched with warm blood. The field dressing was saturated, but at least not leaking. The sickly tang mixed with the stench of entrails and body fluids. Survive two more days and then begin a killing frenzy? Not possible. Fear followed the rebellious thought. She waited for a jolt of agony from her neural implants . . . and waited. Why hadn’t the Controllers punished her? Perhaps their punishment depended on guilt? If she died early, it wouldn’t be her fault.
Faint chatter from the women intruded on her concentration. They stood or sat in clusters according to their chosen group with an alpha female and two lieutenants. And there was the blonde outsider sitting alone in a corner, the tiny one with no strength to offer.
The bunk beds looked comfortable, pillow for each and a downy-filled covering over a mattress; the temptation clawed at her but if she moved she would open the wound more and leave a trail of blood. Angels didn’t warrant beds; they slept on floors, just as she now would against the wall by the door. She tried to think of other things.
Part of her wanted answers – the core of curiosity buried deep within her that belonged to another life, to the real person she had once been. Why did the Outworlders only take women? Where was their home planet that they needed to trade for a power source the crystals represented? Maybe she would get some of the answers before death claimed her.
The Altarian captives in her cell didn’t seem to be any particular type. They ranged from blonde, through redhead to brunette. Black hair was a rarity now. She was the only one of the women with such coloring. Some were tall and others short, but all carried no more than two decades, except her. There again, Angels always looked in the first flush of youth. No angel went beyond two decades of active service before transferring to another body.
Most of the women were well-fleshed without being overweight. The one exception being the tiny blonde girl, who appeared lost, shocked beyond reason and at the mercy of all the others. One hefty redhead constantly shoved her into a corner. Azriel formed an instant dislike of the bully.
A screeching, slapping fight between some women brought a pair of Outworlders on the run. Without bulky space gear and helmets and they were definitely a biped species, although different from Altarians. Light reflected off the shimmering scales of their hides, but apart from that, they seemed normal. Unlike Altarians, their ears formed three sharp angles at the highest point, almost like serrations on a leaf. Both eyebrows and eyes slanted slightly upward towards their temples. They weren’t outrageously taller and more muscular than Altarians, just enough to stand out in a crowd.
The door by her side hissed open again, and an Outworlder placed a tray of nutribars on the floor. He appeared younger than the guards now separating the angry women. His face brought back unwanted memories from her life before she became an angel.
Was her final punishment to endure the face of her dead son in the features of this Outworlder every time food arrived? The pain of loss clawed at her always. His death and her execution of those responsible were engraved on her consciousness forever by order of law. Why should those who killed her son not die? So long ago, and yet still so clear in her mind that she could pick out the slight differences in facial structure. Those eyes…the eyes of her son.
The redheaded girl pounced on the tray as soon as the men left the room. “I’m in charge. I get to say who eats.” She took far more than her share, holding the others at bay by hard stares. She then distributed the rest of the bars unfairly. More bars for her group, less for the other and nothing for the tiny blonde or Azriel. “Get the crumbs off the floor when we are finished, Strella. Your wealth doesn’t count now.”
Azriel did not stir from her position against the wall by the door. She didn’t need food – she had her energy pack, but the little blonde didn’t have that luxury and retreated to her corner.
Much later the same pattern occurred. The guard came in, placed down food, and the redhead took control, her strident tone of voice grating on Azriel’s nerves. What aggravated her more came at sleep time. With enough bunk beds for all of them, the redhead wouldn’t allow the tiny blonde a berth. The girl stood with her shoulders drooped until she stretched out on the floor in an empty corner. Had Azriel not been wounded she would have dealt with the redhead.
Harsh sounds of snapping glass woke Azriel. She looked around; saw the redhead picking up a sharp shard of a drinking vessel, but feeling her death close, she lost interest. Surprise roused her when the redhead hunkered down beside her. The woman had her hand buried in her flowing skirts of vibrant silk, and she was nearer to the door than Azriel.
When the two guards entered all went according to set routine except a brown-haired woman stood in the redhead’s usual place. The young guard put down the tray while the older one covered him from just inside the door, backing out once the tray was set.
The redhead swung into action. She leapt up behind the young guard, swinging him around to face his companion. Her arm snaked up around his neck, and in her hand, a sharp shard of shattered glass hovered a breath away from his eye. He froze.
Held captive, he looked around wildly, helpless and frightened. His eyes met Azriel’s. Those violet eyes . . . so like her long dead son’s. This wasn’t a soldier; he was an untried novice.
The strident words flowing out of the redhead’s mouth didn’t register. Nothing did, except those frightened eyes.
The redhead shifted the captive around a half turn in response to his companion activating a panic button on his personal transmitter. The aggressor and captive were now turned away from Azriel.
Adrenalin flowed, washed through her system, all her last energy she had hoarded to fulfill her orders and make the Outworlders kill her. Azriel unwound to her full height, grabbed the woman’s head from behind, pulled it back and twisted it. A soft click sounded in the silence. The body slumped into her. Both women fell; the redhead’s corpse covering her, slamming into her wound. Pain exploded into agony. Light receded with a violent buzzing noise.

Death Angel, the next chunk

Here is the next bit in the story.

 

On the way up to the surface the meds kicked in. leaving her weak but coherent when they arrived on the roof of Command Central, where the landing pad bristled with a full complement of pod flyers. The technicians ignored the craft, instead shrugging into grav packs to fly the distance with Azriel suspended between them in a net they snagged from a locker like dead meat. This confirmed her guess about the probability of their imminent demise. Pod flyers, needing more metal, cost much more to replace than grav packs and were also more difficult to destroy when airborne. It wouldn’t do to risk damaging metal, but once this duty was over, those men were a security threat. If they ever talked about this exchange . . . No, plans would have been made for them after the delivery. The population would revolt if they found out how much the Governor had paid out of planetary funds to get his wife back and two underlings knowing the secret didn’t need to live anylonger.

The flat topped brown sprawl of the city sped beneath her as they headed to the space port on the outskirts of the desert. She closed down her metabolic function to the bare minimum to enter downtime, needing to conserve what energy she had left for the task ahead. Failing left all the angels vulnerable. That wasn’t acceptable.

Azriel, you’re not in regeneration? Coda’s worry came over clear through their mental connection.
Seems I’m to exchange with a hostage. Outworlders have the Governor’s wife. The identity of the hostage surprised her considering the security surrounding this family.
Much can happen in a few days. Outworlders traded strong medicine for a number of young, healthy women. A trace of anger filtered through the link. Our ‘wise’ leaders supplied diseased deviants from incarceration facilities.
Coda, don’t be such a prude. If you mean prostitutes with the clap, then say so.
His embarrassment crossed the link. The Outworlders went on a snatch and trade spree. They have some kind of matter transmitter we don’t understand, which just lets them materialize wherever they wish. That is how they ended up with the Governor’s new wife, and he got to meet a hooker.
I’m taking fifteen advenite crystals with me as part of the deal.
His shock resonated between them. Coda knew the worth of those crystals better than any of them. Enough crystals to fire planetary power supplies for twenty solars. Are they real ones?
From the sick shade of pale the controller went when he found out, I’d say yes.
So you make the kill without losing the hostage. That’s risky. Which angels are backing you? Kaylin and Creeding?
None. The trade is for real.

The absence of his thought in the link became so profound she thought he was active once more for a few moments.
Without regeneration . . . Jumbled images of him missing her filled his mind. He wanted her companionship.
I know. I will be free. She imagined the luxury of sinking into oblivious blackness forever. Never having another thought; another feeling; another pain. . .
Wreck the exchange. You don’t know why Outworlders want people.
I can’t refuse. Failure means regeneration for eternity in the pain amplifiers. I can’t do that to the rest of you. I’m to start killing after two days. The Outworlders will supply my freedom when they finish me.
He couldn’t bear anymore. His withdrawal from link was abrupt. Azriel could only hope for one final message exchange before oblivion, just to say goodbye to him, or at least one to the other angels.

***

A technician delivered more pain suppressant in the form of a slap shot, and then a tiny whisper of electrical energy surged in Azriel’s brain. The internal microprocessor deep buried in neural tissue forced her to move in the direction of the exchange. The controllers weren’t going to take any chances with her so close to freedom from life.
A single ray of sunshine filtered through layers of storm clouds illuminating a group of individuals on the landing strip. There they stood, the Outworld warriors, grouped around one woman, her fair hair hanging untidy and her body shaking with unheard sobs. The distance over the scrub grass diminished, eaten by Azriel’s strides. Puffs of dust rose at her footfalls, bringing a parched soil taste to her nose and mouth.
What manner of creatures hid behind heavy black body armor and round, visored helmets? The face-plates glowed red in the shine of the twin suns, rendering the Outworlders featureless. Azriel’s hand strayed to her empty holster. Integral to every angel uniform, the holster without the weight of a weapon disturbed her sense of balance. The controllers wanted to appear innocent of the killings if all didn’t go according to plan, so she couldn’t be seen with any obvious instrument of death. Instead, they had fitted her with an arsenal of weapons secreted about her person and clothing when they reclothed her in the night uniform. She probably would pass a scan as the items require assembly to be useful.
The sounds of sobbing carried in the breathless air. The holo image of the woman she was supposed to free had shown a svelte body with a face in such perfect symmetry that it screamed of genetic manipulation. Would Cairelle look the classic beauty after crying? Azriel doubted so.

She halted, standing to attention in response to an inner command from Controllers. Do as ordered or suffer immediate stimulation to the pain center of her brain. Three hundred paces in front of her the five Outworlders began to confer over the head of their hostage. One of them reached for a communications device; at least she reckoned so from the way the creature held it. More negotiations? One for one with the crystals was the agreement. Had the Outworlders learned they were getting an angel in exchange? Part of her hoped they had. Her sense of rightness wanted fair play that no amount of punishment could crush out of her system. How did an angel stack up against advenite? Each fleshy cadaver fitted with precious metal for internal body armor, aside from the micro implants imbedded in an angel’s brain, represented a small fortune.
Time flowed, impervious to the petty doings of mortals. A bragna swooped out of a dark cloud to drop on a ponderous hahii bird. The bragna’s scales glittered a brilliant green in the beam of sunlight as he unfurled both sets of wings to carry away his dangling kill.
Death – the forbidden lure called to her. She recalled the sweet fading from her original experience and then the horror of waking as a renascent angel to serve another lifetime as a slave without freewill; more killings at the behest of others for reasons unknown to her: a living hell for any sentient being. The despair flooded through her anew.
The small fragment of self, buried deep inside, hoped the Outworlders would accept the exchange even if they knew she what she was. They would give her final peace. Now they talked amongst themselves, pointing to her. Fair play–a forgotten concept in her world haunted her. What was the problem with her people trading healthy adults and a few crystals against a new form of sickness control? Did those in charge think the Outworlders wouldn’t mind the dregs of Altair IV society? Many of the poorest died from infections the new medicine would cure. Stars, the people needed all the help they could get.
A patch of blue sky peeped shyly between black storm clouds. In the distance, thunder rumbled signaling the start of a static storm. The Outworlders drew weapons and trained them on her.
Carielle broke free to run for those Azriel saw ‘bravely’ waiting behind blast shields she had walked past on her march. An impulse directive to her brain sent her jogging to the ranks of the Outworlders.
The Outworlders mobbed her the moment she closed with them. Two of them grabbed her arms, and a third rumbled into a gray rectangle with winking lights. The next instant all the cells of her body seemed to turn to fluid. Buildings, sky, ground, all burred into a white mist. For three heartbeats came nothingness, a glorious non-existence that thrilled through her, and then normality returned. They had transported her to their ship with their incredible matter mover.
The place had a metallic roof containing gently glowing lights; not as bright as lighting on her world. Did this mean they had better night vision? Two of the Outworlders still held their weapons on her, and the third, the one with a blue band on the left sleeve of its body armor, approached her with something small in a gloved hand.
She kept still as cold metal touched her skin just behind her ear, hoping for death, wanting death.
A click and a sharp pain–nothing more. The light still shone in her eyes. Those face-shields of the Outworlders turned to her, watching.
They began talking to each other; sounds without meaning to her. Still they held her immobile. The leader rumbled something at a wall panel before turning the bland visage at her once more.
Azriel began to tense each individual muscle of her body. She searched for a change in her responses but found none. Whatever they had done to her hadn’t affected her physically. Another possibility sapped her courage. What if these beings decontaminated their food before they dined? Her heart rate accelerated, as adrenalin surged through her system. Fear, a long forgotten emotion, gripped her. She wanted death, a quick death, but what was on promise here? Did they like active food as they dined? Some aliens preferred such. One of the guards took the advenite from her.
The leader reached out to grip her chin. She resisted without success. Now she looked directly at the reflective space between a helmet and a body.
“You can now understand my words. You will obey my commands and you will be treated well.”
She did understand. He was right, for the voice sounded male from its deep tone, but who could tell with an Outworlder? There was a slight slurring on the consonants but nothing to indicate the sound hadn’t enunciated from a humanoid biped. Fear of the unknown kept her silent.
“Agree to obey, and you will be allowed some freedom.”
Those non-faces all aimed at her, waiting for a response. Fifteen reincarnations meant a huge database of knowledge. That was the advantage of the angel program. Did they threaten her world?
Controllers didn’t let angels pursue emotional connections to prevent any conflicts with orders, but no restriction was placed on the accumulation of information. Azriel now accessed a language so dead that only fragments survived. Already half-forgotten by those first settlers on Altair IV.
“Ad astra.” It meant ‘to the stars’, which was as near as she could get to ‘go fuck yourself’.
“Her words have no meaning, Centurion.” The Outworlder holding her turned to his leader. “My translator is malfunctioning.”
The centurion glanced at the others, who shook their heads. “Either she is obtuse by intent, or she is not programmed for general communication. Hazard nine assessment level. Take her to the second holding pen. We will observe her with the others.”
The four marched her away at a brisk pace; sending shards of agony from her side into her arms and legs as the pain suppressant wore off. Down through more metal corridors and through bulkheads grinding open and closed. They progressed until they stopped by one side door and keyed a sequence to open it.
Female voices suddenly arrested. A hand on her back thrust her into the room, trapping her with a group of terrified young women. They drew aside from her as if she brought an evil smell into the room. Well, she couldn’t blame them. Pictures of angels in combat dress were common enough on the black market of the wealthy, which the clothes on these women seemed to suggest. None of them wore the alluring adornments of prostitutes.
Twelve of them, thirteen including her, occupied what looked like crew quarters. Bunk-beds lined two walls and a third had shower cubicles and reclamation stations. Not a stock pen, so what were the Outworlders thinking? Did they want these people for trading with another species? Maybe work crews, or pleasure slaves?
Did they know she was an angel? A crazy laugh began to bubble up inside her. Angel; the name came from the servant of a mythical god on the ancient Homeworld. What if this ship was from that planet? What if they thought her such a servant? The laugh aborted. What would they do to an immortalized deviant wearing the name on the whim of the controllers?
The furnishings suggested the Outworlders were humanoid as well as biped, although this might be wishful thinking on her part. Door height and width seemed to correlate, but other species of Outworlders had also appeared humanoid in the first contact scenario. Memory replayed a visual of the arthropod that had nearly given its tentacles collective hernias trying to squeeze them into a manlike casing. She would wait and see before she made a definitive judgment.
Azriel settled down on the floor with her back resting on the wall next to the door. She had no need of comfort, just a resting place to calm the molten agony of her wound without anyone disturbing her. The technicians hadn’t given her the rest of the pain medications as ordered when they set her into place. She assumed they planned to sell these and ceased to feel sorry for them.
Downtime brought a relief from pain, although the price was slower healing. This didn’t matter in her case. She wanted companionship and reached out. No contact. No touch of another angel. Nothing but a blank void–panic seeped through her. She shut down all systems to below minimum to avoid thinking; as low as possible before death occurred for the implant would kick them into consciousness if any tried to self-terminate by will alone. The device would also wake her when her final instructions must be obeyed.

Death Angel, another chunk

A technician walked around Azriel running a scan over her torso as she stood to attention in a windowless office deep below the surface. He frowned, his craggy face marred by his obvious disapproval. “This unit is damaged beyond acceptable parameters. I recommend rejuvenation.”

She waited for a decision, the blood beginning to ooze through the field dressing under her tattered jacket. A sickly sweet, metallic stink filled the air around her…blood. Her limbs trembled from her theft of energy to kill the intolerable pain. No option there as none of them dare risk being reacquired with open, unconscious minds.

The controller steepled his pudgy fingers together, looking at her over his authentic wooden desk carved from a tree unknown on this world where few could grow. Sweat glistened on his bald head, but not from the heat. Climate control ensured that the special people enjoyed a pleasant environment. This deep, not much was needed.

“Take it to maintenance and stop it leaking blood everywhere. I want this unit capable of walking three hundred ahns and looking alive for another two days. Fit it out with a night-fighter suit, we have more to spare of those, and make sure it smells clean.” His nose wrinkled in distaste.

A wild hope began to bloom in Azriel. He hadn’t ordered rejuvenation. Sweet oblivion of death, is this what he intended, an ending to the waking hell of immortality? How many times had she woken to a new body? She had lost count in the mists of despair.

The controller turned to his console. “Bring it to me when you have finished.” Her temporary guard, the technician, led her out of the luxurious level of headquarters. She managed to walk as far as a grav shaft before her legs buckled under her.

Hissing, with disapproval written on his face, he hefted her over his shoulder. Pain grayed out her mind until she landed on a surgical table.

More technicians cut away her clothing, cleaned the wound and packed wadding in the gaping hole left by the projectile’s exit. They tied her down when she couldn’t bear the pain any longer and tried to fight them off. Another pad of wadding jammed into her mouth stopped her screams.

Replacement blood and high-energy fluid infused through her system, boosting it into a semblance of recovery. The technicians strapped another pack of energy liquid to her abdomen, fixing a needle with a tiny pump into her flesh. Without pausing, they manhandled her into a shower, cleaned her up and dressed her in full night-fighter attire. The bulky padding, covered by matte-black cloth hid their other fixes.

Azriel longed for downtime, but she dared not expose the others to her agony through the link. Whatever the controller wanted of her promised the blessed escape of death. She drifted in a sea of pain and exhaustion until she stood before her tormentor again, one technician to either side of her holding her upright.

“I thought I told you to make it look alive. Give it a pain suppressant. I want it to understand my orders.” He sat back in his padded chair, watching her, his eyes narrowed and a slight tic twitching at the corner of his mouth. A slapshot to the neck reduced pain to a mild ache. She stood straighter.

“Leave us.” The controller flicked his hand at the technicians, waiting until they closed the door behind them.

Azriel’s vague outline reflected from a large glass ornament case behind the controller, smart in black battle dress, with steel-toed black boots visible around the desk, but no gun for her shoulder holster, or knife for her belt sheath. No one took undue risks around angels.

“The job was not well done.” He glanced at his console, a nervous shifting of his eyes. The glass of the case reflected an image of text appearing, if not clear enough for definition. “My customer isn’t happy with the outcome, not happy at all.”

The baby must have survived for she was certain the mark had not. Her heart jumped; a tired hiccup.

“So your program will not continue. I have ordered the reclamation of the cadaver flesh.” He watched her intently, the faint whiff of his adrenaline wafting around him.

“All except one body I’ll keep for safeguard against your performance. I detected a termination wish I am willing to grant for a price.”

Azriel’s pulse beat faster. She tried to get her body under control, knowing how it betrayed her, but she was too weak.

He glanced at the console and the words appearing. “You will take advenite…” His face reflected first shock, and then rage, his words tailing off as the magnitude of what he was reading aloud stunned him.

The door to the controller’s inner sanctum opened behind him. A man in a tailored gray uniform stepped through. A single beryl stud on his collar marked the man for a general. The military man tossed a cloth bag onto the desk in front of her. It landed with a dull thud. “Take the fifteen advenite crystals in the bag with you to the western docking hub. Across the landing strip will be an Outworlder squad with a hostage. You will take yourself and the crystals to them in exchange for the girl.” He leaned over the controller to activate a small holo image of a young female and turned the screen towards Azriel.

The face appeared on news stations often enough for anyone to recognize the Planetary Governor’s wife. Azriel nodded once.

“Once you are aboard their ship you will wait two days for them to clear from this system and then you will kill as many as you can.” The general frowned. “I would prefer the ship destroyed.”

She waited for the rest, because the news seemed to come as a surprise for her master. The controller’s face was now flushed an unhealthy red, but angels didn’t speak to controllers. Angels weren’t people.

“I can’t allow the actual exchange, General. We agreed to terminate all of them on the landing pad once we had Carielle safe.”

The general settled into an easy stance and raised one gray eyebrow at the controller. “You will do precisely what you are told. Bankers like you might hide behind layers of security; you could even recall all of your angels for protection, but then they wouldn’t be out earning enormous revenue for you, would they? Sooner or later one of you will need to emerge, or a member of one of your families, it doesn’t matter to us.”

“Look, you don’t understand.” The controller’s fists clenched. “Angels are reinforced with metal along their ribs, skulls, vertebra, long bones …” He swallowed. “We render down the cadaver for a return on our investment.”

The general smiled; a sunny lifting of the lips. “How much is your life worth? As much as the metal you stand to lose? This angel will do my bidding.”

The controller stood, his hands gripping the edge of his desk as if he needed it to keep him upright. His knuckles showed white through the skin of his hands. He looked at Azriel. “If you disobey and refuse, hoping to die from your wounds, I will have you rejuvenated and then …” He smiled, a stretching of the lips, “then you will spend all of eternity in a pain amplifier. Comply and you will gain death as a reward.”

Azriel tried to swallow, her mouth suddenly dry. Controllers never bargained with angels. No one could threaten controllers. No one had the power to intimidate the money men, or did they? What sort of threat was the general waving at the controller? Whatever fired his spark must have been the mother of all snarl-ups.

The controller jabbed at a button on his desk. Two technicians entered so fast they almost fell into the room.

“Take it to the location I gave you and make sure it has pain medication. Enough for two days.”

She felt sorry for the men. They hadn’t received instructions for where to go after her delivery. Azriel wondered if they knew they weren’t coming back. There would be others sent to make sure they didn’t.

Work in Progress

I actually have three on the go and all wildly different but only two that I can share a little of as the third is the fourth book in the Shadow Series. I can’t share any of the Staff of Shadows as the third book, Chalice of Shadows is coming out in November. There would be spoilers so that isn’t going to happen. 

This extract is the beginning of Death Angel, a sci fi novel of a darker nature.

The twin suns rose over carmine cliffs to the east, their glow casting long shadows in the valley below. Light caught on one of the surveillance vids slowly rotating above the hacienda, giving the lens a baleful red eye.
Three days of watching without sign of the target gave Azriel some downtime. The controllers didn’t like their angels resting, but either she got necessary downtime, or they would need to recruit more angels from the ranks of deviants. A smile tugged at the corner of her lips at the thought of all the rare metal used to enhance a new angel’s bone strength. The money-mogul controllers walked a constant tightrope between putting fear into the population and causing metal riots. Gods help anyone thought to be squandering such a rare resource.
Sunlight crept over her position and Azriel responded by slowing down her metabolism. She had burrowed under the low trailing branches of a blue-leafed gungua bush for the shade she needed when the suns hit their zenith. Heat stirred a pungent citrus aroma from the leathery leaves. The soft orange sand beneath her formed a comfortable hollow.
She waited for the guards to come out of their bunkhouse like small black bugs scuttling across the ground. Shift change came at the same time every morning for those in the valley. Each of them headed for a post on the four corners of the compound. A short while later the night watchers emerged, stretching. No sign of her mark.
Already a heat haze shimmered on the hard-packed dirt of the valley. Scrubby vegetation struggled for life but the hacienda shone like the most precious beryl in the Governor’s chain of office. Underground irrigation, for sure, and the cost staggered her. Six families could survive for one year on the water being squandered to create a paradise for the rich.
Her thermal suit switched from heat to cooling as her limbs tingled in protest to her internal command. She chose to lower her metabolic rate rather than waste energy and consume more of her own precious water.
Sunshine after the chill of the night brought out a frantic swarm of insects to scour the hillside. They flew in clouds, their iridescent wings shimmering in their search for opening verch flowers. The bugs had a limited time before the sweet smelling yellow blossoms withered in the scorching heat, assuming the hunting kamik rats didn’t get them first.
Another smile stretched her lips. Downtime held a peculiar joy for angels. How angry the controllers would be if they knew the angels linked. The controllers couldn’t use their machines to monitor thought patterns below a certain level of neural activity angels used at such times. She kept her eyes trained on the green luxury below while she let her mind drift. A few hunters in fur burrowed deep in their dens around, waiting for the cool of night, their thoughts cloudy with impending sleep. The contact soothed her, but they were not the contact she wanted.
Azriel, are you still hunting? Coda’s thought patterns connected.
Yes, and I am running out of time. Another two days, maybe.
I found the data you wanted. He sounded smug. The mark is out of her time zone. She is probably getting adjusted.
Why send me in early?
Who knows? I’ve dropped off a grav pack ten teligs north of your last check point. I also clipped it with the homing beacon.
Why I must kill this woman?
Coda shielded his thoughts but his discomfort came through.
Tell me. She hated killing. If the mark was a wanted deviant, it made a difference. The holo image she had memorized of the girl didn’t appear to belong in this category.
Just do the job. We aren’t responsible. We don’t need to think.
Coda? Azriel had a bad feeling about this kill. It was all right for him. He hacked into databases, destroyed corporations and individuals from the inside out. Nothing personal.
She had a liaison with the Governor’s son. He dumped her and now she is bringing charges for a forced insemination.
The mark is pregnant? I have to kill a pregnant girl? Azriel’s pulse quickened, her gut churned.
Don’t try to fight. Remember what happened the last time?
Azriel retained total recall of that kill; a child, a boy barely out of the baby stage, who tottered on unstable legs. When the moment came she had tried to alter her aim to miss, knowing his guards with their heat seekers would zero in on her location once she fired. Without the shocking impact of a kill, they wouldn’t suffer moments of numb disbelief. They could have gunned her down if her plan had worked. But she hadn’t been in downtime and the controllers picked her rebellious thought to the gristle, forcing her finger to the trigger in that second and the ones after. The child didn’t die instantly. It took three shots. Blood everywhere, people screaming, vomit souring her clothes.
No angel had a choice, not with an implant imbedded in their brains and yet she had still disobeyed to spare the child. The punishment for her attempted rebellion wasn’t something she wanted to repeat. Three weeks wired into a pain amplifier had that effect.
Azriel, you can’t put us all through agony again. Coda’s thoughts were tinged with terror. If they find out about us…
All the angels shared pain with a hurt member when they entered downtime. He was right. If she gave under torture and the controllers found out about their link, it would be disabled. The thought of being truly alone terrified her.
One clean shot between the eyes. He wasn’t happy at the kill and this came through. If the girl’s people are quick, they will be able to save her child. You just had orders for the girl, didn’t you?
Is she so far along?
She lied about the conception date so she could travel. I have confirmation from a private clinic. He faded out, his downtime over.
If only Azriel could end her own life, but the controllers had programmed their angels to survive at all costs, damn them to every hell. She shuddered, envisioning the bank of cloned cadavers waited for revivification when this body ceased to perform at the peak of excellence and her essence was transferred to a new shroud of flesh. Five times she had reawakened into hell. The controllers couldn’t waste all the knowledge angels accumulated on retraining skills already acquired.
The suns crept higher and the buzz of insects diminished. Far below a thermal carried the sound of voices and the faint moist promise of water. Three people came out of the main building, a single story white stucco affair. Two men and a woman, all in swimsuits and heading to a kidney-shaped pool overhung with shade trees to the south.
Azriel went into active mode. Adrenalin rushed through her system along with sick self-loathing. The girl’s belly made her ponderous and awkward.
Her hands slicked with sweat as she assembled the projectile weapon. She clipped a telescopic sight into place, its oiled lens creating a stink that warred against the tang of citrus. A girl’s laughing face came into sharp focus. Azriel blinked away tears, rubbing her eyes on the sleeve of her orange and gold camouflage jacket. Do it now, while she is happy. Please die quick. Her finger gently squeezed the trigger.
The sound of the shot whined through the valley long after the girl jerked and fell; her head a ruin of brains and blood-saturated blonde hair. Azriel broke cover. No time to think, she ran to the gullies, sprinting for the crest and her own grav pack. With another transport waiting for her, she’d run this one at full throttle.
Ten ahns more, then five. Almost at the top. A huge blow in her back threw her facedown and gasping in agony. Release endorphins – get out of the line of fire – pack wound with dirt to slow bleeding. Get backpack — fire boosters. The hot wind blowing at her brought more focus. She set direction and headed north, keeping low to the ground where her camouflage clothes against the red and gold surface would give her more cover. Tears whipped away in the hot breeze rushing against her face. She’d pay dearly for the loss of moisture in hell’s own desert.

 

SS front and back with textWoo Hoo. Another great five star review of Sword of Shadows.

ADPase reviewed Sword of Shadows
A splendid mixture of goodies to savour July 19, 2016
The world created by the author for ‘Sword of Shadows’ is a fascinating place. Well imagined and thoroughly described. For me it was a slow read because there is a lot to appreciate and absorb. Characters are strongly developed and relationships are compelling. This is the second book in a series, which unfolds a new take on the King Arthur myth/legend including an new take on Excalibur & Merlin. As I read, I was reminded of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and I enjoyed them as well. It is a complex book with numerous characters, plenty of interweaving story arcs, and amazing plot layers that kept me on my toes.

I liked the idea the enemy is not a simple one-dimensional baddy. Instead, they are intelligent and fascinating in their own right. I would have enjoyed this book more if I’d read the first book in the series. In fact, I went to the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature for the first book (Shadow Over Avalon), and read the first three chapters to get a quicker feel for the world. If there is a third book, I would certainly buy it to find out what happens next in this world. If you enjoy a rich mixture of mystery, Arthurian mythology, science fantasy, suspense, and immersion in another world, I recommend this book.

Number 11 of 23 Best Science Fiction Books by Female Authors

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http://bookShow.me/B00GAN6HMG and it is only 99c at the moment. Steal of a Deal.

 

What a nice thing to wake up to this morning. Shadow Over Avalon is right up there with the biggest and the best.  Follow the link and see what they said.  Now to go do extended happy dance. Want to know what it is about? Here is a short trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtqH1teA_yE

And here is the link for those 23 books.

The 23 Best Science Fiction Books by Female Authors