Authors: Morgan Blayde
Tags: #Dark Fantasy, #Horror, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction
“My pain is something I’m
always willing to share.”
Teresa and her techs had a white van, a mobile command center with roof-mounted cameras. They leaned against it, watching me. I’d told them they were to remain at the end of the drive, near the highway, until I’d cleared the area of monster zombie evil. Teresa agreed, maybe a little too easily. No matter. I’d end this vendetta today.
Hell, high water, or asteroids from space, that slither-assed snake’s going down!
I took a moment to chug some honey tea bourbon from the jug the koi demon gave me. And spit it out. The stuff was fake: ice tea cut with cotton candy flavored vodka. He hadn’t been able to find what I’d ordered, and had been afraid to come back empty handed. I summoned a gun from thin air. The jug didn’t deserve to die tossed in the air, with a great view of the world. Since I didn’t have a sewer handy so it could perish in shit, I flung the jug down and watched it bounce and skid across the driveway, running for its life. Showing very poor impulse control, I emptied a clip of explosive rounds until the jug lay scattered in microscopic pieces.
The koi demon and the revenant, both are going to be sushi. World hunger’s a problem and someone’s gotta feed the poor.
I released the gun, sending it back to my armory for reloading, then thought to turn toward Teresa. “You’re going to edit that out, right?”
“Oh sure. Don’t worry about it.” She nodded quickly.
Her stare kept coming back to my battle suit. I was dressed for trouble in my zombie-apocalypse suit with the cod-piece painted black. Taking advantage of Ryella, I’d had a new feature added; the seams were doubled now, and would split on command if I were to go all dragon. This way, a change wouldn’t destroy a valuable suit that could easily be reformed later for wear. She’d also recharged the air crystal I’d used swimming in the lake.
Ryella and her two-man crew walked at my left as I headed toward the old school. Shiva and Holy were at my right. Behind me, the Old Man and Osamu brought up the rear. Osamu wore a black martial arts
. Both of them had complained they needed to get out and save the world more, so they’d invited themselves along on my mission. The Old Man had a damn broadsword shipped from China weeks ago. The blade zagged, forged in the shape of a lightning bolt. He’d bought it on the internet and said it needed to develop a thirst for blood.
And he’s supposed to be the one who’s chaotically good. All that means is he apologizes to his dead for having killed them in the name of humanity.
Osamu made do with his regular demon sword. It was in the intra-dimensional ether right now, waiting to be summoned by the arcane symbol branded into his palm. I wondered if it was time to summon my own demon sword from the dark, lifeless dimension I’d exiled it to. Maybe the sword had learned its lesson by now and was willing to follow orders.
I’ll keep that option open as I see how things go.
I wasn’t helpless. My suit had short sword blades built into the forearms. I had a whole armory full of choices: explosives, handguns, shotguns, ammo, and if I dared risk tattoo magic, I had a list of spells to draw on. And the garnet tongue knife Thorn had said I’d need.
We passed the front fountain with its sphinx and pyramid center-piece. I cast the sphinx a sideways glance. It had nothing helpful to say. No riddle. No jokes:
A centaur gallops into a bar … falls down, says “Ow!”
“How do you want to play this,” Shiva asked.
I said, “Osamu, the Old Man, and I will go straight up to the roof and deal with the yantra, nipping that potential problem in the bud. We’ll make ourselves conspicuous.”
“As always.” Osamu made it sound like a good thing.
I said, “The revenant should sense me and come running. Essentially, I’m bait.”
“The rest of you will be hidden on the top floor, waiting for a ruckus to break out. Once the revenant appears, you’ll charge up to the roof and cut off his escape. If anyone’s afraid of heights…”
Holy barely lifted a timid hand. “I am.”
“Then too bad,” I finished. “Here’s your chance to conquer your fear, among other things.”
“You’re just evil,” Holy muttered.
“Thank you.” We reached the front doors of the school and stopped there. I looked around at my group. “The revenant should be manically focused on me as the source of its hatred, but I want everyone to be careful and wear the enchanted eye-protectors. His poison magic is vicious.”
“Wouldn’t want to become a poisoned cock of doom before my wedding night,” the Old Man pointedly didn’t look my way as he said that.
I scowled. “Potty mouth.”
He met my stare with confusion. “What?”
“You said cock. I think that’s a first for you.”
“Cock is a rooster.”
“You didn’t mean it that way.”
He shrugged. “Must be your bad influence.”
“About time you’ve come around to the dark side.” I opened the door for us all. “Let’s do this.”
We sauntered inside. The decaying mausoleum of a school met us with plenty of dust, a draft, and the sounds of rats in the walls. “Charming,” the Old Man said. “I’m not going to worry about bringing this place down in the deluge of battle.”
“Deluge of battle?” Holy said.
I chuckled. You and the Old Man should hang out together; you have a lot in common.”
“Really?” she said.
“Yeah, there are angels not as straight-laced and proper, and you both raise storms with your magic. You do cloud and lightning and he does wet—a whole lot of wet.” I led the way to intersecting halls, turning toward the stairs.
“Ooo, I love wet,” Holy said.
I was about to make a dirty crack about Holy’s crack, when Ryella jumped into the conversation. “It isn’t fair. I’m storm fey and I can’t get a wet wind to save my life.”
We came to the stairs. I opened the door and we went inside the stairwell.
“You just need the right man to blow you,” I said.
“Don’t be crude,” the Old Man said.
I stopped in the middle of a flight of stairs, and turned, for once able to glare at him eye to eye. “You’re saying that now? And you’ve known me for how many years?”
“It’s crowded in here,” Shiva said. “Keep moving before I accidentally step on someone.”
I noticed she was very careful not to specifically mention who she’d step on. “When we get back, I’m implementing sensitivity training for everyone—but me. I’m beyond saving, but you guys need brushing up.” I turned and continued up. We exited at the third floor, a level I wasn’t familiar with.
“Holy, you’ve been all over this place, right? Where’s the roof access?”
She gestured. “Go that way, then right, and keep going. You’ll see open stairs to a roof landing before reaching the end of the hall.”
“Okay, got it. The rest of you find places to hide until the revenant gets here. I’ll phone if I see it first from the roof. Those of you who can’t work a fucking phone,” I glared at the storm fey, “just follow Holy and Shiva if you hear them break from cover and start running.”
I got a round of nods from the fey. With a last glare, I went on, leading Osamu and the Old Man toward the coming violence. I smiled, almost tasting the blood now. A happy song whispered off my lips.
“See, anybody could be good to you, you need a bad girl to blow your mind.”
I might sing in rare moments, but not loud enough to draw criticism. I know my limitations. There are somethings I’ll never be good at.
My cell phone played Angie’s ringtone:
. The same song I’d
I must be psychic.
As we rounded the next corner, I took out my phone. Angie was my big bad wolf—literally—and a lawyer as well, twice a wolf. She ran the wolf pack in L.A. A mental image of her cascading red hair and her hot, toned, naked flesh flashed across my mind’s eye. It had been way too long since I’d last, uh,
I answered the call. “Caine here.”
“Caine! Are you all right? I just heard. It hasn’t fallen off yet has it?”
“Has what fallen off?”
“Leona just told me you have a mystical STD.” Angie’s voice lowered to a stage whisper. “They’re calling you the poisoned cock of doom. We need to get ahead of the legal liability on this. You can’t sleep with anyone until it gets cleared up.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
The revenant going to pay in buckets of blood.
Blood made me think of Leona.
She has a stuffed bear she sleeps with. She thinks I don’t know.
I smiled, thinking about a gun at the bear’s head, slowly squeezing the trigger.
Stuffing is going to fly everywhere!
“Caine? Are you there?”
“Angie, baby, excuse me, but I’ve got to go kill something now.”
Osamu’s face was respectfully bland. Not even a twinge of sympathy. He knew my hatred of pity—when it doesn’t serve a greater good. The Old Man was silent, but his huge smile needed no words.
“Shut up!” I said.
We reached the stairs to the roof. My own smile—my battle mask—stretched my face. I pounded up the steps, kicked open the door, and burst out onto the roof, leaving the little booth that sheltered the roof access.
The Old Man and Osamu had stayed close, but then with my nod from me, they fanned out, on the lookout for trouble. I knew it was improbable for the revenant to show up this soon after my arrival on the property, but I wasn’t about to get stupid-careless when caution is seldom lethal.
The noon sun baked down, putting my shadow under me as I glided across concrete, heading for the fifteen by fifteen foot brass yantra that I had earlier discovered. On the way, I noticed that Teresa’s people had been up here planting cameras everywhere. I knew she was watching us from her van out front. I waved at a camera as I went by. I hadn’t told her about the yantra, or that I expected a showdown up here.
Thorn probably told her, for a price.
That kid’s going to own a corporate empire someday. Note to self: keep track of all her stock market investments.
The cameras were thicker around the yantra’s brass work. I took this as confirmation that the revenant would die here, and that I could get my final check from Teresa.
I shot the Old Man a sharp glance. “I can’t use dragon fire here to destroy it. The whole place would go up, and the rest of the guys are hiding downstairs. Lightning would do it—the same temperature as a plasma torch—but we’d have to use a steady stream of electricity; ten seconds maybe to cut it into disposable sections we can toss off the roof.”
The Old Man said, “I need to wait until the revenant arrives and our people get up here. Then, if I set the building on fire, Holy or I can draw rain to put out the blaze, and you’ll still have back up.”
He lifted his face to the sunny sky, communing with it. Sunlight gleamed off his shaved blue head. Several minutes later, the sky darkened. Black-gray clouds scuttled in, blocking out the sun. The overcast flickered with ragged ribbons of lightning. My shadow vanished. The clouds grumbled at being disturbed. The air grew wet.
Ryella would have been envious if she could have seen this.
“Good party trick,” Osamu said. “Speaking of which…”
He held his hand out—the one with the brand—and his demon sword popped in. The blade was less intelligent than my own, a lot less trouble, but just as good an edge adorned it. He took a low, bent knee stance; horse stance, meant to generate maximum power by Japanese martial arts. In that position, a safe distance away from the Old Man and me, he made a few experimental slashes and thrusts against imaginary swordsmen. They died, one by one, making him smile.
I summoned two Storm PX4’s to my hands, wondering when the scumbag revenant was going to get here. I expected he’d come up through the building, or maybe even climb the outside of it, smelling me on the wind. What I didn’t expect was that he’d use his ghostly levitating power to fly high into the sky so he could drop on me like a cinderblock.
Which he did.
I was crushed to the concrete. It crumpled, webbing under my suit. My breath was slammed away. I felt a few ribs break. Had I been human, I’d have died instantly.
Focus, damn it. Fight back.
His hiss of triumph filled my ears. I smelled dripping venom. Sizzling drops smoked the concrete near my head. I knew I was heartbeats away from being bitten. The suit could probably turn the fangs away, but then he could always bite me in the face.