She came back into consciousness amid the ruin of a wall cabinet, pieces of gear and doors still sliding beneath her. The dragon lay twisted on its side and back, still and silent in the middle of the room. Lillith blinked away the last buzz of shock and stood, slowly at first until returning confidence had her gliding cat-like to the side of her fallen adversary.
Looking for but not finding Him, she inspected the body of the massive predator. Was it alive? Lillith hesitated to touch the creature, wondering what impact a dragon dead would have on His plans. She noted the creatures semicircle position, concluding it had rammed its body against something immovable, shifting itself and throwing her violently away in the process. It even appeared to have bruised itself, smudges of black staining the gold scales of the lower abdomen.
Searching farther, Lillith found where He had stabbed the creature. There was a hole the size of her thumb in the dragons heart scale, a plate of armor as wide as her chest, and several inches thick. As she marveled at the power that had pierced the metallic growth, a rush of black liquid squirted from the hole, proving that the creature still had a heartbeat.
Much good that will do you, she muttered, and turned to find herself face to face with the scientist. He laughed at her expression, and laughed harder still when she swatted Him with an ineffectual hand. Oh laugh, she retorted. Go on and laugh. This is your moment after all.
He backed off with a smirk. My moment Lillith? Oh contraire. All of this belongs to you. These are the fruits of your labor.
She looked at Him and then at the fallen beast. Absently noting the fallen technicians she looked back and gave the room an all-inclusive gesture. This, she said, is none of my doing. And what do you intend to do with
You do not approve?
Lillith thought things over for a moment and then decided for the truth. That thing is a monster, an animal, a dangerous creature with no reason, no want but to kill. Youre going to make her into an unstoppable weapon of destruction. And you want me to do what exactly? Perhaps you can speak to her, but I?
You see Wings of Thunder for what she is, not what she is to be. In this, she is a monster. But that is the body she has. When I finish with her, you will find her easier to manage, and I promise you Lillith, she will understand every word, every instruction, and every intent, just as you will understand her.
But what will you use her for? What will she do that is beyond me?
He had walked behind the dragon, she following, and stopped at her question. Wearing a bemused smile, He ran a hand across sharp edged wing feathers and answered, Fly. Lilliths brows rose and He laughed softly. It is a wide world Lillith. You cannot be everywhere at once. She will become my mailed fist, an iron glove to destroy my open enemies. And you I will cloak in velvet
velvet over razored steel. She will know no subtlety Lillith. Those tasks that require it, I will give to you.
And training her?
All in good time. I have more important tasks for you at present.
He had walked on again, heading for the exit. She took a last look at the fallen dragon and sighed. What is it this time?
He picked up a transmittal microphone from a counter as he passed, and paused as the security door opened once again at his touch. Ignoring her question, he keyed the mic and spoke as though expected. Commander Lesicue, are your units set to deploy?
Affirmative Sir. All units are ready and awaiting the signal to go.
Very good Commander. Give them that signal.
Lillith stood quiet for a moment and then stepped forward. Sir? Whats going on?
He dropped the transmitter to the floor and put His arm around her shoulder. Only the grand culmination of your dreams Lillith. Tonight will see the old order swept away. Things will be different, for tonight we will assume our proper places and I will have this world in the palm of my hand! Tonight revenge will be yours.
She wanted to squirm away; He was directing her back to the elevator and laughing like He was drunk on power. Revenge will be mine? I dont understand.
He had pushed the button to return her to the levels above and turned her to face Him fully. After tonight Lillith, he told her, The Council will be history. All of their influence, their power, will pass into our hands. The Enforcers have risen to answer my call, and there will be a new high command. But there is still much to do Lillith. And it is you that I turn to now.
A revolt then? And The Council will be abolished? Then that means
He smiled broadly as it came together for her, nodding agreement as she said the name. Trevor.
Yes Lillith. Trevor. I trust you will do the correct thing, when next you see him. Be thorough, but dont take too long. You have an engagement to keep with a certain Lir.
She was not so intrigued with the notion of her old nemesis that she missed His comment. A Lir? You mean this Kajm? What engagement? What do you mean for me to do?
The arrival of the elevator cut off her questions. His laughter darkly triumphant, He pushed her into the car. There will be time enough later. Your shock team is waiting for your arrival; they have their orders and know where they must be.
He reached in and selected the proper floor. Still smiling wildly, He saluted her with a clenched fist. And as the elevator pinged He withdrew, telling her, Take your time Lillith. You have hours before you have to be there. Have some fun.
As the doors closed his wicked laughter told her exactly what kind of fun he meant.
Trevor Lornion sat at his desk and fumed. He closed his still ringing phone and tossed it across the strewn papers detailing months of cancelled business contracts. The phone had rung for a full five minutes; he had to conclude Dante wasnt going to pick up. No one was going to pick up
Hed been cut off from the world for only a few days, placed under house arrest by elements of The Enforcers. Coming as quite a shock, hed been as surprised as any of the councilors when hed found it was not his fellow council members that had given the order. How galling it had been to be turned back by the guards at his own gates. For your safety, Sir they had said. Safety? They hadnt been concerned for the safety of his wife, but Leeona had left that first afternoon, seemingly never to return. He cursed her apparent faithlessness, not for the first time.
But this trouble, the inability to contact his cohorts, was new. Louis Soren, Arven Kailer, Don Malven, Laura Leskin, Dante Riverson
Even Karen Robertson had sounded worried the last time they had spoken. Lornion knew that Karen had been compromised even
that she had promised full cooperation and benefits to the corporation working against them. And now he couldnt even get an answer from her.
Turning from his desk to the bank of security monitors on his office wall, he counted the helmeted heads they showed and sighed. The same number of troopers, loyal to
what exactly? Lornion did not believe for an instant that the people wanted him ousted from his council seat. Most of the people werent even aware who their governing body was. The Council was but a whispered name to the vast majority without money.
No, Trevor Lornion knew full well who was pulling the strings of the people now. Only one corporation had taken a meteoric rise in power enough to buy The Councils military arm. Pulse Inc., and who would have thought? Certainly not Trevor, who had watched the budding dictatorship with snide thoughts and absolute disdain. But if Lillith Denunci was now the most powerful woman on the planet, he knew where he stood.
Should have killed the bitch myself, he lamented. But what was done, and all of that. Giving a mental shrug he crossed his office and stopped at his liquor cabinet. Amid the gleaming bottles were rare treasures from an age bygone; he selected a decanter once favored by the Lir Counsel his father had replaced. He poured a measure and held the sparkling gold fluid to the light of the monitors. Swirling the glass, he toasted the silent soldiers and knocked the drink back.
Cheers friends. To the end of
The words suddenly died as one of the monitors caught his eye. The trooper standing guard was gone, the post deserted, the small service gate swinging on its hinge. Trevor watched the security image for a moment longer before he turned away. Contemplating the glass, he considered what he knew.
Food stocks will hold another few weeks. Liquor a month or two. No outside connections. And I am
He downed the last swallow and set the glass back inside the cabinet.
a very wanted man. Very well then. Let us see what youre about to do. Closing the cabinet, he went back to his desk and switched on the household terminal. He knew that the manors security systems could be overridden, but it would take a rather noisy operation to get it done quickly.
And you dont have that kind of time, do you? With a wolfish smile he entered the command that activated the household security, lowering blockade gates and killing the lights. Across the mansion systems closed off rooms and hallways, turning the building into a dark maze. Trevor laughed softly as he opened a special compartment in his desk.
Blocked corridors, fire zones, and locked gates everywhere you turn. Theres only one path to take, only one place to meet. And when we do
He pulled a gleaming Enforcer Services pistol from the open compartment and mock-fired at an imaginary target.
Ten minutes later Trevor was two floors away from his objective. While the certain intruder had to travel a predetermined path through the manor, he himself did not. Every security gate was fitted with a thumbprint reader, allowing him to slip through the house like a wraith, through the walls erected for protection.
Pausing at every entry and hall crossing, hed listened carefully for noise
anything out of the ordinary, before thumbing the lock to move on. The gates shut themselves behind him; he had no worries about ambush from behind.
No, he was the master here, and no assassin would take him down. He had the precaution of his special sanctuary, a private basement where hed long played games with his unfaithful wives. Once he was there, he would be safe enough, and not even the most determined of enemies would find him. But first, he wanted to see his would be killer. He would relish the surprise, the fear as he turned the tables on the one so foolish to enter his domain.
And it would be on the other side of where he stood. The gate closed off a crossing; two halls met and led to their separate destinations. Trevor knew he could cross from one gate to the other, go through them both to his private stair and no one would be the wiser, but this was where the intruder would have to pass. They had not been through yet; he could feel it in his bones. The quiet in the open hall was absolute, and he thumbed the lock for the first gate while holding his breath. It opened silently; he stepped out into shadow, the crossing before him dimly lit by distant emergency lighting beckoned him to cross quickly. He ignored the summons, crouching instead against the now closed gate behind, waiting for the intruder to appear.
He had not long to wait; soft footsteps in the left passage heralded his antagonists arrival. Listening intently, he found that the coming person was not nervous. They betrayed no doubts by loud breathing or hesitant footstep; rather they walked steadily, with a sure stealth. As the figure moved into the light he waited a moment longer, gauging the size and fluid motion of what he was up against.
A human woman; that did not surprise him, even though he laughed inside at the absurdity. Perhaps, he thought, he could make some use of this new playmate. Let her learn the lesson of screwing around with a man of his stature. He readied his weapon, pushing up from the floor as quietly as could be managed, but she heard or felt something. No more than four feet away, she turned to regard him with bright piercing eyes.
In the seconds it took him to recognize her, she simply stood and smiled, as though the glint of cold metal in his hand concerned her not at all. Surprise alighted in him then, both at her bravery and nerve to come there, and at what she had seemingly become.
My word. Lillith Denunci. Why, there must be a God. Got yourself a better plastic surgeon did you?
She did not flinch, but only stood smiling, the glint across her teeth somehow unnerving. When she did reply, it was with a cool sultry tone that left her feelings out of reach. He felt off balance trying to read her. Trevor. You have no idea. Do you like what you see?
Not really. Under the circumstances, youre the last person I expected to find breeching my security. When can I expect real opposition?
To his continued surprise, she laughed. The tone was nothing like any other woman hed taken thus far. And that was not a good sign, because he knew she felt there was nothing to fear. She took a step forward and he raised the pistol an inch higher. Uh uh. You just stay right there.
It didnt seem to faze her. Trevor darling, whatever is the matter with you? After all these years, do you really mean to tell me you wouldnt want one more chance? Why, there was a time you liked to dream of having me in your bed
Shut up Lillith. You wont be sitting on my council seat. Im not so naïve as to believe
Oh please! She turned on one heel, bringing her body into a different line, another step closer, hands resting lightly on her hips, eyes rolling with disdain. Your seat? You think that I care about your silly little position? Trevor, there is no more Council. Your position no longer exists. Youve been
The sparkle in her eyes sent a shiver down his spine. Not while Im still standing bitch. He saw the change in her stance, and the shift of her eyes that meant she was about to move. And he was certain she meant to make a grab for the pistol, thus he was pulling his hand back when her kick caught him square under the chin.
The pistol went flying away, his sense of being in control with it. He was flying, falling, disoriented in the spin of silver light and pale flesh. And when he found the world upright once again he was prone on the floor, her weight square on the middle of his back. She caught him by the hair and yanked his head back hard. How do you like me now, Trevor darling?
He just found time to reply, You fucking bitch! before she rammed his face into the floor.
Trevor came to his senses in a haze of pain. He knew his face was swollen, and breathing through his nose was impossible. How long had she beaten him? In his current state he couldnt begin to guess. Details swam in dim light; the world flip-flopped a few times before steadying itself.
He was lying on a hard surface, feet somewhere below the level of his head. The aches in his face were subsiding enough for other sensations to come through. He tried to shift, to roll over, to sit up
anything beside lie prone and found hed been strapped to the table.
He stopped in mid-question, unable to get past the ruin of his split and swollen lips. But he had been heard; she stepped from around the head of the table and looked down at him, an expression of concern filling her features.
Trevor darling, youre finally awake. Oh you look just terrible, you poor dear. She lifted a sponge from her side and gently swabbed at his injuries, rubbing and dribbling a burning antiseptic across them that made him try to jerk away. The motions only hurt him farther, and she laughed softly at his mumbles of pain and anger.
Trevor, dear Trevor. Dont struggle so. You cant go anywhere, youre strapped down very well, as you should know. Whats that? You want to know where you are? Well darling, thats simple. Youre in your most very favorite place. Here, let me show you. Is this how you raise it? Oh! Silly me.
She had stepped out of his field of view and hit a switch, dropping the tables hydraulic lift under his head, giving him a sudden painful jolt. She laughed as she hit the right switch, raising him to a more upright position, and he knew she was toying with him.
Anger died in his throat as the table lifted him high enough to clearly see his surroundings. The plush padded walls and chrome counters of his private playroom were unmistakable, as was the round table beside his current bed. His surgical tools gleamed from the opened velvet case there, and he looked sharply up into the smiling face of his worst nightmare.
It looks a little different from there, doesnt it darling?
Stunned, he could only think of the locked doors and security gates between where they were and where they had been. He stammered how? through lips torn and bruised.
How? Oh, I see. Its easy darling. You simply take what you want a piece at a time. You know how to do that, dont you? She was sensuously stroking the bright silver handles of his surgical tools. He noticed for the first time a knife next to the velvet case stained with blood. It wasnt a part of his set. Lillith smiled as he reacted.
Such a crude tool compared to yours darling, but I think it did the job. She dropped a piece of something, two inches long and flesh-pale upon the table. He tried to recoil, both from the object and her malicious grin. Dont you agree darling?
Despite himself he turned his head away from her, looking to the right, to where his arm was strapped down half cocked; to his hand, fingers splayed like a squashed spider. He could only feel it on a distant level, the dull ache immediately explained by the presence of a medi-patch wrapped about the stub of his severed thumb.
He turned back, sick to the stomach, as she lifted one of his fine edged scalpels. He could only whisper No. She brushed her other hand across the remaining tools, fingertips tracing the sharp lines of gleaming hooks and serrated blades, before turning and reaching for his crotch. She answered his whisper with one of her own.
Oh yes darling. Oh yes
Lieutenant Kaspar Reeve had been watching the seventy-second street entrance to the Lornion complex for just over three hours. His flexiweave fatigues were sharply pressed; his orders were perfectly clear. He was to stand guard at that post, allowing no one in or out, until such time as his superior officer relieved him from that duty.
The air at the entry had been stale anyway, but the odor of human blood and excrement were enough to make a man gag. He looked from his chair to the doorway where the bottoms of a pair of boots could be seen and silently apologized, not for the first time. Sorry kid, he thought. One man for an empire
At least he hadnt been the one to pull the trigger. Who could have guessed the woman to be so strong? But orders were orders and he was only following his.
With a shrug and a yawn the lieutenant scanned the enclosed courtyard yet again. Suddenly he straightened, jumping from his chair, fully awake and alert. The mad-disheveled figure that materialized from the shadowed entry into the manor was smiling from ear to ear. She walked straight to his post, up the stair and into the guard enclosure, stepping over the body of the previous guard without seeming to notice that it was there.
Lieutenant Reeve saluted. Maam! But before he could report she silenced him with a wave. He looked at her from the corner of his eye, standing at attention and hoping she wasnt feeling up to finishing her business by finishing him. Whatever shed done, he decided he did not want to know.
Her silver and blue uniform was stained with gore, and though shed rolled up her sleeves to wash, he could tell shed bloodied her hands as well. Whatever shed done, she was happy, humming to herself as she wiped down a doctors case with a handful of rags. Looking out the window toward the manor as she worked, she finally asked, Everythings still quiet?
Very good Reeve. You may report now.
He took her condescension for what he was worth and gave his report without emotion. He did not want to guess what might set her off. Everything here has remained quiet as noted Maam. All local units have reported and acknowledged receipt of their new orders. All outlying districts are reporting the usual incidents.
And The Core?
Reeve swallowed thickly and let it out in a rush. Blood Prophets have a demonstration shutting down the mid-level exits; the trams arent running. The offices are in standby, quiet, without trouble. But
But scout units have spotted militant activity in the low-levels. At least one report suggested Anti-technists making a strike from the under-city.
Lillith leaned on the counter and stared out toward the darkened manor. Her expression thoughtful, she set the doctors case down and rested her palms on the counters edge. Where are we supposed to take position?
The Upper Kinsai Over Bridge Maam. Were supposed to be in position in thirty minutes, and remain there until all units have reported and
The lieutenant went silent, unable to continue through the heavy creaking coming from Lillith. She was clawing at the counters edge hard enough to leave stretch marks in the thick plas-wood top. A few seconds of his silence later, she seemed to come to her senses, no less angry for no reason that he could see.
He knew. Reeve did not ask the obvious question and she picked up the case and whirled, heading for their waiting transport at a rapid trot. He knew all along and let The One loose. Lieutenant! Get all Core units scrambled and on the street at once. I want full contact on a secure channel and complete cooperation from all levels of command. And Reeve?
Inform all commanders that citizen casualties are acceptable. Weve a Lir on the loose and we will take him down.