"Move fast, strike hard. Hurt them. Distrupt communications and supply lines. Don't let them forget about us."
"Accounts ambushed us downstairs. We could have used your help. But you
were nowhere to be found." He drew himself up and glared at me, his face
twisted. His hands were balled into fists. "Aren't you one of us?" he
"...That means he's very old, very experienced, and the most dangerous adversary you're likely to meet. Which is why you must put your misplaced sense of honor to one side, Herr Manfred, at least until the contest is over and the vampyre lies dead at your feet. You have no way of knowing who he is, therefore you must kill everyone who is sent against you."
Four years of being trapped in hyperspace had driven us all to the edge of desperation.
As he approached the dragon, moving ever closer, Kintyre became aware that one of its eyes was open. Hot breath smoked from its nostrils, and its forked tail twitched. How long had it been aware of him? It was deliberately allowing him to come nearer, the easier to kill him.
We cycled through Customs and entered the Dome, the transparent,
kilometer-high spiderweb that shields the colony more effectively than
plasteel. Jimmy had to stop and come back for me and pull me inside. You've
seen the simulations, but nothing prepares you for seeing Jupiter live. Big,
If the shield overloaded then it was frying time for every electronic
component in the Spaceport. AIs, control systems, atmospheric recycling
plants, heating units, even airlocks would all cease working. A colony's
worst nightmare, and very possibly its death knell.
Three days out from Wilhelmshaven, Kapitan von Hausen summoned me to his
cabin and showed me his orders. Once clear of the Orkney Islands to the
north of Scotland, U-333 was to proceed to a map reference that would take us
high beyond the Arctic Circle.
"Just how much of a cynic are you, Mr. Brent? Do you believe in empathy, in
being able to feel what someone else is feeling? Like old couples who have
loved each other all their lives. Or someone with a beloved pet. They know
the object of their affection so well they can guess what they're thinking."
Goering took hold of my hand and pressed something into it, closing my
fingers around the object. "Put this on," he said, "once you are in the air."
His voice was pitched so low that I could barely hear the words. "It will
protect you from what you will encounter."
Floating light globes illuminated doorways, sunken alcoves containing
statuettes, a wide stairway, and balconies overlooking a central space that
might well pass down all the way to ground level. I moved out onto the
landing. Usually I rely upon my wits and my agility, but sometimes I rely
upon weapons, too. I let my wireframe pistol take shape lest unseen guards
leapt to attack me, and followed my nose.
Lord Rychard, from his vantage point on the slope above, counted no less
than ten thousand Goblins, each carrying a huge broadax forged from black
iron. Nearly a third of the enemy rode upon the backs of snarling mountain
wolves. By contrast, Rychard's thousand armored knights were mounted upon
their much swifter horses, and his well-equipped infantry companies were
armed with gleaming steel swords and spears. The disciplined versus the
undisciplined; the noble against the unspeakable.
At last they heard the clicking noises they'd been expecting to hear. The
radio code had been developed over a period of years by Human experts and AI
language disseminators. Earth and the Arj homeworld had used it to
communicate for all of three months before war broke out over possession of
relatively insignificant volumes of empty space. Insignificant volumes like
this Sector, which in Rasmussen's opinion wasn't worth a single drop of Human
blood, never mind thousands of lives.
Harley indicated the corpse. "Miss Smythe died of a massive calcium
deficiency. That's something you don't hear every dayat least, I
don't. The removal of over ninety-seven percent of calcium
hydroxyphosphate from his body has rendered all his bones
super-brittle. Outwardly, you can't see the damage. But go beneath
the skin and you'll find almost every bone broken, and in some cases
shattered, just by the pressure of his own body weight. That's the
grinding noise you're hearing. Technically speaking, Miss Smythe is a
bag of jelly."
The final screams of the men trapped inside the dome issued from an overhead
speaker in the cruiser's control room. Then there came a loud plunk!
and the speaker went dead.
A dark, tall figure stepped out of the house opposite the inn, clad in fur and leather and carrying a longsword that gleamed in the pale moonlight. He looked left and right as he crossed the ground between the house and the inn. Behind him, orange fire took hold inside the house, spreading up the walls to the thatched roof.
Ziegler pulled back the sheet covering the body that had been laid out for re-examination. Plainly he meant to surprise and shock Drubber with the sight of the hideously mutilated victim, but that didn't happen. Drubber kept his expression impassive as his gaze drifted down over the girl's torso, abdomen and legs. He'd seen similar before. Had seen worse, in fact.
The queer forest surrounding the Research Station consisted of
a cavernous maze of interlocking roots that made Johnson feel
positively insignificant. The gnarled roots, some as thick as a
ground-to-orbit transport rocket, anchored gigantic treelike
structures that grew to ten times the size of Californian redwoods.
Their highest branches, more than a mile overhead, yielded mirrorlike
silver flowers that appeared to function as solar panels, soaking up
Alpha Centauri's harsh sunlight and casting the forest floor into
shadow. The Xenobiologists enthused over these flowers at every
opportunity, claiming an energy conversion efficiency unmatched by
anything that had ever grown on Earth. Johnson reserved judgment;
after six months of close study the Xeno-Bs had still to run a cable
into the Station that supplied enough juice to make a light bulb glow.
Jimmy the Nose kept a nice place. Tasteful statues and pictures
decorated a living room big enough to host a baseball game. The
blonde sat down on one of the black leather couches and crossed her
long legs. Malone couldn't help but look. She smiled, letting him
know she liked him looking. Frankie stood by the door, his hands
clasped in front of him, his expression blank. Malone could live or
die here tonight and Frankie wouldn't give a damn one way or the
His black hair was tied at the base of his neck and hung halfway down his back, thick and shiny, like poured oil. He stepped onto the ultrasonic mat which removed mud from his boots. When he turned to face the room Lei Ping only just managed to smother her gasp before it escaped her lips. A livid radiation burn covered the entire left side of his once-handsome face. He'd been touched by the crimson blossom! Her heart went out to him. Karma to have such beauty destroyed.
I lunged, aiming the point of my sword at the spot where the crone's heart
should be. I'd hoped to catch her by surprise but perhaps she read my mind,
or perhaps my desperate expression betrayed my intention. Whatever, her bony
fingers closed around my blade, anchoring it solidly in mid-air and stopping
me in mid-thrust. The shock damn near dislocated my shoulder. She wrenched
the sword from my grasp and threw it away. A greater demonstration of her
confidence would have been difficult to devise. She feared me not at all,
this ancient vampyre, and in doing so caused me to fear her all the more.