15 November, 2011

Exclusive - Demon Squad 3: At the Gates by Tim Marquitz chapter 3

I've said it before and I'll say it again, author Tim Marquitz is the man. From zombies to demons to skulls and even epic fantasy, he delivers when it comes to dark fantasy. He's also been kind enough to let me post chapter three of the next installment of the Demon Squad series, At the Gates (Demon Squad 3).

Find Chapters one and two and the new short story Betrayal at the respective links.


Chapter Three


My breath huffed like a freight train as I rounded the corner where the
figure had disappeared. There was nothing but open space. I let my senses
loose and pushed them to their limit, a billion-legged octopus freed to
wiggle its receptive tentacles into every nook and cranny, seeking the
shadowy figure. Again, they could find no one. Whoever had been watching
us was gone.

Frustration boiled over into a scream, my throat ripped raw with its
intensity, an acid bath of emotion. My chest tightened as my lungs cried
out for air. A cyclone of ugly thoughts whirled inside my head, begging to
be unleashed on whoever had masterminded the storm, and on the voyeur
whose cheap thrill came at the expense of innocent lives.

Katon and Scarlett dashed around the corner and stopped cold when they saw
me. Michael brought up the rear, coughing as he struggled to breathe. I
could see the worry on their faces and could only imagine what I looked
like to them. It didn’t really matter right then.

Finally, when I could scream no more, I let my voice trail off. I took a
minute to regain my composure before joining them.

“We’re in way over our heads. Let’s go talk to Abe.”

His expression wary, but agreeable, Katon nodded.

****

Through the gate at my house, we arrived at DRAC after just a few minutes.
We appeared in the secure entry room that every portal into the main DRAC
headquarters is funneled. A silver pentagram was inscribed on the floor,
its points surrounded by the summoning circle we’d use to port in. Carved
into the walls was a massive array of defensive wards designed to take out
most any supernatural threat. I’d never known their specific use, and
would happily live my life without seeing the business end of them.

Hidden alongside the wards were a number of jets that could fill the room
with poisonous gas in seconds. To top it all off, the ceiling was a thirty
ton weight, powered by a massive system of hydraulics, designed to be
dropped on unsuspecting enemies, turning them into jelly. That one always
made me nervous.

My focus was on the roof until the security scans finished, and the door,
set flush with the walls, swung open with a whoosh to let us into DRAC
proper. Chivalry and consideration saved for when I wasn’t at risk of
being smooshed, I hightailed it out of the chamber as fast as I could,
nudging past the security officer standing outside.

“I’m with him.” I pointed to Katon and kept walking. The officer sighed
and stepped aside, not bothering to argue. He knew me.

Through the labyrinthine halls, we made our way to Abraham’s office, sans
Michael. He’d gone off to rally his men. Given the widespread nature of
the strange storm, he was gonna have his hands full trying to keep this
one under wraps.

Having spent a while sleeping on the couch in Abraham’s office while my
house was rebuilt, it felt almost like coming home. I barged in without
knocking. The decadent scent of old knowledge wafted out to greet me. Rows
upon rows of old books stood neatly arranged on a handful of shelves along
the back wall. They ran the gamut from magical tomes to historical texts,
encyclopedias to archaic religious works. Many of them were so rare as to
exist only here, in this room. They were Abraham’s pride and joy.

Unlike his desk, which looked like an orphan from Clutterville, dozens of
stacks of manila folders and papers littered its face. His computer was
covered in a colorful assortment of sticky notes. Tiny black slivers of
his monitor showed through between them, here and there.

Abraham peeked out from behind the piles and gave us a grim nod, mustering
a weak smile for Scarlett. His glasses amplified the green of his eyes and
he stared at us with subtle apprehension twitching across his face.

He’d taken to shaving his head. Most of his white hair having gone to
pasture already, it made him look younger, more vital. The consummation of
his relationship with Rachelle Knight, the third member of DRAC’s
triumvirate of power, a powerful mystic in her own right, had helped, no
doubt.

“Judging by the looks on your faces, this isn’t a social call.”

With a huff, I dropped into one of the large chairs out in front of his
desk as Scarlett sat in the other. Katon stood behind her, his posture
uncharacteristically protective. While a bit surprised by Katon’s show of
propriety, I put it out of my head. There were more important things to
worry about.

“Is it ever?” I answered.

Abraham shook his head, forced to agree. We caught him up on everything,
starting with Scarlett showing up at my door and ending with the storm.
When we were done, he slid his glasses off, dropping them on the desk, and
sat back in the chair with one hand rubbing at his temple.

“This isn’t good.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why he’s in charge.

“Ever hear of anything like that?”

“No. It’s an anomaly we’ve yet to encounter.” He motioned beyond the door.
“Rachelle sensed a mysterious building of energy minutes before you say
the storm struck, though she had no idea what had created the flux. Your
information might help us determine its cause and at least now, we’ll know
when one is building.”

“For all the good it’ll do us. That thing took out four city blocks in the
time it took me to scratch my ass, Abe. A minute or two isn’t gonna give
us time to evacuate anyone, let alone defend against it.”

“Some warning is better than none, Frank. We’ll take what we can get.” He
waved me to silence, turning to look at Scarlett. “Could this have
something to do with Gabriel’s assault upon Eden?”

She sat silent for a moment, and then shrugged. “It’s possible, though I’m
not sure how. He and Michael are on the front lines, and have been since
the attack began. Uriel and Forcalor would crush their forces should
either of the archangels withdraw from the field.”

Abraham exhaled slow as he clearly pondered everything he’d learned. “I’ll
gather what forces we have available, but they will hardly be adequate for
Uriel’s purpose. I’m sorry. I wish I could tell you otherwise.”

“I understand,” Scarlett replied with a fractured smile, her voice little
more than a whisper. Katon gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze, smiling
down at her.

“What about Baalth?” Abraham asked me.

“He’s got the power for sure, it’s just whether there’s something in it
for him. He’s not gonna jump to save Heaven unless it advances his
interests, especially considering the history there. I don’t see him being
excited enough to pitch in on this one.”

“It can’t hurt to ask.”

I chuckled, thinking about just how much it could hurt to ask. “I’ll see
what he says.” Or throws, or kicks, or burns. Just recently free of all my
obligations to Baalth, I wasn’t looking forward to mortgaging my ass to
him again.

“Find out what you can about the Nephilim,” Abraham said, turning to
Katon. “Their gathering near Eden cannot be a coincidence. Perhaps they
know something that will aid us.”

Katon slowly reclaimed his hand, nodding to Scarlett who returned a wan
smile. He looked reluctant to leave. After a moment of tense silence he
did, closing the door loudly behind him.

Abraham raised an eyebrow Spock-like, but said nothing. He didn’t have to.
He was king when it came to speaking without words.

“This can’t all be a coincidence, can it?”

Abraham shook his head. “I don’t believe so, but without more information,
there’s no way to be sure. I’ll start gathering our people. Perhaps by the
time we’re ready, we’ll know more.”

Frustrated that we were just as much in the dark as we were when we’d
arrived, I said goodbye to Abraham, intent upon scampering off to Old
Town. Scarlett tagged along looking like a lost puppy dog.

After we’d scrounged her up some clothes to wear, I stopped off at the
armory and re-equipped myself, swiping a pair of guns and plenty of
ammunition—the DA slayers—and made for the portal room.

It was never a bad idea to have an arsenal when going to visit Baalth.

5 comments:

Bastard said...

Awesome. Two more weeks for Frank goodness.

Bryce L. said...

Just got my copy today, whoot! Now just need that Kindle thing to show up.

Bastard said...

Sweet, will look forward to your take. I already read it, and thought it was the best of the 3, more serious in tone though, so we'll see how you guys find it.

Liz @ Fictional Candy said...

This sounds great. I'm going to go look it up. Thanks for the tip :)

Bryce L. said...

It's really good, you should really read it.