First Chapter of "War Song" by BR Kingsolver
Book 2 of the Rift Chronicles Series
By BR Kingsolver
Copyright 2020 BR Kingsolver
“Everyone’s in place,” the voice over my radio said. “We go at sixty.”
Sixty seconds before a force of Metropolitan Police and guardians from half a dozen Magi Families stormed the block-long warehouse with Lucifer’s Lair, the most notorious nightclub in the Mid-Atlantic.
I did a last-second mental check of my weapons and armor. Since I knew the inside layout better than almost anyone, I would be in the second wave, following the assault teams who would breach the entrances and secure the building. We had no idea how many demons were in the building, we only knew that the listed owner, the demon lord Ashvial, was dead.
Most of the force was there to capture or kill the demons inside, but my primary mission was to take control of the computer systems, paper files, and the human employees who managed Ashvial’s finances. Of course, that was all located in a part of the building I’d never seen.
Aeromancers used battering rams of compressed air to blow the front doors open. Bolts of lightning crashed against the doorframe, shorting out any electronic defenses. And then heavily armored men rushed into the building.
The sound of large-caliber automatic weapons echoed inside, diminishing to occasional shots, the crackle of lightning, and the whoosh of fireballs. From where I was standing outside, the interior of the building looked as though a fireworks show was going on inside.
When things quieted a little, I led my small team inside and took an immediate right toward a door in the wall opposite the bar. We crossed the large room without any resistance, although I noted the bodies of three demons. I didn’t expect many of them to be downstairs in the middle of the day. Most of them would be on the third floor, where the red light was more welcoming to their eyes.
The door had an electronic keypad, and I sent a spell into it. The door clicked, and I cast another spell into the room beyond to disable any nasty anti-intrusion devices that might be installed there.
Normally, the business offices would have been full of workers on a Wednesday, but our surveillance indicated that only a few employees had entered the building that morning. As a cop, I was paid to have a suspicious mind, and my guess was the humans in charge of the business operation had figured out Ashvial wasn’t coming back.
And if it was me, I’d be working overtime to loot the assets and destroy any evidence that the authorities might use to connect me to Ashvial’s illicit activities. In their own world, demons didn’t use money as humans did, and as far as computers and technology were concerned, they were total idiots. They just couldn’t wrap their minds around physics and chemistry performing tasks that demons did with magik.
Sure enough, the reception desk was unmanned, and the cubes in the large room beyond were all empty. That meant any people who were there would be in the offices lining the outside walls of the building.
I sent my team to capture anyone they found, while I headed toward the computer room. I had never been in that part of the building, but the plans on file with the Building Commission showed me where I needed to go.
A spell disabled the keypad on the door, and I slipped inside. One man sat at a console with his back to me.
“Don’t even think about touching that keyboard again,” I said in my sweetest, gentlest voice, placing the muzzle of my Raider 50 against his skull. “Put your hands in the air, or I’ll blow your head off.”
It was rather gratifying how quickly he obeyed.
“Now, stand up, and walk toward the wall to your left,” I said.
Again, he obeyed. I followed him, handcuffed him, then made him sit down against the wall. A pair of ankle shackles made sure he wouldn’t run away. I put a small silver-colored box on the floor a few feet in front of him.
“That’s a magitek box,” I said. “If you move to either side, or attempt to stand up, it will electrocute you. Do you understand?”
He nodded enthusiastically, but managed to ask in an aggrieved tone, “Who are you?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m Lieutenant Danica James, Metropolitan Police, and this is a raid.”
The way his eyes widened told me that he was far more upset that I was a police officer than he would have been if I were a fellow crook.
I sat down at the console, and using my cranial implant, jacked into the computer system. The first thing I checked was what my captive had been doing, then I patted myself on the back. He had been transferring funds from one of Ashvial’s bank accounts into a private account in Switzerland, and I was willing to bet it was a personal account that he owned. He wasn’t shy, either. The transfer was set up to move ninety million dollars.
I immediately stopped the transfer and changed the accesses to both accounts. Then I accessed the rest of Ashvial’s accounts and did the same thing. After changing the passwords to the internal computer system, I locked the console and pulled my consciousness back into the real world. I would give the new access codes to the police’s forensic accountants, and let them take care of the detail work.
I dragged my captive out of the soundproofed computer room and into the noise of the raid. Gunshots and the sound of magikal weapons came from overhead, along with the snarls, roars, and screams of demons. I was still sore from my last fight with a demon, and gladly turned away from the stairs.
I hauled the computer genius out the door to a waiting paddy wagon and accepted a cup of coffee from a cop standing there. We discussed the weather for a while until all the noise inside stopped, then I went back in to supervise the arrest of the other humans and the cataloging of Ashvial’s business records.
When I got the final tally of demons captured and killed, the numbers seemed small compared to how many I’d seen on my previous visits there. I figured some had escaped, and some decided to find other living arrangements after Ashvial died.
I did go up to his office on the second floor. I grabbed a couple of newbie detectives and took them with me. There weren’t too many humans who read demon, and most of them worked in research institutions, not for the police.
When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the statuette. I was a little surprised it was still there. The body of a woman—a human woman—with the head of a dragon. Sharp ridges ran from the top of her head between her horns, down her back to the tip of her tail, which was curled around her feet. She looked almost alive, as though her skin would be soft and warm. Her eyes were demon red, glowing, and just as when I’d seen her before, I felt as though they followed me.
I pulled out my phone and called Kevin Goodman, head of the Arcane Forensics Branch.
“Kevin, remember that house up by Pimlico? The drug house where the demons were massacred? Can you send the magik detector who was at the house that day over to Lucifer’s Lair? I have something I want her to look at.”
After I hung up, one of the detectives with me said, “That thing isn’t alive, is it? I feel like it’s watching me.”
“Yeah. I don’t know, but don’t touch it.”
I started going through the paper in Ashvial’s desk and filing cabinets, handing it to the detectives with instructions on how to catalog it. We’d been at it about an hour, when Kevin’s magik detector appeared at the door.
“Lieutenant James? You wanted to see me?”
“Yeah. Take a look at that.” I pointed to the statue.
She sucked air, then cautiously approached it. I watched the young mage lick her lips, then extend her hand. She stopped with her hand a few inches from the statue, held it there for a minute, then pulled her hand close to her body and tucked it between her breast and armpit.
“Well?” I asked.
“That’s it,” she said. “That’s the magik I felt at the demon house that day.”
I took a deep breath. “I had a feeling. I think we just closed that case. Thanks.”
“What are you going to do with it?”
“Now, that’s a question, isn’t it? Ward it and transport it out of here.”
“Good luck,” she said, backing out of the room without taking her eyes off the statue.
“Dani, wake up! It’s happened again!”
I felt like I had just fallen asleep, and I was deep in a dream.
“Dani, come on!” Kirsten grabbed my shoulder and shook me.
I cracked an eye, and sure enough, it was still dark. Well, maybe a little light shone through my bedroom window.
“Is the world coming to an end?” I muttered.
“Maybe. Damn it, get the hell up!”
She took hold of my arm and literally dragged me out of bed and into the kitchen where we had a large screen hooked to the datanet. The picture on the screen was of the Palace of Commerce in downtown Baltimore shortly after it was bombed.
“What about it?” I asked, trying to pick up what the commentator was saying.
“That’s not Baltimore,” Kirsten said, “it’s Prague. This morning.”
At that point, I woke up and started listening to the announcer.
“…Human Liberation Army, HLA, called media outlets and claimed responsibility for the bombing. Their website has a manifesto with a list of demands, and it threatens more mayhem to come. At this point, authorities have said nothing about casualties, but the bomb went off at ten o’clock local time when the building is usually full of people.”
There were four different Palaces of Commerce, all tied together with a common computer system. The one in Baltimore had been destroyed a couple of weeks before, and only the ones in Buenos Aires and Nanking remained. All except the one in Nanking were built from the same set of plans.
“I thought you said the Akiyama Family and Ashvial were responsible for the bombing here in Baltimore,” Kirsten said.
“That’s what all the big Families and their intelligence services seem to think,” I answered. “No one has claimed responsibility for that, and the riots stopped when Ashvial died.”
Not only had the riots stopped in the Mid-Atlantic but also in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, and Kansas City. They continued in Vancouver, Dallas, and Mexico City—all cities under the influence of different demon lords.
“I knew some HLA people at Cambridge,” Kirsten said. “Just a bunch of socialist idealists. I can’t imagine any of them committing mass murder.”
I had never paid much attention to the HLA. I knew they were against Rifters—especially demons—as well as magik users and the magikal hierarchy that controlled most of the world’s wealth and resources. I grabbed a keyboard and tried to check out their website, but got an error.
Kirsten looked over my shoulder. “What does that mean?”
“Either the amount of traffic crashed their server, or the authorities took it down,” I said.
War Song will be released in December of 2020. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of a special pre-order deal for this book!
- Updated: 19 October 2020