My story in the CyberWar anthology is called Demon Installation. It’s a blend between science fiction/fact and urban fantasy, and this snippet is part of chapter two. So if you like your cyber terrorist thrillers spiced with a little magic and the odd demon, check it out.
It is too much for Nikolai. Anton can see him twitch like he does when he fears he is going to be hit. He is about to start babbling in terror, to start apologizing, and if he does that, Anton knows, this meeting will go badly for everyone.
“The Ukraine was just the first stage,” Anton growls, forestalling his brother’s words. “Our deadline is yet to pass. Your senseless attempts to scare us do no more than interfere with our plans.”
Anton speaks with all the confidence he can muster. He knows that their very lives might hang on whether or not this woman believes him. And not just his life and that of Nikolai. There is another whose life hangs in the balance.
“How will your superiors respond if they find out our failure is due to you?” he adds.
As he speaks, his attention is split between the woman and his brother. He sees doubt creep into her expression at the same time as he sees his brother’s look of astonishment.
“But —” his brother begins.
“Be silent!” Anton hisses. “I said I will do the talking!”
But it is already too late. “You are lying to me,” the old woman snaps her tongue, sharp and cutting like a knife dipped in poison. “You are done. Your attempt has been made, and you failed. So tell me, why should I not order your sister killed right now? And you two as well? Why should I wait for the deadline to pass?”
It is a threat that makes Anton’s blood run cold with fear and forces a panicky whimper from Nikolai despite Anton’s demand for his silence. Not the threat against themselves, but the one against their sister. Sofia, the one person Anton loves more than anyone else. Even now, she is caught by these people. Held no doubt in fear for her very life, just because she is their sister. She is the joker in the deck, the one awful lever that can be used to bend Anton and Nikolai to do anything.
It is a threat beyond limit. For her even more than for Nikolai, Anton will commit cold-blooded murder. He will swim in molten lava and dig out his own heart with his bare hands.
Sofia is fifteen years old and as innocent in her own way as Nikolai is in his and then some. ‘Touched,’ some would call her. A chromosomal defect of some kind that occurred before she was born.
Protected by Anton all her life, to him she is beautiful. A mixture between the two brothers, her features, and nature the best of each of them. Despite her misfortunes, she is as happy and content with her life as it is possible to be.
For her, Anton and Nikolai will craft a virus that will destroy nations, if they can. Anton will not even blink.
And these people are holding her hostage.
The thought is enough to unfetter Anton’s rage. For an instant before he acts, naked hate is plain on his face. It is extreme and primal, a visceral response of pure instinct and fury, and it is accompanied by a throat-ripping howl that is much more animal than human.
His howl and expression are enough to make grown men flinch all by themselves. But such is not the limit of Anton’s response. Without consciously deciding to do so, he lurches to his feet and stands as if ready to fight everyone in the room with his fists alone.
A moment later, his conscious mind clicks in, and he unleashes the power of his amulet. He doesn’t need to say any words. This isn’t a spell so much as an unshackling, a single, concussive release.
A pulse of pure energy erupts from him. Not just from the amulet, not just from his green-glowing eyes, but from all over. It is like he is the center of a detonation as if an electromagnetic pulse has exploded from his heart. The leading edge of the pulse expands too quickly to see, yet nevertheless leaves an impression of green, liquid fire.
It is powerful enough to knock everyone in the room from their feet. Even his brother, who until then had been sitting on the other plastic chair. One of the lights explodes on impact. The other flickers and dies, plunging the room into darkness.
It is too soon yet for terror to kick in, but the others in the room give a collective, reflexive groan of pain and confusion.
Anton makes use of the darkness. He still carries a remnant of the amulet’s power within him. It gives him strength and propels him forward, much faster than he would normally move.
In the darkness, he finds the old woman, wraps his hands around her throat, and drags her away from the others until his back is against the wall. She starts to struggle. “Don’t move!” he hisses, his words filled with undisguised loathing. She ignores him and continues to struggle, clawing at his forearm. Perhaps it’s a reflex.
He doesn’t care. His jacket protects him, and he tightens his grip around her throat. “You have no idea the pleasure it will bring me to wring your miserable neck!” he grates. “Now be still!”
The women stops struggling. “We still have your Sofia,” she says, her voice surprisingly calm.
Want to read more? Check out the CyberWar anthology!