God’s Assassin – Notes and Chapter One April 12, 2011Posted by Al Philipson in God's Assassin Chapters.
Tags: God's Assassin Chapters, Work in progress
I’m working on a new novel, God’s Assassin.
It has a curious beginning. I belong to a science fiction writer’s workshop and one of the members (the President) posted a short “start” as an exercise. We were supposed to take her beginning and write a short story from it.
When one of our members read my entry, he wrote, “when are you going to make this into a book?” or words to that effect. I hadn’t thought of that until then, but it got me to thinking.
So, I got permission from the President to use her beginning and started creating a universe of the future where mankind has migrated to other planets, gone through some wars of consolidation, and settled into four camps.
Three of the camps are faith-based. Christian, a quazi-Christian cult, and Islam. The fourth “camp” is made up of the worlds that are not aligned with any of the three dominant religious groups (this includes Earth). At the start of the book, the Holy Christian Empire is fighting a defensive war against the Cult.
Because of the beginning, I was stuck with a female lead, so I’m going out on a limb to write the story from her viewpoint.
Unlike my previous book, this one has no sexual scenes in it and no aliens. It should get a PG rating, but only because of some rough language and the violence of war and assassination.
Here’s chapter one. I’ll be posting more as I move forward. No guarantees that the final book will be the same. Publisher’s editors can be cruel.
“The world has no room for cowards. We must all be ready somehow to toil, to suffer, to die. And yours is not less noble because no drum beats before you when you go out to your daily battlefields, and no crowds shout your coming when you return from your daily victory and defeat.”
–Robert Louis Stevenson
Charlotte carefully adjusted her leather purse, slung its strap over her shoulder, and casually walked around the corner into the almost empty debarkation area of the spaceport. The fat albino behind the desk looked up from his monitor to stare at her, his right hand sliding slowly out of sight and down by his side.
“Ah, Miss Stereo, back so soon?”
From behind her, a familiar voice growled, “Charlotte! Stop!”
Charlotte froze as she heard the recognizable whine of a Mark 3 blaster powering up. She carefully held her hands out to the side, palms open. “Brother Bliss,” she spat without turning her head. “What are you doing on Merlin?”
“Following you, of course, Sister Charlotte. I’m worried about your soul.” He paused. “And the intelligence on the Lord’s troops you managed to steal from our offices here.”
Charlotte continued to look straight ahead. The albino smiled through blubbery lips while his piggy pink eyes scanned back and forth.
She stalled for time as the last passenger in the terminal left through a gate halfway across the spacious area. “What makes you think I have anything like that, Brother Bliss?” She couldn’t help making the word “Brother” sound like something dirty.
Why in God’s name did I let myself get talked into this fool mission. One of these days, my luck is bound to run out.
The terminal was now empty except for the three of them.
“You neglected to disable one of the monitors in the office when you broke in and copied the information,” he snickered with a slight wheeze in his voice. “You shouldn’t feel bad about it, Charlotte. The camera was well disguised. Most of those you blinded were dummies meant to distract sinners like you.
“Now, will you kindly, and very carefully, remove the microcamera from your purse, lay it on the floor, and then we can take it — and you — back. We have a nice reeducation facility here on Merlin. I’d be honored to personally conduct your course of treatment.”
Bliss’ voice sent chills of fear down Charlott’s spine. She’d escaped “reeducation” two years ago. It took six months for her to recover from the damage to her body and her mind. She nearly lost faith in God during that time. Charlotte didn’t think she could survive another bout with the “kindly” ministrations of the Angels of the Lord, much less those of a fanatic like Brother Bliss. She vowed to retire after this mission was over — if she survived.
The albino raised his eyebrows, then looked left and right without moving his head.
Charlotte blinked her eyes once, deliberately, then started a slow count.
On two, she raised one hand to her forehead. “Oh, I …” On three she “fainted” to the ground as the albino pulled a needle gun and fired three times over her now prone body.
She looked frantically over her shoulder in time to see Brother Bliss collapse to the floor. The exploding needles had made two very bloody, five-inch holes in his torso and the third had blown away most of his face.
“Hurry,” barked the albino as he caused the needler to disappear. “We need to be out of here before someone reviews the monitor recordings.”
“Where?” Charlotte leapt up from the floor.
“There’s a ship lifting for New Jerusalem in three minutes,” the Albino said. “We can go through gate 3 and sneak over to gate 5. I know a way to avoid the monitors.”
Charlotte sprinted after the surprisingly swift bulk of the albino. They slipped through the arch of gate 3 and broke to the right. She asked, “Do we really want to go to New Jerusalem? That’s kinda like jumping from the frying pan into the lake of fire.”
“The ship makes a stop at the transfer terminal above Hadrad. I issued a request for Vengeance to meet us there. Once aboard, we’ll be safe.” He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her. “Here’s your boarding pass.” Then he made a quick motion and a pressure pop “appeared” in his hand. He slapped it against his neck.
As they ran down the back corridor, the pressure pop dissolved into his skin, and directly into his arteries. His white skin faded back to normal and he lost half his apparent weight.
Charlotte pulled a pop from her bra and did the same thing. “Charlotte” disappeared. Her blonde hair changed to its normal chestnut brown and her blue eyes faded to hazel. Her hips slimmed down to her normal athletic figure and her face went through some fairly major changes but the result was still not her own face.
She glanced at her boarding pass. Her name was Hazel Running Deer of the Chirakowa Tribe from Earth. She was traveling with her husband, John Bear Claw, also of that tribe. She wondered if anyone would ask about their very Caucasian skin tones.
* * *
Forty-three hours later, her “Charlotte Stereo” disguise completely gone, Victoria relaxed in the Admiral’s Wardroom of her bosses’ flagship, trying to figure out how to tell him she was quitting. The tacticians at the other end of the wardroom were pouring over the intelligence she’d provided.
Admiral Duncan Frazier of the Emperor’s Royal Navy sipped coffee from the opposite side of the table. “Lieutenant Willingham, you and Sergeant MacLaren may have given us a huge tactical advantage over the Angels.”
She nodded. “Thank you, Sir.”
“Do you think anyone beside Brother Bliss knew of your activities?”
“No, Sir. Bliss likes to work alone so he can claim all the credit,” she took a sip of coffee.
“Well if that’s the case, we’re truly blessed. It turns out that Admiral Favored-of-the-Lord will be visiting his family on Bethlehem in two months.”
Victoria sat up as a twinge of apprehension coursed through her body.
He leaned forward. “Would you care to take a shot at assassinating him?” The Admiral smiled ingratiatingly.
“Sir Duncan, I just came within a couple of minutes of ending up in another reeducation center.” She swallowed some bile. “If Brother Bliss had caught me before I got into the terminal, I’d be going through all that again.” She started to shake. “I couldn’t handle that.” Her voice quavered and she swallowed again. “You remember what a mess I was in when I came back. I came that close …” she held up two fingers very close together, “to breaking. If Cully and his squad hadn’t gotten me out, I’d have spilled everything I knew to Brother Bliss when he got back to the center.”
She was perspiring now. “I would very much like to retire from Intelligence and go back to flying fighters.”
Now that she’d finally said the words, she felt much better.
The Admiral sat back in his chair as his face lost all expression. When he got that look, she knew he was most dangerous. It was his “poker face” and he’d conned her many times when he got that “look”. She braced herself for a verbal assault.
But instead of a barrage, he switched to his “sympathy” routine. “I understand, Vicki.”
Ah the familiar “friend of the family” approach. Nice try, godfather.
“You must have had quite a fright when your old nemesis blindsided you from the rear,” the Admiral continued, his voice and manner dripping with concern.
The problem with this ploy, is that he really is concerned. Damn him anyway!
“But of course, he’s dead now and no one else is alive who knows what that particular disguise looks like. You never should have used it while there was someone alive who knew you.”
“I thought I could get away with it,” Victoria said. “With only Brother Bliss left, I figured he’d never be anywhere near Merlin.”
“Vicki, I thought I taught you better than to assume something like that. If we make even small errors, eventually the odds catch us and we’ll never stop the Angels’ advance into the Empire,” the Admiral sighed. “I hate to tell you, but they overran another planet last week.”
“God’s breath! Which one?”
“Ropa. It’s pretty close to the front. Admiral Favored of the Lord masterminded a feint against Guangdong and snuck a fleet behind our lines. By the time we knew about it, they were in firm control with ground installations and a guardian fleet surrounding the world.” The Admiral looked quite dejected and tired.
“One of our ships was fortunate enough to slip through while things were a bit confused and drop a supply of weapons, munitions, and field rations on several pre-arranged drops in the mountains.” He brightened slightly. “Since ‘Ropa’ is Russian for ‘mountain’ and the planet lives up to the name, being covered with mountains, any resistance will be able to hold out for quite a while.”
He glanced at her, probably to see how I’m reacting.
“They’re probably closing most of the churches there as we speak and installing their own preachers in the ones remaining. And you can bet that all of the school teachers are being given their “new curriculum” at the point of a gun.” He looked straight into her eyes. “That’s why it’s so important to do something about that Admiral. He’s entirely too capable.”
Oh, crap. He’s setting me up to look like someone who doesn’t care about God or duty if I back out on this one.
“Why don’t you take some leave and think this over,” Admiral Frazier continued, kindly, and steepled his hands just under his square jaw. Then he smiled warmly, “Maybe spend some time at home. We can create a cover identity for you while you’re away so it will take less than a month to insert you and get you established.”
Yeah, sure. Go to all that work so I’ll feel obligated.
“No, Sir,” she leaned forward. “You know I prefer to set up my own covers. The fewer people who know who I am and what I’m doing, the better.”
Oh, damned! He conned me into saying that. He knows my habits. Damn, damn, diddly, ding, ding, damn.
The Admiral didn’t give her time to retreat. “Well, of course, Vicki, if you prefer that, we’ll just set up your travel arrangements as usual and leave the names and cover to you.”
He stood up, which required her, as junior officer, to do the same. “Will you want Sergeant MacLaren on this one?”
God’s Breath! When did I volunteer for this? “Yes, please, sir.” Damn him, he cornered me – again. “I’ll let him know, sir.”
“Very well, Lieutenant. Dismissed.” He paused. “And give my regards to Sir Neville.”
“If I do, father will ask when you’re going to visit.” There goes your next leave, you con artist. Serves you right.
“Hrrrmf!” Admiral Frazier paused. “You can tell his Lordship his old First Officer will try to get some free time within the next few months.”
“I’m sure he’ll hold you to it, Sir Duncan.” Victoria snapped to attention and saluted. Admiral Frazier stiffened and returned it crisply. She turned on her heel and left the wardroom, still cursing herself for a fool.
An assassin! Dammit, I never wanted to be an assassin. The training was just supposed to help me get out of a jam. Never this.
She stopped at her unit Commander’s office on the way out of officer’s country. The Commander’s Yeoman was behind her desk, but snapped to attention when Victoria walked in.
“At ease Petty Officer,” she said. “As you were.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” she replied as she resumed her seat. “The Commander isn’t in at this moment. May I help you?”
“Actually, I came to see you, Blanche. I wanted to put Colin MacLaren in for a promotion. Do you have the proper recommendation form for us to send to his C.O.?”
“Just a minute, ma’am.” Blanche waved a hand at her computer terminal to shoo her current jobs off to the side. Her fingers flew over her keyboard very briefly, then she turned the back of the projected screen on so Vickie could see it.
“The usual. Fingerprint it in the box, retinal scan, and the paperwork will be in the Commander’s in box for his chop the next time he’s at his desk.”
Victoria complied while asking, “Why do you use a keyboard instead of voice or a cerebral link, Blanche?”
“Well, ma’am, I can type faster than I can talk, so it saves time. And sometimes it’s more private if I’m dealing with classified material. And I can’t control my mind well enough to keep secure information from ending up in a file that isn’t properly protected.”
“I envy you then. My typing speed is so slow that I could dictate a full report before I typed the first sentence.”
“We all have our skills, ma’am. Was there anything else?”
“No. Just the promotion and a chance to wish you a happy birthday next week.”
“Why, thank you, ma’am. Won’t you be at the party?”
“Nope. Admiral gave me some leave and I’m gonna spend it at home. See you when I get back,” she turned to leave.
“Have a good trip, Lieutenant,” Blanche said to her retreating back.
She stopped at a terminal and asked the ship where Sergeant Collin was.
“Sergeant Collin MacLaren is in Marine Enlisted Personnel Lounge number two.” The ship’s computer flashed a three-dimensional holographic map showing her present position and the lounge. She ignored the map and made her way out of officer’s country into the Marine section of the ship.
Sgt. Collin “Cully” MacLaren was playing solitaire with a real deck of cards at a table in a corner of the compartment, his back to one of the bulkheads. He looked nothing like the fat albino from the space terminal on Merlin. His 6’ 1” frame was packed with muscle, not flab. Blue eyes, not red, surrounded by laugh lines peered out of a tanned and weathered face that still managed to look younger than his 34 Earth Standard (EY) years.
Cully’s hands did something to the deck of cards, so fast that she almost missed it. Then he turned a queen and played it on a king.
Probably cheating as usual, she thought.
“Cully, do you have a couple of minutes?”
The Sergeant looked up and smiled, not with his lips, but with his entire face. “For you, lassie, always,” all traces of the Albino’s accent replaced by his normal New Scotland brogue. He stood up running his hand over his short red hair. “Here okay or som’ere else?”
She looked around. No one was near enough to hear them over the general hubbub. She checked the color of a ring on her right hand. No electronic monitors.
“Here will do fine.” She took a chair at the table, with her back to the other bulkhead out of habit.
“Admiral has another job for us,” she said in a low voice. Her hand covered her mouth from the view of the rest of the room.
“So soon?” Cully’s eyes widened as he resumed his seat. “Me see-oh jus’ ga’ me leave.”
“I just got leave as well. We don’t kick off for a month, standard, and we’ll have another month to get inserted.”
“An’ the job?” Cully studied a card that “happened” to cover his mouth from view.
“Assassination? That’s nae your normal task.”
“So I told the Admiral, but he tricked me into it anyway. I won’t do the same to you, Cully. This is strictly volunteer.”
“An’ leave you t’ do it withoot me in your corner? Nay, lassie, I could’na ’low that.” He played the card and drew another to replace it in front of his mouth. “Who’s tha pigeon?”
“Admiral Favored of the Lord,” she said flatly.
“Ah! The great high executioner he’self. That be nae easy thing. How’re we go’na pull it off?” Cully played the card.
“I’m not sure just yet. I’ll think about it while we’re on leave. “ Vickie shifted in her chair. “It may involve poison,” she said with distaste. “In the meantime, we should be ready to use the Ruth Michael and Henry King covers. From what I know about the Admiral, Ruth might be his type.” She turned to face Cully, her hand still hiding her mouth. “If you can handle the disguises, I’ll get the gems. Can you get me enough makeup and such for Ruth before we abandon ship? I’ll need it for my trip to Jewel.
“Oh,” she said, interrupting Cully as he opened his mouth, “and I think it’s time to abandon Charlotte Stereo. She almost got me caught again. Do you think Otto Gurgen is in trouble?”
“I think the wee albino’s cover be blown as soon as some lad sees the security tape. I agree that Charlotte be better off dead,” Cully said from behind another card.
“I’ll get the Ruth disguise to you before eight bells tomorrow.”
“Okay, Cully. Anything else?”
“Nay, lassie, as long as you be comin’ up with a good plan. I’ll craft a wee stinger ring for you in case you wan’na use poison. A fake jewel okay?” He played the last card and started gathering the deck together.
“Perfect. I’ll keep it in mind.” She got up while Cully remained seated. “Say hello to your wife and kids for me. I’ll see you in a month at Clyborn.”
“An you give the Earl me best, lassie.”