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Infinity Blade: Redemption (Page 19)

The moment came.

And to his sorrow, to his shame, he activated the button and betrayed the God King.

Nothing happened.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

SOMETHING CHIRPED in Raidriar’s helm—the chip that Ausar had embedded into his weapon, the one that would have teleported it away, had been activated. Raidriar had removed it, of course.

So, you decided betray me after all, Raidriar thought, surprised as he continued his swing and battered aside Ashimar’s weapon.

Raidriar’s blow threw the weapon from Ashimar’s hand. It clanged to the floor of the dais, skidding away, toward where the Worker sat, engaged by his screens.

Raidriar’s enemy slumped down, defeated.

Ah, Ausar, Raidriar thought. That move with the teleportation ring was clever. Just not clever enough. He activated his armor’s personal interference shield, as he knew that Siris would be watching remotely. That would inhibit the image, make it so that his old friend could no longer watch.

Raidriar should be angry at Ausar. Instead, he was impressed. That would have been a wonderful betrayal. Treachery worthy of the highest Deathless.

He still hated Ausar, of course. Deeply. But that didn’t matter right now. Secure that Ausar could no longer watch, he knelt and grabbed Ashimar by the throat, lifting him.

“Thank . . . you . . .” Ashimar whispered.

Raidriar nodded solemnly. “Goodbye, my friend.”

And with that he slammed the Infinity Blade into Ashimar’s chest. The proper flash of light followed, indicating the severing of the immortal bond, the end of a life thought endless. When Raidriar dropped the husk he knew that the Weapon he held was no fake.

SIRIS SAT back, his mirror greyed out.

He’d been outmaneuvered. Not just politically and technologically, but morally as well.

What have I done? he thought.

The Dark Self seethed.

I hate you, Siris realized. Even if you make me strong, I hate you. Far more than I hate him.

There was nothing to be done about it. For now, he admitted defeat.

He was the Dark Self.

RAIDRIAR PICKED up Ashimar’s weapon. It was, to Raidriar’s eyes, identical to the Infinity Blade he held.

“Why?” he called to the Worker, who was still tapping on the screens projected around his throne. Raidriar was only a few steps away by now.

“To occupy them,” he said. “And to make certain I could replicate the device.”

“Foolish,” Raidriar said, striding forward. “That gives them a chance to destroy you. You ignore too much. Even if I do not defeat you, someone will. They will raise empires to rival you.”

The Worker turned to him, then slowly shook his head. “You still haven’t figured it out, I see.”

Raidriar prowled forward, glancing at the screens around the Worker, which were now close enough for him to make out. Schematics of the world, each continent outlined, and . . . satellites in the skies? Launch trajectories?

Another war? No . . . this was more extensive than that.

“Did you know,” the Worker said conversationally, “that there are actually two ways to kill a Deathless? I’ve known of the first for ages. It requires leaving the soul with no place to hide, no body to restore.”

“Impossible,” Raidriar said. “Even if you destroyed all of the rebirthing chambers, the soul would return to the original body and heal it.”

“Not if there is nothing left to heal.”

Raidriar saw it, then. Full orbital bombardment. Laying waste to the entire world, reducing it to ash and slag. Extinction of all life.

“No . . .” Raidriar whispered.

“I hate to do it,” the Worker said. “I will have to live offworld for centuries while the planet recovers. But occasionally, a resurrection is needed—a cleansing. What did you once tell me?” The Worker smiled. “That men must be cast down on occasion, or they will grow too high-minded? That goes for Deathless too.”

“Not this,” Raidriar said, looking at one of the screens with dread. “Everyone . . . everything. You go too far, Galath! I will not allow this. These are my people, and I am their king. I will not allow—”

“Allow?” the Worker said, amused. “Who are you to allow anything, Jori?”

Raidriar turned to face him, then fell into a dueling stance, wary for traps. Before him, screens displayed a multitude of plots. Images of the satellites that would vaporize all life. Views of the various places where Deathless fought one another, struggling for supremacy, never realizing that their creator had already deemed them obsolete.

He fought down the terrible, nauseating horror of it. He was a king, and he would not allow emotion to cloud what he needed to do.

He would stop this. And then, each and every Deathless on the planet would owe Raidriar their lives. He would make certain they knew of that debt.

“Still assuming you’re going to be able to kill me, Raidriar?” the Worker said, sounding amused. He stood up, passing through his screens, to a small workstation near the throne. The desk was scattered with bits of ancient technology.

He paid Raidriar little heed, taking out a datapod and laying it on his desk, opening up files.

Raidriar vaguely remembered datapods. His father had used one to transfer information between electronic surfaces. He’d carried his life about on the thing. Raidriar had once been very jealous of that datapod his father carried in his watch. And then the man had given up immortality for him.

Be a king, son . . .

“But, of course,” the Worker said, “I know that you aren’t yet convinced. I know you too well to assume otherwise.” He sighed. “Well then, come on over. I believe I owe you a duel.”

Raidriar growled, striding up to the monster. The Worker tapped a few times on his desk screen. “This really is a waste of time.”

Raidriar stabbed him through the chest with the Infinity Blade.

“Are you quite done?” the Worker asked, the Weapon still poking through his chest. “I have a lot I need to be doing.”

No flash of light. No disjunction of the Q.I.P.

“It’s a fake after all?” Raidriar whispered.

“Hardly,” the Worker said. “Do you really think I would build a weapon that could destroy me?” He pinched the Blade between two fingers, then grunted and pulled himself off it. There was no blood.

Raidriar raised the Weapon for another swing.

“What are you going to do?” the Worker asked, settling down into the chair at his workstation. “Chop off my head? When you parted with Ausar, didn’t you say something about that? That you’d display my severed head for all to regard? You realize I’d grow my head back faster than you could hack it off.”

Raidriar hesitated.

“Right now, you’re wondering if I have bugged you, to listen in on things you’ve been saying.” The Worker paused. “No. And now you’re wondering if Ausar contacted me after you left—you wonder if he was a spy all along. Neither is true, Jori. The truth is simply that I know you, and can pick out exactly what you’ll say. I know everything.”

“Lies.”

“So stubborn. Tell me, how is your backup kingdom?”

He can’t possibly know . . .

“You know, the one you have stashed away in South Alithenia somewhere. I haven’t bothered to look, but I’d guess . . . where, Eropima? A small kingdom, dedicated only to you—though they’d call you by a different name. None of your Devoted know of it, of course. You only travel there by being reborn, so nobody can trace you. You keep it just in case, a place to rebuild. And you’ve never spoken of it to a soul, nor have you written down knowledge of it.”

Raidriar stumbled backward.

“Shall I keep going?” the Worker asked. “Before you came here, you sent your Devoted in three different directions. One to recover the Infinity Blade—which I assume you have set up to be teleported away in case you should fall. Another you sent on a fool’s errand to disguise your trail and confuse your enemies. The third you sent to assassinate the other clone of you that I created as backup to rule your kingdom.”

Shock. Surprise. He was a god! He should not be so predictable. So readable. How . . .

The Worker leaned forward. “I know everything, Jori. When you were but a child, I had already lived ten thousand lives.” He smiled. “Go ahead, ask me a question. Anything you wish.”

A question. “How . . .” Raidriar gulped. Then it came to him. “If you are all-powerful, then how did you let yourself get trapped in a prison for a thousand years?”

The Worker tapped a finger on the screen of his desk. Then he leaped to his feet, an Infinity Blade appearing in his fist in a flash of light. He struck at Raidriar, who barely got his weapon up in time to defend.

“It was Ausar, wasn’t it?” Raidriar demanded, backing away.

“He is an . . . anomaly,” the Worker growled.

Ausar.

The data they’d recovered . . . it showed that the Worker had projected that Ausar would create a Deathless army, but he had not. The Worker did not know about their hideout, otherwise he would have bombed that too. Ausar had chosen to put the resurrection chamber there, instead of elsewhere.

“You may have lived thousands of lives,” Raidriar said, dancing backward, “but you don’t know everything. You merely know almost everything. You didn’t expect his betrayal.”

“I didn’t expect the timing of it,” the Worker said, advancing.

“He frightens you. You cannot anticipate him like you do others. Instead of imprisoning him, you made a child of him, wiping his memories. Or did he do that to himself? Either way, he transformed during those years—transformed into something far more dangerous than what he had been. Someone different from anything you’d seen before.”

The Worker attacked.

Raidriar fought.

But he was outmatched.

The Worker was good, so good, with the sword. Before him, Raidriar finally saw himself as he was—a babe. He danced around his enemy, moving backward across the dais, trying to fight. He was one of the most skilled swordsmen who had ever lived, but the Worker . . . the Worker had no trouble.

Raidriar fought anyway. He fought with everything he had, and in the end, none of it mattered—for the Worker had battered the Weapon from Raidriar’s hand. It flew away, scraping against the floor.

The Worker slammed his shoulder against Raidriar, who fell back against the workstation behind him. The Worker grabbed his helm and pulled it free, tossing it away. Then, the creature leveled the Infinity Blade at Raidriar, the point touching his nose.

“I,” the Worker said, “am true divinity. I am the father of nations, peoples, and gods. Everything that exists on this planet exists by my forbearance. I am the thing you merely pretend to be. And you can never defeat me.”

Raidriar believed him. Looking into the depths of this creature’s eyes, he understood. Everything he had done or tried, the man he had once known as Galath could anticipate.

“Now,” the Worker said, lowering his Blade. “Now you understand, and now you take your place. You are mine, and you always have been. We are going to cleanse this planet and start anew. I need a few to serve beneath me. You will take this opportunity, and you will savor it, Raidriar. Tell me of my mercy. Beg me to let you live.”

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