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Infinity Blade: Redemption (Page 4)

I am a man, he thought, not a monster.

Was that true any longer?

He dropped the sword with a clang, then stumbled past her onto the platform. There, he collapsed and curled up beside the bound figures.

“Siris?” She stepped up and knelt beside him. “I’m sorry. It took so long to find a way to unlock this prison . . .” She reached down, doing something on the floor.

A flash of blue light.

“It is now attuned to one of these two I brought,” Isa said. She kicked one of them down onto the floor of the prison, then the other. “Two, just in case. We captured them both together, anyway. You are free, Siris. I—”

She cut off.

Scraping came from behind.

Siris opened his eyes. Raidriar had risen, and was staggering toward the platform as well.

FREEDOM.

The prison was unlocked. Raidriar had to get onto that pillar. If he did, he could go free. His soul was not bound to this place. He simply needed to reach that column.

It was time.

The first thing he did was lock away the frayed parts of his soul. One grew accustomed to this, after thousands upon thousands of years of life. The complex refit that transformed a person from mortal to Deathless protected the mind, to an extent, from the weathering of the ages. However, being killed time and time again over the course of many months . . . that affected the psyche.

Raidriar could not allow such a thing. He had to remain in control. Later, he would take the memory of his murders and cleanse them, healing the more dangerous mental wounds. For now, he quarantined them and focused his attention on his surroundings.

He stumbled as he stepped through the horrid prison—a prison for a god, a person that should not be—passing two tied-up figures on the ground. Poor fools.

A weapon. He needed a weapon.

Ausar stumbled to his knees on the platform. Freedom. A woman grabbed him by the shoulder—Raidriar recognized her, the woman Ausar called Isa. She steadied Ausar while trying to pull out a crossbow to level at Raidriar. She also had a long knife at her belt.

That would do.

Raidriar used the reserve, the portion held back. During their confinement, he could see that Ausar had fought with everything he had. How like him, always overextending. Forever passionate, but frequently out of control.

It was what set them apart. This made Raidriar a king, while making his former friend simply a glorified warlord.

Raidriar sprinted forward, feet steadying. The girl was obviously expecting weakness in him such as Ausar displayed. What tenderness she showed for the fallen man. Raidriar noted it with a portion of his mind as he slammed into her, knocking the crossbow aside before she could shoot.

The bolt loosed, hitting the ground and bouncing off stone into the darkness. The woman grunted, reaching for Raidriar, but he twisted away while grabbing the hilt of her belt knife. He whipped it free, dancing to the side on the pillar, the knife out.

Freedom. He could taste it.

Yes, there was tenderness in the way she held Ausar’s arm. Had he taken a lover in this new form, with his mind still like that of a child? The old Ausar would scream to know of it.

“I could have let the crossbow bolt hit as I reached the pillar,” Raidriar noted, “but it is not for one such as you to kill a god.”

“Raidriar,” Ausar said, reaching out, lifting his head. “I . . . I am ready to talk . . . as you wished to do those weeks ago, when we stopped our fight.”

Raidriar inspected the knife. A fine weapon, forged from folded steel. It would do. “I think not,” he said.

Then he slit his own throat.

SIRIS WATCHED the God King’s body slump lifeless against the pillar. This time, it would not heal, would not recover. In this position, his soul could escape through the hole in the ceiling.

“What,” Isa said, “was that?”

“Freedom,” Siris mumbled. “How long has it been?”

“Almost two years,” Isa said, recovering her knife and shivering visibly. She kicked the God King’s body, making sure it was dead, then stepped up beside Siris again.

So short? Hell take me . . . I could have sworn we were in there for a millennium.

The Dark Self growled within him.

“Come on,” Isa said, kneeling and triggering the platform. It rose slowly into the air, stone grinding stone. “A lot has happened since you were imprisoned.”

As the stone pillar reached the roof, Siris watched the two figures below slowly consumed by darkness. One of them escaped her bindings and ripped the sack from her head.

Siris was left with the image of her scrambling for his broken, pitiful excuse for a sword, clutching it as the other figure ripped free of his bonds . . .

DEVIATION

THE FOURTH

URIEL WIPED digital spreadsheets from the top of his desk, sliding them out of the way with an annoyed gesture. He grouped others, bringing them down and arraying them beneath his fingers.

The numbers. What did the numbers say? Mr. Galath . . .

Why? Why couldn’t Uriel make sense of the world like he could these sheets and statistics? He was never wrong—not with numbers. When they’d demonstrated the Sympathetic Thermal Conduction mechanisms, who had guessed the exact bids that each participant would present? Uriel. When Mr. Galath had come forward with his Advanced Artificial Entity matrix, who had predicted to the day—to the day—how long it would take the government to develop regulations? Uriel.

The numbers didn’t lie. War. Why would Mr. Galath want war, after all of these years? Any of their devices could have been used militarily. They’d always put protocols in place to prevent such things. Now . . . now they went to militaries and took bids.

What was the man working on? The new secret—it had to be incredible, amazing, transformative.

Uriel would find the answer. Men should make sense. If they listened to reason, they would make sense. Perhaps if governments focused more on what was logical, rather than killing one another, the world would work as it was supposed to.

Adram passed by. “Staying late?” he asked.

Uriel didn’t look up.

Adram patted him on the shoulder anyway. “Look, no hard feelings. I don’t mind that you tried to sabotage me.”

“You don’t?” Uriel asked. That didn’t make sense, even if he had been chosen by Mr. Galath. Uriel looked up, but Adram really did look pleased.

“You should be angry at me,” Uriel said. “I tried to stop you from getting your way.”

“Nah. It’s cause and effect, Spunky. It’s like . . . you’re hardly a person. No offense there! It’s a compliment. You’re like a machine. Data in, data out. No emotion!”

Uriel pressed his fingers against the table until the tips were white. The display warped, spreading a little halo of color around each finger. “Did he say . . . ?” Uriel barely kept his voice in check. “Did he say what it was about? The special meeting?”

Adram leaned down. “I’m gonna live forever, Uri boy.” He winked, grinning, then stood up straight. He obviously shouldn’t have said anything, but the bounce to his step as he moved off—humming to himself and doing a little slide on the carpet as he took the corner—spoke volumes of his euphoria.

Live forever? Impossible. Even for Mr. Galath.

Or was it? Uriel turned back to his spreadsheets, then hunkered down. He spent an hour teasing information from accounts that were nested inside subsidiaries and shell corporations, and a strange string of answers began to form. The moon? What was Mr. Galath doing on the moon? And these bunkers around the country? Uriel couldn’t think what else to call them, judging by the specs and supply lists.

Mr. Galath was getting ready for war. What have I become a part of? Suddenly nauseous, Uriel sat back in his chair. No place on the planet would be safe. If the greatest mind of their time wanted war, then what safety could there ever be?

His eyes drifted to the picture of his son sitting in its little frame on the desk. Uriel stared at that picture, taken two years ago. In fact, he looked at it so often that he was sometimes surprised when he saw Jori in person—the child didn’t quite look like the picture.

Uriel knew that little piece of paper better than he knew the son it represented.

What am I doing? he thought. Death was coming. Destruction. Hell . . . it was already here, in most of the world. And Uriel worked late nights, looking at a picture instead of holding his son?

He stood up and shoved his chair aside and looked at the clock. Seven. Jori would be home from practice for dinner in a half hour.

A half hour. He could make that.

He didn’t bother to shut down his desk or its screen as he left. That felt sinfully negligent to him, and so he found himself smiling.

He had worked all his life for Mr. Galath. The man had taken Uriel’s sweat, but he would not have Uriel’s blood. Not tonight.

CHAPTER FIVE

THE SCHOLARS of ancient days had a great deal to say about the soul. They claimed that the idea of an immortal soul was simply wishful imagination. Instead they spoke of the Quantum Identity Pattern: a state of matter that could be attuned to a certain configuration—a set of memories and a personality.

The Q.I.P. allowed every person to remain themselves even as their cells died and were replaced. Scientists explained that there was nothing “eternal” about personality—that it was an illusion, but one that could be manipulated. They said the illusion could be perpetuated, associated with one form after another, to create a sense of a continuing identity.

Raidriar rejected these explanations.

Yes, this science had given him immortality. The scientists themselves, however, did not see the majesty of it all—they saw only bits and numbers. When your eyes were forever squinting at a single tile, you easily missed the beautiful mosaic of which it was part.

He was immortal. The scientists were wrong, and their explanations were the frantic excuses of little men failing to grasp something vast. It was Raidriar’s self—now free from that prison—that flew on wings of time, to true freedom. It was the God King who opened his eyes in his Seventh Temple of Reincarnation. It was really him, immortal ruler, who gasped in a lungful of fresh air—starting these lungs breathing for the first time.

He was not just some personality, fabricated from quantum entanglement and made active by chemical process. It was him. A new body, but an ancient soul, seizing again the life that was his birthright.

He breathed in and out, lying nak*d on the table, looking up at a fine bamboo ceiling. He did not like how familiar that feeling of death was becoming. Even with his mind partitioned, the trauma of his captivity sequestered, it was like septic flesh. He knew he had died far too often recently. He could not banish every memory of his captivity. He needed some recollection.

Without that, after all, he would not be able to summon the proper spirit of divine wrath against those responsible for his imprisonment. Yes, a little memory would help his vengeance be all the more sweet. Memory of what Ausar had done to him, memory of his pain and frustration.

Vengeance . . . against the Worker.

As Raidriar’s Devoted hurried into the room to serve him, he contemplated his rage. An ember deep within. Not a fire—no, a fire consumed and left its host as ash. An ember was a truer flame—less transient, more powerful.

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