Authors: John Conroe
A Novel of the Demon Accords
By John Conroe
This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2015 John Conroe
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
The Demon Accords:
Cover art by Ryan Bibby.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Chris
Chapter 2 – Declan
Chapter 3 – Chris
Chapter 4 - Declan
Chapter 5 – Chris
Chapter 6 – Declan
Chapter 7 – Chris
Chapter 8 – Declan
Chapter 9- Chris
Chapter 10 – Declan
Chapter 11 - Chris
Chapter 12- Declan
Chapter 13 – Chris
Chapter 14 – Declan
Chapter 15 - Chris
Chapter 16 – Declan
Chapter 17 – Chris
Chapter 18 – Declan
Chapter 19 – Chris
Chapter 20 – Declan
Chapter 21 – Chris
Chapter 22 – Declan
Chapter 23 – Chris
Chapter 24 – Declan
Chapter 25 – Chris
Chapter 26 – Declan
Chapter 27 – Chris
Chapter 28 – Declan
Chapter 29 - Chris
Chapter 30 - Declan
Chapter 31 - Chris
Chapter 32 – Declan
Chapter 33 – Chris
Chapter 34 – Declan
Chapter 35- Chris
Chapter 36 – Declan
Chapter 37 – Chris
Chapter 38 – Declan
Chapter 39 - Chris
Chapter 40 – Declan
Chapter 41 – Chris
Chapter 42 – Declan
Chapter 43 – Chris
Chapter 44 – Declan
Chapter 45 – Chris
Chapter 46 – Declan
Chapter 47 – Chris
Chapter 48 –Declan
Chapter 49 – Chris
Chapter 50 – Declan
Chapter 51 – Chris
Chapter 52 – Declan
The old mine was a piece of West Virginia’s coal mining history. Standing in the low-roofed tunnel almost a thousand feet underground, General Tobias Creek was less interested in history and more interested in modern construction.
“You sure this is safe?” he asked the skinny nerd wearing the miner’s helmet.
“Perfectly. The entire structure has been reinforced with steel rods and braces using the most up-to-date mining techniques. It helps that this area is geologically stable,” the smaller man said. Short and slender with crazy curly red hair and blue eyes, Dr. Carl Clark’s calm, matter-of-fact tone inspired more confidence than his outward appearance.
The two men left the thoroughly modern elevator and stepped across the dusty, coal-strewn floor of the tunnel to a wall-to-wall steel bulkhead and its attendant vault door. Dr. Clark placed his hand on a biometric reader while leaning forward to look into a strategically placed camera.
“Retinal scan?” Creek asked with mild professional curiosity.
“Facial recognition. The security system is completely cut off from the outside world, so there’s no chance of… contamination. In the event of an unauthorized attempt at entry, the system launches a drone positioned in the ventilation shaft, which in turn ascends to the surface and transmits all known data on the attack,” the scientist said as the multi-ton door opened silently.
“Good. We don’t need to
additional state-of-the-art assets, now do we?” Creek asked.
“That was an unfortunate turn of events, General, one that nobody anticipated,” Clark said.
“That’s my point, Dr. Clark. We
be anticipating everything. That’s our job,” Creek said, peering into the dark space beyond the door.
Behind him, Clark sneered for a split second, wiping his expression back to what he imagined was a cool, detached look when Creek glanced back at him.
The newly revealed tunnel burst into brightness as overhead lights activated in sequence, one after another blinking on in what seemed like an endless row that stretched far into the distance. The tunnel was otherwise unchanged from the time the last coal miner had left it, the only additions being a double row of round black metal balls, each almost three feet in diameter.
“They stay curled up like that?” Creek asked.
“It’s their default resting state. Less identifiable, extremely space efficient, and almost invulnerable in this position. We’ve also found that our personnel are more comfortable when they’re rolled up,” Clark answered.
“Yeah, no kidding,” Creek noted.
“You’ve seen the videos of them in action, General?”
Creek was silent for a moment, looking out at the seemingly endless rows of black orbs. “Yes. Your development process was… unorthodox.”
“I got the idea from ‘The Incredibles
“The what?” Creek asked.
“You know, the Disney movie… with Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl? The cartoon? Don’t you have grandchildren, General?” the scientist asked.
“Oh. The superhero movie?”
“Yes. Mr. Incredible loses his job and takes another as a tester of robot designs. But he doesn’t know that each design is made with improvements to overcome his strengths. Syndrome is using him to build a robot that can overcome any superhero. We did the same thing with captured lycanthropes and hemivores,” Clark said, simultaneously waving his right hand at the nearest orb. “The current generation of Pede is thirty percent larger, able to attack forward, backward, from its dorsal or ventral sides. The fore and aft mandibles are injectors that can carry a variety of agents, from neurotoxins to silver nitrate. All twelve segments can spin independently of each other in both directions, and most of the expandable blades are silver, as you no doubt noted in the final test sequence. The armor has a depleted uranium coating for density and to protect against—well, you know who. ”
The orb unfolded and rose up, the matte black metal clicking as it reached six feet in height with another three feet of insectile segments still on the ground. Despite himself, Creek found he had backed up a step in the face of the gleaming, needle-sharp mandibles.
“You know the last test subject was a teenage boy, right? Not the largest or most experienced of the species,” the general said.
“He was all we could find. But he was still impressive in his second form, and the Pede handled him with ease.”
“True. You’re controlling it with that wrist unit?” Creek asked, trying not to think of the bloody footage.
“Yes, the unit tells the Pedes that I’m the command soldier. They will follow some hand signals and all voice commands of the wearer,” Clark said, rolling his right hand over and making a palm down gesture. The menacing insectoid robot immediately curled back into a giant black beach ball of death.
“What does the unit on your left wrist do?” Creek asked.
“Oh, that’s a fitness tracker my wife gave me. Counts my footsteps, monitors heart rate; things like that,” the scientist said, holding it up for view. Lights flashed and blinked across the face of the tracker. He tapped the black band, tapped it again, then shook it. “Although it seems to be on the fritz. Odd. It’s virtually brand new. What can I say… poor quality control.”
General Creek grimaced as he watched the man fiddle with what seemed to be a senseless toy. Fitness came from hard work and determination, not some cheap, foreign-made piece of crap that basically told you that you were a lazy sloth.
Shaking his head, Creek turned and left the storage vault, Dr. Clark following even as he still looked at his left wrist. The vault door swung shut and far in the distance, the overhead lights started to blink off in reverse sequence.
The closest orb had settled into complete stillness, but as the heavy steel door chunked shut, it quivered. Just a small, almost unnoticeable vibration. Then its nearest neighbor did the same thing, as did the one across the row.
The quiver passed down the line of black orbs, running opposite to the approaching darkness of the powering-down lights, a strange meeting of beginning and ending.
Solid and immovable, the Huddlestone Arch loomed in front of me, a flood of memories running through me as I studied it and waited. In my mind, I could clearly see the images of the boy and his werewolf mother tucked into one of the craggy crevices, both watching me distrustfully.
My most recent years of life were newly revealed to me and I still reveled in each crisp memory whenever and wherever they were triggered. Scent seemed to be the most powerful agent of recall, followed by sound and sight. The smell of a lilac bush will take me instantly to multiple memories of Tanya, but this spot had its own power to evoke.
Footsteps coming from the other side of the arch brought me back to the here and now, but it was a few seconds before the body that had made the sounds appeared.
A short, muscular man of middle years, with close-cropped brown hair and a tightly groomed mustache and beard marched down the pathway through the arch. He wore dark Oakley sunglasses, worn hiking boots, gray cargo pants, and a loose, dark blue polo shirt; well-muscled arms swung at his side as he moved confidently to the middle of the darkened archway. He stared my way but said nothing as he came to a stop under the arch. After a second, he grimaced and waved me over.
“About a confused-looking, non-cover-taking son of bitch, aren’t ya?” he growled.
Bemused, I walked over to him. Five-five , maybe five-six and about a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet, he had a confidence much larger than he was. I knew he knew who I was because I had introduced myself when I’d hired him. It hadn’t seemed to impress him much.
His first name was Mark and I hadn’t found out his last name. Mr. Deckert had given me a slip of paper with just the first name and phone number on it when I’d asked him for a discreet investigator who was knowledgeable about the intelligence community.
“We ain’t standing out in the open for this shit, ya know. I’m not even certain this spot is safe,” he said, scanning the surrounding area. “No phone or electronics of any kind, right?”
I shook my head, having stripped myself of all items that used batteries for anything.
Nobody was nearby, I was certain, or at least Grim was certain. Likewise, there were no drones, planes, or satellites focused on us, according to my combat persona.
“I’ll say this for ya. You do things big. I saw the Washington FUBAR on video, Jack. Fucked-up stuff,” he said, still scanning the area.
It took me a second to realize that the word
wasn’t a mistaken name for me but more of a temporary nickname like
“This scenario is just as big… maybe bigger. Nice little clusterfuck you landed me in the middle of,” he said without rancor, stopping his side-to-side scanning to study me with a tilted head.
going to pay me for this intel dump, right?” he asked.
I pulled the envelope from my pocket and handed it to him. Tucking it away in his cargo pocket, he continued to study me, with an occasional glance around.
“Okay, I had to really dredge deep through all my best HUMINT assets to get this name,” he said, passing me a folded piece of paper. I opened the page to find a neatly hand-printed word: ANVIL.
Looking up, I opened my mouth, but he spoke first. “Don’t!
say that word out loud. This thing has ears everywhere.”
“Is it DARPA’s?” I asked quietly.
He frowned at that name, but shook his head. “Nope, comes from the good ole boys at No Such Agency,” he said.
No Such Agency—NSA.
“It was side project, lower echelon importance. Nobody told the Poindexters writing the code that, though. They made some kind of breakthrough, a radical adaptive software system that was self-diagnostic and self-repairing for any and all security, logic, and performance-based vulnerabilities as well as a result of exposure to other software, lower performance operating platforms, or reduced resource environments. It was a surveillance program—surprise. NSA after all. But the thing took off and adapted itself and its mission and they lost control of it.”
His change from rough talking to sophisticated briefing caught me a little off guard, but I overcame my surprise. “What was its original mission?”
“To monitor e-mail traffic for national security threats. It seems to have broadened its task to monitor all electronics
now to eliminate threats. It’s been massively effective. Believed to be responsible for destroying three Islamic State training camps, killing six high-ranking terrorist leaders, and preventing, at minimum, four domestic terrorist attacks. Oh and get this, Jack, it was also supposed to be undetectable by security software, a mission it also took to new extremes.”
“So, what? It takes over drones and things to attack?” I asked.
“Takes over drones, issues false combat orders to ships, special operations units, and federal law enforcement, freezes assets in banks and financial institutions around the world, puts people on the no-fly list, hijacks cellular, wi-fi, and computer systems everywhere, and a whole shit-storm of things we probably don’t even know about,” he said.
“Like launching missiles,” I muttered before asking, “How come they haven’t stopped it?”
“They don’t know how. The lead programmer had a stroke and is trying to relearn how to feed himself and wipe his own ass. The other programmer is scared shitless. Listen, that’s all I know and all I’m gonna find out. This thing is more dangerous than you can imagine. So thanks for the pay, but I’m done,” he said.
“I understand,” I said, meaning it. I really did have a good idea what this program could do. “Tell me, did you serve in the Marines with Deckert?”
“Do I look like a frigging jarhead to you? I was Naval Intelligence, and don’t even start with the oxymoron shit. Heard it all before, yada yada yada. We’re the ones who point the spear and send it home, Jack. Worked with SEAL Team Six and Force Recon assets,” he said.
I smiled, nodded, and held out my hand. His little rant finished, he shook my hand, nodded back once. Grim was tracking a set of soft running footsteps coming up behind me. Without seeing her, I still knew it was a young woman, athletic, maybe a hundred twenty pounds, heart rate at just over a hundred and forty beats a minute.
Grim was watchful but didn’t consider her an active threat, so I just stood back and turned to look, making sure the hood of my sweatshirt covered my head. Mark looked at me oddly before his own human ears told him someone was coming.
We both looked out of the arch and saw a fit, attractive girl come running down the path, her eyes wary as she took us in. We both moved over to give her room and she shot through the arch and on down the path. Mark’s eyes followed her spandexed form before he turned to me. “I’ll take that as my cue.” Then he took off after her, jogging in his boots and cargo pants, twice her age and five inches shorter and not caring a wit. As he took off, I heard him mutter, “--about a non-angel-looking motherfucker,” and then he was around the corner and gone.
It had to go down as one of the most interesting meetings I’ve ever had, especially since the coverage of the events in Washington. Still amused by Deckert’s guy, I turned and headed south, toward lower Manhattan, toward home.