by Kevin J. Anderson
Fictionwise - Science Fiction
Copyright (C)1988 by Kevin J. Anderson
Locus Poll Award Nominee, Stoker Award Nominee
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For John Postovit and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who have been with me through all incarnations
of this story. And also to Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, and Alex Lifeson of RUSH, whose haunting
album Grace Under Pressure inspired much of this novel.
The two Enforcers found the dead man in the street, long after curfew. The city's night hung around them,
tainted with a clammy mist caught between the tall and dark buildings. The smell of fresh blood, smoke,
and the sweat of close-pressed bodies drifted upward into the air.
The slain man was naked, spread-eagled inside a geometrically perfect pentagram drawn in blood. At
each of the five corners of the pentagram burned candles of black paraffin, made to look archaic with
artificially molded runnels of wax along the sides. A wide knife wound hung cleanly open in the center of
the victim's chest, like an appalled extra mouth.
With a throb of its rear jets, the Enforcers’ armored hovercar descended to the flagstones. As the engine
purred its way into silence, Enforcer Jones, a tall and thin black man, emerged from the craft. He hung
back uneasily, remaining near the hovercar. “Neo-Satanists again!” he muttered under his breath.
The other Enforcer, Frampton, agreed. “Yeah, they give me the creeps.” Belying his words, he went
eagerly forward, amused and confident.
Weapons bristled from pockets and holsters on the Enforcers’ body armor; tough helmets with
laser-proof black visors covered their fac