The post-World War III world is a radically different place where magic and technology have become one in the violent struggle for global influence between nations. The rising powers of Persia and Musafiria are challenging the longtime dominance of the weakened Western powers, as the increasing use of magic provides them with a more level playing field.
Supernatural creatures from other planes are summoned and wielded as readily as machine guns and explosives by the special forces of the rival militaries, the most deadly of which are the elite contractors for the Nemesis Program. Both conventionally and unconventionally trained, the Nemesis Program is the hidden blade of the Hesperian National Intelligence and Security Agency, a weapon as lethal as it is deniable. But although they are given considerable leeway, not even Nemesis operatives are allowed to covenant with archdaimons… which poses a serious problem for Luke Landon when a simple assassination of a scientist goes badly awry.
NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS is the first volume of The Covenant Chronicles, the exciting supernatural Mil-SF series by Kai Wai Cheah, the Hugo-nominated author of “Flashpoint: Titan”, and a 2017 Dragon Award Finalist for Best Alternate History Novel.
* * * * *
We dropped to the ground.
“AK fire,” Pete reported.
Several more bursts rang out, echoing through the city. The sound bounced off and around concrete and glass, coming from everywhere.
“Multiple shooters,” I added. “Can’t tell direction.”
“Can’t be more than a couple blocks away.” He picked himself up. “We gotta stop them.”
“Roger,” I said. “I’ll try to find them with open source intel.”
“I’m gonna get my long gun.”
He sprinted to a car parked down the road. I got to a knee and scanned around me. Civilians were still walking down the street, oblivious to the autofire raking the air, or froze in place. A couple actually stopped to stare at us. What the hell was wrong with people?
I powered up the Clipcom. An array of icons washed over my field of view. I touched the control button, freezing the screen in place, looked at the Memet icon and released.
The app booted. A deluge of raw information, updating every moment, flooded my cascade. Every major news agency reported a shooting in progress at Lacey’s in New Haven. An eyewitness had uploaded a blurry photo of a gunman racing into the department store, wearing a chest rig and cradling some kind of AK, maybe an AK-122.
Another photo showed a jinni. It looked like an old man with swarthy skin, flowing white hair and a thick beard, though his muscles were hard as rocks. But past his waist, the rest of him was a lion with exaggerated limbs, scaled up to support his mass. His tail whipped at air and spat venom—it was no tail, it was a snake.
This was a si’la in its default form. And si’lat were expert shapeshifters.
Pete slung a messenger bag around his neck, stuffed with everything the self-respecting gunfighter needed for an active shooter scenario. From the trunk he produced a Varangian Tactical carbine. It was one of the many, many variants of the AR-855 rifle; this one was designed by Special Operations veterans for their exacting needs.
As he checked the chamber, he asked, “Luke! Need a gun?”
“Got another rifle?”
“Just a pistol.”
“I’ve got mine,” I replied, drawing my SIG. “We’ll make do.”
He jumped into the driver’s seat. “What are we facing?”
I got in beside him. “Multiple shooters and jinn are hitting Lacey’s. Numbers unknown. AKs, grenades and at least one si’la.”
A fresh image appeared in the cascade. An ifrit, inside the mall.
“And an ifrit,” I added.
The car’s engine hummed to life. “Good thing I loaded aethertips.”
We hit the road. I tuned the radio to the news and listened to a news station rattle off reiterations of the original active shooter report. The gunfire grew softer; the shooters must have moved indoors. Pete zipped through traffic, slipping past civilian cars too close for comfort.
“They’re inside the mall,” I said.
“Must be hitting the lunchtime crowd.”
Closing Memet, I opened Eipos, the preferred Internet telephony service of the Program, and dialed 911. The dispatcher picked up immediately.
“Emergency 911, this call is being recorded. How can I help?”
“We are two off-duty Federal agents responding to the shooting at Lacey’s,” I said. “Tell the first responders not to shoot us.”
“Okay, may I know what you look like?”
“Two white males. I’m wearing a black jacket, red shirt, blue jeans. I have a pistol. Partner has green polo shirt, khaki pants. He’s got an AR-855.”
“All right. What’s your name and which agency do you come from?”
I hung up and turned to Pete.
“Brick, comms on Eipos.”
I called his number. Pete grunted. Moments later the call window filled the screen. He was taking the call on his implants. I handed the app off to the holophone, piping sound into my buds, and cleared my field of view.
Pete slammed the brakes and worked the wheel. We fish-hooked right, stopping in front of the department store, just barely missing a parked van. As we jumped out, a civilian almost collided into me. People were fleeing the area, but the roads and sidewalk were streaked with blood. A dozen civilians were lying on the ground, bleeding.
“Any idea where they’re at?” he asked, shouldering his rifle.
A string of shots split the air.
“Inside!” I replied unnecessarily.
We charged through the front door. I broke off to cover the right while he moved left. More gunfire erupted deeper inside the mall, punctuated by single shots. The shooters had left a trail of broken, bleeding bodies in their wake. Brass shells glittered in pools of blood. Most of the casualties had been shot repeatedly in the torso and then once more in the head.
We tracked the shooters by their gunfire, brass and empty mags. By the destruction they left in their wake. We ran past a shot-up McDonald’s, the customers bleeding and moaning, the golden arches destroyed by a burst of gunfire. Past an electronics shop, everything and everyone inside slagged. Past a schoolgirl, clutching at her bleeding leg, crying for help.
Pete faltered at the last. Halted for a moment. Shook his head and kept running.
This wasn’t our first ride at the rodeo. First neutralize the threat and then tend to the wounded. Reversing the priorities would leave the bad guys free to kill even more, and that would not do.