Orbit 1990 (UK)
ISBN 0 7474 0469 0
Ballantine/Del Rey 1989 (US)
ISBN 0 345 358082
Fourth (and final?) episode in the saga, and the Damaged World is
lurching dangerously towards total disintegration: ever more psychopathic
warlords are stalking the Nothings, among them Vlad "The Torch"
Baptiste who harbours a personal grudge against all things metaphysical.
|Author's comment||See Mick Farren's Collected Works.|
|Availability||Both versions out of print but fairly easily available online. As usual, US edition more plentiful than UK version.|
|Excerpt (by permission)||
Swaying slightly, the Minstrel Boy left the room. Outside in the
corridor, he had to lean against the wall for a moment. He was drunker
than he had thought. He took a couple of deep breaths and pushed himself
The dim, smoky gaslights. that were the only illumination in the corridor refused to keep still as he lurched toward the steps that led down into the hall. His head was swimming, and he started having second thoughts. Maybe he didn't need the walk after all. Pem. he should just go back and call the steward. He stopped, and that moment of hesitation saved his life. Something sharp and metallic struck the stone wall in a flash of sparks, just inches from his head. If he had not halted, the power shirakin that lay humming on the flagstone floor would have been buried deep in his skull.
"What the ..."
There were muffled footfalls behind him. He turned stupidly. His reactions were shot. A shadowy figure came at him. There was a high-voltage crackle, and a foot-long lightslicer glowed into dazzling life. The short ribbon of pure energy was more than capable of carving him into paper-thin strips. The figure launched itself. The Minstrel Boy's body responded more readily than his brain. His legs, with a seeming will of their own, gave way under him and be dropped to his knees. That appeared to be the very last thing his attacker expected. The mystery figure had aimed both its feet in a high flying kick that was supposed to hit either his head or his upper body. As it was, the blow only brushed his shoulder. His assailant overshot and collided with the wall. There was a metallic scream and another shower of sparks, and the lightsIicer touched stone.
The Minstrel Boy fell awkwardly. His right arm was twisted behind him but his fingers were all but touching the Colt auto in the waistband of his pants. His hand closed around it. The attacker had quickly recovered. He swung the lightsIicer. The Minstrel Boy rolled. There were more sparks as the bright weapon bit into the flagstones where he had just been lying. His gun was out. He did not bother with the lasersight. He pulled the trigger, firing blindly. The roar was deafening in the narrow corridor. There was a scream, and the lightslicer, fell to the floor.
The door to the room he bad just left flew open, and light spilled out. Reave was in the corridor with a pistol in each band.
"What's going on out here?"
The Minstrel Boy lowered the Colt. He was shaking all over from the clash of adrenaline and alcohol. "Don't shoot! It's me. Someone just tried to kill me."
The Minstrel Boy got to his feet. He put a hand on the wall to steady himself. "I don't know. The bastard came right out of the darkness. Like a fucking ninja."
Reave pushed past him. He seemed more interested in the fallen attacker than in whether the Minstrel Boy was hurt.
"There hasn't been a ninja in two thousand years."
Reave gingerly picked up the lightslicer and held it out at arm's length, using its crackling radiance to illuminate the body. He let out a low whistle. "You pretty much got the next best thing."
The Minstrel Boy straightened up. "What do you mean?"
"What we've got here looks awfully like an urthugee."
"If he ain't, he got himself a full darksuit, lightsink panels, and the whole bit. The kali-rouge don't give those away with every major purchase." He bent down and peeled off the face mask. "He's got the yellow headband and the facial tattoos. It really looks like he was going to do the full and ancient yuga on your ass."
The Minstrel Boy shook his head. "I wasted an urthugee? Me?"
"You're quite the stud, boy."
"This isn't real."
Reave laughed. "We know it was really blind luck, but nobody else needs to."
The Minstrel Boy was not amused. "What the hell was an urthugee doing coming after me?"
Reave was kneeling over the body. "That's something you're going to have to think about."
"I'm well aware of that."
"And if there are any more where he came from."
"I wish you hadn't said that."
Reave was searching the assassin's clothes. The Minstrel Boy looked a little shocked.
"What are you doing? Robbing the corpse?"
Reave slipped a number of small metal objects into his pocket. "These boys have all kinds of killer trinkets. Things you've never seen before."
There was the sound of heavy boots coming quickly up the stairs. Reave glanced quickly at the Minstrel Boy. "Sounds like the local law. Try and look casual."
The Minstrel Boy shook his head in despair. "Sure, casual."