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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Alembic Plot, by Ann Wilson This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org ** This is a COPYRIGHTED Project Gutenberg eBook, Details Below ** ** Please follow the copyright guidelines in this file. ** Title: The Alembic Plot A Terran Empire novel Author: Ann Wilson Release Date: June 9, 2008 [EBook #25739] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE ALEMBIC PLOT *** Produced by Al Haines This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence. THE ALEMBIC PLOT A Terran Empire Novel by Ann Wilson Copyright (C) 1992 by Ann Wilson CONTENTS 1. Injury 2. Hospital 3. Center 4. Ordination 5. Azrael 6. Tony 7. Dave 8. Ambush 9. Surgery 10. Dream 11. Dinner 12. Flight 13. Chuck 14. Bradford 15. Demon Drops 16. Marriage 17. Family 18. Revelation 19. Invitation 20. Lesson 21. Anguish 22. Sara 23. Raid 24. Revenge 25. Discussion 26. Imperial Contact 27. Interim 28. Aboard the Lindner 29. Arrival 30. Interview 31. Explanation 32. Briefing 33. Another Discussion 34. Transformation 1. Injury St. Thomas, Monday, 17 June 2571 CE Captain Mike Odeon cursed in angry frustration as he climbed out of his command van into a late fall New Pennsylvania evening and signalled his Special Operations team forward. They were too late. Well, too late to catch them in the act, he amended silently. This looked like one of the hit-and-run attacks the so-called Brothers of Freedom specialized in; with local Enforcement men already on-scene, the Brothers would be long gone. But they would catch the bastards who'd attacked this Royal Enforcement Service convalescent hospital, sooner or later. Motioning his second-in-command to him, Odeon gave the routine orders. "Check for anything the attackers might have left. Odds are you'll only find bodies, but do your best while I talk to the locals. Call me on Channel One if you do find anything." "Yes, sir." Odeon's sergeant led the other three team members into the building; Odeon himself looked around, and was pleased to find he knew one of the locals. He waved. "Rascal! Over here!" The local returned his wave, jogged over, and saluted. "Mike! I mean, 'Captain Odeon, sir.'" "Mike's fine," Odeon said. "You haven't touched anything?" "Huh-uh. Saw the marks the Brothers'd burned into a couple of the walls inside, and backed off right away to call in the Royals." Rascal spat. "Damn Brothers! Didn't expect Special Ops, though." "You'll get SO any time the Brothers are involved, from now on," Odeon said. "That came straight from His Majesty not five minutes after we got word they'd hit a hospital. It doesn't look too bad from here, though." "From here, no. But, Mike … I hope your men have stronger stomachs than mine turned out to be." Odeon scowled. "It's that bad?" Rascal Anderson had been in Enforcement for almost fifteen years, nearly as long as Odeon himself; it would take more than the aftermath of ordinary violence to make him sick. "Worse," Anderson said. "Mike, it looked like … like a cross between a battlefield and a mass third-stage interrogation." "Dear God." Odeon bowed his head in a brief silent prayer for the victims, then looked up. "We'll find the bastards who did this, and make sure—" His beltcom interrupted him. "Sir, we've found a survivor. ID says Captain Joan Cortin, Royal Enforcement. Boris is working on her, but he says she'll need a lot more help than he can give." "She'll get it," Odeon snapped. Anderson was already signalling urgently for the medics, who'd been waiting to bring out what everyone was certain would be only dead bodies. "I'm on my way. Set for homer." "On homer, sir." The sergeant's voice was replaced by a series of tones, increasing in pitch and speed as Odeon more than half-ran into the hospital and through the corridors. The scenes he passed were as bad as Rascal had suggested, and Odeon's stomach needed stern control to prevent rebellion. Doctors, nurses, patients, the service staff—all had been bound, then brutally murdered. The stench of gutted bodies was enough, even without the blood and corpses, to stagger anyone. It wasn't long until he reached his men. Two of them were checking for other survivors while Boris and Sergeant Vincent knelt over the inert form that had to be Joan Cortin. Vincent was giving her Last Rites while Boris tended to her physical needs, his posture evidence of his intense concentration, and Odeon thanked God again that the St. Dmitri exchange troop he'd drawn for his team was so damn competent. He'd love to take his whole team to that world for a bit, he thought irrelevantly. He'd worked with a Dmitrian team once, here on St. Thomas, and thought everyone in SO should have that experience. "How is she?" he asked, joining the medic. If the ID said "Joan Cortin," he'd have to accept that evidence; he certainly couldn't identify the woman he knew so well in this bloody, mangled body. "Not good, Captain." Boris' English had a heavy Dmitrian accent, but Odeon had no trouble understanding him. "Badly beaten, raped—more than once, I believe—and she appears to have a spinal injury. The Brothers of course burned their mark into her hands, but that is minor." He looked up with a frown. "I regret having to tell you, Captain. She was your protego, was she not?" "Yes, and she's still my friend." Odeon stood, making way for the other medics who promptly began working on the unconscious woman. So the Brothers had burned their circled-triangle mark into Joanie's hands, had they? That didn't happen often, but he was no more surprised than Boris had been that they'd given her that distinction. Not even all Special Ops officers rated that mark of the Brothers' special hatred, and why Joanie did was something he couldn't guess—she'd never been on an antiBrotherhood operation, that he knew of—but they'd taken a special dislike to her for some reason none had divulged even under third-stage interrogation, calling her "the damned Enforcement bitch" in a tone Odeon himself reserved for those who had begun the Final War. Maybe they hated her just because she was the only active-duty female Enforcement officer. At any rate, they had marked her—and she was the first he knew about to survive the torture that accompanied the mark's infliction. He watched the medics work, his thoughts going back. It'd started
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