FRIDAY SF & FANTASY – Esper Files: The Sky Cult
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ABOUT THE BOOK
After the events of the first book, Freya has joined the Institute – an organization created to help Espers control their powers, and she thought she’d finally found peace.
That is, until Anti-Esper weapons find their way into the hands of The Coalition, a radical group who is determined to kill anyone with powers.
At the same time, the Sky Cult has arisen, claiming that Espers have the right to rule over lowly humans.
The timing couldn’t be worse, as all of this happens three days before Esper Day, the first holiday designed to show that humans and Espers can coexist.
Now Nathan, Freya and the team have to fight both organizations in a race against time before one of the radical groups tip the scales, and plunge the entire world into their own version of Armageddon.
Esper Files: The Sky Cult Authorized Excerpt:
Jupiter surveyed his followers, his eyes flitting from one familiar face to the other, searching for someone in particular.
Tonight was the night. The single most important moment of his life, where all the scheming and planning and plotting culminated into a single step forwards, setting his plan in motion like an avalanche.
Jupiter smiled at that. His change, his blessing as he often called it, recently bestowed upon him by the messenger of God, had turned him into something far superior than the crowd he was looking at now.
They were all the same: broken, homeless, poor, downtrodden. Angry men and women (and the occasional child, although Jupiter despised children with an irrational vehemence), all discarded by society.
They were all different, just like he was different.
He, however, was their superior in all meanings of the word, and he made sure they never forgot that fact.
Jupiter raised his hand and looked at the ceiling of the church. Long abandoned, it had taken his benefactor a few weeks to restore it back to shape and give Jupiter and his cult a place to meet and scheme.
Focusing his power, Jupiter watched from the windowed ceiling as the clouds swirled, amassing black and grey, and fat droplets of rain splashed violently against the glass and mortar.
He never got tired of that sound, the rain’s omnipresent cadence.
With a gleeful smile, Jupiter turned his thoughts to malice and destruction, allowing himself a slip of control. A single bolt of lightning exploded from the sky, and sent a thunderous roar reverberating throughout the church, followed by the screams of those present.
Jupiter lowered his hand and smiled, knowing that none could ever come close to the sheer Esper prowess he possessed.
“Fellow believers,” he began. “You know why we have gathered here today. You know the goal towards which we have been working.” He paused, watching them as they nodded, immersing themselves in every word he said.
Then he raised his hands again, smiling at their looks of apprehension as they braced themselves for a second lightning strike.
It never came.
“We are superior,” he said. “We are the ones chosen by the gods to usher forward the next stage of mankind.”
The rain splattered at a volume that threatened to bore through the mortar and flood the very ground they stood upon.
“Behold,” Jupiter said. “The power to control the sky, the power to dominate the heavens. Is this not the power of God? Is this not a sign that we must rule and shepherd those who believe into a better tomorrow? Are we not…”
Something caught his eye from the opposite end of the church. A light beamed through the door, as if someone was standing outside, shining a lamp through the cracks.
A knock came through, breaking the momentary silence. Jupiter frowned. Could this be who he was waiting for?
Whoever was behind the door knocked twice more and did not wait for a response. The door swung open and intense yellow light flooded the church.
The newcomer closed the door behind him, dimming his luminescence to a tolerable golden sheen.
“Who are you?” Jupiter croaked from the altar.
The golden man walked reverently towards the crowd. He spread his arms, shining like one of the angelic beings depicted on the murals.
“The Doctor sends his regards,” the man said with a German accent. “I am his latest creation, sent to you, the great Jupiter, as an emissary between this faction and its patron. You may call me Lichtmann.”
“The Doctor sent you?” Jupiter took one step down from the altar and the crowd parted from him. He smiled as he walked up to the golden man. “We have both been blessed by the same man, it seems — me, with the power over the heavens, and you, the angel that stands beside me.”
Lichtmann bowed demonstratively. “I am both your loyal servant and your protector, so long as we serve the greater cause of our patron.” He raised his eyes to meet Jupiter’s.
Jupiter did not like that name, despite both he and his patron having the same taste in classical mythology. He had never met this mysterious Hades, and had only corresponded with him through the Doctor, and once directly through a coded telegram.
Nevertheless, Jupiter knew that without Hades his cult would not exist, their plan would not exist, and the Doctor would not have given him his power. Jupiter would still be a street rat, a young Esper with very dim prospects for the future. A boy who was once loved by his family — the same family who cast him away one day after the Great Storm awakened his latent abilities.
“Indeed,” he said, somewhat bitterly. “Come.”
Lichtmann held up his hand politely. “Not yet, Lord of the Skies. There is still one issue to be resolved.”
Jupiter gnashed his teeth together. “What is it now?” he asked.
His people were staring at him with new eyes, with doubt. No one spoke to Jupiter like that — no one questioned him. Jupiter decided that he would kill this man unless he explained himself within the next three seconds.
Lichtmann burst in a flash of light and disappeared into thin air. Jupiter looked around but the golden man was nowhere to be seen.
A scream erupted from the crowd. Lichtmann held a man by his neck, lifting him high in the air as if he weighed no more than a sack of fruit.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Jupiter yelled.
He never yelled, never had to. This man was undermining his power and now Jupiter really, really wanted to kill him.
Lichtmann looked at Jupiter. “This man is a traitor, an information broker in the employ of Scotland Yard.”
The man struggled and Jupiter watched as his legs kicked uselessly beneath him. His eyes were bloodshot and gargling noises rose from his throat.
“The punishment for such a despicable act,” Lichtmann said, “is death.”
The insides of the man glowed as if a furnace had gone off inside of him, and with a final scream he was smitten out of existence, leaving only a charred corpse behind.
Lichtmann looked to the crowd, who were paralyzed with fear. “There are a total of six traitors inside this building,” he said, looking at Jupiter. “It is my solemn duty to rid you of them.”
He knelt to rummage inside the dead man’s trousers and extracted a police badge as proof.
Jupiter grimaced — there were spies in his cult!
If the police got wind of what they were doing, their plan would be significantly compromised. Worse, if those meddling operatives from the Institute intervened, all their work would be for nought.
So that was why the Doctor had decided to send a liaison. He must have realized that Jupiter could not head such an operation and safeguard the secrecy of the cult at the same time — that was what Lichtmann was for.
Jupiter smiled and spread his arms. Lightning and thunder roared outside.
“Smite them all, my angel!”
Lichtmann disappeared with a burst of light and one by one appeared behind each duplicitous member: four men and one woman. No one fought back — they did not see him coming. Six bursts of light later and they each lay dead, smitten from the inside.
Lichtmann presented their badges at Jupiter’s feet, before kneeling in front of his new master.
Grinning wide, Jupiter summoned his powers. A gust of wind forced the doors open, lifting him up in the air and making him hover a few inches off the ground like a spectre.
“Let it be known! No mercy will be offered to those who betray our sacred covenant,” he declared. “But let it also be known that they who serve our cause shall be rewarded with the highest of honours. Rise, Lichtmann, for you have proven yourself loyal. Welcome to the Sky Cult.”