Dominion, p.40
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       Dominion, p.40

           John Connolly
 

  “I don’t take orders from you, Steven.”

  “Please.”

  Meia stared back at him.

  “What would have been the point of all we have gone through if I were to desert you now?” she said, and he had no answer for her.

  Meia smiled. “I will see you again, Steven. There is another world beyond this one.”

  And their enemies descended upon them.

  • • •

  Syl was no longer herself. She had no name, and she had many names. She was a being created by the universe, forged from the light of a strange star, for this moment, and for this purpose: to undo the error of creation that had spawned the Others. She was within the Beast, and of the Beast, and so she tore it apart first, taking its consciousness to pieces, psychic agony becoming physical pain. Its primeval hide fractured and burst, its hearts exploded one by one, and the spines from which it spewed forth its spores forced themselves back into its body, piercing it straight through and impaling it in the dust and stone of the dead star that would serve as its mausoleum.

  And as the Beast trembled in the moment of its dying, Syl Hellais—Syl the Destroyer—turned all her rage and grief at the loss of Ani Cienda on the offspring of the Beast, and on all those who would have used them to further their own ends. She saw the Diplomatic armada above Illyr, and one by one she crushed every ship—every carrier, every cruiser, every destroyer—until only fragments of them remained, and the dead floated before what was left of the Military fleet. Then she turned her anguish on those on Illyr and its dominions who carried the Others inside them, and even as the parasites inside them began to perish along with their sire, she snuffed out their lives, so that thousands upon thousands fell in an instant. It was Armageddon. It was apocalypse. It was a new plague of her making.

  • • •

  On its distant world, the Beast shuddered and died, and in the Marque, the One curled in upon itself and ceased to move. Its tendrils withered, and its web collapsed beneath it. Freed from her bonds, Syl fell to the floor, and the chamber echoed to her screams of rage, for she wanted to keep killing and never stop.

  But in time she grew still and silent. She turned and stared into the lifeless eyes of Ani Cienda, whose remains lay crumpled and broken beside her. She reached for her friend, and drew her to her breast, and only then did she weep for all that she had lost.

  PART XVI

  HOPE

  CHAPTER 77

  When Paul Kerr finally awoke, it was from a dream in which he was dying in a wormhole, although that had simply been the conclusion of a longer dream of aliens, and parasites, and war, and a girl with golden eyes and bronze hair whom he had loved like no other.

  Now he opened his own eyes, slowly, carefully. He was in a white room, dimly lit. There was some pain, but it was tolerable. He stayed very still as the memory of the dream faded. In time he heard a door open, and he looked in the direction of the sound. A woman in white robes entered and began fussing with his pillow, followed by the girl with the golden eyes, and then a boy like himself, but younger. Others were behind them, and he searched for their names and found them: Steven, Thula, Meia, Alis.

  “Syl.”

  He spoke her name. She took his hand.

  “Did we win?” he asked.

  “We did,” she said. “But we lost so much . . .”

  • • •

  They laid Ani to rest in the Marque. A line of Sisters stretched from her chambers to her tomb, and each one took her turn to help bear the Archmage on her last journey. Syl and Meia, along with Cocile and Toria, carried her bier for the last steps. They placed her shrouded form in the glass tomb below a great dome that looked out upon the universe, so that her resting place would always be filled with light, as befitted a child of the stars.

  CHAPTER 78

  The calls for Syl Hellais to be made President began almost as soon as she set foot on her homeworld of Illyr for only the second time in her life. Krake was under arrest, and the Military authorities were anxious to restore the normal functioning of Illyri society as soon as possible. The Diplomat voices that might have dissented against such an elevation for Syl Hellais had almost all been silenced, for few had survived her wrath, and those infested by the Others were now all dead, annihilated along with the parasites inside their own heads.

  Yet there were some, even among the Military, who feared her too, and whispered quietly of the threat posed by one so young and powerful, even as more devious minds wondered how her abilities might be harnessed and used to serve a new Illyri Conquest. What, Syl thought, might they have said had they known that it was she who had been responsible for the deaths of so many? It was assumed that those Illyri who had been carrying Others in their heads had died because the Others inside them had died, a consequence of Syl’s annihilation of the Beast, but that was not the case. They had died because Syl had willed it. The Military knew that she had destroyed Corps ships, and their crews along with them, but that could be glossed over as a necessary act to bring a brutal conflict to an end. But if they learned that she had, in her rage and grief, targeted all those who had colluded with the Others and ultimately contributed to the death of Ani Cienda, they might not be so understanding. Syl did not fear those who were already plotting. She was more extraordinary than any of them could ever guess, and could snuff out any threat before it was even spoken aloud.

  She was just tired of death.

  But Syl did not wish to be President, and the more they pressed her, the more she resisted. She found herself repeatedly drawn back to the Marque, where she would spend hours sitting by Ani’s tomb, speaking with the ghost of her friend. Sometimes Meia would come to her, or Alis, for some of the Mechs remained concealed in the Marque in the guise of Sisters, while the rest had gone into hiding. The Illyri had turned on the Mechs once before, and Meia was unconvinced that they would not do so again. Cocile was being spoken of as Archmage, which surprised Cocile almost as much as it might have surprised Ani—and left the lovelorn Rent Raydl concerned at what this might mean for him—but others, hearing that Syl had rejected the presidency, had begun to wonder aloud if she might not consent to become Archmage instead.

  Syl wanted none of it. She had no place here. She told Ani so, as she whispered to her beneath the stars.

  • • •

  Paul was waiting to meet Syl when the shuttle from the Marque landed in Upper Tannis after yet another of her sad-eyed trips to Avila Minor. They were living together in a lovely apartment in one of the older sections of the city, and Paul was enjoying exploring Illyr while his medical treatment continued. Thula was staying nearby, and he and Paul saw each other nearly every day, either by choice or at the medical center.

  Steven had returned to help rebuild Earth at the first possible opportunity after the war. He’d taken all the other humans with him, as well as a team of Illyri volunteers—mainly scientists—who wanted to help right the wrongs that had been done in their name. Danis and Peris had gone with them. Ani’s death had dimmed the light of Illyr for both of the old soldiers, and Danis still hoped to discover the fate of his lost wife, Fian.

  “I’ll see you back down there, big bro,” Steven had told Paul on parting. “I’ll give Mum your love. Oh, and I’m taking the top bunk.”

  They’d laughed, and bumped fists, then hugged, but many weeks had passed and Paul missed his younger brother. He missed his mother too, and now Thula had begun to talk about going back to Earth.

  As for Paul, he tried not to think about the future. He needed to give Syl time, just as he needed his own health back so that he might be of use to her again, and not a burden. Because of his injuries, he walked with the aid of a crutch, but the doctors had assured him that the need for it would become less and less over time. He was still in some discomfort. He tried to hide it from Syl, but nothing could ever truly be hidden from her. He watched her now as she approached, and something in his chest tightened painfully. How he wished that he could help her, or heal her, but he d
id not even know how to begin. All he felt equipped to do was love her, and hope that this might be enough.

  “Let’s go home, Lady Syl Hellais,” he said, and he reached for Syl’s hand, but to his surprise she did not take it.

  “Syl?”

  Paul stopped, and turned to face her. She met his eyes, fierce and willful, and there was a challenge written large across her troubled and, oh, so very lovely face.

  “But where is home, Paul?” she said. “Where is home for the likes of us?”

  How different she is now, he thought—a million miles away from the contrary sixteen-year-old he’d met playing dress-up on the streets of Edinburgh, a million-billion-trillion miles in every which way—and yet somehow still the same, because the essence of the Illyri girl with whom he’d first fallen in love remained. They had come so far together, they’d crossed galaxies, and he knew he couldn’t bear to be without her.

  “Home?” he said, without thinking it through. “My home is wherever you are, Syl.”

  And as the words left his mouth, romantic and foolish and rash, even to his own ears, he recognized that they were also true. Yet still trouble stirred him, roiling like storm clouds on an internal horizon, for there was within Paul a desperate craving for the only home he’d ever known, the place where he’d been created, the world for which he’d fought before he’d met Syl, before she’d opened his universe, and the greater universe with it. Paul Kerr yearned for Earth.

  Syl laughed, a throwaway sound, and he felt wounded, but the tenderness in her expression showed it was not meant harshly, and there was a new light in her eyes, or maybe an old light that he just hadn’t glimpsed for a while, so obscured had it been by grief. She put her hands on his chest and looked deep into him, and he did not turn away. He wasn’t even sure that he could.

  “Now that’s just silly,” she said. “But you know what, Mr. Kerr, my sweetest love? If you think you can handle it, I heard about this little place—a real fixer-upper I’m told, though the last tenants pretty much wrecked it. Still, I think you’ll see the potential of it regardless. I certainly do.”

  Her bronze hair was like a halo around her earnest face, and Paul found he wanted to run somewhere quiet with her, somewhere private and distant, and lose himself in her in every way. God, he realized, he’d go anywhere she suggested, anywhere at all.

  “We can make it right again,’ she continued. “I think you’ll love it, Paul, this place of ours. I know I will. I mean, I already do; I guess I always did. It’s called Earth.”

  Paul slipped his arms around her waist and held her tightly to himself.

  “Yes,” he said. “Let’s go there.”

  Reluctantly she pulled away from him so she could look into his face.

  “There’s just one more thing,” she said.

  “And what’s that?”

  Syl smiled, but it was a shy, bashful thing, and she bit her lip before replying. She took his hand and placed it on her belly.

  “I think this time there’ll be three of us . . .”

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  While two names appear on the jackets and covers of the Chronicles of the Invaders series, the books are ultimately the work of a stalwart behind-the-scenes team.

  At Headline, we’re particularly grateful to editor Emily Griffin, who has the patience of a saint; to Mari Evans; to Jane Morpeth, who cheered for Syl from the start; to assistant Sara Adams; to copyeditor Kay Gale; to proofreader Jane Selley; to publicist Elizabeth Masters; and then to designer and artist Siobhan Hooper, who made everything look so darned good.

  At Emily Bestler Books/Atria, we’d like to warmly thank editor Emily Bestler, and associate editor Megan Reid; publisher Judith Curr; associate publisher Suzanne Donahue; editorial assistant Lara Jones; production editor Martha Schwartz; production manager Fausto Bozza; publicist David Brown and his assistant Emily Bamford; Hillary Tisman in marketing; managing editor Kimberly Goldstein, assistant managing editor Alyson D’Amato, and managing editorial assistant Leora Bernstein; and, naturally, the splendid creative team, including art director Albert Tang and designers Leydiana Rodriguez and Tony Mauro.

  In addition, the Headline/Hachette team in Ireland—especially Breda Purdue, Jim Binchy, Ruth Shern, and Siobhan Tierney—have been immensely supportive throughout. We owe you a drink, or four!

  As ever, thanks must go to our agent Darley Anderson and everyone at Darley Anderson Literary Agency; to Madeira James, who gives us a presence on the Internet thingy; and, of course, to Ellen Clair Lamb, who cheered, aided, and abetted us from the very beginning.

  Thanks are also due to our families and friends, and apologies if you sometimes wondered where we’d got to.

  Finally, to those wonderful booksellers who believed in what we were doing and gave our series a little push, we are eternally grateful.

  JOHN CONNOLLY is the author of the Charlie Parker series of mystery novels, the supernatural collection Nocturnes, the Samuel Johnson trilogy, and (with Jennifer Ridyard) The Chronicles of the Invaders series for younger readers. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at JohnConnollyBooks.com, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.

  JENNIFER RIDYARD was born in England and grew up in South Africa, where she worked as a journalist for many years. Conquest and Empire are the first two novels in The Chronicles of the Invaders series with her partner, John Connolly, whom she lives with in Dublin. Find Jennifer on Twitter @JennieRidyard. For more about this series, visit ChroniclesOfTheInvaders.com.

  EMILYBESTLERBOOKS.COM

  MEET THE AUTHORS, WATCH VIDEOS AND MORE AT

  SimonandSchuster.com

  authors.simonandschuster.com/John-Connolly

  authors.simonandschuster.com/Jennifer-Ridyard

  Facebook.com/EmilyBestler

  @EmilyBestler

  ALSO BY JOHN CONNOLLY

  THE CHARLIE PARKER STORIES

  Every Dead Thing

  Dark Hollow

  The Killing Kind

  The White Road

  The Reflecting Eye

  (Novella in the Nocturnes Collection)

  The Black Angel

  The Unquiet

  The Reapers

  The Lovers

  The Gates

  The Whisperers

  The Burning Soul

  The Wrath of Angels

  The Wolf in Winter

  A Song of Shadows

  OTHER WORKS

  Bad Men

  Nocturnes

  The Book of Lost Things

  Night Music: Nocturnes 2

  THE SAMUEL JOHNSON STORIES (for young adults)

  The Gates

  The Infernals

  The Creeps

  THE CHRONICLES OF THE INVADERS (with Jennifer Ridyard)

  Conquest

  Empire

  NONFICTION (as editor)

  Books to Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels (with Declan Burke)

  We hope you enjoyed reading this Emily Bestler Books/Atria eBook.

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  This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2016 by Bad Dog Books Limited and Jennifer Ridyard

  Jacket Design by Tony Mauro

  John Connolly Photograph by Iván Giménez Costa

>   Jennifer Ridyard Photograph by Cameron Ridyard

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

  First Emily Bestler/Atria Books hardcover edition April 2016

  and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Connolly, John, 1968– author. | Ridyard, Jennifer, author.

  Title: Dominion / John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard.

  Description: First Emily Bestler Books/Atria hardcover edition. | New York, NY : Emily Bestler Books/Atria, 2016. | Series: The chronicles of the invaders ; 3

  Identifiers: LCCN 2015037588

  Subjects: LCSH: Human-alien encounters—Fiction. | Imaginary wars and battles—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Science Fiction / General. | FICTION / Science Fiction / Adventure. | GSAFD: Science fiction. | Fantasy fiction.

  Classification: LCC PR6053.O48645 D66 2016 | DDC 823/.914—dc23

  LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015037588

  ISBN 978-1-4767-5718-6

  ISBN 978-1-4767-5720-9 (ebook)

 


 

  John Connolly, Dominion

 


 

 
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