Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights #6) by Andrea Speed
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Andrea Speed here today. Andrea is talking soundtracks for her stories, specifically her latest novel in the Order of the Black Knights series, Lochlann. Welcome, Andrea!
Soundtracks for Lochlann by Andrea Speed
I love making soundtracks for my stories. I have a ton of them, and I’ll admit they’re mostly pretty weird. I know people are supposed to mellow out as they get older, but I’m just getting stranger.
Music played a big part in my Infected series, but less so in my other stories. But just because music doesn’t play a direct part on the page in my Josh of the Damned series, doesn’t mean I didn’t have a soundtrack in mind. (Josh went through an embarrassing emo phase that he refuses to talk about.) The same is true of Lochlann, where music plays no part in the story, but I’m keenly aware of what should be there. I’ve already put together an online soundtrack you can listen to, but I’ll pick out a couple of songs to highlight Lochlann’s musical taste. .
To my way of thinking, Lochlann is a fan of gloomy music. Dark ambient stuff that lasts twenty minutes or so, longer than ever necessary. Stuff you think should be over long before it is, but is still undeniably creepy.
The Inward Circles – The Soul Itself A Rhombus
If you’re saying to yourself “What the hell is this” – congratulations! You have grasped dark ambient as a genre. I feel I can say that as I like quite a bit of it myself, but there’s no dismissing the fact that most of it can be boiled down to “why does this exist” and “who is this for”. An argument could be made it exists for soundtracks, but truth be told, dark ambient isn’t used in soundtracks like it should be, because people who put them together aren’t aware of the genre? Or don’t want to creep people out. Really good dark ambient can freak you the hell out. That’s a feature, not a bug.
Arovane & Porya Hatami – Becoming
Now this is really dark ambient stuff, in that it’s a concept album. Yes, a collection of subtly shifting tones and notes is somehow a concept album. A really good one too! I encourage you to sit down and listen to the whole thing. I never really considered what a micro-organism might sound like, but this is probably close.
Verge – Deluge
A mild cheat, as this often falls under experimental, but it is very dark ambient sounding. Sometimes you do get genre creep with this style of music, as it is so damn strange. It also sometimes gets filed under electronic or metal, depending on whether it’s heavier with keyboards or guitars, alternate, post-rock, and a few other genres as well. It comes down to opinion of the artist or the listener a lot of the time. In that way, there’s a freedom to dark ambient that is kind of intriguing. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you hear it.
Lawrence English – Hard Rain
Another one that gets slotted into experimental more often than not, and that’s fair, as all his music doesn’t sound like this. But this is definitely dark ambient style experimental, and I feel that should be encouraged.
I think this puts you into Lochlann’s mindset quite easily, and I hope I encouraged at least one person to look up more dark ambient music. Because believe me, it’s so easy to write to, especially if you’re working on a dark or dramatic story. Let the creepiness commence!
Violence has been Lochlann O’Connor’s companion since he was born into a family of old-school Irish terrorists. From there he is recruited into Alpha, a secret government agency dedicated to fighting terrorism—with extreme prejudice. Lochlann’s bravery, efficiency, ruthlessness, and the natural dead eye that lets him hit anything that moves, quickly make him one of the shadowy organization’s most valued operatives.
Cas Vega joins Alpha because it’s marginally better than a prison sentence. He’s a former drug cartel assassin—or at least that’s his story. But Lochlann is suspicious. Despite an irrational and overwhelming attraction to Cas, Lochlann has questions, and they soon lead to a deeper and deadlier mystery. What is Alpha’s true purpose, and why does it seem they want to eliminate Lochlann?
Lochlann and Cas must work together to get to the bottom of Alpha’s scheme and escape it—and all while Cas keeps secrets that could cost him his life if they’re revealed. But it’s not an alliance that can last. Duty turns the men into enemies, even while fate compels them into each other’s arms. Before they can contemplate which will prevail, they must figure out how to survive.
Lochlann knew the mission had gone bad the second before Anze came over his earpiece and said, “We’ve been comp—” The rest of the sentence disappeared in a burst of static.
Not that it mattered. He knew what Anze was trying to say. And yet he barely quickened his pace as the emergency siren ripped through the building. Hoping security hadn’t been shut down yet, he ran Dr. Waters’s ID keycard through the door scanner. It beeped, and the light turned green as the lock released with a faint clunk. He opened the door and ducked inside as lights pulsed on the walls.
He was in the lowest level of the Kishigawa Pharmaceuticals building in Prague, which was actually a needless detail, as the building could have been any one of the two dozen or so Kishigawa Pharmaceutical buildings across the globe. The layouts were cookie cutter, exactly the same, which made it easy to find points of entrance and egress. But getting into the building was never the hard part of any operation. Getting what they came for and leaving were the issues.
He was on the second sublevel, which, according to the official records, was an empty storage area but was actually a secret lab, cooking up a biological weapon that made sarin gas seem like hot sauce. Alpha wanted to get the formula before Dr. Laska put it on the open market. That was Lochlann’s job—to neutralize the creator, and retrieve the only known sample of the finished product. And get out alive, which was the biggest challenge.
A lab assistant wearing thick glasses ran up to him. “Dr. Waters, do you know what’s going on?”
He was supposed to neutralize any witnesses. He had his Glock 30SF and his tactical knife, or he could simply punch the assistant in the larynx and kill him with a single blow. He would be neither the first nor the last innocent bystander Lochlann had killed.
So why didn’t he?
“Fire,” he said, jerking his head back toward the door. “Evacuate immediately.”
The assistant looked confused as Lochlann continued down the corridor. “Sir, what about you?”
“I’ll be right there. I have to get Dr. Laska. Go outside.” The comms were off. That burst of static that cut off Anze sounded like a jamming signal. If you couldn’t receive, you couldn’t send either. So officially none of it ever happened.
Laska’s lab was at the end of the hall. It was an airtight room with its own filtration system and its own inner airlock. No one ever asked why Dr. Laska needed those precautious. It was an idiosyncrasy everyone tolerated without knowing the reason behind it.
Dr. Laska’s assistant, Tinordi, turned to face him as Lochlann entered the room. “Dr. Waters, you’re not—”
Lochlann punched Tinordi square in the throat, crushing his larynx and windpipe. He crumpled to the floor and made terrible rasping sounds in lieu of breathing. He had to die—he worked on the project—but at least he’d die fast.
Laska was in his inner lab with his back turned to the outer chamber. That allowed Lochlann to cycle the airlock without being noticed. In there he couldn’t hear the emergency alert siren, which seemed like a tragic oversight. Laska would never know.
Once the airlock irised open, Laska, without turning around, said, “Bring me a number three flask, would you?” Laska assumed Lochlann was Tinordi. He didn’t know his assistant was dead in the adjoining room.
Lochlann didn’t answer immediately. He pulled out his Glock first. “I’m not your assistant.”
The strange voice made Laska spin on his heels, and he froze the second he saw the gun. His small eyes narrowed until they almost disappeared into the soft, white moon of his face. “Who do you work for? The Russians? The Chinese?”
Lochlann didn’t answer. Instead he fired, put a neat hole in Laska’s forehead, and blew his brains over the white wall behind him. Crimson bloomed messily and dripped down the wall, while grisly chunks splattered to the ground. Laska crumpled like a marionette that just had its strings cut. Lochlann stepped over the body and made his way to the wall safe, where the sample dubbed “formula X213” was stored.
Alpha had infiltrated Laska’s home and business computers a while before. The tech team had stolen all data on the formula and destroyed it, damaging the research from the inside out. They knew the safe code and all Laska’s other codes, because when Alpha targeted you, you were as good as dead in every sense of the word.
The safe opened with a pneumatic hiss, as it was temperature controlled, and Lochlann found the formula inside a vacuum-sealed thermos. He held it in his hand as he scanned the room and saw the incinerator in the corner.
A huge metal box, plastered with warning stickers, it used microwaves and intense heat not just to bake an object, but essentially to vaporize it and leave barely even a char mark. That was how Laska got rid of his previous failed formulas and kept industrial spies from taking even the tiniest samples of his work. Nothing survived that incinerator, not even clues.
Why did Alpha want formula X213? At the briefing Number One instructed them to wipe out all records of it, along with the scientist who created it. It was too deadly. A teaspoon of the stuff could kill everyone in a crowded mall, and in the open it could contaminate soil, air, and water for decades. But they wanted the sample. Yes, they had the formula, so they could make it themselves, but there was something tricky about the mixture. He didn’t know what. He didn’t need to. He was a field operative, not a tech.
The operation had never felt right to him. Alpha had plans for it, and he didn’t trust Alpha. They were supposed to be the good guys, but questions had been eating at him since the Rome incident. Alpha worked in deception. Could anything that relied on obfuscation be exactly what it seemed?
Before he could think about what he was doing, he went to the incinerator, dropped the thermos in, and activated it. He had to step back because the heat it shed was impressive, and the noise it made, while brief, was incredibly loud… which might have explained why Laska’s lab was soundproofed.
He had no idea what he was going to say to Number One, but he’d figure it out. Working for Alpha had made him an excellent liar.
He planted the explosive charge and shed his lab coat and fake Dr. Waters ID. Then he grabbed Dr. Laska’s security badge from his bloodied corpse and left the lab. Lochlann kept up his normal stride, as though he were leaving at the end of a shift, but he still had his gun out, held casually down at his side in his left hand. According to his trainer, he was one of the rarest of people—a truly ambidextrous shooter. He could use either hand with virtually the same results.
Lochlann met no one on his way to the exit. He’d have to kill anyone he encountered. The exit door had a security lock, and there was a chance that, if they’d locked the entire system down, it wouldn’t open even for Laska’s high-clearance badge. Hopefully the interruption to the comms hadn’t completely locked Alpha out of the building’s systems.
The first time he ran the badge through the lock, it made a negative noise and the light stayed red. He ran it again, and got the same response. Lochlann counted down in his head the time remaining to detonation as he ran the badge a third time and it worked. The light flashed green, and the lock released with a clunk. He flung it open and was out in the subterranean parking lot within five seconds. And despite the low lighting, he knew he wasn’t alone.
About the Author
Andrea Speed is a random collection of newspapers and food scraps that somehow became sentient. Perhaps this explains her fear of goats. If you see her, just nod politely as she tells you how composting is an Illuminati conspiracy, and try not to make any sudden moves.