Wraithkin (The Kin Wars Saga Book 1), страница 1
Book One of the Kin Wars Saga
PUBLISHED BY: Theogony Books
Copyright © 2017 Jason Cordova
All Rights Reserved
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
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Thank you to the Super Mega Awesome Beta Force Crew for tearing this apart. Jay, Jonny, Chris, and Gary…you guys did a wonderful job of tearing this book apart and making sure it all made sense. I appreciate your time and effort. Much love to all my friends and family who helped support me mentally when I was writing this. It would have been impossible without you.
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Cover art by Ricky Ryan
Cover Design by Brenda Mihalko
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This book is dedicated to Michael “Gimpy” Fisher. You are missed.
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Table of Contents
Excerpt from Book 1 of the Four Horsemen:
About the Author
Titles by Jason Cordova
1. An apparition of a living person that appears as a portent just before that person’s death.
2. The ghost of a dead person.
3. Something insubstantial.
1. A group of persons descended from a common ancestor or constituting a family, clan, tribe, or race.
2. Someone or something of the same or similar kind: philosophy and its kin, theology.
The lifeless body of his fellow agent on the bed confirmed the undercover operation was thoroughly busted.
“Crap,” Agent Andrew Espinoza, Dominion Intelligence Bureau, said as he stepped fully into the dimly lit room and carefully made his way to the filthy bed in which his fellow agent lay. He turned away from the ruined body of his friend and scanned the room for any sign of danger. Seeing none, he quickly walked back out of the room to where the slaves he had rescued earlier were waiting.
“Okay, let’s keep quiet now,” he reminded them. “I’ll go first, and you follow me. I don’t think there are any more slavers in the warehouse. Understand?”
They all nodded. He offered them a smile of confidence, though he had lied. He knew there was one more slaver in the warehouse, hiding near the side exit they were about to use. He had a plan to deal with that person, however. First he had to get the slaves to safety.
He led the way, his pistol up and ready as he guided the women through the dank and musty halls of the old, rundown building. It had been abandoned years before, and the slaver ring had managed to get it for a song. In fact, they had even qualified for a tax-exempt purchase due to the condition of the neighborhood around it. The local constable had wanted the property sold, and the slaver ring had stepped in and offered him a cut if he gave it to them. The constable had readily agreed, and the slavers had turned the warehouse into the processing plant for the sex slaves they sold throughout the Dominion. Andrew knew all this because he had been the one to help set up the purchase in the first place.
Now, though, he wished he had chosen another locale.
He stopped the following slaves as he came to the opening which led into one of the warehouse’s spacious storage areas. Beyond that lay their final destination, and he was dreading the confrontation with the last slaver. He checked his gun and grunted in surprise as he saw he had two fewer rounds left than he had thought. He shook his head and charged the pistol.
“Stay here and wait for my signal,” he told the rescued slaves. They nodded in unison.
He took a deep, calming breath. No matter what happened, he had to get the slaves to safety. He owed them that much. His sworn duty was to protect the Dominion from people like the slavers, and someone along the way had failed these poor women. He exhaled slowly, crossed himself and prayed to God, the Emperor and any other person who might have been paying attention.
He charged into the room, his footsteps loud on the concrete flooring. He had his gun up as he ducked behind a small, empty crate. He peeked over the top and snarled; he had been hoping against hope the slaver was facing the other direction.
Apparently Murphy is still a stronger presence in my life than God, he thought as he locked eyes with the last slaver. The woman’s eyes widened in recognition and shock, and he knew he would only have one chance before she killed them all.
He dove to the right of the crate and rolled, letting his momentum drag him out of the slaver’s immediate line of fire. He struggled to his feet as her gun swung up and began to track him, but he was already moving, sprinting back to the left while closing in on her. She fired twice, both shots ricocheting off the floor and embedding themselves in the wall behind him.
Andrew skid to a stop and took careful aim. It was a race, the slaver bringing her gun around as his own came to bear upon her. The muzzles of both guns flashed simultaneously, and Andrew grunted as pain flared in his shoulder.
A second shot punched him in the gut and he fell, shocked the woman had managed to get him. He lifted his head and saw that while he had hit her, her wound wasn’t nearly as bad as his. He had merely clipped her collarbone and, while it would smart, it was in no way fatal. She took aim on him and smiled coldly.
Andrew swiftly brought his gun up with his working arm and fired one final time. The round struck true, burrowing itself right between the slaver’s eyes. She fell backwards and lay still, dead. He groaned and dropped the gun, pain blossoming in his stomach. He rolled onto his back and stared at the old warehouse’s ceiling.
That sucked, he groused. He closed his eyes and let out a long, painful breath.
“Terminate simulation,” a cold voice barked, and suddenly the warehouse, slaver and all the slaves disappeared. The pain in Andrew’s arm and stomach vanished, leaving him with only a trace amount of phantom pain from where he had been “shot.” The dull, throbbing pain in his knee from when he had dove earlier did not, though. He groaned slightly as he remembered he was not about to die and opened his eyes.
The harsh, sharp face of Anji Kürze, the local section chief of the Dominion Intelligence Bureau, was looking down at him, her graying hair pulled back tightly. Her eyes were cold, though he knew from long experience the look was not meant for him. She wore no garish makeup or jewelry, and her suit was perfectly pressed. It was her natural look, one she had taken great pride in cultivating over the years.
“She killed you that time, agent,” Chief Kürze pointed out. Needlessly, in Andrew’s opinion.
“It doesn’t matter how many times we run through it,” Andrew said, a hint of exasperation creeping into his voice as he picked himself off the ground. He shot the man next to his chief a calculated look. “That was the twelfth run. I actually made it into the main warehouse this time before I got gunned down, and that was with us cheating on the sim and knowing where everyone was when the raid started!”
“I’m inclined to agree with the agent,” the station chief said with a pinched look about her. She rubbed her eyes tiredly. “The question whether Agent Buckley could have been saved without compromising the undercover identity of Agent Espinoza has been answered definitively. I find no fault in Espinoza’s actions, and recommend no marks go into his permanent duty record at this time.”
“Ma’am!” Senior Agent Vijay Tendulkar protested loudly and threw his hands into the air. “He could have gone back at the midway point, before he engaged the two guards outside the slave pen. The evidence is there. We can see it!”
“You are seeing ghosts, Agent Tendulkar,” the chief growled in a low, dangerous voice. “Agent Buckley was a damn fine agent, but there was no way we could have achieved what we did if Agent Espinoza had grabbed him first or even midway through the raid. Forty-six hostages and an interstellar sex slave ring brought down in exchange for the unknown whereabouts of one agent? As callous as I may sound, Vijay, that’s a price I’m willing to pay. It’s unfortunate Agent Buckley died, and I hate losing any agents at all, but it was in no way any fault of Agent Espinoza’s. The Bureau will agree with me on this one, and that’s the last I want to hear about it. Is that understood, agent?”
“Yes ma’am,” Vijay sighed. The chief nodded.
“It’s been six months, Vijay,” she said in a soothing tone. “Let it go. Agent Espinoza, I believe you have some accrued time off coming up. I suggest you take all of it, because I fear your next assignment is going to take away any free time you might have thought you had for the next few years or so.”
“Understood, ma’am,” Andrew nodded and hid his smile. He hadn’t seen his family in a long time, and he was eagerly looking forward to spending the holidays with them on his home planet. If not for the senior agent, he would have been gone weeks ago.
Such is the life of a Deeb, he thought as he walked out of the simulator and into the locker room.
The weathered farmhouse sat atop the small hill, overlooking Soldier’s Retreat like a sentry protecting the innocents in his charge. The air was chilly, the late fall weather rapidly changing into winter as Belleza Sutil’s orbital tilt moved the valley away from its sun. Clouds rolled overhead, shielding the valley from the dwindling sunlight; what little light remained cast long shadows throughout the valley. A rising, misting fog began to partially obscure the valley the farmhouse stood over, offering some semblance of privacy in the quiet and secluded dale.
Lights were on inside the large home, decorative lights, as the valley and planet as a whole prepared for the seasonal festivities. Smoke rose lazily from the top of the home’s weathered stone chimney, drifting off to the east as gusts of wind passed through the valley. Firebugs danced throughout the valley, most of the miniscule insects gathered in the small grove behind the farmhouse, their incandescent lighting flashing a brief yet brilliant call for mates. Bats, imported more than a millennium before, swooped through the darkening sky to hunt the firebugs. Throughout the valley, the circle of life continued unabated as it had since time immemorial.
Inside the house, a large family gathered to celebrate All Gallow’s Eve, the Founding holiday of the Dominion of Man. In the midst of this joyous family sat a solitary young man. His hands were sweaty, and his gaze was nervously flitting across the room, seeking each time the face of his love. She would catch his gaze, offer a tentative smile and continue talking to his mother.
Each smile caused his heart to leap, every small look was worth more to him than a pile of diamonds. He loved her with all his heart and always would. He knew this with every single ounce of his being.
So what was stopping him from asking her the most important question of all?
A child tottered into the room, precariously balanced as he moved around the furniture, looking for someone he knew. The child spotted a familiar face and squealed happily, stumbling forward. The young man smiled and reached for his nephew.
“How’s my little guy doing?” Gabriel asked as he picked up the squirming child. The boy giggled as Gabriel turned him upside down for a moment before righting him. “Oops. Forgot which end is up. Don’t tell your father, but I like you more than him.”
“I heard that,” Gabriel’s oldest brother called out. Gabriel smiled as Kevin, the eldest Espinoza sibling, stuck his head through the doorway.
“You were supposed to.”
“So did you ask her yet?”
“No,” Gabriel admitted, his voice sheepish. Kevin snorted.
“No, I’m going to...” Gabriel’s voice trailed off with a shrug of his large shoulders. “Soon.”
“What?” Andrew asked as he slid past his brother and into the room. Gabriel rolled his eyes. “You guys arguing about who is smarter again?”
“We were debating what it’s like being the least loved,” Kevin answered. “Then we figured you’d show up and tell us.”
“Ooh, that hurt,” Andrew said as he dramatically grabbed his chest. “Being the middle child is horrible, and it doth pain this heart of mine to hear the sheer arrogance of the lesser siblings attempting to taunt the indomitable me.”
“Wait...what?” Gabriel asked. He passed his nephew off to Kevin, who poked his nose into his son’s cheek. The boy giggled and tried to squirm out of his grasp.
“See?” Kevin smiled. “You may be mom’s baby, but you’re still the stupid one.”
“Have you asked her yet?” Andrew queried, nodding to where Gabriel’s longtime girlfriend was talking to their mother.
“I’m going to!”
“If you don’t, I will,” Andrew teased. “She’s gorgeous, and since you’re my younger brother, I figure I’ve got a five percent chance at her saying yes, genetically speaking. Since, you know, I’m the older, more experienced one who happens to not have kids or a wife yet.”
“And the worlds of man rejoiced,” Kevin said with a straight face. Gabriel laughed.
“Okay, I’m going to do it,” he announced and stood up.
“What, right now?” Kevin asked, shock and surprise in his voice.
“Yeah, why not?” Gabriel looked at him.
“She’s talking to Mom!” Andrew stated. “You’ll never get a moment of peace if you do it in front of her.”
“You won’t even get to ask,” Kevin amended. “Mom’ll ask you about your plans, then hers, next thing you know it’s time for her to leave and you still haven’t asked her yet.”
“Right. If I were you, I’d get her out on the patio,” Andrew suggested. “Kevin hides in the bushes, then pops out and scares the hell out of her when you get down on one knee.”
“Dack!” Gabriel coughed, trying and failing not to laugh. “Can’t Kevin just record it or something so we can capture stills from it later?”
“You are not my brother,” Andrew sniffed and walked from the room. A moment later Gabriel heard him begin talking to their mother. “So tell me about Delores’ new dog, Mom.”
“What a champ, taking one for the team like that,” Kevin said, a mournful look on his face. He pulled a small device from his pocket and showed it to his youngest b
“Thanks,” Gabriel said with heartfelt gratitude. He wandered into the other room where he spotted Sophie smiling in amusement. Her blue eyes twinkled in the bright lights. He motioned for her to follow him, and she did, drink in hand.
The air had cooled down considerably and Gabriel began to wonder if his plan was such a smart one. Despite the lights from the house, the nighttime sky above was filled with stars. The planet’s two moons drifted off to the northeast, both waning and reflecting little light onto the valley. The timing couldn’t be better.
Then what was stopping him?
“Hey sexy man,” Sophie said as she came out onto the porch. Gabriel looked back over his shoulder and smiled.
“Still not sure what you see in me,” he joked. She grinned.
“If you’re going to drag a girl out into the cold, I wonder sometimes too.”
“Sophie...” he stopped and looked down at his feet. What is wrong with me? he wondered. He tried again. “You know you’re my best friend, right?”
“Well, I hope so,” she said, her expression confused.
“And I love you...” he continued, flustered.
“Are you breaking up with me?” she asked, horrified. Gabriel began to frantically shake his head.
“What? No! God no! No way!”
“Okay, sorry, that just...phew. Okay, so what did you want to say?”
“Well...” he rubbed his face. “This was supposed to be easy.” He dropped to one knee. “I suck at romanticism.”
“Oh my God...”
“Sophie Cardenas, will you be with me now, and forever? Will you honor me by–”