I’ve been talking about this new book for a while now, and you’re probably anxious to see what it’s all about!
Below are some excerpts from the book. This series has a little more of a mature, military theme than my previous works. I hope you like it!
Lieutenant Ava Landyn raced down the barren concrete corridor. “Retreat!” she shouted into her comm.
Behind her, footsteps echoed from deeper within the underground facility. Too many footsteps.
So much for a quick in and out operation, Ava thought with a grimace, followed by a smirk at the unintended innuendo.
A shout sounded behind her, then a spray of plasma fire lit up the hall. Ava’s HUD politely informed her that enemies had been detected nearby. Really fucking helpful, thanks.
She ducked behind a collection of pipes protruding from the wall. It was terrible cover, but she’d take what she could get.
Glancing toward the exit, she noticed Edwin peeking around a bend in the corridor.
“I thought I ordered a retreat,” Ava said over her comm.
“That was before you got yourself cornered,” Edwin Caites, one of the three massive Were warriors on her team, replied. “No one gets left behind.”
Ava couldn’t help grinning behind the blacked-out faceplate of her helmet. She loved Force de Guerre honor, especially in a time like this. “Lay down some cover fire on my mark. I’m going to try some fancy footwork.”
“You’ve got it.”
“Now!” Steeling her resolve, Ava bolted from behind the pipes.
Her powered armor propelled her down the hall while plasma blasts flew in either direction. She’d only gone three strides when a new warning flashed on her HUD—the concentrated enemy fire was about to overload her armor. Without thinking, she spun in a series of swift circles to diffuse the load on the suit’s electrified skin.
After seven awkward strides of spinning and skipping, Ava made it to the corner where Edwin was hunkered down. She leaped the final step to safety.
“Ma’am, you are a graceful angel,” Edwin said over the comm. His opaque helmet hid his face, but there was no mistaking the amusement in his voice.
“We speak of this to no one.”
* * *
“Have a seat, Lieutenant.” Kurtz gestured toward a metal chair across from his desk.
“Thank you, sir.” She sat down but didn’t bother to get comfortable. Prior experience with that particular seat had revealed it was impossible.
“I understand that you ran into some trouble at the NTech lab.”
He has such a way with understatement. Ava nodded. “Yes, sir. Our intel said the facility was abandoned, but we encountered armed guards and a military-grade mech.”
“A mech? Indoors?”
“Barely fit in the hallway, sir.”
Kurtz frowned. “I’m glad your team was able to fulfill the mission objective despite those setbacks.”
‘Setbacks’? That’s how he’s going to play it? Ava leaned forward in her chair, forearms resting on her knees. “Sir, may I speak freely?”
He gave the hint of an exasperated sigh but quickly composed himself. “Permission granted.”
“Someone doctored the mission brief.”
Kurtz studied her. “What makes you say that?”
“The resistance we encountered wasn’t some new arrival that walked in moments before us. They had been there, and there wasn’t any shielding around the facility to have hidden the thermal outputs. Someone knew that facility was occupied, but the FDG would not have received data retrieval authorization for an active private lab. They wanted us to think it was abandoned so we’d go in.” Ava leaned back and crossed her arms.
“I can’t deny the possibility,” Kurtz said after a ten-second pause.
“Was it you, sir?”
The colonel’s eyes widened, taking on a hint of yellow. “Why would I put one of my best teams at risk like that?”
“Because you knew we could handle it, like we did.”
“You have a unique ability, Ava.” Kurtz folded his hands on the desktop. “Few others would have been able to get the password for those files.”
That was a roundabout admission of guilt, if ever there was one. But why? “Before we left, the man I… ‘interrogated’… indicated that there’s something going on with the Nezarans, and potentially beyond that.”
The colonel swallowed. “The FDG’s responsibility is to assess threats and carry out orders in the best interest of the Etheric Federation. You have performed admirably in retrieving information to support those goals.”
If the FDG hadn’t worked out, Kurtz would have made one hell of a politician. Ava flashed a prim smile. “Happy to do my part, sir.”
Kurtz steepled his fingers. “It’s been, what, nine years since you joined the FDG?”
“Yes, sir. Coming up on ten in two months.”
He nodded. “I can tell you’ve been around long enough to know when a superior officer is dodging your questions.”
No shit. Ava decided a shrug was the best response.
“Well, your observations at the NTech lab support a larger pool of evidence we’ve gathered over the past eight months. We’re at the leading edge of a crisis.”
That was surprisingly candid. Ava came to attention. “Sir…?”
“We’ve been tracking a group of researchers in NTech performing illegal genetic experimentation,” Kurtz explained. “The lab you infiltrated was one of those facilities, and the data you retrieved is documentation of the experiments.”
“What kind of experiments?”
“We believe they are trying to make a hybrid—bringing together the traits of Weres and vampires.”
Ava’s mouth involuntarily dropped open. “A… Were-vampire? I thought the nanocytes were incompatible. Once you had one—”
“That had always been our belief, yes. It would seem NTech has discovered—or gained access to—a way to program a new strain of nanocytes. Using some of the old technology from the two Kurtherian clans, they are bypassing the incompatibilities that caused the two types of nanocytes to attack each other. NTech’s reports refer to this new group as the Hochste.”
Were-vampires? What the fuck would a person like that be able to do?! Ava shifted in her chair. “Sir, why are you telling me this?”
“Because we fear that the Nezaran Coalition intends to use these Hochste to attack Alucia, which will soon be a member of the Etheric Federation. We want to stop that conflict before it starts.”
* * *
After a brief walk down the hall beyond the cafeteria, the corridor terminated in an open space filled with workstations. A dozen individuals were scattered around the room, and they looked up with curious expressions when Ava entered.
“Everyone, this is my friend Ava,” Luke introduced. “She’s an old friend of mine. We grew up together.”
“Oh, another Coraxan native?” a thin man with dark complexion commented from a nearby station.
“Yeah, I am,” Ava replied.
“You have any of those special gifts everyone’s always talking about?” he asked.
“She does,” Luke replied before Ava had a chance to stop him.
“Really?” the man’s eyes widened. “What can you do?”
“Oh, nothing too special,” Ava replied, casting a silencing glare toward Luke.
“One of the gifted, huh?” a musical female voice said from across the room. “Now that’s something I have yet to see.”
“Dr. Mason!” Luke’s face flushed. “I wasn’t expecting to see you over here.”
“You know how I like to make the rounds.” The raven-haired woman fixed her gaze on Ava. “Who’s your friend?”
“Ava, ma’am,” she replied. “And you are…?”
“Andrea Mason. You might consider me the director of this facility.”
“Well, it’s a lovely place you have here,” Ava said. “I can’t believe how much has changed since I was last in Tribeca.”
“NTech always hopes to leave a positive impact on our communities,” Andrea said with too-sweet a smile. “I’ve been so curious about the abilities of the native population here.”
“We’re not exactly native,” Ava corrected. “Our people colonized here the same time as the other human- and Torcellan-occupied worlds in this sector.”
“Of course. And that makes it all the more fascinating that you so rapidly developed your unique connection with the Etheric.” She folded her hands in front of her. “How old were you when your gifts emerged?”
Ava shrugged. “Around eight.”
“That’s young, isn’t it? You must be very talented.”
“There isn’t necessarily a link between the age when abilities emerge and their strength,” Ava said, skirting the truth. While it wasn’t always linked, in her case that had very much been the reality. Whereas the average age for a first Reading came around twelve, the early emergence of abilities had given her extra time with the elders to learn and study the craft.
Had she stayed with them, she likely would have been the most powerful Reader in two generations.
“I didn’t mean to imply,” Andrea said in that sickening sweet tone. “You must forgive me—I’ve never had the chance to meet anyone of your talents before.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve met far more interesting people than me.” Ava took a subconscious step back and instinctually bolstered her mental guards.
“We were in the middle of our tour, ma’am,” Luke said, seeming to pick up on Ava’s discomfort. “We have to be out of here by 17:00.”
“Nonsense. We wouldn’t be here without the support of the Coraxans,” Andrea replied. “Ava, you’re welcome any time.”
“That’s very generous of you, ma’am. Thank you.”
“In fact,” the director continued, “I’d love to have the chance to meet with you in a more formal capacity.”
The question caught Ava off-guard. “Uh… Well, I’m here on vacation, actually.”
“I’d compensate you for your time, of course. I’d just like to understand better how you do what you can do.”
The last thing I need is the director of this freakshow tracking my every move. Ava gave a polite bow of her head. “I appreciate your interest, but I’m—”
“That’s a generous offer, Dr. Mason,” Luke cut in. “I think that might be just what Ava needs to reconnect with herself. That is why you came back here, right?” he asked while turning toward her.
Ava resisted the urge to punch him in that gorgeous jaw of his. “Yes, just what I need,” she responded to him tightly, and returned her focus to the director. “Thank you, Dr. Mason.”
“Call me Andrea, please.” She flashed a smile bordering on predatory. “Come in with Luke tomorrow morning and we’ll get to know each other.”