Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Excerpt From ON A COLD WIND

An excerpt from On A Cold Wind

(After tracking down the camp being used by the two fugitives she and her team had been searching for, EarthGov Security Special Agent Caralynn Adrasteia is ambushed and taken hostage. She is then taken to see the fugitives, Efhram Bartok and Leonard O’Donnell…)


            As she walked, flanked by the two guards, Carly let her gaze drift around the encampment. Everyone she saw looked to be at ease, as if they had nothing to worry about. She lowered her head and tried to hide her smile.
            Just come in shooting, Murphy, she thought.
            The shelter she was led to was larger than the one that held the prisoners. One of the guards knocked on the shelter’s door then opened it. He leaned in, spoke to the occupants then waved his rifle at Carly.
            Inside, Carly found the shelter to be fully furnished, reminding her of a cheap hotel room. A metal table, chair, portable communication set and file cabinet sat along the back wall. Next to the commset were her pistol and a large hunting knife. Unmade beds were on opposite walls, and a chair and small table were in the center of the shelter.
            Though she recognized the shelter’s two occupants, she kept her face blank. One man, tall and thin, with fine black hair, was talking to the commset. The other was a large man, whose bulk filled the chair. His labored breathing didn’t sound healthy.
            She listened to the conversation going on in front of her. “No, it’s alright,” the first man said. “We’ve been found but it was only a matter of time before that happened. Just be ready. We’ll have to move fast.”
            A familiar voice came from the commset. “It may not be as easy as you think, Bartok. Those EGS agents are getting close to figuring out who helped you. And don’t forget about those ships Confed dispatched. You’ll have trouble getting away.”
            “Don’t worry about my getting away, Bancroft. That’ll be easier than you think. They won’t fire on a colony full of civilians. I’m planning on leaving a few alive for that purpose.” He slapped the cut-off before Bancroft could reply.
            He stared at the desktop for a minute then looked up. “So you’re Special Agent Caralynn Adrasteia, with Division Five of EarthGov Security. And, I assume, licensed to kill.”
            “That’s me, and you assume correctly. So you’re Efhram Bartok. And this must be Leonard O’Donnell. I must say, your pictures don’t do you justice.”
            “I’m glad you approve.”
            “I didn’t say that. Was that Carl Bancroft, the senior ColAf representative? The one who helped the two of you escape and provided these buildings, the equipment and told you who was being dispatched?”
            “One of them. Is it important to you?”
            “I have to know who to go after when I’m finished here.”
            “You’re here to stop us, are you?”
            “Bring you in, though in what condition wasn’t specified. What was that you said about the colonists?”
            Bartok’s smile grew. “Just that the colonists will make perfect living shields against the ships Confed has dispatched. They may be after us but they won’t burn civilians.”
            “Are you sure about that? Do the words scorched earth mean anything to you? If they took care of you and this crack bunch of mercenaries, it wouldn’t matter how many civilians were caught in the crossfire.”
            She shrugged. “Not that the colonists have anything to worry about. I’ll have this taken care of before the ships get here.”
            O’Donnell pulled himself out of the chair and lumbered toward Carly. “Confident little bitch, isn’t she.”
            He pressed close to her, one arm going around her waist, the other roughly caressing her leg. “I like that in a woman.”
            Carly’s back straightened and she ground her teeth. “I’m glad you approve. What do you plan to do with the prisoners? A mass grave somewhere in the…hey! Watch the hands, worm!”
            Bartok smiled. “It’s only fitting. They think they’re free. I’ll give them true freedom.” His smile grew as O’Donnell’s hands began to slide from her waist to her breasts.
            Something in Carly’s mind snapped and self-control gave way to instinct and training. She broke O’Donnell’s hold and went into overdrive.
            She spun, her right arm a blur as it came around, making solid contact with O’Donnell’s neck. She heard vertebrae shatter and he dropped to the floor.
            Continuing with the spin, Carly came back to the table. Her hands found the knife and she let it fly toward the guard that stood in the doorway. She didn’t see the blade sink into his chest as momentum carried her around. As she came back to Bartok, Carly threw a left.
            His right hand was waiting for her.
            Carly let herself relax and she stared at her hand. Right, she thought. Enhanced.
            As more guards came through the door, Carly went back into motion. She snatched her pistol, half-turned and shot the first guard. She squeezed off a second shot, killing a second guard before Bartok tightened his grip on her hand. Pain shot up her arm and Carly dropped the pistol.
            The guards were ready to open fire but Bartok stopped them with a wave. “It’s alright. Everything’s under control.”
            Light blue eyes locked onto Carly. “Would you like to talk about it?”
            Carly tried to pull her hand free but Bartok held it tight. “I’m going to need that.”
            Bartok released her. Carly flexed the hand, relieved to find no broken bones. “I am what I am…”
            “Don’t give me that. You’re not free. You only think you are. O’Donnell’s dead; I heard his neck snap. Get them out of here.”
            When the bodies were removed, Bartok sat behind the table. “Congratulations. That was very efficient. You made the most of an opportunity. As much as I hate to admit it, your training is very good.”
            He held out a hand. Carly stared at it. “Won’t you even shake my hand?”
            “I’d rather tongue a snake.”
            Bartok’s smile faded. “Anything else to say?”
            “Why are you doing this? You’re not only planning to kill a colony full of norms, you’re also going to kill eighteen of your own kind. This makes sense to you?”
            “I have my reasons. Please, have a seat.”
            Bartok opened a file cabinet drawer and took out a bottle and two glasses. “Would you like a drink? Gregorian brandy, twenty-ninety.”
            Carly shook her head once, her eyes never leaving Bartok. “No. I prefer the twenty-one hundred.”
            “As you will. What else would you like to know?”
            “I repeat my question:  Why are you doing this? Isn’t it bad enough norms consider us subhuman despite our enhancements? You have to start killing them and your own kind? How is that going to help anything?”
            Bartok poured red-brown liquor into one glass. “Let me ask you a question, one Free Person to another.”
            “I’d say go right ahead, if you were a Free Person. As it is, you’re just a rogue I have to bring in.”
            “Splitting hairs. How would you feel if you were presented with one of your own kind, someone who would lead you to a place where you wouldn’t have to worry about prejudice and discrimination? A place where you wouldn’t have to worry about irillium scanners picking you out of a crowd?”
            “I’d probably think I was dreaming. You see yourself in that role? The one to free all Enhanced Humans and lead them to the proverbial Promised Land? What do you have, a messiah complex?”
            Carly laughed and sat in the second chair. “What makes you think anyone would follow you? Especially after people find out you’ve killed your own kind.”
            “They’ll follow me. They’ve been waiting for someone to show them the way. Many of our people aren’t satisfied with the slow, political attempts at changing the system.”
            “You’re talking about one percent of the population, at most. And how many of them actually want a civil war?”
            Carly leaned back in the chair and shook her head. “Besides, the chief geneticist for my batch keeps telling me that I’m the last hope for all of us. He feels that I’m the one to eventually lead our sort to freedom and equality.”
            “I see. It would seem we’re no so different. We’re more alike than you’re willing to admit.”
            “Now you’re getting nasty.”
            Bartok stared for a moment, drained his glass and stood. He stepped around the table, picked up Carly’s pistol and examined it. “This feels heavier than the standard CZSeventy-five.”
            “I had to have the grip reinforced. When I started out, I had the bad habit of crushing the grip when I squeezed the trigger.”
            Bartok nodded and checked his watch. “It’s feeding time. I’ll walk you back to the others.”
            He set the pistol on the table and waved a hand toward the door. “Please, after you.”
            Carly stood and crossed to the door. As she stepped out into the cool night air, Carly lowered her voice to a whisper.
            “Have you made your proposal to the others?”
            “No need. I know they’d reject me. Too much contact with norms.”
            Carly glanced at the guards that took up position behind them. “All these men are norms? Was O’Donnell?”
            “Yes on both points. O’Donnell just happened to be there when my escape attempt went into motion. He helped me with the guards so I brought him along. I should thank you. I was planning on eliminating him soon. You saved me the trouble.”
            “Glad to be of assistance. None of them will make it off the planet.”
            “Of course not. They’re an expendable resource. You don’t approve?”
            “It’s a waste of material. I will stop you.”
            Bartok’s smile grew. “We’ll see.”


On A Cold Wind is available from Smashwords, Kindle, iTunes and NOOK, price $5.99.
Find the links at my website, Wordboy’s Words –!books/cnec

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