Roger Warbanks was trapped.
Footsteps echoed through the empty alleyway behind him, their cadence unhurried, almost leisurely. Every step resounded like thunder in the chill, silent night air. Roger could see their shadows out of the corner of his eye, faceless specters that flickered and danced in the faint light cast by the faded photoluminescent glowstrips that encircled the buildings on either side of the alley. He could hear the low murmur of their voices growing ever louder as they closed in on their target.
The hunters had chased him halfway across the galaxy, from Plizzkar to Orann, from Mentex to Califar, and now all the way out to the tiny mining colony on the remote planet Pattagax. They were tenacious and patient, and their boss was an angry crimelord with a lot of money and an easily wounded pride. A bad combination for Roger.
Roger took a step back, his footsteps kicking up a small cloud of the thin, acrid Pattagaxian soil. The stone wall blocking his path was at least ten meters high and as smooth as a cruiser’s outer hull. Such an obstacle would be no problem for a Shalator, one of the huge winged bipeds originally from the planet Toral, or an Erigion, the diminutive insect-like race from Rethal. Unfortunately, Roger was neither of those—nor was he a thick-scaled, quick-healing Valancian, or a horned Denebali, with multiple sets of all the vital internal organs. He was just a Human, an ordinary, soft-skinned, shoot-him-and-he-bleeds Human—and that meant that he was in for a galaxy of trouble once his hunters caught up to him.
I shouldn’t even be here in the first place, thought Roger angrily, as if that fact should somehow keep him safe from the hitmen advancing on him. I should’ve known that lead was a dead end. They’re all dead ends, every one of ‘em. Face it, Rog—there’s nothin’ out there for you to find—
Roger cut that thought off before his mind could finish it. He had faced down thieves and murderers, bounty hunters and pirates—and, frequently, legitimate law enforcement as well—all without flinching, but this…this was something that he was terrified to face. What would he do if his fears were true? What would he do if there really was nothing for him to find, if the thing he was looking for was gone forever?
If that hope was gone, what point was there in going on?
A cold and pitiless voice split the night like a dagger. “Roger Warbanks,” it said, pronouncing the name as if it were something low and disgusting. “Looks like you’ve reached a dead end…in more ways than one.”
Roger froze. Then, slowly, he turned to face his hunters. Two were Humans, one man and one woman, clad in full body armor and wielding almost identical repeating particle beam carbines. The woman wore a combat visor, an accessory that was expensive but worth every galactan; the man was defined by the scars running down both cheeks and a dart gun built into his right forearm armor plate.
The third bounty hunter was a male Lynlissian. Shorter than Roger and so slender it appeared that a firm breeze could blow him right away, the alien’s large, two-pupiled eyes glittered with cruelty. His head was large, shaped like an egg tilted at a forty-five degree angle, and a pair of thin grooves ran vertically up from his eyes to the crown of his forehead. His armor was of lower quality than his Human comrades; it protected his torso and legs but left his arms bare. Those limbs—and the rest of his body beneath his armor as well—were covered with blue scales instead of skin. The scales shimmered wetly under the faint mist that emanated from the small water tank curled like a metallic collar around the alien’s slender neck. Without this tank providing the amphibious alien with a constant supply of water, he would quickly dehydrate under Pattagax’s arid climate.
A two-handed assault rifle—the kind that still fired metal slugs, with the goal of causing the victim maximum pain as his insides were shredded by the explosive ammunition—was slung across the Lynlissian’s back. His webbed, three-fingered hands were empty, but they twitched as if eager to hold a weapon…or close around Roger’s unprotected throat.
The fourth and fifth hunters were both Korvecs—the same species as E’turol D’mact, the SmugCo Prelatan who’d placed the mark on Roger’s life. At nearly two meters tall, the giant insect-like aliens stood a full half a head taller than Roger. Their chitinous exoskeletons gleamed under the glowstrips’ faint phosphorescent light. They stood on four powerful legs, each as thick as Roger’s torso, and each of them grasped an assault rifle in his pincers—or hers, maybe; Korvec males and females were virtually impossible to tell apart. The large, multi-faceted eyes set low on the aliens’ small, squarish heads followed Roger’s every move with an unblinking, almost hypnotic gaze.
The Lynlissian stepped forward. “You have led us on a merry chase, Roger Warbanks,” he said. His voice was soft and melodious, like running water—the same voice that Roger had heard moments before. “But you have finally run out of holes to hide in. Surely you didn’t think you could escape us forever, did you? Especially not after what you did to Lord D’mact. He is most displeased with you, Roger Warbanks.” The Lynlissian smiled, showing two rows of small, razor-like teeth. “Most displeased.”
Roger swallowed. He looked at the bounty hunters one by one and saw nothing but brutal greed in their eyes and on their faces. “Alright, guys,” he said, taking a cautious step backwards until he felt the smooth stone wall against his back. He raised his left hand in a conciliatory gesture, palm outward. “Let’s just talk about this, okay? Surely we can come to some kind of an agreement.”
“But of course,” said the Lynlissian. “Lord D’mact is, after all, a businessman. He is harsh, but he is also willing to forgive for the right price. His offer to you is this. The damage you caused to his enterprise on Felar was valued at one hundred thousand galactans. Pay him three hundred thousand, and you may live.”
Roger had to focus to keep his expression neutral against his rising shock. Three hundred thousand galactans was more money than Roger could even dream of having. At the moment, he could maybe scrounge up a couple hundred…which probably wouldn’t be enough to appease the angry Korvec crimelord.
The Lynlissian watched Roger for several moments, his smile growing wider. “I take your terrified silence to mean that you do not, in fact, have the necessary funds,” he said. “Ah, well. That’s a real shame…I was so hoping that we wouldn’t have to kill you today.” He paused, cocking his head slightly. “Hang on a sec. Wait, no—I had that backwards. I was hoping that we would have to kill you. Slip of the tongue…”
The amphibious alien reached for the weapon slung across his back, drawing it in a fluid motion that no Human, lacking a Lynlissian’s two-elbowed arm, could have duplicated. The alien stepped back to rejoin his comrades, leveling the assault rifle at Roger’s midsection. He flicked a control on the gun’s side, and the weapon began to vibrate slightly, a crackle of electricity sparking from the barrel. Great—a charge rifle. Shoulda figured—nothing sends a message quite like electrified scatter shot electrocuting a man while he’s being shredded to pieces. “Roger Warbanks,” the Lynlissian said, “now, you die.”
Veil of Darkness--Book 1 of the Chalas Peruvas
For eight hundred years, the Federation of Worlds has reigned supreme over the galaxy. Under its banner, eleven sentient races have put aside their quarrels to work towards their common prosperity. But now something stirs. A hundred worlds have broken free from the Federation fold. They have made no demands, no threats. There is no evidence that their movement is anything but benign.
And yet the whispers have already begun. Whispers that the fires of revolution have been stoked. Whispers that war is coming.
The planet Tellaria is the birthplace of the human race and the backbone of the Federation. Admiral Drogni Ortega leads the finest planetary fighting force the galaxy has ever known. But now he must confront an enemy unlike any he has faced before, a foe who wields ancient power infused with infinite malevolence…and is seemingly determined to exterminate all life from the face of the galaxy.
Add on Goodreads!
Read on for a sneak preview of Veil of Darkness, book 1 of the Chalas Peruvas