Authors: K. D. Penn
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this book are products of the imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright Â© 2013 by K.D. Penn
All rights reserved
Cover artwork by Darren Davis
Space Age font by mickeyavenue.com
Font styling by J.N. Sheats
Chapter artwork by J.N. Sheats
Published by Dragonfairy Press, Atlanta
Dragonfairy Press and the Dragonfairy Press logo are trademarks of Dragonfairy Press LLC.
First Publication, December 2013
ePub Edition, December 2013
ePub ISBN: 978-1-939452-29-0
Published in the United States of America
My dick pressed against my pantsâhard, long, and readyâbut it wasn't the nude girls dancing around me with luscious curves and jeweled skin that incited the erection. It was the hitâthe guns my brothers and I wielded in our hands charged with siphons, the electronic currency stuffed in the pockets of drooling men who copped a touch of the dancers when the bouncers weren't looking, and of course, it was the rush of the quake I'd just snorted.
Heart-pounding music drummed in my ears. The song had a heavy bass and an omnichord melody. Something similar to the music I played before my criminal activities shifted from a past-time thing to a full-time necessity, prior to Mom's death, and well before Dad's mental demise. Our parents birthed ten kids. My brothers and I were the oldest. When Mom and Dad died, we became parents overnight.
“Epic, are you okay?” Toy nudged my shoulder.
I blinked and focused my artificial eyes on my brother. “Ask me that again and I'll fill that skull with siphons.”
“You both keep your minds on the hit.” Shade edged to the side and let me lead the way. His black skin made him look like a shadow in the darkness. He hid in the darkened club with ease. Unlike me. People always saw me coming first and didn't spot Shade until he jabbed his gun into their chest. I was tall with a muscular frame that scared people well before I threatened them. I'd been gifted with Mom's golden-tan skin and Dad's coarse blond hair that was thick and long like a lion's mane. Tonight it was pulled back in a band.
My siblings and I all had different combinations of hair and skin color because we were Unis. My ancestors had joined the Unified Movement hundreds of years ago in the 2000s. The movement believed that racism and discrimination would cease if all belonged to one race. People from different races mated together and their children mated with other mixed children, following the beliefs of their parents. It carried on for a century. By the 3000s, the movement had died down and a new race called Unis rose to the majority on earth.
Lot of good that did, being the Unis tend to be poor and live in impoverished sections of the planet.
The minorities ruled.
“You didn't do any drugs tonight, right?” Shade tapped my arm.
“Naw,” I said though quake coated my nostrils. I sniffed in the remnants of the bitter powder and wiped my nose with the back of my hand. The drug smelled like home. A sweet blend of melted butter, sugar, and vanilla all mixed in together. It reminded me of Mom.
How crazy is that? Quake reminds me of mom's cookies.
I laughed. Shade's dark forehead creased in the middle. “Your mind with us, Epic?”
“Always.” The gun warmed in my hand. I kept it in my front pocket with my fingers wrapped around the handle. My pulse merged with the bass. I pressed the button on the butt end of the gun to charge the siphons. I imagined the glass bullets, no bigger than teardrops, trembling within the tunneled heat of the barrel. When I shot them, they'd burst through the air in a trail of bright light, pierce someone's skin, and explode.
Toy, Shade, and I prowled through the dark strip club with only the violet haze of light at the center to guide us forward. Women gyrated everywhereâon the laps of men, behind the shadows of thick curtains where the high rollers lounged, and on all the tiny stages propped in the corners of the rectangular club.
An olive-skinned girl danced on the center stage, rocking her curvy hips from side to side with fluid motion. Midnight-black hair hung down to her chin and curled at the ends. A glowing band of orange fabric wrapped around her full breasts. Amber gems, dangling in long chains from her red thong, gleamed with each flicker of light like sparks of a flame.
She's on fire
At least it seemed that way, the more we moved forward. Five feet of space ran between her and us. The dancer's rocking shifted to a rolling of her body and twisting of oiled thighs. Back and forth. Around and around. She influenced her own groove and made love to the space.
Her green eyes shifted to mine as if she'd heard my thought. She tossed me a wicked smile. One lathered in lusty promise and dripping with the willingness to give me whatever I craved. My dick twitched. I mentally ordered my eyes to snap a picture of her. It was something to look at later and help me find her again, when things were less conflicting. Light flashed from my irises, but no one noticed. Not many people had artificial eyes on earth. The surgery cost too much. So when light flashed around my face, most figured it was something else and ignored it.
But she noticed.
The dancer curled her finger my way and beckoned me over.
But, damn, I wish I could give you a try.
In a blur of motion, I pulled my gun out and shot the ceiling. Women screamed. The music stopped. Dust trickled down. My brothers targeted their guns at two bouncers, the only two thatâwe'd discovered a week agoâhad actual guard training. The rest of the bouncers were just pudgy, tall college guys who appeared mean and tough, but with one shove in their ribs would probably cry like babies. Surprisingly, the dancer remained standing on the stage and hadn't run for cover.
“Time for the rich to give to the poor!” I waved the gun around. Dancers ducked. Men crouched to the floor. The bartenders in the back raised their hands in defeat. A door slammed behind us.
“What was that?” I asked.
“The college boy bouncers ran out the back exit.” Shade grinned. “I won the bet. They left like cowards. You owe me a twenty.”
“Just have my twenty in my hand by morning.” Shade vanished back into the club's darkness. At night, the only time people spotted him was when he desired it.
“As if you'd ever let me forget.” I shot another siphon into the ceiling. This time a slab of metal dropped down but didn't hit us. “Anyone else leave and they die! Let's make this quick, people. Fast and easy.”
I backed up and let my brother host the rest of the party. Toy was a people person.
“We don't discriminate. All planets' currencies are welcome.” Toy slung a big black bag on the center stage at the foot of the hypnotizing dancer. He returned his gun's focus back to his specified bouncer. “The lovely lady on the center stage behind me will be our collector. Get in a single-file line and dump your credit drives and copper disks in this bag that we've provided for your convenience.”
“Only the guys need to donate.” Shade materialized out of the darkness. “Ladies are welcome to hold on to their funds. You've all worked hard tonight.”
A few women sighed. Shade winked at the redhead closest to him.
I took several steps back and leaned on the stage next to my hypnotizing dancer and the bag. I stared up at her. Most of girls would have shook in fear, but she wore a mask of amusement.
“Are you up for the collecting job?” I asked.
The wicked smile returned to her face. “That depends.”
I quirked my eyebrows in surprise. “On what, sweet lady?”
“If I can take these heels off.” She gestured to her feet.
I glanced at the glass shoes that arched up well above six inches. A thin beam of silver light served as the heel. It must have been all for show because there was no way the light provided support.
“Fuck. Those must hurt.” I gained more respect for her dancing and made a note to check my sisters' closets when we got home. “How do you balance yourself in those things?”
“I'm very talented.” Her leg brushed my arm as she slung off the shoes. Her flowery fragrance swirled around me, an aromatic blend of jasmine and rose.
try her tonight.
She squatted down and positioned the bag between her opened legs. I forced my eyes to remain on hers and not linger below her waist, to where I would surely get a view of her folds as they pushed against the thong's thin material. A line of grumbling men formed. One after another they hurled drives and disks into the bag. Electronic currency filled it and almost spilled over the rim.
When the line was almost at its end, I turned to her. “What are you doing tonight?”
“You mean besides crying into my pillow because all of my admirers were robbed?”
“I could give you another reason to cry into your pillow.” I tossed her my own wicked smile.
“Only in your dreams, lover boy.”
Toy chuckled in front of me.
The last man approached us, flung his disk into the back, and muttered, “May the Duchess of Light burn your soul.”
“I doubt the Duchess would've liked you in here dolling out your funds to naked women,” I countered.
“Let that be a lesson.” Toy dipped his head and mock saluted. “We do the Duchess's heavenly bidding in our own way.”
I smirked and would've laughed, if not for my hypnotizing dancer wrapping one of her amber chains around my neck.
My breath left me. Tightness constricted my throat. I gripped my gun and got ready to lift it. My vision blurred.
“Move your hands, lover boy, and it'll be the last thing you do,” she hissed.
I wheezed and struggled to breathe. The gems cut into my neck, biting my flesh. It burned. Oxygen expanded in my chest, begging to be released. Pressure rose in my throat.
“Let him go!” Toy called over his shoulder. He was smart enough not to give the bouncer his back or we would all be dead.
“Slowly lift the gun to me, lover boy,” she ordered. “Do it and you get to live.”
With shaking fingers I complied.
You'll regret this later, sweetheart.
She yanked the gun from my hand and released my neck. Coughing, I shot up to grab it back. The hot point of the gun went to my forehead, burning my flesh. I jerked back and held in a shriek. For the first time in a while, fear shoved me into sobriety.
Her eyes showed no panic. She appeared comfortable holding a gun. “You sure you want me to rip apart that handsome face of yours with siphons? It really would be a waste.”
“No. I'd like to keep my looks. It's the best thing I've got going for me.” I raised my hands in defeat, but still, I was prepared to pounce on her at any opportunity.
“How are you getting out of here, pretty lady?” Shade's voice drifted from the darkness.
“Why?” She picked up the bag and slung it over her shoulder. “You need a ride?”
I inched her way. She shot me in the arm. The siphon gnawed through my skin at an insane speed. I gritted my teeth but didn't move. Blood dripped from the wound and then the bullet exploded inside a vein, ripping apart anything within in a five-inch radius. I collapsed to the ground and gripped the wound. The only good thing about her shot was that she only managed to hit the edge of my arm instead of the center where the whole limb could have detached.
“That's the only warning shot you're going to get.” Her voice held an edge, but her fingers shook a little. No one but me could see it since I was so close.
It's just you, by yourself? Isn't it? No one watching your back.
I turned my face up to hers and snapped a picture. Light flashed. It shocked her. She shrieked and shot at my other arm. I dodged it. My body smashed into the floor. The rough carpet scraped the skin on my arm. More shots blared, probably Toy or Shade shooting. People screamed as they scrambled over one another, turning over chairs, racing out of the club, and searching for an escape. The smell of urine drenched the air. She dashed off, shooting out the violet lamps on the ceiling. Shattered pieces of glass rained down and sliced my skin.
The whole club turned dark.
“Fuck!” I jumped up, shoved running people out of the way, and shifted my eyes' view to night vision. Everything appeared light green. I caught a glimpse of one figure, female, and the only person walking calmly toward the entrance among the chaos. “She's five feet from the door! Head that way.”
“Easy for you to say. We can't see shit!” Toy yelled.
“Follow my light.” I switched my eyes to a white glow that illuminated two feet in front of me. It looked like I'd attached small flashlights to my head.
All three of us sprinted her way. She glanced over her shoulder. Horror shined from her green eyes. She raised her arm in the air and shot off another siphon. It exploded in the ceiling with a bang. Dust and metal fell. The crowd went even more hysterical, turned away from the front, and sprinted our way. She pushed through them, but I could barely follow her. Shrieking dancers bumped into me. A man slammed into my chest and screeched. Tears streamed down his face. I shoved him to the ground and hopped over him. More people pushed me back as they fled. All I could do was try and see where she was going.
My eyes captured something normal ones could not, being so far away and within darkness. A tattoo on her back. I snapped a picture and another and another as she burst through the front door, slammed it behind her, and disappeared into the night.
After a minute, we made it outside, but I knew it was too late. The cool night air chilled my skin. Old gas cars rushed past us on the street. Higher-tech vehicles sped by overhead. Whether she drove in the ground or air, we had no way of finding out. She was gone. There was no way around that.
“You get a pic of her?” Shade said between breaths. He bent over with his hands on his knees. Toy wiped the sweat off of his pale face with his arm. His red strands stuck to the side of his face.
“I got some images.”
“Let's see if we can work with what you've got.” Shade gazed at the aerial highway above us.
Nodding, I closed my eyes and flipped through my display. All the photos I'd taken tonight lined up in my mindâher dancing within an amber glow of flames, her shocked expression as she held the gun, and all the tattoo pictures.
“She has a tattoo. Looks like ink instead of electric thread.” I mentally yanked out the ones of her tat.