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Authors: Teyla Branton

Tags: #Paranormal, #Romance

The Reckoning

BOOK: The Reckoning
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

This is a work of fiction, and the views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author. Likewise, certain characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or locales, is entirely coincidental.

The Reckoning (Unbounded Series #4)

Published by White Star Press
P.O. Box 353
American Fork, Utah 84003

Copyright © 2014 by Itzy
City street photo copyright © 2014 by Ermess
Model photo and cover design copyright © 2014 by White Star Press

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded, reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Thank you for supporting the author’s rights.

ISBN: 978-1-939203-46-5
Printed in the United States of America
Year of first printing: 2014

Only one can survive The Reckoning

the day would come when she would have to personally confront the Triad leader of the power-hungry Emporium. But she never thought it would be with a snake in her head that feeds on her energy. Or that she’d be in the company of an uncertain ally who might turn on her at any moment.

The stakes are high as new intel uncovers a startling Emporium plot that will catapult the entire world into war. Erin is determined to save not only the mortals but also her friends—even if it means sacrificing herself and her newfound love for Ritter Langton.

Ritter is just as determined to save Erin and prevent what will usher in the most bloody century the world has ever known, but even he might not recognize the person she becomes.

Every moment the enemy grows stronger. There will be no second chance.

To my husband, TJ, who is my greatest help, my biggest defender, the father of my seven children, the source of all kinds of fascinating information, and my partner in crime. I’m glad we share so many interests, especially of the science fictional kind. You are my hero, my fixer of all problems, and my best friend. I hope someday soon we will finally get that no-kids vacation we always talked about, but







bushes and waited until the patrolling guards passed. My nerves tingled in anticipation, my Unbounded genes kicking in. We’d slipped over the massive stone fence surrounding the estate but were still far from our goal and the evidence we’d come to steal. Intel on a recovered thumb drive had led us here, but we didn’t know for sure that our information was correct. Not one communication circuit in the world had made even a roundabout mention of it, which meant those responsible were being careful not to use any regular channels.

The large house didn’t appear different from its neighbors, at least not visually. Aerial photographs taken of West Lake Hills, a suburb of Austin, Texas, showed only a sprawling mansion with manicured lawns, stables, a tennis court, an elaborate swimming pool, two connecting guesthouses, and a large parking lot rivaling those found outside any large hotel. It was rumored to have a second pool inside the house itself, along with a race track and two racquetball courts.

None of this was unusual for Mr. Desoto, a billionaire whose various companies held several important US defense contracts. Even the security of patrolling guards wasn’t that far out of the ordinary. But the fact that I couldn’t sense inside the house meant they had Emporium technology and were aware that someone like me existed.

“Ready?” Ritter Langton asked. Even in the dark and with my mind shield closed, his presence was tangible to me. Tangible and compelling. I had the ability to see all life forces, even if their thoughts were blocked, but I perceived his differently. Probably because I considered him mine.

I nodded, reaching for the hood I carried in my pocket to cover my pale skin and blond hair. Next to me, the dark-haired Mari Jorgenson did the same. The hood was made of metamaterials like the bodysuits we wore, or in other words, particles smaller than the wavelength of light. Cort had been working on them for the past century, and finally technology was catching up to his theories. Though these new prototypes didn’t make the wearer truly invisible, they helped hide us in the dark.

Ritter glided to the edge of the bushes, his sharp eyes penetrating the darkness, searching for signs of danger. He wouldn’t be going inside the house because Mari and I planned to shift out once the shield was down, and we couldn’t take him along with us, but he’d be close in case something unexpected happened. Hopefully close enough for me to use his combat ability if we ran into problems. I was good, but next to his ability, I looked like a beginner.

“Check your suit’s heat nullifiers.” Stella Davis, the fourth member of our party, glanced up from a small tablet she held in her hand. “I can’t guarantee they’ll have infrared, but if this information is as important as I think it is, they’ll have something in place to check heat sources for anything larger than a cat.” She took out a device twice as thick as my cell phone. “Here it is.”

I was supposed to plug the decoder into any computer attached to their network, and it would give Stella access to their computers so she could disable the house’s shields.

“Be careful,” Stella added. For all her two centuries of experience with ops, her slanted eyes radiated nervousness. That was because Mari was one of Stella’s two descendants to survive our ongoing conflict with the Emporium, and Stella really didn’t like her going inside the house. Being nearly immortal didn’t mean as much as it might when your worst enemies were every bit as immortal and knew exactly how to permanently end your existence.

Stella put on a blinking headset that looked somewhat like a thin crown with tiny pieces of metal that worked their way past her sleek, dark hair to make contact with her scalp, providing a neural link to her computer. As a technopath, she could use the device to compare and manipulate data at a rate several dozen times that of an average human. Even with the odd-looking headset, Stella was arrestingly beautiful, owing in part to her half-Japanese heritage, but mostly because of the nanites she controlled inside her body, enhancing her features faster than her Unbounded genes could put them back to normal.

“I’ll let you know when it’s in place,” I said. I didn’t tell Stella I’d take care of Mari; she already knew. We Renegades, self-appointed guardians to a mortal human world, who for the most part were unaware of our existence, took care of our own. We were closer than family.

“What if the shield isn’t connected to their computer?” Mari asked, almost startling me with her closeness, though I could clearly sense her life force in my mind. The metamaterial suit did seem to help her with stealth. Not that she, a shifter, needed improvement in that area.

“The shield is generated by electricity.” Stella pulled a knit hat over her headset to obscure the tiny blinking lights. “If the controls aren’t linked to their network, I’ll simply find their outside circuits and blow them up.” She gave Mari a bland grin. “Don’t worry. If you run into trouble, I’ll sic Ritter on them. We’ll make sure you can shift out.”

Mari couldn’t teleport past the invisible barrier any more than I could sense past it. But that was only an annoyance, not an insurmountable obstacle.

“Just don’t blow up the house until we’re out.” This I said mostly for Ritter, who as a combat Unbounded sometimes got a bit too much into his work.

He looked my way, his eyes black and glittering in the dark, sending a delicious wave of heat through me. I put in my earbud, checked the attached mic, and pulled on my hood. “Ready.”

Ritter led the way. Had he wanted, he could have left us far behind. Even without the new suit, he could move fast enough that he was difficult to see. If he dropped his mental barrier, I could channel his ability, but it wasn’t necessary now, and doing so might alert a sensing Unbounded working for the Emporium, if any were near. It was always a possibility.

Two weeks ago, after my last encounter with an Emporium sensing Unbounded, I’d ended up with a shiny, black, snake-like thread in my head. I’d tried pushing it out, blasting it, and otherwise decimating it with my mental ability—all without result. It was still there, contained now, but I hadn’t discovered its purpose. Doing so was on my short list of priorities.

Even through her mind shield, Mari’s exuberance glimmered from her. So different from the accountant she’d been before her Change had made her one of us. I extended my own mental shield to cover her. She wouldn’t even realize I was doing it, but it made me feel better. At the first hint of danger, she could shift back to the airfield where my brother, Chris, waited with our plane, so she was actually safer than the rest of us—well, provided we turned off their electric shields so she could use her ability. But because of her rare talent, the Emporium would pay a high price to get their hands on her and her ovaries, so I felt protective of her.

Ritter guided us unfailingly through the bushes, keeping to the shadows when we neared the house. The two-man patrol we’d dodged earlier came around again, triggering motion lights on the house. I could tell from looking at them that they were human, not Unbounded—a useful aspect of my gift—but their minds were blocked, if poorly. With only a little pushing, I saw from their thoughts that while they were familiar with the Emporium, they knew nothing about the file we sought. Not that it really mattered because we were almost certain where it was being kept. A part of me was relieved they were mortal, but another part was angry at the Emporium’s penchant for using mortals. If something went wrong, mortal agents too often meant more deaths.

Deaths I wasn’t willing to be responsible for.

We sat still beneath some trees as the patrol passed, but they didn’t even look our way. The January night was a bit colder than it had been in San Diego, home to our new headquarters, but mild enough for our purpose, and the suits kept us comfortable. When the patrol was gone, Ritter gestured for us to wait while he took care of the motion lights. He sprinted forward across the grass toward the house. A light on the roof came belatedly to life, but he was already out of sight. If anyone was observing, they might assume some animal had tripped it. A few seconds later, the light winked out of existence.

Ritter signaled with a whistle, and Mari and I started forward. Even this close, I couldn’t penetrate the shield around the house, so they had to be using a lot of electricity to maintain it. No doubt in response to what had happened in New York, when we’d gotten past their shields at a prison compound.

I removed the launcher from my back and shot a grappling hook onto the roof above a second-floor window of the spare room we were targeting. Pulling the grappling rope toward me until it caught one of the numerous chimneys, I activated the retraction feature and began walking up the side of the house as it towed me upward, my stomach clenching with revulsion.

Climbing wasn’t the problem. It was only what happened once I got high enough for my acrophobia to kick in. I’d conquered it for the most part, but being someplace high always required effort. I was ever aware of the fear, knowing it would burst free and paralyze me if I allowed it any space in my mind.

BOOK: The Reckoning
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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