I’m at RT this week so I thought I’d post an excerpt of MESMERIZED to show you a little of Asphodel, the ‘Verse Andrei and Piper hail from.
MESMERIZED by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2011, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Publishing Group
She kept working. “Tell them I’ll be with them shortly. Let Eiriq know as well. I want some backup.”
Her twin hesitated, she knew, wanting to deal with this on his own. He was the one with more military training, he’d always been fond of reminding her. And then she could remind him that the last time she let him handle things it had ended in a seven-person fist fight and two days in lockup.
Instead, he exhaled slowly, wiping his hands. “Watch your step, Piper.”
He stalked off, leaving her to clean up and steady her nerves.
She began to scent ozone and knew a storm would be coming. The sky above darkened, deepened, and she hurried along. The heat rose from the ground in waves that battered her, stole her breath. All the recent storms so close together had left the air unsettled.
Soon, hot, blast-furnace air would send dust hurtling through the sky with so much force that it’d flay the flesh from bone in less than three minutes in some of the worst storms out in the Wastelands.
Visibility would be next to nothing, and the electrical fields would rub against each other, bringing a terrible need to grind teeth along with the stench of an Asphodel windstorm.
Asphodel wasn’t for amateurs; that much was for certain. Just existing here meant a constant dance with the ‘Verse itself.
For some reason, this appealed to Piper. The very act of living there and making a life in the dust and canyons had been one of defiance for as long as she could remember. Though, she could admit it became tiring just treading water year after year.
Certainly the increase in the thugs the Imperialists sent to the Edge over the last year or so disquieted their little family compound. They were not part of her life, nor did she want them to be.!She may exist on the edge of the law, but she wasn’t a traitor.
She paused, looking over the group waiting for her near the front gates. There were four of them. Each looked exactly like an Imperialist spy sent here to smuggle something very bad back and forth across Imperialist/Federation lines. She did not need this. In fact, it offended her sensibilities, a truly rare occurrence.
“What the seven hells do they want anyway? I’ve said no three times now,” she said to Eiriq, who’d just joined her.
In the distance the winds kicked up, sending the seeds of the storm upward, giving birth to the beginnings of it. The static in the air rose, bringing the hair at the back of her neck to stand.
“Don’t know, but if we don’t get rid of them soon, we’ll be stuck with them until after the wind dies.” Eiriq motioned skyward.
She quickened her steps until she came to a halt before them.
Giving them what they expected, a dirt farmer with no formal education, she put her hands in her pockets and rocked back and forth on her heels. It would also save her the potentially troubling refusal of their hand clasp.
“Storm brewing down in the caldera. Time to get under some cover. What brings you around these parts?”
One of them eyed her, attempting to make her look away first.
And if he’d been a predator instead of a bully it might have worked.
Instead, she was a predator and he was the kind of man who routinely got killed because he stayed too long out in the canyons. A stupid, soft off-worlder who sneered at everyone he saw because he thought he was better than they were.
The scent, that burning, dry stench, began to build as the body of the storm took form in the distance, its fingers digging into the ground and the sky above. This one might be a big one, so she was doubly invested on getting rid of them. “I’m going to have to get my aircraft under cover and our camp locked down, so if we could get to the point, I’d appreciate it.”
“You’re speaking to a high minister on behalf of Supreme Commander Fardelle himself!” The pug-faced off-worlder squealed, offended to his toes.
“Asphodel is a Federation ‘Verse. Fardelle isn’t anyone here.”
Kenner stood with his arms crossed, anger clear on his face. She knew he’d been pushed far enough already. He didn’t wave a flag, but he was patriotic enough to be offended by the mere sight of these people. He’d done his two standard years in the military corps, plus one extension. Piper did her standard two years. He learned how to fix things, and she learned how to fly them. Oh and he learned how to get into fights. At least he’d been strong enough to come out of it harder and more fierce than he’d been before.
Kenner had a wild streak. That’s why he and Andrei had been so close. She sighed inwardly. No time for fantasies in her head that would never come true. At that moment she needed to be sure her brother’s wild streak didn’t activate his big mouth and get himself in up to his neck with the Imperialists.
She stepped forward to get their focus off him.
“Time’s up, Minister. We’re on a timeline, and I have things to do. So what is it you’re here for?”
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