A Taste of Last Run of the Ice Duchess
I wanted to give you a taste of the next book off the production line in early 2019.
Last Run of the Ice Duchess
Every time Berne Ober came to the planet Distan 7, it seemed to be raining. Hopefully, this would be the last trip. The support would be secured, and the Northern Alliance would be created. He walked down the street to the dining club where he was meeting his contact. There were other people on the street, all going about their business. Rain didn’t stop them here, if it did, they would never get anything done.
For what had started as a military outpost to protect the mine, the city of Durura had modernized and moved past the essentials, but not by much. It was still a military-run city filled with diplomats and spies. It was crude in places, with no soft edges and gentle landscaping. The ongoing cold war and trade embargoes with the Terran Republic had taken their toll and stripped everything and everyone back to the bare minimum.
But no one seemed ready to crumble.
He liked their spirit.
His people needed their help. If they could band together, then the Terran Republic would be fighting on three sides. Despite giving the Reittians their independence over forty years ago, the Republic was still fighting them too. Not actively, just in that passive aggressive way the Republic favored as though they didn’t want the war to end until they’d had the last word.
Anyone would think the Republic had a vested interest in war…
Their taste for blood and their love of weapons is what had pushed the Aparatic Church worlds to consider leaving the Republic. War was a hungry machine that fed on soldiers and taxes. He’d had plenty of front-line experience, now he liked to work behind the scenes.
Not that working in the shadows was any safer.
Rain trickled down the back of his neck and soaked into his shirt. He adjusted the collar of his coat, as he did he noticed the same man who had been at the café across from where he was staying. Coincidences like that didn’t happen in his line of work. He had a problem.
One that needed to be dealt with before he reached his meeting.
This was a weapon free colony—like many of the Distan cities—unless one was military. He wasn’t, but the ban only applied to blades and guns and stun weapons. It didn’t include the simple grooved baton in his pocket. An ancient but effective weapon that was only as long as his hand. It was the kind of weapon that never got picked up in security scans and the kind of weapon that few knew how to use or defend against.
Berne fisted it ready to use it to attack pressure points and generally cause maximum pain to his attacker. He quickened his step, as though hurrying to reach the club. He couldn’t go in and let them get eyes on his contact. The Terran Republic already knew he was here. They suspected something…maybe they knew something.
Maybe they knew nothing and just wanted to see if he’d leak.
Adrenaline surged, but he was used to the feeling. He embraced it.
Hopefully, the Republic didn’t know what the Aparatic Church worlds were planning. They had moved so softly, taken years to put the pieces in place. It couldn’t come apart now.
His stalker slid in behind him. “Turn left at the intersection.”
A half a dozen steps to the intersection. Berne turned and swung his fist. The mini baton smashed into the man’s cheekbone, then dropped to dig into a pressure point near the collarbone. He followed up with a knee to the groin. The man stumbled but didn’t go down. He was just as well trained. Blood and rain streaked his face. He spat then when to shove.
There was something on his palm. A black hexagonal device.
Berne blocked, almost had the man in a wrist lock before he slithered out. His skin slick with rain. Whatever was on that man’s hand was some kind of weapon. The man was looking for an opening to use it. He tried grabbing, but Berne kept his distance.
The road was right behind him now. He could lose his attacker in the traffic. He turned and ran. The man landed on Berne’s back and sent him sprawling on the road.
For a moment Berne’s muscles wouldn’t obey as the electric shock rippled through him. He forced himself up. He had to keep moving. Where was his attacker? He dodged a vehicle. They didn’t want to slow for him. Maybe they’d be calling in the fight. That he could live with.
He’d be alive if he were arrested. If his attacker got him, Berne didn’t like his chances. He kept moving, trying to see through the rain, his legs were shaky. He needed a shop or a business he could walk into. Someplace he could escape from out a different door or window…or even roof. He wasn’t fussed.
He did not want to give his attacker another chance to touch him. It was a nice theory.
The man ran at him from the side, Berne sidestepped and jabbed his weapon into the man’s kidney, but he wasn’t quick enough. He was moving too slowly. The shock from the device had done something to him, and he seemed to be getting slower. Another shock raced through his muscles and made them bunch in pain.
He slammed the stick into the back of the man’s neck or tried to. Every strike he made was blocked and countered. He didn’t have time to defend.
The police would be here soon. He preferred to avoid the police as he never knew which side they were on or who was paying them extra to look the other way. A vehicle stopped. Berne doubted it was to help. His body was slowing further. The more adrenaline, the slower he got. What kind of device did the man have?
He had to calm down. He relaxed his limbs and absorbed the hits as best he could. There was a change, his coordination came back. He switched fighting styles using his opponent’s momentum against him. He threw the man to the ground and stomped on his hand. The piercing wail of the approaching police barely registered as a second man approached. He wasn’t here to help.
Berne knew he needed to get out of here.
He took a few steps back, then one up onto the curb. Then men didn’t follow. Why?
Another shock, this time to his back, was the only answer he needed.
There’d been a third one.
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Artwork by James Ledger
Copyright 2018 Kgruppe LLC