“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice. Would you risk it all for love?”
It all comes down to choice. Choose to live. Choose to die. Choose to love.
Zared’s choice is to rescue the love of his life, Tru Shepard, despite the warrant for his own death. She’s a prisoner at a remote military compound.
Tru’s choices are limited. Marry a man she despises or face death.
Sometimes life dictates what’s important.
Is love enough to risk it all?
Will Zared’s ultimate mission prevail?
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“Citizens help the New Order find and eliminate terrorist agitators!
The keys to spotting traitors of the American Republic:
Traitors don’t support Inoculation Day,
…doubt the Government,
…don’t watch AR news streams,
…talk of Alliance,
…avoid mandated educational questionnaires,
Traitors don’t support Riza.
Don’t be caught supporting a traitor! Be a loyal citizen. Report any and all suspected traitors.”
(A communiqué from the Bureau of Homeland Protection)
I saved a life and took a life in a matter of seconds.
Watching the Canadian medics wheel Ko away, I know she’ll be fine, thanks to me. Another set of medics claims my father’s body. Also my fault. I did the right thing. He would have killed Ko and anyone else who got in his way.
But, my father’s blood staining my hands is a stark reality I have to face. Children don’t kill their parents. We’re supposed to love and cherish them. Yet, parents shouldn’t incite their children to commit murder. Perhaps I could have overlooked his faults. I search my memory trying to latch on to the good times we shared, but the vault’s dry.
My father abandoned me years ago.
Still, I wanted to forgive him. All I needed was one reason, any excuse would have worked. I wasn’t picky. I needed to know why he discarded me when I needed him the most. Now, I’ll never know.
“Aoki, we need to talk.” The loud, acidic voice cuts through the silence. Malcolm slithers his way across the floor. I have no desire to go up against the former rapper turned activist. I need time to myself to accept what I’ve done.
“Can it wait?” I croak.
“I need a status report,” he blasts back. The man once known as the Ice Pimp crosses his arms, staring me down with intense, eerie blue eyes.
“I need to deal with what happened,” I say absently, pushing the hair off my forehead. A slight tremor quakes through my body followed by a trail of sweat etching its way down my spine. The tremor morphs into a fully charged piston. Its incessant revving urges my feet toward the door. Either time needs to speed up, or Malcolm needs to shut up.
“We ‘preciate what you did for the cause.”
I bristle at Malcolm’s callousness. Jabbing a finger, I snap. “It wasn’t about the damn cause. It was self-preservation. Don’t you get it?”
Malcolm’s face tightens, insubordination on my part. For once, I didn’t care about the repercussions. What I’d done mattered more than a status report or this militant’s battle.
“I killed my FATHER! It was him or me.”
Malcolm sneers. “What would you like me to do? Throw you a goddamned party? Get over yo’self. You had a job to do. You did it. End of story.”
The arrogant-ass prick doesn’t get it. Killing my father, killing anyone, wasn’t the job. Damn it, I loved my father. At one point in my life, I’m sure, the man loved me. I know he did. I believe he did. I hope he did.
I need time to handle my loss and the person I’ve become… a murderer. Reality sucker punches me. I’ve been a lot of things in my life—son, boyfriend, liar, cheat. But never a murderer.
One person understands me. Tru. I need my girl.
“I’ve got to get out of here.” I rush for the exit.
Malcolm blocks my path. “I need the report.”
I stare up at him. He juts his chin, squints, and a hard smile crosses his face. Damn! I’m a complete idiot. This ass played me. My fingers clench.
“You planned this,” I accuse.
“And you carried it out. Mission complete.” His cold eyes mock me.
Unbelievable. Malcolm wasn’t man enough to do the job himself, so he set me up. Who the hell does that?
I reach for my gun. It’s not in my waistband. The glint of steel catches my eye from the floor.
Malcolm follows my line of sight. “You’re not that stupid, Aoki.”
He’s right, I concede. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to rip his heart out with my bare hands. His death, however, serves no purpose. My father will still be dead, and I’ll be a punching bag for Riza. Bastards like him cause their own demise. I storm past Malcolm. His joyless laughter is the backdrop to my hurried steps.
A few Alliance mercenaries stand around outside the building. I approach a sturdy soldier in tan camo fatigues. The name on his shirt pocket reads Niang, a Purebred from Senegal.
He salutes. I return the gesture. “Aoki.”
“Private Niang, sir.” His French-accented voice booms from his body. Definitely not native to the American Republic.
“Don’t have to be so formal. No rank here. Did you take someone to an Ubernet café today?”
Niang frowns. “No, but I know where it is. I can take you there.”
“Good. Let’s go.” I hop into the passenger seat, lean back, and close my eyes. The image of my father’s inanimate body surrounded by his own blood invades my thoughts and causes bile to rise up in my throat.
“Pull over, now!”
As soon as Niang stops the vehicle, I jump out, spilling my guts across the cracked asphalt. Reality kicks my ass. The gun blast and the image of my father crumpling to the ground loop in my mind.
My God, I killed him.
With my own hands, I ended my father’s life. Yes, I saved Ko and prevented more bloodshed. But it didn’t change the fact I killed my own flesh and blood.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I attempt to mourn for him. To ask God for forgiveness. Memories of the suffering and heartache I endured because of my father’s abandonment blur the lines of grief. His involvement with the New Order crushes any shred of remorse left in my heart.
With final resolve, I rest my trembling body against the Jeep. Where will my father’s soul find its resting place? With all the havoc he caused on Earth, I hope he owned a pair of asbestos-lined boots.
“Sir?” Niang’s voice, like the peal of shattered glass, interrupts my thoughts.
I scrape my hand down my pants leg before wiping my mouth and climb back into the vehicle. “I’m ready.”
My life hasn’t been easy. The green kid who stared at a pretty girl across the school yard years ago no longer exists. Life on the streets hardened me, corrupted my youth, and left behind a guy who’s discovering not everyone has my best interests at heart.
Working for the Alliance wasn’t something I could avoid. My options were clear-cut: join the cause and help in any way requested or face punishment for a crime I didn’t commit. I disagreed, but lost the war of words.
Malcolm’s possession of a video showing a different altercation sealed my fate and guaranteed my cooperation. If anyone had to die today, it should have been the cold-hearted Hybrid.
Trust. It’s not something one does living on the streets of New Detroit. New perils present themselves daily. Deviants, hanging out on corners waiting for guys like me, want to play cat and mouse games. Survival requires being smarter.
Joining the Alliance kept me alive. In doing so, I merely exchanged a familiar predator for a craftier, secretive one.
It’s time to take back control of my life.
Niang stops the vehicle in front of a red-brick storefront. I pull out my phone and call Tru. Straight to voicemail. I exit the vehicle, hoping Tru waits inside the café.
SF Benson, a Michigan native, resides in Georgia with her husband, a human daughter,
and a couple of miniature fur kids (two female short-haired guinea pigs). At one time she
wrangled a household which included three Samoyeds, saltwater fish, a hamster, and three
SF has always wanted to be a writer, but she’s had a variety of positions ‘feeding’ her
creative brain—blogger/reviewer, customer service representative, veterinary assistant,
marketing assistant, editorial assistant, receptionist, and even cashier for women’s clothing
She’s an avid bookworm who appreciates a well-written book regardless of genre. SF
prefers to write stories which allow her to answer the question “what if”. She leans towards
writing strong, diverse protagonists set in dystopian, science fiction, or paranormal worlds.
Email ~ Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page ~ Instagram: @authorsfbenson