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Authors: Matthew S. Cox

Division Zero: Thrall

BOOK: Division Zero: Thrall
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A Division of
Whampa, LLC
P.O. Box 2160
Reston, VA 20195
Tel/Fax: 800-998-2509
http://curiosityquills.com

© 2015
Matthew Cox
http://www.matthewcoxbooks.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information about Subsidiary Rights, Bulk Purchases, Live Events, or any other questions - please contact Curiosity Quills Press at
[email protected]
, or visit
http://curiosityquills.com

ISBN 978-1-62007-726-9 (ebook)
ISBN 978-1-62007-727-6 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-62007-728-3 (hardcover)

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nchanted by a fleeting daydream of the perfect fairy-tale wedding, Kirsten watched imaginary guests mingling through the dark spots between trees. Evan grabbed her arm with both hands, shaking her out of the fog of an idyllic day. Fanciful organ music retreated into her thoughts, replaced by the reality of whistling wind and distant commerce. The tiny nature preserve, five square miles of green contained in a flowerbox of silver high-rise buildings, was not safe from the music of advert bots. She blinked at him, as if surprised by his sudden proximity. The sight of the boy’s defensive posture over Shani made her smile. The look of urgency in his eyes took it away. The little girl seemed confused at the sudden end to their play. Kirsten looked to her left, as if an explanation could be found on the sienna face of Nila Assad.

“Mom…” He pulled at Kirsten’s arm. “Something’s in the bushes watching us.”

“Where?” She put a hand on his shoulders. “Did you see anything?”

Evan shook his head. “No. I just had that creepy feeling like something was there.”

Kirsten frowned at the expression on Nila’s face. “I don’t think it’s a…”
Pervert. Shani didn’t see anything. Evan’s too scared. He wouldn’t be this rattled if it was just a man.
“…living person.”

Nila tensed after Kirsten’s telepathic message and reached for her daughter. The glare she sent into the bushes melted to worry. Shani hopped up on the bench while Evan remained standing, arms folded, eyes fixed on the spot. Kirsten worked her E90 out of her too-small purse.

“You know,” said Nila, “you can wear it on your hip. You don’t have to hide it; besides, it’s against policy. What if you needed it in a hurry?”

Kirsten brushed her thumb over the molded grip. “I guess… I’m just trying to feel normal for one day this month.” She rubbed Evan’s shoulder. “Stay here with Nila, I’ll be right back.”

“You’re not going alone, are you?” Nila put a hand on Kirsten’s arm.

“What else can I do? Should we leave the kids here while we run off? Or bring them with us after who-knows-what?”

Evan turned so Shani could not see the frightened look he gave Kirsten.
Mom, you did kill that bad ghost, right?

Kirsten stood, and her shoes meowed as they absorbed her weight. Evan cracked up giggling. She sighed, glancing down past her skirt at the pink and white Nomz. The image of Seneschal’s final obliteration came to mind.
Yes, I did. Did it feel like him?
It was her turn to shiver. It wasn’t the blast of wind inflating her skirt; the thought of another abyssal stalking her son made her blood chill. She smirked at Nila.

This is why I don’t wear skirts. I’m gonna get into a fight and it’s gonna come off, or I’m going to go headfirst into something with my ass in the air.
Kirsten blushed at the mere thought of it.

“Kinda.” He bit his lower lip. “Strong.”

Nila grinned, hiding her face in Shani’s hair to avoid laughing at Kirsten’s mental grumbling.

“Stay here and protect Shani, I’ll be right back.” She winked at Evan.

“‘Kay.” He puffed out his chest.

Shani frowned. “He’s just a kid too. Alls he can do is see ghosts.” Evan floated off his feet, squealing from the sudden telekinetic levitation, and landed on the bench sitting next to her. Shani folded her arms. “I’ll probably wind up protecting him.”

Evan looked annoyed for a second or two before he held Shani’s hand. “You can’t TK a creepy spirit, and that’s what’s watching us.”

After a reassuring squeeze to his hand, Kirsten went toward the edge of the wooded area with both hands on her weapon, aimed down and to the right. She felt ridiculous brandishing the E90 while wearing a thigh-length skirt, white sweater, and cat-headed sneakers that meowed whenever she stepped too hard.

Great, I’m the cheerleader from hell.

The mood shifted as she neared the edge of the clearing. Forty yards or so from the bench, a definite unease spread through the area. Dozens of different ad-bot tunes collided at once amid the rustling trees. Whatever energy permeated the air here altered her mood, changing the sound into a sinister calliope that could accompany the carnival of the damned. Primal trepidation swam up her spine. With it came the feeling she would not be able to find her way out of this forest.

Kirsten paused at the edge of the induced growth; for a moment, she forgot the nature preserve only occupied five square miles. It felt endless, beckoning, as if a malevolence within wanted her forever. Wind fluttered her skirt, and the chill on her legs caused a shiver. It took her a moment, as well as a glance back at the three people she considered family, to gather herself.

Something is trying to freak me out.

Squinting, she searched through the foliage for any sign of what caused the twisted mood. It clawed at the back of her mind, wanting to make her feel scared. Kirsten tapped her power, raising an active defense against the spectral ambiance. The fear lessened. A living telempath would not face resistance from her astral ward.

There’s some kind of spirit here.

Nila nodded at the message. Kirsten, with full confidence, straightened her stance and walked into the trees. Whatever it was had not attacked when the kids were close to it, a chance moment when she could not have intervened. If it was here to harm them, why had it not made its move then? Evan said it felt strong, which made her worry she missed an abyssal somewhere along the way. Many of them, at least according to recent research, preferred weeks and months of slow maddening to murder. Certain spirits could derive untold amounts of pleasure from watching a mortal’s slow descent into insanity.

She stepped over a root that encroached on the jogging path and wondered how deep the soil went before it hit the city plate.
Enough for trees, apparently.
The occasional holographic sign flickered into view as she moved, bearing reminders that visitors to the park were responsible for any litter. Continued tweaking at her mental defenses kept her on guard, but a presence still watched her.

To the right, a spread of debris outlined a space of grass claimed by vagrants. Three crude shelters ringed a nine-foot-wide metal dish filled with ash, a cover from an articulated cargo mover’s wheel motor. Still, she found no larger trace of paranormal energy. Small bits of trash wrapped about trees, flapping in the wind. A bot the size of a shoebox orbited the camp, itching to issue someone a fine for littering. Detecting her motion, it came zooming over. By the time it reached her, its prosecutorial zeal had faded to a disappointed nose-down approach. A small holo-panel sticking out of its side displayed her face―her official ID image.

“Good afternoon, officer. Have you located the parties responsible for this code violation?”

Kirsten smirked at it. “Please tell me you’re not just going to slap a littering fine on the first person you find who isn’t a police employee.”

The floating bot sagged. “Pardon my enthusiasm. I’ve been on this assignment for ninety-three hours now.”

“I hate to throw sand in your lubricant, but the people responsible for that campsite probably don’t even have citizen registrations. You should move on.”

“I can’t,” whined a petulant male voice, “my program does not contain a logic gate for failure-slash-lack of suspects.”

“Well, what will you do if you find the ones responsible and they don’t have a PID transponder to fine?”

It trailed behind her as she walked. “In that event, I am programmed to use verbal compliance enforcement techniques.”

BOOK: Division Zero: Thrall
13.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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