This is going to be a quick post, since I have to be up at 4:30 in the morning to get ready and head to the airport. Another trip to Las Vegas in in my immediate future. I’ll only be in that city and environs for three days, then it’s off to Death Valley, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon (several locations), Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods and Canyonland. I will be filming the entire way on a pair of Gopro style cameras, and hope to put them up a half hour at a time on Youtube. This week has been busy. I turned in a short story that will be published in Galaxy’s Edge, which will be a lead up and background to the Kinship War series coming out later this year. And I finished Theocracy Book 2, which I put up on Amazon last night. It is also on Kindle Unlimited. I figure out the other day that I’m making as much on that venue most months, so for a book like this, which will probably get at most a thousand or two outright sales, it just makes sense. It’s available on Amazon US here, and Amazon UK here. While I’m out west I will be looking at locations for several possible series to be written in the future.
So here’s the excerpt:
Shadow moved through the almost total darkness like his name. Cats had terrific night vision to start with, part of their arsenal as a night hunter. Shadow was from genetically engineered stock, with twice the visual sensitivity of his species in the dark. That was what he had been made for. The final alteration had been the quantum organic module that had been planted in his brain. It was a twin of the one his mistress carried and allowed them to communicate through all modalities, no matter the distance.
Now he was stalking through the total darkness, making not a sound, looking for prey his species had never been meant to hunt. Fortunately for him he had been created with the weapons he needed to take down that prey. Each of the claws on any paw was attached to a different gland. Each paw was able to deploy five different substances from those glands. One was a soporific that would knock just about any creature into unconsciousness. The second was a substance that caused intense pain to flow through the body of the victim. The third would put the subject into a trance from which he would respond to any suggestion. The fourth was a fast-acting poison that caused instant death. And the fifth, what was called painful death, did just what the name said.
Shadow crept up the pipe he had found in the wall, his whiskers making sure that his body would fit. His ears were zeroing in on the human moving on the other side of the wall, whispering words. The cat knew about human communication devices. In fact, whatever Alyssa knew, so did he, on a much simpler level.
The cat came out on a small ledge, looking up and down the corridor. The human was moving along it, his helmeted head looking left and right, at the floor, but not up. Never up. What could be waiting up there in the darkness to harm the Marine? Shadow lay perfectly still, not moving a muscle, his vision unerringly picking out a vulnerable spot where the helmet overlapped the neck covering. It would take precision to strike that spot, but precision was something the cat had in abundance.
Painful death, came the command in the cat’s mind. Shadow didn’t really like that method of dispatching the foe. But it was the one his mistress was calling for, and she must have a reason.
Shadow made his leap as the man passed below. His hind paws, claws out, landed on the skinsuit, their razor-sharp carbon fiber digging in slightly, just enough to give him purchase. He brought his forepaws up and drove them into the uncovered region at the back of the neck. All ten claws penetrated, but only the middle talon on the left actually injected anything. Sure that the poison had gone home, Shadow pushed off from the man, twisted in the air, and landed on his feet, taking off at full speed down the corridor. He took a right at the next cross and was into the darkness, gone.
The Marine grunted as the claws drove home. His legs went out from under him as the poison sped through his body, landing in a trembling heap. And then the agony hit. The man opened his mouth in a scream that wouldn’t end until his heart stopped five to ten minutes later. A few seconds after that his brain function would stop as the enzymes in the poison ate the neurons. There would be no coming back from that.
* * *
“What in all the hells is that?” asked Griisla as the faint screams sounded in the distance. It sounded much like a sentient being that was being burned to death. But all of his people were here.
“Shadow just made a kill,” said Alyssa, a troubled look on her face.
“With what?” asked the captain. “A flame thrower.”
“It’s called painful death,” she told the Maurid. “Something to put the fear of God into those religious fanatics. I don’t think they’re going to be moving incautiously from here on.”
The Maurid continued staring at her. He shook his head, then walked on, leading the party down the corridor.
“What next?” asked Patrick, walking beside the woman.
Alyssa was still linked with the cat, though this time she was only using half of her concentration, letting Shadow pick his own way through the maze. “Next we kill another. But this time instantly. And painless.”
“Then why subject the first one to such torture?”
They could still hear the Marine screaming in the distance, along with the yells of the men who had found him.
“They will fear the dark,” she said with conviction. “From here on they will be taking their time looking for us.”
The monk looked like he still didn’t like it, but he nodded his recognition of the solution she had come up with.