Friday, May 25, 2018

Sneak Peek: Return of the Nine

Today I'm happy to share a snippet from Return of the Nine, the sixth (and perhaps final) book in the Divine Protector Series. As always, please remember this is very early and may not look perfect.

“What happened?” Gorg asked.

They were currently gathered around a sturdy black conference table in the main hall of Athena’s Crystal Palace which they had rebuilt with a more pleasing aesthetic following her death. Now it had a modern feel with ergonomic furniture, proper windows and up-to-date office equipment lining the walls. And now it was made out of steel instead of gaudy glass.

Minerva sat the phone down. “I don’t know. All I get is this ear-splitting noise."

“We should have the technicians look at it,” Hercules said. He then hollered at a passerby, “Prisoner!”

Unlike everyone else who worked for the interim government, this particular character didn’t do it by choice. A cruel and sadistic person when she worked for the Flawless Few, she had been captured shortly before they were destroyed. Gorg had placed a power-dampening collar on her and put her to work for the new regime. So great were her crimes that she was stripped of everything, even her name. Now she was simply “Prisoner.”

“Yes?” she said, bowing and making an obvious effort to be as meek and inoffensive as possible. They never physically harmed her, but neither did they ever say they wouldn’t. They kept the possibility alive just to keep her obedient.

“Fetch us a technician,” Hercules said.

“Right away, milord!”

She scurried off to do his bidding. Minerva had spent enough time with her over the years to know better than to trust that one. If she ever got the chance, she would turn on them in a heartbeat.
“You sure look happy. What are you thinking about?” Gorg asked his wife.
“Oh, just the time Ev smashed that bitch’s face in,” she replied.
“Violence against women is no laughing matter,” Hercules said while seated across from her.
“She kept us prisoner for years,” Minerva said. “I couldn’t see my family. She tried to kill Ev.”
Herc folded his arms stubbornly. “Not being able to see my family was a blessing.”
Minerva waved a hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, your dad was a dick. We get it.” Prisoner returned with Larz, their head technician. “Larz, we lost the signal.”
“It’s not just you,” he said. “It’s moonwide. I can’t reach anyone.”
“I don’t like this,” Herc said.
Minerva shrugged. “Can’t say I’m enjoying it, either.” She turned to Larz. “What’s causing it?”
“I don’t know. Some sort of signal appeared a few minutes ago.”
“Where’s it originating from?” she asked.
She didn’t like the look in his eyes: scared. “It appears to be coming from everywhere. All directions, like it’s surrounding the moon.”
“Hmmm,” she said. “We need to—”
She was cut off by a deafening explosion somewhere nearby, accompanied by a titanic shaking. “What was that?” Gorj said.
They ran outside and were greeted by artificial sunlight coming from the equally fake sky. When Athena ran things here, it was always midnight. A change was in order when the new regime rose.
The Crystal Palace itself was in a barren valley; Since there was no sun, Athena didn’t care if the place looked bleak. They were surrounded by miles of brown dirt and high canyon walls.
At the moment, none of this commanded their attention as much as the sight unfolding ahead. “What the…?” Minerva said. Fire and smoke dominated the horizon beyond the canyon walls. Riding ahead of the destruction was a fleet of dozens of black triangular craft swiftly approaching their location at mach speed.
Within moments the craft were upon them. The things were flying a V formation, raining down deadly green beams which caused explosions wherever they hit. Minerva had been around long enough to recognize psychological warfare; with very few targets in the area, these bastards were raining down destruction to scare them.
“Stand together!” she ordered. The others nodded.
A hole opened in the bottom of one of the craft, and out shot a metal disk. It accelerated towards them, barely missing the assembled gods, and embedded itself in the ground.
Minerva stared at it. There was a dim green light on top of the thing. It quickly grew brighter and emitted a high-pitched whine. Too late, she realized grouping together had been a huge mistake.
The disk exploded in a white light. Minerva flew backwards as if being hit by a haradium wall. She landed on her back and everything went black.
Consciousness returned and she opened her eyes. She didn’t know how much time passed. She managed to turn her head to have a look around. All around her, her fellow gods had been incapacitated and lay in various states. Some were conscious, others not so much. None appeared to be offering much resistance.
She attempted to direct healing energy to her body, only to realize with alarm she had none. Whatever that weapon was, it had stolen her powers. That explained why no one else was fighting back.
Another fleet of craft appeared overhead, these ones circular. They began shooting down beams onto the other gods and scooping them up. Mortal or not, she’d be damned if she wasn’t about to try and help. But, alas, she could barely move.
A child’s cry cut the air. “Help!”
Minerva knew that voice. “Sumi!”
“Mom! Dad! Help!” She was near the Crystal Palace entrance being sucked up into the air, her limbs flailing wildly in an attempt to escape. She wore a red dress with a floral pattern, and her shoulder-length hair was a mess, probably due to tractor beam. She must have come outside, either out of curiosity or to try and help.
With savage effort, Minerva managed to get to her feet which seemed to weigh a literal ton. There was no part of her that wanted to move, but she put everything she had into putting one foot in front of the other. “I’m coming, Sumi!”

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