Final Protocol…up for preorder

My first straight SF in…well…ever.  There is a romantic sub-plot, so for those who need some romance, and for those who think…ewww…yuck, romance…


“If you’re in the mood to watch, he might let you. After he’s done.”

I looked away from the couple to find Garner staring at me with his dark, dead eyes. “Watching isn’t really my thing, Garner.”

“No. You prefer to fuck my brother and try to play cunt-games with him.” He leaned in, the smell of synthetic garlic heavy on his breath. “The games don’t work. But it’s fun to watch you try.”

My gut rolled. Play with his brother. If only I had much choice in it. I’d stay on the other side of the galaxy if I had any say in the matter. But I didn’t mention that. If either of them had any idea just how deep my revulsion ran, it would become a tool, a weapon against me. Instead of showing how I felt, I reached up and touched a finger to his cheek. “You spend an awful lot of time worrying about the games I play with your brother, Garner… What’s the matter?” I leaned in closer and pressed my lips to his ear. “Are you jealous?”

Then I pushed around him and headed for the center of the dance floor.

You might think he’d have his offices in the back. Or down below the floor, in a dungeon, where monsters like him should rot.

But no. He kept his offices high above, and if I wanted in during business hours, I had to take the tube in the middle of the floor. Where he could see me coming.

Garner was right behind me.

I pretended not to notice.

It wasn’t that hard. If he were going to try and hurt me, he’d have had more of his men with him, and he would have done it outside.

That meant I had a bigger fear to concern myself with. I’d rather take pain over his other forms of keeping me in line. Pain was easy. The humiliations… Shudders gripped me, wrenched at me, even as I fought not to let Garner see any sign of what I was feeling.

No matter what he’d said to get me here, my handler wouldn’t just let me walk away from a job like that.

There would be a reckoning.

And if he wouldn’t take it in blood, he’d take it in flesh.

My body was already burning.

My soul was already screaming.

A hand came up behind me and shoved me into the tube and then Garner crowded in around me.

As it sucked us up into the air, I bowed my head, my hands braced on the smooth, clear ’stene surface.

I’d get through this.

I’d done it before.

I’d even do this job, I thought, just because doing it took me away from Jakor. Maybe this would be the last one. Maybe when it was done, I’d guide my transport into the nearest star and end it, swift and easy. Or I could just fuck with the wiring on my transport, dump the oxygen supply—I knew how to do that. I’d killed one of my targets that way once. It wasn’t a pleasant way to die, but I didn’t need pleasant. I just needed it done and final.

Anything to be away from here, forever.

The tube opened up and Garner slid past me.

I stepped outside and slowly lifted my head. Darkness greeted me. This…this wasn’t good. Heart hammering against my ribs, sweat trickling down between my breasts, my shoulder blades, a dull memory worked its way free. It was an old memory; more than a decade had passed since that day. The first time I truly remembered much of anything…including the man who awaited me somewhere in the darkness.

He owed me money. But he was too afraid to face me himself…so I’m taking you instead. You’ll have to serve in his stead…

And here I was. Still serving. Still trapped.

It would end when I made it end.

Twelve years. It was enough.

Yes. I’d do this final job, and then I’d find a way to end this. I’d either find that botanist, or I’d find my own end. Either way, I’d never return here, to this place, ever again.

A shimmer of gold moved in the darkness and I turned my head, saw him.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I managed to form words.

“Hello, Gold.”

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