SHIELD (Book #2)
“And Death will live among them in the guise of a child…”
Grappling with her new identity as “Bridge,” a being meant to herald the end for all of humanity, isn’t even Allie’s biggest problem. A new set of rules around Seer culture and her relationship with the infamous Seer infiltrator, Revik, keep getting her in trouble, and the power-hungry Rook she helped put in the White House wants war with China.
Then the boy appears. A sociopath with all of the energetic markings of Syrimne, a deadly telekinetic who killed thousands during World War I, he doesn’t appear to have aged in one hundred years.
Worse, he thinks Allie belongs to him.
*Warning: this book contains graphic language, sex, and violence. Mature readers only. Not intended for young readers.*
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Praise for SHIELD
“Once again, Andrijeski has a winning novel…” ~ Charlene Mabie-Gable, Literary R&R
“…This novel is better than the first!” ~ ML Sawyer, book blogger
“…Oh my. And by that I mean, OH MY! I devoted every waking moment of two days to this book…” ~ SM Johnson, author of the DeVante vampire series
“I read both books in about four days as I couldn't seem to put them down.” ~ The Speculative Salon
“I simply cannot wait to read the next book...” ~ Escape Into A Book
“If you have not read anything by J.C. Andrijeski run, do not walk...” ~ The Cabin Goddess
“Remarkable story… not a book to set aside easily.” ~ Irene Watts, author
“HOLD HIM!” CHANDRE caught another infiltrator by the neck.
Her braids whipped behind her like a dark tail as she slammed the smaller, Tibetan-looking female into a wall, knocking down wall hangings and flecks of blue paint. She shoved the barrel of a gun into the hollow of the woman’s throat, aiming upwards, throwing the image of her intent into the other’s mind so there’d be no mistake.
In nearly the same instant, Chandre jerked her eyes to me.
“Stay back! I mean it, Bridge!”
I held a gun myself. You wouldn’t know it by the way they were all treating me. I had six babysitters, all of them sure they were doing God’s work, protecting me from harm.
Being leader wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Even so, I trained my gun on the other seer in the room, a male, even as Maygar, Dorje, Brevin, Alex and Cass came in behind me. I knew Chandre didn’t want me there at all. All of them, even Cass, would rather if I’d stayed on the plane. But I couldn’t simply sit there. Maybe it was selfish, but I just couldn’t do it. I pushed my increasingly long mane of dark hair out of my face, wishing I’d tied it back with one of the leather thongs Cass had used.
It still had burgandy at the ends, from when I’d dyed it in Seattle.
I spoke Prexci, the only language all seers know.
“Where is it?” I pointed the gun at the male infiltrator’s chest. We know you’re holding it for him, I said directly into his mind. You can come with us. We’ll make sure he can’t retaliate. We can protect you.
The seer laughed. A young male, he had high cheekbones and violet eyes he probably wore contacts over when working with humans. He spat in my direction, not bothering with words to respond to my offer.
He wore fatigues, I noticed, the uniform of Russian infantry.
I took a step nearer, wiping my face.
“Where is it?” I said again. I raised the gun, pointing it at his face.
Maygar crossed the room behind me. Walking to where I stood, he grabbed the collar of the seer I had in my sights. He proceeded to drag him across the room.
“Maygar, wait!” I said in English. “Don’t hurt him!”
The muscular seer with the sword and sun tattoo on his arm acted like he didn’t hear me. I clicked at him in irritation as he pulled a hunting knife from the sheath on his thigh, showing it to the other seer before he set it against his neck. He growled something at the seer in Russian.
I saw the violet eyes lose their confidence as he spoke.
Then I heard a word I recognized, and the violet eyes shifted to me, just before they widened in fear.
“Bridge?” he whispered in Prexci.
“Where is it?” Maygar said in English. Or she’ll create a new orifice in that pretty face of yours. Without even breaking a sweat.
I lowered my gun, biting back my irritation. The seer began jabbering at him again, in Russian. Maygar listened for a moment, then looked at me.
“The other room,” he said, in accented English. He motioned with his head. “There’s a box in there. He says it’s all paper. No organics.” He shook the seer, asking him something again in Russian.
The seer nodded emphatically, pointing again to the other door.
“Paper only,” Maygar confirmed.
Fighting an impulse to reprimand Maygar, I turned instead, walking to the door he’d motioned towards with his head.
When I entered the small bedroom on the other side, I passed Cass, who gave me a half-smile that stretched the scar on her face. Her delicate features showed through beneath the scar, but it still hurt me a little, each time I saw it.
Growing up, she’d always looked like a model to me, with her odd mixture of Thai, Ethiopian, Scottish and whatever else she’d inherited from her two parents.
Now she clutched a gun in both hands, looking like something in a guns and ammo magazine with her shocking black and dyed-scarlett hair. The T-shirt stretched across her chest had a picture of one of her favorite graphic novel charcters with words that read, “Spacegirl Don’t Need a Reason.”
Unlike my adopted brother, Jon, Cass had embraced living with the seers in a way I couldn’t possibly have imagined when we were best friends in San Francisco a year ago.
Of course, being tortured for months by a psychotic seer could do that to a person.
Somehow, she never blamed me. I wished I could say the same.
Touching her shoulder as I passed, I entered the bedroom. A flapping rag covered the one, broken window.
Terian, the aforementioned psychotic seer, had been cleaning up, ever since he managed to come into power in the human world. Thanks to me, the craziest, smartest and most bloodthirsty seer I’d yet encountered was now President of the United States. He’d figured out a way to break his mind into pieces to spread himself across numerous physical bodies, and managed to place one of those bodies in the White House. He’d managed it because I’d killed the previous president, a genetically-evolved human who happened to be the head of the Rooks’ international network of seers.
I walked to the wooden crate. It lay on a bed with broken springs that sagged nearly to the floor. The whole room smelled of mold and cat piss and rotted wood.
I turned. Chandre was staring at me with her dark red eyes.
“Don’t touch it, Bridge… d’ gaos! You’re like a child wandering in a wild animal park covered in blood.”
I backed away from the box, even as Cass laughed at Chandre’s visual.
“I scanned it,” I said, feeling a little put out. “No bombs, Chandre. No Barrier traps. I was just going to look inside.”
“Well, don’t. You may not value your life, but I value mine. Your husband would kill me… literally… if he knew we’d even let you in here.”
“No,” I said, warning her. “Don’t bring up Revik again.”
“Does he even know you are here?” she said, giving me a narrow look.
“No.” I glanced at Cass, then more pointedly at Maygar. “…And I see absolutely no reason why he needs to find out.”
Smiling, Maygar slung his gun over his shoulder, walking back towards the main room. He blew me a kiss with his thick fingers. “You can lie to your husband all you want, Bridge,” he said, winking. “I don’t mind.”
I watched him go, biting my tongue.
“Well, then.” Chandre said, causing me to turn. She folded her muscular arms, quirking an eyebrow. “As Dehgoies is the only person you let order you around, I think someone else should get the honor, in his absence. I figure, why not me?”
Cass laughed again from the doorway, giving me an apologetic grin when I swiveled my gaze to hers. Reaching into her vest, Chandre pulled out a small, olive green device, about the size and shape of a fist-sized rock. She laid it on the crate, where it promptly began to vibrate. Tendrils erupted from the smooth surface, making me flinch.
I still hadn’t gotten used to the types and prevalence of organic machines. According to the World Court, they were supposed to be illegal, but the seers relied on them heavily, especially for military-type ops.
Fascinated and repulsed, I watched the legs softly probe the sides of the wooden box before sliding down the slats of the crate and into the papers stacked and crammed inside.
“I don’t let him order me around,” I muttered.
“Well, you pretend to listen to him at least.”
Chandre gave Cass a wink when the human laughed again. Touching her earpiece to read some kind of signal off the organic, she straightened, training her gaze narrowly on the insect-like creature climbing on the crate. The three of us watched its pale tentacles slide through layers of paper.
“Can it disarm anything that might be in there?” I said.
“Let’s hope so, Bridge,” Chandre said. “I don’t want to be picking bits of you out of my hair, with your human-like reflexes.”
I rolled my eyes, refolding my arms tighter. Insulting my seer prowess by calling me human didn’t seem weird to her, apparently. Not even with Cass––who actually was human––standing right next to her.
The psuedo-organism let out a pale tone, just before the serpentine legs retracted into a fist-sized body, leaving it smooth, lifeless-seeming.
“It’s clean,” Chandre announced.
“Grab it,” I said to Maygar, who appeared in the doorway, watching over my shoulder. “Put it with the others. And check the walls with the sonar. There could be more.”
I watched Cass follow Maygar as seers dispersed around me, doing as I asked.
No one argued anymore when I told them to do things. Even Maygar and Chandre obeyed direct orders if I pressed the point, although they might give me a hard time as they did it. I wasn’t sure if that fact unnerved me more than eased my mind.
I was “the Bridge,” after all.
I had to get used to a lot of things. More than half of those in both the human and seer worlds believed me to be a reincarnated mythological being whose presence on earth heralded the end the world. But I didn’t like thinking about that much, either.
I had a new name. There’d been this whole ceremony.
I had to wear a blue robe. Afterwards, I was “Dehgoies Alyani,” at least on paper.
The name made me nervous. Seers put family names first, like in a lot of Asian countries. It made sense to take Revik’s, I guess, at least temporarily, but I felt pretty strange about it. After all, the last and only time Revik and I talked specifically about our marriage, he’d asked me for a divorce.
Since it wasn’t really a seer tradition for females to take on the names of their husbands, I tried to just let it go. But it wasn’t easy.
The Alyani part was less of a big deal. I’d asked Vash for a seer name I could still shorten to Allie. Alyani was as good as anything.
Anyway, I couldn’t remain Alyson May Taylor… for a lot of reasons.
Not the least of which being that Allie Taylor was wanted for alleged terrorist acts in like 20 countries. Then again, I wondered if we were really fooling anyone, with Terian alive.
I still didn’t have a clan tattoo.
Apparently that had more serious ramifications, in terms of familial duties and so on, so Vash gave me permission to wait. Regardless of what Revik thought about our “marriage” these days, I definitely got the impression he didn’t like his adoptive family much. I didn’t want to use them as a fallback for something I couldn’t reverse, not without talking to him about it first. All of the clans had petitioned for my inclusion in their lineage, now that I’d been formally ID’d as the Bridge by the Council of Seven, so I had options.
Which also meant, no matter what I did, someone would be pissed off.
When I told Vash that, he smiled and said, “Welcome to leadership.”
He wasn’t wrong. Still, he didn’t have to be so blatantly happy about the fact that it was no longer his problem.
In Seertown itself, my new identity was completely wasted.
Everyone but Cass and Jon called me “Bridge.” I had to deal with human and seer religious types coming to Seertown to pay homage, some from as far away as South America. A big festival took over the town just three weeks earlier, where I’d been asked to bless babies, and lots of religious-types named their female babies “Alyson.” I’d also blessed at least one “Revik,” which I couldn’t help finding cute.
I was pretty sure at least a few people filmed me on the dias that day, even though any kind of imaging device was technically illegal within the compound walls.
My face still showed up in the news here and there––my real face, not an avatar––which was extremely rare for anyone still alive. It also meant I was still officially classified as a terrorist and enemy of the World Court.
So I don’t know who they thought they were fooling.
In any case, the last thing I needed was more people giving me shit about Revik.