Thank you for stopping by and joining us for our stop on the Read-A-Long portion of The Rebels by Elizabeth Lang virtual tour. We are excited to post this segment of the story and we hope you enjoy it too!
On the cusp of freedom, Adrian Stannis is plunged into the world of bounty hunters and rebels, each one valuing his head with the kind of single-minded intensity that does not bode well for his dream of peace and a fully stocked lab in a quiet and obscure corner of the galaxy.
Dragged along against his will by a barbarian intent on selling him back to the Empire, Adrian ‘accidentally’ kidnaps an emergency room doctor–because that is the kind of thing he does, while Kali and Bryce try to find him and become embroiled in an adventure of their own, one that leads to a sinister mystery that might destroy them all.
Part adventure, part misadventure, this tale packs one punch after another until the final shocking ending.
Adrian stared at the self-professed rebel with a blank expression on his face. If the man had said two-headed aliens, he could not have been more surprised. “You’re not smugglers.”
“We’re free traders,” said Trey. There was a confident lift of his head, as if the title were a uniform he wore proudly.
“Smugglers with a different name,” he said dismissively, twisting his wrists in the cuffs, trying to ease the spreading numbness. Knowing who these people were did not tell him if they intended to honor an agreement bound only by commerce.
Trey leaned forward, his fingers tensing around the grip, aiming a little too close to Adrian’s head. “We’re free traders.”
“We transport supplies for the rebel alliance.”
“For a hefty price most likely,” said Adrian with an insulting lilt. He knew the rates these smugglers charged for their ‘transportation services’. It had cost a sizeable chunk of the bounty hunter’s bank account. It was a piece of information he had not seen fit to tell Argus yet.
“We have to eat.”
“You could buy a chain of restaurants with the money I’m paying you.”
“Yeah well, we have to live,” Trey said defensively, emphasizing this with a wave of the muzzle in Adrian’s face.
Adrian followed the movement nervously. With the proximity of the gun, it only took a single mistake to be the last one and he currently didn’t have the luxury of moving out of its way.
He kept his voice even. “Which is why I contacted you. What I did not expect was your affiliation with the rebels.”
“You have something against rebels?”
“I have no feelings about them one way or the other.”
“You should considering who you are.”
Adrian fixed him with a penetrating stare. He was getting a suffocating feeling, the kind where people were making plans for his life without consulting him first. Why did they always do that? Why couldn’t people leave him alone?
“What do you intend to do with me?” he asked.
The sharp bark of a phaser cut off any chance for a reply, followed by several bursts in quick succession. Adrian stretched his cuffs towards the door, his ears straining.
Trey’s lips curled in a nervy half-smile. “It’s your friend. We set a trap for him.”
“He’s not my friend. He’s a killer.”
If only he had a few more seconds, long enough for Trey to respond to the question. Unanswered, it hung in the air like a noose waiting for a neck.
“You paid us to neutralize him. He’s going to be neutralized.”
The shots stopped, filling the pause with a sinister silence.
A growing uneasiness made Adrian’s skin crawl. “What do you mean by neutralize?”
Trey motioned him to be quiet and put his ear to the door.
“You’re going to kill him?”
The free trader whispered, “That’s what you paid for. Sounds like they’re done.”
The bottom dropped out of Adrian’s stomach and his face paled. These people weren’t supposed to be assassins. They were supposed to capture the bounty hunter and remove him as a threat. He leaned into the cuffs and they bit into his wrists with malice. It never occurred to him that ‘neutralize’ would involve killing.
He took a shuddering breath. “You made a mistake. I made a mistake.”
“What?” Trey turned to ask when the door burst open, knocking him back as a fist hammered into the side of his head. He dropped like a dead weight, thudding to the deck as Argus shoved the door the rest of the way.
Adrian froze at the appearance of the hulking ex-soldier and a wave of relief washed over him.
“We have to get out of here,” Argus wheezed, pressing a rapidly spreading red stain on his right side just below the ribs. His eyes were bright, feverish. “It was a trap. They were going to sell us to the Empire.”
Adrian refrained from correcting him. He looked down at the unconscious Trey. With the bounty hunter alive and here, it only left one possibility. “You killed the others?”
“What do you think?” Argus staggered over and unlocked the handcuffs.
“Of course you did. That’s what killers do.” Adrian’s hands clenched as his wrists pulled free.
“Don’t even think it,” growled Argus, the muzzle of his gun magically appearing under Adrian’s chin, forcing it up.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m injured, not dead. Even with one arm and one leg, I can still beat you to a pulp, so don’t try anything.”
“I wasn’t thinking of it.”
“Then you’re either a liar or a fool. This would be the perfect opportunity to try something.”
“I don’t need to knock you out to escape; I only have to wait. The blood loss will take care of the rest.”
“Don’t hold your breath.” Argus grabbed a towel from the shelf and pressed it to his blood-soaked shirt. He cinched his belt over it and zipped up the jacket. “Let’s go.” He shoved the rucksack into Adrian’s hands.
Kali covered her nose, suppressing a sneeze. Every brush of her knees on the metal tunnel, every whisper, echoed in the confined space, sounding unnaturally loud.
Bryce crawled ahead, holding a hand torch in his left hand. He rapped it on the side and the thing flickered.
“Damn. I think the charge is going.”
“We’d better move faster then.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.”
Adrian felt close; she was almost certain he was in the spaceport, or at least nearby. They had to find him soon.
“We should have used the service entrance,” she whispered.
“And get ourselves caught? No thanks,” said Bryce. He brushed aside a cobweb and yelped as a red-spotted spider skittered away.
“It was just…nothing.”
“I have a feeling Adrian’s close. He may already be on a ship.”
In the shadows, Bryce was a dark blog twisting around to look at her.
“Then we’re sunk.”
“No, we’re not. I’m not giving up.” She pushed his leg. “Keep going.”
“It’s too bad you can’t tell where he is.” He continued forward.
“You know I can’t do that with humans.”
“Yeah, I know. We’re too alien for you.”
“We’re not that different,” said Kali. It was an old prejudice she generally tended to ignore. “Tellarans are human too, or humanoid as you Earthers like to call us. The original settlers on our world came from Earth over a millennia ago. Genetically, we’re identical except for two genes that encourage psi abilities.”
He slowed again. “I thought all Tellarans had psi abilities.”
“Not all of us, but there are more with each successive generation.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It’s not common knowledge.”
It was information Adrian had taken the time to research when they first met. His natural mistrust of people drove him to find out as much as he could about the woman who had been assigned to work with him, but she had sensed something else, an undercurrent of personal interest.
She continued, “My people believed the human condition could be improved through genetic engineering. They weren’t looking for psi abilities specifically. At first, we thought it was a flaw in the genome.”
“Some flaw. I’d love to be able to read minds.”
“You’re only thinking about the uses of telepathy.”
“Not the ramifications. It wasn’t easy for the progenitors. Some became insane before we realized what was happening. Some were driven mad because they couldn’t shut out the voices in their heads. Now mental discipline is mandatory and—”
“Ow!” Bryce rubbed his head.
Adrian shifted the rucksack to his left hand. It didn’t seem this heavy when the bounty hunter was carrying it. He shuffled along, a combination of weariness and the need to draw out the time until this man collapsed.
The ham-fisted hand at his collar yanked back and Adrian choked.
“Quit stalling, Stannis,” Argus rasped.
“I’m still waiting.”
“I’m still breathing.” Argus twisted the material and pushed him ahead.
Adrian gasped. “Not much from the sounds of it.”
Their boots clanged on the mesh as they headed for the stairs. If only there was something he could do to speed the process along. How much blood did one person have to lose in order to fall unconsciousness?
The injured man leaned on his shoulder, hissing through clenched teeth. “Keep going.”
“Even if we get off this ship, you cannot get very far in your condition.”
“Don’t bet on it.”
“I’m not a gambling man, but it wouldn’t be much of a gamble.”
Kali’s words entered his mind. Adrian, we’re inside the port. Try to stay on the planet until we can find you.
A hatch creaked opened on the right and two men in faded military fatigues rushed at them from a side gangway, aiming at the closest target, which appeared to be Adrian’s head.
“No!” Argus shouted, jerking back, sending Adrian flying. The first bark of his gun sliced through the air as a tracer tore into the right side of his chest. He staggered, crashing into the rail with an oomph as he continued firing, grabbing onto the top bar for support.
Adrian smashed into a closed hatchway and crumpled to the gangway, stunned. The freshly painted gray walls swam towards him as he fought to stay conscious. The rest of the scene played out like a slow-moving dream as he clutched at a rail to pull himself up but couldn’t seem to reach it.
Short spears of deadly rays flared on the metal walls like a celebratory light display. Panels sparked and one burst into dancing flames of partially nude women. One of them looked like Kali. Adrian shook his head and groaned as an upsurge of nausea overtook him. He forced his mind to stay focused.
Double bursts hit one crew member and he toppled like a statue with its legs cut off at the knees. The other screamed as a fiery beam plunged into the middle of his chest. His pistol dropped from slack hands and he fell forward.
The bounty hunter slid down the railing, his gun still clasped tightly in fingers that seemed molded to the grip. The adrenaline-fueled flame in his eyes dulled as he slumped forward. It was the last thing Adrian remembered before a rush of darkness washed over him.
Argus groaned and lifted his head. Death rattled in his lungs and a heavy weight of agony crushed down on his chest. It took all his strength to drag air into his lungs.
The gray-coveralled attackers lay where they fell.
It was a good battle and he was the last man left…lying down. He chuckled and groaned as pain clawed through his body. His blood dribbled down, squeezing through the mesh and splashing to the deck below.
In a way, it was a relief.
He angled his head back. Stannis lay on the walkway like a folded up rag. The man was finally free and he wasn’t conscious enough to appreciate it.
At least he finally stop talking, a minor miracle. The man was determined though, and he was loyal to his friends. It made him somewhat tolerable.
It was too bad that it was only a matter of time before he was caught.
His hand curled tighter around the gun. It was an old friend, staying with him longer than anyone he had ever known.
They were a good team, mainly reliable and almost as deadly as he was. He slid the safety into place and tossed it carefully.
Also, Elizabeth Lang has shared with us exclusive pictures from The Empire Series
To read more of the Read-A-Long please follow the tour schedule…
03/03/2013 – Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways – Chapter 1
I’m a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery. Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn’t put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which ‘The Empire’ and ‘The Rebels’ are the first two of a four books series.
You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:
Author Page on FaceBook | Blog | Twitter | Website
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