The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(7)By: Laura Thalassa
Rather than slowing, our vehicle accelerates.
I hear a familiar click. The sound of a gun being cocked. I look up at the final soldier standing. He has a gun trained on me.
“Don’t fucking move. I swear I’ll shoot,” he says. His body is trembling.
Freedom or death—the poster got that much correct about me. I’m not letting these men take me hostage, even if it costs me my life.
Lord knows I hadn’t expected to live this long.
The soldier doesn’t shoot. I can tell he wants to look at his fallen comrades, the ones that are moaning and those that have gone still, but he’s smart enough to know that the moment he takes his eyes off of me, he’ll join their ranks.
“We freed you,” he says.
“Swapping one prison for another is no freedom,” I tell him.
He opens his mouth, but I don’t give him time to respond. I turn my gun on him, and I shoot.
The bullet takes him between the eyes. He remains upright for a moment longer, then his legs fold and his body lands with a thump.
I take a moment to catch my breath. Blood is seeping onto my dress. I can feel the warmth of it against my thighs. It sticks to my back, staining the material crimson. The vehicle is a mess of dead men.
I can still hear two clinging to life, their breathing labored. When I catch sight of them, my stolen gun comes up and I pull the trigger twice. It’s not just a mercy killing. Dying men have nothing to lose. Even though I’m some long dead queen, and even though they needed me alive, none of that matters much when you’re bleeding out.
The vehicle is still canting from side to side, and I can hear the driver yelling, but I can’t tell if his words are meant for me or for the men bearing down on us.
I lean my back against the wall. Until the driver is either killed or decides to stop the car, there’s not much for me to do except muse over my dark thoughts.
I reach out and exchange my gun for another, wiping the bloodied metal off on my skirts, taking in my surroundings again as I do so. I expected the future to be clean and shiny like a new penny. But I’m not seeing clean and shiny. The interior of this vehicle is rusted and stained. The men’s uniforms are faded. And the soldiers themselves had a sinewy, desperate look about them.
I don’t believe I like this future very much at all.
Suddenly the car slams to stop. I hear the driver side door being thrown open, followed by the sound of pounding footsteps moving farther and farther away from the vehicle. More gunfire goes off outside.
Time for me to move.
I push my body off the ground, blood seeping between my toes. For the first time in over a century I stand on my own two feet. The gown I wear drapes off my shoulders, and my drenched skirts stick to my legs.
I am a thing made of lace and blood. Swathed in silk and dripping with the dark deeds of men. I suppose I’m finally clothed accordingly.
The adrenaline I felt earlier resurges through my veins, and I grip my gun tighter.
I’d like to say that I can feel all those years I lost, that they left some imprint on my body or my mind. But I can’t. Other than my memories feeling a bit foggy, there’s no indication that I’d been asleep for decades rather than hours.
That makes this all worse. Because it seems like only hours ago the king told me he loved me. The moment that love became inconvenient for him, that fucker let me waste away. My breathing is coming faster and faster.
My monster, my husband, my captor. Soon he will be my victim.
I always considered Montes the thing of my nightmares. Now I’ll be his.
Yes, I think as I step up to the vehicle’s rear doors, I will enjoy killing him.
“Come out with your hands up!”
Even the orders of the future remain the same. Has nothing changed at all?
Pressing my back against one of the vehicle’s doors, I use my hand to throw open the other. Instead of the gunfire I expect, a dozen different soldiers yell orders to exit the car. Those orders die away when they catch sight of the bodies.
Finally, fearfully, one calls out, “Serenity?”
I close my eyes. “I’m here,” I say.
“Is there anyone with you?”
“No one living.”
There’s a pause as the king’s men process that. Whatever they were told about me, I’m guessing that it hasn’t prepared them for who I really am.
“You can come out, Your Majesty. We won’t shoot.”
I open my eyes and push away from the wall and into the open doorway. Sunlight touches my skin for the first time in a very long time. I soak it in. The day is full of firsts.
I step down from the car and onto the dirt road.
A hush falls over my audience as they catch sight of me. Then slowly, one by one, they kneel.
I stop and take them in. I had prepared for their horror, dressed in blood as I am, not their veneration.
There are dozens of soldiers circled around the car I exited. Behind their ranks, several armored vehicles are parked, lights flashing. Above us, a chopper circles.
It’s all the same. The machinery might look slightly different, but it doesn’t appear to have advanced in all this time. Prosperity breeds progress, and this, this isn’t progress.