Shades of Honor

By: Sandy Williams

An Anomaly Novel, Book 2

1





The air raid siren shook the walls of the wide rotunda, rattling the transpara-shield dome above the tiled floor. The politicians below it glanced upward at the noise, but when the t-dome didn’t flicker or spark, they continued their conversations and idle walks.

“Everyone meander for your lives,” Ash muttered. She didn’t bother to look at the comm-cuff looped around her wrist to see if the siren was a false alarm. Like the politicians she was assigned to protect, she knew it wasn’t worth a single tap on the cuff screen.

This assignment wasn’t worth a tap on the cuff.

“You going to move, Ashdyn?” The terse question came over the voice-link hooked over her ear. Ash’s gaze traveled across the rotunda to where Hauch, one of her new teammates, stood guard. His big body blocked off the entrance to the subterranean conference corridor, an underground complex that was the most secure meeting place on Meryk. And inside one of those rooms—the Werth Room, though Ash wasn’t supposed to have that intel—the most powerful individual in the Coalition sat at a data-table plotting a course of action that would decide the future of the Known Universe.

The minister prime had been plotting that course for a full standard month.

Ash bounced on her toes. It was the only way to expel the sudden burst of energy that urged her to run. The alarm hadn’t caused it. This damn assignment did. Her skills and training were wasted here. There wasn’t one telepath among those politicians. And even if there had been, Ash couldn’t guarantee she’d detect them.

This was not the best way to preserve and protect the Coalition.

“Answer me, Ashdyn.”

Ash’s nostrils flared at the use of her full last name. Hauch didn’t know her. No one on this new team did. And she didn’t care to know them. The only names that mattered to Ash were now laser-carved into Merykian granite in a memorial on the other side of the city.

Ash exhaled, unwilling to let that pain back in. “Give it two minutes. They’ll announce the false alarm.”

She shifted in her too-tight body armor. Her custom-fitted armor had been confiscated after the disastrous mission to Chalos II, and since her financial accounts were still locked down, she hadn’t been able to purchase a new set.

“It’s not your job to anticipate false alarms. It’s your job to clear the rotunda.” The look Hauch gave her said he blamed her for this assignment. From the beginning, he’d been the soldier most resistant to her presence on the team.

No, that wasn’t true. Ash was the soldier most resistant to her presence. If she’d put in the effort, she could have proved she belonged. All she would have had to do was run a few of her typical stunts. Then she’d earn their acceptance.

A loud laugh bounced off the rotunda walls. More politicians. They looked important in their light-trimmed suits. Their expensive comm-cuffs glittered beneath the artificial lights, and assistants trailed them as if they were centers of gravity, pulling worlds into their orbits.

“If you don’t move your ass,” Hauch said, “I’ll have you assigned to sanitation duty with the bots.”

“That shit would be more entertaining than this.”

“What did you say?”

The threat in Hauch’s voice didn’t faze her. She’d spent a year training under the most intimidating man in the universe. She’d resisted Rykus’s influence, his interrogations, his accusations. And then, after she’d proved her innocence and found her sanity again, she’d resisted his attempt to put light-years between them. Instead, they’d spent four days together on a tachyon capsule that bent space and time to bring them to Meryk.

To Meryk. Where Rykus had been taken in for “questioning” and they were separated.

“You heard me, Hauch.” It might have been unfair to take her frustration out on the other soldier, but Ash was pissed the prime wouldn’t tell her anything about Rykus’s whereabouts. And she was pissed she couldn’t find him on her own. All she knew was that he’d left Meryk. It had taken her hours to uncover that information, but she’d found his name hidden beneath layers of security on the manifest of a capsule that left the star system two days after they’d arrived. The capsule had six destinations, and so far, Ash hadn’t found Rykus listed on any of the debarkation reports.

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