Please enjoy the first chapter of my new Scifi adventure series:
Have you ever had one of those days where nothing goes right; when all of your careful planning goes right out the proverbial window? If you haven't, congratulations on being a favorite of some divine deity. If you have then you can totally relate to my current state of frustration!
I mean one minute I'm carrying out what should have been a relatively easy Sanction, and the next thing you know I'm caught up in a deadly game of Inter-galactic espionage followed by a momentous life-changing event!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start this tale from the beginning shall we?
My name is Artemis Slade; Art for short. For the last several years I've been a top operative in the United Systems Defense Corp's Sanction Group, which is just a fancy way of saying I'm a government assassin.
Now I now what some of you morally self-righteous types are thinking right about now, but you're wrong: I'm not some heartless monster running around killing helpless beings just to get a rush; although I have to admit some of my colleagues have gone that route.
The life of a Sanctioner can be pretty brutal on the psyche if you're not properly grounded, and there are some experts who argue that a fraternity as dark and gritty as Sanction Group has no place in today's civilized society.
The truth of the matter is that there's a war going on in the universe between the forces of good and evil. We Sanctioners do what we can to keep the majority of it from spilling over into your orderly, law-abiding-citizen living rooms; at least that's the rationale they drilled into us during Basic Training. I personally enjoy my job because it lets me eradicate a bunch a sadistic bastards, and the pay is good; real good! Hey, a boy's gotta eat, right?
But getting back to the story: As I mentioned before, the majority of my targets are criminal or political miscreants who do nothing but stir up constant trouble throughout the Systems, but occasionally Command sends me after an ordinary citizen who's either crossed somebody's sacred line or stepped on someone's fragile toes. I rarely trouble myself with the details of such cases. I simply turn ‘em cold then hit the road; a habit that's allowed me to keep my sanity and, more importantly, my skin intact.
All of that changed when I received the order to Sanction Veronika Kyle; founder and CEO of Redemption Software.
Apparently this little corporate doll had incurred the disfavor of Josef Adams, the Pem System's Senior Councilor and one of two people in the universe I considered a true friend.
The fact that Josef's signature was on the order came as an extreme shock to me. The Councilor was a devout pacifist who strongly opposed the lethal aspects of my profession. Many were the lectures he'd given me on the subject, and many were the naps I'd taken during those treasured moments of male bonding. This sudden reversal on his part left me curious.
I entered the proper code on my secure terminal, pulled up Kyle's file, and whistled in appreciation as her image came into view. Unlike the normal misshapen cretins that normally graced my screen this woman was a looker; a bit mature for my taste but attractive none the less.
A cursory scan through the data revealed no aberrant deeds or tendencies, nor was there any corporate anti-matter attributed to Redemption. What could Kyle have possibly done to incur the Councilor's wrath? Needless to say, my curiosity was peaked even further.
Ignoring my own rule of non-involvement, I activated the holo-phone and put in a call to Josef.
"Councilor Adams's office," droned the bland voice of Josef's aide Calli; a smile replacing the look of bored indifference on his digitally projected image when he recognized me. "Art! What's going on, bud?"
I returned his smile. "Nothing much, Calli." Calli, short for Callisonder, was the second name on my 'friend' short-list; his practical and humorous take on this convoluted situation we call life often providing me a much needed respite from the mental malaise brought on by the darker aspects of my profession. "How're Mari and my god-son?"
Calli laughed. "Those two! Little Cal is determined to turn me into his personal punching bag to practice those fancy moves you've been teaching him, and Mari's got the whole house cluttered with Galax Beauty products for their upcoming 'Spring Fling' promotion. It's enough to drive a saint to evil!"
"And you're loving every minute of it!"
"You know it," Calli said with a chuckle. "Which reminds me; Mari's got a bunch of new skin creams for you to try."
My eyebrows arched with question. "Skin creams?"
Calli gave me a conspiratorial wink. "Yeah, they're to help filter out UV rays. You asteroid miners have to protect yourselves while you're out there floating about the cosmos."
I rolled my eyes in exasperation. "One of these days you're going to have to tell her the truth about what I do for a living, Cal."
"No can do, Art. Marie's got this hang-up about me associating with hardcore assassin types. She's afraid I might get some ideas and put them to use against my irritating in-laws."
I cocked a suspicious eyebrow. "And would you?"
"Oh hell yeah," he cried, and I burst out laughing.
"You, my friend are a lunatic!"
Calli shrugged. "So I've been told. Now what can this lunatic do for you today?"
"Is the old man available?"
"Nah, he's in Session. I doubt if he'll be back in the office before three. Is there something I can help you with?"
"Probably," I said. Calli had been Josef's aide for the past seventeen years, and often knew more about the Councilor's business than Adams did himself. "I was looking for a little background data on the Kyle assignment."
Calli's eyes widened with surprise. "Are you now? And what, may I ask, prompted this sudden break from your normal, no-questions-asked policy."
"The fact that Josef's seal is on the order."
Calli's lips twisted into a sardonic grin. "Yeah, that one threw me for a loop, too."
"Any ideas on what's behind it?"
Calli sighed. "Nope; I questioned the old man about it when he pushed the order through but he was very vague on the details."
"Really," I muttered, thoughtfully stroking my chin as I refocused my attention on Kyle's image.
"I will tell you this, though," Calli said, a frown creasing his brow. "Whatever this cutie did must've upset the old man pretty much. He had me get a hold of Sanction Group's Commander Gristal and specifically request you for this one."
I blinked in surprise. "Why me?"
"In his own words," Calli's voice dropped into a fair imitation of the Councilor's. "I want the Corp's most capable Sanctioner to dispose of this quarrelsome indigent."
Calli's disclosure caused a tendril of foreboding to worm its way into my mind. "Well that's a first. I don't know if I should be flattered or worried."
Calli released a snort. "Probably both." His eyes shifted to his left as a light on the com-board started flashing. "Oops. Gotta go, Art; priority call coming in from Councilor Maliff's office and you know how impatient Chavians can be. Talk to you later!"
That's all for now!
The story continues in:
The Road to Redemption
Book one of the Artemis Slade & The Renegade adventure series available for Kindle.
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