Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with the opening to Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2). It picks up a few weeks after the end of Degree of Resistance, and follows Evie and Ben as they try to adjust to life with each other outside the Pacifica Protectorate. Needless to say, their relationship is about to get complicated, particularly when Ben starts having flashbacks to his time as a brainwashed Osiris Corps agent. This teaser isn’t very sexy, but don’t worry — hot times are acomin’, yes they are!
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
The office wasn’t as nearly luxurious as visitors expected it to be. The walls were smooth white plaster interspersed with hand-width bands of stone ranging from olive to gold, all of it native to the West Coast. A few tasteful pieces of art had been placed here and there, lit by overhead LED spotlights; a Hopi Kachina figure, a shimmering beaded fiber sculpture from Keller’s Siren period, Bernini’s marble bust of Medusa. The floor was a prosaic pine that had been stripped and sealed with a polish that gave it nigh-diamond hardness. It looked more like the office of a corporation CFO, perhaps, or a Shareholder who had reached the age where she didn’t need to show off her wealth anymore.
Which was why John Ballardie liked it. Staying one step ahead of people’s expectations was not only something he enjoyed, but helped to keep both his political allies and enemies on their toes.
What he didn’t enjoy was having those same tables turned on him. “What do you mean, Song Lin’s body is still missing?” he asked.
His personal assistant Eve stood in front of his desk, unflappable in her custom business wear and red-framed SmartSpex. “Her body was never found after the attack on Gold Rush. It was assumed to have been,” she paused, making a polite face, “rendered unrecoverable. The investigation was closed when Song Dae-Jung had his sister declared officially dead. The park officials were eager to repair the damage and reopen, so they went along with Mr. Song’s wishes.”
This wasn’t the first time Song Dae-Jung had tried to sneak a private interest under the board’s nose. He’d thought the man had learned his lesson by now, but apparently that wasn’t the case. “Have the investigation re-opened. It doesn’t stop until they find a body. In fact, have them keep an eye out for her bodyguard and PA as well. I don’t care what Song says—I doubt his sister’s dead. She’s too damn smart for that.”
Eve’s SmartSpex flickered as the thin layer coating the inside of the lenses tracked her eye movements and translated them into computer commands. “There’s another issue, sir. Benjamin Drake is also missing.”
He felt himself grow still. “From where?”
“Gold Rush, sir.”
Annoyance and suspicion flash-heated into rage. “What in God’s name was he doing there?”
“There was a request to have Osiris personnel assigned to Gold Rush as security,” his PA said. “Mainly due to the number of Shareholders and other notables scheduled to attend the anniversary celebration. General Camden approved it and Drake was sent to the park. According to park records Drake’s chancellor was upgraded with a new persona after his transfer and he was assigned a street character. Tracking records show that he was in the Palais Hotel at the time of the attack, but his body hasn’t been located in the debris, either.”
A missing Shareholder who was sister to one of the most powerful board members in Pacifica was bad enough. To have Drake go missing from the same location at the same time—the situation stank to high heaven. “I want Camden here today,” Ballardie ground out. “I don’t care where she is or what she’s doing. She’s in my office before midnight.”
Eve blinked and her SmartSpex lightened momentarily. “She’s at the Eugene Toyshop. I’ll summon her immediately.”
He dismissed the PA with a curt nod. Alone, he stood and went to the only window in the office, a western exposure where he could see the bulk of downtown Redding at a glance. 30 stories below, the wide blue band of the Sacramento River was barely visible against the thick greenery of the parks on either bank of the river. If the city wasn’t covered by a dome he’d be able to see the mountains of the Shasta Cascade off to the west from this elevation.
He didn’t need this now, not with Alhambra so close to completion. Camden would simply have to turn the protectorate upside down and shake until his missing citizens—or their bodies—dropped out.
Flashes in the dark. The yellow cruciate rose of old-fashioned automatic weapons, and the bluish glow of modern bolt rifles. One side was better equipped than the other, but it didn’t mean the weaker side was going to give up.
Not until the last one of them was dead. And they would die. Those were his orders, and he would follow them.
He walked through the darkness, night goggles betraying the sullen silhouettes of the desert landscape. On either side were other soldiers in identical armor, his siblings in arms. They were there to serve the good of the Pacifica Protectorate. And the good of the protectorate called for the destruction of this enemy camp.
A form darted across his field of vision. It didn’t meet the parameters of those who must be protected. Enemy. He brought his rifle up and fired. The form toppled over, momentum giving it one last step on its path before gravity tumbled it to the ground.
He marched to the now-still body, finger on the rifle’s trigger in case it was a trick. But his aim had been good. A black, burnt hole the size of a golf ball adorned the ragged jacket on the enemy’s back between the shoulder blades.
He kicked the body over. Now-blind eyes stared at the night sky. He estimated the enemy’s age to be between twelve and fourteen. Parameters satisfied, he rejoined the other soldiers on their advance through the camp as they continued to kill the enemy. Those were his orders. He would follow them—
Ben jerked up, a muffled scream rasping in his throat. Cold sweat covered the parts of his body that could still produce perspiration, and his chest ached from the rapid thudding beat of his heart.
Fuck. It was a dream. Just a bad dream.
He lay back down and closed his eyes, rubbing at the sockets until they made soft clicking noises. It didn’t help. In his mind he could still see the dead boy sprawled in the rocky dust, face turned to the heavens as if expecting a savior to arrive.
But there hadn’t been a savior. Only the Osiris Corps following orders.
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