When the immortal Pietas is marooned on a barren world with no food and few survival tools, he knows it could be worse. He could be alone. But that’s the problem. He’s not.
Half a million of his people sleep in cryostasis, trapped in their pods and it’s up to Pietas to save them. But before he can, he must take back command from a ruthless enemy he’s fought for centuries. His brutal, merciless father. Immortals may heal, but a wound of the heart lasts forever…
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EXCERPT: In this scene, Pietas discovers that his friend, Six, has been taken hostage by Mahikos, Pietas’s father.
“Are you looking for this?” His father’s unmistakable voice came to him before the man’s faint outline revealed itself in the dark.
Mahikos had captured Six and pressed a knife blade to the ghost’s throat. At the point where the blade dug into him, blood oozed.
The blank passivity on his friend’s face revealed what Pietas had feared. Six had been compelled into submission. He would stand there and let Mahikos kill him.
Rage propelled Pietas forward.
“That’s far enough, Son.” He dragged Six backward. “Unless you want your own hands covered in this human’s blood.”
Pietas ground his teeth. For this, his father would forfeit his life. “I will end you, old man.”
“Will you?” Mahikos dug the knife edge into Six’s neck. “You dared bring this abomination into our camp after it threatened your mother–the woman I love–and you want to end me? This thing is going to die by my hands!”
Time slowed to a crawl. Someone had told him.
Joss? Too loyal.
The twins? Too detailed.
Dessy? Had she been so quick to betray him?
Pietas drew every vestige of Compulsion he had and threaded Chaos along its invisible bands. Mahikos was immune to both, but aligned, they might soften his will.
Wait. Immune. Immune!
That word rattled around his head, a stone bouncing off the sides of a bottomless metal pit.
Pietas had practiced compulsion, sending command after command to Six.
The man was immune.
Six, blink twice if you hear me.
He gave two quick blinks.
How he treasured this man! Good job, ghost. You stalled him. If you’re hurt, blink once.
Six remained steady.
Excellent. I should never have left you. I’m sorry. On my mark, drop and get out of the way. Joss, go right. Distract him.
I serve. Her mindvoice packed the simple Ultra vow with raw emotion.
Joss screeched a war cry and bolted right.
Pietas shot to the left.
Startled, Mahikos flinched.
Six hit the ground and scrambled aside.
Reversing course mid-step, Pietas used his full bodyweight and slammed Mahikos into the ground. The knife flew from his father’s hand. The two men rolled, each grappling for supremacy.
Mahikos was a full foot shorter and similar to others in the scientist class, slight of build. He’d altered his own genetic makeup and now possessed the greater strength of the warrior class. The man got in one blow to Pietas’s jaw and a second to his head.
The world went white hot–then red.
Nothing existed beyond this enemy.
Pietas flipped his father onto his stomach and rolled atop him. One arm beneath the man’s throat, the other bracing the first, he crushed his father’s airway.
Mahikos clawed at the arms pinning him, but without air, soon weakened. His struggle slowed, then ceased. In one swift move, Pietas shoved his father’s face into the dirt.
That would have killed a human, but the Ultra metabolism had kicked into battle mode while they fought. The man healed before Pietas could move back. Gasping, Mahikos clawed for the knife.
With his longer reach, Pietas claimed it first. He rolled his father onto his back and knelt atop the weakened man’s arms, pinning him.
He showed him the knife. “Are you looking for this?” he asked, echoing his father’s earlier words.
Mahikos stared up at it and then at him, wild-eyed, choking for air.
Pietas wrapped both hands around the hilt, drew back the blade, and plunged it down.
“No!” His mother’s voice rang out. “Pietas!”
He stopped the blade but the tip had already punctured his father’s skin. Pietas ached to ram it deep, deep, all the way past skin, muscle, and bone, straight into the man’s heart. Twist it. Break it off.
“No!” His mother pleaded. “He’s your father. Pietas. Please! For me. For me.”
He held his father’s life in limbo, suspended between cold indifference and hot fury, buffeted by his mother’s plea.
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