Future Wars Series

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Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Audience: General Adult

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A full moon hung over the Mississippi's dark waters, meaning this was the time for hunters to arrive and take whatever they could capture. A device would be clamped to the backs of our necks and we'd never be able to shift back to human again. It was how they justified their enslavement of us; that we were only animals instead of sentient humans.

The Krelk had killed more than two-thirds of the human population, too, but they made the excuse that they'd thought them animal as well, until their High Council, wherever that was, decided otherwise.

When I heard the first yelp, even underground, I couldn't breathe. Was that a shifter? Few shifters could take on a Krelk and their weapons and either survive or avoid being stunned. That's how we were captured—frozen and only barely able to breathe while we were caged, tagged and hauled away from the buffer zone.

Another yelp—followed quickly by a third.

This was no shifter—the Krelk were the ones screaming. Terrified but still curious, I dipped into the watery entrance and slowly made my way out of my cave to peek at the river bank above my head.

A dead Krelk dropped into the water nearby, making me jump and squeak in terror.

"An otter?" Someone leaned down to look at me.

Not a Krelk—I knew their scent. This—I'd never scented someone like this before. I scrabbled backward, afraid of this newcomer, too, even if he did appear humanoid.

"Don't be afraid—I killed all of them."

I backed all the way into the water and scrambled to swim to my cave before he could grab me. Once there, I refused to come out.

"I understand," he said, loud enough that I could still hear him. "Be safe. I'll patrol farther down, tonight."

I listened, my heart beating so rapidly I feared it would burst while his footsteps, light as they were, faded as he walked southward.

He'd killed six Krelk, and I'd never heard one of their weapons fire.

Who could do that?

* * *

Earth wasn't alone it its suffering. We were just another planet in a large group of suffering worlds, and help was either non-existent or difficult to come by.

There'd be no Marines landing here to save us; that hope had died years ago. What we had was a handful of people with unusual talents, helping a few of us stay alive against impossible odds.

—Clare Coquina

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Ver'Dak wants Verillium more than any other world...

Verillium, a small, Class-M planet, wasn't part of any alliance, had little in the way of technology, nothing in the way of riches and had been at war with itself for centuries.

Why, then, had it drawn the interest of the cleverest, wickedest demi-god ever?

The only thing standing in Ver'Dak's way is the daughter of a dead king…

and the Black Zone…

* * *


Verlin grabbed my hair before I could pull the woman to safety; that's how I ended up being dragged up endless palace steps and thrown onto the floor of Father's study, which Nessil had taken for his own.

"Well, Balver won't take her now—not since she's been in the kitchens for three weeks and available to anybody walking in," Nessil's boots came into view as Verlin held me down, my cheek pressed hard against the new rug on the study floor. My eyes watered from the scent of fresh dyes—Nessil had been quite busy removing evidence of Father's rule.

Wait—he'd said Balver. Lord Balver. Old, bandy-legged and smelly Balver. Nessil had gone looking for the worst possible place for me to serve as a breeder and broodraiser.

"She hid well enough in the kitchens—I say send her back there," Verlin suggested.

"No—she liked it there or she wouldn't have stayed," Nessil pretended to be wise. "Let's give her to the army, instead. As a punishment."

"Sound decision," Verlin grunted, removing his knee from my back. "Stay down, drone; the tappers are on the way."