A World Apart

Here’s an exclusive look into the first chapter of my newest creation, Avitron Ephemeris Book I. 

  Memories. Frozen images in time that reveal a piece of who we are. For the young thief Brayden, they don’t exist. When a job for the Shadow Faction takes an unexpected turn, he uncovers the first of many hidden truths to his identity and purpose. On the world of Tylessi, there are many buried secrets. Beyond the realm of the Sprytan cyber-fairies and the floating cities of the Gensys Tron, components of its deepest secret — the Avitron — remain concealed.

Chapter 1

Brayden’s heart pounded in his throat with each passing stride.  The young man could count on one hand the number of times he had been forced to run for his life. Now he ran for a living.

“Halt in the name of the law!” a mechanical male voice barked over Brayden’s shoulder.

Tylessi authorities in the Surface Zone tended to be the hardest to outfox.

“I’ll probably never live this one down,” Brayden said, sliding across the wet pavement on his black boots. He disappeared down a narrow alley in the wake of his gray trench coat.

Three of New Plesto’s finest clopped down the alley in pursuit.  The young thief crouched behind a dumpster at the far end of the one way street. He huffed out labored breaths onto the surface of a small puddle of water at his feet. Once the ripples stilled, he looked over his features in its surface.

Shrapnel must’ve got me. Brayden cleared the thin line of blood from his lightly freckled cheek with the pad of his thumb. His streak of crimson locks amid the rest of his raven hair fell in a mess over his blue eyes.

“I saw him come down this way,” one of the cops said through his sleek white helmet and facemask.

Brayden crept an eye around the decaying corner of the trash bin. The three city cops scanned the area through the deep blue bionic eyes of their masks.

“It’s a dead end alley,” another one said, pulling out a laser pistol. “He’s as good as ours.”

Brayden leaped up grabbing hold of a rung on a ladder and flung his lean frame onto the platform of the building. “Well,” he shouted down to his assailants, “you were half right!”

Two of the cops took aim and pinched off searing rounds of blue laser fire. “There!” one of the men shouted. “On the fire escape.”

The nimble crook ducked the sizzle of the shots and bounded up the crisscrossing network of ladders and balconies toward the top of this older ten-level building.

“Backup!” one of the officers squelched into his comms link. “We’re going to need aerial backup, now!”

Brayden jumped onto the roof of the apartment building and jogged toward its far edge. A light rumble of thunder rolled across the darkening heavens blotting out the drifting chunks of land in the Upper Zone, Solstice.

“I’m surprised any of these still exist.” Brayden surveyed the piece of living history as he crossed its roof.

Smaller structures by and large had been buried under by the gargantuan towering super scrapers that reached up into the low-lying clouds. Mega cities like New Plesto had been constructed around transport points between Tylessi’s Surface Zone and its Underworld Zone of Naia. As a result, tens of millions of Tylessians – humans, Sprytans, Morpheons, and Gensys Tron alike — flocked to them.

Brayden propped a silver-buckled boot up on the lip of the roof and peered over its edge. A speeding Vertical Transport flashed past him up the side of the massive super scraper carting its passengers to their destinations.

Sirens wailed from a few blocks away cutting through the roar of the passing bullet train. “Oh shit.”

A pair of dark blue wedges hovered into view over the far lip of the roof.

“Halt, citizen!” a copper blurted out over the intercom. “Surrender. There is no place left to run.”

Brayden’s upturned gaze watched the V.T. trail off into the passing clouds. He glanced back down at the streets far below before turning his attention on the cops. Their angular vehicles bobbed in slow waves at the far edge of the rooftop. I’ve invested way too much time and effort into completing this contract to become the laughing stock of the Shadow Faction. He slid the small chrome disk in his hand into a hidden pocket in his overcoat.

A pair of powerful lights blinked into existence farther down the scraper’s surface. Lacking much in the line of real world wisdom, Brayden made the only logical decision he could see at the time.

The weapons on the hulls of the vehicles whirred to life. “This is your final warning.”

Brayden slid his right hand down to his belt and removed a small tubular device. The pitch of the approaching V.T. grew as he readied himself for date with disaster.

“No! Don’t do it!” a cop insisted. “We can work this out.”

Too late. The desperate criminal flung his body out into the void over the northwest side of the city. One of the vehicles sped to the scene and dove toward the streets far below.

“P-13, this is P-10. Come in, over?”

No response came from his partner’s hovercar. “Thirteen, do you copy?”

After a long and disquieted silence, his partner’s static-filled voice responded.  “He’s – he’s not here.”

P-10 shook his thinning head of curly red hair. “What do you mean he’s gone?”

“It’s like he just up and vanished into thin air.”

Brayden held fast to the thin black wire that kept him latched to the side of the speeding V.T. His black locks became matted to his scalp as the sleek train barreled through a cloud up the side of the scraper.  A girl, no older than five by his guess, waved her little hand up at him from her spot aboard the V.T. Brayden returned a cursory nod and fake smile while the storm’s winds rocked him back and forth.

Moments later, the gray train stopped two thirds of the way up the scraper. As its legitimate passengers exited through the hissing doors into the superstructure, Brayden popped the emergency hatch on the top of the train and swung into the huddling throngs of people.

“Tough day then?” an elderly woman asked as she hobbled into the lobby of Sector Six’s entertainment district. Brayden only excused his intrusion before shifting into the crowds inside and disappearing from her life as quickly as he had entered it.

The interior of the super scraper covered four city blocks spreading out in all directions. Shops, restaurants, clubs, and residential apartments lined its hollow belly.

“Watch your step, human,” a tall male cyborg growled. Thin lines of electric blue pulsed in silent patterns beneath the Gensys Tron’s skin.

Brayden shuffled away from the perturbed Gensys Tron and meandered toward his destination. Aside from their general disdain toward other races on Tylessi, the Gensys Tron could easily be picked out from their human creators by the intricate network of circuits that glowed just under their skin. As their power cells pushed energy through their bodies, these intricate-shaped circuits pulsed in blue light. This particular specimen happened to be one of the older First Gen models created by humans to look and act like them centuries ago.

“I’m sorry,” Brayden muttered, holding up his outturned hands.

The salt-and-pepper haired businessman scoffed as he walked away. The Second Gen Trons were the ones that he had to keep an eye on. These models had been the creation of the First Gens and were recognized by their lean figures, elongated ears, and the general elven-like features of the old gods of Tylessi. Most Gensys Tron possessed a basic understanding in their form of magic, but the higher skilled Techromancers could be a death sentence for anyone who crossed them.

The girth and splendor of this microcosm mesmerized Brayden as he walked down the southern terrace. A pair of giggling Sprytan girls floated on their translucent blue cybernetic wings around a cluster of clear elevator tubes at the scraper’s core. The golden haired Sprytan’s shimmering lavender irises found his blue eyes for a fleeting moment before she landed next to her cohort several paces ahead of him. The two girls muttered in their native speech and trotted off into a boutique of the latest imported fashions from the best Solstice design firms.

The young thief’s stare followed their swaying hips hidden by a thin skirt of shimmering green material into the store. Not now. The delivery first and then if there’s time – maybe.  His blonde admirer tossed a flirtatious smile in Brayden’s direction as her wings retracted into the back of the sleek black metal surrounding her torso.

He gave her a nod as he trotted past the window display. “You aren’t making this any easier.”

Brayden swept the strip of dark red hair out of his face and slipped into a narrow breezeway between shopping plazas. He maneuvered his way around a couple of odoriferous heaps of garbage before finding the entrance to his destination.

“Golan’s Gentleman’s Club,” he said, pulling the narrow glass door ajar.

A thick cloud of expensive smoke hung in the air over the club like a fog. Most of the round tables closest to the stage remained vacant save a pair of Gensys Tron First Gens at the nearest table. From their tattoos and patches on their worn leather vests, Brayden figured them both as cargo runners. The shorter brown haired Tron knocked back a swig of his brew; the circuits in his forearm pulsed in fleeting blue beams.

“She’s not bad,” his taller, blond partner said, leering at the dancer on stage, “but I’ve seen better up in Tarsys City on Solstice.”

The short guy chortled and slammed his mug on the tabletop. “You can’t expect much from these human females. It’s hardly a comparison at all.”

The dancer’s green eyes met his as Brayden passed behind her patrons and took up a seat in a nearby booth. Having completed her routine, the athletic redhead sauntered off stage and into the comfort of the club’s shadows. Brayden felt the faux leather of the booth seat buckle under the unseen weight of another person.

“Care for a private dance?” a seductive feminine voice inquired. Her warm breath tickled the young man’s earlobe.

The thief slid his hand down into the pocket of his overcoat and curled around the small metallic disk. “I’m afraid I’m all out of credits at the moment.”

The red haired entertainer straddled him, one of her bare breasts teasing his cheek. “I might,” her hand slid down over his groin, “entertain other options.”

Brayden removed the disk from his pocket and ran it over her muscular thigh. “Oh, really?”

She turned around on him and leaned back against his soiled gray tee shirt. “Mmm hmm. You have something else for me, baby?”

He slid the small disk under his right hand over her torso and down toward the orange sequined material over her crotch.  “I do.” His nimble fingers wandered south of her bikini line. “It’s small, but it’s not the size that counts, right?”

She moaned into his left ear as his fingers found the warmth of her body. He tucked the minute object into her and slid back out.

“Such the tease,” she sighed, pecking Brayden’s cheek.

He adjusted his trench coat as the buxom bombshell climbed off him. “Just make sure that he gets the message.”

The redhead slapped her ass as she strode toward the dressing rooms backstage. “It’s in one of the safest places in here, honey.”

His heart felt like it wanted desperately to get out of his chest. His gaze found a more secluded table in the dark adjacent the bar. “Maybe a little nip will settle the nerves.”

Brayden made his way to the long bar and put in an order for a liquor tonic. Once his green concoction appeared, he flopped into a chair in the shadows and down a huge gulp of his favorite drink. “Ah, that’ll take the edge off anything.”

“Anything?” a familiar male voice asked. A middle aged man sporting short white curls leaned into the circle of blue light over the table.  A small pair of reflective black circles concealed his eyes.

Brayden groaned and fell back into his seat. “Dylan.”

“Will that stuff tame Shay’s fury at the moment, I wonder?” Dylan set his elbows on the table. His fingertips converged before his haggard guise and three day old stubble.

The inexperienced crook heaved out a lungful of stress.

“She found out about your little snafu with the city, Brayden.”

“Listen,” Brayden said.

“Half of New Plesto’s likely heard about it by now.”

Brayden leaned back in over the table and cupped his tumbler tightly. “I can explain, Dylan. It’s not what you think.”

The veteran member of the Shadow Faction ran his fingers through the snowy tufts on his scalp. “It’s not me that wants the explanation, rookie.”  He took the tumbler from Brayden and downed a swig. “Shay wants a word with you, pronto.”

Dylan rapped three times on the door of the high rise penthouse. Its gilded surface receded and was replaced by a hulking brute in a black leather jacket.

“She’s expecting us,” Dylan said, nodding to Brayden.

Shay’s bodyguard grunted in affirmation and stood aside. Brayden trailed behind his mentor of sorts as they descended a shallow set of wide circular steps into the heart of the main room.

“Wait there,” the brute instructed. “I’ll go get her.”

Moments later, Shay paced into the main room from behind a towering row of decorative columns. Her hair resembled a torch to Brayden – fiery red next to the scalp and light orange near the tips. It stood up from her head in a wispy flame.

“Ah,” Shay said in a refined tone. “Thank you, Dylan.”

Her charcoal slacks and matching jacket did little to hide the contours of her older but highly toned figure.

“I can’t say that I’m overly impressed with the outcome of your first contract, Brayden.”

Brayden forced the knot in his throat back down. “I’m sorry, Shay. I know it –“

“Shut up and listen,” the Faction leader said, pouring herself a drink at the wet bar.  “Half of New Plesto’s finest are on a manhunt for you right now. They wrecked two cycles and shot up three buildings downtown.”

Brayden lifted his hands to offer up an excuse, but Shay waved it off with her tumbler.

“Nevertheless,” she said, approaching him in slow deliberate strides, “you got the job done.” She stopped a few inches from his face, took a nip of her tonic, and set the glass on a nearby table. “I have another contract for you.”

Brayden couldn’t read through her aristocratic accent, or the thin smirk on her freckled face.

“It’s something a tad easier,” she said. Her green stare pierced his soul. “It will give things here time to cool off.”

The young thief curled his fingers over the clammy palms in his coat pockets. “What’s the job?”

Shay strode around him in a calculated orbit. “I want you to recover an artifact from an Empyran temple for me.”

“Order of Empyra?” Brayden’s frustration found its way to the surface. “Those guys are washed up has-beens. That’s hardly a –“

“Job worth doing to regain my trust,” Shay said, completing the thought for him.

He huffed and turned his eyes out onto the twinkling lights of the nighttime cityscape. “Who wants this old junk?”

Shay glided into a seat on the semi-circular white sofa and sipped her tonic. “A private broker who wishes to remain anonymous.” She swirled the last ounce of her drink as she spoke. “I want it recovered and delivered to me personally within two days. The temple is out west of the city. It’s a big place. You can’t miss it.”

Dylan cleared his throat. “Let’s hope not.”

Shay tossed back the remnants of her drink and wiped her thin red lips with the back of her hand. “And this time, no cops.”

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