The Prime Phoenix
The Prime Saga: Book Two
300 years in humanity's future, nearly everyone is dead. New San Francisco floats in the sky, a shining copy of the ruins on the surface of Earth. But beneath those hovering, towering buildings is another, darker city: the Framework.
Megan, a talented forcefinder mage and trained assassin, wants nothing more than to leave the Framework. To live topside. To be normal.
One day her magic goes awry, destroying part of the Framework and angering the very person who made her magic possible.
Now the Crew is in trouble, and Megan gets kicked out of the killgirls and demoted to the trashboys—the worst squad in existence. But the trashboys aren't exactly what they seem, and soon Megan finds herself embroiled in a framecar race for her life—and for the very existence of the Framework itself.
Epic urban fantasy
EXCERPT This is the cold open. I always start my books right in the thick of things, and this is no exception. Please note that this excerpt is intended for adult readers.
The Lower Heights were full of what they always were tonight: chaos and darkness and sin.
Megan stood atop Rafter Two, looking at the whiproom down below. Rows of metal chairs lined the cement floor, the sweaty, heaving bodies of fearful women sitting in them wrapped in chains. She licked her lips, quieting the flicker of her heartbeat.
She’d always hated it here.
The whole place was dark and rotten, smelling like sweat and men and blood and fear. Metal rafters formed a sort of scaffold twelve feet overhead, overlooking the sights and sounds of the things they did here in the whiproom: whips, of course, and sex, but also torture and death.
Megan was here for the death.
But tonight, she had a job to do. She flitted down from the metal rafter, landing silently beside one of the chairs. Dim, bluish fluorescent lights flickered overhead, illuminating the space. She heard cries of pleasure and of pain, the crack of whips, the rattle of thick chains.
She wiped a sheen of sweat from her brow.
Right. Her job. Queen had entrusted her with this, and she couldn’t let her down. So she stood, checking the pinblade at her side, and launched herself at Gentleman One.
He was short, for a Gentleman. Short and portly, with a grimace on his face. And so it was the work of but mere seconds for Megan to draw her pinblade, steel flashing quickly in the dark, to swipe it wide, feeling the thin but supple give of flesh. It took no time for her to see the blood well up inside his newly tattered shirt, to see the expression on his face as he stumbled, clutching at the wound, eyes wide as he fell to the cold cement floor.
Megan left him there, bleeding.
His victim was a woman, strapped into a chair with thick pieces of leather. She was naked, ample breasts heaving in fear as Megan approached.
“It’s okay,” Megan said, bending to undo the straps. “You’re free, now. The exit’s over there.”
“Who are you?” the woman asked, but Megan simply shook her head.
“Count yourself lucky,” Megan said. “And don’t get yourself caught up in this again.”
The woman left, standing shakily and making her way to Exit Two in the northeast corner of the room. Megan was dimly aware of her skin, of the way her ass jiggled as she left the whiproom behind. That was one.
She had two more victims here tonight.
She caught a glimpse of Beam one rafter over, dispatching her first Gentleman. The lights gleamed on her enticingly, shining on her arm muscles, on her neck as it curved while she slit the throat of her first victim. Megan watched as she freed the woman in the chair, speaking to her in low tones.
Beam had always made it look so easy.
“Hey!” Beam hissed, and Megan realized that the girl was somehow standing next to her. “We can’t be discovered, here. Go!”
Megan obeyed, her mind a bit of fog. She threw her steelstring up, watching as the thick clip at the end connected with the rafterjoin eight feet above her. The Planners had built all the rafters like this, with metal loops in the corners of everything. She didn’t know why.
She didn’t particularly care.
Megan started running.
“Up!” Beam said from a few feet away, and Megan felt herself doing what she always loved to do.
Beam was using her magic. Megan felt herself rise with it, rising upward back toward the ceiling, the steelstring taut against her as she did. It was pulling her, the momentum arcing her above the metal rafters into the cavernous space at the top of the room. She sailed around, the thin line of steel keeping her pinned to the rafter, until she was positioned directly on the top of Rafter Three.
Beam’s magic ended.
And Megan fell, landing spryly on the metal beam. It was easy. It was neat.
Beam and her had practiced that move for a very long time.
Megan reached below her, unclipping her steelstring, surveying the floor below. Killgirls like her were supposed to stay hidden, to strike from the darkness.
Everything was darkness, here.
Her next target was over there, two rows down. Gentleman Two was even fatter than the first, a big fat man dressed in blue, and he had his big hand around someone’s neck underneath him, fat back held still as the naked body below him jerked and waved, obviously about to die.
And it wasn’t even a woman being held there in the Gentleman’s hand.
It was a man.
Megan reclipped her steelstring, pulling her right glove tighter. Then she swung down, being as silent as possible, angling herself for a quick neck kill. Her feet, clad as they were in simple skintight synthskin, pointed at the man. It would be easy to kill him, positioned as he was, bent over his captive man’s neck. All she had to do was grab his neck and twist. She could feel her muscles poised, ready to execute the motion she had done so many times.
But then the man looked up at her, white teeth shining.
She let out a shriek, unable to help herself, and tried to deflect her motion to the side. But it was no good—all she had was gravity, now that Beam was off doing something else. The man had a knife, much thicker than her pinblade. He had a look of skill about him, as if he had wielded the knife before. He almost looked happy that a black-clad woman was descending on him from the ceiling above, synthskin dangling, steelstring snapping.
Megan saw all this in a moment, and she knew that death was rising up to meet her.
She managed to swing her steelstring to the side just barely, her body moving a foot off to the right of the man and his captive in the chair. But the gentleman was ready for her: he sliced and met her foot, sending searing pain through the synthskin to her real skin underneath. Megan screamed, this time for real, landing heavily on the floor and twisting her ankle hard as she tried to keep her balance. Her foot felt like it was on fire. It hurt, as if the undersun had flipped the Framework in the sky, blazing down and piercing into her with all its horrible glory.
But she had to be strong. She had to survive. So she came back up, balancing weakly on her other ankle, pinblade out and ready to strike. Then she darted forward, ducking under a wide swipe from the Gentleman and his blade, slicing inside his reach, feeling the slight resistance of flesh and cloth as her sharp pinblade dealt its damage.
The man staggered back, eyes wide, skin white. His blue shirt was sliced cleanly from left to right, the opening revealing skin and blood and beneath that ripples of fat and intestines and more blood. A lot more blood. The man lurched, grasping at his stomach, dropping his knife. Then he fell, gurgling something in the whip-loud room.
Megan wiped her pinblade on her pants and clipped it to her belt. She stood for a moment to quiet her heart, careful not to put weight on her damaged foot. It hurt, but she could manage it. She’d had worse before. Then she turned, moving her attention to the captive man in the chair.
He was pretty, she realized in a detached sort of way. He had dark, curly hair, and eyes she couldn’t see. The room was dark, and she was in a hurry, and she didn’t go in for men anyway. Her eyes flicked across his well-defined pectoral muscles and abdomen, down to his naked crotch, halfway aroused. The man had been near death, but somehow a part of him was enjoying this.
Megan felt her stomach turn.
She stepped toward him, reaching under him to unlatch his chains, trying to avoid looking in too many places at once. His breath was hot as he turned to her.
The chains fell away.
“Th—” the man said, his voice coming out entirely as a choke. He coughed, and Megan finished undoing his chains. She stood, watching his veiled eyes in the dim room. His body was in great shape, for a man—perhaps that’s why the Gentleman had wanted him so much.
“How did you end up here?” she asked.
The man sat up, abdominal muscles taut. “I made a bad bet,” he said, voice raw.
“I’m sorry,” Megan said, reaching down and helping him up. When he stood, he was taller than her by at least a foot. And there was something in his eyes, now that she could see them in the flickering light from the ceiling.
Was it curiosity?
“The door is that way,” she said, pointing to Exit Two.
“Thank you,” he said. “Who are you?”
Everyone asked that. They always wanted to know who had saved them. But Her Majesty’s Navy had a rule: you couldn’t say you were in Her Majesty’s Navy. And you couldn’t give them your framename, either, or you’d be excommunicated. You’d be dropped from the Crew.
But there wasn’t any rule about telling him her real name.
“Megan,” she said.
“Thank you, Megan,” the man replied. He was tall, now that he was standing. “I’m Eric.”
“What are you doing?” Beam hissed at her from somewhere nearby.
“Go!” Megan said, pushing Eric toward Exit Two.
“Thank you,” Eric said. “I’ll find you.”
“Just leave,” Megan said, already turning away, “and never come down here again.”
Beam was still hissing at her, and Megan turned to see what the problem was. Had she dispatched her Gentleman? Had they completed their mission? Could they leave, now? Megan turned and scanned her eyes across the whiproom, trying to take stock of what was going on.
Everyone had stopped what they were doing. Every Gentleman was standing, now, leather whips in hand. The dark blue fluorescent lights flickered as they gleamed off skin and metal, everything sharpness and slickness and steel.
They were all looking at her.
They were all smiling.
This excerpt contains:
- Strong language
- Graphic violence
- Triggers for torture
- Triggers for rape