Authors: Matt Ryan
Copyright © 2015 by Matt Ryan
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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Cover: Regina Wamba
Victoria Schmitz | Crimson Tide Editorial
Formatting: Inkstain Interior Book Designing
Rise of the Six
Call of the Six
Fall of the Six
Break of the Six
Fury of the Six
HANK OPENED THE DOOR TO another hotel room in yet another city on Vanar. At least this one had power, and from the looks of it, it’d been cleaned. He’d have to check the bathroom first before Gladius would use it.
“This baby is wearing out my arms,” Gladius said, stomping into the room and tossing their baby to the floor. She unwrapped the scarf from around her neck and plopped down on the bed.
Hank went to the plastic decoy-baby and picked it up. “We shouldn’t leave this stuff lying around, a maid could come in.”
Gladius laughed as she laid on her back and put her hands behind her head. “If this dump has maid service, I’d be shocked. Speaking of dumps, don’t forget to check the bathroom. Besides, what if Gem saw me carrying around that doll?”
He sat on the edge of the bed, happy Gladius’s little robot doll was tucked away at her dad’s mansion. “How in the world would Gem see you holding another doll?”
She sat up and moved across the bed. Sliding behind him, she rubbed his shoulders. “I don’t know. I just hate not having her around me, and that little fake baby makes it much worse.”
Hank wrapped the babydoll up and sat it on the bed next to him. He lowered his head and Gladius moved around his back with her hands, massaging him. A knock at the door stopped her hands.
“That was quick,” Hank said.
Most towns elicited a visitor, but most of the time it’d be at least an hour. Hank looked over his shoulder to Gladius and she dropped her hands off his back and sighed as she slid off the bed. Moving close to the door with a knife in hand, she waited for Hank. He touched the panel on the door. The face of a smiling man wearing a suit filled the screen.
“I know him,” Gladius said as she peered at the screen. “Just stay back, let me handle him.”
Hank took a few steps back, positioning himself behind the door. Gladius adjusted her hair and pushed her breasts up, showing way more cleavage than Hank liked. She opened the door and smiled.
“I thought I saw you on the monitors,” the guy said by way of greeting.
“Oh, you got those back up and running?” Gladius asked.
“I do like to keep an eye on my citizens, especially in these dark days. We really need to stick together.”
Gladius held the door and blocked any view of Hank with it. “I need you to delete those images.”
“Look who’s making demands on their first day back in my city. What has it been, four years?” The guy took a step into the room but Gladius pushed him back. He smiled and reached to touch a piece of her hair before she slapped his hand away. “You still have that outfit I like?”
“I’m with someone now.”
The guy laughed. “You’re with someone? Who?”
Gladius swung the door wide open, revealing Hank.
“Holy shit, you brought a Six here?” He beamed with enthusiasm. “Hank, isn’t it?” The man pushed past Gladius and shook Hank’s hand with a sheepish grin. “I’m the Mayor of this fine city. My family are big fans. One of my daughters has a display of you on her wall. I’m partial to Poly. She sure is . . .” He looked around the room and didn’t finish his sentence.
Being a celebrity wasn’t something Hank could get used to. It made him uncomfortable, the false admiration bestowed on him from people he’d never met. It did serve its purpose though. Rumors spread over the net about the Six running around Vanar. Marcus may not buy the illusion outright, but if it gave his friends time, if it brought out the man they hoped it would, then it would all be worth it.
Hank had waited too long to respond and the Mayor was beginning to give him that awkward silence face. “Thanks, Mayor.”
The mayor’s expression turned to relief and joy. “Oh, please, call me Lordis.”
“Okay, Lordis,” Gladius stepped into his line of sight. “We really need those images deleted. I hope you’ve kept them private.”
The mayor took a step back and looked at her. “Are you guys on the run?”
“Yeah, and we can’t have our freaking pictures up on the net.”
The mayor laughed. “We only get MM’s net drones a few hours a day. Maybe if someone’s dad would recognize us as a city in disaster, we could get the net back up quicker.”
Hank thought Harris would be the better person to speak to. Now that he ran MM, all drones and rebuilding processes had landed on his lap. Harris sent out net drones over the outer cities, giving them online access for a few hours a day.
“Maybe I will tell my dad that a certain mayor would like to do . . . inappropriate things to one of his daughters?”
“Just delete the images.”
“Maybe if you told your dad how bad it is out here. I mean, we barely have enough protein for the food printers. People are suffering.”
Gladius put her hand on her forehead and rubbed her temple. “Lordis, we shared a few pleasantries back in the day and for that, I will tell you enough to make you realize the danger you are putting your town in. We are running from a person you don’t want in your backyard. A person who will show no mercy to you, or your people, if he sees us on a monitor. You have to delete those images,
.” She spit out the last word and glared him down.
The mayor took a step back and glanced from Hank to Gladius with a wide-eyed smile. “I don’t remember you being so aggressive.” He smiled and licked his lips. “It’s very hot. I have some black leather chaps that he—”
“I’m not putting on anything . . .”
“I wasn’t talking to you.” The mayor stared at Hank.
Gladius sighed and kicked the mayor in the balls. He hunched forward and fell to his knees, groaning. Hank closed the door and held the mayor by his shoulders. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first person in the last seven months Gladius had kicked below the belt. It was starting to be her signature move.
Gladius kneeled in front of the mayor and pulled out her Panavice. “I just need your password.”
“I can’t just . . .” he struggled to get the words out as he held himself. “Who is after you?”
“Who would be your worst nightmare?”
“My third ex-wife.”
Gladius shook her head. “Who is the worst person ever? Think of him, and if you don’t want him in your town, you’ll delete those friggin’ pictures.”
The mayor shook his head and the expression of pain turned to terror as he thought of the name. Hank held onto him tight as he squirmed around. “It can’t be. No one’s seen him in almost two years.”
“I can tell you for a fact he is on the hunt and if you want to save your pathetic town, you’ll help us.” Gladius shook her head and then laughed. “Wait, you don’t care about the town. How about you help us save
, okay? Give us the password to your account.”
The mayor struggled, but Hank allowed him to get to his feet. Gladius rose with him. Hank saw the blade at the back of her pants and hoped she didn’t have to use it again.
“Come on, that net drone could be here soon,” she said.
“Fine, it’s Pussyplayer15, with a capital
,” the mayor said and glanced at Hank.
Gladius shook her head as she typed into her Panavice. “You make me sick. I can’t believe I let you in me.”
The mayor shot a glance at Hank again. Hank took a deep breath and slowly let it out. While he’d only been with one other person, Gladius’s exploits reached an astounding number he’d rather not think about. She didn’t show any shame in it though, and Hank never wanted to degrade what Gladius once was. She was with him now.
After a few minutes, Gladius lowered her Panavice. “Okay, we are done here. If I was you, I would make damned sure you forgot we were ever here. The man searching for us won’t be kind, and a kick to the balls will be a goddamned walk in the park if he gets a hold of you.”
“I—” the mayor stammered. “How long are you staying here?”
“It’s best if you don’t know. I think you should leave now.”
“Can I come by later and maybe the three of us could—”
“Get out,” Gladius said and jabbed her finger toward the door.
The mayor held his crotch as he turned and left the room.
Hank closed the door and walked over to Gladius. “You think he’ll keep his mouth shut?”
“If he wants to live.” Her Panavice dinged. “The net drone is here. We’re connected.” She ran her fingers over the screen and Hank looked over her shoulder. He took a moment to smell her hair and wrapped an arm around her waist. She leaned back into him and reached to touch his hand, before going back to the Panavice.
He watched her choose the perfect angles, covering their faces while showing they carried a child. Hank didn’t really think they would fool Marcus, but it wasn’t something he would easily ignore. Just thinking about his friends brought on the home sickness and Samantha. He’d catch himself all the time thinking she was still alive. How he missed her, how he missed them all. He’d never been away from them for so long and they felt so far away. All part of the plan though. It was the one thing they had to follow.
“You put down the trail?” he asked.
“Yeah, I time released it for next week.” She set the device on her lap and looked to Hank. “I feel like he’s getting close.”
“Hopefully it’s been long enough.” Hank thought about the brief time he got to see Joey and Poly’s baby. “You getting a gut feeling?”
She rubbed her stomach. “Yeah, this town just feels off to me. I can’t put a finger on it yet. I just want this to be over.”
Hank put his other arm around her and kissed the side of her head. “After we end it with Marcus. We can’t let Samantha die for nothing, and we surely can’t let him get ahold of the little one.”
Her Panavice dinged. She turned to it and flipped the pages. “Oh no, remember Brissels?” Hank did, and he also remembered the man who couldn’t keep his hands off of her. “It says here Ben died in a car accident just an hour ago.”
“The same Ben who owned the house we stayed at?”
“Yes.” She tapped the screen, zooming in on the wrecked car. “It looks like the car battery exploded.”
“We were there . . . two weeks ago?” Hank guessed.
“I knew it. He’s getting closer.”
Guilt swept over Hank. No one had been killed because of them yet. “I think we need to start moving quicker.”
She nodded. “If he keeps following our trails faster than we can lay them down, he’ll be on us in a week or two and you know what that means.”
“Phase two,” Hank said.
Hank wouldn’t admit it to Gladius, but he hated the idea of phase two. It meant putting her in danger and too much of it relied on psychology and technology, neither of which were his strong suits.