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Authors: Airicka Phoenix

When Night Falls

BOOK: When Night Falls
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w
he
n
night falls

 

 

 

 

©201
4 by Airicka Phoenix

All rights reserved.

This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,

photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without prior written permission of the copyright owner and/or the publisher of this book, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Editor & Formatter:
Kathy Eccleston

Beta Readers: Kimberly Schaaf &
Jaime Radalyac

Cover Designer: Airicka’s Mystical Creations

Interior Design: Airicka Phoenix

 

ISBN-13: 978-1500288402

ISBN-10: 1500288403

Published by Airicka Phoenix

Also available in eBook and paperback publication

As Airicka Phoenix

Games of Fire

Betraying Innocence

 

TOUCH SAGA

Touching Smoke

Touching Fire

Touching Eternity

 

THE LOST GIRL
SERIES

Finding Kia

Revealing Kia

 

REGENERATION SERIES

When Night Falls

As Morgana Phoenix

My Soul For You

 

SONS OF JUDGMENT SAGA

Octavian’s Undoing

Dedication

To Hubby,

For
being my space nerd,

For
knowing how to destroy the world

A
nd for being a huge part of mine.

Chapter
One

 

The world ended in fire.

It ended in
an inferno of its own greed and stupidity.

It was
a theory that the innocent lives lost never felt the blast. Never felt it coming until it was too late. No one knew for sure, because the small handful that survived hadn’t been on Earth to experience it; but Scarlett liked to think her parents died not feeling the nuclear wave ripping the skin off their bones. She liked to think they died cuddled in bed, thinking of her and the last gift they would ever give her. But she would never know for sure. None of them would.

Leaving
Earth had been their idea. A six month voyage through space—the first ever—what a great experience, they thought. The galaxy cruiser had everything. Twenty levels of the finest foods, entertainment, and one of the leading replacement programs in the galaxy that helped with career training. It should have been a sign when they couldn’t afford it. Of course, they couldn’t. Her mom got a pathetic monthly parental allowance. Her dad made up the rest with the 4k credit chips he got a month from his electro diagnostic technician position. They barely made by, but they’d been determined to get Scarlett on that ship. Sometimes, she wondered if maybe they knew the world was about to end and did all they could to get her off planet.

It was beautiful. There was no denying the quiet serenity that perpetually guarded the passengers of Dawn Light. There had once been a time when man longed for the opportunity to travel through the stars unhampered. Those dreams had waned as times changed and technology made everything from walking to traveling space a possibility. Those with the credits were no longer chained to the impossibility. Now, they were chained by impenetrable glass and no future. There was nothing out there for any of them. They were but a blip in an endless galaxy. How tedious.

“Scarlett?”

She turned away from the wall of twinkling stars to watch as Hunter sprinted over to her. His sandy-brown tresses flopped over the round, silver frames of his glasses, and she made a mental note to cut his hair later.

“What are you doing here?” He stopped next to her and glanced at the window looking out into the infinite unknown. “You left in such a hurry this morning. I didn’t get the chance to see you before I left for work.”

“I’m sorry.” She rubbed the sweat off her palms onto her plaited skirt. “I just needed … it’s the anniversary today. I just…”

His arms went around her, pulling her into the warmth of his chest. He rested his chin on the top of her head when she tucked her face into the hollow of his throat.

“It’s been three years, Red,” he murmured. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself.”

She knew he considered her guilt ridiculous, and it was. The world exploding had nothing to do with the fact that her parents had gotten her those tickets. Her staying wouldn’t have stopped the nukes from going off. The only thing that would have changed would have been her location. She would have died along with them.

“I know.”

He drew back and looked into her face. “It’s not your fault.”

She knew that as well. It was the United Council’s fault. The New World Leaders and their false promises of a world united order. There had been no order, no unity. Society tore apart. They destroyed cities, polluted waters and killed anyone that opposed them. War was imminent. It was expected. But only for those who profited from the countless deaths. Not that it helped them in the end. All the credits in the world couldn’t save them from the disaster they created.

“I just wish they were here,” she said and pulled out of his arms. She turned to the window. “I miss them.”

The only response to her comment was the rustle of his navy-blue novice operator’s uniform as he twisted to study the stars with her.

Scarlett reached for his hand. She squeezed his fingers.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered as she did every time
discussion of their families came up.

He rolled his head to the side to peer at her. “Why? For saving my life? I’d be dead down there if you hadn’t asked me to come along.”

As true as that was, she always wondered if he resented her for it, because she wasn’t the only one who lost her parents that night. But at least she still had her grandmother. Hunter had no one.

“Hey
.” He shook her hand, pulling her attention back to him. “Stop it.” He gave her a lopsided grin. “Come on. Give me a smile, Ginger.”

“Ugh!”
She punched him in the shoulder playfully. “I hate it when you call me that.” But she laughed and he pulled her in for a tight hug.

“I have to get back to the control room,” he said a moment later as he pulled away. “K
reuk’s in a pissy mood as it is. Gave Margo Polla a citation for accidentally deleting an algorithm.”

She gave his biceps a gentle squeeze. “You didn’t have to track me down on your break.”

He shrugged, rolling his green eyes heavenward. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t have to if you wouldn’t run away every year on your birthday like that was the reason they died.” His face lost all its humor and he peered into her eyes with serious concern. “Beating yourself up isn’t going to bring them back.”

Scarlett shook him off. “No, but they died today.”

“Which still doesn’t make it your fault, Scarlett.”

“I know that.” She dropped her face into her hands and rubbed. “I just feel like I should have pushed harder to make them come, or I should have…”

“What? Stayed? They wanted you to be here. Besides,” he took her shoulders lightly and squeezed. “your grandma only had three tickets. They couldn’t have come even if they wanted to. Unless you regret asking me.”

“No!” She grabbed his hand. “I wanted you to be here with me. I wouldn’t change that for anything.”

He searched her face before giving a slight nod. “Okay then.” He glanced at his wrist unit. Cursed. “I have to go, but I’ll see you at the refectory for supper.”

Scarlett nodded. “I’ll be there.”

With a wave, he started to jog away when the communicator on his wrist unit blipped and a gruff, male voice barked through.

“Forester!”

Hunter paused mid-stride and raised the communicator to his mouth. He pushed the button on the side and spoke, “Forester here.”

“Don’t bother coming back,” the man muttered. “All systems are on lock until Polla’s stupidity has been corrected. We will commune at O-nine-hundred tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.” Hunter broke communication and turned to Scarlett. He grinned. “Looks like I have the rest of the day off. You know what that means.”

She did.

“You’re incorrigible.” She chuckled. “But I have to check on Grams before we do anything.”

With an eyebrow wiggle, he reached over and took her hand. Together, they made their way through the corridors towards the glass transporter shafts. She rested her hand on the data scanner and felt the warm hum as her identification was scanned.

“Identify yourself.”
The instructions poured out melodiously with a female voice.

“Scarlett Mose.
Identification one-nine-seven alpha. Destination, vendor level. Deck ten.”

There was a moment while the computer confirmed and traced her voice pattern with the one in the system. Then,
“Scarlett Mose. Access granted. Proceed to deck ten. Vendor level.”

The doors slid open and they slipped inside. There was a commercial playing on the projection walls. The pretty blonde was recommending a luxurious day getting pampered in one of the ship’s many exclusive spas and salons as she smiled, her skin glowing radiantly. The sweet scent of orchards pumped through the recycled air as the image spanning across the curved walls melted into the image of blooming cherry blossoms and a beautiful brunette running joyously amongst them as a handsome man sprinted after her.

“Enjoy a romantic getaway!”
the commercial insisted.
“Visit our simulation pod and go anywhere.”

Hunter slipped his arm around Scarlett’s shoulder and drew her into his side. He pressed his lips to the side of her skull. “Ooooh, a romantic getaway. We could visit the rings of Uranus.”

It was the same stupid joke he made every time that commercial came on; which it did a lot since the ship was only equipped with a thousand commercials and, after three years, they’d seen them all several dozen times, yet she still laughed.

She elbowed him lightly in the ribs. “You have issues.”

He
oomphed
and doubled over, but kept his arm around her shoulders as the transporter climbed to their destination.

On deck ten, they came to a fluid stop and the doors popped open. They shuffled their way out and followed the red strip of neatly placed bricks through a maze of charm. Bulbs glinted overhead on strings of light, showering the picturesque scene of quaint little shops of the olden days lining either side of them. Each was surfaced with rough brick and colorful awnings. Round tables were placed beneath shops that catered coffee and
biscuits. Fake shrubbery, clumps of bushes and rail thin trees lined the path, giving the wanderer the illusion of being outside. The plaque that Scarlett had read a million times depicted that the idea for the Vendor section had come from Paris in the sixteen hundreds. Back when the world was simple, she supposed.

The corridors were remarkably empty
, considering there were a little over seven thousand passengers aboard the Dawn Light. The soft tinkle of a piano weaved through the recycled air and followed them past the shops. Most were closed due to lack of supplies, but the majority remained open due to sheer necessity. Grandmother’s House Bakery no longer offered the sweets and treats it once had; but people still came to her for bread and the odd, sugar and frosting-less birthday cakes.

The mouthwatering aroma of freshly baked bread
greeted them at the door and propelled them deeper into the small space. Scarlett tried not to think of how that smell had once been laced with the scent of warm honey glaze and melted chocolate. She also tried not to glance at the gleaming wall of glass behind the counter. The shelves were bare now where there had once been rows of dainty delicacies so sinful, people couldn’t get enough. But those days had ended months ago when supplies became scarce and everything they had they were forced to ration.

“Grams?” she called
over the tinkle of bells from above the door.

“Back here!”

A moment later, the kitchen doors swung open and Grandma Josephine bustled through, carrying a steaming tray of fresh loaves. She set the tray down on the counter and wiped her flour-caked hands on the potholders.

There were streaks of flour on her papery cheeks and in her cap of curly gray
hair. Bits of dough clung to the front of her apron in the shape of careless handprints and spills. Scarlett tried not to chuckle.

Brushing well over seventy, Josephine
Mose was a small woman with round hips and a round face stubbornly void of wrinkles. She once clung mulishly to her auburn curls, but artificial coloring was one of the first few things to go extinct on the Dawn Light, along with sugar, coffee, and chocolate so she had allowed it to fade. She took the change as she did everything else, by acting like it had been her idea all along, just like she claimed she would be sixty until the day she died.

She stood over her baked goods, swiped a curl off her brow and sighed. “Not my best,” she said, shaking her head.
“But it would be a waste to, well, waste.” She pinched her lips, smacked the potholders together and dropped them down next to the tray with deep exasperation.

Scarlett didn’t bake. She didn’t even cook. No one was stupid enough to trust her alone
or unsupervised in the kitchen. So to her, the loaves looked fine, but she wisely kept her comment to herself; Grandma Josephine would only scold her for it.

“Anyway,
what are you kids up to?” She dusted her hands on the front of her apron and raised her celery-green eyes to Scarlett, then Hunter. “Shouldn’t you be at work?”

Hunter nodded. “One of the other novices deleted an
algorithm. Nothing to do until the coding’s repaired.”

Grams
ah’d
as though that made perfect sense. “Well, I suppose the two of you are off to do something special?”

No one celebrated birthdays anymore. There was really no time or opportunity to do so. Before the supply shortage, Grams would make her a cake, but with every passing month, there was less things to celebrate. There was something remarkably morbid about rejoicing yet another year aboard their prison. Scarlett couldn’t say she didn’t prefer it. She hated her birthday enough without being forced to put on an act for those she cared about. Unlike her, they didn’t recognize the day for what it really was—a bad omen. Bad things happened on her birthday.

“We’re probably going to catch a movie or something,” Hunter said.

Grams nodded. “That sounds like fun. Just be sure you remember you have chores to finish today.”

“I won’t forget,” Scarlett assured her. “I’ll go right after.”

Seemingly satisfied, Grams went about the task of transferring the loaves from the pans to a cooling rake.

BOOK: When Night Falls
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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