Thank you for purchasing Aestus, Book 1: The City!

Enjoy this exclusive excerpt from the sequel, Aestus, Book 2: The Colony!

Gavin paced.

Caspar had told him about Karapartei. About who the Onlar really were, where they had come from.

The Intelligence records all matched. And Caspar’s handwritten ones, which he had shown Gavin.

He had to go, he thought. He had a week of vacation. He could plead sickness, depression, whatever.

Caspar had mentioned that he had a bike. That they could go directly to Uchisar and speak with Tark’s men.

That was the final piece, he thought. If he could get proof from Caspar that Jossey was safe and in Tark’s hands–

If he could get proof with his own eyes, speak to the man called Kobol himself–

Gavin winced as he stepped too hard, twisted his core. Caspar had really done a number on his back.

He grinned. Caspar had shown him how to do a few things that should come in handy, he hoped.

He made sure the papers were all there. Now all he needed was that proof.

He sat down and began to write a letter.

Pricey,

If I do not return–

Pricey was waiting for him in the mess.

“Sir.” He jumped to his feet.

Gavin smiled and waved for him to sit. Pricey looked jumpy.

“Sir, I don’t know what mission you’re on, but I just want to say–”

“Pricey.” Gavin gave him a look, and Pricey shut up. “Not now.”

They ate slowly. Pricey kept glancing at him.

“Where are you going?” he finally asked.

Tskoulis had told him to prepare for a few days’ absence. Had told him nothing further.

“I…learned some things when we interrogated the Karapartei,” he said quietly. “Things I can’t speak about. This conversation – wipe it from your mind, Pricey. Can I trust you?”

Pricey smiled. “How long have we been friends?”

Tskoulis glanced over his shoulder. “No matter who asks you about me. Anyone, Pricey. The president himself. Understand? I’m – out.”

Sokol knew, Patrol knew, that on occasion Tskoulis would take a couple of days and just retreat aboveground to one of the caves near the Onlar canyons. The other commanders did it as well. It was a way for them to clear their minds.

“Just say I am out and not to be disturbed. Sokol should understand,” Tskoulis said quietly.

“Okay, sir. So why all the secrecy?”

Tskoulis smiled. “Pricey. There’s something…difficult I must ask of you.”

Pricey’s face changed. “Are you all right, sir?” He looked as if he were choosing his words with great care. “I – know you were close to Agent Sok–”

“Stop.” Tskoulis’ voice darkened. “Don’t mention her name.”

Pricey sat back. “Sorry, sir.”

“Yes,” Tskoulis said heavily. “I was. And now – that’s why I…need to be out,” he said. “And Pricey.” He looked fiercely at his subordinate. “I don’t want you to mention her again, understand me?”

Pricey looked at his food. “Sorry, sir. What did you need to ask of me?”

“This.” Tskoulis handed him a small envelope. “This is for you, and ONLY for you, Pricey. You are not to open this yet. You are not to show it or mention it to anyone. ANYONE. That’s an order.”

Pricey’s brow furrowed. “Sir–”

Tskoulis smiled warmly. “I trust you, Pricey. With my life.”

Pricey looked him straight in the eye. The envelope disappeared into his uniform. “Thank you, sir.”

They didn’t say another word. They went back to eating.

Tskoulis finished, took a final draw from his water canteen. He got up.

“Thank you, Pricey,” he said.

He clapped Pricey on the back, and left.

Gavin packed his things. He made it look as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Left his energy inputs running as if he were planning to return in a couple of days. Left a few things scattered, undone, around his quarters. Left a note on his door referring people to Pricey.

Just as he usually did whenever he went out on retreat.

Weapons, check. Armor, check. Mask, check. Equipment bag, check. Water, food, all the rest, check.

He made his way to the service corridor where he would normally climb up and venture out across the darklands toward the cave.

Pricey was the only person he ran into in the corridors.

He smiled a little and waved goodbye. Pricey saluted.

He took the shuttle by himself to the elevator. He went up to the surface, making sure once more that he was set water-wise.

He keyed in his access code, glanced at the camera. All as it should be.

Then he stepped out into the night.

Caspar stepped out of the darkness as Gavin got far enough away from the elevator.

“Let’s go,” he said very quietly.

~*~

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Aestus, Book 2: The Colony is slated to be released in fall 2020.

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