UNEDITED (This is book 4 of the Valerie’s Elites books – Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited)
Swarthian Extended Detention Environment (SEDE)
Gara Grayhewn stepped out her front door at the same time she did every morning. She stood on her porch for a moment observing the house-like structures around her, many of whose residents also stood outside. Most were Skulla or Pallicons, though some had been genetically modified so drastically that it was difficult to identify their races.
A casual observer might think this was a normal neighborhood instead of a cellblock in the star system’s most secure prison.
Gara had been incarcerated on SEDE for nearly thirty years, and sometimes she forgot it was a prison too—but those moments didn’t last long. And they hadn’t come at all since her son Kalan been brought back a little over a month before.
Since then her every waking thought had been dedicated to one thing: getting Kalan out of SEDE…again.
These last weeks had been both a gift and a curse. She’d relished this time spent with the son she’d thought she’d never see again. She’d marveled at his tales of adventures on far-off planets (playing especially close attention whenever he mentioned that cute human, Bob). At the same time, she’d wanted nothing more than to help him escape as quickly as possible. He didn’t belong here. She’d rather see him free than be with him in prison.
So far Kalan and his Shimmer friend Wearl had made thirteen attempts to escape, but all had been unsuccessful.
Today they’d make their fourteenth.
Across the walkway, a guy was glaring at her. He was a Skulla—a heavily modded one. He’d been a product of the experiments of the being who had called himself “the Bandian.” This false Bandian had ruled the system for a time, until Kalan and his new friends had broken the rightful leader out of SEDE and defeated him.
The Skulla’s name was Zoras. He’d given Gara some trouble over the years, but this morning would be different. He nodded slightly, and she saw the hint of a smile in his eyes. He was ready.
Gara lifted a small handheld mirror, angling it so that the reflected light shot toward the starboard end of the cellblock. That was the signal.
As soon as her mirror flashed, everyone sprang into action.
Zoras was the first to move. He barreled down the steps and charged along the walkway, heading to portside. He looked ridiculous. His genetic modifications had made him absurdly muscular, almost as wide as he was tall. Watching him run was so mesmerizing and strange that for a moment Gara forgot to begin her part of the plan.
She recovered quickly from the odd sight, though, and took off down the walkway in the opposite direction.
Gara didn’t see Zoras reach his target, but she heard the impact when he slammed his massive body against one of the guard towers. Then she heard a series of smaller impacts—Zoras’ Skulla friends hitting the guard tower.
Trying to ignore thoughts of what was happening behind her, Gara fixed her eyes on her own target: another guard tower.
The guard towers in SEDE were strange circular buildings that stood twenty-feet tall, giving the guards a bird’s eye view of the walkways throughout the cellblocks. How the Shimmer guards got up into those towers was a mystery to Gara. There were no stairs or ladders, only a ledge no more than an inch wide that spiraled up the buildings’ sides.
When she’d asked Wearl how the guards got up there, the Shimmer had simply answered, “We walk.” Which hadn’t been super-helpful.
The other problem with the guard towers was that it was impossible to tell if they were occupied. For all Gara knew they were attacking empty towers right now, which would sort of lessen the effect they were going for.
As she neared her objective, she was relieved to see Pallicons gathering at the bottom. She hadn’t been sure they would come through on this, so seeing them eased her mind. It hadn’t been difficult to convince Zoras and his Skulla to participate in this plan, since they liked to cause trouble. Anything they could do to throw a wrench in the normal workings of the ship…they were game. The Pallicons were a bit more practical. She’d needed to negotiate with them.
After going back and forth for nearly a week, she’d finally made them an offer they hadn’t outright refused: the pistol she kept hidden in exchange for their help. They’d scratched their chins thoughtfully, but hadn’t committed one way or another.
Judging by the fact that they were gathered at the bottom of the tower, they were accepting.
The Pallicons shifted, changing their normally lanky forms into a series of angled ridges almost like steps, then climbing onto each other’s shoulders.
They were forming a staircase for her with their bodies.
Gara reached them just as they finished and she didn’t break her stride. She raced up the living staircase, hoping her pounding feet weren’t causing them too much pain. Grayhewns weren’t the lightest creatures.
When she reached the top of the stairs, her heart sank. It wasn’t quite tall enough.
She gritted her teeth. Zoras, the other Skulla, and the Pallicons had all put themselves on the line for this. More importantly, Kalan was counting on her.
When her foot reached the top step, she pushed off hard and leaped into the air, stretching her arm as far upward as possible. Her fingers touched the edge of the platform.
She grasped it, praying her grip would hold. Thankfully, it did.
Hanging there by one hand, she looked toward the starboard side of the cellblock and a smile appeared on her face.
The gate opened at the end of the block. Though she couldn’t see them, she knew Shimmer reinforcements were arriving to deal with the sudden attacks on their guard towers.
As she pulled herself up Gara took one last look toward the gate, hoping to catch a glimpse of Kalan. If all went well, this would be her last chance to see him—hopefully ever. She’d never leave this prison, and if there was any fairness in the universe, he would never return.
She didn’t spot him; all she saw were the deep shadows where he must be hiding.
She turned her attention back to her situation.
She climbed to her feet, observing the cellblock that had been her home for so long from this high angle for the first time. Then she turned to the apparently empty platform and clenched her fists.
She’d never hit a Shimmer in all her years on SEDE, but that was about to change.
“All right, which of you invisible bastards wants a piece of me first?”
She braced herself for the fight she knew was about to come, a smile on her face and hope for her son blazing in her heart.
FROM JUSTIN >>> The fourth book… the end to an arc. Exciting, right? We had a lot of exciting conversations and writing sessions, editing, etc to get us to this point. We hope you enjoy!
Stay tuned for more great books! Have you checked out my Biotech Wars series yet?
Space Station Horus faces a conflict between supersoldiers and hackers, but when alien tech is thrown into the mix, all bets are off.
Alice was told that her husband was dead, a month after he went up to space. Now she’s formed a team of technical assassins dedicated to taking down New Origins, the corporation in charge of the station, if she doesn’t get answers. Someone has to hold them accountable–even if it means going up against an army of genetically engineered super soldiers.
Stealth is an elite among elites. This Marine wanted to be on the front line of expansion into space, and now he is. Only the hacker organization known as The Looking Glass stands against them, trying to pull apart all of his team’s progress, all they believe in.
Neither will stop until they have justice.
Jason Bourne meets Mr. Robot on a space station.
AND CHECK OUT THE WHOLE SERIES: