Defiance Rising, p.1Amy Miles
Also by Amy Miles
THE AROTAS Series
The Immortal Rose Trilogy
The Rising Trilogy
The Withered Series
In Your Embrace
THE RISING TRILOGY
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright ©2013 by Amy Miles Books, LLC.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Also available in ebook format.
First paperback edition 2013
To Rick and Landon~
You know you mean the world to me. I love you with all my heart.
To Sue Brown~
Without your love and encouragement, this novel may never have been given wings. Thanks for enduring all of the obsessive re-writes over the years.
Table of Contents
Note from the Author
About the Author
I’ve been told that this world used to be a beautiful place, filled with twinkling electric lights and tables overflowing with food. A place where children played in parks and couples took leisurely strolls on Sunday. A time when humans weren’t slaves to aliens or nature. Staring out over the concrete graveyard before me, I find that hard to imagine.
I have no idea what the name used to be for this place. It has been lost to the past, like so many things. Now, my friends and I call it what it is──the City.
All that remains of my parent’s Earth are cracked sidewalks with grass and weeds growing up through the pavement. A maze of rusted cars and twisted lampposts scattered along each street create a web of devastation. Tarnished coins and glass shards form a glittering river winding through the City. In the distance, I spy broken skyscrapers rising from the ruins at jagged angles, symbols of a life long forgotten.
This is where the Caldonians live, where the Sky Ships land each night after scouring the woods for us. No one knows how many of them there are. I think my friends are too afraid to find out. If I were honest, I’d admit to being nervous as well.
My concern has swelled over the past couple weeks. That’s when the tremors began. My friends say it’s nothing, but I know whatever is causing the tremors is something important. I can feel it in my gut, and I’m hardly ever wrong.
After my mother died in a raid six months back, my friends and I were left in charge of the commune. There are a couple of the elders who remain but are too crippled to help maintain the rebellion. The children had to be protected, so we became the leaders.
Toren was the obvious choice as the head of our group and has risen as a natural leader. I can’t say that I like taking orders from him, although I think he actually despises giving them more, knowing that I will disobey.
His girlfriend, Aminah, is my friend. Her sweet nature and mothering heart is a beacon of hope to the children of our group. She broke through my rough exterior when we were kids and, despite our many differences, still finds a way through my defenses.
Eamon is my closest friend and is notably the best hunter of our group, apart from me. Since the time I could hold a stick, we’ve been sparring. What once started as pretend stick sword fights led us to spear tossing, knife throwing and hand-to-hand combat. He is always at my side, watchful and quick to administer a reprimand if he sees fit. Eamon thinks I’m reckless, but I think adventurous suits me better.
Zahra is the last of our group and is as vain as she is obnoxious. We’ve been butting heads for as long as I can remember. It’s not my fault Eamon is my best friend or that he hardly pays Zahra mind when I’m around.
Standing here, overlooking the City, I think of my friends, each one as dear to me as my own blood family. As a tremor ripples up through the soles of my boots, I know that I have to enter the City this time.
Clutching the strap of my canvas satchel against my chest, I rise from a crouch. “You can do this,” I whisper, steeling myself.
I’ve been here several times over the past week, on this ledge, with fear wedged so tightly in my throat that I wonder if I’ll be able to snatch my next breath. My fear is irrational but that never stops me from doubling over with crippling nausea.
It’s not like I can’t take care of myself. I’m stealthy enough to avoid Caldonian detection. I’m skilled enough to fight off any scavengers that might cross my path, but each time I come to this very spot, my pulse begins to thump out a cadence in my ears. My palms slicken with sweat and the pit of my stomach coils uncomfortably. The sense that I’m doing the right thing is evenly paralleled by trepidation.
“Don’t chicken out this time.” Pinpricks of pain shoot up my legs as I stretch up onto my toes, working out the kinks in my lower back. I’ve lingered too long on the ridge. Night will be upon me soon and I must seek shelter.
The Sky Ships come at dusk and dawn, like winged scavengers seeking yet another carcass to consume. Being caught out in the open is suicide.
When I was younger, the black ships would send me running for my mother’s arms. I’ve never known a life without Caldonian oppression. My pathetic version of freedom has been paid for with gallons of spilled blood.
My parents chose to be part of the rebellion. I was born into it. Aminah and Zahra were never cut out for this life, so it was up to Toren, Eamon and I to learn how to hunt for food, set traps and scour the woods for salvageable ammo.
Eamon has an affinity for spears. He likes the feel of the smooth wood grain between his fingers just before he strikes. I’m the opposite. I prefer the rigidity of a blade—serrated and lethal.
I stomp my right foot and wait for feeling to fully return. I can’t take any chances. I must be on top form when I enter these desolate streets.
The far horizon glows with beautiful shades of lavender and pale rose as I leap down the hill, riding the loose dirt like a surfer. A cloud of dust rises from the soil, clinging to my black shirt and pants. I dig the heels of my boots into the slope to slow my wild descent.
My arms pinwheel, compensating for the uneven terrain as I jump and land on a hard, unforgiving surface. Pain reverberates up through my legs
I dip low and brush my fingertips across the rough ground and a word surfaces in my mind—sidewalk. I can’t but wonder what the people here were like, when they didn’t need to fear death or certain capture. Did someone fall in love in this spot? Did a little boy chase after a runaway dog? Did a mother soothe her crying baby on the rusted wrought iron bench nearby?
I close my eyes and smile at the uneven texture of the path, storing this detail for later consideration. It’s so unlike the smooth stone of the caves where my friends and I live. I prefer this rough surface.
Debris litters the street before me. Brick rubble tumbles over from a squat one-story building on the corner. Crumpled plastic chairs and disfigured metals tables spill forth from various storefronts. Brittle autumn leaves spiral down the deserted sidewalk, a reminder as bitter as the harsh winds that whip against my face, chafing my cheeks.
I try not to think about how angry Toren will be when he finds out I’ve come here, or how disappointed Aminah will be when she discovers that I’m going to miss my surprise birthday party tonight. She should have known better than to entrust Zahra with that secret.
Eamon will take my coming here the hardest. There have never been secrets between us so this betrayal will cut deep. I didn’t really have a choice, though. He would never have approved such a rash decision, but the tremors are increasing and I must know what is causing them.
I crouch low and race across the street, dropping down behind a partially melted car. Its shape is odd, as if the metal were heated then dripped over the side. It reminds me of a picture of a melted clock painting from one of the few books salvaged during the Assault. My mother’s passion for art was one of the few things she and I shared. It never failed to draw me into her long forgotten world.
Peering over the hood of the car, I search the path ahead for any sign of life. Rumors claim that scavengers still dare to enter the City. Considering that I’m one tonight, I find this rumor to be dangerously plausible, but it’s not them that I fear. Scavengers fight out of desperation, but the Caldonians fight on a completely different level.
The aliens look just like humans──two arms and legs, intelligent minds and oxygen rich lungs. They are beautiful in the most raw, elemental way possible. Their eyes are not confined to the limitations of blues, greens and browns like human eyes. They dip into rainbows of purples, oranges, reds and even some colors I struggle to place.
I squint up into the fading light as my fingers grip tightly around my pistol. It’s loaded with a round in the chamber, ready for whatever might lurk in the shadows. My right pocket holds the spare magazine I managed to scavenge after the last raid, not enough to hold off a group of aliens but enough to create a diversion and run like heck back into the woods.
A pair of knives clings to my back, tucked into the braided rope around my waist. I like to keep them near just in case things get personal.
It is eerily silent as I push off from the car and skirt along a partially crumbled building. Some of the brick wall still stands. In parts, it rises well above my head. I can imagine there must have been another level above the ground floor but one glance through the window frame reveals only remnants of an upper floor. The back of the building is gone, blasted out during the Assault, the first and only day of the invasion.
I hold my handgun out before me as my boots crunch over an endless sea of glass shards. As far as I can see, only vacant windowpanes remain. I pull away from the wall to stare at a small reflective sliver, wedged into a twisted metal frame of what appears to have been a bookstore.
Rising onto my tiptoes, I peek through. Leaves and dirt clutter the floor. Small corners of yellowed paper flutter in the wind, the corners trapped under broken mahogany bookcases. Much of the interior of the building is stripped away. A large, charred circle near the center gives evidence to a fire, mostly likely from a scavenger holed up for the night.
Craning my neck, I peer up through the roofless building. Whoever lit that fire must’ve been desperate. A fire would’ve been easily spotted from above. Sinking back onto my heels, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the former resident, but a reflection of myself tugs my curiosity in a new direction.
One violet eye blinks back at me, its lashes long and full. I pull back further to note the fullness of my lower lip and the small smattering of freckles that cross the bridge of my straight nose. Hunching over, I catch a glimpse of the wild mane of blonde hair whipping about my shoulders.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen myself. Our commune used to have a small hand mirror to share among everyone, but it was broken during a spat between Zahra and a younger girl who suffered from a serious case of “Eamonitis.” Their ongoing feud to capture my best friend’s heart started several years ago when he hit puberty and quickly topped the “most eligible guy” list.
Staring at myself now, I can see the subtle changes that have come with age. The image before me reveals a young woman instead of the adolescent girl I last saw. My pistol grazes my cheek as I push my unruly hair behind my ear and turn to observe my profile.
“You gonna stare at yourself all night, Princess?”
I whip around and take aim at the dark figure half a block behind me, leaning against the back end of a silver car. Judging by his height and build, I’d say he’s about my age, give or take a few months. Two arms rise toward the sky. “I’m unarmed!”
With him in my sights, I approach slowly, waiting for a sound of ambush. I don’t want to fire off a shot for fear of drawing attention to myself, but surely this guy isn’t alone. “Who are you?”
“The name’s Bastien.”
“You got a last name, Bastien?” I creep closer. My pulse tap-dances in my ears as I pause less than ten feet from him. I clench my fingers around the gun as I try to ignore the sweat gathering along my neck. Adrenaline pumps through my veins, making me alert.
I take several deep breaths as I plot out my next move, as if this is a hunt and I’m staring down my dinner. What does he want? Is he a scavenger or one of the human traitors who collects women to sell to the Caldonians?
“Adair. It’s Scottish.” He cocks his head to the side. “Guess that little tidbit doesn’t really matter when you’ve got a gun aimed at your head.”
“Your heart, actually.” My finger hovers over the trigger as I scan the guy standing before me.
Shoulder length raven-black hair tosses about in the wind, thrashing against his angular face. His chest and shoulders are broad, tapering down to a well-defined abdomen, although the exact contour is hard to determine hidden beneath a woolen sweater.
His raised hands are encased in threadbare gloves. Some of the wool fingers are missing, with frayed bits of yarn poking out. His jeans are stained and faded, patched with poorly stitched bits of random cloth. Light stubble clings to his chin and jawline, enhancing his rugged good looks with annoying perfection.
I notice all of this with a simple glance before meeting his curious gaze. Vivid blue eyes with pupils ringed in gold betray intelligence and, if I’m not mistaken, a hint of humor too.
“Something funny?” I ask through gritted teeth.
“Well, that depends.” A ghost of a smile stretches across his face.
“On?” I adjust the gun in my hand. Although he doesn’t move or show any signs of hostility, I find myself deeply unsettled by him.
“On whether you think your little toy pistol can beat my shotgun.” He slides his arm down from the trunk of the silver car, revealing a sawed off shotgun. I silently berate myself for letting him get the better of me, although his concealed weapon doesn’t come as a huge surprise. More of an annoyance. I don’t like losing the upper hand.
“A bit old school, don’t you think?” I smirk, not letting my gun drop a millimeter. “Now what do we do?”
I drop my gaze to his hands, noting the sure steadiness of them. My mind screams for me to take my chances but my gut tells me that he’s more than willing to pull that trigger. This won’t end well for me.
“Fine.” I dip my head in agreement, knowing that time is running short. Already I can hear the whirl of the Sky Ship’s engines as it takes off. “Drop yours first.”
The rising winds whip Bastien’s hair about his face, obscuring his features, but his eyes remain locked on me. “You’re insane! You really want to do this now?”
I twist my head just enough to hear the hum of an engine approaching from down the street. I chew on my lip, knowing I have two choices: trust this complete stranger or take on a Sky Ship with just a handful of bullets. It’s not a hard choice.
“Lead the way.” I lower my weapon but my finger remains on the trigger as he cocks the shotgun over his shoulder. Without another word, he turns and dashes across the street, weaving in and out of the abandoned cars.
I try to keep up with his fast pace, reminding myself to breathe as the winds funnel harder down the street. The Sky Ship is nearly on top of us.
“How far?” I glance back over my shoulder to find the tip of a black wing appearing over the edge of a building two blocks away. A hand grasps my forearm and pulls me through a dark opening in the wall. I stumble forward out of Bastien’s grasp, fighting to remain upright as I falter down a steep set of stairs.
Metal clanging overhead alerts me to his location. I wait, gasping for breath as the walls rumble around me. The Sky Ship must be directly above us now. I press back against the wall, clutching my gun to my chest as I lift prayers for safety heavenward.
I jerk my pistol up to eye level as a light flares in the dark. Bastien shields his eyes with his arm and rears back. “Don’t go shooting that thing in here! It’ll kill us both!”
I drop the gun, squinting up into the light. It doesn’t flicker like a fire. Its core is pure white instead of vivid blue or orange. Metal encases the cylindrical object, scratched and worn but showing little sign of rust. “What is that thing?”
I roll the word around on my tongue. “Never heard of it.”
He shoots me a scathing look. “I wouldn’t expect a tree hugger like you would have.”
My brow furrows and I’m sure he’s just insulted me in some way. Bastien slowly steps down the narrow staircase. As the light broadens around me, I begin to notice the dingy cement walls, lined with posters and advertisements. “Where are we?”
“It used to be a subway.” He pauses beside me, waiting for some sign of recognition. This time I nod in understanding.
“My mother told me about these. Long, winding tunnels underground that would shuttle people from one end of the City to the next.”
“That’s the basic idea of it, yeah.” Bastien waits for me before descending the final steps. “This is the safest place to be during a raid. I found this entrance a couple months back and haven’t been bothered once.” His arm brushes against mine as he squeezes past through the narrow doorway. I follow his lead deeper underground, passing silently by aged wooden benches and an empty enclosed booth with the picture of the subway on the side. The further we go, the quieter the hum of the Sky Ship becomes.
I stay close as we leap down onto the track and wind through the deserted tunnel. The air is thick down here, different from the caves. It feels weighty, filthy.
“This way.” He flashes his light onto the track ahead and I see a glint of white and red.
“What is that thing?” I ask, as we approach the large metal object filling the tunnel.
“It’s an old subway car.” Bastien reaches up and cranks the metal handle on the door. I hesitate as he offers me a hand up. His smirk widens. “It’s rude to refuse the aid of a gentleman, you know.”
“Who said you were a gentleman?”
He stares pointedly at his hand, wiggling his fingers. “Don’t leave me hanging here.”
I swallow my trepidation and place my hand in his. The scratchy feel of his wool glove lingers long after he releases my hand.
Defiance Rising by Amy Miles / Fantasy have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on36 votes