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Society of wishes, p.1
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       Society of Wishes, p.1

           Elise Kova
 
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Society of Wishes


  Society of Wishes

  Wish Quartet Book One

  Elise Kova

  Lynn Larsh

  Contents

  Copyright Page

  Dedication Page

  Map of the Society’s Mansion

  1. Lone Star Republic

  2. The Society

  3. Capital D

  4. Error 404

  5. Dangerously Easy

  6. Because Magic

  7. Wish

  8. Git of Time

  9. Not Real

  10. Ready, Aim, Fire!

  11. Broken Mug

  12. Contentment. Not Happiness.

  13. Rec Room

  14. Shewolf’s Mission

  15. Paris

  16. Penthouse

  17. Bellhop Bet

  18. Catacomb Heist

  19. Tomato

  20. Great Depression

  21. Severity of Exchange

  22. Almost Like Permission

  23. Redemption Flavored Coffee

  24. A Dangerous Deal

  25. Cold Hands

  26. A Bribe Named “Sopapilla”

  27. Hospital Room

  28. Greentouch

  29. Clean Slate

  30. Obsidian Circle

  31. Black Door

  Sneak Peek: Wish Quartet Book Two

  Also by Elise Kova: AIR AWAKENS

  Also by Elise Kova: THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM

  Elise’s Acknowledgements

  Lynn’s Acknowledgements

  About the Author: Elise Kova

  About the Author: Lynn Larsh

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, and events in this book are the products of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the authors.

  Published by Silver Wing Press

  Copyright © 2018 by Elise Kova

  All rights reserved. Neither this book, nor any parts within it may be sold or reproduced in any form without permission.

  Cover Artwork by Elise Kova

  Editing by Rebecca Faith Editorial

  eISBN: 9781619848856

  Print ISBN: 9781619848849

  to all those brave enough to wish

  Chapter 1

  Lone Star Republic

  IT WAS HOTTER than Satan’s tit outside, but Jo wore a fleece-lined hoodie zipped all the way up to her chin, a necessity so she wouldn’t catch frostbite in the computer room. She swigged another gulp of RAGE ENERGY and continued to blind herself with the fluorescent light of the monitor set up eight inches from her face.

  “How hard is it to get five monitors?” She slammed down her energy drink, rattling a pile of M&Ms and sending them scattering across the table.

  “How hard is it to work on four?” her friend—the only other person she’d seen for a month—asked from across the room.

  “No one asked you, Yuusuke.” Jo rolled her eyes and took another hefty sip of neon-green juice. She wouldn’t be surprised if, over the past twenty-four-hour hack-a-thon, she had slowly begun substituting the liquid for blood in her veins.

  “Then who else were you asking?”

  “Johnson here.”

  “Who the hell is Johnson?” Yuusuke pushed his chair back from his desk, leaning back so far he almost toppled over.

  “Empty energy drink can number fifteen.”

  “Fifteen? Damn, Jo, you’re going to straight-up give yourself a heart attack.”

  “Don’t insult little Johnson.” Jo picked up the can as she swiveled her own chair to look at Yuusuke. She brought the aluminum to her cheek, nuzzling it tenderly. “He didn’t mean it, sweetie.”

  “What hour are we on?” Yuusuke groaned, running his hands through his hair. Most of it had fallen from his pony tail and now hung limply around his face. Dark stubble lined his chin, the patchy shadow almost the same shade as the purple bags under his eyes. Bags that no doubt mirrored those beneath her own.

  “Twenty-five.”

  “We’re screwed if we don’t get a break,” Yuusuke mumbled from behind his hands, rubbing his face as if to wake himself up. The motion prompted Jo to copy, realizing how heavy her own eyelids felt.

  “We’re screwed if we don’t get a breakthrough.”

  He muttered some kind of agreement, or expletive, or both, and returned to his computer.

  Code and sequences ran across one of her screens. It was a little bit of software that could be used for a probing attack on crypto-currency databases, just like the one they were currently trying to crack into. Unsurprisingly, the Black Bank had one of the best security systems in the world. Unsurprising, really, since the bank was owned by the infamous hacker group, Incognito. It’s why the payout for this particular job had been so impressive: only fools would take it.

  She and Yuusuke were just such fools.

  In the corner of her left screen, a little red bubble appeared with a ‘1’ at its center.

  “Message from the boss,” Jo announced. She looked over her shoulder when there were no signs of life. Yuusuke’s head bobbed, his giant headphones covering both ears. Jo took one of her fifteen energy cans and tossed it at his head. It missed, but struck his shoulder, still having the desired effect.

  “What?” He nearly jumped out of his skin.

  “Message from the boss,” she repeated.

  “Oh fu— what does it say?” Yuusuke stood and walked over to read their employer’s most recent demand.

  “Maybe they decided not to hack the most un-hackable thing on the planet?” Jo offered hopefully. The only way they were getting into the Black Bank’s servers was if they actually broke into the room they were housed in and got to tamper behind the firewalls.

  “Then we don’t get paid and someone else gets the glory. Fat chance. And, anyway, we both know it’s not what you want.”

  Jo clicked on the bubble and a tiny, encrypted window popped open. It was a small frame, a little portal to the world outside that neither of them had seen for two days now. It showed a barn in the middle of nowhere, adjacent to an unassuming farmhouse. High-efficiency solar panels lined the rooftops, feeding what Jo knew to be industrial batteries disguised as grain silos.

  It was the barn in which they now sat. Underneath the picture were listed the current date and time. Then, a few lines of text, colder than the room in which they sat:

  The Rangers have you surrounded.

  Do the honorable thing and purge all data

  Thank you for working with us.

  “W-what’s this nonsense?” Yuusuke tried to laugh off the message, but the wavering in his voice was reminiscent of the trembling in Jo’s fingers.

  She clicked on the image, dragged it to the desktop, and quickly cracked into its meta-data.

  “It’s from the Rangers.” Was that froggy croak her voice? “The image originates from a Ranger server.”

  “Are you saying this is real?”

  Jo swiveled in her seat, looking around the room. Server stacks were piled as high as the roof, consuming half the barn. It was supposed to be enough power to run whatever scripts they needed to break into the Black Bank on dedicated computers. It was supposed to be enough space to store several thousand terabytes of encrypted data. It was supposed to be their big payout.

  Now, it was all just incriminating evidence that two citizens of the Lonestar Republic were co-operating with a foreign power.

  She was on her feet, starting for the door—the only door. The only egress from their dark cave of code, back into the real world.

  Her heart had wriggled up her throat with every beat and now seemed to throb so close to her uvula it was going to make her sick. Jo wiped her palms, slick with sweat, on her jeans.

&
nbsp; “What do we do?” Yuusuke voiced her only thought. “You can’t think you’re just gonna walk out, do you?”

  “I—”

  “This is the Rangers. We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up.”

  Yuusuke rattled off every expletive he knew like a magic spell, one that would get them out of being the meat in the shit sandwich they now found themselves in. “What do we do?”

  “Let’s turn ourselves in?” Jo clung to the final echo of the megaphone-filtered voice that was barely audible through the heavily insulated doors of the server barn.

  “Turn ourselves in?” Yuusuke balked. “Have you lost your mind? You know what they do to people like us. They’ll kill us, wipe us off the earth, and they’ll take everything from our families—if they even let them live at all!”

  There had been a growing trend of using the families of “digital terrorists” as examples to dissuade others from taking up the craft. She’d seen it happen to multiple acquaintances over the years, brilliant hackers whose loved ones had been slaughtered to make a point.

  “What if we hide?” Yuusuke continued, wrenching her back to the present.

  “Hide? Where?” Jo motioned around them. “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in a box with nothing more than computer guts!”

  “Better than your idea of feeding ourselves to them on a silver platter!”

  There had to be a way out—there had to be. Jo’s mind rattled as she swept her eyes across the room. Way out.

  Way out.

  Where was the way out?

  The walls were double-layer insulated. They couldn’t be burst through, and even if they could, they were surrounded.

  “How did this happen?” Yuusuke groaned. He froze as if remembering something and suddenly advanced on her. “You. You wanted this job.”

  “Yuu, stop—”

  “You wanted to do this. You dragged me into this. Aren’t you supposed to be the sensible one?”

  “What happened to glory, huh?” Jo was yelling. Solved nothing, but screaming felt better than playing nice. “You had something you were all-too-eager to prove to the world.”

  “Oh yeah? What happened to playing it safe, Jo? Low and steady? Who’s gonna support the family now?”

  Mom. The thought stilled Jo, ice to her burning anger. “We have to get out.”

  “We will open fire in THREE. . .” the Ranger announced.

  “What’re you doing?”

  Jo was at the computer again. “Asking for help.”

  “You don’t think they’ll try to preserve evidence?”

  “Lone Star Rangers aren’t known for asking questions first and shooting later.” Jo didn’t have time to shoot him a dumb look, but she still felt it cross her face.

  Someone, anyone, come to their aid. Jo reached out to every hacker she ever knew in her frantic plea. Hack their guns. Give them conflicting intel. Hell, she’d take a rogue helicopter that was no doubt circling them suddenly losing all computer function and plummeting into the men about to shoot them down.

  “TWO. . .”

  “Anything?” Yuusuke was panting, like he’d just been running.

  All messages were dark, chats unaccepted. All her pleas were going unanswered. It was like they were alone, banished to an island the world had forgotten.

  “ONE. . .”

  “I’m going out.”

  “Yuu, wait!” One of the messages lit up. Someone was responding. Jo leaned over her computer, desperate to see who was ready to help.

  Gunshots fired like a mortar out of a tube on New Year’s, servers reduced to shrapnel exploding throughout the room. Jo screamed, fell to her knees, covered her head. When the hail of bullets and circuit board debris eventually ended, Jo’s eyes snapped back to her computer. The screens were dark.

  “No, no!” She pounded on the keyboard, trying to bring it back to life. “Is your computer—”

  Jo turned, and froze.

  Yuusuke, her friend, her ally, her accomplice, lay on the floor, riddled with bullets. Crimson pooled around him like the infamous biblical tide rising to drown them both.

  She skidded to her knees, pressing down on the wound in his shoulder. Jo alternated to the one on his stomach. But she couldn’t seem to stave the blood flow.

  “No, no, no. . .” She shook her head and tears streamed down her cheeks. “Come on, man. . . W-what about the Black Bank, huh? Come on, Yuu. . .” Nothing. Jo saw his slack face go blurry more than felt the tears begin to well behind her eyes. “What about Blackbeard?” She tried, desperate. But even finally using his preferred alias couldn’t summon her friend back to life.

  Jo looked around once more.

  No way out. She was faced with the same realization as before. Even if she could ask for help, there was no way it would come in time.

  Beams of sunlight cut through the darkness, like a glimpse of a heaven she’d no doubt never see because she didn’t even know if she believed it was there. Jo closed her eyes and sighed.

  This was how she died. This was the end of the line for her. She’d known it might come earlier than most, given her profession, but she’d hoped to at least make it past nineteen.

  In that moment, one of those beams acted like a spotlight on a piece of information in the back of her mind. Maybe it was the fear pulling her back to a time when things were easier, safer. Maybe life really did flash before your eyes in your final moments. She didn’t have time to consider the why; she was too busy thinking about her grandmother.

  The woman who’d been born ancient and worked as hard as she could to help raise Jo’s mother, and then her, up until there was no more to give. The feeling of her lap, the lingering scent of pastelitos on her apron, the soothing sound of her voice—it was all there. But what was most vivid were her words: “Ven pa acá, mijita. I have a story for you.”

  The story itself was an old one, and most of the minor details were lost to time even before her grandmother had passed on the tale. But it was a fable Abuelita had spoken about with certainty. Jo recalled circles, wishes, and a spell that could make anything possible.

  It wasn’t much to go by. But technology could not protect her now. Jo pushed herself from her knees, crouching over Yuusuke’s still intact computer for her last-ditch, impossible chance at a way out—somewhere between faith and fairytale.

  Her hands flew over Yuusuke’s keyboard, stroking in her search query. Blood spattered the table around her, smearing the keys and blotting out the letters.

  She struck deep, going straight into the heart of the dark web, searching with everything she had for something that sounded like her grandmother’s story. It took three blatantly ridiculous articles before she found one that struck a chord. There wasn’t any time to look for a fourth. This would have to do.

  Without hesitation, she followed the instructions to the letter.

  Step one: Cast the circle.

  Jo walked over to Yuusuke, ignoring the sounds of the megaphones from beyond the barn. It didn’t matter what they said; she knew what would happen next. Jo crouched next to her friend, tucking a stray bit of hair behind his ear. She spoke right to his wide, dead eyes. “I’ll join you soon.”

  Placing her palm flat on the floor in the puddle of his blood, Jo swept it around her, turning, drawing a circle in which she was the center.

  Step two: Say the invocation.

  “I beseech the darkness and the chaos that lives there. Heed my plea and accept my wish.”

  Jo stared about the room. Nothing happened. She sunk back onto her heels, her feet folding under her butt.

  “Escucha me, Josephina,” Abuelita had said. Jo closed her eyes, trying to hear her grandmother one final time. “If the time comes, and you are in need, remember this story.”

  The door behind her slammed open and Jo whipped to face it, drawn on instinct by the loud boom of the battering ram. She stared past the barrels of guns at men and women in full riot gear. The army had been called in to take down a couple of kid
s.

  A man began to shout.

  Gunfire exploded in front of her eyes, deep in her ears.

  And the world stopped.

  Jo had to blink twice to know that she was still breathing. Bullets floated before her, frozen in mid-air. The world was doused in perfect silence. There was no wind, no hum of computer fans, no buzzing of monitors, no pulsing of Yuusuke’s retro dub-step still blaring from his dangling headphones.

  “Your plea has been heard.”

  The voice was as much in her mind as it was in the air surrounding her. It prickled nerves up her arms, setting every hair on end.

  She expected to find some timeless monster to have such a powerful voice. But a man who looked cut straight out of a fashion magazine stared down at her. He had a strong chin, deep crimson lips, skin so pale that it was almost translucent, and silvery hair that swept over the side of a face that looked like something from a distant dream.

  “Are you a vampire?” The surreal, almost cinematic nature of her situation had gotten to her; it was like being on a film set. All she waited for now was the director’s “Cut!” to bring an end to the nightmarish scene around her.

  “I am the Wish Granter.” The not-quite-vampire, not-quite-timeless-monster spoke again with a voice that could liquefy diamonds. “And I am here for your wish.”

  “My. . . wish. . .” Jo looked at the circle he stood on the edge of, drawn in her friend’s blood. “I’m not dead?”

  “What do you wish for?” he rephrased, with more urgency.

 
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