S. A. Hoag, Writer

Renegades

Book 2 of The Wildblood Series

Renegades; Book 2 of The Wildblood Series

excerpt

south of Estes Park mid morning Feb 10

“This is one of three air bursts,” Vance said, pointing to the video monitor. It was recording as the airplane banked around to give them a clear view. “It happened early that morning, just before nine. It was a Tuesday. The others detonations were east and south, one directly over downtown Denver; the third at the airport. All happened within minutes.” He remembered it crystal clear. None of the others could, they simply weren’t old enough.

The first group of buildings were isolated and more than that, destroyed. Melted, irradiated, and nothing that remained looked like it had ever been occupied by a human being.

“Rocky Flats,” Shannon said carefully, concentrating. There were no ghosts, no impressions of the past, crowding into her thoughts. She was glad for that. Being Gen En, genetically enhanced, she could see things not so obvious to others. This place was empty, it was. . . null. The war had been twenty years ago, the voices faded. Civilization consisted of tiny enclaves, hidden away and carefully guarded from other remnants of humanity. Her home, The Vista, was one of those places.

“Anything?” Green asked, aware of the consequences if she sensed something unusual. He'd been her second, her backup, for years. Today he was piloting.

She wrinkled her nose, distracted. “No, nothing that merits mention.” Flying was an aversion, one she hadn't been able to avoid recently. They were far from home, wary guests of Vance’s these past few months.

“What does that mean?” Cooper asked, the first thing he’d actually had to say during the journey. He’d taken the seat behind Vance and kept to himself. That was his job, to make sure Vance stayed out of trouble. The Vistans were trouble. There were only a few of them, but they were a dangerous few.

“It means, she doesn't see anything we can't see,” Green offered. He wasn't Gen En. He was Siksika, a Blackfoot; a misplaced Vista Security officer, like her. Being her bodyguard, at least for a couple hours, was a duty Green didn't mind. Capt. Allen, Shannon, was younger, more adept at controlling tricky situations, and his senior officer. Their relationship was far less complicated than most people believed.

Vance nodded. The Vistans and his people weren’t friends, it wasn’t something he could foresee at any point soon. They might be able to work out a trade agreement. He'd been in charge of Estes Park a decade. The areas south could be troublesome. Most of what had been central Colorado was under his protection, but there was a large and empty landscape where Denver had been. Even the scavengers kept clear.

The Vista was far to the north, somewhere, past his influence. Having them show up on his doorstep a few months earlier hadn’t been a surprise. They were hunting Rafe, an outlaw Gen En, and Vance’s former partner-in-crime. He’d proven to be extremely violent, volatile and unpredictable. After years at odds with each other, Vance had become resigned to his presence nearby, raiding and ransacking villages. Young, brash, and looking for revenge, the Vistans had accomplished in weeks what he hadn’t been able to in a decade.

The camera moved as he'd indicated, east, then south, lingering on each a full minute. “Got it,” Green said, watching the feed. Their radiation scanners hadn't ticked up. That had been his main concern. The field was unpredictable and went from normal readings to dangerous ones in the space of a few miles. By air, those miles could go by quickly, and unnoticed.

“That wasn't so bad, now was it?” Vance chided her, starkly aware how uncomfortable she felt. It didn’t take enhanced senses to see that. There was nothing similar about her.

Shannon was a fourteenth generation Genetically Engineered human, born after World War Three and raised, oddly enough, by her parents. He'd never known who his parents were, and never thought to ask. As a fifth gen, not actual generations but rather the level of genetic manipulation, he was raised in a controlled, sterile environment. Vance’s latent abilities were a far cry from hers. She’d proven that numerous times, with her partner and fellow Gen En, Wade, during the brief time before they made an uneasy alliance with him. They might not be unique in the world; they certainly were to him.

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