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Authors: Christie Anderson

Ambrosia Shore

BOOK: Ambrosia Shore
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AMBROSIA SHORE

The Water Keepers, Book 3

 

CHRISTIE ANDERSON

 

 

http://www.christieanderson.org

 

http://facebook.com/TheWaterKeepers

 

Copyright © 2013 by Christie Anderson

First eBook edition: May 2013

 

 

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author.

 

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious.

Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

 

 

 

For my dad

 

The most kindhearted, optimistic person I know

 

 

1
. ORION STEPS IN
 

 

 

The door to the Banyan Security Center sprang open after a quick swipe from Orion’s clearance card. The agents on duty inside the large room all jerked their heads at his entrance and jumped to their feet to demonstrate attention and respect for their superior’s arrival.

Orion tipped his head in acknowledgement then signaled they return to their work stations.

“Councilman Bennett,” the head agent said, “an unidentified emergency admittance through the Threshold border was reported at 16:47 hours. At 17:06 a border guard was found handcuffed outside the Hall of Clocks, claiming that Agent Rayne Stevens double crossed him by taking the undocumented person off grounds by force.”

Orion strode to the main security screen as he made commands. “Give me video from all vital stations immediately. Run facial recognition for Stevens throughout the city, starting with major transport.”

Orion scanned the video feed as it appeared, when something suspect caught his eye. “There,” he said, pointing to the screen in question. “Zoom in.” When he got a closer look at the scene, it revealed a glimpse of a person, possibly carrying something large and obscure, as the figure turned a corner inside a secured area at the Sacred Pool.

The figure on the screen disappeared around the corner. “Pull up all cameras located at station one,” Orion advised. “I want a report of every agent who’s been stationed there in the last twenty-four hours.”

“Sir, I have something,” one of the agents on duty called. “The system at the Sacred Pool shows Agent Stevens’ security clearance was accessed there only moments ago. Should we send in a team?”

Orion hesitated as he found Rayne Stevens’ face on another screen. “Wait,” he instructed. “I want to get a better look.”

Using the control panel, he zoomed in on the object in Rayne’s hands. It was a woman. He could undoubtedly see that she was unresponsive, perhaps even dead. What was Rayne Stevens up to? Orion wondered if this had anything to do with Jax’s outburst earlier that day.

 First his son had come barging past security to Hamlin’s office, spouting out something about this
Operation Sadie
that Orion knew nothing about, and now one of their top agents was breaking into the Sacred Pool? Something was clearly amiss. And he had a feeling the Ambassador was involved.

Orion spun to face the room. “Everyone out,” he ordered. “Now! This is a matter for top-clearance only.”

No one dared question him as every befuddled guard at the station scurried out of the room. Then, Orion watched on intently as Rayne Stevens, the Ambassador’s beloved pet Water Keeper, tore his way through the last secure door and ran up the path leading directly to the Sacred Pool.

 

 

2. FORIEGN
 

 

 

The outer security gate opened automatically as we approached in Rayne’s truck. I glanced back one last time at the building which stood like a small fortress behind us. It guarded the Sacred Pool of Banya, the place that had saved me from death just moments earlier by some miraculous power living within its massive walls made of Banyan trees. I had to take a deep breath as I turned forward in the seat, knowing that we were about to roll forward to an exciting new world.

We made our way down a steep slope, surrounded by beautiful foliage and trees that seemed to shimmer through the darkening sky. A shiver of anticipation fluttered through me as we turned a corner where the trees started to clear, but as the view in front of me opened, my stomach clenched itself into a ball. My mouth and eyes grew wide at the spectacular, almost terrifying sight before me.

I gasped in awe. We were high in the hills looking down at an entire valley filled with lights; lights and skyscrapers and gleaming windows for miles. I had been to Los Angeles on numerous occasions and seen some gorgeous views of the city at night, but there was no comparison. This city was so large I couldn’t see the end of it. And it was like the entire place had been sprinkled with glow-in-the-dark paint dust, purple and pink and green. Even the grid of dark streets below us seemed to be glazed over with an iridescent sheen of blue across the surface.

My gaze was so fixed on the view through the windshield that I could hardly find any words. All I could manage under my breath was, “
Whoa
…”

Rayne glanced over at me, searching my expression, then he smiled and laced his fingers over my hand as he said, “Welcome to Banya.”

I nodded my head in response and tried to swallow. “I…thought you said Ambrosia was small.”

“It
is
small,” Rayne said with a chuckle. “Actually, it’s tiny compared to Earth. But Banya is the only big city on the entire planet of Ambrosia, and ninety percent of the population wants to live within forty-five minutes of the Sacred Pool. It takes a lot of tall buildings to house an entire planet full of people all in one place, even if it is a small one.”

“I guess that makes sense,” I said, still staring out the window, attempting to take in every inch of the city at once, wondering if that was even possible. It was just…so big…and bright. It was like it was glowing, the buildings, the trees, everything.

In that moment, I knew I had been given a second chance at life. Again. Just moments earlier, I had come within inches of death or maybe closer, and yet here I was, alive and well and sitting in the passenger seat of a brawny white truck next to the most wonderful, selfless person I had ever met in my entire life, witnessing the most astonishing sight my eyes had ever seen.

Just before we reached the bottom of the first hill, Rayne pressed his foot to the break and glanced over at me. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked for the third time in the last ten minutes.

I looked at him with a confident smile. “I’m sure.”

The amazing thing was…I didn’t have to fake it. My smile and confidence were both real. Even though everything I thought I knew about the universe had turned out to be completely wrong, and I had no idea if my mother was okay despite Rayne’s many reassurances, I felt a strange sense of peace and determination.

Something inside told me that, in this place, nothing could stop me from accomplishing my goals, whatever they were supposed to be. I didn’t actually know what they were yet, but in this moment, I had no doubt I was going to figure it all out. I squeezed Rayne’s hand and gazed out the window at a place so enthralling, and overwhelming, that I could do nothing but let my eyes explore every inch of it.

The sun had begun to disappear behind the horizon. Only a warm sunset remained in the evening sky, yet I could still see everything clearly. I wasn’t sure if it was an actual change inside me, or just the vivid world around us, but my vision felt crisp and clear, like my eyes had switched from their regular setting to high definition.

“Is that where we’re staying tonight?” I finally asked. “In Banya?” We were almost at the bottom of the hillside now, and the large city view was becoming less of a view and more of a reality right before my eyes.

Rayne pulled the steering wheel to the right, navigating around a tight corner and turning onto a road which lead us the opposite direction of the city lights. “I think it will be smarter to stay away from the crowds,” he said. “At least until I can get a hold of your father and figure out what we’re supposed to do now that you’re here.” Rayne paused and looked at me thoughtfully. “I was thinking we could stay at Lizzy Grove tonight.”

“With your family?” I blurted, unsure if I was excited by the idea or suddenly nervous.

Rayne laughed. “Yeah, if you’re okay with that. But I don’t want to throw too much at you all at once. I know this has been a hard day, and you’re probably exhausted. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe that’s not the best idea. I know of a quiet inn several miles outside the city. You can rest there without having to worry about—”

“No, it’s fine,” I cut in. “Let’s go to Lizzy Grove.”

“Are you sure?” he said.

Rayne had only, officially, been my boyfriend for less than a week, and even though I thought we were only pretending to date during the entire five months previous to that, we still spent almost every day together during that time—laughing, and learning each other’s little quirks, and getting to know each other. Yet, during all that time, I still felt like I barely knew Rayne. I didn’t really know where he came from or what made him who he is today. And even though I was mentally exhausted in a lot of ways at the moment, I wasn’t about to lose what could very likely be my one and only chance to finally see the place and the people Rayne called home.

“Are you kidding?” I said. “I never thought in a million years I would have a chance to meet your family. Of course I want to go to Lizzy Grove.”

Rayne’s worried expression turned quickly to a grin. “Really? You’re sure? Just so you know, they can be kind of… Well, let’s just say they can be extremely…friendly.”

“Even if they wanted to kill me with kindness,” I said with a chuckle. “I can’t think of any place I’d rather be.”

“All right,” he said. “But you can’t say I didn’t warn you.”

As the city lights disappeared behind us, I could see every single star shining through the night sky from the window of the truck. There wasn’t anything odd or astounding about them; they were stars, just like the ones I’d been gazing upon since I was a little girl. Even a radiant half-moon, appearing much like the one orbiting the Earth, was visible through a hazy patch of clouds as we drove toward Lizzy Grove. There was no question I was in a strange, foreign, wondrous place, but it was comforting to feel at least a few similarities to home.

Once I started to recover from the shock of being on an entirely different planet, and maybe even a different galaxy for all I knew, my mind started formulating questions. But just as I was about to bombard Rayne with a quiz on every possible subject I could think of regarding Ambrosia, a phone began to ring from somewhere inside the truck.

Rayne reached for the glove box and pulled out a cell phone. His eyes squinted, examining the screen as if he didn’t recognize the number.

He answered it warily, but a moment later Rayne’s voice seemed to relax. “Oh, hey, man,” he said.

I watched Rayne’s face intently as he spoke, wondering who he was talking to, and wishing I could hear what the caller was saying on the other side of the conversation.

“Yeah, she’s right here with me,” Rayne went on. “She’s fine now. Listen, thanks for helping me today. I owe you.”

After a pause he said, “No, we’re headed to a place outside the city for now. Have you heard anything from the Ambassador?”

Rayne’s voice tightened with his next reply. “Why?” he said. “What’s going on?” Before he even finished his sentence, Rayne reached for the radio and turned it on.

“Okay, thanks. Just keep me posted.” Rayne clicked off the call and pushed the phone into his pocket.

“Who was that?” I asked as soon as he finished.

Rayne began fiddling with the radio dials. “That was Jax. He hasn’t heard from your father, but he said he’d get back to me as soon as he knows anything about him or your mom.”

Jax? It took me a second to remember who Rayne was talking about. But then it all came flooding back to me. Before we went to find my mother to save her earlier that day, before her boyfriend, Dr. Jensen, had been murdered right before our eyes by the terrible black-eyed killer Voss Hastings, before I was shot by his deranged son, Ash Hastings, with only a few breaths of life left in my dying body, before all of that…I had learned that the person I thought was merely Nicole’s cousin Derrick, a UCLA student from Fresno just looking for a good time, was actually Jax Bennett—a Scout from Ambrosia who had been stealing our Healing Water and lying to us since the day we met him.

But apparently, Rayne seemed to trust the guy now. At least, that was the impression I was getting. Jax did say that he had no idea what Ash had really been up to when he got involved, and he immediately turned around and helped us by going to get my father once he knew the truth, but I still wasn’t completely convinced we could trust him. And the guy stole my diary. I mean, what kind of creep steals a girl’s diary just for “a bit of light reading” as he put it? Jax was going to have to try a little harder in the future if he wanted to gain my trust.

Rayne stopped scanning the radio as the deep voice of a radio host broke my thoughts.

“Welcome back, folks,” the host said. “For those of you who are just joining us, we’re breaking away from our scheduled show tonight to discuss some breaking news. It has been confirmed that Ash Hastings, well-known playboy, Scout, and son of the recently deceased fugitive Voss Hastings, was apprehended by officials outside the Threshold border earlier today. At this point, the official charges haven’t been released to the public by the Ambassadors Council, but there’s speculation that Hastings was involved in the recent
miracle doctor
fiasco in California, where a local doctor somehow got his hands on a large supply of Healing Water and was treating his patients with it like it was some kind of common prescription. Of course, it’s all speculation at this point, but we’re told that Hastings has been taken into custody, where he will remain until the Council determines his fate. This is Birch Parker; now it’s time to hear what the population of Ambrosia thinks about all this. Let’s open up the phones… We’ll start with Mika from South Banya. Mika, welcome to the show.”

“Oh hi, Birch,” the female caller said. “I just have to say…I love your show. I listen to it every night.”

“Well, thank you, Mika. So, what do you think about Ash Hastings being taken into custody?”

“To be honest,” she replied. “I feel kind of sorry for the guy. It seems to me like Ash Hastings has gotten a bad rap. I’m hoping the Council goes easy on him.”

The host cut in, “Let’s say, for discussion’s sake, that they determine Hastings is guilty of all charges, would that change your mind about him?”

“Well, from what I’ve seen of Ash on TV over the years, he seems like a nice guy who maybe just got stuck with a lot of bad luck. If he does end up being guilty, I think, if anything, they should put the young man in counseling. I mean, we can’t forget about his beautiful mother who died tragically young while on duty in the service of her people, right in front of her son’s eyes from what I’ve heard. Think how hard that would have been to lose someone so young like that. I doubt there are more than a handful of people in Banya who have suffered through something so horrible. And then to be stuck with Voss Hastings, the worst kind of criminal, as your only family and support…it really just doesn’t seem fair if you ask me. I think the Council should feel obligated to help this poor young man.”

“Okay, people,” the radio host said, “it looks like we have one vote for leniency and mental counseling for Mr. Hastings. Now let’s switch over to Denton in West Central. Denton, you’re on the air with Birch Parker. What’s your opinion?”

“Hi, Birch. Thanks for having me,” the male caller said. “You know, all I have to say about this is…it’s about time.”

“So, you’re saying you think Hastings is guilty?” the host said.

“There’s no question in my mind,” the caller agreed. “I mean, the Lizzy fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, if you know what I’m saying. There’s no way he could be raised by a man like Voss Hastings and not eventually follow in his father’s criminal footsteps. I’m not saying I disagree that the guy is messed up in the head, possibly thanks to his father or even his mother’s death, but a crime is a crime. He should be required to suffer the consequences just like anybody else. And quite frankly, I’m tired of all these rich-kid Scouts and Keepers thinking they can get away with anything they want just because they’re at the top of the food chain. And speaking of Keepers…in my opinion, that thing in California with the doctor misusing the Healing Water never would have happened if the Council could just see that the Keeper Program needs to be shut down.”

“Well, we’re getting a little off topic,” the host cut in, “but keep that thought, listeners, because tomorrow night we’ll be discussing, in depth, the validity of the Keeper Program. It’s certainly a controversial topic of conversation these days, so you won’t want to miss it. Be sure to join us tomorrow night with your chance to speak out on the hottest topics in Ambrosia, live with Birch Parker. We’ll be back with more opinions on Ash Hastings in a moment, right after this short message from our sponsors.”

BOOK: Ambrosia Shore
13.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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