Authors: Jason D. Morrow
Tags: #Horror, #Young Adult, #Science Fiction
Away From The Sun
The Starborn Ascension: Book Two
Jason D. Morrow
Edited by Beth Morrow & Emily Simpson Morrow
Copyright © 2014 Jason D. Morrow
All rights reserved.
Books by Jason D. Morrow
Prototype Exodus (Coming Soon)
The Starborn Ascension
The Starborn Uprising
The Marenon Chronicles
Away from the Sun is the second book in The Starborn Ascension. For a better reading experience, it would be best to start with
Anywhere But Here: The Starborn Ascension, Book One.
The Starborn Ascension is a series set fifty-seven years before the events of
The Starborn Uprising
, which features the character of Mora and her fight for survival. This series can be read independently but the two are linked considerably.
The initial shock of hearing the voice of Shadowface hasn’t worn off. Stephen sits in the corner of the room, clutching the radio like it is precious to him. It has been hours since Shadowface told him to keep the radio frequency clear. I sit behind the desk where Lydia had been before she left. She was sure to give me a nasty look before taking Evie’s hand and ushering her out of the room, but I was happy to let the tension leave with her.
It feels like I don’t belong in this room, waiting for the call, but I have nowhere to go. I don’t exactly want to leave either. This is the closest I’ve been to figuring out who Shadowface is, and he sounds like a real freak. He had only spoken a couple of sentences, but he sounded dark and mysterious, almost as if he was talking with one of those voice-altering devices kidnappers use to deliver ransom demands. And this scenario is very much the same.
I look at Stephen. His head rests against the wall, staring up at the ceiling as he slouches in a chair. A single lamp casts a dim, orange glow throughout the room. The white flashes outside the window bring brief seconds of brightness, followed by crashing thunder seconds later. Stephen’s dark features seem to blend in with the shadows. Occasionally, he strokes his thick beard as if it helps him concentrate.
“Isn’t there someone you should be telling about this?” I ask him.
“I’m the one that should be told,” he says quietly. “But I’ve got nothing to run on. I’ve never heard of anyone named Shadowface.”
“I have,” I say.
His eyes widen and he sits up straighter. “You have?”
“Why are you just now informing me of this?”
“Because what I know doesn’t help the situation,” I say. “When I was at Crestwood, I just heard someone mention Shadowface. From what I gather, he’s a supplier for a few settlements. That’s about it.”
“Supplier of what?” he asks.
“Supplier of everything,” I answer. “In exchange for unwavering allegiance, Shadowface will give you everything you need.”
“And you didn’t see it fitting to tell me this?” he asks, his eyes narrowing at me.
“He’s going to offer to give us everything we need?” he asks. “What I need right now is for my men to come back safely. Shadowface is going to make us join with him in order for me to get my men back.”
I roll my eyes at him. “You really think it will be that simple? Don’t you think he would try to
your allegiance just a little?”
He stares at me as he bites the inside of his cheek.
“He’s not going to ransom your men in exchange for allegiance. That would be stupid. He knows you would just turn on him the moment your men were released.”
A deep breath. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“But there is no doubt,” I say, “he’s going to try to get you to join him.”
We both freeze at the sound of the radio in Stephen’s hand. At first there is a bit of static, but the slow, disguised voice calls out again. I lean in more out of baited curiosity than for the need to get a better listen.
“This is Shadowface,”
the deep voice calls out.
“Are you there?”
I don’t know why, but it sounds so much weirder to hear someone say ‘
are you there’
do you copy’
when it comes from the other end of the radio.
Stephen presses the button, his eyes fixed on nothing in particular. “I hear you.”
“Thirty miles north of Elkhorn is a small town called Sealy. Do you know it?”
Stephen presses the button again. “Yes, I know it.” I can see nervousness creep into him as his spine stiffens and his eyes widen.
“Within the city, we have erected a wall. I want you to meet my men there. They will escort you into one of the buildings. There we will talk about securing your men’s release.”
“Sounds like a trap,” I say.
“How do I know this isn’t a trap?” he asks. He shrugs at me when I lift an eyebrow.
There is a long silence. Finally, a crackle of static.
“Be there at eight in the morning.”
“I repeat,” Stephen asks, his jaws clenched, “how do I know this isn’t a trap?”
We wait at least a minute before he sets the radio on the desk in front of me and then leans back into his chair. I watch him as he starts stroking his thick beard again. Part of me feels sorry for him, but most of me (and especially the knot on the back of my head), remembers that I’m not much more than a prisoner myself.
“You’re going with me,” he says.
My stomach drops at his words. “No,” I say.
“You have to. You’re the only person that knows anything about Shadowface.”
“You now know as much as I do,” I tell him, but he just shakes his head at me.
“You were in my territory, sneaking around my hospital. You’re my prisoner and I’m forcing you to go.”
“And I’m refusing you,” I snap. “So either kill me or leave me here. Take your pick.”
“That seems a little rash, don’t you think? Kill you? Really?” His expression twists as his eyebrows make wrinkles in his forehead.
I shrug and look away. “Isn’t that what people say?”
“I thought I had given the impression that I
want to kill you.” He sighs and stands. “You’re right. I don’t really have a good reason to keep you here or to make you go with me.” He walks to the other side of the room and opens the door. “Come on,” he says. “It’s late. I’ll show you where you can sleep for the night.”
I can’t help but show my surprise at Stephen’s turnaround, but I don’t let the look on my face stay for very long. I’m tired and could use the sleep. I follow him down a long hallway and up a flight of stairs before he finally brings me to a small room. In the corner is a cot and window, and that’s about it.
“You should be comfortable for the night,” he says as I walk in. “And you can be on your way in the morning.”
I turn and meet his stare. I’m actually taken aback at how hard it is to look him in the eyes. I feel a strong pang of guilt by the way he stares at me, as if I actually have an obligation to go with him tomorrow.
“What do you want from me?” I ask. “How can I actually be any help to you?”
“You’d be good support,” he says.
“Don’t you have other soldiers you can take with you?”
“I’m going alone,” he says.
He’s insane. “You’re insane,” I say.
“I don’t want word to get around about what’s happening. People will start to panic. I figured since you already know everything that’s going on, you could go with me.”
“You knock me out, drag me here, tie me up, and now you’re trying to guilt me into helping you?”
“You forget that we saved you,” he says. “If it weren’t for me, you’d be greyskin meat inside that hospital.”
I tear my eyes away from him, unable to admit aloud that he’s right. “Forget it,” I say. “You deal with Shadowface on your own. I’m not messing with that.” And I mean it…I think. I
feel guilty, but I think Gabe and I were on to something. I haven’t told Stephen everything. I haven’t told him that I have the ability to hear things that no one else can hear. That includes a certain meeting between a raider and Paxton, the leader of Crestwood. According to the raider, he was working for Shadowface. If that’s the truth, then Shadowface can only have evil intentions. And I don’t want to get involved with that.
Stephen closes the door behind him as I sit on the cot next to the window. I look out into the parking lot below. Several barrel fires are lit with people talking, some of them even laughing. It seems like a dream to live as care-free as these people appear to be. But deep inside, I know they aren’t care-free. Right now they are just surviving. Coping. With each laugh, underneath there are hours of tears. With each sentence spoken in conversation, there have been hundreds of screams of terror and groans of pain.
I turn away from the window and lie down on the cot. It’s comfortable enough, yet I face another night sleeping without a gun next to me. I won’t rest well. Having a gun near me keeps the nightmares away. I try to distract myself with thoughts about life before the greyskins, but it’s impossible. I think about the group I was with over a year ago and how I miss each of them. Especially… Ah, forget it.
I try to think of something else. Gabe comes to my mind. He is the only person that knows about my supernatural hearing. It’s weird. About a year ago, I gained this ability to hear anything I want. If I know a place well enough, I can almost follow a path to a source of noise. I can hear conversations from the other side of this compound. If I knew where he was, I could listen in on Stephen right now.
When I first learned about it, the power was a lot less refined. I couldn’t hear as far away, and I couldn’t direct it as well as I can now. Over the year, however, I’ve been able to practice and it has slowly become stronger. If I desire, I can hear the legs of an insect crawling on the ground. And when I had told Gabe that I overheard Paxton talking with a raider (all the way from my holding cell), there was no room for lying. I told him the truth.
And he tested me.
I haven’t had a lot of time to think about that moment. In fact, this is the first time I’ve actually gotten any time to myself since I was kicked out of Crestwood. But Gabe’s words echo in my mind.
We will meet again, Remi.
Paxton may have placed a wedge between us now, but not forever. I have loved getting to know you. I love being around you. I love you.
I thought this kind of sentimental hogwash was beyond Gabe. I guess I was wrong. Sure, I had gotten to know him pretty well for the three months I was in Crestwood, and he was my only friend there. But love? Seems a little much. Besides, I swore off love a year ago—incidentally, it was the same time I gained this ability.
Banished. The word sits sour with me. Paxton and his group of elders completely betrayed me. Sure, I stole a gun and a journal. I could have lived with a prison sentence or months of hard labor, but banishment was crazy. Not to mention they based it on a complete lie. They knew that stealing something wasn’t a good enough reason to banish me, so they claimed that I murdered one of the scouts, Skip, during our supply run in Sturgis. Truth was, Skip was bitten by a greyskin and ended up shooting himself in the head under Paxton’s command. But the moment Paxton realized that I was the one that broke in and stole the gun, he figured a way to get rid of me. Which, to me, makes it even more bizarre that he would ask me to keep a look out for his daughter, Jessi, whom he hasn’t seen in four years. He doesn’t even know about his little granddaughter, Evie. He told me that if I found out any information about Jessi, that he would make everything right again. I would be accepted into Crestwood with open arms.