Authors: Griffin Hayes
Copyright © 2013 Griffin Hayes
Cover design by Kit Foster & Griffin Hayes
Edited by Andrea Harding
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
A Note from the Author
Hive 3 wouldn’t
have been possible without the help of a handful of great people. Dylan J. Morgan, Terrasha Mauer and Keith C. Blackmore for suffering through the early drafts. Andrea Harding for your terrific editing work and superhuman ability to put up with my hectic schedule. And to the fans of the series who make all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.
Bird of Prey
The Second Coming
Previously in Hive 2…
Azina and Sneak arrive back in Sotercity only to find that Bron, Ret and Oleg have been imprisoned by Prior Skuld. A rogue Keeper named Krantz is planning a rebellion against Skuld’s tyrannical rule and agrees to help Azina free her friends. The disks that Oleg swiped from the underground complex contained plans for a genetic mutator, a device capable of reversing the Zee condition or worse, amplifying it. After freeing her friends, they discover Sotercity is overrun and that Skuld has been busy building the machine. But before they can stop Skuld, he uses the machine on himself, becoming the ultimate Hive leader and awakening all the surrounding Hives.
lie scattered in the streets of Sotercity like pieces of discarded trash. It's the silence that gets to me most. I glance over at Oleg, Dhal, Ret, and even Sneak, and it’s clear they feel the same way. Bron is the only one who’s oblivious. I want to say the streets are still, but that isn't entirely true. There's movement in and amongst the corpses. Some of them aren’t dead, only chewed up enough to be turned into Zees, and now many of them are pulling their brown leathery bodies along the ground. None of the ones we see are able to walk. One has both legs bent at odd angles. Another is just a torso. All of them, however, are clawing over the dead with a single-minded purpose: leave the city. As though they’re being summoned.
Bron stomps one skull into mush and smiles
, seemingly unaware of his battered arms, especially the right one which hangs limply by his side. “Squashing bugs never gets old, wouldn't you agree, Azina?”
The big man's eyes drop to my arms and the dark skin and spiky hairs bristling there like the flesh of a cat’s tongue. I'm sure he's trying to goad me because, to a guy like Bron, anything that baffles or frightens is bad and needs to be destroyed. Not understood. That's why Ret's presence is so important. He tempers Bron's impulsiveness and closed-minded ignorance with reason and tolerance. I know how I look. This is what I chose. It's just too bad Bron can't see that deep down I'm still the same old Azina who started this group of ragtag Mercs.
were anyone else, I probably woulda clobbered them by now.
, right now, we have bigger problems. Skuld is calling those Zees. I don't tell the group because I don't see the point in alarming anyone, but I can hear the signal as loud as that bell in the Sotercity clock tower. And when I glance down the deserted street behind me, I can almost see a faint mist, snaking off into the distance. It's part of Skuld’s signal, that much is clear. The one all of these gimps are trying to follow out of Sotercity. Only the Zees trapped underground in the dome-shaped chamber remain and for a very good reason: they aren't smart enough to call the elevator to free themselves.
seeing where Skuld is going, or where he's ordered these Zees to assemble, is another matter altogether. I'll need to follow it for myself and as soon as possible.
legless Zee reaches out for me and I know right away he isn't trying to make me his breakfast. He senses a master is present and is eager to do my bidding. I try and tell him to just die, but the Zee only pauses. A direct command to commit suicide is something they don't seem to understand. A shame really, because it would avoid me having to do this. I draw the Katana from my back and run it through the thing’s skull. It continues reaching for me for an instant, locked in a sort of religious ecstasy, before it slumps and the light in its eyes goes dark. But religion isn't an entirely misplaced idea.
, I'm something of the minor deity. But if I’m a deity, do they see Skuld as a full-fledged God?
Sweat pours down Ret’s face. He's carrying Krantz’ body, covered in a Keeper robe
, and it's clear Bron’s enjoying every second of his suffering. Especially since Bron is normally the one tasked with doing the heavy lifting. He would be too, if it weren't for those shattered arms of his. I love the big guy like a brother, but sometimes I wish he would quit being such a baby.
at a small patch of loose ground, just outside a temple to Newton, and begin hastily digging a grave. The earth is full of hard rocks and the others are having a rough time of it. Ret’s trying to use the butt of his automatic shotgun and cursing with every flick of dirt. Oleg’s muttering under his breath and it’s hard to tell from here if he's bitching or saying a prayer. Soon enough we cut a deep enough hole and lay what's left of Krantz inside. He wasn't with us for long, but the sting of losing one of our own is real nonetheless.
He had a good death,” Bron says and I'm suddenly not so angry with him anymore. In five words, Bron manages to sum up what would've taken Oleg an hour. A good death is all any of us can really hope for.
We arrive at Dhal’s workshop, weary and craving rest. I figure it belongs to Dahl now, since he was Master Lund’s apprentice and the old guy’s lying under the keep, stiff as a board. I can tell the kid wanted him carried out and buried, as we did for Krantz, and if we make it through this I promise to lug the old bastard out myself. But I'm not running a funeral home. Over the next few days the few survivors in Sotercity will have their hands full, preventing this place from becoming a rotting cesspool of disease. Corpses scattered in the streets have a funny way of doing that.
The group is barely inside long enough to sit down before
Dhal begins tinkering with Bron’s arms.
Are they salvageable?” I ask the kid and immediately catch a look from Bron.
Of course they are,” Bron cuts in. “Right, little man?” There's an almost pleading quality to his voice that makes me feel suddenly sorry for him.
“Doesn’t look good
.” The kid says, his tongue poking out the side of his mouth in concentration as he loosens a bolt and removes Bron’s crushed right arm. It lands on the workshop table with a clang. Dhal moves to unscrew Bron’s other arm and the stout Norseman jerks away.
Don't worry, I'll give you something in the meantime,” Dhal assures him. “Master and I were working on something special right before he…”
The kid doesn't say the words, but he doesn't need to for the pain
in his eyes to shine through, making all of us pause for a moment. All of us except for Bron, of course, who’s more worried about his new arms than silly things like feelings. Ret may look stoic, but I know him well enough to see he hasn’t hardened completely.
hal disappears into the back room and returns with what looks like a pair of kitchen utensils. Ret’s already snickering. Even Sneak is beside me, grinning widely. All of this has the effect of making Bron even more upset.
What the hell are these?” He asks.
Why, your replacement arms. That is until I can finish the others.”
But what can I do with these? They look like glorified spatulas.”
The room bursts into spastic laughter. Sneak
’s slapping her leg, signing to me that she's about to bust a gut. The straight-as-a-board Oleg can't help but give in and this may be the first time I’ve ever seen him smile. But soon that smile fades and I know why. He's thinking about what Skuld’s just done to the world, and more than that, what he's about to do. Oleg stands and it's clear enough that we’re about to get a lecture for fooling around. Dhal begins attaching Bron’s temporary arms while Oleg speaks.
All of this laughing tells me none of you have grasped the severity of our present situation.”
See, I knew it. I rise as well. “
Oleg’s right. Skuld is in the process of summoning every Zee he can get his grimy hands on…” I'm no more than a few words in when I feel a tingling sensation run up my left arm. One that begins to grow and, before I have a chance to stop it, my left hand jerks out and closes around Dhal’s soft throat.
Right away, the kid
’s eyes go wide with shock and fear, his pupils dilating in terror. The others are stunned too. If I were trying to shut the kid up, that’d be one thing. He was only attaching those hideous arms to Bron’s shoulders. But, the thing is, I'm not the one doing this. Somehow, Skuld’s pushed his way into my mind and has taken hold of me. And this new me, I'm discovering, is infinitely stronger than the old Azina. Won’t be more than another second before my grip closes, crushing Dhal’s windpipe, sending him to join Master Lund.
Gurgling noises are
all that’s coming from Dhal’s throat when Ret jumps in and grabs my hand with both of his. I join him and the scene almost looks surreal, the two of us trying to pry my left hand off Dhal’s neck. It wrenches free a moment later and the kid gasps for air. Oleg’s leaning against the workshop table like his heart’s about to give out.
Already that tingl
ing sensation is beginning to dissipate. I'm still wringing my hand when Sneak signs what everyone else in the room is probably thinking.
That was Skuld, wasn't it?” She asks.
I'm not sure,” I reply, but that isn't too far from a boldfaced lie. Of course it was Skuld. Leading a group of Mercs without trust is like trying to wipe your ass with your feet. You might manage it, but you’ll make one hell of a mess in the process.
Bron looks worried. “
First the glowing eyes, then the levitating, and now this. Where's the old Azina?”
She’s still here,” I try and reassure him. “Got this under control, trust me.” Wrong choice of words, because I can see the doubt on their faces as clearly as I can see the pained expression still clinging to Dhal’s. I put a hand on his shoulder and the group flinches.
Sorry kid, won't happen again.”
An apology from Azina,” Bron says. “Now we
ak smiles all round and it doesn't do a damn thing to cut the tension in the room. Slowly, still rubbing his neck, Dhal returns to attaching Bron’s temporary arms and I tuck my hands into the pockets of my leather tunic and do my best to continue where I left off.
Skuld is building an army,” I say.
“Yes,” Ret adds. “That part is clear enough
, but for what?”
o prove his pecker is longer than his pinky,” Bron says, holding his new spatula arm in the air and then quickly retracting it in embarrassment.
is about to laugh again and I give her a nudge.
If you’re right,” Ret says, “then there can only be one place he's heading.”
The capital.” Oleg may be the one to say it, but the words are everyone’s lips.
Bron spits. “
That damn bastard wants to turn everyone in the ten territories into bloodsucking Zees.”
I shake my head.
“That may be, but I sense there's more to it than that.”
Course you sense it,” Bron snaps back. “He's been whispering in your ear since he turned. For all we know, the two of you are in league with each other. But don’t think I’m gonna sit by when you turn on us. You know the code, Azina. Kill or be killed.”
Enough!” Ret shouts, with uncharacteristic force. “Azina is one of us.”
For now,” Bron mutters and walks over to a bench crammed with tools so he can sulk.
I believe there's only one way to get to the bottom of what Skuld is after and what we might be up against,” Oleg says.
I'm doing all I can
to not slap the old man upside the head. “Stop the foreplay and get to the point, will you?”
rumbles for a moment, probably about what a bitch I've become, before he spits it out.
We must head to the archive.”
Oh, great,” Bron whines from the far end of the room. “We’re going on a Keeper field trip.”
Oleg may have a point,” I say, ignoring Bron’s jab. “Skuld’s just woken thousands of sleeping Zees, but who knows what’s down there with them?”
What can be worse than a Zee?” Sneak signs.
I'm not sure,” I say. “But I have a feeling we're about to find out.”