Authors: Alexandra Engellmann
Sky Ghosts: Marco
by Alexandra Engellmann
Sky Ghosts: Marco
(Book 1.5 of the Sky Ghosts series)
Copyright © 2015 by Alexandra Engellmann
All rights reserved
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and events are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
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Published by Alexandra Engellmann
Cover artwork by the author
Edited by Trish Hart
A note from the author
This book is the result of growing interest in Pain and Marco. Its events take place five years before
Sky Ghosts: All for One
and tell the story of the two fighters after they had just met. For a better understanding of the origins of Sky Ghosts and a deeper insight into Pain and Marco’s relationship, I recommend reading
Sky Ghosts: All for One
Sign up for the ARC to read the next book for free, before the official release. It will take only two minutes of your time.
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To my friend Alexander –
without you Marco would have never existed.
She landed on the highest roof in the area and looked out over the streets below. They stared back at her like a many-eyed black beast, their scattered yellow lamps blinking lazily. A minute passed before her eyes adjusted and she was able to see clearly through the dim light. Not a soul was visible in the mazelike alleys, but that was no surprise, considering that she was in Port Morris, with its gloomy factories and warehouses. She had already searched five sectors in Brooklyn, and there was nothing of interest going on. It was like the entire criminal society of New York had decided to take a day off, leaving the Sky Ghosts’ patrols with nothing else to do but slouch around the city, smoke, and gossip. They kept shooing her away because she wasn’t supposed to be there, and she was bored, all hope of any excitement gone over the last hour. Still, it was better than staying home, and just the feeling of the wind on her face made the time spent outside worthwhile. She belonged here in the sky, not within four walls, waiting obediently for another lesson.
So now she peered through the hazy air, the last spark of hope fading inside her chest. She knew Zac’s group was patrolling this sector, and she searched for them, black on black down there on the streets.
The summer night was warm, so she wasn’t cold standing at the top of the building like that. Indeed, her thick gear would protect her from the wind even if it were winter. She crouched on the edge, feeling the familiar weight of the sword on her back; or more precisely, the scabbard that weighed three times more than the sword itself. But it was necessary for a long sword like hers, and she brushed her irritation aside, focusing on the streets below.
A few minutes passed before she finally noticed a movement. Her feet left the concrete surface of the roof, and she descended in a free fall down the tall building, the wind whooshing around her. It slammed the breath out of her chest when she stopped her fall at the third-story level, and the air exploded around her, sending her forward between the closely-packed buildings. Her eyes never left the spot where she had seen someone move, and as she got nearer, she could make out three hovering shadows. She slowed down and let her power fade, bringing her to a crouched stop on another roof. There were more dark, unmoving forms on the ground around the three standing figures. Invisible against the black sky, she sat still and watched the patrol move around the spot, conferring in quiet voices. They seemed to have just arrived, and now two of them stood over one of the bodies. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, so she had no choice but to join them, otherwise they would take off and leave her with nothing but frustration at missing the chance to learn what had happened.
She jumped off the rooftop without a sound and stole through the shadows, a stubborn feeling of malice not letting her miss an opportunity to startle them.
“What have you got there?” she asked loudly from the dark, making the three heads snap up. Their eyes stabbed into her, and Zac frowned as he composed his face, hiding his surprised expression.
“I thought you weren’t allowed to patrol yet,” he commented, ignoring her question.
He brushed back his tousled black hair and bent over the body, his blue eyes troubled.
she snorted mentally. Undisturbed by his response, she circled the body curiously, like a hyena regarding a fresh kill.
“Is he alive?” she asked, pulling on the fallen man’s collar, to see the Mark on his neck. It was there, of course.
“Yep,” answered Chris, Zac’s partner, as he crouched over the man. “Unconscious, smells like whiskey, but alive,” his full lips quirked in a lopsided smirk. The wind blew his curly blond hair into his face, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“No, which is surprising…” Chris muttered, glancing at the bodies around them.
“Look at this tattoo…” she commented, staring at the man’s head. “Pompous ass,” she scoffed, ignoring the disapproving look that Chris gave her.
“What are you doing in the city at night, with your sword and everything?” he said calmly as he stood up, “Peter won’t be happy. Get out of here, Pain.”
She didn’t say anything in response, just adjusted the straps on her chest. This new scabbard was killing her back.
This is what professionals use
, Peter had said when he gave it to her.
, she added to herself, wincing as the heavy metal-magnetic-God-knows-what scabbard dug into her back again.
Chris took the unconscious fighter by the shoulder and tried to roll him over. However, Chris was tall and thin, and the fallen man was bulky, so he ended up having to use both hands, and grunted as he rolled the man onto his back to get a good look at him. African-American, over six foot tall, no more than twenty-five, with a few scratches on him and blood on his eyebrow. And six dead men around him.
Chris turned to his partner with a questioning look.
“You sure you don’t know him?” he asked.
Zac looked over the unconscious fighter one more time, rubbing at his neck tiredly. Then he shook his head, craning back to look at Chris, who stood almost a head taller than him.
“No, I mistook him for someone else at first, but this one I’ve never met,” he replied, his delicate features contorted in annoyance, “We’ll have to call Michael.”
“What if he’s a Beast?” Chris objected. “We can’t bring him to the Headquart- ”
“Are you blind?” Pain suddenly cut in, “That’s Ramon over there, Eugene’s third. This guy can’t be one of them.”
She gave them a doubtful grimace. They all looked at her, and then Butch, the third one, finally spoke up.
“She’s right. The one next to Ramon looks familiar. I think I saw him with the Beasts once.” He shifted uncomfortably under their stares, his large frame throwing a shadow over them all as he came closer.
Zac shook his head with an exhausted sigh.
“It doesn’t matter, they still could’ve got into a fight.”
“What, six of them against him?” Pain objected, coming up to him and pulling handcuffs out of her pocket, “Take him to Michael. We could use fighters like him.”
She stood there with her hand outstretched, but Zac didn’t try to take the handcuffs from her. He just stared at her dubiously, his expression clearly showing how much her presence there pained him.
“It’s not like he can do us any… ” Butch began, then broke off because a tall, black figure suddenly landed right by his side, as if he had materialized out of thin air.
“What is it?” the man asked in a sharp voice, and all four of them subconsciously straightened up a little.
“Rob,” Zac greeted him with a nod. “Black male, twenty to twenty-five, drunk and passed out. Most likely finished these six off just before we found him.”
Rob nodded, and moments later he was squatting by the unconscious young man. His large frame blocked the view of whatever he was doing, and Pain quickly moved to crouch across from him. Rob was taking the drunken fighter’s pulse, it turned out. He winced, as if the sight of the man’s bloodied face pained him, and took his fingers away from his neck.
“Did he talk?” he rumbled.
“I think the right question is,
Can he talk?
” Pain sneered, but before she could get any satisfaction from that, Rob scowled at her from beneath his thick black eyebrows.
“You. Out of here,” he commanded, “If I see you in the city at this time of night again, I’ll cuff you to your bed for a week. You hear me?”
She responded with a long, martyred sigh, then stood up and returned to the other fighters instead of leaving. Chris shot her a bemused look, and she stuck her elbow in his side, making him grunt. A glint of irritation flashed across Zac’s serious façade when he glanced at them.
Rob got up and joined them, his two-meter tall bulk blocking out the moon and most of the light. Quickly, he sized them up with his look and stopped it on Butch, who was the largest of them.
“Call Michael and take the guy to Doc,” he ordered, “And send the clean-up team. We’ll need them soon in Hunts Point. Chris and Zac, you’re with me: they need reinforcements there.” He switched his piercing gaze to Pain, who was still there and now moved ever so slightly to Butch’s side.
“I’ll help him carry the big guy, Rob,” she said with an angelic expression, and Rob gave her a flat stare, too tired to be annoyed.
“It’s Robert,” he muttered and turned away.
In a heartbeat he shot up into the sky, Chris and Zac close on his heels. Pain watched him go, her expression offended and awed at the same time. Sometimes she really envied strong men like him: they were so much more useful in their trade. They even looked different in gear, walking around all bossy and imposing. No one was afraid of her in the way that they were of Rob, and it didn’t seem to matter that she could do them just as much damage in the training hall.
She mulled it over for a moment, surrounded only by the silence of the deserted industrial neighborhood. After all, authority wasn’t about size, she concluded, so who said you couldn’t be bossy at sixteen, and only slightly over five feet tall? She decided she would do just that for all the mistreated sixteen-year-olds out there.
“What are you waiting for?” she snapped at Butch all of a sudden, startling him as he remembered her presence, “Call Michael!”
“Oh, get out of here!” he exclaimed, sending an awkward kick in her direction. But she was already in the air.
She darted upward with a devilish grin, leaving him to deal with the task on his own. But Butch didn’t mind. He’d known that she never intended to help him, and was only there to gloat.
“Pain in the ass,” he muttered as he watched her disappear into the black sky. Then he pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed his boss’s number.
Pain approached the Headquarters and hovered outside her window. She could see her sister in there, lying on her bunk reading a book. She hesitated for a moment, looking left and right at the darkness around her, as if unsure whether she was ready to come home. But it wasn’t like she had any alternative, so she sighed and climbed inside. The windowsill creaked under her as she sat down to unlace her boots.
“Look who’s here!” Jane greeted her from her bed, giving her a lazy once-over, “The mighty patrol commander, guardian of the Big Apple!”
“Shut up,” Pain snorted and jumped off the windowsill.
“You’re home early. Got in trouble again?”
“Just saw all I wanted to see,” she answered, discarding her scabbard and jacket on the floor.
“Oh yeah?” Jane finally dug her head out of her book. Despite her teasing tone, the look on her face was curious. “And what’s that?”
Pain’s shoulders rose and fell in a dismissive shrug. She looked at her sister sightlessly. Instead, before her eyes was the fighter they had found on the street. There was something familiar about him, and yet she knew for sure she had never met him before. It was like one of those déjà vu moments, when you feel like you’ve already been somewhere or done something, and yet you’re sure it couldn’t have happened in this exact way before.
She exhaled and pulled off her T-shirt.
“Some drunk guy put down six Beasts in Port Morris. Butch is bringing him here to interrogate. I wish I could go listen, but I’ve already run into Rob tonight, don’t wanna be seen there, too.”
Jane nodded, her lips pursed in approval.
“Wow, that almost sounds like good sense.”
Pain only shot her a humorous look.
“You think that guy’s a Beast?” Jane asked.
“No,” Pain shook her head and picked up the clothes scattered on the floor. “He seemed too good to be one of them. But that doesn’t mean he’s on our side. I’m sure Michael will figure out where he’s from.”
She shrugged again and headed to the bathroom, sensing that her little sister had more questions. But she was wrong.
“Dean stopped by,” Jane called out suddenly, making her sister pause in the doorway. “He asked where you disappeared after the canteen,” she said and winked as Pain turned to look at her.
“It’s none of his business,” Pain smirked, “he’s not getting any,” and she stepped into the bathroom, hiding her surprised expression from Jane.
“Yeah, right,” she heard her mutter, and then Jane raised her voice. “You are
into him, just admit it!”
Pain ran the water loudly enough that she wouldn’t have to reply.