The White Renegade (Viral Airwaves)

BOOK: The White Renegade (Viral Airwaves)
12.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, businesses, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental.


All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Edited by Matt Larkin and Brenda J. Pierson Cover by Juhi Larkin Published by Incandescent Phoenix Books


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Seraphin’s squad stood at attention in the Union army’s headquarters, a cold rain drizzling on their beige berets and soaking their uniforms. The other squad members whispered to one another with enthusiasm, but Seraphin couldn’t quite share their excitement. Why get worked up over another change of command? In the eighteen months he’d been in the service, the Union army had assigned his squad to three different generals. They still hadn’t worked out how to best integrate Mikken’s small military force within Ferrys’ bigger army, nor where to distribute the troops. How they thought they could invade Regaria with such a disorganized force was beyond Seraphin. They’d need all the help they could get, and Seraphin was glad to oblige. Now was the time to join the Union, not in ten years when it became stable and no longer needed Regaria’s innovative minds and stout arms.

Seraphin wiped the rain off his glasses, then fussed with his uniform one last time. His boots shone from all the black wax, there was a perfect crease down the front of his pants from when he’d ironed them, and he’d asked Stern to trim his hair again, despite the fact it already met all criteria. The truth was, no matter how irreproachable his appearance, he would stand out in the crowd. His hair was white as fresh snow, his skin just a tad rosier, and what little blue his eyes had was so pale one could see the veins through it, tinging them with red. And if being albinistic wasn’t enough, his Regarian accent shone through the moment he spoke. Every officer inspection was the same. They all stopped in front of him and questioned his presence in the Union’s militia. At least this time it wasn’t under a burning sun. The last had taken so long, Seraphin’s skin had burnt lobster-red and hurt for a week, and he’d wanted to cry from the constant bright light in his eyes. Rain and clouds were much better in his opinion.

“Hey, Stern,” he whispered.

The soldier on his right turned his head just a little. Stern was taller than Seraphin, and the beret hid his blond hair completely. Most squad members avoided Seraphin, but Stern had helped him out from the start. While his sense of humor was a bit lacking, Seraphin appreciated the unwavering support. Not many people ever had his back like that.

“What is it?”

“We should take bets on how much of a jerk this one is to me.”

Stern frowned a little. “Don’t joke about these things. Besides, you know I don’t bet.”

“You’re too much of a sore loser for that, yeah.”

Stern seemed about to protest, but their sergeant barked an order. The entire squad fell silent, straightening up and bringing their hands down at each side. The new general was coming, and none of them wanted to be noticed so early on. General Klaus Vermen had a reputation for ruthlessness—both for his enemies and troops. Seraphin’s jaw clenched in apprehension. Although General Vermen might be the right man to pull their army together and end this war, he sounded like a lot of trouble for his one Regarian soldier.

A tall man stepped into the courtyard, his hands clasped behind his back. His thick eyebrows and pointed jaw turned his scowl into a truly terrifying expression, and Seraphin no longer wondered how he managed to make such an impression on recruits. General Klaus Vermen strode down the line, his broad shoulders squared and his lips pressed into a tight, unhappy line. Soldiers cowered and remained still only out of fear. Seraphin could almost hear the sighs of relief following his passage. The closer Vermen came, the tighter Seraphin ground his teeth together. He stared straight ahead, waiting.

Of course, the general stopped right in front of him. His flat nose scrunched into a sneer.

“Can you even shoot, soldier?”

Heat flushed Seraphin’s cheeks. He wondered just how red they turned—tomato-red was a standard color when he became flustered.

“Yes sir. I’ll never be your best sniper, but I can shoot just fine.”

From the moment Seraphin rolled that first
, letting his Regarian accent shine through, the general’s eyes narrowed. He clacked his tongue and when he responded, he made his voice loud and clear so every single soul in the courtyard could hear.

“When they told me they’d started recruiting Regarians for the militia, I wasn’t impressed. I still expected better than sick runts who had nowhere else to go. How did you cheat the tests, soldier? I know you can’t see shit without those fancy glasses of yours.”

“I didn’t cheat. Sir.”

Only a little. Enough to convince them he wasn’t legally blind, and could handle himself in a fight. He’d aced the shooting practices, too—half a year of intensive training paying off, letting him prove that he could fight alongside others. General Vermen snorted at his answer, like he didn’t believe a word of it.

“What’s your name?”

“Seraphin Holt.”

“Well, Holt … It’s always good to know who to send on the most dangerous mission. Welcome to the team. I’ll keep an eye on you.”

Seraphin’s heart quickened until he could feel its beat down to the very tips of his fingers. He hadn’t joined to become cannon fodder. It had taken everything to get into this army, despite their so-called new recruitment of Regarian militia. They had questioned his loyalty over and over again, asking about ties with the guerilla resistance. It didn’t matter how often Seraphin told them he no longer spoke to anyone from his hometown, they wouldn’t listen. At some point they grew bored of it, or admitted they wouldn’t get any other answer, and finally allowed him to join a squad. Their sergeant had come to trust him, yet General Vermen’s threat made Seraphin feel like he’d fallen back to square one. He met the officer’s dark gaze, lifting his chin a little.

“Thank you, sir. It’s good to know someone with better eyesight is watching my back.”

General Vermen’s glare intensified, and Seraphin wondered what kind of disciplinary measure he’d inherit for that little comeback. He tried not to smile. The officer scoffed, shook his head, and moved on without a word.

Seraphin didn’t relax until Vermen was way down the line of soldiers. He heaved a sigh of relief, as many others had before him. Even their sergeant seemed on edge when the general came to speak with him. Seraphin caught them looking his way, and for a moment it seemed like the lesser officer might be defending him. One could always hope, anyway, but Seraphin made sure not to stare in their direction.

“Sure am glad I didn’t bet,” Stern said in a low voice. “He doesn’t like you.”

“Nobody ever does, it seems.”

There was one notable exception to that rule, and as General Vermen left the courtyard and they were dismissed, Seraphin couldn’t help but miss Alex. Stern was a good and loyal friend, but he was straight as an iron bar. He didn’t quite get what it was like, to be noticed and shunned on such a frequent basis. Not the way Alex had. His friend’s arrival in Seraphin’s life had been like a breath of fresh air.


Alex first came to Iswood in the spring of Seraphin’s fifteenth birthday. The snow had only half-melted, and while there was none on the roofs of the small village’s houses, large drifts still clung in the shadows of buildings. With the warm sun out that day, however, Seraphin knew they wouldn’t last much longer. He’d gone out with his younger sister, Leanna, each armed with a long courtball stick. They slung the ball at each other, trying to catch it with the net at the top of their stick, and groaning when it fell with a
in a pile of snow. Seraphin hadn’t bothered to put a coat and cap on, but he did have his special sunglasses. This time of the year was one of the rare occasions when the sun was hot enough to keep him warm, but weak enough not to burn his skin within an hour. He still had to protect his eyes, however. That never changed.

Leanna had been slinging her shots farther and farther away, forcing her brother to run to catch. He gave it back tenfold, and their little game escalated with every exchange, until she grinned at him. Even from a distance, he could see the challenge in her green eyes.

“Let’s see if you get this one, Seraph!”

With a little grunt, she flung the courtball stick in a wide arc. The ball flew out in a perfect curve, way above Seraphin’s head. He let out a curse and sprinted after it, squinting to keep track of its path, only to realize it would land on the other end of their neighbor’s roof. Seraphin smirked. It would roll down the sloped tiles, giving him a bit of extra time to position himself under it. If he could go a bit faster …

Just as he tried to push himself, he noticed a form straightening up on the roof. Directly under the ball. He stared at a short and stocky teenager, with tawny skin and a slew of brown freckles. Her bright red jacket and baggy shirt half-concealed large breasts, and she wore neon blue bangles and jeans that could almost match the flashy color. The blue was also in the thick hairband holding a ponytail of frizzy hair. Amazed that anyone would dare wear such an outfit, Seraphin didn’t even think to call a warning. The ball smacked the back of her head, sending her tumbling. She landed on her hands and knees, but thankfully didn’t fall off the roof. The first words Seraphin ever heard from Alex were a string of curses, in a deep and angry voice.

He couldn’t have known, skidding to a stop with a cringe, how much this meeting would change his life.

Seraphin remained rooted to the spot. He tried to blame the warmth coursing up his body and prickling his fingers on the sun and exercise. It also accounted for his dry throat and sweaty palms, after all, but he knew better. Alex climbed to the top of the roof and stared down at him.

“Hey, white boy, what was that for?”

Seraphin’s cheeks flushed even deeper. How ugly would the red be? He touched them, hoping it wasn’t too bad, then realized he actually needed to answer Alex’s question.

“I didn’t do it!” It wasn’t fair to blame Leanna, but she
slung that ball, and Seraphin pointed her way without hesitation. “She did.”

Leanna had come running after him. She stopped with an offended pout. “Wow. Way to stick with your family. Has no one taught you about sibling solidarity? Our ancestors would be ashamed.”

Seraphin’s fingers went to the red string wrapped a few times around his wrist. A gift from his father, per Regarian tradition. His ancestors’ spirits were housed in a braid made from the hair of an old and ugly-ass horse. They had worse things to be ashamed of than Seraphin’s little blame—or so he liked to think. The truth was, despite his father’s constant jokes about the horse’s appearance, the beast had been at his side for thirty years. It had broken a leg near the end of Seraphin’s mother’s pregnancy, and by using its hair to create the
, Damian Holt had meant to honor the old friend he’d just put down. The red was the horse’s blood, and Damian had recited the short prayer to allow the ancestors to imbue the string with their spirits. Seraphin might jest about the old horse, but he knew the importance his

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I’m sure they’d be even prouder if you accepted your actions, and owned up to your mistake.”

She let out a small huff. “You just don’t want to be blamed.”

“I don’t care who did it,” Alex interrupted. “It hurt like hell.”

“What are you doing up there anyway?” Seraphin asked. “You’re not even from Iswood, and you’re already climbing on our roofs?”

He’d had no idea who this other teenager was at the time, except that she couldn’t be from his hometown. Iswood didn’t even have a hundred citizens. Everyone knew everyone, and no one around would ever brave public opinion with Alex’s attire.

“I’m not just climbing it, I’m fixing it.” Alex lifted a screwdriver and waved it around. “Got an internship with Mister Old Walt for the summer. I was told the power’s flickering on and off for a lot of these houses because of a storm this winter, and the old man isn’t in any shape to be prancing on a roof. That courtball of yours would’ve knocked him dead.”

He was right about that. Old Walt was the only one in town who knew enough about the solar panels and electricity to keep everything running, but Seraphin’s father said the last five years had been hard on his back. Seraphin was convinced Old Walt’s ancestors were punishing him for being an all-around asshole. So they’d hired a cute-as-hell apprentice to compensate? Seraphin wasn’t going to complain. The newcomer could replace their mean Old Walt anytime she wanted.

BOOK: The White Renegade (Viral Airwaves)
12.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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