...until the official release. Yes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are eager for you to buy, so they've already got it available for Kindle and Nook. Here's your excerpt for today:
Global Security officers Breft and Raxstad arrived in the city’s underground market, carefully navigating their small shuttle right to its central square. It was early yet, but the market was already bustling with many Kalquorian and Earther Mataras alike, all on foot. Only emergency vehicles were allowed in the heart of the market where the bulk of the capital’s business and entertainment took place.
The Kalquorian love for keeping their planet’s landscape as untouched as possible was the reason the hub of the activity was kept underground, in a former mine. One would rarely realize they were not outdoors once they reached the market area. The ceiling above was one great vid receiver, showing a live transmission of the sky overhead. The day was filled with sunshine, and no one, not even the best engineer or tech, could discern that the sun wasn’t actually beaming down on the streets of Kalquor.
The central square, like many of the other squares of the market, was lined on either side with shops and eateries. In the wide open space between the shops, entertainers played music for the enjoyment of those wandering the area. Artists invited passersby to sit for portraits. There were scenes enacted from favorite plays. Seats and tables scattered around beneath the shade of trees for those who wished to rest or simply visit with friends. There were even play areas for the few children, mostly toddlers, to enjoy. Breft’s clan had brought their twins out just yesterday to shop. He had supervised his little ones as they happily climbed rocks with carved handholds and slid down chutes. Their shrieks of laughter had pealed joyously enough to make even tough Nobeks grin.
There was to be no laughter today. Not considering the report they’d received.
At the very center of the square was a large statue, depicting the First Clan of Kalquor. The virus that had decimated the female population had spurred then-Crown Prince Shev to adopt the clan system with his friends Nobek Mekyi and Imdiko Hartob. Matara Dalic had joined them. They ascended to the throne together, becoming the first Imperial Clan.
As Breft and Raxstad neared, they saw the statue was hidden behind an opaque shield. A crowd clustered around it, no doubt curious as to what had happened. Other Global Security officers noted their first and second superiors’ approach.
“One side, citizens! One side to let officers pass,” came the call, and everyone drew back to create a path. Breft and Raxstad walked through the crowd without a problem, both activating their identification signals via small boxes on their belts. The opaque shield allowed them to walk right through.
The huge bronze visage of Nobek Emperor Mekyi stared down at Breft, his blades drawn as he coldly dared anyone to harm his clan. Dramok Emperor Shev stood at his side, one hand over his heart in a symbol of his devotion to Kalquor. On the opposite side of Shev stood Imdiko Emperor Hartob, one hand on Shev’s shoulder, the other on the shoulder of Empress Dalic, who knelt on one knee before Shev, facing away from her men. Her hands were held out, palms up, as if to offer peace to all.
Breft swallowed to see what had been placed in one of her outstretched hands. It wasn’t peace the beloved empress offered today.
Officer Lidon approached, his usual limp not as obvious today. The turn of warm weather was offering him a little relief from the horrific injury that had nearly destroyed one of his legs long ago when he was a fighter pilot. He nodded a quick bow of respect. “My commanders.”
Breft thanked the ancestors Lidon had retired from his military spaceflight career to join Global Security. The man’s quick mind had been a boon to the precinct since joining.
Now he asked the elder Nobek, “How intact is the scene?”
“I believe nothing has been disturbed.” Lidon gestured to a man who was talking to one of Breft’s investigators. The man’s face was pale, his eyes wide, and he kept the statue at his back so he wouldn’t look at it. “That Imdiko over there owns the herbal shop just across the square. He saw this when he arrived to open and called security.” Lidon pointed to two regular peacekeepers. “Those two officers zoned off the area right away and called regional enforcement, who called us upon their arrival.”
Raxstad had stood silently by, his lips pressed tightly together as he surveyed the scene. When he spoke, his growling words were nearly indecipherable. “By the ancestors, this is the worst one yet. What kind of monster would do such a thing?”
Breft looked at Matara Maria’s face, still recognizable from the pictures he’d viewed. The killer hadn’t marred her now-pale features. With her closed eyes, she almost looked serene. Or would have, had the rest of her body still been attached. It was her head that the statue of Empress Dalic held out like a gift.