The Inevitable Singularity Chapter 1

The cover for The Inevitable Singularity by Molly J. Bragg. The cover features a blue nebula like background with bright clusters of light connected by curving tendrils of dimmer light resembling a neural network. In the foreground there are four women. On the left, there is a woman with shoulder length brown hair wearing a martial arts uniform and holding a sword, in the middle there is a woman with red hair and a futuristic rifle wearing blue sci-fi armor, on the right there is a South East Asian woman holding a sword wearing a martial arts uniform. Behind the woman with the rifle, the fourth women is floating in the air, with her arms out to her side. She has long white hair in a braid, red skin, silver eyes, and a scar across her face.

Cover Art by Rachel George

(Note:  The text that appears below is a pre-release preview which is taken from a version of the manuscript prior to final proof reading and formatting.  As such, it may contain minor errors or typos which will be corrected in the final version of the novel.)

Chapter 1

SEAN COULDN’T STOP HERSELF from smiling as she stepped through the hatch leading to the ship’s Ambassadorial salon. Caila, as usual, was the source of the smile. She sat on one of the ridiculously ornate silk couches, watching the oversized display built into the front wall of the salon. She had her hair pinned up, and it framed her face in silky black curls, leaving her long neck and small, delicate ears exposed. She’d tossed aside her robe and surcoat and sat in the tight-fitting black keikogi.

Sean took a moment to enjoy seeing Caila relaxed for the first time since they’d left Teraprim Ring. If anyone had asked, she would have told them Caila looked beautiful, but she never really thought that word did Caila justice. Sometimes, she would admit to herself that part of that was the fact that she was totally besotted, but that little detail didn’t change much. Moments like this always filled her with a longing to just reach out, take Caila in her arms, and never let go.

“Take an image,” Caila said. “It will last longer.”

Sean laughed, even though she felt a bit of regret that the moment had ended so quickly. She walked over to the couch where Caila was sitting and took up a guard position next to her. “We should hit the transit point in a few minutes.”

Caila looked up at her with bright green eyes and that beaming smile that never failed to make Sean’s heart skip a beat. She shook her head, laughing a little. “You know I’m just here to negotiate control of a hyperlane, right? You really think you’re going to need a full hardsuit?”

Sean shrugged and gave the same response she always did. “I’m a bodyguard. You pay me to be paranoid.”

“And here I thought I paid you to keep me from being bored to death by all the other Paladins.”

“That’s just a fringe benefit of having me around.” She turned and looked back towards the hatch. “Speaking of Paladins, where are your babysitters?”

Caila gave her a small, mischief-filled grin.

“I pointed out that, in their concern for me, they’ve been neglecting their daily meditations and insisted they all go spend some time in quiet contemplation in the aft conference room.”

“They actually bought that?”

“No idea, but one of the benefits of being a Grand Master of the Order is that lowly Squires, Pages, and Knight Sergeants have to at least pretend to believe everything I say and obey my orders.”

Sean grinned. “Look at you, abusing your power.”

Caila’s grin got wider. “I know. Perhaps the Council is right, and you really are a bad influence.”

Sean laughed. “I could have told you that, but then, I think you could use more bad influences in your life.”

Caila sighed. “Sadly, I don’t think Reagan bought it. I can feel her headed this way.”

Sean snorted. “I think she’s bribed the Marine sentry outside your door to call her any time I come to see you.”

“Surely you’re not suggesting that a Knight Sergeant of the Order of Paladins would stoop to base bribery?”

“Only because she doesn’t have a big, strong bodyguard to bash people over the head for her until they do what she wants.”

Caila swung her hand up, swatting Sean in the stomach. “I resent that. I’ve never once asked you to ‘bash’ anyone. I’ve simply asked you to persuade them to see reason.”

“With my fists.”

Caila nodded in agreement. “And occasionally your guns.”

“That too,” Sean said. “Though lately, I wish I was a little bit better at persuading with words.”

“Why is that?” Caila asked.

“It might help with Reagan.”

“Why are you so worried about her?” Caila asked. “A Paladin giving you attitude has never bothered you before.”

“In this case, it just does,” Sean said.

“Oh, come on,” Caila said. “There has to be more to it than that. Tell me what’s going on.”

Sean shook her head. “Nope. You don’t pay me enough for that.”

“I could authorize a bonus.”

“Wouldn’t do you any good. The Order doesn’t have enough money to get me to answer that question.”

“Well, now I’m really curious.”

“You don’t pay me to satisfy your curiosity,” Sean said.

“Conversation isn’t usually something I have to pay extra for.”

Sean turned towards the display and forced herself not to reply to Caila’s comment. It wouldn’t end well. Caila was usually respectful of the few boundaries Sean established in their relationship, but despite having told her to leave the situation with Reagan alone, Caila kept asking, and Sean was getting tired of it. “You should put your robes back on. If one of your minders catches us like this, they’re liable to run their mouth to the Council.”

Caila stood up and reached for her surcoat. “Wouldn’t be the first time someone got the wrong idea about us.”

Again, Sean said nothing, choosing instead to watch silently as Caila pulled the black surcoat over her head and centered the crimson Aum emblazoned on it before fastening it into place. The truth was most of the people who got the ‘wrong idea’ didn’t. They might not be sleeping together, might not have ever exchanged so much as a kiss, but that didn’t really matter. The vow of celibacy Paladins took was meant to keep them from falling in love, and while they had, at Caila’s insistence, obeyed the letter of the law, its spirit had long since been trampled.

Sean took a great deal of pleasure in that. She would have cheerfully told the Order where they could shove each and every one of their rules. Of course, she’d already done that, right before they kicked her out.

Caila had just finished settling her robe on her shoulders when the hatch opened again. Sean turned around, hand automatically dropping to the franger pistol on her hip. She didn’t really expect any trouble. She knew, even before the hatch had opened, that it was Reagan on the other side. The Akashic Field still whispered to her just as it did any Paladin. Unlike most excommunicates of the Order, they’d been unable to completely sever her connection. But she’d spent more than two decades training herself to tune out the Field and rely on her other senses so she would react as if she had no foreknowledge. Something which served to hide the depth of her connection to the Field and kept her from using the Field as a crutch the way far too many Paladins did.

When Reagan stepped through the hatch, Sean smiled at her and got a sneer in return. She tried not to let it bother her. Much as she might hate to admit it, Reagan was the one Paladin in the Order who had a legitimate reason to hate her. It wasn’t a good reason, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. It also didn’t mean it didn’t hurt knowing Reagan hated her.

“Captain Cohan says we should be making the transition to normal space momentarily, Grand Master.”

Caila nodded. “Thank you, Knight Sergeant.”

Sean felt her mouth twitch as she fought down a smile, all irritation with Reagan gone. The difference between the way Caila talked to her and the formal tone she used with everyone else was always a vivid reminder that whatever problems or arguments they might have, she was the only one who got to see the real Caila. Not the Grand Master of the Order of Paladins, not the diplomat, the negotiator, but the woman she’d grown up with. Who’d been her friend since the age of five, despite everything the Order could do to try and separate them.

Sean turned back to the display, watching the Cherenkov blue glow of hyperspace slide by. Caila stepped up next to her, and Sean had to stop herself from reaching over and resting her hand on the small of Caila’s back. Much as she wanted to, she couldn’t. Not with Reagan watching.

Instead, she fell into Parade Rest and let out a small, wistful sigh. “We should have come in the Sniper Bait.”

Caila let out a small snort of laughter. “What is it with you and that ship?”

“Well, for one thing, we’d have been here a week ago.”

Caila nodded slightly. “You’ve got a point there.”

“It would be inappropriate for the First Consul’s official representative to arrive on a private vessel,” Reagan said.

Sean glanced at Reagan. “Maybe so, but I also trust the armor on my ‘private vessel’ more than this eggshell if things go tits up.” She turned back to the display. “Besides. Jax is a better pilot, any day of the week.”

The transition alarm sounded, and for a moment, the display became a solid wall of intensely bright blue light, then quickly faded into the blackness of space.

Sean let out a relieved sigh, glad to be back in the sidereal universe. The trip across the star system would be a short one, and then they’d be on the ground, back in an environment she could exert some degree of control over.

She turned to Caila to suggest they start prepping for their meeting with the Governor, but she was interrupted before she could say anything.


The single word echoed in Sean’s mind with unquestionable authority. She knew the voice. Knew who it belonged to. Knew the deeper meaning behind the warning. Knew not to doubt it.

She turned, scooped Caila up, and tossed the smaller woman over her shoulder. When the Olive Branch’s proximity alarm went off, she’d already taken four steps toward the escape pod.

Those four steps saved three lives.

Reagan had just turned towards her when the ship bucked, and the deck of the Ambassador’s salon dropped out from under their feet.

Sean managed to land at a dead run even carrying Caila’s weight. Reagan wasn’t quite so lucky. She landed on her shoulder and screamed. Sean heard the distinctive pop of the arm being driven out of the socket and reacted on pure reflex. She jumped and twisted, turning in midair, swinging her free arm to focus her power as she stretched out through the Akashic Field and grabbed Reagan telekinetically. She pulled with a little more strength than was really wise, but she didn’t have the time to be careful. Reagan shot down the length of the salon as if she’d been launched out of a cannon and sailed towards the escape pod hatch.

Another touch of the Field pushed Sean the rest of the way through her turn, leaving her facing the same direction she’d originally been heading. She let out a third burst of power, and the escape pod hatch slid open just in time to keep Reagan from slamming into it. Sean landed without even breaking her stride and followed Reagan through the hatch as the hull breach warning sounded.

Air started roaring out of the escape pod with the force of a tornado. Sean slammed her armored fist down on the stealth launch button. The hatch slammed closed and a fifteen second countdown started. She took two steps towards the acceleration couches that lined the circular interior of the pod, bent at the waist, and dropped Caila into the nearest, then reached up and slammed the shock frame down, locking Caila into place.

The telltale on the frame turned green, indicating a solid lock at the same moment the launch countdown hit zero.

The launch alarm sounded. She saw the realization of what was about to happen on Caila’s face, but there was nothing she could do. The part of Sean that was running on training and reflex admitted it didn’t matter. Caila was safe. Her job was done. The part of her that was human and didn’t much like pain turned and fell backward, intending to land on her back so she took the acceleration eyeballs in. She didn’t quite make it.

 The pod tore out of its launch tube, accelerating at twenty-thousand G’s. The miniature inertial compensator did its best, but it maxed out at a thousand to one, leaving Sean to be slammed into the deck at twenty G’s.

Even with the brutally high acceleration, the pod only just made it. They were slightly less than a thousand kilometers from the Olive Branch when a null mine cracked the containment field of the hypertap.

When that happened, the Olive Branch, her entire crew of twenty-four, the three members of Caila’s staff, and the two Patrician aids who’d been on board, twenty-nine people in all, were instantly converted into a spherical wave of expanding photons.

Verrek Quinn sat back, hands resting flat on his desk, eyes focused entirely on the training cube floating above his desk. His mind was half sunken into the Akashic Field as he used it to twist and turn the sides of the cube, slowly lining up the tiles on each side.

The goal was to restore each of the cube’s faces to a solid color instead of a multicolored checkerboard pattern. In and of itself, the exercise was not especially difficult. He had memorized the solution algorithm for a cube of arbitrary dimensions back when he was still working with the basic three-by-three cubes. Over the four years he’d been training, he’d worked up to thirty-by-thirty cubes.

The exercise was about fine-level control. Too much pressure, twist at the wrong angle, and the delicate cube would fall apart. It had been months since that had happened, but with each passing day, his frustration grew. He had power, he had speed, and he had precision, but he could not bring them all to bear at once. Something he was sure was by design. His patron was using him as a blunt instrument, a weapon capable of killing a Paladin, surely, but not one capable of matching them skill for skill anywhere except the battlefield.

For some, that would have been enough, but Verrek knew the Paladins better than most and it was never their martial prowess that impressed him. The idea of being able to snatch information out of the very fabric of the universe, of never looking at an enemy and having to wonder what they were up to, that was what called to him. Much the way his patron’s promise of comfort and prosperity for the people of Herculaneum had called to him and lured him into the situation he was in now.

He was beginning to wonder if he’d made a fool’s bargain.

A soft tone sounded on his communications panel. Without taking his attention from the cube, he lifted his right index finger and waved it in the panel’s direction, using the Field to open the channel.

“Yes, Logan?”

“Sorry to disturb you, Grand Admiral, but Rear Admiral Funaro is here to see you.”

“Yes, of course. Send him in.”

“Yes, sir.”

Verrek deactivated the com channel as he opened a drawer in the desk and put the training cube away. He then poured himself a glass of the Governor’s very fine single malt whiskey and carefully arranged his desk so the glass was in easy reach and his tablet was in front of him. All this was accomplished without moving. He could have accomplished the tasks faster had he allowed himself a few small gestures to focus his powers, but that was another weakness he meant to overcome.

The door opened, admitting a man who was nearly thirty years Verrek’s senior, and three steps junior in rank. The man was competent enough, but he lacked any of the spark Verrek preferred in his officers. He was, at best, a non-entity. One Verrek hadn’t been able to replace, simply because he hadn’t been able to find anyone more competent, with sufficient seniority.

Funaro stopped exactly the right distance from the desk and snapped off a parade ground perfect salute. “Sir.” He came to attention and waited patiently to be acknowledged.

Verrek nodded to him. “Yes, Admiral?”

“A report from system defense, sir.”

“Go on.”

“The null minefield at the hyperlane arrival point was activated, sir. Three mines detonated, destroying a ship whose transponder identified it as the RDSS Olive Branch.”

Verrek pressed his lips together in displeasure. Whatever his patron said, he’d never been happy with this portion of the plan. But then, unlike his patron, he didn’t truly hate the Paladins. He saw them as an obstacle to their goals. One that could very well blow up in their faces if not handled with the utmost care.

On the other hand, however distasteful he might find the method, that obstacle had been removed, at least temporarily. Even in a worst-case scenario, they would have what they were looking for by the time reinforcements could arrive.

“Send the report to my tablet. Then take a copy down to the Governor and let her read it.”

“Yes, sir.”


Funaro saluted again, then turned and headed for the door. He was almost out of the office when a thought occurred to Verrek.

“Admiral,” he said.

Funaro turned around. “Sir?”

“Let her read it. Do not let her keep a copy.”

“Yes sir.” Funaro nodded, then turned and left.

Once the Rear Admiral was gone, Verrek reached for the glass of whiskey and took a sip, wondering if seeing the report would have the desired effect. Two weeks in a prison camp hadn’t seemed to weaken the Governor’s resolve, but that was two weeks with the expectation that help would arrive shortly. If he took away that hope, she might finally crack.

He took another sip of the whiskey and looked up at the painting of the Governor with her family. The family that was now dead on his order. That order had left a nineteen-year-old girl to run a star system, and she was doing a remarkably good job of it despite the fact that she was so far down the normal chain of succession that she would have grown up never once expecting to sit in the chair he now occupied.

He hoped she cracked. He really did. Over the twenty months since she’d taken office, he’d developed too much respect for her to want to have to resort to his other options. Unfortunately for them both, if she didn’t give up the location of the research complex within a month, he wouldn’t have any choice.

Caila popped the ratchet locks on Sean’s cuirass and winced at the scream that followed.

Sean dug her fingers into the rubber desk sole and ground her teeth together. “Oh, fuck, that hurts.”

Caila forced herself to smile, more to help keep herself calm than anything. “Well, next time you decide to break half your damn ribs, don’t do it while you’re wearing your hardsuit.” She set the front piece of the cuirass on the deck next to Sean’s head.

“Not my ribs I’m complaining about. I think my helmet knocked my hip out of the socket when I landed on it.”

Caila looked down at the helmet clipped to the belt of Sean’s hardsuit. In its collapsed state, it wasn’t that big, but Sean had come down hard.

“Great. I’ll add that to our list of problems.”

Sean smiled, and Caila felt herself relax a little. She wanted to panic. If half of what the hardsuit’s medical subsystem was telling her was right, Sean was bleeding out from dozens of internal injuries. More injuries than her medical implants could handle. Caila could fix that if she could just get Sean out of the hardsuit, but every time she moved her, Sean would scream.

Screaming was always a bad sign coming from Sean. It meant she was hurt badly enough that even her soldier boosts couldn’t handle the pain, and the pain was intense enough that even her stubborn, pigheaded pride couldn’t keep her quiet. Considering some of the injuries Caila had seen her endure without so much as a whimper, that thought alone was frightening.

“How is Reagan?”

Caila stared at Sean for a moment, taken aback at the concern in her voice. She looked up at Reagan. She’d managed to drag her up onto one of the acceleration couches and lock her into a shock frame.

“She was awake when I came to. She’s got a concussion, dislocated shoulder, lots of hairline fractures. No bone spalling, so she’s internally intact. Her nanites dropped her into an induced coma while they deal with the cerebral bruising.”

“So, she’ll live,” Sean said. Caila could feel the relief pouring off her through the Field.

“Yeah, she’ll live,” Caila said. “You know, you keep this up, and I’m going to start wondering if you’re trying to trade me in for a newer model.”

Sean started to laugh. The laughing turned to coughing, which brought up a good bit of blood. Caila reached out through the Akashic Field, soothing the irritation in Sean’s lungs and quieting the cough. Once the coughing stopped, Sean looked up at her. She hated herself for not being a better healer. There were Paladins in the Order who could have repaired most of the damage just using their own power.

“Are you okay?” Caila asked.

“I’m fine,” Sean said. “Just don’t make me laugh.”

“I think I’m going to have to do this telekinetically.”

“No!” Sean winced and Caila could feel the surge of pain flooding through Sean’s body. “I’m fine. Just give the nanites time to work.”

Caila shook her head. “In case the blood you coughed up wasn’t a clue, you don’t have that kind of time.”

Sean closed her eyes. “That bad, huh?”

“You’ve got bone spalling. A lot of bone spalling. Punctured lung, perforated liver, busted spleen, and half a dozen nicked arteries. Your nanites are too busy trying to keep you from bleeding out to repair anything, and they’re failing at that. Unless I can get you into a full nanite-bath, you’re not going be around when we make planetfall.”

“The Inner Council would be thrilled.”

Caila wanted to be angry with her for saying that, but she couldn’t. It was too easy to feel the bitterness radiating off Sean. The fact that Sean had every reason to believe it was true just made it that much more bitter a pill to swallow. If she was honest with herself, she was more upset about being reminded of that ugly little truth than she was at what Sean had said.

She reached down, cupping the left side of Sean’s face with her right hand and opened herself, letting her own feelings flow through the contact so Sean could feel Caila’s love for her. Sean closed her eyes and turned her head, pressing into the contact.

“You promised me you’d never leave me, remember?” Caila said.

“I remember.”

“Well, I’m going to hold you to that.”

Sean nodded her head. “Go on. Just be careful with the plumbing connections.”

Caila nodded and stood up, careful not to jar Sean as she did so. She took a few deep breaths, using the simple meditation technique to clear her mind. Telekinesis had never been one of her better skills. It was the reason she wasn’t a good healer. In fact, as Paladins went, most of her skills were weak. Which was one of the reasons the Inner Council tolerated her keeping Sean around as a bodyguard. It would never do to have a Grand Master, one who happened to be the official Council Seer, not to mention their most prominent and successful mediator, killed in the line of duty.

On the other hand, weakness was a relative thing. Where the best Paladins could manipulate individual atoms, Caila had trouble with anything too small to see, but Sean was firmly in the realm of the macroscopic. She lifted her off the deck, cradling her carefully as she opened each buckle and clasp with her mind. She set aside piece after piece of the hard shell, until only the under-layer was left. She took a second, steadying herself again for the more difficult portion of the task.

She opened her senses, letting her awareness flow outward, until she could feel the weight of her robes, the flow of the air around her, the texture of the under-layer, and Sean’s body beneath it. She felt her own breathing start to pick up, felt herself flush. She stopped, holding perfectly still, forcing her emotions back into check. Sean was in pain. She could feel it. Letting something that could never be get in the way would help no one.

After nearly a minute of simple, rhythmic breathing, she started loosening the under-layer’s straps, breaking open environmental seals, and opening zippers. She went slowly, moving each carefully, and stopping the instant she felt any increase in Sean’s pain. It took nearly ten minutes of concentration just to get the suit open, and almost as long to peel it off and break the plumbing connections.

Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at Sean floating in midair. Sean always looked so much smaller without armor. Not that Caila had a chance to see her that way very often. Even when she wasn’t in a hardsuit, she almost always wore a light armor scale suit. Caila sometimes wondered if she ever wore any of the civilian clothes that hung in her closet aboard the Sniper Bait.

Most of the times she did see Sean out of armor were moments like this, where someone was examining a new set of injuries Sean had picked up saving her life.

Caila looked Sean over carefully, both with her eyes, and with her Akashic expanded perception. Sean’s entire chest and back were covered with angry purple bruises. The hip she’d complained about was visibly dislocated, and there were spots where tiny shards of bone stuck out of her skin. She’d honestly seen Sean in worse shape, but that didn’t make it any easier. She’d never once seen Sean get so much as a broken nail, except as a direct result of protecting her, and a nagging little voice in the back of her mind always asked just how long it would be before she’d do something stupid enough to get Sean killed.

“I’m going to have to put the hip back in place before I put you in the nanite bath.”

“I know. Just get it over with.”

“Okay. On three.”


“One.” She twisted and pulled the leg, feeling the instant the hip popped back into the socket. Sean screamed, which turned into another coughing fit. Each cough brought up more blood than the last, and Caila had to work quickly to ease the coughing. By the time she was done, most of Sean’s face, neck, and a good part of her chest were covered in bright red. She was out of time. Caila hit a switch on the wall, and the middle of the deck opened up, revealing the nanite tank.

“What happened to two and three?”

She turned back, surprised to find Sean was even conscious.

“You would have tensed up,” she said as she lowered Sean into the tank. She knelt down, working quickly to fit Sean with the breather. Once she was done, she looked into Sean’s eyes.

Sean glared at her.

Caila reached over and hit a switch on the wall, then attached the breather mask to the feed hoses.

“See you on the other side.”

Sean, too broken in too many places to risk nodding, just blinked her eyes in acknowledgment.

Caila started the regeneration cycle, and the air in the breather was laced with anesthetic. She could feel Sean slip down into the healing coma as the deck slid closed over her. She looked over at the status indicator on the nanite bath control and made sure it was green, then dropped back on the acceleration couch.

Given how badly hurt she was, Sean would be in the bath at least two days. Without outside help, it would take Reagan’s nanites almost that long to repair the concussion. Two days before either of them would be able to help with the mess they were in. She hadn’t seen any reason to tell either of them that the explosion of the Olive Branch had torn the engines off the escape pod.

Miryam sat in the small cell, staring at the report on the tablet she’d been given, at a loss as to what to do. Her entire life, up until a month ago, had been lived according to a schedule and a set of rules. There were decisions to be made, discussions to be had, orders to be given, but the unexpected was exceedingly rare. She could have counted on the fingers of one hand the number of events she’d witnessed in her life that had not been planned months in advance.

Now, it seemed as if her life consisted of nothing but the unexpected. One long series of horrible, nightmarish events she had no way of anticipating. Everything from the first appearance of the Herculanian fleet, to the seemingly endless torture of her household staff, to this.

They’d killed the envoy.

They had deliberately murdered the official representative of the First Consul of the Terran Republic.

It took a massive effort of will not to get up and reach for Funaro’s neck. She’d never thought of herself as a particularly violent person, but she could feel the smug satisfaction rolling off him and she wanted nothing more than to reach out and wring the life from him, to watch that smugness give way to fear. The same fear her people must have felt watching invaders fall from the sky. The same fear the people aboard the courier must have felt in the moments before they died, as they desperately tried to avoid the pitiless blades of null fields that had torn their ship apart.

She didn’t look up from the report. She needed something to focus on so she could hold down the incandescent rage she felt.

Someone she trusted had caused this.

There was no other explanation. Outside of the science team that worked there, less than twenty-five people knew about the lab the Herculanians were searching for, and what it held. All of them had been people she or her uncle, the previous Governor, had personally vetted. All of them had been people she believed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, were absolutely loyal.

But the Herculanians knew, and if they knew, one of those twenty-five must have revealed the secret and broken the oath they’d sworn.

Millions of her people were dead. The entire planetary defense force had been wiped out or imprisoned. All because of this traitor.

And now, Ptolemy’s last hope had been shot out of the sky.

“As you can see, Governor,” Funaro said, “there is no longer any hope of a relief force. No Paladins are coming to your rescue. It would be better for you, for your people, if you just told us what we wanted to know.”

She flicked her wrist, sending the tablet sailing across the room, and smiled when she heard the plastic casing crack as it hit a wall.

“Please, give my regards to Admiral Verrek Quinn, and remind him of the generous terms of surrender I have offered.” She looked up, meeting Funaro’s eyes, focusing all her hatred on him. “If he gives me the name of the traitor, I will allow him and his forces to withdraw without penalty.”

Funaro stepped forward, raising his hand to strike her, but the Commandant of the Prison Camp, who had not been so foolish as to give her his name, caught Funaro’s wrist before he could take his swing.

“No,” the Commandant said.

Funaro turned, and Miryam could see both anger and humiliation written on his face. It nearly made her laugh at how weak this man was.

“You dare touch me.”

“Admiral Quinn’s orders,” the Commandant said. “She is not to be touched.”

She watched as Funaro stared at the Commandant, fuming, until finally, he turned and stormed out of the room without another word.

The Commandant turned back to her, and all the amusement she felt drained away as she saw the look on his face. It was cold, impassive, but there was a malevolence behind the eyes, and she knew she was about to pay for what she’d done.

“My apologies, Madam Governor. Truly, a barbaric display. Allow me to make it up to you.”

“That’s not necessary,” she said, quickly, not trying to hide the fear in her voice and hoping that letting him see her cowed would be enough.

“No, I insist. How about some company for the evening?” He nodded. “Yes, I think that’s just the thing. I’ll have one of your housemaids brought in.”

“No, please,” she whispered.

“Come now, Madam Governor. You must let us demonstrate our appreciation for your hospitality.” He turned to one of the guards standing by the door. “See to it at once.”

The guard nodded and turned, leaving the room at a fast march.

Miryam just stared at the Commandant, memorizing every feature.

She might very well die in this hell hole, but if she did, she was going to take at least one son of a bitch with her.

Continue to Chapter 2