“Well that little hissy fit is certainly going to get their attention. So much for keeping a low profile, huh? You might as well have just set fire to your nuts on the Capitol lawn.”
Leaning back in his black leather desk chair, Josiah hated to admit just how right Anjelica Shepherd might be.
Except for one thing . . .
“This didn’t leave me sterile.”
“No, but if they catch you—” she gestured at his crotch— “They’re going straight for your no-zone, buddy. Trust me, those little friends of yours will be the first thing they take and fry up for their main course.”
He flashed a devilish grin at her. “Then let’s make sure they don’t.”
She rolled her dark brown eyes. And shook her head so forcefully, it made the beads in her Nubian braids jingle. “Don’t even go there, Old Man Crow.”
He ignored her play on his last name of Crow and the fact that he was half Apsáalooke. Anjelica was one of the few who knew that little tidbit about him—along with the major secret he kept as sacred as a vestal virgin matron in charge of her convent’s vault of keys to their chastity belts.
Just as he was the only one who knew she and her daughter, Kyisha, had made their way from the refugee camps out of Louisiana to the hills of Tennessee where they were currently in hiding from the Drab creatures who would slaughter them should they ever find them.
And she was lucky. He killed most people who knew anything personal about him. A necessity he’d learned a long time ago.
Keep your secrets close and you’ll live longer. Keep your enemies dead and you’ll live longer still.
But that was neither here nor there. They were self-proclaimed Scraps. The last of humanity—the mutated remains of a once great race. To the Metans who’d conquered them, they were lesser formed creatures, but Josiah knew better. The Scraps were the next evolutionary step.
Or rather with this last act against them, they had just evolved into Mankind 3.0. A new breed who would no longer submit to, or tolerate Drab rule. It was time to send the Drab Metans packing. And it was their job to hold the line and make sure the human race didn’t become extinct.
“I didn’t start this war, Anj.” The Drabs had, a hundred years ago when they’d brought their disease to the earth and left the human race to die out in utter misery.
When they’d left him a mutant with skills that defied everyone’s expectations.
Even his own.
Yeah, you should have made sure I stayed dead.
Shakespeare had once written that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. The great bard was wrong. Hell hath no fury like a human forced to watch everything he or she loved be ripped away while the one who did it stood back and gloated in selfish, smug satisfaction. While they taunted their victim among their friends, and took everything that had once belonged to him or her and claimed it as their own creation.
As they tried to make it their own.
Male. Female. Made no never mind. For one so slighted, either gender was just as vicious as the other when it came to seeking vindication.
If the history of humanity had any lesson to be learned whatsoever it should have been that no one fought harder than the home team. Whether it was the Athenians at Marathon, the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the Spartan Three Hundred, Alfred the Great, the Colonial Americans, or even the Native Americans who’d kicked Eric the Red’s ass out of Vinland—humans were capable of unimaginable feats when facing advanced technology and tactics while protecting their own.
No one got the better of them.
One voice could change the course of history, forever. No matter how small the Who in Whoville.
It was never about the size of the dog in the fight, but all about the size of the bite in the dog.
Too bad the Drabs had burned all human literature and history books instead of reading some.
Now they were about to get schooled at the University of Serious Bell Ringing by Dr. Crow and his elite faculty of kick-your-ass-and-make-it-count.
Because Josiah had no intention of stopping until he hand-delivered the bill that was long past due, and shoved it down their gray, Drab throats and made them choke on it.
This was personal. They had made it so.
His gaze fell to the latest report that had finally prompted his declaration of war. And his throat tightened around the bile that rose up in angry indignation. He was through watching his people die.
“Did you hear? They burned the Phoenix colony last night.”
Anjelica winced. “I saw the footage. Did anyone escape?”
He forced himself to mask the kick-in-the-gut he felt over her question. “If they did, they haven’t surfaced yet. No doubt they’re in hiding. Afraid of being caught and exterminated.”
“Yeah. I’d dig in deep, too. And pray hard for the hand of death to pass me by.” She jerked her chin toward his secured laptop that he’d used to post his message on the Drab’s network. “That the real reason for your declaration of war?”
He nodded even as disgust, fear and hopelessness threatened to overwhelm him. The human race couldn’t afford such significant strikes against them. It’d taken a hundred years of hiding from the Drab tracesakers who’d been assigned to hunt them down, to rebuild their underground population back from the near-extinction levels that had almost wiped them off the planet.
Another hit like this and they might become history, after all.
“My little tantrum should get the heat off the survivors. . . . If there are any. The tracesakers will start looking for me now.” It was what the Drabs always did whenever they sensed a threat.
Any action required a swift and direct overreaction.
Anjelica tsked at him. “Boy, you’re insane. You done bought yourself all kinds of hurt.”
“Perhaps, but remember what William Blake said. The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow. If I can buy them even an hour of peace, I will give up my life for it.”
Josiah meant that. Yet he had no intention of dying. Not to today.
He was, after all, a crow. And crows were sacred to his people. They were messengers and harbingers. A gateway from this world to the next.
As his mother used to say . . .
One crow caws for sorrow.
Two crows sing of joy.
Three crows fly to borrow.
Four crows are a ploy.
Five crows warn of tomorrow.
Six crows bring much gold.
And seven crows caution you of all the stories left untold.
Beware the seventh crow. It could bring prosperity or death. Its choice. But until it sung its tale, no one knew which way it’d fly or where it’d go to roost.
Josiah had been the seventh crow born in his family. His mother’s youngest.
Her deadliest and most unpredictable.
I swear, Joey, you came into this world backwards and you’ve been that way ever since. Cantankerous and stubborn as the day is long. Ain’t no one ever been born what could tell you what to do.
But then that, too, ran deep in his blood. Deeper still in his people and his Southern family.
Again, the Drabs should have learned something of the culture they sought to override and destroy. It was easy to hate without context. To destroy without understanding how difficult it was to build something.
Unlike them, he’d taken his time to carefully study his enemies. Intimately. He knew how they thought. How they lived and how they’d developed into their current hive mind-set.
Now he was going to use that to annihilate them.
Once and for all.
Starting with the one who’d delivered the deepest blow to his heart.
Without a word, his gaze fell to the poem he’d written just before his declaration. This particular bit of his writing, he would forever keep to himself.
A silent promise. Just between the two of them.
Her name, he didn’t speak. He didn’t have to.
She knew who she was.
He knew who she was. What she’d done. And so did she. That was all that mattered.
And he would have her throat for it all. Come hell or high water. Come nuclear devastation. Even if he had to fight his way back from death again.
Josiah would bathe in her blood and he would feast on her black heart. After all, that was where his middle name had come from. His mother’s original maiden name.
Given to their ancestor who’d been known for coating himself in the blood of his slain enemies and reveling in the violence of war. Her entire family had been peace-loving until crossed. Then it was on to such an extent that his father used to joke their unwritten family motto was: I’ll kill you.
And Josiah wouldn’t rest until he saw this through . . .
Tick tock rang the clock. The talons of death came nearer nigh.
In the dark, all was stark. And only your breath was heard as a wretched sigh.
On the wall, the shadows fall. As you ran the entire hallway’s span.
Yet with every step, you continually wept. For you knew the end would be coming soon.
No matter how hard you tried, or deep you cried, still you felt your impending doom.
You felt it there, beneath the stair, or lurking in the shadowed pane.
And still you tried. Still you vied. Ever seeking to grow your infernal fame.
All the while, you lived in denial. Knowing for you there’d be no reprieve.
Not for ye who always deceived.
Coward, liar, thief and whore.
May you get all you deserve and more.
To hell I hope you will soon be bound.
And never again will ye be found.
May your name forever be stricken from each and every tongue.
And may never again let any praise for you be sung.
For you have spread poison and lies upon this land.
And you deserve nothing save utter misery and deepest reprimand.
In time I hope you come to wear,
All the shame you once dispensed with giddy flare.
For this to the heavens I do so decree.
And know in my heart that so will it be.
“From me to you, bitch. From me to you.”