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Grailstone Gambit [Outlanders Series No. 44] [Secure eReader]
eBook by James Axler

eBook Category: Science Fiction
eBook Description: DEFIANT AGGRESSORS.... The alien blueprint to claim Earth dates back to eons before humanity became enslaved. Fires of human rebellion have only strengthened the bid to fully secure the chains of iron rule. But the battle that spans time and space has become a proving ground. A bold, sophisticated band of insurgents has understanding of the enemy's darkest secrets, and dares to loosen the choke hold of power on the planet.... MISTS OF DOOM.... Across mystical Celtic lands, a devious enemy has resurfaced, adopting the guise of Merline, new messiah of the Druidic religion. Ushering in a new age of magic, terror and human sacrifice, the interloper once called Lord Strongbow seeks an ancient relic that will resurrect the dead. To rescue a culture from barbarism, the Cerberus warriors stand with a warrior queen in a final challenge to turn the tide of ancient madness that threatens to engulf the entire world.

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Gold Eagle
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2008


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Chapter 1

Manhattan Island, the Upper West Side

The wind sweeping over the roof of the office building carried a chill autumnal bite. Lying flat on a cornice overlooking the walls of the narrow concrete canyon, Kane tugged up the collar of his jacket, but he didn't shiver. He was more concerned about the effect the sudden temperature change might have on the trigger spring of the OICW rifle cradled in his arms.

The stiff breeze gusting up from the dark waters of the Hudson had to be considered for trajectory deflection. He would only have one chance to make the shot before he lost the element of surprise and drew the attention and the wrath of Baron Shuma's followers.

Reaching up behind his right ear, Kane made an adjustment on the Commtact's volume control. The little comm unit fit tightly against the mastoid bone, attached to implanted steel pintels. The unit slid through the flesh and made contact with tiny input ports. Its sensor circuitry incorporated an analog-to-digital voice encoder embedded in the bone.

Once the device made full cranial contact, the auditory canal picked up the transmissions. The dermal sensors transmitted the electronic signals directly through the skull casing. Even for people who went deaf, as long as they wore a Commtact, they would still have a form of hearing. However, if the volume was not properly adjusted, the radio signals caused vibrations in the skull bones that resulted in vicious headaches.

Lifting a compact set of night-vision binoculars to his face, Kane switched on the IR illuminator and squinted through the eyepieces. Viewed through the specially coated lenses that optimized the low light values, the street seemed to be illuminated by a lambent, ghostly haze. Where only gloom had been before, his vision was lit by various shifting shades of gray and green. He squinted against the light of the Sun in the west where it touched the facade of the building on the opposite side of the boulevard.

"Edwards?" he subvocalized.

"Sir?" came the immediate response. The man's voice sounded tense.

"In position?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Move in as close to the street as you can. Get prepped when you hear them coming."

Kane couldn't see the shaved-headed ex-Magistrate, but Edwards had proved his competence many times since joining Cerberus nearly a year earlier.

Another voice filtered into his ear. "Commander?"

"Yes, Brady?"

"I can spot 'em fine, Commander."

"Hell, I can spot them," Kane snapped. "I want a perfect triangulation."

"I've got the shot, if that's what you're worried about it."

"It is, but you wait for my order."

Kane thumbed the tiny stud on the Commtact, opening another channel. "Domi?"

"Yeah?" The girl's sharp, high-pitched voice made him grimace.

"Any problems?"

"I'm ready to join the pack."

"Acknowledged. In your rig, they won't give you a second glance."

"Hope not." There was a pause. "Kane?"

"Here."

Her tone a bit softer, Domi said, "Aim good. You be very careful."

"Aren't I always?" he retorted.

The transceiver accurately conveyed Domi's snort of derision. "Hell, no. That's why I mentioned it."

A trifle annoyed, Kane said, "Just make sure the target is where he's supposed to be…and be aware of all our people's positions."

"Gotcha."

Kane knew Domi intended to blend in with the group of Farers, flowing unnoticed among their number in her patched denims and long, hooded coat that concealed the girl's white hair and skin, Detonics Combat Master autopistol, grenade-laden harness and her signature knife, with its nine-inch-long, serrated blade.

Kane had been reluctant to put Domi in the midst of the Farers because of her inability to get along with others, but under the circumstances, she was the least conspicuous of the Cerberus rescue team.

He opened another Commtact frequency. "Baptiste?"

"Here," Brigid Baptiste responded in her characteristically calm tone.

"Status?"

"Hanging out with some Roamer stragglers, half a klick north-northwest of your position. "

Kane turned his head in that direction and squinted. "Sun is in my eyes."

"In the convoy's, too," Brigid replied. "I'm keeping a street between us."

"Any sign of Grant?"

"None so far." Someone who didn't know her would not have detected so much as a hint of concern in her crisp tone, but Kane heard the worry underscoring her voice.

"He's still alive," he said reassuringly. "Baron Shuma won't pass up the chance of show off his prize pig to the citizens."

"Assuming," Brigid replied, "nothing has gone wrong in the past few hours."

"You're always such an optimist," Kane said sarcastically.

"About as much as you are…which is to say, not much."

"Aren't you the one who always tells me to watch my overconfidence?"

"Only when you need it," she answered. "Like now."

Kane smiled crookedly and adjusted the Commtact, opening all the individual channels simultaneously. "Status reports every two minutes now, people."

"Yes, sir," Edwards said.

"Yo," Brady announced.

"Gotcha," Domi stated.

"Acknowledged," Brigid said.

Kane took a deep breath. The stock of the OICW rifle felt smooth and warm in his hands. He eyed the sky, noting that in a few minutes the autumn sunset would plunge the narrow concrete valley below into deep gloom. The laser optical scope would help, but he prayed Shuma's triumphant procession arrived while it was still daylight. If anything went wrong on the op, light levels wouldn't matter.

A faint, faraway rumble of a distant engine reached his ears. Hitching around, Kane shifted position. A tall man built with a lean, long-limbed economy, most of his muscle mass was contained in his upper body, much like that of a wolf. The cold stare of a wolf glittered in his blue-gray eyes, the color of dawn light on a sharp steel blade. A faint hairline scar showed like a white thread against the sun-bronzed skin of his clean-shaved left cheek. The wind ruffled his thick hair, its color a shade between chestnut and black.

Copyright © 2008 by Worldwide Library.


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