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"The best series I've read in years! I couldn't decide if I was more thrilled with the well-crafted plot or the depth and breadth of the characters!"-Amazon reviewer
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Amelia fled to the Sanctuary, desperate for the cure to the Hydra virus. In the safety of the walled enclave, she discovers the promise of a luxurious life she thought she'd lost forever. She can have it all--if she's willing to betray the people she loves.
Offered the vengeance he's always longed for, Gabriel faces his own crucible. He can attack the Sanctuary, bring down the elites, and save the cure--but doing so will turn him into the man he swore he'd never become again...
On the brink of war, the survivors must choose--escape with their lives, or stay and fight for the hope of a better world.
The explosive finale in The Last Sanctuary series, Raging Light is a near-future post-apocalyptic thriller perfect for fans of Hunger Games and Maze Runner.
Books in The Last Sanctuary series:
No Safe Haven (stand-alone companion novel)
*Rated PG-13 for non-graphic violence and mild language.*
Praise for Raging Light:"I started the book and didn't breathe until I was finished! So good."-Goodreads reviewer
"The suspense, action and complex relationships keep you on the edge of your seat!" -Amazon reviewer
"Full of twists, turns, and unexpected surprises."-Amazon reviewer
"Don't blink! It's that good!" -Amazon reviewer
"Kept me on my toes! Fantastic read!" -Goodreads reviewer
Release date: July 15, 2018
Publisher: Paper Moon Press
Print pages: 260
Content advisory: Rated PG-13 for mild language and moderate violence.
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The beauty of the Sanctuary struck nineteen-year-old Micah Ramos Rivera like a blade between his ribs. After months of destruction, ruin, hunger, and death, it was impossible to get used to—even after all these weeks hidden inside the walls.
The February air was cold. Micah puffed out white steam with each breath. A few fat flakes of snow swirled down from the gun-metal gray sky, smearing his glasses. In the distance, huge mountains loomed on every side of the Sanctuary.
He gazed up at the pristine buildings surrounding him—all engineered white quartz—some domed, some spired, others tall white columns with large terraces jutting out on each level. Transparent spheres curved over the terraces, enclosing luxurious gardens.
Micah couldn’t see the forbidding electrified plasma wall surrounding the Sanctuary from here, but its presence always hovered in the back of his mind, reminding him that no matter how beautiful it was, they were trapped in here.
There was only so far they could run.
“They’re not doing anything,” Micah said. “Why aren’t they doing anything?”
“Who knows?” Fiona Walsh said.
Dozens of Sanctuary citizens were out and about, hurrying to jobs, home for dinner, or strolling with small children, all hunched inside their coats against the cold and wind. Their faces were tense, perhaps the shadows under their eyes were deeper, but they were still going about their daily business.
There was no uprising. No protests. No revolt.
“I’ve been listening to my co-workers, my family, anyone I could get close enough to overhear.” Fiona twirled a stray bright-red curl between her fingers. The rest of her fiery hair was tucked beneath a plain gray knit cap. “They’re angry, sure, but they feel helpless. Two elite women were going on and on about how Declan Black’s confession must have been coerced or faked, how easy it is to manipulate pixels.”
Micah stood with Silas outside a bot-repair center in sector four. Beside him, Theo, Fiona, and Kadek leaned against the wall, Smartflexes and holopads in hand, pretending to be engrossed in the latest vlog feed while surreptitiously scanning the crowds.
“Score one for poor judgment.” Silas shoved his hands deep in his pockets. His gray eyes were cold, hard.
Micah wasn’t sure what he was thinking. How did he really feel about all of this? Declan Black was his father, after all. But Silas was an enigma, as always. His lean, wolfish face revealed nothing.
“Or they say it was Declan Black acting on his own, a rogue agent, that there was no way our government would ever kill their own citizens,” said Kadek Tedjasukmana, one of the other undercover Patriots. He spat in disgust.
Four nights ago, on February first, President Sloane had put out an emergency broadcast—a mere twenty minutes after Micah, Silas, Theo, Fiona, and Kadek had hijacked the entire Sanctuary network and played Declan Black’s secretly recorded confession.
President Sloane had sat calmly in her presidential suite, modeled to resemble the Oval Office in the White House, and informed the people she would do everything in her power to determine the truth behind the Unity Coalition chairman’s revelations.
The government had blamed the virus on the resistance group, the New Patriots. But Declan Black had confessed to designing the Hydra virus, a deadly contagion meant to kill a hundred thousand of the poorest, most disposable citizens. It was Declan who had released the Hydra virus as an act of bioterrorism, in a calculated attempt to pass his Safe and Secure Act. The law had required citizens to receive the Vitalichip, an embedded chip that recorded health, personal, financial, political, and purchasing data, as well as tracking each citizen’s location.
It had worked—until the virus merged with the deadly bat-flu already ravaging the country. The new virulent contagion was a supervirus, one that devastated the entire world in only a few short weeks, killing off 96% of the world’s population. The fatality rate for those infected was 100%.
Until Amelia lived.
“They don’t want to believe,” Micah said, scanning the Sanctuary as his heart plummeted.
Lush greenery was everywhere, genetically modified trees with green leaves and verdant manicured hedges. Drones zoomed through the air above their heads—delivery, security, surveillance. Auto-transports controlled by a cloud-based AI hummed to and fro. Everything was clean, healthy, safe.
“If they choose to believe, they’d have to do something about it.” Kadek’s narrow face darkened. He was Indonesian, tall, and gangly, with long, lank black hair and sharp features. “If the people believe the government intentionally harmed their own citizens, how could they stay here and continue to trust that same government? They couldn’t. But this is the only place they’re safe. So it’s better to disbelieve evidence they’ve seen with their own eyes than to risk their own safety and the safety of the people they love—the few who are still alive.”
“I understand it,” Theo Reaver said, his voice cracking. He held an unopened bag of gummy worms in his left hand. He twisted the bag over and over, crumpling it between his fingers. His right hand gripped the arm of his wheelchair so tightly the tendons on the back of his hand stood out. He had been uncharacteristically subdued since the president’s first broadcast. “I don’t agree with it, but I understand.”
Like his twin sister, Cleo Reaver, Theo was Indian, with disheveled black hair and dark, intelligent eyes. Unlike his bloodthirsty sister, he was kindhearted and good-natured.
Theo wanted the people to see the truth for themselves, to take down the Coalition from within in a bloodless coup. Micah was hoping for the same thing. But with every passing day of silence from the people, that hope dimmed.
Fiona tightened her scarf around her neck and shivered. She glanced at the time on her SmartFlex. “Thirty seconds until President Sloane’s broadcast.”
They turned and stared up at the huge holoscreen affixed to the five-story building across the street. Along the main streets, giant holoscreens were emblazoned on nearly every building. All over the city, ads, vlogs, and video feeds cut out on every screen and holoport and SmartFlex. A tiny version popped up in glowing 3D over Theo’s, Fiona’s, and Kadek’s wrists.
The president was standing on a raised platform before the marble steps of the capitol, a cluster of secret service agents, soldiers, advisers, and generals hovering around her. Reminiscent of old architecture, the capitol was all majestic white stone, towering fluted columns, and a multitude of ornate terraces crowned by a steep, turreted roofline. BioGen headquarters and city hall, the building Micah and the others had broken into only a few nights ago, soared on either side of the capitol.
“Citizens of the Sanctuary,” President Sloane announced grandly. “Thank you for your patriotism!”
Micah sucked in a startled breath. He recognized the slim, graceful figure standing to the right of the president. Amelia. She was dressed in a slate silk dress and a chinchilla-gray fur shrug. Her hair was long again, blowing like a white-blonde ribbon in the frigid wind.
Amelia had entered the Sanctuary with Micah and Silas several weeks ago, but they had been forcibly separated. Micah and Silas escaped custody, while Amelia voluntarily submitted to invasive tests and procedures in the hope of discovering a cure for the Hydra virus. She was supposed to smuggle it out to the Patriots.
He hadn’t seen her since their separation. Now here she was, her delicate features so pale and small in the wintry air, her expression carefully blank beneath her perfectly applied makeup.
He couldn’t tell what she was thinking as she stared off into the distance above the cameras, her ice-blue eyes slightly narrowed. She looked like a beautiful doll beside President Sloane and the retinue of soldiers surrounding her.
President Sloane cleared her throat, drawing Micah’s attention. Her hands gripped the narrow, transparent podium. A hovercam floated a foot from her face. She wore a slim-fitting chocolate-brown pantsuit. Her jaw was set, her eyes grim. She projected power and authority, someone fully capable of enacting justice, of controlling her people. “After seriously investigating the accusations made against former BioGen CEO Declan Black,” she announced, “the Coalition has determined the validity of the televised confession and Declan Black’s guilt.”
Everyone within sight stopped whatever they were doing. They craned their necks to stare up at the closest holoscreen or peered down at their Smartflexes. Their eyes widened over their masks, but no one seemed truly surprised. Rather, they were resigned, already accepting whatever truth their president gave them.
“Our investigation found that Declan Black acted as a lone wolf, manipulating the government and deceiving those who most trusted him,” President Sloane said.
Micah’s gaze moved to Amelia. Her face was expressionless, tight as a mask as she listened to the words condemning her own father. “Mr. Black is a terrorist and traitor of the worst caliber, his every intent and motive to destroy the very fabric of this great nation and the world.”
“She’s still lying,” Micah whispered. There was no way Declan Black acted alone. “The Coalition was involved. They had to be.”
“This will not stand,” President Sloane continued on the holoscreen, her strong voice carrying over the wind and the American and Coalition flags whipping behind her. “For his crimes, he will be sentenced to die by firing squad on February fifth at six p.m., right here in Unity Square in front of the capitol. Attendance is mandatory. We will eradicate this threat to our safety, to the well-being of our children, I promise you that.”
Amelia flinched so slightly that only Micah noticed—the only indication of the turmoil that must be churning inside her this very moment. Micah’s heart constricted. He longed to stand beside her and hold her hand through this. She was all alone. She had no one to help her, to comfort her.
President Sloane glanced at a general to her left, then returned her sharp, penetrating gaze to the hovering camera. It felt like she was staring at Micah, her eyes lasering straight through him. “If any among you would plot against that safety and attempt to take it from us, we will retaliate with the full force of our power. We will find you, and you will pay for your crimes against humanity, just as Declan Black will.” She leaned over the podium, her eyes glittering intently. “Hold your children close tonight and sleep in peace.”
Her gaze slanted toward Amelia, pausing for a moment longer than necessary. Then she turned back to the cameras and raised her right arm, punching the air with her fist. “Unity through might. Freedom through strength. Peace through safety!”
The Coalition’s symbol, a white triangle with the American flag flying behind a menacing sword, hovered over thousands of Smartflexes and holo ports before winking out.
The regular ads returned, a buzz of nonsense that Micah instantly tuned out. He spun to face Theo. “Why was Amelia next to President Sloane? What’s happening with the cure? What’s going on?”
Theo sighed heavily. “I don’t know.”
Silas glared at Theo. “That’s unacceptable!”
For a moment, Theo didn’t answer. He tilted his head back and gazed up at the darkening sky. From the west, a bank of black, billowing clouds was rolling in over the mountains.
“We have no choice now.” He balled up his unopened bag of gummy worms and shoved it in his pocket. “If Amelia can’t get us the cure, and the people just accept President Sloane’s word that Black is the only mastermind, then Cleo’s plan wins.” He sounded tired, angry, and defeated. “We have no choice but to take the Sanctuary by force.”
“Amelia promised to smuggle out the cure!” Micah said. “She’s going to do it. She just needs more time.”
“I’m sorry.” Theo shook his head bitterly. “We’re out of time.”
Silas took a menacing step toward him. “That’s not good enough.”
“You should leave.” Kadek’s narrow features sharpened, his gaze bristling with hostility. “Now.”
Fiona crossed her arms over her chest. “He’s right. It’s not safe for you here anymore. You heard Sloane’s announcement. Anyone she finds, she’ll just lump them in with Declan Black. And she’s definitely still looking for you. They’ve increased patrols threefold since our network hack.”
“It’s going to be incredibly dangerous for you here,” Theo said heavily. “War is coming. My mother and Cleo will attack in only a few days’ time. There’s nothing I can do to stop them now. And I don’t know how much longer we can assure your safety.”
“We can sneak you out tonight,” Kadek said. “The Sanctuary is more concerned with what’s coming in than what’s going out. We can get you out the service entrance. We’ll hijack a few of the nighthawks to give us cover just in case.”
Micah and Silas exchanged glances. Silas shook his head, his eyes narrowing defiantly. Micah gave a small jerk of his chin in agreement. They were in this together.
“And Amelia?” Silas asked. “What are you going to do about her?”
Theo rubbed his forehead. “Did you see the guards surrounding her? There were dozens. There’s no way we can reach her.”
Silas jabbed his finger at Theo’s chest. “You let her go into the lion’s den, unprotected, and now you’re not going to get her out?”
“What about Harper?” Micah asked, thinking of the covert rebel soldier Theo had managed to get assigned to Amelia’s security detail. Harper had passed information between Theo and Amelia, including smuggling Declan Black’s recorded confession on a thumb drive. “She can help us.”
“Harper is only one person,” Fiona said. “Not even she can do anything now. Amelia is too well guarded. They know exactly how valuable she is.”
Micah shoved his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his thumb. Anxiety roiled in his stomach. He felt sick. “I thought you said you had more Patriot soldiers on the inside.”
“Not ones with that kind of access,” Kadek said. “Look, Cleo anticipated this. That’s why she went ahead with the plans for attack.”
“Anticipated what?” Silas asked in a low, dangerous voice.
“Amelia is an elite. She’s one of them. It makes sense that she’d want to stay here, in comfort and decadence—”
“Shut up!” Silas surged toward Kadek, his expression ferocious. He was all tight bristling energy, his hands balled into fists, the tendons in his neck bulging. “Stop talking, right now.”
Kadek threw up his gloved hands and retreated a step, narrowly avoiding bumping into a passing elderly woman. “I’m just stating the facts, man.”
“No!” Micah said too loudly. Several Sanctuary citizens glanced their way, brows lifted curiously. He lowered his voice. “No. You don’t know what you’re saying. You don’t know her.”
“Amelia would never do that,” Silas said. “Never.”
Micah glanced at Silas. Only a few short weeks ago, Silas had expressed his own doubts. He’d suspected his sister wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the cruel control of their father. But now Silas’s jaw was set, his body rigid, his eyes flashing with anger at Kadek’s insinuation. “If you won’t help us, we’ll go get her on our own.”
“And get yourselves killed,” Kadek snapped.
Kadek and Silas glared at each other for a long, tense moment.
Fiona stepped between them and put a soothing hand on Silas’s arm. He jerked his arm back like she was infected. A shadow of hurt passed across her face. She had a crush on Silas, something Silas had no idea what to do with. “We underestimated her security. I’m sorry. I imagine even if she wanted to leave—”
“She does!” Silas hissed.
“She looked pretty happy next to the president in her fancy dress,” Kadek said.
Silas stared at Kadek, his expression flattening, his eyes going hard. “She did the same thing for my father. I guarantee you she wasn’t happy then. And she’s not happy now. So why don’t you shut your mouth before I make you—”
Kadek strode forward until he was inches from Silas’s face. “Are you threatening me?”
A two-guard patrol rounded the corner down the street. Three nighthawks, sleek weaponized drones, glided above them. Micah stiffened. Kadek and Silas took swift steps away from each other. They all needed to be careful not to draw undue attention. Especially now, with everything on the line.
They had to figure out a way to help Amelia, find a cure, and stop this war. But the looming war seemed as unstoppable as the storm clouds brewing on the horizon, slinking ever closer, promising destruction.
But Micah refused to give up hope. It wasn’t in him. There had to be a way—they just had to find it. He moved beside Silas, turning his back on the soldiers, keeping his head carefully angled away from any suspicious eyes.
He faced Theo, Kadek, and Fiona, his expression set in steely determination. “We’re staying. No matter what’s coming. We’re in this thing together. And we’re not leaving Amelia behind.”
Eighteen-year-old Amelia Black stood in the grand hall inside the capitol of the Sanctuary, waiting to speak with President Sloane. The grand hall’s decor befit its name—a soaring, domed ceiling dripping with crystals, ornate arches supported by fluted columns, and a polished black granite floor reflecting the light like scintillating shards of diamond.
The president was surrounded by advisers and assistants. Amelia had asked to speak with her two days ago, but the president hadn’t been able to clear a few moments in her schedule until now.
The president paused, waving away three assistants waiting for her to peruse and biosign various critical documents. She turned to Amelia, gave her a gentle, sad smile, and patted her shoulder. “You must be exhausted. You’ve gone through so much in the last few weeks. How are you sleeping, dear?”
Amelia smoothed the chiffon clouds of her silvery blue dress, the sleeveless bodice embroidered with a thousand tiny, mirrored beads. She looked dazzling on the outside, but inside, she was tired, so tired. Weariness had settled deep into her cells, seeping into her muscles, pooling into her bones.
She felt hollowed out by grief, anxiety, and stress. The tests and biopsies and blood draws had exhausted her physical reserves. But it had all been worth it.
Her father had done it. With her blood, he’d formulated a cure. Right before he’d been arrested and imprisoned for treason.
She felt the stares of every person in the room like daggers at her back. Even though President Sloane had vouched for her, it felt like everyone else suspected her of somehow colluding with her father. Even the doctors and scientists in the lab looked at her with wary mistrust in their eyes.
Amelia felt more alone than ever. She was alone, lost, abandoned. She missed her friends. She missed Micah. Gabriel, Silas, Benjie too.
She should have stolen the vials and snuck out of the Sanctuary by now. She hadn’t heard from Micah and Silas in days. Harper claimed Theo was the one who contacted her; she couldn’t find the resistance herself.
Amelia didn’t know what to do. But she refused to be helpless, to do nothing. She would do whatever she could to help her friends, to save the cure. She was steadfast in her determination, her mind resolute. She would follow this through to the bitter end, no matter what it cost her.
The president frowned. “Not to mention the fact that we must deal with the unfortunate, distasteful situation with your father.”
Amelia’s heart plummeted. The sentencing—and execution—was scheduled for three days from now. Both too soon, and too many endless hours away.
Thoughts of her father crept in—his shining face when he’d told her he’d found the cure. The way the soldiers had forced him to his knees and handcuffed him in the grand hall. The terrible fate that awaited him…
President Sloane squeezed her shoulder. Tall and svelte, the president was in her mid-fifties, with auburn hair clipped short and slicked behind her ears. She was brisk and efficient, but she was also compassionate. “I’ll have Vera send a med-bot to your room tonight to ease your suffering, at least for a while.”
“I’m fine,” she lied. Her head spun, but she forced herself to remain focused on what she’d come here to say. She pushed everything else away. “When are we going to distribute the cure?”
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