Having been sent forward in time to a dystopian, post-pandemic America, Matt and his daughter, Ally, embark on a dangerous mission to stop Cromwell's ultimate plans from manifesting.
If only it were that easy.
Cromwell's malignant evil soon rears its ugly head and plunges them into a fight for their lives, casting them into a dark and dangerous world where The Scourge threatens every lifeform on Earth.
Their mission is vital. Failure is unthinkable.
With non-stop action and plot twists you'll never see coming, The Revered is a gritty and uncompromising sci-fi adventure that spans time, space, and alternate dimensions - a journey of rescuing a dying world, and a story of love, revenge, and the costs of both. Set aside some time to dive into this epic page-turner. You'll need it.
Release date: June 24, 2020
Publisher: Tiny Empire Pty Ltd
Print pages: 294
Content advisory: Some violence and bad language.
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Still shackled, Matt was marched up through the underground facility into a hangar constructed out of corrugated iron. An array of ultra-violet lights overhead bathed everything in a neon-blue glow. He immediately pegged this as a staging area for their operations.
He shuffled past militia fighters who glared at him while cramming extra plasma cartridges, and more conventional-looking magazines into the pouches of their armored vests. Some continued checking their weapons, while others sifted through crates filled with a mix of high-tech combat gear.
Nearby, a small convoy of carbon black Humvees waited for them to mount, their engines idling like panting predators. Each one bristled with long-range antennas and armored-nano-plating. The giant tire treads fitted to each vehicle were designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured. They reminded Matt of the enormous USC ground transports and Tactical Armored Vehicles (TAVs) he used to ride in during his tour on Epsilon. “What is this place?” he asked.
No one answered him, but when he narrowed his eyes past the hangar, he spotted the Capitol dome rising out of the pale gloom of dawn. It sat lopsided atop a mound of calcified rubble, and the dome itself was cracked like a chicken egg on one side, partially exposing the faded remains of the Apotheosis of Washington. But before he could dwell on what he was seeing, he was thrown into the back of the lead Humvee and strapped in tight.
Now fully masked, Ally and Dan hopped in the front, with Jensen and Trey riding in the back. As they pulled out of the garage, three armored pick-ups trailed closely behind. These militia fighters wore exo-body armor while they manned gimbaled plasma cannons attached to the back of each truck.
Trey and Jensen sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Matt, both men cradling their assault rifles between their legs. A ribbon of sunlight that crossed Matt’s face caused him to look out the windowed-slit on his right-side and take in the view.
The scrub-ridden asphalt they were traveling on was once a major avenue, and although the landscape was vaguely recognizable, any prestige it once held had long since been eroded. Some of the Federalist buildings were still there, but their luster had been scoured away from the grime that now blanketed this city. The beams of sunlight that did manage to penetrate the clouds also made everything on the surface appear bleached-out and over-exposed.
“Having fun yet?” Dan asked while driving, hoping to get a rise out of Matt.
“Hate these fucking sardine cans,” Matt replied. “Feels like I’m back on Epsilon.”
Dan snickered. “Does Cromwell tell you to say this bullshit, or is it already programmed into you?” When Matt did not respond, he turned to Ally with a smirk and shook his head. “Fucking Infiltrators, man.”
Ally did not acknowledge his gesture. She leaned over and swiped the comms unit attached to the dashboard. “Rear, how’re we looking?”
A female voice crackled through the hiss of static. “Clear at this end. No activity.” It was the rear gunner from the very last truck in the convoy.
Ally looked out her window at the broken city zipping by, anxious and tense, wanting this day to already be over. Bruised clouds churned above them in their perpetual restlessness - a daily sight she had long since grown used to. Yet, she could feel her unease growing by the minute. The thought of losing her partner yesterday, along with the trickle of sweat that started rolling down her face, only helped to exacerbate her unease. She could also hear her heart pounding through her chest. For a second, she wondered if the others could hear it too.
Call it parental intuition, perhaps even a soldier’s one, Matt also sensed her unease. If this was an active war zone they were traveling through, that probably meant they were entering enemy territory without an adequate field of view. That would make any soldier jittery. Of course, the real question was which enemy? In this future, there seemed to be no shortage to choose from.
“They promised us this road would be clear,” Dan said, his eyes glued ahead. “Looks like they’re keeping their word.”
“Who is?” Matt asked.
Jensen turned to Matt with a stern look. “Did anyone ask you to—”
“Another group,” Ally said, cutting Jensen’s remark down before it had a chance to land.
After a moment, she answered him. “They call themselves the Renewal.”
Dan gritted his jaw while driving. He was not thrilled with the idea of divulging this information so openly to their prisoner.
“They’ll never let us pass through here without trying to strike a blow,” Trey grunted from the back. “As a matter of pride if nothing else.”
Ally shook her head dismissively. “Not if they think we have fresh cargo. They value that over anything else. They need our product.”
“I don’t know,” Jensen replied. “Wainwright’s a bitch. She’d happily fuck us over again.”
“Yeah, but who else is going to provide her with what she needs?”
“Why are you taking me to these people if they’re your enemy?” asked Matt, concern now seeping into his eyes.
There was thick silence from Ally.
“Jesus, at least tell me that. I have a right to know—”
“The only right you have is to sit there and keep your damn mouth shut!” Dan hissed.
After another moment of silence, Ally decided to answer him. “They have a secure holding facility where they keep some of the Afflicted.”
“For what purpose?”
“I told you already. We’re going to try a test on you.”
“No, I mean, for what purpose are they keeping the Afflicted on-site?”
“They’ve been trying to develop a vaccine.”
“Ally!” Dan snapped. “Come on, it doesn’t need to know any of this.”
Matt couldn’t help but chuckle. “A vaccine? How’s that working out for them?” Ally did not respond to Matt’s snide remark, nor did anyone else, but he continued to press anyway. “Let me take a wild guess - you’re the poor schmuck’s who supply them with captured specimens.”
“We did up until they decided to attack us.” Ally could now feel the heat emanating from Dan sitting next to her. If he dared to speak to her in that tone again, she would gladly remind him of his place. Luckily for him, he chose to remain silent.
“There was a war?”
“Of sorts. More like prolonged skirmishes. We still lost a lot of good people.”
Matt turned to his window and stared outside before replying. His demeanor went from open ridicule to solemn introspection. War was nothing to joke about. “I know what that’s like. But why would you be doing business with your enemy? I mean, these people tried to kill you.”
“They’re not the real enemy. We realize that now. We hope they do too.”
“Ah, the whole enemy of my enemy is my friend thing.”
“Something like that. One of the terms of our cease-fire agreement was to start supplying them again.”
“And what do you get in return?”
“Aside from peace? They pay double for a live Infiltrator. Enough supplies to last us an entire year.”
“So, what happens when they find out I’m not an Infiltrator?”
Ally gave a dismissive sniff and kept her eyes on the road ahead. “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”
The convoy pulled up before two concrete pillars that sat on either side of a towering slab of featureless metal. The structures looked jarring against the never-ending landfill. The tip of each pillar was studded with automated sentry cannons. There was a loud hydraulic whine as they swiveled around on servo mounts, tilting their ribbed muzzles down to face the vehicles below.
Visible just beyond the metal gate was a cluster of squat concrete structures surrounded by chain-link fencing. It was at least twenty-meters high and three rows deep, topped with rolls of razor wire.
With her hands raised, Ally slowly climbed out of the lead Humvee and stepped closer to the towering gate.
The narrow slit of a tiny security camera could just be seen in the top left-hand corner. The scuffed lens altered its focus as she came into view.
She stood there as the lens slid back-and-forth with a strange whooshing noise. She was being scanned for any sign of infection. When the whooshing stopped, there was a dull mechanical thud as the gate began to slide open. Ally turned and made her way back to the convoy.
As she climbed into the Humvee and shut the door, Dan flicked on the ultra-violet lights. When she peeled her mask off, Matt could see the relief on her face.
The convoy raced through the gate and into the complex.
Masked guards patrolling the inner perimeter watched warily as Matt was led by Ally and her men across the apron toward the ops center. Matt studied their weapons as he waddled awkwardly past them.
Their weapons reminded him of the old MK-211 plasma rifles the USC’s SEC-OPS division once used on Epsilon. However, the circumflexed stock design and hyper-dense muzzle polymers of this weapon made it look a lot more refined than what he was accustomed to.
When Matt caught one of the guards giving him the hairy eye through his protective visor, he turned away to face the lobby of the building he was approaching. That’s when he was forced to squint a little. The tall and slender woman walking down the ramp to greet them wore a lab coat that was so pristine, it glowed like a white refrigerator.
Celeste Wainwright was a lot younger than she appeared. Somewhere in her early thirties, the stratospheric IQ that bristled behind her brown eyes was impossible to conceal. From the outset, she seemed conspicuously lovely for a human living in this decrepit hellscape. But if one were to dig a little deeper, just below the warm veneer she portrayed, they would find a ruthless ideologue. Wainwright was committed to the crusade of righting the irreversible wrongs of this world. In fact, the Renewal made no qualms about holding that mandate. Ultimately, they wanted to reshape this new world into their own image. However, from what most people outside this compound had seen, that image was something worth resisting against.
“Thanks for seeing us on such short notice,” Ally said as they all met at the foot of the walkway.
“Of course.” Wainwright’s neutral smile calmly pivoted to Matt. “Another one so soon?”
Ally gave a glib shrug, hoping it was convincing enough to mask her doubt. “Not so sure about this one yet, but we’re going to find out… if that’s OK with you?”
Wainwright gave a puckish laugh while tucking her hands behind her back. It had been a while since she’d heard a good joke.
“I just need a favor. I need to try something on this one before we hand it over to you. Humor me, it won’t take long.”
Wainwright’s expression hardened upon realizing Ally wasn’t joking. “I’m sorry, but our containment protocols have strict procedures when dealing with Infiltrators—”
“I’m aware of them. But I can assure you, this is not breaching any of your protocols. If anything, it’s breaching ours.”
“Regardless, this is not how your agreement with us works.” Wainwright’s tone had gone from helpful customer service officer to a mother condescendingly scolding a teenage daughter for misbehaving. “I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed, Ally. I thought you already knew the basic principles of our agreement. Evidentially not.”
“Listen, I have reason to believe…” Ally trailed off as if remembering to lower her voice before continuing. “I have reason to believe this one… it… he may not be Wraith.”
Wainwright calmly studied Ally’s defiant glare. While increasingly suspicious at what Ally was implying, she could also not deny the fact that her interest was now piqued. She could feel the relentless curiosity that had driven her all these years stirring deep inside her belly. She was a scientist after all. “State your request.”
“You have a Ventral Scanner in there, right?”
“I want you to conduct an Intrinsic Epithelium Analysis.”
“Oh, I don’t think so.”
“Optical and tissue. That’s all I’m asking. If it blinks red, it’s all yours. If it blinks green, we throw it in a cage and see if any Afflicted goes near it. That’s the only way to be certain.”
Wainwright’s eyes drifted over to Matt again. This time her gaze was intrusive. Matt felt as if she was searching for something – like trying to determine if there was a soul inside him. “It’s identical to the last one you brought us. What makes you think this one is human?”
“I have my reasons.”
“Where did you find it?”
“Near the entrance to Farragut North Station.”
A frown creased Wainwright’s brow while she continued to study Matt. “Another colony?”
“No. There’s no way another colony could stay undetected, let alone survive autonomously underground without surfacing for resources. We’d have seen evidence a long time ago. This one is different. It came from somewhere else.”
Wainwright’s eyes now shifted to Ally, her mind churning with a thousand questions.
“What do you say, Wainwright? Do we have a deal?”
The tiny smirk etched into the corner of Wainwright’s mouth indicated she was amused by the idea of all this. “You are to surrender any weapons before entering this facility. Is that understood?”
“Of course,” Ally replied with a taut nod.
“This way.” Wainwright turned and sauntered up the walkway towards the ops center, two armed guards trailing closely behind her.
But before Ally followed her, she wheeled to Trey. “Keep the engines running. Just in case,” she said, barely above a whisper.
Eyes on the other armed guards that were now loosely surrounding them, Trey nodded discreetly and headed back to join the waiting convoy of Humvees and pick-up trucks.
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