Halcyon the complex seri.., p.1

Halcyon (The Complex series Book 0), page 1


Halcyon (The Complex series Book 0)

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Halcyon (The Complex series Book 0)



  A Book in the Complex series

  A Lone Planet. One Complex.

  Unlimited Chaos.


  Catch a siren. Stop the storm. Whatever the cost.

  Allie, sick of war and grief, signed up as a lowly maintenance worker for the Complex in the hope of securing a lasting peace between the Metas and Humans. However, the girl has her own secrets, not least of which is her assignment from the Lorn government to monitor the Complex for signs of a suspected saboteur.

  Galen, the only survivor of the Poseidon shipwreck, didn't join the Complex for peace. He wants vengeance on the siren Halcyon, the mysterious Mer whose terrorist tactics single-handedly killed more humans than any other Meta. His sources say that Halcyon is on Lorn, and he'll happily kill every Mer in the Complex until his parents' murderer is dead.

  Can they catch the terrorist before the Complex is destroyed?


  This one's for the man with the physics PhD who made certain I knew the nuclear weapons in this book could destroy the city.

  I'm not sure I reassured him much when I told him I was counting on it.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2016 Demelza Carlton

  Lost Plot Press

  All rights reserved.





























  The Complex Website


  On a planet far from home, a solitary siren sped through the wine-dark sea toward her quarry, swifter and more deadly than a long-extinct shark. Her target, a Human ship, lay becalmed in the waves. Almost as if it expected and awaited its fate.

  Halcyon the siren paid no thought to the ship's passengers or crew as she hauled herself up the Poseidon's anchor chain to the deck. She listened for one voice and one voice alone – a prisoner the Humans had taken. A civilian they had no right to take.

  As she stalked the deck, she lifted her voice in song. Humans heard and fell into slumber. Those who already slept sank deeper still. Deadly music echoed along the passages as she passed, until she heard a pained gasp, followed by, "Halcyon, dearest, you should not be here!"

  Halcyon wrenched open the hatch that was all that lay between her and her husband. Except that the man she beheld no longer looked like her husband, for all that he spoke with Ceyx' voice. The bloodied piece of meat strapped to a table before her didn't look like a man at all, let alone a living one.

  "What have they done to you?" she whispered, reaching out to touch the man she loved.

  The homunculus coughed, bringing up more blood, which he spat on the floor. "Tortured me for information, dearest. They think me one of them, and a traitor. My research – " He coughed again, more thickly this time. "My research is what they wanted. Human and Meta genetics. They are the same. The same, dearest. We can breed with them and they with us. Worse, if they work out how to bestow Meta powers on their own, they will annihilate us. That is why they tortured me. I refused to experiment on them. To work for them. I will not be a part of – " A deep, hacking cough seized him, leaving him gasping for breath that he was unable to draw from the air.

  An eternity passed in a moment, as Halcyon was forced to watch her husband suffocate to death, like a fish out of water.

  Her blood boiled within her veins. Metas were violent, yes, but none would dare harm one of the Mer, let alone attempt to torture one. Not like this. Not knowing what one siren could do to thousands of them.

  Halcyon scanned the room, her fingers itching to show them what she thought of such despicable tactics. Her gaze lighted on a slumbering Human, almost hidden under a bench. Sleep was a luxury he would never know again.

  "Wake," she commanded him, first in her language, then his own when she got no response. The ignorant Human didn't speak Mer, so she would speak in English, and in pain. Both languages he would understand before he died.

  The man blinked, patting down his lab coat that looked so much like the one Ceyx once wore to work. No more.

  Halcyon ripped the plastic name tag from the man's chest. "Get up, Doctor Claudius Tasker. Did you do this?" She pointed at Ceyx' corpse.

  "The traitor wouldn't talk," Tasker grumbled.

  "So you tortured him?" Halcyon demanded. "A doctor. A healer. You caused harm that killed him?"

  "I had to. The traitor wouldn't cooperate," Tasker said.

  His last words. Halcyon screamed, a wordless sound that didn't need words.

  Tasker clapped his hands over his ears, but it was already too late. Blood streamed from his eyes and nose as Halcyon hit the precise frequency that made every blood vessel in his head burst. The man dropped to the floor, as dead as Ceyx.

  But one life was not enough. Ceyx would not want his research to become widely known, especially among Humans. That meant destroying all knowledge of it on this ship. In data banks. On paper. And inside Human heads.

  A bereaved siren's grief knows no bounds, and a siren seeking vengeance for murder would make her fury known. She was the storm no Human could escape.

  Halcyon raised her voice again, louder than before, as she marched with gruesome purpose to the bridge. There, she found Humans sprawled all over the floor and the consoles, but she didn't need to wake them to find what she wanted. She had spent six years studying Human technology, as her husband sequenced their genetic code.

  She turned on all the pumps, flooding the ballast tanks with seawater until it sloshed into the cargo hold and overflowed into the lower decks, too. She would send Ceyx to a fitting grave in the ocean depths, and all aboard the Poseidon would rest with him.

  When she dived from the deck into the waves, the ship sat so low in the water she could reach over the gunwale with her hand. Not for long. The Poseidon sank beneath the surface, leaving only a single floating lifeboat to mark its existence. A lifeboat, where there was nothing but death.

  And Halcyon, who would exact a siren's vengeance from all the Humans who had summoned the storm by daring to steal her husband from her, even as she cried an ocean of tears for his loss.

  Neutrality was a luxury for other sirens who had not lost a lover to the barbarous aliens. Now, for the first time in living memory, a siren went to war.

  Ten years. Ten long, hard years, he'd worked and waited for this. Ten years since the night the Poseidon sank, drowning all the family a teenage apprentice engineer had left. At the time, he'd thought the three weeks he'd floated in a lifeboat at sea were forever, vowing vengeance on the copper-coloured fish tail he'd glimpsed in the dark, swimming away from the sinking ship. Galen grinned at his own naiveté. War had wised him up quickly to the world he lived in, or the Seldova system, anyway, as he stood on Lorn today for the first time, staring up at the silvery dome of his
Complex home like all the other new colonists, Human and Meta alike.

  Since the war ended, he'd gradually learned to see Metas as more than just the enemy. Four years ago, he'd have itched for a weapon at the sight of the family in front of him – shifters of some sort, he figured, given the fur some of the children sported, which couldn't be comfortable in this baking heat – but now he just felt a sort of aching envy. Not for the parents, but for the kids. He'd had a family once, and he would have liked to show his father how he'd turned his passion for tinkering with things into a career that put him in charge of managing the environmental controls of this incredible facility. His dad had never understood how Galen didn't want to be a doctor like him.

  His mother…she would have admired the dome, for she'd had a technical bent that she'd passed on to Galen, but she would have been more impressed at the possibility of peace between Metas and Humans, cooped up in the Complex. If his mother stood by his side now, Galen might have been tempted to believe it, too, but peace was a pipe dream. As long as one Meta lived who kept on killing, there would never be peace between their peoples.

  Halcyon. One Mer was to blame for so many deaths, including those of his parents, Claudius and Panacea Tasker. He'd been chasing the bitch for a decade, always too late to see any more than the carnage she left in her wake, but now he'd finally struck it lucky. To a terrorist like her, the Complex would be the ultimate prize, because destroying it would mean an end to peace. Through his contacts, he'd discovered that she was believed to be among the colonists, which meant if he signed up, he'd have two years to search for her. Two years where she couldn't get away. After that time, when she was as dead as his parents, maybe he'd be able to look at Mer without hating them. Maybe.

  Staring around at the mostly humanoid crowd sweltering in the sun, he wondered how the Mer would enter the Complex. Would someone wheel a huge water tank out of one of the jetters, and drag it into the Complex to the Aquatic Dome? He hoped to be inside by the time that happened. He'd only ever seen one Mer in his life and it had been her. If he saw the copper-coloured tail that had haunted his nightmares for a decade, he'd dive into that tank and try to kill her with his bare hands. Hardly a good start to what was supposed to be an experiment in peaceful, mixed-species living.

  Mixed species...he'd heard rumours of a bonus the AS government would give to any couple who produced a mixed-species child. As if such a thing was even possible. Even if they were able to breed (which he strongly doubted – wasn't that what made a species a species? They could only breed with their own kind?), just the thought of wrestling a slimy, fishy-smelling Mer into his bed…and where did you put it? Did she have some sort of trapdoor in her tail, or did she spawn like fish, so all a guy had to do was squirt into a bathtub where she'd laid her eggs and…ugh. It was enough to turn Galen off sex for life. Sex with fish was bestiality, tits or no tits. Period.

  He shivered, trying to forget her and just focus on the moment. He stood in a queue that stretched so far from the Complex entrance he couldn't even see it yet, but he knew it was there. They all did. Somewhere at the end of the line was a door that led to the hope of a better life. Hope hung in the air like humidity – a hot and cloying security blanket you believed with all your might would keep the monsters at bay.

  Galen wanted to believe it. If his hunt for Halcyon meant that no other child would wake up orphaned by a war he didn't want and would never understand, then it was worth it. He'd do anything it took to catch her, because the end justified the means. Any means. As long as it resulted in her end.

  Allie shivered as she stepped from Lorn's desert heat into the Complex. For the queues forming up outside, the warmth she'd found so welcome would be a catalyst for fights breaking out. Short tempers in the heat…she didn't envy the Intra today. Especially not with the jetters vomiting their humanoid cargo out faster than the Intra could process them, poor people.

  So Allie summoned her brightest smile for the woman wearing a freshly-pressed Intra uniform. "Good morning, I'm Allie," she sang out, holding out her bag for the customary search before the woman could ask. She began humming a cheerful tune.

  "Violet," the woman said. She took Allie's bag and rummaged through the contents. After little more than a cursory examination, Violet looked up to meet Allie's gaze. "Who brings a bag full of chocolate as their only personal items for two years?"

  Allie winked. "Someone who appreciates life's pleasures."

  Violet's expression softened into a smile. "A woman after my own heart."

  Allie became aware of an alluring floral scent that intensified. "And you smell…absolutely enchanting, Violet. You're a succubus, yes?"

  Violet nodded curtly as uncertainty filled her eyes.

  "I've never known one before, but I'd like to. Come visit me in the Desert Dome one day when we're both free, and I'll share some of my chocolate, if I have any left." Allie rattled off her apartment number to the surprised succubus.

  "But…how do you know where you'll be staying? You don't have your accommodation assignment yet," Violet protested.

  Another wink. "I was part of the team who did the final structural checks on the Complex. I got a peek at accommodation assignments before they were finalised. Anything goes wrong at your place, you'll know who to call."

  Violet nodded and waved Allie on to the next Intra, a Human male who introduced himself as Henry. Several minutes later, armed with her new tablet and a map she didn't really need, Allie boarded one of the waiting glyders to zoom her to her apartment at the top of the Desert Dome. This was the last time she'd see the empty commerce centres. By tomorrow, they'd be bustling with activity as all the new businesses started up. She sincerely hoped there'd be a chocolate shop somewhere. Probably in the alpine commerce centre, where the products wouldn't melt quite as quickly as in the Desert Dome.

  Speaking of which…

  The first thing Allie did when she entered her apartment was to empty the contents of her bag into the refrigerator. Even the concrete floor was warm underfoot in this dome – lovely. And she had a window to the outside, just like she'd requested. More than a lowly maintenance worker had any right to expect, but those who'd put in the extra time during construction had been promised extra S-Co for their efforts. She'd refused the cash in lieu of an apartment with a view. And what a view. She stepped up to the window and peered out at what looked like the whole world. Lorn's desert stretched for miles below her, shimmering with daytime heat haze. Beautiful. She couldn't wait to watch the night time lightning storms through her window. From what she recalled, they were spectacular.

  Allie debated whether to lie on her bed and rest while she had a chance, or head back to the entrance to watch the new colonists arriving and help where she could.

  Plus, she'd be on hand to deal with any maintenance requests. Other people might not start their new jobs until tomorrow or even next week, but like the Intra, Maintenance staff were on call the moment they set foot in the Complex.

  She should probably activate her chip now she was here, too. Allie had only a moment to register that she had four messages before her chip's communications device alerted her to an incoming call.

  "Hiya, this is Allie," she answered breezily.

  "Is this Maintenance?" a male voice demanded. "We've just arrived at our apartment and there's ice all over the floor."

  Allie reached for her tablet. "Yes, sir, I'm Allie from Maintenance. Can you tell me your apartment number in the Snow Dome, please?" She jotted down notes as he talked, shaking her head at the sloppiness of the staff who'd inspected Snow Dome. She'd had a wager with Lennox that her first call would be from Snow Dome. When she felt she had enough details to head over to fix the problem, she said, "I'll be right over, sir. I'll have your ice rink uninstalled in no time." She terminated the call. Time to get to work.

  Whistling, she summoned a glyder and set off for the snow.

  After what felt like forever, but was probably only a few hours, Galen stepped into the cool
air of the Complex.

  "Put you bag here," a woman in a black Intra uniform instructed.

  Galen slammed his bag on the table, folding his arms as he waited for her to conduct her search. He didn't know what she was so grumpy about. She looked and smelled fresh as a flower, while he'd been standing outside in the heat for hours behind that family of shifters that stank of the worst kind of musk he'd ever smelled. He'd heard about skunks, but he'd thought they died out back on Earth. Evidently the Metas hadn't killed their smelliest species off. Just like they tolerated Mer among them, knowing what they could do.

  The woman took her time with his things, removing everything from the bag and inspecting the lining before she replaced everything, one item at a time. Everything except one thing. "What's this?" she asked suspiciously, holding up the first device Galen had ever created.

  He reached for it, scared she'd drop it, but she stepped back, keeping it out of reach. Galen's arms dropped to his sides. "Please be careful. That's my…it's a music player. When I was a kid, I made it out of spare parts from the ship, so I could listen to the old Earth music my mother's family brought over with them. Those are the earphones, so only I could hear it, and it wouldn't disturb my parents while they were sleeping." He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. "It's all I have left of my family. They were killed in the war."

  Her eyes searched his, as if reading more than just what she could see. She gave a little nod. "What kind of music?"

  "All the classics from Earth, my mother said," Galen replied, spreading his hands. "Want a listen?"

  She allowed him to place the earphones on her head, and closed her eyes when the music began to play. She stayed that way for a long moment, before gesturing for him to remove the earphones, which he did.

  "It's not bad," she admitted, her lips lifting in a tiny smile. "Did you really make that?"

  Galen nodded. "It's pretty rough, and I could probably do a lot better now, but it does the job. Nothing like as complex as this Complex here, though. I expect this place will keep me too busy to build toys like this. I'm the environmental engineer, so it's my job to make sure everything here works."

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