I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six, page 1
Two years have passed since Inanna stole Junco...
The Magpie Bridge
End of Book Shit
About the Author
I Am Not Junco
By J. A. Huss
Edited by RJ Locksley
Cover Art by James Ledger
Cover Design by JA Huss
Interior Design by JA Huss
Copyright © 2012-2016 by J. A. Huss
All rights reserved.
I Am Not Junco, Book Four
By J. A. Huss
Two years have passed since Inanna stole Junco away from Lucan.
Two years of unimaginable pain. Two years of bones being broken. Two years of mutilation and torture. Two years of fear and loneliness in a morph tank. And that's not something you just get over, even if you are psycho assassin Junco Coot.
Lucan rescued her, but now Junco has to learn to live with the consequences. Her Siblings are bitter and angry, half her team is dead, Tier is on a rampage building a weapon to fight the High Order, Gideon is planning his own private war of the worlds and Lucan is holding his secrets close again. Even as her Destiny is rushing up to meet her, Junco is slipping into insanity.
There is only so much one girl can take. Forgiveness has a limit. There are only so many lies that can be ignored, only so many secrets that can remain hidden, and only so many memories that can be repressed.
Junco Coot is back, but the world is about to wish she wasn't.
Peak City basks in the glow of dawn, all the natural color washed out of the high-rise buildings that wind their way up the side of the mountain, replaced with a hazy orange that reminds me of sherbet. The Goat lurches a few times as I pick up speed to enter the tunnel that will shuttle me through the mountain and into the valley where I have an appointment with death.
I've never been sanctioned to work outside my father's explicit instructions but life has changed considerably in the past few months. Mrs. Strauss showing up at the house to take me back to school a week early, my father not being home all summer, no birthday week, Gideon went missing, and HOUSE's cryptic message that led to this opportunity. All weird shit that's been screaming at me to prepare.
And that's exactly what I'm gonna do.
Prepare. For the fucking shit to hit the fucking fan because I can feel it. It's definitely coming.
The road twists after I leave the tunnel and I guide my aging vehicle onto an almost hidden dirt track. I'll leave tire marks but it's pretty windy today. I'm confident that the dust will swirl and scatter long before anyone enters this forest with forensic equipment, so I don't give a shit.
Let them figure out who killed the Peaks mayor. Like I care. I could kill him from point-blank range at high noon during the Patriots' Day parade and probably get away with it.
All I want is the biometrics so I can get the connection as payment because I need what they have.
I turn off the main track at the 13.28 mile mark and I lurch up and down as the pine needles reach out and slap the side of the Goat.
My smile brightens as I pull out into the clearing and spy the swirling eddy, then swing around and mow down several saplings to partially conceal my vehicle. They'll see that too, the way I flattened the aspens. But fuck it.
I brought just enough supplies to get me through this job and a possible firefight on the way out and that's it. Ten rounds for the rifle, a TZi with four pre-loaded ten-shot mags, and a bottle of water. I check my timeclip and hoof it downstream anoth
The pine resin sticks to my hands as I make my way to the proper bough, another possible giveaway that I am the shooter if I am caught, but again—who fucking cares?
My timeclip buzzes against my skin and I check upriver.
He's busy navigating the rapids and the kayak is being jostled this way and that, just like every other time I've seen him out here. He's not really great at this kayaking stuff. I mean, he's been practicing this stretch of river for two months if I believe what they told me.
And I do believe them. They have a look about them that says ‘we know shit’.
So, yeah. He's not that great at kayaking because even I could navigate this baby-ass, wannabe whitewater and I've only been kayaking a few times.
I take out my rifle, don't bother with the bipod, just brace Big Boy against the tree limb, and scope my ticket to freedom as he weaves his way towards death.
He's so fucking close I barely need to aim. His head splatters fractions before the muffled shot rings out in the early morning dawn and I pack it up, swing my way down the tree, then haul ass back to the Goat.
His kayak is waiting for me, swirling in the strong eddy upside down.
I leave Big Boy and my pack on shore and then wade in to the river, swim over to the dead man, and find his left hand. My knife slices open his palm and I cut the biometrics away from the tendons, rinse it out in the water, stuff it in my vest pocket, and then jam him up against some rocks to hold him down just long enough for me to get back into the RR.
He's got no one downstream today, he never does on Wednesdays, so I'm not really worried about the whole getaway thing.
I leave him there, not even looking back as I thrust the Goat in reverse and the aspens spring back up, bent but not broken. I shove it in first and then spin my wheels a little as I leave the way I came.
Sometimes I think it's unfair that I'm such an efficient killer. I mean, they really have no chance once I'm set on taking them out. No chance at all.
The ride back to the RR is uneventful. Even as I pull up to the Council 3 border crossing and hand over my passport, I am calm.
The border guard is older, not anyone I recognize. He smiles at me. Flirting maybe, which is disgusting because I'm barely sixteen years old for fuck's sake. His eyes take me in, notice my wet civilian clothes, and then he finally glances down to read my credentials. His whole attitude changes and I watch his eyes with slight amusement. He tries to avoid my gaze as he makes to address me properly.
"Senior Cadet Captain Coot. Welcome back to the Rural Republic, sir."
"Thank you, it's always a pleasure to come home." I've only been gone two hours but you gotta say something when they tell you that shit. Just protocol.
The guard salutes me as I pull away and I light a cigar and let the wind whip my hair around my face as I haul ass down the road.
The only thing that could fuck this up now is if my dad suddenly appeared.
But he's not around. Hasn't been for months.
The rendezvous occurs in an old house with a crazy slanted roof that sits on top of a cliff out by Ramah. It used to be an artist's retreat, way back before the RR was even a nation, back when it was the State of Colorado in the United States.
But now it's just an old slanted house that can barely withstand its own weight.
I pull up and get out, not taking care to be quiet or to check the familiar old Jeep I'm parked next to. If there's one person from Stag Camp who never underestimated me it was James. I walk through a doorway that lost its door decades ago.
He smiles as I enter and I grab the biometrics from my vest and toss it to him. "Now hand it over, James."
He laughs at me. "Hi, Junco. Nice to see you too. I'm fine, thanks."
I shake my head and smile a little. James has been a big guy my whole life and even though I've grown up, he never seemed to get smaller to me. His gut got a little wider over the years, his light brown hair has always been a little too long, his shirts a little too loud, and his face a little too soft for what he's known for, but he never lost his hardcore-ness. He taught me everything I know about shooting and then some. "Fuck that, James, just give me what I need. I have to get back to school before Strauss comes to get me for piano this afternoon."
"Why do you let her run your life like that, Junco? Shit, enough with the piano already. You're fine. You don't need it anymore."
"I do need it, James. I'm just really good at hiding it. Now give me the info."
"I got it right here." He tosses me a thick yellow envelope tied up with several rubber bands.
I snap off the bands and thumb through the documents. "So, what do I do? Just go up there with this stuff and then what?" I look up to him, my eyes asking for help.
"That's it. You show up and give them the envelope."
I take a deep breath and let it out.
"Here, give me your arm, Junco. I'll scramble the tracking for twenty-four hours. That's all I can give you, OK? You get these little interruptions all the time, so it won't look strange."
He swipes a small device over my tracker and laughs. "We're not perfect, shit happens. So, shit's happening today. Twenty-four hours though, and don't cut it close because it's not that reliable."
"And this will absolutely work? Are you sure?"
He's busy buttoning the small biometrics panel into his front shirt pocket but then looks back at me. "I just told ya, I set it up, Junco."
I shrug. "Nothing is what it used to be, James. Everyone's gone crazy. My dad—"
"You stay away from him now. Hear me? I'm serious. Just stay away."
I don't want to listen to this so nodding is the quickest way to get past it. "And they won't report me?" If they report me I'm fucked.
He walks over to me and gives me a squeeze. "They won't, Junco. I've already made the deal. These guys are friends, OK?"
I pull away.
"But you need to get up there tonight, you understand?"
I swallow. "Everyone's coming back to school today, so it will be crazy. I'll be able to get out no problem."
"Yeah, well, don't let anyone know anything. If they see you, stop and wait a few hours and try again. In fact, when you go back, park out there by the barn, where Michael parks. Then go out later and leave from there."
"It'll be chaos in the barn today, horses being delivered, remember?"
"Not during new cadet orientation, Junco."
"That's true. And you're sure my dad's not coming for the welcome ceremony? He's never missed one before." I want him to come. I miss him and he's been strange for the past few months. I need him to come be nice to me for a while.
"He's not, Junco. And if he does show up? You stay the fuck away. This is an order."
His face becomes serious as he looks down at me. "Junco, trust me. You don't want to know. Just drop it. Drop him. I'm sorry, I know you two were close, but this is the only way. I wouldn't lie to you, Snowbird. But I'm not gonna tell you everything, either. So just do what I say."
"And Gideon? Have you seen him?"
He huffs out some air and this time his words come out as a growl. "Goddamn it, Junco, I said drop it."
"So I'm alone. I have no one. Is that what you're telling me?"
"That's exactly what I'm telling you."
I swallow and turn away, hoping he'll stop me and… I don't know. Hug me or tell me he's still here for me. Or that Gid will be around soon and it'll all be OK. Or maybe, if I'm really lucky? He'll say happy birthday, sorry everyone missed it this year.
But he stays silent and lets me walk out.
I get in the Goat and drive back to school and when I get there my eyes are puffy and swollen from the tears and the wind.
I wake screaming, but only on the inside.
It's the only word I know, the only one tha
It never stops, his name is always on my tongue and even in the nightmares, when I am consumed with the vision of my hair swaying in the red gel as it passes before my open eyes, as I relive the pain when my body writhes up and out of the tank, Isten's name is still there.
"Isten," I murmur into the silence.
"No, Junco. Isten is gone."
I know this. I know this.
"I know, Junco."
Lucan plucks the words right out of my head with little effort. And I cannot even explain how much I appreciate that right now. That he and Gideon can hear my thoughts. Because I have no desire to talk.
Even the soft whisper of Isten's name is too much. I need the silence and the darkness.
"Open your eyes, Junco. I need to leave soon, but before I can do that, I must talk to you. I must know that you will hear me."
I do not open my eyes.
His request is somber, not a demand, a favor, maybe? I open my eyes but the darkness is still there. That darkness is not going anywhere.
"Thank you, now look at me." He waits a few heartbeats to see if I comply on my own before once again adding, "Please."
He releases his tight grip on my body as I turn, then repositions one hand on my shoulder while the other gently pries my chin upward, forcing me to meet his gaze.
A smile from him. "I have to go, Junco. I've overstayed my welcome." He thumbs back to the wings jutting out from his shoulders.
It's weird seeing Lucan with wings. Especially demon wings. They have no feathers, just a bat-like membranous skin that stretches taut, spanning the phalanges that mimic the bones of a hand, albeit greatly elongated.
My eyelids shut tightly at the thought of being in this room alone, forbidding the tears from escaping. I made a deal with myself yesterday. I'd give up crying if I could just count something besides heartbeats. Heartbeats aren't enough anymore. I need the counting far more than I need the tears. I can control it, it's just a temporary defense. I'll only do it when I have to.
I can control it.
So I force the tears back and open my eyes again.
Lucan is still there, waiting, watching.
"I have to leave Earth today, but I'll be back tomorrow, OK?"
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