Riftborn Book 1: The Last Raven

My next book release has gone live for pre-orders. Out on the 8th November, this is the start of a new series, in a new world, with all new characters.

The Last Raven will be out in Paperback, Kindle, and audible versions.

Lucas is a riftborn fighter bent on vengeance in this thrilling urban fantasy/detective noir series from the bestselling author of the Hellequin Chronicles.

The peace between the rift and humanity has always been tenuous. It’s up to the Guilds to protect it, removing whomever—or whatever—poses a threat, whether human or rift-fused. Lucas Rurik used to be part of the Raven Guild. That is, until someone murdered all of its members—except for him.

That was seven years ago. Now, Lucas keeps to himself, avoiding getting too close to anyone lest they become targets themselves. But when one of his oldest friends at the Rift-Crime Unit calls upon him for help with a case that’s already taken down people who mean a lot to him, Lucas can’t resist stepping back into the fray.

Something is killing FBI and RCU agents alike—something unlike anything Lucas has ever seen before, on Earth or in the Rift. Even more concerning, the gruesome assaults seem to be linked to Dr. Callie Mitchell, a depraved and disturbed individual who treats the rift-fused like her own personal lab rats.

And when someone Lucas thought he could trust turns on him, he realizes these killings aren’t just the random attacks of some terrifying new kind of fiend. They’re connected to whoever killed off his Guild all those years ago—and that’s something Lucas just can’t let lie . . .

Pre-order Links:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Writing Update May 2022

Just a quick video to talk about current sales, upcoming work, and the launch of the new book, No Gods, Only Monsters, which was out on the 1st May 2022.

No Gods, Only Monsters – Chapter 1

My new book, No Gods, Only Monsters is out on 1st May 2022, so I thought some of you might like to read the opening chapter.

Links to be able to pre-order are going to be at the bottom of the post, and please do remember that pre-orders really do help an author out. Thanks.

Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt, lives alone on the far edge of the Roman Empire. When an old friend arrives looking for help, Diana finds herself thrust back into her old life, and old problems.

With innocent lives caught in the crossfire, Diana realizes that the only way to ensure the safety of her friends and loved ones is to do what she does best: hunt her enemies down.

Chapter 1

There’s no escaping the Roman Empire. For centuries, they’ve moved across the world like some damnable plague, seizing and consuming all before them. Cutting down anyone too weak or stupid to not take precautions. 

It wasn’t like I could just blame the Romans for that particular lifestyle choice. The Greeks, Spartans, Egyptians, Carthaginians, hell, even the Sea People. They all conquered and took what they wanted. Sometimes I think that humanity is just about war and will never be satisfied. Sometimes I get drunk and try to forget about it. 

Today was the latter. 

The jug was empty. It wasn’t the first, although it was the first that annoyed me enough to throw it down the hill with as much strength as I could muster. The pot shattered in the darkness, followed by the yelp of an animal of some kind. Wild boar probably. They were in abundance around the hillside. 

I sat outside my home on a wooden chair and looked up at the night sky. The stars twinkled with possibility. I didn’t know what stars were, but I was pretty sure they weren’t the gods looking down on us. I’d met the gods, I used to be one of them. ‘Used to’. 

I picked up another jug of wine and proceeded to drink. 

The darkness did little to diminish my eyesight, and a few moments later an irritated boar shot over the path a few feet ahead. The smell would have given it away if I hadn’t seen it. I considered going after it; it had been a while since I’d had boar, but I was too drunk and I was pretty certain if I stood up, I’d fall down, which would be embarrassing—for me. There wasn’t another living human, or human-shaped thing within an hour ride from here. That had been sort of the point of building my home here. The point of living here. 

The two young mares I’d purchased from a dealer in Troas a few years ago, were safely locked in the small stables that sat a little way from my home. Celeritas and Robur had been the majority of my company since I’d gotten them. 

The lights from the town of Troas lit up the countryside in the far distance, like a smudged glow. I’d been here over two centuries ago, just passing through when the town had been little more than a hamlet with delusions of grandeur. But the Romans arrived and turned it into a bustling city; a port linking the eastern and western parts of the vast Roman Empire. 

I drained the last of the jug and discovered I’d drunk the lot. Five jugs. Next time I’d buy seven. 

I hadn’t intended to drink it all, but it was coming up to the anniversary of my moving to Troas, and it brought back nothing but bad memories. Occasionally, I wondered if I was becoming a drunk. Five jugs would probably kill a human, but within the hour I’d probably be back to sobriety. The half werebear side of me could heal wounds in minutes that would kill a human, but it didn’t let me stay drunk for long either. And even when I was drunk, I didn’t forget. Never forgot. Another great thing about being almost immortal. You have a lot longer to remember all the shitty things you did and saw. 

With a long, protracted sigh, I leaned back in the comfortable chair as the first drops of rain fell on my head. “Go away,” I shouted at the sky, just in case one of the bastard gods was actually listening. 

My home was a modest two-storey affair, with the lower floor containing a table and few chairs, while the upper had a bed. I didn’t need much. There had been a leak in the red tiled roof earlier, and I was glad I’d gotten up there and fixed it or I’d be sleeping in a puddle of water. 

The rain began to fall harder, so I gave up and went back inside, taking myself upstairs as the wind whipped through the balcony entrance, knocking over a plain wooden shield I’d propped up against the wall. I’d been meaning to decorate it but hadn’t decided how, and now it was going to need to dry out. 

The bed was inviting, and I sat for a moment, meaning to stay awake until I’d sobered up, but instead found myself lying down, and not long after, falling into a deep sleep. 

I woke to find it still raining, although one of the rays of sunlight that peeked through the cloud caught me in the eyes making me blink and try to bat it away. I’d have to punch Helios in his stupid face the next time I saw him. I knew he didn’t really pull the sun every morning, but Helios was a dick, so he usually needed punching for something. 

It was a short walk to the nearby mountain summit, and looking down into the deep waters of Lake Egeria, I dove from the top of the cliff, hitting the water in an almost perfect motion. I continued on under the crystal-clear water toward the bank on the other side. 

“Diana,” a voice called. 

I raised my arm to block out the sun, but I couldn’t figure out who the voice belonged to from sight alone. I sniffed the air. “I’m not interested,” I shouted and went back to swimming.

“Diana,” she called again as I resurfaced, running my hands through my shoulder-length dark hair and turning my neck until it audibly cracked. 

“Not interested,” I shouted, diving back under the water. She wasn’t going to go away; they never bloody well did. Far too stubborn, far too petulant. I touched the rock on the bottom of the lake, and wondered how long I could hold my breath. I’d counted to a thousand once, then had to surface because a shark had tried to eat me. Turns out sharks don’t taste that great. 

The second my head broke the surface, it was filled with the same voice. “Will you please get out of the water.”

I half sighed, half snorted, and swam over to the bank, pulling myself up and out with ease. 

“You’re naked,” she said. 

I looked down at my body, the water still dripping off it, joined by the increasingly heavy rain as the last vestiges of the sunlight vanished behind fast moving black clouds. “Who swims clothed, Artemis?” 

Artemis was almost the same height as me, but her hair was blonde and was currently tied in exquisite plaits that contained several coloured feathers. I didn’t know why she’d spent so long getting her hair done, but there was a lot about Artemis I didn’t understand. 

Some believers of the Roman gods said Artemis and I are the same person, something I’ve found to be exceptionally strange. Artemis’ skin was similar to my own olive tone, and she had green eyes, she was open and honest and, quite frankly, annoying. She didn’t like to rock the boat, didn’t like to get into confrontations, which considering her prowess as a hunter and fighter wasn’t something you’d think she would be concerned about. Of all the Greek Pantheon, Artemis was one of a handful I actually didn’t want to actively hurt after just being in their company. Didn’t mean I was happy to see her. 

“Are you going to get dressed?” Artemis asked me. 

“You’re a goddess,” I said, ignoring her question. “You’re a goddess who works with Zeus. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen more naked people than just… well, anyone ever.”

“Yes, but they don’t all look so…” she didn’t finish the point. 

“Awesome?” I asked for her. 

Artemis rolled her eyes. 

“Buxom?” I asked as Artemis turned and headed away with an audible sigh. “Effervescent? Tantalising?” I continued as I followed. 

“Stop it,” Artemis called out without turning around. 

“Glorious,” I suggested. “Spectacular.”

Artemis spun back to me as we reached the bottom of the pathway that led up the cliff. “Seriously, Diana. Stop it.” There was no playfulness in her tone. 

I nodded in apology. “I meant nothing by it.”

“I know,” Artemis said and started off again. 

Artemis and I had been a little more than just friends on a number of occasions, but she devoted herself to becoming the best hunter, the best fighter, the best warrior that she could, and didn’t have time for flights of fancy as she called it. Sometimes she accepted my teasing and flirting, but occasionally, when something was important, she shut it down fast. I used to feel bad for her, that she didn’t allow herself to get into relationships, but honestly, she seemed happier alone, and if that was what made her happy, then I was all for it. 

“Why are you here?” I asked when we reached my home. 

“Dress first,” Artemis said, pointing to the house. “Talk later.”

She didn’t look at me when I walked past, and I found a leather-armour skirt and top, taking time to put on my sandals before I attached my sheath on my back and slung my double-bladed axe to it. 

I found Artemis stood outside the house still, looking off into the distance, down toward the ocean. “Troy was there,” she said almost wistfully. 

I followed her gaze. “I know.”  

“Did you ever see it?”  She asked as I stood beside her. She looked over at me and I saw the sadness in her eyes. 

I shook my head. 

“It was magnificent,” she said softly. “So many people, so many sights and sounds. And men destroyed it for… pride and revenge.” 

“The gods helped,” I said. 

Artemis looked over to me. “Yes, we did.” She didn’t sound all that happy about it.

“Hera especially wanted Troy gone.”

“It was the beginning of the end of Hera being happy with the power she had,” Artemis said. “The beginning of the end of Demeter being neutral too. She hated that Hades and Persephone were together, but she didn’t support Hera either. I think Troy ruined the gods as much as the gods ruined Troy.”

“You didn’t come here to discuss history,” I said as Artemis once again looked off to where the magnificent city had once stood. “Ancient history at that.”

Artemis shook her head and seemed to find herself again. “No, we have more important matters.”

“Should I say I’m not interested now? Or wait until you’re done?” 

“You were always… petulant,” Artemis said. “I need your help.”

“Why not ask your Pantheon? I don’t do the god stuff anymore.”

“I can’t ask them,” she said, clearly not wanting to discuss the matter further. 

I sat on the ground near the entrance to my home as the wind tugged at the wooden door, threatening to throw it open. “I don’t do god stuff,” I repeated. “Not now.”

“This isn’t god stuff,” she said. “This is me asking you for help.”

“How’d you even find me?”  

“I’m quite literally the god of hunting,” Artemis said with a flourish of her hands. “It’s sort of my job.”

I narrowed my eyes, got to my feet, stretched, and entered my home, with Artemis following close behind. 

“The boar you lobbed a jug at told me,” she said. “The birds had been telling me for a while now. I imagine you saw more above than usual.”

There had been an unusually large number of sea birds above. “How long have you been tracking me?”

“A few years,” Artemis said. “I wanted to check you were okay.”

“You could have just come and asked,” I said with a slight shake of my head.

“You wanted to be alone,” Artemis said sadly. “I didn’t know how you would take my interference. But this is too important to ignore. I need your help, Diana. Please.”

It was the please that hit me hardest. Artemis didn’t ask for help, she didn’t need it, and on the odd occasion she did, she’d have asked Persephone or Apollo before anyone else. The fact that she bypassed them to come to me did not bode well for whatever shitty thing she was about to ask. 

“What’s going on?” I asked.

There was a knock at the door, and I motioned for Artemis to wait a second as I got to my feet and opened it, ready to tell whoever was there that I wasn’t interested. There was a dwarf there. A Norse dwarf to be exact. He was five feet tall, so well over a head shorter than me, and wore dark grey metal armour. He was carrying a metal helmet under one arm, and a large battle-axe was sheathed on his back, much like my own, but he had two more hand axes hanging from either side of his waist. Also, a sword. Several daggers. And what looked like a short bow slung over one shoulder. He looked like he should be invading countries. 

He smoothed his long, ginger beard and cleared his voice. “Have you told her yet?” he asked Artemis, speaking in Latin while looking behind me. 

I turned back to Artemis. “Why is there a Norse dwarf at my door?”

“You know it’s fuckin’ raining out here, right?” the dwarf said. 

I turned back to him. “You worried you might get all that nice armour rusty?” 

He laughed, although there was no humour in it. “Aren’t you the fuckin’ witty one?” he said sarcastically before looking beyond me to Artemis. “I see why you like her; she must be a hoot with the rest of the Roman Pantheon.”

“You want to come in?” I asked, looking at the multitude of tattooed runes that covered his face and backs of his hands.

“Ah, what a fuckin’ splendid idea.” He stepped into the house and placed his belongings beside the door, taking time and care with the weapons until he shrugged off his drenched chainmail shirt. I’d seen them before on dwarves, but rarely on humans, and I’d never worn one myself. They looked cumbersome.

He removed his soaked linen shirt, revealing even more tattoos over his torso. “Anywhere I can put this?” 

“By the fire is fine,” I said, watching as he hung his tunic over a wooden bar close to the flames. “Most people who strip in my home have to give me their name.”

He looked back at me, embarrassed for the first time. “Ah, sorry.” He removed his huge leather gloves and offered me his hand; it was calloused, and the strength in it was easy to feel. “Skost.”

“Diana.”  

“Yeah, I know,” he said, turning to Artemis. “I know you told me to wait, but it’s not the weather for sitting outside under a tree. Anyway, there are people in Troas who I think might not be happy to see me.”

Artemis, looking out of the nearby window, asked, “Were you followed?”

“I’m not new at this,” Skost said.

Artemis looked back at him, the question still in the air. 

“No, I wasn’t followed,” Skost said with a sigh. “Although, I don’t think it’ll take long for someone to come here and ask questions.”

“Why would anyone be coming here?” I asked, getting slightly annoyed at being in a conversation where I had no idea what anyone was talking about. “Artemis.”

“You’re going to want to sit down,” she said. 

“What did Zeus do?” I asked, taking a seat.

“Oh, nothing,” Artemis said. “Not on this occasion anyway.”

“I’ll keep watch,” Skost said. “I saw a balcony above, that’ll be good enough.” He walked off without another word. 

“Artemis,” I said, my tone hard now. 

“Okay, about a year ago there was a notion to move the Minotaurs,” Artemis began. 

“Why?” I asked before I could stop myself. 

“Long story,” Artemis said. “Basically, their compound on Crete became no longer usable. We moved them toward Northern Dalmatia where there’s a realm gate to Niflheim. 

“The city in Helheim?” I asked, thinking of the massive city in the realm ruled by Hel. 

“No, different place,” Artemis said. “That’s Niflhel, this is Niflheim.”

I stared at her. “They did a superb job with the naming stuff part.”

Artemis sighed. “I think we may be getting off track.”  

“Minotaurs to Niflheim,” I said, trying to remember if I knew something about the place. “It’s a land of ice.”

“It was,” Artemis said. “Some of it still is, but it’s a huge place and nothing lives there except a few cities of humans. It’s a peaceful place. It’s a good place for Minotaurs to not be hunted or thought of as demonic.”

The anger in Artemis’ words showed her concern for the Minotaurs. No one had been happy with what had happened to them—except maybe Ares and Hera, but no one I cared about gave two shits what either of them thought.

“Nearly all of the Minotaurs were moved successfully,” Artemis said. “We were moving the last half dozen when we were attacked. It happened as we landed in Macedonia. A group of people in black and red, a deep red silhouette of a flying bird as emblems.”

“You know it?” I asked.

“Never seen it before,” she said. “They killed several guards, and the rest scattered. The Minotaurs vanished into the forests there.”

“You couldn’t hunt them,” I said. 

“No one can hunt them unless…”

“It’s the blood of the one who created them,” I said. “Yeah, I’ve heard before. You need a Gorgon then.”

“Hera and Poseidon helped create the Minotaurs to punish people, but they turned into a species on their own,” Artemis said. “They used the blood of a Gorgon to do it. Only Gorgons can track them.”

“You want me to find a Gorgon?” I asked. 

Artemis nodded. “I need you to find a Gorgon. And I can’t do it.”

“Why not?”  

Artemis looked away. “Because I can’t. Don’t ask more. Please.”

“Why can’t the dwarf do it?” 

“Because the dwarves are angry enough that several of their own were murdered by these assassins, and are looking for a reason to come here en masse.”

“The dwarves are itching for a fight,” I said. “What a shock.”

“I can hear you,” Skost said from the room above.

“A few questions,” I said. “One: where’s the Gorgon? Two: why didn’t you go to Apollo or Persephone for help, or anyone who isn’t me?”

“The Gorgon is on Corsiae,” Artemis said. 

“That’s some distance south of here,” I said. “A few days ride. Maybe less by sail, but this time of year the storms aren’t fun, and they arrive quickly. And a long way to go back to Macedonia after.”

“It can’t be helped,” Artemis said.

“And question two?” 

“I can’t ask them for help because I’m pretty sure that members of the Greek Pantheon are behind the attack,” Artemis said. “I don’t know who to trust.”

“Ladies,” Skost said practically jumping down the stairs. “I see horses coming this way.”

“If they are working with the people who attacked us, we can’t be found,” Artemis said. “The location of the Gorgon is known only to a few. If they should get to her before us…”

I looked out of the window at the closing riders. I turned, and moved a rune inscribed rug off the floor, revealing a hatch beneath it and lifting it. “Take the steps down to the tunnels below, I’ll join you after.”

“That’s some nice work,” Skost said, looking down the hole. “Really well maintained.”

“Can we discuss architecture when we know if people haven’t come to kill you?” I asked, passing Skost all of his weaponry as he descended the ladder after Artemis.

I closed the hatch, replacing the rune inscribed rug. It cut off the senses, making it harder to track people hidden beneath. It had been a present from the last time I’d dealt with the Norse dwarves. 

I glanced out of the window as the riders neared. It was still raining and windy outside, but I picked up my axe and walked out of my home to confront the riders. 

And there you go, I hope you enjoyed it.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

The first new Youtube video in a while.

New Year. New Sale

Hello all. I know I didn’t post anything in January, mostly because I’ve been busy with writing my new series and if I’m honestly time got away from me.

I also need to start posting more often, so that’s something I’ll be hoping to sort out, although best laid plans and all that.

In the meantime, I have news of a sale in the UK and AUS for anyone who hasn’t picked up or has been waiting to pick up the Rebellion Chronicles.

The entire Rebellion Chronicles series is currently on sale on Amazon UK and Australia for only 99p (1.49AUD) each.

“To sum up, read it. Read all of The Hellequin Chronicles. Read all of The Avalon Chronicles. Read the novellas. Follow McHugh on social media (lovely man, very nice to his readers) and support him by preordering his upcoming works. You won’t regret it.”

Enjoy.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com.au

Blackcoat Release Day

Today is the day. my Science-fiction noir thriller, Blackcoat is finally out. This is just a quick post to thank everyone who decides to pick it up. I know it’s not my usual genre, but I hope you enjoy it.

When Celine Moro took a job as a Blackcoat, an elite agency tasked with investigating crimes throughout Union space, she thought she had finally put her past to rest.

Now, betrayed by her allies, her world is falling apart. Running from the corrupt politicians that she had sworn to bring to justice, Celine is dusting off the skills of her old trade in order to bring truth to light.

The only thing bringing her comfort is knowing how much worse her friends are eventually going to feel about their betrayal.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Amazon.com.au

Blackcoat Chapter 1

As you may have heard, my new book, Blackcoat is out on October 5th for Paperback and Kindle. Here is the first chapter. If you’re interested in pre-ordering, and it really does help out the launch of a new book, the links are at the end of the chapter.

From the award nominated, bestselling author of the Hellequin Chronicles. 

When Celine Moro took a job as a Blackcoat, an elite agency tasked with investigating crimes throughout Union space, she thought she had finally put her past to rest.

Now, betrayed by her allies, her world is falling apart. Running from the corrupt politicians that she had sworn to bring to justice, Celine is dusting off the skills of her old trade in order to bring truth to light.

The only thing bringing her comfort is knowing how much worse her friends are eventually going to feel about their betrayal.

Chapter One

My cell was little more than a steel framed bed that had seen better days, a mattress that was thin enough that I could feel the springs underneath, and a bucket. I had no idea how long I’d been a prisoner. A few days, probably. There were no windows. No glimpses into the outside world. Just a steady stream of cold air flowing around the badly fit steel door. 

I would remain in my dingy cell until those who put me here decided when to execute me. That had been made clear from the moment I’d arrived. That was my fate. A fate I was still trying to figure out how to ensure didn’t come to pass.

No matter that I’d worked for the city of Euria—the largest city on the planet of Xolea—and the people who lived there for a decade. No matter that I’d fought against the criminal gangs of Euria while the galaxy around us burned in civil war. No matter that I protected the people of Euria from those same gangs, or that I saw friends give their lives in their duty as judges and Blackcoats of this fine city. No one will ever know that I tried to do the right thing, no one will remember that I stood up against corruption. It was all for nothing. 

The realisation had taken a toll on my confidence of being able to get out of the predicament I found myself in. 

Xolea is on the far edge of Union space, and consisted of four continent-sized cities. Only Euria, with its population of over twenty million, was considered helpful to the Union in any meaningful way. It was one of the largest manufacturing cities within the entire Union, and during the civil war had been heavily guarded by the Union’s fleet to ensure it couldn’t be captured or destroyed. Life had been hard in Euria before the war, but during it, when everything was done for the war effort, life had gone from hard to almost unbearable, while those in charge got rich and powerful. Richer and more powerful.

Now that the war was over, those who had benefited from it the most refused to give up their gains. Refused to allow people to go back to what had gone before. The gangs that had been around for my entire life, had been taken over by the most affluent in society to be used for their own goals. Keep the people down. Make sure no one tries to stop them from becoming more powerful. I knew the Blackcoats had been infiltrated, knew there was corruption, but I hadn’t realised just how deep and far-reaching it had become. Until one dark night on my way home from work, I was jumped by half a dozen people who were meant to be colleagues. Meant to be friends. 

The anger at what had been done to me and my city had been all that had sustained me for my time in my dark cell. My partner had vanished, presumed killed by the gangs, and I had been framed for treason against the Union. All because I didn’t take bribes. Because I thought that Blackcoats—the Union’s law enforcement—were meant to be better than that.

The door to my cell opened with a shriek of metal on stone, bringing with it a gust of freezing air. A Sanctioner stepped inside. One of the five judge ranks. Sanctioners usually didn’t deal with crimes that involved the death penalty. I got the feeling in this case there might be an exception. 

Two guards—both wearing charcoal-coloured, thick, thermal protection suits, and carrying plasma rifles—stood at the door. Masks covered the lower parts of their face, and each wore dark glasses either to protect their eyes from the harsh sunlight outside or because they thought they looked menacing. Their pale foreheads were all the skin that showed, and both had short, dark hair cut close to the head. The Sanctioner waved them away after one of them brought the man a metal chair that had seen better days. The folds of the Sanctioner’s fur-lined, ornate red and yellow robes almost enveloped the chair when he sat. 

A scan mask hovered into the room, its two red eyes glowing inside the dark face. At some point, someone—possibly a psychopath— had decided to make vid recorders look like black face masks with red glowing eyes. I’d always hated them. Not because they were particularly creepy or unpleasant—although they were definitely both—but because I found them to be intrusive. Which, I had to concede, was probably the point. 

“Celine Moro,” the Sanctioner said, looking down at the brightly lit screen of the data-slate in his hands. “Thirty-eight, female, no family. If you like, I can read you the list of commendations you’ve received over your career as a Blackcoat? It’s honestly very impressive.”

I glared at the Sanctioner. “I didn’t expect to see you,” I said through gritted teeth. “Not here. Not with these murderers and thieves, Gorat.”

Gorat took a deep breath and let it out slowly, reclining as much as possible in the rigid chair. “You should have taken the money,” he said eventually.

I wanted to rip his tongue out for that. I wanted to beat his head against the thick walls of my cage, but instead I remained seated and seethed inside. “I am a Blackcoat of the district of Euria,” I said, keeping my tone level. “I do not accept bribes. It’s quite literally a line you have to say when you’re sworn in. I’m pretty sure there’s an identical line for judges when they’re sworn in too.”

“Maybe you should have just taken that line as a suggestion,” Gorat said with a slight sigh. 

“I can’t let people’s lives be ruined when I could do something to try and stop it,” I snapped, before reining in my temper. 

“And that, dear Celine, is why you’re here in this shithole,” Gorat said. “The mask is here to document this conversation for… prosperity. You were offered wealth to look the other way in the dealings of one Trias Nateria, a well-known and wealthy Confessor of the Golden Dawn, and a Councillor of the Union. Did you really think you were going to win this? Did you really think your actions would do anything but end with you here?”

I turned to the scan mask. “You can fly into a wall.”

“That’s not very mature,” Gorat said. 

“No, but you’re going to execute me anyway because I’m not corrupt. Unlike you, unlike half of the people I worked with.” The words tumbled free before I could stop them. “I did what was right and for that I end up here. I end up a criminal. Framed for treason because I was an inconvenience. Because I wasn’t corrupt. Framed by a Councillor of the Union. Godsdamned it, Gorat, these people aren’t meant to be tyrants, that’s why The Wardens exists.”

“There are no Wardens on Euria,” Gorat said. 

“Which is exactly why people like Trias are allowed to do whatever they like.” I wanted to throw something at the wall in frustration. 

The Wardens were responsible for the protection of every single Councillor and their families throughout the Union. But they also investigated any wrongdoing by those same Councillors. If they’d been on Euria there was a good chance I wouldn’t have been stuck in a damn cell, and Trias wouldn’t have been allowed to make himself the tyrant of the city.

“You always were too stubborn, too sure of what was right and wrong,” Gorat said, angry. “Everyone else just manages. You don’t have to like it, but it’s how things are done here. Especially during the war.”

“The war has been over for two years.” 

“Yes, which is why we need to help the people of this planet,’ Gorat explained slowly, as if I was an idiot. 

“And corruption helps them, how?”

“The workers here need these drugs, need to be helped.”

“Because they got addicted helping the war effort,” I said, the anger bubbling up inside me once again.

“There’s no going back now,” Gorat said. “Too many people made too much money to change things back to how they were.”

“Then maybe those things need to change,” I snapped. 

“You think you’re the one to do it?” Gorat snapped back. “Trias doesn’t play games. He wants you dead. He wants to know what you know, and then he’s going to have you executed, and your body will be taken to one of the factories and burned up in a furnace. The people will look the other way, and do you know why? Because Trias either pays them to, or they’re not worth his money and they’re so terrified of him that they do it for free.”

“He’s a Confessor of the Golden Dawn and a Councillor of the Union,” I said, not really sure how to convey the betrayal I felt, not only at Gorat and my old comrades turning against me, but that a Confessor—a man who was meant to protect the people of their planet—could turn his back on everything he was meant to believe in. For profit and power. The fact he was a Councillor too, made the transgression doubly hard to take. Two jobs that were meant to be carried out by those who were meant to want the best for their people. It was a corruption of two great institutes of the Union, and when I’d first discovered the truth, it had made me physically ill. 

Gorat sighed again.

“You knew my parents,” I said, my voice now barely above a whisper. “You worked with them. You knew me as a child, and now you’re going to be the one to have me executed. Why keep me here for however long it’s been? Why not just kill me?”

“I told you, Trias needs to know what you told to whom.”

“So you can go and kill more people?”

“Your parents were good people in a different time,” Gorat said, rubbing his eyes after several seconds of silence. “They would have taken the bribe.”

really wanted to hit him for that. 

“Trias wanted to come see you himself,” Gorat continued. “That’s why no one has hurt you yet. But instead, he’s decided you aren’t worth him venturing out into the cold. You’re just not important enough to him.”

“I could have brought him down,” I said more to myself than Gorat. 

“You gathered more information on his operation than anyone else ever has. You and that other Blackcoat you were working with.”

“His name was Prasan,” I said, the familiar and warming sensation of anger keeping me from breaking down.

“He’s dead by the way,” Gorat said. “They’d considered framing you for the murder, but honestly, you both vanishing is much easier. Neither of you have families, both single, both married to the job, both disposable.”

“He didn’t deserve that,” I said. Prasan did have a family, a sister. They’d kept their mutual existence secret from those they worked with. Prasan the Blackcoat, and Rika the criminal arms-dealer. Having a criminal or a Blackcoat as family members didn’t inspire confidence or trust in their allies. “He was a good Blackcoat. He was a good man.”

“He was,” Gorat said. “I made sure his death was quick. It was all I could do for him. Some of Trias’ more… ardent supporters wanted him flayed. Wanted to send a message to other Blackcoats, but I managed to convince them otherwise.”

“Am I meant to be grateful?” I shouted.

“You’re meant to understand that I can only do so much for you and those you work with,” Gorat said. “I can’t begin to tell you what some of those same people wanted to do to you. I got Trias to agree that making you vanish without a trace was better in the long term, but if you won’t tell me who you spoke to, his people are going to get to make you talk. I can’t stop that.”

“So, did you come in here to get information, or to taunt me?”  

“This isn’t easy for me either,” Gorat said. 

“Oh, I’m sorry, are you being betrayed by your own people and about to be executed for standing up against a crime boss?” I looked around the room. “No? Just me then.”

“Councillor, not crime boss,” Gorat corrected, his tone soft as if imparting a lesson.

I laughed in his face. “If it walks like a crime boss, talks like a crime boss, and shoots people in the face like a crime boss, he’s a crime boss.”

“This isn’t going to get us anywhere, is it?” Gorat said with a sigh. He got to his feet and looked down on me as if about to scold a child. “For the final time, Trias told me that if you cooperated, your death would be quick. But if not, then the guards will come in here and get the information out of you in another, much less pleasant way.”

“They’re going to sing a song?” I asked. “Or maybe do a dance routine? I think both of those would be less pleasant.”

“You never could keep a civil tongue in your head,” Gorat said, disapprovingly.

“And, apparently, you never could stop taking bribes to look the other way,” I said, leaning back on my bed. “I guess we’ve both been disappointed today.”

I looked up at the mask as it stared at me with its red eyes. “Trias, when you read this back, or watch the vid, or whatever you’re going to do, I hope you realise one day someone will actually find you in that lovely home of yours looking down over the rest of the district, and they’ll kill you. I’m just sorry to say I won’t be there to celebrate it myself.”

“Trias controls this city,” Gorat said, the palm of his hand against the door. “You should have realised that. Soon, the four guards in this building will come for you. They will take you to the room where you will eventually meet your death.”

“Only four?” I asked. 

“Torture doesn’t take many people,” Gorat said. “They will hurt you before you die. You could have ensured that didn’t happen.”

You could have ensured that didn’t happen,” I said, throwing his own words back at him. 

“Goodbye, Celine,” Gorat said, pushing open the door, letting in the cold air from outside. 

The mask left the cell first and Gorat reached inside his robes and placed a small box on the floor. The rectangular box was eight inches long by three inches wide, and was no deeper than the length of my finger. It was coloured orange and red with yellow trim, and reminded me of Gorat’s robe. 

“Goodbye,” Gorat said again, and left me alone in my cell. 

I stared at the box for some time. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. Was it a bomb? No, probably not. That seemed too much like hard work for Gorat. My curiosity eventually overrode my feelings of trepidation and concern, and I picked up the box, flicking open the metal clasp and lifting the lid. 

Inside sat a six-inch-long carbonate-fibre combat knife. I lifted it free and examined it. It was light, and sharpened to a dangerous edge. Knives were used by anyone from generals to street scum, but carbonate-fibre was different. They were used to by Special Forces members to be able to cut through shields and armour. It was the same material used to make the battleships and was almost indestructible against conventional weapons. It was the weapon of an assassin, of a warrior. And they were banned on Euria for one reason and one reason only: Trias and his loyal supports wore specially designed force shields at all times. If you wanted to kill one of them, you’d need to get close, and there was little chance of that with all of their guards and spies looking out for them. 

Thankfully the carbonate blade would work just as well on flesh as it would on those with shields. The question was why had Gorat left it? Had he intended for me to use it to escape, did he think I could use it to kill Trias? Or had he left it because he knew I would try to escape and would be killed in the process. Giving me a heroic death instead of one screaming through hours of torture? Did it matter? Probably not. But it still played on my mind. Whatever else happened, escaping from the cell was my first move. 

The shuffling of feet sounded outside the cell, and I held the knife down by my leg, the blade against the outside of my thigh, hidden from the man in foul weather gear who opened the door and stepped inside. 

“It’s time to go,” he said with a snarl, a plasma rifle casually slung over one shoulder. He considered me no threat. He was an idiot.

“I think I’m okay right here,” I told him. 

“I didn’t say I was giving you a choice,” he barked, stepping toward me, reaching for my arm. I sprung toward him, brushing his arm aside as he tried to grab me. He never saw the dagger until it was buried in his throat, his eyes wide with shock. He was dead a moment later.  

I stepped aside as I removed the dagger, avoiding any blood as the guard collapsed forward. I dragged him further into my cell and checked the hallway beyond, finding it empty. There were three more guards somewhere in the building I’d been held in, and I had to work fast in case they were on the way to me as well. 

I removed his red, fur-lined jacket and put it on; it was a little big, but it was that or deal with the sub-zero temperatures of a Euria winter without one, and that wasn’t much of a choice at all. I removed his second layer of clothing too—a skin-tight, black, cold-resistant top that was designed to change size to fit any frame. Anything to make sure I didn’t freeze to death the moment I stepped outside. I took his back holster and the energy pistol inside it, leaving the well-used plasma rifle where it was. The damn things only take six to eight shots before the magazine overheats and you need a new one. An energy pistol can put three times that number of shots out. 

It took me a few minutes to get dressed, and every noise outside of the cell made me pause, and pick up a weapon, waiting for the inevitable attack. But none came. I wondered where the other guards were. Had they expected this one guard to be able to deal with me? Were they torturing some other poor soul? I pushed the thoughts aside; I didn’t need the distraction right now. I was soon dressed and ready to battle both the enemy inside the facility, and the elements outside. 

I picked up the cell key card—a small, transparent blue device— and after checking the hallway once again—and finding it thankfully empty—I stepped out of the cell. The cold air whipped through the hallway of the building. Six doors ran the length of one side of the hallway, and large windows opposite each showcased the frozen tundra outside, the snow coming down hard. There would be several feet in a few hours in some parts, a dangerous time of the year for those working on the trams moving goods to and from the space port. 

A light overhead flickered, and I counted to thirty to see if anyone would come check on their friend. But after forty-five seconds, I decided it was safe to continue. I had no idea exactly where I was or why Gorat had left me a weapon, but I planned on finding out. And then I was going to find Trias and we were going to have a long conversation about the error of his ways.

**************

So, there you have the first chapter, I hope you enjoyed it, and that it made you look forward to the rest of the story.

Pre-order links:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Amazon.com.au

Becoming An Author. Part 1: 15 Things You Should Know

I did a video.

Blackcoat Cover Reveal

As you may or may not know, I’ve been writing a Sci-fi novella by the title of Blackcoat. Well, I’m ready to reveal the cover, and let you know that the kindle version is available to pre-order from your local Amazon right now. There will also be a paperback version, and I’m looking into the Audible version. Hope you like it.

When Celine Moro took a job as a Blackcoat, an elite agency tasked with investigating crimes throughout Union space, she thought she had finally put her past to rest.

Now, betrayed by her allies, her world is falling apart. Running from the corrupt politicians that she had sworn to bring to justice, Celine is dusting off the skills of her old trade in order to bring truth to light.

The only thing bringing her comfort is knowing how much worse her friends are eventually going to feel about their betrayal.

Pre-order links:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

May Update – I Sold A Million Books

A quick Youtube video update about my current work, and what’s coming next.