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Fire Soldiers (The Sentinels Book 3)
 

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Fire Soldiers (The Sentinels Book 3)


  Fire Soldiers

  The Sentinels, Book 3

  David J. Normoyle

  Copyright © 2017 by David J. Normoyle

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  www.davidjnormoyle.com

  Created with Vellum

  Contents

  1. Tuesday 11:50

  2. Tuesday 12:15

  3. Tuesday 13:05

  4. Tuesday 13:30

  5. Tuesday 14:15

  6. Tuesday 14:35

  7. Tuesday 15:00

  8. Tuesday 17:40

  9. Tuesday 18:15

  10. Tuesday 22:10

  11. Wednesday 09:00

  12. Wednesday 09:15

  13. Wednesday 10:05

  14. Wednesday 10:45

  15. Wednesday 11:10

  16. Wednesday 11:40

  17. Wednesday 11:55

  18. Wednesday 14:40

  19. Wednesday 16:10

  20. Thursday 07:10

  21. Thursday 12:35

  22. Thursday 13:50

  23. Thursday 18:10

  24. Thursday 18:35

  25. Thursday 18:50

  26. Thursday 19:15

  27. Thursday 19:50

  28. Thursday 20:15

  29. Thursday 20:30

  30. Friday 13:35

  Further Information

  Also By David J. Normoyle

  About the Author

  Chapter 1

  Tuesday 11:50

  I lay in bed staring up at the white ceiling, my gaze following the aimless patterns of indentations and paint cracks. The TV in the corner was on, creating a comforting background buzz. A knock on the door pulled me from my stupor.

  “I’m not here!” I shouted.

  The door opened and Jo walked in. I raised myself onto my elbow, watching as she did two circuits of the room, pausing at several points to glare at the mess. “It’s much worse than I expected,” she said.

  “It’s been a while.” I should have been glad to see her. “How are you?”

  She cracked open the window. “How can you stand the smell?” She kicked over a pile of pizza boxes, scattering them across the room. A small pizza crust flew free and hit the wall, leaving a tomato sauce stain. “What have you done to our beautiful home?”

  “You left a long time ago, so don’t blame me. And it was never beautiful.”

  “It had charm. What did you do to the decorations? Your motherboards? Alex’s stolen signs. My posters.”

  “I threw them out. You have no cause to complain. If you remember correctly, Alex and you abandoned me.”

  “And if you remember correctly, we had good cause.”

  That was true. My actions had caused the death of their parents. I only wished that was the worst of my sins. I let my head fall back on to the pillow, my gaze returning to the ceiling. Thinking was bad. Remembering was worse.

  Jo found the remote and turned the TV off.

  “I was watching that,” I said.

  A silence followed. I hoped Jo would decide to just leave. Instead, the mattress creaked as she sat beside me. “I was told not to mention her,” she said.

  Her. Sash, the woman I had loved. Sash, the woman I had killed. “I don’t see what difference mentioning her makes. It’s not like I’ve forgotten.” It wasn’t something that could be forgotten.

  “It’s been over a year,” Jo said. “You have to move on.”

  A year. Time had become a strange beast. A lifetime had passed, and I could remember it like it was yesterday. For the first eight months or so after Sash had died—no, after I’d killed Sash—I’d thrown myself into my work, into building and then maintaining the I.T. infrastructure for the new shade prison, the JC it had come to be nicknamed. With a steep learning curve, and a mountain of tasks, I’d been able to keep my brain distracted for a time.

  “I need your help,” Jo said.

  “Are you in trou…?” I started to get up, then fell back down onto the bed. “I’m incapable of helping anyone.”

  “That’s not true. You saved first me, then Alex, from being possessed by elementals.”

  Each time at a cost. “How’s Alex?” Like me, he had returned to work on the JC after what happened at Gorlam’s. Like me, he’d been badly affected; he had suffered. Unlike me, it hadn’t been his fault—he’d been kidnapped.

  “In a terrible state,” Jo said. “But not half as bad as you.”

  Whenever Alex and I had been forced to interact during the building of the JC, we’d been colder than strangers to each other. I couldn’t help remembering him curled up in a corner of a cell, half-naked, and I was certain he blamed me. Alex, Jo, and I had once been a family, happy even, but those days were long gone. “I haven’t heard anything about him in months,” I said. “Is he still in Lusteer?”

  “He’s still around; he just hasn’t been social lately,” Jo said. “But I’m not here about him. Look at you, lying in bed in the middle of the day. Even Pete is worried about you.”

  “Pete?” I snorted. “He can’t talk. He just sits around and smokes all day.”

  “Better than lying around doing nothing all day.”

  “I’m just sleeping in. Sue me.” When the JC had been completed, I’d received a generous redundancy payment. Enough to supply me with several years’ worth of takeaway pizza and dry cereal. Enough that I didn’t need to go out into the world if I didn’t want to.

  “Well, enough sleeping in.” Jo whipped the blanket off me. “Get dressed.”

  Stripped of the covers, a shock of cold air touched my bare skin. I curled away, digging my face into the pillow. “Leave me be,” I said, my voice muffled.

  “You know how stubborn I can be. Get up now and make it easy on yourself.”

  I ignored her.

  “Rune!” She slapped my shoulder.

  “Go away.”

  “A girl is in pain, and I believe you can help her.”

  “Not my problem.”

  “Rune! Rune, look at me!”

  I turned around to look up at her.

  “I know you, Rune. This isn’t you. You don’t refuse help when you can provide it. I came to you because I think you can help my friend. But I also came to you because you need to help someone. You need to do something.”

  “No, I need to do nothing.” I lurched into a sitting position, my voice rising. “The power inside me is cursed. Everything I touch turns to shit.”

  “I don’t need you to fight, just to talk.”

  “Talk?”

  “You know more than most about the magic of Brimstone. Lying in bed, festering in your own pain, that’s no good to anyone.”

  “It’s good for those who don’t come into contact with me.”

  “It’s your magic that is cursed, not you. Come on, get up.”

  There was no dissuading her. I sighed. “If I do this favor, will you leave me in peace after?”

  “Sure,” Jo said quickly. Too quickly.

  “Could I get that in writing?”

  Jo picked up the remote and switched the TV back on. “Hurry up and get dressed.” While I went to find something to wear, Jo switched channels until she found the Lusteer News Network. “Your friend is on, as usual,” she said.

  I glanced up to see Caroline Black on screen. “Hardly my friend.” Caroline had purposely bumped into me once trying to get an interview. Her foresight in recognizing that the supernatural would soon become mainstream news as well as her persistence
in pursuing stories had paid off. Her profile had grown to the point that she was more celebrity than journalist.

  “The interview with Elizabeth Lowndes from yesterday has had a huge response, and I’m going to replay some highlights,” Caroline Black was saying. “She’s in charge of the Lusteer Shade Enforcement Division, more commonly known as L-SED. Her methods have been controversial, and here she is to explain the purpose of L-SED.”

  Having dressed, I came to stand beside Jo. “How long has Elizabeth Lowndes been in charge of L-SED?” I asked. Lowndes was another who I had met once. She was a smoke sentinel with a senior position on the Sentinel Order.

  “Two, three months,” Jo said. “She’s been all over the news. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that.” She looked over her shoulder. “Or living under blankets, empty pizza boxes, and the stench of grief.”

  “Grief has a smell now, does it?”

  “Yes. Months-old madras curry festering inside an unwashed armpit.”

  “Gross.”

  “Shhh. People have been talking about this interview, and I haven’t seen it yet.” Jo increased the volume on the TV.

  “Thanks for agreeing to talk to us, Colonel Lowndes,” Caroline Black said.

  Elizabeth Lowndes gave a tight smile. “I’m not a colonel any longer. I left the army over five years ago.”

  “Didn’t I hear one of your men call you Colonel backstage?”

  “You can take the person out of the army, but… In any event, I no longer have an official military title.” The tan uniform Lowndes wore was more military than police, and she stood with her back erect and shoulders flared wide. Except for her words, everything else about her screamed soldier. Though I hadn’t thought that about her the first time I’d seen her.

  “Most of the men in L-SED are ex-military though, right?” Caroline asked.

  “I’m proud to say they are,” Lowndes said. “It is to our country’s immense shame that many veterans are cast adrift after risking their lives for our great nation. So when I was tasked with defending Lusteer from shades, I took the opportunity to hire as many veterans as I could. Unsurprisingly, I found many still willing to give for their country. And this battle is every bit as important as foreign wars. More so.”

  “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who have served,” Caroline said, looking into the camera before turning back toward Lowndes. “However, many feel that the army and police should be kept separate, and that L-SED operates as a private army within the city.”

  “I have all the respect in the world for the police force,” Lowndes said. “However, they simply aren’t equipped to deal with shades. L-SED have specialized training and weapons.”

  “Crossbows and nets,” Caroline said. “It’s strange that almost medieval weapons have come to the fore in the battle against the supernatural.”

  “There is nothing primitive about our weapons,” Lowndes said. “Far from it.”

  “I believe you. Now, what about those who say you act too harshly against those you capture? Is it true that the shades are imprisoned without due process?”

  “Others say we act too leniently. We capture and imprison, but we do not kill,” Lowndes said. “As for due process, what due process did those humans receive before an elemental from Brimstone, an alien from another world, possessed their bodies?”

  “That’s certainly one way to look at things,” Caroline said. “However, you must have heard the talk that Mayor Maxwell is planning to take the shade prison, commonly called the JC, out of L-SED’s control.”

  “That would be a really stupid thing to do.” Lowndes turned to glare into camera. “Like many, I’ve never had much respect for politicians, but I’m convinced that not even a politician is dumb enough to do that.”

  “Thank you for giving yo—”

  “Wait, this is important,” Lowndes interrupted, continuing to directly address the camera. “When news of the supernaturals first came out, many people were naturally very fearful. One on one, shades are much more powerful than humans. The fear of ordinary, upright people has diminished, but only because the hard work of the L-SED has kept the most dangerous of the shades on the run or in hiding. If the L-SED is curtailed in any way, humans will suffer.”

  Caroline gave a nervous smile. “You mean like the rise of the firedrakes?”

  “The firedrakes are a ragtag band of shades which will soon be crushed. They do show, however, that shades can’t be allowed to roam free. And I don’t want anyone to forget that a young shade locked a house with a family inside, then burned it down. He just stood outside watching while children screamed for help. Thanks to the L-SED, that fiendish shade is safely locked up.”

  “We all remember that horrific incident only too well,” Caroline said. “Thank you for your time today, Elizabeth. And I’m sure I can speak for many of our listeners in thanking you for your service to your country, both in the past and present.”

  The clip ended, and Jo switched the TV off. “That is one scary woman.”

  “You have no idea.” She and Walker and others on the Sentinel Order murdered Robert Bobbit in front of me just for being a fire sentinel. “What are firedrakes?”

  “An organization of fire shades who have started to terrorize the city. They wear red demon-masks to hide their faces.”

  “I didn’t realize things had gotten so bad.” I had been assiduously avoiding the news and any talk of current affairs.

  “Let’s go.” She stopped at the door and turned back when she realized I didn’t follow. “What is it?”

  “Where are we going again?” Now that I was up and dressed, I wasn’t sure what I had agreed to.

  “I told you. A young girl badly needs your help.”

  “A girl? You mean Ally, don’t you?” Ally was one of the children who had been possessed in Gorlam’s Orphanage. I had already, at Jo’s request, talked to her about elementals and Brimstone. The poor girl had been so shy that she had hidden under the bed and communicated via a sock puppet.

  “She’s having trouble coming to terms with her new nature.” Jo opened the door to let me out.

  “Why are you involved? She’s a shade. You heard Lowndes. They’re dangerous.”

  Suddenly Jo threw herself against me and wrapped her arms around me.

  I stumbled before regaining my balance. “What are you doing?” Her thin arms pulsed against my side, and her tears dampened the side of my T-shirt. My voice softened and I stroked her hair. “What’s wrong?”

  She sobbed. “I’m sorry.”

  “What do you have to be sorry about?” My initially hesitant grip tightened on her, and my own tears threatened to flow as a surge of emotion welled up inside me.

  She disentangled herself from me and dried her eyes. “I’m sorry the way things worked out for you. For us: Alex, me and you. And I’m sorry I broke down like this. I didn’t mean… I’m sorry … Just seeing the place we used to live looking like this, seeing you looking li—”

  “You, Jo, have absolutely nothing to be sorry about.”

  “Everything’s so complicated,” Jo said. “Why does it all have to be so complicated? Why can’t Brimstone just leave us in peace to be happy?”

  It was unusual for Jo to get so emotional; she was usually the calm one. “It’s just the way it is,” I said. “Now let’s get out of here.” She was right, though, that if I wasn’t a sentinel, life would be much less complicated. I was beginning to believe that the power inside me precluded me from love, from happiness, from any hope of a normal life.

  Chapter 2

  Tuesday 12:15

  We descended the two flights of stairs in silence with Jo pausing on the landing between them to wipe her eyes dry. On the way to the front door, Pete called out to us from the living room, and we paused in the doorway. Pete used the remote to mute the television, then shifted around on the couch so he faced us.

  “You got him out of bed,” Pete said to Jo. “Good job, dude.”

/>   “Jo’s not a dude,” I said.

  Pete shook his head sadly. “Everyone’s a dude, dude. Have I taught you nothing? Where are you going?”

  “Out,” I said.

  “Outside? Really? I thought you had turned into one of those creatures who can’t stand sunlight.”

  “How can you still be obsessed by vampires?”

  “Dude. If everything else is real, they have to be too,” Pete said. “Have you read the website WhatAreTheyHiding dot com.”

  Despite the media and politicians talking openly about the supernatural creatures that roamed the world, Pete still obsessed with what wasn’t real. Or, at least, what was unlikely to be true.

  Jo walked into the room, nodding toward the now-muted cartoon playing on TV. “You shouldn’t watch that.”

  I followed Jo. The living room was the usual mess of sticky carpets, dusty surfaces, and random garbage. A musty smell clung to the air. Topping off this monument to bad housekeeping was Pete, with his dishevelled beard and lank long hair, lying sprawled across the couch.

  “I just started watching,” Pete said. “Everyone’s talking about it, and I’m trying to find out what the big deal is. So far, I’m disappointed. It’s no Bojack Horseman.”

  “It’s just blatant propaganda,” Jo said.

  Noticing that one of the cartoon characters wielded a sword created from smoke, I stepped closer to watch. “Is that a sentinel wielding a multani?” I asked.

  Jo nodded. “The cartoon is called The Sentinels. Smoke sentinels are the heroes, and the fire-wielding shades are the villains. It portrays shades as subhuman, so no one cares when they are all locked up and the key thrown away.”

 
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