A Hypershot excerpt by Sherry Decker
“Who dies next? Jero-K or Tebb-T?”
Krea shook her head. “No.”
“I’ve had three women betray me, each in her own way. But never again. In three hours I’ll be announced as Premier. The vote is in and I’m the one. But, just one mistake and I lose everything. Don’t be that mistake, Kréa.”
“You murdered Beta. You—-”
“If the child you carry isn’t mine . . .” Crop’s bloodless face finished the sentence. She and everyone she cared about would die.
The side door opened again and six of Crop’s personal guards surrounded her. She was nudged from behind with something hard and pointed. She headed across the platform, stepping over Beta’s headless body. Kréa glanced back as Crop strode down the center aisle of the Disciplinary Hall. He wore no holster. He carried his tracer in his hand as he exited. He didn’t look back.
Kréa was escorted to the hospital lab where the guards confiscated her weapons before she entered. Her exam took fifteen minutes. Afterward, the physician sat down on a stool, his knees inches from hers. He looked smug, and he studied Kréa’s face for a moment before speaking.
“I’m honored to be assigned as your physician, First Wife.”
“Don’t be too happy about it. It’s a one-time honor.”
“Fine. What are you willing to do for the right diagnosis?”
“Willing to do?”
“Someone told me you make people disappear. I need someone to disappear.”
“The only people I make disappear are people who threaten me.”
“So, you don’t care what I tell the Jacquard?”
“Tell him the truth.”
Moments later Kréa retrieved her weapons from the guards and headed straight for the Morgue, where she learned that Beta’s body had already gone to recycling. Kréa sprinted the mile and a half and entered the center without confrontation from the guards stationed outside. Recycling could mean many things—-compost, experimentation, or dumped without ceremony on Level Eighteen. Kréa had no idea what Crop had ordered for Beta’s remains, but if she had any say, Beta’s disposal would be honorable. Kréa wanted to tell Tebb someday, how his birth mother had been given a decent burial.
The technician frowned and shook his head. “The prisoner’s body was sent to Area Twenty for disposal. It wasn’t fit for anything else. Diseased and contaminated and—-”
“Where is Area Twenty?”
He pressed a key on his console and a moment later Kréa held a discoph, its small, glowing screen leading the way.
Krea arrived at a familiar door. The last time she had been there a guard had summoned Security to let her in. There were no guards now and the door stood open. She flipped on the lights and stood beside the black lake. There was no sign of Jero, only a dozen UVD lights centered above the lake and reflecting off its dark, glassy surface.
A grinding noise came from overhead. A motor growled alive and a squealing hinge drew her attention upward, to a trapdoor high on the wall.
Something swirled on the surface of the lake as if summoned by the grinding noise. Something disturbed the black water. The trapdoor moaned open and a chute jutted forward over the lake. Seconds later Beta’s headless body tumbled down the steep, angled trough, end over end until it reached the edge where it dropped forty feet into the water. The splash was loud and the sound echoed across the lake.
Something white circled lakes surface. Something white headed toward the bobbing corpse, shoving a wall of water ahead of itself and leaving a wide, frothy wake behind.
Kréa ran along the bank, her boots slipping on the moss and black slime. She drew her tracer and aimed at the mound of black water. When the monstrous fish was ten feet away from Beta’s body, its cavernous mouth opened. The mouth was more than enough to swallow Beta whole. Kréa fired into that mouth and the creature thrashed once and sank. Bits of white flesh and droplets of hot water rained down on the lake and the bank.
Beta’s body bobbed twenty feet from shore. Kréa searched for something to reach Beta. The nets were draped near the entrance and she headed back for them. She heard another disturbance in the water. A second creature surfaced, its mouth gaping even rounder and wider than the first, and Beta’s body was sucked down with a rush of black water into its throat. Kréa had no chance to fire her weapon this time. The fish splashed and dove. Beta was gone.
The first creature floated to the surface, half eaten. Within seconds it was a tatter of flesh and bone, tumbling in a frothy eating frenzy. Soon most of the muscle, bone and gristle were gone and the remaining skeleton broke apart and sank. The water calmed. Within moments the lake was again a dark mirror.
Kréa sat down in the slime and the mud. She pictured thousands of giant fish circling below the
lake’s surface, sensitive to the sound of the trap door and the grinding motor inside the wall. There were
many ways for people to disappear in Undercity. This lake was only one of them.
Kréa’s pants soaked up the dampness and a chilling cold crept into her body. Overhead, high on
the distant, curved ceiling, a UVD light flickered and then burst, and the bits of resin fell into the lake.
The fish did not respond, as if they knew the confetti was inedible, that the resin was sharp and deadly.
Something in Kréa’s chest wrenched. Something tore. She drew her tracer and fired at the lights. One by one they exploded until most of them were gone and the cavern shrank deeper into shadow, light by light. Her tracer’s power pack flashed LOW. She had failed. There were three lights remaining.
Kréa laid her head in the mud and cried for the first time that she could remember. Crying hurt but she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want to stop.