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Freelancer Book Three
Framed for an assassination she didn’t commit, Cassy must prove her innocence to bring a life-saving technology back to her home planet.
When Freelance spaceship captain Cassy discovers an assassin at the wedding of her ex-lover, Prince Stephen, she fights to wrench his rifle away. But a stray blast shoots into the royal party and kills Queen Triana. Knocked unconscious, Cassy wakes to find herself holding the murder weapon, the assassin gone and a squad of guards who condemn her as guilty.
Facing certain execution, Cassy breaks out of jail with Prince Stephen’s help and they escape together. Taking refuge in a secret underground lab, they learn of a forbidden technology hidden in a spaceship and sent beyond the rim of the galaxy. Retrieving it promises plentiful food for everyone, but the journey lies through a supposedly impenetrable barrier.
Even if they achieve the impossible, they cannot return until they prove Cassy’s innocence. So they must infiltrate a dangerous rebel army on another world to unmask the real assassin.
From the first page to the final scene, Assassin maintains its page-turning action. Can Cassy find the real assassin and prove her innocence? Can she find the lost spaceship and bring back its secrets? Can a freelance spaceship captain like Cassy and a prince like Stephen ever be together? Find out only in the thrilling conclusion to the Freelancer trilogy.
- PAGES: 264 approx. (trade paper)
- RRP: £2.99/$3.99 (ebook) £9.99/$11.99 (paperback)
- PUBLICATION: December 2019
- ISBN: 9781908340306 (ebook) // 9781908340313 (paperback)
Read an excerpt below…
Excerpt from Assassin
In the blandness of the corridor, the heat of my emotions rushed to my skin and I had to lean back against the cold wall. The little box where I had locked up my love for Stephen had been forced open and spilled its contents into my bloodstream. I hadn’t wanted to admit it, but I still loved him.
I took a minute to compose myself. I breathed deep and rebuilt the walls of my stoic exterior.
As calm returned, the memory of Freddi’s concerned face in the crowded hall came back to me. I pulled out my P-tab and send him a message to to say I was fine and hadn’t been arrested.
I was about to go back into the main hall to find him, but after a few steps I realised I had no appetite for watching Stephen get married to another woman and sent Freddi another message to say I was going to have a wander round and I would find him later.
I went back the way I had come, past the door to Stephen’s room, past another plain door where Helinea might be preparing for her wedding day, and to the end where a set of spiral stairs led up to another level. The sound of footsteps rushing down towards me made me fear I would be discovered by a guard who would escort me back into the hall whether I liked it or not. But the footsteps didn’t belong to a guard; they belonged to a monk. His long, black robes flowed out behind him as he ran and the hood that covered his head was pushed back to reveal his face. He glanced at me, but said nothing as he hurried past.
I climbed the stairs, hitching up my skirt to stop myself tripping over it, until I reached another bland corridor. It was almost a mirror image of the one below, except the doors were on the inside of the curve which bent round to reflect the shape of the main hall. Up ahead, what appeared to be a family group were being led through one of the doors by a woman in Fertillan Guard uniform. A portly grey-bearded gentleman, a bejewelled woman in a long flowing dress and three children in their finery all disappeared inside while the guard waited by the door before closing it behind them. I thought she would look up the corridor, see me and escort me to the cheap seats where I belonged. But she was concentrating on the task in hand and didn’t seem to notice me at all as she turned back the way she had come.
The doors had to lead to the viewing balconies which I had seen from the main hall. I walked past them, counting each door as I went and wondering who were the privileged few sitting behind them. At the fifth door, I stopped. It had been left slightly ajar. I peeked inside to see its plush – and empty – interior.
I went in.
It was a small, carpeted room which looked down onto the full grandeur of the main Hall of the Deity. The crush of invitees below had been sorted out into orderly rows which sat facing the stage. On the stage itself, clustered to one side, was a quartet of string musicians. They bowed their instruments with sustained tuning notes which sang out over the hubbub of chattering voices and shuffling guests.
The balcony was a good vantage point to watch the ceremony. As no one else had claimed it, I decided it would be a waste for it not to be occupied and sat on one of the four red velvet-covered chairs. I leaned back and imagined that I was rich and important. It also allowed me some privacy in that, should my stoic exterior slip while Stephen took his wedding vows, no one would be there to see it.
The random tuning notes of the string quartet fizzled out, the chatting and the shuffling got louder in expectation, then all four instruments played harmoniously in tandem. The sweet sound of singing strings drifted up to my box in a beautiful melody I hadn’t heard before. I leant forward and laid my forearms across the raised edge of the balcony and watched as the musicians’ bows danced in unison to create their heavenly music and enthral the audience into silence.
From the back of the stage came a line of people led by King Richard, who was instantly recognisable from his bearded face. Close behind him was Queen Triana, the woman he had married the previous year who was now looking very pregnant. Prince James followed, in a dark grey suit with gold embroidery at the shoulder which was enough to convey his royal status without overshadowing the groom. Then came Sophea, the President of Manupia, who was with a man I didn’t know. Bringing up the rear was the very frail figure of the Queen Mother who was almost carried by two royal aids who held onto each of her arms as they helped her to a chair on the opposite side of the stage to the quartet.
The others remained standing and looked down the length of the hall towards the main entrance in expectation.
After only a moment, from behind the rows of seated guests, came a man dressed in white robes who walked up the aisle towards the stage. He was like a photo negative of the black-clad monks who ran the Halls. His clothes were of exactly the same style, but made in a more delicate, flowing fabric that swung gracefully with each step. Like the monks, his robe included a hood, but he wore it down so it sat unobtrusively on his shoulders and, from where I was sitting, allowed me to see the bald patch developing around the crown of his blond hair. He was the Supreme Monk. One of the few people considered to have enough authority to marry a member of the royal family.
When he reached the stage, an enchanted gasp rose from the crowd as they all turned to look behind them. I inched forward on my seat and craned my neck to see what they were looking at. Prince Stephen soon came into view, walking up the aisle hand-in-hand with Helinea. She wore the most amazing white dress which sparkled with jewels sewn in swirling patterns across the ivory white of the fabric. The tight bodice plunged deep at her neck line and flowed out in a full skirt which swished as she walked. Two puffed sleeves sat on her shoulders and she was crowned with a small, understated tiara which nestled into the long curls of her light brown hair. I understood why the congregation was enchanted: she looked beautiful.
On reaching the stage, the Supreme Monk turned and bowed to them both before telling the assembled people about the glory of marriage.
I sat back and listened to the lies. Maybe marriage was glorious if two people truly loved each other. But in a marriage of convenience, his words sounded hollow.
The door to the balcony clicked open.
I sat up and turned, expecting to see a member of the Fertillan Guard who was going to chuck me out, or a late and flustered dignitary who would claim the box for himself.
Instead, it was a hooded monk in black robes. He looked even more startled to see me than I was to see him.
He glared and waved me out. I reluctantly stood from the soft, plush seat which had been so comfortable and went over to the door while he waited, impatiently, with his hands on his hips. I stepped into the corridor and turned back to get my last look at the ceremony from above. Not that I could see much because the monk was blocking my view.
He moved to shut the door behind me and the movement caused the outer flap of his robe to part and reveal the flash of something metal underneath. I only saw it for a split second, but the gleam of the barrel of an EE Rifle is unmistakable.
I thrust out my foot and jammed it in the doorway before the monk should shut me out.
He bashed the door against my foot, but I pushed back hard. Caught by surprise, he stumbled backwards and I forced my way in.
The sound of singing filled the hall as the wedding guests – oblivious to the gunman above – broke into the familiar, rousing Fertillan anthem to the exuberant accompaniment of the string quartet.
I reached for where I thought the monk’s rifle was hidden beneath his robes, but he was there before me, pulled out the weapon and swung it round so the barrel hit me in the face.
I fell backwards and my head smacked hard against the wall of the booth. My vision blurred. I must have cried out, but my voice was lost amid the enthusiastic singing that filled the hall.
Blinking away the threat of concussion, I focussed to see the monk kneeling ready to fire with the barrel of his rifle resting on the edge of the balcony and aimed at the stage.
“No!” I screamed and lunged for him.
A blast shot out of his rifle as I barged into his body and knocked him sideways.
Screams pieced through the singing beneath us, as some people realised what was going on and others kept belting out the anthem.
I reached for the monk’s rifle, but he pulled it away and my hand only succeeded in swiping at his face. The nail of my middle finger gouged through the skin with a sickening rip that left a blood-red line carved into his cheek. He screamed, but his was just one of many in the hall of increasingly panicked people.
The distraction was enough for me to reach for the gun again, and this time grabbed hold of the barrel. We tussled for control of the weapon – he elbowed me in the eye – but I kept hold as he released the trigger. A hot pulse of energy surged through the barrel beneath my fingers and fired up into the dome. The blast seared through the encrusted glass ceiling, destroying the tiny rainbows and sending a cascade of splinters onto the crowd below.
He yanked the rifle from my grasp and brought the barrel down towards my face.
“Free Manupia!” he cried. I turned to escape the blow, but not quick enough, and the butt of his gun struck me hard on the back of my head.
I crashed to the floor with the sounds of screaming and shouting distorting around me. Flashes of light blinked before my vision as I tried to push myself up. But my arms didn’t have the strength to hold my body weight and I collapsed.
I must have lost consciousness because the next thing I was aware of was lying on the floor of the box, staring up at a blurry ceiling with something heavy on my lap. I put my hand on it and felt the cold, hard metal of an EE rifle. I pushed it off me and it landed with a thud on the carpeted floor. Fighting dizziness and a rising nausea, I pulled myself to sitting. No one else was in the booth with me, but from the sound of pandemonium in the hall, I hadn’t been out of it for many minutes. Struggling to my knees, I tried to stand up, but stood on the hem of my dress and fell forward. I caught the edge of the balcony to stop myself crashing back to the floor. Peering over the edge, I saw the throngs of wedding guests pushing in panic to flee out of the exits. All except a few who were clustered around the stage. In the centre of them lay the body of Queen Triana: sprawled and unmoving in a pool of blood.
The door to the box burst open and a squadron of Fertillan Guards charged in with their EEWs drawn. I gasped and looked down at the rifle which the assassin had left. The chill of fear surged through my body. Even if I could reach it and aim it, the guards would kill me before I could fire.
“Hands up!” ordered the lead guard, whose weapon was aimed directly at my chest.
I had no option but to obey. The only method of escape, apart from the door which they blocked, was to jump over the balcony and fall to certain death or serious injury.
“I didn’t do it,” I said, feeling my hands tremble as I held them up at my shoulders.
“I’m arresting you on suspicion of the attempted murder of Queen Triana of Fertilla,” said the lead guard.
“It wasn’t me!”
He holstered his weapon, while the others kept their EEWs aimed at my chest, and stepped towards me. He grabbed my wrist and encased it with the jaws of a handcuff.
“I didn’t try to kill her,” I protested. “I didn’t try to kill anyone. It was the monk. He did it. You need to go after him!”
But my protests were ignored. The guard roughly spun me round where he handcuffed my other wrist so my hands were secured behind my back. He grabbed my upper arm and, with bruising force, pulled me out of the box to take me to a Fertillan Guard cell.
* * *
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