Chapter One: "All My Sins Remembered"Justine’s sigh was barely audible. “This trial was pure politics.” Cerulean wrapped his fingers around the bars, tilting his head to view as much of Justine’s face as possible. “Your objective was to disable the troop carrier?”She shrugged. “Yes.” Cerulean’s voice rose slightly. “I’ve seen the carrier’s blueprints. Deck 42 A and rooms 32 C and B were nowhere near the command room. I saw where you breached the ship. You doubled back and deliberately searched those rooms. Why?”Justine smiled coldly, her hand moving a bit faster, the tip of the brush a blur. “Maybe I just like to kill.”Cerulean pursed his lips. “Then why were troopers Alex and Jerrod left alive?”Her mouth drew into a tight line. “Maybe I missed them.Maybe I thought they were already dead.” “I read your specs. Enhanced senses, hearing, sight.... You can hear a heartbeat from a hundred meters away.”The brush moved faster. “Trooper Jerrod thought it was a miracle that the escape pod managed to fire on autopilot.”Justine’s mouth twisted into a mocking smile. “So, what’s your explanation?”“You resent humans, hate them, and by extension their allies. You saw it as payback, didn’t you, as justice? But when you saw trooper Jerrod trying to stanch his comrade’s wound, even as he was bleeding out himself, you couldn’t bring yourself to press the trigger. Even though it went against orders, you lowered your gun.”“A charming story. But why wasn’t that...story used to play to the court’s sympathy?” The brush tip filled in tiny details.“Unlike the Cresta, I don’t see a gun. I don’t see a cold, calculating machine.” His voice softened. “I see a very scared woman who desperately wants to seem strong in her final moments.”The brush froze. Justine’s head lowered, and for a second, the proud shoulders sagged. The moment passed as her head lifted again, a confident smile playing on her face. “Really?” She raised an eyebrow. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She carefully laid the brush aside. “It’s finished. What do you think?” She displayed the painting in the crook of her arm.His eyes widening, Cerulean stared into a portrait of himself, true to life on even the tiniest of hair ends. “It’s...beautifully done.”“Thank you. Keep it.” She set the painting aside before making eye contact with Cerulean for the first time.Cerulean swallowed a lump in his throat. “I don’t know what to say. I’m honored.”
“You can hang it on your wall or throw it in the trash. Whichever you prefer.” Justine rose. “Anything else?”Cerulean stood thoughtfully before he shook his head. “No.” “Then goodbye.” Cerulean turned to go. He closed his eyes as a sudden wave of dizziness swept over him. Squaring his shoulders, he forced open his eyes and marched down the long, dim hall.Justine called after him. “You know, if I had killed them and blown up the ship, there wouldn’t have been anything to identify me. I wouldn’t be here right now.” Justine’s voice echoed down the tunnel, her face and hands pressed against the bars. “No good deed goes unpunished, right?”
Cerulean stopped in midstride and looked back. “Everything we do has consequences. Alex and Jerrod are still alive.”Want to read more? This book is available in paperback paperback or ebook.
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About the Author
Ann Frailey home schools and maintains a rural homestead with her children and their numerous critters. She is definitely outnumbered. She is currently writing short stories, a HeartBeats series, a new science fiction novel, and a historical fiction & science fiction blend. To check out her novels and stories or find information about her other work, please visit AKFrailey.com.