Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 25 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix has been hired by Donan Varin to find his wife. She, and two bodyguards, are on their way to see the Harlichs south of Daytona. But first, they have to go through the hostile Chateau Noir territory. Their leader has put a substantial bounty on Fiddlestix’ head.

They turned east, skirting the shoreline. The night-sight helped a lot. With luck, they would make it to the Harlichs without Bobby knowing they were there. Luck wasn’t with them. A guard station caught them by surprise. They weren’t as startled as the guards were. The disorganized men were dispatched in short order. However, the noise alerted the other stations. The hunt was on and they were the quarry.

“Press the yellow button,” Blacksmith said.

They hit the yellow buttons and a turbo boost kicked in, spurring them to speeds well over a hundred. Flying blindly through the woods, they dodged trees, holes and bogs. The map could not update fast enough, so it was a combination of blind faith and guesswork. Despite the boost, the guards were closing. Knowing the terrain helped their pursuers. It was going to be close.

“Ride together and hit the orange button!” Buzzard cried.

A clicking whir and Fiddlestix saw something fly from the rear of her bike. Nothing happened until the first of their antagonists entered the zone/ Shrapnel filled mini bombs exploded, riddling the group with razor sharp steel springs and rods. Others scattered a field of whirring motion sensor razors. Pandemonium ensued behind them, slowing their attackers.They road at a furious pace, making their way through the woods on prayer and adrenaline. A few more miles flew past and the going got somewhat smoother.

“We’re in Harlich territory.” Blacksmith announced, slowing his bike. “Noir won’t follow us in here.”

“There should be a guard station about half a mile to the west,” Fiddlestix told them. “I think it would be better to announce ourselves formally, don’t you?”

They displayed the orange sashes openly, riding confidently to the Harlich compound. A guard detached himself from his surroundings, weapon leveled at Fiddlestix’ bike. She stopped as soon as she saw him. Setting her kickstand, she rose slowly. Hands well out from her sides, she walked forward. Removing her helmet and goggles, she squinted at the men, looking for familiar faces. She saw none.

“State your business,” the guard yelled in heavily accented English.

“I seek an audience with Meneer Fumler,” Fiddlestix replied in flawless Dutch.

Meneer Fumler does not see just anyone,” the guard replied. “Who are you?”

She cleared her throat before replying, unsure of her welcome. “Tell him, please, that Hannah Braun wishes to speak to him.” Once her name would have opened any door here, but now she feared just the opposite.

“I’ll check. Wait here.”

The guard was back in less than five minutes. Opening the gate, ushered them in. The sun was just peeping over the river as they walked onto the compound.

“Your bikes with be tended. Follow me.”

It had been so long since she had been here, yet little had changed. The buildings were sturdily built of limestone and coquina. The houses were in orderly rows, neatly trimmed yards in front of each. All the houses faced a huge center square where the office buildings stood.

Fiddlestix forced herself to watch the guard’s back as they walked along. As they reached the main building where Karl’s office was, a flutter of fear passed through her.

“I will announce you.” The guard left them outside the door. He returned a moment later, beckoning them to follow.

Fiddlestix stood before Karl’s door, taking a deep breath, trying to relax before entering. The guard opened the door, standing aside for her to walk through. She was completely unprepared for who stood on the other side of the desk from her. This was not the fatherly figure she had anticipated, but the smiling, boyish face of Karl the Fifth!

He stepped around his desk, arms open for a welcoming hug. “Hannah, it’s so good to see you! I’d heard you were back.” He ushered her to a seat. “Why have you waited so long to come see us?”

“I was unsure how I would be received,” she replied shyly.

“I see.” He looked pensive for a moment, then curiosity took hold. Karl looked at them expectantly. “What brings you here? I assume that this is not just a social visit?”

“It’s such a surprise seeing you. I expected Papa.” She could not help falling into the old, familiar pattern of speech.

His face clouded and it was his turn to hang his head. “He died, Hannah. Cancer is indiscriminate.”

Impulsively, she reached across the desk, taking his hand in hers, squeezing gently. “I know you miss him. He was a fine man. Where are my manners? I haven’t made introductions.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 24 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverVarin tells Fiddlestix that he needs her help to find his wife. According to him, she is the only one with connections to two groups: The Shine Clan and the Harlichs. He refers to it as a blood bond. He offers to send his bodyguards with her, if she will accept the job.

“Time dribbles away from us,” Varin interjected. “If you are finished reminiscing, I need you to give Karl Fumler of the Harlichs a message.”

“What’s the message?”

“Tell him to have Scarlet contact me in the old way.”

“Nothing more?”

“No. She’ll know what to do.”

“And the Shine Clan?”

“The same, please. If she’s able, she’ll get in touch.”

“Mr. Varin, I will get your message delivered. What they do with it from there, I can’t guarantee.”

“All I ask is that you contact them. When it’s done, you will get the balance of your fee. Half of the money has been credited to your account.” He showed her confirmation of the transaction.

“Thank you, Mr. Varin. All right boys, let’s go!”

They road to Varin’s estate on the outskirts of town, in paranoid silence. After Varin was left in the care of his other bodyguards, Blacksmith led Fiddlestix into a large garage where three tweaked Harley’s waited in silent glory.

“They are the fastest bikes on the road,” Blacksmith said proudly. “Silent as shadows, armored and capable of projecting a force shield around the rider.”

“Sweet!” She walked over, touching them admiringly. The dark blue one appealed to her the most, but she did not want to seem picky. “Which is for me to ride?”

Blacksmith chuckled, pointing a stubby finger at the blue bike. “How about that one?”

“Works for me,” she tried not to sound too pleased, but her dark blue eyes twinkled happily.

Buzzard handed her a set of biker leathers complete with boots, gloves and goggles. The goggles had infrared, motion sensor, night vision and spectra-graphic capabilities. She couldn’t figure out the purpose of this setting, until she looked at Buzzard through them. She could see every piece of cyberware in his body. All of it showed red. His weapons showed up a dull blue.

“Crazy!”

“Ready?” Blacksmith was already sitting on his bike, looking like a big kid. Buzzard sat on his, making it look like a child’s toy.

“I was born ready,” Fiddlestix chuckled, putting the goggles on and switching to night-sight and swung her leg over the bike.

Fiddlestix and the bodyguards hit old US-1 and turned left. Their destination was about forty miles south in what had once been the sleepy little town of Oak Hill. It was now the last stronghold of decency left in all of eastern Volusia County, the Harlich headquarters.

The Harlich Brotherhood was started by the great-grand-father of the current leader, Karl Fumler the First. Karl Fumler the Fourth was now leader of the small, isolationist society. He ran the community like a military organization.

In a way, Fiddlestix was looking forward to a visit with Karl. When her own parents died, he raised her like his own. His son, Karl the Fifth, was three years older than she. From the time she was ten, they doted on one another. As teenagers, their interest changed, ending in disaster. Caught in a compromising position. She was given the chance to leave quietly and join the military, or live in disgrace. In comparison to being shunned, the Army hadn’t sounded too bad.

“Approaching the first Noir checkpoint,” Blacksmith told her on the headset inside the helmet. “We off road it for a few miles.”

“Won’t they catch us on their senors?”

He chuckled softly. “Really, chica, did you think Mr. Varin would send us in defenseless? Press that white button by the throttle.”

Fiddlestix saw an array of different colored buttons on her handlebars. She pressed the white one. A shimmering cloud enfolded her and the bike, undulating slightly in the wind of their passing. The two men also initiated their shields, grinning at her surprise.

“The boss knows how to spend his money,” Blacksmith added gleefully.

The bikes were almost noiseless, and their shields made them virtually undetectable on surveillance equipment. They were on side roads now, following them in short spurts. Occasionally, they would go off road to detour around the guard stations.

The line for Harlich territory was less than three miles away when Blacksmith slowed to a stop, cutting his engine. Getting off his bike, he handed them extra ammunition. He also gave them an orange sash.

“Don’t put that on until we hit Harlich territory. The configuration shows we are visitors, asking for safe passage. They’re supposed to honor it.”

“They will, as long as we don’t do anything stupid,” Fiddlestix assured him. “Karl insists upon treating everyone as a guest. But if we give him a reason, he’ll kill us himself without a qualm.”

“Nice fellow,” Blacksmith muttered.

“That nice fellow was like a father to me once,”was her terse rejoinder. She mounted her bike, kicked the starter and waited for them to do the same. “So, what do we do if we run into any of Bobby’s boys?”

“First, we hope we don’t. Barring that, we play nice unless they don’t mind their manners,. If they don’t….” Blacksmith shrugged casually.

There was no safe road where they were going, so they turned east, skirting the shoreline, doing their best to avoid swamps, lagoons and gullies. The night sight helped a lot, as did the three dimensional map of the terrain their bikes projected for them. It operated on the same principle as Doppler radar, and updated immediately, warning of hazards ahead of them. The going was slow, but so far they had avoided the Château Noir. With luck, they would make it to the Harlichs without Bobby knowing they were there.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 23 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan cover

Fiddlestix, now out of the military, is a solo for hire. She’s been approached by a man named Donan Varin, the Contractor King. He has a problem, and he wants her help. He’s accompanied by two bodyguards, Buzzard and Blacksmith.

The bodyguards stepped forward. Buzzard laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. Blacksmith detached her fingers from his employer’s shirt front.

“I would hate to hurt a lady, but if you do that again, ma’am, I’ll end you,” Buzzard said in a mild tone.

Shrugging their hands aside, she stalked away from Varin. “You still haven’t said what you want.”

“I hear you’re connected.”

“Maybe you heard wrong.” She lit another cigarette and waited, feigning disinterest. The set of her broad shoulders gave her away.

Varin shook his head. “You have a relationship with two groups I most need to contact. Not many can boast the same.”

“I have many acquaintances. Which ones?” She blew smoke at him casually, as if he didn’t have her full attention.

“The Shine Clan and the Harlichs.” Varin looked smug.

“I don’t know who you mean.” It was a feeble bluff.

“You know exactly who I mean. My wife also has connections with them, which is why I need your help.”

“Maybe she wanted to leave you, Varin. Did that occur to you?”

He shook his head adamantly. “Scarlet would never do that.”

“What connection does your wife have with them?”

“The same as you, blood bond.”

Fiddlestix fell silent, waiting.

“The name Scarlet Obert Varin should elicit a distinct response from both organizations.”

“Hannah Braun officially died years ago, Varin. I don’t know if my contacts will be expecting a call from me.”

“All I ask is that you try. I will pay you handsomely.”

“How handsomely?”

He named a figure that made her mind boggle. That got her full attention.

“Half now, half when the job is complete.”

“You are aware it’s a face to face. I can’t just call and expect them to talk to me.”

Varin nodded again. “I am aware of that. The boys will accompany you.”

“I’m ex Special Forces, I don’t need bodyguards.”

“It would make me feel better knowing you had company.”

Fiddlestix cracked an uncharacteristic grin, running her fingers through her short, platinum blonde, spiked hair. “I’m touched, really. But I can handle myself.”

He shook his head, adamant. “Since your last contact with the Harlichs, things have changed. Château Noir now owns most of the nearby territory. They have an open contract on you.”

“Château Noir, huh? Interesting development. When did they change the name from Black House Anarchy?”

“Two years ago,” Buzzard replied.

“You want us to go now, chica?”

“As much as I hate to admit it, Blacksmith, yes. Bad Ass Baker and his boys would like to grind me into dog food, alive.”

“Bad Ass Baker?” Buzzard looked confused. “Our intel says a guy by the name Shogun Corbett runs Noir.”

“Skinny guy with black, greasy hair and covered in tattoos with multiple piercings?”

“Yeah.” Buzzard said.

“That’s Bobby. He must have upgraded his moniker when he changed their name to Château Noir. In my day it was Bobby Alvin Baker.”

“I understand you two used to date?” This from Blacksmith.

“He had much better hygiene in those days,”was her cryptic reply. “He also was pretty bad ass in bed.”She winked at Blacksmith, who chuckled.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan Part 22 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix has left the military and is now freelancing as a solo. Her path leads her to Daytona Beach, where she’s sitting in a bar, waiting for something to happen.

As if on an unspoken signal, the three men approached her table, in a non-threatening manner. The bodyguards kept their hands well away from their weapons, moving in to flank the corp. He stopped by her table, asking permission to sit with a gesture of his hand. A sharp inclination of her spiked blonde head indicated he could. Taking a seat on the rickety chair, he leaned across the table in a conspiratorial manner drawing unwanted attention. Fiddlestix pressed her thick soled boot against his seat, pushing it away from the table, tapping his testicles in the process. Getting the idea, he moved back.

“Is there somewhere more appropriate we can talk?” Even his voice was medium range and uninfluenced by an accent.

Fiddlestix was formulating a snide, snappish reply when he reached up to remove his glasses. For the first time, she saw something of him that wasn’t dull brown. His eyes were a startling, vivid green. The expression in them was one of desperation. Her manner changed rapidly from sarcastic to curious.

“Sure.” she said softly.”Low’s got some private conference rooms downstairs.”

The tall, ugly one nodded slowly. The short one looked around quickly, assessing the room before Fiddlestix and the corporate rose from the table.

“Lead the way,” the short man said with a thick Hispanic accent.

Remaining wary, she strutted toward the stairs leading down to the private, secure conference rooms. They were the only aspect of Low Blow Gonzalez’ dive bar that was high tech and sophisticated, laced with a security system that made Fort Knox look like it was made from Tinker Toys. They entered one of the rooms, locking it with a code that Fiddlestix tapped in. The room would remain sealed until she released it.

The corporate took a seat in one of the broken down chairs, inviting Fiddlestix to sit. Knowing the instability of the furniture, she chose to stand instead.

“How can I be of assistance, Mr…?”

He had failed to introduce himself. Fiddlestix refused to deal with people whose names she did not know.

“Smith,” he replied with a furtive look at his bodyguards.”These two gentlemen are Blacksmith and Buzzard.”

“Your real name. I don’t deal with people who hide things from me. You want my help, be honest.”

“Donnan Varin,” he admitted quietly.

“The contractor king?”

Varin had forged an empire by building substandard housing for the poor. Dozens of lawsuits were pending. To avoid controversy, he went into hiding. Now here he sat bold as brass, begging for her help.

“Yes,” he muttered. “But it’s not what you think.”

“Mr. Varin was indisposed for awhile,” Blacksmith explained.

“A lot was done in my name,” Varin said fixing her with a commanding gaze. “My affairs were mishandled by people I thought I could trust.”

Fiddlestix propped one foot on an unsteady chair, lighting a cigarette while she waited for him to continue. Instead, he turned to Blacksmith, eyes pleading.

Blacksmith stepped forward. “What Mr. Varin is trying to say, is that while he was indisposed, things went wrong in his business and his wife disappeared.”

“Define indisposed. How could all this happen without his knowledge or consent?”

“I was medically incapacitated.”

Fiddlestix was getting annoyed, which usually meant she got violent. “That didn’t explain at all. I want plain English, Varin, or I walk.”

“Well, I was dead.”

“Dead?”

He nodded nervously. “For a period of five years, I was dead. This body is a replacement, the first one died of a rather dreadful disease.”

“You’re a clone?”

“Yes. You see, I had my former body held in stasis until I could reunite my body with my psyche.”

“Spare me the details. It sounds like it’s bordering on metaphysical, let’s not go there.” She turned away, waving her hand, ending the discussion.

“I badly need your help, Miss Braun.”

Fiddlestix whirled on him, grabbing his shirt. “Don’t ever use that name! Hannah Braun is dead.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan – Part 21 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverIt’s time to go. Fiddlestix had to make a clean break, running away from Deacon. Only her sense of duty to her people has made her go back. She couldn’t let them face McLain alone.

McLain was waiting at the tarmac to meet them. He didn’t look happy. When he saw how few of the cyber warriors she’d brought home, he was even angrier. “Those men are worth a million apiece and you killed them?”

“They were a threat, sir.”

“You know what I think, Master Sergeant? I think you’re the threat.”

“With all due respect, sir, you’re full of shit. You sent us in there knowing what we were up against. You know what I think? I think you sent them there on purpose.” She clapped him on the shoulder in a friendly fashion.

“You can’t prove that,” McLain growled, jerking away.

Fiddlestix smiled as if to say she could do exactly that. Without another word, she marched back to her quarters. McLain ran to his quarters and began going through files on his computer. He put in a call to Frieze, bellowing at the younger man to come help him destroy the evidence. A few moments later, there was a knock at his office door.

Without bothering to check who it was, McLain yelled, “Come in!”

Fiddlestix entered, surrounded by military police. “Take the general into custody.”

“Yes, Master Sergeant.”

They surrounded McLain who yelled and protested. “You can’t prove this. You can’t prove a damn thing!”

“But I can, sir. You haven’t hidden your tracks very well. That little device you’ll notice on your arm was very helpful.”

He looked at his arm and saw she had placed a nearly invisible surveillance device on him. Everything he had said and done since getting in his office had been recorded and sent to a judge, including copies of all his files.

“General McLain,” the MP said quietly. “I’m afraid I have to arrest you now, sir.”

McLain left without an argument. As he passed Fiddlestix, he spit in her face. She smiled sweetly, wiping the spittle on his jacket.

“You haven’t heard the last of me!”

“That’s true. I’ll see you in court, sir.” She gestured to the MP. “Take this sack of shit out of my sight.”

“Yes, Master Sergeant.”

Fiddlestix watched them lead McLain away. He turned once to glare at her, but she hardly noticed. Instead, a sweet melody filled her head as she watched the sunset. She felt Deacon’s arms around her and she smiled knowing that some day she would go back to Shine Peak. One day, she would go home.

Daytona Beach, Florida 2052

Fiddlestix sat with her back to the wall, in the corner of the dingy, ill lit room, watching the crowd surreptitiously. No one came to Low Blow Gonzalez’ Bar because it was a popular night spot. They came to find work, but more often found trouble. Dressed in dusty biker leathers, she fit right into the sleazy, dirty atmosphere with ease, just as she intended. Keeping a low profile, she continued to scan the crowd. Dim figures moved around the room. Some drifted in the vicinity of her seat, but a glare from her and they quickly walked away, slouching into their collars, hands shoved deep in pockets. Her battered weapon and formidable cyber arm convinced them to move on.

Paper fluttered on the bulletin board near the abruptly opened front door. A dozen hands dropped to an odd assortment of lethal weapons. None drew, waiting. A trio of men walked in. The first was tall, muscular and singularly ugly. The second was short, squat and wore a black duster that dragged the ground. The third looked like a lower level corporate; medium height, weight and build. His hair was a nondescript shade of brown. His eyes were covered with dark glasses. His suit was dark brown with a beige shirt and rust colored tie. In other words, innocuous.

Once it was established that the newcomers weren’t there to start something, the customers returned to their conversations. The corporate stood behind the other two men, while the big one moved forward, scanning the room slowly. His gaze traveled the perimeter of the room, coming slowly to Fiddlestix’ location. Another step toward her, and she had her weapon in her hand. She aimed at him under the table, casually tipping back in her chair to get a better shot.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 20 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverThere is a wonderful party after the ceremony. After a special dance, Deacon takes Fiddlestix back to bed. The following morning, Jasper wakes them again, because it’s time for her to go home.

“I don’t want to go, Deacon. I wish I could stay with you forever.”

“You could, Hannah-Belle.”

“I’ve got commitments, Deacon. I can’t walk out on them.”

“I know, baby, I just don’t want you to go.”

“I’ll come back.”

“You promise?”

“Cross my heart,” she whispered, her voice catching in her throat.

“I’m gonna hold you to that promise, Hannah. You stole my heart right out of my chest. You can’t stay gone, a man can’t live with long without his heart.”

“I’ll give you mine then,” she placed her hand on his chest.

She could feel his heart beating strong and fast. Suddenly terrified by the idea of commitment, she kissed him one last time and dashed from the room. Deacon followed her to the door, stopping just outside the compound as she and her people prepared to march down the mountain. Their air transport, sent by Captain Bark, would pick them up near their drop point and take them back to their base.

Deacon raised his hand, whistling to catch her attention. The sharp, shrill sound rent the air. Fiddlestix turned and grinned, raising a hand to wave goodbye. Deacon blew her a kiss which she returned. One last, fond look and she ran to the head of the formation, bellowing at her troops.

“Move it out! Double time. Don’t make me wait!”

“Yes, Master Sergeant!” they yelled in unison, speeding up.

The last Deacon saw of her was her spiky, blonde hair bobbing at the head of the column. That faded into the mist that hung over the mountain top. With a heavy sigh, he turned and walked disconsolately back into the compound. Jasper ran up behind him, nearly tackling him.

“Yo, big brother! You’ve got a meeting at 1100.”

“Yeah? So what? Maybe I’ll cancel all my meetings today.”

“No can do, bro. Life’s got to go on, Deacon. Even if she’s gone, you can’t stop doing your duty.”

“I know. It’s duty got me into this, it’s duty that will keep me going until she comes back.”

Punching his brother in the arm, he walked to his office. He sat behind the desk that had been his father’s and grandfather’s before him, wondering what else life had in store.

Fiddlestix had to force herself not to keep looking back. She knew Deacon would stand at the door until she was out of sight. If she looked back at him, she didn’t know if she’d be able to stand it.

Kaz jogged up next to her, puffing hard. “Master Sergeant, can we slow it down a little? Some of us, me included, can’t keep up. I’m hurtin’ bad. If you don’t slow down, I’m gonna drop dead. Hell of a note to live through the battle, and die of exhaustion.”

Fiddlestix laughed and slowed down. “Sorry. I had to make a clean break. If I hadn’t, I don’t know if I’d have left.”

“You could have stayed.”

“And make you face McLain alone?”

Kaz looked wistfully back at the mountain peak. “I wouldn’t have minded staying myself, Master Sergeant.” He sucked air in sharply. “Damn, that girl was fine! I could have stayed my whole life and never been sorry a day. When I get out of the Army, I’m going back. I’m going home.”

“I’m not the settling down kind, Kaz. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s not the life for me.”

“You might surprise yourself, Master Sergeant. I seen the way you looked at Deacon. You ain’t gonna admit it to yourself, but you’re hooked on that big, blond hillbilly.”

“And I suppose you aren’t hooked on Betsy?”

“I’m gonna marry that girl and have a passel of pretty, redheaded babies.”

“I truly hope you can, Kaz.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan by Dellani Oakes – Part 19

among the shine clan coverAt the ceremony, Kazinsky, Harmony and Fiddlestix are awarded ranks in the Shine Clan Militia. Not only that, Fiddlestix is formally adopted by the Clan. Oh—and Deacon proposed.

Deacon extended his hand. When Fiddlestix took it, he drew her to him and kissed her passionately in front of the entire assembly. He held her close, whispering in her ear. “One day, Hannah, you’ll stand here as my wife.”

Fiddlestix didn’t know what to say. She was stunned by her reception by this clannish, secluded people. They treated her like family, called her friend, and extended the warmth and comfort of their hearts and home to her. Even among her own people, she had never been so well accepted. Tears threatened to fall. To hide them, she took Deacon’s head in her hands, bringing his mouth down to hers once more. They kissed hungrily as the crowd went crazy.

Someone in the audience started yelling, “Speech! Speech!”

Everyone took up the chant. There was nothing for it, she would have to say something. Deacon led her to the center of the stage and the crowd grew quiet before being asked.

“I’m not good at giving speeches,” Fiddlestix grinned rather nervously. “But I do want to thank you all for your kindness and generosity, as well as your bravery and sacrifice. Everyone here lost someone they care about. Therefore, I honor your dead by swearing to you that I will always do my best, no matter what, to protect the Shine Clan. You are my family now. Thank you!”

She stepped back by Deacon, trying to lose herself behind his massive body. He took her hand, leading her forward once more. To loud, joyous applause, he took a bow, encouraging her to bow as well.

Blushing furiously, she backed up to hide in the ranks of her soldiers. They parted enough to let her into the front row, but refused to let her go any further. They were proud of her and they thought she deserved all the praise she was getting.

After the ceremony, a huge dinner was set up. The Shine Clan women prided themselves on being able to feed a man until he could eat no more. They pressed food on Fiddlestix’ men, practically force feeding them. After eating, the tables were pushed out of the way and musicians clamored onto an improvised stage at one end of the room. They struck up a traditional square dance and Frank Lord got up to call it.

Fiddlestix had no idea what she was doing, so she refused to dance. Deacon and Jasper tried to persuade her, but she kept refusing. Finally, in desperation, Deacon spoke to the musicians and asked for a different tune. Because it was for Fiddlestix, they heartily agreed. The square dance tune ended and the couples left the floor. The band struck up a slow dance, an old tune from the 1970’s.

It wasn’t something Fiddlestix remembered hearing before, but it was so sweetly compelling, she agreed to dance with Deacon. The melody carried her away and she lost herself in his embrace. As they danced, he sang to her, his voice a smooth, melodic tenor. The lyrics brought tears to her eyes as they danced.

“I wanna rock your gypsy soul, just like way back in the days of old. And magnificently we will go into the mystic.”

It wasn’t a long song, but the band enjoyed watching Deacon and Fiddlestix dance so much, they improvised, each instrument taking a solo. She didn’t even notice that she and Deacon were the only ones dancing until the music stopped. Her heart was so full, she wanted to cry. Tears welled in her blue eyes, dripping out the corners and down her cheeks. Deacon leaned forward, kissing her gently. Quiet applause surrounded them as they walked off the dance floor. Instead of stopping for the congratulations and well wishes, Deacon took her back to his quarters.

“Won’t everyone wonder where we’ve gone?”

Deacon got his elbow stuck in his sleeve and nearly ripped his shirt trying to get it free. “I don’t give a good damn. Let ’em wonder.”

“As their leader, don’t you have to put in an appearance?”

“Did that all ready. Hush now, woman, and kiss me.”

They made love long into the night, finally falling into an exhausted sleep once more. It seemed no time later that Jasper was again banging on the door. This time, he woke them to let Fiddlestix know that her people were ready to go. Their job done, it was time to go back to General McLain and make their report.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan by Dellani – Part 18

among the shine clan coverAfter the cyberwarriors are taken care of, Deacon and Fiddlestix enjoy one another’s company. Jasper wakes them the next day, calling them for a meeting.

After a short explanation, a sharp slap and a brief apology, he got her some clothing.

“Next time you visit, I promise to have clothes in your size for you to wear,” he smiled as he watched her dress.

“You know, I didn’t like you much when we first met,” Fiddlestix told him. “But damn if you didn’t grow on me.”

“Kind of like a fungus?” He winked. “You should marry me, Hannah-Belle. I’d make you mighty happy.”

“That’s just the sex talking, Deacon. You don’t want me. I’m a soldier, not a wife.”

“I don’t want just a wife, Hannah. I want someone who will stand beside me and help me lead, like my mama and grand-mama before her. Our women don’t take second place, they’re equal to their mates. Think about it, Hannah. The offer’s open.”

“Thanks, Deacon. I will.”

“I’m serious,” he told her, taking her hands in his. “I’ve never met a woman I wanted more than you. Stay with me, Hannah. Forget the Army. Stay here with me.” His kiss was compelling, inviting her to forget everything else.

“I can’t,” she whispered. “This is who I am, Deacon.”

“But you could be so much more.”

Dropping the subject because he could see it made her uncomfortable, he led her to the main gathering area. It was a huge auditorium lined with benches, set up like an amphitheater. They walked to the base of the steps. Deacon held out his arm to her, walking beside her up the stairs. Her soldiers were already gathered on the huge stage, Harmony and Kaz in the forefront. Deacon escorted her to the head of the line, walking to the center of the stage.

Holding up his hands, he signaled for quiet. The chatting and whispering stopped and almost complete silence fell. Fiddlestix was impressed. She had never seen a quieter, more orderly crowd.

“We are gathered here today to honor those who came to our aid. Let us rejoice that our home is once more safe and secure!”

Wild cheering filled the room, echoing off the metal lined walls. Deacon let it continue a few moments, then held up his hands once more. Silence fell again.

“For bravery in combat, and continuing to fight even though he was sorely wounded, The Fire Star goes to Corporal Walter Kazinski of the United States Army.”

Kaz limped forward, one arm in a sling. His bruised face was wreathed in a happy grin. Betsy stood by his side, supporting him. Deacon put the medal around his neck. It hung from a red and gold ribbon. They exchanged a complicated handshake and Kaz stood to one side.

“From now on, Walter Kazinski also holds the rank of Guard Sergeant in the Shine Clan Militia.”

Fiddlestix knew that Guard Sergeant was equivalent to her rank and was more than just an honorary position. If Kaz ever returned to live with the Shine Clan, his orders would be honored and followed like any other officer’s.

“For bravery in the face of the enemy, and his assistance in shutting down the enemy soldiers, The Silver Star goes to Private Steven Harmony.”

Harmony strutted forward and was given his medal on a blue and silver ribbon. He took his place beside Kaz.

“Private Harmony now holds the rank of Lance Corporal in the Shine Clan Militia.

“Finally, for bravery, courage under fire, tenacity, and ingenuity, the Shine Clan Golden Star goes to Master Sergeant Hannah Braun.”

Wild cheers exploded around the auditorium as the gold and white ribbon slid over her head. The Shine Clan members were only marginally louder than Fiddlestix’ own soldiers. Even when Deacon held his hands up for silence, it was several minutes before quiet descended again.

When everyone finally settled down, Deacon continued. “As an additional honor, Hannah has been awarded a captaincy in the Shine Clan Militia. Also, the Clan adopts her as one of its own. From now on, Hannah, you are a member of our family, second to none.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 16

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix and Deacon find Pete on top of the mountain. Deacon shows her his personal cloaking device. She provides a distraction, talking to Pete, while he moves into position. Fiddlestix fires at the cyber handler, only to find herself contained in the slow motion field.

Pete leaned in, careful not to be caught in the field himself. “Pretty,” he chuckled darkly. “Pretty, pretty lady. Very deadly, insubordinate. Macky doesn’t like you, nope, nope, nope! Wacky Macky doesn’t like interfering, fiddling Stix!”

With a mammoth effort, Fiddlestix tried to move her hand to fire at him. He was so close, she could smell his bad breath. But he wasn’t close enough to get caught in her field. Suddenly, Pete Livingston was shoved into her. Caught in the same slow motion field she was, he was at her mercy. Her cyber arm was able to move more quickly than the flesh and blood one. It wasn’t governed by the same parameters as the rest of her. Blade deployed, it slid slowly through his throat, severing his spine. Gurgling, Pete Livingston wilted to the ground, his blood spraying in long, slow motion arcs, bathing her from head to foot.

With a disorienting surge, time started moving right again. Deacon was at her side, Livingston’s computer in his hands. Grabbing her arm, he jerked her toward the clearing. There was, rather unexpectedly, a console in the middle surrounded by toadstools and wild flowers. Deacon placed his hands on the dome covering the control panel and it slid aside. Palm down, he placed it on a screen. A quick scan and she saw a row of yellow blinking lights gradually fade and go out.

“Your people are free again,” he said. “Contact them.”

“Diaz,” she bellowed.

“Yes, Master Sergeant!”

“Get to the Shine Clan compound. They need our help.”

Deacon was already talking to Jasper. “Hannah’s people are heading up the mountain now. They’re coming to help.”

“Get back here fast,” Jasper said abruptly. “It’s fixing to cut loose.”

“On my way.” Deacon held the device out to Fiddlestix. “Tell me you can use this,” he implored.

“I can’t, but Harmony can. He used to be a handler. What’s the fastest way back down?”

“The speediest elevator east of the Mississippi.”

He grinned, leading her to a large tree to the side of the clearing. The inside of the tree was hollow. There was a metal platform that hardly looked big enough for the two of them to stand on it. Deacon held her to him, hugging her close, heedless of the blood on her. As soon as they stepped on the platform, it started to drop.

Fiddlestix felt like she was going to vomit. Had the trip been any longer, she probably would have. It was over in less than thirty seconds. Ears ringing, she stumbled out of the shaft with Deacon in her wake. They were standing next to the room they’d started from earlier, at the junction of the tunnels leading to the east and west gates. They heard fighting behind them. A glance at the scanner showed that the cyber warriors were already at the east gate.

“Harmony!”

“Yo, Master Sergeant!”

“Got a job for you. Where are you?”

“East gate, Master Sergeant. We’re under attack.”

“Coming.”

Deacon nearly dragged her behind him as they ran along the hall. Harmony was waiting for them at the mouth of the tunnel. She thrust the scanner into his hands.

“What can you do with this?”

“Let me see.” He fiddled a moment with the controls, then smiled. “It’s responding. Get your console, Master Sergeant. We’ll take these boys out.”

Kaz’ console in her hands, she typed in the deactivation code. She followed Harmony to the gate. Cyber warriors were mowing down the Shine Clan soldiers, flattening them. The one doing the most damage slowed slightly, hitched and stopped moving. His gaze traveled to Fiddlestix and Harmony. Raising his weapon, he tried to fire, but froze. His companions surged him over, walking on top of him as they clambered up to the door. The second one in line faltered, hesitated and crashed onto its back. The third got a little further, but tripped on his downed companions before toppling over and rolling down the mountain a couple hundred yards before crashing into a tree.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 15 by Dellani

among the shine clan coverAlthough they haven’t found Pete Livingston, Deacon thinks me might be at the top of Shine Peak. He takes Fiddlestix to the fire station so they can fly in via a two man flitter.

No questions, just instant response. No one knew what he was planning, but they didn’t second guess his orders. Fiddlestix had to admire that about him, as well as his people.

“We’ll fly in,” he told her. “Can you handle a two man flitter, Master Sergeant?”

“Rating ten, General.”

“Great. I’m only an eight. You fly.”

“As the general wishes,” she winked.

At the fire station, they ran up the steps of the fire tower. Saunders had a small, two man flitter set up and ready to go. The small ultralight looked like a skeletal bug, but it was fast, highly maneuverable and silent. They put on helmets and goggles and took off. Deacon showed her where to circle around and land on top of Shine Peak where they were less likely to be seen.

“If he’s in the room itself, he’s blind. No monitors work up there. If he’s outside, he can still be partially shielded. The scanners won’t work right there, not with all that power flowing through it.”

“What does that cloak do? My people disappeared. But even cloaked, they’d be able to hear me and respond.”

“They get held in a slow motion field. They won’t hear your voice until sometime next week.”

“What?”

“It’s like a stasis field, but takes less power to maintain and leaves less of a footprint.”

“I see,” but she really didn’t at all.

“You trust me, Hannah?”

Fiddlestix blinked. Did she? “Yes.”

“Good.” He kissed her and disappeared. He reappeared behind her. “Portable. Only a few of us have them. That’s how we snuck up on you in the woods.”

He took her hand firmly, pulling her close. He hit a button on his communicator and a shimmering wall surrounded them. She could see through it, but it was like the entire world had slowed down. They weren’t affected.

“How’d you do that?”

“Slight modification. We are cloaked, but can move. Don’t talk though. We’re invisible, not inaudible.”

Picking their path carefully, they approached the top of the mountain. In a small clearing, she saw Pete Livingston. He gazed intently at something in his hands, occasionally laughing slightly hysterically.

“I know you’re there, Hannah Braun. I know, know, know!” he giggled, turning in slow circles, looking for them. “Yes, yes. I know! Come out, come out wherever you are!” He pointed directly at them, eyes wide with maniacal glee.

Deacon said nothing. Walking in a slow arc, he moved to the other side of Livingston. Putting her finger to her lips, Fiddlestix let go of his hand. She immediately reappeared facing the psychotic handler.

“Look, look! There you are! I knew it! Can’t fool Pete. Nope, nope, nope!”

“I’m here to take you back, Pete. McLain’s plan has failed. We’re taking your men out.”

“Code’s not working anymore is it?” He giggled loudly. “Not anymore!” He teased, waving the small computer in his hands. Dancing around in a circle, he giggled again. “They’re almost to the doors now,” he sounded almost rational. “Very soon it will all be over. We’ll take the compound and kill them all off. Yes, we will! And you’ll be blamed! You’ll face court marshal, yes you will! Marshal court, court marshal! Then won’t you be sorry, sorry, sorry that you insulted General McLain! Because only he can save you!”

“I’m gonna kill you, Pete. I’ll end you. Right here, right now.”

“Nope, nope! Not gonna end like that. I’m gonna kill you!” He hopped and danced, chanting, “I’m gonna kill you, I’m gonna kill you!”

Fiddlestix had enough. Grabbing her handgun from her belt, she fired at Pete’s head. Point blank range, the bullet never left her gun. She was slowed in a time field. Caught in the same cloak as her people, she could only stand there feeling like a fool, gun raised and ready.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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