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Neuravoid

Book 3:

Project Juniper

More Details

Formats: Ebook, paperback
Paperback ASIN:
Ebook ASIN: B0D5Z3KS1P
ISBN-13:

About the Book

The thrilling conclusion to the Project Juniper series.

Join Juniper and Astor as they persevere against the corrupt forces reigning Astrellune.

Chapter 1

Juniper

“Turn that off, would you?” Astor snaps. His fingers twitch as if he’s ready to snatch Hana’s airscreen and shatter it on the ground.

Hana sniffs at him and keeps listening to the Net news.  Her face is tinted with the multi-colored neon lights affixed to the onyx walls. “Why? It’s important stuff.”

Quinn glances at me, then at her. “I agree with Astor,” he says quietly, but Hana doesn’t hear him.

“The leaders of our country are aiming for a repeat of the Kometu-Astrellune War. According to our anonymous source, the data we received on the New Realm shows that Phase Three is extremely dangerous. Brennan’s murder was at the hands of one of the Blessed, and it’s likely that this brutal killing will now serve as the catalyst for a war. The Blessed are—”

The lump in my throat chokes my breath. The Blessed. Ida’s probably one of them by now, unable to tell her thoughts apart from another’s.  I focus on the lights reflecting off the stone walls, creating an ominously cheerful effect.

It reminds me of the Fray, which is oddly comforting.

Hana grins, still listening to the feed. “Anonymous source. Heh. That’s me.”

Astor gives her a small, patient smile. “Yep. We heard you the last four times.”

“And I’ll say it again.” She pauses. “Well, I did have some help from Asahi. Can’t believe she managed to get her hands on those documents years before any of us knew about it.”

Astor suddenly makes a grab for Hana’s airscreen, but she nimbly dodges his fingers. He ends up crashing into the wall.

He rubs his shoulder and groans. “Seriously, Hana. Turn it off.”

I hum and touch his shoulder briefly, my fingers meeting his. “You okay?”

He nods right as Hana turns around to glance at me. She blinks as if she only just remembered I’m there. Realization dawns on her features. “Ah. The…the Net feed. Sorry, Juni, I—”

I wave my hand dismissively. “It’s fine. Let’s not make a big deal out of it.”

Yet discomfort crawls under my skin. It’s just a Net feed. Just a Net feed, talking about how hundreds of thousands of people are going to die in a meaningless war if we don’t get that fail-safe and stop Phase Three. A Net feed serving as a reminder that if I don’t succeed, Mino and Ida will die.

Hana mutes the volume on her airscreen and clears her throat lightly. “How do you think the others are doing?”

Asahi, Yuzuki, Tsuki, Lazlo, and Mino are traveling in a separate group—the tunnels are far too narrow for all of us to squeeze through.

“I hope they’re all right.” Minette’s voice is hardly a whisper, drifting over from where she trails behind us, but the sound makes us all jump.

“They will be,” I say with a confidence I don’t have.

Asahi was the one who suggested we split up after the underground transport could go no further. She set our meeting point to a lake in South Welkinor.

We continue our trek in silence until my airscreen emits a little soothing chime.

“Breaking news from The Luminan Herald,” I mutter under my breath. I drag the article front-and-center so the three of us can read it. As the words sink in, I draw in a shaky breath. “The war’s started.”

“What?” Hana steps closer and squints at the words, then curses loudly. “Realms, of course they wasted no time invading. Those greedy mother—”

Quinn clears his throat. “Let’s move faster. The sooner we get to Welkinor, the better.”

Astor, on the other hand, looks terrified. “My parents are there,” he whispers, eyes wide. “I-I haven’t been able to get in touch with them…”

As Hana comforts him, I continue to skim the article with increasing horror. My gaze falls upon the video thumbnail attached to the article. My fingers tremble, but still, I open it. The quality is low, the camera shaky, but the sound of screams is clear among the muffled gunshots. My stomach curls in on itself, a jarring, violent movement.

Astor’s big blue eyes watch me, filled with fear.

There’s another video attached at that bottom, the censored surveillance footage of Brennan’s death. I tap the play button. The Kometune woman has a microphone attached to her somewhere—her voice is unobstructed by the noise of the party around her. The video enhances the image, and I watch the light play across her features. Brennan is drugged before her, slouching over in a VIP booth.

“You’re…in the way…” He slurs.

“And you’re in mine.” The woman mechanically turns to look right at the surveillance camera.

A chill runs down my spine. Her words sound as if they’re directed toward me.

She shoots Brennan, then slowly lifts the gun to her own head. Bang.

The video cuts off, and I remain rooted to the ground. My thoughts race in circles, chasing one another like little, vicious creatures. You’re in my way.

The connection to Valdis is clear. He’s sending us a message.

I won’t give up. I’ll kill you, even if it kills me in the process. I’ll tear you limb from limb, make you suffer. You’ll regret keeping me alive.

The thought burns bright in my head, a quiet blue flame. Vile hatred bubbles up inside me like a poison. I clench my hands into fists so hard that my nails cut into my palms, little bleeding crescent moons imprinted into the skin—but my left hand refuses to comply, the fingers twitching erratically. The memory of Valdis placing my hand on a conveyor belt and the vivid sensation of my hand being crushed sends blood rushing into my ears; I can’t hear what Hana or Astor are saying. I just keep walking, every footstep searing the ground.

Minette gently taps my shoulder. When I turn to her, she cocks her head at me expectantly.

I open my mouth to explain everything but realize I have nothing to say, so I close it again. Instead, I shake my head, pinch my lips, and lower my gaze before moving on.

***

Luckily, the other group is still in one piece when we finally climb out of the tunnels. Minette immediately moves to stand near the small frozen pond off to the left, her footsteps clumsy over the snow. She crouches down to examine the frozen fish beneath the surface and remains still and silent.

“Ah, you guys made it.” Asahi perches on a mossy rock at the edge of the lake, right next to Yuzuki, who’s lying flat on her back in boredom, her legs resting on Asahi’s lap. Asahi pushes her legs off and stands up, brushing the snow off her pants.

Lazlo yawns and stretches, greeting the early morning sun. “Took you long enough. You didn’t even have a healing pod to carry.”

Tsuki, who’s monitoring Mino, tuts. “We took the much shorter route for that very reason. Of course we arrived first.”

“How’s he doing?” Astor nods toward the pod before dragging the grassy metal cover back over the entrance, where it clangs shut. Hana kicks some snow over it to cover it up while Quinn and I head toward the pod.

Mino’s face is still gray and sickly. If his vitals weren’t on Tsuki’s screen right now, I’d think he was dead. The thought becomes a pressure point at my temples, an image I can’t dismiss.

Tsuki sighs. “No improvement in his condition. No deterioration, either, but we must be careful. The neuravirus will continue to progress. We cannot risk removing him from the pod.”

“Then we better hurry.” Hana frowns at the snow covering the tunnel entrance. “The war’s already started.” She starts walking, and the rest of us trail after her. Lazlo and Tsuki pick up the healing pod and carry it between them.

Once we’re past the lake, Asahi grimaces. “It’s clear Valdis is behind all this. Brennan and Cahill’s deaths. The war. He’s even taken control over the Luminan government.”

Yuzuki snorts. “Yeah, the Herald called it,” she pauses to pull up the article on her airscreen, “an ‘act of heroism and display of leadership to step in during Lumina’s time of great need.’ What a load of garbage.” She swipes the article away with a look of pure contempt.

“We won’t let him win,” I say firmly, “He may be more powerful, but once we have the fail-safe and use it, we can make our next move.”

Hana frowns. “I heard Kometu’s started preparing their defenses. Their government is trying to push for negotiations, but I think they know it’s not likely to work.”

“There should be an abandoned scrapyard further past here. We could probably salvage an old hydro car and use that to get to the South.” Yuzuki gestures vaguely ahead of us.

Minette wordlessly trails behind her. I bring up the rear with Astor, watching her stumble and trip over roots. She wouldn’t get very far if she tried to run, although I’m not sure why she’d do that. It’s not like she’s our prisoner.

The next time she trips, I catch her by the shoulders and give her a gentle push so she says upright.

She frowns at the ground in confusion. “I thought it would be flat.”

I shake my head. “Ah…no, it isn’t. Be careful when you walk.”

Still frowning, she continues to pick her way through the snow.

Astor nudges me. “Um…I don’t want to pry, but…”

I feel my lips twitch. “Go on, spit it out.” I already know what he’s going to ask, and I’m not even sure I want to answer.

“Is everything okay? I mean…given everything that’s happened…”

I stare at a patch of snow up ahead, unable to meet his eyes. “I’m not sure.” Then, I give him a lopsided smile. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?”

He sighs. “I’m not sure, either.” Still, he returns the smile. “Guess we’ll just have to keep going and see where we end up.”

The snowy landscape stretches far before us. Soon enough, we’ll be in Welkinor. Soon, we’ll end this fight.

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The Series

Neuracode - Part 1

Book 0.5

Neuracode - Part II

Book 0.6

Neurahack

Book 1

Neurabreak

Book 2

Neuravoid

Book 3
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