Fiddlestix is in an untenable position. A group of rogue cyber-soldiers has disappeared, along with their handler. They are tracked to a remote area of Tennessee mountains, owned by a militaristic organization which calls itself the Shine Clan. Ordered to retrieve the soldiers, she and her team are sent into hostile Shine Clan territory. Shortly after they're dropped in the zone, her people start to disappear. Deciding to take matters head on, Fiddlestix goes looking for the leader of the Shine Clan.
Spinning in a low, continuous circle, she bellowed for all she was worth. Hurling insults, she castigated the landscape. Harmony and Kaz looked more and more concerned. Kaz gasped suddenly, pointing over Fiddlestix' left shoulder. She felt a tingling. Moving around so she faced the opposite direction, she kept her hands carefully away from her weapons, motioning her men to do the same. Taking a step forward, she focused on the bracken to the west, waiting.
A moment later, the bushes rustled and dozens of huge men poured forth. The smallest of them was well over six feet, dwarfing Harmony, who was six foot seven. Their bodies were muscled in ways that Fiddlestix had never seen before. All of them were tall, buff and disarmingly handsome. None of them were smiling.
One man stepped forward, literally toe to toe with Fiddlestix. Well over seven feet tall, he loomed over her. At six three, she was used to looking down on most of her team members. This man made her lean back, gazing at his chin. Despite her irritation and disquietude, her heart fluttered, but not from fear. He was, for lack of a more descriptive term, gorgeous. Built along the lines of a Norse god, his golden blond hair flowed down his back. A tight, narrow braid was knotted with a red strip of leather and tossed casually over his left shoulder. His crystal blue eyes bored into her stormy gray ones.
"I'm here." His deep, husky, musical voice filled her ears. His Southern accent was strong, flavoring his words like honey. "I can't say I much appreciate the disparaging remarks about my character, though." His lips made a firm, tight line. A steely glint flickered in the back of his eyes.
"I need to speak to your leader."
Fiddlestix folded her arms across her ample chest, eyes flickering around the perimeter of the clearing, taking in the opposition. She counted twenty, but figured there were at least twice that many that she couldn't see.
"I'd like to talk to him." She made it clear she wasn't moving until he granted her what she wanted.
"Look, lady, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but do you know who you're talking to?"
A slightly shorter, but more muscular man detached himself from the group behind the blond god. He was even more massively built than the other man, dark and brooding. They had to be brothers, there was a strong family resemblance. Especially in that defiant jaw. His eyes were dark brown, the other man's were a clear, vivid blue with a steely edge.
"I'm Master Sergeant Hannah Braun of the United States Army," she began confidently. "I demand to speak...."
"Honey," the dark haired man's brown eyes danced happily. "You're speakin' to him right now. After the noise you made in our woods, do you think anyone else was gonna come? Master Sergeant Hannah Braun, meet General Deacon Scott of the Shine Clan."
Fiddlestix was stunned. This was the leader of the Shine Clan? He wasn't any older than she was! Had she heard right?
"You're General Scott? We were led to believe that your leader was an older man, in his fifties?"
Deacon's eyes clouded and his jaw worked fitfully as he tried to control his emotions. "My father was killed recently in a raid. You say you know something about the freaks who took our north gate two days ago?"
"Yes. Is there somewhere else we could talk? More private?"
"Anything you have to say to me, Master Sergeant, you can say in front of my men. You folks may keep secrets from your subordinates, but that's not Shine Clan way."
"The men who attacked you are AWOL, General Scott. Their handler, Pete Livingston, decided to walk out with his cyber unit."
"Anyone know why a man would do a fool thing like that?" This from the dark man to General Scott's left.
"No one shared that information with me," Fiddlestix said. "That being the Army's way."
"Jasper, get the lady a stool. I think we're gonna be here awhile."
"Yes, Deacon." He didn't salute, but he treated the other man with deference.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes