The God Queen
by M.L. Tishner
(The Rebirth Saga, #1)
Publication date: October 22nd 2019
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Science Fiction
The God Queen returns. So, why is everyone squelching her power?
In a backwater Earth town, Rei Ettowa dreams of traveling across the stars to destroy Infiernen – the knight who murdered her brother.
When Rei discovers she is the reincarnation of the prophesied God Queen, she relishes her newfound ability to channel lightning for revenge. Unfortunately, blazing through a battlefield clashes with the Federation’s plan for Rei and the others like her. All the gods are to be trained as diplomatic figureheads to sway voters, not agents of war. Infiernen must remain untouched.
Unable to let go of her brother’s murder, Rei finds Infiernen. But instead of killing him, Rei discovers a secret the Federation has been keeping from her about her brother.
Now Rei is mad as hell. Her enemies must pay. But who are they? And what else is the Federation hiding from her?
Bronx stood in a golden forest. Shimmering leaves that reflected the sunlight covered the ground around him, yet he saw no sun. Black tree trunks reached the height of at least three men before the first golden branch appeared. A gentle breeze moved through the woodland, carrying with it the soft scent of lavender. He took a few steps forward, daring to venture in further. The soft ground absorbed the sound of his footsteps. He didn’t see a single living thing around him, and the silence wrapped him like a cocoon.
The crack of a branch echoed in the distance, and Bronx whipped around but saw nothing. He wasn’t alone.
He snapped awake. Crona peered down at him. He must’ve dozed off. Documentation was the most boring part of being a combat medic for the Federation, but Bronx preferred the monotony over returning to the battlefield. He wasn’t ready for that yet.
“Interesting read?” she asked, gesturing to the mountain of paperwork.
“Yeah, the snoring was a good indication.” She pulled out the chair opposite him and sat down.
He chuckled. “It’s the only way to let people know. In case they’re curious about what I’m reading.”
“I’m well aware of the practice. I believe I have done my fair share of snoring after reading some captivating reports on supply chains.” She snorted, taking a handful of papers and placing them in a folder.
“Must run in the family, then.”
“At least on Mom’s side. From what I knew of your dad, he would have actually stayed awake for this sort of thing.” She cocked her head to the side. “Professor of Anthropology, right?”
Bronx nodded but bit his tongue. Crona never met his father, but he knew hers. He never got along with his half-sister’s father and was quite certain that anything he said in his presence would come off as an insult.
He returned to his paperwork.
From where they were stationed on the planet Gliese VI, they saw little action in the current civil war with the Dominion. However, they were close enough to get the wounded from nearby planets, the ones still fighting to be free of the hold of their leader, Sovereign Anekris Praymer. Bronx currently filled out a form in the medical wing for a soldier who was flown in the day before. First Petty Officer… something Prue; he couldn’t recall the soldier’s first name now. He’d been brought to Gliese VI because it was the closest facility and currently lay in a bed, the steady beep of his heart monitor the only sound that echoed in the medical wing.
It wasn’t a very large facility with its six beds and various monitors and machines, with desks for the medics on the far end. Despite being underground, the shiny metal plating surrounding them made it easy to keep clean and avoid infection.
“Manca! Sandern! I was just looking for you two. I have news!” Kazimir Ettowa entered the medical wing with a large piece of paper. He ran a free hand through his unruly black hair, his blue eyes bright.
“Your family, Kaz?” asked Crona.
Kaz nodded and handed the message to Bronx.
Found them. Had a little run-in with Negander while on Earth. Will be arriving on Gliese VI within the hour. Have Bronx bring a stretcher.
“What does it mean?” asked Crona, who read it over Bronx’s shoulder.
“Obviously, someone’s hurt,” Kaz said.
“Or worse,” said Bronx quietly.
“No need to be negative just yet.” Crona pointed at the time stamp on the message. “Let’s go. They’ll be here soonish, and I want to welcome our new friends to the party.”
“I’ll help with the stretcher,” Kaz offered.
Bronx threw other necessary supplies—a pulse scanner, gauze, and tools for stitches—into a bag and slung it over his shoulder. He joined Kaz in helping with the stretcher
The beeping from Prue’s heart monitor grew erratic, and the petty officer breathed irregularly with labored and painful sounds that stopped as quickly as they began.
Bronx dropped his bag, sat down at the edge of Prue’s bed, and took off his gloves, unsure why he did it, as if his actions were not his own. His heart hammered in his chest, knowing what was about to happen, and yet he didn’t fight it; some part of him knew this was the right thing to do.
“Uh… Bronx—” began Crona as she approached him, but it was too late.
Bronx reached out and took the man’s hand. Some force pulled on what felt like a string. Teasing him, taunting him. He tugged on it hard and everything unraveled. Dread pooled in his core. He knew what he’d freed—a soul. A plume of black smoke appeared above Prue’s body, curling upwards before it dissipated in the air. Prue took one last deep breath and with a heavy sigh, he died.
“Shit,” muttered Bronx as he regained control of his body, releasing Prue’s hand like it burned him. He leaped from his seat and backed away, knocking over a tray of scalpels and tongs. The metal clanged as each of the pieces hit the ground. This was not the first time, but he always prayed it would be the last. He looked over at his sister; Crona said nothing as she put a hand to her mouth, stunned.
Bronx felt his sister approach. “Are you alright?” she asked.
Bronx’s eyes darted in her direction. His face lost all feeling, his legs weak. He’d done it again, and this time, there’d been witnesses. Shit.
Bronx rubbed his face. “I—I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I’m sure you had a good reason,” Kaz said.
“That’s the thing.” Bronx paced, adrenaline rushing through his legs. “I didn’t have a good reason. I just felt compelled. Like I could ease his suffering if I did something.” He rubbed his face again’.
“Well, you certainly eased his suffering. As well as any other ailment he would feel in the future,” mumbled Crona, leaning on the bed next to Prue’s.
Bronx glanced back at his sister. “You’re not funny.”
“I’m not trying to be. This is serious.”
“Of course this is serious. A man just died.” Bronx’s voice shook. He took a deep breath. “Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here. Everything I touch dies.” He sat down in a chair next to Prue’s bed and put his head in his hands.
“That’s not true!” Kaz said.
Crona approached him, getting as close as she dared. She reached out to him, but he pulled back. “Bronx, I’ve managed to hug you loads of times before, and you haven’t killed me yet.” She pointed to her eyes. “I can see the future, remember?” She reached out quickly and pinched his cheek. “See? Haven’t killed me yet.”
Bronx pulled back and swatted her hand away. “Stop it.”
“No, you stop it.” She tried to lock eyes with him, but he refused to meet her gaze. “I’m sorry Prue died. I know you didn’t do it on purpose, but face the facts. Look at the bigger picture. You kill people with a touch—that’s your gift. I know you have no idea what you’re doing, but we will get through this, and you will learn how to control it.”
“Your sister’s right, Bronx.” Kaz hadn’t moved from his position at the foot of Prue’s bed. “We’re all still figuring things out. I know we sound like we don’t understand since our powers aren’t as deadly, but we are on your side.”
Bronx stared at his sister, his pulse rising. He knew she was right, and he hated it. It frustrated him. He wished she would just leave him alone on the subject. He may no longer wear the uniform, but his own Daer instincts still kicked in.
He took a moment to take several calming breaths before responding. “You’re both insufferable.”
Crona shrugged. “And you’re acting like a little shit. What do you want me to do? Agree with you? Oh, woe is you, Bronx! Yes, everything you touch dies. Maybe you are a freak.”
“That’s a bit much, Crona,” muttered Kaz.
“Stop it!” Bronx snarled.
“No,” she said flatly. “Because it’s not true. You are not a freak; you are doing so many good things here. Not everything you touch dies. You’re the one with the magic touch. You have a higher success rate of saving people than any other corpsmen. I know, I’ve seen the stats.”
He refused to meet her gaze. He knew he was being stubborn, but he didn’t want to listen to her.
Crona rolled her eyes, then turned to Kaz. “Come on. He stops being fun when he’s like this.” She walked to the stretcher. “I’m sure Manden and the others will be here soon.”
Bronx removed his other glove and threw both away in the trash with enough force to tip it over. “I’m coming.” He grabbed a second clean pair, put them on, and stood to help Kazimir once more with the stretcher.
“But first, can you help me put him into cold storage?” He gestured to Prue. “I’ll worry about the paperwork when we get back.”
The medical wing sat at the end of a long and shiny metal-plated hallway where the Federation soldiers slept. This floor was only for women, while the men stayed below.
Bronx and Kaz carried the stretcher down the hall as Crona ran ahead to a different tunnel to grab the keys to their vehicle for the long drive to the hangar. The tunnel to the hangar was still underground, but without the metal plating. Its long row of UV lights along the low ceiling was the only hint of technology present, aside from the few cars parked at the entrance. The musty smell of fresh earth and car exhaust was more pungent here, but the stench lessened once they started driving.
As Crona drove, Bronx decided to push his current problem out of his mind and tried to think about what awaited him at the other end of the tunnel: Rei Ettowa.
When he had apprenticed with Niklaryn all those years ago, he frequently saw his mentor sneaking glances at a picture of his little sister. Niklaryn never told a soul about her, but he trusted Bronx. Bronx had heard so much about her that he felt he already knew her, yet he never thought that he would meet Rei after what happened.
Part of him expected to see the same young girl from the photo—with pigtails and missing front teeth—but he knew she was only a few years younger than him and was prepared to meet a young woman. What he hadn’t prepared for were the questions she was bound to ask about the day her brother died.
“Bronx?” Crona’s voice rang through his head like a bell. “Oy! Wake up!”
Bronx snapped out of his reverie to find that they had already arrived at the hangar. It was hidden deep within Mount Environ, several kilometers away from their base. The underground tunnel they had just traveled through allowed a veil of secrecy for the comings and goings of their soldiers. Bronx jumped out of the bed of the vehicle and approached Manden’s ship.
According to their friend, the Luciernaga was several thousand years old and resembled a hodgepodge of scrapped ships, metal pieces—some of them gold—and a few ion cannon stations that appeared to have been placed randomly, yet had been essential. Bronx swore the end result made Luciernaga look like a face with the cockpit as the eyes and the front hatch as its mouth.
The hatch opened like a long tongue, and their redheaded friend strode out to greet them. Crona ran to Manden and almost knocked him down with a big hug. Kaz followed with a hand extended.
“Are you kidding?” Manden pulled Kaz in for an embrace. “Come here, you.”
Bronx stayed behind as usual.
“Bronx,” Manden said, giving the medic a nod.
“You look familiar,” said a young man who came into view from the hatch. He was as tall as Bronx with brown hair and light eyes. For a moment, the medic thought a ghost had come back to haunt him. Niklaryn? he wanted to ask. The newcomer’s violet eyes flashed. He was someone different, and yet it still took several moments for Bronx’s heart rate to return to normal.
“Do I?” asked Bronx. “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“Arram Bronto.” The young man extended a hand to Bronx, who only stared at it.
“Bronx, doesn’t do hand shaking,” muttered Manden.
Arram pulled his hand back. “Sorry.”
Bronx shook his head. “I’ll explain later.”
“Okay.” Arram stepped out of the way, clearing the path for Kaz and Bronx to enter the ship. “You’re a Daer Knight, right?” he continued.
“I was once.” Bronx readjusted his grip on the stretcher, his heart pounding in his chest. This was the moment; he was going to meet her. The stretcher must be for either Bernie or Rei.
“He still is a Daer,” added Crona.
“Well, I-I’m sure Rei will be excited to meet you,” was all Arram said as his eyes stared at the floor, the muscles in his jaw flexing.
“Where is she, by the way?” interjected Crona.
“She’s probably with Bernie,” Manden said, walking toward his ship.
He, with Kaz helping on the other end, continued hauling the stretcher up the ramp into the first room of the ship—the cargo hold.
“We’re in the infirmary.” Manden’s voice echoed from the belly of the ship. The infirmary sat behind the cargo hold, currently filled with plants from every corner of the star cluster. A mix of lilac and magnolia filled Bronx’s nose.
The men maneuvered the stretcher around the mesh metal staircase that led up to the rooms, kitchen, and cockpit.
Bronx sneezed as they ventured through what appeared to be a small forest, lightly brushing against several pots of vines overflowing onto the floor. He continued to the infirmary where Manden and Bernie stood on either side of a bed.
“I didn’t want to leave her alone in case she suddenly woke up. That’s why I didn’t come out earlier,” Bernie said quietly. She turned and saw that the combat medic had entered. “Hey, Bronx, Kaz.”
Bronx didn’t answer. All his thoughts focused on the unconscious woman lying before him in blood-splattered clothes. Rei Ettowa appeared to be asleep, her dark hair framing her face. His pulse raced.
Not long after Niklaryn was gone, he dreamed about a beautiful woman who made his heart stop with a smile. Time had since obscured many of the details, but he clearly remembered Rei’s face.
He never told anyone about it, thinking that she was some subconscious fantasy. But somehow his brain must have created the woman of his dreams from memories of Rei. Thank the gods Nik wasn’t here. He knew he shouldn’t have impure thoughts about his mentor’s kid sister—no matter how attractive she may be.
He pulled the pulse scanner out of his bag, placed it on her neck, and read the little screen. The lines blipped, showing a strong and steady heartbeat.
He lowered his face toward hers to better hear her breathing—slow and steady. He pulled away, using all his willpower to not lean in closer. His eyes glanced over the rest of her body, trying to the find the source of the blood on her clothes.
“I don’t see a wound,” he said.
“Just a graze from a bullet. I already patched her up.” Manden pointed to Rei’s other side.
“Very nice.” He admired the tiny stitches. It was no surprise knowing Manden’s history on the battlefield. “And the rest of the blood?”
“Unlucky victim,” Bernie said.
Bronx helped Manden move her to the stretcher; he double-checked that the gloves reached his sleeves so that not an inch of skin was exposed. One could never be too careful.
“What happened?” Bronx took one end of the stretcher while Manden held the other, leading it out of the infirmary and through the cargo hold.
“As I said in my message,” Manden said, “we had a run in with the Negander. They attacked the town, trying to get to Rei and Arram. Bernie, Hotara, and I managed to save them in time; however, the Negander had already killed Sagitan and his wife.” He gazed down at their unconscious newcomer. “This little lady was angry. Her powers came out for the first time and fried them.”
“It was quite a sight,” Bernie said.
“She used too much energy and passed out,” Manden said. “It happens to people like her at some point in their lives.”
“Where is Hotara?” Kaz asked.
“I sent her to Tas’und’eash. With any luck, she can rally the rest of the Volocio to help with our cause.”
The group continued out of the ship and back toward the vehicle. Arram took Rei from Bronx and helped Manden carry the stretcher.
They brought Rei to the medical bay and laid her down on an empty bed. Bronx made sure it was far away from where Prue had passed earlier.
He placed a heart monitor on her finger and waited for the steady beep to fill the silence in the room. Arram stood nearby, his eyes never leaving Rei’s face. Bronx imagined how concerned he must have been.
“Come, Arram.” Crona linked arms with him. “They’re still serving dinner in the mess hall. You look like you could use some food.”
“I feel uncomfortable leaving her here,” he said quietly.
“I’ll stay,” offered Bronx. “I’m still on duty here.”
Arram nodded and allowed Crona to lead him out the room with Kaz following.
Crona stopped at the door and quickly glanced in Bronx’s direction. “Should I bring you something, too, Brother?”
Bronx shook his head. “I know where Ayres hides his snacks. I’ll be fine.”
Manden stayed behind, watching Bronx thoughtfully. The redhead always did that when he studied one of them—as though he were trying to see more of Bronx than what was there.
He cocked his head to the side. “I’m desperate to know what you’re thinking.”
“About her.” Manden gestured to Rei lying between them.
Bronx couldn’t shake the feeling of having met her before, but that was impossible. “Well,” he finally answered, “she’s a great conversationalist.”
Manden chuckled. “Jokes aside, smart ass. I really want to know. I’ve been looking forward to the two of you meeting for a long time.”
The medic shrugged. “Kind of hard to have a meeting when one’s unconscious.”
Manden waved his hand dismissively in Bronx’s direction “Bah. Details.”
“Does this have to do with him?”
Of course it did. Everything in Bronx’s life the last few years always came back to that man, and a part of him resented it.
“I’m sure you’ve felt some of his memories. As dreams, perhaps?”
Bronx clenched his sweaty palms, which stuck to his gloves. “Dreams?”
“Your sister once told me about dreams she had before her powers manifested. Kaz, too. That’s what they are. Memories. I watched Rei go through hers, so I’m just taking a leap here.”
It was bad enough Bronx shared the same gift and the same face as the man in question. But Manden suggested they had the same taste in women. The idea didn’t sit well with him, but his body already betrayed him whenever he looked in her direction. His pulse elevated and his mouth had gone dry.
Manden still watched him, waiting for a response. But Bronx didn’t want to talk about that, so he stuck with a truth he was comfortable with.
“I’m relieved she’s here and she’s safe.”
“You remember me telling you how I knew Niklaryn? We were close friends. Close enough that I was the only person he told about her. Not everything—only that she needed to be protected. He made me vow to protect her if something happened to him.”
“You’ve done a great job doing that all these years,” Manden said dryly.
“Niklaryn forgot to give me the minor yet crucial detail of where she was hidden. I knew Earth, but that was it. Then there was the problem that no one else knew about her, so who could I ask? It turned out your wife hid her all along.” Bronx laughed. The universe really wanted them to meet. He believed it was some cruel joke.
“You’ll have a chance to uphold that vow now, Bronx. I don’t know how she’s going to react when she wakes up. The last few days have been overwhelming for her. You saw how Arram is handling things and he just lost his grandparents. Rei lost everyone she knew and grew up with. Infiernen and his Negander destroyed her entire town. Her powers manifested out of pure rage. She brought down countless Negander and turned them into charred husks.”
Bronx’s eyes widened, and his heart stopped at the mention of Infiernen. He hunted her, too? It made sense. The Negander had been hunting Bronx and the others for years now.
He studied Rei. He didn’t think she would be so dangerous—almost as dangerous as he was. The idea of no longer being the only one with lethal gifts gave him a little comfort, especially if it meant protecting the others against the Negander.
“You and I are the ones with the most battle experience,” continued Manden. “We’ve seen the most. We also know what happens to those who experience trauma and have no support group to help them through it. These two are the only survivors of that massacre. Just be prepared.”
“Of course.” Trauma was something Bronx knew plenty about.
Mari, a native Hoosier, currently lives in southern Germany where she entertains people with her adventures as an American expat in the Land of Beer and Pretzels on her blog adventuresoflamari.com as well as the adventures of her pugs, Abner and Roxy. When she’s not writing, Mari cooks, snowboards, dances to the beat of her own drum, reads late into the night, and binge watches Netflix with her husband. The God Queen is her debut novel.
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