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Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One


Chapter 1
The Penitent
Hank hadn't expected the judge to decide any other way. These days they didn't hand out
robes to anyone afraid of sending less than a dozen men to Necropolis almost every day.
Hank found that he couldn't blame them. It keeps the peace, he thought. Even in the days
before the chaos took hold, America had never been as safe as it was now.
He sat in the back of a paddywagon surrounded by twenty or so other males of all
different shapes, colors, and sizes, also condemned to die. The air smelled of bad breath,
thick body odor, and stale, smoked tobacco. Only a few of them had committed violent
crimes. A tall, pale, black-haired man with tattoos covering his arms had murdered three
people. More than a handful of the prisoners were children. O ne, a young blond kid, had
been caught stealing in a supermarket. Most of the men had broken the morality laws,
same as Hank.
Hank wasn't proud of what he’d done, though he wasn't sure the punishment fit the
crime. He could see the last of the sun being swallowed by the horizon out the back
window. They had traveled through the middle of nowhere for what seemed like days
now. He saw more pale sand and tumbleweeds out that back window than he ever had
before. He was pressed between two other men like a sardine. And his backside felt like it
had been beaten by the hours of country roads.
A while later, the sun disappeared, taking the last rays of sunlight Hank figured he
would ever see. He thought of Toby and swallowed hard. None of the other men noticed.
They were all too busy with their own problems. After hours of nothing but darkness
outside, street lights began poking out of the void and then drifted away just as fast. At
first, it was only every once in a while. Then several at a time. Before long, there were
too many to count. Finally, they streamed together into a long line of light that changed
colors as it burned into Hank’s retinas. After that, large neon signs started appearing. If
the colors weren’t so bright, Hank wouldn’t have been able to see them through the
phantom line of light still obscuring his vision.
Now there were new, more colorful shapes. He closed his eyes to make the nuisance
go away, but it only grew wo rse. The only sounds were breathing and the engine. He
opened his eyes again and looked outside. The street lights revealed sidewalks and
parking lots beyond the road, all of which were empty. He wondered why they bothered
turning on the lights. It wasn't like the residents of Necropolis needed them. For the first
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