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Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One


time since he knew of the city's existence, the meaning of its name dawned on him.
Necropolis, city of the dead.
He snickered. Some of the men turned and looked at him darkly. This only made him
smile more. He was about to let out a burst of laughter when the wagon came to a
screeching halt. All the humor left him at once. Other than the low idle of the engine,
everything became dead quiet. Strange mechanical noises crept from the back of the
wagon like the sound of gears waking within a clock tower. Then he heard similar noises
from the front of the wagon. Twin thuds came from the front and back of the wagon,
shaking it and making most of the passengers jump. Both of the mechanical doors began
to open with a horrible screeching.
The open doorway in the back led to the quiet, empty city. But the front doorway
contained shapes of men dressed in black, armored outfits. They had the American
Imperial flag printed on their right breasts and wore gas masks on their faces. Each of
them held a thick, black hose pointed at a different group of prisoners. Large clouds of
gas shot out from the hoses, filling the wagon with a thick, noxious fog. It tasted strongly
of sulfur. Choking on the gas, Hank nearly vomited. The convicts began flooding out the
back of the wagon and away from the suffocating gas. Hank followed, still choking as he
ran.
When he reached the road, he leaned over and joined the chorus of gasps. His lungs
burned as he inhaled. But he kept taking deep breaths anyway, hoping it would eventually
help. He looked over just in time to see the last man, a short Hispanic with long hair,
come stumbling from the wagon. The back door shut with a loud thud. Then the wagon
squealed its tires and sped off. By the time Hank could breathe without hurting too badly,
it was gone.
The one who murdered three people lead several of the others down an alley off the
main road. The area was surrounded with old rundown factories. A busted-up, red car
from before the war was parked in front of one of the buildings. Several men managed to
break in and were trying to hot-wire it. All around, men ran in different directions, either
alone or in groups. Hank circled around, trying to decide where to go. But in his heart, he
knew it didn't matter where he went. None of them would make it out alive. No one ever
did. For the last twenty years, the American Empire boasted the most effective justice
system in the world. It was simple, really. Use one evil to destroy another. Sure, some
innocents got caught up in the mix from time to time. But as the saying went, you have to
break a few eggs.
He decided to go on his own. He was pretty sure the locals could sense heat, making
a group an easier target. And with going solo, there would be no one to slow him down.
He found an alley a few blocks down from the other men and followed it in the opposite
direction. It got darker the further he went. The rough texture of brick grazed his hands as
he felt his way through the alley. When he’d gone a ways down the block, a loud engine
cranking and failing almost gave him a heart attack. What good would a car do for those
morons anyway?
Of course the thought of Toby reared its ugly head again. Toby would already have
that thing going zero to sixty. That boy of his could fix anything you put in front of him,
so long as it had moving parts. But he was only sixteen, and now that his father was about
to check out, who would take care of him? The boy's mother left when he was a baby.
Hank never managed to find her and felt sure she didn't want to be found. And Diana, he
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