Her father’s death was no accident. Could she be the next target?
The Dhar family have wealth, prestige, and shiny new superpowers. Now these socialites want the head of crime-fighter Karma. Unaware they’re after her alter-ego, Silke is about to walk into a trap inside Dhar manor.
Alone and outnumbered, Silke will have to channel her growing powers to escape the Dhars. But when members from super-terrorist group the Sin Squad arrive to the party, she might not make it out alive. Can an unlikely ally be the difference maker or is one devastating night inside Dhar manor going to cost Silke everything?
A genre-blending roller coaster ride that will delight both superhero fans and fantasy readers alike.
Kaged is Book 3 in Silke's Strike Force.
The intensity of the ache traveling her thighs was only surpassed by the ragged breaths burning her lungs. Each inhalation felt like she swallowed a pack of razor blades. Hunched over, she tried to draw in deeper breaths despite the pain it caused. Then she spotted it. Just a few yards out stood the target. Even though her energy was spent, Silke Butters forced herself to press on. All she needed to do was close the distance and then she could collapse in victory.
Never one to back down from a challenge, she refocused on the problem in front of her. With renewed determination, she pulled herself back up to a vertical base and ran. Every movement was an experience in pain. No time spent in the gym doing yoga or Pilates prepared her for the challenge of real-world survival. The toll on the body radiated down to her very bones. But her mental strength is what really got tested.
With her body pushed to its physical limits, her mind took over navigation. A will to win was forged in her nature a long time ago. Being a fourteen-year-old girl traveling to New York by herself to realize a dream made her tough. She was a force to be reckoned with long before she had superpowers.
A staggered step started her towards her goal until she found the energy to break out into a full sprint. Through sheer will, she pumped her legs harder and faster. Within inches of the checkpoint, her torturer cut her off.
From forty yards across the field, he bounded over to her like a gazelle wired on caffeine. A final twisting half-gainer landed him directly in Silke’s path.
With that he pushed her by the head, knocking her back on her butt. Silke was too exhausted to fight. She sprawled out in the grass, trying to catch her breath as the big man stood over her.
“I almost made it,” she said.
“Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”
He reached out a hand and pulled her to her feet. Silke wiped the grass and dirt from her fatigues then hunched over, letting her arms rest upon her thighs as she steadied her breathing.
“You’re too young to be so out of breath!”
With that, the big man slapped her high on the back, almost knocking her to the ground again. Silke shot him a sideways glance and rolled her eyes. He smiled back at her, his wide grin drawing his thick mustache up high around his cheeks.
This was Dash King, a skilled green beret and former project leader for Shadow Company. More importantly, Dash was a close friend of Silke’s late father, Duke. As a child she knew him as a big, cuddly teddy bear of a man. He always welcomed her with a hug and then twirled her in the air. Her little feet would dangle beneath her, and she’d close her eyes to pretend she was flying.
Back then it was pretend. Never in her wildest dreams did she suspect humans could really accomplish such incredible feats. As an adult, her newfound powers hadn’t yet developed into flight. The closest she’d come was a few levitation spells brought on by an outside source. But it was enough knowing someone out there had that ability.
Most of the images from her childhood faded away the day she learned the truth of her father’s work within Shadow Company. Experimentation using questionable alien DNA focused on enhancing the participants involved with extraordinary powers.
Silke gained her own powers from birth, a rare side effect from the gene tampering. Her parents were early participants of the experiments. Being born of two enhanced parents made her a pureblood power wielder known as a Supe. These days she went under the guise of Karma and used those powers to restore some kind of order to an otherwise chaotic world.
Dash joined the strike force only recently. Once on board he didn’t waste any time implementing a new training strategy for the team. With a wealth of knowledge at his disposal, he knew how to mold the unit for success. In just a short time, his techniques pushed the limits of Silke’s endurance and her super abilities. Still, the competitor in her didn’t enjoy losing.
“It’s not fair, you used your enhanced acrobatic agility,” Silke told him through ragged breaths. “You know I don’t have those types of powers.”
“Nothing is fair in war, Silke Butters,” Dash replied. “I said nothing was off limits. That’s what these lessons are all about, pushing you past your comfort zone. Now show me what you learned.”
Silke straightened up and steadied her breath. She’d come a long way from the naïve girl just learning to use her powers. With the help of her team, Silke discovered the amazing feats she could perform when she channeled her energy.
Centering herself, she tapped the special reservoir resting deep within her body. A rush of power began in the pit of her stomach and rose through her torso. When it reached her chest, she held it there. Ebbs of power pulsated in her chest, growing stronger with each beat.
In her early days of performance, she couldn’t hold on and let the blasts go the minute they reached her hands. Now, rather than just expelling it through her palms in rapid fire, Silke molded the energy into something greater. Knowing she had control over it, she took the time to envision what form she wanted the energy to take.
In her mind she saw a great sword. With this vision held firmly in her mind, she transferred it to her hands. Shaping the light energy to her will, she fashioned it into the form she desired.
Now Silke stood before Dash, holding a Katana of pure energy. It extended up from her hands and moved as she moved.
“Very impressive,” Dash told her. “Now strike me down.”
Silke shook her head in confusion.
“I’m not going to do that. I could kill you.”
“The enemy will not hesitate and neither can you. Strike me down now. Or are you too weak to take on this mantle?”
His words struck a nerve and caused Silke to lunge at him. The psychic construct of the sword lashed forward towards Dash’s chest. In the blink of an eye he arched into a back handspring, successfully avoiding the blow.
Silke stumbled forward as her hit missed. The psychic sword blazed like a white-hot sun in her hands, and she couldn’t hold on to it any longer. She powered down and shook out her hands, trying to reduce the burning sensation that rose in her palms.
“I can’t hold it for long,” Silke told Dash as he approached.
“We’ll have to get you some reinforced gloves. You’ll need them as you gain better control over your abilities.”
Dash looked her over, his eyes beaming with a sense of pride. Silke never really knew the feeling of having someone she respected look at her in such a way. Her mother died when she was very young and afterwards Silke’s relationship with her father grew distant. Now that he passed away, she regretted not spending more time with him.
His illness came on so suddenly that Silke never got the chance to say goodbye. A toxin took hold of his system too aggressively to stop it. Silke never found out the exact nature of the toxin. Things shifted so much after her dad died that she really hadn’t given herself a moment to grieve properly.
Her father’s parting words to her came in the form of a vision implanted in her mind. He’d told her then he was proud, but it would’ve felt so much more sincere if he said it in person. During that psychic implant, Silke’s father also told her she held great powers but left little other details about them. Every day it seemed Silke peeled back layers of her abilities like an onion to reveal their true extent. There was no telling how far she could take them.
“Your father was right to hide your powers,” Dash told her. “Your mix of psychic and physical abilities are a devastating combination that certainly would’ve been exploited if the enemy found out first.”
These days the enemy came in all directions. The Sin Squad was their biggest threat, and not knowing the identities of their members made it that much harder to prepare for them. The only one they knew for certain ran with the Squad was Dash’s own daughter Cleo, also known as Avarice.
Since finding out Cleo’s involvement with The Sin Squad, Dash was doing everything in his power to locate his daughter. He hoped that he could bring her back home to him. For now, Silke stood in as his surrogate daughter and he challenged her with the same tough love he would’ve given Cleo.
“Now look alive, Butters. You still have to outrun this old fox back to the bunker. Which is easier said than done. Just ask Riggs.”
Dash motioned behind him to Joe Riggs lumbering across the field to join them. He looked as out of breath as Silke felt, which was odd for Joe. His enhanced abilities rivaled the enhancements Dash received during the experiments at Shadow Company. Seeing Joe unable to keep up during physical training was a rare occurrence. But that’s what years of experience brought to the table and why they’d been training with Dash daily.
The field they chose for today’s exercise sat behind an abandoned warehouse facility on the outskirts of town. Back in Los Angeles their headquarters were setup under the guise of a non-profit designated to helping bring awareness to disaster relief efforts. They couldn’t risk prying eyes when it came to showcasing their powers, so any physical training would be discreet.
Dash knew about many locales in and around the city. He chose the open field and attached bunker with care. It was part of an abandoned warehouse district so they didn’t need to worry about paparazzi trying to catch a shot of supermodel Silke Butters new venture. Silke just wished the California sun wasn’t so full in the sky when training started.
She’d made the mistake of wearing her power suit and gear to become accustomed to fighting in them. Now rivers of sweat ran through her long, dark hair and down her back. She needed the longest shower and an enormous glass of water to combat her thirst.
As Joe lumbered up to them, he looked twice as hot, in more ways than one. Even with his face beet red and his hair damp with sweat, Silke still felt her heart race in his presence. They came very close to becoming more than just colleagues, but a major problem had interrupted their possible love affair. Now Silke’s infatuation with Joe had grown into discomfort.
“Nice moves, Dash.”
Joe slapped hands with Dash but made a point of avoiding eye contact with Silke. He felt just as awkward as she did.
“This old dog still has a few tricks,” Dash said as he rolled out his shoulders. “Let’s go another round.”
“I can’t,” Joe told him. “I’ve got to get back to Nichole.”
At the mention of his daughter’s name, his eyes clicked over to Silke. She caught his stare and averted her gaze as a lump of anguish lodged itself in her throat.
For a long time, her sister Honey had been coming to her in visions, telling her to find a girl named Nichole. Never in Silke’s wildest dreams did she think Nichole would wind up being the product of a hidden affair Joe had with Honey. When she found out the two of them slept together, it gutted her.
She’d been dealt another harrowing blow from the loss of one of her dear friends. Damien Wilder became victim to a psychopath intent on destroying people with powers, people like Silke and her strike force. That psychopath happened to be Silke’s first love, Kai Kiowa. Poor Damien was just a man, a lovely man murdered for knowing Silke. After an attempt on Silke’s life was thwarted, Kai was now in the wind causing her many sleepless nights.
With all of that pain and anguish rolling around inside of her, Silke threw herself headlong into her training. The mission of her alter ego Karma took precedence now. She needed to be a beacon of hope in a world gone mad.
Even if the world never knew about her deeds, she would know. And as long as she tried to do some good with her new position, that’s all that mattered. But as much as she wanted to go another round with Dash, she knew other pressing matters from her civilian life still needed her attention. She straightened up to give her instructor and commander her full attention before excusing herself.
“I have Damien’s memorial out at Dhar manor today.”
“Of course. Let us know if there’s anything we can do.”
Dash set a reassuring hand on her shoulder. The demonstration of caring almost caused her to break down in a fit of tears. She’d been holding so much inside she knew eventually the dam would break. It was neither the time nor the place to fall apart. She soldiered on despite the grief bubbling up inside.
“Thank you, Uncle D.”
She gave Dash a fond embrace and forced a quick smile before gathering her gear to leave. As she packed up her things, Joe came up alongside her.
“Are we ever going to talk?”
“What is there to say?” she asked, not bothering to look in his direction.
Joe caught her arm, forcing her to stop loading up her bags. The heat from his hand bordered on the extreme. Silke could feel it penetrate through the fibers of her power suit down to her skin and beyond.
“Silke, I’m sorry.”
“Thank you. Damien was a good man.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
She gnawed on her lip, wishing she had the ability to teleport like she once thought she did. Discussing their personal issues was the last thing she wanted to do.
Now that Dash was on board the team, Silke wanted to keep the focus on business. It was probably for the best that nothing started up between her and Joe, but she couldn’t tell him that without it snowballing into a long conversation. She didn’t have the time or the inclination to dive into anything so heavy.
“I know, Joe. Just let it go.”
She eased her arm from his grasp, relieving herself from the amplified heat he emitted.
“It’s that easy for you?”
Finally, Silke looked up at him. She fought back tears from her eyes, but her voice still caught in her throat as she spoke.
“None of this is easy. It never has been. But I can’t deal with this right now. I just want to go say goodbye to my friend.”
“Of course. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of apologizing?”
Silke felt like a bitch for the amount of spite that came with her words. She was hurting inside with so much grief and anguish she didn’t know where to put it. So, she heaped some of it on Joe. It wasn’t fair, but it happened and she couldn’t take it back. Before anything else distasteful came from her mouth, she needed to step away.
As she walked from the field with the sun and her comrades at her back, Silke stiffened her upper lip. It wasn’t until she was alone inside her car that she let the tears come out.
Silke’s Strike Force Book 3
Copyright © 2020 Cynthia Vespia