Today we begin with Silver Strife from J. A. Kenney. Silver Strife is Book 1 of the Immortal Quicksilver series.
Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . .
R E B I R T H
I W A S A L I V E, in a new mortal shell, a different place, and time. If I had believed in some benevolent supernatural creature that controlled every aspect of reality, I would have thanked it. Instead, I just felt a sort of ambivalent relief.
Time was a true fourth dimension. Ages and epochs made long sweeping circles across the void, and immortals traveled between those rings like icebreakers smashing through a frozen sea. So we died just like everyone else, a truth that I thought a glaring irony. However, we came back, born again into new flesh, and in this new vessel, I could forge ahead in the eons long war against the Purists—a war that raged across the whole of space and time.
For years, I caught only brief glimpses of this life: a stern woman’s face looking down at me as I lay in a clear plastic bassinet, the pain of a broken wrist, and the unpleasant jab of tanbark against my spine. Born into this body, my spirit slept in a small corner of its mind. United and yet separate until the physical form was ready, for a child’s mind simply could not process eternity.
My thoughts snapped into place, and I inherited, in excruciating detail, the memories of a lifetime lived. No immortal knew what happened when our minds achieved synergy, but it felt like my soul suddenly clicked into alignment with this body’s neurons. The process was abrupt and shocking even after untold permutations, like a memory dump from a massive supercomputer. Twenty years of daily events, knowledge, and struggles were mine in a split second. I knew who I was, where I was, and what I was. A place, time, and identity that could not have been less to my liking.
My vision cleared. I stood in a well-lit hall lined with thick metal plates and reinforced doors. A calm yet commanding voice played in the background—a subtle reminder to cultivate unity and serve the greater purpose. “Preserve strength. Embody perfection. Maintain obedience.”
My eyes discreetly explored the lines and curves of my body. It was petite and feminine, with sufficient curves to avoid being boyish but a distinct lack of height. The skin on my delicate long-fingered hands was a dark caramel, the nails neatly manicured, and I ran one of them through straight waist-length black hair to feel its smooth silky thickness.
Surrounding me were a plethora of other young people, all of them disturbingly alike. They all had dark hair, dark eyes, and honey-toned skin, complemented by bodies that were young, attractive, and fit. These were the Union Elite. All dressed in uniforms of white button-down shirts, black slacks or skirts, and shiny polished black shoes. They looked like bronzes cast from the same mold, and the effect was eerie, like being surrounded by dozens of identical twins all filing in an unnatural orderly fashion to their next classes. This compound was built to house and educate society’s so-called best and brightest, but the hall and building surrounding it were armored for a reason.
I knew, from this and previous lives, that there was danger here, and not just to the students’ minds from blatant indoctrination. Their Civil War was a constant threat, often bleeding over into these remaining pockets of civilization. The year was three hundred and fifty-six in the Plebeian calendar, and this was the planet Earth.
The Elites’ university was situated on the semi-arid high plains that I remembered as the United States of America. Now this area of windblown and sun-scorched earth was called the North Western Sector. When the new era was founded centuries ago, the people of the world had experienced a brief period of renewed hope. The world had been united, all people were equal, and they would work together to build a better future for humankind. The newly christened Elites would be benevolent and altruistic leaders.
The naïveté of those people and their dream of endless peace had not lasted a decade. Instead, the world had been plunged into a centuries-long Civil War, and was ruled over by a cruel and selfish caste of super humans who viewed the rest of humanity as base, dangerous, animals. All at the whim and design of a single Purist, another immortal, who had twisted those noble dreams to his purpose. Yet, those events were now distant history, and I had to live in the here and now.
A bell chimed, and the students disappeared into their bunker-like classrooms. I stood frozen in place as they passed me by, still caught in the shock of a new and different existence. A number of confused glances were thrown my way.
“Lini. Is something wrong?” A soft touch to my arm preceded the serious expression that drifted into view. The voice and face were familiar. One of the many Elites who was genetically this body’s first cousin. She motioned me toward one of the open doors.
“No, nothing is wrong, Saran. I apologize for my inattention.” I forced myself into motion and trailed after the line of students filing into their next lecture.
The room was stark, white cinderblock walls with a half-dozen small wooden desks facing a larger desk and chalkboard. The lack of windows managed to give it an even more depressing penal feel. I plopped into an open seat, dropped my light backpack on the floor, and turned to face the instructor.
“Today, we will be discussing the foundation of the Union,” said Charles, the history professor. He leaned against his large wooden desk in a casual pose that portrayed both confidence and arrogance in spades. Dark hair and eyes, sharp cheekbones, and a toned body, a model specimen of the Union’s breeding program. In a vain attempt to delay a long afternoon of monotony and conveniently edited events, I sighed, and put my hand up.
Charles ignored me.
“Before the founding of the Union, the world was littered with separate countries. These small powers drove a nearly constant state of warfare, resulting in widespread poverty, and humanitarian abuses. Today, I want us to discuss how these governmental, cultural, social, and economic entities were motivated by greed, racism, and false prophets to enforce their individual wills on all peoples. Saran, if you could read the excerpt on page 325, the third paragraph concerning Manifest Destiny.”
History, or the self-serving fiction of a victorious reactionary authoritarian regime.
The Union had started out as a tempting illusion dangled before the people of Earth by a Purist, but it quickly turned into the malignant nightmare he intended. Millions died in the ethnic cleansing Petrov instituted, and even more in the unsuccessful wars to overthrow him. Hundreds of years later, a small group ruled from on high by virtue of the “superiority” of their birth and technological advancement had ground to a screeching halt. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity was withering under the weight of its own impotence.
The distinct crack of submachine gun fire yanked me back into the present. My senses instantly alert to the slightest movement. Another shot rang out, and men’s shouts laced with pain came from the direction of the building’s entrance. The unexpected sounds faded into a misleading tranquility.
“Raid,” I whispered to shatter the pregnant silence.
Chaos ensued. All around me students dove under their desks. Anger and disbelief shattered Charles’s mask of competence into fragments as he too sought shelter. I climbed to my feet and listened.
I could feel the fear, the anticipation, practically see the warriors facing their deaths. I had been at the side of soldiers just like these too many times not to understand. Such devotion to duty, and certainty in the cause they fought for. The Union was the light. All that was good and civilized in the world to its citizens. Those that fought it were evil. Of course, the rebels had their own version of what the Union was, and it did not involve light or goodness at all.
Another distinct sound reverberated through the building making the walls quiver. Mortar fire. I dove to the hard speckled linoleum floor to the side of the door, and wrapped my arms protectively around my head. Time seemed to slow to a crawl around me. The explosion was dramatic. First the bright light flashed past my clenched eyelids, then the loud boom battered my eardrums. The door blew in from the shock wave. The massive weight flew end over end across the small room and slammed into the desk where Saran sheltered before embedding itself in the wall. The force had turned her into a morbid jumble of blood, flesh, and bone before the shocked students even recognized the danger.
The sounds of battle became louder as soldiers drew near. I had taken most of the fall on my left shoulder, and it ached vaguely as I pushed myself to my feet. My knees were scuffed, and my once pristine shirt had a few gray streaks across it. Gunfire and the shouts of men echoed down the armored halls.
I doubted these rebels would indiscriminately kill unarmed innocents, but I might be wrong. Any distraction might buy me a few moments, so I unbuttoned my smudged conservative shirt down to the top of my innocent white-lace bra and pulled my knee-length skirt up to reveal some of my upper thighs. Even trained soldiers’ eyes could be drawn to exposed female flesh for the split second it would take me to incapacitate or kill a threat. The others watched me, eyes wide in shock. They did not understand. Survival was all that mattered, and I would take advantage of this full-body camouflage.
For what seemed like an eternity, nothing happened. Then there was a thunderous rumble of boots rushing past, followed by a burst of shots. Shouts, screams, the sounds of men in pain and dying. Things grew quiet, and the other surviving students started to relax. I knew better, now was the time that the true danger began. The conflict was ending, but we had no idea who had won.
A man stormed into our sanctuary, and my surviving fellows all froze. This was not a Union soldier. He had the coiled-rattlesnake emblem of the Resistance sewn on each arm. His appearance was unkempt. His olive-green uniform patched and worn, a hint of sandy five-o’clock shadow dusted his jaw, but the semi-automatic rifle held in his hands was deadly nonetheless. His glacial-blue eyes held the intense focus of a soldier in enemy territory. He was an unknown factor, so I sank into the emotionless blank white void where I could act without qualm.
The soldier scanned the room, and located Charles who was glaring at the invader as if his mere displeasure would melt the man on the spot. The Elite held a small pistol he had retrieved from under his desk. Yet, his violently shaking hands destroyed the image of cool competence. With a single fluid motion, the soldier aimed his assault rifle, and a burst of gunfire tore through our professor’s chest. The man died with a sharp intake of breath followed by a pathetic whimper and the clatter of metal as his weapon fell to the floor. His once shiny brown eyes took on a milky glaze, and blood pooled beneath him on the floor. The assembled students let out a collective gasp.
Other soldiers joined our attacker, scanning the classroom for any further targets. They moved with a well-trained economy of motion and speed. One of them retrieved Charles’s weapon, as several sets of eyes settled on me. I was the only person standing. The rest of the students cowered in corners or hid underneath their desks. However, I was female, young, and unarmed. They dismissed me as no threat and continued on their mission. All of them, except for one.
The first soldier remained. He surveyed the room looking from one terrified student to the next, with a condescending sneer, until his eyes shifted my way. Irritation crossed his stony features, and he closed the short distance with a single long-legged step.
“What’s your name, Breed?” he growled.
Breeds, what the rebels disparagingly called the Union’s Elite, were the result of three hundred years of selective breeding. Like purebred pets in the pre-Union era, the bloodlines were managed for attractiveness, intelligence, and compassion. This paired with their “special” education was supposed to create ideal leaders for the Union utopia. In my experience, they were selected for resemblance to a long dead Purist’s concept of beauty, lack of imagination, and willingness to follow orders without question. Even with two decades of memories in their world, I found it difficult to see myself as one of them, but I knew that was what this soldier saw when he looked at me.
He was tall, easily topping me by a head, but I did my best to meet his eyes with friendly confidence. I tried to keep in mind that old Earth saying about honey, vinegar, and flies.
“Lini,” I said. A simple, and I hoped nonthreatening, response to his query.
He stepped closer, invading the last vestiges of my personal space, and my body tensed, ready to burst into action should he prove dangerous. I could feel the warmth of him. Even with this pathetically inadequate nose, I could detect the coating of nervous sweat. I was a bizarre anomaly, something unique, in the center of a society that had spent three centuries exterminating anything that did not conform to their ideals.
“And what are you exactly?” he murmured almost to himself.
“Myself,” I replied. His eyes grew wider.
I should have played the perfect Union citizen and sheltered with the rest of the students, but I could not. At heart, I was a revolutionary and a warrior, who would never belong among the self-important, obedient, and controlled Elite. I glanced at the other students with distaste. Dozens of future “leaders” who were unwilling and unable to dirty their “superior” hands with rebel blood. I could not suppress the scoff that escaped my lips.
Surprise shot across the soldier’s face, mirroring the looks on the students’.
“How are you still alive?” His eyes filled with reluctant admiration. He knew, as I did, that the Union quashed any rebellious impulse in their Elites in an extremely violent fashion.
It was impossible to explain. My soul lived in a strange symbiosis with this body and mind. We were one, joined together from birth as surely as a mortal’s soul inhabited their body, but until the moment of synergy, my memories and my personality were not fully present.
If my spirit had been awakened and interacting with these people all along, I probably would have faced execution for insubordination long ago.
However, before today I was not whole. Some aspects of my personality had bled through, but the girl that had walked these halls had been only a shadow, a shallow projection. She had grown up here, been trained here, and was much more able to suppress her reactions to the Elites and their world than I would have been in her place.
“Superior bloodlines.” It was the truth, if not the whole truth.
I had an overwhelming urge to close the minuscule distance, to alter the confused animosity flowing between us. My fingers reached up seemingly under their own power and brushed down the side of his sandpaper rough cheek. His eyes widened, shock flashed across the harsh lines of his face, and a shudder ran through his body as he dropped his head to meet my gaze. That rigid posture shifted from its military precision into something that exposed an all too familiar bone deep loneliness and vulnerability. He was so close I could have counted his pale yet lush eyelashes and felt the disturbing warmth of his breath across my face.
“Mitchell,” an unfamiliar voice shouted. The sound brought him out of his silent reverie. He snapped his head up and took one hesitant step backwards.
“Here,” the soldier who was apparently named Mitchell responded.
Another man entered our isolated little pocket of purgatory. He was short but muscular, had brown hair and eyes, and a youthful face with traces of baby fat in his cheeks. He scanned the room, wary of any possible threats. His eyes settled on us standing close together, and he smirked. He looked me over, starting with my legs and working his way up.
“The General doesn’t appreciate us bringing home pets.” His voice was teasing, but there was a hint of curiosity in it.
“I’m not planning to bring her home.”
“The building is clear, Reynolds called the retreat,” Baby Face said.
Mitchell was still staring at me, but the second soldier’s presence appeared to remind him of his duty. He broke from my gaze and visibly steeled himself to leave.
I could not let that happen.
From within the Union, I might be able to undermine their leadership, aid the rebels indirectly, but only if I managed to live long enough. Fighting with the Resistance was, and would always be, my preference. With them, I could fight the Union directly. Instead of lurking in corners, leaking information, and manipulating events. The rebels were my people in a way these Union automatons could never be, even if earning their trust would be an uphill battle due to an accident of birth. This opportunity had fallen into my hands. I did not intend to let it slip by un-seized, so I threw myself to my knees.
“No, please. Take me with you!”
They both looked down at me, taken aback at the display. I crawled over to Mitchell, my hands clasped together, and looked up at him. “Please, please, don’t leave me.”
“What the fuck is this?” exclaimed Baby Face. He looked at me as if I had morphed into a venomous reptile.
I ignored him and gazed up at Mitchell, trying to convey sincerity and desperation. “I will do anything. Just. Please. Take me with you.”
“It’s not up to me,” he responded with a barely noticeable quiver in his voice. It was a blatant lie. I could see it in the way Baby Face deferred to him, the subtle cues of posture and tone of voice that hid behind their camouflage of informality. Mitchell was at very least in charge of this raid, possibly the unit.
The rebels always concealed their ranks outside of their bases. No rank insignia could be worn, no honorifics used, but I knew the many faces of command all too well. The Resistance had been formed as a small guerrilla organization to take on the larger, better-equipped Union military. They encouraged independence, creative solutions, and placed less emphasis on the command hierarchy. All to allow them to fight against greater numbers, greater resources, and the single-minded focus of a Breed-led Union.
I reached out to him, ran my hands up his legs to his well-toned thighs, and curled my fingers in the fabric of his uniform trousers. I held his eyes with mine, refusing to even blink as I willed him to believe me, to trust me, to save me.
“Please. I don’t belong here.”
I saw the hesitant decision play out over his face. He did not trust me and was not sure what to think of my pleas. He felt sorry for me, a rebellious soul in this place that fostered conformity like a moral obligation. Part of him wanted to free me. I climbed to my feet, never taking my eyes away from his.
“There is so much I can do to help you,” I whispered into his ear as I melted against him.
I saw the answer in his eyes before I heard the words.
Silver Strife is available in e-book and print from all major sellers. Details for Silver Strife, including sellers' links, are at:
Also available at:
Find J. A. Kenney at:
Also by J. A. Kenney:
S L I V E R S O F S I L V E R
Immortal Quicksilver #0.5
The immortals lived in the darkness among the stars, until one of their number declared all mortal life an abomination. Under the prophet’s direction, the newly formed Purists brave the Void, determined to destroy all life in the universe.
Quicksilver and Star rally a group of immortals to join their brethren in mortal form to conserve the incredible diversity of life, and the Conservationists are born. Reincarnated, they fight and strive to save mortals.
If they fail, the Purists will wipe sentient life from the universe across the length and breadth of time!
Available for FREE download: