Viking Warrior Rising - Asa Maria Bradley

To Mamma and Pappa for always believing in me and for encouraging and enabling my love of books.

Chapter 1

Naya’s hands shook as she clipped the last alligator clamp over the electrical wires, short-circuiting the power and the security alarm.

“Get it together,” she muttered to herself.

As she crouched and peered down the darkened corridor, her infrared goggles helped her see the contours of the barred doors. Her brother was behind one of those. Alone.

She jogged down the hallway to the only cell giving off a heat signature.

“Scott,” she whispered through the bars of the cell door, but the man lying on the cot didn’t move. Her fingers recoiled when she touched the cold metal, remembering how often she’d been trapped in a cell just like this. She had to get her brother out. He’d suffered enough at the hands of Dr. Trousil and the rest of the lab’s scientists. They both had.

The door swung open silently and she entered the cell. She shook her brother’s shoulder, keeping her hand hovering over his mouth in case he woke up screaming. He remained lying limply on his side. When she turned him onto his back, his arm flopped over and dangled down the side of the cot.

Holding her breath, she leaned closer to his mouth. A weak puff of air fluttered against her cheek. Relief flooded her body. She joggled him again. “Scott, you need to wake up.”

He still didn’t react.

Naya hoisted him in a fireman’s carry so that her much smaller frame could transport his six-foot body. Another five minutes and the security guards would return to patrol this end of the building. She’d figure out how to wake him later.

Her brother had weighed almost two hundred pounds when she last saw him. It had taken her eleven months and six days to return. Hanging across her shoulder now, his body barely slowed her down. She headed for the closest exit. The door closed softly behind her and she jogged across the field. When she reached the perimeter fence, Naya carefully lowered her brother to the ground and slid the bolt cutters out of her backpack.

“Hold on, Scott. Just a few snips and I’ll have you out of here.” She glanced down, trying for a hopeful smile, but her lips quivered. She remembered his nervous, yet excited, laugh as they raced toward this same fence that night almost a year ago. They had been so close to getting out together. He’d boosted her up on top of the fence, smacking her behind. “Let’s finally get the hell out of here,” he’d shouted.

She’d just reached down to help up Scott when the first shot rang out. The second pierced her brother’s thigh and he fell screaming to the ground.

She blinked. Can’t think about the past now. She couldn’t fuck this up. There might never be another chance. Her sharp cutters snipped the wires like they were string instead of high-grade reinforced steel. A normal human wouldn’t be able to bend back the serrated wire, but Naya was not normal. Ten years in the lab and weekly serum injections had created a super-soldier out of the twelve-year-old girl she had once been. Now she was the ultimate weapon. The ultimate freak.

She doubled over the folded metal to keep her brother from getting caught on any rough edges. Her baby brother. The only family she had left.

She slid Scott’s unconscious body through the hole, hoisted him over her shoulder again, and then headed to the rental car parked in the woods. The smell of fresh pine permeated the air as her combat boots pounded the needle-covered ground. The crisp forest cleared her mind of things she no longer wanted to remember.

Now that Scott was out, she could build a life and never think about the years in the lab.

Soon, the dark-green Jeep glittered in the moonlight filtering through the trees. Without slowing, she punched a button on the key remote. Behind her, a powerful boom of an explosion drowned out the double beep of the doors unlocking. A kaleidoscope of red and orange illuminated the night sky. She heard shouts and commands carry through the woods from the compound. A bitter smile stretched her lips. That would keep them occupied for a while.

Growing up in the compound, she’d spent countless hours honing her combat skills, but the government-sponsored black ops program had also trained her in electronics, cyber technology, and weaponry—including explosives. “I used everything you taught me,” she whispered at the flames.

She cradled Scott’s head