The following teaser chapter contains **MAJOR** spoilers for ATLAS FALLEN. If you have not read the first in the series, it is recommended you go back on your browser to avoid the
The night sky outside the penthouse windows grew bloated and grey, threatening to spill its content across the New London skyline. Looking down to the street far below, Tesla spied the tops of hovercars floating alongside upscale shopping boutiques. Draadharts selling fried meats from high-tech bodega grills lined the sidewalks. Lamps fueled by bioluminescent algae twinkled brilliantly in the dark, and holographic billboards projected three-dimension ads in an array of neon colors, each displaying a luxury item for sale in New London’s nearby richie districts.
Though Tesla understood the basics of the technology, the effect may as well have been magic.
“You’re staring again,” a husky voice whispered from across the room. Daxton sat up in bed, blond hair tousled from sleep. His blue eyes softened as they focused on her.
Tesla turned back to the glittering skyline. Palm splayed against the synthglass, her fingers left a ghostly silhouette etched onto the windowpane. Claws of fog had reached the city’s edge, curling around the cloudscrapers until they nearly disappeared into the mist. A few moments later, only the spires of the LaRose family castle were visible above the monstrous darkness. The sleek alabaster towers stretched upward, each peak a spine that rose high enough toward the night that Tesla felt they might pierce the stars. There was no doubt the First World Union had built the palace to intimidate—all other buildings in the city seemed to bow in deference. Even the moon didn’t dare show its face.
“I want to go outside,” Tesla breathed, pulling her silk dressing gown tight against her skin. The temperature in the room had dropped, but every fiber of fabric in the apartment contained heat-sensitive fibers to help chase away any chill.
As far as cages went, she could do worse.
The penthouse was fit for royalty. Every corner oozed luxury, from the elaborate poster bed draped in thick purple velvet, to the gilded furnishings framing a fireplace fueled by the latest in geotech. Tomasz Daxton LaRose—the heir to Earth’s worldwide monarchy—looked natural surrounded by such wealth, as if each magnificent curve in his room extended his own regalness.
Tesla took a deep breath. None of this is real, she reminded herself. You still have time to wake up. But it wasn't enough to stop the dream from twisting around her, the penthouse and its owner a nightmarish holofim of her own making.
The room was yet another reminder of how different their lives had been. Years of sleeping on the hard bed of her Gulch apartment left her tossing and turning against Daxton’s too-soft mattress. She missed the cranky rumbling of the space station’s generators, the sounds of bustle and shouting in the slums. Here, the apartment’s thick silence unnerved her, and her ears constantly longed for any familiar sound.
Daxton sighed behind her. Bedsheets rustled as he crossed the room, his footfalls muffled by the apartment’s expensive carpets. “You know you can’t leave,” he said. Though his reminder was firm, there was an apology clinging to each word. “Kyrartine won’t stop until he’s certain he silences any survivors from the attack. I can’t lose you.” His arms circled her waist, and Tesla leaned back against his chest. The reflection in the window showed her white hair touching his pale cheek, his lips brushing her ear.
Tesla’s eyes closed, savoring this part of the dream.
The part before it all went wrong.
Seconds passed. Though she tried to fight it, Daxton’s nearness soon made her uneasy, and a familiar tightness gripped her throat. With a deep shaky breath, she broke the embrace to stare at him. He wore a plain white shirt, his pants sitting low enough on his hips that she could trace the peaks and valleys dipping across his skin. She swallowed heavily, and it had nothing to do with the way the look in his eyes held a hint of hunger. “Daxton, why didn’t you trust me?”
The intimacy between them shattered, and Daxton’s lips pinched together in a thin line. The moon retreated further behind the clouds, distorting the shadows of his face into a thousand sharp lines. “Tesla, don’t do this.”
She wasn’t sure if it was a plea or a command. Hands shaking, she pressed further. “When I close my eyes, it’s like I’m there watching the Sec-Bots tear the station apart. Kryartine killed so many people that night, but we could have stopped him together if you hadn’t believed Cerise—“
A harsh laugh burst from Daxton, and the sound grated against the silkiness of the room. “Stop,” he growled. “I don’t want to talk about her.”
“Why are you pretending you don’t care about what happened? About the people we lost? Why are you acting like none of it mattered?”
Daxton’s hands became fists. “Maybe I’m not as emotional as you.”
Tesla blinked. “You lost your parents!” she cried in disbelief. “Don’t you feel anything?”
Daxton shook his head. “Every night you ask me the same question, and every night it ends the same way. Please... don’t make me become something that hurts you.”
But the bitterness and the anger that had simmered deep inside Tesla finally surged forth. “I lost my home,” she said, her voice breaking. “My father died trying to warn people of Kyrartine’s plans. You could have stopped your uncle and instead you made all that sacrifice mean nothing!”
“I’m not the only one to blame,” said Daxton, his sad smile twisting into a vengeful sneer that sent Tesla stumbling backward. “You’re cursed, Tesla. Slaughter follows you like a shadow. It’s only a matter of time before Kyrartine comes for everyone you have left.”
His words were like a spell coming to life. A wet, unnatural sound filled the room. Horrified, Tesla watched as a dark stain the color of port wine blossomed against Daxton’s shirt. The gunshot wound inflicted by Kyrartine returned, filling the air with a sickening metallic tang.
But it was his face that made her scream.
Where once he had been handsome, he was now grotesque. His skin stretched, features erasing one by one until nothing but a blank canvas of pale flesh remained. Daxton’s body slumped. Tesla dove to catch him before he struck the floor. Hands wrapped around his shoulders, she cradled his head in her lap, heart breaking for what she knew would come next—what haunted her most, even during her waking hours. With a blur of movement, the empty skin rippled and boiled, shifting to become a set of familiar features that made Tesla recoil in terror.
Naamah appeared, gnashing her sharpened fangs together like a snake striking at its prey.
The flesh shifted again, and a new face appeared.
Minko, bloated and dead.
Cerise, pink hair stained red, eye wild and panicked.
Ming and Ren, their tiny voices crying out for help.
Lind Fuhr, choking on a mouthful of blood.
Daxton’s skin pulled and rippled once more, this time forming a face that broke her.
Blitz stared up at her, his red hair sticking out in every direction. “Tesla...” he said, eyes swollen with tears, “You left me there all alone.”
The apartment swelled with the sounds of devastation. Tesla rocked back and forth, sobbing from a grief so sharp it threatened to slice her into a hundred lifeless ribbons. A part of her heart wished it would, if only to numb the pain. With a great crack, the clouds above New London finally splintered in two.
Like Tesla, they cried throughout the night, begging the ghosts for forgiveness.