The Infiltrix, Book 1
Release Date:

Jul 25, 2024



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The Package


Kimberley Troutte

In the deadly future after the second civil war, the United States is divided and dangerous…

Agent Heather Slade is a beautiful well-crafted fake. A perfect lie. A highly-trained asset with no country, no memory, and no home. She spies for a secretive group of Revo agents from the democratic Free States and fights against the crushing power of the charismatic authoritarian leader who controls the militant Patriot regions. Risking her life, she infiltrates top levels of the brutal government and lives deeply under cover with her enemies.

Heather’s current mission is to smuggle a package from under the President’s nose onto a highly guarded golden train and bring it to safety in the Free States. Her partner on the perilous journey is a handsome but inexperienced foreign agent with secrets of his own. Why is Miguel Robles so hauntingly familiar? He might hold the key to finding the family she no longer remembers—if they survive the mission.

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Heather slipped past the ticket booth outside the Santa Fe railway station at a quarter to midnight. She wore a simple black turtleneck, dark slacks, black boots, and a baseball cap. Makeup and eye-catching diamonds were not required at this stage of the mission. With her senses on high alert, she fast-walked through one of the largest train stations in the Patriot Union, scanning the dark landscape. No night watchmen or heavily armed Patriot Defenders chased after her. The coast seemed clear. Still, looks could be deceiving. She’d been trained to stick to the edges of darkness and slide across the razor’s edge of sanity.

Her handler had called the mission an easy in-and-out. “Deliver the package and get out without being seen, Agent Slade. It’s as simple as that.”

Right, simple. Her handler had no idea what really happened in the field nor truly understood what Heather risked every time she maneuvered within the Patriot crowds. Nothing was easy anymore. There was no safe harbor. The tangible threat of her violent execution loomed around every corner.

Headquarters, or fondly referred to as simply “HQ,” had chosen her to lead this mission because she was a damned good asset. Heather was also fully aware that she was expendable as well. A faceless woman with no country and no home had little to lose. And losing was no option. They expected her to succeed with every highly dangerous mission or die trying. Well. She wasn’t going to leave this planet without a hell of a fight.

She made it to the elaborate chain-link fence that was supposed to keep people like her out of the train yard. Taking a deep breath, she slowly, deliberately, placed her palm on the wire and waited for the fire bolt to light up her nervous system like it was Patriot Independence Day. Nothing happened. The intel had been correct—the fence wasn’t wired with electricity or skin-frying laser currents. Still, the president’s beloved train could be heavily guarded. Were eyes on her even now?

A series of stun grenades went off behind her. The sudden blasts made her jump, even though she’d been the one to order the explosives. The night sounds were loud, angry, and perfect cover for what she was about to do.

She chose her break-in spot just below a sign on the chain-link fence that read Trespassers will be shot. It would be a poetic act of defiance to burn a hole straight through that futile sign. Everyone knew they could be shot for far less than trespassing in the new Patriot Union. Just looking at a Patriot Defender in a wrong way could garner a bullet between the eyes. PDs were a trigger-happy bunch.

She shivered at the thought and fired up the blowtorch.

When she’d made the hole in the fence wide enough for her team, she put the torch back into her satchel and squeezed her thin frame through the cutout. Quietly, she strode toward her mark—the Golden Patriot Express. She’d done her homework and knew that this sleek passenger train was the most expensive, lavish rail in the country. The über rich and heads of state used it to transport secrets and priceless treasures that she’d risk her life to get her hands on. But that wasn’t the job tonight.

Heather picked up the pace and made it to the conductor’s door. Standing this close to the train, she couldn’t help but marvel. The entire outside had been coated with 24-carat gold and polished to such a high shine that she could see her reflection and the puffs of air coming from her mouth. She shook her head. Who spends money on a golden train when 60 percent of the population doesn’t have enough to eat? It was insane.

Still, she wondered. What would it be like to ride this golden monster? The temptation pulsed under her skin. If a passenger had enough money, connections, and the required documents, she could buy a ticket to ride through all nine regions, cross the border, and disappear into the Free States.

Freedom. God, she wanted that.

Running away was not an option for most people trapped inside the Patriot Union. Border region PDs had shoot-to-kill orders for anyone who tried to flee. Stowaways on the Golden Patriot Express ran the risk of being captured and brutally executed on the six o’clock Patriot News.

She didn’t want her old father to see her on the news. It would explode his heart.

A trickle of sweat ran down her back as she pressed her hand against the side of the train. She held still. Would a silent alarm be triggered? She waited. There were no sounds, no vibrations under her palm. The shiny metallic skin felt smooth and cold. The mechanical golden monster was fast asleep.

She exhaled.

It was a go.

She felt along the door for an indentation or bump, making small circles with both hands until…there! The button was almost flush with the side of the train, invisible to the naked eye, barely noticeable to the touch. She pressed it and a thin door lifted to reveal a touch screen. A cursor blinked at her, waiting for her to input eight passkey digits.

She pulled an unscrambler out of her satchel and put a flashlight pen between her teeth. Directing her penlight on the device, she pressed the start button. Letters, numbers, and symbols scrolled before her like a crazy slot machine on the tiny monitor. The first digit of the passkey stopped spinning on the unscrambler’s screen. Seven more to go. This was going to take forever.

Suddenly, the night became very quiet. The flash-bangs had stopped. Why? The guys were supposed to be releasing explosions for another ten minutes, moving away from the station to draw guards off her. She had the sinking feeling that something had gone wrong. Gunshots rang out less than a mile away. Shots were returned. Crap! Revos weren’t supposed to be engaging the enemy here tonight. Why hadn’t HQ told them to steer clear until we’d finished the job? She had to act fast, or the mission she’d spent weeks stitching together would be destroyed.

Come on! She begged the unscrambler to go faster. She had to open up this ridiculous train.

A large bomb exploded near the station. Heather screamed and threw herself to the gravel, bracing for the searing pain. Her bones, the fibers in her muscles, and all of her electrified nerves seemed to remember another time that had stolen everything from her except her final breaths. Her mind still couldn’t sort it out. With her arms over her head and her face down in the dirt, she itched to run, and yet, she couldn’t. She was glued to the gravel, paralyzed with fear.

Rapid-fire shots erupted nearby. Assault weapons, military-grade, more than one. She smelled smoke. Sirens wailed in the distance and there was another large blast. They were getting closer.

Had the team been compromised? Was the Patriot Army in the railway station? Her mind was spinning with terror. Getting caught breaking into the Golden Patriot Express with the package in her possession would mean the end of her. She’d be labeled a terrorist, an enemy of the country. A torturous death would be her punishment. She couldn’t think of that now. She had to move. Battling through her paralysis, she rose to her feet.

Where was the unscrambler? She used the penlight to search and found that she’d thrown it under the tracks when the violent past collided with her present. She’d never be able to break in without the passcode. With dread weighing heavily in her chest, she wiggled her body under the tracks and reached for the unscrambler. Her fingers grazed it, pushing it further. Damn it! She stretched as far as she could and captured it. Shimmying herself back out from under the train, she let out a sigh of relief to see that it was still working. Three passkey slots had filled in. Five more to go.

Another blast, about two clicks away, lit up the dark sky. She was ready this time and covered her mouth with her free hand and bit down to keep herself quiet. More gunfire rang out. She silently screamed at herself to hurry. Her hands were sweating, but she held onto the unscrambler for dear life and begged it to finish. She still needed the last two digits. Come on, come on.

Gravel crunched behind her. She froze, her muscles bunching, ready to strike. A man’s hand touched her shoulder. He was supremely lucky that she’d recognized the way he dragged his left boot or she would’ve dropped him to his knees.

She glanced at the hand on her shoulder. It was missing three fingers.

“Finally,” she said to the man she knew only as “Brute.” “What took you so long?”

“We had a little trouble with the package. All fine now.”

His four teammates stood behind him with the box. The man named “Hairy” wore a cap to cover his horrible scars. He’d been scalped during the war for daring to stop a Patriot Defender from raping a young girl. “Frog” had a croaky voice because a Patriot had tried to slit his throat while he and his wife were sleeping. Lucky for him, Frog’s wife was a light sleeper and handy with a pair of knitting needles. These men all had battle scars, like most of her countrymen did, like she did, and yet here they were, still fighting for human decency. For democracy. For peace.

The other two—she simply called “The Twins”—always worked together. She liked them because they were efficient and didn’t speak much. She trusted all five men with her life but didn’t want to know their real names—it was safer for the team that way. She’d taken every precaution for this mission because it was the most important one HQ had tasked her with. She couldn’t fail.

The unscrambler stopped and the train door clicked open.

“We have to hurry,” she said. “Get the package inside. I’ll be lookout.”

“You sure, boss?” Brute asked, flexing his muscles. She could see his weapon sheathed on his hip and the battle lust in his eyes. He longed for a fight.

Heather didn’t want anyone to die on her watch. “I’m sure. Go.”

It took four men to carry the box and one to guide them to the right compartment.

She watched to make sure they were handling the package with care. “Don’t jostle it! Careful.”

“Yes, boss,” Hairy said.

Just as the team disappeared inside, she sensed someone coming around the nose of the train toward her. Quickly, she tucked the incriminating unscrambler into her satchel and tossed it under the train.

“Halt! What are you doing there?” a man barked at her.

“Me?” Heather turned to face him.

The big man wore the distinctive green-and-navy uniform with the golden star emblem on the sleeves. He was no railway security guard. She was looking at a full-fledged Patriot Defender, an officer of the Patriot Army. His gun was drawn on her.

“I asked you a question!” the PD growled.

She swallowed. “Are you talking to me?” She allowed her words to lift into notes higher than her normal speech. Scared, weak, feminine was the look she was going for.

He came closer, weapon up, stalking her like prey. Did he think she was packing? Loaded with explosives?

No. She was unarmed and thinking on her feet. Even if this was her last move, she had to protect the team and the package.

“Oh my goodness. I’m just so mixed up.” She blinked at him shyly. “Thank you for rescuing me. I heard those loud booms and thought Revos were coming for me. I ran in here to hide.” She didn’t have to fake the quiver in her high voice, but she wouldn’t shy away from this man. She stepped closer to him as if she didn’t see the gun pointed at her chest.

“Don’t move!” the PD ordered.

She pressed her hand to her bosom, drawing his eyes to her curves. “Anything you say, officer. I am just so glad you’re here to escort me back home safely.”

“Escort you home?”

“Thank you. I appreciate it,” she said as if it was a statement, not a question. “I’m so glad you’re here. It’s cold and scary. I need a big, strong officer to take care of me. And you sure are a handsome one. Is that okay? That I call you handsome? I wouldn’t want to break any laws.”

He secured his weapon, but the frown on his face meant that she hadn’t won him over yet.

“You live near here?” he asked.

The nearest residential community was a good three miles away and her home wasn’t in it. “I’m visiting a friend. We were in a ballet company together.” She knew he would look at her legs when she said that. Too bad she wasn’t wearing a mini-skirt to show off her calves. “She was on a date, so I thought I’d go for a walk and stretch, you know? And then I heard all that commotion and thought they were going to kill us all!” She shivered on cue. Didn’t need to fake that either. “I ran and ran and ended up here. I mean, a railway station seemed like a good place to hide from murdering Revos. Good people like us are never really safe. Are we?” She waved her hand toward the smoke in the sky. “Thank heavens you’re here.”

He studied her as if debating if she was for real. She needed him to believe it.

“Maybe once we get to my friend’s apartment, you can come inside for a drink.” She sauntered a little closer. “It’s the least I can do for you saving me like this.”

He was wavering. She gave him her best smile.

There was a soft sound inside the train. He looked over her head. “Are you alone?”

“Yes. I am alone.” It came out sounding sad, and was the most truthful thing she’d said to him. “Can we go now? This place is spooky. I swear it’s haunted.”

He stepped closer. “Let me see your identification.”

She giggled as any scared woman would, right? “I’m such a ninny. I dropped my purse when I ran. Maybe you can help me find it on the way back?” She started walking, silently begging him to follow the sway of her hips, hoping that he wouldn’t shoot her in the back.

And then she heard it—the sound of her team dropping the large box inside the train. She froze.

“Halt! Whoever is in there, come out with your hands up,” the PD yelled.

She spun around and was horrified to see he’d drawn his piece again and was aiming at the door she’d hacked open.

No, no, no!

One thought sliced through her terror: Protect the package.

She charged at the officer from behind. He had a good hundred pounds and half a foot of height on her, but she had surprise on her side. Men always discounted thin, pretty women. Always. Leaping through the air, she delivered a ferocious roundhouse kick to his head and another to his paunchy gut. She threw an uppercut jab for good measure and heard a nasty crack. He was out cold before his body slumped to the ground. His gun skittered across the gravel. She checked his pulse. Still alive.

Brute and the other men came out of the train with surprise on their faces.

“Help me,” she ordered. “We’ve got to get him out of here.”

“I’ll kill him,” Brute said.

“No killing,” she said. “We aren’t Patriots.” At least, she hoped to God that was true. The old fear twisted her insides in knots. She had no idea who she was, really.

“So…what? We stash him somewhere?” one of the nameless twins asked.

The other studied the officer’s jacket. “Hell, he’s a sergeant, boss. Don’t you think he’ll be missed?”

“It’s not like we can drape him over the handlebars and bike him out of here,” the first twin said.

Heather had taken the subway and hiked in. The others had arrived in a van that was already long gone. They were supposed to retreat on electric bikes that they’d stashed in the bushes earlier. No one had a car.

They all looked at one another. The twins were right. Even if they could commandeer a vehicle to take the sergeant away, there was too much happening on the streets. Any second now, a large battalion would arrive to squash the fighting around the corner. They couldn’t take an unconscious officer out on the street and risk getting stopped by the military. It was too dangerous. Plus, the area was probably full of Patriot Union Protectors—they called themselves “PUPs”—on the hunt for blood and action. They were the most dangerous of all. They were young men under the age of thirty who were not formally trained by the army but were legally armed as a militia. They made it their mission to kill anyone they suspected to be a Revo. President Blockwell rebuked their terror tactics in public, but he secretly patted their heads in private because fear kept people in line. Why not use the PUPs for that too?

She looked at the officer lying next to the Golden Patriot Express. A cold desperation gripped her heart. Was this sergeant going to blow the entire mission for them? No. Delivering the package was far too important to the team. They couldn’t lose this chance.

There was only one thing to do. “Grab his weapon.”

End of Excerpt

This book will begin shipping July 25, 2024

The Package is currently available in digital format only:

ISBN: 978-1-962707-32-9

July 25, 2024

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