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Riot: A Sci-Fi Thriller

Riot: A Sci-Fi Thriller

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Commissioner Kai Ming stood in the wings of the hastily assembled stage and sweated through his suit. The air in the crowded market square was thick—not just with the damp heat of a late summer afternoon, but with the palpable tension of unrest.

Magistrate Alber tried to speak to the gathered assembly of concerned citizens from a podium at center stage. When his frail voice lost itself among the noise of a plaza packed with restless people, the magistrate glanced back at Ming, and his wrinkled face furrowed with frustration.

Ming showed his palms and flicked his hands skyward. Louder, man, he thought.

The magistrate put his mouth closer to the microphone and cleared his throat. “Thank you all for coming.” The audio projection squealed and faded. A hush fell over the square. “I know this has been a difficult month for all of us.”

Ming winced. A poorly worded start. He should have been at the podium, giving this speech himself instead of that frail old man. With protests bogging down the city and the hunger crisis worsening, the home office extended the Magistrate’s retirement with the claim that they favored a slow transition in this unstable time. The old man had been serving for over forty years—nearly the entire lifespan of the young Republic. What they didn’t realize was that frail, old Alber had lost his edge. And, for some exasperating reason, public speaking was one part of the job that he’d never been good at to begin with—even less so now.

On Ming’s left, Ari Klokov shifted his weight. A tall ex-army scout of Slavic origin, Ari was one of several specialists recently brought on for additional security at the Fields prefecture. The broad-shouldered European stood as he always did, with his hands clasped behind his navy blue suit jacket in a relaxed but ready posture. Ming also noted that he appeared as unfazed as ever. Sometimes having a bodyguard shadowing your every move was cumbersome, but today Ming found his presence comforting.

A man and a woman in navy blue suits just like Ari’s stood on the opposite side of the stage—Alber’s bodyguards. They kept the magistrate in their line of sight and scanned the crowd with eyes hidden behind dark glasses.

Magistrate Alber continued. “The Agricultural Committee has authorized the installation of two additional Ration Distribution Centers here in Greyhare Market.” A murmur ran through the plaza. “It will be up and running by next week.”

The magistrate paused to catch his breath. Boos and jeers clamored up above the murmur of the restless crowd.

“I’ll believe it when I see it!” a man’s voice, distant but strong, called out.

“Who’s going to wait in line for me while I’m at work?” a woman asked. Her voice came from the left.

“You look like you ate more for breakfast than I’ve eaten all week!” This voice was the closest, and a tense laughter followed.

“Settle down!” the Magistrate croaked. “Please, now is not the time for questions.”

Ming clamped down a snort of derision and forced himself to keep his face impassive. Do those sound like questions to you?

After the bitter thought crossed his mind, Ming knew he was being unfair. It was not Alber’s fault that a genetic disease had decimated the year’s scant rice harvest.

The food shortage hit the whole city hard, but Fields bore the worst of it. In summers past, the stores in this market teemed with produce. Smells of roasting meat and freshly baked bread once mingled with the steady flow of commerce. Now, half the vendors had shuttered their doors. A few of the more successful shops moved to wealthier areas, but most were forced out of business due to skyrocketing food prices and sinking wages.

Today, the square held no food, no open vendors, no smells of cooking, only thin people with black bags under their eyes and lips pressed into pained sneers. In their place, Ming, too, would have been outraged to hear that his market was being turned into a Ration Distribution Center. And yet what else could be done? The population of this district continued to swell. Over a hundred people per day migrated to Fields from the broken, depressed districts at the country’s western and northern borders. And that was just one district’s numbers. There wouldn’t be enough food for everyone during the hard winter to come without strict rationing now.

A magistrate could only do so much.

Gazing into the crowd, Ming watched as a tall, grim man pushed his way to the front of the stage, where a row of waist-high metal fences lined with wary police officers separated the crowd from the politicians. The stranger had close-cropped jet black hair and a face so lean his cheekbones cast shadows. He was close enough that Ming could see the scar on his right ear—ragged and torn at the top like someone had tried to bite it off in a cage match.

At the rail, a balding man with a wide, flat nose glanced behind him, saw the tall grim man as he approached, and seemed to puff up as if dosed with a shot of courage. Flat Nose spun and shouted into the face of the police officers. “It’s not enough, Alber! My children are starving!”

Two helmeted officers shoved the man back into the crowd.

“The austerity measures affect us all,” Magistrate Alber said. “We must pull together in this time of crisis.”

“Bullshit!” Flat Nose hollered as he scrambled back to his feet.

“More lies,” said another voice that Ming couldn’t place.

The tall grim man said nothing. He watched the Magistrate with an unwavering gaze.

Ari shifted his weight. A full head taller than Ming, he had to bend down to speak in the older man’s ear.

“Commissioner,” Ari whispered, “we may need to leave in a hurry, sir.”

Ming covered his mouth with his hand. “Eyes ahead, soldier,” he said, though he trembled with fear.

The floor of the stage gave ever so slightly as Ari readjusted his feet and unbuttoned his suit jacket.

The line of wary police officers on the other side of the fence adjusted their grips on the heavy truncheons they carried. Scratched and scraped plastic body armor was strapped to the limbs and chests of each of the officers, men and women alike, so they looked from Ming’s vantage point like so many deadly toy soldiers.

“No more lies!” yelled a thin woman near the stage.

Magistrate Alber rushed through the next few lines of the speech Ming had prepared.

Idiot, Ming thought. They can smell your fear.

Countless starving people. One seed of hope.

Enshi is in crisis. Years of famine and enforced rationing have led to food riots and mass uprisings across the country.

Only one hope remains to avert total disaster—a genetically modified rice seed created by a genius biologist who’s just trying to protect his family from an angry mob.

Can Magistrate Kai Ming retrieve the seed from his old friend and deliver it, in secret, across an area that’s become a minefield of deadly riots?

Can the seed be used to avert complete societal collapse?

Accompanied by his bodyguard, ex-military scout Ari Klokov, whose past is shrouded in the fog of amnesia, and assisted by Po, the genius biologist’s tenacious daughter attempting to reunite with her family, the three undertake a desperate quest to save the country… and maybe the world.

Riot is a science fiction thriller about a futuristic uprising, where rioters face down mechs, genetic engineering saves lives, and ordinary people have the power to rise as heroes in a time of crisis. Grab your copy and start reading today!

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This is a standalone sci-fi thriller novel set in a dystopian near-future.

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