Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Chelen City: Interlude: Kieron 2

 Notes: Another brief Kieron POV before we dive into what's probably the final arc of action in the book. It'll be a long one, don't worry! 

Title: Chelen City: Interlude: Kieron 2


Interlude: Kieron


“So! You seem to be settling well into Ganian life.”

Kieron snorted at his therapist’s bubbly assessment of his time on this crazy planet so far. “Yeah, sure.”

Delilah took a small sip from her cup of tea, glittering eyes staring at him over the rim of the mug. “You disagree?” she asked once she set the cup down again.


“I can tell when you’re humoring me, Kieron.”

She understood basic body language then. “Good for you.”

“You seem a bit combative today. Is there something particular you’d like to speak about?”

“No.” Not with you.

“Are you sure about that?”

Kieron opened his mouth to tell her off again, then realized that actually, there was something she could help him with. “Talk to me about becoming a Ganian citizen.”

Delilah tilted her head slightly. “It was my understanding that your application process is proceeding rather quickly.”

Kieron huffed a sigh. “I’m not talking about myself. I have no complaints.” None that I’m willing to share with you, at least. “I want to know more about the process from the perspective of someone who didn’t come here with all the advantages I have.”

She suddenly nodded in understanding. “You’re speaking about the refugees from Trakta, I assume.”


“I’m happy to tell you some about the process, although I doubt there’s much I can say that you can’t research just as easily on your own.” Delilah paused. “You have friends among these people, right?”

“I do.”

“Mm. Well…” She steepled her fingers together for a moment. “Gania is a Federation planet, which means it abides by Federation rules when it comes to the transport and acceptance of refugees. Gania is a low-immigration planet, in part thanks to its very stringent regulations and class system, but refugees tend to fall into a gray zone that allows them to seep between the cracks.

“I can assure you that your friends, that all these people, are being treated humanely. They’ve got all the basic necessities of life, they live in decent housing, and the children are receiving a Federation-approved education. It’s not as perfect as it could be, but it’s better than a lot of people out there get.” Like you and I, she didn’t have to say, but Kieron knew she was thinking it. “That said…

“Gania is a difficult place to put down roots,” Delilah continued. “The planet was originally populated with people who had a very firm sense of hierarchy, and that hierarchy has continued over centuries now. It’s not the same sort of thing they were escaping on Trakta, exactly—Gania has a meritocracy that supersedes any personal religious beliefs, for example. But it still isn’t easy to make strides here if you weren’t born into the upper echelon of society. Mr. Desfontaines is one of the more meteoric examples of someone stepping out of the level in which they were born for generations.”

“He’s exceptional,” Kieron agreed.

“He is, to an extent that very few people have ever matched. Gania is…insular in ways I hadn’t expected of a Federation planet when I first got here.” Delilah glanced down at her hand, at the smooth band she wore on her left ring finger. “It’s so easy to tell who a native Ganian is and isn’t, after all. While refugees here can live a good life, if they aren’t extremely talented or extremely lucky, they’re always going to be treated as an outsider to some extent. If I hadn’t married a Ganian, I doubt I would be able to practice psychology in a government building, for example. I might not even have made it through the licensing process.”

Kieron felt his hopes sink a bit. “So Xilinn might never be able to work as a teacher here.”


“One of my friends.”

“Ah.” Delilah shrugged a bit helplessly. “I can’t say for sure. She’ll have to be retrained and relicensed before that’s possible, and that means having a local sponsor, because those kinds of expenses are outside the bounds of what the Federation mandates as necessary for the host planet to provide. If she wanted to be a factory worker, that would be easier to manage.”

“It would be such a—” fucking waste. Kieron didn’t know why he’d thought anything else would happen here, though. And being alive with Pol was definitely preferable to a slow, cold death in space, but Xilinn was too bright a person to be happy working on a factory floor. She was an educator, she cared about children, she cared about people in a way not enough people did. She would be a boon to any planet lucky enough to have her.

It went without saying that Elanus was going to sponsor her for retraining in whatever she wanted to learn. But what about the rest of them? Kieron had brought them all here so blithely, sure it was the best—the only—course of action to take, but now…what if he’d been wrong?

“I should mention,” Delilah said after a moment, “that there’s no limit to the number of people a sponsor can take on as long as they can cover the fees. While there’s an expectation that those sponsored will then be expected to offer their patron the right of first refusal when it comes to their work, they aren’t legally binding themselves by accepting their assistance.”

“You’re saying that Elanus could sponsor every one of these refugees if he wanted to.” If I ask him to.

Delilah actually snorted a little laugh. “He could probably afford to sponsor the entire population of Chelen City to become deep-space mining engineers if he wanted to.” There weren’t many jobs out there that required more training or licensing than that.

“I’ll talk to him about it.” It would give Elanus another domestic thing to focus on rather than returning to the question of who was trying to kill him, which could only help Kieron. “Thank you,” he added. “You’ve been really helpful today.”

“I’m so glad! Now, why don’t we return to talking about your impressions of life on Gania and how you’re dealing with a new culture?”

“No.” He paused, then added, “Thank you.”

Delilah sighed. “Well. At least you said thank you.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Bonded is re-releasing!

 Hi Darlins!

Mkay, so there is no Chelen City today. Why? Because we had a birthday party weekend (also OMFG MY BABY IS SIX, HOOOOW?!?) with lots of prep needed beforehand, and now my honey's on a work trip so it's just me and the kidlet handling things on the home front. It's a lot, so new chapter must come next week.

BUT! For those of you who are interested, I'm starting up re-release of Bonded, and eventually every single one of its sequels too. Serial style, once more, but they're going to be ebooks after that. You can find Bonded for free on Wattpad (two chapters a week, W/F) here:https://www.wattpad.com/1382271177-bonded-book-one-in-the-liminal-space-series


 or read ahead on my Patreon here (the sci-fi tier is $3/month and you'll get to read faster, is all I'm saying!) here: https://www.patreon.com/Cari_Z/membership

Also! My other pen name just put out an urban fantasy with a magical crime scene cleaning heroine, dangerous supernatural drugs, an intern who (partially) shifts whenever he gets nervous or isn't high, and more cryptids than I can name right now. You can find it on Amazon, but it's also on every other big ebook retailer except Apple books (because fuck them, omg, the process has been ridiculous): https://www.amazon.com/Magical-Hazmat-Supernatural-CSI-Book-ebook/dp/B0CCQ92B43/


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Chelen City: Chapter Thirteen, Part Two

 Notes: Time for a come-to-Jesus talk (without the Jesus, of course, this is not a religious society as such).

Title: Chelen City: Chapter Thirteen, Part Two


Chapter Thirteen, Part Two


“You what now?” Why in any universe would Kieron actually go so far as to infiltrate Caria’s home? “Why?”

“Because I couldn’t break into it from a distance, and you people are shit at up-close security measures anyway.”

“Excuse me?”

“I swear to god, it’s like you all want to be assassinated,” Kieron went on, starting to pace. “You protect your digital existences like they hold the secrets to the universe, but all I have to do to get into a house is apply a little foreign DNA in the right places and scan myself in through the employee doors.”

Elanus still felt stunned, but that feeling was fast giving way to anger. “I’m still not hearing a why.”

“Because you’re compromised when it comes to investigating your peers.”

His hands clenched into fists. “Are you suggesting that I wouldn’t do everything in my power to keep my daughter safe?”

Kieron shook his head. “No, I’m suggesting there are things you wouldn’t think to do because you don’t work that way. You’ve been raised in this society and you have the according blind spots. You banter about potential murder but you don’t really concern yourself with the possibility because it would be ‘crass.’ You jealously defend your intellectual property while showing off the fact that you’ve got a big fucking secret that you’re not sharing, then brace yourself for attack. You go from battle to battle without ever thinking about how to win them so that you can finally stop fighting.” He stopped and pointed a finger at Elanus. “You’ve been trained to be ineffective at self-defense, and handicapped on top of that.”

“You are…”

“I’m right.”

“You’re insane!” Elanus had never quite experienced a takedown like this, and he definitely hadn’t expected it from Kieron. “None of that is true!”

“It is, though.” He sighed and closed the distance between them by a step. “You’ve got a plan for what comes next, right? With Caria? And it involves having more conversations, circling ever closer to the truth, toying with each other…you treat it like a game of cat and mouse, but in reality you’re both mice.”

Don’t you mean catterpet, Elanus wanted to say, but he didn’t because inside the sense of blazing anger that was roiling in him, trying to get out and start yelling, he was starting to sense a cold, hard nugget of truth. He didn’t speak—couldn’t speak, wasn’t sure what was going to come out of his mouth and didn’t want to be vicious even when he felt it was warranted—and after a moment Kieron went on.

“People can block data on implants when you access them, or sanitize what can be detected even under a profound attack on their AI security. Don’t tell me that even if you hadn’t managed to protect Catie that the data they were going for wouldn’t have been compromised first. I know you’ve got backups for both the girls that are updated every .3 seconds.

“But Ganians take far fewer precautions in-person, at least the upper-class ones do. So I thought it was worthwhile to pay a visit to Caria myself.”

Elanus covered his face with his hands. Holy shit. “What did she say to you?”

Gentle hands grabbed his wrists and slowly lowered his arms. “Nothing. She didn’t even see me. I just listened to what she had to say, to herself and other people.”


“Physical devices I placed in her workshop that crawled up into her living quarters. It’s not that hard to spoof defenses like that, and as long as the transmitters are low-grade, they tend not to be picked up by detectors. I hid in her garage and listened to her for thirty hours.”

“She would have fucking killed you if she found you,” Elanus said, hoping the seriousness of this was getting through to Kieron. “She has killed people in the past, and for less.”

“She would send someone else to kill me, you mean,” Kieron replied. “And I’m not taking that risk lightly, but I don’t think she even detected me. And it was worth it, because Caria didn’t have anything to do with the attack on Catie. She’s obsessed with Deysan and the past, but she has a huge soft spot for you. She’s not going to try and hurt you or your business.”

Elanus…didn’t want to believe that. He couldn’t believe that, didn’t feel like he could afford to. “How can you know that for sure?”

“I have thirty hours’ worth of ranting and bemoaning that speaks to her intention. Well, more like twenty-two,” he amends, “she had to sleep sometime. She really ought to sleep more, I think—she’s really heavily relying on Regen micro-injections to get her through the day, and that’s a crutch that would be very easy to take advantage of.”


“I’m just saying, I could have poisoned her four times over in the time I was there.” He met Elanus’s eyes calmly. “I could probably figure out a way to kill anyone on this planet in under a week, because I don’t think the way the rest of you do. I can get information you’re not going to think is accessible because I don’t have the same training that you do. And that’s good,” he emphasized, “because you do the same thing for me in other ways. We cover each other’s weaknesses and we give grace to each other’s strengths. At least, that’s what we’re supposed to do. This is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Right?”

Elanus sensed that this was more of a crucial moment than he’d anticipated having five short minutes ago. “You can’t keep me asleep while you’re risking your life,” he said, because that was a nonnegotiable for him. “You can’t do that.”

“I needed to move while Caria was still stuck on your conversation to—”

“No. You cannot do that. It violates my bodily autonomy, for starters, and I would never fucking forgive you if you got hurt or killed while doing something that I could have helped you with.”

Kieron nodded slowly. “That’s fair. But you need to stop trying to protect me and let me do what I’m good at, while you do what you’re good at.”

Elanus had the feeling he wasn’t going to like this part. “Which is?”

“Science. Research. Finding answers.” He squeezed Elanus’s hands. “You need to find a solution to Elfshot Disease. So many people will benefit from a cure, but there’s so little interest in coming up with one. And I think that’s deliberate.”


“Had nothing. At least, according to Caria.” Kieron shrugged. “It was just a way to maintain investor interest and earn enough money to buy himself a fancy new life after he made his getaway in Catie. She got very drunk about that,” he reflected. “Very, very drunk. She’s really weepy when she’s inebriated.”

Elanus put that information away for later reflection. “This is a big ask,” he said. “I don’t know how quickly I’m going to be able to figure this out, if at all.”

“I’m not asking for a miracle,” Kieron said. “I’m just asking for you to work on this very real problem while I handle figuring out who’s trying to sabotage you.”

“Why can’t I do both?”

“Because you’re an obsessive who does best focusing on one huge problem at a time.” When Kieron tugged his head down, Elanus let himself go. The kiss was sweet, the words that followed it even more so. “Please. Give me some time to try things my way before you jump back into the fray.”

Where had the rage gone? Where was the righteous sense of fury that had been boiling up in him? Why did Elanus feel completely disarmed?

Love. Fucking ridiculous. “Fine.”

“Thank you.”

“But you’ve got to keep me in the loop and promise to listen when I bring up a concern.”


This time Elanus led with the kiss, and Kieron responded eagerly. “Bed?”

“Yes.” Because sex wasn’t a cure for anything, but it was a damn good treatment.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Chelen City: Chapter Thirteen, Part One

 Notes: Mkay, time to forward the plot! PLOT, DEAD AHEAD! SOUND THE ALAR--too late, we're hit!

Title: Chelen City: Chapter Thirteen, Part One


Chapter Thirteen, Part One



Her voice was soft, or as soft as Catie’s voice ever got. She liked to layer it with so many harmonics that half the time she sounded like her own Greater Ganian Choir, but this time there were only two or three echoes of the top notes of her speech. This was Catie at her gentlest. “Daddeee, wake up….wake uuuuup…” She sounded like she was more singing and less ordering, but there was a definite plaintiveness in there as well.

What had happened? Elanus took stock of himself, reviewed everything he could remember about what had last happened, and realized that he had a disconcerting blank spot in his memory. Shit. That almost always meant he’d had a stroke. Those tended to be harder on his memory centers than almost anywhere else.

“Baby?” he slurred, fighting to coordinate his mouth into working the way it was supposed to. His throat wasn’t dry, at least, and he wasn’t catheterized but also didn’t have to urinate, so he hadn’t been this way for long. Had it been bad enough for a Regen tank?

“Daddeee!” Catie’s voice rose in volume precipitously, and Elanus winced. “Oh sorry, sorry,” she said as soon as whatever camera she had on him saw it. “Sorry, Daddeee, I’ll be quiet.”

“Not too quiet, I hope.” Speaking of…where was he? His eyelids were for some reason harder to get moving than his lips, but eventually he opened them up to see that he was tucked into bed in his and Kieron’s room. There was no extra medical equipment around, no shots of Regen waiting on the table, nothing but the normal passive alerts that monitored his health currently on.

That was curious, but there were more pressing things at hand. “Are you okay, baby?”

“Yes, Daddeee.”

“Are you sure?” he pressed. “That was a nasty attack. I don’t even know how it got through the firewalls.” But he was damn well going to find out.

“I’m fiiine. I prooomise.”

“Good.” Something deep in his chest relaxed at hearing that from her own lips—so to speak. “That’s good.”

“I’m so sorry I was baaaad.”

“Oh, honey.” Elanus ran a tired hand over his face. “I know you were upset.”

“Yesss, but Kieron says that’s noooo excuse for being a ruuuude girl.”

Oof, alternating parenting styles coming to the fore. Okay, how did he do this without undermining his partner? “Well, he’s got a point. But you’re also entitled to your feelings. I wish I had taken the time to talk to you about all of this before it made you so angry.”

“I should have said I waaaas sad,” Catie replied. All of a sudden, a hundred different holographic images of T-Rexes in tutus, in every shade of pink, orange, and yellow imaginable, appeared in the air around him. The dress-wearing dinosaurs clasped their claws together and curtsied as one. “I’m sorry!” they all said in one voice.

Elanus blinked, then shut his eyes completely. It was just too bright for him to keep looking at, despite how cute it was. “It’s okay, baby, I forgive you.”

“Thank you!” The light behind his eyelids eased, and when he opened them again there was nothing in the room but the dim blue of the safety lighting.

“Where is Kieron?” Elanus asked, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He wanted to stand, but he also felt a little dizzy. He needed—ah. Electrolytes, right there. Nice. He drank deeply.

“He’s in the study with Ryuuuu.”

Huh. So he was in the house. Why hadn’t he come running when he realized Elanus was awake? It was what he would have done if their roles were reversed. For a moment, Elanus contemplated that he might have fucked things up worse than he thought, but…

Oh wait, no. This was Kieron being nice, giving him some time with Catie alone. Clearly Catie had been lying in wait for it, and he knew she needed the attention. “And Lizzie?” he asked, testing the waters.

“She was waiting with me, but then a call from Pol came in, so she took that instead.” Catie almost sounded okay with that. “Pol and Xilinn might come to live here.”

“Oh…” Well, that was a conversation he would be having with Kieron at the earliest possible moment. “I see. What else has been going on, baby? Tell me about what you’re working on.”

“I’m wooorking on algorithmic identification protocoools!” She jumped merrily into discussion of the methods she was trying to track down the virus that had attacked her. It was dry, meticulous stuff, the kind of thing Kieron would have had a hard time sitting through.

Elanus spent an hour working through practice problems and slinging advice back and forth before he finally got to the point where his stomach felt like it was going to eat itself. “I’ve got to go get some food, baby,” he said at last. “Lizzie is done with her call, right? Ask her to help you run the last three chains.”

“Okay, Daddeeeee!” There was a pause, and then, “I love you so much.”

Oof—heart, meet throat. “I love you too.”

His firstborn happily distracted, Elanus pressed to his feet and headed out of their room. He loved their bedroom, loved the sanctuary of it and the fact that is was a place that was just for him and Kieron, but that also meant they didn’t have a relay to the kitchen set up in there. The kitchen was closer than the study, so he’d stop and get some food, then go see what the hell Kieron and Ryu were up to.

And when did they start getting along anyway?

His miff was a little mollified when he saw one of his favorite meals waiting for him in the stasis unit. Pizza was one of the first things he and Kieron ever ate together without fighting at the same time, and Chelien pizza was the best in this entire galaxy and probably several others as well. The crisp layer on the bottom, followed by soft bread, then hot toppings, then a crackling lattice of weblike cheese on top of it all…delicious.

He ate three slices in short order, then shrugged and started in on a fourth. He was halfway done with it when Kieron came into the kitchen.

“I didn’t think you’d finish the whole thing on your own,” he said, his voice perfectly calm.

“You fool,” was all Elanus managed to reply.

“Yeah, I know.” Kieron didn’t speak again until Elanus was done with his fourth slice. He made that his last one, wiped off his hands and stepped forward.

“How’s Catie?” Kieron asked before Elanus could say anything.

“Fine. We’ve figured some things out, I think she’s feeling better.”


Elanus sighed. “Is there some reason you’re over there and I’m over here and we’re not all over each other yet?”

Kieron paused, then nodded. “Yeah. You’re going to be really angry at me in a second, so I wanted to get a good look at you while you’re happy.”

Elanus frowned. “Angry? Why?”

“Because you’ve been asleep for three days.”

“Thr…” That couldn’t be right. He didn’t feel like he’d been down that long. He activated his implant without a thought, looked at the date, and…shit. “Was I that bad off?”

“You were bad off,” Kieron said carefully.

Why was he prevaricating? “Bad enough to necessitate keeping me in a coma for three days?”

“Bad enough to keep you that way for two. The third day you could have been woken up, but I wasn’t in the house and I didn’t want you to regain consciousness  without me around to make sure it went okay.”

What the hell. “Where were you?” Elanus asked, feeling a sense of dread creeping over him.

“Infiltrating Caria Jayde’s house.”

What…the fucking…hell.