Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Academy Post #34

Notes:  Way longer chapter this time around, from a POV we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Fun, political, mostly-introspective chapter. The next one will bring more closure, I promise.

Title: The Academy

Part Thirty-Four: Obfuscate, Prevaricate and Other Words Jonah Hates




There was something familiar, almost nostalgic, about being led through side passages and darkened corridors as Jonah was brought into the Academy, as opposed to the fanfare and front entrances that he’d become accustomed to in Garrett’s company. Admittedly, Garrett wasn’t here, and given how completely fucked up life had become lately, Jonah couldn’t say that he minded being more discreet than his husband was used to. Discretion was a Drifter’s watchword, their entrance and exit into the business of the glittering elite—discretion with a job, a guarantee not to expose or embarrass, a silent promise that they would disappear and no one would be the wiser. It was odd, to be relearning those lessons after Jonah had been sure he’d never have to go back to that life. Pandora was supposed to be a new beginning, everything else left behind. Instead he was back at the Academy on the very same night his son had survived an assassination attempt, solely because he’d already been in the system, doing business that only he had the contacts to do for his side in the battle on Liberty.

His side. Jonah snorted quietly to himself as he followed Master Sergeant Jessup into a private underground elevator, which swiftly began taking them not up, but sideways. Jonah had to admit, a lot of what Miles and Garrett and their allies were arguing for seemed pretty arcane to him, tiny things in the grand scheme, right of way and issues of protocol and…it just seemed like so much bullshit. He and Garrett had argued about it, right before he left on his side mission. At last, finally, Jonah was doing something palpable, and frankly his job felt a lot more useful that political wrangling.

Not fair, he reminded himself as the elevator cruised to a stop, then shifted gears and went up. Jonah’s husband had a surprising amount of patience, and a vision of the future that encompassed more for the Fringe than Jonah could even follow. Garrett and Miles were geniuses in their own way. It just sucked that they were also politicians, and had to couch everything they wanted in so much fluffy language that it was practically incomprehensible by the time you actually heard it. For someone who had grown up in a society where the biggest decisions revolved around day-to-day survival, anything more esoteric tended to get relegated to the back of the brain, inconsequential in the moment.

The elevator finally opened, and the master sergeant led Jonah down a small, tight corridor that eventually ended in what looked like a medical bay. The large central room was currently empty, and a minute later they entered a side room, where Admiral Liang sat in a chair, a dozen different holograms filling the air around him, each one tracking some sort of information. He shut them all down as the door closed behind them and looked up at Jonah. “Captain Helms. I’m surprised you could be here so quickly.”

“I had other business in these parts,” Jonah said, his voice hard. “Where’s my son?”

“Cody is fine, he’s sleeping.”

“I want to see him.”

“Of course.” The admiral stood and strode over to the door, gesturing for Jonah to follow him. They walked a few doors down, and Liang activated the viewport for one of the rooms, enlarging the picture inside. Jonah stared at the image and felt the fist around his heart unclench a little, at last. It was so…they looked so…

“Like baby catterpets,” he murmured. Cody and Ten were on the bed together, curled so tightly into each other that it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended. The blanket had been pushed mostly off the bed, the pillow was gone, and the mattress had expanded to conform to both of their bodies as best it could, leaving them partially obscured by its straining. Jonah could see Cody’s sling, and Ten’s vivid hair, but their legs were a complete tangle. Jonah could also hear them both snoring, a ragged point-counterpoint, and he sighed. “He’s really okay?”

“Apart from refracturing his collarbone, Cody has suffered no damage. His quad mates…” The admiral shrugged his shoulders. “It’s less clear, but things are looking better now. Grennson suffered contact burns and some mental trauma, but he appears to be past the worst of it. Ten was treated with Regen, and I believe that the hardest thing for hir is going to be getting over the guilt ze feels about being manipulated by a psychic. Cody is already helping with that, though.”

They both stared in silence for another second until Jonah asked, “Speaking of that, uh…is there somethin’ going on with those two that I need to know about?”

Admiral Liang arched a dark eyebrow. “If Cody hasn’t shared anything with you, then I sincerely doubt it. He’s quite attached to Ten, of course, but I’ve always thought his relationship with you was a very open one.”

“So did I. Then I found out he was on the verge of being assassinated by a goddamn psychic, and my perspective shifted a little,” Jonah said sourly. “How much of this did he know about before that girl came after him?”

“He had hints, a few suppositions, but nothing really substantial to report,” Admiral Liang said. “Your son and his quad mates are a force unto themselves when it came to attracting attention, and trouble, I’m afraid.”

“And how much did you know in advance of this?” Jonah snapped. “And I’m just warnin’ you now, don’t lie to me. I’ve learned a lot about spotting a liar in the past standard year, and I’m not in the mood to listen to the ‘state secrets’ excuse from anyone in charge of my son’s safety.”

The admiral winced. “Let’s go back to the other room, and I’ll tell you what I can.”

The master sergeant had made himself scarce, so when Jonah and Liang sat across from each other in the little infirmary bedroom, it was just the two of them. Admiral Liang steepled his fingers and took a deep breath. “First, to address my culpability. I take the safety of all my cadets very seriously, and when any of them are injured there is an official investigation into the cause. In the case of Cody’s first ‘accident,’ the investigation wasn’t yet complete before the second attack. I did, however, realize that he was being targeted by another cadet, one who I was unable to prove directly responsible for her actions thanks to collusion with an instructor here, who has as of this evening been removed from his position. I had already assigned a…watcher, of sorts, to Cody and his quad mates, but I instructed that watcher to feel free to take action if he felt any of his charges were in immediate danger.

“The cadet in question, a psychic, made liberal use of her abilities and managed to use both Ten and Darrell to her own ends, but fortunately was stopped before she could do any permanent damage. She’s dead, by the way. Killed by a toxin that she had intended to be used on my watcher, but her mind was already gone at that point. Grennson destroyed it.”

“You knew she was a psychic, you knew she was up to something, why didn’t you just kick her out?” Jonah demanded. “Get rid of the bitch before she could do any damage! And don’t think I don’t know that the only reason Cody survived his fall off the bike is because of a device my husband gave him, it’s got nothin’ to do with you and your ‘watcher.’”

Admiral Liang pursed his lips. “It’s times like this that I wish your husband were with you. He would have grasped the implications of what I’ve told you instantly.”

“What, that you’re a bad leader with no clue how to take care of kids?” Jonah snapped.

“No, the political implications.” Jonah huffed in exasperation and Admiral Liang leaned forward, his dark eyes intent. “You scoff, but let me remind you that my position here is an appointed one, not something due to me because of my rank. It is as much a political role as it is a military one, and it is subject to the whims of both parties. You think I could have done better? I agree, but take a moment to contemplate what the situation might have been like had the ruling party seen fit to replace me with someone else, someone whose personal beliefs fall firmly in the camp of the Central System Libertarians. You think they would be so quick to investigate an accident when the cadet in question was from the Fringe? You think they would do more than pay lip service to the rules, instead of doing all they could to protect their charges?

“The Academy has been a Federation institution for almost five hundred years. It’s the feeding ground for the Federation’s officer corps, and over forty percent of Federation diplomats are also graduates of the Academy. The Federation relies on the Academy to keep its military strong, and therefore it cannot afford to let its hold on this institution slip. I’ve been in command of the Academy for over twenty years, and I have a solid record of success here which makes it harder for them to dismiss me and put someone new, and less inclined to preserve the balance of political power here, in my place. Right now the Academy is functionally neutral in inter-Federation conflicts, but let me assure you that any excuse to change that will be leapt on. If that happens before I have a chance to put my plan in motion, then it’s the Fringe contingent who will lose out. No formal military force, no formal diplomatic service…your people would be scrabbling, and the Federation would be free to either retake you at their leisure, or ignore you and continue to allow you to be harassed by ‘pirate’ attacks until your planets are harassed right out of existence.”

“And you have a plan that could prevent that?” Jonah asked, more than a little skeptical. “’Cause I gotta say, I’ve seen the masters at work and they’re not makin’ a lot of headway, much less with something this big.”

“My plan doesn’t necessarily prevent a sundering of the ranks,” Admiral Liang admitted. “It does, however, put in place a system that allows for cadets to choose their own path upon graduation. If that’s disallowed, then we go with my second plan, which is to effectively steal this institution right out from under the Federation.”

“How…you’ve gotta be kidding me.”

Admiral Liang smiled thinly. “Not at all. I need time, though, time to prepare things here in order to allow for this transition. Losing my command would put a stop to my plan, and therefore to any hope the Fringe has of amassing its own fleet of war.”

“They might manage something without you,” Jonah said, but without conviction.

“Possibly…but over my lifetime, I’ve found that action by committee is very rarely as effective as a unilateral strike. Perhaps that makes me a dictator, but if so I am a benevolent one. I’ve seen far too many conflicts, some that destroy entire worlds, to wish the same for my children.”

“How old are you?” Jonah asked suddenly.

Admiral Liang chuckled. “Older than anyone knows. You are well-acquainted with naturalism, of course.” Jonah nodded. “There is a perpetual balance to the order of the universe. Everything has its opposite. In the case of naturalism, the body cannot accept Regen. In my case, I am naturalism’s converse. A rare genetic phenotype that not only rejuvenates with the help of Regen, but can replace itself completely. Every time I enter the tank, I emerge not only rejuvenated, but completely renewed, every single cell replaced so fast the machine could do nothing but let it happen, or risk killing me partway through the transformation. The first few times it happened I lost most of my memories to the process. I keep my past on file now.”

Jonah was dumbfounded. “You’re…immortal.”

The admiral  shrugged. “Functionally immortal, I suppose, although not impervious to death. My genetic status is closely guarded, by the way. I’ve only shared it with you because I know that you, of all people, can understand how dangerous such information can be. I want to give you something on me, to balance the account between us. I value your child, Captain Helms. I value all of the children here, but Cody is something special. He brings people together like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He could be a great leader, if only he learned how to conceal how he feels and what he knows.”

“Then he wouldn’t be himself.”

“Agreed. Are you here to remove him from the Academy?”

Jonah sighed. “I was thinkin’ about it, honestly.”

Admiral Liang inclined his head. “As bad as the situation has been, the one good thing to come out of it is a certain freedom when it comes to my executive actions. That’s why I was able to get rid of the assassin’s collaborator so quickly, and how I will take new measures to ensure the increased safety of my cadets.”

“What happened to the collaborator?”

“He’s been dismissed and demoted, and is currently heading for the Fringe for what I hope will be a very uncomfortable stint on Raiden’s Rock.”

“There’s nothing of value on Raiden’s Rock,” Jonah argued.

“That depends on how you define value, Captain. Raiden’s Rock is used as a teaching tool by the Federation, and one a commander at a certain level can exercise at their discretion. Doing duty there imparts a certain…humility, let us say. The man’s career is over regardless, but at least this way I can give him two years service in the middle of nowhere before letting him go.” Admiral Liang smiled. “I do love an object lesson.

“And I understand if you decide you have to remove Cody from our stewardship, but I suggest that you speak with him about it before you do. Consider all the options.”

“I’ll do that,” Jonah said.

“Good.” Admiral Liang stood up. “In the meantime, consider this room yours for the night. I’ve set the comm to alert you as soon as Cody is awake, and naturally you’re coded to enter his room. He’ll be very happy to see you.” The admiral left, and Jonah stared at the door for a while, trying to let it all sink in.

What was the best thing for Cody? To be honest, when he’d gotten the call earlier telling him that Cody had been hurt, again, Jonah’s first instinct had been to grab his kid and run as far as he could, away from all the idiocy and conflict. Liberty was a cesspit but there was still Pandora, where they had friends and jobs and a home that Jonah felt like he hadn’t seen in ages.  Then there was the other option, the one from Jack…

It had been Jack that Jonah was meeting with when he got the call. His new job was acting as an unofficial liaison between the Fringe politicians and the nearest Drifter ships, passing information back and forth about attacks and prospective new laws that would make things harder for the nomads. That meant a lot of travelling for Jonah, since Drifters tended not to trust any information that didn’t come face-to-face, and didn’t have the means to encrypt their communication channels anyway.

The call notification had put a swift end to Jonah and Jack’s meeting, Jonah pushing back from the table in the dingy back room of the pub they had rendezvoused in, just one planet away from the Academy.

“I have to go, Cody’s in the infirmary,” Jonah had said tersely. Jack’s hand on his wrist had stopped him in his tracks, though.

“He okay?” Jack asked, genuine concern in his face.

“Nothin’ permanent, at least,” Jonah allowed, knowing he sounded just as frustrated as he felt.

“I’m not tellin’ you what to do, Jonah, but from the sound of things that life ain’t the safest one our boy could be livin’.”

“It’s the one he wants to be in,” Jonah had said, but not as firmly as he’d wanted.

“It’s the one he knows, sure. There’s other ways to keep the kid safe, though. Includin’ one right here,” Jack had said. “You’d both be welcomed back to the fold. Could disappear with him, get him out of all of this, keep him safe with his own people.”

“And his other father?”

Jack had shrugged. “Your choice of course, but I don’t think Garrett’d come along, way he is.” They had stared at each other for a long, tense moment before Jack said, “Listen, just think about it. Here.” He handed over a piece of paper—real paper, no tabs or comm discs—with a number and a frequency on it. “That’s my encrypted line. Got it just for you. Call me if you need me, y’hear?” And Jonah knew he hadn’t imagined the heat in Jack’s eyes, or the intensity of his voice. Jonah had left, come to the Academy, and now he took out that piece of paper and stared at it, feeling his throat itch with the need to talk to someone. Someone who loved him, someone who would understand…

Jonah reached into his pack and pulled out his private comm unit, waited for a signal and then reached out for the connection he already knew by heart. A moment later, the image of a pale, poufy bed came into view, complete with a head of disheveled blond hair and a hand withdrawing from the screen, probably just finished turning it on.

“Hey,” Garrett said sleepily, coming more awake by the second. “Did you get there? Is he okay?”

“Yeah,” Jonah said, finally feeling the last of his tension loosen its claws and settle down. “He’s fine. He and Ten are piled up a few rooms over. I’ll talk to him when he wakes up.”

“Fuck, that’s a relief. And what about you? Are you okay?”

Jonah smiled softly at his husband. “Yeah, darlin’. I’m fine now.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mid-Summer Madness

Hi guys...

A little bit of a real-life rant today, because everything is happening all at once and I'm going a liiiittle bit crazy, I just need to get it all out. The end of July/all of August are hectic times chez moi.

My lovely mother-in-law is visiting, and she's got lots of friends around here and is a social butterfly so she's about the easiest visitor we've ever had, but she marks the beginning of the insanity. Right after she leaves next week, my parents arrive on Thursday. They're going to spend three weeks with us.

Yep. Three. Weeks. Imagine spending three weeks with your in-laws for a sec. That's how my honey feels.

I understand why, from a planning perspective. They've come all the way from Germany, they have to make the trip worth their while and the house we're living in actually belongs to them, so they want to spend time here and work on things and bask in the loveliness that's Boulder. Cool, fine, but three weeks is a long time for people who are used to having our own space (my man's an only child, he gets a little territorial).

A week after they arrive, two of their friends are coming to stay with us and we're all (minus my mother, who doesn't do this wilderness shit) are going on a 4-day backpacking trip along the Colorado Trail. Good times, fine, I'm a trooper and I like spending time with my dad.

The last week they're here, my sister is coming out to visit and shoehorn me into bridesmaids dresses in preparation for her December wedding. She's got this silvery, Greek-style gown in store for me. Which...um...cool. I'll wear whatever she wants, even if she's long and thin and I'm short and curvy, fine. I'd wear a duck costume if it made her happy.

Then my folks leave, and we're plunged into the uncertainty that comes with being a contractor for the government and waiting on their procurement department to get their shit together and give my man a work contract. This could take a month, or more, and in the meantime he won't have any work. Plus his school starts up again, plus we're waiting to hear from a potential new job in another state. Yes, we might leave Colorado. Probably temporarily, but still, it's a big deal. We're freaking out here. Freaking. OUT!

I've got The Academy to finish, Soothsayer to start, my epic fantasy novel to revise, a novella to finish and a lesbian novel to submit to press in this time as well. I found a great artist and commissioned an original picture of Soothsayer's main character, so I'll share that when I get it.  Busy times.

Is your life busy like this? I can only imagine how much crazier everything must be if you have kids, or are actively moving, or changing jobs or dealing with a natural disaster...share some of your busy with me, I know you've got it. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Academy Post #33


Notes:  So, not the longest chapter here, but one that I found really satisfying to write, and that I hope you enjoy too. I’m in such a great mood, I got a call from a publisher I’ve been dying to get in with this morning who said that they loved my work and wanted to see anything else I had, so…hooray for professional development! I needed that boost. Really winding down now, darlins. I’ve still got some explaining to do, but…

Actually, speaking of explaining, I have a confession to make: I’m not actually sure what I’ve done to Valero. I’ve got a few options but no strong feelings about it. If anyone cares to give me their thoughts about Valero’s fate, and doesn’t mind if I write it up if I like it, please feel free to share. Otherwise I may just consign her to the pile of “lost plot threads” that shamefully exists, and that would suck.

Title: The Academy

Part Thirty-Three: Use The Force, Darrell




It was five hours since the attack, and Darrell was exhausted.

Well, okay, he was more than exhausted. He’d been exhausted after finding everyone on the floor of their quad. He’d been emotionally wrung out at the sight of Cody and Ten and Grennson, especially Grennson, lying there with smoke still rising from his quills, clutching Pamela’s dead body and making that horrible noise. Just stepping into the room had given Darrell an instant headache, something in the air maybe, something that made his temples pound and his whole spine prickle. And then, impossibly, it had gotten worse.

Darrell had almost blacked out when the medics got Grennson onto the stretcher and took him away. They’d had to sedate him first, because the Perel had still been growling, snapping when they got close. No one was entirely sure how to properly sedate a Perel, though, and whatever they’d given Grennson, it had worn off in minutes.

Darrell had stayed close, unable to tear himself away even when the nurse wanted to put him out to treat the headache and his bruises from the fight with Kyle. He’d insisted on staying close, and so he got to watch them put Grennson in a room that was almost more prison cell than living suite, and then listen to them argue about what to do next. Regen was the human treatment of choice, but there were no settings in Regen for any aliens, much less the newest species to be known to the Federation. Meanwhile, Darrell watched Grennson become more and more aggravated, tearing at his own quills in between growls, thrashing his head from side to side like something was stuck inside and he was trying to shake it out. The longer Darrell watched the projection, the sicker he felt, until finally he pushed past the medical staff and let himself into the room.

They had tried to follow him, but as soon as Darrell stepped inside Grennson’s eyes were on him, and his hands stilled. Darrell started speaking in Perel—stupid, simple things, basic shit that he could barely remember thanks to the pain in his head. Grennson was—not calming down, exactly, but at least not actively hurting himself anymore.

“Whatever you’re doing,” one of the doctors said lowly, “keep it up. We’re going to try and get in touch with his parents. If you feel unsafe at any time, the door will open for you.”

The mere fact that they were willing to let Darrell stay spoke volumes. It was irregular—no, it was crazy—to let them interact like this, with Grennson unpredictable and Darrell not even sure he was having much of an effect, but the medical staff had even less of a clue than Darrell did. The last thing they wanted was for their one alien cadet to go insane on their watch though, and frankly that was the last thing Darrell wanted too. He was more than willing to be the guinea pig in this experiment.

Even do, after hours of the same thing, he hadn’t made any progress. Grennson wouldn’t let him come close, certainly not close enough to touch, and whenever Darrell stopped talking he started growling again. Darrell’s throat ached from so many glottals, and he was starting to feel dizzy from lack of water. He’d have to give up sooner or later, and then he had no idea what would happen to Grennson.

“All right,” a soft voice suddenly said through the comm. Both Darrell and Grennson started in surprise. “We’re in contact with one of Grennson’s parents, and we’re going to try something new.” A moment later the blue-white light of a hologram projected down from the ceiling, adding color and depth and finally resolving into the shape of another Perel. It was Ferran, Grennson’s Perel guardian. He immediately looked straight at Grennson and crouched down on one knee, speaking their language smoothly and melodically. Grennson still wasn’t growling, but he didn’t look any more relaxed either, just more confused.

“Hmm.” When Ferran looked over at Darrell, Darrell froze, feeling like he’d been caught doing something wrong. “Hello, Darrell.”

“Hi,” he said hoarsely. “Look…um…”

“The staff explained to me what happened,” Ferran said softly, his huge, luminescent eyes going back to his son. “I know that you’re helping as best you can.”

“Can’t you do more?” Darrell asked. “Do you know what’s wrong with him, can you fix it?”

“I have a thought about the problem,” Ferran said, and his quills flattened in the same way Grennson’s did when he was feeling sad or uncertain. “I don’t know much about human psychics, but I believe that the mechanism works in much the same way a Perel’s empathy does. The pain of the neural net, the harsh way it stimulated his brain even if it didn’t make total contact, and then facing down your psychic attacker after that…I’m afraid Grennson’s empathy is stuck on a loop. It can happen when we’re confronted with intense violence or fear. If I were there, I would meditate with him. We’re connected in such a way that my empathy would influence and calm his own.

“I’m not there, though, and while there are human sedatives that would work on Grennson, they would not free his mind from its turmoil. His pain would follow him into sleep.”

Darrell rubbed his eyes on the heels of his hands. “There has to be something we can do.”

When he looked up Ferran was grinning at him. “I like how you said ‘we,’” Ferran told him, still smiling, but his voice was serious. “Because I think there’s a chance that you’ll be the one to calm Grennson down.”

“I’ve tried, I’ve been trying,” Darrell protested. “It’s barely done anything.”

“You’ve never seen a Perel in a frenzy before, Darrell. I know humans use medicine to regulate their darker moods, but Perels rely on meditation, family and the strong presence of our matriarchs to keep us level. With none of those at hand, Grennson should be utterly manic right now, hurting himself, needing to be restrained. He isn’t, and that is your doing.”

That was…wow. Good to hear, but… “So what else can I do?” Darrell asked.

“Sit down on the floor. Cross-legged, with your hands palm up on your knees,” Ferran instructed. “Perel usually kneel when we meditate, but human knees are less robust. This is how Jason prefers to sit.”

Darrell lowered himself to the floor, wincing a little he tilted his aching head forward. He crossed his legs, got his hands into the right position, then said, “Now what?”

“Now I’m going to sit as well, but within you. Grennson can’t sense me, but seeing you coupled with my silhouette might be comforting to him.”

Right, the spines. Darrell held still as Ferran’s hologram sat down inside of him. It wasn’t that he could feel it, exactly, more like he thought he should. Either way, it wasn’t entirely comfortable, but whatever helped Grennson he would do.

“Now you need to calm your breathing,” Ferran said softly. “Let it start in the belly, then up into the chest. In through your nose, but out through your mouth, nice and slow. Go with me.” He inhaled and Darrell copied him, feeling his stomach muscles object to being asked to unclench. Once they did unclench though, Darrell found that he was breathing a lot easier.

They just breathed, just that, for several minutes. Grennson watched them from across the room, almost completely still, his eyes glittering through the slits of his lids. “Good,” Ferran said. “Very good. As you calm down so is he. I thought he might have established an empathic connection with you, but I couldn’t be sure until now. It’s only happened between a very small number of humans and Perel, and then only after sharing close quarters for a significant amount of time. Now. Look at him, and think about him. Think thoughts of warmth and comfort and family.”

When Darrell thought of his family, he was very rarely comforted. But, he realized, that didn’t matter. He wasn’t thinking about them, he was thinking about the family he’d chosen to have, and that began right here, with Grennson. Darrell looked at his roommate, his best friend, and thought about staying up late to practice Perel, and how awful his accent had been, how patient Grennson was with him.  He thought about the warm, sweet smell of lhosa tea, and the deliciousness of Grennson’s cooking. He thought about how finally, for the first time ever, he felt like someone had accepted him not for who his father was, but for who Darrell was, as his own person. Grennson was never malicious, never hurtful, sometimes teasing but never sharp. He made Darrell feel like there was more to life than the heaviness of other people’s expectations, and he had shared everything with Darrell: his culture, his language, even his own family. It was more than Darrell could ever repay, and he was so, so grateful.

Grennson crept across the floor, first fitfully, then with more confidence, until eventually he knelt directly in front of Darrell. Slowly, he leaned forward and touched their foreheads together.

It was like a window opened in Darrell’s mind. At first there was pain, and he could hear Pamela’s screams in his head, and feel her desperate, clawing attacks against his mind—no, no it was Grennson’s mind, but it felt like his own. That faded quickly though, until a minute later they were sharing the same emotions, a dizzying blend of gratitude and love and utter relief.

“Darrell,” Grennson said in a small voice, and that was it for meditating. Darrell pulled Grennson forward into his arms and hugged him tight to his chest. Grennson returned the embrace, slowly but tightly.

“My good boys,” Ferran said in Perel, and Darrell saw the Perel’s holographic arms emerge from his own body to stroke at Grennson’s head. Grennson purred, and Darrell kind of felt like purring himself, even though neither of them could feel it. “My good, dear boys. You’re all right now.”

Darrell thought they really might be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Academy Post #32

Notes:  Time to back off the angst a little and get in a different feel. Well, there’s still angst, but it’s not as heavy. We’re winding down! Oh man, how am I going to do this? How am I going to take a break from these guys? I just don’t know.  You get at least another 3-4 weeks of this story, though, never fear.

Title: The Academy

Part Thirty-Two: Ten-To-One Odds




Cody wasn’t there when Ten came out of Regen. It bothered him, to learn that Ten was awake and getting cleaned up when he and Admiral Liang got back to the main floor of the infirmary.

“How is ze?” Cody asked Nurse Badass, which was easier to remember than her actual name.

“Tiennan seems fine. Irritable, even, which is how we know the Regen has set hir back to rights,” Nurse Badass replied with a little eye-roll. “Ze’s already informed us that we’re ridiculous, and making a huge thing out of nothing, and that ze doesn’t want to see any of us anymore and wants to go back to your quad, immediately. And,” she added as Cody smiled a little, because that was all so Ten, “ze said that ze doesn’t want to see you.”

The smile dropped off Cody’s face so fast you could almost hear it hit the floor. “Why not?” he demanded, barely noticing when the admiral excused himself. There were other people around, medics and doctors, but Cody didn’t give a damn who heard him right now.

“Think about it,” Nurse Badass said. “Think for a moment about what your friend has been through, and then see if you still need to ask me that question.”

Cody actually did take the time to think about it, going back over Ten’s behavior in his mind, the way ze’d clung to him so desperately, how intent ze’d been, how the strangeness only made sense when it came out that Pamela had been manipulating him—

“Ze’s embarrassed.”

“For starters,” Nurse Badass agreed. “Also ashamed, and violated, and worried. That cadet’s so socially disturbed to begin with that I can’t really imagine what’s going on in hir head, but it’s bound to be complicated.”

“And ze doesn’t want to see me?”

“No.” Cody felt crushed, and it must have shown because the nurse continued, “Fortunately, Ten is my patient right now, which means that hir health is my responsibility. If I think you could be good for hir, I can authorize you seeing hir despite the objections, but you’ve got to come through for me, Cadet Helms. You’ve got to make things better, and before I let you go in, I want you to think about the best way to do that. Not the way that would make you feel better, the best way for your friend. Now, sit.” She pointed him toward a chair, where he obediently sat. “Do you need another shot for the pain?”

“I can’t even feel it,” Cody said.

“Good. Let me know if that changes. I’ll give you a few minutes, and then we’ll see about getting you into Ten’s room.” Nurse Badass walked off, and Cody looked down at the floor and tried to get his thoughts past Kyle, sitting underground alone in a cell waiting to be tried for a crime he didn’t commit, to Ten. Ten, who went so crazy over Cody that ze’d been prepared to kill for him, however unconsciously. Ten, who had clung to him so tightly it had shifted the broken end of his collarbone. Ten, who’s planning and plotting and preparations had failed hir, possibly for the first time ever, and certainly for the first time in such a spectacular way. Cody remembered the corona in their room, wondering what the information was it had gathered, and how Ten had planned to use it. Ten had never gotten the chance to put hir efforts to practice, there hadn’t been time.

Ten had to hate that.

Ze hated being outsmarted, ze despised being vulnerable, and ze always, always wanted to be in control. Ten had to be feeling so used, small and stupid and gullible, and that…oh, the only answer for that was anger. Anger at everything, but especially the things that made hir vulnerable. Whatever ze felt for Cody, in particular. It was entirely possible that Cody would walk into Ten’s room and Ten would start screaming about how much ze hated him.

Just the thought of confronting that hurt. Cody was, well, he was pretty bad at fighting. Interpersonal conflicts of any kind had always bothered him. The few fights he’d had with his parents had left him feeling sick, and listening to them on the rare occasions when they’d raised their voices to each other had literally made him bite through his lip once. The physical stuff, actual contact, Cody could deal with. He could handle the adrenaline of fast speeds and dangerous maneuvers, he could handle the pressure of classwork and grades, of needing to perform, without breaking a sweat. But get someone yelling in his face and he had to force himself to be assertive, had to break the bindings that anxiety wrapped around his limbs and respond appropriately, instead of running away or, worse, yelling back.  The thought of yelling at Ten right now was awful; he couldn’t bear it if they fought.

I’ll just have to keep it from getting that far, Cody determined. I have to stay in control. I have to stay calm. It has to be no big deal, and above all—I can’t believe hir when Ten starts saying horrible things to me. Because ze absolutely would, Cody had no doubt. It was a defensive mechanism, and Cody had seen other people suffer Ten’s articulate wrath. If he let it get to him, this would get ten times harder.

“Are you ready?”

Cody blinked and looked up. He hadn’t even heard Nurse Badass approaching. She looked at him questioningly. “It’s okay if you aren’t,” she said. “It’s a lot to prepare for.”

“No, I’m fine,” Cody said immediately. “I can do this.” He had to do it. He had to be able to do something good for someone he cared about, especially Ten. “I’m ready.”

“Good.” She led Cody down the hall to another private room, much like his own, where she knocked perfunctorily on the door.

“Go away!

“I brought a visitor,” she said through the interface on the door. Of course it was completely soundproof, but the interface allowed for external oversight by whoever was keyed to access the panel.

“I don’t want one.”

“Too bad, this one’s pretty determined.” She opened the door and waved Cody inside. “I’ll close it, but it won’t be locked. You can leave at any time,” she told him. Cody stepped in, and Nurse Badass shut the door behind him.

The room really was identical to his: one bed, one chair, a small table that emerged from the wall, and a private bathroom. What wasn’t at all identical was the person sitting at the head of the bed, arms crossed over the pillow in hir lap, a scowl on hir face as ze glared at Cody. Ten’s hair, an amorphous, nacreous color at the moment, was disheveled from hir post-Regen cleanup, and ze was wearing plain white scrubs that looked completely out of place. Compared to that, hir vituperative expression was surprisingly comforting.

“I don’t want you here,” Ten said immediately.

“I just wanted to see that you were okay,” Cody said, coming over and sitting down in the chair. He walked slowly, not just to make sure Ten was aware of every movement but also because he was tired, and drained, and knew that trying to hide that from Ten right now would be futile. Maybe a little sympathy would help the cause.

Ten made a pfftt sound. “Obviously I’m fine, you idiot, they wouldn’t let you in here to bumble around if I wasn’t. Now go.”

“In a minute,” Cody said with a sigh, tilting his head toward the ceiling. He hadn’t even realized how badly he’d wanted to see Ten, to be assured that ze really was okay. He knew that ze wasn’t, but still, the relief was there in him, trickling out like a raincloud just beginning to release its burden. “I’m pretty tired,” he remarked apropos of nothing, but it spurred Ten into talking again.

“Of course you’re tired,” ze snapped, “you’re a fucking natural who can’t use Regen to make up for everything you lack, and you’re a moron who doesn’t have the sense to stay in his own fucking room while he’s recovering, and you’re a, a, an imbecile for coming and bothering me when I said that I didn’t want to see you! It’s not like I need you around to be happy, all right? I’m just fine without you.”

Ten said it with such conviction that Cody’s heart panged, because at that moment he knew Ten was desperately trying to believe it hirself. If Cody wasn’t careful, ze would repeat it until ze was screaming it, because Ten had to be independent in order to be happy.

Cody, on the other hand, had no such qualms about independence.

“Well, I’m not fine without you,” he said, making no effort to mask the pain in his voice, and Ten’s quick, harsh breathing suddenly softened. “Everything is a mess.” And it was, holy shit, it was. “And I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff during a storm and any second now the wind will throw me out into the ocean, and I’ll drown there. I needed to see you with my own eyes, just to make…sure.” They stared at each other for a long moment, and the tense set of Ten’s mouth slowly went away until, eventually, ze sighed.

“What are you doing sitting like that in the chair, you’ll damage yourself. Get over here.” Ze scooted down the bed and pointed at where ze’d been sitting, and Cody obeyed and got himself there, a little awkwardly. “You know, you use a lot of strange metaphors,” Ten said as ze pulled the blanket back and tucked the pillow ze’d been gripping behind Cody’s back.

Cody smiled a little. “Comes from growing up on Pandora. The place is mostly water.”

“It shows you’re provincial, though. You should make an effort to be more cosmopolitan.”

Cody chuckled. “Yeah, right, because nobody knows anymore who I am, where I’m from or who my parents are. I’m the provincial as far as people here are concerned.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to act that way.”

“I’m tired of acting like something else,” Cody said with a sigh. “I don’t know if I’m cut out to be a spy, Ten. It’s what they wanted me here for, but I just don’t think I’d be very good at it. I’m a shit liar, and I really am too well-known because of my dads.” And after Kyle’s trial, it’ll only be worse, he wanted to add, but Ten hadn’t asked and Cody wasn’t going to be the first person to bring Kyle up.

“Then you shouldn’t be a spy,” Ten said immediately, more relaxed now that Cody had imagined ze could be after the tension between them when he first came in. “It’s a ridiculous waste of your time, there are plenty of other people who can do that, and besides, who would you be spying for? The Federation might not last all that much longer in its current incarnation, and the last thing you want is to be on the opposite side from your family. No, that’s stupid, don’t even think about it.”

“Okay.” Cody leaned against the wall and yawned.

“You can work with me, I’m going to have a lab like you won’t believe, and I’ll need you there anyway so I can do trials and run tests, because I still think I can come up with a solution for your problem, and…I’m sorry, am I boring you?” Ten asked acidly, but ze was already coaxing Cody further down onto the bed.

“No, you’re not boring,” Cody said honestly. “I’m just tired.”

“Then you should go to sleep.”

“But I don’t want to leave.”

There was a pause, and then— “Don’t leave. Stay. There’s enough room for two, I’m small, and besides I’m used to your snoring anyway.”


“And don’t think I don’t realize that you’re being manipulative, because I do, I am the master of manipulation, and you are a child compared to my own brilliance.” Ten looked a little pale as ze said it, probably thinking about Pamela, and how ze was a child compared to her, but they didn’t go there. Not right now.

“Yeah, but I’m in bed with you and you’re not yelling at me, so,” Cody almost shrugged, thought better of it and smiled. “I’m calling this a win.”

“More like a temporary cease-fire. A truce, at best,” Ten chided him, but Cody didn’t care because Ten was smiling back at him, just a little, which meant he’d done this much right, at least.

“Sounds good to me.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

What the...really?

Oh wow, this is funny and awesome and, just, what?

Apparently I won a prize back in 2012.

* * * * *
* February Reader's Choice Winners *

First Place ($150 Cash Prize Winner):

Yeah, that award is from February...of 2012! I had no idea I won a prize, I rarely check in on Literotica anymore, and in order to claim your prizes, you have to notify them. Fortunately for me I have a lovely friend in M.A. Church, who happened to see my name and let me know. Also fortunately for me, Literotica is running about, oh, two years behind on putting up contest results, so this is practically a current event. 

So, oh man, yay! That's the chapter of Pandora where Garrett has gone temporarily blind, for those of you who've read it before. I guess readers liked it. If you voted for me a few years ago, thank you, I really appreciate it! If you have no idea what I'm on about, I've got a lot--and I mean a lot--of free fiction up on Literotica. I invite you to go and have a looksee, some of it's pretty good :)

Here's the link: Carizabeth on Literotica.

In other news, I'm going to be spending all weekend in a self-defense seminar focusing on adrenal response training. We get to do ground work, handle multiple assailants, weapons work...it's going to be sweet. I did it last year and ended up unable to speak at the end, but it was so worth it. Wish me luck, and have a beautiful weekend.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Academy Post #31

Notes:  Sorry for the delay! This one is a little longer than normal, although possibly not any more comprehensible. What can I say, it’s late and I’m tired, but I keep my promises. I hope it makes sense. I’m doing much better, btw, thanks for the sweet comments.

Title: The Academy

Part Thirty-One: Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Kill ‘Em…Or...




An hour later, Cody was medicated into feeling no pain, his rebroken collarbone was set, and he still had almost no idea what the hell was going on. Getting out of their quad had been a trial, what with Grennson snarling at anyone who wasn’t Cody or Darrell, Ten stubbornly clinging to Cody’s neck like a young child, strange and silent, and special techs having to come in and transport Pamela’s body away. Her dead body. Her awful dead body that had been alive just a few minutes before, her living hands wrapped around Cody’s bones, her lungs powering words that Cody could scarcely believe he was hearing—could still barely believe, even now that he’d gotten some distance from the attack.

The strangest part, if such a classification even existed in the bizarre world that had taken over Cody’s life, was when the security forces came in, four people in full tac gear, stunners all pointed straight at Kyle. Cody had wanted to tell them they were wrong, but his throat hurt so bad he could barely force himself to swallow. And then Kyle just…surrendered. He went with them, a little smile playing on his face, and then the infirmary staff descended on them and when they went to pull Cody away from Ten, Ten’s arms had tightened so hard that Cody had blacked out for real. When he woke up he was—

Here. With Admiral Liang, who sat in a chair at the foot of his bed, working on a holopad. He looked up as soon as he heard Cody move, and a tired smile graced his face. Even disheveled, the admiral still looked elegant, black hair combed back along his head, his posture straight and strong. “Cadet Helms.” His voice was warm. “I’m glad to see you awake.”

“Mm…me too,” Cody said, surprised to find that his voice was only a little hoarse.

“I’m sorry you’re back in here. Please understand, I never meant for this situation to endanger your life. You have my sincere apologies.”

Well, that was nice, but… “What situation, exactly?” Cody asked.

Admiral Liang looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then back down. “I assume you know more than the average cadet about what’s going on on Liberty.”

“I know that my fathers and grandfather are negotiating on behalf of the Fringe with the Federation government,” Cody said carefully.

“So they are. They have been for months, and are having more of an impact than some factions would like. It’s entirely possible that they’ll gather the support needed to force a new election in the next few weeks, provided nothing gets in the way. A new election might not get rid of the people at the very top of the chain of command, but any shakeup to the establishment is enough to make certain people nervous, at this point. If after taking that step no real change is enacted, it’s entirely possible that the Federation will split into Central System and Fringe collectives, and at that point…” Admiral Liang spread his hands. “Chaos. Something that no ruler wants.”

“What does that have to do with me?” Cody demanded, or tried to demand—his voice broke on a cough with the last word. The admiral got up and passed him a glass of water, which he gulped down thirstily—wow, and it was amazing he could do that, his throat felt so much better.

“I just got finished speaking with your fathers,” Admiral Liang said, somewhat off-topic, as far as Cody was concerned. “I reassured them as to your health and our control over all parties involved here, but they aren’t taking anything I say at face value at this point. Jonah is headed here as we speak, and he’ll be staying until the end of the term in a month, at which point he’ll take you back to join the rest of your family for a time. Only for the mid-year break, unless you’ve decided you’ve had enough of the Academy, and I couldn’t blame you for that,” Admiral Liang added, reacting to the hurt in Cody’s face that he hadn’t been able to hide at the thought of being kicked out.

“What does this have to do with anything here?”

“Cadet, this is your fathers’ reaction to you being relatively unharmed. What do you think would have happened if you had been permanently injured or killed?”

“They would have lost it.” Lost it utterly and completely. Cody wasn’t vain, but he also wasn’t stupid—he knew his fathers loved him. He had seen them worry about each other in the past, and he vaguely remembered how they’d been when he got stung by a poisonous insect on Paradise, over ten years ago now. Losing it didn’t go far enough.

“It would have been the ultimate distraction. In politics, there’s more to winning than presenting the best argument; it’s all about persona. General Caractacus is highly respected, and his coalition is relying on him and your father Garrett to be their mouthpieces. They’re smart, they’re handsome, they have loving families and extensive interests and histories on both Central and Fringe planets…they’re a perfect foil to the insular Alexander clan. But such closeness is also a weakness, and losing you would mean the coalition would lose the focus of its most valued members. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

“Pamela was, what, an assassin?” Cody couldn’t quite believe it, even now, after she’d already tried to kill him.

“Officially, she wasn’t,” Admiral Liang said, and now he looked troubled, and tired. “Officially she was just a friend of yours, a friend who actually stopped an assassination attempt on you.”

The pieces clicked together in Cody’s head. Oh no. “You can’t arrest Kyle,” he said, his heart aching with a sudden sharp intensity. “You can’t, it wasn’t his fault! He didn’t do anything wrong, he—you can’t!”

“He’s already signed a confession, stating that he tried to kill you in order to help secure his brother’s position on Liberty. His confession has been sent back to his brother, as well as several major news agencies on Liberty, at his insistence. I didn’t make him do this, he had legal telling him not to do it, but he insisted. He says he isn’t afraid of his patriotism and fraternal loyalty.”

“That’s fucking stupid,” Cody snapped, forgetting who he was talking to in the heat of his anger. “Why would he do that? It’s nothing but a huge lie!”

Admiral Liang sighed. “I can’t talk to you about that, Cadet. However, if you want, I can let you see Senior Cadet Alexander in private for a brief period of time. He’s being shipped back to Liberty within the day, but he specifically asked to speak with you if you wished it.”

Cody swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood up, a little shaky on his feet from the painkillers, but determined. “Where is he?”

“In a private cell in the brig. Which, coincidentally, is in this very building. We don’t get much call for incarcerating cadets, so we included a small cellblock next to the radiation bunkers in the basement of the infirmary.” Admiral Liang opened the door to Cody’s room, only to be confronted by Cody’s nurse, the same one as before—he felt bad for forgetting her name.

“Sir,” she said, and Cody had never heard so much disapproval poured into a single word. “Cadet Helms is supposed to be resting.”

“Cadet Helms is sufficiently rested for the task at hand, which is quite time sensitive, Sergeant,” Admiral Liang replied.

“Are you going to be dragging Cadet St. Florian out of hir Regen tank next?” she asked acidly.

“What’s wrong with Ten?” Cody cut in, because last he’d seen hir Ten had seemed all right, physically.

“Ze just needs to get hir hormones and neurochemicals back under control, and Regen is the best method for doing that safely,” the nurse assured him. “I’ll take you to sit with hir right now, if you want.”

It was tempting; now that she’d mentioned Ten, Cody literally itched to see hir. But… “When I’m done with this,” he said. The nurse scowled but let them by.

There was an elevator at the end of the main hall that only went down when Admiral Liang scanned his implant, offered a verbal password and let the control pad verify his DNA as well. They descended into the basement, and as the doors opened Cody was surprised at how much colder it was down there. He shivered, and Admiral Liang placed a warm hand on his good shoulder and steered him forward and down the hall, to a door on the left that had two guards standing outside it.

“Open it up,” the admiral said, and the nearest guard complied. He gently pushed Cody forward. “Half an hour, no more,” he warned. “There’s visual but not audio surveillance, so you can speak freely if you need to.”

“Good.” Because Cody wanted to yell at Kyle, but he didn’t necessarily want it all recorded for his dad to look at later. He went into the cell, which had a bunk on the far wall, a retractable sink and toilet, plain gray walls and leaning against one of them like he didn’t have a fucking care in the world—Kyle Alexander.

He looked up when Cody entered the room, his handsome face wreathed in a bright, sudden smile.  “Cody!”

Cody saw red.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he demanded, marching over and burying his fingers in Kyle’s lapel, and shaking him as hard as he could. It wasn’t very hard, all things considered, but it made him feel better. “Why would you…I don’t…you’re doing something idiotic, I know it, that’s the only excuse and you just…I know you would never hurt me.” His voice trailed off at the end, losing all its strength, because Kyle had his hands on Cody’s waist, and was looking at him with so much compassion that Cody couldn’t stand it. “Why would you do this? And if you say it has anything to do with, with fucking saving me, then I’m going to kill you.”

“No you won’t,” Kyle said. “Come here, let’s sit down, you’re shaking.”

Maybe he was, a little. They sat down on the bunk and Kyle put his arm carefully around Cody’s shoulders, so close that Cody could feel Kyle’s chest rise and fall with each breath. “It isn’t just to save you,” Kyle said, and it was shameful, how much better that made Cody feel. For fuck’s sake, he wasn’t worth this much aggravation. “Although that would still be a worthwhile result for it all.”

“Shut up,” Cody sniffed. “Why didn’t you just tell them it was Pamela? She’s the one who sabotaged my bike, isn’t she? Did she…is she behind what happened to Valero? And Marcys?”



“That’s…complicated, and we don’t have a lot of time,” Kyle said. “Ask the admiral, he’ll explain it all to you. I knew that you were one of her targets, I just wasn’t sure how she was going to come at you. We’re lucky, actually, that she tried to use Ten. Ze’s apparently very resistant to psychic attacks, it took Pamela so long to get hir pliable that I was able to take countermeasures. It was still too close, but…” Kyle shrugged. “It worked out in the end. Pamela’s dead, you’re alive and I’m going on trial.”

“Why do you want that?”

Kyle smiled, and it wasn’t a nice smile this time. “Because it’s going to make my brother look incompetent at best, and abusive at worst. And anything I can do that makes him look bad is good for both of us.”

Cody got why it was good for him, but… “Why is that good for you?”

“Because,” Kyle said simply, “my brother killed our father. And I want to hurt him for that, and he knows it. This is one way I can do it, a very public way I can shame him that he won’t be able to subvert. Not with my very public confession that I did it all for him and his ideals in the media’s eye.”

There were too many questions, Cody hardly knew how to get his mouth working. He went with the first one that sprang up. “I thought…wasn’t it pirates?”

Kyle chuckled darkly. “Yes, it was pirates. Or rather, personal privateers in the pay of my brother. My father embarrassed Raymond, he was a hedonist living out a second youth with a new wife and a new child. He certainly wasn’t helping my brother’s political career, and so my brother worked out a plan to get rid of him. Pirates, in that part of space, knowing exactly where our ship was…my father knew who was behind it, he told me not to trust Ray when he put me in the escape pod. It took me less than a minute with my brother before I knew my father was right. Raymond is…he’s smart, but he’s not good at hiding how he’s feeling from people he doesn’t respect.

“Anyway, his plan worked. He got to take me in and look caring, and he figured out a way of getting rid of his enemies that’s persisted to this day.”

“You mean the attacks on Fringe colonies?”

“By phantom pirates who are way too well armed and don’t take any goods, just kill and leave? Yes,” Kyle affirmed. “Although there’s no proving it yet.”

Cody shook his head. It didn’t make sense. “Why not just disassociate from the Fringe if he doesn’t like it so much?”

“Because he doesn’t want the reputation of the man who split apart the Federation. He wants other people to ‘force’ him to it, and sowing fear and discord in distant colonies is a way of making them afraid while making his allies think that all Fringers are incompetents who can’t defend their own worlds.”

It was almost too much. Cody had to move on. “But why get arrested? There has to be a better way to mess with your brother.”

Kyle shook his head. “Pamela should never have been at the Academy. She was right about psychics being insular, and that’s how the rulers of the Federation like it. The registered psychics are trained to be spies and assassins, and at first I thought she was here for me. It took a while before I realized that her actual target was you, and that if she could pin the blame on me for it, so much the better.”

“But you’re giving your brother what he wanted,” Cody insisted. “By taking the blame anyway. Don’t you see that? He can put you in prison and forget about you.”

“He could if I went quietly,” Kyle agreed. “But with the amount of press I’m getting, there’s going to have to be a public trial. I’ll draw it out as long as I can, and that will give Raymond’s detractors—your dads, other politicians from the Fringe—more time to convince people to send actual investigators and additional troops to the colonies that have been hit, among other things.”

“I, no, I still don’t see why you had to go this far,” Cody said. His head was starting to ache, right behind his eyes, a dull, grinding pain. “Why the arrest? There has to be vid evidence that—”

“None,” Kyle said. “My brother has allies on the staff here, how else would Pamela have gone unseen on the security feeds for so long? And this isn’t the first time he’s tried to sideline me. I’ve been dodging one attack or another since I was eleven. Once I graduate, he’d make sure I was sent too far away to be a danger. This way, I’m going to be right in his face.” Kyle squeezed Cody a little tighter. “I really don’t mind. I’ve got some very good lawyers, and my brother’s going to have to be very careful with his testimony at my trial. Who knows what will happen next?”

“I still think you’re an idiot,” Cody whispered, his throat tight. He shut his eyes and leaned his head against Kyle’s shoulder. “A total idiot.”

“A sentiment you and Ten share, I’m sure,” Kyle said. “I know it’s strange. Talk to Liang, okay? He can clear things up.”

“He hasn’t done a great job so far,” Cody replied. “I just…fuck. I hate this.”

“I know. I’m sorry it turned out this way, but I’m not sorry you’re going to be all right. You’re a good person, Cody.” Soft lips pressed a tender kiss to the shallow bowl of his temple. “Thank you for being my friend.”

Cody couldn’t have spoken if his life depended on it, he could barely breathe around the fluttering agony beating at his chest, demanding he express it. He bit his lower lip, and turned his face into Kyle’s neck, where the darkness made bearing it easier.

Monday, July 7, 2014

So...I did this thing...

Hi guys.

Two things. First one--I'm on my last day of vacation, tomorrow my man and I drive back to Boulder and spend the afternoon getting ready to return to normality.

Second thing, and, um...ok, here's where it gets funny. If you follow me on twitter or facebook, you already know: I bailed on the Alpine Superslide, which is a ride where you have a little personal bobsled-like thing and drive it down a steep track. And I naturally declined to brake when I should have, so I tipped over onto my side and slid that way for about 50 feet before righting myself and carrying on. No big deal, except now I've got friction burns all over my right side, particularly my right hand, which got pinched between me and the wall. So typing is actually kind of painful, and I'm icing it and it should be better soon, but I probably won't be posting the next part of The Academy until tomorrow evening. I'm sorry for the delay, but I'm paying the price for speed. I'm pretty sure it'll be better enough tomorrow that I can type more freely. Sorry!

In other news, my vacation has been awesome:)

PS, thanks to everyone who's read, rated and/or reviewed my story Making It Work, your reception of it has been great and I'm so pleased. Contemporary office romance, who knew I could do that?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Love's Landscapes story is here!

Hooray, all hail, make merry and rejoice, because my contribution to the Love's Landscapes event on Goodreads is here at last!

My story is called Making It Work, it's a sweet contemporary office romance around 17000 words long, and unfortunately you've got to be a member of the goodreads m/m romance group to read it today. If you are, you can find it here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1898123-making-it-work-by-cari-z-7-6

If you aren't, never fear, the story will be available for download in a few days on the group's website, which doesn't require anything except that you're over 18 to access.  I'll let you know when it's ready.

I'm so nervous and excited! Sweet and contemporary is always a challenge for me. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of July!

Happy Birthday America!

And I realize, with shame, that I missed our northern neighbor's national day of partying, so Happy Canada Day too!

Oh, I'm on vacation now and it's so sweet. I don't go back to work until Wednesday, we're going into the mountains tomorrow, we get fireworks tonight...life is good. Much better than yesterday's life, which was filled with uncertainty. Nothing like time and a few very relevant tweets to give you perspective.

Anyway, this is just me saying Happy Independence day to my fellow Americans, and happy weekend to everyone else. I'll have more Academy on Tuesday (finally explanations, FINALLY) and I also got an idea for a 1920's gangster story set in San Francisco courtesy of a call from LT3, so that should be fun to think about. I mean, the suits alone are enough to sell me.

Plus finishing epic fantasy (I keep saying that, arg arg arg), plotting out and writing my military men story (I went with the Army Rangers, because my daddy was one--love you Dad!), plotting Soothsayer (the winner of the prompt contest) and researching, researching, researching. Good times.

PS--for those of you who are Goodreads M/M romance group members, if you've been waiting to read my Love's Landscapes story, you should start checking soon. Just throwing that out there.