Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Academy Post #25

Notes:  What am I doing!?!  We’re getting close to some pretty exciting action, I think, but I’ve got to get the set-up just right.  Ten is so exasperating, oh my god, and Kyle shows up and the family has a cameo…this one has lots going on.  I hope you have fun with it.

Title: The Academy

Part Twenty-Five: What Happens In The Infirmary, Stays In The Infirmary


Soft.  That was Cody’s first impression of Ten’s lips pressed to his, that they were soft and full.  Warm.  That came next, a sense of temperature, so warm compared to Cody’s own lips, which still felt numb from shock and painkillers.  These impressions, and the dozens of others that flowed after them blended into a single, incredible experience as Ten kissed him, eager and insistent, the way ze was with everything else that mattered to hir.  They broke apart to breathe for a moment before Ten leaned in again, hir hands fastened tight to the front of Cody’s shirt as ze levered hirself closer, tighter against him.  Cody reached out instinctively to hold Ten back, then hissed when he suddenly, painfully remembered his dislocated collarbone. 

“Idiot,” Ten muttered in between kisses, and proprietarily drew Cody’s good arm around hir waist.  Holding on was better, Cody could hitch Ten closer, settle hir so that they were so tight against each other that there were no secrets, nothing hidden about Cody’s slow, sedative-fighting rise to arousal, or the fact that Ten was hard against his stomach.

Ten—whoa, Ten was hard.  Cody had known that technically this was a possibility, quad assignments were sorted by sex after all, gender notwithstanding, and even though he’d never been with another boy—Lacey was the beginning and end of Cody’s sexual experiences—the fact that Ten had a penis was not looking like a problem for Cody’s libido.  Right now it didn’t matter what Ten had, the fact was that Ten was in Cody’s lap, kissing him like there was no tomorrow and maybe there wouldn’t be, they’d almost died today, and Cody had never felt this way about anyone before, like they were more than a friend or a crush, like the could be everything, and Ten was Ten and ze was what Cody wanted, and he was getting so close to coming now, his breath hitching, Ten grinding and kissing and—

Ten’s weight was gone in an instant, yanked off the bed by an infuriated nurse.  “This is an infirmary!” she yelled, looking between the two of them like she didn’t know who to pick on first.  “You—” looked like she chose Ten— “are not helping your friend by getting him all riled up, and you—” now it was Cody’s turn— “are on bed rest for the next twelve hours, and that doesn’t include any level of sexual contact!  Honestly, do neither of you have any sense whatsoever?”  She glared at Ten, who glared right back, completely unembarrassed at being caught out.

Cody wasn’t so resilient.  His erection wilted, and he felt all that newly-released blood flood straight into his cheeks.  He probably looked like he was on fire.  Cody groaned and tilted his head up toward the ceiling, trying to get a handle on his mortification.

“Now you’ve upset him,” Ten huffed at the nurse.  “I think you should leave.”

“This is my patient, not your boyfriend at the moment, Cadet, and if anyone is leaving it’s you.  In fact, I think Cadet Helms needs some rest right now.  So say goodbye, and leave.”

“I’m not saying goodbye with you watching.”

“Well I’m not leaving, because if I do you might just crawl into his bed again and I’d have to write you up for insubordination,” the nurse snapped.  “You have two minutes, and I’ll be right over here the whole time.”

Cody didn’t look down until he felt Ten’s hands cup his cheeks.  “Are you okay?” Ten asked.

“I’m…” Cody didn’t quite know what to say.  Yes?  No?  That he didn’t want to stop, but didn’t have any clue what continuing would mean?  That he’d almost come in his pants, that he had no idea what Ten wanted out of him?  “Sure,” he settled on.

“Good,” Ten said.  Ze didn’t look unruffled, or unsure, or any of the things Cody felt right now.  How was that possible?  Ten brought their heads almost close enough to touch, and Cody’s breath caught in his throat, his eyes fell shut of their own accord, and then…

“I know who tried to kill you,” Ten whispered.

“Wh-what?”  That was not what Cody had been expecting. 

“I’m still working out exactly how they did it but once I do, I’ll tell you everything, I promise,” Ten said.  “Not in here—too many people could be watching,” ze added sourly.  “When I have something solid.  And I expect you to tell me how you slowed us down, I thought all our bones would be broken for sure.”

“You—but what about—” Cody waved his good hand inarticulately between the two of them.

“What, that?  We can talk about it later,” Ten said dismissively.  “There are more important things to figure out right now.  I’ll come and get you in the morning, all right?”  Hir tone was brisk but hir hands were gentle, still cupping Cody’s face like ze’d forgotten they were there.

“Ten…”  Coming around to the reality that absolutely nothing was going to be figured out tonight, Cody sighed.  “Fine.  See you in the morning.”

“Fine, good.  Okay.”  Ten nodded but didn’t step away.

“Cadet St. Florian,” the nurse warned from the door.

“I’m coming, do you not see my feet moving in the direction of your stupid demands?” Ten asked, finally letting go of Cody and walking—backwards—toward the exit.  “And I was counting, and you promised me two minutes and there are still thirty-two seconds left, if you’re not going to even try to be accurate then you should use a timer, you—”  The door shut on Ten’s complaints, and the sudden silence felt almost eerie.  Ten took up so much space when ze was here, everything seemed to retract once ze was gone.

Cody leaned his head against the wall again, one hand smoothing out the front of his open shirt where Ten had gripped so hard.  His fingers brushed over the tiny inertial dampener, and he grimaced.  Who knew that would come in handy so fast?  Cody offered up a silent prayer of thanks for his dads, who could never know about this.  They needed to focus on the work to be done in Liberty, Cody refused to become a distraction for them.  His body ached with the pain of his fall and the longing that Ten had woken up in him, and Cody wiped his eyes furiously.  Fuck this, he wasn’t going to act like an idiot just because he had no fucking notion of what went on in Ten’s head.  Cody had things to do.  He shut his eyes and concentrated on his implant.


“Cadet Helms, you should be resting.”

“I will in a minute,” he promised.  “I just need to send a few messages first.  To Grennson and Darrell: I’m fine, I’ll be back in the quad tomorrow.  To Phil: I need to talk to you, please come and see me as soon as possible.  She knows I’m in the infirmary, right?” Cody broke messaging mode to ask Hermes.

“As your sponsor, Cadet Xavera was authorized to be informed of your status.  She left several messages for you, none of which are urgent.”

“Well, let her know I’m okay too, but I really need to see her.”  Cody touched his false button again.  “I need her help.”  It was time to get a handle on this technology and start handing it out to more of his friends, because Cody would be damned if he was going to let anyone else get hurt when he might be able to prevent it.  “Are there any other messages?”

“One from your cousin Yvaine, in visual.  Do you wish me to play it?”

“Sure.”  Cody relaxed his eyes—he’d learned the first few times he got a visual message that focusing on it too hard was a sure way to get a headache.  The holo loaded a moment later, projecting a picture in his eyes of Yvaine, Renee, Claudia and his dad, all sitting around a table.  A pink-fondant fairytale scene took up most of the view, with sparkling person-shaped little cakes made from a batter that responded to electrical impulses, moving them about in a dance.

“Dear Daddy and Garrett and Cody, it’s my birthday!” Yvaine shrieked happily.  Those were all the immediate members of her family not in the picture, she must have sent them all the same message.  “Look at my cakes!  It’s the Dinky dance, remember, it’s from the Dinky play, and these ones are the little Dinkies, and these ones are the big Dinkies, and these ones…”  She went on to explain exactly what the Dinkies were and what they were doing, and Cody resisted the urge to roll his eyes.  Thank god he’d never been so caught up with toys when he was a kid, because while it was cute it was also a little annoying, especially when he was tired and in pain.

His annoyance melted away when Yvaine leaned in and smooched the front of the holo projector.  “I can’t wait for you all to come home so we can play together!  I miss you I love you, bye!”  She and everyone else waved before Claudia ended the message, and Cody felt those awful, stupid tears prick his eyes again.  Fuck.  Fuck, he missed his family, and he’d forgotten Yvaine’s birthday, which was not good.  He’d have to send her a special message, one from the neck up, so his dads couldn’t see his immobilized arm.

Cody settled down onto the bed, which wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the one in his room, and tried to fall asleep.  Every time he closed his eyes, scenes from the crash replayed in his mind: Ten’s shouting and holding onto him, the terrifying soar toward the ground when he hadn’t known if the dampener was working or not, the heat of the explosion…how was he going to tell Wyl?  How was he going to tell anyone, he couldn’t, then they would worry, but Wyl deserved to know…

There was a knock on his door.  “Cody?”

He looked up and started when he saw Kyle.  “Oh,” he muttered, trying to push up to a sitting position, but Kyle was next to him before he could get up, shaking his head.

“Take it easy,” he murmured, one warm hand resting on Cody’s good shoulder.  “I heard about the accident, I just wanted to check in on you.”

The accident…right, that was how it was being spun.  Now was Cody’s chance to prevaricate, to be blithe and dismissive, but when he looked up at Kyle, so expressive and concerned and here, the truth came out.  Not all of it, but the part he hadn’t known how to bring up with anyone else.  “My bike is gone.”

Kyle’s face fell.  “Shit, I’m so sorry.”

Cody shook his head. “It’s my own fault, I was using a special fuel and I didn’t check it well enough, I—it’s—”

“I get it,” Kyle said.  “I know.  I’m glad you’re okay, but…it hurts, huh.”

“So much,” Cody gasped.  “It was a gift, it was completely unique, and I ruined it.”

Kyle’s hand rubbed soothingly.  “Don’t you think that whoever gave it to you would be more interested in you being all right, and not the bike?”

“Yes, he would, but…”  Cody shrugged his shoulder helplessly, and Kyle nodded.

“I know it’s kind of a cold comfort, but the important thing is that you’re still here.  Whoever gave you that bike, they love you.  You’re more important to them than anything they could ever make for you, and they’ll understand, Cody.  Accidents like this happen.”

It was almost like magic, how comforting Kyle could be in just a few words.  “How did you find out I was here?” Cody asked once he had better control of his voice.

Kyle hesitated, then said, “I was actually here visiting another friend who had an accident today, and I heard two of the nurses mention you.”

“Who had an accident?”  Cody felt tired, so tired, like he might actually be able to sleep.

“Valero.  But she’ll be okay, after some Regen.”

“What happened to her?”

“I’ll tell you later,” Kyle sighed.  “Get some sleep.  You need the rest.”

“You leaving?”  Cody’s eyes were closed by now, but he heard the faint whirr of one of the visitor’s chairs being pulled over.

“Not for a while,” Kyle promised him.  “Sleep.  Things will be better when you wake up.”

They couldn’t be much worse, Cody wanted to say, but he let his exhaustion pull him under before he could get the words out.

It had to get better.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

New Release: Wanting More + bonus story (OMG!!!)

Hi guys!

So this is very exciting.  Today I finally managed (after months of prevaricating) to actually get to the publishing part of my first self-publishing venture.  I got the rights back to two stories published in some older anthologies, re-edited them, was gifted a cover by the awesome P.D. Singer and put them together to become Wanting More.  The stories are about the same couple, they're contemporary, there's a little BDSM splashed in there, and there's a rentboy theme.  Sounds fun?

I think so!  Want some more information?

Wanting More:  After a late-night rendezvous is interrupted by the partner of the man who hired him, stripper and high-end escort Alex Kidman can't get James Fitzgerald out of his head. So when James comes to watch him dance a few weeks later, Alex knows it's time to make his move--but James isn't comfortable with him if he isn't paying for his time. 

This short story also appeared in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Sindustry II.

Favorite Dish:  With his lover James away on business for three weeks, Alex does his best to distract himself by keeping busy with his work as a chef, but not even the most elaborate meals can keep him occupied when all he wants to do is cook for two.  Fortunately James has the same problem, and can’t resist coming home early to satisfy his hunger for Alex.

This short story also appeared in the Torquere Press anthology Pour Some Sugar On It.

Update: now available on Amazon here! Wanting More.

So far it's only available at All Romance Ebooks, but I'll have the links here for Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo within the next day.  I'm really excited about this, it's a new step for me.  Eventually I'll get longer works out there, including my Literotica and blog stories (edited, lengthened and not taken down from the original sites, because I love you all).  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Academy Post #24


Notes:  Oh man.  Here we go.  Gauntlets thrown.  Hearts laid bare.  Maaaybe…or maybe not, we just don’t know yet.  Nothing is certain, but at least stuff is happening!  Enjoy, guys J

Title: The Academy

Part Twenty-Four:  Actions, Reactions and Explosions




Cody woke up the next day feeling like he’d barely slept at all.  His eyes were gritty and his brain seemed to pulse in his skull, not exactly a headache but clear evidence that he wasn’t as on point as he should be, not after a week’s worth of worrying and looking over his shoulder.  He felt simultaneously exhausted and twitchy, like he should be running.  Away or to something, Cody didn’t know, but the feeling put him on edge. 

He got up and showered, then checked in with Hermes to see if he had any messages.  One from Phil, telling him not to come by the lab today—she was spending all her extra time with the therapy staff, helping Marcys relearn his own field of study.  He’d lost about five years’ worth of memories, as well as a number of physical abilities that were strangely slow to recover.  Apparently the device that had taken him out had been shockingly thorough in its attack on his brain.  Cody frowned, remembering the strange criss-crossing lines on Marcys’ face.  Maybe he should talk about it with Ten…although he had the feeling that the fewer people who knew about the details of the attack, the happier Admiral Liang would be, but since Kyle already knew, it couldn’t hurt to tell one more person, could it?

The next message was actually from Kyle, apologizing for not being able to go riding that morning with Cody, but something personal had come up that he needed to attend to immediately.  The warm words rolled through Cody’s mind, kind and genuinely regretful, and Cody smiled.  That was…well, it wasn’t great, but it was at least understandable.  After all, Kyle had family on Liberty too.  There was probably a lot of stuff going on there that he needed to know about.

Not going riding, though…the more he thought about it, the more Cody knew that he needed a distraction today.  Something to take his mind off of everything that was happening to him, everything that might threaten his friends and family.  Somewhere very few other people ever bothered to go, and that was the race track.  An hour or two riding around dodging and spinning at high speeds would make him feel better.  And if he was lucky, he wouldn’t even have to go alone.

Cody got dressed, pulled on his protective gear and headed out into the common room.  Grennson and Darrell were gone—not surprising, it was already ten in the morning, he had definitely overslept—but Ten was still there, standing on a chair and fiddling with something up high on the wall.  “What are you doing?”

Ten jumped and the chair beneath hir wavered, but by the time Cody got to hir ze’d steadied hirself.  “Give me a little warning before shouting at me next time!” Ten said huffily.

“Sorry,” Cody replied, patting Ten’s calf apologetically.  “I didn’t mean to.”

“I didn’t think you meant to,” Ten said, turning back to the wall.  Ze had a multi-tool in hir hand, and was currently using the magnetic setting to screw something deep into the wall. 

“What is that?”

Ten sighed.  “Nothing you need to worry about.”

“I’m not worrying, I’m just curious as to why you’re putting holes in our walls.  Technically that’s not allowed, you know.”

“When have you ever cared about that?”

“I don’t really,” and Ten nodded, but Cody forged ahead, “but this is a common area, not our room.  If you’re putting something in the common area then it’s going to affect all of us, and I’d like to know what it is.”

“It’s something that will keep you safer.”

“That isn’t an answer.”

“Can’t you just trust me?” Ten snapped.

“Can’t you just trust me?” Cody replied, just as snappish for once, and Ten’s eyes widened.  Cody knew he wasn’t acting like himself, but damn it, he didn’t feel like himself, he felt tired and stressed and desperate to take his mind off of everything.  “I don’t want to argue,” he said after a moment.  “We can…look, let’s just forget about this for now.  I want to go riding today, and I want you to come along.”  When Ten looked like ze was about to object, Cody continued, “You said you would months ago and you still haven’t, and I’ve been saving my special fuel for you.  We can go so fast, you won’t believe it,” he coaxed with a smile.  “And I’ve got spare gear for you to wear, so you won’t get your clothes dirty or mess up your hair.”

“You really think I have time for this?”

“I think you should make the time,” Cody said seriously.  “Because otherwise you’re going to burn yourself out on whatever you’re doing and go and do something else and then I won’t see you for days.”  Ten just stared at him, and Cody stared back for a minute before admitting defeat.  “Fine.  Stay here.  I’ll go by myself.”  He headed into the kitchen and grabbed one of Grennson’s last efforts at baking, which tasted too strongly of cinnamon but was still pretty good, then headed for the door.

“Stop!”  Ten spoke up just as Cody was about to step out into the hall. “You don’t have to go by yourself.  I’ll go, just stop pouting.”

“I wasn’t pouting!” Cody protested with a smile.

“It was a sneak-pout wrapped in indignation, I know exactly how you work,” Ten said, hopping down from the chair.  “I said I’d go, I’ll go.  But for no more than an hour, I have twelve very important things to do today.”

“Twelve, huh?”

“Twelve that can’t wait, dozens more in the background,” Ten clarified, and Cody nodded. 

“Let’s get you dressed, and then we’ll go.”

Getting Ten dressed meant putting up with fifteen minutes of complaints at how the protective gear fit, how unstylish it was and how much Ten hoped that no one saw hir in it, but eventually they made it to the track.  Cody went to where his bike was locked up and keyed the compartment open, then opened the safe in the back to take out the bottle of fuel that Wyl had given him.  He took out the old mix and installed the new, then turned the bike on, making sure everything was functioning right.   Cody could hear the change in the sound the engine was making, and he grinned happily.  “She likes it,” he said, patting his hoverbike’s seat.

Ten didn’t look so happy.  “This thing is clearly a deathtrap, and you’ve just made it more lethal.  And you’re pleased about it.”  Ze glared at Cody. “Something is very wrong with you.”

“It’s not a deathtrap,” Cody said mildly, getting into the front seat and putting on his helmet.  “The gyroscopes keep everything moving the right way, and it’s got plenty of safety measures.  Just hold onto me and you’ll be fine.”

Ten raised an eyebrow.  “And just trust you to keep me alive?”


“Do not make me regret this,” Ten warned, but ze accepted Cody’s help in swinging hir leg over the back of the bike.

“You won’t regret this,” Cody promised, and he gently guided the bike over to the course layout panel, swiping his hand to register him as the user and get it running.  He left the course as simple as possible, partially so he wouldn’t scare Ten and partially because he actually didn’t know how many tricks he could really pull off at such high speeds, then watched as the holograms sprang up in the distance.


“No,” Ten said, but ze had hir helmet on, so Cody took no as “yes” and revved the bike, then started them moving.

Ten’s arms squeezed his middle so tight that Cody felt like ze’d leave bruises, but the exhilaration from finally riding blurred the discomfort into nothing but breathless anticipation.  He took the first run around the track at lower speeds, making sure he could jump and swerve around the obstacles, then started to go faster.  The ground blurred, the course raced by and Cody laughed, feeling absolute joy.  This was just what he needed.  He spun them around holographic pillars and over fences, turning so hard on one that the bike spun an extra rotation before the stabilizers were able to stop it, but it felt amazing.  He urged the bike on, faster and faster, lost in the adrenaline until Ten yelled, “It’s too hot!”

“What?  What is?” Cody asked, slowing slightly as they took another curve.

“The engine!  It’s too hot, it’s going to burn through my pants!”

Cody frowned.  The engine shouldn’t be overheating, he’d made sure the cooling system was compatible with the new fuel bottle.  “Ten—”

“Cody, stop the bike, it’s going to—” Whatever else ze was going to say was lost to a scream when the entire engine block suddenly burst into flame, sending the bike into a tailspin.  Ten was standing on the back seat, holding desperately to Cody’s shoulders as ze tried to avoid the flames, and Cody knew they had to abandon the bike but he couldn’t slow her down, the controls were compromised, shorted out when the engine first blew—what could he—

Fuck, he hoped this would work.

“Hold on tight to me!” Cody shouted, then slammed his palm hard against his chest even as he shoved off to the side, clear of the flaming hoverbike but careening at tremendous speed toward the ground.  He held Ten as close as he could, and he actually felt when the inertial dampening field expanded around them, making their initial strike against the ground jarring instead of deadly.  They bounced and hit again, and again, and on the fourth rebound the dampener cut out and they hit with enough force to snap Cody’s head back into Ten’s.  The helmet absorbed the worst of it, and then they were rolling and finally they rolled to a stop. 

“Cody!”  Ten let go of him and pulled of hir helmet, then got to work on his.  “Are you all right?  Cody?  Are you okay?”

“I…”  He wanted to say yes, but his head was swimming, and everything seemed to hurt.  He heard a tremendous boom to their right and felt the wave of heat, and when he looked over he knew that he’d just lost his bike.  Wyl’s gift to him, he’d barely even broken it in and now it was gone…that hurt worse than anything else, and the last thing Cody recognized through the agony he felt was relief that he was blacking out, so he wouldn’t have to see any more right now.

He was done.




Ten liked to think hirself immune to panic, but there was no denying the fact that when Cody’s eyes rolled back in his head, ze had freaked out.  Just a little, just for a moment before ze used hir implant to call out to Hermes, but if ze never experienced such heart-rending terror again, it would be too soon.  The med team got there shortly, and Ten was carted off to the infirmary along with Cody, despite protesting that ze was fine, and ze really was.  Whatever Cody had used to slow their fall it had worked brilliantly, despite their speed.  What few sore spots ze had were already fading away, courtesy of Regen, and after a brief inspection by one of the Academy doctors, Ten was left alone to wait and find out if Cody was all right.

Ze could have called their quad mates.  Ze almost wanted to, but Ten held back.  There was too much to think about right now to deal with their cloying concern as well, and it was already so hard to think.  Every time ze shut hir eyes ze saw Cody, pale and trembling in the wake of the explosion, and Ten couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if ze hadn’t gone with him today.  The engine was set far enough back that it was possible that Cody wouldn’t have even noticed the additional heat until the entire thing exploded, with him on it.  Without a passenger to warn him, without the device he’d used to slow them, without Ten being there to call the med team…which was strange, ze shouldn’t have had to do that, but when ze’d asked, the doctor had only told her that there had been a hiccup in Hermes’ coverage of the area.  A hiccup.  Right.

Ten was extremely resentful of the fact that Admiral Liang got to go in and talk to Cody first after the doctors said he was out of danger, but he was the admiral, and rank was rank at the Academy.  Ze waited impatiently, practically hopping from foot to foot until finally Liang came back out, somber but understanding.  “He’s not badly hurt,” he told Ten.  “A lot of bruising, and his collarbone dislocated, so one of his arms will have to be immobilized for a while.  I think you took the worst of the initial hit, which all things considered is quite good.”  Ah, of course the admiral knew about Cody’s status as a natural.  “He’s more physically and emotionally exhausted than anything,” he continued.  “Go easy on him, Cadet.”

“Yes sir,” Ten said, surprising hirself with hir immediate agreement.  Admiral Liang moved out of the way and Ten practically ran into Cody’s room, stopping right next to the bed he was sitting up on, his back leaned against the wall.  He was staring straight ahead, not looking at Ten, not looking at anything, and that just wouldn’t do.

Ten got onto the bed and straddled Cody’s legs, filling the vacancy in front of him.  Ze set hir hands on his chest, tentatively, surprised at how cold his skin felt through the filmy infirmary clothes.  “Hey.”

“Hey.”  His voice was toneless. 

“You’re going to be okay.”

“So I hear.”

Ten frowned.  “And I’m also fine, thanks for asking.”

“I’m glad you’re fine,” Cody said, finally looking at hir.  “I’m sorry about today.”

“That wasn’t your fault.”

“I should have checked the hookup better, I should have run a diagnostic on the bike before I took you with me.  Now,” and here his voice finally choked a bit, “now she’s gone.  I ruined her.  Wyl made her for me, he put so much work into her and now it’s all wasted.”

“Oh no.”  If Ten knew anything, ze knew this.  The surveillance blip, the strategic nature of the sabotage, everything ze now knew about Kyle Alexander… “That wasn’t your fault.”

“It was.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“How can you say that?” Cody asked, his voice still dull and hopeless.  “How can you know?”  He seemed sunk in despair, so miserable that nothing Ten could say would break him out of it.  Ze hated seeing him like this, hated it with a passion, almost as much as ze loved—well, that was an idea.  Maybe not hir best, but anything to snap Cody out of his fugue.  Even now, purple bruises marring one cheek, his left arm held tight to his chest, he was so…irresistible, and Ten was so tired of resisting.

Gathering hir courage, ze leaned forward, closed hir eyes and kissed Cody Helms.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Academy Post #23

Notes:  The plot thickens!  Secrets, deal-making, questionable science and muddy motivations…what the hell am I doing with this story again?  Here’s hoping I can keep all my plot lines straight.  Enjoy!

Title: The Academy

Part Twenty-Three:  Step Into My Web



Darrell Parrish III was destined from an early age to strive to fill a lot of roles.  He and so many of his extended family were raised to fill in the perceived gaps in the Parrish legacy, keeping the status of the family on an ever-increasing arc toward glory.  Darrell’s father had done his duty, marrying well and serving honorably, and then had almost ruined everything by getting killed.  The award of Legacy status to his son was the least the Federation could do, his parents felt, after such a grievous loss.  That status, along with the roles of star athlete, future Federation officer and networker extraordinaire were all passed along to his son, with every expectation of his loyalty to the cause.  After all, what lifted up the family lifted up Darrell, and influence was the coin of choice among those in the know in the Federation.  Money was nothing by comparison to power, and knowledge was the nectar of the gods.

Darrell had never embraced his destiny as fully as his grandparents wanted, but getting him into the Academy was the first step in their endgame.  All he had to do was make the right moves, follow the right plans, and he would be on the right path.  After Darrell started avoiding his grandparents’ holocalls, they turned their attentions to messages, sending him an updated synopsis of their expectations every week.  Darrell generally skimmed them and moved on, but this time there were a few points that particularly caught his eye.

Item #14-The True Patriot Scholarship.  An exciting opportunity for any Academy cadet, the True Patriot Scholarship offers a tiered system of rewards based on the independent valuation of any information submitted to the True Patriot Scholarship Committee that directly relates to central system security.  Any cadet who passes along valuable intelligence on potential threats to Federation sovereignty will be kept strictly confidential.  The rewards include credits for extracurricular activities, monetary compensation, and even a guaranteed commission in the field of your choice upon graduation!  **Available to Legacy students only.  DNA verification required before contact with scholarship committee can be made.

Beneath it was a note from his grandmother, saying “This could be PERFECT for you!  DO THIS!!!”  It actually took Darrell a moment to realize that what made him special when it came to an opportunity like this were his quad mates.  An alien, a Fringer and a Solaydorian nutcase.  Naturally his grandmother thought they were a hotbed of revolutionary activity, given how tense things were getting on Liberty.

His family wanted him to spy on his quad mates, his friends, and report on them to some vague board of directors that he would probably never know anything about.  Well, fuck that.

As far as Darrell was concerned that should have been the end of it, but it turned out that there were plenty of Legacy students who were more enthusiastic about following the guidelines, and apparently some of them thought that he could be used as a direct source of information about his quad mates.  He turned away three curious, pushy Legacies before his first period was over, and in every class after that someone new found an excuse to sit next to him and start to pry.  By the time he sat down for Tactics it was to the point where he wanted to start yelling at people.  The only person to sit next to him, though, was—


She smiled briefly.  “Darrell.”

“I’m not talking about them,” he told her.  “So don’t even ask.”

“I wasn’t going to.”

He stared at her in disbelief.  “You weren’t going to.  Right.”

“I wasn’t!” she protested.  “No one knows better than me how tight your little cabal is.  I’m not here to question you, I’m here to keep other people from questioning you.  No one will bother you while I’m sitting here.”  Sure enough, a few other hopeful-looking Legacies had turned tail and run to their normal seats.

“Why are you helping me out?” Darrell asked.  He and Valero hadn’t interacted at all since The Incident, and he hadn’t been too sad about that.

“Because,” she said, tossing her platinum hair over her shoulder.  “Even though we’re not close anymore doesn’t mean we can’t still be friendly.  Don’t tell me anything about any of your quad; don’t even mention their names.  I don’t want to know.  Besides,” she added with a smirk, “your grade in this class is probably low enough without having to work around people distracting you.”

“I’m not doing that badly,” Darrell protested, but she was right, Tactics wasn’t his strong suit, which wasn’t good in a cadet on Command track.  She raised an eyebrow, and he caved.  “Okay, so I’m not doing well.”

“All the more reason to accept my help.  With studying, with notes…just as friends,” she said.

“As friends?”

“What, am I absolutely not allowed to be your friend anymore because I made one mistake?  For which I apologized?” she huffed.  “Fine, be that way.”  She hunched her shoulders and turned away.

“Wait.”  Darrell reached out and touched her wrist.  “Sorry.  I do need help in this class, and if you’re offering...”

Valero’s tiny smile reappeared.  “So, friends then?”

Darrell shrugged, but he was smiling too.  “We can maybe work up to that.”




Grennson had never been around so many conflicting emotions in his entire life, and it was giving him a permanent headache.  Perels could lie and hide their own emotions well enough, and when they felt they felt deeply and with an enduring intensity that most human emotions seemed to lack, but when humans felt something strongly, it was like a flame in Grennson’s mind.  That much, he thought he’d been prepared for: humans were bright and complicated, but he had years of learning to manage his empathy to help him, and experience with humans that almost no Perel could match.  He’d grown up with Jason, after all.

It turned out that Jason was almost more Perel than he was human, emotionally.  He was calm and controlled and consistent, and what he said and what he felt were in sync more often than not.  The average human flitted between emotions like bark beetles darting from tree to tree, eating a little here, a little there, but rarely committing to one for very long.  It made Grennson feel like his mind was on fire sometimes, especially lately, with so many more people looking his way, feeling everything from tentative to anticipatory to hateful.

Those people Grennson could mostly block out.  Darrell had told him about the scholarship offer, and the ridiculous reason for it.  If that made a certain subset of the cadet population more vicious than normal, well, Grennson was very well prepared to deal with that.  He could feel false friendship, and he had no problem turning people away.  As far as he was concerned, it was a non-issue.  The bigger issue this past week came from Cody.

Cody was fighting with himself about something concerning Grennson.  He hadn’t come to a decision about it yet, and because of their closeness Cody’s unease affected Grennson, because he couldn’t close out the emotions of a friend as entirely as he could strangers.  By the fifth evening Cody’s indecision was so strong that Grennson felt almost paralyzed by it, unable to draw a full breath.  He sat down on his bed and did his best to clear his mind, running through the meditation exercises he’d learned as a child and trying not to give in to just asking what was going on.  He wasn’t supposed to pry, he wasn’t supposed to push.

Fortunately, Cody rendered the point moot by finally making up his mind.  It was Friday evening, Darrell was at paraball practice and Ten was in the lab.  It was just Grennson and Cody, and Cody came and sat down with him at the table just as Grennson was finishing making tea.

“I need to talk to you,” Cody said quietly.

“Oh, good,” Grennson said, sighing with relief.  When Cody looked curious, he added, “I’ve been waiting for you to speak to me for days, you’ve felt very unbalanced.”

Cody grimaced.  “Sorry about that.  I had some things I needed to…anyway.  I want to give you something.”  He opened his hand and set a small silver circle on the center of the table.  “It’s an inertial dampener.  It only works for five seconds, but for those five seconds everything coming into your space will slow way down.  You have to hit it hard to activate it.”

Grennson reached out and touched the device, but didn’t pick it up.  “Where did you get it?”

“My father made it for me, as a safety precaution.  Just in case, you know?”

Ah, yes.  “Your fathers are on Liberty by now.”

“Yes,” Cody said unhappily.  His mind practically broadcasted danger, targets, danger! at Grennson.  “They want me to be safe, and I want you to be safe, so…please take it.  You can wear it on your uniform, it’s the same shape as our buttons.”

“Do you really think I’m in danger?”  Grennson asked a bit nervously.  Face to face confrontations he could handle, he was stronger and faster than almost any unmodified human, but if he were outnumbered or taken by surprise…

“I don’t know.  I really, really hope not, but things are strange right now,” Cody said.  “And the stupid scholarship thing means you’re getting a lot of attention, and I just…please take it.”

“If I take it, will it mean you go without?”

“No,” Cody assured him.  “I’ve got one for myself too.”

Grennson smiled a little.  “None for Darrell or Ten?”

Cody smiled back.  “Nobody will mess with Darrell, and as for Ten, there’s nothing surprising about hir.  Everyone ze ever meets knows exactly how ze feels about them as soon as ze opens hir mouth.  Plus, Solaydor is very much a central planet, not exactly a hotbed of rebellion.  So.”  He looked at Grennson hopefully.  “Will you take it?”

Grennson took the little disc and carefully fit it onto the front of his uniform.  “Of course.  You’re a good friend,” he said earnestly.  “You ease my mind.”  It was a Perel compliment, and Cody knew it.

“You ease my mind too.”




Ten was busy analyzing data in hir lab.  Ze was analyzing data and compiling results and thinking about a dozen other experiments all at once, and also thinking about hir quad mates and Kyle, and stupid legislation and also Kyle, and fucking Kyle again because when had he gotten permission to act so sweet around Cody?  Why was he doing it?  What was he hoping to get out of it?  How could Ten keep Cody from making a terrible mistake and giving in to the wiles of that emotionless, faux-smiling, long-legged, awful, charming, handsome, terrible idiot? 

It would take evidence.  Evidence that Kyle was up to something, evidence that he was a symptom of the much larger disease that was the Federation in general, and Kyle’s brother in particular.  Evidence that Ten was in the process of compiling, thanks to hir coronal transducer.

Garrett Caractacus-Helms had to be Ten’s favorite person right now next to Cody…well, and Jonah, but that wasn’t important!  Garrett was smart, so smart, in some ways almost as smart as Ten, and he’d built this wonderful, beautiful machine and loaded it with special features and given it to Ten…it was clear that Garrett understood.  He understood how hard it could be to take care of people who couldn’t be relied on to take care of themselves, and he’d given Ten the technology ze needed to step in and step up.  Ten would take care of Cody, make sure nothing happened to him.  Nothing felt as right as that.  If Ten had ever believed in a deity, ze might have likened hir feelings about Cody to a divine sense of purpose, but religion was a ludicrous pastime for a logical mind.  Ten was driven by the spirit of scientific inquiry.  And, yes, friendship too, and maybe even something more than that, but that also wasn’t material to the question at hand. 

The data Ten was analyzing had to do with brainwaves: specifically, psychic brainwaves.  That Kyle was hiding something was evident to anyone with a sense of deductive reasoning.  What he was hiding, now that was the question.  And the answer lay with—

The program finished.  Ten looked at the results generated by the coronal transducer’s energy sensors, amplified by the reflective nodes ze’s carefully hidden in the quad’s common room, and smiled.  Perfect.  Now to take this information straight to the source and get some answers.

Only, Ten didn’t go to see Kyle.  Ze went to Pamela instead.  She was sitting in one of the campus cafes, sipping a cup of tea while reading on her holotab.  She didn’t look surprised to see hir when Ten sat down across from her.  “I sensed you coming,” she said. Her expression was resigned.  “You seem very satisfied.”

“I like working out puzzles,” Ten replied.  “And I just did, and I thought I’d share my results with you, since they concern you so much.”

“And what results are those?”

“Can’t you read my mind and find out for yourself?” Ten asked, tapping hir temple. 

Pamela frowned.  “You know I won’t.  It’s not allowed, and I wouldn’t break that rule.”

“But you’ve already broken it.”

All the color drained from Pamela’s face, her pallor even more pronounced within the darkness of her hair.  “What…”

“Or at least, you’re trying to break it,” Ten clarified.  “With Kyle Alexander.”

“Ten.”  Pamela looked around uneasily.  “I don’t think we should talk about this—”

“I set my transducer to interfere with Hermes’ monitoring,” Ten said.  “It’s slight, but if we keep our voices down it should be okay.”

Pamela leaned in.  “How did you know?”

“That’s my business,” Ten said.  Ze didn’t give away hir secrets unless ze had to, or if ze needed to impress someone.  “What matters is why you’re doing it.  You know it’s illegal to batter away at another person’s psyche, but you tried over and over again to get past his shields the last time we were all together.  Why?  What are you looking for?”

Pamela’s lips pursed, and she leaned in a little closer.  “You know about the patriot scholarship?”

“I’ve heard about it.”  From Darrell, actually.

“Did you know that his family is behind it?”

“How is that a surprise?  His family is behind everything.”

“There’s more happening than just that,” Pamela whispered.  “There are things like this going out in every central system planet, new initiatives for information gathering on a tremendous scale.  My home colony has practically been emptied of people, deployed all over on President Alexander’s orders.  Even the kids!  Even the under-tens, and they’re supposed to be sacred, they’re supposed to be left alone until they know enough to protect themselves, but they’re being sent into the field!  Spying on people, breaking into their mind, getting their secrets…” Pamela shuddered. 

“I hate it.  I’ve always hated it.  And now my little sisters are gone, their locations ‘classified,’ and I’ve been told to…told to…but I’m not going to do it!” she snapped.  “If I’m going to get anyone’s secrets, it’s going to be Kyle’s.  He’s the President’s brother, he’s got to know more about what’s going on.  I need to know what he knows.  That’s why I keep trying so hard to get into his mind.”

“Oh.”  This…wasn’t exactly what Ten had expected.  This was rather more than ze had expected, honestly.  “Well then, I won’t get in your way.  But I want you to share what you find, if you manage it.”

“Why should I?” Pamela asked, not meanly, but with genuine curiosity.  “What can you do about any of this?”

Ten smiled.  “The better you get to know me, the sooner you realize that there’s nothing I can’t do.”  Especially if it meant making sure Cody was safe from a person as secretive, as powerful and as dangerous as Kyle Alexander.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

WIP exerpt

Hi guys.

Thanks for all the lovely thoughts and kind wishes for us.  I just dropped my man off at the airport and am feeling a little low, so I'm posting an excerpt from my enormous fantasy WIP.  This way you're not totally bereft until Thursday.  I'm trying to finish my rough draft of this story this month, so hopefully soon it'll coalesce into something worth reading all the way through:)


Twelve days later Colm finally met Jaime Windlove, fresh off the ship after three months at sea with his uncle.  He burst through the front door of the Cove that evening like a sudden typhoon, calling raucously for food and drink with and appropriating the window table with an ease of expectation that surprised Colm. 

Even more surprising was the fact that the two men sitting there gave the table up without a word, just nodding to the young man and his entourage as they got up, one of the tipping his hat and murmuring, “Welcome back, Master Windlove.”  The young man inclined his head briefly before ignoring the other man altogether, yelling for Nichol.

“I know you’re here somewhere, you bonny bastard,” he laughed, and his laugh was glorious, the same sort of bright, infectious sound that Nichol had, only deeper, more grown.  Nichol was eighteen, two years younger than Colm, and his youth still clung to him with tenacity, softening the lines of his face and the cut of his muscles.  Jaime Windlove was either older or taking great pains to appear that way, because his strawberry blond hair was slicked back and tied in a queue at the nape of his neck, and he wore a fine woolen half-cloak around his shoulders, draped to accentuate their broadness.  He looked like a military officer, a figure of authority, and obviously his authority wasn’t all imagined.

Colm, who was helping at the bar that evening, turned to Vernon and asked softly, “That’s Jaime Windlove?” just to confirm.  Vernon knocked once, then began filling tankards for them.  None of the small beer for this group; Vernon poured from the cask of dark brown ale, the finest beer in the inn, and to each added a shot of the vile peppery spirits that Colm disliked so much.

A moment later Nichol burst out of the kitchen, heading straight for Jaime with a shout of glee.  Jaime stood to meet him and they embraced, laughing and clapping each other on the back.  “When did you get in?” Nichol demanded.  “I’ve been looking for you every day, I thought you must have fallen over the side!”

“What kind of clumsy oaf do you take me for, then?” Jaime replied with a grin.  “No, I persuaded my uncle to send me back on the last of them, the Peregrine, so I could spend as much time as possible with the fleet.  I got to know the captain rather well, and if all goes well I’ll have a berth with his crew by the end of the summer.”

“Will you?” Nichol breathed.  “That’s fantastic.  Jaime…Jaime, who…”

“As though you even need to ask,” Jaime teased.  “Now sit, tell me all the things I’ve missed since I’ve been gone.  These boys didn’t have much of interest to report,” he gestured to the other two young men, dressed nicely but not with quite the sense of style that Jaime displayed.  Neither of the men looked particularly pleased to be there, but they put on a decent face for Nichol.

“Aye, we’ve not seen each other outside changing shifts for the Sea Guard,” Nichol said.  “Although there’s almost as little to report dockside as there is in Blake and Ollie’s posh side of town,” he added with a little smile.  “The seas have been sadly calm, not a thing amiss, nothing big breaking the water apart from a pod of whales.  Oh!  I do have a new friend to introduce.  Colm!” he called toward the bar.  “Come and meet Jaime and the lads!”

Vernon tapped tray that the four full tankards rested on meaningfully, and Colm brought it with him as he made his way through the press to Jaime’s table.  Tonight the taproom was packed, and Colm was grateful that his height allowed him to avoid any bumps and jostles against the tray he carried.

“What?” Jaime said as Colm drew close.  “Your friend is the new barman?”

“This is my cousin, Colm Weathercliff,” Nichol explained, taking the tankards from the tray and distributing them around the table.

“Of the Caresfall Weathercliffs?”

“No,” Colm said.  He was getting tired of that meaningless comparison.

“He just arrived from the mountains, and he’s already getting a reputation as the best fisherman on these docks,” Nichol boasted, bumping Colm’s hip with his.

“Wait,” Blake said, squinting for a moment as he looked at Colm.  “Are you the one who’s been bringing in catches of diving dancers for the past few weeks?”  Colm nodded, a bit uneasy at the sudden scrutiny.  “My father mentioned you.  He says Gullfoot’s lucky to have you; that old drunk’s been living high since you started with him.”

“A fisherman,” Jaime said, a little smile playing around his lips.  “Well, that is a fine thing to be.  Welcome to Caithmor, Colm Weathercliff.”  He said it with a certain gravitas, as though he were speaking for all the city when he welcomed Colm in.  Perhaps he felt he was. 

“Thank you,” Colm said politely, shaking Jaime’s hand.  His palm bore few signs of extensive rope work or ship handling, but perhaps his uncle hadn’t wanted to put him to work when he was there in an unofficial capacity.  “I’ve heard much about you.”

“Have you, then?”  Jaime smirked at Nichol.  “Don’t believe a word this one tells you, it’s all lies.”

“Aye, especially the parts about you being dashing and heroic,” Nichol retorted, and the four of them laughed.  Colm picked up the tray and turned to go.

“No, wait!” Nichol caught him by the arm.  “Stay a moment, you’ve barely been introduced.”

“Clearly he’s got work to do,” Ollie drawled.

“Aye, picking up your slack,” Jaime said.  Nichol looked momentarily stricken.

“Oh, I left Gran in the kitchen—”

“I’ll take care of it,” Colm told him.  “Stay.  Vernon doesn’t really need me at the bar, I can work in the back.  I’ll have food brought out presently.”

“Thank you,” Nichol said sincerely, and that made it worth it for Colm. 

As he headed back into the kitchen, Colm heard Jaime remark, “He’s a strange, sallow creature, isn’t he Nicky?  Be honest, how do you get on with him?”  Colm was thankfully out of earshot before he could hear Nichol’s reply.

“Jaime’s back, then,” Megg said as soon as she caught sight of Colm.  He nodded.  “Well, Nichol will be happy.  Are they eating?”

“Yes.  There are three of them,” Colm added, and he was surprised when Megg snorted suddenly.

“Of course there are.  Jaime was a good child—his mama grew up just down the way from here, a truly beautiful lass she was—but he’s not had to work for much in his life, I’m afraid.  Those other boys who tag along behind them, they’re the sons of merchants, from fairly well-off families.  They didn’t bother to set foot in here all spring, didn’t give a whit for how Nichol was faring beyond getting him to cover their shifts in the Sea Guard, and now that Jaime’s back they’re back in my inn, expecting to eat my food and drink my ale for free.”

“They don’t pay to eat here?” Colm asked with a frown.

“Oh, Jaime’s father settles up the tab at the end of every month.  Karlson Windlove is a magistrate, and he’s a fair man, I’ll give him that.”  Megg pressed her lips tightly shut, as though actively keeping herself from saying any more, and Colm didn’t press.  He just took over Nichol’s carving station, laying slices of roast duck on the rows of plates spread out before him.  Idra and the other servers grabbed them up almost faster than Colm could prepare them, and the next few hours were blurs of activity, too busy to allow much time to think.

That night Colm went to sleep alone, which didn’t surprise him, but he was surprised to be woken up by Nichol for the first time when the younger man ran into Colm’s feet as he staggered into the room in the dark hours of the morning.

“Sorry!” he apologized, his voice to loud to be called a whisper but obviously trying for that.  “I’m sorry, shit, did I break your foot?”

“Not even close,” Colm said, sitting up so he could get a better look at Nichol.  He was leaning against the door and swaying forward, looking just moments from falling down altogether.  “Don’t move,” Colm cautioned him, pushing off his blanket and getting to his feet.  “Let me help you.”

“You don’ need to,” Nichol informed him, the slur of his words belying their meaning.  “I’m fine.”

“You’re drunk,” Colm said, bending so that he could get an arm beneath Nichol’s shoulders and help him to his cot.  He sat him down and Nichol looked at Colm blearily, then laughed.

“You look pretty in this light.”

Colm chuckled as he bent and got to work untying Nichol’s boots.  “You mean I look best in darkness?”

“There’s light here,” Nichol informed him.  “’S moonlight, it’s…’s romantic, right?  Blake and Ollie say the girls think it’s romantic.  They talk to them about moonlight and starlight and, and…what…oh, candlelight!  That’s romantic too.”

“And what kind of light does Jaime favor?” Colm asked as he put the boots beneath the cot.  Gods, they were filthy.  Nichol would have to clean them tomorrow.

Nichol grinned.  “Daylight shining on white sails and blue seas, he says.  The girls don’t find that as…as romantic.  But he doesn’t care.”

“I suppose he doesn’t have to work hard to impress girls,” Colm said, pushing Nichol back onto the thin mattress.  He lay down easily enough but forgot to lift up his legs, and leaving them dangling over the side was a knot waiting to happen, so Colm picked them up for him, resettling them with ease.

“Doesn’t work at it at all,” Nichol said, his voice breaking at the end as he yawned widely.  “He thinks ships are more beautiful than girls…”  He yawned again.

“Rest,” Colm told him, settling back down on his pallet. 

“I can’t, I have to ask you something,” Nichol said seriously, rolling onto his side so that he could look at Colm.  “It’s important.”

“Ask me, then.”

“Did you like him?”

There was no need to specify who Nichol was referring to.  “He seems to be a good friend to you,” Colm said, almost honestly.  “I like that about him.”

Nichol frowned.  “But you don’t like him?”

“I don’t really know him yet.”

“But you will,” Nichol said confidently.  “And when you do, you’ll like him.  Just as he’ll like you.”  Which meant that Jaime didn’t like Colm yet, but that was no surprise.  If Nichol was waiting for that day, Colm had a feeling he’d be disappointed.