Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Redstone Ch. 13, Pt 1

Notes: More Redstone again! It's funny how plot can suddenly occur to you right when you need it. I've got the next arc put together, so no more diversions for a while (I'm sorry!). Still, I hope you enjoy where this gets taken. Busy day, busy week, busy life right now, but at least I've got this story and you fabulous people. :)

Title: Redstone Chapter 13, Part 1.


It was the kind of day where Tamara felt like she started things off with bad news and bounced to worse. It began with getting word that she was going to need to finagle a way to break into Harrison’s office and steal information that was undoubtedly heavily encrypted, not to mention dealing with all the other security measures in place, before moving on to a call with the president himself.

“They aren’t allowing me very much access,” Tamara said ruefully, trying to turn President Alexander’s situation to potentially benefit her new mission. “I haven’t had verification of his status for over twenty-four hours, which I know was in your original instructions to the staff. Warden Harrison assures me that the system goes down every now and then and there’s nothing he can do to speed it up, but—”

“It’s better that you don’t insist.” Raymond Alexander’s dark eyes were utterly motionless, gazing out of the holoscreen like tiny, sentient black holes. “The Warden knows how to run his facility. Once the monitoring system is active again, you can reinitiate updates.”

“But the Senate’s special council said that twenty-four hour updates were the absolute minimum that we should be documenting, and I don’t want a lapse in protocol to come back and hurt you if it’s investigated.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, Tamara.” President Alexander smiled. “I’m sure I’ll survive any investigation, under the circumstances. Just do your best.” He cut the communication and Tamara gave in to the urge to bare her teeth at the screen. Of fucking course he would survive any investigation, because he’d pin the blame for the lapse in oversight squarely on her. Poor little natural, they’re really practically children, it was so kind of him to give her a chance but really he should have known better than to pass that sort of responsibility on to someone so obviously damaged.

“You goddamn son of a bitch,” Tamara muttered. She did some mental math and evaluated the bits and pieces she had on hand that might enable her to do the sort of breaking and entering that she now needed to do. Her stocks came up abysmally low. Not enough stored energy to zap a control panel, not enough hardware to manually get through the system, not enough shielding to block herself from oversight. Not, no, nope, nuh-uh. “Well, shit.”

Admiral Liang had been the one to pass the assignment to her, but Tamara knew the originator of the idea had been Garrett. It was risky, sending out multiple high-energy transmissions per day, but she needed more information, and fast. She put a new number into her cadged-together transmitter and sent it out into space. “Answer,” she muttered as she chewed on a fingernail. It was a habit she’d never quite been able to kick, and one that made her father perennially roll his eyes at her. “Answer…c’mon now…”

“Talk to me, Hummingbird.”

Tamara sighed in relief. There was no fighting some instincts, it seemed, including flashing back to her teenage years and Garrett being the only person she could stand while she was trying to come to grips with her new life on Pandora. Just hearing his voice made her shoulders relax a bit. “You know, you’re asking a hell of a lot here.”

“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think you could do it.”

“Oh really?” Tamara being happy to talk to Garrett didn’t preclude her bitching him out. “And how am I supposed to do it given my current resources, which don’t include anywhere near the amount of hardware I need to get into a closed system inside a closed room in a part of the building that I’m only ever allowed into with an escort? An escort, by the way, that there’s absolutely no chance of me being able to take out. I am not that kind of fighter and I don’t want to give anyone here any ideas about throwing me into the Pit alongside the rest of those poor fuckers.”

“You can’t repurpose pieces from a bot to help you handle the mechanics?”

“I don’t have access to bots, they’re not allowed in the guest suites,” Tamara snapped. “And even if I did, I’m not Wyl! I’ve got the basics of mechanical repurposing down, but I’m not an expert. Why can’t Wyl do the break-in?”

“Because he’s isolated away from that part of the prison and is being watched more carefully.”

“Yeah, well, without his help I’m not sure what I’m going to be able to do here. Especially not fast.”

There was a moment’s pause. “You can get in touch with Wyl though, right?”

“As long as he’s equipped to detect the code as well as transmit it, yes.” Tamara had been force-fed Morse during her stay at the Academy, and was relieved that she hadn’t had to learn on the fly to be part of this operation.

“If you can get in touch with him and let him know what you need, then he can build it.”

“Great.” Except for the obvious problem left over. “And I then pick it up how? He can’t come to me, and I’m not allowed to go to him. I’m not even allowed into the medical facilities without a dozen people surrounding me.”

“You’re going to have to find a way to connect, Hummingbird. And quickly.” Another pause, a quick shuffle and then— “I have to go, I’ve got a committee meeting in two minutes. Talk to Wyl.”

The transmission ended. Tamara took a moment to lean over and bang her head into her pillow to muffle a brief scream of frustration. “Make it happen,” she muttered snidely as she took apart the comm unit and reconfigured it to send out a Morse signal. “Figure out a miracle already, get your shit together, do the impossible. Fuck you, I’ll figure it out and then I’ll rub it in your face, mister. In your stupid, pretty face.”

The light on the new communicator flicked on. Tamara put it down on the floor, made sure things were set to receive as well, then tapped her first message.

Hello from a little bird.

She wasn’t directly connected to the structure of the prison, so she wasn’t entirely sure her message would get through. It should, and it should still be the sort of thing that, if picked up by Redstone’s communications grid, was dismissed as extraneous noise, but she didn’t want to count on it. The shorter her transmissions, the better.

Less than a minute later, she got a message back. Of course she did, Wyl was on top of things. Tamara nodded along as she translated. Hello little bird. How’s the nest?

Secure so far. Too secure, maybe. Need to see other nest, no equipment, no way in.

There was a long pause. Big nest?

Ahh, no. Tamara was brave where it counted, but she wasn’t Robbie. There was no way she was going into the black heart of Redstone unless she was forced there. Small, but important. Help?

Could. Maybe. Me/R in? Prob no. Eyes, ears, hands on us. Frowny face.

Oh for fuck’s sake, he’d Morse-coded an emoticon. It was so…twenty-first century of him. Tamara smiled despite herself.

Me in. Work on way, but need equip for B&E. Help?

Maybe. Call again tomorrow. Same time.

Well, it was better than Tamara had thought they’d do right off the bat. Good. Thanks.

Owe me so much espresso. Real beans not fake.

A kilo of real coffee beans could cost as much as a top of the line communication unit these days. Tamara would charge it to Garrett. Only the best.

Good. No more messages came in the nest minute, and Tamara took the communicator apart once again.

Well. Now she just had to figure out how to find a way to meet with Wyl in person and get whatever he managed to make for her, then how to sneak herself into the Warden’s office and tap into his personal computer system. All without being seen. Because of course she did. No problem. None whatsoever.

“Keep telling yourself that,” she whispered as she got off her bed and headed for the shower. She felt strung out and sweaty now; hot water wouldn’t wash away her worries, but at least it would take care of the smell.


The funny thing about habits learned in early childhood, as far as Demarcos was concerned, was that you never really outgrew them. The Towers of Bayt were enormous, Frankenstein creations birthed from the skeletons of the colony ships. Because of the vital ship structures colonists had been able to access as they built, the bones of the buildings, those massive, awkward edifices, were made not of durable plasticene meta-materials that resisted impact and vibration and had a dozen other safety features built in. They were metal: old, hard metal that itself had been recycled out of the ruins of Kuala Lumpur’s greatest skyscrapers. On a planet where keeping up your technology was hard, especially in the beginning thanks to the dust storms, communication between different sections of the buildings happened along those metal bones. They were beaten out in a variant of Morse code, in fact.

Demarcos kept his communicator wide open when he was alone in his quarters, monitoring as many frequencies as he possibly could inside Redstone. He didn’t expect to get access to the internal coms between Redstone workers, but occasional bits and pieces of code from the medical unit came in unshielded. It was the one part of the prison that had to be able to connect with everyone who worked there apart from Harrison’s comm, and so had the broadest reach.

He hadn’t been looking for anything other than that. The faint lines of fuzz that floated across his screen were, at first, taken as spatial interference. Nothing important, nothing vital. Except…

Demarcos blinked and looked at the lines again. Was that a…dash? Not an actual dash, but appearing in a rhythm that seemed familiar. And then a dot, a dot, and another…what the fuck?

He launched himself away from his desk and hunched over the comm unit, tracking the interference and trying to make sense of it. Was that a…it was a word.


The fuzz vanished after that, no more to be seen even though he held his breath waiting for it. Demarcos finally exhaled, but he didn’t relax. That was genuine code, ancient code, which meant that someone here was passing notes that they didn’t want the powers that be to know about. Demarcos wasn’t sure what that meant, but he knew one thing.

He was going to find out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vignette: An Odd Homecoming

Notes: Okay, so, I just needed a break today because life is crazy. We closed on a house on Friday, which, awesome, but there's a lot to do surrounding that and family stuff and work stuff and WOW, I just needed to do something easy and fun today. So, voila! You get a Cody vignette. Back to our regularly scheduled programming next week :)

Interlude: An Odd Homecoming


Being back at the Academy felt, well, weird was the best way Cody could describe it as he stepped into his new room. It felt like he’d come back carrying two sets of contradictory expectations, and neither one of them were being met.

There were the expectations he got from the memory of arriving for the first time last year; his initial impressions and the excitement and fear and eagerness about being there that had all blended to leave him feeling adrenalized and energetic for days. This time around, there was definitely some of that, but it was tempered by the fact that it wasn’t his first time at the Academy anymore. The buildings were familiar, many of the faces were familiar, and actually way more people seemed interested in talking to him this time around. Apparently his notoriety hadn’t worn off yet.

Also, slightly dimming any potential excitement was the fact that, as far as first experiences went, Cody had just spent all school break on an actual alien planet. An alien planet. Olympus and the Academy were impressive, but they were nothing compared to Perelan. He’d spent months working on languages with Darrel and training with Jason and cooking with Grennson and doing science with Ten. Honestly, nothing the Academy could throw at him was going to be quite as intense.

The second set of expectations, a set that Cody hadn’t even been aware he was carrying around until he felt an odd sense of relief and chased it back into his brain to find out why, was the expectation of last year’s bad experiences tainting his arrival this year. It was the painful thought that the good might be outweighed by the bad, that all the fun he’d had and all the things he’d learned and done would be overshadowed by the events of very end of the year. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t, and Cody breathed a sigh of relief even as he settled onto his bunk.

It helped that they weren’t in Hebe Tower anymore, he had to admit that. Living in the same place where Pamela had wrought so much damage would have probably taken more of the shine off of their homecoming. But they were second-years now, and their quad was on the bottom floor of Apollo Tower. And speaking of gods…

“Welcome back to the Academy, Cadet Helms. If you would care to make contact, I’ll download your new schedule.”

“Thank you, Hermes.” Cody touched his hand to the wall and felt Hermes link to his implant. A moment later, a calendar sprang up before his eyes, class locations, topics and instructors listed by day and time. He scanned it, checking for any changes from what he’d expected. They’d managed to fit him into Advanced Tactics and War Games after Jason wrote him a recommendation, which was normally a third-year course, and there was a space for a martial club of some kind, which Jason had also recommended. His dads hadn’t said anything about it, but Cody had known that Jonah was distressed by the fact that Cody considered learning a martial art an indispensable skill now. Garrett, on the other hand, had been quietly approving.

They’d both looked tired, although they’d done their best to put on a good front when Cody had visited them on the way back from Perelan. It was ridiculous; they could use Regen, they weren’t supposed to look tired like that. Cody didn’t like it. He was counting down the months until he graduated and was able to do something really useful, something that would make his dads’ lives a little easier.

Oh, there was something new on his schedule. “Phil is still here?”

“Senior Cadet Philomela Tan was offered an extra year to complete her advanced structural engineering coursework. This will be her third certification.” Most cadets only managed one.

“And she’s still my sponsor?”

“If you would like her to be. You have the right to refuse, as it was she who requested you.”

Well, Cody wasn’t going to do that. “Message Phil, tell her I’ll be at the meeting she scheduled. We can talk about it then.” Although, in all honesty, he was going to say yes to her. She might be pedantic at times, but she could teach him interesting and kind-of-almost-illegal types of things, which Cody knew were going to be useful to him someday.

“Done. Is there any other way I can assist you, Cadet Helms?”

“Not right now, thanks.” Cody released the wall and took a closer look at his quad. It was the standard size for four, very similar to their last one, but the walls were a warm, calming blue-green, and the squishy cream-colored flooring smelled new. It was nice. Not surprising, like it had been the first year, but nice. With a little smile, Cody started unpacking. He’d undoubtedly have some time to himself: Ten was examining hir lab space allocation, which ze’d undoubtedly declare not big enough, Grennson was still saying goodbye to Jason and Ferran, and Darrel…well. His mother and grandparents had come to meet him here and take him out, for some “family bonding time.” Darrel hadn’t been looking forward to it.

“They’re just going to tell me, again, that I need to get back onto command track so I can be a captain like my father instead of a linguist with the potential to make groundbreaking discoveries,” he’d muttered to Cody in a quiet moment when Grennson and Ten had been elsewhere. Darrel didn’t like to talk about his parents in front of Grennson; Grennson’s empathic link to Darrel made him antsy when Darrel was discomfited. And Ten would undoubtedly butt in and say something like, “Tell them they don’t get to make your decisions for you and if they keep trying they can go fuck off to the Beyond.” It was a very Ten thing to say, easier for hir than most since ze didn’t have parents to disappoint. Grennson was categorically incapable of upsetting his parents, so that left Cody as Darrel’s outlet in this particular instance.

He didn’t mind lending an ear, but he didn’t know what advice, if any, he had to give on the subject. Cody generally got along really well with his dads, even if they frustrated him sometimes by not taking better care of themselves. “There’s nothing they can really do but disapprove, right?” he’d asked. “Not that that’s good, but…they can’t pull you out of the Academy.”

“No, they wouldn’t do that, there’s too much prestige in me being here,” Darrel had agreed. “But if they disapprove to the right people, then I might have friends of my dad’s, captains and admirals, messaging me to tell me how much my father would have wanted me to follow in his footsteps. It wouldn’t be the first time. And those are the same people I might have to work under someday, and I don’t want to get a reputation with them for being dismissive and insubordinate before I’ve even been assigned to their ship.”

Oh, wow. That sucked. “Shit.”

Darrel had sighed. “Yeah.”

Hopefully he’d come back tonight without being too upset. Cody would remind Grennson to make lhosa tea just in case, although Grennson was the type to make Darrel comfort food without being asked. Cody put his clothes away, some of them new but some of them leftover from last year. One of them jingled slightly as he picked it up. He turned out the pocket—

It was a key. Or rather, a keyring, a special antique-style keyring that Wyl had made for Cody to load his hover cycle’s startup codes onto. It had a digital interior but a stylized metal exterior, with a picture of a soaring bird raised on it. It was blue around the edges from high heat exposure, one of the only things to survive the cycle’s crash last year.

And here came the memories Cody had been doing so well at holding back, the hover cycle crashing and exploding, the fight with Pamela as she tried to kill him, her injuring Grennson, and Kyle taking responsibility for it all in the end. And Kyle, fuck, Kyle was in the worst prison in all of Federation space, he was at the mercy of killers and rapists and maniacs and Cody knew that Garrett was doing something about it but he wouldn’t tell Cody what that was, and for all he knew Kyle was—he was—

Cody only realized he was hyperventilating when he actually staggered on his feet. He went over to his bunk and sat down, leaning his head back against the wall and taking deep breaths. He wasn’t sure how long he sat there trying his best not to think, but it seemed like barely any time had passed before Ten whirled into the room like a hurricane.

“I leave you alone for an hour, just one hour, and you go and start acting like an idiot,” ze chided Cody as ze sat down next to him on the bunk.

“How did you…”

“Hermes, obviously, and the fact that I’ve set my corona to hone in on your most important biostatistics and update me in real time about them.” Ten smirked and tapped hir forehead, where the edge of the curling metal tiara touched hir skin. “I know more about you at any given minute than your own doctor does.”

“That’s creepy.”

“No it’s not,” Ten said blithely, and okay, no, it wasn’t. At least not for the two of them. Cody was used to having very few boundaries where Ten was concerned, at this point. It would have been worrying, if Ten hadn’t insisted on doing the same. “I need to have lots of data points to work off of when I start the trial phase for my serum.”

Oh, the serum. Cody was glad Ten was excited about it, he really was, but at the same time he just…wasn’t letting his own hopes get too high. Too many doctors had promised him results, and while Ten was smarter than most of those people, ze was also just one person. One person who wasn’t willing to explain all of hir serum sources to Cody, a boundary that he really wished would go away like so many others had.

“It’s not my secret to tell,” was all Ten had told him, unaccountably serious, and Cody had respected that and not pressed for more. Not like Ten was doing now.

“What made this happen? Your biostats correlate to having a panic attack, what is there to panic about? Everyone is fine.”

“Not everyone.”

“Well, no, not Pamela but she’s dead and that’s perfect, so—oh. Kyle?” Ten made an incredulous face, hir scarlet red eyebrows almost touching the roots of hir matching hair. The red wasn’t Cody’s favorite. It made Ten looked like ze’d been dunked in blood, but knowing Ten ze’d  get bored and change it in another week or so. “Kyle Alexander, really? Cody, honestly, the chances that he actually went to prison are pretty slim. I know that’s what they have to tell people, but he’s an Alexander, for fuck’s sake. He’s probably imprisoned on a beach somewhere, working on his tan.”

“That’s not the impression I get from Garrett.”

“Far be it from me to suggest that your father is less than omnipotent, but Cody, the man isn’t omnipotent. He doesn’t actually have eyes everywhere, and I’d be surprised if he knew the whole truth about the situation. And if he did?” Ten shrugged. “Then Garrett would take care of it. He’s the best there is when it comes to handling people.” That was honest admiration with just a hint of hero worship, and it made Cody smile to hear it.

“I know. I’m fine.”

“Good. So am I, even though I need at least twice the lab space I’ve been given, my independent study professor is an idiot.”

“Tell me more,” Cody encouraged, but instead Ten swung over onto his lap and wrapped hir arms around Cody’s neck.

“We’ve got the whole quad to ourselves for the next few hours,” ze purred. “How about we desecrate Grennson’s kitchen table instead?”

“You have the best ideas.”

“Well obviously, I’m a gen—mmph—” Cody cut the rest of Ten’s words off with a sweet, longing kiss and, sooner than he’d hoped, there was no thought of anything else in his head.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Redstone Ch. 12, Pt. 2

Notes: A little information from a lot of different people. Starting to bring it all together, at last:)

*so much running around today, OMG. Sorry for the delay in posting*

Title: Redstone Chapter 12, Part 2.


“We have to go bigger.”
Stephen resisted the impulse to rub his fingers in the aching space between his eyes. It was a common urge when he dealt with Garrett. “Define ‘bigger.’”

“We won’t be able to use Kyle as a prybar to open up Redstone. It’s going to have to be the other way around if we’re going to get any sort of buy-in from the rest of the senate.”

“And why is that?”

“Because there’s absolutely no way in hell that Raymond Alexander is going to let anyone have any sort of access to Kyle before it’s too late. The charges he’s facing are too harsh.”

“He was always going to face charges of mental and emotional manipulation—”

“This is worse than that.” Garrett’s tone was iced over with bitterness. “This is genetic manipulation on a fundamental level. This is the sort of thing that hardline humanists might turn into a stick to beat not just the president, but Kyle with. Five hundred years ago people like him were burned alive on some planets when the revelation of their modifications came out, and we can’t afford to stick that kind of stigma on Kyle. He’s already being portrayed as other, and we need him to be seen as us.”

It was a bad day when Stephen couldn’t immediately think of a way to improve upon Garrett’s plans. He was, unfortunately, completely correct. There was a simmering undercurrent of xenophobia within the Federation that was being stoked by President Alexander and his cronies, and the revelation that some of Kyle’s most fundamental genetic code had been swapped out as a child could get him dubbed a revenant.

It was an ancient term for someone who had returned from death. Early in the search for gene therapies’ frontiers, large scale gene swapping had been an imprecise science that resulted in many people losing their personalities, their mental capacity and even their ability to move without prompting.

“What do you propose?” Stephen asked at last.

“A good, old fashioned exposé. My people can arrange for recordings to be made and Hummingbird can get them to you.”

“How would you publicize it? No one in the Senate cares if prisoners are being mistreated.”

Garrett smiled grimly. “We’re going to show them a lot more than that. In fact, I need to talk to Hummingbird personally about her ability with a lock pick.”

Oh, wonderful. It wasn’t that Stephen didn’t have faith in his peoples’ abilities, but he worried. So many centuries of life, so much loss and death and privation, and he still had the capacity for something as simple as worry. Perhaps there was something to be said for losing all his memories every time he went into the Regen tank; it kept him from becoming irretrievably jaded. “I see.” He steepled his fingers underneath his chin and thought for a moment. “We’re going to have to adhere to the original timeline, though. We can’t afford to leave Kyle and Magpie in there any longer than we absolutely must.”

“I know. Not to mention the shit that’s going down with Robbie and Wyl.”

Stephen frowned. “What are you referring to?”

Garrett shrugged. “Oh, just your average, everyday sexual harassment with a side of death threats. They’ll probably be all right, but it’s not safe for them either.”

Stephen sighed. “It’s not safe for anyone, it seems.”

Garrett nodded grimly. “You have no idea how right you are.”

“What does that mean?”

“Let’s just say…that Berengaria has a good reason to isolate herself, and suggested that similar measures might be a good idea for my family.”

“Your father is used to being in the line of fire. He’s taken appropriate precautions for himself and his family.”

“I’m not sure what appropriate consists of anymore,” Garrett mused. “I think even my own Death Star might not be enough at this point.” He shook his head and moved on before Stephen could ask him what a Death Star was. “Anyway, I’ll get the changes underway on my end if you do the same on yours. I think we’ll have to make sure our people are talking, so that’ll be on Hummingbird to initiate. You’ve got the security upgrades for Cody ready to go?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” That was enough to ease some of the tension from Garrett’s face. “He and his friends are looking forward to coming back.”

“I’ll meet them and Grennson’s parents at the port myself.”

“Thank you.” He closed the comm feed and Stephen took a moment to sit back and let the new information find its way into the tapestry of his mind, new threads brightening here and there as others dimmed. The overall picture was changing shape, more of a chimera now than ever before. Positively controlling for all the variables was going to be next to impossible.

He would work on rethreading some of the bigger issues later. Right now, he needed to talk to Hummingbird.


Wyl sat back with a satisfied sigh and inspected the glory that was his robot. In less than two days he had taken ZeeBee from an underperforming guard ‘bot to the complex protective machine that it was right now. It had been two days of mostly not sleeping and very little eating, but given that Robbie had been going non-stop since he got here thanks to “shift enhancement” by management, which was another way of saying hazing, Wyl hadn’t been neglecting him.

The best thing about ZeeBee’s modifications was that they were completely inert unless it was Wyl or Robbie giving the commands. And the commands themselves were non-standard, so no one would be the wiser if Wyl had anything to say about it.

Wyl took a sip of espresso and cleared his throat. “ZeeBee, show me your pretty eyes.” The green glowstrip brightened for a moment, indicating that the mini recording device Wyl had installed there was active. “Five second recap, project.”

“Command accepted.” A hologram of the previous five seconds of recording appeared two feet in front of Wyl, showing himself lounging back in his chair and swiveling side to side a bit.

“Well done, delete and reset.”

“Command accepted.”

Now to test his more exciting new functionalities. Wyl grinned and put his cup down. “ZeeBee, show me your pretty hands!”

ZeeBee’s arms lifted into the air, and a slot hidden in the side of each of them popped open. The right one extended a micro-laser, a spare battery and a knife that looked like an old-school scalpel. The left one had a single-use Regen injector, a tourniquet and a painkiller.

“Well done, reset.”

“Command accepted.” The tools secreted themselves away again, and the robot lowered its arms.

“ZeeBee, show me your dance moves!”

The robot’s head began to spin in a circle. “Alert, alert! Sound the alarm!” A piercing yowl began to radiate from the robot’s speaker.

“Well done, reset!” The sound stopped abruptly.

“Command accepted.”

“Good.” Now for a more nuanced directive. “ZeeBee, show me your baby.”

The robot rolled forward to Wyl’s chair, lowered its arms and gently lifted Wyl out of his seat. It cradled him close to his chest and said, “There there. There there. There there. There the—”

“Well done, reset.”

“Command accepted.” ZeeBee promptly dropped Wyl to the ground.

Ow.” Okay, so that one would take a little fine-tuning. Wyl picked himself up and brushed off the seat of his pants. “ZeeBee, listen to the birds.” Not that Wyl expected this one to amount to anything, but just in case Isidore developed a way to get a Morse signal through the prison walls to him.

Surprisingly, ZeeBee started to click in a recognizable pattern. “Oh, shit,” Wyl muttered. That couldn’t be good. He wondered how long Isidore had been trying to get in touch. “ZeeBee, translate.”

“Check your messages, damn it. Hummingbird. Check your messages, damn it. Hummingbird. Check your messages, damn it. Hummingbird. Check—”

“Well done, stop.”

“Command accepted.”

Hummingbird? They weren’t supposed to be talking to her yet. Wyl opened his tab and checked his encrypted feed, tapping in passwords he barely remembered setting up. There wasn’t just a message, there was a vid link. An active one. He opened the channel. “Hummingbird?”

“There you are! Where have you been, I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for hours?”

“I put my room on a communication lockdown while I was…tinkering.” Only Robbie’s comm would get through the shield Wyl had put up to minimize distractions. “What’s going on?”

“You haven’t spoken to Garrett yet?” Wyl shook his head. Hummingbird—and damn it, pseudonyms were all well and good but that just sounded too weird in his head, Tamara—irritably blew a lock of blonde hair off of her forehead. “Great, then I get to be the one to pass things along. I’m going to need to do some breaking and entering, and I haven’t brought along everything I need for that.”

“Breaking and entering? Here?” Wyl knew he was gaping but it was hard to stop. “How the hell are you supposed to manage that? Who’s important enough to—oh, shit, you’ve got to be kidding me.”


“You can’t get into the Warden’s office without setting off a ton of alarms, if it’s anything like Caravan was.”

“Well, I need to figure it out, and fast. We need information in his private computer.”

Of course they did. Because nothing could ever go as planned. “Soon?”

“The sooner the better. I don’t suppose there’s any way you can get out of the spouses’ quarters and lend a hand?”

With so many eyes on him every time he stepped out of his and Robbie’s door? “I doubt it.”

“Then you’ll have to help me figure out how to do it myself.”

Oh, boy. “That’s going to be difficult.”

Tamara laughed. “You’re telling me. It’s got to be done, though.”

“Well, then.” Wyl sat back. “Tell me what you’ve figured out so far.”


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Riptide's 4th Anniversary!

Hi guys,

So, this month is Riptide Publishing's 4th Anniversary, and they've got sales going and various blog posts with giveaways going and all sorts of stuff happening. So if you want to enter to win free books for a year, or get the link for the playlist I put together for the first two Panopolis books (which are now a bundle, and discounted, and awesome) then visit me on the Bookaholics blog here: http://www.bookaholism.net/2015/10/author-spotlight-cari-z-panopolis-series.html

It's a particularly nice time to introduce you to Panopolis, city of Heroes and Villains and everything in between, because I just finished the third book in the series. It's a full novel, not a novella like the others, and will be coming out next year. I think it turned out pretty damn well, honestly :) We'll see what my betas and editors think.

Lets see, other news...well, by this time next week I might be a homeowner! I'll let you know if everything goes well. As for upcoming releases, I've got a coauthored short story called Worth the Wait coming out with Dreamspinner this December, a republication/reworking of my western/shifter novella Dangerous Territory coming out in January from LT3, and then novels in February, April and May, which I'll talk more about soon. Busy times! I hope your own October is on a trajectory that makes you happy, too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Redstone Ch. 12, Pt. 1

Notes: A little motivation for the start of your day. Or the middle of it, or the end, wherever you are. I don't know exactly where I'm going but I have the feeling things are going to pick up speed in the next few weeks. Yay speed!

Also, a less happy note: my client caseload has essentially doubled as of this week. That's going to cut into my writing time, which means that as hard as I'll try to get this story written Monday night and posted Tuesday, it might not always be possible. If I have to postpone putting a chapter up I'll let you know, and get it done as soon as possible. Damn client load. On the other hand, I may be paying on a mortgage in the near future, so, y'know, reliable income is a good thing.
Title: Redstone, Chapter 12, Pt. 1.

When Kyle got back into the Pit, he was expecting to have to fight almost immediately. He tensed as the door opened, but to his surprise there was no one waiting for him other than Isidore, his expression hard and flat. As soon as they made eye contact Isidore started to walk away without a word, and Kyle lengthened his stride to catch up to him. People whispered on either side of them but no one reached out to touch. The only person who bothered to say anything at all was Pence, and that was only once they were a little ways down the hall that would lead to their bunks.

“Have you gone and made a deal with the devil, dear heart?” he asked, a cryptic smile on his face.

“I’m not sure who you’re referring to, you or Rory,” Isidore said, pushing past him without breaking stride.

Pence didn’t seem to mind the brusque treatment, following on nimble feet. “Then you haven’t been looking closely enough. I’m a minor imp at best.”

“What are you getting at, Pence?”

“I just want to know how many of our good fellows have their hooks into you now, and whether I need to up the ante,” he glanced between the two of them pensively, “or perhaps to fold.”

To Kyle’s surprise, Isidore actually smiled. “You don’t have much of a stomach for gambling if you’re ready to fold at the beginning of the game.”

Pence seemed a little surprised to get bantered back at. “Well, darling, look at it from my perspective. It doesn’t take a genius to see that given your particular enhancements, and how very many of them you seem to have, it’s rather likely this game has been going on for longer than I’ve been aware of. For all I know you have five more deadly aces up your sleeve. You certainly have enough leverage to keep Rory from simply crushing your head into pulp, and that’s saying something.”

Kyle looked at Isidore questioningly, but Isidore ignored him. “The only people who came into this place naked and defenseless are people who are already dead, or somebody else’s body warmer. I doubt that you’re as helpless as you look, so don’t judge. I haven’t forgotten our deal.”

“Why, sweetness.” Pence rubbed his fingers along the ends of his moustache, twirling it slightly as he grinned. “That may be the kindest thing you’ve ever said about me. He’s a keeper,” he whispered—loudly—to Kyle, then took off in the other direction.

Kyle didn’t say anything else until they were deep in Redstone again, surrounded by wires and artifacts and the disconcerting sound of blood rushing through their veins. It just seemed more noticeable, this close to the iron core. Kyle rubbed a hand against his chest, then tried to put it out of his mind. “Has Pence always flirted with you like that?”

As soon as he said it he almost winced, because that was not the question he’d intended to ask. The blank coldness was gone from Isidore’s face now, though, and he chuckled as he settled back against the wall.

“Pence is a con man. He flirts with whatever breaths. With me he opts for pet names, with other people he gives more physical cues, like moving out of the way when they walk by. He’s not really interested in me, only in what he can get out of me.”

“Ah hah.” Sure. Kyle changed the subject. “Two of the guards tried to get me alone.”

Isidore frowned. “Robbie didn’t let them, did he?”

“No, but they threatened him and his husband. I don’t know how much help he’s going to be able to provide, if he’s got to worry about taking care of…” What was the man’s name… “Wyl too.”

Surprisingly, Isidore’s smile came back. “Oh, Wyl can take care of himself. Robbie worries, of course, but that’s just how he is. I’d be more worried about him, actually; they’re going to make sure he gets the worst details, including the ones that send him into the Pit. Robbie’s an excellent fighter and Wyl won’t let him go anywhere without a few tricks, but he can’t hold off the entire prisoner population of this place if they decide to maul him. It’s happened before, once, to a guard none of the others liked. They got him into the Pit, deactivated his card and let it be known that there’s be no repercussions if he didn’t come out again. And he didn’t.” Isidore shrugged. “He wasn’t a nice guy. Klia’s girls had fun with him before they finished him off.”

That sounded terrifying to Kyle, but then again, what did he know? If Robbie and Wyl could handle it, then he and Isidore had other concerns. “What did Rory say to you?”

“He said he didn’t trust that I couldn’t blow up half the people in the Pit with some gadget I might have tucked away inside of me, and so he’s going to leave us alone for the time being. It’s a wobbly truce at best, but given that he’s right, it’s a smart one.”

All of a sudden Kyle felt exhausted, and so, so small. “You do? Really?”

“In three of my teeth,” Isidore confirmed. “But it takes a special action to set them off. I won’t do it accidentally.”

“I wasn’t worried about that.”

Isidore scooted a little closer. “What’s worrying you, then?”

Apart from everything? “Why are you here?” Kyle demanded, sounding young and strung out and he knew it wasn’t good, it wasn’t the impression he wanted to give Isidore, who was so calm and strong and prepared, but he couldn’t stop himself. Regardless of how casually Isidore seemed to consider it, the thing with the guards had rattled him. Kyle was supposed to be able to take care of himself; he didn’t want people putting their lives on the line for him. That was what he was supposed to do for them. That was what he’d tried to do at the Academy, with mixed results. “You’re really here just because Garrett asked you to come? Risking your life because one man asked you to help me? I don’t…why?”

“Kyle.” Isidore’s warm hand settled on his chest, right over his laboring heart, beating too hard and too fast and why was it doing that? He didn’t understand. “Take a deep breath. Come on, breath with me. One.” Kyle struggled to copy him, dimly aware now that he was maybe, possibly having a panic attack. “Good. Two. In…now exhale. Good. Three. In…out.” They breathed together until Kyle’s face stopped feeling numb and his heart calmed down. He didn’t check his hands to see if they were shaking, just knotted his fingers tighter together.

“Fuck,” Kyle sighed once he could speak again. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Isidore dropped his hand from Kyle’s chest to his knee, a comforting weight. “You’ve had a hell of a time lately. You’re handling yourself much better than I did when I first went to prison.”

That sounded like a good distraction. “When was that?”

“Twelve years ago. My cover story, about blowing up a base full of people? The bomber was my cousin, but that actually happened. I was arrested and charged with conspiracy, and I almost starved myself out of sheer guilty stupidity before Garrett got me into a new situation. And I was alone, not surrounded by a bunch of the Federation’s worst criminals.” He shrugged. “It’s not just that I owe a debt to Garrett. It’s that I want to help make things better. I’ve seen what happens when order breaks down, and if the Fringe is cut off, then the wars that overtake the region will be…intense. Civil wars, not just interplanetary, but those will happen too. The Fringe needs the Federation, and they need it on their side. If you can help make that happen, then I’m happy to be here.”

Kyle shook his head. “That’s…kind of fucked up, but I’m glad you’re here.”

“Why are you helping?”

Surprised, Kyle opened his eyes and stared at Isidore. “What?”

“Why are you doing this? You’ve got enough status, even with your brother being a manipulative dick, that you could do anything you wanted with yourself. You don’t even have to stay in the Federation, if you don’t want to; you could go Beyond, or back to the old system. You could have stayed at the Academy and moved up in the military. You had options. Why this path? Why sacrifice yourself?”

Kyle thought about it for a long moment, wrapping his head around the easiest way to explain. “I went into boarding schools early,” he began at last. “I had almost no family influence in my life beyond paying my room and board, not after my brother washed his hands of me. There were a lot of kids like me in the elementary Academy system, kids whose rich parents didn’t have time for them. A lot of them were just counting down until they got trust funds and could go off and do…whatever they wanted. I could have done that too, but then I met Sigurd Liang when I was ten.”

“The admiral in charge of the Academy?”

“Yeah.” Kyle smiled a little, remembering how impressed he’d been by the man’s uniform. “He reminded me a little of my father, at first; the same flashy look, you know? Lots of ribbons and badges and awards. But he actually paid attention to me, and he encouraged me to do things that interested me, clubs and the like. When I failed at something, he didn’t tell me I was bad; he got me help.” It had been the most personal attention Kyle had had since Berengaria had given him up. “Maybe he was setting me up to volunteer for something like this, by being kind to me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s right. I wanted to be a part of the effort to get rid of Ray, and the fact that I’ve got to be here to do it…” Kyle shut his eyes again. “I’ll get through it. I’ll do my best.”

“I’ll be here to help you every step of the way.”

“Yeah.” Kyle put one of his hands over Isidore’s on his knee. “I know.”