Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Redstone Ch. 7, Pt. 2

Notes: I'm back in action! Most of the family has left, I'm whittling down the projects on deck...and I'm really loving the way that Redstone is going, even though it's not nearly all plotted out yet. This story is shaping up to be a long one, darlins. I hope you enjoy this next part.

Title: Redstone, Chapter 7, Part 2.

Kyle was getting tired of headaches. He didn’t even remember how he’d gotten his current one, but it had a sharper edge to it than the last he remembered having, the one that had stuck around after his mod deactivation. This pain was a sharp, heated ache that radiated out from the back of his skull, like he’d been hit in the head too hard. When had he been hit in the head? The last thing he remembered was…

Fighting, a shin kick to the face, dodging, the swift crack of iron against his thigh, falling, and finally a pair of dark eyes in a solemn, considering face just before he—

Was hit upside the head, apparently. Kyle tried to shift his shoulders, and couldn’t quite repress the groan the movement induced.

“Hey, there. Hang on.” A steady hand pressed briefly to his forehead, soft and warm, before retreating a little bit. “Try and open your eyes before you try to go anywhere.”

Kyle wasn’t sure why he obeyed—it wasn’t like he had any reason to trust whoever this was—but he complied, slowly opening his eyes. The way his head hurt he expected the light of this place, however dim it was, to stab at him like a stiletto to the brain, but instead he saw a callused palm hovering over his eyes, shielding him from the light. He blinked, and the pain retreated a little more.

“Good,” the voice said encouragingly. “Do you think you could keep down some water?”

“Wha…” Kyle’s voice petered out, and he tried to clear his throat but couldn’t.

“Yeah, let’s try some water.” The edge of a cup pressed to his lips, and again, instead of fighting, Kyle opened his mouth and swallowed the lukewarm, metal-sour water. It helped, despite its awful taste, and when he tried to speak again he met with more success.

“Why…this?” Because Kyle just didn’t know. He couldn’t think. The fog was back, battling the dull red ache for control of his mind, and if he thought he could trust this person he’d just fall back asleep, but he couldn’t.

“Why am I doing this?” Kyle managed a little nod. “I think I hit you a little too hard,” the man said on a sigh. “Or they just didn’t fill you in very well. I’m your contact, Kyle.”

“My contact…”

“Yes, your contact. You help on the inside, the one who’s here to make sure you’re still here by the time your trial is called. Don’t you remember? Weren’t you told this?”

All Kyle felt was confused. “Maybe? I don’t…how do I know?”

The shielding hand disappeared, but Kyle was accustomed enough to the light now that it didn’t hurt any more without the protection. All there was were two glow strips set deep into the metal walls, not enough to fully illuminate the little alcove where he lay. It was a crowded place, every nook and cranny filled with robotics or rough cloth or strange little tools. It took a moment for Kyle to realize his head was being cradled on a soft nest of filaments and fibers, and that he was wearing a pair of pants and nothing else. “What happened to my…”

“Clothes? I sold them. Bargained them, really, in exchange for you, so try not to be too upset about losing them.”

“I don’t care about that, I just…” Kyle turned to look at his odd kidnapper, or benefactor, depending on how he was starting to think about things. He couldn’t see him very well, backlit as the man was. “I need to sit up.” He needed to feel more in control, even if it was just an illusion, and lying flat on his back wasn’t going to give him that.

“Sure, wait a moment.” Strong fingers slid behind his neck, another hand grasped his shoulders and a second later Kyle was sitting up so easily it almost didn’t hurt at all. The water sloshed unpleasantly in his empty stomach, but he swallowed hard and kept it down.

“Good,” the man said encouragingly. He started to let go but Kyle listed to the side, and then those fingers anchored in to stay. “Or better, at least,” the man amended, and Kyle finally opened his eyes and got a good look.

The guy was…familiar, but not what Kyle had been expecting. He didn’t have a grand sense of presence, or remarkably distinguishing features. He was thin, with high cheekbones and a tense, somber mouth that quirked up a little when Kyle focused on him. His skin was dark and his eyes much darker, and his straight black hair glistened in the light in a way that seemed odd, to Kyle. He wore the same institutional grey that Kyle knew all the prisoners here wore, and it should have made him seem cold but his hands were warm, and still supporting Kyle, and the grip relaxed him despite himself.

“There you go,” the man murmured. “Can you hold yourself up?”

“Not yet,” Kyle said honestly. “Tell me. Prove it to me.” Because he wanted nothing more than to believe that he wasn’t alone in here, he knew he wasn’t supposed to be but he’d almost been killed, he was being pulled and pushed and everything had gotten twisted in ways he hadn’t been able to anticipate, and Kyle had to know…

“Fledgling.” Kyle slumped back suddenly, a tension he didn’t even know he’d been holding on to evaporating from his body, and the man smiled. “I’m Magpie,” he continued,” but here you can call me Isidore. Or Iz, either is fine.”

“Isidore.” Kyle had never felt so relieved in his life. It was almost enough to make him blush, he was so stupidly grateful not to be alone. He hated feeling that vulnerable, but he wouldn’t get very far if he lied to himself either. “You saved me back there.”

Isidore shrugged. “That’s what I’m here for. It was touch and go, honestly, but your clothes made good bargaining chips.”

“Because of the Regen fluid.” Kyle remembered now: his sudden expulsion from the tank, his rapid trip down the hall. “Someone pulled me out of Regen before I was done recalibrating after getting my mods deactivated.”

Isidore frowned. “Not very subtle. We’re going to have to be more careful than I thought if they can get away with being blatant.”

“You know who they are?”

“No more than you do, but I know that there are plenty of people in this prison who would love to have you in their power, for all sorts of reasons.” His thumb rubbed a gentle circle at the base of Kyle’s neck, right over the vertebrae. It was oddly intimate, but Kyle didn’t say a thing. He felt touch-starved, like he had getting pulled out of his escape pod so many years ago, numb with terror and shock. “We’ll just have to be more careful. I’ve set things up to encourage most people to leave us alone, and we’ll be able to tell if we’re being followed down here without much difficulty. No one likes to be this close to the core.”

“The core?”

“The core of Redstone. The iron. It pulls on the blood, tears at your organs. It’s very destructive, long-term.”

Well, this sounded like a shitty place to be. “Shouldn’t we try to avoid the core, then?”

Isidore shook his head. “We’re not going to be here long enough for it to matter. Others stay away because they know it really will mess with them, but for now our proximity will keep us a little safer.” He finally let go of Kyle, and Kyle shivered at the loss of contact. He felt colder, even though it was actually warmer down here than it had been up in the hallway.

“What’s the game plan?” Kyle asked, trying to distract himself from feeling bereft.

“Survival. By any means necessary, which for you means that if there’s something ugly to be done, you let me do it,” Isidore said. He seemed quite serious. “Your only job is to survive until your trial. That means we can’t give the warden any excuse to delay things based on your behavior, so if there’s fighting, you run back here. If there’s any issue at all, you get out of it. If people ask, you run because I told you to. As far as the gangs are concerned, you’re mine, bought and paid for. That doesn’t mean people won’t try to challenge me for you, or go after you once they realize who you are, but it does give you a layer of protection where justifying your actions is concerned.”

“Why is that important?”

“Because if they think you’re soft, or a coward, they’ll come after you regardless of your status as mine. Weakness is consumed in Redstone, unless you’re part of a larger whole.” Isidore shrugged again. “And we’re a team of two. Hardly big enough to hold our own against everyone.”

Kyle considered that. “We should try to recruit more people to our cause, then.”

Isidore frowned. “We can’t trust anyone else.”

“We don’t need to trust them, we just need to convince them to work with us.”

“The inhabitants of Redstone are some of the worst people the Federation could find and convict,” Isidore pointed out. “They’re not prone to teamwork, or to convincing that doesn’t come on the end of a knife.”

“That doesn’t mean they can’t be persuaded in other ways.”

Kyle was expecting a fight, but Isidore surprised him by smiling. He looked totally different smiling, the terseness that muted his expressions gone. He looked young, almost as young as Kyle felt. “You’re so much like Garrett. I’m not surprised you two found each other.”

“I’ve…never actually met him in person.”

“But you’re working together. You have the same ideas about people, and about what you should be able to accomplish.” He shook his head, but he was still smiling. “And if you really are like him, you might be able to do it. I’ll do what I can to help, but I’m not going to let you risk yourself unnecessarily either. Whatever you do, it has to come off as my idea. If I don’t maintain my public control over you, I might as well not have any control at all, and you’ll be considered open again. And you can fight, I know that, but you can’t fight everyone.”

“Especially not without my mods,” Kyle muttered, and Isidore nodded.

“Exactly.” Isidore leaned back and glanced down the hallway. “Sound’s picking up. You’ve been out for about six hours, so they’re getting ready to serve breakfast by now.” Kyle’s stomach growled in sympathy, and Isidore flashed his teeth. “It’s good that you’re hungry, but we’re not going back down there yet. I’ve got a few things set aside that you can have in the meantime.” He reached over behind one of the piles of equipment and grabbed a little synthetic package with dull, dry nutrition bars inside of it. “These are like gold here,” he said as he handed one over to Kyle. “Most of the food you have to eat in the mess, it isn’t easily transportable, but these are given out every so often.”

“Thank you.” Kyle took a bite. It was just as nasty as he’d expected it to be, no flavor at all, but he chewed gamely and swallowed. “Will you tell me how you got involved in this?” he asked.

Isidore actually laughed, gentle and quiet. The sound made Kyle’s toes curl. “It’s a long story,” he warned.

“We’ve both got time.”

“I suppose we do.” He came over and sat next to Kyle on the bench—or maybe it was functionally a bed, Kyle wasn’t sure—and crossed his legs under him. “Do you know where Paradise is?”

Kyle thought for a moment. “It’s a Fringe planet, right?”

“Yeah. I was born there. I thought I’d die there too, one way or another.” Isidore’s smile fell away. “I still think I should have, sometimes. Instead I met Garrett, and he changed my life.”


“Utterly and completely.” The smile was back, but it was smile and private now. “It started in a club…”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hiking, Fresh Fiction and Cambodia

I'm back! I have returned from the Colorado Trail as of Tuesday evening, tired and sore and walked into the ground by my 68-year-old dad, which is partly embarrassing for me but mostly awesome for him. I have to say, with the damage I did to my feet I feel like one of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters.

Yeah, that's my foot, apparently a very imperfect fit for my new boots. Note to self: do NOT break those things in during a backpacking trip, you dummy.

Okay, other stuff! I'm featured on the Fresh Fiction blog today chatting about romancing supervillains. This is a very cool, fairly mainstream blog, so the fact that it picked up my new release to feature is awesome. Come and visit me! http://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=7351

Finally, my inestimable, fantastic mother-in-law has left for the Peace Corps as of today. She'll be in Cambodia by the 26th. She turns 63 two days later. She is fucking amazing, and I'm so proud of her. There is literally no one else in my extended family with the chutzpah to do something like this.

So, as for other updates...more Redstone next week, as I'm up to my neck in things to catch up on right now. :/ A few other little announcements here and there to come...yeah. Pretty much that. Thanks, darlins, hope all is well :)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hi Ho, Off I Go

So, tomorrow I take off for this beautiful place to do some backpacking.

How idyllic and remote! Me and five other people, because nothing says "Hello wilderness!" like a crowd, are going to kick ass and take names. Mostly names I have to teach myself to pronounce correctly (it's spelled "Saguache" but you say "Sawatch," who knew) but it'll be fun. However! No phone, no computer, no nothin'. Including no Redstone next week, and I'm so sorry. I'll make it up to you.

By the way, if you're commenting on my blog tour and you win the prize, I will email you as soon as I get back! We are gonna NAME this Villain (or Hero), baby!

Have a great weekend, guys :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Redstone Ch. 7, Pt. 1

Notes: Hi, guys! So, less intense this time around, but we've almost got everybody in the same place, yay! Unfortunately, next week we'll have to have a brief hiatus, because it's time for my annual backpacking trip through the mountains with my father and his friends, and my very brave husband ;). Obviously, there will be no computer access. And when I get back, I'll still be in the throes of family visiting (my parents, sister, SIL and nephew, MIL before she leaves for Cambodia and about 5 others are wending in and out for the next two weeks, so...yeah. Busy.) Lots of family time means less time for writing.

However! I'm in the process of writing another prompt for the DRiTC event, so there will be more free fiction for you soon. Plus the new releases, plus the Redstone that's already done, so I'm not leaving you completely hanging. Thanks for understanding :)

Title: Redstone Chapter Seven, Part One.


To be honest, Tamara was expecting the alarm to go off. She’d been situated in the guest quarters of Redstone for less than a standard day, but she was already expecting the alarm. This wasn’t a quiet, well-managed prison: this place stank of darker emotions that chem scrubbers couldn’t remove, filled with fear and anger and a pain so deep that it tugged at her blood just like the iron core did. Her father would have said she was imagining it all, but Tamara had been active in espionage for long enough that she knew there was more to a place than what your most obvious senses could tell you. She wasn’t a psychic, had never tested positive in any of her evaluations, but Redstone was so steeped in violence that apparently it didn’t take anything special to realize what a hellhole the place was.

The alarm wasn’t unexpected, and neither was the call to the warden’s office. Guests were few and far between and all of them connected to high-profile prisoners, so it made sense to pass on information. What Tamara hasn’t expected was for Kyle’s lawyer to corner her as soon as she walked into the office, so furious he was practically spitting with every word.

“Not even a day before you tried to get rid of him!” he shouted. “You couldn’t even give him a fucking day, you had him abducted out of the med unit and throw into that—”

“Mr. Gyllenny,” the sallow-faced man sitting behind his desk said coldly. “There’s no evidence that this was anything other than a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Gyllenny rounded on the warden and Tamara took a deep breath, slowing down her racing heart as she tried to figure out what was going on. “No, the mistake was leaving him alone in your custody for any length of time. Jerking him out of your Regen tank before his treatment was even finished and throwing him, completely unprepared, in with those wolves? That was completely deliberate, and I don’t trust her—” He thrust a finger back at Tamara, “or the son of a bitch she’s working for any more than I trust your damn doctor to keep order in his own med unit!”

“Doctor Kleinman assures me that the guard’s actions were done without his knowledge or permission.”

“So guards have constant access to the med unit without having to sign in or provide verification of their identity? You can’t even give me the name of the person who illegally and against all standing orders attempted to murder—”

“Don’t be dramatic, Mr. Gyllenny, there was no attempted murder here.”

“No?” he asked scathingly. “What would you call what happens in that holo?”

Tamara cleared her throat. “Excuse me.” Both men looked at her impatiently. “I’m sorry, but I’m completely lost. What’s going on with Mr. Alexander?”

“As if you don’t know,” Gyllenny snapped, but the warden—Harrison, Tamara remembered—inclined his head slightly.

“You should see it.” He tapped a finger on his desk and a holovid appeared above it. Tamara drew closer for a better look, and he started to play.

There was the med unit, a Regen tank…Tamara could make out Kyle’s face under the glass. Then the guard, in full uniform and helmet, came in and stopped the cycle. There was no alarm, no one came in to check on Kyle, and he was jerked out of the tank and hauled down the corridor almost faster than he could walk. The holo ended with a door opening into a narrow hallway, and the guard shoving Kyle through and shutting it behind him.

Tamara knew her eyes were wide, but she couldn’t stop it. This was bad. This wasn’t the plan “What happened next?” she demanded. “Is he all right?”

“What, now you’re pretending to care?” Gyllenny’s laugh was hollow. “Don’t bother.”

Tamara rounded on him before she could stop herself. “You can think what you want, but the fact is that I had nothing to do with this and I don’t want to see Kyle Alexander injured any more than you do!” She made an effort to modulate her tone. “He’s going to go to trial and he’s going to take responsibility for his actions, and acquit my employer in the process. It’s the only way President Alexander can remove the stain on his reputation, so why would I want to impede that?”

“Credits go a long way toward covering up stains and repairing reputations, and Raymond Alexander has the means to pay people in money or influence or blood,” Gyllenny replied, his intensity so fierce that Tamara felt heat rise in her cheeks like a radiation burn.

“Regardless,” Harrison broke in, his dry voice flat and even. “There is every reason to assume that Kyle Alexander is alive.”

“Show me,” Tamara said, and a new holo sprang to life. This one was confusing at first, not a shot of the little corridor but of the central room in the prison, where over a hundred inmates waited hungrily by the doors, anticipating the new arrivals. Only then there was a sudden surge to the right, the crowd refocusing on a narrow door. Tamara used her mods for a quick facial recognition, searching, searching—there. The familiar face she’d been waiting to see, gone a second later through the little doorway. It took a few minutes but he eventually emerged again, with a nude body slung over his shoulders, and strode off toward the other side of the main room and out of it without being harassed any further.

The holo stopped. Tamara frowned. “No, keep it going.”

“The cameras only work in the shielded parts of the prison. That side hall isn’t one of them. It leads to the core, which is an unfriendly place for technology.”

“Unbelievable,” Gyllenny muttered to himself. “What about the man who took him? Who the hell is he?”

“Prisoner 2751. A separatist and terrorist from the planet Paradise, responsible for the deaths of more than twenty Federation soldiers in an explosive attack. He keeps to himself in Redstone, not a member of one of the established gangs. He sleeps close to the core, from what I understand.”

“You don’t understand very much about what goes on in the prison that you’re charged with maintaining control in, do you?”

Warden Harrison killed the holo and leaned back slightly in his chair. “Redstone handles the worst criminals in the whole of Federation space, Mr. Gyllenny. If I was given carte blanche in maintaining control, I would have them drugged to the eyeballs or placed in cryo sleep to serve their debts to society, but alas, that is considered cruel and unusual. So instead, we make do with the limitations of a system which allows them a certain amount of autonomy. Certainly, theirs is a mini-society of frightening consequence to them, but it has little to no consequence in the larger universe. By ignoring them, I render them irrelevant, Mr. Gyllenny.”

“What about their safety? What about their right to—”

“They have a right to life, and nothing further. If you were so convinced of your client’s innocence, then you should have fought harder to get him placed in a medium-security holding facility. Redstone is no resting place for the innocent.” Dark eyes calmly glanced between the two of them. “I’ll deploy bots to do a sweep of the whole of the prison tomorrow. You’ll have more answers then. Dismissed.”

“We’re not your employees, you can’t just dismiss us.”

“I am the warden of this prison,” Harrison said coldly. “And you are a guest here. If I determine you to be disruptive to the running of Redstone, I can and will have you sent offsite regardless of your connections. You make work for great powers, but I am the only power of note here.” He waved them out. “As I said, dismissed.”

As soon as they were in the hall, Gyllenny rounded on Tamara again. “I’m sure you’re pleased.”

“I meant what I said,” she insisted, not bending an inch now that she knew where things stood. Kyle was safe with Isidore, no matter how horrendously he’d gotten there. “I want Kyle Alexander to stand trial. I had no idea this was going to happen and I’m not any happier about it than you are.”

Gyllenny snorted. “Sure. Like his little brother dying in prison wouldn’t be a huge coup for the president.”

“Shockingly, he doesn’t share everything with his charity hire,” Tamara snapped right back.

“Charity hire…”

“I’m a natural. And this is hardly the ideal environment for someone like me, so I’ve got a better idea of how it feels to be shoved aside than you do, probably. How do you think it’ll reflect on me if I fail to do my job here, which is to keep an eye on your client for my employer leading up to the trial?” It hadn’t been her original mandate, but Tamara had already received the communication from Raymond Alexander’s office that her return to Olympus was going to be necessarily delayed, that he apologized but knew she’s be fine there for a few more days, that he needed her eyes in his brother to keep everything looking as legal and above-board as possible. She’d been expecting, even hoping for this development, but it just showed how adept her employer was at lying right to her face. Bring you home, working on a cure indeed. Bastard.

Tamara straightened her shoulders. “I’m going back to my room now, but I’ll be standing outside the warden’s office first thing in the morning watching those bots on patrol, and if Mr. Alexander is anything other than alive and whole, there’ll be hell to pay here.”

“I don’t believe you.” Oh, but he wanted to; Tamara could see it in the way his hands relaxed a little, the wavering tension in his shoulders.

“You don’t have to. You’ll find out soon enough without me doing anything to prove it to you.” Tamara huffed and shook her head. “Goodnight, Mr. Gyllenny.”


“Ms. Carson. Tamara Carson.”


Monday, July 13, 2015

New Release: Where There's Fire and Blog Tour

It's HERE!

The second story in my Panopolis series is here! POW! SNAP! WHAM!

Yes, I am actually that excited about it! This one picks up six months after the first left off, following the continuing adventures of Edward Dinges, Villain name yet-undetermined, and his lover Raul, aka The Mad Bombardier. Edward's trying to make a name for himself, Raul is trying to fend off rival Villains and a new big bad is causing problems for everybody.

The fun continues! You can find it here at Riptide: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/where-theres-fire

And here at Amazon: Where There's Fire

One more link, this one for the blog tour. Why bother? Guys, guys, guys...the prize. The PRIZE! Follow along, leave a comment, and the winner gets to name someone in the next book. Villain, Hero, innocent bystander, somebody's dog--we'll talk about it when you win! Come and visit with me along the way. Tour stops: http://riptidepublishing.com/events/tours/where-theres-fire-blog-tour-cari-z

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New Release: In Memoriam

Yay, it's here! My modern-day genderbent mythological romance is here!

(say that five times fast, oy)

And because I'm not subtle at all, you can immediately tell which myth I based this story off of just by looking at the cover! What can I say, it's my favorite.

I'm really happy with this one. It's...in a slightly different tone from my usual. There are no explosions, no gunfights, no direct violence of any kind. Whaaaa... but I love it, and I hope you do too.

You can find it on Dreamspinner's website here: In Memoriam

Or on Amazon here: In Memoriam AZ

Want a quickie breakdown of the plot? Read on:

Lee Summers is past expecting to find love. He has a fulfilling career and a few human connections, and he's determined to be happy with those. When he meets Felix Clymenos during a vacation in Colorado, he doesn’t expect to feel so passionate about him. Felix is intriguing, but when he starts to feature in Lee's dreams—and his slowly strengthening nightmares—Lee wonders if it wouldn’t be a better idea to walk away. 

There's a mystery behind Felix's affections and somehow Lee feels like he’s known Felix his whole life. Before they can be happy together, Lee has to know why that is... and what that means for their future.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Redstone Ch. 6. Pt. 2

Notes: More Redstone, yay! Finally bringing two perspectives together. In other words, yes, Kyle gets thrown into prison. And not in the way he'd expected.

PS, new release tomorrow! July is my busy month, I've got...well, nothing else firmly planned to come out until next year.

Title: Redstone Chapter 6, Part 2


Getting into the Regen tank at last was a welcome relief. The device closed over Kyle like a cocoon, his body sank into the gel pads and his headrest tilted back to partially submerge him in fluids. Kyle shut his eyes and let the machine do its work, the familiar sound comforting. The liquid was warm on his skin, soaking evenly through the thin cloth of his prison garb, and as his headache and nausea began to recede a little of Kyle’s optimism started to come back. So he might be without mods, but he wasn’t helpless. He didn’t have to be able to do everything at the level of expertise he’d displayed before; he just had to be better than the competition. He could manage that. He could.

Kyle’s reverie was abruptly disrupted by the manual override of the Regen tank. He opened his eyes to see a guard in black body armor, face mask down, push back the top of the tank. The guard reached in, grabbed Kyle around the upper arm and hauled him out of the regenic fluid before he could do more than gasp in protest.

“What are you doing?” Kyle demanded once he was on his feet. He tried to turn and look at the guard, but whoever it was swiftly bent Kyle’s arm and wrenched it high behind him, arching him on his toes. This person’s mods were obviously working perfectly—every move Kyle tried was countered immediately.

“Where’s the doctor?” he asked as the guard marched him out of the med unit and down a sterile gray corridor with inset red and yellow lights. Kyle felt like he was walking down the trachea of some immense beast, and the red and black barred door at the end of the hall was the entry to its tumultuous gut. Kyle pressed back as hard as he could without dislocating his own shoulder. “I was supposed to have a meeting with my lawyer first—I haven’t even finished the Regen treatment!”

The guard smacked a red button on the side of the door. The camera above it scanned both of them for a moment, and then the door began to open. The light inside whatever was beyond the corridor was bright, too bright for Kyle to make out much of the room ahead of him.

The guard jerked Kyle close for a split second. “The inmates like it when new arrivals come in wet and ready,” the metallic voice hissed. “Just think, with Regen for lube you might not even tear too badly. The first few times, that is.” Then the guard shoved Kyle into the light, the door closing with a resounding clang behind him.

Kyle’s eyes adjusted after a moment. He was still in a corridor, but a very short one, leading to a large room that seemed to be full of people milling around a wide, square door. The corridor wasn’t empty, though. Three people had laid claim to it, and before he knew what was happening one of them had grabbed him and shoved him against the small exit he’d just been ejected from.

“Knew if we played the odds, someone’d come in through here eventually,” the man—or person, rather, he looked like he’d lost so many mods coming in here that all that was holding his face together was scar tissue and raw sinew—holding him by his collar said with a sneer. “Always follow the little red lights, s’what the boys in black’ve said to me. Little red lights for naughty little problems they want taken care of.” He had at least a foot of height on Kyle, and he used it to every advantage as he towered over him. “Guess you’re one of ‘em problems, lad.” He leaned in and licked a long swipe up Kyle’s cheek, humming appreciatively at the taste. “Fresh out o’ the tank, too. We’ll squeeze your clothes out into a bottle, and then we’ll squeeze you for a while until we get tired of playin’ around, yeah?”

“Or no,” Kyle choked, and he brought his knee up as hard as he could between the giant’s thighs. The man gave a shocked little moan as he crumpled back and down, and Kyle smoothed his wet hair out of his face and evaluated the other two men, who seemed nonplussed.

One of them reached for him, and Kyle grabbed his wrist, torqued it in a tight circle and sent his attacker toppling over the bent form of the giant, who snarled and struck back at his own companion as he tried to regain his composure. Kyle didn’t have any shoes, thanks to whoever that fucking guard had been, but his shin would do as a bludgeon in a pinch. He cocked his hip back and smashed the giant in the face, grimly noting to himself how much longer it took him to kick now that his combat mods were deactivated.

The third man looked at him and held up both his hands. “I’m not here for trouble,” he said smoothly. He looked as smooth as his voice, his long, neat handlebar moustache as bright as copper. “I just need a little taste of what you’re wearing.”

“The Regen?”

“You’ve got it,” the man congratulated him. “Just a tiny little lick and then I’ll help get you out of this mess.”

“I think I’m managing my mess just fine,” Kyle retorted, but even as he said it his head began to spin. Shit, right, he hadn’t finished the treatment.

“Perhaps you are for the moment. But we’re about to have some more visitors, and they’re not as…eager and incautious as Big Charlie there.”

“I don’t trust you.”

The man laughed. “You shouldn’t trust anyone, my dear, not after getting pushed out through the asshole of this fine facility. Someone wants you dead. I can help you avoid that, for the right price.”

No, this…this wasn’t the way things were supposed to go, was it? Wasn’t something supposed to…to…

“Too late,” the copper man said, with a hint of real regret in his voice. “Here comes the horde.”




Isidore swore when he realized what was happening. Of course it didn’t happen according to plan. Why would it? First Wyl and Robbie were running late, now Kyle Alexander was here early. And he wasn’t arriving in a way that would let Isidore lay an easy claim on him either.

New arrivals happened once a week, always at the same time, same place: the main entrance in the mess hall, in the hour before dinner. The timing ostensibly gave new inmates a chance to find a place to settle before directly slotting them into the routine of Redstone. In reality, it made the fighting rather fierce when newbies came in, because the major players wanted their chances at them first. Kliassne had first dibs on any woman who came through the door, hands down, blood up if anyone tried to argue with her. She didn’t treat anyone well, but if that particular boss had any redeeming feature, it was her refusal to allow other women to be turned into slaves. The guards wouldn’t have prevented it, and when it came to sex, the robots were next to useless.

Rory played the field more widely, and while a few people slipped through the cracks the two of them left behind, most didn’t. One of the few that did was Big Charlie, a wolf with a little pack of his own, not big enough to swat but not necessarily fun to fight with, either. Charlie had friends in high places, high enough that it wasn’t worth it to fuck with him unless you had to, because he’d twist things around and the next thing you knew, it was solitary down in the heart of Redstone. People went mad down there in short order, so it was to be avoided if at all possible.

Kyle was supposed to be in the group scheduled to arrive in fifteen minutes. Isidore was prepared to buy, bargain and steal to get his claim in on Kyle first. He’d hidden away a trove of little treasures in his clothes, things his fellow inmates were sure to want, and he was ready to fight if he failed at that, too. He was positioned near the door, his intent demeanor turning away anyone who might have tried to start a conversation with him. And then…then…

“Side door!” one of Rory’s wolves called out suddenly. “Side door! One young’un, and he’s laid out Big Charlie and his shadow!”

Isidore knew immediately it had to be Kyle. The side door was for people who were supposed to disappear, and if he didn’t get there soon Kyle would be overwhelmed. He began to push through the crowd, which surged along with him toward the little indent on the far wall where the side door was located. He had to play this just right, had to get to Kyle and stake his claim without giving away his purpose, his role. He couldn’t be a protector, he had to be dispassionate about it. How was he going to handle this?

“This new boy’s crazy as fuck, gents,” Pence said with a gleeful smile as he exited the little tunnel. “I suggest you proceed with caution.” Isidore barely spared him a glance as he plunged ahead, only to see Big Charlie and his shadow on the ground, and another person—one of Kliassne’s girls—darting at Kyle with a length of metal in her hand. She was going for his legs, and doing a decent job of it. Kyle looked disoriented, honestly like he was about to fall down. He slid into the wall as one of his legs gave out, and Kliassne’s girl shrieked with glee as she moved in to incapacitate him.

Fortunately, Isidore was close enough at that point to intervene. He stabbed the point of his foot into the girl’s kidney, and the thin layer of iron he’d painstakingly patched into his shoes paid off beautifully as she shrieked and fell to the floor.

Isidore darted forward, took one look at Kyle’s pained but determined face, and made a split second decision. He brought his reinforced palm around to the back of Kyle’s head, smacked it hard enough to knock Kyle out, and scooped him up onto his shoulder in one smooth motion. Isidore picked up the girl’s baton, knocked the next two closest people in their respective temples, and prepared to stand his ground. He only had to last long enough to make a deal with one side or the other…

“A claim?” one of Rory’s men shouted. “You’re making a claim? You? Sharks don’t keep harems, Iz.”

“But a man’s ways can change,” Isidore said. “He’s still wet from the tank. Let me have him without more trouble and I’ll give you his shirt.”

Klia wants something too,” her girl hissed from where she lay on the ground. “You bargain with her or you make an enemy, Iz!”

“Klia can have the pants,” Isidore allowed.

Fifteen minutes later, he’d carried a bare-assed, unconscious Kyle Alexander past a hundred leering prisoners who nevertheless weren’t quite prepared to fuck with him, down into the heart of Redstone. Even with the boost the residual Regen soaked into his clothes gave him, Isidore was tired by the time he got down to his bunk. He set Kyle down carefully, rolled out his tired shoulders and sighed.

“Well. It could have gone worse.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ooh, I'm A Feature!

Hi guys!

Sooo, this month I'm very pleased to be Riptide Publishing's featured author! (insert loud woohoo-ing here)

I have a new release coming out on the 13th, Where There's Fire, and the blog tour for this one--guys. GUYS. The prize is, not to pat my own back too hard, awesome. You need to check this out. I'm giving the winner the chance to name a character in my next Panopolis book. We're talking Heroes and Villains here, which basically means you get nearly carte blanche to go crazy. So go crazy! You can order Where There's Fire here: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/where-theres-fire

Being featured means that my other titles with them, the Rules To Live By anthology and Where There's Smoke are 50% and 25% off respectively. Which is good timing, since you can read the first in the Panopolis series for a discount and then check out the sequel with no waiting! All the info can be found on Riptide's website: http://riptidepublishing.com/authors/cari-z

It's going to be a crazy busy week, I've got Redstone tomorrow and a different new release on Wednesday...hang on tight, darlins' :)