Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Redstone: Epilogue



Notes: Oh my god, the epilogue. What? But...nothing is resolved! Everything is still up in the air! What am I going to do about the Alexanders, what about Robbie, when am I bringing back Cody and Ten? What...the...fuck, woman?

I know. I KNOW. Much more will be revealed with the next story, but for now, this one's over. 65k, not bad for a glorified prison fic ;) I've got some housekeeping to do, ie compiling this and The Academy onto their own pages so you can read them without hunting across my blog, but I'll do it soon. The next blog story, btw, won't be in this same universe. I owe a friend a fic and I plan to deliver, BUT! There will be vignettes posted for your reading edification, and to set up the next big arc.

The new story won't start immediately, I've got to finish a contracted novel by mid-month and I've got plans for a few contests between now and then. Stick with me, though, there's lots of free fiction coming your way this year. For now, though...well. Have an epilogue. It's not porny but it's still fun ;)

Title: Redstone: Epilogue

***

It was strange, being in the company of people he didn’t have to fear again. Well, more people; Kyle was already with Isidore and even Pence, to a certain extent. Now there were Robbie and Wyl, and with five of them on Robbie’s little ship there was no avoiding each other. Wyl had disabled the vessel’s tracking system, essentially making them invisible in space, and then set them in orbit around a red giant while they figured out what to do next.

According to the elusive Peacock, who Kyle recognized as soon as he heard his voice over the comm, the thing to do right now was make themselves scarce.

“I’m not sure of the next play,” Garrett confessed to Isidore and Wyl. He sounded supremely irritated by his own ignorance. “I’m compiling the data you gave me and collecting evidence. I’ve already scheduled a meeting on the senate floor next standard month, which was the soonest I could get in. I might need access to Kyle at that point for tests to verify the genetic modification, but I’m not sure, and I don’t trust having him anywhere near Olympus or even the Central System while I’ve got Raymond on the run. He’s being suspiciously quiet about everything, including the disgrace that’s Redstone. That, at least, is changing.”

“So you want us to stay close but not too close?”

“If possible. And for the love of life, don’t get caught doing anything illegal by any planetary authorities while our entire plan hangs in limbo?” Garrett begged. “I’ve got enough to worry about now; I don’t want bailing you out of some Fringe jail cell to come onto the list.”

Isidore frowned. “What’s worrying you?”

“What isn’t?” Garret replied dryly. “My husband is two weeks out on a trip to Pandora carrying some much-needed supplies after the last hurricane season, my kid is restarting school at the same academy that almost saw him killed last year, and his significant other might just blow up a building this year with hir experiments. Puffin has basically washed her hands of Ten, but I’m not about to do the same. And now there’s the six of you on my radar.”

“Five,” Wyl corrected.

“Six,” Garrett shot back. “Another inmate escaped Redstone during the riots. Three guesses as to who it was, and the first two don’t count.”

“Rory.” Isidore sounded grimly certain.

“Rory, also known as Rory MacAllister, also in possession of nearly a dozen other aliases. One of the most prolific mass murderers in the history of humankind, if the casualties from the ship crashes that he engineered count. Prosecutors certainly thought they did. Thanks for letting that piece of work out along with you.”

“Hey, we don’t like him any more than you do,” Wyl snapped.

“I know.” Garrett sounded conciliatory. “How is Robbie? I expected to talk to him today.”

Wyl ran a hand through his hair. “He’s sleeping. Still. Again. He’s hardly woken up since we left Redstone.”

“Did the Regen not—”

“The Regen worked, he’s healed, he’s just…I don’t know. Exhausted. Unable to stay up for more than an hour at a time. Hopefully it’s just fatigue.”

“If it isn’t, we’ll figure something else out.” Garrett sounded firm. “I’m not leaving you to deal with the ramifications of this on your own. You have the credits, you’ve got all the supplies I could forward to the safehouses, and you’ve got a way to speak to me. You won’t be out there for long. I’ll bring you back soon, I promise. We’ll take out Alexander, undo his xenophobic policies regarding the Fringe colonies and the alien populations within the Federation, and ensure that you’re all cleared of any charges of misconduct.”

“I hope that applies to me too,” Pence said quietly. He’d somehow gotten right next to Kyle without Kyle even noticing; that was one of the downsides to being on their own for now, that there was no way to turn his mods back on. He would have heard Pence from a hundred feet away if he’d had his mods.

Then again, given how small the space onboard was and how tight they were going to be packed, maybe Kyle should be glad his mods weren’t working. Some things he didn’t really need to hear.

“I’m sure you can make a case for time served and assistance rendered,” Kyle said just as quietly.

“It would be nice,” Pence mused. “I haven’t been felony free for the past thirty-odd years.” He stared a while longer at Isidore and Wyl, then tugged at Kyle’s sleeve. “Let’s leave them to it for now, hmm? They’ll keep us up to date if there’s something we need to know or say.” He left without waiting, but after a moment Kyle followed him. He passed by Wyl and Robbie’s darkened room, where he could just barely make out Robbie’s restless form on the bunk. He might be asleep, but he wasn’t still.

There was one other bedroom in the little ship, and Kyle shared that with Isidore and Pence. Pence had moved in with them with unceremonious expectation, and Isidore had rolled his eyes but let it stand. Part of Kyle still resented the man’s intrusion into what had been something…close, possibly even more than he knew, with Isidore. On the other hand, he appreciated that at least one other person on the damn ship knew less about what was going on than he did.

Pence bypassed their room and led the way to the very tail end of the ship, where a tiny viewport let them look out on their surroundings. Kyle was used to space being nothing but blackness, but thanks to Wyl’s paranoia, he’d found them a lodging in an asteroid belt around an oversized, slowly dying sun. Red light glimmered off the rocks that surrounded them, and astral dust glittered in the spaces between. It was beautiful, and when Pence sat down on the low bench in front of the port and motioned for Kyle to join him, he did so without a second thought.

“How are you holding up?” Pence asked, his expression unaccountably serious. It looked very out of place on his jolly, mustached face.

“Fine,” Kyle answered automatically, then shook his head. “No, actually, not really fine. I thought I knew what was happening, before Redstone. I thought I had a handle on what was going on, and what my place in it all needed to be. Now, I don’t…I’m not sure. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t have a plan, and I’ve always had a plan.”

“Oh, the burden of such responsibility so young,” Pence mused. “When I was your age I was stealing trinkets to give to other na├»ve young men. You realize it’s all right for you to not have a plan for a bit, yes pet? Our guardian dove seems to have things well in hand.”

“But it’s not fair for me to make other people take care of me when I should be taking care of myself.”

Pence smiled a little. “You’re familiar with the game chess?” Kyle nodded. “You’re clearly used to being a piece of some use. A knight, or a castle. But right now, little lamb, you’re a pawn. An important pawn, the king of pawns, but a pawn nonetheless. And that’s not a terrible thing to be. Let others move you about, let them dispense with your time and service as they see fit. The only thing you have to do right now is continue breathing and maintaining your sanity, which I think you’ve got quite a handle on.” He nudged Kyle’s knee with his foot. “Be a little irresponsible for once in your life. It’ll do you some good.”

“Like it did for you?” Kyle asked with one eyebrow raised, and Pence chuckled ruefully.

“Oh, pet, I was hardly a little irresponsible. I made a career out of imitating other people and borrowing from their responsible personas, so I never bothered to develop one of my own. And I probably never will.” He shrugged. “I don’t mind, at this point. All I care about now is that I’m free of that hellhole, and that for the first time in a long time I’m in the company of people that I don’t despise, and that’s saying an awful lot. It’s like winning a grand prize in life, to be able to tolerate your companions.”

“Are you actually planning on staying with us?” Kyle asked. As confused about his own feelings as he was, he still liked Pence. The man made dark places a little lighter. “You said it yourself: you’re used to being other people. We could set down on a planet somewhere and you could disappear, take on a new persona, and make a new life for yourself. Peacock would probably even give you funds to get started.”

Pence rolled his eyes. “Your oh-so-mysterious bird people. Right, well, if this Peacock gent has the means to do all the things he says he does, then sure, I could book it and start fresh. I thought about it, in fact, but that bit I was saying about not despising you lot? I can’t guarantee that anyplace I set down, I’d be so lucky again.” He smiled, but it was a bit twisted. “I did another stint in prison before this last one, and while it was nowhere near as bad, it was still no treat. When I got out, I found myself filled with inexplicable feelings of misanthropy. Everyone around me was stupid, dull, hateful for not understanding me, for not even knowing that they should try. I was filled with contempt for the universe. It put me into a bad place, and things only got worse from there.

“But now I’m in the company of people who understand where I’m coming from, who can relate to me. Hell, you’re the most innocent of the bunch, it would seem; you or that Wyl fellow, and you’re still better than some random bloke off the streets.”

“Thanks.”

“My pleasure, pet.” Pence smirked. “The point is, I don’t think right now that I can do better than any of you. There’s no group of people in the ‘verse that I’d rather be with, and you, at the very least, desperately need someone to teach you to lighten up a bit. It’s not going to be any of that lot.” He gestured toward the front of the ship. “Isidore wears seriousness like it’s the latest fashion, and Wyl’s going to be het up caring for his husband until the man’s back to normal, which…” He grimaced. “Could be quite some time. That leaves me.” Pence looked pleased with himself.

It was ridiculous to even be thinking about “lightening up” with everything that was going on, and yet somehow Kyle’s heart eased a little. Life really wasn’t his responsibility right now. He would do everything he could to help, but other than that? “What do you want to show me?”

“Oh, pet.” Pence reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “So many things. You’ll see.” He looked out the port. “You’ll see.”

 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Quick FYI for a story on Lit

Hi guys,

If you've read any of my stories on Literotica, such as, say, The Captain, and want to read it again, I suggest you do it soon. I just contracted that one for publication and will be removing it asap. All the others are still up, though, and will stay that way for now!

Yay publication, boo it going away. But it'll be back soon in another form, swear. And if you're missing the other one I pulled from Lit, Shadows and Light, it's coming soon from Pride Publishing! It's got it's own page and everything :) https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/shadows-and-light

I think that's it for now. Back to chipping up old floor. Woooooooooyeah. Lovin' it. But it'll all be worth it in the end!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Redstone Ch. 18, Pt. 2

Notes: Wow. One more post after this, I think? Maybe two, for a double-part epilogue, but we're almost done. Holy cow. And look what a mess I'm leaving things. I guess I'll have to come back and clean up soon!

Title: Redstone Chapter 18, Part 2.

*** 

By the time Tamara found out what Wyl had done, she’d already sent the encrypted data from the Warden’s computer on to Sir. In the chaos of the prison riot, every alarm echoing through the halls of Redstone and people distracted and afraid, she had run to her quarters, built her communicator and transmitted everything she had, every tiny terabyte of data, until she had confirmation that it had gone through to Sir. She thoroughly destroyed the hardcopy, then sat on her bed and just…waited. Waited and worried. Wyl had been so intent, and ZeeBee had been so fast, and then there was just…

Waiting. Wondering. Tamara tried to contact Wyl via Morse code once but got no reply. She didn’t bother trying again. He’d get in touch with her when he was ready. Demarcos was safely out of the way for now, although Tamara knew she owed him a major explanation. She’d already asked about giving him more to go on, and had been given authorization. Now she just had to find a time for them to be alone and out from under the probably hyper-watchful eye of Warden Harrison.

Then the announcement came over the prison comm system, and all of Tamara’s preconceptions went straight to hell.

Attention all personnel: there has been a breach of security in Redstone Penitentiary. I repeat, there has been a prolonged breach of security in Redstone Penitentiary. A minimum of four suspected fugitives have been identified, in addition to two faculty members who may or may not have collaborated with them. You are confined to quarters for the immediate future as repairs are made and a door-to-door search is conducted. Any lack of cooperation may be met with lethal force.

Oh, no. No, he hadn’t…he couldn’t. Could he? Wyl had been terribly distressed when ZeeBee had taken off, leaving the infirmary directly after. Had he done something? Had ZeeBee? What had happened to Robbie?

Tamara couldn’t risk reassembling her illicit communicator, not when someone might charge into her room at any point and start asking her questions. But she could fall back on her primary job, which she needed to do anyway. Mind made up, Tamara steeled herself, then called up President Alexander’s personal number.

She got his assistant’s voice, but not his image. Well, it was better than being shunted to Alexander’s holobox. “Remian, put me through to the president.”

“He’s busy and you’re off your schedule, Carson.” Remian’s voice was rather terse. “It can wait—”

“It can’t wait!” Tamara insisted, pushing a little more anxiety into her voice. “There was a riot, and a prison break, and nobody is telling me anything but I’m worried about what could have happened here.”

Remian abruptly appeared in the device. His imperturbably flat forehead was creased with an unfamiliar wrinkle. “A prison break? At Redstone?”

“That’s what they said over the comm system.”

“Not just a riot? Because riots are only to be expected in a cesspit like that place.”

Aaand thanks for leaving me here so long, assholes. “No, they distinctly said a prison break! We’re on mandatory lockdown, no one is allowed to leave their rooms! It’s been this way for hours!” Less than two, but whatever, she was making a point.

Remian kept frowning. At this rate he might actually sprout some genuine lines in a century or two. “Let me get back to you on this.” He ended the holo call and Tamara sighed, but really, it was about what she’d expected.

What she hadn’t expected was the wait that happened next. For twenty hours, her calls, her comms and her banging on the door all went unanswered. She couldn’t raise the president or his secretary, she couldn’t risk putting her secret comm together again, and as tempting as it was, she couldn’t break out the Morse to check on Demarcos either, since he had no way of answering even if he heard. That left catching up on her sleep, cleaning up and packing all of her things as distractions, all of which she got done in half that amount of time. For the rest of it, she fretted until she couldn’t bear it anymore, and then settled herself into a lotus and tried to meditate.

Meditation was something that Sir had insisted all the operatives who trained through the Academy spend some time studying. He said it was for its proven stress-relieving functions; Tamara thought it was because it gave Sir an excuse to get away from his day job for a while and spend some time meditating himself, as he liked to lead the sessions. It had been hard for Tamara, far harder than the engineering classes, but eventually she’d learned enough to pass muster. It helped that he modified things for her, and taught her a system that was less reliant on silence and let her use a mantra instead.

Her mantra today? “Fucker.” It might not be the most calming word choice, but it satisfied on a visceral level.

Eventually, after even meditation lost its novelty value, a knock finally came on the door. Tamara leapt to her feet and opened it.

A man she’d never seen before stood in the hall, in a uniform similar to one of Redstone’s guards, only in blue and grey instead of black. “Miss Carson?”

“Yes?” she said cautiously.

“It’s time for your debriefing.”

“Finally,” she said with a sigh, the very picture of a put-upon bureaucrat who just wanted to get off this rock and get back to civilization. “So I need to bring anything with me?”

“Just be sure there’s a way to identify yourself.”

“I’m in the log,” Tamara confirmed as she started to shut her door.

“Um…that may not suffice.”

She frowned. “Why not?”

“Because the computer system running Redstone has been infected with a virus. So far it’s only damaged the internal and external camera systems, but it has led to some confusion when it comes to reconciling people with profiles, since the cameras can’t check for a match.”

“Ah.” Tamara nodded calmly, her mind racing at lightspeed. “I’ll just bring along my badge, then. And my personal ID.”

“Thank you.”

Wyl, what did you do?

That was far from the last confusing thing to happen to her that afternoon, either. Instead of being taken to Warden Harrison’s domain, Tamara was led to the tiny prison port, where a makeshift office had been set up along one wall. Along the other wall sat a long row of Redstone employees, everyone from guards to medics to a few lone repairmen, all of them collared with isolation fields over their heads. Tamara glanced at them but didn’t let her gaze linger; it only took a moment to verify that Robbie and Wyl weren’t among them.

Tamara was directed to sit down in front of a stocky, red-haired woman with what seemed like a naturally grim expression. “I’m Commander Grace Graves,” she said without ceremony as soon as her man had backed up. “Warden of Caravan Penitentiary, currently Acting-Warden of Redstone.”

“I’m Tamara Carson, President Alexander’s liaison here.”

Warden Graves’ eyes narrowed. “Overseeing his brother’s incarceration.”

“As best I could,” Tamara allowed.

“Yes. Warden Harrison didn’t make things easy. Don’t bother to look for him,” she added as Tamara twitched. “He’s currently in solitary confinement, and will be until I get to the bottom of the mess he’s made of things here.”

“Ma’am?”

“It’s nothing for you to concern yourself with.” Warden Graves’ voice was as hard as diamond. “Now. We’re going to go over the log of your activities since your appointment here, and you’re going to correct any discrepancies between what the computer recorded and your own recollection of your time here. You’re also going to answer any questions about your conduct that I choose to ask. Clear?”

“Is that legal?”

Warden Graves smiled coolly. “This prison is currently under system-designated martial law thanks to so many cockups I can’t even fit them all into my implant. According to President Alexander’s own rules, that means I have full autonomy to act in the best interest of this facility and its vulnerable populations. So yes, your cooperation is both legal and required by circumstance. Any prevarication can and will be met with suspicion of collaboration, and subsequent isolation until a lawyer can be brought to you. Clear?”

Amazing. Tamara had finally met a scarier version of Sir. “Translucent.”

“Good.” The warden proceeded to detail every time Tamara had opened or shut her door in the week—had it truly been just over two standard weeks? Was that even possible?—that she’d been here, asking Tamara to explain her actions. She’d replied calmly, and for the most part it was very simple. The questions didn’t get complicated until the very end.

“You briefly shared a room with a man named Wyl Sinclair just before the riot alarm went off. What did you speak about?”

“Not much.” That was regrettably true. “He seemed very concerned about someone called Robbie. There was a bot, I think he’d done something to customize it…it rolled off at top speed, and that was when he got concerned.”

Warden Graves pursed her lips. “And did you see this man or his bot again?”

“No, he left shortly after that…is he okay?”

“I have no idea, as he isn’t here anymore.”

It all crystallized in Tamara’s mind. Oh, Wyl. “And Kyle Alexander?” Tamara pressed daringly. “My employer hasn’t been able to tell me if he’s still incarcerated here or not.”

Warden Graves looked at her in silence for a moment, her folded hands tightening minutely. Finally she shrugged. “I suppose you need to hear this, and it might as well be from me. No, Kyle Alexander is no longer in Redstone. The circumstances of his removal are completely opaque. There are two ships missing from this bay, and one of them belonged to Wyl Sinclair’s husband, who’s also missing. The other was broken into. We’re looking for them, but Redstone’s tracking systems are completely offline.”

Two ships…who had the other one? “Who else escaped?” Tamara asked. Please be Magpie, please be Magpie…

“I have no more information for you at this time, Miss Carson, and no more need for you. The embargo on arrivals and departures will be lifted soon, so I suggest you ask your patron for a lift out of here.” Warden Graves looked back down at the small screen in front of her, and Tamara took her dismissal and left. At least this time she wasn’t escorted.

Demarcos was waiting for her outside her door. “You talked to Graves?” She nodded. “Kyle is gone.”

“I know.”

“Tell me you know where he is.” The strain in Demarcos’ voice hurt Tamara’s heart. “Tell me he’s still alive.”

It was time to read him in. Tamara led the way into her room, locked the door behind her and sat down on the edge of her bed, pulling her disassembled communicator to her. “I think he’s alive,” she told Demarcos.

“Where is he, then? What happened to him, what’s going on?”

“Before I can answer any of that, you need to talk to someone. And before I can let you do that, I have to know you’re not going to…” Betray me. “Talk about this to anyone else. Because what you’re about to hear could be construed as high treason, and I don’t want to bring you into that unless you’re prepared for the consequences.”

“Do you always talk in fucking riddles?” Demarcos asked bitterly before shaking his head. “Fine. I don’t care what’s behind it, I want to know what’s happening to Kyle. And you can trust me, you know you can. Have I failed to cover for you yet?”

“No,” Tamara admitted, her fingers automatically seating parts and turning pieces until they fit together. “You haven’t. Don’t start now.” She pushed the linkage that should connect her to Admiral Liang.

“What are you…” Demarcos went silent as the communicator lit up.

“Hummingbird, are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Sir,” she said. “But I’m not alone. Kyle’s lawyer is here with me. Have you been apprised of the situation at Redstone?”

“Peacock contacted me about it.”

“Ah.” If anyone knew what was going on, it was Garrett. “Then, maybe you wouldn’t mind filling us in? Both of us?” she emphasized.

“Are you confident, Hummingbird?”

Tamara glanced at Demarcos. He looked right back at her, and Tamara took a deep breath and hoped she wasn’t making the biggest mistake of her life.

“I’m confident, Sir.”

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Release: Dangerous Territory

It's here! My mm romance/alt history/western/paranormal novella is here!


You can find it on Amazon here: Dangerous Territory
It's on the publisher's website here: LT3
And on All Romance ebooks here: ARe

This is one of the first stories I've managed to bring back to life after it's initial publication. When I saw Less Than Three Press' call for western stories for a collection last year, I thought this was a perfect fit, and I'd just gotten rights back to it. It's re-edited, re-covered and ready to go, and I'm really pleased with it. If you're in the mood for a romance (there is one, I swear, I know I'm ambiguous about that sometimes but it's there) with plenty of action, a very different sort of setting and a shifter you've probably not read about in other books (ie not a wolf/bear/tiger/lion/otter/platypus) then this could be the story for you.

Want a blurb? Have a blurb, it's fun :)

With his father barely in the ground and his sister married to a scheming bastard, Carter is on the verge of losing the family ranch. His only chance at holding onto his inheritance is to get his cattle to market before his brother-in-law. That means braving Mason Canyon, which on top of being snake-infested and easily flooded, is also shifter territory. Most clans would just as soon shoot humans as look at them.

His only hope of making it is to trust the shifter who's agreed to help him, and pray that Rani won’t double-cross him. If Carter doesn't go he loses everything, and if he doesn't make it there his family is as good as dead.

Happy Wednesday, folks!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Redstone Ch. 18 Pt 1

Notes: Aaand, new perspective! I think I've written more POVs in this story than in any other I've ever attempted. We're starting to wind things up, and yes, Robbie's situation is...mostly resolved. Enjoy!

Title: Redstone Chapter 18, Part 1

*** 

As soon as Isidore woke up, he knew something was wrong. Going down hadn’t been a surprise; Wyl had signaled that the prison was going to be gassed today, and Isidore had been careful to keep them down in the heart of the prison, veins prickling but heart easy in the knowledge that he, Kyle and, frustratingly, Pence would be safe from the chaos that was certain to emerge when people started waking up.

Pence’s adoption of their living quarters—not all the time, because after a while the iron got to him, but for a few hours every cycle—was annoying but not, Isidore had to admit, the worst thing he’d ever experienced. The man was a gifted storyteller and kept Kyle distracted, and he had more than a few skills that might be useful under the right circumstances. Not that it really mattered; as soon as Garrett had the information that Hummingbird was stealing out from under the nose of the Warden, he’d be able to negotiate for Kyle’s release. Perhaps another week, two at the outside, and they’d be free of this place. Pence wouldn’t be, though.

He’d given up the story of how he’d come to be here so easily that Isidore was more than half convinced it wasn’t true, but it was entertaining nonetheless. “I lived footloose and fancy free in the Central System for years,” he’d expounded while Isidore and Kyle had worked their way through some sticky meal bars. “Thanks to the help of a brilliant little bug I wrote, I worked out who in whatever city I’d have the best luck imitating, then did a bit of work on my appearance and passed myself off as them for a while. Businessmen, trust-funders, even politicians: people will give you a lot of leeway if they think you’re someone important. I hardly ever had to provide identification, in the small provinces. It was a glorious scam,” he said with a pleased sigh.

“Of course, eventually I imitated the wrong man. He caught me at it, actually; I was in one of his penthouses. He was supposed to be gone, but.” Pence shrugged. “Such is life. And after a bit of wrangling, I ended up here.”

“This doesn’t seem like the right place for someone who basically committed identity theft,” Kyle said doubtfully.

“Very astute, little lamb.” Pence refused to elaborate any further, though, but he gave them a wink to soften the lie. When they all fell down the next day, the sleeping gas working too fast for much preparation, Isidore spared a brief thought for how he might actually miss Pence once he and Kyle were out of here.

Pence was the farthest thing from Isidore’s mind when he woke up though, for all the man was mumbling a blue streak over knocking his head against the floor when he’d gone under. There was too much noise filtering down the passage, way too much for the aftermath of a gassing. This wasn’t prisoners fighting it out amongst themselves; this was a concerted effort by many against a few, and if he focused Isidore thought he could detect the whine of bot gears shifting too abruptly to be quiet.

“Fuck.” Something was wrong in the Pit, really wrong. His mind told him the best thing to do was wait down here where it was safe and ride it out, but his instincts were screaming at him to move. He reached out and shook Kyle’s shoulder; he was already awake, just looked a little blurry. Pence was still on his back, affected more by the gas. “Come on, we have to move.”

To his credit, Kyle just nodded. Isidore helped get him to his feet, then led the way down the hall, disruptor firmly in hand. If they were being swarmed by bots right now…

But no, no they weren’t. There was a swarm, for sure, but it was prisoners on guards. Isidore held Kyle back at the entrance to the Pit, staring disconcertedly out at the carnage taking place. It looked like two separate fights had been going on, although one was already over; he could smell the blood in the air, even if there wasn’t much to see over the wave of bodies. The other guard was still on his feet, but he had only one bot left. It was inevitable he’d die, at this point, despite how fiercely he…fought…

Recognition hit Isidore like a shot to the heart, and he actually lurched forward a step before he got control of himself again. Isidore recognized that fighting style; he’d seen it back on Paradise when he’d been a mechanic working on the Federation forces’ fleet of vehicles. Robbie. That was Robbie, which mean something had gone terribly, awfully wrong.

Fuck.”

“What is it?” Kyle murmured, staying discreet even though he was clearly disturbed by the scene.

“Give me a moment; I need to think.” He couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t. Protecting Robbie wasn’t his mission. He had to take care of Kyle.

The bot went down, and Robbie was bowled over after another few seconds of fighting like a madman. Isidore almost bit through his tongue when he lost sight of him. No, no, nonono—

Then Rory happened, saving the day only to ruin things himself. Isidore knew he was breathing too fast, knew even as Kyle tugged at his arm, worried and wondering, that he was going to do it. He was going to spoil everything because he couldn’t just watch this, he wouldn’t. He’d sooner die himself.

“Stick with Pence,” Isidore heard himself say, the sound feeling very far away as he walked into the room. “Garrett will get you out.” He reached a hand up to his mouth, toward the tooth that would cause a big enough explosion to take out a good half of the people in the Pit. Rory wasn’t looking at him; no one was, all the focus on Robbie and the macabre scene playing out between the two men. He could do this. He had to.

The second before Isidore activated the grenade in his head, a shower of sparks erupted from the main door. It clanged to the ground a moment later, and a security bot rolled into the room. This bot was like none Isidore had ever seen, though; it had some weapons sticking out of it that were downright illegal for security bots, and even as Isidore ducked, it started to fire a mini-laser which burned tiny, perfect holes straight through people. “Alert! Alert! Sound the alarm! Alert! Alert! Sound the alarm!” it blared over and over, burning a swathe through the prisoners who dared to move toward it. It reached Robbie’s side and tore him out of Rory’s slack, astonished grasp, picking him up and cradling him even as it injected a syringe straight into Robbie’s neck. “There there. There there. There there.”

Rory growled and reached for Robbie again, and had a hole burned through his hand for his trouble. All around the Pit people were groaning in pain, most of them alive but all of them wounded. The bot swirled its head in a circle, eyestrip glowing menacingly as it surveyed the prisoners. It paused on Isidore, but moved on after a moment. “There there. There there. There there,” it repeated as it turned and rolled right out of the gaping hole it had left in the Pit, taking Robbie with it.

“What the bloody hell is going on here, petal?”

Pence’s voice shocked Isidore out of his fugue. He shook his head, silent as he weighed his options. This was…a fucking mess, was what it was. No guards were rushing in to shut things down, more than half the prison population was going to need Regen for bot-inflicted burns, and Robbie was possibly gravely injured. If Isidore waited to do this all the right way, the closest to legal way, there very well might be new leadership in place that would refuse any and all requests for transfers while they figured out what the hell had just gone down.

Isidore couldn’t take that risk. If not even Robbie was safe, then there was no way Kyle would survive that long, especially not with the prisoners in a state of upheaval. And besides…the door was open.

Isidore reached out and grabbed Kyle’s hand. “We’re getting out of here,” he said. He could still see the bot in the distance. If they stuck close to it, they could follow it through the doors. From there, he’d be able to find his way to the hangar. Robbie and Wyl’s ship would open to him, and if anyone was going to forgive him for an act of piracy, it was them. “Come on.”

Another hand found his. “You’re not going anywhere without me, darling,” Pence said grimly.

“Then shut up and keep up,” Isidore said, and he tugged them into a run as he chased down the bot. Hopefully it wouldn’t turn around and shoot him when it saw the three of them behind it.

Surprisingly, the bot led the way straight to the ship hangar. Wyl was already there, completely blind to everything except Robbie as he lurched forward toward his husband. “ZeeBee, status!”

“Alive and recovering. Currently, he is under the influence of Regen. Expected return to consciousness in three-point-seven standard hours.”

“Oh.” Wyl shuddered and leaned against the bot’s sturdy body, bringing his head close to Robbie’s. “All right. All right. Fuck, it’s all right.”

“Not completely,” Isidore said. He could see it took effort, but Wyl eventually lifted his head and looked at him. “Hi.”

“Oh. Oh, shit, Isidore!” He was being hugged before he could stop it, something that was sure to cause conniptions in the central security room, but Isidore couldn’t care less. “Fuck, are you okay? What are you doing here?”

“Seizing the day,” Isidore said, feeling a little like falling apart now that he was in friendly arms. “There’s bound to be an inquest, they’ll ask questions, it isn’t safe—it never was, but now—”

“No, you’re right,” Wyl agreed, finally letting him go to look at his companions. “Mr. Alexander. And…”

“Pence, mate.” He almost sounded normal. “Just Pence.”

Wyl looked at Isidore. “He’s with you?”

“He is now.” Whether Isidore wanted it or not, apparently.

“Then he’ll come along. Let’s kick this shithole to the curb. ZeeBee,” Wyl addressed the bot, “get Robbie situated in the ship. You guys, follow him. I’ll be right there.”

“What are you going to do?” Isidore asked.

Wyl smiled darkly. “Since there’s no reason to be subtle anymore, I’m gonna kill every fucking camera and tracking system in this fucking place before we leave. Let them try to send someone after us once I’ve punched their eyes out. Go, go.” He waved them toward his and Robbie’s little ship, then headed to the nearest control panel.

Isidore followed ZeeBee on board, still clinging to Kyle and Pence. They settled into the tight quarters right behind the pilot’s chair, and Pence turned to Isidore with a raised eyebrow. “Interesting friends you’ve got, my dove.”

“You have no idea,” Isidore said dryly.

“We’re really leaving?” Kyle asked. He sounded dumbfounded. “Right now?”

“It’s an opportunity we might not get again.”

“But what about my lawyer? And what about—” He stopped speaking when Isidore shook his head.

“They’ll weather the storm better than we would. This is just a course change, Kyle. We’re not throwing away the map.”

“What map, pet?”

Isidore breathed a sigh of relief when Wyl joined them, firing up the engines and heading for the nearest airlock, which opened obediently to his command. “The one that leads to the end.”

Whatever that was, now.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

FYI: Shadows & Light

Hi there!





So, I got a comment on the blog asking about what's going on with Shadows & Light. Given that it's scheduled to come out next month, there's surprisingly little info out about it yet. However! That situation has been remedied, thanks to a chat with my awesome editor at Pride Publishing. So, the skinny on Shadows & Light is this:

Pre-Order Date: 2nd February 2016 (only for Pride/TEB website)
Early Release Date: 16th February 2016 (again, only if purchased from Pride/TEB)
General Release Date: 15th March 2016 (everywhere else)

And there you have it! It hasn't been added to Goodreads yet, but hopefully soon. And if you just can't wait that long to get a story from me, Dangerous Territory comes out Wednesday from LT3 Press. Woot! More details on that later.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Redstone Ch. 17 Pt. 2

Notes: Oh my god, Robbie, what am I doing to you? What am I doing!? I'm fucking with you, that's what I'm doing. But guys, guys, don't worry. I got this. Next week will be...illuminating. We're actually at the climax, believe it or not. Stuff is going to happen really fast from here on out. Woot!

Title: Redstone Chapter 17, Part 2
 
***

When Robbie’s brain came back online, the first thing he did was force his eyes to stay closed and listen. Just listen, and evaluate. He knew where he was: the gas knocked you out, but it didn’t usually damage neural pathways enough to slow you down. He let his body rest lax against the gritty, cold floor of the Pit, and listened to whether or not he was ahead of the curve, or behind it. He really fucking hoped he was ahead.

The only other person he could hear was…Krighton, mumbling on the other side of the room. Okay, that made sense. They hadn’t been gassed before; the compound didn’t affect them as badly as people who had been affected multiple times. Robbie opened his eyes and pushed slowly to his hands and knees, making sure he wasn’t going to fall over before he got to his feet. The bots they’d brought in with them had all gone into standby mode, as they always did when voice commands ceased for more than five minutes. “Activate,” Robbie said hoarsely. Four green eyestrips lit up simultaneously.

“The door’s not fucking opening!” Krighton screamed from the other side of the room, still pounding fruitlessly at the control panel. “Cray! Cray!”

“Defense mode alpha-twenty-seven,” Robbie said, and the bots immediately arrayed themselves in a half circle around him. “Krighton, leave the door alone and get the fuck over here,” he called out.

“He’s supposed to be watching us! He can’t fucking leave us in here! Cray!

“Something went wrong, obviously,” Robbie said, stepping carefully around bodies as he made his way toward the door. “We’ve got to wait this out, so that means getting your ass behind these bots and fighting for your life.”

“No, no, nonono.” Krighton couldn’t have gone any paler if he’d been bleached. “I can’t be in here with these animals, I can’t.” The prisoners were more than stirring now; they were waking up, getting up, and Robbie was still too far from Krighton to pull him behind the bot’s defensive shield.

“Defense mode beta-four,” Robbie snapped, incredibly irritated and more than a little afraid. Two of the bots peeled off and went to flank Krighton, leaving Robbie exposed on too many sides to feel confident. He backed up against the wall where the food was released and turned on his spark baton. It crackled reassuringly. “Get your ass in gear, Krighton!”

“Look at this.” Rory’s voice suddenly echoed through the massive chamber in a way that shouldn’t have been possible. “Look at the gift we’ve been given.” Scores of eyes focused on them, and Robbie felt the skin at the back of his neck crawl. The moment drew out, so tense Robbie could feel it in the air, wavering inside his body. The only comfort he had right now was that Isidore and Kyle were nowhere to be found. That was good; they didn’t need to see this.

“Priority bot parts to whoever takes out Krighton!” Klia shouted, and suddenly the tension was broken, and so was the momentary peace as people began to throw themselves into the fight.

Robbie rapidly became too busy to keep track of Krighton; he had enough to do keeping himself alive and his bots functioning. The problem with the bots was that they were old, and their programming hadn’t been updated in probably decades. They had a very specific way of fighting, and the prisoners who’d been here for long enough knew what they could do, and how to get around it. The bots deployed their stun guns and fired fast, sending people sprawling, but the limbs the guns were attached to were weak. Lines of prisoners three deep crashed forward; the first person was the sacrificial lamb, the second was the backup, and the third darted to the side and tried to smash the armature with pieces of destroyed bots, taking them apart with their own brethren.

Robbie smashed his spark baton into the attacker’s arm, sending him howling back in pain and taking his metal rod with him. Splitting his attention between his defenders in time was tough, and one man managed to get through both bots to confront Robbie directly. He had a modded mouth, triple rows of sharp teeth in a distended jaw, and grinned widely as he lunged at Robbie.

Robbie couldn’t stop his attacker’s momentum, but he managed to wedge his baton in between his neck and the man’s mouth. Hardened teeth crunched into the metal, denting it in places. Robbie brought his knee up into the man’s gut, not to hit but to push, just far enough to relieve the pressure on his baton. Once he had a few more inches of space, he shifted the baton so it went straight into his attacker’s mouth, then activated the spark. Fire sizzled down the man’s throat, and his eyes bugged out for a few interminable seconds before he finally fell straight back onto the floor.

The altercation cost Robbie one of his bots, both armatures disabled and the bot itself corded and dragged off its wheels. Robbie repositioned himself behind the bot he had left and risked a glance toward Krighton. Or rather, where Krighton had been.

The bots who’d been protecting him were already both in pieces, and Krighton himself? Robbie could only assume it was him on the floor, surrounded by a pack of maddened prisoners, screaming in horror as they ripped him to pieces. They were modern Bacchantes, and Krighton was their sacrifice. The floor was slicked with blood and intestines, and even as Robbie listened the screaming rose to a truly piercing shriek before cutting off abruptly. One of the women laughed as she lifted a dismembered piece of the man into the air, something that might have been his—

Robbie looked away, swallowing hard. He stayed behind his last bot as best he could, defending it but defending himself more as grasping hands made their way around his last hope. Once the bot went down, he wouldn’t last long.

There was an ancient genre of holo film that centered around an equally ancient martial art, kung fu. Robbie had watched a few of the films with Garrett a long time ago, and in them it wasn’t unusual for the hero—or occasionally the heroine—to take on huge crowds of people all by themselves and emerge victorious. Garrett had loved them; the idea of triumphing against impossible odds had always appealed to him, in those moments when his cynicism took a rare back seat to optimism. Robbie hadn’t been able to watch them without rolling his eyes, though. That wasn’t how fighting worked, it simply wasn’t, and trying to convince yourself otherwise was ridiculous.

Robbie’s only hope was Cray sending reinforcements before Robbie joined Krighton, but he already knew that the odds of that were close to nil. The prisoners were on the edge of rioting, and Cray wouldn’t risk more men and bots to save a few with things as they were right now. He grit his teeth and continued to fight, his spark baton flickering on and off as he used it too hard, the damage it took from Tooth Man making it fall apart faster. Hands grabbed his armor and flinched back, but the battery for that was already running low. Fucking bullshit equipment; this crap was so old it was barely better than nothing.

The bot went down, and was dragged away almost instantly. It was just Robbie now, surrounded by five people, his faceplate cracked from a lucky strike someone had gotten in with a diamond-tipped rod. They should have gassed the prisoners last week, come through and confiscated all the contraband but Robbie had been glad, back then, that they hadn’t; he hadn’t wanted to strip Isidore of his resources. Right now he was wishing they had, though. God, he didn’t want to die, he didn’t want to leave Wyl. Wyl would lose it―he would go insane and to hell with Garrett’s plan, this whole fucking facility would be lucky to be standing by the time Wyl was done with it.

A woman charged in, and Robbie caught her across the neck with the side of his baton, just underneath her jaw. She fell with a thud and he kicked her body out toward the other prisoners as he looked straight at the ringleader. Robbie might die, but Rory was going to pay for this. Their eyes made contact for a brief moment before three people rushed Robbie at once, and he was consumed by the urge to fight, destroy, kill or be killed. He fought with every ounce of energy left in his body, no words for the urgency that consumed every atom of his being. Live. Live. Live.

Robbie had years of experience on most of his attackers, fully active mods and plenty of desperate strength, but he couldn’t fight forever. A sharp pain suddenly radiated out from the back of his left thigh, sending him down on one knee. Someone kicked him in the face and he fell onto his back, and then they were on him, swarming, and teeth found his collarbone and tore as greedy hands pried away his dead armor, nails biting into flesh and Robbie opened his mouth to scream, and then—

“Stop.”

And incredibly, impossibly, the panic stopped. The hands receded, the teeth withdrew, and Robbie was left blinking blood from his eyes and staring incredulously at the ceiling.

“Bring him here.”

Strong hands gripped him beneath his arms and dragged him across the floor. Robbie was too exhausted to fight, and when Rory’s broad face came into view he didn’t look away. Something dark flickered in the man’s eyes and Robbie stared, captivated.

“You,” Rory said slowly, “have old blood. Where are you from?”

“Ho…home system,” Robbie managed after a moment. His mouth was full of his own blood, and it trickled down his throat in a steady flow, making him want to cough.

“Where in the home system? Earth?”

“Parents were Earthlings. Me…Mars.”

Mars.” Rory smiled. “Old blood indeed. I hail from Mars myself. We might have come together on the final transport from that doomed planet. Many of us were lost in—”

“Transfer,” Robbie finished. “Bad pods.”

“Yes, yes!” Strong hands reached out and cradled his face. “Oh, old man. You’re the closest thing to a brother I have left.”

Robbie tried to shake his head. “Not…your brother.”

“Perhaps not,” Rory agreed. “But you and I share the same blood nevertheless, and my friend…” The dark something in his eyes appeared again, this time covering up the white. “Loves the old blood best. I picked it up in the Beyond, but it tasted our blood long ago, and yearns for more. And you,” he said approvingly, “are the first suitable candidate we’ve found in ages. I’m going to spare your life, brother. And you,” now he leaned in so close that his lips were less than a centimeter from Robbie’s. His breath was oddly sweet, and Robbie could see the strange, rippled texture of his eyes. “You will carry a piece of my friend forever, and we will never be alone.”

Their lips touched, and though Robbie fought to keep his mouth closed, he knew his resistance wouldn’t last for long.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year, darlins!



I hope it will be a great one for all of us. 2015 was amazingly good to me in a lot of ways: my honey and I are now homeowners, I got in with Samhain and published more with Riptide, and we went to Japan, which was amazing. I've been very fortunate, I've worked hard, and I feel good. Yay for me ;)

This year I'm trying to do even more with my writing. I've got four novels scheduled to come out, I've got a new release on the 13th of this month (Dangerous Territory, which has a contest going on Goodreads--you want to win it? Enter here: Dangerous Territory giveaway ), I'm up for a few MM Romance Group Member's Choice Awards, which...

Okay, it's not a perfect group and I very rarely win at popularity contests, but Ten Simple Tips For Surviving The Apocalypse is listed in a few categories (Best Humorous, Best Love Is An Open Road Story, and Best Sci Fi/Futuristic/Post-Apocalyptic/Steampunk) and I'm actually very proud of that story, so placing in a category would be nice. Want to vote for me? *crosses fingers* It starts today! You can find the polls here (you have to be a member to vote, obviously): vote! Where There's Smoke and Reclamation are also listed in a few places, so feel free to go crazy ;)

Speaking of Ten Simple Tips, soon I'll have paperback copies of that for sale. Yeah, I know you can get the ebook for free but whatever, they're cool and I plan to give some away, so...that's coming! I've got to finish Redstone, I've got to finish my Samhain contemporary novel, I've got to finish a few other stories this month, and then...THEN! New stuff. Giveaways. Love and affection. I've it all, baby.

Anyway, welcome to 2016, and thanks for sticking with me. We're going to have a fun year together, darlins!