Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Thirty

Notes: A little longer today, yay! Prepare for...baaaattles iiiiin spaaaaaaaace! Next week will be Cody and Ten making more questionable decisions, which should be lots of fun.

Title: Reformation: Chaper Thirty

***

Chapter Thirty



The air reverberated with the sound of alarms, yellow and red lights almost blinding as they blinked in time with their auditory accompaniment. Darrel sat fixed in his chair, hands gripping the seat so hard he couldn’t even feel them anymore, heart racing.

“Forward shields down to fifteen percent, sir! Ventral shields down to five. One more strafe across the bottom and we’re going to start venting!”

“The Cleaver is dead in space, sir! Full evac ongoing, but two Starshatterers are closing in on it.”

“Captain Obede says he needs another five minutes before he can safely break formation, sir.”

“Sir—”

Sir—”

“All firepower and shields forward, full weapons spread and engage wherever we get a lock. If our shields are low, theirs have to be close to tatters.” General Caractacus’ voice cut through the babble like a scalpel through flesh. “Put as much of our bulk between the Cleaver and her pursuers as possible. Acknowledge Obede, but tell him to shave two minutes off that time, because we’re not going to be able to maintain our position for longer than that.” He paused for a moment, then continued. “And signal our own evacuation. All non-essential personnel are to proceed to the escape pods immediately.”

“But sir—”

“We’re not going to survive many more direct hits. We don’t have the power or maneuverability this close to the other ships, but if we don’t stay close to cover their retreats, more lives will be lost. Signal the evacuation now. I want to see progress with our battery, give me a status update!”

More happened, the timbre of the alarms changing, more orders shouted, officers scuttling to obey, and yet for Darrel everything felt like it was coming at him through gauzy layers of cloth. Even his breaths, tight and short as they were, seemed muffled, like he was inhaling into a pair of pillowcases, not lungs. They were the best ship in the fleet, and they were evacuating. What did that mean for everyone else?

Clumsily, Darrel pulled up his seat’s nav screen. He could have looked over Lieutenant Reyes’ shoulder, but he didn’t want to risk distracting her. He scanned the numbers, desperate for a sign that the general was overreacting, that things weren’t as bad as he feared. But…no, it was bad enough. Their original contingent of eighteen was down to twelve, nothing but the smallest ships and their own super-destroyer still bringing the fight. On the other hand, the pirates had gone from twenty-nine ships to fifteen, and even as he watched, another one of their signals flared briefly, then died. They still had their own destroyer, though, and if the Triumph went down, it would be able to pick off the remnants of the fleet, mostly Skyblazers, built for speed but not meant to sustain heavy damage. On the other hand, if they could take out the destroyer first, then the Skyblazers would have an even fight ahead of them, slightly outnumbered but better prepared to move and dodge.

There was no way, though. All scans of the enemy destroyer showed robust shielding still holding at fifty percent, and the ship had no compunction about ordering smaller vessels into the path of the Triumph’s fire to save it from more damage. It was a bulky, clumsy thing, but in a toe-to-toe fight right now, it would win. It was winning, because Miles was concerned with saving his people’s lives, and the enemy captain clearly wasn’t.

“Pirates, my ass,” he heard Reyes mutter, her hands flying over her screen. “No pirates are this disciplined. They should have cut and run like the Hammerfall an hour ago.”

“Update on the Cleaver, sir, all crew accounted for and away.”

“Including Captain Gorion?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And our own evacuation?”

“Fifty percent and—enemy ship rolling beneath us, sir, we’re going to take fire!”

“Shift all power to ventral shields, maximum thrusters for a portside roll, now!”

The Triumph began its maneuver, but Darrel was positive they were too late. Their belly was raw and exposed, and even a little ship like that could do enough damage to send them reeling. If they hit the engines, the super-destroyer would be blown in half. He and everyone else on the bridge held their breath as the nav officer said, “Taking fire in three, two—missed us, sir!” He sounded amazed. “Not entirely, some hit the starboard edge, but we’re doing all right. Ship is—”

“Continue the roll.”

“Sir, then we’ll hit the enemy ship!”

“Exactly.” He sounded darkly satisfied. “Brace for impact.”

Darrel braced, but it still wasn’t enough to keep him from feeling the vibration of the blow all the way into his teeth, the ground-shattering feeling of two enormous vessels of war colliding in an otherwise frictionless environment. More alarms sounded, but it hardly mattered at this point—they couldn’t get any more distracting. Vaguely, Darrel felt a fluttering at the edges of his mind that he knew was Grennson, desperate for answers. He should have evacuated already…

“Sir, we’ve lost our portside thrusters, shields down to two percent!”

“Evacuate the essential personnel and pass me helm control. Get yourselves to the escape pods.”

There was a moment of pure, stunned silence on the bridge, and then an outcry from every person there.

“We can’t leave you to—”

“I can stay, I can—”

“Let us—”

“Please, don’t—”

“This is not up for discussion!” There was the scalpel voice again, and this time it stabbed Darrel straight in the heart. “Give me control of the helm and get to your pods, now. That’s an order, people, move!” And reluctantly, unhappily, people did.

Reyes touched Darrel’s arm, drawing him out of his distracted state. “C’mon, cadet,” she murmured. “We have to go.”

Darrel didn’t respond, watching the new course Miles plotted on the nav screen. He was heading straight for the destroyer, a lurching, tilted charge thanks to the loss of one whole set of thrusters. The destroyer was already backing away, firing full tilt at the same time. It was a race to see if the Triumph would reach it before it exploded.

<Darrel? I’ve saved a pod, come meet me!>

He sent back a general feeling of wait before getting to his feet. There was something he needed to do first. “I’ll be right there,” he said. “You go, Lieutenant. Thank you.”

She frowned. “Cadet, I’ll make it an order if I have to.”

He smiled unsteadily. “I’m already disobeying one order, I’ve got no problem disobeying another one. Go on, I’ll be right there.” He had to keep Miles from doing something stupid, first.

In another thirty seconds, it was just the two of them on the bridge. “I believe I told you to evacuate, Cadet,” Miles said, but the ferocious sense of purpose had gone out of his voice.

“I will, sir, but only if you come with me.”

“Don’t worry about me, I don’t intend to commit glorious suicide today.”

Darrel bit his lip for a moment, then rushed ahead. “Captains never do, but eight out of ten times in similar situations, they do it anyway. My father did. I read all the transcripts of the battle he was in, I analyzed it over and over, and—he could have gotten away. He could have lived. He chose not to, because he thought he was helping more people by staying behind, but he didn’t. I’ve aggregated reports for every major battle of the past fifty years and investigated similar scenarios, and with very few exceptions, when a captain stays behind, they do so for no palpable gain. But they do it, because something about being in charge makes you feel too responsible.” He risked a touch of Miles’ arm. “Don’t do that to your family, please. Cody would never get over it.”

Miles raised one eyebrow. “I feel like you’re blackmailing me, Cadet.”

“Maybe I am, sir.”

“And I think it’s working.” Miles shut his eyes for a moment, then his fingers began to fly across the nav screen. “All right, I’ve autoset our course. If that destroyer gets smart we’ll miss it entirely, but we’ve still got a chance of hitting it.” He got up out of his chair. “I assume Grennson is holding a pod?”

“How did you—”

“Oh please. He wouldn’t leave without you. Lead the way, Darrel.”

The halls were empty of people now, and they couldn’t walk more than five steps without being sent staggering as another explosion rocked the ship. By the time they got to Grennson, Darrel was afraid the Triumph would break apart under their feet.

“Oh good!” Grennson beamed at them, and it was like sunshine in the middle of Darrel’s mind for a moment. “You brought him! Get in, everything is prepped to go.”

The launch sequence seemed to take forever, even though realistically, Darrel knew Miles was working as fast as he could. Finally the airlock closed, and the mechanism gave the pod a gentle push away from the carcass of their ship. The three of them clustered around the single window, watching as the Triumph gradually came into view.

“Poor girl,” Miles murmured. “My poor, poor girl.”

“You did your best by her, sir,” Grennson murmured comfortingly.


“Perhaps. If not, then it’s too late for—” His voice cut off abruptly as the ship suddenly flared with light, a coruscating series of explosions breaking it into pieces at last. “Boys, get dow—” They didn’t have time to strap in before the shockwave reached them, though, and sent the pod hurtling toward Pandora at breakneck speed.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Notes: Finally a new chapter! I'm doing better, as evidenced by the fact that I can write at all. It's slow going, but I shall persist :) Have some scheming Garrett.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Nine

***

Chapter Twenty-Nine



It was amazing to Garrett how much authority was conferred by numbers. Population, mineral resources, planetary wealth, personal investments: it was a web that even a supercomputer had a hard time tracing, some lines thickly tethered together, others so thin they were barely visible, but still vital at the same time. Numerical superiority in the Senate meant the difference between representation and willful ignorance, face time and brushoffs, dedication and criminalization. There were a few outliers whose policies were driven more on principle than profit, but they were few and far between. For not the first time, Garrett considered the merits of complete and total anarchy.

“That wouldn’t get you anywhere, darlin’.”

“It would make me feel better,” he snapped at his hallucination of Jonah. “I could do it with what I’ve collected already. I could burn the entire Federation establishment to the ground, ruin every leading political figure in the eyes of their own constituents, cut off the head of the snake.”

“Too many people rely on Federation programs for their lives. A disruption like that would mean an awful lot of people are going to die.”

“Maybe they deserve to as well, for being so fucking gullible.”

“Garrett.” He didn’t look as the hallucination leaned in, warm breath feathering across his cheek. “You’re tired, and you’re stressed, and you’re sick. I know you don’t mean that.”

“I suppose not.” Although the more he thought about it, the less sure he was.

“Besides, that would make you into just another dictator. You want that burden on your shoulders?”

Garrett closed his eyes. “No. I want to go home and lie down on my bed with you and forget about everything else.”

“And you will, darlin’. Soon. I promise. We’ve just gotta get this situation in hand first.” Jonah leaned back. “What’s next on your list?”

“I’ve got the shipyard numbers from Liang. Looots of interesting and completely illegal activity going on there. I’ve got the latest figures from Berengaria on her family holdings, and the computer is working on the relationships between those and other members of the Senate.” He glanced at the glowing red icon in the far right corner of his implant’s visual screen. “The battle is still being fought above Pandora. The last I checked—” two minutes ago “—our forces were holding steady.”

“Good. And now?”

“Now?” Garrett tilted his head back and stretched his arms above his head. He hadn’t been enjoying much of life lately, but he was pretty fucking sure he was going to enjoy this next part. “Now I give my grandmother the opportunity to recuse herself from the shitstorm that’s about to occur. Because she might be a dried-up, embittered, single-focus excuse for a human being, but she and I both care about family.”

“Very gracious of you, darlin’.”

“I agree.” Garrett relaxed and stared pensively at the ceiling for a moment. “She doesn’t really deserve the consideration, but Miles would be disappointed if I didn’t make the attempt.”

“Why do you dislike her so much?”

“Because Dame Mildred Caractacus is a flimsy paper mask of a person who would rather pretend that everything is perfect than put the work into fixing what’s wrong. She adored my mother because she raised my father’s ‘profile,’ but that changed after my mom’s suicide. I’ve been tainted by association ever since, and so have you and Cody.” He snorted. “Not that she’s ever even bothered to talk to Cody, because of his ‘obvious flaws.’”

“A lot like his other grandma,” Jonah said pensively. Garrett glanced at him.

“You’re pretty insightful for a hallucination.”

“Now you’re just complimenting yourself.”

Garrett shrugged. “Maybe. Doesn’t matter. I’ll give it a try and we’ll go from there.” He sent out the signal that should end with a direct call to his grandmother’s personal line, and waited for her to pick up. And waited. And waited…he was just about done with waiting by the time she finally responded.

“Garrett.” Her perfect, twenty-five-year old face appeared in the screen. Mildred Caractacus was not the sort of person to enter her old age without a fight to the death: in this case, the death of her dignity. She had the form of a young woman, but the mannerisms and movements of someone well beyond her second century. It was a nauseating dichotomy. “What do you want?”

“I can’t just call to check in?”

“You never have before, so I don’t see why you’d begin bothering with basic courtesies now.”

“Good point,” he agreed. “You’re right, I don’t really care how you’re doing.”

Mildred arched an eyebrow. Garrett imagined he could hear her muscles creak. “The feeling is decidedly mutual. Why are you calling, then?”

“Because I want to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime.”

She chuckled. “You sound like a bad investment scheme. I can’t imagine there’s any sort of financial advice you could give me that’s worth listening to, and if what you want is my money, well. Perhaps this will teach you to regret cutting ties with your family so completely.” She reached out to end the connection.

“I’m going to ruin the economy.”

Mildred paused. “What?”

“Or at least vast swaths of it,” Garrett continued. “Everything that President Alexander has personally invested in, certainly. I’m going to ruin it. I’m going to break it down into its component parts and get it reduced, reassessed, and reassigned. I’m going to do this within the next forty-eight hours.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Exactly what I’m saying.” He leaned forward and made sure their gazes connected. “I’m going to take down President Alexander in the ways that will hurt him most. I’m going to ruin his reputation as a leader, a politician, and a businessman. I’m going to destroy every positive facet of his public personality until it’s completely broken, and everyone can see him for the stinking, shriveled piece of offal that he is. I’m going to obliterate every trace of his influence and make him into the most hated man in the Federation, and once that’s done, I’m probably going to get him killed.” Garrett shrugged. “I might even give him the opportunity for a trial first, but that all depends on what happens at Pandora.” No Jonah and Cody, all bets are off. Fuck having a trial, he won’t even have a grave.

“Pandora? What…what does that backwater have to do with anything?”

“It has everything to do with it,” Garrett said gently. “As you’d know, if you ever bothered to come out of your chrysalis and talk to your son.”

“You can’t do this.” She sounded more confident now. “You can’t do any of this. You don’t have the means or the influence. You’re not the Senator, not the Governor—nothing like your father. You can’t—”

“It’s a terribly bad idea to tell me what I can and can’t do,” Garrett advised her. “It makes me angry in ways I’ve got very little voluntary control over right now. This is a courtesy call, Millie, nothing more. I suggest you divest our family’s holdings from big Federation institutions as fast as you can, because they might not be around much longer.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You realize I could take this threat to the president himself?”

“Why would he listen to you? He knows who I am, and he doesn’t think I can do it either. He would laugh in your face, call you too credulous, maybe call you a threat yourself.” Garrett shrugged. “Do what you want, but I’m going to act soon. It’s up to you whether you want to be bankrupted or not. But Miles and I, and our families? We’ll be fine.” He had seen to that years ago.

The red light in the corner of his vision started flashing. “I have to go.”

“Wait! We’re not done here, Garrett. I need more details—I need more information about this!”

“I don’t have time to give you any more.” He cut the connection and opened the icon. It took less than a second to realize why it had started pinging him.

“Oh.” Garrett stared at the ship indicators numbly. “Oh, no, please. Oh no, nononono…”

“What is it?” Jonah asked.

“It’s…” He couldn’t say anything, though. He could only watch in helpless thrall as the worst thing he could imagine happened right before his eyes.


“No.”

Friday, March 17, 2017

So, that sickness thing...

Being sick as a dog has been no fun, but now that I've been to the doctor and have better living through chemistry on my side, as well as a positive assessment of my health, I feel like I can pass on: I've got all-day morning sickness. Because, yay, I'm a little over 10 weeks pregnant!

I didn't want the word to get out before I'd been to see my doctor, but there was no hiding the fact that I was so sick some days I couldn't actually stand up, much less make it to work or focus on my writing--I couldn't even focus on my computer screen for more than fifteen minutes at a time. I'm hoping with the help of some anti-nausea meds, that'll change really fast for me and I can get back to storifying.

So, that's some of my good news. That story excerpt I gave you Thursday--Dreamspinner accepted the novel for publication in Sept/Oct, which is awesome, so I'll pass on more details to you asap! Also, Where There's A Will is a finalist in both the EPIC and Foreword INDIE awards, so I'm incredibly pleased by that. I'll let you know if I win.

;)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Illness and an Excerpt

So. It turns out that I can't focus on my computer screen for long without beginning to get ill. Reading is easier than writing, but even that I can't handle for more than about half an hour without needing to stop and put my head between my legs. Yeah, I'm sick. I'm seeing a doctor in two days and should get some answers, but for now--I'm so sorry, but I don't have a new chapter of Reformation. But! You can have an excerpt from my subbed-but-not-accepted werewolf novel, because I might feel like crap but I feel worse leaving you with nothing.

Thanks for the lovely comments last week, by the way. The funeral was as good as those things get, and it was nice to see most of my family.

***

You couldn’t sneak up on a werewolf.
It wasn’t possible. Everyone agreed on that, from a million pop culture references to the people who actually ran ops with the real ones. Werewolves had hyper-developed senses, and they were incredibly protective of their territory and their pack. You could trap a werewolf, you could trick a werewolf, you might even be able to bargain with a werewolf―I was banking on that―but you couldn’t sneak up on one. They could tell where you’d stepped almost before your foot hit the ground.
So why was I standing outside a chain link fence in the snowy twilight, slowly freezing to death while waiting for someone to notice I was there? I’d been counting on being found quickly; I really hadn’t packed for the snow. My bad―Davis had told me I needed more than a sweater and a jacket better suited to a California winter than a Colorado one, but I’d been too frantic to listen to him.
If I died clinging to a fence in the middle of nowhere, Davis might bring me back to life just so he could kill me again for being such an idiot.
“Avoid the guardian,” he’d said, thin lips terse as he’d handed me the map. An actual physical map, not GPS—nothing I could program into my phone. “You can’t take the obvious road without getting stopped, so you’ll have to hike in to another part of their preserve. And burn that map when you’re done with it. I’m fuckin’ serious, Ward. If that’s found by the wrong people, it could cause a domestic terrorism incident.”
“I’ll destroy it,” I’d promised hastily, glancing at it before I stuffed it in my pocket. At that point, Ava had been gone for three months. At least she hadn’t been missing, not anymore. Davis had located the pack she’d been sent to. I’d just had to find it, get the nearest werewolf to ask questions before shooting or biting or whatever appealed most at the time, and persuade them to let me stay.
Well, at least I’d managed the first part of it.
“Don’t you people have cameras?” My lips were so cold I could barely articulate the words, but the act of speaking seemed to break through the layer of ice that had chilled my anger ever since I’d started hiking.
I’d gone seven miles through the snow after abandoning my car, the pale winter sun doing little to warm me as I trudged along, hoping against hope for a sign that I was going in the right direction. Finding the fence had felt like a godsend at the time, but I’d been here for over an hour now, waiting for anything and getting nothing at all. My breath rasped in my thin chest, and I’d had to stop and use my inhaler twice. Much more than that and I’d be courting real trouble, so I kept my breaths shallow and my scarf pulled across my mouth.
“Seriously,” I went on. “What wolf pack doesn’t have cameras covering every part of their territory? If you’re not as goddamn paranoid as I was led to believe, I’m going to be so pissed.” Also probably deceased, but that was my problem, not theirs.
Actually, no, I was going to make it their problem too.
“I will climb this fence,” I announced to the growing darkness in front of me. “I’ll climb this fucking fence and I’ll get all snarled in the barbed wire at the top and then you’ll wish you’d found me while I was still alive, you assholes, because you’ll be untangling me for fucking hours!” I don’t think I’d sworn this much since my brother’s funeral.
Okay, I was angry but I was also being serious. Someone should have seen me on camera by now. Davis had been very clear about that. Maybe the one I was closest to was dead—I needed to move, then. I needed to pick a path and go, because if I didn’t start walking now I might not be able to before long. Right or left? Which direction had the road that passed the guardian been on, again? I’d already burned the map, shit, shit…
I went right. If I hit the road, at least the guardian would probably keep me alive if they found me. I wouldn’t be able to help my daughter if I was dead. My feet felt dangerously numb, and my nose might’ve been blue by now. The wind made my eyes water, and tear tracks froze on my cheeks. I clung to the fence, using it half for guidance, half for support. “I’m gonna find you, baby.” I would. “I’ll find you.” I had to. I wasn’t going to sit back and let the government take her from me just because she’d turned out to be a werewolf.
The mutation had been around since the early forties, when a super-soldier experiment resulted in men that, instead of having all the heightened senses of wolves, actually turned into wolves. They escaped the confines of Pine Camp in northern New York, crazy with fear and adrenalin, and went on a biting spree. Most of the bitten died after turning into wolves.
A few of them managed to turn back into people, though.
The government took responsibility for their mistake and divided the werewolves that had survived into packs. Hollywood loved them, scientists wanted to study them, and bigots wanted to kill them, but for the most part werewolves stayed firmly out of the spotlight. The only exception to that rule was when someone turned unexpectedly. Someone like my Ava.
The bite didn’t manifest in lycanthropy for everyone bitten. Some people, a tiny percentage of those exposed to the mutation, were simply immune to the shift. They could carry it, though, and they could pass it on. For Ava, the gene must have come from her mother. Carriers were almost always incredibly healthy, and I was far from a model of vitality.
Every now and then, maybe half a dozen times a year, a child would shift. Usually it didn’t happen until puberty, or some other time of extreme stress. For my daughter, it was her first day of preschool.
“Daddy, nooo.”
I could still hear her voice from that morning in my head. I’d been running late, stressed by the start of a new semester and the challenge of trying to get my daughter dressed, fed, and into her car seat before eight in the morning. She’d been clingy, more than usual.
“I want to stay with you!”
“But you’re a big girl now, sweetheart. Big girls go to school. You’ll have so much fun and make so many new friends.”
I’d gotten the call about her change at lunch, right after dismissing forty freshmen from my Physics 101 class at the community college where I’d taught. I hadn’t recognized the number at first―I’d almost let it ring through to my voicemail. “Hello?”
“Mr. Johannsen?” The woman’s words had been almost too warbly to make out. She’d cleared her throat. “It’s Maria Kostakis. Ava’s teacher.”
“Oh, boy.” I’d sighed and sunk down into my chair. “Is she okay? She’s not sick, is she? She was pretty unhappy this morning, but she wasn’t running a temperature back at the house.”
“She’s…” I’d never had a professional trail off like that with me. It made my heart beat harder in my chest.
“She’s what?” I’d snapped. “What?
“She’s turning.” Those words seemed hard to get out, but once she’d managed them, Ms. Kostakis had continued faster and faster. “She told me at snack time that her hands hurt, and when I looked at them I saw—there were claws coming out the end of her fingers, and her palms were changing color. I got her to the nurse’s office before things got much worse, but our school doesn’t have the sort of containment facilities needed to handle a shift, so—”
“Containment facilities?”
“It’s standard procedure, Mr. Johannsen. If a child shifts in a public environment, they have to be contained immediately so they can’t infect others. The nurse called the police, and when the SWAT team arrived—”
“A SWAT team? She’s four years old!” I knew the basics of dealing with an unexpected shift—I worked in public education—but SWAT seemed excessive.
“A four-year old werewolf. The danger she put our entire school in, I just…”
“She’s a kid, not a bomb!”
“She might as well be a bomb!” Ms. Kostakis had shrieked at me.
It had taken longer than I’d wanted to get the rest of the chain of events out of her. SWAT had come, ushered my baby girl into a cage and taken her to the nearest government facility equipped to deal with werewolves. By the time I’d gotten there, Ava had already been transported again. And this time—
“We can’t tell you where she’s gone, Mr. Johannsen.”
“The hell you can’t.” I’d never been so angry in all my life. Never: not when I’d been laid up in the hospital for weeks at a time, not when Rick and Davis had enlisted, not when Ava’s mother left us.  “She’s my daughter. I’m her parent, her legal guardian. You can’t just take my child from me.”
The state official behind the bulletproof glass had weathered my outrage without batting an eye. “Actually, under the Safety In Isolation Act of 1946, we can. Your child is a member of a protected but dangerous species, and the best place for her is in a pack where she’ll get proper care and oversight. Werewolves need to be in packs in order to be mentally and emotionally stable.”
“How will ripping her away from everything she’s always known make her emotionally stable?” I’d demanded. “Ava is an only child―she just started school this morning! I’m all she knows, and she needs me. We need to be together.”
“Werewolves adapt differently to change than humans, and Ava is very young. She’ll do better in her new situation than you’re giving her credit for. Regardless, Mr. Johannsen, you’re not going to be allowed to see her.” Cool eyes had regarded me dispassionately. “It’s best if you accept the government’s transition payment and forget you ever had a child.”
“I refuse.” I’d stood, furious enough that I barely had any energy left for standing. My breaths had been so shallow I was lightheaded, but I’d be damned if I showed any weakness in front of a soulless bureaucrat. “You can expect to hear from my lawyer.”
“If that’s how you want things to go. You won’t get anywhere with it, though.”
“Fuck you.”
I’d left full of righteous indignation, enough to drown out my fear. Eventually the tables had turned, though, and fear replaced confidence as I learned that the official was right. No lawyer would take my case. The law was ironclad: werewolves weren’t classified as human. They were a dangerous subspecies, and they were the property of the government. Any attempt to locate my daughter would result in my imprisonment, which I’d have risked if I could have gotten anywhere, with anyone.
In the end, the only person who would help me was Davis, and I still didn’t know everything he’d had to do to get the information he did. I’d asked, but he wasn’t sharing his sources. I didn’t care as long as he was right. His information had led me here, to Middle Of Nowhere, Colorado, where he said I’d find Ava.
God, I was so cold. And when had my feet stopped moving? I glared down at them through my frozen lashes, willing them to get going again, but they refused. How far had I come from where I’d first found the fence? Was there another camera? My arm felt as heavy as an anvil, and it was so hard to keep holding onto the fence when all I wanted to do was rest. Just for a moment. Just…
“Hey.”
Pressure so light I barely felt it against my hand made me turn. There was someone on the other side of the fence—an actual person. Hallucinations might be able to talk, but I wouldn’t feel them, right? She was mostly concealed by a hooded, fur-lined parka, but I could see the top half of her face. Her eyes looked worried.
“Please,” I croaked. The cold had ripped my voice to shreds. “Let me see her. I need to see my baby.”
“Who are you talking about? How did you get here?”
“Ava. My kid. She―I know I’m not supposed to be here, they told me to just forget about her, but she’s all I have. Please. I’ll do anything to see her.” Anything at all.
Her mittened hand gripped mine harder. “What’s your name?”
“Ward Johannsen.”
“How did you find us?”
“Please.” I was so cold, and my hand was so heavy. It fell from the fence, even though she was trying to hold onto it. My knees collapsed, and I heard the woman cry out. “P-please.” I leaned my head against the unforgiving metal links, the only things that were keeping me from pitching into the snow. She knelt down on the other side of the fence and stared at me.
“Mr. Johannsen. Mr. Johannsen! Ward!” I blinked at her.
“Shit.” She glanced away for a moment. “Henry’s going to kill me.” She looked back at me. “Fuck it. I’ll be to you in two minutes, Ward. Do you understand? Don’t lie down.” She shook the fence for emphasis. “Do not lie down! Say you understand me.”
“I…”
“If you lie down, you’re not going to get to see Ava. You hear me? Ava needs you to stay awake!”
My baby needed me. “I’ll stay awake.”
“Good.” She pushed to her feet. “Two minutes, Ward. I’ll be right back.” I heard the crunch of her footsteps vanishing into the dark, and I pressed my forehead hard to the fence.
Two minutes. I could do that.

As long as I didn’t die first.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Delay next week

Hey there,

Due to a death in the family, I won't be able to keep to my writing schedule this next week. I'm afraid the next chapter of Reformation will be delayed, but as soon as things settle down I'll get back to it.

It wasn't an unexpected death (my grandma was 96) but a lot of people, including myself, will be flying cross-country next week. So...yeah. Take care of yourselves, be safe, back soon :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Eight

Notes: The battle has begun! Have some starships duking it out for a while. Tactics, treachery and a whole lot of Darrel doing his best to follow along.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Eight

***

Chapter Twenty-Eight



They weren’t caught off guard. That was the best that could be said of the Federation Fleet’s initial foray into battle. They knew what they were flying into, and that was the only reason that the descent from liminal space didn’t result in a bloodbath. That, and modified shields that gave the Federation ships a better chance against energy weapons that tore through their outer resonances like they were cobweb.

Darrel sat frozen in his seat behind Cadet Reyes, watching the numbers fade in and out on her tactical screen and listening to General Caractacus respond to his crew’s information with calm, detached orders. “The Pisces is heeling, sir, portside shields look to be completely down!”

“The rest of Pisces’ detachment will bring up cover for her. Keep our firepower on the ship in front of us.” He sounded so certain, but Darrel knew there was no certainty in the heart of battle. It was clear now which commanders had been slow to respond to the general’s staffing and defensive orders—they were taking heavier damage, and were slower to respond to threats. Their fleet was outnumbered initially, twenty-nine ships to eighteen, but they weren’t entirely outgunned. The pirates in front of them—and Darrel had never even heard of pirates who had access to a military-level Destroyer, it was a fucking farce—were being surprisingly chary with their ammunition, and their delays gave the biggest Federation ships time to maneuver themselves into the line of fire.

One of the ship designations on Reyes’ screen suddenly went dark. “Enemy ship destroyed, sir!”

“Target the next closest of a similar size within the same zone. On my mark, turn broadside guns on it and focus our forward firepower on the ship harassing the Cleaver.”

“Sir,” one of the tac officers called out worriedly, “if we change our heading like that, we open ourselves up to enemy fire against the dorsal shields. They’re down to fifty-one percent.”

“If we lose the Cleaver, we open up the smaller ships she’s protecting to firepower they can’t expect to handle. We’ll manage, Cadet. In three, two…mark.”

The Triumph was a Super-Destroyer, a new class of ship that was bigger and more powerful than anything the Federation had put out in decades. There hadn’t been much of a need, without open warfare dogging them, but the admiralty had wanted a new toy. The Triumph was half again larger than a regular Destroyer, had more flexible defensive capabilities and a weapons system that was more than a match for anything they were facing. That was good, since it was the only ship in the fleet that was doing consistent damage to the enemy ships. The Triumph’s starboard battery opened fire on the harrier-class that was firing on them, hitting it with a flurry of destructive power so vast it had no choice but to run. It tried, but it didn’t make it far. “Enemy ship destroyed, sir!”

“Two on our tail, sinking under to fire on our belly!”

“Fire ventral thrusters fifty percent, take us down. Maintain forward firepower on the Cleaver’s enemy.”

“Aye, sir.” The ship began a vertical roll, its stern dropping as the bow remained fixed on the ship it was engaging there. The forward guns weren’t as powerful as the side batteries, but between their firepower and the Cleaver’s defensive shots, the enemy ship had to turn tail and run.

“They’re following and firing, sir, impact in six seconds.”

“Ventral thrusters to full power, end forward engagement. Brace for impact.”

Three, two, one… Darrel counted down in his head, gritting his teeth, but when the shots hit it wasn’t nearly as stunning as some of the earlier hits had been.

“Deflection to ventral shields was seventy-five percent. We’re holding steady, sir.”

“Good. Give me a count.”

“Twenty-four enemy ships remain. We have all eighteen, although—” The tac officer cut off for a moment. When he spoke up again, he sounded worried. “Pisces is in bad shape, sir. Captain Himmel has ordered an evacuation. Their shields are next to nothing, and there are two ships converging on it.”

“Where’s Himmel’s detachment leader?”

“Captain Uris isn’t responding to the comm, sir.”

“Force a connection, and get us to Pisces, now. Inform Captain Gorion that the Cleaver will have to stand in front for the moment.”

“Aye, sir!” People got to work, and Darrel’s hands itched with the urge to be doing something, anything, other than watching. On the other hand, seeing how hard Reyes was working just to get the Triumph going in the right direction, much less responding to commands from the tactical staff, and he had to admit that he was probably doing more good by not doing anything at all.

“Connection holding, sir! We have the Hammerfall on the conn.”

“Captain Uris.” Darrel shivered at the dark tone of the general’s voice. He’d first met the man as Cody’s grandfather, a kind, patient man. He’d gotten to know him better as a commanding officer, hard but fair. This tone, though? There was nothing kind or fair about it—he sounded coldly furious. “Why aren’t you covering your detachment?”

“I’m currently engaged with two separate warships, General,” Captain Uris snapped. “Forgive me if I don’t have time to pander to your urge to backseat command.”

“Your destroyer should have been at the front of your detachment, not cowering behind a Class-Five Skyblazer. You’ve been engaged with those two ships for half an hour. They’re a third your size. Why aren’t they destroyed?”

“Not all of us have your firepower, sir. My shields are at forty percent and dropping, I don’t have time to—”

“Captain Obede.” The general cut off the detachment commander, talking directly to her subordinate. “Status, now.”

“Shields at eighty-five percent, sir.”

“Why are you shadowing Uris instead of assisting the Pisces?”

“Sir, I was ordered by my commanding officer to maintain a defensive position on Hammerfall’s port side.” He sounded tense.

“Shut your mouth, Obede. That’s an order!”

“Ma’am, my general has asked me to report. I must comply with his direct order, the same as I did for you.”

“Open my comm to the rest of Uris’s detachment,” Miles directed his communications officer. When she nodded, he spoke with resounding authority. “Captains Obede, Kylal, and Terry, I’m reassigning you to my detachment. Disregard all former directives and protect the evacuation of the Pisces. Kylal and Terry, for the time being, follow Captain Obede’s lead.”

“Aye, sir.” A chorus of what sounded like relieved voices echoed through the comm, and Darrel could see the ships begin to move away from Hammerfall.

“You can’t steal my detachment in the middle of battle!”

“You haven’t proven to me that you deserve them,” Miles retorted. “How many enemy ships have you destroyed, Captain?”

“I’ve been faced with a situation that—”

“None. And according to my engineer’s scan, your shields are over ninety percent. If you want your protective detail back,” and oh, the general sounded positively vicious now, “then you’ll prove your mettle by putting your ship on the line for this fleet. The Hammerfall is the second most powerful ship we have. It needs to be doing the second-highest amount of damage.”

“You don’t understand anything.” Captain Uris was practically spitting into the conn. “This can only end one way, and I’m not going to drag myself and my crew through the black just so you can go down in a blaze of glory! I refuse to follow your immoral orders. We’re leaving.” And a moment later…

Hammerfall has entered liminal space, sir.” The communications officer sounded stunned. “She’s gone.” And all the enemy ships that had been closing in on her were suddenly free to target other, less defensible vessels.

“The Pisces’ main engine has just blown, sir,” a tac officer added. “It’s completely disintegrated. Last evac numbers were at eighty percent safely away.”

“And Captain Himmel?”

“I believe the captain went down with the ship, sir.”

A moment of solemn silence reigned before Miles spoke again. “Pursue broadside engagement against the three nearest ships. Roll us if you have to, we’re playing a game of brute force now.”
Rolling them would expose the fragile dorsal shields. But the Triumph was the only cover some of the smaller ships had, and would make itself vulnerable accordingly.


Darrel gritted his teeth and took a deep breath as the ship began to twist.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Seven

Notes: I now it isn't long, but it's some of your favorite people! Jonah! Cody! Ten! Not all together quite yet, but still, we're getting there. Enjoy ;)

Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Seven

***

Chapter Twenty-Seven



Jonah knew it was dangerous, but he had to get out of the bunker. He couldn’t stay and listen to one more rasping breath from Lacey, couldn’t listen to the Regen unit fight her body’s failure for another second. She’d been unconscious ever since the crash—two weeks, God, had it really been two weeks? It was incredible that she was still alive, but that wasn’t going to last much longer. Her organs were starting to shut down, and no amount of Regen was going to start them up again. She needed direct intervention, maybe even organ replacements, but until they got back to the Box…if they ever got back to the box…

Two weeks of failure. Two weeks of careful, delicate forays out from the bunker, so cautious after almost getting found. They weren’t far from the city, Jonah knew they weren’t, but the few miles might have been a mountain range for all his likelihood of making it through, while towing Lacey, and not getting shot down on the trip. The bombardment of Pandora City seemed to have diminished, at least, but there were still ships patrolling all around it, searching for breaks in the shield, for suspicious heat signatures, for new ways in.

There were no ships out tonight, though. Jonah lay on his back and looked up at the sky, beautifully clear after the last storm had blown over yesterday. The stars were sparse out here on the Fringe, none of the glittery nights he remembered from his brief stay on Olympus, but he could name every one of them. It had been a thing for Cody for a while when he was a child, learning all of the star names and then promptly making up his own, along with brand new constellations. Jonah raised a hand and traced a line between two faint white stars, looping it down to a third, reddish one near the horizon. The Fishhook, Cody had dubbed it. “But not a real one, Daddy, because it’s not nice to the fish,” he’d added seriously after telling Jonah its name.

“Good call,” Jonah had said. “I’m sure the fish will appreciate that.”

God, he missed his kid. He missed him like he missed home, but he was so grateful that Cody wasn’t here. Jonah was already failing one child. If he’d failed his own as well, he didn’t think he’d be able to live with himself. Garrett would probably have some strong words for him about that…but then, Garrett probably would have found a way out of this situation a week ago. It was only thanks to Garrett thinking ahead and stocking these damn bunkers that Jonah and Lacey were still going. Everything in there was a little reminder of his husband, and the only comfort that Jonah was likely to get at this point.

He wasn’t going to run out of food any time soon. He had the generator, he had shelter, he even had Regen for himself if he got injured again. None of that would be any good to him if Lacey didn’t make it, though, and at this point…well. He wasn’t sure what the odds were, but he’d be surprised if she lasted through the night. He should be in there, comforting her. Staying beside her, even though she couldn’t feel him, even though she’d never feel anything again.

Jonah’s breath caught in his throat, and he blinked hard to clear the tears from his eyes. Damn things, making the sky blurry, making it seem like the stars were…moving… Only, no. Those weren’t stars. And they weren’t satellites. Those were ships, the brightness of them visible to the eye for the first time, and they were—firing on each other?

Jonah scrambled to his feet and squinted up at the battle. What the hell? When had this started, when had things changed? Who was fighting who? A scope, there had to be some kind of scope in the bunker…

He wouldn’t be able to see much, but he was going to catch every detail he could.

***

If there was one thing Ten didn’t like, it was being told what to do.

Well, in perfect honesty, there would never just be one thing Ten didn’t like. The universe was full of things that were stupid, inefficient, incomprehensible, and just plain dumb. It would be impossible to list every single one of the things Ten didn’t like, because it was a list with no end. Every time one thing came off it, two more were added. But right at the top of the list was a dislike for being told what to do, because ninety-nine times out of a hundred, Ten had a better handle on whatever was going on than the supercilious person informing him of what had to happen next.

Quickly climbing that list, though? A thorough and virulent dislike of people trying to tell Cody what to do. Yeah, sure, Ten did it hirself every now and then because Cody wasn’t as alert as he should be and it was worrying, what if the man piloted himself into a black hole someday because he let himself get distracted by, whatever, fluffy catterpets needing adoption? It was the sort of thing Cody might do, was what Ten was getting at here. Ze couldn’t put anything by Cody when it came to being a self-sacrificing moron, which was why ze started putting in place precautionary measures as soon as Cody told hir the deal he struck with his heinous, hidebound, vacuum-sucking bitch of a grandmother.

“I’m mostly concerned she’ll turn tail as soon as we get to Pandora if things aren’t calm,” Cody had confessed earlier in the week, his hands stroking a nervous pattern across Ten’s back as they huddled together on their cot. Jack hadn’t been back to his ship ever since they first boarded. Apparently the matriarch of the clan was keeping him close. Ten snorted to hirself. Like ze’d ever rely on someone so fundamentally useless to assist with something as important as keeping Cody safe. “Bypass it and head straight on to Pollux.”

“It would be a waste of resources. Food, fuel, money—a total waste.”

“Yeah, one that she’d love to take out of my hide.”

“You’re not letting her, though.” Ten lifted hir head and looked at Cody bluntly. “You’re not letting her wear you down. She doesn’t have the right to touch you, much less punish you.”

“Of course not!”

“Good.” Ten had snuggled back in contentedly. “Then there’s not going to be an issue. Trust me.”

“But…no one’s being put in danger, right?”

“I’m a genius, not an evil genius, of course no one’s in danger.” Not mortal danger, anyway.

“What did you do?”

“What makes you think I—”

“Ten.” That was Cody’s “I’m not kidding around” voice, and Ten responded to it even though ze didn’t like to. “Really. What did you do?”

“I…might…have reprogrammed a section of their hygiene protocols to force a massive overflow into the central tank as soon as our speed is cut enough to establish orbit.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that as soon as we stop to take a look at Pandora, the shit tank is going to overflow. Like, massively. There are spilloff pipes, but half of those have been very slightly compromised, just enough to spring a leak or two or, perhaps, two-hundred and eighteen. It will force an emergency shutdown of the engines due to environmental hazards, and take at least a week to repair. And by that time, if we’re close enough?” Ze glanced over at Cody’s shrouded bike. “Well, I guess we’ll be hoping the modifications to that hold up, won’t we?”

Cody hesitated for a moment before a huge smile split his face, and Ten sighed with relief. Internally, of course, it didn’t do to share that ze had been nervous. “You think of everything, don’t you?”


“I try.” Ten shut hir eyes and pressed a kiss to Cody’s shoulder. “I really try.”