Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Soothsayer Ch. 1, Pt. 1

Notes: Here it is, the beginning to Soothsayer! I'm really excited about this, I just wish I could have posted it earlier, but I needed some time to recover. This story is the result of the prompt contest I ran back in June--huge thanks again to Lisa T for her excellent prompt! It's quite inspiring.

I'll be posting this story in chapters, and I plan to include various works of custom art along the way. The first is this beautiful banner courtesy of the very talented Caitlin Ricci. Remember, this story probably won't be on the blog forever, so read along and enjoy it now, darlins. Never fear, there's always more to come from me. Anyway, enjoy!

Title: Soothsayer, Chapter 1, Part 1
“Sleep, those little slices of death—how I loathe them.” – Edgar Allen Poe

                Sleep was an insidious thing, in my opinion. It was bad enough that the body required you to shut down—forced you to drop your defenses and make yourself vulnerable to any old person who happened by. To compound that insult by giving your subconscious free reign, letting it sort through its damage and parade all your conflicts, shameful desires and unacknowledged fetishes through your head while you’re too out of it to resist…that was just goddamn sadistic. Whatever had made us, whether it was the slow crawl of evolution or some bored intergalactic deity looking for laughs, it didn’t have a concept of mercy. When your own mind was made to turn on you while you were at your worst, you couldn’t deny the heartless humor of it

Not that I had personal experience that particular cosmic joke, but the things that filled my head when I slept were more than awful enough to make up for missing out on standing in front of a class of my peers butt naked or having fumbling, awkward sex dreams that left my sheets glued to my crotch. Instead of providing a distorted window into my own mind, I dreamed about the things I’d seen in other peoples’. Not just their wants and desires, although those were bad enough, but their endings. The things they came to me to find out, what their future held, how they were going to die, or worse yet the things they were going to do on the way to that final end. I saw different things in everyone, but the one common denominator with my visions was this: whatever I saw, it was true, and most times the truth wasn’t going to be what you were hoping for.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Comes Next

Hi there darlins

So, let me give you a quick sense of my schedule for the next few days. This is relevant because a) I'm going to be doing something super fun over the weekend and I want to share, and b) it affects the posting of the first chapter of Soothsayer.

This weekend my man and I are going to knife camp in the mountains. Martial Blades Concepts camp, actually, but that's just a fancy way of saying we're going to be playing with edged weapons for three days. Look at my attendance gift!

Ooh, neck knife, so pretty!

I say playing...it's a self-defense system based on the idea that you're carrying and know how to effectively use a tactical folding knife, and also works on empty-hand defenses against a knife-wielding attacker. I've always wanted to get more comfortable with knife work since it's such a practical weapon, and this stuff is very cool and very practical, so. Off to the mountains, where we'll be car-camping (most people are staying at the nearby resort--wusses) until Monday morning. Then we rush back to Boulder and I go to work.

The problem here is that I'll have very little writing time this weekend, and as a result the first chapter of Soothsayer may be delayed to Tuesday afternoon, or possibly Thursday if I'm not feeling it. It's going to be a fairly long chapter, and I want to have the time to do it right. Just an fyi.

Also, and this is a change from my normal MO, it's possible that once I'm done with Soothsayer I'll want to submit it to a press if it's good enough. My science fiction stories I plan to self-publish someday and will always have a free version up here, but this one might end up in the hands of a third-party publisher, which means I might have to remove the content at some point. The story will still be free to follow while I post it here, and stay that way until if/when I get a contract, so don't worry about that, I'm not going to leave you hanging, I just have to go full-speed ahead with this whole "be an actual full-time writer and give up your day job" thing, and this could be a part of that. I've got to try, at least.

Have a wonderful weekend, guys!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Academy Post #37

Notes:  Hey there darlins! So, while this is technically the last part of The Academy, please keep in mind that I’m going to be posting snippets from our boys’ break every so often, so you’ll still get to see plenty of them. Also, I…I did this thing. Where I wrote a plot bunny into the end of this fic to set up something else which, if you’re interested, could also be a story for you guys, because clearly I’m insane and need to be writing more of this. It’s just, arg, I keep writing people I find interesting and then abandoning them and now I see a way to reel them all back together, courtesy of our dear Admiral Liang, and why not? It could be epic. This damn thing is already epic, this is a 100k+ word novel now. I’m going to get it, and Love Letters, onto their own pages this week before starting Soothsayer, so you can read them in one long go instead of searching through tens of old posts to put it all together.

Also, Soothsayer’s format is going to be a little different, but we’ll talk about that when we get there. Probably next week, possibly the week after and next week will be a snippet from these guys, depending on…everything. Anyway, let me know if I should write the story I hint about at the end of this one!

Thank you so much for reading, everyone, I appreciate it and all of your comments and encouragement along the way. This story has been such a long, fun journey for me to write. Stick with me for Soothsayer, I promise it’ll be lots of fun, and again, you haven’t seen the last of our boys. I mean, I’ve left Ten and Cody frustrated…can’t be having that.

Title: The Academy

Part Thirty-Seven: Flying, Or Fleeing


The Academy’s regular school year finished up much like it had every other year that Sigurd Liang had been in command. The tests ended, results were announced and those cadets that had failed in certain subjects were pulled aside for additional work or, in the few cases where things had reached a tipping point, released from their service. There was a brief ceremony for those who were graduating, and official first assignments for the cadets whose records were good enough to get them onto a ship without needing additional training or education. There was the inevitable space port traffic jam as parents descended upon the Academy to retrieve their children for the break. There were a few press conferences, a few parties to attend, plenty of soothing and discrete directions to be done, and this year there was the very public send-off of the most troublesome quad in Hebe Tower to contend with as well.

Actually, that part went swimmingly. The diplomat in charge was Jason Kim, former Federation officer and currently the only human to hold dual citizenship with an alien race. Sigurd had first met Jason decades ago, when Jason was fresh from his own stay at the Academy. He’d come onto Sigurd’s ship as an ensign, and before the end of his tour they had become, if not friends, at least amicable colleagues. That bonhomie hadn’t diminished with the passage of time, and Sigurd appreciated the brief chance Jason’s competence gave him to relax.

“It’s good of you to take them,” he murmured as they stood to the side of Jason’s ship, the Ysenniarr, a Federation diplomatic cruiser retrofitted to be more acceptable for Perel. The four young people in question were darting back and forth between classmates, a few parents—Jonah had stuck around, although Garrett’s tenure had been necessarily brief—and their baggage, which Ten, of course, was fretting nonstop over.

“It’s fragile,” Ten exclaimed again, loud enough that they could have heard hir across the entire campus, much less the moderate-sized landing pad they were all crowded onto right now. “Do you not understand what that word means, should I use something with fewer syllables? If you dislodge any of my set-up, I will—what kind of idiot are you, that one is clearly meant to go the other way around, are you malfunctioning? Have your circuits gone soft?” It was a little bit amusing to listen to the cadet castigating a robot, but Sigurd carefully kept any semblance of a smile off his face and watched as Cody came to the rescue, distracting Ten while the rest of hir things were loaded onto the ship.

“It’s what Grennson needs,” Jason said neutrally, but Sigurd felt the unspoken rebuke lurking within those words. He had promised to take care of Grennson, and despite his efforts the cadet, and his quad mates, had come close to disaster their first year. “I’m sure by the end of their break, there will be better preparations by all of us for what lies ahead.”

“Assuredly,” Sigurd replied. With most people he would have left it there, to maintain some of his air of implacability, but with Jason he felt compelled, obligated even, to continue. “I may yet make mistakes, but I don’t make them twice. I have leverage to utilize.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Jason said, glancing at him. “Don’t worry, Grennson wouldn’t hear of not coming back next year. He and Darrell have become as close as any brothers, and the other two have been drawn in as well. I’ll make sure they’re taken care of.”

“Their parents will be pleased to hear that.”

“Those who have them,” Jason agreed. “I have the approved list of contacts for everyone but Tiennan. Is that an oversight, or deliberate?”

“Tiennan hasn’t spoken with hir parents in many years,” Sigurd said. “And hir guardian is currently unavailable, so the list is correct. As long as ze can get in touch with Cody’s parents in case of trouble, Ten will be all right.”

“I never would have thought Garrett Caractacus would become so domestic,” Jason mused with a little smile on his face.

“No one would have. One of the universe’s mysteries,” Sigurd said. “It looks like they’re finished with loading. I hate to rush you, but our port schedule is very finely tuned right now, and we can’t afford a delay.”

“I understand.” Jason turned and held his hand out to Sigurd, who shook it firmly. “Good luck, sir.”

“I think the one of us needing luck for the next few standard months is you,” Sigurd replied urbanely. “Have fun with the children.”

“I plan to.” Jason left him and headed back to his ship, where his husband greeted him with a Perel embrace. Cody was saying a lengthy goodbye to his father that Ten eventually interrupted so that ze could get a hug of hir own, and then Jason was ushering them all onto his ship. The door closed, and Sigurd stepped back into the safe zone so that the ship could take off.

He felt a presence at his back, but didn’t need to look to know who it was. “So, Master Sergeant, they’re all still in one piece.”

Jessup snorted quietly. “Not for lack of some folks trying, sir.”

“True. Yet they survived, thanks to the bonds they forged together.”

“Don’t forget the part you played in their making it through the year, sir,” Jessup said, but Sigurd shook his head.

“Nothing I did was noteworthy. The safety of my cadets is my responsibility, and whatever lengths I go to ensure that is nothing more than expected.”

“Beg to disagree, sir.”

Sigurd shrugged. “Regardless, I believe you now owe me some instruction in remedial field maneuvers, Master Sergeant.”

Jessup sighed. “Lane will kill me,” he muttered. “I promised her a beach vacation.”

“We can’t have your wife committing homicide on my best sergeant,” Sigurd said. “Take the additional vacation, but I expect you to give four hours every afternoon to cadet assessment via Hermes. Sound fair?”

“That’s…very generous, sir,” Jessup replied, the surprise clear in his voice. “Very generous of you.”

“I have my moments,” Sigurd murmured. And my motivations. “Leave today and you’ll be back in time for the hands-on work at the end of remedial term. Give your wife my best, Master Sergeant.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The sound of the Ysenniarr departing covered his assistant’s retreat, and by the time the ship had vanished, Sigurd was alone. He shared a nod with Jonah Helms before turning and heading back to his office—they had already said everything that needed saying to each other. Back in his office, Sigurd set his official hat and jacket aside, then said, “Hermes, activate Mercury protocol.”

“Protocol active, Admiral.”

“Get me Hummingbird.”

“Initiating contact.” If Hummingbird was in a secure location, she would respond to his call; if not, she’d get back to him as soon as she could make things secure. Sigurd had a lot of operatives, but Hummingbird had always been a favorite. It was partially on her recommendation that he’d allowed Cody into the Academy in the first place, although she’d warned him that Cody would never make much of a spy. Well, she’d be happy to be proven right.

Thirty seconds passed, then a minute…two minutes…Sigurd was resigned to calling back when suddenly the connection came through. “Good evening, sir.”

“Hummingbird.” Sigurd smiled reflexively. Tamara Carson had come to the Academy from Pandora with one goal in mind, and she’s pursued it with such single-minded purpose ever since that Sigurd had to admire her. She was his best and most loyal protégé, and had no compunctions about officially “flunking” out of the Academy before unofficially joining his personal operation. Her father had been less pleased, but Captain Carson had other concerns out on Pandora that overshadowed his dismay. “I’m pleased you could make contact, I thought for sure they’d have you at some official dinner.”

“I’m the Alexander’s ‘charity hire’ sir, I don’t get invited to those parties,” she said dryly. “I get to work late in the legal office instead. I was going to call you tonight, actually. I have news about Fledgling.”

Sigurd’s heartbeat sped up a bit. “I was hoping you did. What did they decide?”

“The Powers That Be have decided to make an example of Fledgling, as a sign of their disapproval of his unauthorized independent action on their behalf.” The irony in her voice was so heavy Sigurd could practically hear it thud against the floor. “He’s to be imprisoned while awaiting trial. They’ve determined to deactivate most of his mods, and despite how opposing council is pushing things, the trial could be a long ways off. I think the Powers have decided that this might be just the opportunity they need to get Fledgling out of the way themselves. Pay off a few guards, turn off a few machines, and let the prison do its work on him.”

“Damn.” Sigurd shut his eyes for a moment, feeling the paper-thin lids scratch uncomfortably. He had been worried something like this might happen. “Which prison?”

“It’s been narrowed down to two. Either Caravan or Redstone.”

Caravan was Sigurd’s preference. He had contacts there, people he trusted to assist him despite the Alexander’s overwhelming influence. Redstone…that was another matter. That was truly dangerous. “Keep me up to date, Hummingbird. I need to know the moment a decision is made.” If it was Redstone, Sigurd would have to scramble. He’d need to expand his net, exert his influence, all while keeping his operation strictly under the radar. “Have you heard from Puffin?”

“No,” Tamara said with a sniff. “She’s too high and mighty to check in on a regular basis, apparently. Where do you get these posh operatives, sir? They need some serious attitude adjustments.”

“We must make do with what we have,” Sigurd replied, already composing a message in his head to Garrett Caractacus. If anyone had the contacts to do what Sigurd had in mind… “Thank you, Hummingbird. Stay safe.”

“Thank you, sir. Get some rest.”

“Connection ended,” Mercury reported a moment later.

Sigurd stared at the top of his desk, threads of timelines and schemes and people whirling across each other in his mind. Nothing disturbed him like pointless loss of life, especially given his own unfair advantage in that arena. If the trial went poorly, if Kyle went to the wrong prison, if if if…he would wind up dead. Sigurd couldn’t allow that to happen. He was going to have to reach way, way out, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Thank heavens it was the Academy’s break. There was no way he would be able to organize his movements at this level of complication if Ten were still here threatening anarchy with every other experiment.

To work, then. “Mercury,” he said, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers. “Get me Symone St. Clair.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Empty House...Thank God

All of my family and their friends are gone as of yesterday. Both parents, my sister and their visitors from New Jersey. Almost three weeks of my folks capped by a rapid-fire weekend visit from my baby sis to do wedding stuff was...well.

Okay, some of the time it was amazing, full of my mother's incredible food and my father's intelligent conversation and affection all around. Other times it was fraught with the kind of awkward jockeying for status that happens between adults and their adult children, complete with spouse to round out the shifting dynamic. In a situation like that, there isn't much you can do other than hold on. I'm a middle child, an introvert and a natural peacemaker, so I spent a lot of time--way too much time, honestly--trying to make sure everyone was happy or, at least, not upset with someone else. This only drove me to tears once, so not a bad job overall.

But now it's time for me to have things the way I like them again, which is essentially being by myself a lot of the time, and with my man the rest of the time. No more parties, no more drinking (our fridge is full of alcohol, which I drink veeery slowly) no more running around to various appointments and offering up my car and my time and my space. I'm so relaxed, it's blissful. I love people and my family and my friends, but I am, at heart, happiest in the quiet by myself, or nearly so.

Now I can get to writing, plotting, finishing The Academy, and mentally preparing myself for next weekend's Martial Blade Concepts camp. Three days of knife fighting practice, yay! My man and I will be car camping, because we're classy that way. More story tomorrow, darlins.

I hope whatever you're up to, you can take some time to satisfy yourself. Sometimes its easy to forget your own wants in the press of handling other people's expectations, but you're important too.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Academy Post #36

Notes:  Not quite the last episode, but close. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more planned for the boys, but all good things must come to an end at some point. Life continues to be epically busy, but I don’t think I’ll fall behind again. Enjoy, darlins.

Title: The Academy

Part Thirty-Six: Tying Up Loose Ends


The worst thing about going back to class wasn’t the questions, it was the staring.

Questions were something that Cody could have dealt with. He knew how to talk to people, he knew how to prevaricate, he knew how to tell them something without really giving them anything—years with Garrett had ensured that Cody could handle challenging conversations. The staring, though…that he wasn’t so good at dealing with.

Cody didn’t have enhanced hearing, but even he couldn’t help picking up a few snatches of conversation as he walked by. “Did you hear—I thought it was an accident—What happened to Alexander—Have you seen Valero—Pamela is dead, he—Maybe lovers, or maybe—What do you think really happened?”

Cody just walked by, making his way from final exam to final exam and doing his best to ignore his classmates. Just a few more days and he’d leave all this behind for a while, and he was so, so ready for that. He was disappointed he wouldn’t get to see Garrett or Miles or Claudia and the girls before he left but, as his dad had told him several times, there was no way this side of Hell they were letting him near Liberty right now.

“Ain’t gonna happen, bucko,” his dad said, not without a sigh of commiseration when Cody’s face fell.  “I know you want to see them, but they aren’t coming here and you definitely aren’t going there. When you get back from Perelan we’ll see what we can do about a reunion, but for now you’re gonna have to make do with me.”

Cody frowned exaggeratedly. “I guess that’s okay, since I can’t get anything better.”

“Watch it, kid,” his dad had growled at him, then pulled him close and ruffled his hair before Cody could escape. They had laughed a little, and things had felt almost normal for a while.

Of course, nothing was really normal. What the general population at the Academy did know was that their quad was making a special trip to Perelan as part of a goodwill delegation. No one knew about the attack on Grennson, he was wearing a very good holographic emitter to hide the damage to his quills. So even if Kyle had stayed and Pamela’s death could have been covered up, they would have been the objects of mass attention. As it was, though, that attention was a lot sharper than it would have been, fueled by distress over Kyle Alexander’s seeming assassination of another cadet and the silences that all of them were forced to uphold.

Things weren’t perfectly easy between the four of them, either. Grennson was…well, clingy was the best way Cody had to describe it. He stayed closer to Darrell than ever before, and always had to know where Cody and Ten were. He cooked and baked and kept himself busy, but there was a tightness around his enormous eyes that hadn’t been there before, an indicator of emotional exhaustion that Cody couldn’t alleviate in any way other than letting Grennson coddle him.

Darrell was probably doing the best. He’d suffered the least at Pamela’s hands, and he still looked the same as ever. Things weren’t wonderful with his family, Cody knew, but he wasn’t letting that stop him from coming to Perelan with them. Moreover, Darrell was an absolute rock for Grennson. The empathic bond between them grew stronger day by day, and Darrell seemed to take it completely in stride. Cody could feel the edges of a similar connection between him and Grennson, nothing more than errant feelings of anxiety that he knew didn’t belong to him, faint but disconcerting. It had to be much more intense for Darrell, but he weathered it all stoically, and always had a smile for Grennson that soothed the Perel’s tension. He and Cody talked about it a few times, the strangeness of their situation, the newness of his bond.

“I don’t mind it,” Darrell confessed as they sat together on the edge of the paraball field. The sport had been put on indefinite suspension following their team captain’s arrest. “I know this is probably going to sound conceited, but I kind of like having something that’s just…uniquely mine, I guess. Something that was never my father’s, something my family doesn’t expect. And it’s not like it’s hard to be best friends with Grennson, after all.”

“Do you think this is…I mean, the only other time this sort of thing has happened was with his parents, right? And you’re not…”

“Not interested that way, no,” Darrell agreed. “But his matriarch thinks this is probably the result of being isolated from his own kind and needing a surrogate support system. It’s not about romantic love, it’s about friendship. Grennson has made his own family here, and we’re it.”

“Huh.” Cody thought about his own family, so far-flung and dislocated, and wondered how bad the distance would feel if there was actually an empathic bond to stretch and sever between them. “I’m glad we can help, then.”

“Me too.”

If Darrell was coping well and Grennson was a little desperate, Ten was downright driven. Ze was back to ignoring the world, insisted that ze should be allowed to take hir finals in isolation since ze was clearly still suffering from the trauma of being controlled by a psychic sociopath, how could you expect hir to just waltz through the crowds here without being scarred for life, are you insane? So ze knocked all hir tests out in one day, then spent the rest of the time poring over data from the coronet, muttering to hirself and occasionally coming out of hir room to badger a very sheepish Bartholomew or eat a meal forced on hir by Grennson or Jonah. Ze was a lot better at coming when Jonah asked, actually, despite hir intense new interest in empathic bonds and the differences and similarities between them and psychic interference.

Every day was spent locked in their room at hir little lab, but every night Ten spent in Cody’s bed. They didn’t really do anything, much to Cody’s consternation, but it still felt good to be wrapped up in Ten, who seemed to know just how to hold him to keep his collarbone from hurting, and who counted his heartbeats and shaped the numbers with hir lips. “Later,” Ten promised, kissing Cody’s shoulder and curling in ever closer. “When we’re actually alone, without your dad sleeping on the couch and Grennson keeping such close emotional tabs on us. The only person I want to be sharing an orgasm with anytime soon is you, thanks very much.”

“You get that he might not stop anytime soon, right?” Cody asked with a sigh.

“Yes, but he also won’t be so distraught in the near future. Trust me, I’m monitoring this, I know exactly how strong Grennson’s connections are and they’re already tapering off a little.”

“I guess I’ll survive.”

“If a stupid human boy couldn’t survive not having sex every now and then, one half of the binaries would have murdered the other half for being insatiable bastards long ago,” Ten muttered sleepily. “Now stop talking, you’re messing up my count.”

The night before the Perel delegation was set to arrive and whisk them away, Jonah took Cody out to dinner in town. They had some distant bodyguards, but they were discreet enough that Cody almost felt like he and his dad were actually alone. They ended up at a posh place that was so outside of something Jonah would normally have chosen that Cody actually said, “You’re kidding, right?”

“Not my choice, kiddo,” his dad mumbled. “Just—bear with me for a minute.” They introduced themselves to the maître-de, who led them to a private room deep within the labyrinthine depths of the restaurant. It had a crystalline theme that made Cody’s head spin a little, there were so many reflections on all sides. The private room was fortunately a little less sparkly, enough for Cody to tell that someone was already waiting for them there. He knew who it was even before the man could stand up and throw off his hood, and rushed forward and into his arms, feeling breathless and strange and young and so, so grateful.


“Hey Cody,” his dad said, sounding a little breathless himself, and it felt like forever since Cody had seen him, so long, too long, he was close to his quad mates and he was fine, really, just fine after everything that had happened, but Garrett was his dad, and he was here, and he had both of them here and it was really just—


“Experimental transit technology and a very brief window, darling,” Garrett said, pressing a kiss to his head. “But I thought that even if it was just long enough for dinner, it would be better than nothing.”

“Yes,” Cody said emphatically, relaxing a little more when he felt Jonah’s hands on his shoulders, heard the brief kiss that passed between his parents. It was so much better than nothing.




Darrell’s coda:


After his last call with his grandparents, Darrell had known better than to be in the same room as Grennson for a while. They were insistent that he come home; he was just as insistent that he would be going to Perelan, and the call had ended with his grandmother tears and his grandfather telling him if he was going to be this way, he could just not bother coming home at all for the forseeable future.

Which, fine. Darrell was tired of forcing himself into a mold that had never fit him very well, tired of trying to be his father and failing again and again. He was finally figuring out how to be himself, and thanks to his trust and his Legacy status he had options for taking care of himself, in case they really decided to cut him off. He almost hoped they would. If his mother didn’t care enough to even speak to him while he was calling home, then he didn’t need her. He didn’t need any of them, he had Grennson now.

Still, the anger was too fresh and too bright to make him want to be around Grennson, so Darrell took himself off to the paraball field, sat down in the stands and let himself fume for a while, working through the emotions so he could get over them. He felt the bond between him and Grennson press a little, then recede when Grennson realized he wanted to be alone.

Except alone wasn’t in the cards, because a little further down in the stands was a girl with short, pale hair and pink skin, and before he could think better of it Darrell called out, “Valero?”

She turned, and—yes, it was Valero, but not the Valero Darrell remembered. Gone was the hauteur, gone was the precise grooming and flaunted beauty. This was a thin, haunted girl, who blanched when she saw him but didn’t retreat. Darrell’s anger melted away into morbid curiosity, and he came down and sat next to her. She let him, but didn’t speak for a few minutes. He waited for her.

“They still don’t feel like mine,” she said at last. “The legs,” she clarified, prodding one of her calves with a slender finger. “They grew on my body, they should feel like mine, but they don’t. The doctors say I’ve got issues with dissociation now, I’m seeing them twice a day for treatment.” She smiled humorlessly. “Hasn’t helped so far.”

“You lost your legs?” Darrell felt kind of stupid for asking it, but he hadn’t realized she’d been hurt so badly. He should have, being set on fire was more than enough to kill you, shit, he was being an idiot—

“Yeah. And a few other things. All my hair, obviously.” There was a hint of the old Valero there as she brushed her hand over the short strands with a disdainful look. “I can’t stand short hair, but they won’t let me grow it out any quicker yet. Something about overwhelming my reserves. Bullshit.”

Darrell didn’t know what to say to that, so he changed the subject. “When did you get out of the infirmary?”

“Last week. Just in time for finals, hooray.”

“Yeah, I hear you.”

“Yeah.” She stared down at her feet for a moment, wiggling her toes curiously, then looked back at him. “I know he didn’t do it. What they say he did, killing her…I know it wasn’t like that. I wish I could tell everyone, but I’m not allowed to. And now he’s gone.”

He must have been Kyle. Kyle had been Valero’s mentor, if anyone had known what he was up to, it was her.  “I’m sorry,” Darrell offered, actually genuine.

“Me too. For everything. I’d tell your quad mates myself, but…” She shrugged. “I don’t think they’d care to see me right now. I don’t think I care to be seen, really.”

“I’m sorry,” Darrell repeated. Valero ducked her head and looked away, but stretched her fingers out toward him. He took her hand, carefully, and they sat together in silence until the light was gone from the sky.




Grennson’s coda:


“I am unsure of the wisdom of this course of action,” Matriach Grenn said, her quills bristling slightly as she shifted her weight. She was sitting on an x-legged stool, the same stool that Grennson had seen a thousand times in her den back on Perelan. She was only here as a projection, but even so she exerted a powerful presence that made Grennson want to bow his head. She was his matriarch, and her disapproval was a blow.

Fortunately for Grennson, he had Jason Kim on his side.

“This is what makes the most sense,” Jason said, his own projection on Grennson’s right, between him and the matriarch. “Grennson needs the support, the boys need the distance from the Central System and it will be a good opportunity for the Perel to interact with new people while under close supervision.”

“It also sends a message that the Perel are coming down on the side of the opposition forces, and we do not benefit from staking a claim for either side in a purely human conflict right now,” Matriarch Grenn argued.

“The Perel were relegated to the opposition’s side without the need for their input,” Jason said frankly. “The Libertarians support a closed, uniform, decidedly human empire. The Mazzi have already been removed from several planetary embassies, and you know about the ‘pirate’ attacks. Whether or not things come to open conflict, it doesn’t make sense for the Perel to keep their heads in the sand about this.”

Matriarch Grenn’s quills fluffed up again. “What is this ‘sand’ and why would anyone put their head into it?”

Jason sighed. “It’s an old human idiom, Grenn, forgive the confusion. It just means that ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.”

“I don’t propose to ignore it, but I would not have it made worse either. Bringing human cubs to Perel, especially ones that are the children of well-known politicians, could bring undue attention to our home. We are not equipped to fight a war with the Federation, Jason.”

“This isn’t that sort of escalation. If anything, it’s a symbol of sanctuary, not an insult. Beyond that, before you let any of your sons go out into the universe, you promised you would help them when they needed it. I’ve rescued five Perel in various dangerous circumstances since I became your council’s traveling diplomat, Grenn, and you didn’t care about the circumstances or humanity’s impressions then. This is no different.”

Matriarch Grenn’s quills finally settled. “One would think that I would have learned the futility or arguing with you after so long, Jason.”

Jason smiled. “I’m persistent.”

“You are stubborn. But you are also possibly right. Grennson,” she turned to her foundling, and he snapped to attention. “You have suffered much. Are you sure you would not rather simply return to Perelan for the foreseeable future, to be with your own family again?”

Grennson gave the question the consideration it was due, but answered at length, “No, Matriarch. I don’t want to run away. In order to be trusted by humanity, we must show trust as well. I wish to return here, for the next year, but to bring my friends home with me in the meantime. Please. They are important to me.”

“So it seems.” Finally she inclined her head. “Very well. Ferran has informed me that the two of you are already on your way there, Jason. You did not give very much weight to the possibility of my disapproval.”

“I knew you would be reasonable, as always,” Jason said, and Matriarch Grenn grunted with laughter.

“You are so…what is the human word your mother uses…cheeky, Jason Kim Howards Grenn. And your attitude is catching. Grennson, try not to imitate your foster father too much. I can only take so much.”

Grennson beamed at her, feeling a little more of his fear wither away with her approval. “I’ll try,” he said disingenuously.




Ten’s coda:


Being marched to Admiral Liang’s office wasn’t exactly confusing—Ten was sure he’d caught hir out on something, ze just wasn’t quite sure what is was this time. His damn sergeant refused to tell hir, so ze waited for a few minutes in perturbed silence before finally getting permission to head into his office.

Figuring the best defense was a good offense, ze walked in saying, “Whatever you think I did, I absolutely did not do it and I’m sure you can’t prove it, and even if you think you can I’m sure I can explain it, don’t you understand anything about the creative process, it’s not like I can just stop myself from having these ideas!”

“Relax, Cadet St. Florian,” Admiral Liang said dryly. “I’m not here to address any of your recent experiments, although your reaction has me questioning whether or not that’s a good idea.”

Ten rerouted in an instant. “Of course I’m not doing anything wrong, I just told you that. What did you want to talk to me about?”

“I don’t want to talk to you about anything, actually,” the admiral said. “I want to give you something.”

Ten was about to make a snarky remark about inappropriate relations, but a second glance at the admiral’s face had hir reevaluating. He looked completely serious, his hands folded on the desk. Next to them was a tiny vial, with a rotating series of numbers and letters around it. It glowed the glow of cryosetting, which meant that its contents were perishable, which meant… “What is that?”

“Something that might help you, if you’re still interested in cracking the code on naturalism,” Admiral Liang said. “I know you’ve been working on other things lately, and if you’ve given up then our conversation ends now.”

Ten’s eyes jerked from the vial to his face. “I haven’t given up, I’ve just been distracted,” ze snapped. “By insane psychics, or have you forgotten about that already?”

“Not at all. Answer the question.”

“Yes, I’m still interested in finding the cure for naturalism.” For Cody. “What’s in that?”

“Just another possible pathway,” Admiral Liang said. “Before I give it to you, I need to know you will keep the contents of this vial, and its provenance, completely private. You don’t write papers on it, you don’t toy with it, you don’t do anything other than use it to work toward a cure. Otherwise I cut off your source for it, and knowing how you experiment, I forsee you needing plenty of samples. This substance doesn’t synthesize well, so don’t even think about circumventing my restrictions that way. It can’t be duplicated, not currently. It can only be manufactured in one place, and I control access to that. Do you agree to my terms?”

“Yes,” Ten said immediately, hir mind already spiraling off in a hundred different directions. A vaccine, maybe, or a cellular bath, or a new Regen prototype, or a— “What is that?”

“You’ll find out,” Admiral Liang said, and handed the vial over into hir hands. Ten cupped it preciously, watching the notations spiral around and around the outside. Genetic markers…a chemical blueprint for something…

Ze was determined to find out exactly what.


Friday, August 8, 2014

I'll be MIA for the next four days

Hi guys

Just a quick post to let you all know that I'm heading off on a 4-day backpacking trip tomorrow morning. I won't be back until Tuesday afternoon, which means that The Academy is going to be out on Thursday next week, not Tuesday. I'm sorry for the delay but I just didn't have time to write anything, what with my visitors and the inevitable drama that follows them like an evil smaze. The bloom is off the rose, ladies and gentlemen, but the show must go on.

So, yes, me and my father and two of his friends from Jersey are going to hike 40 miles of the Colorado trail, at a not too heinous elevation, and hopefully the weather and the health issues will be kind to us. My man and my mother are going to have to share the house, alone, for that period of time. I pray they don't murder each other. Honestly, that's my one hope through all of this. I can't even think about next week yet, it's going to be so insane. Anyway. If I get a picture of anything exceptionally Colorado and cool, I'll share it.

Happy weekend, darlins.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Academy Post #35

Notes:  Another long one, plus lots of explanation, plus…arg, WHY!!! Why do I do this to myself, I’m such a freaking cockblock, arg arg arg. I swear to god, I’m going to give you an explicit scene before this story completely ends if it kills me. It may come in the form of a special semester break posting for the boys, but it’ll happen. Anyway, enjoy.

Title: The Academy

Part Thirty-Five: Onward and Upward, Never Look Back


By the time Nurse Don’t-Fuck-With-Me’s door chime woke them up the next morning, Ten was feeling more sanguine about life in general. It wasn’t that ze had magicked away hir boundless issues with the power of affection and Cody’s copious body heat, but ze hadn’t slept nearly as much as Cody had last night, and had had plenty of time to ruminate. In the hours that ze had spent awake, hir head tucked beneath Cody’s chin, moving gently on the swell of his breaths and soft but definitely present snores, ze had decided that the best way to deal with new trauma was the same way ze’d dealt with old trauma: ignore it unless doing so became completely untenable. That strategy had gotten Ten through the worst disappointments of hir life so far with minimal scarring, so to speak. Ze would get through the rest of them just the same.

Of course, ignoring the trauma didn’t mean that Ten was completely insensible to the things that made hir feel better. Waking up next to Cody was definitely one of those. Not just across the room from him, watching him roll and toss in his sleep, but actually next to him, in the same bed, sharing space, sharing everything. It turned out that Cody was much less mobile when he was sleeping with someone—or maybe that was a side effect of the broken collarbone, but whatever, it was good news as far as Ten was concerned. Cody’s arm across hir shoulders was nice, a pleasant weight rather than a bar holding hir down, and despite the fact that he had morning breath—one of the worst side effects of not being able to use Regen, as far as Ten was concerned—overall he smelled pretty good. Ten wanted to analyze the air molecules, siphon out the things that made up the smell of Cody, classify and codify and see if ze couldn’t isolate what it was that made his scent so—so nice.

“No ‘speriments before breakfast,” Cody muttered, and Ten held back a blush as ze realized ze’d been speaking out loud.

“Don’t try to set an arbitrary timetable to my experiments, you can’t stop science,” Ten replied quickly.

“Mmm…we should get up,” Cody said, then frowned. “Why should we get up? Did she say?”

“Nurse Pain-Before-Pleasure doesn’t believe in explanations,” Ten said, curling a little closer into Cody’s body. If anything, the nurse’s directions made hir more determined to stay even longer in bed. Ze shifted, wondering why hir perch had suddenly become a lot stiffer—oh.

Cody realized what was happening a second after Ten did, and his whole body went rigid, matching his…well. “Um…it just happens in the mornings,” he said sheepishly, his face flushing with heat. He couldn’t beat back blushes the way Ten could.

Ten considered the situation for a moment, then positioned hirself more fully on top of Cody. “You mean it’s not because of me?” ze asked coyly, rubbing hir own hardness down against Cody’s. It had been a long time since Ten had done anything physically pleasurable with anyone, certainly nothing at the Academy other than hir aborted kiss with Cody not so long ago. Ze had tried sex before, all sorts of sex, and ze had decided that apart from using it as a tool to get what ze wanted it wasn’t really hir thing. With Cody, though, Ten found hirself responding to him before ze’d given hirself permission. Hir organs were simple things that responded to simple stimuli, but hir mind…you had to be something interesting to get Ten’s mind involved. And right now all ze could think about was how incredibly good it felt to be touching him like this, to feel like ze had power over Cody not because ze’d planned it that way, but because he wanted hir.

Cody was shy though, he was conservative, there was no way he—

Cody used his good hand to pull Ten down harder even as he rolled his hips up. “It’s definitely because of you now,” he said breathlessly, his brown eyes huge and hungry. “But the nurse is going to be back in here any second, so if we’re going to do something we have to do it fast.”

Oh. Oh, he wanted to… “Okay,” Ten said, almost stammering with how turned on ze suddenly was. “Okay, we can do that, I can absolutely be fast, just—”

The door chime rang. Ten turned hir head and snarled at it. “Go away! Don’t you have some other people to torment with your impossibly bad timing?”

“’Fraid I don’t,” a new voice said, and both of them froze. That wasn’t Nurse All-Business-All-The -Time, that was…

“Oh shit, it’s my dad,” Cody said, covering his flaming face with one hand. “Don’t come in, we’ll be out in a minute!” he called out. “Just…just wait, okay? Please?”

“Well I’m definitely not coming in, bucko. Hustle, though, we’ve got a lot to talk about before you can get back to class.”

“Okay, we’ll be right out.” Cody looked up at Ten with a hunted expression on his face. “Do you think he was using the viewport?”

“I have no idea,” Ten said, both oddly titillated and completely repulsed by the idea of Jonah Helms seeing them in this position.

“I hope not. Shit.” Cody sighed. “I guess we’d better get up and dressed.”

Ten felt something slipping right then, all of the burgeoning more that had been building between them suddenly reduced to a whisper, in danger of vanishing entirely. “Only,” Ten said seriously, making sure ze had Cody’s gaze, “if you promise we can actually do this soon. You’re driving me crazy here, I can’t be held responsible for my actions if you keep throwing yourself at me and then taking yourself away again.”

Cody boggled. “Me…you’re the one who started it!”

“And I’m going to finish it too, if you’ll let me.” Ten fluttered hir eyelashes mock-seductively, and when Cody laughed the tension between them relaxed, but kept the hint of promise instead of letting it fade away.

“Okay, yes. I promise to stop tormenting you with my sexiness and let you have your way with me as soon as humanly possible,” Cody said. “I really, really want to touch you too,” he added, and damn it, now Ten really was blushing, how did Cody do that to hir, it was utterly infuriating.  “You have to get off of me if we’re going to get dressed,” he said a moment later.

“Oh, right.”

It was odd to get ready to face the day while still feeling so strange, somewhere between agitated and effervescent. It was even odder to leave the room a step behind Cody and watch him practically fall into his father’s arms, all awkwardness gone in the wake of the incredible affection they shared. That…that had to be normal, didn’t it, that sort of tenderness between a parent and their child? Ten had always thought that sort of sentiment was nothing but a biological urge that some procreators were able to conquer faster than others, setting their offspring free to fend for themselves, but apparently it persisted for most people. Parents kept on loving their children. It was obvious with Cody, it was clearly there with Grennson, even though he was adopted…even Darrell, who never talked about his parents, was still in touch with them all the time. Was Ten really the aberration here? What had gone wrong with hir situation, ze wondered. Was it that hir parents had simply lacked that instinctual love, or was it that Ten had done something early on to lose it?

“Hey there, Ten,” Cody’s dad said, and then all of a sudden Ten was drawn into a hug of hir own, and oh no, Jonah smelled a lot like Cody, a few more scents—hints of dust and oil, coffee and ozone—and Ten gripped him back hard, stupid, awful tears springing into hir eyes for absolutely no reason at all. Ze didn’t want to let go and Jonah didn’t make hir, just held on for a minute before relaxing a bit and turning them toward another room. “C’mon, we’re runnin’ a little late for the meeting,” he said.

Inside the other room were Darrell and Grennson, Grennson looking decidedly worse for wear but also himself again, and Cody being the mushy ball of fondness that he was, he was over next to them in an instant, hugging and asking questions and so concerned it was enough to make a normal person nauseous from the sweetness. Ten would have gone over hirself, if ze could have pulled away from Jonah. Ze couldn’t quite manage that, though, so they came to hir.

“I’m very pleased your mind is your own again,” Grennson said, leaning in and pressing his cheek against Ten’s in the Perel version of a hug.

“My sentiments exactly,” Ten said. “But look at you, you look utterly ridiculous. How long does it take for those quills to grow back in? Are you going to have to pull the burnt ones and just let them start over from scratch? What exactly are they composed of, did they act as conductors for the neural net or was the effect more like—”

“Oh shut up,” Darrell said, but there was no bite to it. “Clearly you’re feeling better, your mouth is already going at lightspeed.”

“Too fast for your brain to catch up, is that what you’re saying?” Ten snarked comfortably.

“If you could all be seated, we’ll get this conference started,” Admiral Liang said from where he sat at the other end of a small rectangular table. There were six empty chairs around it, and Ten wondered why until a hologram of a Perel suddenly appeared. Ah, Grennson’s parent.

“Good morning,” the Perel said in standard, then purred something at his son that made Grennson smile. They all found a seat, Ten shoehorned between Jonah and Cody in a way that felt very, very nice, and then Admiral Liang began to speak.

“I’m sure you have a lot of ideas about what’s happened to you over the past few days, and why. I probably can’t answer every question, but I can clear a few things up for you.”

Ten rolled hir eyes. “As though we need you to. Obviously we were targeted by a small group of people under the direct command of either President Alexander or one of his close confidants, probably because of Cody and Grennson but mostly Cody because he’s the son of one of the men who’s causing problems for Alexander on Liberty, and Pamela was a spy and assassin who was supposed to take Cody out but got carried away trying to blame things on Kyle while getting the job done because I’m thinking there are some serious issues between Kyle and his brother, probably having to do with their father, and Pamela is lucky she’d dead, because I’d kill her otherwise, and I bet it was Cody’s Politics and Policies professor who was helping her, wasn’t it? Colonel Friehoff? Because he was a biased idiot and also had a background in technology enhancement and probably knew how to help her cover up her tracks. Am I right? I’m right, aren’t I? I’m so right.”

Admiral Liang stared at Ten for a long moment before smiling. “Absolutely correct. We’re quite fortunate that you haven’t taken over the universe yet.”

“As if I would, I don’t care about ruling over people, people are idiots,” Ten said, although ze felt a little warmed by the regard. “I care about ruling over science.”

“And you may yet. Yes. Colonel Friehoff was collaborating with Pamela Wu, along with a few other people in our technical division. It’s how we lost sight of her time and again on the security feeds. She was responsible for the attacks on Marcys and Valero—”

“Where is Valero?” Darrell interjected, looking concerned.

“Valero was apparently mind-controlled into damaging your bike, Cody,” Admiral Liang said, and Ten felt Cody shudder a little at the memory. “And afterward, she was directed by Pamela to set herself on fire. Fortunately the mind resists such attempts to destroy it, but she was still badly wounded. The med staff has had to regrow some of her limbs, which is why you haven’t seen her around. As for Marcys…”

“Why attack him?” Cody asked. “I can understand Valero, I guess, but Marcys barely knew any of us. He didn’t really have anything to do with this at all.”

“The day he was attacked, Marcys was testing a new type of camouflage,” Admiral Liang said, and Cody nodded. “It works beautifully on normal people, people who Regen, whether or not they’re also psychic. You were inside Hephaestus Tower that day, and Marcys was sitting outside. He saw Pamela approach the building and attach a device to it that would have illegally given her access. She didn’t see him, and didn’t know he was there to sense. Psychic power generally needs to be directed to have an effect. He confronted her, she attacked him, and soon thereafter you found where she had dragged his body.”

“This girl seems most disturbed,” the Perel—Ferran, that was it—commented.

“She isn’t typical of our cadets, I assure you,” Admiral Liang said. “Nevertheless, changes will have to be made to staffing and more rigorous protocols put in place for cadet oversight. I have a great deal to do over the semester break, and once you four have taken your final exams—which, yes,” he said, looking straight at Ten who had just opened hir mouth to object, “you do still have to take, you’ll all need to leave campus for a time.”

Cody frowned. “I’m supposed to be on the year-round program, though. It’s part of the operative training program.”

“I’m not certain that training to be an operative is the best future for you, Cody.” Admiral Liang held up a quelling hand. “It’s not a criticism, it’s merely an observation. There’s more possibility in your future than covert affairs, and I’m certainly not going to make you leave just because you’re following an atypical path for a natural at the Academy.”

“I’m supposed to be year-round as well,” Ten said, hoping it would make Cody feel a little less isolated.

“I’m supposed to go home,” Darrell mumbled unhappily.

“My plan has always been to bring Grennson back to Perelan for the duration of his break from the Academy,” Ferran said. “I have spoken with my husband and our matriarch, and they have agreed to extend an invitation to Perelan to the rest of you. You would all come home with us for your break. We have never had so many young humans in our clan before, but,” Ferran smiled, “I think you will be very welcome.”

“It would also give you a measure of safety, as well as making a statement of inclusiveness,” Admiral Liang continued. “Perelan is well protected and keeps very exacting track of every foreigner on the planet. Not to mention, this is an opportunity afforded to very few humans.”

“It’s okay with me,” Jonah said when Cody looked at him. “And with Garrett. Neither of us care to take you back to Liberty right now, way things are there.”

And then both of them looked at Ten, who—what, was this actually a question? They were really in doubt? “Of course I’m going, are you crazy? The number of experiments I could do on the atmosphere alone, we have to bring my lab along, is there room on your ship for my lab?” ze asked Ferran, who smiled.

“I’m sure we can make room for your equipment,” he promised, and Ten felt hir mind begin to soar with ideas, that familiar high of possibility and discovery. This was going to be amazing, incredible, ze could already think of a dozen experiments ze wanted to do and oh, now ze would have to read every scientific paper ze could find about Perelan, possibly combine them into some sort of meta so they’d be more easily searchable, and oh shit, ze needed to be at hir workstation now, and where was hir tab, and—

“Steady there,” Jonah said gently, and Ten realized ze was vibrating under his arm.

“Sorry,” ze said.

“S’okay. Just don’t get carried away quite yet.”

“You still have exams, all of you,” Admiral Liang reminded them. “There will be an increased security presence in your hall and in your classes for the rest of the semester. If people ask you questions, either tell them it’s classified or direct them to me. Get through your final week, keep this information to yourself, and be careful. I don’t anticipate any more problems but, very clearly, I’m not prescient.”

“What’s going to happen to Kyle?” Cody asked suddenly. “Are you really going to send him back to his brother?”

“Kyle’s already gone,” Admiral Liang said grimly. “It’s out of my hands now, I’m afraid.” He shared a look with Jonah that Ten wasn’t exactly sure how to interpret. “Now. Back to your quad. Captain Helms will escort you, he’s going to be staying at the Academy until you leave for Perelan.”

Damn. Getting some alone time with Cody suddenly seemed like much more of a challenge. Still, Ten couldn’t stop hir feelings of excitement from welling up. Ze had Cody to look forward to, science to look forward to, even time with Jonah to look forward to.

Things were definitely looking up.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Parents, Contracts and Booze

Hi guys

Sooo, it's been a while since I've been on, still got the Academy update scheduled for tomorrow but how about a quick rundown of things here? As you know, my folks are visiting from Germany. Been here for a few days now. Things are...

Well, actually really good. They're obviously trying very hard to not take over absolutely everything, and our fridge is so stuffed with food that it's bulging at the seams. I'm cooking with my mother, which is an education. When I was younger she didn't let us into the kitchen while she was making dinner other than to make the salad, because she always knew exactly what she wanted, where it was and how much she needed, and we slowed the process down. Now that we're adults and only semi-competent cooks, she's changed her tune and insists that we all act as her sous-chefs when she's preparing something. We've made Moroccan-style lamb with fresh hummus, roasted red pepper dip, crab cakes with mango aioli, cauliflower au gratin, flourless chocolate cake, lemon ricotta souffle--and that's just in two evenings. My dad, bless his heart, does all the dishes. I'm just...stuffed. And impressed.

The other side effect of my parents being home is that my alcohol consumption has gone up by about 1000%, and not because I'm drinking to forget. No, my folks like wine and beer with dinner--every night. I drink maybe once a week on my own, at most. Now we've got French wine in the fridge, German beer in the cooler, and caramel vodka from Portugal in the freezer. So basically, things are merry as hell. I'll need to detox for a month after they're gone.

Last thing: contracts! This is the best thing, omigosh, and I can finally talk about it because it's official: I signed a contract with Riptide Books for a short story due out in February. The short story itself is m/m, slightly BDSM-y and also contemporary, which--not my usual cup of tea, but it was a call for submission that I had to answer. The best part? Now I can submit other stuff to them without waiting for an open call, which is excellent because I've wanted to be published with them for years. My fantasy epic that I'm editing now? I wrote that for them, tried to get it done by their last open call and failed utterly. Now I can sub it without time pressure. So, yay! New doors are opening. They're a seriously professional company, and I'm very glad to be working with them.

Okay, Academy tomorrow, we're getting really close, then prepping for Soothsayer, then...stuff. Happy Monday!