Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Redstone Ch. 9, Pt. 2

Notes: On we go! A nice, on-time post is exactly what I need to set my back on my mental tracks after a kind of fucked up weekend, so enjoy some faux-legalese and a smidgeon of literal worldbuilding :)

Title: Redstone Chapter 9, Part 2.

Demarcos Gyllenny grew up on a Central System planet. On the Central System planet, honestly: Bayt, the biggest and most populated planet in Federation space. It might not house the Federation’s capital, or even any of its major centers of industry or government service, like Olympus. Bayt’s major commodity was, simply put, people. It was one of the first planets colonized after the exodus from the home system, and it was a poor one for colonization. The soil was toxic, and dust storms rolled across the tumultuous landscape on a regular basis. The sky was eternally yellow, lit by two different suns, and the water had to be drilled for so deeply and put through so many cleansing systems that by the time you drank it, it didn’t even taste like water any more.

Bayt was colonized due to a firefight between two different colony ships. The shameful battle between Surina and Santa Maria was actually fought over Bayt’s sister planet, the much smaller and far more hospitable Aya. Computer readouts indicated that the most desirable landmass—there were several that were well-equipped for human colonists—wouldn’t support the numbers on both ships. Surina was closer but Santa Maria had bigger engines, and after a drawn-out conflict during which the irate captains used most of their life pods as makeshift torpedoes, the ships lost control and hit each other. Thousands of lives were lost in the mid-space collision, and those who remained were drawn inexorably into Bayt’s gravitational pull. Both ships fell to the surface, and almost a million more people died when they did.

The thing about early colony ships, though, was that they were both enormous—literally, floating continents—and designed with a certain practical ruthlessness in mind. Once a planet was descended to, there was no coming back. The ships weren’t equipped to return to space, and so the people who were left on board, of which there were almost ten million, had to make the best of a bad situation. There was no other choice.

Gradually, the colonists built up, scavenging the ships for the pieces needed to make the first enormous skyscrapers. They built them so tall they would rise above the sandstorms, away from the poisonous ground, and thanks to a surprise surplus in resources due to the unexpected deaths of close to ten percent of the colonists before landing, the first Baytians became an incredibly fertile group. The population grew in leaps and bounds, and by the time contact was reestablished with the larger universe, the people of Bayt had established themselves as both birth-prolific and generally interested in leaving Bayt.

Demarcos was born on a low level in Tower Three. The higher your level, the more money you had: if you could afford to pipe your water up thousands of feet, you could afford to have windows that actually opened, because the dust didn’t rise high enough to bother you. Demarcos didn’t have those advantages as a child. He was the tenth of twelve children to his mothers, and one of only two boys. He still remembered the day that Mama Jill didn’t come home: she had worked as a miner, sifting poison out of the ground and sending the cleaned earth to the greenhouses for use in food production. Her suit had malfunctioned, and she had inhaled a concentrated amount of Bayt dust and died almost instantly. Her body was never returned; bodies were just fuel to be tilled back into the soil, used to feed more bodies.

Mama Opal got a death settlement from the government that was enough to move them up five levels, into a zone where there was more than just vocational training for children, there was actual schooling. Demarcos had still been young enough to take advantage of it, and he’d absorbed reading, writing and math like a sponge. By the time he was fifteen he was living on level Seventy-Two, in a boarding school. By the time he was twenty he’d earned a scholarship that paid for his passage to Liberty, where he worked nights and studied days to become a lawyer.

Demarcos understood injustice. He’d lived it, lived a life shaped by foolish men’s prideful mistakes. He’d been born near the ground, so low he might as well have been buried there for all the social mobility he’d been raised to expect. His mother’s death had been awful, but also a blessing in disguise. He couldn’t remember what Mama Jill had looked like anymore, but he did remember that her suffering had paid for his elevation off-world. The least he could do was return the favor. He’d paid to move the rest of his family up to level Thirty-Seven, and hoped to do more when he could. Demarcos took care of his own, and never counted on anyone to help him for selfless reasons. It had gained him a ferocious reputation as someone who didn’t make deals, was no good for backdoor meetings, and couldn’t be counted on to fold in order to save face. Demarcos fought every case like he would die for it.

This was the first case he’d taken on where he actually wondered if he would, in fact, die of a heart attack before it could be resolved.

“Your bots didn’t find him.”

Warden Harrison scowled at him. “I believe I just said that.”

“But you didn’t bother to tell me what it means,” Demarcos snapped. “If you’re content to sit there and let me think the worst, then be prepared for me to ask some stupid questions in the search for an answer. What does it mean that they didn’t find him?” Please don’t say dead, please don’t say dead… Demarcos had an entire team back on Liberty currently dedicated to searching for and documenting cases of malfeasance and abuse in Redstone, but he didn’t want to add Kyle Alexander to the list of victims. Shit, the kid had had it hard enough, and now he might be…he might be…

“It most likely means that he simply wasn’t issued an intake number,” Harrison said with cold calm. “One bot did return a blank notation.”

“Why doesn’t Mr. Alexander have an intake number?” Tamara Carson asked. She was the president’s resident flunky, and Demarcos had honestly expected her to be way more of a pain in the ass than she was actually being. It was strange, having the support of someone on the very definition of the other side. Not that he wouldn’t mind trying to sway her to his side, to be honest; she was sharp in a way he respected, and had dealt with plenty of her own shit growing up as a natural in a Regen universe. Now, however, was not the time to be thinking of her.

“We didn’t have a chance to issue one to him before his introduction into the general population.”

“Before he was stolen out of his Regen tank and shoved into the Pit by a yet-unidentified guard,” Demarcos corrected, just as cold as Harrison. Fuck that son of a bitch, he wanted professional? Demarcos would professionally get his ass canned by the end of this.

“If you’re looking for further justification, I have nothing new to offer you,” Harrison said. “Internal investigations are proceeding into the unauthorized extraction from the clinic, but I’d think you’d be more interested in what’s happening to your client now than resurrecting the past.”

“That happened less than twenty standard hours ago, it’s hardly the past,” Demarcos argued, but he knew that flying this flag wouldn’t get him anywhere with the warden. “What happens next, then?”

“We have to confirm that the blank is indeed Kyle Alexander, and then a guard will remove him from the common area and complete his intake properly.”

Well, that sounded fucking ridiculous. “How will you ensure his safety while he’s waiting around for a guard to pull him out of there?”

“It isn’t our responsibility to ensure anything other than his presence, Mr. Gyllenny.”

If a person like Warden Harrison had been in charge of the lower levels of a Tower on Bayt, there would have been no one left alive in under a year. “You have a constitutionally-mandated duty to tend to the needs of your subordinates under adverse conditions.”

Harrison folded his hands complacently. “Prisoners don’t qualify as subordinates. At best, they’re low-value human capitol. At worst, they’re enemies of the state. Recent laws passed by the Federation Senate spell out new provisions in maximum security prisoner care that necessitate some hard decisions, but the welfare of my guards comes before the welfare of any of the prisoners in Redstone. Is it a hard system? Yes, I acknowledge that it is. But I reiterate: every person in this prison has been convicted of murder at a bare minimum, including your client. His upcoming trial focuses not on his guilt, but on his culpability for the murder. I certainly hope that he lasts until then, but if you were so concerned, you should have fought harder to get him into a lower-security facility where prisoner comforts are given more weight.”

If he ground his teeth any harder, Demarcos was going to lose them. “Continued survival isn’t a comfort, it’s a basic expectation of—”

“Excuse me,” Tamara interrupted quietly. For the most part she seemed about as forceful as a puff of air, but there were occasions when she’d speak and Demarcos found himself shutting up, even though he didn’t intend to. “But what’s the procedure for getting him an intake number?”

Harrison pivoted smoothly to address her. “He’ll be brought into the guard’s room just outside the prison entrance, his retinas will be scanned and entered into the system, and we’ll do a DNA match as well. Then he’ll be associated with a number, and returned to the general population.”

“Who does the actual scanning?”

“Our guards.”

“Unacceptable,” Demarcos said instantly. “At least one of your guards has proven to harbor ill intent toward my client, to the extent of attempted murder—”

“That is an unwarranted assumption—”

“And given that your internal investigation hasn’t turned up the guard in question yet, the idea that you would let a potentially murderous individual have access to my client yet again, an individual who is your subordinate even if his or her identity isn’t known, calls into question your judgement.”

Harrison frowned. “The entire process will be observed. There’s no way that—”

Demarcos couldn’t keep his mouth from twisting incredulously. “One of your guards broke my client out of the Regen tank in your clinic. That was observed too, and nothing has been done. Don’t tell me my concerns are unfounded.”

Harrison’s lips thinned. “Fine. Fortunately, Redstone has a new transfer from Caravan who just arrived a few hours ago. There’s no way this individual could be the one who supposedly endangered your client,” and here Demarcos had to take a deep breath just to keep himself from screaming, “so I’ll instruct my chief to have him to the intake. Is that acceptable to you?”

It was the only concession Demarcos was going to get at this point, and he knew it. “Yes.”


Tamara didn’t say anything, just kept her hands folded demurely in her lap, but there was something about the way her eyes shone, about the way the lines at the edges of them had relaxed, that made Demarcos wonder. Did she know something he didn’t? What was her game? She said she didn’t have any real loyalty to President Alexander, that she was his charity case and nothing more, but she had made it a point to be involved in all of these conversations, and in none of them had she come down on the side of Harrison and his guards.

He’d have to get her alone and talk to her later.

“I’m glad we’re agreed,” Harrison continued. “As soon as Kyle Alexander appears on vid, I’ll have the guards retrieve him. If he doesn’t show up in the next four hours, I’ll gas the prison and have my people search it manually.” He smiled thinly. “You’ll be welcome to observe if it goes that far.”

“I’ll take you up on it, if it comes to that.” Demarcos hoped it wouldn’t, but if that was what it took to ensure Kyle was still alive, well…

Harrison clearly didn’t mind paying the price in potential anarchy among his prisoners.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Redstone Ch. 9, Pt. 1

Notes: Back to Kyle and Isidore we go! We're finally getting into the meat of the story, tripping merrily down the lane of plot and action and narrative tension. My favorite things. Enjoy, and never fear, everyone will get their time in the sun. So to speak, I mean.

Title: Redstone Chapter 9, Part 1.

Kyle didn’t do well being forced into stillness. He could do it; it actually came very easy to him, the art of not being noticed, of making yourself small and unavailable and uninteresting, and he wasn’t sure why. It was an ingrained habit, one of those abilities that it seemed he should have had memories of learning and didn’t anymore. He could shrink and vanish without knowing why, and because of that he tried to avoid doing it. Kyle was inherently reluctant to ever agree with Cody’s friend Ten about anything, but he had to admit that ze had a point in making hir life’s unofficial motto “Go big or go home.” If you were going to commit to a course of action you should do it wholeheartedly, which was why Kyle was here in the first place.

It stood to reason that he should listen to more experienced voices when it came to keeping him alive now, but Isidore’s plan still grated on him a little bit. “I still don’t see why we have to delay this anymore.”

Isidore smiled at him. It wasn’t a condescending smile, not in the least, but it was measuring in a way Kyle didn’t quite understand. Like he was being held up to a standard he wasn’t sure how to reach, and for reasons that weren’t entirely clear to him, Kyle wanted to hit and exceed any measure that Isidore could think of. “We need the time to prepare.”

“The other inmates already know I’m here. There’s nothing to be gained by not facing them sooner.”

Isidore shook his head. “Meals might as well be feeding frenzies here. Lots of deals go down when food gets distributed, and they’re the most dangerous times in Redstone, which is saying a lot. We can handle emissaries and small groups, but crowds will be hard to negotiate until we make more secure alliances. So until we have the means to do that, we’re avoiding mealtimes.”

“What will we do when we run out of food?”

“We won’t.” Isidore indicated a stash of ration bars underneath the exterior hull of a robot that had somehow been ripped apart like a corn husk. That wasn’t supposed to be possible with this level of nanomaterials. They were harder than Old Earth diamonds.

“But we can’t let them think we’re afraid,” Kyle persisted. “The longer we hide away back here, the more they’ll rationalize trying to get rid of us when we finally do appear.”

“I don’t actually plan for us to be here all that long,” Isidore said. “No more than a day, just enough for us to get the bits and pieces we need to do some deals.”

“What kind of bits and pieces?”

Isidore looked over his stash of goods consideringly. “I think we need to take another bot. They carry all sorts of tradeable parts, and one should be heading our way pretty soon.”

Kyle was lost. “Why?”

“It’s protocol with new arrivals, especially when the guards lose sight of one of them. They send the bots in to do a body check, make sure everyone is accounted for. If someone is missing then the guards themselves will come in, but they’ll probably gas the place first, and that…” Isidore wrinkled his nose. “That’s a nasty experience. It’s hard to recover from and it disrupts the chain of command, so they don’t like to do it, but will if it’s necessary.

“The iron disrupts the vid feeds so they don’t have a way of looking this deep into the core. That means sending a bot down here. We’re the only ones this deep, so by the time it gets to us we’ll be the priority assessment.” Isidore rubbed his long, thin fingers together. “We need to open it up and get some parts out of it, but keep it functional so that it can record our identities and get back up to broadcast level.”

“How are the two of us going to take out a robot guard?” Kyle asked. He tried not to make it sound like a demand, but he felt uncomfortably out of his depth here. He was used to being…okay, not the best, so to speak, but the one who knew what was going on. He’d been a star in the Academy thanks to his public position and his secret one both, but now he was the one struggling to catch up. “They’re armed, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are.”

“And they’re nearly indestructible.”

“Also true,” Isidore agreed. “This is definitely going to be easier with you around; handling one of them by myself was rough.”

“You still haven’t explained how we’re going to do it.”

“Psychic powers.” At Kyle’s blank look, Isidore relented. “Actually, I rigged a molecular disruptor up a month ago. We’ll let it scan me first, and then while it’s scanning you I’ll puncture its control system and temporarily shut it down. I’ll take out the parts we need, turn it on again and let it toddle back up to the main room.”

How the hell… “Where did you get the parts for a molecular disruptor?” Kyle demanded. “And why didn’t you have it when you came after me yesterday?”

If Isidore was put off by Kyle’s tone, he didn’t let on. “I didn’t have it for two reasons: one, it requires too much power to be moved from where I’ve jimmied the cord into the wall,” Isidore gestured at the band of light inset in the stone. “And two, it could be considered a heavy weapon. If it was seen by the guards, they would have no choice but to come in to confiscate it, and I don’t want to have to deal with being rousted.”

“Where did you get the parts for it in the first place?” Kyle might not know much about what went on in Redstone, but he was quite sure that the guards weren’t lax enough to make it possible for prisoners to create heavy weaponry on a regular basis.

“Some of them I traded for. Some of them I stole for myself. But the most important part?” Isidore held up a long metal wand threaded with scavenged wiring. It looked nothing like a traditional molecular disruptor, the large size presumably necessary so he could compensate for lower power. The tip of it, though, the part that was going to do the impossible by cutting through things that should be almost impossible to cut, it was…odd. Kyle looked closer. The piece was semi-circular, thin and slightly iridescent. Now that Kyle thought about it, it actually looked like a…

“Is that a nail?”

Isidore smiled again. “One of my toenails.”

“You implanted a fake nail? How did that not get caught?” Isidore must have bribed the clinic staff somehow to get them to overlook a fake body part.

“I didn’t implant a fake, I actually grew this one.”

Kyle shook his head. It was enough of a cue for Isidore to continue. “I seeded the growth bed for this nail with the chemical components needed to create a part like this. I figured that even if I didn’t get the chance to build a disruptor, it couldn’t hurt to have another built-in weapon. It’s incredibly hard, naturally, but I programmed the stem cells to release once the growth had achieved the preset length. It literally fell off into my hand.”

The process Isidore was describing was waaay more complicated than he was making it seem. Kyle had done decently in his fabrication and modification classes at the Academy, but this was a whole other level of creation. “What did you do before you came here?”

“I was in cosmods.”

Kyle shook his head. “This is not cosmodification. Cosmods are for aesthetic reasons, they’re simple. This is…not simple.”

“It’s nothing compared to convincing a person’s body to grow itself a tiger tail,” Isidore demurred. “Solaydor is the Central System’s leader when it comes to this technology, and I worked with some very good people while I was there. I picked up a lot.”

“I guess so,” Kyle agreed. “You must have—” He stopped as Isidore held a hand up suddenly.

“Noise in the corridor,” he murmured. “The bot has a loose wheel.” He glanced at Isidore as he quickly hid the wand under a pile of scrap. “Remember, let it scan me first and after that, keep its attention long enough for me to work.”

“How long will that be?”

“Not long,” Isidore said soothingly. He didn’t have time for anything else: the bot wheeled into view and stopped in front of them, its green eyestrip glowing brightly in the dim hallway.

“Identify yourselves, inmates.”

Isidore stepped up smartly. “Prisoner 2571.” The glow flared as the bot recorded Isidore’s irises, then swiveled to focus on Kyle.

“Identify yourself, inmate,” it repeated.

Kyle carefully didn’t look over at Isidore as he said, quite honestly, “I’m Kyle Alexander, and I don’t know my prisoner intake number.”

The bot whirred for a moment. “Unable to process. Identify yourself.”

“My name is Kyle Alexander, and I do not have an official intake number.”

“All inmates have corresponding numeric values.”

“Well, I don’t.” Isidore was easing the wand out from under the scrap. Kyle kept talking. “My arrival was a little precipitous, honestly. It’s not surprising that I don’t have a number yet.”

“All inmates and personnel have official intake numbers.” The bot scanned his retinas. “No existing match in database. Error: unidentified inmate. Conclusion: intruder. Course of action: immediate apprehension.”

That didn’t sound good. “Wait, there’s a good reason I don’t have a—” The armature on the front of the bot began to crackle with the snap of a heavy-duty taser. “Wait, stop!”

The bot lifted the taser toward him, and Kyle had just a moment to brace himself for the feeling of thousands of volts coursing through his body before the noise and light suddenly stopped. The bot’s arm dropped and its eyestrip went dark. He sighed as Isidore appeared from around the back of the bot, the disruptor firmly clasped in one hand. “That was close.”

“That’s bad,” Isidore said, frowning fiercely as he started to cut into the side of the bot. “No intake number means you’ll have to be retrieved and officially entered into the system. We’ll have to make an appearance in the main room, and we’ll have to hold our own for as long as it takes for the guards to get their heads out of their asses and do your intake properly.” He jerked a small piece of metal out of the bot, then got started on another section. “Not that the guards aren’t a problem all on their own, but you’ll be vulnerable in the crowd.”

“I thought the whole point of claiming me was to make me less vulnerable.”

“Claiming you was done to keep you alive for long enough to get down here,” Isidore corrected. “I had a plan, but that plan isn’t worth much if you’re not official and we can’t keep people off your back long enough to get you that way.” He removed a few more things, then went to work at the back of the bot’s headpiece. “The guards can’t be trusted. I know you’ve got a lawyer here trying to ensure decent treatment for you, but—and this isn’t a criticism, just an observation—they haven’t been very effective so far.”

“No,” Kyle said, thinking guiltily of Demarcos and how frantic he had to be now. “He hasn’t.”

“So we’ve got new problems. Not just keeping you alive in the Pen—the dining hall, it’s called the Pen—but keeping the guards from screwing with you.” Isidore put the wand down and closed something up on the back of the bot’s head. A moment later, it whirred to life again. Kyle unconsciously tensed, waiting for its arm to start snapping with electricity.

Instead it turned and headed back down the hall without another word. “What did you do to it?”

“Hit restart, basically. It’s programmed to return to its charging station, and as far as it was concerned it had no mission here. It already reported an unofficial prisoner, though, so the guards will be on the lookout soon enough. We’ll have to get up there if we don’t want this whole place gassed.”

Isidore looked more than a little downtrodden, which was disconcerting. Kyle wanted to shrug off the worries; being afraid wasn’t going to get him anywhere, and even though he wanted to dwell on the what ifs, he resolutely turned his mind away from them. “We’ll handle it. What did you take from the bot?”

“Hmm? Oh, batteries.” He indicated the little pile of chips. “Battery backups. Not big ones, since the bots shouldn’t need them, but they’re one-shot wonders for a lot of prisoner tech. Plus a few other things that no one else will care about, including a—” His voice broke off for a moment as he swept his hand through the pile and settled it firmly onto the iron bench. Isidore pressed his palm as flat as it could go, his eyes intent. Kyle watched as his frown suddenly blossomed into a brilliant smile.

“Robbie and Wyl are here! Oh, they have the best timing.”

“Who are they? And how do you know that?”

Isidore waved his hand at Kyle, who noticed for the first time that the palm looked…hmm, darker than the rest of his skin. Tougher, somehow, like a callus had built up over the entire thing.

“Wyl just told me.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Redstone Ch. 8, Pt. 2

Notes: More Redstone today! A little bit longer than usual, and a hell of a lot darker. This chapter includes graphic depictions of violence and a non-graphic depiction of rape/non-con. No, it's not between any of the main characters, but it does happen and I don't want to trigger anyone, so...please. Don't read if that's going to be an issue for you. It's highlighted, so it's easy to skip.

This is going to be a rough story in some ways, but I swear there will be plenty of moments of light as well!

Title: Redstone, Chapter 8, Part 2.


Robbie Sinclair, unbeknownst to most people, was a hell of an actor.

It was an odd skillset for a career soldier to have, he knew that. Weapons expert, yeah! Close combat aficionado, definitely. Even linguist, those who were acquainted with him could get behind. Most people didn’t bother learning any languages other than Federation Common these days, because it was the lingua franca of the human-inhabited universe, utilized by every central system planet and most of the Fringe for doing business. Hell, most people didn’t even know what language lingua franca had originally referred to anymore; it was a dead metaphor.

But Robbie, well, he was old school. Old blood. His parents were Martians, for heaven’s sake; that was as old system as you could get. He had learned French and Spanish from his mother, Russian from his grandfather, and had taught himself three other languages in his youth, all without the help of mods. It was…cute. Quaint. An interesting skillset, if not necessarily a useful one. But acting? Why would a career marine need to know how to act?

Only to ensure his own survival. In a universe that was increasingly insular and xenophobic, coming into a situation as an outsider was dangerous. Staying an outsider could mean anything from pain to death to, even worse, harm coming to someone he loved. That meant Robbie had to be a chameleon, had learned to be one from the moment he woke up out of cryo-sleep and realized that half of the people who had come with him from Mars had died, their cryo-pods malfunctioning. His parents had died. His peers were diminished. Robbie was an immigrant without a support system, and if he didn’t want to be dismissed into some menial position, he needed to appear as Central as he could, as quickly as possible. And he had, and he’d survived. Thrived, even.

The only person who’d understood this aspect of him from the very beginning was Garrett, probably because Garrett was just as familiar with the high stakes of blending in as Robbie was. Not that Garrett blended in, really, but he was resolutely dedicated to a persona that was light-years away from his true self. Wyl…well, Wyl was always himself, but Robbie could be anybody. It was a good thing that Wyl was used to seeing Robbie slip in and out of different skins depending on their circumstances, because the one he’d have to wear here was particularly slimy.

“You go in in force, and you stay together if you’ve gotta be down in the pit,” his new commander, Loven Cray, explained casually as he and Robbie looked at vidscreens depicting different areas in the prison. “Can’t let them get you alone, ‘cause they’ll try to strip the armor off of you first thing. Like fuckin’ animals, they are; buncha cannibals who’ll eat you alive just to trade your liver to some other animal for a piece of kidney.”

“They ever get a guard before?” Robbie asked, squinting a little as he examined the screens. Internally he was absorbing everything: plotting points, entrances and egresses and taking count of how many inmates were lounging where.

“Almost. Last guy in charge before me, he went down in there to teach somebody a lesson but he only took bots with him as backup, no people. The bots use strictly non-lethal countermeasures, which,” Cray snorted, “is complete fuckin’ bullshit, but that’s what’s written in the charter. Guy was swarmed, bots torn apart and he was almost choked to death before his crew could get in there. Three inmates were killed, but they got him out.”

“Rough shit.”

“You’re tellin’ me.” He shook his head. “These are the worst of the worst. I know you’ve done a stint at Caravan, but that’s a fuckin’ paradise for prisoners compared to this place. Those are little lambs, while we’ve got the wolves. This place ain’t about rehabilitation, it’s about containment.” Cray scowled at the screens. “There, you see that shit?”

Two inmates were getting into an argument, which quickly turned into a fight. A short, vicious fight that ended with one of them on the ground, bleeding from his head, and the other…

Robbie took a slow, deep breath and didn’t let any of the horror he felt show on his face as a man was rolled over, bound with his own clothing and viciously raped on vid, right in front of him. “Not gonna send bots in to stop that?”

“Nah.” Cray tapped the section indicator in the corner of the screen. “That’s in the back half of the pit; it would take a bot too long to get there to do any good. If the inmate doesn’t get up afterward, well, we might go in and get him so he can do some time in a Regen tank, but he shouldn’t have started that fight. He’s going to be that guy’s bitch for the rest of his time here. Which for that particular prisoner,” Cray consulted his personal tab, “looks like another fifteen years.” He smiled widely. “That’ll teach him a lesson.”

“Reckon it will.” Robbie kept his gaze forward but let his eyes go unfocused. “When do we go in, then?”

“Gotta go in case of murders, or really sick shit.” Robbie wondered what qualified to this person as “really sick shit” if violent rape didn’t. “We go in force, though, and we activate the blackout mode on our headgear so they can’t identify us individually. You don’t want these animals knowing who you are, they’ll just try to play games with you. Lure you in, set a trap. Some of these little fucks are cunning as shit, and there are issues with illegal mods, but as long as they only use them on each other we don’t bother too much with it.” Cray laughed suddenly. “Lemme show you one of my favorite vids. Love this one.”

He pulled up a video on his tab and activated the hologram a few feet in front of them. The scene was Redstone prison’s dining hall, crowded with people. “Watch that skinny little fucker there,” Cray said, indicating someone in the bottom left corner. Robbie glanced at the man, then almost did a double-take. That was Isidore. And that was a person creeping up behind him, reaching out and grabbing a fistful of his hair before giving it a vicious backward pull.

Robbie’s abdomen clenched with adrenaline even as he kept his face impassive, watching the scene. If Isidore had been hurt, if he was already out of the game before they’d even arrived…

But, no. Isidore went back, but his attacker was already reeling away, clutching his pulling hand with the other and staring at the blood that welled there in horror. It didn’t end there, though. Isidore turned to look at his attacker with hard eyes, then reached up to the very base of his scalp and plucked what looked like a single hair. He stood up from the table, advanced on the man and had the hair wrapped around the guy’s hand before his attacker knew what was happening. And then, he yanked it tight.

Blood. Screams. Not a complete severing, the hair wasn’t tough enough for that, but some blood vessels in the guy’s wrist had definitely been severed. He fell to the ground and Isidore let him go, watching him like he was a curiosity, and not the man who’d just tried to take advantage of him and paid so dearly for it. He was detached. Dissociated. If that was acting, then Isidore was even better at it than Robbie.

“I love it,” Cray said with a chuckle. “I mean, obviously it’s an illegal mod, but look at that shit! You can’t ask for better free entertainment than that. Plus, little guys need all the help they can get, right? It keeps things fair.”

“I hear you,” Robbie said easily. “My guy’s kind of the same. Small, but he earns his respect.”

“Yeah, your guy.” Cray let the hologram dissolve. He actually looked a little uncomfortable. “Look, about your guy…see, the guards working here are good guys, yeah? They are. But this can be a rough place to be for long periods of time, and they get kinda…stir crazy, every now and then. The line blurs a little. I’m just saying, it might be best if your guy spends most of his time in your rooms. Yeah?”

Or else these sadistic motherfuckers will go after him with just as much joie de vivre as the inmates go after each other. Robbie could read between those lines. He’d be damned if he was going to tell Wyl to restrict himself to their fucking rooms, which meant a demonstration might be in order. Wyl could take care of himself, but after seeing this… “I get you,” Robbie said. “Wyl’s no fool, he’ll do what’s best for himself. Keep out of the mix.”

“Good.” Cray nodded. “You’re in the system now, and you’ve got the basics of the schedule down. Your shift starts in four hours, so you’ve got some downtime before then. I’ll be your crew leader for the first few days, so just ask if you’ve got questions.” He held out his hand. “Welcome aboard Redstone, Sinclair. I think you’re gonna do okay here.”

Robbie smiled sharply as he shook Cray’s hand. “I expect I will.”  I expect that someday I’ll drive my fist so hard into your gut that it tickles your spine.

Getting to the central living room for the guards was easy. Getting there to see two of them banging on the door that Robbie knew led to the rooms he and Wyl were assigned to was almost enough to drop a red curtain across his vision. Three other guys were there, lazing around on couches or playing games on the holosystem, but not doing anything to stop the other two. Robbie ambled his way to the second level and closed in on the men, who were joking with each other as they yelled through the door.

“This ain’t the way to make friends!” one of them shouted with a grin. “Come on out, sweetheart, come meet your new friends!”

“The last wife we had here was a swinger,” the other one called. “You like to swing, baby?”

“That’s a husband, not a wife,” Robbie said calmly once he was close enough. Both guys swung around to look at him. “My husband, actually.”

“Yeah?” The younger of the two, a man a little taller than Robbie with stubbly black hair shaved to look like a demon was glaring out of the back of his skull, grinned manically. His buddy, a little more measured and definitely more intelligent, took one look and backed a few steps up. “Do you share?”

“Nope.” Robbie popped the “p” in the word. “I didn’t come to this shithole to share my piece of ass with every motherfucker in the joint.”

The man pouted dramatically. “That ain’t the way to make friends, man.”

“Neither is this. And trust me, you’re gonna want to be my friend.”

The man’s grin didn’t falter as Robbie drew a little closer. “Why’s that?”

“Because.” Robbie lowered his voice to something hard as diamonds. “If you’re my enemy, I’ll throw your dumb ass over this fuckin’ balcony and break both your legs, or maybe your back. And when you get outta Regen, I’ll do it again. And again, and again, until you decide you do want to be my friend. And being my friend means leaving my husband the fuck alone. Got it?”

For a moment Robbie thought he’d have to throw the guy over the wall right now; he was still grinning, something challenging in his amber eyes. But after a moment he held up both hands. “No worries, buddy! Let’s be friends!”

“Let’s,” Robbie agreed. He let the men ease past him before opening the door himself and going inside. He resisted the urge to slam the door shut as hard as he could, and leaned back against it instead. Their apartment was tiny, and strewn with parts and half-unpacked bags of clothes. He saw Wyl in the corner, fiddling with something, one of Redstone’s bots standing patiently at his side.

“Hey!” Wyl said as soon as he noticed Robbie. “I got the array set up, so communications are a go. I also adopted a pet; his name is ZeeBee. Say hello, ZeeBee!”

“Hello, Christopher Robin.”

Wyl appeared to be waiting for something. When Robbie said nothing, he frowned. “What, no groan? No threats of bodily harm for teaching the robot to call you—oof!”

Robbie couldn’t take it anymore. Not the distance, but especially not the thought of Wyl and threats. He was across the room and hugging Wyl to his chest in an instant. Wyl got with the program fast, turning into the embrace and hugging Robbie back as hard as he could.

“Hey,” Wyl said gently. “What is it? What happened?” He kissed Robbie’s collarbone. “Baby?”

“We’re going to have to be careful,” Robbie said softly. His voice broke on the last word. “So fucking careful.” He couldn’t put the horror of the past few hours into words: what he’d learned, what he’d seen. Luckily, Wyl didn’t need him to.

“We will be,” Wyl whispered. “I promise, I swear, Robbie. We’ll be careful. I’ll be careful.”

Robbie sighed heavily. “Good.”

It was a start, at least.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Spanish Translation Available: En Todas Tus Formas

Hi guys!

The phenomenal Traductores Anonimos has done it again. They translated my story In All Your Ways into Spanish, gave me glorious files for everything and then I sat on it for THREE FREAKING WEEKS because of family issues. So, not only are they the most generous people around, they're pretty fantastically patient too.

So, without further ado, I give you...the links for the story!

You can read it on AO3 here (without massive flaws this time around, I think): http://archiveofourown.org/works/4538853

Or, you can read it here on my blog. Just go to the right-hand side of the site and look for the page titled "En Todas Tus Formas." Or, click this: http://carizerotica.blogspot.com/p/en-todas-tu-feras.html

Many, many thanks again to this wonderful team. You are too kind to me, but please know that I appreciate your fantastic work.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

DRiTC #2 Snippet: Reclamation

Hi guys!

So, I finally finished my second prompt story, which I've tentatively titled Reclamation. I have no idea when it will be out on the Goodreads M/M Romance Group's website, but you can have half of the first chapter right here! It's a dystopian (because what else have I been doing lately) near-future-with-a-sci-fi-flair fic, and it all starts with strippers. Because that's what my prompter wanted, and that's what my prompter gets.


Chapter One

Matt could tell by the way Jojo sashayed over to him that he wasn’t bringing news he thought Matt wanted to hear. He leaned in close, suffocating Matt with the scent of his favorite floral perfume, and purred, “You’re up, Cali-boy. Your favorite patron got here five minutes ago, and he’s getting impatient.”

“Well, fuck.” The reluctance was all part of the act but genuine enough that Matt didn’t have to try too hard to sell it, either.

His reply got the expected laugh. “He might be a dog, honey, but he’s more bark than bite when it comes to you.” Jojo reached around and smacked Matt firmly on the ass. “Lucky you, huh? At least you know you’re gonna make the rent on nights like these.”

Matt rolled his eyes. He’d put on so much mascara that his eyelids felt weighed down by it, but there were certain expectations when it came to the look that Johnny Rock’s went for in its strippers. That meant his personal opinion was meaningless. It also meant Johnny, the owner and manager of the place, had taken one look at Matt three weeks ago when he first hired him and said, “You’re going to be California, you got it, boy?”

“California?” Matt didn’t follow. They lived in the sprawling urban center of Phoenix, Arizona. “Why?”

“’Cause you’re tan and you’ll look good as a bleach blond,” he’d said. Johnny was probably in his seventies, with a head full of white hair covered by a cowboy hat and his hand never far from a glass of whiskey, but the folksy affectations were nothing more than a costume for Johnny. Matt had seen more genuine emotion in roadkill. “Everybody’s got a schtick, kid, and that’s going to be yours. I lost my last California a week ago.”

“To what?”

In retrospect, it had been a dumb question. “Death,” Johnny had replied simply. “You in, boy?”

“Yeah,” Matt had said, because he really didn’t have any choice. This was his job, after all. His part of the case, the mission. He was going to do whatever it took to make it work. “Sure, I can be Cali.”

Three weeks later, Matt had his routine down pat. Cali was a sweet, slightly vulnerable West Coast transplant with a big, wide smile and a slightly goofy personality. Cali liked to be admired, and Cali wanted to be loved. Cali particularly liked the attentions of the youngest son of the head of the Jimenez cartel in Phoenix, a frustrated gay boy who flouted the disapproval of his family by frequenting the only all-male strip club in the city.

The Jimenez cartel ran a smuggling ring that trafficked drugs through the heart of the sun-burnt West, sneaking cocaine and heroin up into Canada and bringing high-tech mod chips that could enhance a person’s mental and physical traits when installed by a decent neurosurgeon. Mods were all the rage for people who could afford them, ways to keep yourself alive longer in the mess that had been left after the bullshit of the Second Secession thirty years ago. They were illegal to transport without some heavy-duty permits, but they could be smuggled easily enough inside of people.

Federal law enforcement had been happy enough to leave the Jimenez cartel to their work as long as the scope stayed small. They had bigger things to worry about than a few hundred pounds of heroin or a couple dozen mod chips making it over the southern border every other weeks. But the Jimenez patriarch wanted to expand his business, and he needed manpower to do it. Not the armed kind, either, or adding chips to girls who were trafficked north as part of the sex trade. They needed people who could blend in, carry dozens of chips in their bodies without rousing suspicions. That meant kidnapping locals and “persuading” them to work for the cartel. And while the easiest ones to press into service were the runaways who made their home on the cancerous edges of a dangerous city, there were some high-profile exceptions that had caught the attention of the feds.

All of which meant that Matt, recently promoted to detective out of Phoenix PD’s vast rank and file, was sent undercover in an attempt to gather enough evidence against the Jimenez cartel to give law enforcement an idea of how to put a stop to the kidnappings without resulting in unacceptable levels of violence. No one wanted a repeat of the Meth Wars, after all, and while the Jimenez cartel was as tight as any mafia family, there was always a way in. In this case, the feds thought that one way might be Tito Jimenez. And Matt was just his type. For now, at least.

Tito of the clammy hands, Tito of the bulldog set to his jaw, Tito who was too young to have that permanent frown line between his eyebrows. Tito was a regular at Johnny Rock’s, but who he spent his money on was fluid, ever-changing. He’d go as far as he could without getting rebuffed by either the stripper or Johnny, or however far his family would let him go before reeling him and his spending back in. Tito was a man desperate for something he couldn’t even put a name on, and it was Matt’s job to give it to him.

Matt stretched his back and shoulders out behind the curtain, listening to his intro begin on the stage. He still wasn’t used to the way his new implants had left his body so freakishly flexible. He’d lost his strength mods during prep for the mission— there was no way a young, unemployed drifter like he was posing as could have afforded police-standard modification chips. The force’s doctors had even removed Matt’s generic forearm implant for connecting to the web, to help emphasize his needy, destitute state. So it was bye-bye enhanced fast-twitch muscle development, hello black market insert that somehow turned his hips into a lazy Susan.

“You’re up,” Jojo reminded him, and Matt nodded. “Don’t forget your sunglasses.”

Matt groaned but took the shades, complete with bright orange frames. “These look fucking ridiculous.”

“But they’re so California!” Jojo mocked, grinning around his fake teeth. “Maybe Johnny would let you switch them out for a surfboard or something, if you’re really—”

Matt shot Jojo a horrified look. “Don’t even think about suggesting that to him!”

“I won’t if you buy me a drink after your show.” Jojo pressed a sparkly kiss to Matt’s cheek and then wiped it off with his thumb. “Go and impress your admiring hordes, Cali.”

“I got it.” One more quick inspection in the mirror and then he headed out on stage, ready for another round of seducing Tito Jimenez.

It was a game of catch and release, working at Johnny Rock’s. When you were onstage you played the field, heading for whoever waved the most money. Johnny ran a cash-only club, a throwback to the early oughts, but his acts were exclusive enough that people complied, bringing precious bills in with them in order to get a taste. There was a bounty on paper money, the government trying hard to transfer over to a card-only system that could be more easily tracked, and so that made cash even more desirable.

An old club remix of West Coast came on, and Matt headed out onto the stage. He didn’t affect a sexy strut like Jojo used, not for Cali. As Matt became Cali, he toed off his sandals and walked out barefoot, wearing nothing but a pair of ripped jeans so thin now they were almost translucent, and that stupid pair of sunglasses. The rhythm of his hips and shoulders was an enticing wave, sliding up and down the line of his body in time to the beat. This was a sensual song, even sped up to its current pulsing beat, and Matt elongated every murmur of the singer’s voice with a soft, subtle movement. He kept his smile small and secretive as he paced out to the pole in the center of the stage, spread his legs, and leaned his shoulders back against the cool metal.

The stage wasn’t raised very high, making it easy for Matt to jump down and work individuals depending on who earned his personal attention for a measure or two. He tilted his head down toward the floor but kept his eyes moving beneath the dark lenses, surveying the crowd. About thirty people sat around scratched wooden tables on uncomfortable chairs, some of them drinking or checking the screens on the backs of their forearms, but most were looking at him.

No one was looking harder than Tito Jimenez, his dark eyes wide and focused in his foxy face, a stack of bills on the table in front of him. He wore diamonds in his ears that glittered in the low light, and a gold cross on a chain around his neck that seemed to drag him forward. The two men sitting with him were less intent, one of them looking actively uncomfortable—bodyguards then, or rather, babysitters. Tito ignored them and shifted the top bill into his hand, waving it back and forth like a flag to a bull.

Well, Matt couldn’t be that easy. He grabbed the pole above his head and arched forward, hips leading the way, turning his upper body into a perfect ∩-shape. He pushed up onto his toes, bowing bare skin and toned muscle toward the crowd and then swiveled back to standing so smoothly he got a few gasps from the audience.

Tito had two bills held up now, rubbing them against each other like he was imagining them as flesh. Matt smiled and slid his free hand down his chest, absently tracing the cut plane of his abs as he picked his first target. There, two tables deep: Ball Cap. He came in a couple times a week and always had a leer for Matt. He smelled like day-old chewing tobacco, but he was a decent place to start. Matt sidled to the edge of the stage and dropped off the end like a leaf falling through the air, lilting and tilting but landing as softly as if he’d floated down. He ignored Tito’s small, shocked exhale as he headed away from him, hips swaying, to bend over the table in front of Ball Cap.

There was no grabbing, no pulling and no touching under the clothes or across the crotch. Johnny Rock’s was a surprisingly chaste place, all things considered, but that was part of the appeal. There were plenty of highball clubs where enough credit would put a naked girl in your lap to play with for all the world to see. Johnny’s strippers were desired in part because there was still an element of mystery, something that made mental fingers itch to uncover them.

Matt rolled over so that only the base of his spine and the tops of his shoulders touched the table, his head dangling off the far side just inches over Ball Cap’s lap, and grinned lazily. Rough fingers roamed over his bare chest, settling fast on his nipples and pinching them hard before Matt pulled away with a gentle tsk.

“Oh, c’mon,” Ball Cap whined, sticking two hundreds into Matt’s waistline and letting his hands linger there. “Come back, I’ll be nice!” He slipped his hand around to Matt’s crotch and palmed his dick through the smooth denim. Matt slipped gracefully away, ignoring the way his skin seemed to crawl. Keep it together. Put on a show.

“Not nice enough,” Matt drawled. “Maybe next time, baby.” The song was getting close to the halfway point, and he needed to draw Tito’s anxiety out a little more. A guy at the bar… there.
Matt had seen him in here several times before, always drinking just one beer at the bar before he left again. He’d never paid for any company, never catcalled or even made a gesture in Matt’s direction, but Matt’s thirst for lowbrow was at an ebb for the moment. He needed a chance to breathe a little, get his composure back, and this guy seemed like just the way to do that.

It didn’t hurt that he was handsome in that sweet boy-next-door way and obviously dead tired. Matt wondered what brought this guy in so late, then pushed his curiosity back as he set his palms down on the edge of the bar, encircling his mark, and rolled his hips in a figure eight that just barely brought their pants into contact. The man wore the plain, sand-colored cargo pants of a city worker and a T-shirt with a faded circular logo, oversized for his frame, but Matt could see the firm muscles in his arms and the definition in his shoulders. The frisson of desire that followed was surprising.

Matt wrapped his arms around the man’s shoulders and swayed gently into the protective curl of the man’s body. He didn’t smell too sweet, probably just off a shift somewhere, but his tentative hands rested like petals against Matt’s waist, barely brushing him. His palms were rough too, but warm and dry.

“I can’t…” The guy cleared his throat. “I can’t afford you,” he said quietly.

“It’s okay,” Matt whispered, pushing his sunglasses up. He glanced over his shoulder at Tito, who looked livid, a whole fistful of bills raised in Matt’s direction. “I’m just catching my breath.” When he looked back into the man’s eyes, though, he felt like he was losing air instead, his lungs going still for a moment under the weight of that considering amber gaze. “Thank you,” he finished, and then pulled away and headed for Tito, still swaying, carelessly undoing the top button of his jeans as he went. A few other men and one determined woman thrust bills at him, but Matt ignored them, trying to focus on his target and forget about the way the pockets of his hips still tingled from the man’s touch.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Redstone Ch. 8, Pt. 1

Notes: Yay, more Redstone! I'm actually hitting my goals so far for this week (oh yes, look, we're at all of Tuesday, I'm so fucking mighty :p) but it gives me hope. Forecasts call for utter insanity up through the 8th, and only mild craziness until the 14th, at which point they'll settle back into standard hustle-and-bustle fare. ANYWAY! Have a little Robbie, a lot of Wyl and some very enjoyable robot. At least, I think he's enjoyable.

Title: Redstone, Chapter 8, Part 1.


Redstone was even more bleak and funless than Wyl had thought it would be. He’d been in prison before; not a serious one like this, but the version that housed non-violent offenders as a means of working off their debt to society, or in some cases, just their debt. Wyl had signed on to get bonded as soon as the option was offered to him, thinking that anything would be better than the bland, colorless life of a Federation minimum security prison. He’d ended up enslaved to a madwoman on a ball of ice in the Fringe, so—bad deal, overall. He should have stuck with bland.

The point was, Wyl was intimately familiar with imprisonment. After living with Robbie for a while at Caravan, he even knew a fair bit about maximum security conditions. This place…this place was not maximum security. This place was hell, pure and simple. There were no attempts at rehabilitation, no genuflections in the direction of mental and emotional health beyond trips to the Regen tank, and then only when absolutely necessary. In Caravan, if you fucked over another inmate, you were put into isolation for a week before gradually being reintegrated back into the prison population with additional, but largely temporary, restrictions. From what little Wyl could tell about Redstone, it was basically, to use an Ancient Earth metaphor, a shark tank. The big and powerful ate the tiny and weak, and the guards were little more than puppets put there to keep the ‘bots running and provide a last-ditch failsafe against total anarchy.

Robbie, needless to say, wasn’t happy. He didn’t say anything, in fact, but Wyl hadn’t been in love with the guy for over a decade without learning his tells. He saw frustration in the curve of Robbie’s lips, annoyance in the slant of his eyebrows, and downright rage as his nostrils flared. One fucking day they’d been here, one day, and Robbie was already close to either breaking down or breaking faces. Wyl wanted to coax the tension out of him, and planned to, in fact, but he had his own project to get underway. Thank fuck he’d gotten his iron transmitters staged on the exterior surface of Redstone from a distance, because once they landed on the meteor the warden’s secretary was stuck to them like they were molecularly bound.

“You’re late,” he said to Robbie the moment they stepped off Warden Grave’s transport ship. He’d been pinging their ship’s comm for the past hour, but the pilot, a usually cheerful woman who was polite to a fault, had restricted all communications to text only, citing “mechanical issues.” Wyl had laughed at the time. Now he was starting to get it, though. “You should have been in training with the other guards an hour ago.”

“Gravity wave,” Robbie said easily, his crisp military voice giving over to a slouchy Ancient Earth accent that he’d told Wyl was loosely identified as “redneck.” “Can’t get ‘round ‘em sometimes.”

“Regardless, you will have to make up the hours. I’ll take you to get processed. Your…spouse,” he continued, glancing dismissively at Wyl, “can get started transporting your things to your quarters. Agent ZB89 will guide you there.”

“So much for the welcoming committee,” Wyl said soft enough that only Robbie could hear it, just to see him crack a little smile. “Go get processed and meet the rest of the boys, honey,” he said more loudly, punctuating his statement with a noisy kiss that made the sour-faced secretary frown harder. “I’ll get us all settled.”

“Thanks, babe.” Robbie sidled off, leaving Wyl alone with ZB89. The robot was a single-wheel model, ancient by modern standards, actually using a gyroscope to stay upright and with no hover technology at all. Wyl itched to take it apart, but that wasn’t the way to make a good first impression. He shouldered a bag and grinned.

“Lead on, ZeeBee.”

ZeeBee’s green eyestrip brightened momentarily. “Command accepted. Follow me, human-male-spousal-counterpart.”

Wyl grimaced. “That’s a hell of a mouthful. How about you just call me Wyl?”

“Wyl is not a complete designation.”

“You need a last name too, huh? Or maybe a title.” He thought about it for a moment. “How about…Wyl the Conqueror?”

The eyestrip brightened again. “Suggestion accepted. Follow me, Wyl the Conqueror.”

“Aw, shit yeah,” Wyl crowed as he followed the robot. “I can already tell that we’re going to have a good time together, ZeeBee. When you see my husband, I want you to call him Christopher Robin, okay?” It was an old jab, but Wyl never got tired of it.

ZeeBee’s head swiveled back to regard Wyl even as his body continued to roll forward. “Are you authorized to change human-male-guardian-spouse’s designation, Wyl the Conqueror?”

“I am legally, morally and hilariously entitled to change all of my husband’s designations,” Wyl said confidently. “He’d be the last person to argue with you about that.”

“Accepted.” They left the landing zone and entered what looked like a shared living area, one large common zone with a big kitchen and plenty of holoscreen space. Two levels of rooms lined the longest two walls. ZeeBee led Wyl up a ramp to a battered-looking door at the very end of the hall. “You and Christopher Robin shall be living in Suite Two-Twenty,” the robot recited. “Press your hand to the reader.” It was scarred and cracked, but the palm scanner still worked well enough to accept Wyl’s print. “It will respond only to you and Christopher Robin, who shall be scanned in during his intake. Please enter.”

Wyl did, and was depressingly unsurprised by what he found. A living room, bedroom and kitchen, all with dingy white walls and well-used furnishings, and a tiny bathroom that contained an even tinier shower. Definitely no room for two in there. “This is the couple’s version?” Wyl demanded. “Really? I thought the suites were bigger than this.”

“Only guest suites are equipped with more square footage, and they are housed in another section of Redstone, Wyl the Conqueror.”

Of fucking course they were. Because just getting to run into Hummingbird in the halls would be too fucking easy. “Great. How do the other spouses feel about this?”

“You are currently the only spouse in residence, Wyl the Conqueror.”

Oh boy. That was…going to lead to problems, Wyl was sure of it. For now, though, it looked like he had the place to himself. “Where is everybody, anyway?”

“Emergency training exercises, Wyl the Conqeuror.”

“Great, perfect. Let’s go get the rest of my stuff, yeah? Are you cleared to help me with that?”

“I am cleared to act in whatever capacity you require that does not go against my base programming, Wyl the Conqueror.”

“Okay, enough of that.” Wyl clapped the robot on the shoulder. “We’re friends now, right? You can just call me Wyl. Think of it as both a name and title rolled into one, okay?” He watched the eyestrip brighten, then dim, then brighten again. “Come on, ZeeBee, I know you’ve got the justification in your programming somewhere, you’ve just got to dig deep.”

A moment later the robot’s eyestrip brightened, then settled into a steady green glow. “Command accepted, Wyl.”

“But stick to Christopher Robin right now for my husband, okay?”


With ZeeBee’s help, Wyl was able to get his and Robbie’s baggage from the tarmac to their quarters without running into anyone, which was good. He wasn’t afraid, necessarily, but he wasn’t looking forward to running the gauntlet here without Robbie as backup. Places like this became tight-knit, and not usually in a good way. Wyl wasn’t going to be able to charm his way into anyone’s good graces, and so it was better to have fear or intimidation on his side. And Robbie, for all he had grey hairs and the general demeanor of a lazy lion in his prison guard persona, was intimidating as fuck when he put his mind to it.

Wyl dismissed ZeeBee after a bit, telling the robot not to be a stranger, which made its green light flash brightly as it struggled to compute the colloquialism. He ignored the bags of clothes and most of the equipment in favor of rapidly reconstructing his remote pulse emitter. It connected to a tab that Wyl had programmed to assess the wavelengths of Redstone, searching for a frequency that would be close enough to something common that it wouldn’t be remarked upon, but different enough that it would be picked up solely by his communications array. The program didn’t take long to analyze things; Redstone, for all the hype, was still a fairly small place.

“Ah.” Wyl grinned with satisfaction. “Good.” The first pulse would be a test, a way to check on the viability of his array and to tell whether or not he’d need to use dampeners to diminish the strength of the signals. He took a deep breath, then sent his initial pulse out into the blackness of space.

A moment later, the tab pinged. Wyl inspected the graphical feedback, noting node strengths and locations with regards to where he was now, and where he anticipated his target was. 85% efficacy, well within the parameters he needed to operate. He grinned manically. “We’re in business now!”

Of course, it all might be a lark in the end. There was no way for Isidore to communicate back at them, not unless he happened to have a run-in with Robbie, which given their respective positions seemed like a bad option. He might not even get the codes, if the density of the prison walls changed too much or his mod was malfunctioning. But Wyl had to try. If it worked, at least Isidore would know he wasn’t alone.

Very carefully, he tapped out a message in Morse: CAVALRY IS HERE.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Posts for this next week...

Busy! Why? Gah.

I've got Redstone coming, a teaser for my second DRiTC story which I should be finishing this week, and I've also got a new Spanish translation of In All Your Ways coming soon. I've got the files, I just need to find the time to POST THEM (caps for my benefit, not yours, I'm all about motivation via self-recrimination). This week, I swear.

In other news, my folks have gone back to Germany, my MIL is settling down in Cambodia, and we are now without guests for the first time in...over a month. Holy shit. No wonder everything feels crazy; I have to relearn normal. Having people here was fun but super stressful, and I didn't get as much as I should have done. I will remedy that issue asap.

Hope your weekend has been lovely!