Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sample Chapters from The Dreamcatcher Fallacy



The Dreamcatcher Fallacy
Book One of The Dreamcatcher Fallacy Cycle

Book Two: Strands of Silk and Fire coming Spring 2014


Prologue


Locked here in my cell, I have far too much time on my hands.  I want to stop the hate that is chewing a hole in my gut, but I no longer know how.  I suppose my forced addiction was meant as a kindness, but the numbing of emotions by the drug called cziana root is not much better than the awful rawness of my mind.
In this, perhaps I am a masochist.
Staring at the metal beams of my room, I often ponder the far-flung agricultural and mineral planets that have become both lifeline and chain to our dying world.  The world’s near cousin, Rialga, has perhaps a few more decades before it, too, will have nothing for its restless winds to blow about but sand and soot.  Its red-hued continents always come quickly to mind, even when I sleep-- that place where I was captured and the place where I had to leave my lover behind. Such sunsets on Rialga, though. 
That, at least will never change, even with the death of all that is green there.
 Terrantata is also constantly with me, the newest of the supply-planet jewels, only ten-thousand humans digging toenails into its skin, raking their little teeth over the stalks of the jungles.  But they are ten-thousand souls bred to be true human beings, waiting their chance to break from the confines of their structured society.  I know because I sent them there, and they will one day provide the nudge that will topple kingdoms.
Planets are the things of large vision, though.  Inevitably, prison also means too much time to nurse a sorrowful distaste for the waning power of the Core Families. They seem tied forever to the original home of humankind and still act as if they held an influence that truly mattered.  They could have prevented the travesties I have witnessed if they had only opened their eyes early on. But with dependence comes a narrowed vision.  How sad now to see these unaltered humans at their dinners and business meetings and pre-bought legal proceedings, playing the near politics because the real scope of life is simply far beyond them now.  How they fiddle about, one hand on the door to this world, the other in each other’s pockets and still think themselves quite mighty and grand.
But in truth, I spend most of my precious time feeding my rage about this sprawling Company that has dragged me back to Earth and into this dungeon.  They are the ones who had originally dared to designed whole new sub-species of “humans” to take over the jobs that the normal or non-company personnel (or NCP’s as they have come to be called) would not or could not do.
It is the Company who births us, owns and sells us, and decommissions us at the end of our useful years.  It is headed now by the oh-so-perfectly molded Administrator classes created within its own walls, their leashes, in turn, held by the still-human Core or so their advertising machine helps the worlds believe.  Accountant, product designer, executioner and mortician—those are the roles I have always seen in their genetic template, but then I nurse my hate with such words; it gives me the will to live year after long year in a room without windows, perfectly isolated--until I have begun to savor being such a perfectly poisonous creature.
  There is no outside eye anymore in all the cosmos capable of observing what the Administrators do to their human genetic products, no balances, no checks on how much more they could change us, both within and without.  They have already ripped individuality from their soldiers and freed them from the wisdom of physical pain, bred a kind of autism into their high-science techs even as they destroyed their tendency toward creative impulses.  For themselves, they have designed minds constantly nimble with numbers and data, but without any receptors for the useless information that once informed such niceties as empathy.
But of course, as one of their products, I can see this from within the belly of the beast.  My time with my all-too-human lover, Krystine, opened my eyes to what had been lost, and to what would continue to be lost if I did not choose to act.
Oh, yes, I see clearly.  Humankind, genetically modified and not, has become as barren and desolate as its home world.  In the end, I am as committed to my course of action as surely as the Administrator classes are to their own.  I know my job—to bring back the ancient genetic lines of humanity, and set loose a viral judgment on them all.
And I have that singular luxury of time to truly hate myself as well.  That I will be forced to use my own son as an agent of destruction surely will damn me for all time.  But I have no other options.  I must reset the double-helix within us all and breathe a vicious and pregnant wind of change over the Cosmos.
I pray that God, if such exists, will pardon me for my own hatred and hubris.
No.  I retract that statement.
No more reconciliation, no more bowing to any power.  For surely God Itself has given me the prophet’s clear seeing, the warrior’s sword and a poet’s unblinking vengeance.
No, the only thing I really pray for is a way out of this addict’s hell that has become my life.  One day, my last words will fall on my son’s ear—“I have delivered thee unto Hell with but a cup of water in thy hand.”
Use it well, my son, you who are my vision, and my weapon.


James Illion,
Genetic Specialist Tech Grade 8
Historical Journal Entry
Recovery Data,
Company Central Historical Archives



High Security Holding Cell
Company Central, Earth Complex
  
          James Illion, Tech Grade Eight for Earth Company Central, slumped his shoulder against the door of his cell.  He struck at the heavy metal with his fist, and then slid down its cold surface until his long legs folded beneath him.  The edges of his belt buckle shoved into his bare stomach and he leaned into the dull pain, surrendering himself to it.  For a moment, it gave him a focal point.
But he could still feel the other’s presence, pressing on his skin.
Cheek hard to the door, James splayed one brown hand across the reflective surface.  His fingers, delicately turned but with ragged, chewed nails, flexed against the door.   
I am finally going crazy.
He lifted his head and stared at the slightly warped image of his own face.  Dark purple smudges stained the skin beneath his bloodshot eyes.  His dilated pupils pressed the irises into thin rings of golden brown, making his eyes seem almost black.  James blinked and felt the dry heat, burning as always.  His black hair, chopped severely short, stood in stubborn little spikes across the top of his skull.  He touched his image with his fingertips.  Was my hair long once, or am I only dreaming?  It’s so hard to tell anymore.
He swallowed and stared at the skin that clung to the bones of his long face, and tucked tight beneath his high cheekbones.  His lips cut a narrow swath of lighter color through the day’s worth of stubble.  Krystine, you would not recognize me anymore.  I don’t know myself anymore. Shaking, he shifted himself around and leaned his head back against the door.
The single plastic chair creaked beneath its occupant’s weight, the sound sharp and insistent.  James shut his eyes and pressed his hands over his forehead.  “I’m begging you, Muligan.  Is that what you want?  For me to beg?  Well, I am now.  I need my music.  I can’t work without it—it carries me, don’t you understand?”
“I’d never ask you to beg, James.  That would be uncivilized.”  Muligan’s voice always had a flat quality to it, an awful patience that ran fingernails over the normal cadence of ordinary speech.
James slowly rolled his head up. His hands fell limply into his lap, his head cradled by the door behind him.  “What would you know about being civilized, Muligan?”
Administrator Muligan smiled.  His legs, shoved straight out across the floor, crossed at the ankles.  An expensive brown turtleneck, tucked fastidiously into black pressed pants, seemed at odds with his thin, messy hair and sleepy eyes.  It was that gaze that always infuriated James. That, and the slender tube that drooped from his slightly parted lips.  The poisoned part of James knew intimately how cziana root deadened the emotions, dampened the shifts and moods that stress brought out in a human.  It suppressed feeling to the point where each day went smoothly forward, gray and dull and changeless.  And dead, just like you and I, Muligan. But at least you had a choice in the matter.
Muligan raised one eyebrow, quirking his otherwise round, slack face.  “You’re fascinating like this, James.  Look at you. You’re so deliciously raw.  Everything’s on the surface, every emotion, every witty comeback just pops out, unedited.  I would have thought three years here would have…”
“Four years!” James knit the fingers of his right hand into the stubs of his short hair and pulled his other arm tight against his stomach.  “You know very well it’s been four years, Muligan.”  He glanced around his room then, mostly to avoid the satisfied smile the other man cast at him.
A simple mattress, spread out on metal brackets, hunkered on the wall to his right. At the foot of the bed, an open doorway led into a cramped bathroom.  Someone had removed the actual door, leaving ragged and accusing holes in the frame.  His black plastic workstation stretched across the entire left wall, littered with used syringes and stubby glass vials.  His specialized keyboard lay buried beneath a wad of dirty clothing.
My world now.  This is all of it.
James made a sound something like laughter, but the coarse gasp of breath behind it mutated it into the sound of despair.  “My god, Muligan.  Do you have any idea how mad a man can go in a fifteen by fifteen foot room?”
“Some,” Muligan replied.  He took the root out of his mouth and held it in a practiced, two-fingered grip.  Its normal silvery-blue had already shaded to the sickly gray of a nearly empty stick.
James kneaded his stomach with his fingers.  His neck hurt and a headache clamored behind his eyes.  So tired.  He could feel his jaw quiver, clicking the backs of his teeth together.  “My music.  You’ve taken everything else from me.  Why this?  And why now?”  He pulled on his hair again, and then slid his palm back down the side of his rough face.  “What have I done to deserve this? I’m meeting my quotas, aren’t I?  My eye is as good as always.  I know I’ve caught more than my share of template flaws this last quarter.  So why take the music now?”
“Because you’ve been a bad boy, James.”  Muligan straightened a little in his chair.  He wove the root through his fingers, a deft trick of under-over, and then slowly replaced it in his mouth.  “You’re not taking your prescribed drugs.”
“That’s not true.”  James gripped his stomach with both arms then.  He stared down at the floor, at the lines of cables that ran beneath his workstation to the wall hookups.  Blue lines and red lines twisted there like an umbilical cord.
“You’re lying to me, James.  You’re in withdrawal right this moment.  I should know—I’ve been through it a time or two myself.”  Muligan chuckled, an awful, fabricated sound, and then leaned his weight forward.  “Besides, I have a vid-disk of you last night, listening to…what was it?  Tchaikovsky?  You were crying, James.  People who take their root don’t cry.”
James jerked his chin up in frustration, smacking his head back against the door.  The impact echoed a little in the base of his skull and radiated down his spine.  He lifted his eyes to the ceiling. Surrounded by metal. And everywhere my own face thrown back at me.  God, Krystine. What I would give for just one wet leaf.  Just to hold it in my hand, feel the veins running under my thumb.
“I had to feel the music again,” James whispered, still staring at the ceiling.  “Really feel it, like a human being is meant to.  I couldn’t let you take that away from me.  I won’t.”
“And I won’t let you torment yourself with all that noise until you are stabilized again.  Until you are back on cziana root, your music retrieval passcode has been revoked.  It’s that simple,” Muligan said with a weak shrug.
“Stabilized?” James cried.  He rocked forward, clutching his stomach.  “Four years you’ve thrown that at me.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  There never was!”
“Nothing wrong with you?” Muligan actually sounded amused.  He lay back in his chair and shook his head.  “Nothing wrong?  You’re a classic case, you know.  Just like all the other Ancient Recovery Products.  Moods shifts, trouble with authority, job tasking glitches.”
“Stop it.”
“Why the upper level Administrators ever started messing with the old Tech Grade genetic templates, I have no idea.  Better to have let history remain history.”
“Stop it!”  He pulled his knees into a tighter ball and drew his breath over his clenched teeth.  “Stop talking to me like I’m some kind of goddamn machine. I’m not a product, I’m a man.”
Muligan snorted.  “Come on, James.  You’re no more a natural human than I am.  This place is womb and parent and God to people like you and I.  You were designed and made here, James, and you will die here.”
“No.”  James opened his eyes and glared at Muligan.  The other man watched, smiling around the edges of his root. 
“No, what?”
“You can take everything else from me, but not my humanity.”
Muligan shrugged his shoulders as if suddenly bored.  He pulled the cziana root out of his mouth and tossed it to the floor.  His arm held the flinging gesture for a moment, his first finger crooked, his thumb flicked out, then let the movement go.  “I can’t take what you never had, James.”
James curled what was left of his fingernails into his own skin.  His eyes burned dry and hard in his skull.  “Get out.”
Muligan merely smiled at him.
James rose shakily to his feet.  He put his hand out against the door to steady himself, then shuffled two steps forward.  “You heard me, Muligan!  Get out!”
“In time.”
Muligan stood then and moved over to the workstation.  He fished into his back pocket and pulled out a small vial filled with a pale blue fluid.  He set it down firmly.  “New stuff.  A little stronger distillation just for you.”  Head bent slightly over the vial, Muligan looked up through the sprinkle of his eyelashes without raising his head.
James faded back toward one wall, his arms clutched over his belly.
“You have to stop fighting me, James, or you’ll stay in here for the rest of your life.  Do you understand that?  If you’d just work with me, I could extend your privileges with a clear conscience.”  Muligan tapped the vial with one fingertip.  “Try this.  Who knows?  If you respond well, maybe I could even get you stationed back on Rialga.  Someone named Krystine would like that, don’t you think?  Unless she’s already found herself another Tech to screw.”
“You son of a bitch,” James whispered. 
Muligan smiled and pulled the cell’s passkey out of his pocket.  He walked to the door, then stopped and looked straight into James’ face. “Be careful not to take too much of that cziana.  It could kill you, you know.”  His muscles shifted around his cold eyes, folding out another smile that did not reach their brown flatness.  “To lose a Tech Grade Eight with your long years of experience would be very unfortunate, don’t you think?”  He pressed the tab on the passkey without taking his gaze off James.  The door moved aside. 
“Very unfortunate,” Muligan repeated as he slipped past James and left.  The door clanged shut behind him.
James gave a strangled cry, stumbled to his chair, lifted and heaved it at the door.  It crashed just to the right of the frame and bounced against the floor without leaving a mark.  He spun wildly, and his reflection mocked him everywhere he turned.  Giving an inarticulate cry, James fell to his knees, both hands pressed tight to his temples.  Gravity pulled him forward until his forearms smacked up against the floor.  “I can’t.  I can’t.”  He fell over to his side, curling his limbs up close to his body.  The cold floor sucked greedily at his clammy skin.
“Oh, god, Krystine.  I can’t do this anymore.” He shuddered, feeling his stomach knot.  It sent little tendrils of burning liquid up his throat and with it, his anguish rose, bitter and devastating.  “Four years, Krys.  Four years and they never even let me say good-bye.”  He gulped at the air, and pulled himself tighter.
“You’ve got to help me, Krys.  Please, help me.”  Can I even remember you, the way you really were?  He tried to draw Krystine in his mind, shading her hair auburn, her eyes green, trying to remember the feel of her waist against the palms of his hands, the spicy smell of cultivated Rialgan flowers on the soft skin of her neck.  That ghostly scent alone held the image together, even when it tried to buck and flutter in his mind.
He clung to the shifting image, willing it to feel real, begging it to stroke his hair, touch his lips.  “Tell me I’m still alive, Krys.  Tell me I’m more than a Company product.  You tell me, and I’ll listen.  Please, just tell me.”
The image of the woman in his mind clarified.  He could imagine the warmth of her skin as she took his hand, smiled, and then leaned her head against his shoulder.  He sobbed, mentally clutching her to him.  “You’re so tired,” she said.  “As soon as you finish your work, then you’ll be able to really sleep, James.  Rest now, and then finish it.  Finish it all.”
James slowly let the ragged edges of his consciousness slip away beneath her shadowy touch.
___

James jerked awake.  The cold drove him, groggy and still nauseated, off the floor.  He dragged himself to the bathroom sink and splashed some of his carefully rationed water over his face.  No sense in turning the light on; enough flooded in from the outer room for him to see.  For a moment he just leaned against the hard edge of the sink and let the precious water drip over his dangling fingers.  It was his only luxury.
He had to push himself back into the cold glare of his room.  “Lights, down sixty percent,” he murmured.  Deep within their ceiling recesses, they automatically dimmed.  Better.  Better. James swallowed back the aches and insistent roll of his stomach as he crossed to his workstation.
He brushed a shirt off his antiquated keyboard, and pulled it across the hard plastic surface until one rounded corner bumped up against his thigh.  Without bothering to straighten it, he typed his entry-code with one hand.
The entire left wall flickered, and then lit up with a dizzying genetic template display.  Color-coded lines linked series of numbers in a tangled abstract schematic of life. In the left corner, the flowing red product designation read Number 1011, Batch 16-2240, L-Group.
James reached up and tenderly touched the wall.  In response to his contact, the number sequence beneath the pads of his fingers flared a rich shade of green.  He slid his hand along the metal and the numbers slid with him, shifting into new positions.  He withdrew his touch and walked along the edge of his display  “Yes,” he murmured absently.  Now you’ll be able to hear Tchaikovsky the way he should be heard, with your whole soul.  Or whatever you choose to call such a thing.  He had set up the whole template to cascade like a gym filled with dominos, one switch tickling the next, on down protein sequences that would be impossible to trace in the early stages of development but would have a cumulative effect on the fetus.  He hadn’t been stopped by the Company because what he was doing was so subtle and had certainly never been attempted before.  Quality control would miss it for a very long time. 
He prayed it would be long enough.  The Administrator element within this, his last work of art, was the shakiest part of the whole creation.  The ultimate success or failure of his entire life hinged on a decision that would be triggered by the smallest package of genetic information. But it was all he could do.
He backtracked along the edge of his station, his eyes flicking over the riot of numbers and lines.  A small smile tickled his lips.  “That’ll finish it, I think.”
Abruptly, his stomach knotted itself into a hard ball.  He bent sharply over, feeling his skin flush hot.  The screen lurched and the lines and numbers warped, shimmering.  He groaned and tried to steady himself against the workstation.
His hand bumped against the vial Muligan had left.
Trembling, he picked it up and shook the liquid a little.  It sloshed up against the sides of the container in choppy wavelets.  James closed his sweaty hand around it and looked at the complex data stream on the wall.  “You win Muligan. But so do I.”
If he did not take his own life, another man would soon come and do it for him.  He knew his executioner’s name, his blue-gray eyes and blond hair.  Death, from the moment he had been captured, had always been inevitable.  This way felt clean, though, ending life mostly on his terms and not at the hands of a one-time friend.  They were still united in their vision, though.  And that would be enough.
James fumbled on his desk for a needle and syringe.  He speared one end and emptied the entire vial into the thumb-thick plastic cylinder.  With his first finger, he tapped the air bubbles to the surface. He caught the hint of irony in the gesture, and laughed in a short bitter explosion of sound.  Like it will make any difference now.  A moment later, the needle sunk into his flesh and he winced as always with its bite.  He tossed the empty casing onto the floor, barely noticing the clatter on metal.
Leaning heavily on his arms, he studied the schematic again through both the bright glimmers of pain and the gathering cziana fog.  If the genetic production directory overrides that I acquired still work, he’ll have a chance.  Just a chance, but that’s all I can give him now. 
James drew his lips up, a quivering compromise between a smile and an expression of despair. This form, this mind, this is all I can leave to you.  He pulled the keyboard to him and pressed the numbers that would send the template to the production directories.  Within hours, the soup of lines and numbers would begin to dictate the formation of living tissue.
Happy Birthday, my son. And someday, I hope you can forgive me.
He pressed the last number, and the screen went dark.


Sample Chapters from Children of the Great Reckoning Book 4: Operator



Children of the Great Reckoning Book 4: Operator

Coming to Audio in February 2014



Chapter 1

I knew when I sent him to the forest that I might never see my son again.  But I also knew that with a Binder for his guardian, he would be safe and perhaps even have a chance at happiness.  It was an action of a loving mother, even if he will never understand this.

Journals of High Priestess
Jean Molair


Spirit Marga Temple

High Priestess Jean Molair stood in one of the towering archways of the Spirit Marga’s central hall. The window before her reached up nearly four stories, and below her feet she could almost feel the twenty or more levels that plunged into the living rock of her world.  Her dark hair was pulled back severely, although a few strands had escaped the clasp and tickled at her face.  She swiped them back behind her ear, and then placed her fingertips against the glass.
“Jerian,” she whispered.  The glass reflected her son’s name back to her and she leaned her forehead against the cool surface.  The rain slid and ran on the other side of the window.  It matched her mood—slippery, grey and heavy.  Her administrator robes hung a little on her too-slender frame and only darkened the look of fatigue about her eyes.
She did not allow many to see her like this, leaning and letting the world do the crying for her beyond the glass. Ancient Hobert Temmons, the abbot of the Northwest Monastery, yes, he could stand behind her and see her like this.  He had seen her in far worse states.  And perhaps her sometimes bodyguard and security advisor, Leland, she would allow this close.  They were the only other people after all who had seen Jerian when he was born, had been right there when Tebre, the towering Binder, took her son and disappeared into the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest because his father, Ianto Tobali had said it was necessary.  Necessary?  What did Ianto know about such things, he who was not even really human?  He who moved the nanotech that infected their world with such ease because of what he was—nanotech himself, small, persistent, biomechanical ephemera.  Sometimes, she could feel him moving within her, touching her from the inside as if to ask if she still was.
Nineteen years had strung themselves out, years of responsibility, years of aching for her mother’s advice and support, years of tedious, dangerous political maneuvering as she tried to smooth out a world gone to wrinkles and rigidity.  The Emperium was once again trying to dictate nanotech research, using less than subtle threats to convince the great Margas to turn to cleansing the world of the infestation that caused the Great Reckoning and birthed all the Children of God—the Weres and Seafarin, the Shodo and the Binders and don’t forget the Elves. 
The goddamn elves.
“She’s dead, Jerian,” Jean whispered.  “Really dead. Burned and scattered and falling with the rain now, I suppose.  Falling on your upturned face somewhere, Cyntia Molair, the grandmother you never met.  And leaving me Nuress to deal with.”
There should have been other grandchildren, heirs to the Marga.  But Jean, like so many human-shaped beings of her world could not conceive, as if the nanotech in their environments simply snipped off each growing glob of cells and cast them out.  They, the humans, were beginning to feel the effects of the childless years.
But the Children of God reproduced, heavens yes, their numbers swelling and pressing both the aging and few very young humans to the edge of becoming a minority.
Inshallah,” Jean said into the glass.  “If God wills it.”  But she wished she could untangled the knots in her chest when she was forced to move among them, the great unblinking eyes of the Seafarin so very unreadable, the Binders, who had to bend themselves deeply to look into her eyes, and the Elves who had exploded on the world scene in ways sometimes brutal and sometimes clever and circumspect.  They looked just human enough to rattle her—their faces a little longer than natural, their eyes large and their ears ending in delicate points, their hair long and shimmering in an array of colors.  How smoothly they moved, cunning hunters all, but also artists, musicians, poets—they flooded the Spirit Marga now and there was no way to avoid them. It did not help that in each face, she swore she could see hints of Sam Stelle, but he seemed content to forgive and forget.  Still, she felt her tentative human hold on the Marga loosening each year.
They were all human once, Jean told herself sternly.  They were words she said every morning and evening, the very heart behind their name, the Children of God, a generation of their own human children warped and changed by the Game into the beings around her now, into the beings who were breeding and changing all ideas of what it meant to be human.
Once, they were human, but not now, something in her whispered darkly.  Out there, though, in the tangle of fir and fern and stone and mud, her child was growing to a man.  Her human-looking child.  She wanted him by her side, keenly, if only to remind her of her own humanity, her own womanhood.
“Where are you Jerian?” she asked the rain.



Chapter 2

Nanotech proliferation rates have continued at an exponential rate this past study year.  Philosophers argue that with each passing minute, the earth is becoming more machine than organic entity.  But if such a thing still loves, bleeds, breeds, dies, what difference then?

Annual Science Primer,
Spirit Marga


Pacific Northwest, Reservation Territories


The young man slipped through the early dawn forest, weaving his body through the tree trunks, then angled down the hill, using the gravity to give him more momentum. His rich chestnut hair hung in dark, sweaty curls to his shoulders, his simple clothes frayed and muddied.  He ran barefoot as he had since he was a child, his feet reading the ground as his other senses feathered out and around him.
 He could hear his pursuer behind him, tracing him step by step.  She had an easier time of it, simply following his path and using her greater speed to close the gap between them.  Already, he could feel her from the inside, could hear the low vibration of nanotech in her the same way he could hear the trees, the soil, even the small animals that instinctively froze as he flew by.
Run, but do not disturb.  Become the forest, but faster, smarter, the part of the forest that knows how to run.
He jumped the remaining feet to the bottom of the hill, landed true and broke out onto the beach.  He dug into the sand and stone, racing toward the water’s edge where the waves would have smoothed and hardened a running path.e He ju  Here, though, she would be faster still. His neck tightened a little as he imagined how her hand would feel when it closed on him.  Arms pumping, legs driving him forward, he mentally reached out into the waters of the bay and found what he was seeking--a huge shape paralleling the beach.  He called it forth with a yell, and then spun to watch.
The creature erupted from the gentle surf; its great black and white form slammed the sand, just missing his pursuer.  Its dorsal fin waved madly in the air, its great body writhed forward. The seven-foot runner threw herself away from the water edge, tucking and rolling and somehow finding her feet enough to stumble back. They both watched the orca wriggle itself back into the waves with a booming splash.
Jerian began to laugh as his guardian, Tebre, started toward him, her fingers curled into fists.  He sat down in the sand, gasping for breath, tears streaming down his face.
“Oh, my God, Tebre.  I had no idea you could move like that”.  He comically mimed her dive and roll and burst into another bout of laughter.
She towered over him now, her red eyes blazing even in the dim light.  “What the hell were you doing?” she roared.
Jerian pulled himself together a bit, giggles still seeping from him.  “Come on Tebre.  I was practicing staying alive, right?  Besides, even the orca thought it was damn funny.”
She didn’t even miss a beat.  “You do not push other living beings.  Ever.  Even to save your life, do you understand?  You don’t have that right.”  Tebre’s voice had dropped back into its usual deep rumbling tones, but her physical form still shook with rage.
He chomped back the last waves of laughter, working his lips hard over the edges of his teeth.  He looked down into the sand, drawing calming breaths through his nose and swallowing hard to contain himself.
“Jerian!  Do you understand?”
“Yes,” he chortled, wiping at his eyes with his fist.  “Yes, Tebre.  As if anything could hurt me.”
She reached down then, and dragged him up and off his feet, her face inches from his own. “There are things that could hurt you,” she hissed, her black pointed teeth clicking together in rage.  “Things that can kill you or worse.  This is not a game, Jerian, and you do have limits.”  She shook him hard, and then threw him down on the sand.
He felt the wave of anger wash over him then.  He snapped his eyes to her.  “I am not a little kid anymore, Tebre and I am sick of this crap. I could break you right now.  Reach in and snap!” he clicked his fingers sharply.
For one moment, he was sure she was going to grab him again.  Instead, Tebre only shrugged her great shoulders and with that one simple motion, it was like she threw off the armor of her anger.  “Yes, Jerian,” she breathed.  “Yes, you could.  And that should scare the hell out of you, even if I do not.”
Jerian glared up at her, refusing to come back to his feet.  Instead, he shoved his feet angrily at the rock and sand, and slapped the ground with his open palms. “Damn it Tebre, what are we doing here?  Am I just gonna grow old in these woods, living like a shadow? I’m bored.  Angry and bored and I want…I want…” but he couldn’t quite articulate the feeling, the hole in his heart that seemed to be growing deeper and darker with each passing month. He shoved viciously at the sand again, and then climbed to his feet.
He stepped away from her, his back to her, hands on his hips.  “I want you to take me to my mother,” he said at last.
He could hear Tebre’s low sigh.  “Jerian, we’ve been through…”
“Why?” he spun toward her.  “You say I can’t go to her.  You say it’s not safe.  But you never tell me why.  Who is she?  Do you really think she would hate me so much?”
“Hate you?” Tebre asked.  The startled tone in her voice drew Jerian back to face her again.  The Binder tipped her head, her red eyes suddenly hooded as she glanced away as if trying to shield herself from his intensity.  “No.  But she would use you, Jerian.  It’s as much a part of her nature as your ability to feel and manipulate the nanotech in your environment.  Your mother is very powerful, and her organization would suck you in.  You’re too young; you wouldn’t understand the forces at play in her world.”
“Tell me her name,” he pleaded.  “Just her name.”
“I can’t.”
“Damn it, Tebre!” he yelled, his balled fists striking at the air.  “Just her name!  Just her fucking name!”
“No,” she said, her features hardening.
He gave an inarticulate cry, his whole shoulder swinging up through his fist even though he was well out of reach of her physically.  Tebre was driven to her toes, her fingers clawing at her own throat.  He could feel her muscles, her nerves, could catch the emotional echoes of her own anger and frustration.  Yes, and there, he could sense a dark, anxious fear that felt like an invasive mold within her.  Not fear for herself.  Fear for him. As fast as he had reached into her, some part of him recoiled in a kind of self-loathing.  He immediately released her and raced to gather her into her arms, his head reaching only the crook of her armpit.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered into her spicy scent.  He felt her body tremble in his embrace, and for a long time she did not return his gesture, hardly seemed to breathe in the fold of his arms.  Then a heavy clawed hand began to tentatively smooth his damp curls.  He had never struck out at her like this, his guardian and his only friend.  His only mother, really.  And he realized how he had cut her then.  The shame of it burned on his cheeks, even as parts of him mind continued to grasp after answers, any straws, any hints.  “Oh, God, Tebre, I’m sorry.  I’m just so…just so…” but he couldn’t articulate what he felt.
“I know, Jerian. I know,” she murmured.

Sample Chapters from Children of the Great Reckoning Book 3: Architect


Children of the Great Reckoning, Book 3: Architect

Coming to Audio in February 2014





Chapter 1

I did not have long to enjoy my new found freedom from the Game.  Almost immediately, I was besieged with the simpering officials of the Science Marga and with a fever that seemed to have no discernible cause. To deal with such ephemera, one of the first things I had commissioned was a sword.  I hid it under my bed so I could sleep a little.  But mostly, I thought of Ianto.  Always, my lover was in my mind, a shadowy presence that couldn’t bear the light of my direct gaze.

Journal Entry
Sam Stelle 

Central Mansion of the Science Marga


The syringe tucked up into Sam’s sleeve felt heavy against his wrist, another aching weight in a world of form that he wobbled through.  He, who once could draw two swords with such grace, who rode raider horses in abandon, who climbed the Stair Mountain passes so effortlessly, was reduced to a slow shuffle over carpeted floors. His guards nodded him through each checkpoint, their eyes cast down in deference.  They knew his routine by now—he’d walk the halls each night until the pink intrusion of dawn drove him back to his suite. He was the ghost of each evening, the spirit they had fit into their little world of schedules and timetables and plans.  His monotonous regularity ensured they would wave him through, not really seeing him anymore. 
Even there, in the shadowy depths of the Mansion, he told himself his name over and over, like a mantra.  Sam Stelle, Executive of the Science Marga, Sam Stelle, son of Edwere.  Sam Stelle, awake after a fifteen-year coma, left handed now and with startling aquamarine eyes set in a fine-boned face.  Staring over the carefully trained gardens during the day, he still let the other names come.  But not when he was walking the halls of his father and those before him. 
She must die.  Oh, yes, those words surfaced, the ones he kept most hidden beneath an earnest and confused smile.  Keep the claws in, keep the predator’s eyes soft and a little dull.  The Game had taught him well; he had no idea how to run this empire his father left him, but he did know one thing.
He knew how to hunt.      
The medical wing was darkened as usual, the day staff thinned to a few half-sleeping techs hunched in front of their monitors.  One older woman looked up at Sam and smiled. It didn’t really reach her eyes, but a little fear did.  This one remembered his father, perhaps, and saw his genes winking in this face he now wore. 
“Good evening, Mr. Stelle.  Come to see the priestess again?”
“Yes,” he said simply.  He did not have to remember the tech’s name; names were for dancing in society.  Sam had no wish, no need, to dance. 
“I’ll buzz you in then,” she said.
Such unnecessary words, couldn’t she see that?  For months, she had buzzed him in.  Every night, same time. Of course she would buzz him in. 
The curved ceiling of the Med-ward echoed the tiny beep, the lock being drawn back so worlds could collide in a small room.
She must die.
Sam pulled the door closed behind him and threw the lock from the inside.  The med-room was a spacious and totally wasted symphony of calm colors and plants and carefully hidden equipment, although heavily shadowed in the evening lighting. Its single occupant slumbered, plugged into a kind cold sleep, her heart and organs slowed, her mind at play in another world entirely.  Here, her veins sipped IV fluids, while the being she thought she was would be setting furs against her neck and cursing the cold of the Third Stair Mountains.  Her name was Priestess Jean Molair, daughter of High Priestess Cyntia Molair, the head of the Spirit Marga.  She had once been Sam’s playmate, had run with his sister and him in the Mansion until they had collapsed into ice cream and giggles.  But his sister was dead, and Jean and he shared other darker things now.
Sam pulled out the syringe, and tucked the cap back into his hip pocket.  He had researched the poison carefully--it would dissipate into her system, leaving no footprint.  Five hours from now, a sudden and unexplained brain aneurysm would take her life.  Five hours from now, with the day shift bustling about and people coming and going from the room, Jean Molair would die a real death.  Here, the Hall of Becoming would not resurrect her.
Sam walked to her sleep unit, feeling again the terrible dragging heaviness of the real world.  But at least his mind was his wholly his own and the silence was sweeter than he had ever imagined.  He had such clarity here, breathing in real air and eating real food and by day lapsing into a fatigued stupor riddled with dreams.
Her face was calm; not serene, no, but falling into perfectly expressionless lines like a canvas waiting for a flash of color.  They had cut her hair short, like his own had been, almost shaved to the scalp to make hygienic care easier for the staff. 
“Sam.”
His head snapped up as he stepped back, startled. She rose from the other side of the bed, a seven foot-tall shadow of a being with red eyes and loose, black hair.  “What are you doing?”
He cursed again the silence of Binders.
“Tebre.” He said her name as a kind of statement, without answering her question. 
Her nostrils flared a bit, her senses so much more finely honed than his own. With the speed and grace so characteristic of her mutation, she came around the bed between Jean and him. 
“You can’t kill her, Sam,” she said.
Sam let his breath out slowly, his fingers clenched around the syringe.  As an elf in the Game, he might have been fast enough.  As a Samu’el, he might have been able to ram the needle home before she broke upon him.  Even then, it would have been a near thing. But here, in his trembling biological body, he had no chance. 
Sam backed off with hands spread a bit to make peace, and dropped onto a low couch snuggled against the wall behind him.  He felt the ever-present fever eating at him, already sipping off the adrenaline.  “She did it, Tebre,” he whispered, as soon as he trusted his voice.  “She took him from me.”
Tebre had not relaxed between the bed and Sam.  But she did cock her head a bit, birdlike, a movement as much Binder as her healing skills and her red eyes.  “I know.”
“Ianto was your friend, too.  How can you stand there and not let me do what I came to do?” he asked her.  He looked up, through his lashes, without raising his head. “She thought I would die in the Coral Fortress marketplace.  She deleted Ianto from the Game so Nuress could shatter what was left of him into some kind of fucking firewall.”
“I know,” Tebre repeated.  Her eyes glistened a bit and she blinked quickly.
They let the silence hang for a moment between them. 
“What you do not seem to understand,” she said, her voice very flat and careful, “is that Jean is pregnant.”
Sam raised his head then.  He waited three heartbeats.  Then, three more.  “It doesn’t matter,” he said at last.
“Yes, it does, Samu’el.”  She crossed to him then, dropping to one knee and looking him full in the face. Her use of his game name startled him and forced him to meet her gaze. “You will want to see the data. I can walk you through it.  But it will only tell you the same thing.  The fetus, growing exquisitely slowly because of the imposed partial stasis, is Ianto’s biological child.”
For one terrible moment, he searched into her eyes.  She was telling the truth.  And the plans of months were ripped away. 
Through his numb fingers, the syringe dropped to the floor.




Chapter 2

Ianto at play in the Game, Sam in our reality, my daughter pregnant with a dead man’s seed (who was never really a man at all)--sometimes I wake and ask myself if the course I have set is as clear as when we first began. But the board is readied, and the timer on my life, on my decisions, is already running down.

About Time
Cyntia Molair


Sleeping Quarters, Spirit Marga Temple

Cyntia drew the curtains on her tiny sleeping chamber.  Most of the world would have been surprised at the Spartan arrangements, thinking instead that the high priestess of the Spirit Marga would have slept on silk sheets in a vast chamber of a room.  But she preferred her small cell, the narrow bed and antique writing desk set before the thin strip of windows.  Her one nod to technology was a large view-screen on her right wall. 
She pulled the battered oak chair away from her desk a bit and sank into it with a sigh.  Gnarled hands drew her unfamiliar red robes around her, and she hunkered there for a few breaths.  She had given her yearly pep talk to her healers that day, and each year, it seemed to get harder to tour the facilities, shake so many hands.  Her frame was gaunt, her hair beginning to thin back from her temples in foggy wisps, but her eyes were still sharp and intelligent, even through the fatigue.
“You are wearing the robes of a warrior this evening.  I have not seen that color on you before.” The voice crackled from her view-screen, a young woman’s voice, filled with a strength that Cyntia could only wistfully recall from her own youth.  And then the form coalesced, a tall red headed woman perhaps only in her early 20s.  Her medieval dress fit tight to her slim torso, and was worked with small pearls along the flare of her breasts. 
“Good evening, Nuress,” Cyntia answered, drawing herself as tall as her tired frame would allow.  “You have an observant eye as always.  But these are robes of a healer, not a warrior.”
“Images are my life blood, Cyntia.  Is not the warrior also the healer?”
“How is my daughter?” Cyntia responded, without answering the AI’s question.  She watched her screen through her gray lashes.
Nuress did not seem at all concerned with the redirection of their conversation. “She is the reason why I have called on you this evening,” Nuress answered.
Cyntia frowned, resettling herself subtly.  “Is something wrong?”
“Only that establishing a working partnership with her in the Game has not been successful.  Your daughter cannot hold a data image well enough for me.  I need my architect back.”
Ah, now she comes to it.  For weeks, the hinting after Sam, and now she says it aloud.  Cyntia shook her head.  “It’s just not that easy, Nuress.  I can perhaps spare him for days at a time, but Sam’s presence in reality is critical to holding the stability of our world.  In a few years, the techs should…”
“No,” Nuress said, her voice cold. 
Cyntia raised one eyebrow.  “No?”
“He is the other half of my working mind, Cyntia.  Imagine if you could not dream for months and months.  How would your life be altered?”
“It is well understood that we humans can go crazy if we can’t dream,” Cyntia answered.  But her mind raced ahead, trying to see into Nuress’ perfectly composed expression. 
“As my maker’s mind functions, so does mine,” she said.
“I think you’re being melodramatic,” Cyntia returned.  How she wanted to sleep. Her body ached.   “Look at you; your form is no longer that of a child.  And you are becoming more and more self-reflective.  Your mind is becoming exceedingly complex. With each conversation over the years, you have grown. You seem to me the picture of health.”
“Mind is both embodied and relational,” Nuress said evenly.  The only relationship I have at my disposal is with Sam.”
“That’s not true,” Cyntia said.  “We interact.  You and Jean interact.  You and Ianto…”
“Ianto is problematic at best, ” Nuress said, cutting her off.  Then she smiled a little, as if understanding she was being rude.  “Cyntia, please.  Try to understand.  The new data flows we are attempting from within the Game require a dreaming mind to create physical addresses and representations that focus the flow of information in the Game.  Without Sam, I cannot do what you have asked of me.”
Cyntia drew her breath through her nose in soft, even movements, trying to think.  “How can I help?” she asked.
“Return Sam to me.”
Cyntia looked at Nuress carefully. “Do you know Sam is not well, and hasn’t been since he returned to our reality?  Are you doing this to him, to press my hand?”      
Nuress cocked her head a little, and a small smile played over her features.  “No, I am not doing this to Sam.  But I know who is.  As your precious Ianto has grown into his new function, he is requiring a great deal more energy than was used for a single consciousness.  Perhaps he and Sam are outgrowing the biological body.”
Cyntia did not miss the words ‘your precious Ianto’.  She knew that the youth had saved Nuress as surely as he had saved Sam.  She heard the echoes of that old slight there, a time of embarrassment and weakness for Nuress. “And if Ianto grows too large, if Sam’s biological body dies...” Cyntia murmured.
“They both die,” Nuress said.
Cyntia shook her head, her mind continuing to calculate.  “Maybe not.  My techs have been working with Petrek’s research data…”
“I told you never to mention his name to me,” Nuress said coldly cutting her off.
“Grow up,” Cyntian snapped back, her voice equally as cold.  “Set aside this wounded child act; it no longer becomes you.  Petrek tried to impose his personality on you and he failed.  It is done, but his research is still valuable.  You cannot keep turning away from it—at the very least he was your creator, and you know that.”
Nuress allowed a little hit of red to come into her fair skin.
“Our techs believe there is a chance that Ianto’s personality-producing nanotech clusters, freed of the body and connected to the Game, would continue to function even in non-sentient organic matrices.”
“Like trees and plants,” Nuress said.  She nodded then.  “That would mean unlimited growth, then, in the right environments.  I would see the data.”
“I’ll make it available to you.  But now if you truly need Sam back in play, you have to do something for me in return,” Cyntia murmured. 
“And that would be?”
“Come up with a reason I can present to the world why the Science Marga is no longer headed up by the Stelle family.  Without that…”
“You are the one who needs to grow up, Cyntia,” Nuress said.  “Organisms rearrange, change through time.  The Science and Spirit Margas have grown close over the last two hundred year, even sharing distinct bloodlines within your leadership--wed them now.  Forcefully if necessary.  You are poised to do that anyway.  Follow through and be the warrior.”
Cyntia frowned, shaking her head.  “I need an excuse.  The rules must be observed, the game played well here insures your continued safety.”
“Simple, then.  Tell the world your daughter is being held hostage and the Science Marga has impregnated her with a genetically engineered fetus in an attempt to control both you and the heir apparent to the Spirit Marga throne.  You act only to end their ploys.”
Cyntia smiled within.  How she matures, how she understands this world she wishes to inherit. She is not groomed fully, not yet, but it comes.  “I was the one who signed the orders allowing the pregnancy to continue.  If that were ever to leak…”
“In less than a year’s time, Ianto will be so strong that there will be no data that he will not be able to bend, no Child of God he will not be able to see into and influence under my direction, of course.”
Cyntia shuddered. Ianto, again Ianto.  Savior and shadow, his two faces stuck like sap within the very heart of the Game. “And you think you can control him.  You think you can predict how he will evolve?”
            “Yes, because as unpredictable as he can be, he is at least a part of me.  But I need Sam,” Nuress said.  Her voice took on a longing, and Cyntia narrowed her eyes in spite of herself.
“Needing is a precarious ledge to travel, Nuress.  Be sure you do not trip.”
“Stop your fearful posturing, Cyntia.  Make it happen.  Make it happen now.”