Here is chapter three of the sci-fi novel that I don’t know what to call yet! Yay! Click on the following links to read the prologue, chapter 1, and chapter 2. As a general disclaimer I just want to say that this book contains, strong language, violence, and scary situations. Also this book is a work-in-progress so there’s bound to be a few typos–bear with me guys. 🙂
“My father’s reign is over, and I want the people of this great empire to know that they can finally breathe easy,” said the striking man on the hologram projection in front of Kira’s work station.
That man was the new emperor of the Northwestern Empire, Demetrius Amartia—well, not exactly new. He had been the Emperor for two years, having taken over the position after his father, Braith Amartia—the former emperor—died. Demetrius was a young man—only twenty eight, in fact—but he was a passionate speaker, and had a sort of shrewdness in his icy-blue eyes that could only come from worldly experience. Every time Demetrius’s attractive face appeared in the holoprojection, Kira couldn’t help but stop what she was doing to watch him. It wasn’t just his face that she liked, it was the way he spoke about change. If he really did all that he said he would, the empire would be a much better place to live—though, Noire and Artemis vehemently disagreed. I guess some people just need a villain, she thought, her eyes darting between the projection and Archimedes’ control panel.
Archimedes was the bunker’s AI, which she had built herself out of spare parts. Noire and Artemis weren’t exactly found of bots, droids, or any sort of AI that had a mind of its own. Because of their complaints, she had held off on giving Archimedes a voice. But she had waited long enough. Demetrius was right, it was time for change—whether Noire and Artemis wanted it or not.
Demetrius elegantly brushed some of his, wavy, honey-brown hair out of his handsome face. “Unemployment is at an all-time low, I’ve had the ozone completely repaired—not just a quick fix as my predecessors have done—and crime is practically nonexistent in our empire,” he said in the same velvety accent that Noire had. Demetrius’s voice was deep and smooth—Kira could listen to that man’s voice all day long and never get sick of it. “Yes, it’s taken a lot of money and a lot of convincing from the other empires, but I feel as if progress is finally being made.”
The blonde newswoman he was speaking to, smiled broadly, leaning forward—probably to better expose her ample cleavage to him. “You must be very proud of all you’ve accomplished, Emperor Amartia.”
“Very much so,” he said, his eyes flickering down to her chest only for a moment before leaning back in his seat. He flashed a dazzling smile, paying the newswoman’s bountiful assets no more mind. “However, I couldn’t have done any of this without the help and support of my younger brother, Leonardo. When our father passed away, I was left with the task of healing our empire after my father’s, dare I say it, tyrannical reign. Leonardo has been at my side every step of the way.” He took a sip from his water glass before going on. “I am not my father. Although I will always love him, I know the errors of his ways and I don’t plan on making the same mistakes as he. I want to assure each and every citizen of my empire that great change is on the horizon. All I ask is that my subjects be patient with me for just a little longer.”
“Pfft! What a load of crap,” Artemis said, breaking Kira from her trance. “That guy is gonna be just like his dear old dad—imposing taxes at every turn and limiting the new tech that’s shared with us ‘common folk’.”
Kira glanced back to see Artemis standing behind her with his arms crossed over his chest, and his eyes narrowed at the projection. Kira returned her attention to her work before saying, “Are you finished sulking already? I thought you had at least another day in you.”
“What’s the point in pouting if no one can see how adorable I am when I do it?” he said, hopping up to sit on the table she was working at. “Yo, bot, turn that crap off already.”
Kira groaned. “For the last time, its name is Archimedes. It won’t respond to ‘bot’, or ‘droid’, or ‘sparky’, or any other name that isn’t Archimedes,” she said, refraining from rolling her eyes. “Archimedes, terminate projection.” The holoprojection disappeared in that instant.
Artemis kicked his feet, much like a child would. “You really shouldn’t name those things. They’ll start to think they’re people and kill us all. It’s only a matter of time, you know.”
“Intelligent droids have been around for over 600 years and we’re all still alive,” she said pointedly. “You choose the weirdest things to worry about.”
Artemis’s top lip twitched upward in disgust as he eyed Archimedes’s control panel warily. “It’s not weird! It’s a legit concern, man! Me and Addy may not see eye to eye on everything, but we at least we can agree that bots shouldn’t have personalities and minds of their own. I’m telling ya, K, they’re gonna revolt one day, take over the world, and kill all of us fleshies. That’s what they call us, you know.”
Kira groaned, hanging her head over her work. “I think I liked it better when you were all pouty and unsociable. If you’re going to be angry with me and Noire, the least you can do is commit to it for a while so I can get some work done.”
He laughed. “You know I’m no good at holding grudges—that’s your department. Why waste the energy on being angry when I could be using it to plan how I’m gonna sneak onto that space station.”
Kira put the cover back on the control panel and made a few adjustments to her holowatch with her omnilaser tool. “You’re still planning on that, huh? I’m glad the time you spent alone in your room helped you to see reason,” she said sarcastically, lowering her magnification glasses over her eyes to better see what she was doing. “I hate to break this to you but there’s no way you’re getting up to that station without a class five hovercraft, a teleporter with the station’s exact coordinates and up-to-date passcodes, or—”
“Security passes, yeah I know, dreamzapper 4.0,” Artemis said, gently bumping his shoulder into her. “I swear, you’re about as compassionate as one of your precious bots. You should update your programing with some humanity when you get the chance.”
Kira’s cool expression remained unchanged as she set her omnilaser aside and tapped the touchscreen on her watch a few times. “Ha. Ha. Funny. I guess this is why you’re so popular with the girls. That was more sarcasm by the way.”
“Sarcastic girls aren’t really in demand, K. Do you have a ‘cute’ setting, or did you forget to add that one too?” Artemis said, grinning widely and kicked his legs a bit more—amused by his own ‘cleverness’.
“Will you two ever learn to get along?” Noire asked as he strolled up to Kira’s work station.
“Probably not, but it’d be weird if we did,” Artemis said. His smile faded and he hopped down from the counter. Kira always thought Artemis looked so grown up without a smile—it was unsettling. “Come to kick me out?” he asked, his voice void of any of its former playfulness.
Noire approached Kira’s table and carefully set the control panel aside. After a moment, he exhaled softly through his nose—he only did that when something was troubling him. “No. I came to … apologize.”
Artemis folded his arms loosely over his chest, turning his head away. “Took you long enough.”
“The two of you are adults,” Noire went on as if he hadn’t even heard him, “and I have no right to keep you from pursing your own ventures—no matter how ill-thought out I think they are.”
Artemis smirked. “Is there some good news beneath that insult?”
Noire shut his eyes—Kira could tell that he was struggling with whatever he was about to say next. Noire reached inside his breast pocket and removed Tora Corp ID cards. He tapped each of the cards lightly with his finger and Kira and Artemis’s three dimensional faces formed above them. “I had these made by one of my contacts—he’s discreet and didn’t ask any questions so you don’t have to worry about that at least. These are official Tora Corp ID cards with level three security clearances—my contact didn’t have the tech to program these cards with anything above that. I’ve already begun compiling program files for your new identities.”
Kira raised a brow, hardly believing what she was hearing. “Wait… Program files? We’re not chipped—how will you upload the files?”
Noire took her hand and gently tapped her holowatch. “With this. Do you think you can fashion one for Artemis within the next week?”
Kira shrugged. “I can try. But why within the next week?”
“Because Tora Corp is shipping new officers to the N.E.S. Bengal next Thursday. After that, they don’t plan on sending anyone new for at least two years,” Noire explained.
“Hold on,” Artemis said, waving his hands. “What’s this about ‘new officers’?”
“Tora Corp has recently recruited their own private military,” Noire said, hanging Archimedes’ control panel back up on the wall. “They have their soldiers and officers test the weapons they invent on their research and development space station. Kira and Artemis, you will both be posing as CMSs—the highest ranking soldiers below the officer ranks.”
Artemis nodded slowly. “Right… So, what’s a CMS again?”
“Chief Master Sargent,” Kira replied.
Artemis’s eyes lit up with excitement. “I’m gonna be a chief and a master? Sweet!”
Noire handed them the ID cards before going on, “Kira, I’ve coded ‘engineering’ and ‘marksmanship’ into your program files, and Artemis, I’ve coded ‘martial arts’ into your files. This will make it seem as if you’ve installed top of the line profession chips, and no one should question either of your abilities or qualifications.”
“What about communication?” Kira asked. “Everyone’s got universal translation mandatorily programmed into their data chips. We’re going to be figured us out as soon as we run into anyone who doesn’t speak English. And, as I recall, Tora Corp is a quad-imperial company—there’ll be people from all over the world up there.”
“I believe I’ve still got a couple of language translating microbugs from my exploits in the Northeastern Empire a few years ago,” Noire said, leaning against the metal workstation and crossing his arms over his chest. “And as long as you have your watches containing your cover-identity information, you should be able to pass all the chip scanners you encounter with no trouble whatsoever. Just be sure to carry those watches on you at all times.”
Artemis sighed in an overdramatic fashion. “Do I have to? It’s gonna make my wrist look fat, and they’re so last season.”
Kira smirked and shook her head. “Just for that, I’m going to make your watch especially ugly—maybe I’ll even add some female repelling programming…”
“Oh, come on, K! Don’t be mean.”
“Alright, alright,” Kira said with an airy wave of her hand. “Your smell alone is repellent enough I suppose. It would be cruel to lower your chances any further.”
Artemis slung an arm around her neck and held her tightly so he could grind his knuckles into her skull. “Aww! Aren’t you just the sweetest little thing!”
Noire chuckled, though he tried to disguise his amusement in coughs. “That’s enough, Artemis. When you’re up on that space station, you’re going to have to act like you belong there. Don’t draw attention to yourselves. You must keep your heads down and act like soldiers.”
Kira wriggled out of Artemis’s grasp and punched him in the gut. She hated when he did that. She straightened out her hair and narrowed her eyes at Artemis. “And how does one act like a solider?”
“Honestly, I’ve never been one, so I couldn’t tell you,” Noire said. “That’s why I’ve contacted someone who’s more familiar with military practices to teach you how to blend in. He’ll be arriving bright and early tomorrow morning to begin your training.”
Artemis rubbed his stomach, cringing slightly. “Whoa… You’re actually gonna let someone else down here?”
“He’s been here before. I trust him,” Noire said, turning on his heel and strolling away. “I suggest you rest up for tomorrow—you’re going to need as much sleep as you can get before your training starts.”
Artemis raised a brow as he and Kira watched Noire go. “Sounds intense. Do you think he’s just trying to scare us out of going?”
Kira considered the possibility before shaking her head. “No. That’s not really Noire’s style. If he didn’t want us to go, we’d know about it.”
“Huh. I guess you’re right,” Artemis murmured, stroking his prickly chin.
Kira tapped the screen of her holowatch and said, “Archimedes, set my alarm for 5:30 a.m.”
“Alarm set, Ms. Chevalier,” replied a soft, male voice from the watch.
“What the hell was that?” Artemis asked.
“That was what I’ve been working on all day,” Kira said, smiling broadly—a rare sight, to be sure. “You and Noire may not want your AI’s to have voices, but I do. I like Archimedes’s new voice and I’m not disabling it no matter how much you whine and complain.”
Artemis groaned and shuffled off down an aisle of machines. “I’m telling you, it’s creepy! Ugh… whatever. I’m going to sleep.”
Kira smirked and spoke to her holowatch again. “Say ‘goodnight’ to Artemis, Archimedes.”
“Goodnight, Mr. Flynn. Don’t forget to set an alarm for your training tomorrow,” Archimedes said.
Artemis grumbled something that Kira couldn’t hear and continued on, not even bothering to look back. She chuckled. “Yeah, you and he are going to be the best of friends, Archimedes.”
“Judging by his demeanor, I would have to disagree,” Archimedes said.
She sighed, tapping her watch once more to turn her watch AI off. “I guess I’ll have to adjust your programming to recognize sarcasm, huh?”
Kira awoke to the annoying beeping sound of her alarm. She vaguely wondered if the people who lived up on the surface could program their data chips to wake them with something less irritating—maybe chipped people even had an ‘automatic’ wake-up setting. She stretched widely and got out of bed, taking a fresh pair of exercise attire from her brushed-metal clothing receptacles, and put them on.
Kira tidied her room—it didn’t take long as she had nowhere near as much stuff as Artemis had. She had one book shelf packed full of ancient texts, a bed, and a few clothes bins that she made sure to always keep neat. She had no posters or statuary or anything that really personalized her room—she didn’t even keep her tech tools, inventions, or guns in her room. Kira had always considered herself a practical person, and—practically speaking—her room was for sleeping in, it wasn’t for decorating or doing things in. Besides, she didn’t intend to stay there forever, so she didn’t feel the need to make her room ornate.
She left her room after she’d finished getting dressed and strode through the dark bunker, lighted only by the soft blues and reds of the machines. When she finally reached the kitchen—at least that’s what they called the area where they stored their boxed food tablets—she was surprised to see that it wasn’t empty. Noire was seated at their circular metal table with a man that Kira didn’t recognize.
The man was older than Noire—probably by fifteen years or so—and he had probing, black eyes that studied Kira’s with subdued fascination. His dark hair was streaked with gray and slicked back out of his face. He looked stern and serious, as if he had never cracked a smile in his entire life. The man wore a neatly pressed, gray suit, but there were scars on his hands—strange for someone wearing such fine attire.
Noire motioned to the seat beside him. “Ah, there you are, Kira. Please, sit down.”
Kira took a seat and swiped her finger across her place setting, choosing caffeine, protein tablets, and water infused with minerals and electrolytes from the table’s drop-down menu. A moment later, her items appeared inside the glass containment sphere at the center of the table.
“Breakfast of champions,” the older man said, his lips turning downward. “We strictly eat fresh food at the Timber Organization.”
Kira placed her food tablets and water in front of her. “You’re a part of that rebel militia group, then?”
Noire nodded. “This is Lucas Cain. Mr. Cain is the leader of the Timber Organization. Mr. Cain, this is Kira Chevalier.”
Her eyes widened and she dropped the caffeine tablet she was about to put in her mouth. The name Lucas Cain was infamous all over the world. The media couldn’t stop talking about him and the Timber Organization’s exploits to bring down the Northwestern Empire. However, ever since Demetrius became Emperor two years prior, Timber’s sabotage attempts had become few and far between.
“It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Cain,” Kira said, quickly straightening up. “Forgive me for not recognizing you.”
“I’m hardly offended—I try to remain as anonymous as a man in my position can. The fact that you didn’t recognize me means I’m doing something right,” Cain replied, his gaze flickering to Noire for just a second before giving Kira his full attention once more. “In any case, I’m glad to finally meet you Ms. Chevalier. Mr. Noire has told me much about you and your extraordinary gift with all things tech related.”
Kira shook her head, lowering her eyes the table. “I’m as good as any unchipped human can be, I guess.”
“There’s no need to be modest, Kira. You’re more skilled than all the chipped engineer’s I’ve ever met,” Noire said as he leaned back in his seat. “They lack imagination—that’s what makes you the best in your field. You’re not afraid to think outside the box because you’re not confined by programming. You’re not limited to prewritten coding like those chipped drones that try to pass themselves off as people.”
Cain hummed thoughtfully as he looked around Noire’s many archaic machines, gadgets, and devices. “She is, however, limited in terms of the technology at her disposal. Your hologram watch is clever, but it’s old tech. Laser projection is the development of the century—you should utilize it Ms. Chevalier.”
“Believe me, Mr. Cain, I would if I could,” Kira said, shooting Noire a knowing look.
Noire sighed softly, airily waving his hand. “I refuse to use empire tech in my bunker. You know they put tracking bugs in all of their equipment.” He scowled and clenched his jaw. “I hope Braith Amartia is burning in hell right now for all the harm he’s caused this empire…”
“For all the horrid things he’s done, I have no doubt that if such a place exists that is exactly where he is,” Cain said, lacing his fingers on the table. “But you haven’t called me here to discuss politics. Where is your other charge, Mr. Noire? I’ve only got a week to turn them into convincing Tora Corp soldiers so we must start right away.”
“Knowing that boy, he probably just went to sleep,” Noire muttered, narrowing his yellow eyes.
“I’ll get him,” Kira said, tapping her watch twice. “Archimedes, please wake up Artemis.”
“Right away, Ms. Chevalier,” Archimedes replied. “What method should I use? One, two, or three?”
“Time is of the essence, so I think method three would be best,” Kira said.
A moment later, loud twentieth century rock music filled the bunker. The sound of crashing and cussing soon accompanied the music. Kira grinned and said. “Alright, that’s enough, Archimedes.” The music stopped but the Artemis’s boisterous cussing continued.
“WHAT THE HELL, YOU GUYS! PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP HERE!” Artemis’s furious voice echoed throughout the bunker.
“Morning, Artemis,” Kira called with mock sweetness. “Hey, since you’re already up, why don’t you put on some clothes and meet Mr. Cain. He’s going to be our teacher this week.”
Kira heard Artemis groan lowly. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll be right out…” There was a long silence before he spoke again. “Uh, K?”
“How did you know I wasn’t wearing any clothes?”
Kira rolled her eyes and popped a caffeine tablet in her mouth. “Because you’re disgusting and predictable. Now, hurry up.”
Cain chuckled softly, though his smile was tight. “He’s going to be a challenge.”
Noire lowered his head and shook it slowly. “He always is.”
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