Chapter 6 of my new sci-fi novel!

It’s been a while since I’ve posed an update for my sci-fi novel, so here is chapter 6 (it still has yet to be named by the way). If this is the first chapter you’ve come across please check out the prologue, chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, and chapter 5.

Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I did not catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.

Chapter 6

Welcome Aboard the N.E.S. Bengal

 

Kira shut her eyes as soon as she felt her molecules tearing themselves apart. The pain was agonizing, but only for a moment. When she next opened her eyes she took a gasping breath and braced herself against the glass cell of her teleportation capsule. The pain was gone but she still felt as if she had come up for air after being under the water for much too long. Her heart pounded against her chest like the beat of one of Artemis’s annoyingly loud 20th century rock songs. She stared wide eyed at the luminescent platform beneath her feet before the sudden sound of someone knocking on her capsule brought her back to her senses.

“Sergeant Leonid?” called a muffled, high pitched, female voice. “Sergeant Leonid? Are you alright, ma’am?”

“She’s not used to being ripped apart and reassembled again,” replied Artemis’s muffled voice.

Kira’s raised her eyes just enough to see two pairs of feet standing in front of her teleportation capsule. She recognized Artemis’s large black boots, and figured the smaller pair of boots must have belonged to the woman her first spoke. However, she did not feel well enough yet to lift her head up any further.

“Sergeant Leonid isn’t used to being teleported?” the female voice asked. “Teleportation training is a prerequisite for being authorized to access the Bengal, isn’t it?”

Kira watched Artemis shift his weight from foot to foot. “Um … well, y-yeah?”

Kira scowled at Artemis’s stammered reply. They hadn’t even been there five minutes and they were already causing suspicion. After taking a deep breath, she straightened up and smoothed back her short, dark brown hair. “You’ll have to forgive me, solider. It’s been a while since training, and a simulation is nothing like experiencing the real thing.”

Pushing back her shoulders she raised her chin and pressed her palm to the capsule’s evacuation button. The door slid open with a whistling breath and Kira stepped out, doing her best to keep her balance despite how shaky her legs felt.

She gave Artemis a look that she hoped would tell him to stop talking, before turning her attention to the new women. She was pretty with blonde hair that was pulled back into a tight bun and a broad—although slightly nervous—smile. Thankfully, her stunningly pink eyes—definitely a surgical modification—studied Kira with more curiosity than suspicion.

“I hope you don’t take offense to this, Sergeant Leonid, but you’ve got to be the youngest Chief Master Sergeant I’ve ever met,” the young woman said, tilting her head to one side. “My biometric scanners say you’re about twenty-one years old, correct?”

Biometric scanners? Kira thought, feeling the blood drain from her cheeks. God I hope that isn’t a standard issue program… Although Kira’s heart was threatening to beat right out of her chest, she forced herself to calm down. “That’s correct—“ Her gaze darted down to her uniform stripes for only a moment before flickering back up to meet the woman’s hot pink eyes. “Senior Master Sergeant.”

“Oh my gosh! You must be some sort of prodigy!” she cried with enthusiasm that Kira found inappropriate for a woman of her ranking. “Oh, sorry! I know your names from the teleportation roster, but you probably have no idea who I am. My name’s Penrose Lemta, but most people call me Penny.”

“I think I’ll call you Sergeant Lemta, if you don’t mind,” Kira replied, sounding colder than she’d intended—she was still a bit out of sorts from teleportation. However, she wasn’t going to apologize for her tone. Penrose was her ‘subordinate’, and she would treat her as such to keep up appearances.

Artemis nudged her sharply in the side, flashing Penrose one of his charming smiles. “Don’t mind her, Penny. K’s just a little grouchy from the trip—and I thought she was bad after those teleportation sims we had to go through a couple months ago!” Artemis said, slapping Kira hard on the back.

Kira coughed from the impact and shot him a deadly glare. Penrose laughed, placing her hands on her slender hips. For a woman with such a small and slender frame, Penrose had an ample amount of chest. Artemis eyes flickered from her breasts to her face a few times before seemingly making a conscious effort to keep his line of sight above her shoulders. Kira sighed inwardly. Don’t be dumb, Artemis. A blind man could see those are modified.

Penny chuckled, apparently unfazed by Kira’s chilly demeanor. “Don’t worry, Sergeant Leonid, the first teleportation is always the worst,” she said in an upbeat tone. “Why don’t we take a walk to get your systems recalibrated, hm?”

Artemis grinned. “Sounds good to me. What do ya say, K?”

Kira didn’t really feel like walking just then, but she decided to push through her discomfort. Thus, she nodded. “Yes. I’d like to get acquainted with the ship as soon as possible.”

“Yeah! We’re really interested in that MCTA stuff. Can you takes us there first?” Artemis asked a little too eagerly for Kira’s tastes.

“MCTA is being tested in our engineering division,” Penny explained. “Only level three security clearance personnel with division eight or higher engineering downloads can access the facility. I’m a navigator so I couldn’t escort you two into the engineering department even if I wanted to. If you really want to see what’s going on over there, Sergeant Hartford, you can ask Sergeant Leonid to get you clearance since she’s the only one between the three of us with access to that department.”

Kira clasped her hands behind her back as she had seen Noire do many times before—she had always thought it made him look so authoritative. “Engineering can wait, Sergeant Hartford. We’ve been assigned to the Bengal to work, not to sight-see. I’m certain we’ll have plenty of time to explore after Sergeant Lemta has shown us around.”

“Sure, sure,” Penny said waving to them as she led the way out of the small teleportation chamber. “The officers encourage us to take advantage of all the N.E.S. Bengal has to offer when we have the time. Honestly, it’s pretty relaxed around here unless you’ve got trials on your schedule for the day.”

“Trials?” Artemis asked.

“Yes, trials,” Penny replied, briefly glancing back over her shoulder at them as she led then down a long metallic hallways without windows. The large square tiles beneath their feet lit up as they walked across them. “You were briefed about your roles aboard this ship, weren’t you?”

“Refresh our memories,” Kira said in a monotone.

“All Tora Corp soldiers brought aboard the Bengal are required to participate in the testing of TCEs at least eight hours a week—that’s the mandatory minimum,” Penny said.

Artemis scratched his head. “Uh, I think my mind beans are still scrambled from the trip. What’s a ‘TCE’ again?”

Penrose paused in her tracks and spun around to face them, causing both Kira and Artemis to freeze in place. “Mind beans?”

Kira released a breath she had not known she’d been holding in and chuckled hoping that it didn’t sound too relieved. “Yes. That’s what Sergeant Hartford has instead of a functioning brain. Please forgive his ridiculous euphemisms, Sergeant Lemta.”

“Pfft!” Artemis said, waving his hand in Kira’s direction. “’Mind beans’ is gonna catch on, and when it does you’re gonna be sorry you didn’t hop on the ‘bean train’ sooner. And at least I don’t make up words—what the hell is a ‘u-phone-ism’ anyway? Sounds like old tech.”

Kira stared at him for a long moment. “Any sort of intelligence is wasted on you, isn’t it?”

Penny laughed, tilting her head back towards the domed metal ceiling a few feet above. “You two have known each other for a while, haven’t you?”

Artemis playfully ruffled Kira’s hair. “Heck yeah! Me and K go way back, don’t we, kiddo?”

Kira grabbed his hand and threw it back down to his side. “Regrettably.” Kira straightened up and cleared her throat. “Now, you were about to remind Sergeant Hartford what a TCE is, weren’t you?”

“Oh! Right,” Penny said, wiping the amused smiled from her face. “TCE stands for ‘Tora Corporation Experiment’. So far we’ve got about a thousand experiments and counting locked away in our onboard containment facilities. Class three personnel, like you, are cleared for testing green and yellow division TCEs. Red division TCE testing is reserved for level five personnel only—basically only the highest officers on board have that sort of clearance. Anyone below a level four security clearance isn’t even allowed to enter the red division containment center.”

Not our problem, Kira thought and decided not to ask any more questions on TCEs. Their primary goal was the MCTA which seemed to at least be within her reach. Artemis was charismatic enough to pry some information out of the tighter lipped Tora Corp employees, so she would leave Cain’s little task to him. Kira didn’t care what they were keeping in the red division, though she sensed from the hint of frustration in Penny’s voice that she did care. Again, that wasn’t her or Artemis’s problem.

Kira kept quiet as Artemis casually flirted with Penny until they reached the end of the long hallway. Penny paused in front of a pair of brushed metal doors, still blushing from Artemis’s last compliment. She pressed her hand to the touchscreen on the door and a hollow female voice sounded throughout the hallway. “Access granted, Senior Master Sergeant Penrose Lemta. Clear to scan Tora Corp employee data chips?”

“Clear, Mia,” Penny said cheerfully before turning to face them. “Alright, Sergeants, arms at your sides and face forward, just like in base training.”

Kira and Artemis did as they were instructed, allowing the ship’s A.I. to scan them. It hardly took more than a second before the A.I. spoke again. “Chief Master Sergeant of Tora Militia Artemis Hartford, and Chief Master Sergeant of Tora Militia Kira Leonid cleared for entry. All access to appropriate level three security areas granted.”

“Thanks, Mia,” Penny said as the door slid open for them. “By the way, that was Andromeda—Bengal’s onboard A.I. I call her Mia for short and so do a lot of other employees. She’s the most sophisticated A.I. around. She monitors nearly every part of this ship.”

Nearly?” Kira asked.

“Well, I’m told that the only parts of the ship Mia’s been barred from monitoring are the red division testing facilities—there aren’t any audio or video devices allowed in there,” Penny explained. “Don’t get me wrong, Mia’s still got that area locked down tight with protocol security measures, she just can’t see or hear what’s going on in there.”

So it all comes back to the ‘red division. This woman must really be obsessed, Kira thought as Penny led them into a large central hub area. Like the Tora Corp Transportation center on earth, this room’s ceiling was made of thick, tempered glass. Kira found it truly amazing that it didn’t shatter beneath the extreme pressures of space. The glass allowed them a lovely view of Earth which floated amidst a seat of blackness and distant stars. Although the hub didn’t have many furnishings—there a few uncomfortable-looking metal benches pushed against the wall, a couple of plants protected behind glass enclosures, and a massive laser projection up on the far wall which Reid Zarlok’s scruffy face was taking up. Zarlok winked and gave all of his employees passing through the hub a ‘thumbs-up’, his grin looking too wide for his face.

As in the transportation center on earth, the hub was bustling with people dressed in militia uniforms, lab coats, and expensive, tailored suits made from the finest materials money could buy. Though, as Kira scanned the room, she saw that there were no more data chip scanners of any sort—she supposed Andromeda had all that under control.

Penny led them through the crowd of people to a large counter arena right beneath Zarlok’s ridiculously huge projection. The bored looking solider behind the desk who was tossing a ball of blueish energy up and down, immediately sat up at attention when he caught sight of Penrose. Kira could tell by his stripes—or rather, lack thereof—that Penny was his senior officer, which meant she and Artemis were as well.

With a quick snap of his fingers the ball of blueish energy disappeared and he smiled broadly, his cheeks turning pink. “H-hello, Sergeant Lemta! New soldiers?”

Kira guessed that the boy must have been around her age—maybe a little younger, but not by much. Penny nodded once. “Yep, yep! They’ll be needing their orientation packets.”

“Right,” the solider said, flicking his forefinger and thumb out causing a translucent blue screen appear before him. “Mia, please pull up new recruits identity data.”

“Immediately, Senior Airman Jones,” replied Andromeda’s smooth, womanly voice from somewhere behind the desk.

The translucent blue screen filled with lines of information—which Kira couldn’t read because they were backwards to her—along with both Kira and Artemis’s pictures.

Jones tapped the screen a few times before minimizing it. “Alright Sergeant Hartford, and Sergeant Leonid, you’re orientation files are being downloaded to your data chips right now,” he said with an exuberance that only came from youth.

Kira, on the other hand, was not as excited as Jones. Instead of having that information that was supposed to be downloaded to their data chips immediately at their disposal, she and Artemis would have to study it, and study it well. She would probably have to connect Archimedes to Artemis’s language chip to help him navigate the ship—after all, he was not as competent with studying as she was.

“Alright, are your maps downloaded?” Penny asked, setting her hands on her scant hips. Kira and Artemis exchanged hesitant looks and murmured ‘yes’. “Okay! Let’s start our tour then.”

Kira briefly shut her eyes and released a steadying breath. Thank goodness they were still going to be given a tour. As Penny marched toward the large archway to their left—one of the four large archways leading away from the hub—Kira turned away from Jones and gently nudged Artemis in the side. “Pay attention,” she hissed. “We’re both going to need to know the lay out of this ship.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Artemis said with an airy wave of his hand. He ruffled her hair. “Chill out, will you? I got this.”

Kira grimaced as Artemis’s hand fell from her head back down to his side and he started after Penny. Needless to say, his ‘I got this’, hadn’t exactly inspired confidence. He had said that many times before when he clearly hadn’t ‘got it’. She just hoped for his sake, as well as her own that this time he actually meant what he said.

 

Penny showed them the different sections of the ship, and, as Kira had anticipated, the layout of the N.E.S. Bengal was quite complicated. I guess I will have to program Archimedes to give him directions after all, Kira thought glumly to herself as she glanced over at Artemis who looked utterly confused.

After being shown the cafeteria, mall area, weapon range, training facilities, the mental hospital—which they had been told Tora Corps criminally insane test subjects were held—and beta-testing areas, Penny finally led them to the section of the Bengal that they were most interested in. “And here we are,” Penny said brightly, thrusting her arm toward a pair of reinforced steel doors. “Tora Corp’s famous engineering labs! Behind these doors the greatest inventions the world has ever seen are being developed. This is where you’ll be working, Sergeant Leonid. Aren’t you excited?”

Kira could not stop the slightest of smirks from forming on her lips. “More than you realize, Sergeant Lemta.”

Kira’s stringent gaze fell upon the ominous steel doors set into the sterile white wall before them. This should be a quick job. I’ll get in, grab the MCTA while Artemis snoops around for information on Tora Corp corruption, and then we can leave.

Almost as if reading her thoughts Penny went on to say, “Oh! I should tell you now that the rules are the strictest in the engineering labs. Protocol is followed to a T there. No authorized materials go in no prototypes come out of there without express approval from General Kipling. The anti-gravity shoes are fun, but trust me they’re not worth borrowing for a joy ride—Sergeant Aldan got discharged for just trying to sneak those babies out of the lab.”

“How’d he get caught?” Artemis asked.

“Mia,” Penny replied simply. “She’s got eyes and ears all over this place. Besides that there are scanners all throughout the Bengal that run independently from Andromeda’s programing. Between the scanners and Mia, it’s pretty much impossible to get away with shenanigans here.”

Artemis snorted a laugh. “Shenanigans…”

“It means ‘mischief’, you dolt,” Kira snapped, having to restrain herself slapping him in the stomach. “Stop laughing.”

Penny chuckled. “Well, to be fair, it is a pretty funny word.”

Right?” Artemis said, his eyes lighting up as he and Penny shared a strange ‘idiot moment’.

Kira shifted uncomfortably watching Artemis and Penny smile at one another like they had forgotten she was there. She cleared her throat loudly, jarring them out from their daze. “Shall we continue our tour now, Sergeant Lemta?”

“Yes, of course!” Penny said, her cheeks turning pink as she averted her eyes from Artemis and hurried past them. “Follow me! We’ve still got a lot to see.”

Artemis was just about to prance off after her like a dog that just had been called to a meal when Kira grabbed his arm and tugged him back. “Artemis, I swear to god, if you mess this up I will never forgive you. This is dangerous. Do you understand that?” she whispered harshly.

“Huh? What are you talking about?” Artemis asked, raising a brow.

Kira merely shot him a knowing look in response.

“What? Penny?” Artemis asked, laughing softly, so as not to draw attention. “I’m just being friendly. Cool your jets, K, we’ll be fine. I ain’t gonna mess anything up for us.” He then leaned in closer. “We probably shouldn’t be talking about this here because of, you know … GLaDOS.”

Kira’s face scrunched up. “Who?

“Portal reference?”

Kira shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t know what apertures have to do with this.”

“Seriously? You’ve never heard of Portal and you choose to say aperture?”

“Why is that so strange? It’s synonymous with the word porthole.”

“No! Not porthole, Portal! You know, the video game?”

Kira cast him an apathetic look to which Artemis rolled his eyes. “Okay, never mind that. Just, you know, watch what you say,” he said, discreetly nodding to one of Andromeda’s touch screen command pads. Now she understood. He was worried about the ship’s A.I. overhearing them and for good reason. Kira would have to create some sort of scrambling programming to shield Andromeda from recording their private conversations.

He clapped his hand on Kira’s shoulder. “Look, we’ll talk later. Let’s just finish our tour, yeah?”

Before she even had a chance to reply, Artemis strode forward, following after Penny. Kira clenched her jaw and grudgingly went after him. She would knew she would have to keep a keen eye on him—he got distracted so easily, especially when buxom women were involved.

Penny led them though a large common area and down a long hallway at the end of which were two double doors with the word ‘Dormitories’ glowing upon a glass pane above them.

“Since you two are Chief Master Sergeants you get your own state rooms. I heard they’re really nice—I can’t wait until I get promoted to your levels!” Penny said, flattening her arms down to her sides so she could be scanned.

Artemis and Kira mimicked Penny by pressing their arms flat against their sides as well. The doors beeped and slid open with a breathy squeak that reminded Kira of the sound decontamination chambers make with their release their antibacterial mist. Penny led them through the doors and down another hallway lined with metallic wainscoting. There were doors at regular intervals on either side of them.

“This is generally where the E-1’s stay. They’re bunk rooms that house about four people each. Men’s dorms are on the right and women’s dorms are on the left. After curfew Mia locks all the bunk rooms in this section to prevent any hanky panky, if you know what I mean.”

“I don’t think there are many definitions for ‘hanky panky’, so yes, I know what you mean,” Kira replied monotonously.

Artemis laughed loudly and slapped her hard on the back, the force of which nearly made her stumble forward. “Don’t be such a wet blanket, K! Penny’s just tryin’ to liven up the tour for us.”

“Sergeant Leonid is all business I see! General Kipling is going to love you,” Penny said, winking back at Kira. Her face suddenly brightened up with excitement. “Hey! Maybe you’ll even get to meet Mister Zarlok! Sometimes General Kipling holds banquets for upper division enlisted and Mister Zarlok is usually in attendance. Sometimes Mister Zarlok will promote you right on the spot and then you get transferred to the Tora space station orbiting Neptune. You guys are E-9s so you’re shoo-ins for at least an invite!

Kira made a face. “I thought Tora’s Neptune station was just a myth.”

“So did I until my friend Jodie got promoted and sent there,” Penny said. “She’s been so busy she hasn’t even gotten the chance to write me.”

They continued down the long E-1 hallway, and at the end of the corridor was a glass elevator. They stepped inside and Penny said, “E-7 through E-9 please.”

As soon as she gave the command the elevator moved up so smoothly Kira could only tell they were moving by the floors the rushed past the elevator’s glass walls in a blur of white, gray, and black. When the elevator came to a halt they stepped out into a large, domed chamber with doors lining the concaved wall before them. Directly across the hall from the elevator was a huge archway that led to another hall. There was a fountain in the middle of the room that gushed a glowing bluish substance that was most certainly not water—Kira’s best guess was plasma.

Penny threw out her arms, smiling broadly. “And here we are! Home sweet home! This area is the E-7 and E-8 rooms. We, unfortunately, have to bunk in pairs here.” She motioned to the door directly to their right. “That’s mine and Maria’s room, for future reference,” she said, flashing Artemis a flirty smile.

He grinned and began to move towards her, but Kira grabbed his arm and held him back. Unfortunately she couldn’t stop him from saying, “The A.I. doesn’t lock the doors after curfew up here, does it?”

Penny only giggled in response and motioned with her hand for them to follow her. Penny led them down an archway and to a much smaller domed room with a glass ceiling from which one could view the starry heavens that surrounded them.

“And here is the E-9 chamber. This is you guys,” Penny said. “There are laser plaques on the doors, so just find your name and head inside—I’m sure you guys will want to rest before dinner in an hour or so. I remember when I was first teleported up here, the journey kicked my butt!”

Kira nodded her thanks and excused herself to find her room—she didn’t think Artemis and Penny were too broken up over her sudden desertion. She found her door quickly and wasted no time in entering her chambers. The room was spacious and separated into several sections by frosted glass dividers. There was a small kitchen area at the back of the room with a food tablet and beverage dispenser, a little metal table and two metal chairs. The living room area had a rectangular, uncomfortable looking, white couch and the latest model of laser projectors was on to displaying Reid Zarlok with his big cheesy grin, giving her the ‘thumbs up’. She scowled and said, “Projector off.” The projector shut off on her command and all the remained was a blank, white wall.

The bedroom area was plain with only two nightstands on either side of the bed—that looked about just as comfortable as the couch—a dresser, and an interactive mirror mounted on the wall. Beside the sleeping area was the bathroom which featured a shower, toilet, sink, and mirror—nothing exorbitantly fancy.

However, the very best part of the room was the ceiling. Just like out in the hall the ceiling was made of glass allowing her to see the beautiful cosmos that they were weightlessly floating in. She fell back on the bed and was glad to find that it was far more comfortable that it first appeared. She stared up at the starry sky above her and for a moment she forgot that she was only there to steal some dumb hunk of metal. For a moment she just reveled in the magnificence and serenity of space.

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Advertisements

Here’s chapter 5 of that sci-fi novel! This one’s gonna be rough…

Okay! Here is chapter five of that novel I haven’t named yet–that’s got to change soon… Anyway, if you haven’t read the prologue, chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, and chapter 4, go read those first or you will be very, very confused. I know for a fact that this chapter is going to be much more typo-ridden than the last since none of my beta readers have read this far yet. Still, I hope you guys enjoy it all the same!

 

Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I did not catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.

Chapter 5

Out of the Frying Pan

 

“The uniforms look superb, Mr. Cain,” Noire said as he examined Kira and Artemis in front of the entrance hatch. “Your contact certainly has an eye for detail.”

“My tailor droids made them,” Cain said, his voice low, and growling as it usually was. Kira had gotten used to his naturally severe tone. “I believe Tora Corps employees will find everything to be in order.”

Kira glanced toward Artemis noting that he looked quite dashing with his face clean-shaven and his usually unruly chestnut-brown hair brushed back out of his face. The white uniform fitted his tall, toned form perfectly, accentuating his muscles. The edges of his long, high collared coat was lined with smooth black trim, and the rank stripes on the left side of his chest pulsed orange and black in time with his heart—a staple of the Tora Corp solider uniforms. Those stripes monitored pulse-rate, body temperature, and a multitude of other physical functions. It was like having a personal diagnostics droid. Traditionally the information the stripes gathered were sent to one’s data chip, but since Kira and Artemis lacked that tech, Kira programmed the stripes to send the data to their holowatches instead.

Kira wore an outfit almost identical to Artemis’s, except hers was tailor-made for her curvier physique. The tight black pants that went with uniform were not nearly as uncomfortable as she thought they’d be, and Artemis didn’t seem to mind them either. Tight was good—tight meant loose material wouldn’t get in the way in case they had to fight. The material had some stretch to it as well which would allow for flexibility. Overall, Kira approved of their uniforms.

Artemis scratched at his neck, his serious solider act falling to pieces in that instant. “This coat’s kinda hot—and not in the good way.”

“You can adjust the coat’s temperature with your watch,” Cain said. “Ms. Chevalier, you added those settings, didn’t you.”

“Of course,” Kira said, gabbing Artemis’s wrists and pointing and speaking to the watch. “Archimedes, make Artemis’s coat 70 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Yes, Ms. Chevalier,” Archimedes replied in his smooth inflectionless voice.

Artemis’s upper lip twitched in disgust. “You gave mine a voice too?”

“Our watches share an operating system. Deal with it,” she replied coolly, letting go of his wrist and letting it fall back down to his side.

Noire’s dark, well-maintained brows furrowed—the only sign he ever showed of discomfort. “Is there nothing I can say to make you reconsider?”

There was plenty Noire could say to make Kira reconsider, but when Artemis set his mind on something… “Nope,” Artemis said, making a popping sound at the ‘p’. He placed his hands on his hips, looking like a super hero out of one of his stupid comic books. “We’re doing this, Addy. Once we steal some MCTA and sell it, we’re gonna be rolling in the dough and you’re gonna be back on top again! We’re gonna have all the new tech we need to steal anything we want. This is our only ticket out of this slump.”

Noire’s lips pressed into a thin, white slash. “We’re not in a slump. We’re fine—we’re surviving.”

“But we could be thriving,” Artemis said pointedly. “We used to and we will again. You don’t have to worry about me and K—we’re gonna be alright. With her brains and my moves, there’s no way those science nerds can stop us.”

“Assuming you work together,” Noire said, loosely crossing his arms over his chest. “That’s the only way you’re going to be successful. You must learn to operate as one unit, not as two individuals with separate plans.”

Kira could tell by Noire’s wary tone that he didn’t think they were ready for a heist like this. In truth, Kira didn’t think they were ready either, but she couldn’t let Artemis do this alone. He was too brash to execute a successful lift. He needed her steady hand, and she was certain he knew that too.

Artemis set his hand on Noire’s shoulder and grinned so confidently, Kira was tempted to believe his next words. “We’re gonna be fine, Pops. Me and K learned from the best, after all.”

Cain’s dark eyes flickered to Noire who still looked as if he was fighting the urge to knock her and Artemis unconscious to prevent them from leaving. “Departures end in less than an hour now. It’s time to go.”

Noire clenched his jaw so tightly that Kira thought he might break his teeth as Cain typed in a code on the touch keypad and opened the entrance hatch. Kira lowered her eyes and turned her back to her mentor, her and Artemis following Cain out of Noire’s base.

Noire made a sound as if he was going to speak and Kira looked back at him. His mouth hung open for a moment as if he couldn’t decide what to say before giving up and waving her forward without another word.

The hatch shut and its three steel bolts locked into place. The metallic thud of the bolts was more severe and final than it had ever been before, and the sound echoed through her. She felt a cold sort of emptiness envelop her as she watched Cain and Artemis climb up the ladder that would lead them to the surface. It was a familiar feeling that settled uncomfortably at the pit of her stomach.

This wasn’t a good idea. Something inside of her was screaming for her to turn back now. After a moment of indulging the panicked thoughts, she took a deep breath and attempted to release all of her worries upon exhale.

That was just her pessimism talking. Everything would be fine. Despite trying to convince herself of this, that terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach did not dissipate.

 

Cain programmed the coordinates into his hovercraft’s navigation system and they flew off toward Tora Corp’s teleportation center. It was a lush hovercraft complete with real leather cushions and a minibar full of drinks neither Kira nor Artemis had ever tasted or even heard of. Cain didn’t allow them to partake in any of the luxurious drinks as he feared it would impair their judgment.

The Tora Corporation Teleportation Center was a massive domed building that floated in the sky above Imperial city. Like most other building, the teleportation center was made of thick anti-shatter glass that had been tinted white, making it difficult to see what was on the inside unless you were very close—nose-pressed-to-the-glass close.

Cain dropped them off at the building’s entrance not saying so much as ‘good luck’ before speeding away. Kira didn’t mind the abrupt exit—there was nothing he could have said to ease her fretful mind anyway.

Artemis’s eyes darted down to her chest. She was just about to slap him when she too looked down to see that her stripes were blinking quite rapidly in time with her heart. Artemis placed his hand on her shoulder, his features softening into something less excited and more sympathetic. He knew that he was the only reason she had come along. He knew he’d dragged her into this against her better judgment. He knew and maybe deep down he also knew that it was unfair for him to have manipulated her in such a way.

He gently squeezed her shoulder. “Hey.” Kira eyes flickered up to meet his. “It’s gonna be alright.”

She nodded slowly, averting her eyes once more. “I hope so…”

He patted her arm roughly. “It will! Me and you are always gonna be ‘A o’ K’! Get it? Cause my name starts with and A and your name—”

“I get it,” she said quickly, grabbing his wrist and pulling him towards the entrance where other people dressed in uniforms like there’s were strolling into the building. “Let’s just get inside. If we loiter out here for too long, people might get suspicious.”

When they entered the teleportation center, they paused to take in the sight. They stood in a large, open room with white, tile floors, and harsh fluorescent lighting—even with technological advancements lightbulbs where still the best way to light a room. People didn’t bustle about here, they marched and waited in orderly lines once they got to where they were headed. And it was quiet. Not so quiet that one could hear a pin drop, but much too quiet for a public space with so much foot traffic. Scanning droids hovered about overhead, soundlessly scanning each person in sight. Noting this, Kira could not help but shrink where she stood.

Who where they kidding? There was no way they were going fool anyone even with their weeks’ worth of solider training and Tora Corp uniforms. This was a mistake, and they needed to get out of there before they were caught and thrown into prison for their lousy attempts at impersonation.

“Tora Corp doesn’t image-ray their employee’s skulls. I checked,” Artemis said to lowly, more to herself than to Artemis.

Artemis shrugged. “Yeah, I know. We went over this before we left. Come on, let’s get to the scan dock.”

Kira swallowed heavily and straightened up, feeling her hands trembling against her will. “Right. Let’s just try to avoid the droids. If there’s even the tiniest inconsistency with our data files, they’ll pick it up.”

“What about the scanning dock itself?”

She shook her head. “The docks aren’t intelligent bots. They just read the information and cross-reference it with the employee data Tora Corp has on file. As long as there aren’t more than a few discrepancies, we should be able to pass the scan with no problem.”

“And Tora Corp has us on file?”

“Yes. Cain used his connections to put our alias information into Tora’s employee database. We should be fine,” she said, once more trying to convince herself more so than her already confident partner.

“Sure we will,” Artemis said, pushing back his shoulders and putting on a more serious face. “Now let’s go be the best damn soldiers Tora Corp’s ever had.”

Kira sighed. “I’m pretty sure ‘the best damn soldiers Tora Corp ever had’ wouldn’t be planning on stealing from them.”

Artemis smirked. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go steal some shit, K.”

His smirk must have been infectious for she found herself smirking too. “Now you’re speaking my language.”

They strolled through the crowd of men and women in solider uniforms, lab coats, and expensive suits, as they made their way towards the scanning docks—a line of large circular platforms with rectangular archways for people to pass beneath—at the back of the large domed space. Once they passed the scan they would be authorized to teleport to N.E.S. Bengal—Tora Corporation’s Research and Development space station. Kira just hoped they would make it to the docks. At least five scanner droids stood between them and their ultimate goal and there were another two scanning people behind them.

She pushed on Artemis’s back, urging him to go faster, trying her best not to look as anxious as she felt. Her palms were already saturated with perspiration despite the cool air circulating throughout the teleportation center lobby. She knew Noire had done an excellent job on their alias files, but that terrible feeling at the pit of her stomach had yet to go away. Was this intuition telling her to run, or was it merely nerves? She couldn’t tell, but she prayed to whatever omniscient being that was listening that it was the latter of the two.

They were forced to bring their quick strides to a halt when they reached the rather long line of people and AIBs waiting to be scanned. Kira cursed beneath her breath, noting that there was still one more scanner droid up ahead along with one hovering a few people behind them in line. There was no way they could avoid the droids now. She just hoped that Noire had double and triple checked their data files for flaws. Of course he would have checked them multiple times, Kira thought, breathing in deeply through her nose as one of the droids moved on to the third person in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with our data files. There’s nothing wrong with our data files. There’s nothing wrong with our—

Data files forged. Intruder alert. Data files forged,” said a monotonous droid voice from behind her.

Kira spun around and saw that Artemis had gone pale and his eyes were wide. A scanner droid was hovering behind him, blinking red. The droid’s voice sounded over the loud speakers now. “Data files forged. Intruder alert.”

Soldiers in black uniforms wearing smooth helmets that covered their entire face had surrounded their section of the line before Kira even had a chance to blink. They raised their sleek-looking phaser-guns—if she wasn’t so frightened, she knew she’d be drooling over the weapons. A slow grin built upon Artemis’s face, his eyes alight with mischief—she knew what that look meant. He was about to do something stupid again.

Fine, she thought glumly to herself. I’m sure whatever he’s planning on doing won’t get us in any more trouble than we’re already in. She was just about to step back and let Artemis beat them up, when she noticed something: the soldier’s weren’t looking at Artemis—they were looking at the man directly behind Artemis. The droid hovered above the middle-aged man, still flashing red.

Artemis raised his arms, clenching his hands into fist, but Kira grabbed his wrists and yanked his arms back down to his sides, giving him a discreet shake of her head. Their cover wasn’t blown yet, but it would be if Artemis started kicking and punching the soldiers.

“I know what you do!” shouted the man behind Artemis. “You’re killers and I’m going expose you one way or another! Reid Zarlock murdered my daughter and buried the evidence underneath mountains of red tape!” the man cried, his voice breaking beneath the weight of his words. “His damned organization is killing innocent beings, and us, the common people, are going to be the ones to pay the price for his greed! They’re coming … it won’t be long now. We’re all going to die…”

“Take him down,” one of the soldiers commanded coolly.

The other soldiers rushed the man and rendered him unconscious with a stun shot—she knew because stun shots were blue—to the temple. They dragged the limp man off, not towards the buildings exit, but past the scanning docks to the teleporting chambers beyond. What were they doing? Why didn’t the soldiers just throw him outside?

Once Tora security had gone, Artemis relaxed, his shoulders slumping forward as he exhaled softly. “I think I might need a new pair of pants, K.”

Kira laughed despite herself. Great job, Noire. If only that other guy had one of your pristine file sets, huh? she though as she faced forward once more.

“Do you think all that crap that hippie just spouted was true?” Artemis asked lowly as the line shuffled forward.

“What? About that Zarlock guy being some murderous mastermind? Doubtful,” Kira said. “He looks and acts like a bum Tora picked up off the skyway to be their figure-head. He’s just some idiot that got lucky with a couple good ideas, that’s it.”

Artemis hummed thoughtfully. “If you say so, K. You’re the genius—I’m just here to be eye-candy.”

“And half the time you can’t even do that right.”

“But half the time I do,” he said, playfully nudging her in the small of her back.

She rolled her eyes. “I was being generous.”

“Ouch! Way to hurt a guy’s pride.”

Despite the mild jokes, the air between them was still tense. They stopped talking and Kira was glad for it. All she wanted to do was focus on getting past the scanning docks—if they did, they would have little else to worry about. She breathed in and out as steady and slow as she could manage, trying to keep the stripes on her coat from blinking too quickly.

After what seemed like hours—when in actuality it only took a few minutes—it was Kira’s turn the step up onto one of the scanning platforms. Her eyes darted to the armed guards on either side of the scanning platform. They were looking straight ahead, unmoving, and their faces were shielded by smooth black helmets just like the soldiers who dragged the hysterical man away. She stood there for a moment waiting for something to happen, and startled when an even female voice sounded from above her. “Please face forward and lift your arms so that scanning may begin.”

Kira did as the scanner instructed, lifting her arms up horizontally to shoulder height. There was a soft buzzing sound that droned on for a few seconds before the scanner beeped loudly. “Unauthorized technology detected.”

She breathed in deeply, swallowing hard as the soldiers beside the scanning dock left their posts to hop up onto the platform with her. One guard took a flat, metallic wand from his belt and waved it down her torso, while the other guard inspected her clothes, soon pulling up her sleeve to reveal her holowatch. “Found it,” the second solider said to his friend with the wand. “What’s with the old timekeeping tech, Sergeant? Is your data chip defunct or something?”

Kira shook her head, her gaze flickering to Artemis, who gave her a thumbs up. She could do this. She was smart, she could make up a lie. She cleared her throat. “I like vintage tech. I restore old watches as a hobby.”

“What’s a watch?” the solider with the wand asked with a tilt of his helmeted head.

She pointed to her wrist. “This. I was told we were allowed to bring a few personal effects on board. This doesn’t violate protocol, does it?”

“That depends on what it does,” the first guard said. “Show us.”

Kira was tempted to smirk, but she knew that wouldn’t be in her best interest at the moment. These soldiers didn’t know a thing about old tech. She tapped the screen of her hollow watch and the time was projected above the watch face. She shrugged. “Not so impressive is it? But what can I say—I’m a sucker for antique things like this.”

The guards stared at the watched for a moment before turning their heads to look at each other. “Let her keep it,” the second solider said, slipping his wand back into his belt. “It’s just some crappy old tech.”

Kira scowled but stopped herself from saying or doing anything that might jeopardize the task at hand. She pulled down her sleeve. “Is that all?”

“Not yet,” said the first guard. “Scanning dock three, state Tora employee status.”

“Employee status confirmed,” the dock replied. “Kira Leonid—Chief Master Sergeant. Science and engineer level ten downloaded to data chip. Employee on teleportation roster.”

The second guard nodded. “A scientist, huh? You better get going. They need up there, Sergeant Leonid.” The two soldiers saluted her and she saluted them back just as Cain had taught her.

She strolled off the platform, smiling minutely to herself. That wasn’t so terrible, she thought as she watched Artemis step up onto the platform after her. The dock beeped, just like it had with her, alerting the guards of unauthorized tech once more. They found Artemis’s watch without any trouble.

“You’ve got one too, Sergeant?” the first guards asked incredulously. “Hobby of yours?”

“Nah. I’m too dumb to mess with tech,” Artemis said with an unwavering smile. Kira wished she had half the confidence he exuded. “Sergeant Leonid refurbed an extra and it looked so cool I just had to have it.”

The second guard crossed his arms over his chest. “Alright, he’s clean. Scanning dock three, state Tora employee status.”

“Employee status confirmed. Artemis Hartford—Chief Master Sergeant. Combative Martial Arts chip level ten downloaded to data chip. Employee on teleportation roster.”

“Looks like you’re all set, Sergeant Hartford,” said the first solider. “Have I nice trip.”

They saluted each other and Artemis marched off the platform with his head held high to meet Kira. He nudged her once he was close enough. “Easy peasy,” he said with a wink.

She shook her head and ran a hand through her short, brown hair. “Whatever. Let’s just get to the teleporters.”

They followed the long hall behind the scanner docks and eventually reached a much smaller domed room than they had been in before. Upon arrival, Kira and Artemis were instructed by a woman in a white lab suit, to get in to one of the many glass capsules that lined the concaved wall at far end of the chamber.

Kira and Artemis exchanged slightly wary looks. They both had never teleported before, and Kira could tell that the idea of their shattered particles being shot up into space faster than the speed of light unsettled him as much as it did her. But they had both come this far—they were going to finish what they started. Thus, after the moment of hesitation passed, Kira stepped up into a capsule, and Artemis did the same.

Kira only had the chance to take one deep breath before the sensation of being pinched all over her body set in. The next thing she knew, the scene around her capsule was gone in the blink of an eye and she was on her way to the N.E.S. Bengal.

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Here is chapter 4 of that sci-fi novel I haven’t named yet!

Sorry this is a little late! It’s been a while since I’ve given you guys one of these (about two months I think), so here is chapter 4 FINALLY. Click the following links for the prologuechapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3!

 

Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I didn’t catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.

Chapter 4

Would-Be Killer

 

After five days of order intensive soldier training—curtesy of Lucas Cain—Kira and Artemis were nearly ready to infiltrate the N.E.S. Bengal. They had both been taught how to salute properly, how to reply to a superior officer, as well as how to address people who ranked lower than them. They’d been through Obstacle courses designed by Cain to simulate military training and it was no surprise to anyone that they both passed the physical assessments with flying colors. It was true that Artemis was more physically inclined than she was, but she was still much more skilled at combat than most people her age. Regardless, she was expecting to be underestimated, thus she’d worked twice as hard as Artemis to see to it that she was at least on par with him.

Thanks to Artemis’s vast knowledge of multiple martial arts, he was able to flip and spin his way through Cain’s difficult laser trials, while Kira had to run and dodge to keep herself from getting burned by the beams. There were a few times that she’d been tempted to just shoot the laser projectors and be done with them; however, she refrained knowing that sort of exercise was good practice for beating more complex security systems that were ‘un-hackable’—although she had yet to meet a system that she couldn’t hack into.

Kira liked Cain. Yes, he was strict and at times difficult to get along with because of his severe personality, but he was very good at getting she and Artemis to give it their all in every task he had them do. It was hard work, but Kira felt as if she had learned a lot about how to be a convincing Tora Corp solider—she only hoped the Tora Corp staff would feel the same.

Another day of training had finally concluded and Kira and Artemis sat in the middle of the bunker’s vacant training grounds—a large empty section of the base that Cain had used to project his laser obstacle courses. Cain had since ended the projections and was in the midst of packing up his state of the art lightdrives and other modern tech which Kira envied. With a simple flick and swipe of his fingers, Cain opened up a translucent light screen in front of him, typing in a few things.

“I thought only data chips could support lightbeam interfaces,” Kira said as she watched him.

Cain paused in his type to point to the onyx band on his finger. “You’re not the only one with tech accessories, Ms. Chevalier. Unfortunately we at the Timber Organization must occasionally turn to empire technology to keep us ‘in the game’ as it were, but we make their tech our own. We try to keep up with our own ingenuity, but empire tech is advancing too quickly, even for our genius engineers and technicians. It’s strange really—the leaps the empire has taken with technology is almost supernatural…”

“What? You think ghosts and vampires are helping them out or something?” Artemis asked with a snort of a laugh.

Cain raised a brow at Artemis. “I don’t know what a vampire is, but no, I don’t think it has anything to do with people’s residual energy. The term ‘ghost’ is so archaic I couldn’t even remember what it was you were talking about for a moment,” he said before returning his attention to his light screen. “In any case, the sixth dimension plane has been barred off to the living for almost four centuries now, therefore, I don’t believe ‘ghosts’, as you call them, are the culprits here. Tora Corporation tech is advancing almost as quickly as empire tech—I want you two to find out why.”

Kira and Artemis discreetly glanced to one another, both looking reluctant to the idea. “With all due respect, Mr. Cain, Artemis and I are only going to the Bengal to steal a sample of Tora Corp’s new MCTA prototype. We’re thieves, not spies,” Kira said.

Artemis nodded, Hopping to his feet and stretching his arms out high above his head. “She’s right. We just wanna get in and get out.”

Cain frowned and swiped his light screen away, closing it out. “I thought there might be a bit of resistance from the two of you. So, I’m prepared to make you a deal. If you find out how Tora Corp’s technology is advancing so rapidly, the Timber Organization will donate all new tech to this bunker. You and I both know Noire is in desperate need of new equipment and so are you. Deliver to me the information that I require and the tech is yours—no strings attached.”

Artemis smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re gonna update this whole bunker just for some info? Man, you wolves must really be hard up.”

“It’s not every day that we get the opportunity to infiltrate a high-security facility,” Cain said, clasping his hands behind his back. “Even with the tech and means, most of our operatives have been reluctant to agree to precarious mission such as the one you are undertaking.”

Kira scoffed and shut her eyes, slowly shaking her head. “So, basically, you’re trying to capitalize on our stupidity?”

“Those aren’t exactly the words I’d choose, but, in a sense, yes,” Cain replied.

“Well, at least he’s upfront about it,” Artemis said with a shrug.

“If Mr. Noire believes you can successfully achieve what you intend to do, I have absolutely no reason to doubt you,” Cain said, cracking the smallest of smiles. “He’s a tough critic.”

Yeah he is,” Artemis muttered sourly.

Cain picked up his stainless steel briefcase, typing in a code on the touchscreen lock. “Well, Mr. Flynn, Ms. Chevalier, I believe we’re done for today. I’ll see myself out.”

Kira got to her feet and shook Cain’s hand. “Thank you for all your help, Mr. Cain. Artemis and I really appreciate it.”

Cain nodded. “Anything for protégés of the Panther. I’ll see the two of you bright and early tomorrow morning.”

“Can ‘early’ be like ten-thirty?” Artemis asked, smiling hopefully.

“Nice try, Mr. Flynn. I’ll see you at six,” Cain said as he strode out of the white warehouse-looking room, leaving Artemis and Kira to stand there alone.

Kira took a deep breath. “Two days.”

Artemis nodded. “Two days.”

“I’m almost finished with your holowatch,” Kira said, waving to him and strolling to the exit. “I’ll drop it off at your room tonight after I’m done with it.”

Artemis was silent for a moment before jogging after her. “Hey wait.”

She stopped and turned around to face him. “Yeah?”

“You’re not freaking out are you?”

She shrugged. No she wasn’t freaking out, but she wasn’t confident about this plan either. But now wasn’t the time for those sorts of admissions. She offered him a weak smile. “Of course not. I’m fine.”

“Good. Me too,” he said, patting her arm. “We’ve got this in the bag, K.” He then brushed past her, whistling one of his favorite rock and roll tune as he too left the training arena.

Artemis ran a hand through her hair, grasping him for a moment before letting her hand fall back down to her side. I hope things go as smoothly as he thinks they’re going to go…

 

Kira finished Artemis’s holowatch that evening and brought it to him. It took quite a while, but she was eventually able to teach him how to use his new gadget. “Are you sure you’ve got the hang of it?” she asked, watching him tap random options on his holoscreen. “If you need me to go over it again—”

“I got it, I got it! Chill out, will you?” Artemis said as he swiped his finger down and lowered the holoprojection. “So you loaded up those files that Noire put together for our cover IDs?”

“Yes,” Kira said, handing him their modified ear coms. “I also modified our coms so to include Noire’s language translating microbugs. As long as we have our coms in our ears we’ll be able to understand what people speaking other languages are say, as well as communicate in the appropriate languages.”

“Awesome. But aren’t they gonna check for outside tech?” Artemis asked.

“Yes, but Noire coded our files to include medical history. We have a few ‘AI implants’, so they shouldn’t question our coms or holowatches,” Kira replied, taking a seat beside Artemis on his bed and sticking her com in her ear. “I’ve programed our holowatches to communicate with our coms so anything we hear, the micro drives in our watches will record.”

“How about what we see?”

“No go. We’re out of eye-lens recorders.”

“You think they’ve got some up on Bengal?”

Kira pulled her legs up onto the bed and crossed them beneath her. “You never know. Maybe they’ve got something better than eye-lens recorders up there.”

Artemis set his elbow on his leg and leaned his cheek against his fist. “Looks like you’ve got it all figured out then. Noire told me that our bot tailor’s finished with our uniforms. It took nearly ten minutes to finish them—that thing’s getting old…”

Kira hung her head, her shoulders falling forward. “We had a newer one.”

“I know,” he grumbled. “Do you … wanna talk about him or something?”

“Not really.”

“Are you sure?”

Artemis groaned and threw her hands up in the air. “Elliot’s gone and he stole all of our best equipment! What more is there to say, Artemis?”

He pursed his lips nodding slowly. “So… Were you and him ever—”

No.”

“You two just seemed so—”

“We weren’t.”

“Really? Cause it kinda felt like—”

“We were friends, Artemis,” Kira snapped. “That was bad enough, alright? I should have seen it in him—that darkness.”

“It’s not your fault, and no one blames you for what he did,” Artemis said, his tone gentler than it usually was. “It’s been three years, Kira—you should be able to talk about this by now. He screwed us all over, not just you.”

“He was a part of the only family I’ve ever known. I can’t just forget that.”

“You don’t have to forget it, you just have to remember that me and Noire are your family too,” Artemis said, staring at her intently. “Elliot’s a dick, alright? Can’t you just, I dunno, try to move on?”

She could feel the anger bubbling within in her chest as the memories of her former comrade and friend flooded back to her. Artemis was right. It had been three years—she should have gotten over it by now. But the fury she felt each time Elliot’s name was brought up never went away.

Her hands tightened into fists, her nails biting into the palms of her hands. “Noire and I knew him for twelve years and you knew him ten—I just don’t get how someone could betray people who they’ve known for so long,” Kira whispered.

Artemis cautiously placed his hand on her back. “We don’t need him, Kira. We’re gonna get that MCTA and find out how Tora’s coming up with their tech and then this place is getting a major overhaul. And, you know what?”

“What?”

“Elliot broke rule number one of the code,” Artemis said. He straightened up and cleared his throat before reciting in Noire’s accent, “Only steal from those who can live without it. Is someone who can’t even follow that simple rule worth mourning over? It’s like Noire says: holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die—or some crap like that. It’s just not worth it to be mad at him anymore. He’s gone, he’s never coming back, and we’re probably never gonna have to see his stupid, smug face again. So, screw Elliot! We’ve got more important shit to deal with.”

Kira breathed in deeply and lifted her head again. “Yeah, you’re right. It just—it makes me so angry every time I think about what he did. I don’t know how to let that go. I want to, but I can’t. I dream about kicking his ass at least once a week and it’s so … satisfying. But that satisfaction is gone as soon as I wake up and realize that I didn’t really hurt him and he got away scot-free. And I can’t stand that he’s out there with our tech, probably living the high life in some fancy loft, while we—the terrible two—”

“Damn, that name sucks so hard…”

“—are stuck in an endless cycle of attempted robberies, getting caught by Figment, and jail time—lather, rinse, repeat,” Kira said through gritted teeth. “I swear if I ever see him again, I’ll—”

“You’ll what, Kira? Kill him?” Artemis asked. “What is it with your ‘gun go boom, solve all problems’ attitude? Killing him is not gonna get our stuff back.”

“Uh, yes it will, Artemis,” she said. “After he’s gone we can just steal it all back. He’ll be dead, it’s not like he’s going care.”

“Killing him is not gonna make you feel any better.”

“I beg to differ.”

Artemis fell back on the bed staring up at the poster laden canvas ceiling above. “We’re not gonna need the shitty tech he stole from us once we get that info that Cain wants. Just let it go—let him go. You think he’s sitting around in his fancy loft thinking about us? Hell no! So why should we waste our time thinking about him?”

Kira glanced back at him. “Why did you even bring this subject up?”

“Because I don’t want it to be an issue on this job. I need you to focus on that MCTA.”

Kira clenched her jaw. “Elliot is going to be the last thing on my mind when I’m up there.”

“Good. That’s all I needed to hear.”

Kira, tiring of the conversation, stood up from the bed and went to the door. “I’m going to sleep, you should too. Don’t stay up all night listening to that noise you call music.”

“It’s called ‘classic rock’,” Artemis said rather haughtily. “Jeez, download a music history book, will you? Get cultured.”

She refrained from rolling her eyes as the door slid open for her. “Night, Artemis.

“See ya on the flip side, K.”

Kira strolled down an aisle of whirring and beeping machines as she made her way back to her room. She had lied when she told Artemis that Elliot would be the last thing on her mind. Elliot was going to be the very first thing on her mind. She was going to keep him in the forefront of her thoughts to motivate her. She was going to prove to him that they didn’t need him and that they were doing just fine without him.

She suddenly paused, hearing voices from just up ahead. Is that Noire and Cain? I thought Cain left for the day, she thought, slowing her gait and tiptoeing forward so as not to alert them of her presence. She peered around the side of a machine that controlled the bunker’s emergency laser barriers and saw Noire and Cain standing in a small nook-like space with a few chairs and a small table.

“How long until you’ve got the memento viewer up and running?” Noire asked.

“Six months at the very least,” Cain replied pouring an amber-colored liquid from the automatic kettle and into a glass cup.

She thought she recalled Noire refereeing to the drink as ‘tea’, but she had never had any. Tea was scarce along with any other food item that wasn’t processed into tablets, which is why Noire saved most of his rare things for special occasions.

“Why so long?” Noire asked, taking a seat in one of the chairs.

“Light spheres are hard to come by,” Cain said before taking a sip out of his cup. “The empire regulates them quite strictly, as I’m sure you know. Most of my black market connections refuse to sell them, and the ones who will sell them rarely have them in stock. I’m having my best engineers build a substitute; however, until we have a suitable replacement, the memento viewer will remain inoperable.”

A memento viewer? Kira thought. Why would the Timber Organization need one of those? That’s really old tech.

“Have you considered giving the memento back to her?” Noire asked. “Perhaps there’s a way to return it to her mind.”

“If there was, I would have done it already,” Cain said, sighing softly. “The technology is temperamental. When the empire tested their memento replacement process, all of their subjects died. I would never risk that with Kira.”

Kira’s eyes widen. They were talking about her? If that was true then it would certainly explain why she couldn’t remember anything before the age of five. Had they wiped her memory, and, if they had, what for?

After Noire said nothing in response, Cain went on. “Perhaps we needn’t worry ourselves over this as much now that Braith is dead. Demetrius is proving himself to be a fair and just emperor. Besides, there’s no certainty that the information the memento holds pertains to anyone other than a dead man anyway.”

Noire’s expression hardened. “Don’t you start with that nonsense too, Lucas. The empire—in any form—is more harmful to our society than helpful. Demetrius may be a ‘kind and just’ ruler, as you say, but he is still oppressing his people. Perhaps he doesn’t oppress as overtly as his father, but he has yet to repeal the law that states that all citizens of the Northwest Empire must be chipped by the age of five—that’s not freedom. Things haven’t changed.”

“The boy has only been emperor for two years,” Cain reasoned. “He can’t fix everything his father ruined in such a short period of time.”

Noire scowled, tapping his fingers impatiently on the arm of his chair. “You’re going soft, Cain. Demetrius is a poison to our world, just like his father—perhaps a better tasting poison, but a poison nonetheless.”

Cain finished his tea and set the cup down on the glass table beside Noire’s chair. “Since you feel so strongly about it, Adair, I’ll have my organization continue to search for a way to repair the memento.”

“A wise decision,” Noire said. “It’s not my place to tell you how to run your organization, but I truly believe it’s unwise not to find out what’s on Kira’s memento. The Empire attempted to hunt her down for the information she possessed—it must be important.”

“I suppose we’ll find out soon enough,” Cain said as he picked up his briefcase. “Tomorrow I’ll continue with Kira and Artemis’s training.”

“Do you think they’re ready?”

Cain paused, looking back over his shoulder at Noire. “As ready as they can be given the time constraint. Once they’re on the Bengal, they’re going to be on their own. Keep communication with them to a minimum—the less you speak with them, the lower their chances are of getting caught.”

Noire furrowed his brow, nodding slowly. “I understand.”

Cain straightened out his neatly pressed suit jacket and strolled away. “As long as they keep their heads down, they’ll be just fine. Despite what you may think, you’ve taught them well, Mr. Noire.”

Noire said nothing more as Cain got further and further way, his footsteps fading and the sound of the entrance hatch opening and closing behind him.

Kira pressed herself to the box-like machine she was listening from and tilted her head back to the domed bunker ceiling far above. The empire was chasing after her when she was a child? What information could she—a kid at the time—have possibly possessed that was so important to them? It didn’t make any sense. But she did know one thing for certain: she had to find out what was on that extracted memento. Not for the empire’s sake, but for her own sake. That was a stolen piece of her life and she wanted it back.

Noire had kept something vital from her for sixteen years and she was going to find out what it was even if he didn’t want her too. She had gone along with what he said for long enough—it was time to find out about her past, and her family, and who she really was. It was time she got the answers she deserved. Well, look at the bright side, she thought, despite the sinking feeling at the pit of her stomach. At least I’m not thinking about killing Elliot anymore.

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Chapter 3 of the novel I haven’t named! Hurray!!!

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. 🙂

 

Chapter 3

Alpha

 “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?”

“Yes?”

“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.”

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Here’s chapter 2 of that book I haven’t named yet!

I’ve gotten pretty good reception for this new series so I decided to post chapter 2! Click the following links if you haven’t read the prologue and chapter 1. I think I’m going to post up to chapter 5, but we’ll see how things go. This book moves pretty quickly, so if you’re into fast paced sci-fi novels with plot twists, this book’s for you! This is just a lightly edited rough draft so there probably will be typos, and I apologize for that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new chapter!

 

Chapter 2

Shut Down

 

“You disobeyed me, again,” Noire said, pacing in front of Kira and Artemis. Kira could tell that he was doing his best to keep his voice even, but his anger was apparent in his rigid body, knitted brows and clenched jaw. “I told you specifically not to steal from Tora Corp again.”

Artemis sheepishly raised his hand. “Uh, ‘scuse me, but you said that we ‘shouldn’t’ try to steal from them, not that we ‘couldn’t’. I thought it was just, you know, a suggestion—which I considered long and hard, I really did! But, ultimately, we decided—”

He decided,” Kira grumbled, glaring daggers at Artemis.

Artemis raised his palms defensively. “I decided that we should go for it. I mean, that photon gun could have made us a lot of money, Noire!”

“That photon gun nearly got you two killed!” Noire roared, his voice echoing throughout the machine filled bunker.

Kira lifted her chin up, but kept her gaze lowered to the ground. “Noire, sir, I just want to say that, Artemis told me that you weren’t comfortable with the idea, but you weren’t against it. He lured me into this scheme of his under false pretense.”

Artemis scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “Way to throw me under the hovercraft, K…”

Kira ignored him and continued on. “Had I known that you forbade the heist, I would have never gone.”

Noire paused in his pacing, his yellowish eyes zeroing in on Kira. “And you. You may not have been responsible for this scheme gone awry, but you still went along without consulting me first. You knew that I told you Tora Corp and its subsidiaries were off limits—I’d spoken to you both on the matter on many occasions.” He took a few slow, intimidating steps towards her. “You need to start taking responsibility for your own actions and stop blaming Artemis every time the two of you get into trouble. You’re an adult, you can think for yourself—that’s more than I can say for those chipped imbeciles living up on the surface.” Kira bowed her head and Noire returned to pacing. “I took you in so you could have a better life—a free life. Now, instead of playing things safe and attempting jobs that suit your skill levels, you’re throwing yourselves into dangerous situations and putting that freedom that I envision for you in jeopardy.”

When Artemis and Kira said nothing in response, Noire sighed and shut his eyes. “What’s rule number five of the code?”

Kira raised her head, clasping her hands behind her back. “The media is a thief’s worst enemy and should be avoided at all costs.”

Noire nodded. “Very good, Kira.”

“Yeah!” Artemis grinned tentatively. “That’s what I was just gonna say!”

Noire cast Artemis a stern look which wiped the smile right off his face. The master thief smoothed back his jet black hair before saying, “Archimedes, show me the news.” A moment later, a fuzzy hologram projection of the same busty newswoman from earlier was projected beside him along with a clip from their botched heist from earlier. The anchorwoman’s lips were moving, but there was no sound emitting from the projection. Kira didn’t need to hear what she was saying to know what Noire’s point was.

“Look, Noire, I know you’re angry, but no one saw our faces—they didn’t even bother to take off our masks! We’re fine,” Artemis insisted. “Who cares if we’re in the media! They don’t know who we are.”

Yet,” Noire bit back. “You’re reckless, Artemis—you always have been. If you keep ‘winging it’ as you say, you’re going to find yourself in a more dire situation than just behind some hackable plasma bars. The police may tolerate your antics now, but they’ll tire of your nonsense soon enough. The next time you’re caught maybe they’ll just send you straight to the prison ship orbiting mars. Is that what you want?”

Artemis cringed. “Not really, no…”

Noire stared at Artemis long and hard before speaking again. “That’s enough for now, Archimedes. End projection.” The news scene disappeared and Noire approached the two. “We’re thieves. We are meant to be invisible.”

Artemis pursed his lips in a childish fashion. “But did you see how good I looked up there? This body wasn’t made to be invisible.”

Kira groaned. “Shut up.”

“I think I should have our tailor droid make me a tighter suit to show off my abs and glutes a little more…” Artemis murmured, thoughtfully tapping his finger on his chin.

“Oh, yeah! I’m sure the ladies are going to be really impressed watching Figment drag your ‘glutes and abs’ back to jail,” Kira said with a roll of her light brown eyes. “Spare us your narcissism, Artemis. You don’t need a tighter suit—what you need is some self-control. You’re too impulsive and that’s almost gotten us killed more than a few times.”

Oh, really?” Artemis said, his grin sickeningly sweet. “And your ‘shoot first ask questions later’ attitude hasn’t? I can’t even count how many times that you’ve pulled the trigger and ruined our cover because of your damn paranoia!”

“At least I know how to restore my cover after I’ve blown it,” Kira snarled, her hands settling on the guns at her hips. “You just prance out into the open and expect me clean up the messes you make.”

“If you could disable a friggin’ alarm properly, I wouldn’t need to ‘prance out’ anywhere,” Artemis said, his hands balling into fists.

That was it—the last straw. No one insulted her hacking skills. She snatched her ray guns out of their holsters and shot at Artemis. He dodged the stun charges and launched a spinning kick at her. She ducked beneath his leg, rolled behind him, shoving the barrels of her guns into his lower back. He spun around and grabbed her wrists before she could get a shot off. She elbowed him in the face, and punched his wounded shoulder.

However, before their fight could progress any further, Noire grabbed both of their arms and twisted them behind their backs. “That’s enough,” he hissed. “You want to be treated like adults, yet you act like petulant children. You both need to learn self-control. Your tempers will only get you into trouble. Artemis, what’s rule number twenty-one of the code?”

Artemis grimaced, his wounded shoulder bleeding profusely now. “I-It’s something about not letting our emotions rule us or some junk like that—I dunno! Would you let me go, already? You’re killing my arm!”

Noire held them there for a moment longer before finally releasing them. “That’s close enough. You mustn’t let your emotions overrule your mind. Everything you do, do with a cool head and a calm heart or you will fail—like now. If you’re going to kill each other, perhaps you shouldn’t do it in the presence of someone who will try to stop you.”

Kira took a deep breath and reluctantly holstered her guns, while Artemis groaned and grabbed his bleeding shoulder. Noire’s feature’s softened as his gaze settled upon Artemis. “Go lay down. I’ll scrounge up some micro bots to stitch up your arm.”

Artemis nodded, casting one last glare at Kira before shuffling down a large aisle of machines toward his room—if one could even call it that. Noire had fashioned walls out of old boxy machines that no longer worked. Two of these make-shift rooms Kira and Artemis inhabited. They were cramped and drafty, but they granted them enough privacy not to complain about it.

Kira felt Noire’s eyes burning a hole into the side of her head and she reluctantly turned to face him. “He deserved it,” she said lowly.

“He was already hurt,” Noire said, his voice softer now. “We don’t kick people while they’re already down.”

You don’t kick people while they’re already down,” Kira said. “Sometimes, playing dirty is the only way people like me can win. I’m not the martial artist he is.”

“You have other talents. If you would just stop and think for a moment instead of letting your temper get the best of you, you could easily outwit your opponents,” Noire said, clasping his hands behind his back. “For someone as boundlessly intelligent as you are, you can’t figure out how to use that mind of yours to your advantage. Until you do, you’re going to keep losing. No, you’re not a martial artist, but you are an expert markswoman and an excellent strategist when you actually put your mind to it. Don’t dwell on the abilities you don’t possess—focus on the things that make you unique and hone those skills.” He lowered his head and slowly shook it, shutting his eyes. “Please, Kira, stay out of trouble and see to it that Artemis does as well.”

Without waiting for a reply from her, Noire turned on his heel and left her to stand alone amidst the machines.

 

Later that night, after she had time to cool down, Kira left her room to see Artemis. She had changed out of her beaten up adaptation suit—a jumpsuit of her own creation which enhanced one’s skills and abilities when worn—and brushed her short, boyish, dark brown hair. She liked her hair short. She didn’t have to worry about it falling in her face, or getting caught on things, or getting in the way when she was working on her tech projects, Artemis often teased her for it, but she didn’t really care—it was not as if she was trying to impress anyone, anyway.

It always felt good to get out of those tight adaptation suits. It was not that they were restricting—on the contrary, Kira designed them to have a wide range of motion—she just liked lose fitting, comfy clothes much better. Although Kira could admit that her microfiber pants, baggy shirts, and tank tops were not the most practical attire for a thief, they were one of the few impracticalities she allowed herself to indulge in.

Her bare feet made soft padding sounds upon the cold, stone ground of the bunker, and her baggy pants dragged along the floor. It was a bit chilly for the tank top she was wearing, but she’d rather be ‘a little cold’ than ‘too warm’. It was for that reason, Artemis would sometimes jokingly refer to her as a reptile—an extinct species of cold-blooded animals that Noire had taught them about when they were younger. Maybe she was cold-blooded. Maybe Artemis had a little more humanity than she did. Maybe he was a better person than she was…

Kira paused outside of Artemis’s room, biting the inside of her cheek as she hesitated there for a moment. Despite her pride, she knocked upon his door. She waited but was met with no reply. She knew she should have waited until he answered, but she pressed a button on the touch pad beside the door and it opened for her.

Artemis was relaxing on his bed with a pair of earbuds in his ears and tapping his feet as he read a comic book. There was a bandage wrapped across his bare chest and most of his torso was covered in black and blue—he had gotten really hurt today. A bit of red leaked through the white bandages on his shoulder but he didn’t seem to mind. Kira glanced around his room, frowning in disapproval. It was messy, as always. Dirty clothes were strewn across the room, and smashed pieces of bots—some that she had built—were pushed into a disorganized pile in the corner. Metal bins of balled up clean clothes sat at the foot of the bed and beside the door there was a huge book case filled with thousands upon thousands of comic books that Noire had given him.

Overhead, Artemis had attached a large piece of canvas—usually used to cover the larger tech—to the top of the old machines that made up the walls of his room to create a sort of ceiling. On the canvas he’d hung old sheets of glossy paper with graphics on them—she recalled Noire saying they were ‘posters’. She recognized some of the names on the posters as rock bands from over a thousand years ago. Rock was all Artemis listened to. She couldn’t stand it.

Even though Artemis had his earbuds in today, listening to a thousand year old piece of music-tech—which she had restored—he had the volume up so loud that Kira could hear the lyrics to song he was listening to. She sighed softly and made her way of to his bed, taking a seat on the edge of it.

Artemis raised his comic book to look at her. He groaned, set aside the comic book, yanked out his earbuds, and sat up. “Come here to finish the job you started earlier?”

Kira shook her head. “I … I just came to make sure you’re not dead. Noire would be upset at me if anything happened to you.”

Artemis ran a hand through his hair and smiled wryly. “Well, as you can see, I’m not dead yet, so you can go if you want.”

She shut her eyes and took a deep breath through her nose. This was much more difficult than she anticipated it would be. “Are you okay?”

“Despite my bruises having bruises, yeah, I’m fantastic,” Artemis said, sarcasm dripping from his every word. “You dislocated my shoulder. Noire had to pop it back into place—it was super fun. Tickled a little.”

Kira’s fingers curled into the material of her pants. “I’m … I’m sorry…” she murmured.

“What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you?” Artemis said, leaning in towards her, his moss–green eyes twinkling with amusement.

She gritted her teeth. “Maybe if you’d turn down that crap you always listen to, you’d be able to hear me.”

He chuckled and clawed over to her, laying his head on her leg. “Come on, K. Don’t be mean. I just want you to say it a little louder.” He rubbed the back of his head against her thigh. “You’re getting kind of squishy, K! I like it—you keep eating those dessert tablets and you’re gonna make a great pillow for me!”

Get. Off. Me,” she snarled, jerking her leg up.

He grimaced at the sudden action and sat up. “Jeez… Ya think you’d be a bit gentler with a guy who was just shot.”

Kira straightened up, exhaled, and tried again. “I’m going to say it again, so listen up—I’m not repeating myself a third time. I’m sorry. I knew you were hurt and I took advantage of that, so I’m sorry, Artemis.”

He grinned. “That was really hard for you, wasn’t it? I bet your wittle pride is hurting more than my shoulder.”

Kira punched him in the injured arm, and he yelped out in pain. She couldn’t help but smirk. “Now it’s not.”

Ow.” Artemis said, pouting his lips. “This is why you’re never gonna have a boyfriend.”

“I don’t want a boyfriend.”

“This is why you’re never gonna have a girlfriend, then.”

Instead of retorting, Kira punched him in the arm again. “Keep it up. This is a great stress reliever for me.”

“Damn that smarts,” Artemis said through gritted teeth, grasping his wounded shoulder. All was silent between them for a long moment until he said, “I’m sorry too, Kira. I screwed things up today—it’s my fault, I know that. Noire’s right, I gotta start thinking before I act. It’s just, when I’m in the moment, I kind of get lost in the excitement, you know?”

“I guess we both have things we need to work on,” Kira said quietly. She finally lifted her head, looking up at Artemis. “Are you still going to ask Noire about the Tora Space Station heist?”

“You bet your ass I am,” Artemis said, his grin becoming mischievous. “It’s gonna be a little harder to get him to agree after the verbal bashing we got from him today, I think we can still convince him to let us go.”

“Let you go where?” said the Noire’s smooth voice of from behind them.

Kira and Artemis swiveled their heads around to see Noire—still dressed in his neatly pressed black suit—leaning casually up against the doorway. Artemis’s grin faded into a grimace. “How does he always sneak up on us like that?”

“He’s a master thief, idiot. Sneaking is kind of his thing,” Kira said with a roll of her eyes. “Well, Artemis, now is as good a time as any to ask him.”

“Ask me what?” Noire asked, his eyes flickering between the two.

Artemis pasted on a broad smile, but Kira could tell by the way the corners of his lips quivered that it was all for show. “So, you know how you said we should start acting like adults because, well, we are?”

Noire squinted his eyes and slightly turned his head away. “Yes…”

“Well, K and I were thinking—”

Artemis was thinking,” Kira said quickly.

“Alright, I was thinking that the two of us can help fix this place up by going after bigger scores,” Artemis said, crossing his legs beneath him and leaning back on his hands. “I mean, what’s life without the bare necessities, right? There’s tons of stuff out there just waiting for us to steal! It wouldn’t hurt to do a few upgrades around here and make our lives a bit easier, would it? Those bulky machines out there are gonna die sooner or later—I mean they’re all over a hundred years old—so let me and Kira work some bigger jobs. Give us your permission to let us work some bigger jobs.”

Noire crossed lifted his hand up to his chin, looking a tad reluctant before saying, “What exactly did you have in mind?”

Kira eyes widened. She’d expected a little more fight from Noire.

Artemis’s smile brightened into something more genuine, his moss-green eyes full of renewed hope. “I was thinking about snatching some of that MCTA stuff. You heard of it?”

Noire’s face hardened once more, all openness dissipating in that instant. “Yes, I have. It’s on Tora Corp’s Research and Development Station up in space.”

“Yep! That’s the stuff!” Artemis said cheerfully. “So what do ya say?”

“I say ‘no’,” Noire replied without hesitance.

“Come on, Addy! You can’t just shut us down like that!”

“I can and I have,” Noire said sharply, reaching up to massage his temple. “And how many times have I asked you not to call me that?”

Artemis shrugged. “Fine. If you won’t give us your permission, we’ll—”

You’ll,” Kira murmured.

He stared at her as if she had just slapped him in the face, before crestfallenly lowering his eyes. “I’ll go by myself without your permission. You want me to act like an adult, Noire? You’ve gotta start letting me make my own decisions and nix this ‘permission’ crap. I’m not a kid anymore and neither is Kira. We can decide what’s too dangerous for us.”

Can you?” Noire snapped. “What you attempted today was ‘too dangerous’, but you went anyway and nearly got yourselves thrown in prison—or worse.”

Artemis stood from his bed and marched up to Noire, having to look down at him slightly—he was a few inches taller. “Look, Adair, you’re not my boss—you’re not even my legal adoptive guardian. I appreciate all you’ve done for me, I really do, but you’ve got no authority over me. I’m gonna get some of that MCTA and I’m gonna bring it back here to you so the Panther can be as awesome as he used to be—so the three of us can be a force to be reckoned with. I’m tired of hiding down here in the sewers—”

“It’s a pipeline…” Noire said, his words lacking conviction.

“No, it’s a sewer,” Artemis said through a sigh. “Give me your blessing or don’t—I’m still gonna get that MCTA stuff and I’m gonna prove to you that I can pull off a successful heist. I know I’m not as smart as Kira, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I mean, I am pretty dumb, yeah, but I think I can manage to steal a couple pieces of metal from some science geeks.”

“You’re not dumb, Artemis,” Noire said, the hard edge in his voice faded. “You just—you don’t think things through.”

“I will this time,” he replied, standing up a bit straighter, soon grimacing from his wounds. “I need this chance, and if you’re not gonna give it to me then I’m taking it.”

Noire shut his eyes and bowed his head, crossing his arms over his chest. “If you go … don’t come back and don’t contact me again. At least then I can pretend that you’re alive and safe somewhere.” With those harsh words left to hang in the air, Noire brusquely left Artemis’s room.

Kira stood from the bed, standing there awkwardly, unsure of what she should do. She was terrible at comforting people, and this was serious. Artemis stood there in front of the door, unmoving. Noire’s words had hurt him. Artemis never said it, but she knew that he was constantly seeking Noire’s approval. To be told to never come back by someone who he held in the highest esteem must have been unbearably painful. Perhaps it hurt more than all of Artemis’s physical wounds combined.

She slipped her hands into her pockets and cautiously approached him. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, Kira. I’m friggin’ fantastic,” he said in a voice that was somewhere between a murmur and a growl.

“Do you … want to talk about it?”

Artemis spun around to face her, his eyes livid. “Oh! Now you wanna talk, huh? You weren’t so chatty when I was getting chewed out by Noire. Why didn’t you back me up?”

Kira considered lying to him, but ultimately she decided to go with the truth. “I didn’t say anything because … you needed to hear that from him—well, most of it anyway.”

“And why do you think that?”

Kira ran a hand through her short, brown hair, exhaling softly. “Because, Artemis, you’re idea—it’s…”

Stupid?” Artemis growled. “You think it’s stupid. You think we’re gonna get caught again. Well, don’t you worry, K, you don’t have to be involved in anymore of my dumb plans. You’re out. I’ll do this by myself and I’ll prove to you and Noire that I’m not the screw up you think I am.”

“I never said—”

“You should go now,” he mumbled, brushing past her in a way that made her feel as if she’d just been punched in the gut. “I’ve got a lot of planning to do.”

Kira’s lips pressed into a thin white line. He doesn’t want my help? Fine. I didn’t want to do this anyway, she thought before storming out of his room.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Remember that thing I didn’t have a name for? Well, here’s chapter 1!

The following is the first chapter of that new book I mentioned I was writing a couple weeks back (if you haven’t read the prologue yet, CLICK HERE). So, after a lot of thinking about it … I still have no idea what I’m going to name this book or even the series. It’s really hard naming books! Besides that, I’ve only written four and a half chapters (I’m working on chapter 5 right now, actually). I’ve been dragging my feet a little with this project because I’ve never attempted science fiction before and it require a lot of research and ingenuity.

Also, I’ve started up a YouTube channel which I’ll be using for a couple different things. The first reason is to showcase my books on a different platform. I’ll be making videos about my books, doing interviews with authors and illustrators, and also posting video book reviews! The secondary uses for the new channel include ASMR videos (click here if you don’t know what asmr is), hopefully some video game play-throughs (but that’s probably going to have to wait until I get a more powerful computer), and just regular video blogs. I’ve already got one ASMR video posted and I plan to upload a video about my books in the near future. If any of this sounds interesting to you, visit my YouTube channel and subscribe! I’d really appreciate your support!

Okay, now that my little update’s over here is the first chapter of that book I haven’t named yet! Yaaaay!

 

NOTE: This ‘first-draft’ chapter contains some strong language and violence

 

Chapter 1

Super Problems

 

“Yo, K, you got those alarms disabled yet?” Artemis asked, pulling his mask over his unruly, chestnut-brown hair. He looked down into the large prototype room directly beneath the ten by ten crawlspace they were perched inside. “We’ve only got ten minutes before the guards make their rounds again.”

Kira could not help but scowl, continuing to type in numbers on her hologram watch keyboard—a clever invention of her own design. “I know how long we’ve got, Artemis. I was the one who did the reconnaissance, remember?” She paused her work and looked back at him, giving him a dull look. “Why are we here? Noire didn’t even want to bother with this, so why are we? Tora Corp has done a lot of upgrades to their security system since the last time we were here, and even then we couldn’t make a clean escape. Once I disable the alarms, laser grids, heat sensors, motion detectors, and chip scanners you’ll have five minutes at the most. Five minutes. I could have given you more time if I had better equipment, but—”

“I’ll be fine!” Artemis said, flashing her a toothy grin before pulling his mask down over the rest of his face so that only his moss-green eyes were visible. “Five minutes is plenty of time. You worry way too much, K. Just relax, will you? You’re gonna give yourself an ulcer.”

“You know that’s impossible,” Kira said, returning her attention to her work. “Most of the human race is impervious to those sort of ailments now.”

Artemis sighed and reached down to touch his toes, doing a few warm up stretches. “You know what I mean, smartass.”

Kira shrugged. “You don’t worry at all, so I have to worry for the both of us,” she replied simply, having to squint her eyes—they had not yet adjusted to the darkness of the ventilation shafts. “Given that, I blame my anxiety entirely on you. You’re the one who dragged me into this after all.”

Artemis paused in securing his tether to his belt. “Hey—”

“Done,” Kira said, smirking to herself. “Security systems are down—that is, all the systems my holowatch was able to detect. So be careful, alright? It’s possible that Tora installed some undetectable security measures. Just get the photon gun and get out—don’t dawdle.”

Dawdle?” Artemis asked, tilting his head to the side. “You just made that word up, didn’t you?”

Kira’s face became cold and stern as it usually did when she was working. “Four minutes fifty seconds and counting. Move it.”

Artemis chuckled and tugged on the black rope attacked to his belt harness. “You’re so adorable when you’re all bossy. I just wanna pinch your wittle cheeks!”

Kira gritted her teeth, tempted to kick him down into the room below. “Move. It.

“Yes, sir!” He saluted to her in a cocky manner before lithely diving down into the room, making absolutely no sound in the process—much to Kira’s relief. As she watched him repel down into the domed, sterile-white room, she couldn’t help but wonder what Artemis was trying to prove? Noire already respected his talents—and hers for that matter. In her opinion it had been a foolish idea to pursue a piece of technology that not even the master thief himself—Adair Noire, otherwise known as The Panther by the global media—had attempted to steal.

Noire’s technology was outdated despite the fact that Kira had tried modernize his old gadgets to the best of her abilities. Noire was still the best thief in the world, having stolen countless precious items from greedy men who were undeserving of their riches. These items ranged from banned artifacts, to marvels of modern science. Many of the banned artifacts that Noire stole, he kept and archived so that the people he took in—people like Kira and Artemis—would know how the world used to be before the age of the four empires. Kira had taken an interest in the history books and old technologies that her adopted father had collected, while Artemis gravitated more towards the comic books and music—that sounded like noise to Kira—from nearly one thousand years prior. The items that Noire collected from the past were priceless and precious—more so now that they had been banned by the four emperors of the world.

The three struggled to get by and to keep Noire’s archaic machines and gadgets running smoothly. But now, even with Kira’s gift with all things mechanical, modern technology had advanced too far. Kira couldn’t keep up with the world’s advances despite her cleverness—she needed new parts, new holodrives … new technology. She knew that Noire would never purchase anything from the empire—he didn’t even use the things he stole from them. He was prideful and obstinate, and Kira was afraid that would be his downfall. Noire was a wanted man, and with technology progressing so rapidly, it would not be long before the empire discover the elusive ‘Panther’s’ base of operations.

The photon gun they were attempting to acquire now would not help them much in the way of updating their century old machinery, but if they found the right buyer for the weapon, they could make a hefty sum. With that money, they could buy many of the parts they needed from black market tech-dealers to upgrade their security.

In short, Kira, Artemis, and Noire—though the latter would never admit it aloud—needed this score. The Panther’s base was the only home Kira had ever known, and she would do anything to make sure that it wasn’t compromised—even agree to this stupid plan of Artemis’s design.

She felt her heart quicken in pace as she checked her holowatch—only two minutes and thirteen seconds remained before the building AI would break through her firewall and reboot the prototype room security features that she’d disabled. Despite her internal panic, she smiled. It’s a good thing Tora hasn’t updated their building’s AI yet—I know the empire owned buildings’ new AIs can detect intruder firewalls within five seconds of initiation—not much time to pull off a heist like this, she thought as she watched Artemis pull a dimension ray—a slender metal tool with a few black buttons and a touch screen on the handle—from his belt.

With the ray he outlined a circle in the glass case he was hanging above and selected a dimension preference from the touch screen, just as she had instructed him. The circle of glass he’d outlined with the ray vanished into thin air, and Artemis pressed a button on his belt, lowering him down into the glass case where the Photon Gun was.

Kira was a little sad they would have to sell a masterpiece like that. There were plenty of photon weapons available on the market, but this one put them all to shame. Tora Corp had managed to harness the power of a full-sized photon cannon—which was very large and required someone much bigger than she to operate—in a weapon the size of plasma handgun. That little weapon could really pack a big punch, and, being a gun enthusiast, she couldn’t say she wasn’t tempted to keep it for herself. But, as much as she wanted that gun, she wanted much more to keep her home and her family safe from the empire’s crushing grip. She would sell it. She had to sell it.

Artemis snatched the photon gun from its stand and held it up for Kira to see. Before she had any time to celebrate, her holowatch’s projection screen popped up, flashing red. One of the silent alarms had been tripped. Her expression hardened as she tapped on the communicator in her ear. “Damn it, Artemis, I told you to be careful! One of the alarms tripped. Get back up here now. The guards are coming.”

“What’d I do?” Artemis’s voice sounded in her ear. “You said the security systems were down!”

“I said all the security features that my holowatch could detect were down,” Kira hissed. “Now get out of th—”

“Shit. They’re here,” Artemis grumbled.

Artemis laid down on her stomach and removed her ray guns from their holsters pointing them down into the prototype room where the guards had just entered. There were at least ten of them dressed in white and black Tora Corp uniforms. These weren’t just regular security guards either—they were as well trained and as well armed as military soldiers. They already had their guns out as they crept through the aisles of glass cases containing Tora Corp’s more pricey inventions. If Artemis were to repel back up to the ceiling now, he would surely be spotted.

“Get out of the case and hide,” Kira said, training her guns on the guards, but unable to get a clear shot yet.

“Are you gonna shoot them?” Artemis asked.

“That was the plan, yes,” Kira said lowly, placing her fingers on the triggers as Artemis climbed out of the case and rolled behind another. “If you’ve got a better idea, I’m open to suggestions.”

“I think I’ve got something,” he whispered into his com, she could hear the grin in his voice—that was never a good sign.

“Artemis, whatever you’re thinking, don’t do it until we’ve talked—”

Artemis ran out from his hiding spot, punched one of the guards in his throat and disarmed him in two swift movements. He flipped out of the path of a ray gun blast and swept his leg beneath another one of the guards, knocking him out with a punch to the face for good measure.

“Use the gun!” Kira said.

“I don’t know how!” Artemis replied, flipping over a guard only to jab his fingers into the small of the guard’s back. The guard fell to his knees unable to move, and Artemis continued on to the next guard. “Besides, I don’t like guns.”

“All you have to do is pull the damn trigger, it’s not that difficult,” Kira said, closing an eye to better zero in on the guards below.

Artemis punched a guard in the gut, and, when he was doubled over, kneed him in the face. “It looks like I’m doing alright without a gun so far,” he said, pausing briefly to look up at her with what was no doubt a smug look beneath his mask.

In that split second that Artemis wasn’t paying attention, one of the guards pulled the trigger of their gun. The ray shot through Artemis’s arm and he cried out in pain, gripping his bleeding wound.

As the guards advanced on him, Kira clenched her jaw. She couldn’t get a clear shot from above, thanks to all the glass cases. She sighed, pulled her mask down over her face and grabbed onto the rope. “I guess it can’t be helped…” she murmured before repelling down the rope, gunning down guards as she descended.

By the time she reached the ground, all the guards were lying unconscious on the floor of the prototype room, bleeding from the minor wounds she’d gifted them with. “I guess those knock-out charges worked after all,” she mused to herself, twirling her guns back into their holsters.

Artemis grasped his arm, his eyes—the only features not covered by his mask—squinted in an odd combination of both pain and amusement. “Nice shootin’, Tex.”

Kira refrained from rolling her eyes and helped him to his feet. “You’ve got to be more careful. You’re going to get yourself killed if you keep acting so impulsively.”

“But that’s what I’ve got you for, right? To save my ass when I do stupid things,” Artemis said, nudging her playfully.

Kira pushed him away from her. “I’m not going to be around forever. You can’t rely on me to help you out every time you make an idiotic call. Now, come on. We’ve got the photon gun, so let’s get out of here before more guards—”

The shrill sound of an alarm cut Kira off mid sentence. Artemis scratched the back of his head. “Sounds like our five minutes are up, ‘ey, K?”

Section P-1: intruder alert. Threats unidentified—missing data chips. Section P-1: intruder alert. Threats unidentified—missing data chips,” the smooth female voice of Tora Corp’s building AI echoed throughout the room. Plated steel slammed down over the windows and doors, and were soon sealed with laser barriers.

“Can’t we use the dimension ray to blow this joint?” Artemis asked.

“No. The dimension ray only works on inorganic matter,” Kira said, suddenly very sorry she had given it that limitation.

“Can’t we use it to cut through the walls or something?”

“The ray can’t cut through anything thicker than two feet—the floor, walls, and ceiling in all the prototype rooms are eight feet thick.”

“What about the ventilation shafts?”

“We can give it a try, but the AI has already locked onto our heat signatures,” She murmured typing a few things into her holowatch. “I can cool us down to make it a bit harder for the AI to find us, but, even still, getting out of here won’t be easy.”

Artemis groaned, his shoulders slumping forward. “When is it ever easy? Man do I hate AI tech…”

Kira grabbed the rope that hung from the vent and handed it to Artemis. “Are you going to be alright to climb?”

“Oh, yeah!” he said, taking hold of the rope despite his wounded arm. “I’ve scaled skyscrapers in worse condition than this.”

As he began his ascent, Kira’s dark blue eyes darted anxiously around the room. The AI had gone quiet and no guards had come to apprehend them yet. Something wasn’t right. Not only that, but the ventilation shaft they’d come through wasn’t blocked off like the other exits. Tora’s AI system might have been a year or two outdated, but it still should have known to block off every avenue of escape—the vents included. That was basic programming for every building AI system for over three hundred years.

Just then, the tempered glass ceiling of the prototype room shattered, thick glass shards raining down upon them. Kira shielded her eyes and dove out of the path of a piece of metal framing before it could crush her. A muscular man in a dark blue and black armored suit fell through the ceiling, grabbing Artemis on the way down and slamming him into the ground with such force, Kira was sure that her partner had broken a few bones.

The man in the suit stood up straight, brushing his dark blonde hair out of his masked face. “How many times must I catch you two-bit thieves before you learn your lesson?” he asked, his accent was silky, but his tone was condescending—not that she expected any less from him.

“Not this Douchebag again…” Artemis groaned, trying—unsuccessfully—to get to his feet. “Don’t you have some tights to try on or something?”

“I have an appointment after I’m finished here with you, actually,” the man said, flashing a charming smile.

Kira pulled out her guns aiming them at the masked man. “No way. You’re not going to bring us in this time, Figment.”

Figment chuckled, striding over to her and kicking the photon gun out of Artemis’s reach in the process. “As if your guns have ever stopped me before.”

“I’ve got brand new charges, freak,” Kira said through gritted teeth. “I’ve been dying to test them on you so, by all means, keep coming towards me.” Her eyes flickered to Artemis then to the photon gun.  Artemis, seemingly taking the hint, nodded and crept toward the weapon while Figment’s back was turned.

Figment sighed, crossing his bulky arms over his muscular chest. “We both know how this scenario is going play out. You’re going to shoot me, I’m going to dodge it, then I’ll apprehend both of you, and drop you off at the police station. Come now, you two! We’ve done this dance enough by now for you to know the steps.”

Artemis grabbed the photon gun and aimed it at Figment. He pulled the trigger, but the beam missed him by a good five feet. Artemis laughed nervously as Kira and Figment stared at him, both looking completely disenchanted. “Oops?”

Kira breathed in deeply through her nose. “How could you miss him? He’s literally two feet away from you!”

Artemis shrugged. “I must have forgot to take wind resistance into account…”

“We’re inside a building—there is no ‘wind resistance’!” Kira shouted. Her shrewd gaze returned to Figment, her grip tightening on the handles of her plasma guns. “Screw this. I’m taking you down, freakshow.”

She fired off several rounds in succession, her aim deadly accurate—if only her charges were meant to kill. Unfortunately, Figment dodged each and every beam fired at him with inhuman speed. He charged her, grabbed the guns from her hands—though she fought vigorously with him for a couple seconds—and threw her into a nearby casing, shattering the glass upon contact.

Dizzy and disoriented, Kira felt herself being picked up and carelessly thrown over Figment’s shoulder like she was a rag doll. She heard the laser cuffs buzz to life as Figment restrained Artemis and stuck him beneath his other arm. She looked down at her companion, her expression tightening. Kira could tell that Artemis was trying to smile at her from beneath his mask.

“Come on, K, don’t give me that look,” he said weakly. “It could be worse.”

“He’s right, you know,” Figment said. “I could have easily killed you. It’s lucky for you I have a ‘no killing’ policy, isn’t it?”

Kira refused to say anything more, as Figment carried them out of the prototype room, whistling an annoyingly upbeat tune as he strode to deliver them to their jail cells.

 

***************

 

The Imperial City police precinct wasn’t as bustling as it used to be. Ever since The Figment showed up two years ago, there weren’t many stupid enough to attempt to commit crimes in Imperial City—the capital of the Northwestern Empire’s America division. Artemis and Kira were stripped of most of their weapons and gadgets and thrown into a drunk tank upon their arrival at the police building. Thankfully, no one bothered with their masks or Kira’s holowatch.

Now she and Artemis sat on a cold metal bench between an old man murmuring about the price of food tablets, and scruffy looking man who appeared as if he was trying very hard to keep himself from vomiting.

Kira leaned forward, hanging her head. “We can’t keep doing this, Artemis.”

“It’s kind of all we know how to do, K,” Artemis replied, gingerly dabbing at his wounded arm with an antibacterial pad one of the policewomen had given him.

“Well, maybe we should learn how to do something else,” she said bitterly. “Maybe we should get real jobs.”

“Then we’d have to get data chips, and somehow get our birth files, and follow the empires rules—”

“Things are changing,” she said, looking back at him. “The empire isn’t what is used to be. Ever since Emperor Braith died, things have gotten better for everyone. People aren’t afraid any more—we don’t need to be afraid either. Look, we’re not devoted to any sort of cause rebel cause like the Timber Organization—we can go straight without damaging ties with anyone.”

“What about Noire?” Artemis asked. “If we get ‘real jobs’ we’ll just be leaving him by himself. You know he’d never agree to get chipped or get a job monitored by the empire. We’d just be … abandoning him. Sure, he’s a bit uptight, but we can’t just leave him after everything he’s done for us. He took me in and raised you from a freaking toddler, for Christ’s sake!”

“I’m twenty-one and you’re twenty-four now—we’re adults,” Kira said, hanging her head once more. “Adults go off on their own and try to make decent livings for themselves. We can’t stay with Noire forever.”

Artemis frowned. “What the hell crawled up your ass and died?”

Kira scowled, shutting her eyes tightly. “I’m just sick of getting caught. I’m sick of being afraid. I’m sick of living in a sewer.”

“Hey! It’s not a sewer, it’s a pipeline!”

“It’s a sewer, Artemis.”

“Alright, fine. It’s a sewer,” Artemis mumbled before perking up again. “But don’t you think it’s kind of cool we live down there? We’re like the teenage mutant ninja turtles, except we’re not teenagers, or giant anthropomorphic turtles, and we steal stuff instead of saving people!” he said, lifting his cuffed hands triumphantly. As Kira glowered at him, His shoulders slumped forward in defeat. “Okay, okay. So the only thing we really share with them is that we live in a sewer…”

Kira shook her head. “Are you rambling about your comic books again? This isn’t a comic book—this our lives, and we’re wasting them! We’re never going to get ahead like this.”

They both went silent as Kira discreetly flicked up her holowatch screen and began to infiltrate her laser cuff’s programing. While she was busy doing that, Artemis stood up and went to the glowing blue beams of light that contained them. He touched a bar and yelped, instantly pulling his hands away. “Feels like they amped up the juice on these containment beams. Maybe we’re finally gaining some infamy around here, ey?”

“If we were, they’d have put us in separate cells and taken my holowatch,” Kira grumbled.

“Oh. Good point,” Artemis replied, scratching his masked cheek.

Between the jail cells and the vacant police desks there was a full sized three-dimensional laser projection of the news. After a commercial about an intergalactic cruise liner, a voluptuous blonde anchorwoman was projected. “In breaking news, the mysterious hero of Imperial City known only as The Figment has once again apprehended whom this city has come to know as The Terrible Two.”

Artemis scoffed. “What a lame name—at least give us cool supervillain titles, lady!”

“We’re not villains,” Kira murmured, knowing that Artemis wouldn’t hear her.

“The unidentified duo were caught trying to steal Tora Corporation’s new photon gun prototype—an invention that, once completed, will revolutionize modern warfare,” the anchorwoman went on. “In the wrong hands, the photon gun could have devastating effects. Thankfully, our city’s defender, The Figment, was there to stop these vandals before any harm could be done. In response to the recent string of attempted robberies that Tora Corp has endured, CEO Reid Zarlok, has announced that all Tora building AI’s will be updated with The Empire’s new software within the next few days. Zarlok had a few minutes to speak with our very own Robert Esperanza, about today’s event.”

The projection flickered and the blonde anchorwoman disappeared. In her place, two men filled the projection. The first man—the reporter, Kira assumed—was stout with a full head of what anyone with half a brain could tell was synthetic implants. Across from the reporter was a tall, slender man, with a mildly-attractive face that looked to be in need of a good shave. He had shaggy, dark hair, and strange, orange-colored eyes—Kira guessed that he must have had them surgically altered. She had seen Tora Corp’s CEO many times when she passed media projections on the street, and each time she saw him he was dressed to the nines. However, his hair never looked brushed and his face was never clean shaven. He looked like a bum someone plucked off the street and stuck in fancy clothes.

“So,” the reporter began, “Mr. Zarlok—”

“We’re all friends here, Mikey. Call me Reid,” Zarlok said, taking a large bite out of a candy bar.

Esperanza laughed. “Alright, Reid, what did you think about today’s excitement?”

“I think Figment owes me a new tempered glass ceiling in my prototype room.” Reid smirked, taking another bite of his candy before going on. “Nah, I’m just messing around. In all seriousness, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

“But your photon gun was almost stolen—that thought has to worry you a little.”

Reid waved his candy bar airily. “Not really. I mean, sure, the photon gun is a big deal and all, but the real important stuff we keep up in our research and development space station. There’s no way those small-time thieves can get to that stuff.”

Esperanza nodded. “I see. Would you care elaborating on some of the things your company is working on up there?”

Reid scratched his scruffy chin and shrugged. “Eh. What the hell—why not? We’ve been keeping these two inventions under wraps for a while, but now’s a good a time as any to share.” He stuffed the rest of his candy bar in his mouth, and pulled another one from his pocket. “So, first big thing we’re working on is a cure for that Tarlonia disease that’s going around—ya know, the one that killing everyone by eating up their insides.”

The reporter’s eyes widened. “That’s extraordinary news! Tarlonia has been the world’s leading cause of death for over five hundred years! How close is Tora Corp to a cure, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I don’t mind at all, Mikey,” Reid replied with a cheery smile. “Last I heard from my scientists up there, we’re only a few months away from human testing. It’s going to take another year after that to start distributing, but rest assured we’re working real hard to get this cure out ASAP.”

“We’re certainly glad to hear it, Mr. Zar—uh, Reid,” Esperanza said before clearing his throat. “Now what’s this second invention you’re working on—you mentioned there were two.”

Reid chuckled good-humoredly and took a big bite out of his candy. “You don’t miss a beat, do you, Mikey? I throw you a bone and ya want ten more! Alright, alright, ya twisted my arm. This other huge project we’re working on, isn’t as earth shattering as the cure to Tarlonia, but I think it’s pretty awesome all the same,” he said, smoothing out his fine suit coat. “With all the space travel we’ve been doing and all the new inhabited planets we’ve been finding, intergalactic war is becoming a very real possibility, wouldn’t ya say?”

“I’d say so, yes.”

“Well, us at the Tora Corporation think Earth should be ready for anything—hence all the cool new weapons we’ve been inventing,” Reid said as a bit of his candy fell onto his crisp white suit—he didn’t seem to mind. “Anyway, the scientists up at our space station were messing around with metals a couple months back and managed to create what we’re calling ‘mass compressing titanium alloy’.”

The reporter placed his hands on his hips. “That sounds pretty interesting. What’s it do?”

“That’s the cool part, Mikey,” Reid said, finishing his second candy bar and immediately pulling some biscuits out of his pocket. “With some simple programing, one square foot of our MCTA can compress down to the size of a single molecule, and, when it decompresses, it’ll hold the shape of whatever you formed it into before the compression. We’re testing it on portable shelters right now, but our big plan is to make a shield out of MCTA to surround the entire world in case of an attack. The alloy is super lightweight, so we don’t have to worry about it disrupting the flow of things down here, and it’s nearly indestructible—nothing short of a couple dozen atomic bombs is going to put a dent in it.”

“Impressive,” Esperanza praised. “But how exactly does something like that function. The concept is a little farfetched even by modern technology’s standards.”

Reid bit into his biscuit and pointed the remainder of it at the reporter. “Look, it just works, alright? I don’t know the sciencey lingo to explain it to ya—hell, I’m not really sure how it works myself. I’m damn sure not a brainiac—I hire smart people to know about this stuff so I don’t have to. The point is, we’ve got some pretty cool tech headed our way, and we should all be looking forward to it.”

“Indeed we should, and I’m sure we’re all very excited to see Tora Corps new inventions for ourselves,” Esperanza said before turning to face the audience. “Well, there you have it! Reid Zarlock: unruffled and as optimistic as ever in the face of today’s shocking events. Diana, back to you in the studio.”

Artemis tilted his head to the side as the image shifted back to the busty anchorwoman. “Is it just me or is that Zarlok guy always eating?”

“It’s not just you,” Kira said. She typed a few more things into her holowatch’s projected keyboard and her red laser cuffed turned white and fell from around her wrists. “Stop ogling that reporter and come over here.”

Artemis wandered back over to her and held out his wrists without her even having to ask him too—they had done this so many times it had become routine by now. “Hey … that MCTA stuff sounds kinda cool, right?” he asked in a strangely cautious tone.

Kira pointed the white beam from her watch at Artemis’s cuffs. “I guess.”

“It might be nice to have something like that on our side,” he said, as his cuffs turned white too and fell to the ground.

Kira’s gaze flicked up to the ceiling. “Maybe, but it’s not like we can steal it. You heard what Zarlok said—it’s up on Tora Corp’s space station.” She got to her feet and passed through the light bars that were keeping them in. Artemis hurried after her.

“Think of all the things you could make out of that stuff, K!” Artemis cried, throwing his arms out wide.

“Yeah. The possibilities are endless,” she mumbled monotonously.

As they rounded a corner a couple of startled policemen tried to stop them, but Artemis easily knocked them out with a couple swift punches to the throat. “Listen to what I’m saying, Kira. We could stand a chance against Figment if we had some of that MCTA crap to mold into new gadgets—heck, we could probably even win! Think of all the tech we could steal without having to worry about that douche!”

They entered the evidence room and Kira knocked out one of the cops with one solid punch to the temple, while Artemis took down the other two—dodging a couple laser charges while he did so. Kira disabled the plasma shield into front of the counter and hopped over it. She grabbed a well-worn plastic bin labeled ‘The Terrible Two’ and set it on the counter in front of Artemis.

“Look. As long as Figment’s working in this city, we can’t,” Artemis said, grabbing his tools out of the bin and sticking them in his utility belt.

Kira stuck her com back in her ear and handed Artemis his. “So we’ll move somewhere else.”

“Yeah, sure. Like Noire’s gonna agree to that. He’s had that base for years—he’s not just going to up and leave.”

“He doesn’t have to leave,” Kira growled, growing more frustrated by the moment. She holstered her guns, hopped back over the counter, and left the evidence room. “We can leave by ourselves. We can find another city—a city without a superhero.”

Artemis laughed sarcastically. “So you’re gonna pull an ‘Elliot’, huh? You’re just going to split after everything Noire’s done for you?”

“Don’t talk to me about Elliot,” she grumbled. “I feel like I’ve heard this before…”

“Yeah? Well this ‘going off on your own’ shit is news to me,” Artemis said, jumping up onto the wall, grabbing the bar above Kira and thrusting his feet into the policeman who just rounded the corner with his gun drawn. He swung himself down from the bar, landing lightly on his feet. “I know that if you get an idea in your head there’s nothing that’s gonna stop you from trying to see it through, but just hear me out. Let’s try to get some of that MCTA. Figment’s not up there so we might actually be able to steal it. After we get it, I’ll bring some of it back to Noire so we can start fixing up the base, and you can go off on your own—sound fair?”

“No, because I didn’t want it to begin with,” Kira replied, pulling out one of her guns and blasting a hole through the window at the end of the hall.

Artemis groaned, running his hand over the top of his masked head. “I can’t do it without you, K. Come on, what’ve we got to lose?”

Our lives if they catch us,” she said as she hopped out of the window and onto the ledge, beginning to scale up the side of the slick, glass plated building. “It’s not that easy to escape a giant floating building in space, Artemis.”

With a few more expertly executed martial arts kicks and jabs, he took out a couple more cops who tried to pull them back into the building, and climbed up after her. “We won’t get caught. We’ll be careful.”

“I’m always careful,” Kira snapped, pausing briefly in her ascent to look down at him. “You’re the one who’s always screwing up my plans with your impulsiveness.”

“What if I promised to do exactly what you said this time? Come on, K! Whether you like it or not, all three of us need a score like this,” Artemis said. “That photon gun is peanuts compared to that MCTA stuff! If we bring just one piece of it back with us we could sell it, then we could finally help Noire update his base with the huge payday we’ll get—that’s what you want, isn’t it?”

Kira clenched her jaw, trying to ignore the hover cars that zoomed past them on the airway next to the police building. After a long moment of silent contemplation, Kira sighed. “Fine, I’ll do it, but only under one condition.”

Artemis’s moss green eyes lit up with hope. “Yeah?”

Kira smirked smugly, glad that he couldn’t see it. “Noire has to agree to it.”

His eyes narrowed, all optimism disappearing from them. “You know he’d never say yes to one of my ‘harebrained schemes’!”

Kira merely shrugged and continued up the side of the building, pressing the button for her cloaking device, making the two of them invisible to everyone else. “Those are my terms. If he ‘okays’ the heist then we’ll go, if he doesn’t, then we stay and try to convince him to move out of Imperial City.”

Although Artemis griped and moaned about how unfair it all was, Kira said no more on the subject the entire way back to Noire’s underground base.

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

I’m not sure what to call this, but here we go!

So, since late December I’ve been working on a new book series which I have yet to name (hence the title of this post). In November I finished my sixth and final Prince of Prophecy book, and I promised myself that I was going to wait a little while to start writing again, but … I cracked. I HAD to start writing this or I would have probably exploded.

I had the idea for this science fiction series in 2009 (about three years before I started writing The Prince of Prophecy). It was originally going to be a Science Fiction/Horror series based off of a dream I had (I get a lot of my inspiration from dreams), but, in the end, I decided to lean more towards adventure than horror (although there will be horror elements). I was considering posting my originals notes, but they’re honestly not written very well…

However, what I do have for you is the prologue (first draft, so be gentle with me) of this new series of mine. If it’s received well, I might post a couple more preliminary chapters so be sure to “like” this post if you liked this post, haha!

***************

Prologue
Welcome to the Jungle

The sound that roused Noire from a peaceful sleep, he had not heard in a very long time and he shouldn’t have been hearing now—it was the middle of the night for goodness sake! He had painstakingly went to extreme lengths to make sure his base of operations stayed hidden from the authorities along with everyone else.
He sat up in bed, narrowing his yellowish eyes as he slipped his hand beneath his pillow to grasp the cold titanium handle of his plasma gun. Perhaps he’d just dreamt of the sound? That must have been it. There was no way anyone could know where he was—it just wasn’t possible.

Knock, knock, knock, came the infernal noise again. Noire could no long deny that someone was indeed at the entrance hatch of his underground base. He was very much awake and that sound was very much real. He slid from his bed and pressed a button on his bedside stand. Stairs extended from the floating platform upon which his ‘bedroom’ was located and he silently crept down the steps, keeping his finger on the trigger of his gun.

Knock, knock! The noise sounded more insistent this time, as he maneuvered around the mechanisms and equipment that littered the floor of his bunker. The machines whirred and hummed as their clear tubes glowed reds, blues, and greens in the otherwise – space. Although it may have looked like a mess of gadgets and machinery to the untrained eye, Noire had meticulously placed everything just so and nothing was a single nanometer out-of-place. Where others saw chaos, he saw order, and he liked it. That was what he excelled at—looking past the obvious and seeing things that others could not. This extraordinary ability is what his entire career hinged upon.

He prowled towards the entrance hatch his muscles tensing as he neared it. Whoever was at his door was dead, they just didn’t know it yet. There were plenty of ways he could exterminate the pests outside his door without even opening it, but he always got a bit vindictive when he was woken from a pleasant sleep—which was not often. He was going to see with his own eyes the face of the fool who dared encroach upon his solitude in the middle of the night.

Noire typed in a code upon the keypad of the steel reinforced entrance hatch and lifted his plasma gun. He heard the sound of one, two, three large bolts pulling back from their sockets, and a moment later the hatch slid aside to reveal three hooded figures standing just outside. The figure at the head of the group was holding what looked like a small body in his arms. The two men on either side of him already had their plasma guns trained on Noire. He kept his finger on the trigger of his own gun but didn’t shoot just yet.

“That’s it?” Noire asked, his expression as cold and stern as his steely voice. “You only brought two guards with you? You do know who I am, don’t you?”
The figure at the head of the group, carefully hoisted the body up onto his shoulder so he could remove his hood. Noire saw that the older man who stood before him had dark, slicked back hair with streaks of gray. His features were strikingly angular, and his eyes were as dark as the blackest night. Noire had seen this man before, but it had been several years since they last saw each other.

He slowly lowered his gun and the two hooded men did the same. “Mr. Cain. I thought our business had concluded.”

“So did I, Mr. Noire,” Cain replied, his voice low and growling. He had the same rich accent as Noire.

Noire had long suspected that Cain was from the same place as he—the eastern most quadrant of the North Western Empire formerly known as ‘England’. But he had never bothered to asked—given their relationship, Noire felt it was hardly an appropriate question. Now they, along with many others, resided on what centuries old—not to mention banned—texts referred to as the ‘North American Continent’.

“Why are you here?” Noire asked, his tone cooler than he intended it to be.

Cain didn’t seem to mind Noire’s cool demeanor. Instead he motioned to the bundled up figure in his bulky arms. “The package you left with us two years ago is no longer safe in our possession. You must take it back.”

Noire’s eyes fell upon the bundle over Cain’s shoulder. He felt the blood drain from his face in that instant. “No. No, I can’t take it. I’m in no position to care for something like that.”

“Do you think my organization was any more prepared for it than you are now?” Cain asked calmly. “We are a rebel militia group, not a daycare center. As you may know, the Timber Organization has recently come under fire, and the North-Western Empire has found many of our hideouts. For the safety of this child, she must stay where no one else can find her. She must stay with you.”

Noire’s lips pressed into a thin, white line. “You can’t be serious. My lifestyle isn’t suitable for a child—especially not one so young.”

“Then make it suitable,” Cain said, stepping over the threshold and offering what Noire now understood to be a blanket wrapped child to him. “This world is more dangerous than it has ever been before, and she needs to be protected. The emperor is scouring for her—she knows something that could incriminate his empire, I know it. It is my duty and yours to protect her as well as the information she possesses.”

Noire shook his head and backed away as if the child was an unstable chemical substance. “And just how do you suggest that I do that?”

“Make her forget. That’s the only way,” Cain said, his voice softening as he stroked the little girl’s back. “She hasn’t said why they might be after her, but she possess the information the Empire seeks—the information they want to keep secret from the rest of the world. It’s somewhere in that fascinating mind of hers… So you must extract it and keep it hidden well.”

Noire ran a hand through his short, black hair, glancing back into his chaotic bunker. “Extracting memories is tricky. My machine is a hundred years old at least—the best I can do is wipe her entire memory clean.”

“Then so be it. She’s only five—she has her entire life to create new memories. Pleasant memories,” Cain said. He shut his eyes for a moment, before going on. “Do you have a safe place to store the momentos you extract?”

“Of course. Unfortunately I have no way to view the momentos after I’ve extracted them,” Noire said, placing hand on his slender hip. “Last I checked, you wolves don’t have a way to do it either. Once I wipe her memory, that information the Empire wants her for might as well be destroyed. You really want to risk that?”

Cain exhaled through his nose and nodded once. “Perhaps one day the Timber Organization will be able to acquire a memory reader—that’s the best we can hope for, I suppose. But the most important thing is that she remains out of harm’s way. She’s more than just a way to help us bring down this Empire for good—she’s a living, breathing person, and she deserves the chance to experience life just like anyone else. She’ll have her best chance with you, Mr. Noire.”

Noire pressed his hands to his face and dragged them down until his fingers were steepled beneath his chin. “That’s why I brought her to you, Cain. I thought you would be able to give her her best chance. You’ve got a whole organization at your fingertips. I can’t raise a child! I’m not equipped. Besides, my business is one no impressionable youths should be subjected to.”

“I’m well aware of your ‘business’, Mr. Noire—or should I say Panther?”

Noire raised a brow. “So you know.”

“Of course, I know,” Cain said. “There is no one else on earth that possesses the skill to steal such precious artifacts from right underneath the Emperor’s nose. But, worry not, I’ve told no one that you and the elusive ‘Panther’ are one in the same.”

Noire’s yellow eyes flicker to Cain’s two companions. “Are those AIB’s?”

“Yes,” Cain replied. “The newest models.”

Noire raised his gun and shot both of Cain’s companions in the head. They sparked, shuddered violently, and fell to the ground. He then stuck his plasma gun in the waist band of his pajama pants. “Sorry. Can’t be too careful with bots—they’re really easy to extract information from.”

Cain glanced back over his shoulder at the broken Artificial Intelligence Beings, sighing to himself. “It’s alright. I would’ve had to do it when I returned to headquarters anyway. Although, I wouldn’t have been so brash with my execution…”

Noire shrugged. “To each his own.”

Cain hoisted the girl from his shoulder and handed her to Noire. He held out his arms, not wanting the sleeping child to fall to the ground. “Now then,” Cain said in his usual growling voice. “Take good care of her, Mr. Noire. Raise her well.”

“I’ll do the best that I can, but I doubt she’ll ever be what the Empire considers a ‘model citizen’. I’m a thief, not a nanny.”

Cain chuckled lowly as he turned to leave. “I would expect no less. You can keep the AIBs. They’re of no use to me now.”

“Wait!” Noire called hurrying after him. “She’s not chipped, is she?”

“Of course not,” Cain said, scowling back at him. “I’d never allow her to be sullied with Empire technology.”

Noire relaxed upon hearing this and held the girl closer to him. “Good.”

Cain continued on his way, waving his hand without even turning around. “Goodbye, Mr. Noire. If all goes well, we shouldn’t be seeing each other again any time soon.”

Noire watched Cain disappear into the darkness of the underground pipeline in which he’d made his home. He shut and locked the hatch once more before gazing down at the little girl in his arms. A gentle smile spread across his usually stern face as he touched the sleeping girl’s cheek with the back of his hand. “It’s good to see you again, Kira. You and I have a lot of work to do, don’t we?”

***************

I’m still working on the names of the technology I’m using in the book since this takes place 1000 years in the future (it’s going to be a challenge that will demand weeks of research). But if you guys have any ideas about futuristic technology and names of said technology, please leave them in the comments and if I like them I’ll include them in the series! Remember, if you enjoyed this, please like this post and I’ll post more chapters here. 🙂

 

For more fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2015

Well, folks, a new year is once again upon us. This year wasn’t too bad for me, but I hope next year will be even better for all of us!

I’m getting ready for the launch party of my second book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, which will be held on Saturday (January 3rd). I just received the books for the party today—I feel like I really cut it close with that—and now everything’s ready to go! I’m super excited about this launch, and I can’t wait for people to read this second book—it’s really action packed and full of surprises!

DSCF0332

DSCF0333

I’ve already begun working on my second book series (it’s a sci-fi/fantasy/adventure series), but I do plan to take some time this month to catch up on some long neglected video games that have been collected dust on my shelf for two years while I was writing the Prince of Prophecy series. I’ve got to work in as much fun as I can before I start school again in February!

I’m going to be opening up Etsy and Cafepress shops soon for cool Prince of Prophecy merchandise. I might even get back into sewing and crafting if I have time during the next year. However, I know that 2015 is going to be really busy. I’ll be releasing my third book in the Prince of Prophecy series in June of 2015, and the fourth book in December of 2015—so yeah, my plate’s super full.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful and prosperous new year, and I thank you all for following my blog! A fairy tale post is coming up next, so stay tuned! ❤

 

For new fairy tale, Prince of Prophecy, and Writer’s Corner updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Nautilus Press Editing Services

******

Manuscript Editing Services

  1. Copyedit – just the basics: grammar, spelling, and punctuation. One read-through included.
  1. Content Edit – includes copyediting services, along with plot and character analysis. One read-through included.
  1. Full Edit – copyediting, plot/character analysis, and style analysis. Includes two read-throughs of the entire manuscript: edit read-through, and proof read-through. Additional read-throughs of specific sections are free of charge upon request.

 Copyedit

 Content Edit

Full Edit

20,001 – 50,000 words

 $50.00

 $85.00

 $175.00

50,001 – 100,000 words

 $100.00

 $135.00

 $225.00

100,001 – 200,000 words

 $150.00

 $185.00

 $275.00

200,001 – 300,000 words

 $200.00

 $235.00

 $325.00

 

 

Blog and Essay Editing Services

 

  1. Copyedit – just the basics: grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

 Copyedit

 0 – 5,000 words

 $15.00

 5,001 – 10,000 words

$20.00

 10,001 – 15,000 words

 $25.00

 15,001 – 20,000 words

 $30.00

NOTE: The blog and essay copyedit prices can also be applied to short stories. Please contact me for prices if you require content edits and full edits for short stories.

 

 ********************************************

Payment Information: All payment transactions are handled through PayPal.

 

If you are interested in any of the services above, please email me at NautilusPress@AOL.com. In your email, include the service(s) you are interested in purchasing along with the length of the work you want edited (word count), and any questions you may have for me. All inquiries will be answered within 24 hours.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional editor which is why I charge so little for my services. However, I am an author and currently majoring in English, thus I have extensive knowledge of plot development, characterization, grammar/punctuation rules, and writing in general. I have edited manuscripts in the past and worked closely with professional editors. So, if you’re looking for affordable and competent service, I’m your girl!

This blog travels directly to …

Rod_Serling_old_time_radio

 

Today’s blog post is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. True suspense and horror cannot be measured in screams, or how many monsters the picture contains, or even how much gore is displayed. True suspense and horror keeps one’s eyes wide and unable to look away. It keeps you on the edge of your seat while your mind wanders to the deepest, darkest regions of your imagination. It transports you to a place where you’re vulnerable to the shadows that move through the darkness—to a place you thought had long since disappeared with your childhood.

Many will argue as to who the “master” of this dark domain is; however, this man is most certainly a contender on many thrill-enthusiasts lists. The man I’m talking about has many credits to his name, most notably Planet of the Apes, and The Twilight Zone. He was a virtuoso of suspense and connoisseur of thrill. He was Rod Serling and these are a few things you didn’t know about him.

 

  • He served in World War II.
  • He was wounded during the Battle of Leyte, and was sent home with a Purple Heart.
  • After returning from the war, he became an Anti-War Activist.
  • He had a Bachelors Degree in Literature.
  • In order to earn extra money during his college years, Serling tested parachutes for the army. He received $50 for each successful jump, and once earned $500 for a particularly hazardous test.
  • Serling was one of the first people in television to not only include African-Americans in his programming, but have African-Americans portray main characters on his shows (something relatively unheard of during the late 1950s and 1960s). Serling’s strong sense of morality and deep social conscious was one of the many reasons he was considered ahead of his time.
  • One of the reasons why he started The Twilight Zone was because he was tired of have his artistic expression censored by sponsors (i.e. having the Chrysler Building edited out in an episode sponsored by Ford, and having his scripts stripped of political statements and ethnic identities).
  • Serling won more Emmy Awards for dramatic writing than anyone in history.
  • In the television industry, Serling was known as “The Angry Young Man of Television”.
  • He spent his later career teaching screenwriting at Ithaca College in New York.

 

Follow this blog for new fantasy/fairy tale/Prince of Prophecy updates every Wednesday and Saturday!