Corporate

We sleep, we eat, we work. That is mankind, like ants in a hive. There is nothing else.

If you do not work, you do not eat.

If you do not eat, you stay asleep.

Sometimes I wonder what would be so bad about never waking up again, lost to the ephemeral dreams that would give way to manic despair.

The Tower in the center of our metropolis shines like a beacon in the smog. The highways weave around it, suspended in the air, hovercars rushing past with places to go, money to earn. Everyone must be moving, because to stop would contemplate death.

My family celebrates my ascent by painting our walls red, by hanging colored strips of paper in our windows. Our neighbors flood the house, offering quaint dishes they could spare. We celebrate around the fire underneath our awning, lights hung to remember the stars.

I begin my career in the Tower tomorrow. Assistant Specialist to Data Modifications. It is a great honor, and I will be able to aid my family by sending them money.

“Ky, I am so proud of you,” my grandfather says, patting me on the back. He turned down a position at the tower when he was my age, to become a mechanic instead.

I smile. He has never said many words to me – those are good words to keep.

 

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What Does This Mean? – A Scene III

“It means you’re a moron who can’t help but get into fights,” the doctor said, dabbing my brow with antiseptic. I winced.

My very sore behind sat on the cold receiving table of the military med bay, instead of our inept nurse’s hall. I’d even been offered a stretcher from the student wing to the base. Privileges for belonging to the military.

“It means,” he continued, sliding his chair to his silver netscreen by the door. He’d shaved his beard since I’d last seen him. “I’m giving you the long way round of healing, because you’re here too often and you waste government money.”

I glanced over to the doctor’s desk, eyeing the aluminum tube that could spray my stitches away, indifferent to whether he used it or not. The emotions from my bond’s declaration had purged when I punched Wiry on the nose, and when he’d slammed the tray onto my face. I’d told the doc as much, seeing as he was my assigned physician.

Though I’d probably have to think of some sort of payback for Wiry. After all, it would give me a scar.

“Your knitting magazines,” I murmured, eyeing a basket underneath the doctor’s desk, cutting him off from one tirade or another. “Are they a waste of government money?”

The corner of his mouth pulled up. “They remind me how to sow up wounds.”

“I hope your boss believes that, because I don’t.” He smiled, eyes still on his netscreen. A 3d display of my injuries rotated slowly, and if my bond had been near, I might have felt embarrassment. Instead,  the glass doors slipped open to reveal my commanding officer, a short thin woman in her late forties.

“I don’t believe it, soldier. But he’s a hell of a doctor. So we make allowances for it.”

“Ma’am.” I nodded.

She pulled up a file on both our netscreens. “Five times in the med bay? For fights you started?”

I raised a brow. Right. I’d forgotten those other two.

“Fortunately you’re a hell of a soldier, or you’d have been sent to a far moon for this kind of behavior. I’d thought the B.E.T. project had been going well.”

I glanced through my file. “The irrational behavior is due to the emotional response from the male subject. His response and then withdrawal led to the female subject’s sudden outburst of emotion.”

“You’re blaming him?”

“I’m reading the doc’s files.”

He coughed. “It’s not blame per se, more of a catalyst.”

She raised one thin brow. “And you think that our decision to separate them ‘catalyzed’ her behavior?”

“That’s not enough to warrant a visit, Mother Superior, and you know it,” said the doc.

She ignored him, keeping her gaze on me. “Lucky I was on my way to you already. The Operation to Delta Prime has been moved up. We need you in the shuttles by 0800 tomorrow morning. I suggest you take the rest of the day to sleep this off.”

 

Are You Okay?- A Scene II

She said it with a lilt in her voice and a reassuring pat on my arm. I tried not stab my salad fork through her manicured fingers.

“Fine,” I muttered, weaving through the crowd of uniformed school children looking for seats. I hoped she didn’t follow me.

“He told me what happened,” she said, a few steps behind me. I knew her from English – why did I have to continue knowing her during the lunch hour? Couldn’t I just forget the existence of people that were inconvenient to me?

Or more importantly, why did he choose to forget our privacy and tell the whole world what I’d told him?

I slid onto the cold seats, someone else’s drink seeping in through my thin layer of clothes. Great. Now I’d look like I couldn’t control my bladder. The chatter of other students at the table continued, non plussed by two new additions to their seating arrangement.

Either that or they didn’t want to meet my eyes. Last I sat in the cafeteria without him I punched a rugby player. One that played the sport all traditional like, with gravity and everything.

The two girls with matching haircuts sitting on the edge of the table laughed a little too loudly, and the guy’s smile across from me faltered. I felt a small wave of satisfaction that I’m certain came from me.

“So,” she said, ignoring her food, staring earnestly in my direction. “Delta Prime.”

“You sandwich is going to get cold,” I said, taking a bite of mine. Not likely though. The heat in our food lasted for three hours, guaranteed. Along with a promise of freshness (or the imitation thereof) and a low price even a student on the Magnus Belt could afford. It couldn’t be healthy.

I took a breath of the stuffy recycled air, hoping the pain in my chest was related to some stressful test he was taking, or a new resurgence of some ancient disease, like cancer, and not the uncomfortable feeling of abandonment he had left with me.

He was supposed to have been outraged.

“I won’t be in Delta long,” I said, looking down at my food. Her head snapped up excitedly, knowing my reluctance to share information would soon return. The blond curls that framed her round face still bounced, and I tightened my grip on my milk carton. “They don’t like to keep us apart.”

She nodded. “Do you know what your mission is?”

“Whatever it is, I’ll be back soon.” I said, trying to put an emphasis on how quickly I’d return. On how important it was that my telepathic bond and I stayed close. On how irrationally stupid I felt when he decided to share with other people. Other blonde people.

He was supposed to have feelings about all this separation. Not me. I was strictly a no feelings person. That’s why they made us bond.

“I couldn’t do that,” she said, taking a dainty sip of her milk. It likely wasn’t dainty. I was likely projecting. “Work for them and not know what I’m doing.”

“You’re not me.”

Her eyes widened and her lips parted, and somewhere behind my cold anger I registered that I had somehow offended her.

“Of course not!” she said, reaching out to touch my hand. “I could never be you. Nor could I replace you.”

I pulled my hand away.

“That’s an impossibility.” I forced a laugh, choosing to ignore what she meant. Her face smiled, but her eyes didn’t. I offended her again. Did she want to be me? I’d promptly give her a list why that was an irrational desire.

The ID scanner that contained my briefing and my mission weighed heavy in my pocket. Metaphorically.

She’d cry from the things written there. She’d cry from the things that I’d done. I’d almost like to see that. I told myself to stop looking for available ID booths before I broke a law they couldn’t forgive me for.

A column over and four seats to the right a wiry looking fellow with spiky black hair slammed his tray a little too hard on a table, the other boy with him twitching in apprehension. He shoved himself in the seat, took another boy’s milk and poured it over his head. Laughed.

Before the bond I never would have seen that. I never would have felt the fear in the younger boy’s eyes. I never would have felt anything.

Stupid empathetic telepathy.

Stupid feelings.

I stood from my seat, emptied my tray in the proper trash receptacle, walked over and punched wiry on the nose.

The cafeteria let a out a shout of surprise, loudly and predictably. He growled and tackled me, throwing me on the ground where I landed into somebody else’s lunch. Ducking a punch, I kicked him in the ribs before he had a chance to get to me while I lay in an array of lunch meats.

The shouts grew louder and more violent, growing to a crescendo as we both found our footing. His eyes were dark, focused. Blood dripped from his nose. Good.

I felt myself grinning as I stood, grabbing a plastic knife from another student’s tray. It wasn’t anti-grav neopolymer steel, but it would do. I rushed.

He grabbed a broken tray and whipped it across my face.

I spun, landing a few feet away, my head rammed against the floor.

A loud horn rang through the cafeteria, urging in a wave of hushed whispers. I could hear the vague shouting of some authority figure. My face too close to the cold tile, I pushed myself from the ground, fighting the wave of dizziness that crashed my vision. Something dripped from my forehead.

“Are you okay?” my seat-mate asked, her pretty faces frowning. Did she have two faces?

“Besides the open wound?” I giggled, and it echoed through the silent hall.  Another drop of blood fell on my cheek. “Fine.”

We Need To Talk – A Scene

“We need to talk.”

The worst sentence in the english language. Okay, so maybe it’s not as bad as ‘your mom died,’ or ‘we dropped a bomb on Hiroshima,’ or ‘we ran out of cereal,’ but it’s pretty bad. I’d put it up there on the top five worst things to hear. Or say.

The problem with those four stupid words is that the ‘we’ isn’t a ‘we’. You’re not saying ‘we’ need to talk. You’re saying ‘I need to talk and I want you to listen and I’ve made up my mind so nothing you say will matter.’  They’re reductionist and self-serving.

Very human.

He sat across from me in the nigh empty hall, a bewildered look on his face, as I tried my best not to avoid eye contact. Three people passed by, two of them girls in uniform, and they shook their heads at me. They’d heard the echo.

“I didn’t mean that,” I said, wrapping my arms around my knees. It was a defense mechanism against his growing anxiety. I knew it, he knew it, but I didn’t care.

He raised an eyebrow. “You’d rather not talk?”

I shook my head. Frowned.  “I mean, I do want to talk to you, but not like the words sounded.”

He laughed. Sometimes, when a person laughs, their face lights up and they suddenly become the most brilliant version of themselves, an idealized other. And your brain remembers all the wonderful things about them and calls you stupid for ever thinking that they weren’t perfect.

He didn’t laugh like that.

I don’t think I can recall a moment in my life where he laughed like he meant it; out of simple mirth. The face he made was like something dark and grimy got stuck in his throat a century ago, and the excess goop dripped out of his eyes. They were always dark, his eyes, always stuck on some emotional dilemma. Brooding. Annoying.

Other students would look at us with envy, because he and I were so close, because we were in the council, because we were an attractive pair. Mostly, I think it was because some part of their subconscious knew we’d rip them in half given the opportunity.

People envy power.

“So?” He kicked my foot, bringing me back. “We breaking up?” The grin on his face was cruel enough that I knew he was joking, and I just rolled my eyes. Better to deflect than think about painful realities.

There would never be a break up for us. Whether we were friends, romantically inclined, or if we hated each other’s guts, it could never be. Actually, hating each other’s guts was practically impossible, given that the open channels of telepathy always caused such empathetic reactions in the subjects.

“They’re assigning me to Delta Prime,” I said. He furrowed his brows, and I projected a replay of the conversation for him. His wave of indignation, fear, and anger punched me in the gut, and I kept my palms flat on the cold tile to keep adverse side effects at bay. I didn’t want to go to the med division for the third time this month.

“This is because of the Chicago Project.”

“They didn’t say that,” I shrugged. I’d thought the same thing when the higher ups let me know of my relocation, up until they sent me the specs for Delta Prime. I’d kept that part out of his field of vision, if you could call our emotional link some sort of vision. I’d just showed him the main conversation, but his brain radiated disbelief.

You’d be surprised how many things in a human brain are actually emotionally driven and how many things we try to cover up with faulty logic. Though I wouldn’t really call us human anymore.

He felt my determination and the projection of regret. He widened his eyes. “I’m not invited.”

I nodded and he looked askance at his shoes. The mental link would be weaker on the other side of the space station. It would be as if we were two different people. Almost.

“I’m not the most charming sort,” he muttered. “But the separation will affect us.”

“Not in the same way,” I said. We couldn’t really go against what the higher ups told us to do – being their lab rats and all, but they tried to keep us together as often as possible. Side effects were worse when we were apart.

He was susceptible to bursts of aggression and paranoia. I, on the other hand, became a sociopathic killing machine. We’d separated once before. A whole colony on Yaelin was dead because of it. I’d come back on board and he’d acquired a few broken ribs, and once the emotional link got back up to speed, I’d developed PTSD. But I knew what he was asking.

Why did I agree with them?

“My brother is on Prime.”

The words rushed out faster than I meant them to, along with the emotional attachment and overwhelming sense of dread. I’d learned how to use emotions because of him; I was almost as good as he when it came to projecting them. I suspected they chose him for the telepathic experiment because of it. Better to have a sociopath on an emotional leash than in a cryo-pod – easier to control.

“They found him.” The half grin split his face in two, like I’d taken a jackhammer to a block of cement. He didn’t even try to shield the satisfied wave of vindication. I said nothing, waiting for the the other shoe to drop.

“No sudden remorse?” I asked after a while, tilting my head to the side. We’d have to finish our conversation soon, the last bell before his sociology course rang. The murmurs of incoming students grew louder.

“Not for him.”

I once had the choice of indentured servitude, a telepathic babysitter, and high school, or going back to earth to rot in solitary. They’d manipulated me into choosing people. I’m certain it was the most amoral of decisions, given their uses for me.

“You know what they’ll have me do,” I said.

“My psych says I’m letting your memories affect me too much,” he answered, trying to get his giddiness under control. “I was due for another round of clinical depression meds. This might even be good for me,” He checked his watch.

“We are breaking up,” I said, surprised. Another set of words people hate.

“Temporarily.” He stood, picking up his textbook from the ground.

“Good talk,” I said, nodding so he could leave. I didn’t tell him about the contingency plan in case my mission failed. Just as well, because he disappeared in the the crowd.

ARC Review: Nexus – Nicholas Wilson

Nexus
Author: Nicholas Wilson
Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Publisher: Victory Editing
Rating: ♦♦♦

Summary: Captain Anderson Grant of the corporate starship Nexus boldly explores alien worlds (and occasionally the alien women, too). Grant and his crew struggle with the company’s version of manifest destiny, as well as its attempt to coerce them into military force. They begin to question whether the largest threat to their mission and their safety will come from outside the Nexus or from the company that respects them more for their genetic possibilities than their individuality.

Contains Mild Spoilers

Nexus is one of those difficult books to review. Mostly because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s basically an R-rated Star Trek, if all of Star Trek’s jokes were about sex.

So here are the bad points.

It’s vulgar. Excessively so. Practically everything that comes out of the Captain’s mouth – who is *of course* our main character – is some sort of joke about sex or genitalia.

The Captain is almost textbook Mary Sue (Marty Stu) – in charge of the ship and unquestionable authority. The guys who dislike him are jerks, he’s a great fighter, and has a tragic past (which of course wasn’t his fault, but he still blames himself for it anyway.) He also makes so many sex related jokes that you get tired of him after a while, and its amazing that his crew hasn’t. And *of course* every female in his vicinity wants to sleep with him. Including aliens and the ship’s AI.

ALL the women want to sleep with him. Seriously, just once I want to see a story where all the women *don’t* want to sleep with the Captain. (I miss Firefly.)

There’s a lot of exposition. It’s interesting exposition – this alien species is like this, because of this, this, and this, but a whole lot of it nonetheless. Sometimes characters stop the Captain just to tell him their life stories – which of course he listens to, because he has nothing better to do.

Those things would have made me stop reading before I reached chapter three. Nothing is more annoying than a Mary Sue – male or female. So here’s the catch. I found myself enjoying this book.

The AI is incredibly funny and easily steals the show every time she’s on the page, the heads of division have their distinct personalities (despite the large cast) and are pretty ingenious, and the world building (literally so, because they’re looking for new worlds) is complex and fascinating, even if too sex-focused at times. Even the science is fun to read, if you like that sort of thing. (Which I do.) The author clearly did his research.

If you’re looking for a laugh, happen to like the Star Trek premise, and can handle all the vulgar jokes on every page, then by all means this book is for you. The sarcasm is biting, and I found myself laughing aloud at parts.

Overall: three stars.

There’s even a crazy military specialist in cryo-stasis who wants to take the Captain’s job. Sound familiar?

ARC Review: The Foxes of Caminus – Laura Burroughs

Foxes of Caminus
Author: Laura Burroughs
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA
Release Date: Oct 3 2013
Publisher: Smith Publicity
Rating: ♦♦♦ 

Summary: Fraternal twins, Anya and Harlie Fox, are lured from their cozy Atlanta home and deposited on an uncharted island with a riddle to solve. That’s when the teenagers’ lives get complicated. They discover they and their friends have some extraordinary talents. When intruders infiltrate their academy, espionage, kidnapping and murder follow, and the twins are drawn into one of the oldest conflicts in human history. When Anya is forced to accompany  two classmates on a dangerous mission though space and time, Harlie uses his unique talent to help. But the plan goes awry. The twins must challenge their own sense of truth and reach across lines of belief to come out of it alive. The odds are long, the stakes are high and the future of the island hangs in the balance.

If I could use one word to sum up Laura Burrough’s enchanting debut novel it would be ‘surprising’. Foxes of Caminus is bright, well developed, detailed and an utter fantasy for the present times. Despite my emotional roller-coaster while engrossed in the book, I actually find that I liked it.

There are so many moments that Foxes is simply delightful. The ample futuristic technology, the lush descriptions, and the x-men-like talents of the scholars, all put together sets the stage for another perfect best-seller.

However. I quite nearly quit a few pages in.

The first few pages do not set up what you are about to encounter at all. The twins are dropped off on an uncharted island (by their seemingly uncaring mother who told them nothing) and told to solve a riddle. It seems so clear when I write it in the previous sentence. But it is not so in the book. The present is over explained, (here is a map, look at the map, it’s an old map) yet nothing is said for a final goal. There’s no set up, no preamble, no chance to see the characters in a defining moment before we finally get to the main angle: The Academy.

THAT’S WHAT THIS WAS ABOUT? THIS WHOLE TIME? REALLY? YOU COULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING. MOM IS DROPPING US OFF AT THIS STUPID SCHOOL, BUT WE HAVE TO SOLVE A RIDDLE TO GET IN, LAME. WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER.

When the twins finally do enter the Academy, it seems so rushed and haphazard (to the characters) that I hardly believed that’s where the story was taking me. Not to mention that the transitions between the dual narration of the twins was often so jarring that I had to backtrack to see where I had left one off.

I had resolutely decided that this book deserved two stars, due to the fact that it lacked an overarching plot, that most structure seemed to be thrown out the window, and that there were moments when the cast seemed so large that I got lost in all their voices.

Excuse me, I’m the Doctor. You wouldn’t happen to see a major plot lying around, would you?

But there were so many moments that I resonated with what the characters were going through, wishing I could have gone to an Academy such as this, so many scenes where I genuinely forgot that I was here and not there (as readers often do) that I needed to give it another star.

I think however, that most of the problems I found incredibly frustrating would have been resolved by a beginning that set up the Academy, the talents of the Scholars, and the general coming-of-age type narrative that the book is (instead of a plot driven novel that it seems to be).

Had I known that it would have been Harry Potter-like in that the plot was the year instead of a streamlined story, I would have enjoyed it so much more. (A note on HP – there is a plot overarching the whole novel, and I believe Foxes would have benefited by tying all the unattached events together.)

Overall, I’d recommend it to a young teen, twelve, maybe thirteen. Not for the story, but for the genuine moments of discovery, the forbidden use of the word can’t, and the painful reminder that we are so often lost in our own paradigms and prejudices that cannot see what is right in front of our faces. I love the topics that this book covers and the genuine themes that it makes it’s characters face.

Shall I challenge your paradigm of time?

Ps. I did not enjoy her descriptions of people’s voices (honeyed, sultry, spicy, husky). They sounded like they were transplanted from a bad romance novel. And fourteen-year-old teens don’t really describe things like bad romance novels.

Defying Foxes

I AM DOING A THING!

It’s attached to the old thing. Except now, I’m in the middle instead of the beginning.

I’m reviewing books. I figured, since I do that regardless, I might as well practice my writing while I’m at it.

NetGalley provided me with ARCs in return for an honest review in all manner of places on the internet.

Here are the first two:

Foxes of Caminus

“Fraternal twins, Anya and Harlie Fox are lured from their cozy Atlanta home and deposited on an uncharted island with riddle to solve.”

This one seems like a fun rendition of Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. (I didn’t read them – but I know Riordan’s writing. And it’s good.) So I’m moderately excited for this. The brother/sister dynamic is always fun.

Defy

“Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard.”

This one sounds awesome. I love it when girls kick butt. When they’re in armies and totally save the world. Makes me all happy inside.

DO THAT HAPPY DANCE! YES.

BUT WAIT!

There’s a love triangle. Between the unachievable and the constant. (Of course).

I.e. The Prince and her best friend.

So I know I’m going to throw this book at the wall.

WHY CAN’T A GIRL BE BADASS WITHOUT HAVING TWO BOYS FIGHT OVER HER?! WHY?!

IT SAYS WEIRD BUT I MEAN ANGRY!!!

Anyway. Off I go.

Book Review #1: Witches Abroad

It’s no secret to most of my friends that since I’ve discovered Terry Pratchett I’ve been inhuming every word in the depths of my mind. He’s brilliant. Pick up any one of his books and your afternoon has just been made ten times over.

Terry does what Joss Whedon does with television. Only he does it so much better. (No offense to Joss.) Every cliche, every trope (Search: Television Tropes and Idioms), and every pre conceived notion that comes with writing a novel is turned about on it’s head when you open the pages of any Discworld novel.

It’s no surprise to me that he tackled fairy tales.

Witches Abroad is one of those novels that will have you laughing aloud and smiling to yourself without being aware that you’re doing so. It’s brilliantly funny, surprisingly poignant in some places, and will have you questioning how exactly you view the world. It will make you question the meaning of happy endings, who exactly might be good and why you don’t travel more often. And, unlike most “high literature,” it will have you laughing most of the way there.

I can’t say that Witches Abroad was one of Terry’s best, which is why I’ve only given it four stars. The pace of this novel was unusual for him, perhaps a little too slow in places where he had already established the final destination. Maybe I’m a bit impatient.

However, the three main witches are a delight every time they speak, so if you’re not too impatient for the grand finale, the journey there will be fantastic.

I’d recommend it to anyone, and everyone. Read it.

I’m Going to Try Something Old

It’s old because it’s been tried before.

It’s old because I’ve tried it before.

It’s old because I’ve failed.

But that doesn’t mean that I will not try again. I will try again. I will always try again. And if I never become a published author, well, at least I’ll have spent my whole life trying.

I refuse to quell this love of words, to let the knowledge that there are others who are so much better flower and bloom and wither me in the process. I refuse to allow myself to live in a world where I cannot write. I’m tired of being so scared.

So I’ll keep blundering and failing forward. I’ll keep using my words and learning more of them. I’ll keep holding on tightly to dreams I haven’t dared whisper aloud for fear that they might crumble once exposed to the crushing blade that is reality.

I’ll keep reading.

I’ll keep writing.

I Wish This Would Happen In Real Life

Which is not to say, I wish the ails of the world this author created to fill mine; I wish it upon me and my loved ones.

No.

What we mean is we wish to have something we want more than anything; a story to tell, a prince or a princess to save, and an adventure that calls to us, something for which we will risk facing our greatest fear. We want to go to hell and come out on top, and be better for it. We want the imagination and the morality and the love and the brotherhood and the bravery that abounds in those worlds to transpire in our own lives. We want to be heroes. Even if we’re marginally insane ones.

But those wishes cannot come to fruition without the pain that accompanies them.

After all, what is a protagonist without conflict? A hero without his inner turmoil? A villain without some echo of what it means to be human?

In order to go to hell and back, we must first feel hell.

So in essence, we are wishing pain and misery and anguish upon ourselves and our loved ones. Only we want to live. We want to make it to the end. And we want to believe, against all hope, against all proof, against all reason, against everything that shattered our dreams as we grew older, that perhaps our ending will be happy too.

The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all. —- Mark Twain