New Release: Syn-En: Home World

I’m happy to announce the release of the final book in the series and it’s on sale for 99 cents until Sunday. Pick up your copy today and begin the  journey home.

Syn-En-Home-World-GenericA universe on the brink of peace. A defeated enemy out for revenge. And a weapon designed to destroy everything.

Admiral Beijing York and his army of Synthetically-Enhanced Humans were built for war, taught to kill, and programmed to overcome all obstacles. Now, their final mission will take them to the one place no soldier is trained to go: Home.

Turning her back on the NeoSentient Alliance, Nell Stafford tracks the origins of the new threat to Earth and an ancient race determined to unleash its deadly fury. Nell, her husband Bei, and his cyborg army will fight with everything they have.

But this time the enemy has nothing to lose.
Syn-En: Home World is the epic conclusion to the seven book military SciFi series. The war is over but not everyone surrenders.

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Syn-En: Home World, Chapter 2

Syn-En-Home-World-GenericChapter Two

“Same satchel, different planet.” Nell Stafford patted the medical bag at her hip. Not that she needed the bandages, sprays, and fancy doo-dads inside. Gold fuzz twinkled like glitter around her fingers. Her fermites prepared to treat whatever traumatized the beings beyond the shuttle door. She may be an ordinary Human, but she had some super-powers thanks to ancient alien technology.

Around her, the turbulence rattled the shuttle flying low over the rocky planetoid below. A planetoid where the defeated enemy had deposited refugees and left them to die.

A situation she and the others crowding the crew compartment planned to remedy.

She only hoped the former enemy was grateful.

And that among the Municians seeking help was the one that could end this war once and for all. All peace required was the signature of the Argent family matriarch.

Intel said the lavender elven alien would be on the planetoid below.

Intel had been wrong before.

Admiral Beijing York, Nell’s husband and leader of the NeoSentient Alliance, landed silently on the metal deck beside her. Despite weighing over three hundred pounds and standing six and a half feet, he never made a sound when he moved. Part of his stealth lay in being trained as a soldier since birth, the rest was due to the fact that he was more machine than man and designed for combat.

But Bei was hers. All hers, well, when she didn’t have to share him with the NSA. Which was too often lately. Shouldn’t they have more time together since the war with the Founding Five was all but over? Nell adjusted the strap of her satchel, freeing the blond lengths that always managed to get trapped underneath.

Humor crackled in Bei’s blue almond-shaped eyes. “You did not have to volunteer for this rescue mission.”

“Neither did you. Besides you know the rules, where you go, I go.” Nell checked their shared connection in the Wireless Array. Open. Drat the man. She fingered the cover of the cerebral interface at the base of her neck keeping her organs functioning and allowing her husband to read her thoughts. If there hadn’t been the possibility of danger, she’d have the brain box switched to receive only.

“The matriarch of the Argent clan may be on Icely prime. I have to get her signature. With the last Munician family capitulating, the war will officially be over.” A green diagnostic beam shot from Bei’s wrist and washed over her. “Are you certain you are well enough to heal the sick?”

Nell pushed his hand down, aiming the beam at the floor. Her skin prickled as the sensors in his hand switched on. Sometimes, she’d like to put a magnet in his circuits. “I’m fine.” Releasing him, she gestured to the crew compartment of the shuttle. “I’m living the Star Trek dream. Visiting strange new worlds, crossing the final frontier in wormholes, yada, yada, yada.”

“Ah.” Bei’s lips twitched. “This ancient video clip I remember you making me watch.”

Nell clamped her lips together. Star Trek hadn’t been ancient before her century long nap landed her in the middle of the twenty-second century. “I don’t recall making you watch it.”

Ahead of them, civilian recruits in light-blue stood in four orderly lines. Each carried medical supplies and food rations. Humans intermingled with multi-limbed aliens. Bipeds lined up next to quadrupeds. Hair, feathers, and scales disappeared under auto-sizing helmets. Side-arms hung on hips.

Burping bile, Nell checked her TorpSK7 holstered at her side. The pistol shot projectiles or energy beams depending on the threat. It wouldn’t be the first time, a mission of mercy turned into a fight for survival.

Bei’s forehead wrinkled. His eyes darkened, a sign that he tapped into the Combat Information Center to search for data.  “The correct words to the opening of the video clips of Star Trek are…”

Nell rose on tiptoe and kissed his jaw. The synthetic skin was smooth under her lips. Her husband never had to shave or cut the thick black hair on his head.

Stopping mid-sentence, Bei blinked. “You missed my lips.”

“I just wanted to get your attention.”

Angling his body toward her, he cocked his head to the left. His hand skimmed her side to settle on her hip. Serrated ridges raised the sleeves of his black uniform. “You always have my attention.”

Warmth unfurled deep inside her belly. After nearly five years since he woke her from a hundred and twenty year sleep, she was still falling in love with him. She slid her hand along his cheek to cup the back of his head. “I am fine. Perfectly healthy.”

He leaned toward her, his attention focused on her lips. “You’re worried.”

A statement, not a question. “The children are fine.” Their twin boys were currently aboard the Nell Stafford being watched over by a pack of overly-protective Amarooks who sent her telepathic updates of the boys’ antics.

“I refer to the Meek.” He tugged her closer, holding her belly to his and pressing their chests together. “You have been feeling poorly since you assigned the last of the Meek to a newly conceived child four weeks ago.”

The Meek had once been Human but had ascended into energy beings and had spent millennia shaping the growth of sentient species in the universe. They were the reason Bei, his cyborgs, and the alliance had won the war. And now they were gone, cloning developing fetuses so they could rejoin the physical world to be reborn and eventually die.

Her sons were the first Meek rebirth.

Nell rested her forehead against Bei’s shoulder. “I miss Mary Marple. Sure, she was arrogant, powerful, pigheaded, and rude, but it was nice knowing she was looking out for us.”

“I think they knew we could look out for ourselves.” Bei kissed her hair, then her temple. He crooked a finger under her chin and raised her face to his. “We don’t need them anymore. Let them rest.”

“I want to. But I grew up in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. I know the bad guys always get sequels.” And villains didn’t come any eviler than the Erwarians. Not that she would let the big bads steal away all her fun. Nell’s eyes fluttered closed.

Bei’s breath washed over her face.

She parted her lips, waiting for his kiss. And waited. And waited. She glanced up at her husband.

Bei’s eyes were completely black. His attention fully focused on whatever was happening. “Stay in the back. Don’t move without my order. Understand?”

“Y-yes.” Her heart stumbled over a beat. The shuttle’s nacelles revved and her ears popped as the ship gained altitude.

Then he was gone, sliding through the rows of medics like a shark through bloody water. He joined four other Synthetically-Enhanced Human soldiers near the back ramp. A soft hum drifted back as the Syn-En charged their rifles and formed a shield between the civilian medics and whatever threat lay outside.

A whisper of fabric brought the scent of wildflowers.

Nell turned to her right.

In Syn-En black, Lieutenant Virginia Richmond stood next to Nell. Her medical pack had been pushed to her back while both hands rested on the TorpSK7 holstered at her hips. “Scraptors are guarding the refugee camp. The Bug-Uglies are in full armor.”

Nell swallowed hard.

Scraptors had been the military arm of the Founding Five. Resembling man-sized scorpions, Scraptors had enforced the will of the Founders with ruthless efficiency, especially against Humans. When the truth of their origins had been revealed, most could not come to terms with the fact that they were Human themselves. Humans that had been brainwashed to hate their own kind. Few had been able to live with the truth.

As such, the Scraptors were nearly extinct.

Nell wished the Bug-Uglies would hurry up the process or fully commit to being Human. The universe could do without any more bad guys. Unfortunately, it looked like they’d have to deal with some determined Scraptors on this rescue mission.

“I thought the terms called for them shucking their armor and divesting themselves of their weapons.” Nell shifted on her feet. Since a Scraptor had nearly killed her before, she’d preferred her Scraptors shucked.

“They got the weapons bit right.” Richmond shrugged. Her auburn hair had been shorn at the shoulders and her jaw formed a hard edge. She’d been remaking herself, and not in a good way. If there’d been ice cream available on the ship, she would have eaten it all. “The Scraptors are what they are. Who are we to tell them to be otherwise?”

“Um, we’re the winners of the war.” The sarcasm slipped past Nell’s lips before she could recall it. Her friend wasn’t talking about the Scraptors, but her break-up with her long time boyfriend. The girl may have been inducted as a Syn-En soldier since birth, but she was just a year out of her teens. “Sanjay still isn’t budging from his ultimatum?”

Richmond snorted and double-checked her weapons. “I am a Syn-En. Built and designed to handle the dangers of war and peace.”

Nell cleared her throat. “Yeah, about that… You did kinda die on your last mission.”

Nell knew. She’d been there. Not even her fermites could revive the girl, but the Meek had. The Meek had saved Richmond and given her back to the Syn-En and Sanjay. Nell’s eyes still prickled with tears at the memory.

Richmond flapped her hand. “I’m fine. I won’t let them kill me again.”

“O-Kay.” Nell bit her lip.

The Scraptors hadn’t killed the girl the first time. Richmond had fallen under friendly fire; she’d died protecting the people nearly killed her.

“Give him time, Richmond. Sanjay will come around.” Nell leaned against the girl.

A tremor ran through Richmond before she shook herself and gathered her hair in a ponytail. “He’s had a year.”

Nell rolled her eyes. Even a brain box couldn’t override stupid Human behavior. “He’s had two days since you told him you requested to return to active duty. He was fine with you on the ship, helping with the refugees. He was fine with you on those missions to return stolen heritage items to their original species. He was—”

“He asked me to choose. I choose to be who I am.” The girl thrust her chin forward. “And that’s the protector of the President of the NeoSentient Alliance, Leader of the Humans, and the admiral’s wife. In short, your bodyguard.”

Nell ground her teeth. She would unplug her husband’s circuits one by one as soon as they returned to the ship. A furry body brushed Nell’s leg and bloodlust steamed through her veins. Reaching down, she watched her fingers disappear into the furry, cloaked Amarook body.

The air shimmered and Iggy appeared. Pink and green feathers quivered on the Amarook’s head while matching fur covered her body. The species resembled extinct Earth wolves except the Amarook’s possessed a set of humanoid hands, camouflaging ability, and a means to communicate telepathically. Iggy’s swollen belly stuck out from both sides.

Another litter to crowd Nell and Bei’s cabin.

“As Nell says, you should cut the boy some slack.” The collar around Iggy’s neck glowed as her thoughts were translated into words. “Sanjay is a male. You must accept his sensitivity as part of his nature, just as your lethal skills are part of yours. It is not a weakness.”

“Why should I? He’s not accepting my nature.” Richmond dropped her right hand from her weapon and swung her satchel to the side.

The threat must have faded. The shuttle banked. Nell’s ears popped as it began its descent.

Iggy smoothed her feathers out of her eyes. “You are a female. The stronger of the genders. You must set the example.” She extended her claws on her paws. “Besides, sensitive males make the best nurturers of the young. He will be quite busy raising them leaving you free to do your job.”

Nell choked on her tongue. She might need to talk to Iggy’s mate about male liberation.

Richmond pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. “The admiral doesn’t stay home to take care of his sons.”

Iggy cracked her knuckles before folding her arms against her chest and sitting on her hind quarters. “The admiral fights daily between his duty and his protective instincts. Besides, he knows my pack will protect his young.”

“As I will protect your children.” Richmond’s Amarook decloaked on her left. She slipped her hand in the lieutenant’s. “Your mate’s fear caused him to overreact. Such a bond is rare for many species. You must not lose the battle to keep his heart.”

Richmond blew her bangs out of her eyes. “Fine. I’ll give him another chance. Eventually.”

The shuttle landed with a sigh. Gears ground as the ramp slowly opened. Brown haze seeped into the cracks.

The Amarooks disappeared, then Iggy deepened her telepathic link, merging her vision with Nell’s. A forest of legs over-laid Nell’s vision as her four-legged protectors made their way to the ramp.

“Do you really think he’ll come around?” Richmond focused on the deck and chewed her bottom lip.

“Of course he will.” Nell nudged Richmond’s shoulder. The girl reminded Nell so much of the niece she’d left behind on Twenty-First century Earth. Nell’s eyes prickled with tears. Dang it. Why was she getting all misty-eyed lately? Perhaps she should get a check-up, or have Iggy lick her. Both would probably tell her she was fine. “Just give Sanjay time.”

Richmond nodded.

Chatter drifted down from the deck above, and the scent of disinfectant wafted from the operating rooms. The lines of medics filed out of the crew compartment. Nell waited for her turn then fell into step behind the last group. The four rows parted around Bei and his Chief of Security.

A lavender Munician planted herself in front of the two cyborgs. The purple elf drilled her gnarled finger into Bei’s shoulder. “And I demand a private stateroom. I am an Argent, after all.”

“After you sign the peace treaty, I shall see what can be arranged.” Bei spoke softly, evenly. It was his I-can-gut-you-and-rip-out-your-heart-before-you-even-know-it voice.

Poor Bei, her husband hated politics. Nell trailed her fingers down his shoulder blades then swept along the curve of his bottom in a sensual promise as she passed him. Her fingers tingled from the contact.

His voice softened and he slanted her a glance as she walked down the ramp. He spoke through their private connection. Be careful.

Always. Nell stepped off the ramp. Puffs of brown dirt rose beneath her boots.

In the distance, the red dwarf sun poured pink light over the rocky landscape. Salts striped the exposed hills in lines of white, red, and yellow, attesting to the former presence of water. Armored Scraptors stood like red, pink, and green pickets around the camp. On the left, Municians rested on pallets and dined from bone white plates, attended to by putty-colored servants. Two Scraptors guarded a gurgling machine, extracting water from the air and soil. On the right, a fence of barbed wire penned in a hundred or more Humans. When one colorless Munician tossed food scraps into the area, three dozen Humans scrambled to claw the remains from the dirt.

Nell’s stomach cramped. “I’m really gonna have problems watching any Christmas movies this December.”

“Aside from the pointed ears, I have never seen the resemblance between Santa’s elves and the Municians.” Richmond turned between the rows of Humans. “Municians do not like chocolate or cookies. There is nothing good about them.”

The lieutenant spat and glared at a lime green one reclining on a padded chair.

Shaking off her camouflage, Iggy loped toward them. “And the stinky politicos taste foul. I am certain, they cause indigestion to my kind.”

Nell nodded. Although absolutes were dangerous, she hated the Municians as well. They were the ones holding up the peace. She wouldn’t put it past the pointy-eared freaks to be behind the attacks on the alliance ships occurring since the cease fire. “Let’s just find and fix our golden tickets and leave.”

Medics Brooklyn and Queens handed out partial rations to the starving and assigned coded tags, rating their injuries. On the periphery, Alliance soldiers checked the Scraptors for weapons. A gold banner rose in the distance.

One for her. Nell picked her way through the people shivering on the ground. Scars formed a lattice on most of their flesh. Some had their tongues cut out; others had their mouths sewn shut. The Municians considered themselves the height of civilization. They were simply barbaric.

“I might have to bite one or two Municians to calm the fever in my blood.” Iggy trotted beside Nell. Every once in a while, the Amarook fished in her saddlebags and handed out a cloth soaked in her spit to a victim with burns. The saliva would heal and soothe as it helped repair the damaged tissue. She bared her fangs at the Municians beyond the barbed wire. “You are lucky not to be as far along in your pregnancy, or you, too, would want to spill a little blue blood.”

“What?” Nell stumbled over the powdered dirt. The Amarook couldn’t be correct. She just couldn’t be. Bei would not be happy especially as she went on this mission. She tasted her energy bar from breakfast again. She wasn’t particularly happy.

“Oh, dear.” Richmond’s eyes widened. “I thought the admiral was just being his usual over-protective self. I didn’t know…”

Iggy smiled, baring rows of glistening canines. “I wager neither of the proud parents knew. But how could you not suspect? Aside from your frequent mating activities, you placed the last Meek nearly a month ago. You bore the first Meek; you will bring forth the last Meek.”

“Good God. I’m about to have two sets of twins under three?” Nell slapped a hand over her mouth.

But the damage was done. The Syn-En with their enhanced hearing stiffened. They carefully arranged themselves, closing in on her position.

Nell’s attention flew to Bei.

Shock loosened his features then a blank mask settled over his face. His thoughts were a caress inside her mind. Return to the shuttle.

When I’m done. Nell turned her back to her husband and ran a hand down her stomach. Golden fermites formed a halo around her belly. Well, sugar. She really was expecting.

Davena Cabo waddled closer. A loose black dress draped over her extended stomach. Fermites glittered around her stomach, an atomic shield of protection. “I see you are expecting again.”

“Did everyone know but me?” Nell ducked her head under the strap of her satchel.

Twelve Human shivered on the ground. Bones poked against their skin, practically providing an anatomy lesson. Dirt and scabs marred the stitching around their mouths. Insects feasted on their wounds.

“No one knew except the Amarooks apparently.” Doc hovered near his wife, Davena, sorting the injured while hooking them up to IVs.

With a grunt, Davena lowered herself to the ground. “Given the way they’re acting, I’m beginning to wonder if pregnant women on Earth aren’t stuffed in a padded box and kept there until they deliver.”

“They would be if they stayed.” Doc glared at his wife before shifting to the side to make room for another wounded with a golden ticket.

Nell searched for her assigned patient. “Our husbands are certainly acting like cavemen.”

Fermites created a glittering haze around Davena’s hands before blanketing the man on the ground in front of her. “I do not understand. We lived in caves in Surlat. Our men did not have an issue with women working until their birthing time.”

Richmond rested her hands on the butts of her pistols and eyed the stationary Scraptors. “I think I understand why so many species consider males the weaker of the genders.”

Doc’s head snapped up.

Nell’s brain box prickled. Oh, boy. The Syn-En chatter in the Wireless Array was spiking off the charts.

A moment later, Richmond winced and clasped her skull. “Apparently, they lose their sense of humor, too.”

Davena chuckled. Her black glossy curls bounced around her oval face and her cocoa-colored skin glowed as she healed the man at her feet. “I think your patient is behind Doc.”

Nell stopped next to her a young girl. Iron banded her chest, making it difficult to breathe. God. Children were the worst. At least Nell could help her. That’s why she was here. Her knees trembled before she dropped to the ground.

The girl couldn’t be older than twelve. Scars striped her tan skin and her blue eyes stared out of bruised and sunken sockets. She wiggled away, tried to slip into the dirt.

“Don’t be afraid.” Nell’s fermites shifted from gold to green. They would sedate her patient, calm her just enough until the healing was done. The subatomic machines reached out and disappeared into the girl’s skin. “I’m here to help.”

The girl clawed at the tattered tablecloth draped over her bony body.

“Shhh. It’ll be all right. No one will hurt you again.” Nell focused the fermites, felt them heal the girl from the inside out. Watched as the crushed bones in her hands and feet knit back together. Someone had stomped on her. Nell’s attention shifted to the Scraptor ten feet away. Bug-Ugly bastards. Sci-fi writers of the twentieth century really had a lot to account for.

Sure the scorpion-like Scraptors fit the Hollywood stereotype, but not the Municians. The elven race was hideously beautiful in a grotesque way. They should have been the good guys instead of the evil manipulators of the galaxy. If she could go back in time, she’d do some serious bitch-slapping of those writers.

“It won’t be much longer now.” Nell smiled at the girl.

Patches of brown hair sprouted from her scalp. Her scabs healed and flaked off. The stitching on her lips disappeared. Her attention jumped to the Scraptor in pink armor. The girl grabbed Nell’s hand. Her fingers dug into the small bones as her gaze bounced from the Scraptor to Nell and back again.

Golden gloves encased Nell’s hand, preventing further damage.

Richmond unholstered her TorpSK7. It hummed as it charged to a lethal burst.

“Don’t worry. The Scraptors can’t hurt you.”

The girl shook her head and opened her mouth. The interior glowed as her tongue grew back.

“Give it a minute.” Nell smoothed the girl’s short brown locks. “Then we can have a proper conversation.”

The girl tapped on Nell’s hand.

A pattern formed. Obviously, she was trying to say something.

“Richmond?” Nell gestured to her hand.

“Running it through the CIC now.” The lieutenant sidled closer, keeping the gun against her thigh.

Nell’s fermites twinkled red. Red indicated a spike of arsenic in the girl’s system. Nell froze. Only Scraptors built-up arsenic in their blood from the oil they used to keep their armor supple. She was treating a Scraptor.

Red tinged the fermites of Davena’s patient.

Nell tapped into her connection with Bei. I think we might have a problem. A big problem.

The girl gurgled as she struggled with her new tongue. Gritting her teeth, she pointed to the pink armor. “M-mine!”

She leapt to her feet. The cloud of fermites swarmed to follow. Leaping her fallen comrades, she rammed both palms against the Scraptor’s chest. “Mine!”

The Bug-Ugly didn’t budge.

Nell rose, slowly. “Scraptors don’t share armor.”

The girl grabbed the Scraptor’s claw, twisted, and yanked.

Nell held her breath. No arm filled the interior. No limb was ripped from the joint. A red glow filled the void. Electricity danced across her skin. Fermites molded themselves in a protective layer around her body. “Richmond!”

The lieutenant fired. Blue energy hit the Scraptor in the chest, crushing its armor.

The thing remained on its feet.

“Great, that’s all we need. Scraptor zombies.”

It raised its claw and snapped at Nell’s throat.

Syn-En: Home World available on pre-order for 99cents. Releases 8/15/17

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Behind the Series: Syn-En—The Cyborgs

Syn-En-Home-World-GenericEdwin Starr asked the question about war. He declared definitively that war wasn’t good for anything and, yes, this song was part of the soundtrack that I listened to while writing the Syn-En series.

Yet, despite Starr’s anthem, technology emerges from conflict that benefits civilians. World War II gave us nukes and computers (I’m not sure that was a fair exchange but there you have it). And while I don’t have a small thermonuclear device in my house, I do enjoy my computers and other electronic devices.

Of course, the most obvious benefit of war is the advance in medicine. Conflict on the battlefield bleeds into the operating room. As we devise new ways to blow someone up: we also struggle hard to put them back together.

Which is what triggered the rise of my Syn-En.

I read an article about the new prostheses for our Iraq and Afghan vets. It was the next generation of artificial limbs—a blend of man and machine with computer chip integration. The next article was the use of artificial skin for burns. Each advancement was borne of war to heal, but how long before these advancements turned into enhancements to make indestructible soldiers?

What if, bit by bit, soldiers were deprived of healthy parts? What if, as the technology and resources invested in these new warriors meant it took longer to recoup the investment, lead to the soldier’s rights and freedoms to be stripped from them completely?

The cyborgs were created.

To fight the good fight, to defend humanity, to enter dangerous territory and rescue those in need, and to protect and rebuild after disasters (natural or otherwise).

Yet even in the birth of such potential for good, the seeds of war were planted.

And now, Earth is about to reap the harvest.

Syn-En: Home World available on pre-order for 99cents.

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Behind the Series: Syn-En, The Name Game

With all due respect to Shakespeare, names are very important. Exorcisisms can’t be performed without knowing the name of a demon. When your mother uses all of your names, you know you’re in trouble. I once changed a character’s name in Ghost of a Chance and the first thing he did was punch someone in the nose.

Originally, many names reflected our jobs: Baker, Cook(e), Cooper, and Farrier. Others reflected our relationship to a clan or lineage: Pearson, Anderson, etc. And then there are the place names- where we come from. I recently found my grandfather’s baptismal certificate. My great-grandmother’s name was listed as Val of the place of her birth.

It would be cool if I could say, I decided to name my Syn-En characters after places in an homage to my great-grandmother.

But that would be lying.

The truth is far more insidious. Cyborgs are part Human and part Machine. And in their lives, the machine part mattered more than the human part. In fact, the powers that be wanted to drive that point home to justify stripping the cyborgs of any rights. They broke a link with the Syn-En by denying their claim to a human father and mother by allowing them to keep their family name. Instead, they were given names to a region not as a testament of human migration.

But like a product.

So next time you see something made in China, think of Beijing York. 

Until next time

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Syn-En: Home World, Chapter 1

Syn-En-Home-World-GenericChapter One

Mopus Argent wiggled his fingers and toes. Temperate air washed over his skin, stirred his robes. The whisper of silk caressed his pointed ears and his flesh prickled. Holding his breath, he opened his eyes. White mist obscured his vision.

The Fog of Judgment.

So, this is death. Mopus’s heart thudded in his chest. He could practically see the gold thread on his turquoise robes flutter from the beats. His last days of existence scrolled down his vision: the final battle against the vermin Humans, the betrayal by the Scraptor army, and the surrender of his home world of Municia.

He died to protect his way of life.

But his sacrifice amounted to nothing. He had failed.

Bitterness flooded his mouth. Manicured nails bit into his pale green palms. He preferred death to seeing his beloved empire fall under the rule of the vermin and their alliance with lesser sentients.

Would he now languish in the Fog of Judgment instead of taking his rightful place in the Pantheon of Arca? He didn’t deserve such mercy. The gods should smite him and hurl his remains into the Eternal Torment of Gehen. It would be what he deserved.

Sitting, he peered into the mist and drummed his fingers on the nothingness supporting him. How long had passed since his demise? How long must he wait?

He stood, placing his embroidered slippers on a firm surface. The fog parted showing nothing under his soles. The great philosophers had said the world beyond would be created from their minds. Mopus raised his hand, wishing for a goblet of froce nectar. Nothing materialized in his hand, and his tongue stuck to the roof of his dry mouth.

If he still lived, he would have the philosophers drawn and quartered.

Holding his breath, he stepped forward. One step. Two. Three. White clouds swirled around him, thinning then thickening. The view never changed. Was he even moving? He walked and walked. Never meeting anyone. Never hearing anything other than his own thoughts.

He stopped.

This was beyond insulting. He was Mopus Argent, of the Argents of Municia. He could have saved his people, if they had listened to him, if the ruling council had eliminated the Scraptors when they had the chance.

He should not have to wait on anyone. Not even the Eternal Judges.

“Hello?” His voice sounded thready to his ears. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “Is anyone there?”

He waited. And waited. His heartbeat and the rasp of his breathing his only answer.

Mopus raised his chin. Did they expect him to cower, to grovel? He would spend two eternities before that happened. “I am Mopus Argent, of the Argents of Municia. I am ready for you to pass judgment upon my eternal essence.”

Damn them.

“Oh, good. You are awake.” A gravelly voice rumbled from the mists, sending small puffs of white across Mopus’s cheek.

“I have been for quite some time.” Mopus snapped his attention to the right. A lock of green hair dropped a curtain over his vision.  He pushed it aside, then stopped. His lanky fingers had turned dark green. He couldn’t let the judges see his irritation. Taking a few deep breaths, he prayed the color would lighten before his judge showed himself.

If the judge showed himself. The gods obeyed a different set of rules.

“Time.” The rumbling stirred the fog on the left. “Time is a meaningless construct here.”

Mopus ground his teeth, refusing to turn again. If the eternal judge wanted to face him, he could appear in front of Mopus. “I thought our meeting was about judgment, not a lecture on time.”

“You do not care what has occurred since your shuttle exploded? What has become of your wife and unborn child under the yoke of Human oppression?”

“Unless you can show me that bastard Beijing York’s horrible death, I don’t wish to see anything.” Whipping around, Mopus flinched as his long hair pelted his back. The Human-machine hybrid deserved to choke on his victory and watch as his wife, Nell Stafford, was cut into pieces and fed to the rapacious predators of Ernes prime.

Armor creaked.

The familiar sound prickled the flesh on Mopus’s arms. He swallowed the lump in his throat. That sounded like… but it couldn’t be… this was the Fog of Judgment. Humans, even those clad in Scraptor armor, wouldn’t be allowed in.

“I see your thirst for vengeance is as unquenchable as ever.” The mist thinned then cleared. A Scraptor appeared. Light glowed on the red segmented armor. The pair of claws snapped restlessly above a set of humanoid arms and hands. Stabbing appendages pinned clouds of white to the nothingness. The stinger topping the swaying tail dripped with lethal poison.

Mopus stumbled back a step. “Groat. You should be dead.”

Mopus had witnessed the Scraptor’s death before his own. It had given him solace to know the Scraptors would be exterminated by the hands of their fellow Humans. He had not expected to be judged by the vermin. The scum of Earth had no right to judge him!

Groat tipped his bullet-shaped head, mandibles parted to reveal sharp pointy teeth, and his eyestalks twitched. “The one you know as Groat is most certainly dead.”

The hair on the back of Mopus’s neck stood on end. Then he caught it—the flash of red between the fangs and the gaps in the armor. The suit was empty. The being before him wasn’t a Scraptor. Humans hadn’t sullied the afterworld.

An Erwarian stood before him. An ancient race whose power had rivaled the gods until their ascension.

“What trickery is this?” Mopus inched forward on supple limbs. No pain, no creaking joints that betrayed his age of over a thousand cycles. Flattening his palms against his chest, he ran them up and down his body. He wasn’t dead; he had been reborn. He flexed his knee. No pop or creak.

The Erwarian in Groat’s armor clicked his mandibles. “You have been restored to better than your original form.”

Mopus snorted. Nothing was better than the Munician form. His species was the pinnacle of evolution unlike Scraptors. His kind had done their best to elevate the Humans, weeding out the weak through wars and mortal combat, stimulating their immune system with the deadliest plagues, and denying them any comforts so they didn’t grow lazy and soft.

Yet, the Humans had never changed.

Never evolved into a better species.

Even though its flesh was masked, Mopus wanted to rip off the Scraptor armor off the Erwarian, tear out the eyestalks, and batter the breast plate until it caved in. He wouldn’t hesitate to act, but the ancient race was powerful, and it wouldn’t do to anger it. Especially as Mopus lived only because of its power. “Why do you take that form, Erwarian? Are not Humans the vilest creatures in the universe?”

The Erwarian shifted. The white fog thickened around him, bled red.

Crimson radiated out, flicking a scarlet tongue along the back of Mopus’s hand. His skin blistered from the heat. His mouth dried and his gut knotted. Why had he allowed pride to loosen his tongue? He was alive. He could have raised an army. He could have struck back at the Humans, made Beijing York and his kind suffer in their victory.

The red haze deepened to purple, then cleared. A Sylva Munician stood where the armor once did. Purple diaphanous robes fluttered around her lithe form, draped from her voluptuous breasts and over her narrow hips. Precious metals twined with her violet locks, accentuated her lavender skin. Only the crimson glow of her eyes betrayed her Erwarian nature. “Perhaps you are more comfortable dealing with something that looks like you. I’d forgotten how your species prizes the superficial.”

Mopus stiffened. “You certainly have the arrogance of a Sylva.”

It was from the violet Munician Gods that all of his people derived their color, and why the putty-colored ones were so reviled.

“Where do you suppose the Sylva originated?” The Sylva smiled. Energy radiated from her in waves.

Riptides swirled and eddied around him tugging him closer, yet holding him at a distance. Mopus refused to be bound by anyone’s will but his own. Especially one who presented as a false god. He stepped forward. The air thickened as if he slogged through mud. “What do you wish from me, Erwarian?”

“I require your help.”

“My help?” If the Sylva spoke the truth, then Mopus now had a means to strike a bargain. One in his favor. He straightened. “What help can I be to a species who died millennia ago?”

And one who brought him back from the Fog of Judgment. His nose twitched, catching a whiff of a trap.

Her scarlet eyes flashed. “The Erwarians did not die. We ascended to a higher plane, higher even than your Arca or the depth of Gehen.”

Mopus snorted. “There is no paradise beside Arca; no torment greater than Gehen.”

The Sylva flicked her fingers. “For the dead, perhaps. But we still live. Eternally, with near limitless power. A gift, I will share with you. For you have proven yourself worthy.”

Of course, he was worthy. He was a Munician. An Argent. Mopus’s heart quickened. His blue blood pulsed hard in his veins. With limitless power, he could destroy Beijing York and his army of Synthetically-Enhanced Humans.

“I feel your thirst for vengeance.” She glided toward him and opened her fist. A microcosm of the universe appeared in the bubble in her violet palm.

The stars zoomed past, focusing on his green home world, then the terrain. The crags of the Alkin Mountains, the spires of the high rises in the capital city, and the penthouse at the heart of the metropolis. Through the window, he spied his wife’s blue hair and skin. Felt her lullaby as she cradled a sleeping babe in her arms. Green streaks in the wisp of hair on the child’s head confirmed Mopus’s paternal link.

“Your son is healthy. For now.” The Sylva whispered. The image shifted. A hailstorm of rockets tore through the city, smashing the spires, drilling holes in the white boulevards, and incinerating his people.

Mopus’s wife hugged their son tightly as she dodged through the debris.

Beijing York’s black clad soldiers swarmed the streets, firing upon defenseless Municians. Blasts felled those around his wife.

Mopus scuttled forward. He had to protect his son. His heir.

An energy burst slammed into his wife’s back. Light punched through her chest, crackled over the babe. She fell, twisting even as death claimed her, trying to protect their offspring.

“No!” Mopus reached for the child. Gray dulled the green of the infant’s pointed ears and the life fled his turquoise eyes.

The Sylva curled her fingers and the image disappeared in a crackle of light. “The events haven’t happened yet. But they will, when the Humans discover your progeny. We’ve managed to shield them, but now you must help us.”

Mopus dug his nails into his palms. “My fortune, my fleet, and my army are at your disposal.”

“You will need all that and more.” The Sylva drifted away.

Sense pounded on Mopus’s thoughts, demanded to be heard. “Why do you need me? To resurrect the Erwarian race?”

If they were a physical species, they would have a weakness. One he might be able to exploit after he seized their power. Mopus’s skin tightened then relaxed as he released pheromones into the fog. Physical species could be bent to his will, even Beijing York’s Syn-Ens weren’t immune.

The Sylva smiled. Rows of sharp incisors flashed against her violet skin. “We have found a means to travel to another universe, to conquer new worlds, to guide new species. But we are unwilling to leave with the Humans in power. Municians were among our favorites, and we fear you will not achieve your divine purpose if we don’t share with you certain knowledge before we depart.”

Mopus jerked his chin. Everyone knew the Municians were the pinnacle of sentience. It was only proper, they be given this gift by the Erwarians. “Why now? Why not before?”

Before the war had ended. Before his son had been threatened?

“We were bound by an oath we swore to the Meek, not realizing they broke their bond with us and helped the Humans overcome our will and your species’ right to rule the universe.” The Sylva’s skin flushed in anger. Static electricity crackled in her hair. “Now, we are no longer bound to our oath. We can help you.”

Mopus blinked as if resetting his thoughts but nodded slightly. This bargain was almost too good to be true. Yet, his race’s holy books often told of divine intervention to win against tremendous odds, of the Municians’ right to rule all the lesser species, and the need for them to implement and keep the natural order.

The Sylva swirled around him in a vapor of purple. Her warmth clung to his skin, invaded his lungs. “We will give you a weapon so powerful it will defeat all your enemies. One that can never be used against you, as it will be a blend of your species’ DNA and our technology.” She opened her hand. A red crystal lay in her palm. “Take it and accept the power you deserve.”

Mopus pinched the crystal between his thumb and index finger. It wiggled then burrowed under his skin. Electricity danced along his nerve endings. Power surged through his veins. Knowledge flooded his thoughts. Weapons and soldiers, destructive enough to reduce whole worlds to rubble.

All of them his to command.

The haze shimmered then cleared. Against a backdrop of stars, the NeoSentient Alliance flagship Nell Stafford floated in space. Mopus smiled. Today Beijing York would die.

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Under Observation

I am an extreme introvert. Knowing this, I’ve taken steps to mitigate the effect this has on my life. Some are extremes like public speaking about writing and book signings where I talk to complete strangers:D. Others milder forms of panic-inducing people-ness like heading up my local RWA chapter.

Most of the time, I spend quietly sitting in a corner, perfecting my serial killer persona (always quiet and keeps to herself), and observing people. Unlike real psychos, I don’t have a mounting body count in my backyard or favorite dumping site.

I write books.

Where I kill off folks in a variety of numbers. It’s fun for me (Although in Home World, I did cry when i killed off one of my favorite characters).

But I digress.

This post is about observing people. I am thankful I get the chance to watch people. Not (ahem) in a stalker kind of way, but the I am not in a hurry to get from point A to point B, so I can look around and in the morning give names to the people I see in my neighborhood.

There’s the neighbor across the way who can’t seem to get their garbage cans out on the correct day or put them away for days afterward. He’s the one I’m most concerned about hitting my dog with his SUV.

There’s Mr. Welder with his mammoth truck who has to corral his three dogs when he opens his gate. The dogs have charged me and my dog, but they are friendly. although I did yell at them for almost getting hit by a car on their way to greet me.

There’s the potential drug dealer house where random cars stop by in the wee hours of the morning and leave.

There’s the Construction widower who always comes out to collect his paper after my dog has nearly peed on it.

There’s the truck’s compensating for something who occasionally waves before taking a side road out of the neighborhood.

There’s the vet who is recovering from PTSD, who’s moved his recovery from sitting outside on the porch in the dark to sitting in a brightly lit room by the window.

There’s the old Vet and his pregnant daughter who sometimes does her grocery shopping at 430 in the morning.

Occasionally our stoop-shouldered neighbor is out scratching at his yard and clearing out the weeds.

For the pre-dawn hours, our neighborhood is pretty busy. And that’s not counting the feral cats, rabbits, birds, raccoons, owls, and coyotes:D

Until next time.

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And I Lost It

One of the reasons I started writing was to feed my hunger for learning. And few places offer more books, videos, and classes than becoming a writer. Since my last book took me nearly a year to write, I decided to try a few of them to see if they could help me focus and get my writing schedule back on track.

I started with a book I’d read five or so years ago on developing characters and plots. About 23 pages into the 45 page questionnaire, I had a crisis. I didn’t understand half of what the questions asked and those I did, I couldn’t figure out how to answer, and worse, this isn’t the first time I’d felt this way.

I want to be a better writer.

I want to constantly improve my craft.

But I have to come to terms with the fact that some people teach in a way that I will never understand what they are saying. I get it. That doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating as all get out, I’ve spent a week and a half on something that is mostly trash.

Mostly.

Because I did learn a few things. Things I can use in my book.

And really in the end, that’s a step in the write/right direction. 

Until next time.

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