Syn-En: Home World, Chapter 5

Syn-En-Home-World-GenericChapter Five

Nell looped her arms around Bei’s neck and held him tight. Adrenaline drained from her body, and she shivered from the cold. Peeking through her lashes, she surveyed the camp.

Syn-En in black carried injured to the beetle-shaped shuttles landing on the right. NSA troops in blue filed back into the labyrinth of tents, organized the Municians into orderly lines, and hustled them forward.

Nell sighed. The battle was truly over this time. And the good guys had won. She smoothed Bei’s black hair. “Is this where you kiss me and we ride off into the sunset?”

“This isn’t some twentieth century video clip.”

She blinked. He wasn’t normally so terse after a battle, especially since they’d kicked bad guy booty. She tugged his head closer to her. She’d earned her kiss.

He stopped a hair short of her lips.

Her chest constricted. He couldn’t be that mad her, could he? She hadn’t known she was pregnant. Her lips parted.

His mouth quirked. “You know you won’t always be able to kiss me and distract me from my thoughts, don’t you?”

She sagged against him. “I have a marriage license that says I never have to stop trying.”

His mouth slanted across hers. Tingles raced up and down her body. The man sure knew how to kiss. But she had a few tricks, too. She opened her mouth and wiggled, creating friction on his lower body.

He pulled back, breathing rough for a moment. “We’re expecting again.”

Resting her head on his shoulder, she stared up at him. “Apparently. It would be nice to know before Iggy and her pack.”

“How long?” He cinched her higher and picked a path along the barbed wire fence separating the Humans from the Municians.

“If Iggy’s right and I’m carrying the last of the Meek, then I’m four weeks along.” Her skin prickled.

Bei’s sensors had kicked in.

The man was always looking out for her. Setting her chin on his shoulder, she stared at his profile. Strong nose, stubborn jaw, kissable lips. She liked the view. “Everything okay?”

He clamped his lips together for a moment. “I could have lost you.”

Nell blinked. Had she dozed off? Missed part of the conversation? Maybe his circuits had jumped the track, or whatever they rode on. “We won. We kicked zombie Scraptor butt. You knocked the bad guys from the sky. They didn’t even come close to hurting me.”

“If you hadn’t been able to create a shield with your fermites, you could have been killed.” He stopped short. “Our children would be orphans because I failed to protect you.”

Twenty yards north of them, gears ground as the ramp of Starflight 1 deployed. Dirt clods dropped to the ground, and smoke puffed from the nacelles. A panel in the hull slid open and a boxy warden crawled up the side like a metal spider and quickly repaired the damage.

She stiffened in Bei’s arms then removed her legs from his hold and stood on the ground. “Every time you go on one of these missions you could be killed. Ev-ery-time.”

She poked his shoulder for every syllable before stepping back. Her boots sank into the powdery dirt. Crossing her arms, she glared at him. She was about to be sidelined.

“Our children will be orphaned if anything happened to us.” He arched one eyebrow. Just one. He was showing off.

Her chest tightened. Her babies. Alone. No more sniffing their wispy hair after their baths. No more giggles when she blew on their necks. No more smiles around drool-covered fists. “That was a low blow.”

Then she caught it. The flash of fear in his blue eyes. The tightening of his mouth. He really was afraid. He was never afraid.

Bei cupped her cheek. “They need their mother.”

She leaned into his touch. A tear spilled over her cheek. Stupid hormones. “They need both their parents.”

He shook his head. “Our boys may be Syn-En but they are more. No one knew children so young could laugh or smile. It is not the way the Syn-En are raised.”

A lump of emotion clogged her throat. On Earth, the Syn-En were forbidden to express emotion, to be Human. If she ever met the United Earth Council, she’d punch them in the noses. Her fists shook at her side. “You want me to stay on the ship.”

His mouth quirked. “For the sake of my cardiac implants, I need to know you are safe.”

“See.” Helped by a Syn-En medic, Doc carried a blood-covered Human on a stretcher. “I’m not being overbearing. Just cautious.”

Davena waddled alongside the wounded. Her black robes molded to her protruding belly before snapping behind her. Gold fermites streamed from her fingers and poured into the injured person beside her. Her black eyes twinkled with mischief as she caught Nell’s gaze. “I’ll be staying on board, too. We can keep each other company.”

“Fine.” Nell stomped up the ramp after them. Her footfalls pounded her irritation into the shuttle. She hated it when he was right. Besides, he was the trained soldier. Somewhere, in some universe, that trumped her superpowers. “But I’m not happy about it.”

Bei set his hand against the small of her back. “We received a shipment of chocolate. I’m certain your condition allows for extra rations.”

Nell waited for the images of brownies, cakes, and ice cream to flood her head. Instead, she dredged up a jar of dill pickles. Saliva pooled in her mouth. What had she done that the universe would punish her so? Hello? It was chocolate. The wrinkled, green vegetable refused to be banished. “I think this is gonna be a pickle pregnancy.”

Her husband blinked. “Is that new slang from the twentieth century? A video clip perhaps?”

“No. It’s a cucumber that’s brined with pickling spices.” Nell turned sideways.

Stretchers were clamped, three high, to the walls of the crew compartment. Bandaged Humans sat next to the lowest stretcher, many held the wounded’s hands. A few hummed softly while stroking bald scalps. NSA medics checked their patients, recorded information on electronic pads before moving onto the next refugee.

She should give them a hand. Nell shook her fingers. Iridescent fermites twinkled in the air like glitter, then settled into a mist over the wounded.

Bei’s forehead wrinkled. “You want this brined vegetable instead of chocolate?” A green diagnostic beam shot out of his wrist and washed over her. “Are you certain you are well?”

She opened her mouth then shut it, clicking her teeth. Her stomach was a little upset. And she kept hearing the Syn-En muttering in the WA. Could her fermites be acting hinky? “I—”

“May I help?” The girl Nell had saved in the refugee camp tugged on Nell’s sleeve. Short brown hair covered her scalp. She’d tied her tattered blanket around her skinny frame. Gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes made her appear much older than twelve. “I was deemed unfit for battle and demoted to medic.”

Demoted to medic. Didn’t the Scraptors value their own lives? Outrage clogged Nell’s throat, preventing any words from being spoken.

Materializing, Iggy squeezed into the space between Nell and the Scraptor medic. “If Nell Stafford needs healing, I shall do it.”

The Amarook bared her fangs and dug her claws into the metal deck.

The girl backed up a step, biting her lip. Her eyes widened and her skin paled. Without her armor, she would be easy prey for the wolf-like alien.

Nell buried her fingers in Iggy’s pink and green fur. She automatically found the sensitive spot behind her protector’s ear. “I am healthy. Just tired.” She faked a yawn. “You know how it is in the beginning months.”

Iggy’s nose twitched. The pups growing in her belly rippled her fur with their antics. Plopping her hind quarters onto the deck, she unfolded her Humanoid arms from her chest to show the palmful of red crystals. They winked in the recessed lighting overhead. “You also forgot these.”

Nell swore under her breath. Idiot. She’d completely forgotten.

The girl retreated to the bench seat then dropped onto the blue cushions and drew her legs tight against her body.

Bei caught Nell’s hand before she touched the crystals. “Why are these important?”

“Iggy found them in the armor. She thinks they might be the power behind the zombie Scraptors.” Nell’s fingers tingled. Was it latent power from the crystals, or Bei’s scans of them?

“I’m not detecting any energy from them now.” Bei frowned and released her. “Just plain quartz.”

“Are you certain?” Nell eyed the girl. Why would anyone react to just plain quartz with such fear? Unless… No. No, it couldn’t be. She shook her head, trying to dislodge the thought, but it stuck like a Lyme disease carrying tick. “I trapped the Erwarians in red crystal. What if they’re trying to get out, to pay us back?”

A muscle flexed in Bei’s jaw. He selected the biggest crystal then tucked it into his pocket. “I will have it analyzed further. Until I do—”

“Admiral.” At the front of the crew compartment, Richmond slid down the ladder and thudded to the deck. Her brown hair was pulled back into a stubby ponytail at her nape. “The Munician matriarch is requesting your presence. A female of her status will only deal with those in charge, not their inferior servants.”

Richmond’s normal lilt twisted into a nasal whine, exactly mimicking the Munician.

Rising on tiptoes, Nell kissed her husband’s cheek. “Go on. I’ll be waiting for you in the cockpit when you’re done.”

After she questioned the young girl she’d healed. Nell’s gut told her she may be done with the Erwarians, but they weren’t taking their defeat with grace. Evil always wanted a sequel.

“We will be departing in ten minutes, six seconds. Be ready.” After a moment, Bei turned on his heel and climbed the rungs of the ladder three at a time.

Richmond moved to follow. When her attention fell on the girl, the Syn-En medic paused. “After I finish catering to the whims of the green and smelly, I can take you upstairs. If you really want to be a medic, you can learn a lot here.”

The girl glanced up. Her eyes brightened then dimmed when her attention fell on the crystals in Iggy’s palm.

Nell plucked them up and tucked them into the pocket over her thigh. The voices in the WA amplified then faded away. She’d bet half her fermites the crystals weren’t dead, just playing opossum.  “I need five minutes to talk to her, then I’ll contact you to come for her.”

Nodding, Richmond scrambled up the ladder.

Nell turned to the bench seat.

“I shall keep her safe.” Iggy leapt onto the cushion, turned in a circle three times then flopped down. Curling her body around her belly, she covered her eyes with her tail. Moments later, soft snores fluttered through the Amarook’s pink and green feathers.

The pose was deceiving. Amarooks went from comatose to homicidal rage in less than a heartbeat. Still, it put the girl at ease.

Nell squeezed into the remaining space, setting her hand over Iggy’s stomach. The pups kicked against Nell’s palm. “Do you have a name?”

“My Scraptor designation is a jumble of numbers and letters, but my mother once called me Suelta.” Suelta checked her fingers and arms, massaging and smoothing the skin as Scraptors once did with their armor. “No one believed we were Humans, even after we were stripped of our armor. To me it explained why The Founding Five’s medicine never quite worked to heal my people.”

Nell held her breath. Something in her tone indicated more to the story. A horror that needed to be shared in order to be purged.

Suelta pursed her lips. Her eyes lost focus as she traveled to another place and time. “When I heard the news we were Human, I scoured our files, something beyond the effective means to torture, maim, and control. I used that knowledge to save my parents. I thought they’d be pleased; instead they killed themselves to salvage their honor. As a defective Scraptor, I was denied such action.”

Nell tugged up the cuff on her sleeve, baring her silver skin. “I am defective as well. People would fear me, if they knew what I’ve become. Like many species fear the Syn-En.”

“The Syn-En are the pinnacle of Humans.” Suelta picked at a dried patch of dirt on her knee. “I would like to become a Syn-En.”

Because they were feared? Nell would bite off her tongue before she’d ask. Some things she was better off not knowing. “I think you should explore your talent as a healer. They are valued among most species.” Nell leaned closer to the girl and dropped her voice. “Definitely not defective.”

The girl’s eyebrows rose. “Humans are quite strange in what they value.”

Nell snorted. She could hardly argue with that. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

“What happened?” Suelta moved her head to scratch her chin with her thumbnail.

“You know, how did your Scraptor armor begin to walk and fight on its own?”  The shuttle’s engines hummed at a higher octave. The hair on the back of Nell’s neck tingled. They’d be taking off soon. She needed to finish this interview before meeting Bei in the shuttle’s cockpit.

Syn-En medics Brooklyn and Queens herded the final passengers on board. They focused on situating the walking wounded on the deck, but kept glancing in her direction.

Nell flashed them a thumbs-up, knowing Bei used his men to watch over her.

Clearing her throat, Suelta crossed her legs on the bench seat. “We were picked up on Nebula Prime six weeks ago. We heard from the Argent Matriarch herself that the war was over and she was returning to Municia to sign the treaty. She told us we Scraptors would be tried for war crimes, most of us would be executed.”

“I see.” Nell wouldn’t put it past the green and purple elf to take pleasure in passing along such news. “Do you know the name of the ship that picked you up?”

“There were four of them.” Suelta shrugged. “I don’t recall the names. Is it important?”

“Probably not.”  Nell lied. The crystals in her pocket pulsed along her thigh. But if she could prove they’d been somehow affiliated with some weapon research program, she might have been able to convince Bei the Erwarians might have returned to put the zombie in the Scraptor armor.

Suelta scratched her skull then smoothed her short hair. “I have never noticed how soft human hair is. And to think I have it now.” She twirled a lock of hair in her fingers before lowering her hand. A strand fluttered from it. “Now you know why I made such a poor Scraptor. I was never able to focus on learning the fighting techniques.”

The girl blew the hair off her fingers.

“I’m sure you can be a great medic. Richmond wouldn’t have offered to show you around if she didn’t see something in you.”

“I shall not disappoint her. Any of you.” Suelta’s spine straightened, then she shook herself. “We didn’t realize we were not headed to Municia until four days into the mission. An old Scraptor commander broke onto the bridge and found it unoccupied. The coordinates set for Icely.”

“What did he do?” Nell couldn’t imagine a Scraptor accepting the change of course without comment. Hell, many believed if they didn’t surrender to Humans in a public venue they would be executed on sight.

That’s how they treated their enemies.

“He tried to reroute the ship. Instead of changing course, the interior flooded with gas, and everyone aboard was rendered unconscious.” Suelta stared at her toes. “We thought the Humans would board and slit our throats while we slept.”

Nell clamped her lips together. She’d stopped counting the number of times she’d heard Scraptors reiterate such irrational fears.

From under her lashes, Suelta peeked at Nell then glanced up. “Instead, we woke up on Icely, stripped of our armor. The Municians guarded the rations, distributed them, and gave us discarded items for covering. After the second month, we had to cut our rations in half. The third saw another cut. We didn’t understand why the Humans didn’t come since the Matriarch was among our number.”

The gears of the ramp ground as the back of the shuttle closed.

“We learned of your location two days ago.” Nell rose. Time was almost up.

Iggy peeked at Nell over her furry tail.

“Two days ago, we woke surrounded by our suits of armor standing guard.” The girl swallowed hard. “They glowed red at night. When the commander tried to take his armor back, he was chopped into pieces. Many tried to help, but then we discovered the armor was empty. We stopped fighting. What choice did we have?”

“You’re safe now.” Although for how long, Nell couldn’t say. This whole thing stank of the Erwarians. Sticking her hand in her pocket, she fingered two crystals. If only she hadn’t placed the last of the Meek, she could have contacted Mary Marple and have her fears about the Erwarians return confirmed. Thankfully, she had Bei. He and his men would get to the bottom of it. “Richmond will be down for you, soon.”

The girl nodded.

Nell strode to the ladder and climbed up the next deck. Iggy moved silently behind her. A wave of nausea hit her as she climbed the short flight of stairs to the cockpit.

Omest, a vampire-looking Picaroon, manned the crescent-shaped helm.

Security Chief Rome connected his brain box to the controls via a blue fiberoptic cable. “The Admiral’s on his way.”

In the round cockpit, only the two bucket seats in the rear remained empty.  They’d saved her and her husband a spot. Nell rubbed the back of her neck and dropped to her seat. Exhaustion tugged on her and she closed her eyes. Muttering in the WA kept sleep at bay. She’d have Bei disconnect her since they were headed back to the Alliance flagship.

Iggy sat on Nell’s feet before resting her chin on her forepaws.

Nell.

She opened her eyes at the woman’s voice. The shuttle’s cockpit disappeared, and a vortex of darkness swallowed her down.

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Behind the Series: Syn-En: The Meek

syn-en1 copyIt all started with a single line. You’ve all heard it: The Meek shall inherit the Earth.

Which, if you’ve an ounce of imagination/curiosity, you want to know who these Meek are?

I made them Human.

But I had them removed from Earth. One of the best/worst tenets of SciFi is that Humans in the future will be the same as we are now. Which means there are always subversive elements among us.

And since we sabotage ourselves, we would end up sabotaging others.

Hence the Meek would spike the plans of the Erwarians.

What went on behind the scenes of the Syn-En books, the meek also used their fermites to prevent technology from giving one species an advantage over another.

It’s how we’d roll when we emerge on a universal stage.

Of course, we are also a bit of a bully. Especially when we think we’re right or think it’s for someone’s own good. Which is how they coerced Nell into forming an alliance.

So the Meek returned to Earth, but no one said they’d be nice.

Until next time.

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Behind the Series: Syn-En: The Founding Five

There is a persisting myth among species that someone has to rule. Often, on Earth, those rulers are the ones with the best weapons. Others view their culture as superior and thus their ordained mission to rule over those lesser than in some cases to uplift them, but mostly because it perversely proved their superiority. Don’t think about that too much, you’re head might explode.

When crafting the Syn-En world, I wanted a place most of us could identify easily. I fully used our current belief that bigger is better and that things are best compartmentalized, so it wasn’t hard to imagine a world where entire species filled a business niche. And yet, I didn’t use them all as more than a passing glance in many of the book.

So, without further ado, here are the Founding Five as I imagined them:

The Accumla: Primarily an economic power, who sees trade and profit as the end of every worthy endeavor. They lobby to acquire worlds rich in resources that are conveniently already located near major lanes of transports or wormholes.

The Decrepi: A frail species who suffer greatly from years of space exploration and reliance on technology. Their specialty is on medical advances and are extremely reluctant to give up their favorite lab rats: Humans. Their power lies in the translation of their medical advances into military advances and the profit in offering these advances to lesser species.

The Unadul: Their focus on arts and sciences lead many to underestimate them. Their focus on purity of art and the drive isolate the development from the influence of barbaric cultures, forces them to side with the military arm of the Founding Five and advocate for the eradication of these bad species.

The Municians: The political arm of the Founding Five. Designed to be pleasing in appearance and worship the intricacies of manners and protocols. Given the limited number of worlds, these leads the species to be cut throat and in favor of domination.

And lastly, the Scraptors: For those who’ve read Ghost World, you won’t be surprised to learn these were the last of the Founding Five. As warriors they occupy the lowest rung on the power ladder and for the most part are treated as a commodity and ignored until they are needed to reassert the authority of the Founding Five.

I was sad I didn’t use more of the first three species in the Syn-En books, but there are always more stories to tell and Nell and Bei did have children.

Until next time.

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Syn-En: Home World, Chapter 4

Syn-En-Home-World-GenericChapter Four

Nell braced her feet apart on the rocky ground. Holy crap! What had just happened? Her hand dropped to her flat stomach. Her skin tingled with fermites, letting her know the babies growing in her womb were well. She blew her bangs out of her eyes.

At the edge of the camp, the mound of Scraptor armor jiggled. A crushed helmet tumbled to the ground. Nell shivered.  Zombie Scraptors. She hated to think about what was next.

Iggy’s tail wagged from an opening. She sniffed and growled but continued the hunt.

This planetoid must be one of Dante’s levels of Hell.

Swallowing hard, she flexed her fingers gathering her fermites. What other Bug-Ugly wanted a piece of her? She’d tear them apart, atom by atom. Damn. Not a single one remained. She gulped cool air into her lungs. Maybe her Amarook spirit guide was onto something, with the whole pregnancy making a female homicidal. Nell shook off her thoughts. Calm. She needed to be calm. A blanket of fermites lapped at her feet. Humans emerged from the layer of glittering atomic machines, healed and whole. NSA soldiers in light blue uniforms herded them toward the open ramps of the shuttles.

Why were they running? The danger had passed. Blue light arched from her fingertips. Between Bei, his Syn-En, and the Amarooks, the Scraptors ass-whooping was inevitable. Nell blew a cloud of fermites off her fingers. Her superpowers rocked.

Iggy yelped.

Nell’s attention snapped to the pile of pink, white, and red armor.

Iggy’s head popped up between a crumpled torso and a thigh covering. Her pink and green feathers twitched with static electricity and the collar translating her thoughts into words remained dark. With drool running down her muzzle, she bared her fangs and disappeared in the heap below.

Nell groped in her mind for her connection to the featherface. Static buzzed between grainy images of pain and a bloodlust for revenge. She stepped toward the pack leader.

“Stay put, Nell.” Bei pinned her with a glance. His eyes were onyx.

Her chest tightened. What the hell? They’d kicked Scraptor booty, so why weren’t they celebrating?

Syn-En in black uniforms aimed rifles and grenade launchers toward the horizon. The missile tubes on the sides of the shuttles opened. Projectile weapons emerged from their hulls.

Nell squinted but could see nothing. No threat. No sign of the enemy. The fermites thickened and glittered against the dirt. They seethed and surged, still healing the injured but preparing for new orders. Deadly orders. Orders she was to give once she thought of something. And then. There…

Silver ships sparkled in the red light from the dwarf sun on the horizon. Their nacelles summoned a wall of dust, clogging the air with the brown powder. White eyes emerged from the billowing clouds.

Missiles. Her mouth dried. Hide. Run. No, dammit, she had people to protect. Her fermites expanded like a bubble, rising in a dome and spreading out from her epicenter over the entire camp.

NSA soldiers pressed their charges to the ground and covered their heads.

The air filled with the thump and whine of launched grenades and the rat-a-tat-tat of projectile fire.

The enemy missiles swerved then resumed their trek toward the camp.

Red flares serpentined across the sky.

The missiles didn’t take the bait. They plowed into the ground between the shuttles at the edge of the camp. Geysers of dirt shot into the air. Clumps of rock and debris hit the fermite shield, sparking bursts of light as they disintegrated. Men and women hunched over. Screams and gasps erupted from those on the ramps.

A troop transport listed to the right. Its nacelles blazed bright, seconds before the ship stabilized. Those still on the ramps hustled inside.

More missiles screamed in the pink sunlight.

Bei’s lips thinned. Countermeasures launched from the beetle-shaped Starflight shuttles knocking out two missiles.

A cheer rippled over the crowd.

Bei’s attention stuck on her. Can you hold the fermites?

Of course. Nell nodded. There wasn’t any choice.

Davena Cabo brushed Nell’s shoulders. Her black robes glittered over her pregnant belly. The healer raised her arms. Her fermites mingled with Nell’s, forming an atomic mesh overhead. “What is that song you sing?”

“It’s a theme song. From Gilligan’s Island.” Nell started the first refrain.

When Davena joined in, their fermites solidified into an impenetrable energy dome. Her husband and Lieutenant Richmond planted themselves in front and peered down the barrel of their Lassiters.

The shuttle engines revved and they hovered above the ground. Landing gear retracted.

Two pale, female Municians near the shuttles gathered their dirty robes and raced for the ramps. “They’re leaving without us.”

Nell glared at her husband. Deep down, she knew the shuttles wouldn’t abandon them, but she wouldn’t mind if he let her in on the plan.

Queens, a Syn-En medic, intercepted the two Municians, grabbing them around the waist and lugging them back behind the safety of the fermite dome.

“With your permission, Admiral, I’d like to kick some alien ass.” Rome punted a sliver of shrapnel then tossed his rocket launcher to Bei.

“Permission granted. But save the big ship for me.” Bei caught the weapon mid-air. “Everyone,” his voice boomed across the crowd. “Stay put until this is over.”

Now, he talks. Silver striped Nell’s arms. Iggy, maybe you can get your pack to ride herd on everyone.

The alpha Amarook emerged tail first from the pile of armor. Her butt wiggled as she pulled her head free. Her collar blazed bright. Shaking her body, she flung bits of armor in every direction. “Can we bite the Municians if they attempt to escape?”

Nell’s fingers turned silver. If she didn’t have to hold the shield, she wouldn’t mind throwing a few lightning bolts at the stinky elves. “Just don’t kill anyone.”

Iggy’s whiskers twitched. Static electricity crackled along the ends. “You spoil the sport.” She unfolded her arms. Red crystals dotted the brown dirt. “I found these inside the armor. They must be the power source. I shorted them out. There will be no more foul-tasting zombies.”

Images of the Amarook biting the red crystals flooded Nell’s head. A memory stirred then retreated as her stomach bucked and roiled. She spit out the bitter taste. “Thanks for that.”

Nell hoped she wouldn’t succumb to morning sickness. Or every-time-she-breathed sickness. Or what-is-that-taste sickness.

Iggy shimmered out of sight.

Nell felt her pack fall into hunting formation around the alpha as they headed toward the Munician side of the camp. Maybe she shouldn’t have said the Amarooks could bite. The evil elves really did taste nasty.

More countermeasures intercepted two missiles.

She flinched at the boom.

The Humans in the camp polished off their rations, many of them licking the wrapping. As former Scraptors, they ignored the battle raging around them.

The girl Nell had healed stared at the metallic stripes on Nell’s forearms. “Will my skin do that, now that I’m Human?”

“I would hope not.” Nell kicked the crystals in a pile and placed her foot over them. Her toes tingled and went numb. Guess Iggy hadn’t shorted the power source completely. She would hand them off to Bei later, let him deal with them. “The silver part is fake skin. NeoDynamic Armor that had to be used when my own skin got burned away.”

By a Scraptor. One who was now dead and incinerated. She wouldn’t miss the Bug-Uglies when they were gone.

A missile zoomed through the countermeasures. Bullets pinged off the narrow body.

Rome’s rocket missed a direct hit and tore off a fin. “What the hell? It’s like they’re being guided by thought, not coordinates.”

The missile slammed into the front of the camp, sending Scraptor armor rocketing into the air.

The ground bucked beneath Nell’s feet. She dropped to one knee. A pebble dug into her skin.

Davena stumbled forward, but kept her fermites in place. The dome twinkled overhead.

Doc, her husband, caught her before she hit the ground. “There you go, falling for me all over again.” He caressed her stomach before setting her on her feet.

Nell sniffed. That was so sweet. How she wished her husband would…

Dropping his smoking weapon, Bei landed next to her. Cupping a hand under her elbow, he helped her to her feet. “Ready for round two?”

No. “Yes. Of course.” Nell’s tongue stuck to the roof of her dry mouth. Pushing up her sleeves, she spread her fingers wide. The fermite dome expanded and solidified.

Bei skimmed his hand down her stomach. “You protect those babies and I’ll protect you. We got this.”

The world swam. She blinked rapidly to clear her vision. Stupid hormones. Her husband was darn near perfect. “Blow one out of the sky for me.”

“Any time.” He winked then focused.

The enemy ships were close. Fire blasted from the cannons mounted underneath one silver disk-shaped craft.

The missile launcher barked from Rome’s shoulder. It tore off one of the cannons. The Security Chief rolled his shoulders. “Damn shame I didn’t bring better gifts for our guests.”

Bei nodded. “I’m not detecting any life signs on the enemy craft.”

Two probes launched from the Starflight shuttle. The spheres glowed bright white. Instead of exploding when they hit the ship, they melted the hull and burrowed inside, heading for the munitions stored aboard.

“Nice.” Rome reloaded in one smooth motion. “You got the big one, now it’s my turn.”

He aimed for the smaller attack vehicle and fired. His bomb threaded through the enemy’s torpedo tube. The blast tore off the bottom of the ship.

Explosions rolled in concussive waves through the first craft. The hull of the enemy ship peeled away. Pieces thudded against the protective Syn-En shuttles and bounced against the barrier.

Nell’s arms shook. Her skin tightened. Just a little longer, she had to hold on just a little longer.

Standing next to her, Davena nodded. Sweat beaded her upper lip.

One by one, the Syn-En fired back, destroying the enemy’s weapons before sending incendiary devices into munition stores. Smoke poured from the four enemy craft before their hulls splintered and ripped apart. Blossoms of red, white, and yellow created bouquets in the air. Shrapnel bounced off the shield and pierced the ground around the camp.

The crowd stared, mesmerized by the flames, confident in the strength of the shield.

Nell didn’t have that luxury. Even superpowers couldn’t hold forever. She gritted her teeth and blinked away the sweat stinging her eyes. A soft thump on her right drew her attention.

Davena sagged in her husband’s arms, her long lashes black crescents against her pale skin.

Bei pressed against Nell’s back. “It’s okay. We’re safe.”

Nell dropped to her knees. She’d barely touched the dust before Bei scooped her up in his arms. His strength closed around her. She buried her nose in his neck, filled her lungs with his scent. It was over. For now.

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Behind the Series: Syn-En: The Skaperians

scifibannerVillains are a staple of SciFi and pretty much most genre fiction. And while I don’t plot my books, I did know who the ultimate bad guys were, how the story would arc through the series and lead the Syn-En back home.

But I didn’t want to jump into war.

I wanted to ease into the world of the Syn-En; I wanted set the stage of worse things to come. And it all started with a single race and was rooted in Human history.

In many ways, the Skaperians are traditional villains. They view themselves as superior to Humans because of their technological achievements. Humans must overcome their technology to prove themselves worthy as equals.

But a featherhead by any name is very much like us.

Like most conquerers they view their colonies and inhabitants as lesser beings. To make things even more interesting, I had the Earth and its inhabitants traded as a territory in a distant war, one where we weren’t involved in, but effected us nonetheless.

The Skaperians had a similar evolution to ours in that their distant ancestors had scales. And scales changed into both feathers and fur. I know of no law that says a species can only have one. Of course, if you want to believe there’s another force (like the Erwarians or Meek) who made them that way, so much the better.

As a personal joke, I gave the Skaperians two opposable thumbs. Why? Because we point to our thumbs as proof of our superiority to those species without thumbs. By that logic, the Skaperians are better than us.:D

The Skaperians have backward joints because I wanted to draw a visual comparison to the power cats and crickets have to jump and pounce. Predator traits. These changes also gave them similar strengths to the cyborgs without the aid of technology.

I spent pages developing the Skaperian history, deciding how it was to be designed. Most of it never appeared in the book, but some did, in particular the fact that women ruled Skaperian and were its warriors. To twist this much used trope, it was the Syn-En who viewed the society as odd. To them, implants were implants. But to Nell, she would recognize the kind of society, feel at home in its prejudices, and still rail against the injustices.

Well, that’s enough for now. If you have any questions about the series, shoot me an email or comment below and I’ll answer.

Until next time!

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Behind the Series: Syn-En: The Surlat Plague

It is always amazing that something so little as a bacteria could cause so large a change. Most SciFi novels write about a superbioengineered bug that changes humanity into something different.

But when I think of superbugs, I think of the Black Plague and HG Wells’ War of the World. 

An instrument of destruction and death.

 We know that on Earth a simple cold wiped out indigenous peoples in the Americas. That after the Vikings landed the explosure to foreign bacteria killed large swaths of tribes, and that the US government infected blankets with disease to eliminate the native population.

And yet, disease creates change as well.

The Black Plague changed the conditions of many living in serfdom in the Middle Ages. Guess we treat those scarce things better than in abundance. 

To change things up, I added technology to the mix and created my cyborgs. They could go into infected areas while a vaccine was being developed. Or a vaccine could be abandoned in favor of a better, more durable class of workers.  After all, why safe people when you could get more labor for your investment?

Of course, I had an ulterior motive for the Surlat Plague. A familiar trope in SciFi is cross breeding and slave labor, but I wanted to go the extra mile. I wanted humans to be valued as nothing more than lab rats. We are very plentiful.

Until next time

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Syn-En: Home World, Chapter 3

This is the last day to pick up the book for 99cents. So enjoy the eclipse if you’re in an area where it is happening and read while you wait:D

Syn-En-Home-World-GenericChapter Three

Admiral Beijing York’s cardiac sensors malfunctioned and his lungs seized.  Instinct, training, and his software upgrades kicked in. In one smooth motion, he drew his TorpSK7. The microsecond the energy weapon flashed green, he squeezed the trigger.

The blast hit the nearest Scraptor square in the chest. White light spider-webbed over his armor, and the Bug-Ugly stumbled back from the hit.

Not good enough. Bei wanted him dead. Wanted all the Scraptors obliterated. While the Torp charged, he diverted power to his limbs. A small leap and he closed the six meters to his prey.

The Bug-Ugly didn’t even glance up.

Bei raked his serrated arms through the Scraptor’s shoulders. The blades along his cyborg limbs tore through the armor, leaving jagged metal behind . The severed arms plopped to the brown dust of the planetoid. No blood spurted. No cry of agony registered on Bei’s audio sensors.

The refugee camp erupted into chaos. Municians cried out in alarm. Humans screamed in pain. Scraptors who guarded the periphery slashed and hacked their way through unarmed civilians. Red and blue blood soaked the brown dirt. Death drained the color from flesh despite the red rays of the dwarf sun.

Bei aimed his TorpSK7, fired at point blank range at the closest enemy target. Projectiles drilled through the armor and blew a hole out the back.

“Why won’t the bastards fall?” Security Chief Frankfort Rome ripped off the helmet on a white Scraptor. He crushed the helmet until the eyestalks popped out and the metal was nothing but a ball. The body fought on, snapping its claws and swinging its tail until the poisonous barb at the end found a target.

Bei loped off the bulbous stinger and slammed it down the throat of one headless Scraptor. How had the situation gone sideways so quickly? He had the last Munician matriarch. Peace was in his grasp. Nell was expecting their next set of twins. He wouldn’t lose. Not now. “Get the Matriarch onto the shuttle.”

A Human cry mingled with an Eseaian squeal of pain.

“What about our civilian peacekeepers?” Rome raised his hand, blocking a Scraptor from slicing off the top of the Matriarch’s green and lavender head.

The head of the Argent family gathered her embroidered robes and dashed up the ramp of the beetle-shaped shuttle. Her putty-colored entourage limped after her.

A Scraptor raised his stabbing appendages, spearing Bei’s foot.

“NSA recruits. Fall back.” Bei barked the order into the Com. Pain relievers flooded his system. Grabbing the Scraptor limb, he ripped it out of his boot and drove the pointed tip through his opponent.

The Scraptor fell.

Bei increased his strength and drilled the tip into the rock, pinning his enemy in place. He twisted, tore off the Scraptor’s remaining limbs, and hurled them away from the camp.

The Bug-Ugly still squirmed.

Headless. Limbless. Yet, still fighting.

Bei’s gut clenched.

“What the fuck is going on?” Rome dismembered his Scraptor, crumbling the pieces into a pile near his feet. “I like fighting as much as the next guy but this stopped being fun two severed limbs ago.”

Bei grunted. He queried the Combat Information Center for explanations while he tore into the next Scraptor. With a thought, he accessed his optics and scanned through all spectrums. Only the Infrared produced an anomaly. A bright white ball in the right thigh. He sent the results to the CIC for a match. He wanted to know his enemy. “Recruits, guard the transports and injured!”

NSA recruits in light blue uniforms ushered the injured up the ramps. Some carried those severely wounded. Others fired at any Bug-Ugly.

Despite the hits, the Scraptors didn’t falter.

Bei stomped on the dismembered body of his latest opponent.

Nell’s shout was an electric shock through his systems. Across the camp, she battled a set of pink armor. Her skin flashed silver, highlighting her NeoDynamic Armor. Fermites buzzed the pink Scraptor. One moment it was a golden haze, then the armor dissolved.

“Holy shit.” Rome hurled the crumpled mass in his hands at the head of another Scraptor. The Bug-Ugly’s helmet flew off his shoulders. “I wish I could do that.”

God, Bei loved his woman. He swung up his Lassiter rifle. It hummed to life in his hands. Destroy the enemy with extreme prejudice. 

The order echoed in the Wireless Array. His men shifted into camouflage. Their bodies and weapons blended with the red sky and brown landscape. Only the slight wavy motion of the air indicated their presence.

Bei’s vision merged with his men’s. His processors warmed from collating nearly a hundred soldier’s input simultaneously. Priorities made, he assigned tasks—some stood guard over the alien, flesh-and-bone medics tending to the injured Humans. Others fought along the perimeter, dismantling Scraptors and chucking their pieces into a pile.

With the situation under control, Bei glanced in his wife’s direction.

Two Scraptors stood where she had once fought.

“Where is my wife?” Bei’s systems went rogue. He rushed the camp, stomping corpses, leaping injured, and fast-balling severed limbs at the enemy.

Rome pounded on his heels. “Slow down, Admiral. I can’t cover your six, if I can’t see your sorry ass.”

Nell’s energy signal rolled through their private connection. She was alive. Alive and pissed. Waves of red hot anger tilted his systems.

I’m coming, Nell. Hang on. Bei zigged around a pile of refugees. His guns spat fire and projectiles. Each ripping into the Scraptors near Nell, tearing off their limbs. A golden bubble rose from the ground. When it burst, the explosion threw the Scraptors back.

Nell stood in the center, Humans with golden triage tags at her feet.

Two more Scraptors lumbered toward Nell.

Bei met them halfway there. He crushed one’s claws between his hands and ripped it from the body. Gaping holes stared back from the Scraptor’s trunk. Spinning and slashing, he added the limbs to a gathering pile.

Rome pummeled the other’s eyestalks down its throat then hammered on the trunk. “You’re really starting to piss me off by not dying.”

Bei checked the WA. The energy signal powering the Scraptors didn’t match any known enemy, but something was familiar. With his strength at maximum, he flattened the helmet. Its eye stalks popped out and rocketed in two different directions. Grabbing the tail, he swung with all his might and hurled it toward the horizon.

Bei spun, ready for his next enemy.

Only his men remained standing. But the severity of injuries and number of wounded had tripled.

“Damn.” Rome plucked a Scraptor mandible from his sleeve. The damaged NDA underneath quickly healed. “It looks like we’re in one of Nell’s zombie video clips.”

Standing near Nell, Richmond flashed Bei a thumbs-up before picking up her severed arm, inspecting the damaged edges then dropping it. “It was time for an upgrade anyway.”

Nell pushed her hair out of her eyes. A sea of glittering fermites lapped at her legs and blanketed the Humans nearby. “I can see your point, Rome, except zombies are reanimated Humans not just their empty armor.”

Bei shook his head. His wife was amazing, still healing people despite a battle raging around her. He stepped over a twitching tail.

She held out her hand and collapsed against him. Her arm wrapped his waist and squeezed tightly. Silver striped her arms, blending with her clothes.

Davena stepped out from behind Doc. Her pregnant belly stuck out in front of her. Gold fermites dripped from her cinnamon skin and rolled in a healing fog over the NSA medics.

One by one, the NSA rose and helped the refugees toward the ships.

Iggy and her pack of Amarooks materialized near piles of Scraptor. “I need lots of chocolate to get that taste out of my mouth.”

“Admiral.” Omest, the pilot of the Starflight 1 shuttle, rattled through the com button on Bei’s collar. “The probe we sent out earlier to search for weapons, just went offline.”

Rome’s head snapped up. “Crash?”

“No, sir.” The lanky alien swallowed hard through the Com system. “It looks like an energy burst from a weapon did it. And…”

Bei rolled his eyes.  Double check his findings.

Double-checking. Rome nodded.

“And what, Omest?” Bei prompted.

“The signal matches the one you sent of the Scraptors.”

Of course it did. Releasing his wife, he headed for the closest pile. “Understood, Omest.” His vision dimmed as he stepped into the WA and switched all the ship’s sensors to maximum. If an enemy weapon took out the probe, he wanted advance warning of the next attack.

In the WA, Rome’s avatar materialized next to his. He opened the data packet on the probe. “That’s definitely an energy surge, but there’s no weapon signature.”

At the edge of the battlefield, Iggy leapt atop a pile of armor, digging and sniffing as she worked her way down. “Humans were here, but there’s something else. Something fouler than Scraptor armor.”

Bei shifted his attention to the camp and left the WA. “Munician?”

Iggy spit out the bottom half of a claw, then wiped her tongue on her fur. “Possibly.”

“Sequester the Matriarch.” Bei would question her personally. She had to know something. The stinky politicos had their own weapon development program before the end of the war.

Iggy dove back into the pile. A moment later she yipped with excitement and her tail wagged.

“What have you found?” Bei stepped close to the Amarook just as alarms bathed the inside of his skull in bloody hues.

“We’ve got company.” Rome switched mags on his Lassiter then loaded his grenade launcher on top. “Four ships. Five ships. Incoming.”

“They’re Alliance ships, Admiral.” Omest’s voice broke. “But they’re not answering our hails.”

“They’re some of the ships that have gone missing in the last six months.” Rome lobbed a data packet at Bei.

In an instant, Bei caught it and merged with the shuttle’s systems. Using his command codes, he tapped into the approaching crafts’ computers. A brick wall rose up in cyberspace, blocking him from taking command. “Everyone, get to the shuttles. Now.”

Beyond the firewall, he sensed the weapons going hot. Then the surge of energy as the ships opened fire.

His optics detected the string of missiles headed their way.

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