Saturday, June 27, 2009

Guest Blogger Delilah Marvelle

Let's all help Delilah save her series. This is a time for you, as a reader, to let the publishers know that you will support your favorite authors. If there's a series you love and can't get enough of write the publisher directly and tell them. Then tell you friends about the awesome books you've read so they'll buy them. That's the only way we can keep on writing them for you.

When I was in high school, I had a dream. I was going to be the next Stephen King. Heh. Yeah. Stay with me. Please. I knew my ideas were fabulous and I knew all it would take is for an editor to look at it and they would offer me up the moon and the stars and best of all, a contract. I had my girlfriends read everything I wrote. And they kept telling me, “This is fabulous! It's SO funny! Hilarious!” Seeing it really wasn't supposed to BE funny, I immediately changed course realizing I actually had a better handle on being funny than scary. I also figured adding a romance into it would even make it better since that is what I loved to read.

I then entered college as an English major. I was going to be teacher and write during the summers. Even then I was a smart girl who knew I wasn't going to make jack and that I needed a job to support the “creative” one. Throughout all of college I wrote historical romances. One right after another. And kept submitting. And submitting. And submitting. And kept getting rejected and rejected and rejected. In the meantime, I got married. I had two kids. I joined RWA. I got critique partners. I did honed and honed and honed the crap out of my writing. And kept writing and getting rejected. I eventually racked up over 200 rejections and had written over 40 books in those 11 years of trying to get published.

When I finally sold my first historical romance, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, and my second book, LORD OF PLEASURE, I was beside myself. It didn't feel real. To FINALLY arrive at a destination I had been traveling toward for 11 long years seemed like a mirage. Which fortunately, I quickly snapped out of. Because after all, most of my friends are all published and unpublished writers and the stories they all have told me throughout the years made me realize I had to fight with fists up for myself every step of the way. I knew publishers did little to no promotion for their authors, so I spearheaded my own promo, ready to be more than just an author. And even though I was budgeting very well and spending countless hours networking and promoting on websites and blogs, doing tons for free, I still ended up spending $7,000 on my first book. Which was way more than my advance. But hey, every business starts in the red. Right?

Then the reviews started coming in about my series set in 1830 London England about a school that educates men on the topic of love and seduction. People loved it! Wow. It got nominated for awards. Wow. Readers are e-mailing me raving. Wow. Readers from France, Austria, Poland, South Africa and from all over the U.S and the world.. Wow. It just kept getting better and better. I was beginning to feel as if every penny I spent was all worth it (even though my family and I weren't going on any vacations and were eating out of cans). Because all that mattered was that my publisher loved me and my readers loved my series.

Come contract time, I'm ready for whatever they wanna throw at me. Or so I thought. Mistress of Pleasure, though completely sold out and unavailable anywhere (unless it's a used copy, some going for a ridiculous amount of $40.00), hadn't done as well as my publisher had hoped. So without waiting for the second book to come out to see if the series was even worth saving, I get a rejection from my own editor citing lack of sales.

I have to say this rejection felt more personal than any of the other two hundred and some rejections I'd received. Because it was no longer “Your book isn't good enough” it became “Your sales aren't good enough.” Since when is an author supposed to be a market guru AND a fabulous writer? Eck.

I love this series. The men in it make me laugh and it broke my heart to think that my readers will never get a chance to read about Lord Brayton, my glorious male virgin. The only alpha virgin I've ever written about. Then I realized something, why I am letting a publisher decide what is worth holding on to? Shouldn't that be a reader's job?

Ah. Herein lies the purpose of my post. I am challenging everyone, be they readers or writers to help me do something that's never been done before. Save a series from a death sentence given by a publisher. Can it be done? Who knows. But I eat challenges for breakfast and I hope you do to. Please join me in saving my series. Come August 4th, tell everyone you know (yes, even you're 72 year old grandfather) to buy the book, Lord of Pleasure. In doing so, you'll have a chance to win one of three $50 Visa Gift Cards. How? Check out my website for details at

That said, thank you for all the support and love everyone has already shown me by allowing me to blog about this. Feel free to post and repost this to everyone under the moon and the stars. To all you readers out there, thank you for supporting us writers. To all you writers out there, don't ever give up on your writing. The moment you do, you give up on yourself. Which is why I'm not giving up on my series.

Cheers and much love,
Delilah Marvelle

Part five

For the past few weeks I've posted the synopsis and first three chapters of my post apocotlypic romance that I shopped around to some different houses the end of 2008. One editor called it a MadMax/Matrix mix. I liked that reference. Still no one bit. No one even came close. They just could not identify with the characters.

So what was I to do? I had a concept that I thought was a good one. The greatest power is the mind. My overall story arc was pretty much typical. Guy meets girl, guy falls for girl, bad guy wants girl, bad guy takes girl, guy rescues girl and they live happily ever after. My world, as I envisioned it was complex and would need at least three books to tell, maybe four. Most important, I had two characters and names that I loved. Dax and Merritt.

I think one thing that went against me was the time of year. I sent out a dark, desperate and depressing world at Christmas time. That really should not influence it but deep down I think it did. Christmas is a happy time as it should be. But mostly I think the market was to blame. sci/fi romance is a very narrow niche and its hard to take a risk on something that does not have the potential for making a lot of $$$.

Publishers had taken a hit along with everyone else in 2008. A major book distributor went under. Returns were up, book stores were not buying as many titles as before but buying more of sure things. It was a hard time to sell period.

I took a long hard look at the market. I needed to come up with something new and fresh. Something that did not have vampires since I feel the fur and fangs market is way over done. I also felt as if urban fantasy might be overdone as well. Something well written in a new market sells, it becomes popular and suddenly every publisher in the world wants the same thing. They buy it up in hopes that they can cash in on the sudden craze and the reader gets tired of it. I am a firm believer that the reader wants a well written book in any genre instead of mediocre books in their favorite genre.

So thinking, new and different. Something that I could do well. Something in my writers wheelhouse. Somthing with strong characters, and great world buildling. I'm known for writing historicals and scifi. What blends those two genre's together?


It wasn't as if I had a lightbulb moment. I'd read a few articles, thought about it, watched some movies with some elements of it, then a friend called me up and said. "I think you should try writing Steampunk. Its' perfect for you."

But I still had this proposal with elements that I liked and characters that I adored. Could I turn it into a steampunk story?

Here's the synopsis. You tell me.

Prism by Cindy Holby
A Steampunk Romance

Cindy Holby, award-winning author of historical and scifi romance, blends both genres together with Prism, a steampunk romance featuring a cowboy, a psychic heroine and a diabolical plot to take over the world using imaginative technology in Victorian England. What’s a proper British lady to do when a mad scientist is after her brain and an American cowboy is after her heart?

London, England 1887

David Alexander Conrad, AKA Dax, is a cowboy. But he's not just any ordinary cowboy—he's one of the famed performers with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show who, in the summer of 1887, travels to England in order to give those stuffy Victorians a jolt of good old American showmanship. He is a renowned sharp shooter and trick rider with skills honed when he worked as a scout for the US Cavalry in the American Southwest during the Apache Wars with Geronimo. At twenty-seven, he’s the youngest star of the show and something of a celebrity in a London unaccustomed to his type. It is while Dax is on the party circuit that he meets a woman unlike any he has ever known.

Merritt Elizabeth Chadwyke is the daughter of Member of Parliament, Lord Pemberton She lives in a society bubble because she is subject to spells and needs the constant monitoring of a nurse. During her “spells” Merritt has been known to make outlandish comments about things of which she should have no knowledge. There is also evidence that during these spells, objects appear to move on their own. Merritt’s parents are very protective of her since they have already lost a son to a tragic accident. What her parents do not know is that at ten years of age, Merritt had a vision of her brother’s death but was afraid to say anything because of her parents reactions to her visions. She did try to warn her brother, who was fourteen when he died, but he ignored her. He realized he should have paid attention to her and said so as he died in his father’s arms. At their wits’ end over her strange illness, her parents send her to the Paranormal Research Institute run by Baron Edmond Von Swaim, who has become a society darling himself by using his powers of hypnotism to charm the upper crust. As Von Swaim performs test upon test on Merritt, he comes to the conclusion that she is something so unique and rare, he wasn't even certain it existed. Merritt is a Prism. And more importantly, she is exactly what he needs to complete his plot to overthrow the British Monarchy and take what he feels is his claim to the throne.

Von Swaim does everything to encourage Merritt’s family to turn her over to his care to cure her “spells.” His research into the study of the human mind has led him to believe that it is the greatest power upon earth. Through the use of his brilliant inventions and the enhancement of crystal prisms he plans to harness Merritt’s mind. Merritt, true to the nature of her spells, has a bad feeling about Von Swaim and refuses to go with him, despite her parents’ belief that it is the perfect solution to her strange illness. It is also during this time that Dax and Merritt have met each other and find that they are unable to stop thinking about each other. He finds it’s a bit more difficult to track a young woman through Victorian London than it is to fight Indians in the American west. Still he manages to find her, at parties, at the park, even in an exclusive tea shop. The feelings they share grow stronger with each passing moment and they go to great lengths to spend time together when they realize there is something special between them. As they pursue their romance Dax finds Merritt’s strange sense of things more of a gift than an illness and Merritt knows that Dax truly loves her for who she is, not what society or her parents expect her to be.

Frustrated with the constraints her family and society have put upon her, and unable to escape from Von Swaim’s constant presence, Merritt sneaks out to see a final performance of the Wild West show. Dax is happy to see her in the crowd and pulls her out to do some trick shooting. Meanwhile, Von Swaim, who has had Merritt watched ever since he’s treated her, is told of her escape from her home. Von Swaim sees this as the perfect opportunity to take her and sends his men, who wear armor and carry weapons that shoot lasers and electrical currents after her. Dax and Merritt manage to escape and spend a romantic night together in hiding. The following morning Von Swaim’s army finds their hiding place and chase Dax and Merritt through the streets of London. Dax is well armed but his trick shooting has no effect upon the special armor Von Swaim’s soldiers wear. Dax and Merritt are finally captured when Von Swaim uses a zeppelin to run them down in Hyde Park. He takes both of them prisoner, Merritt to be his weapon, and Dax, who is wounded in the leg to be brain washed and become a soldier in his army. They are taken by zeppelin to Von Swaim’s hidden castle in the Swiss Alps.

Dax finds there is no torture or brainwashing powerful enough to erase Merritt and his feelings for her from his memory. He manages to befriend a doctor in Von Swaim’s employ who has repaired Dax’s wound using Von Swaim’s invention of brass fittings and joints. After some time in which his injury heals and with the doctor’s help Dax manages to escape, only to find himself alone in a country where he knows no one and does not speak the language. To makes matters worse, Merritt is now under Von Swaim’s control and he has taken her to away for “treatment” with her parents’ permission. Fortunately for Dax, the Wild West Show is now touring Europe and he is able to find his friends who welcome him back with open arms. Dax is desperate to find Merritt but has no idea where to look.

Merritt, who is under Von Swaim’s control, cannot forget Dax either. Even though her memories of him are supposedly erased by Von Swaim’s hypnotism, her Prism abilities guide her back to Dax at one of the performances of the Wild West Show. Dax knows that he may never have this chance with Merritt again. With the help of his friends from the Wild West Show he is ready to use Von Swaim’s weapons against him. Dax and Von Swaim enter into a battle for her mind, but Von Swaim does not realize that Dax is also fighting for Merritt’s heart and soul. Dax will stop at nothing to free her from Von Swaim so that Merritt may make her own choices for her own life. Dax can only hope that once he frees her from Von Swaim that Merritt will choose him because he loves her just the way she is. Neither technology nor mind control, no matter how powerful, are any match for the strength of their love.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Part four of when a story doesn't work

This is where I ran into problems. Swaim wants to use Merritt as a weapon. So he's hooking her up to computers and keeping her in a dream state where she believes that he's her father. It makes it easier for him to control her and use her. Kind of useless place for a heroine. My intention was to replay Dax and Merritt's love story using her subconscious. Even though she's doped up and believes she's Swaim's daughter, subconciously she'll be remembering her life with Dax. So I would tell their story as Merritt remembered it. Meanwhile, Dax is also hooked into the super computer and somehow his subconscious connects with Merritt's, he realizes what's going on, he breaks free then goes back to free her. It turns out that I've over used that tool recently. Seperate H/H and have hero rescue heroine. So yes, it is hard to connect with a heroine who is doped and unconscious. I have to agree there. But they didn't see Merritt the way I did. Which was also my fault. I didn't write enough of the book. Its hard to do a indepth proposal when you've got a dead line looming.

Chapter Three
The Dome

There had to be something beyond the shadows. Or maybe it was just her vision that was blurry. There was always the possibility that she was dreaming. Could that be it? Merritt walked through the room with her fingers trailing over the clean lines of the plain but functional furniture. Everything was done in shades of gray, from the plush carpet that cushioned her feet to the heavy gray drapes that covered the walls. Were there windows behind the drapes? For some reason she could not recall the view. Everything around her was familiar, yet everything she saw was strange.

“There you are my dear,” a man’s voice said.

Merritt turned. A man stood before her. He was tall and slim with blond hair that held a touch of silver at the temples. His eyes shaded more towards gray than blue, but it could easily be that the room they were in made them look that way. He wore a perfectly tailored suit that was on the edge of a new trend in fashion, yet would not be considered ostentatious by his peers. How was it that knew that, or even cared?

“Father?” she asked. The word came unbidden to her lips and for some strange reason she was not sure if it was appropriate.

“Who else would it be?” He came to her and took her upper arms into his hands. He kissed her forehead. “Silly girl,” he said.

She scrunched her forehead up as he kissed it. As if she could ward off the touch of his lips. His eyes bore into her and she turned away from his intense scrutiny.

“Merritt,” he said his voice heavy with concern. “Are you all right?”

A pain shot through her temples and she pressed her hands against them.

“It hurts,” she cried out.

“What’s wrong?” Swain asked.

“She’s fighting it,” Foster replied. “Her mind is sensing the reality shift. Her consciousness senses the dream so she’s trying to wake herself up.” Foster turned from his perusal of the monitor and added. “I told you she was strong. One of the strongest I’ve ever seen.”

Swain let his head drop back against the cushion. He reclined in an ergonomic chair while Foster worked the code for Merritt’s program. His Simkey pulsed while it accepted the code and aligned the program with the matching Simkey that glowed from the admanium port Foster had inserted in Merritt’s temple.

Strong and mine…

She really was quite lovely with her silvery blonde hair and clear blue eyes which were closed. It was a shame really that he could not look at them. They reminded him of the wildflowers that grew outside the dome. They were the dominant feature of her heart shaped face and quite an exquisite color of blue with black flecks around the edge of the irises. It was as if he possessed a valuable piece of art that he had to keep behind lock and key. He well remembered the sparks in those eyes as she attacked him in the real. It would be nice to see the life in them again. That, however, would not be conducive to achieving his goal.

She wore a silver rehab suit that stretched from her toes up to her neck. It would aid in the prevention of sores on her body from being in the same position for so long. It would also stimulate her muscles and enhance her circulation as she stayed suspended in the simlife. It clung to her like a second skin and showed the healthy vitality of her body which would soon fade away with enforced inactivity. Various tubes and wires were attached each one there to serve a purpose in keeping her alive for as long as he needed her.

To Swain, she looked like a princess from one of the ancient fairy tales as she lay reclined in a chair similar to his. Her brow seemed troubled and was drawn sternly down, marring the porcelain like complexion of her skin.

“Sleeping Beauty,” he said as he recalled the ancient fairytale she brought to mind.

“Sir?” Foster inquired.

“I noticed that you cut her hair.” No need to let Foster know where his musings led him. The man was bright enough as it was. Bright enough that he bore watching.

“Yes sir,” Foster did not turn away from his keypad.

No excuse or reason was given. When she arrived her hair hung to her waist. Now it was cropped close to her head and the ends of it curled up around her face.

Why did he care?

“It would have been a nuisance to care for,” Foster added after a moment.

Swain had to agree. Still it was a shame.

“I sold it,” Foster said as he swiveled his chair around to face him. “To the sonaspa.”

Swain resisted the urge to roll his eyes in disgust. The pursuit of eternal youth in their society was not unlike a cult. Someone would pay dearly for those hair enhancements. He wondered if he would recognize the color if he came across it in his social circle.

“I assume you deposited the credits in my account,” Swain said.

“Yes,” Foster said. “We can try again whenever you are ready. I added a head injury to her history which will help explain her confusion and I also gave her a pet for distraction.”

“A pet?”

“A fluffy white kitten,” Foster said with a smile that seemed insincere at best. “A gift from her father.”

Swain nodded his approval as he settled back into his chair and closed his eyes.

“Have I told you how relieved I am?” He said.

Merritt touched her temple once again. “About what?”

“About your recovery of course.” The look he gave her was full of concern. “The Doctor said your periods of memory loss would eventually fade.”

She pushed her fingers against her temple as if there was a switch there that needed to be on. If only she could remember…anything…There was nothing that was familiar. The walls seemed distant yet suffocating. She wanted to see the sky and feel the breeze on her face.

“I was hurt?” she asked. That would explain much. It would explain everything. She looked at her father hopefully. Why couldn’t she remember him?

“Yes,” he said calmly. Patiently. As if she was a small child. “You fell. You hurt your head. You have only recently come home from the Medcen.”

“Is that why it hurts?” she asked as she rubbed her right hand over her forehead. She scrunched up her eyes and then opened them in hopes that things would appear clearer to her. Her left hand caught her attention and she looked at it, spreading the fingers wide as she turned it over to examine it.

“I lost it,” she said. “I lost my ring. Did I leave it at the Medcen?”

“What ring?” he asked.

Merritt held her hand out. “My ring.” She twisted the fingers of her right hand around the base of the ring finger on her left hand.

“What did it look like?”

She continued to rub her finger as she tried to remember. She could see it in her mind. Silver and gold twisted together in a never ending circle. She recalled the weight of it. How it slid down the length of her finger and settled at the base as if it were a part of her flesh. She could almost feel a hand close over hers as if holding it in place. A strong hand with blunt fingers that were heavily calloused at the tips. To whom did it belong? “It was silver…and gold…It was both?” she said in hope that he would offer her some confirmation.

“I’m sure it will turn up,” he said a trifle bit too indulgently. How could something that felt so real and now so lost be a figment of her imagination?

It was apparent that her father thought she was imaging it. She turned away. She could not stand to see the indulgence in his pale eyes. Her eyes darted back and forth looking for the way out. She felt claustrophobic, as if the walls were closing in around her. The only door was behind him. Even with her back turned she knew she would not make it past him.

As if he knew what she was thinking he came up behind her and placed his hands firmly on her shoulders. Perhaps he meant to offer comfort. Instead she felt as if he’d captured her and there was no escape.
If he was her father then why couldn’t she remember his name?

“I have a gift for you,” he said. “Something to help you with your recovery. The doctor’s said if you didn’t try to remember so much then it would be easier.”

“They did?” She had a vague recollection of some sort of medical procedure. Of bright lights over head, the sterile smell of recycled air and strange faces hovering over her. She also felt a strange sense of loss, as if with the accident and what followed she lost a part of herself.

It was all so strange yet she could not say what was different. Only that it was.
The man who was her father walked to the plush gray sofa that curved around two sides of the room. He returned with a white box tied with a bright pink bow. It was strange that she had not noticed it earlier when she first walked into the room. Certainly the brightness of the bow would have stood out against all the misty gray that surrounded her.

“Open it,” he said encouragingly as he held it out to her. She had no choice but to take it. She pulled on the ribbon and it fell away as if it were nothing. She opened the box and a black kitten with deep blue eyes poked its head up and stared at her inquisitively.

“Oh,” Merritt exclaimed. She scooped the kitten out and dropped the box to the floor. “He’s adorable.”

Her father seemed confused. He chucked a finger under the kitten’s chin and it turned its head into her neck as if trying to escape from his attention. “You shall have to give it a name,” he said.

Merritt held the kitten up before her face and looked into its deep blue eyes. They were such a strange color for a cat, but somewhere she had heard that kittens were born with blue eyes and then they turned green or gold. Perhaps his just hadn’t changed yet. He let out a tiny meow as she looked at him and she smiled in delight as she clutched him back to her breast.

“I shall name him Dax,” she said.

“Dax?” Her fathered seemed to disapprove. “Isn’t that a strange name for a cat? Where ever did you come up with that name?”

Merritt turned halfway away from him. She felt as if the kitten was in jeopardy. “I don’t know where it came from,” she said as she rubbed the silky fur. “I just know that I like it and it seems to fit him.”

“Are you even sure that it is a him?” he asked.

Merritt held up the kitten once more and looked beneath its tiny round belly. It was hard to say one way or another at this young age but for some reason, she just knew it was a he. “I’m sure,” she said.

“I’m glad you are pleased,” her father said. “Now come, the Doctor’s said you must rest.” He took her arm and guided her to a door. “Go in and lie down. Snuggle up with your kitty,” he added as he opened the door.

Merritt looked around the space, hoping for something that was familiar, but all she saw was the same misty grayness around the walls and a gray cover upon the bed that was the only piece of furniture in the room. She heard the door close firmly behind her and knew without checking that it was locked. It didn’t matter one way or the other however as she found herself suddenly very tired. Her eyes closed the moment she lay down on the bed but before she drifted off to sleep her finger tips grazed the base of her ring finger.
er last thought as the darkness overcame her was of her ring. She must find it.

“I thought you told me the kitten was white,” Swain exclaimed as he disconnected his Simkey and slid it into the pocket inside of his coat. He positioned his chair for easy rising and stalked to where Merritt lay in her dream like state. Her hands were clutched together with the fingers of her right hand holding onto the base of her left ring finger and her forehead was drawn down as if she were heavily troubled.

“I programmed it white,” Foster said. “What did you see?”

“A black cat with blue eyes,” Swain said. “She named it Dax.”

“Dax?” Foster asked.

“The man with her,” Swain exclaimed. “His name was Dax. At least that’s what she was screaming if I remember correctly.”

Foster raised his eyebrows. “How interesting,” he said. “Her subconscious is compensating for the absence of familiarity. It also appears that it is rewriting the program to adapt to her longings.”

“Fix it,” Swain said in disgust. “I need her to be fully operational as soon as possible.”

“I’ll get right on it,” Foster said. But instead of turning back to his desk, he studied Merritt intently. “Perhaps we should give her a mother,” he mused aloud.

“No,” Swain said. “The simpler the program, the better it will run. She has to trust me. Only me,” he added as he turned to go. He had a council meeting to attend. “Have it working by the time I return,” he snapped as he left.
He walked through his luxurious apartment that covered the entire top floor of one of the most prominent buildings inside the dome. Above him was a rooftop garden full of plants that at one time grew in the Caribbean islands which were now rumored to be nothing more than desolate peaks. No one knew for certain. No one who ventured out to travel what remained of the world ever returned.

The best part about his garden was that he could stand upon a chair and touch the skin that sheltered them from the outside. It felt fragile, as if it could be sliced with a knife, yet it withstood pounding rain and hail and the freezing rains that pelted it in the winter. When he was younger and full of idealism he imagined he was touching the sky. Now he knew better.

Swain entered the lift that only stopped on his floor and the main floor many stories below. It was open on three sides and from it he could survey the city. He saw the many storied buildings, the green areas, the elevated trains that encircled the dome and the moving sidewalks that created a spider web effect from the center of the city to the edge. Everywhere he looked he saw the vid screens. The screens that gave their society all their information, from the latest news to the latest in the celebrity gossip. Screens that were present on every corner, in every office, in every apartment, in every classroom.

Screens that controlled the populace with suggestions made by the Paranormal Research Instruments of Sublimal Messaging called Prisms by those on the council. There were nearly one hundred of them, all kept in simsleep, all heavily guarded and behind locked doors on a floor of the government building. Each Prism was connected to the main frame and each was given instructions which they, in turn, passed on to the populace. Buy this, eat here, avoid this, all suggested to keep the peace within.

Swain allowed himself the luxury of a smile as he quickly descended to the streets below. Now he had his own Prism. One who was programmed to do his bidding and spread his will.

Soon everything he beheld before him would be his.

“All mine,” he said with a smile.

Monday, June 15, 2009

When a story doesn't work part 3

This is chapter two of my proposal. I was fascinated with the thought of a mech hero so here was my chance to have one. Dax as a human was something of an artist, he played the guitar, he was just a genuinely nice guy, trying to get by, who had the good fortune to have an exceptional woman fall in love with him. If you watch American Idol imagine him as Kris Allen. So then this horrible thing happens to him. On his wedding day he's captured, blown apart, tortured and forced into this life that he does not what. I feel like I really put the screws to this guy in this chapter. The response I got from two editors was we just could not empathize with the characters. What? I write strong characters that people love. So maybe it was just my delivery. I was trying to suck the reader into the story. I'll explain more on that process later on. So here's Dax and chapter two.

The Real

Dax slumped between the two mechs that held him by the arms. They seemed frozen in place but there was nothing he could do about it and it didn’t last long enough for him to react, even if it could. They were still one moment and moving the next. A med-tech that emerged from the waiting transport attached an ion ring to his thigh. His leg was gone. He didn’t care about the leg other than the fact that it kept him from running after the thopter that held Merritt captive inside.


Why? Why did they take her? Where were they taking her? What would they do to her? He watched the thopter disappear into the darkness then saw it again when it rose over the treetops and headed towards the dome. How would he ever find her in there?

Merritt…He knew why they took her. There was something about her. Something that could not be defined but he had always known it was there. Every since she came to them in the real there was something about her that made her different from the rest of them.

Dax closed the fist of his left hand to secure the ring she had slipped on his finger not more than an hour before. It was their wedding day. A day that he had longed for since he first met her. Now she was gone. He jumped as he felt a sting in his neck. The med-tech stepped away.

The pain in his thigh stopped as the ion ring took hold. He was still helpless. Still at the mercy of the mechs. Dax looked up at the mech who stood before him. “Where is he taking her?” he asked. He felt weak. Exhausted. Beaten.

The mech looked over his shoulder at the thopter that with the distance looked no larger than a bat before the full moon. He turned back and cocked his head to the side. Dax heard a strange chirp and then the mech spoke. “There is no her,” he said. “Accepted.”

“No her?” Dax exploded but it was an empty rage. His arms were stretched out and firmly held, he was propped on one knee and the numbness from the prick to his neck spread into his arms from his spine. “You saw her,” he gasped as the numb feeling seemed to press against his lunges. “You….saw…her…”

“Accepted,” he heard as the world went black.

The Dome

The light from above burned through his eyes. He wanted to close them but found that simple task impossible. Dax felt strange and disconnected from his body. He was aware of everything but could feel nothing physical. Yet there was pain. Pain in his heart and soul. Pain that throbbed and burned with an unyielding agony.


He remembered what happened. He remembered waking up this morning, was it this morning? He remembered thinking it was the happiest day of his life. He remembered talking to his father. He remembered his sister’s gentle teasing. He remembered how beautiful Merritt looked as she walked to him in the dress that had been his mother’s and her mother’s before and so on through more generations that he could count. He remembered exchanging vows with her. He remembered the terror when they realized that the mech’s from the dome were attacking and how they scattered in several directions. He remembered that he never let go of Merritt’s hand as they ran and tried to hide because there were no weapons. Who brought weapons to a wedding? He remembered that they took her away. The memory of it tore at his insides with a pain so intense that he wanted to scream in frustration, yet he could not move, he could not make a sound; he could not even close his eyes.

Dax knew that he was strapped down on a steel table and he was naked. He felt the straps over his chest, his upper arms, his hips, his thighs, his one ankle and his wrists. He felt the cold metal against his shoulders and buttocks. He felt cold air blow over his skin and goosebumps popped up. He needed to shiver, yet his body was not responding to even the most basic and simple commands. Shivering should just happen, or it would have before his world had been turned upside down.
If only he could turn his head away from the light that felt as if it would burn into his brain.


He heard voices, chatting and laughing, as if nothing was wrong. Everything was wrong. He had to get away, yet how could he? His leg was gone. And he’d give the other one to get Merritt back.

If only he knew where she was. If she was unharmed. If she was frightened. If only he could go back to the hours before and stop it. If only he had done a better job of protecting her.

“Oh, he’s a nice one,” a feminine voice said. “The ones from outside are always so much bigger.”

“They’re nothing more than savages,” a male voice said. “And don’t get distracted. You’re here to learn, not play.”

The light suddenly was gone and Dax realized that it was a body blocking it. He couldn’t blink to refocus but he thought it was the woman. A musky scent drifted over him. She wore perfume, something meant to entice the opposite sex. It seemed strangely out of place among the sterile smells of the room.

“Should his eyes be open?” The woman asked. “I feel like he’s looking at me.”
She looked down at him. “I wish I had lashes like that.” Her face was inches from his. Dax was able to make out a sharp nose on an ordinary face. But all faces were ordinary compared to Merritt’s.

“He’s not looking at you,” the man’s voice said. Dax felt a sharp prick on the bottom of his foot. “He’s unresponsive.”

I can feel everything…The realization hit him….He was paralyzed but not numbed. And he was strapped down to a table. A table with a bright light over it. What were they planning to do to him? He looked in earnest at the woman, trying to make her see, to realize, that he was conscious of everything that was happening around him.
Her hand trailed down his chest. Her nails scraped his skin.

Oh God…

He was so vulnerable. Exposed.

Her fingertips grazed his groin and then moved between his legs and grasped his sac. She enclosed it in her hand and gave a slight squeeze. “Looks like he’s responsive to me,” she said.

“Hmmm,” the man said. “Must be purely reactive.”

“Did you ever consider that maybe I’m that good?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” the man said. “Even I could do that.”

“You want too don’t you?” the woman teased. “I’ve heard that about you.”

“Are you here to learn or are you here to play?” the man asked impatiently.

“They also said you were no fun at all,” the woman said in a pouting tone. She removed her hand from between his legs. If he could have sighed in relief he would have. He felt strangely tense even though he knew his body, except for one significant part, was only lying there. If he could will his muscles to do anything he would.

“He’s wearing a ring,” the woman said as she picked up his left hand.

“Really?” the man replied. “They should have stripped him.”

“Well obviously they missed it,” she said. “Can I?”

“I don’t see why not,” the man said. “It’s not as if he’s going to need it.”

NO! He willed his hand to close, his fist to clench, anything to keep the ring on. Instead it slipped off his finger easily.

“Ohhh,” she said. “It’s very pretty. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Its mine…I made it…them…for us…He could see the pattern, silver and gold twisted together in an unending circle. No beginning, no end, just together, forever, the way he and Merritt were meant to be. One for him, one for her…not for this woman’s thieving hand.

“Lucky you,” the man said. “Consider it a bonus.”

“Oh look, it fits,” she said. “On my thumb,” she added.

I will cut all your fingers off to get it back…

“Quit playing around,” the man said. “We have to take off the other leg.”

“Why?” the woman asked.


“He’ll be unbalanced,” the man replied. Dax heard the sounds. The clink of instruments. The movement of a table. The hum of sonics. “The admanium enhancements will be stronger than his normal leg.”

So if we just gave him one he’d constantly walk in circles?” the woman joked.

The man let out a barking laugh. “Something like that,” he said.
God…they’re making jokes…

“We best have him prepped before the Doc shows up or he’ll be taking off our legs,” the man said. “Put an ion ring on his thigh,” he instructed.

He felt her hands on his thigh, felt the ring go around, felt the pads of her fingers as she fumbled with the catch.

“Here?” she asked.

“Yes, like the other,” the man said. “The Ionizer will keep everything fluid so the admanium can meld.”

“The legs are ready made?” she asked.

“Yes, although it takes a while for the connections to format. Usually a week or so. We use that time for the reprogramming.” The man rattled the table and Dax heard the hum of a sonic saw.

Reprogramming? What did that mean?

The mechs…The mechs raided the Real. They took the men they captured. They were never heard from again after they disappeared into the Dome. Were they reprogrammed? Would reprogramming mean he would not be himself anymore? The mech’s certainly acted like machines, even though they were men. Or were they?
What were they doing?

“The Ionizer will also help cut down on the blood loss,” the man said.

Dax knew what was coming. If only they knew he could still feel. How could they not know? Or maybe they just didn’t care. He wanted to scream, kick, yell, anything to get their attention. He couldn’t even grit his teeth against the coming pain. Nausea rolled through his stomach and it occurred to him that he would probably puke and then choke on it.
hat would be better. Better to be dead than reprogrammed.

But dead meant leaving Merritt…He must find Merritt.

Pain more agonizing than he could imagine tore through his leg. The sonic blade connected with the tissue and it cut through, slowly, severing blood vessels, muscle, and bone. The hum grew louder as it descended into the bone.
God…I’m dying… There was nothing he could do. His body screamed with every molecule yet he was silent and unmoving. Dax felt his eyes well and then tears tracked down his face. Merritt…

How could they not know?

The noise from the sonic blade died away but the pain remained.

“Turn on the ion ring,” the man said. The woman must have complied because the pain suddenly faded away.

He could not even swallow back the bile that threatened to rise in his throat.

“What will you do with his leg?” the woman asked.

“Throw it in the incinerator,” the man replied. “It’s of no use to anyone now.”

He was nothing to them. A project. A learning experience. Dax wanted to see their faces. He wanted to remember them, before he was “reprogrammed”. He wanted to know his torturers because knowledge would fuel his hatred, hatred that gathered in the pit of his stomach and fed off the acid of his pain.

He heard the woosh of a door opening, heard a thump, and realized that it was his leg, gone to vapor, just like the other one. Another door opened.

“Has the subject been prepped?” another man’s voice said.

“Yes sir,” the first man replied. “His legs are ready. I left the rest for you.”

“Who is this?” the man asked.

“I’m Coral sir,” the woman said.

“Nice to meet you Coral,” the second man replied is a voice that implied something more than work.

If he could have rolled his eyes he would have. He was nothing to them. Nothing but a slab on a table to be talked over while whoever was in charge tried to connect with the woman who was probably more than willing. And the other guy watched.
He heard a table move and shadows moved between the light and his eyes. Dax tried to focus. He wanted to remember them.

“Now let’s try not to get these one backwards,” the second man said and the other two laughed. Dax felt heat on his thighs as the second man talked. “This softens the structure,” the man explained,” and enables the bonding. A tingling moved up his nerve endings into his spine. “Complete melding of the tissue, vessels, and nerves,” the man went on. “Amazing. It still astounds me, every time I see it. Of course it takes a while for it to sustain the density of the bone. It even takes on the genetic code so he’ll be the same height as before.”

“Can that be changed Doctor Everts?” the woman asked. So he was a Doctor. Did that justify what he was doing?

“There was some testing done with that some years back,” Everts replied. “But it was all destroyed in the great fire. All lost.”

“I remember that,” the first man said. “It was a great tragedy. Didn’t the head scientist die in that fire?”

“Yes,” Everts said. “Simskin please.”
Dax heard a sound like paper being torn.

“He didn’t back up his work. He was paranoid that way,” Everts continued as Dax felt a pinching around his thigh. “So not only was he lost, but all his work. No one has been able to replicate it.”

“What a shame,” the woman said. “That’s amazing. It looks so real.”

“Unfortunately it’s unable to grow hair,” Everts said.

“It’s not as if he needs it,” the first man said.

“True,” Everts said. “But it makes it unpractical for youth enhancement as if it’s almost too perfect. There’s no color change or glow that would be natural on a face.”

“As in no one wants anyone to know they had work done,” the woman said.

“Exactly,” Everts agreed. Dax felt the pinching again on his other thigh. “The sim skin will meld over the admanium and in a weeks time he’ll be good as new.” Dax heard the clatter of instruments. “Now for the reprogramming.”
The light disappeared again as the Doctor’s head came between Dax and the light. “What the hell?”

“What’s wrong?” the woman asked.

“Where you two idiots not aware that he is conscious?” A face hovered over his, close enough that they were almost nose to nose.

Remember this…Remember…

“I did a reaction test,” the first man said.

“There’s a difference you moron,” Everts exclaimed. “Look at his eyes.”
Another face appeared before Dax. He gathered in the details as best he could, square jaw, light brown hair cut extremely short. Small brown eyes, thin lips and an upturned nose.

Remember him…

“Unconscious men don’t cry,” Everts said. “Those are tears. The med techs paralyzed him for transport. It was up to you to put him out.”

“Do you mean he felt everything?” the woman asked.

“He felt everything and he heard everything,” Everts said angrily. “Poor bastard,” he added.

Thank you so much, Dax said silently. I’ll remember that when I kill all of you.
Dax heard the noise of a drill.

“Will somebody put this guy out of his misery?” Everts said impatiently. Dax felt a sting in his arm and the light began to fade.

It still was not black when he felt the drill go into his temple.


“*blip* 14:29/09/09/2202 Dallas Five-five on line. Acknowledge. *blip*” The symbols trailed across the plastigrid that covered his eyes. Pain shot through his temples and he gave his head a quick shake as he tried to focus on the words.
“*blip* Acknowledge. *blip*” the voice repeated.

“Accepted,” he replied.

“Five-five respond to my command,” the man before him said.

He turned his head to look at the voice. It belonged to a man in uniform who stood before a table containing a holi-vid and keyboard. A simkey was inserted in the man’s temple and it glowed with a green light. His scanner moved and the identity moved across his screen. Baker. Techno. Dallas Squadron. “Acknowledge,” he said.

“Stand,” Baker said.

“Accepted,” he said and stood.

“Walk to me,” Baker said.

He looked down at his legs. He was conscious of the fact that he was nude except for the visor that went across his eyes and was somehow connected to his head at the temples. He wanted to reach up and touch his head. He felt a strange pressure around his skull He moved his hands and stared down at them. He turned them over, palms up.

There was something missing.

“*blip* Acknowledge walk to me. *blip*

His head snapped up. “Accepted,” he said and walked to Baker.

“I’m guessing your momma thought you were stubborn Five-five,” Baker said. “We’ll have to make a few adjustments to your programming.”

Five-five stared at Baker. He needed a definition of the word “momma” but none was forthcoming so he waited.

A pain shot through his temple but he made no move in response to it. He was incapable of it.

“That should do it,” Baker said. “Get dressed Five-five.”

“Accepted,” he said and walked to the clothing that lay on a table.

Just a side note. I loved the *blips* Will have to find a way to use them someday.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

When a story doesn't work, Part 2

Now more on the journey of my proposal. Below is chapter one. When I envisioned this story, the world was a dark and dreary place. I cannot imagine one part of this story taking place in the sunshine although I'm sure I would have worked some in. Its just the overall concept is just dark.

While I usually am pretty regualr at writing stories from the H/H pov, (unless in first person like Twist) I decided that I needed to do some pov of the antagoist. You will noticed the tone is omnipotent, which is how Swaim sees himself.

Also adding, I am dyslexic and horrible at grammer. The follow has not been edited.

The Real

They were like insects scurrying to their holes. Vile creatures. If only they could be exterminated. But even insects served their purpose and these would serve his. He watched them move from his position fifty feet up in the air, safe on his thoptor as the LED’s tracked back and forth on the uneven ground below.

“We’re locked.”

Swain turned from the view port to the console where a young techno, fresh out of academy, stood over a holi-vid. His nostrils flared as he approached the younger. Only purebloods were allowed to be near him. He smelled the usual array of bodily odors, more so since the younger was nervous. But no admanium. There was not any mechanized enhancements on this techno as there would be none on anyone else aboard this craft.

“Here,” the techno said. His finger trembled as he pointed to the ruins of a building. It cut through the blue line of the three dimensional representation that hovered over the surface. Inside the building a lavender blob could be seen, accompanied by a smaller red blob. They moved quickly through the ruins on the surface as if they knew where they were going.

Luckily so did he. Swain allowed himself a small smile.

“We’ll take them here,” he said and pointed to a place where three paths converged upon the ruins. The techno tapped the screen of his vid and the image was transferred to the terrain transport below along with an image of his finger, pointing out the places where he planned to lay his trap. “Place your men,” he said to the land unit below, as usual being proper in his address even though his skin crawled at the thought of referring to the hybrids awaiting their orders below as men. But even one of the members of the Protectorate must obey the chosen guidelines of society so that no grievances may be filed against him. “Here and here,” he continued.

“Command accepted,” the ground commander said as if he had a choice in the matter.

“These readings are off the chart,” his assistant, Foster, hissed in his ear. “I’ve never seen anything like it except for…”

Swain turned quickly less Foster give something away. “Show me,” he said and Foster turned his scanner so the screen was visible. The lavender blob covered most of the screen, greatly overshadowing the companion red blob. “Any way of knowing which one it is?”

“Not until we’re on the ground and I can separate the scans.”

“Make sure they are not harmed,” Swain said.

“Ground.” Foster tapped his earpiece. “Both are to be taken unharmed.”

“Accepted,” ground came back.

“Get me down there,” Swain barked. “And quickly.” He didn’t trust the hybrids with his find. Especially if there was a new one among them. There had been occasions when their programming was faulty. There had been occasions when the “Kill” order was the only thing they could comprehend. He was not one to trust others to do something when he was capable of doing it himself. It was the only way he could be assured that it was done the correct way. His way.

The thopter moved quickly, arcing up then quickly down to a wide empty space among the ruins of the former metropolis. At one time it had more than likely been a parking lot. Now it was simply a flat place covered with a thick and cloying grass that encroached upon the pavement instead of sprouting from it. Not that it mattered to him what was beneath his feet beyond the fact that his shoes would have to be destroyed upon his return. The Real was dirty, unkempt and wild. Swain preferred the orderliness and cleanliness of the Dome.

“Savages,” he spit out as the thopter settled. Yet they did have their uses. Where else would they find workers for the lesser jobs since those on the inside had long ago learned the consequences of going against the gentle reminders of how life should be inside? Peace must be maintained. Those who did not maintain the flow of peace would be assigned a better way to serve the general populace.

The truth be told, they needed them as a barrier between the Dome and the droves of bandits called Scrabbers that roared down from the mountains every time the full moon came round. They needed them to replenish the army that was the only barrier between civilization and chaos.

The same army that awaited his orders as he stepped out of the thopter. He looked right and left. The squads had better be in place and waiting to ambush the two that would be coming this way or there would be a reckoning.
The commander of the ground forces stood well away from the thopter blades with his expressionless face turned towards him. Swain saw the thin red beam cross over his goggles which meant the commander was scanning him for proper identification. The lights from the ground transport shone across the area and cast distorted shadows upon the cushion of sprawling grass.

He would have to make sure that all records of his actions here tonight were erased. There was nothing to worry about. Foster would see to it. He could feel him on his heels even now.

“Squad Four and Five is still in pursuit sir,” the commander of the troop said. The voice sounded familiar to Swain and he spared a look at the square jaw and mobile mouth that showed beneath the visor. He must have come across the hybrid at sometime. Possibly in his youth before the soldier was adapted. The society in the dome was such that it was possible. The hybrid had been in the service long enough to rise to commander.

Why are you even thinking of this metal remnant? He is not important.

“You are positive that all other escapes routes are covered?” Swain snapped.

“As you ordered,” the commander said without a sound of emotion in his voice.

“Foster,” Swain said. “As soon as you are sure.”

“I will let you know,” Foster said. Was there a note of surliness in his voice? Swain refused to turn and look at his assistant. If there was, he would rout it out later. What was about to happen was too important. “The only way to tell is to separate them.”

Swain motioned upwards with a finger, casually turning it in the air and the thopter lifted off to hover above and await his next order.

“This way sir,” the commander said and turned to lead them to a safe place to watch the proceedings. Four men closed ranks around them. The transport backed away and turned off its lights. The only sound to be heard was the soft thump-thump of the thopter’s blades.

The commander was one of twenty-five in a squadron which consisted of five five man squads. Each member was designated as a number depending upon seniority and each squad was numbered. The commander was known as One-one, if he needed to be called by name which Swain was disinclined to do. The Squadrons all had different codes to discern them from the others. There were 100 squadrons in all, each one named after cities from the old world order. This squadron was called Dallas. Something he needed to remember for later, when their work was done for the night.

“Reissue the no-kill order,” Swain said. If Squad Five was in pursuit then it was the least experienced squad and the most likely to make a mistake.

“Accepted,” One-one replied. “No kill,” he said into his mouthpiece. “Repeat. No kill. Acknowledge.”

Swain heard the strange chirps that signified a response as a litany of Accepteds coming in through One-one’s earpiece. Foster’s echoed the same, only without the chirp. It was something in the hybrids programming. Something he found strangely annoying as if they were privy to some sort of secrets. Perhaps he should look into it upon his return.

There was nothing to do now but wait. He stood off to the side with the five mechs surrounding him with their Lasters charged and ready. Foster squirmed in anticipation beside him and kept up a running monologue with his scanner as if it would reveal more about the two that would soon fall into his hands. They had too. There was no place else for them to go.

Swain studied the layout once more. The ruined buildings that surrounded him seemed strangely elegant in the dim glow that shone from the dome in the distance. Almost as if they could come to life at any minute. Ivy twisted around columns that arched over broken steps and the trees that grew against the buildings swayed gently in the breeze created by the thopter that hovered above. Generations ago this had more than likely been a center of learning for the old world order. A college or university of some sort. Now it was nothing more than a haven for the rebels that roamed the real and tried to eke out a life among the ruins.

A strange shiver ran up his spine and he felt as if he were being watched. As if the buildings around him stared him down and whispered threats into his ear.

Nonsense. It was more than likely there were people inside, hiding in fear, watching and waiting, just as he was. He would order the area purged when this was over. When he found what he wanted.

One-one turned to him, his face strangely vacant beneath the visor.

What does he see? Does he see what I see or an image translated onto a screen? What was behind the visor? Would One-one’s eyes look upon him with respect or contempt for what society made him? What he made himself…Swain corrected his train of thought One-one chose his path. He knew the consequences of breaking the laws.

What is wrong with you? For some strange reason he felt morbid tonight. He was seeing motives that could not possibly exist; he was assigning emotions where there could be none. Why did he feel so unsettled when he was on the verge of finding the very thing he’d been searching for?

“The target will be acquired in mark ten, nine, eight…One-one intoned.

Swain kept his eyes locked on the building before him. From his peripheral could see the two squads on either side move up on the building. He saw lights flashing across the black holes that at one time were windows. The squads were herding them out, right into the trap. One-one motioned his squad forward.

Swain stopped when Foster touched his arm. He looked down at the offending hand and his lip curled in contempt.

“Shouldn’t we stay back?” Foster asked. “In case they are armed?”

Swain swallowed his temper. He was too anxious. Too excited. This was too important. “Of course,” he said. He allowed Foster a reassuring nod to let him know he was forgiven for encroaching upon his personal space and moved to the side to wait.

He heard a crash. Swain willed his eyes to pierce the darkness and was suddenly blinded as the transport and the thopter lit up the area at the same time. He squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them.

Two figures ran across the front of the building. A man and a woman. The man held the woman’s hand, keeping her close to his side. She seemed ethereal against the dark color of the building. The light shining upon her enhanced the white of her dress along with the shimmering silver of her hair. Both flew about her body as the thopter hovered overhead.

“Anything?” Swain had to raise his voice to be heard over the thopter.

“Still too close,” Foster said.

The three squads converged upon the duo. The man feinted one way, turned to run the other. He kept hold of the woman’s hand until he realized there was no escape. He pushed her behind his body and backed her to the wall. Swain willed his body to stay at a walk as he and Foster moved toward the two who were now surrounded. At least twenty Laster’s were aimed at the two.

“Metals!” Swain spat out curse in disgust. “We’ll be lucky if they don’t kill both of them.”

“Stand down,” Foster yelled into his earpiece. “They’re not going anywhere.”

The Laster’s were lowered as he walked into the circle of mech’s. As one they stepped back with their weapons pointed safely upward.

The man stood tall and strong. His chest moved with the exertion of his flight but his dark eyes betrayed no fear as they moved back and forth across the mechs, seeking an escape route. There was none, still his hands curled into fists as if he would fight his way through. Swain saw a spark of hatred as he stepped forward. The man knew Swain was the one responsible. He knew the mechs were just following orders. He knew where to direct his frustration.

“What do you want?” the man said. The woman peered over his shoulder, her eyes wide and pale in the light. They shone with something… not fear… was it anger? She had spirit. He felt something he had not felt for a long time. A challenge? How extraordinary. His loins tightened suddenly. The feeling was a pleasant surprise because it was not something that happened for him, at least not this easily and never without a certain type of outside stimulation.

Which one? No matter which, he would keep the woman. If it was her it would certainly simplify things.

Swain kept his eyes on the man but he spoke to Foster. “Anything?”

“We must separate them,” Foster said.

“Do it,” Swain ordered.

“Two-one, Three-one,” One-one said. “Take the male without regret.”

“Accepted.” Swain watched as two of the mechs from either side of the circle handed their weapons off and moved to take the man.

They approached him from both sides. He watched them warily with his eyes darting back and forth between the two. Suddenly he moved. He dropped into a leg sweep and with his shoulder shoved the falling man into the other one while removing the stunner from the mech’s hip. Before Swain could blink the man fired and rolled. He came up beside another mech and caught the Laster before the hybrid hit the ground.

“It’s her,” Foster hissed as the woman moved after him.

“Are you sure?”

The man leveled the Laster on another mech and fired. The proton blast hit the man square in the chest plate and he fell backwards and shook violently. A scream tore from his throat as the admanium in his system exploded from the minute nuclear blast and he was torn apart from the inside out. It happened so fast that there was no time for the mechs to react as they had not received new orders from One-one. They were still on stand down mode. Held in place by the No-kill warning.
The man handed the downed mechs Laster to the woman.

“I’m sure,” Foster said. He ducked as a Laster blast went off over their heads, aimed toward the thopter. The thopter pulled up and away as another blast followed it.

“Take out the man,” Swain said.

“Revoke kill on male subject,” One-one said calmly. Instantly weapons were leveled. “Take the female unharmed. Repeat. Kill male subject. Take female subject.”

“No!” the woman screamed.

The man shoved the woman forward and swung the Laster in a wide arc, firing the entire time. Swain and Foster both dropped with their hands over their heads as if that would protect them from the blatant destruction of body that the Laster would cause. One-one and the rest of his squad took up defensive positions around them.

“Dax!” She screamed it. As if she were the one dying.

If they hurt her I will tear each one of them apart bit by bit…
Swain looked up. The woman was on the ground, cradling the man against her chest. The man’s face was twisted in agony and Swain realized the man’s right leg was gone, blasted away by a Laster at mid-thigh. Still he was able to reach for his Laster and he held it steadily in his hands as the mechs approached.

“Merritt,” he said. “Go. I’ll hold them off.”

“No,” she cried out.

Swain approached the group.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Foster said from behind. “Her PNA is off the charts.

“Excellent,” Swain said.

“GO!” the man roared.

“If you move we will kill him,” Swain said calmly to the woman.

“I’m dead anyway,” the man spat out. How could he talk? His leg was gone, nothing but a bloody and charred stump remained. The front of the woman’s dress was covered with blood. It showed black against the pristine white of her long white dress. The LED’s from the thopter shone down upon them and she stared up at him with eyes that flashed with silver.

“What do you want with us?” the woman asked.

Swain looked at her and smiled. “Why Merritt,” he said. “Didn’t you know? I want you.”

She looked at him curiously and he saw the realization settle over her face. “If I go with you, will you let him go?” she said.

“Merritt,” the man ground out between clenched teeth. “You can’t trust him.”

“Will you get him help?” she continued. “Make sure he lives?”

“Of course I will,” Swain said. He held out his hand in what he hoped was encouragement.

She looked at the weapons leveled on them. The building was at her back. There was no place for her to go and no hope of help coming from any direction. She bent her head and gently kissed the man. “I love you Dax,” she said. “Never forget it.” She slid from beneath him and lowered his head to the ground.

“Merritt!” he yelled as she stood and straighten her dress. He struggled, bracing himself up with is arms. It was if he could stand up with determination and stubbornness. Neither was a sufficient replacement for a leg.

Swain shook his head in surprise as he looked at the woman. If he didn’t know better he would swear it was a wedding dress she wore. It resembled the ones that he’d seen in the vids from the past. She stepped away and was instantly flanked by two mechs. As they walked her to him a team of mechs yanked the Laster from the man, Dax, she’d called him and trained their weapons upon him.

“Merritt,” Swain said when she stood before him. “I am most happy to meet you.”
She punched him. Hard. His head snapped back and he felt a crack in his jaw along with the coppery taste of his own blood. He swiped a hand over his face as he tongued the inside of his cheek. Was that a tooth? He spit it into his hand. Anger swelled over him and he clenched his fist over the tooth as he felt his cock harden. It took every bit of his will not to strike her.

She had no fear in her eyes. Only anger. Her white blonde hair tumbled around her shoulders and her bosom heaved with emotion. Her pale blue eyes bore into him, daring him to strike her.

“Orders?” One-one asked him.

Swain looked beyond Merritt to the man who obviously wanted to kill him. If he could do it with a look then he would most certainly be a dead man. A smile moved over his face as he realized that he could strike out at her, without actually lowering himself to show violence in front of his men.

“He’s yours,” Swain said. “To replace the one you lost.”

“No!” Merritt said. “You bastard!” She lunged for him. She sunk her nails into his cheek and raked them down. Swain staggered back with his hand over his cheek. He realized that he lost his tooth.

“Do something about her,” Swain said as he stumbled toward the thopter that had settled behind him.

“Stun her,” Foster said. Swain heard the charge of the stunner. He heard her fall and he heard the man, Dax struggle and calling her name. A hand reached out to help him into the thopter but he slapped it away and settled into a seat. A medic was there, waiting. He sprayed steriskin on his cheek and the burning immediately went away.

One-one stepped inside with Merritt in his arms. He placed her in the chair beside him and turned away without a word. Foster climbed in after One-one stepped out. Swain arched an eyebrow at him in silent communication. Foster handed him the port key.

Swain pushed the key into the admanium simport that was buried in his temple. The LED on the end glowed green to show it was communicating with the computer on board. As the thopter took off, Swain saw the mechs freeze in place as they received their orders to forget everything they’d seen tonight. When questioned about their activities Dallas squadron would report that they had captured a thief and rehabilitated him. “Make sure there are no witnesses,” Swain said to Foster. Foster immediately tapped his earpiece and ordered another squadron out to sweep the area.

Swain looked at the woman that slumped in the chair next to him. She was young, he realized, younger than the fight she’d shown. She was also exquisitely beautiful and once again he felt his cock harden. He would have to make sure the pleaser he used tonight had the same silvery blonde hair and pale blue eyes.
Not that it would matter what she looked like when he was done with her.