Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Nocturnal Rebellion (Page 1 of 2)

Old plots made new

Like most writers, I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. Once I knew how to write, I started putting those stories down on paper. Some, I remember and others I no longer do. That’s like there are some of those old stories I still have in hard copy, whether written out long hand or typed or printed. Most of them will never see the light of day. No way and no how. However, that doesn’t mean some of those characters or the plots don’t come back to tickle my imagination from time to time.

That is exactly the situation I found myself in last night. I’d spent much of the day doing writerly housekeeping. I blogged about some of that yesterday. Maybe that’s why, when I finally packed away the laptop and relaxed for the evening, my imagination refused to settle down. But, instead of thinking about any of the titles I’d made notes on during the day, it turned to a “novel” (and I use that term loosely) I wrote probably 25 years ago.

I’ll be honest. There has always been something about the main character in that novel that’s intrigued me. Hell, let’s be honest, it’s called to me. But I knew the novel wasn’t anywhere close to salvageable, much less publishable. So it has sat and, unknown to me, it’s been waiting for me to figure out what to do with it.

So, instead of going to bed last night when I should have, I pulled up what what I have been able to find on old discs and read through it. Oh my, my instincts were right. The book is a mess. A very big, stinking pile of a mess. But there is some goodness in there as well. The biggest issue is that I tried to put too many plots and sub-plots into the mix. Even though I know the story, I got confused. But, there was some good stuff in it, more a feel and characters than actual writing and plotting.

Let’s face it, the story structure sucked eggs.

So, hoping I hadn’t just cursed myself with yet another book or — gasp — another series, I shut down the laptop once again and went to bed. I slept better than usual and woke with the main character and her backstory teasing me. I can almost see where my subconscious wants me to go and have already made three pages of notes.  I’m still not sure it will work, at least not in the way my mind is currently taking it, but I’m intrigued.

I know enough now about writing to understand this will be something where I throw out everything I wrote before, barring one or two scenes. But the main character and her backstory are awesome, or at least they have the potential of being awesome. She’s been broken and has worked hard to pull herself and her life back together again. She most certainly isn’t a superwoman or a Mary Sue. The scars are what makes her interesting and human. I love those kinds of characters.

Below is a scene from the original work. I think I’ve posted this before but, if I have, it’s been a long time ago. But this is what started me thinking about her again and that got Myrtle the Evil Muse thinking, which is never a good thing. At least not for my schedule. The only thing I have done today is change the main character’s name because, well, it will have to be if I actually move forward with this project. If I do, I don’t know if this scene will actually make it into the book or if it will only be referenced. Anyway, here goes.

***

Coarse ropes bit painfully into skin rubbed raw. Rivulets of blood, some dried and others all too fresh, traced a wild map of varying shades of red down her body. Lips, dry and cracked, bled onto the filthy rag that gagged her. Her mind screamed in fear and agony. Screams of silence. She no longer possessed the strength to even moan in protest. All she wanted, all she prayed for, was a release from her torment. Even death was preferable to what she’d been forced to endure the last few hours.

Had it only been hours? It seemed like an eternity in the Hell the village priest had warned them of when she was younger. That Hell where all your sins were revisited upon you in the most horrendous ways because you’d been foolish enough not to repent.

But this wasn’t Hell. This was all too real.

Eyes closed, she forced herself to breathe slowly, evenly. Through the fog of fear and pain, she knew one thing: she couldn’t let him know she was awake. If he knew, he’d hurt her again and she couldn’t stand that. She simply couldn’t!

Dear God, just take her before it begins again.

The rustle of leaves, the tread of a step and she knew her ruse hadn’t worked. But maybe she was wrong. Please, let her be wrong, let it be an animal, anything but him.

She lifted her head and forced her swollen eyes open. Despair washed over her. It was Hell. Hell on Earth and she could do nothing about it.

“Well, little one, have you been enjoying our time together this afternoon?” One finger lightly traced a pattern across her breasts and down her belly.

His voice sent shivers down her spine. A single tear tracked down her cheek, burning the cuts he’d so carefully inflicted earlier. Her stomach knotted and lurched and she struggled not to be sig. The small part of her brain that still worked knew that would be bad, very bad, gagged as she was. But what did it matter? She’d soon be dead any way. Did the manner of death really matter after all she’d been through?

“What is it, Meggie? Too choked up to talk?” he taunted. His hand cupped her right cheek, his face so close she could smell the stale odor of whiskey on his breath as well as the cigarettes he’d smoked – and used for things her mind flinched away from. “Surely that’s not the case. I’ve never known the time when you’ve not had something to say.”

Even if she hadn’t been gagged, she couldn’t have replied. She’d never have the words necessary to tell the shitehawk how she felt. He’d stolen apart of her that day, a vital part. One she’d never be able to recover.

Damn him!

When she didn’t respond, not that much of a response was possible, he laughed gaily. Then his hands turned rough as he once again sent them across her already battered body. If she could have, she’d have shuddered in revulsion. Instead, she moaned lowly as she realized the nightmare wasn’t over, not yet.

Not ever.

***

As I said, this was written years ago. My craft has, I hope, improved, but this character is one that keeps coming back to me. We’ll see where it goes, if anywhere. In the meantime, don’t forget that Nocturnal Rebellion is now available for purchase. You can click on the link above or the image to the left for more information. Or you can click on any of the images on the right of the page for information about those titles.

Until later!

Cover Reveals

I am so excited. I have the covers for my next two projects. The first is for Light Magic, the newest title in the Eerie Side of the Creek Series. This book acts as a bridge of sorts between Skeletons in the Closet and Witchfire Burning by bringing some of the characters together. I can’t wait for you to see where it goes. Anyway, here’s the mock-up for the cover.

This second is the mock-up for the expanded edition of Vengeance from Ashes. There is still some tweaking to be done, but it has the right feel and I’m excited to see what the final version will be.

I’ll be back later today with another post. Until then, why not check out Nocturnal Rebellion?

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

Later!

Release Day!

It’s here!

Nocturnal Rebellion is live on Amazon.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did writing it. Now I’m off to finish my post for Mad Genius Club. Stop by over there in an hour or so and say “hi”.

One more day

Oh, crap! Now I’m going to have that tune running around in my head all day. It’s not that I don’t like Les Miz, but that’s not what this post is about. Worse, I know what my evil muse is like. She will take a song about the French Revolution and decide I need to write something “worthy” of that people’s revolution. Nope, not on the charts. Not right now, at any rate.

Anyway, tomorrow is the day for Nocturnal Rebellion to be released. I can’t wait. I really hope you guys enjoy it. While this ends one story arc for Mac and company, there will be other stories. Mac’s too loud to just fade away. Besides, I like her and her friends.

Here’s the blurb:

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

In the meantime, I’m back to work today. Next up is an entry in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series. I haven’t figured out if this is a short story or novella, mainly because this one ambushed me not long ago with an opening that won’t let go. The main character is Amy Duchamp, Lexie’s best friend and Miss Serena’s granddaughter. We first met Amy in Skeletons in the Closet.

My gut feeling is this will be the next installment in the Skeletons story arc. At least that’s the way it feels right now. Anyway, here’s what hit me and what isn’t letting go:

“I still say you should have named it Bell, Book and Candle.”

I grimaced. We’d had this discussion before. “Absolutely not. No self-respecting witch would ever name her bookstore after that movie!”

The only problem was I was more than a self-respecting witch. I was a self-respecting witch with bills to pay and who liked really nice shoes. Maybe Lexie was right. Not that I’d ever tell her. . . .

Many of the cast of characters — and I do mean characters — from Skeletons in the Closet, Witchfire Burning and Slay Bells Ring will be making appearances. And, yeah, Lexie’s mom still has her undead problem and her mother-in-law problem. I’m not sure if she will ever learn her lesson.

 

And it’s done!

I just hit the enter button and uploaded the release version for Nocturnal Rebellion. Now comes the waiting. Waiting for Amazon to approve the file and waiting to see how you guys like it once it is available for download on the 15th. I really love this book and hope you do as well.

Whenever I finish a book, there’s a short period of time when I don’t necessarily grieve but when I feel the loss of the characters. After all, they’ve been alive for me for months. Now, suddenly, they won’t be a part of my every day life. It’s as though my best friends decided to move away and we can’t get together whenever we want.

I’m feeling that and more right now. Rebellion marks the end of the current story arc for Mac and company. There are more stories to tell but thing have changed in major ways for Mac, not only in the previous books but most especially in this one. Her life, as a cop and as a shapeshifter, will never be the same. Most of the changes are for the good but some, well, you’ll have to wait and see.

So, before you ask, yes, there will be more stories in this world. I need to take some time later this year and figure out exactly what they are and start planning them out. Mac is already tossing ideas out there — of course, because my muse is evil, it might not be Mac but her jaguar doing the tossing. 😉

Next up will be a new installment in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series, probably something to follow up Skeletons in the Closet.  I say probably because my muse is EVIL. I never really know until I start working what she is going to make me do.  For today and the rest of the weekend, however, I’m going to be helping with the book sale at our local library.

I’ll be back to regular blogging Monday.

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Nocturnal Rebellion and help spread the word that release date is the 15th. Thanks!

 

Murphy didn’t go home

Last week, I asked Murphy to go home. Unfortunately, he’s decided he likes it here. The fallout from his prolonged visit is that blogging hasn’t happened. For that, I apologize. After a day filled with nothing but repairmen yesterday, I’m hoping today is better. Writing has been happening, in between service calls. That’s what is important.

I’ll try to be back later with a real post. In the meantime, don’t forget that Nocturnal Rebellion is currently available for pre-order. Release date is Aug. 15th. You can click on the image or follow the link above. Thanks!

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

 

Murphy, go home!

Life is nothing if not interesting. Of course, when it’s interesting in the proverbial sense, I tend to wish for dull and boring. But it is getting there. I simply need to learn to listen to not only my muse — she is an evil bitch but she does seem to know when I need to switch gears and write something new — and to my gut. In this particular case, it would have let me sleep an extra hour this morning and not have to reschedule a trip to the mechanic. Oh well, I’m up if not fully functioning.

Oh, and the plumber is due later today. Hopefully, since this is just the annual check, he’ll find nothing wrong. Please let him find nothing wrong. We’ve already had one plumbing emergency this month. I don’t need any more.

On the writing front, things are rocking and rolling. I’ve set Nocturnal Rebellion aside for the rest of the week. I’ll pick it up Monday or Tuesday of next week, convert it for my Kindle Oasis, and give it one last read. Then the final file will be uploaded for publication. Remember, it is available for pre-order now. Publication date is August 15th.

I will admit, right now I feel like Mac does in the book. Of course, while she wishes for a simple, straight-forward murder to investigate (one without shifters or the government involved), I just want a week without complications.

I am also about halfway through the updates on Vengeance from Ashes. The expanded version doesn’t change the story line but it does expand on some scenes and there will be a few new scenes/chapters as well. I still love the original novel but this is sort of my version of the “director’s cut” of the book. I’m hoping you guys love the additional material as well.

Next up in that series will probably be a short story followed quickly by the next full-length novel. At least that’s what Myrtle the Evil Muse says. Lately, however, I’ve learned there is someone more evil than Myrtle and who has even more control over my writing than she does — Murphy.

And I tell you, whoever invited that Irish trickster and master of chaos into the country, much less to my house, needs to be hunted down and hung. I am so over Murphy right now. So, before he decides it’s time to get up and complicate my life any further, I’m out of here. However, here’s a little tease from Nocturnal Rebellion:

The man crawled slowly toward the bar, dragging himself inch by painful inch. He didn’t know what happened or why. One moment, everything had been normal. Drinking, smoking, whoring. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then the door opened. He’d looked up, as had others, and frowned to see four people he didn’t recognize. Few dared come to the bar without an invitation. Those few who did usually turned around and left before taking more than a step or two inside. That’s all it took to realize The Hellhound was the sort of biker bar outsiders weren’t welcome at.

And there was no way the four were bikers. Dressed all in black, they walked further inside, seemingly oblivious to the looks in their direction. Then they’d stopped. One of them pointed right and then left. Two others broke off, moving quicker and more silently than they should have been able to. As they did, the tension in the room ratcheted up a notch.

That’s when the surreal turned into nightmare. The fourth person, a woman, stepped up to one of the two tops. Before the biker he knew only as Ranger could react, her hand fisted in the man’s long hair. She pulled his head back, baring his throat. A knife appeared in her other hand. Its blade slid along Ranger’s neck. Blood sprayed and she released him, stepping back and watching as he crumpled to the floor. The fallen biker gurgled once, blood flecking his lips, before dying.

Now for more coffee and to get back to work on an editing gig before sitting down to do some more writing. Later!

Nocturnal Rebellion Snippet

Nocturnal Rebellion is now available for pre-order. It’s been a tough road getting it there. Between real life interfering and the story taking a few left turns on me — all good for the story but they threw me because they weren’t what I expected.  (I know, silly me. I ought to know by now that Myrtle the Evil Muse loves to torment me.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy writing Mackenzie Santos. From the very first book, Nocturnal Origins, (currently on sale for $0.99) she’s been a character that challenged me. She’s a dedicated cop with a complicated relationship with her family, especially her mother. The family secret, one she’s not let in on until it’s too late, is why that relationship has been so strained over the years. Mac’s always known there are monsters out there. As a homicide detective, she deals with them on a daily basis. What she didn’t know until the day she died — and came back — was that not all the monsters were human, or “normals”. Now she suddenly turns furry and that’s one secret she has to protect because the world simply isn’t ready to know shapeshifters exist outside of bad Hollywood movies and literature.

Except life is never easy. Over the course of the series, Mac’s learned shifter politics are more complicated — and deadly — than anything she’s ever had to deal with. Now shapeshifters face rebellion within their kind. Complicating matters even more, they have to find a way to make their existence known to the normal world without causing a panic and a modern day version of the witch hunts. That’s the background against which Nocturnal Rebellion opens.

***

The bullpen fell silent as Chief of Detectives, Luis Santiago, moved to the front of the room. The look on his face mirrored how they each felt. Disbelief, sorrow and anger – but mostly anger – burned in his dark eyes. They knew why he was there. Every cop, not to mention every cop’s family, faced this possibility each time they reported for duty. But that didn’t make it any easier, especially not when it hit this close to home.

Santiago looked around the squad room, making eye contact with each person there. It didn’t surprise him to find more than the day shift present. He had no doubt were he to check the other squads under his command, he would find the same thing. When a cop went down in the line of duty, no one worried about vacation or sick leave. Every cop, no matter what their rank or their assignment, would report in, ready to do all they could to find the perps responsible. That knowledge made him proud to be part of the long blue line. Not that it made this part of his job any easier. Fortunately, it was not something he had to do often, but even once was one time to many.

Standing there, seeing how each of those assigned to Homicide waited, hoping he had good news for them but knowing he did not, he drew a deep breath. He could have let someone else handle this. But that would have been the easy way out and he had never been one to push the uncomfortable parts of the job off on someone else. Besides, he owed it to them, and to their lieutenant, to make sure they understood that even though he no longer worked cases on the board, he was still one of them. He hurt with them and he thirsted for the same vengeance they did.

“I’m not going to tell you this gets easier. It doesn’t and each of you knows it. Let’s be honest. This squad has faced more than its fair share of challenges these last two years.” He paused and reached up to rub his eyes, burning with unshed tears, with thumb and forefinger. As he did, he felt every one of the last twenty-six hours he had been awake. Twenty-six hours of sitting vigil at the hospital and then talking with family members, of briefing Chief of Police Darnell Culver, and of doing all he could to head off any interference by the feds. Three of his own had gone down and he was damned if he was going to let the feds or any other agency take over the case. Then he cleared his throat and continued. “Each and every time, you have risen to the challenge and done what was necessary to carry out your duties as members of the DPD. I know I’m asking a lot now, but I need you to do so once again.

“The next few days are going to be difficult for the entire force, but especially for you. You not only lost one of your own yesterday but others of the cop family as well. I’ve spend a great deal of time with the families of our fallen brethren and they’ve asked me to let you know arrangements have been made. They thank each of you for all the time you have spent with them since the ambush. They have asked that, until the funeral, members of this squad continue to be with them. They know you were all family and they will feel better having someone who knew their loved one with them. Sergeant Collins, I’ll leave it to you to arrange schedules to accommodate this request.” He glanced at the squad’s acting commander and she nodded, her expression grim.

“In three days, we will lay the first of our fallen, to rest. I expect each of you to be there in dress uniform, representing not only this squad but the best of the force. Show the city that we bleed blue. Then show them that DPD does its job, no matter what. Find the bastards responsible for the ambush and bring them in to face justice.

“It would be easy to seek vengeance. I understand that feeling because I share it. No one, no matter who they are, is allowed to kill one of our own. But we will not lower ourselves, or the rest of DPD, down to those bastards’ level. Find them and bring them in. We will let the courts deal with them and, when the time comes, we will be sitting on the front row of the viewing chamber when they are brought in for their executions.” He glanced around as detectives, uniformed officers and clerical workers nodded grimly. “Do your lieutenant proud and find those bastards before they manage to kill anyone else.”

As one, everyone present turned to look at the darkened office with its closed door and silence so profound it felt almost alive filled the squad room. Then a tall blonde with short cropped hair, her expression stone-cold, pain reflected in her eyes, stepped forward. The others waited, watching as she approached Santiago.

“Sergeant Collins, the squad is yours,” the Chief of Detectives said. “Close this case before the feds try to take over. We will not step aside for anyone, not this time.”

The blonde nodded. As she did, she blinked back the tears swimming in her eyes. “Yes, sir.”

He nodded once and shook her hand. Then he turned and left the squad room. As the door closed behind him, Pat drew a deep breath. Whether she liked it or not, the squad was hers and she had a duty to do, a duty to the DPD, her partner and her squad.

“The Chief’s right,” she said softly. She did not try to hide her grief. Each person in the room shared it. “We have to work this like any other case, but let’s be honest. This isn’t just any other case and it never will be. We will have the press looking at everything we do, questioning each move and every word spoken. Worse, IAB is going to be nosing around.” She held up a hand before anyone could protest.

“Hear me on this. No one likes the idea of the rat squad poking around. This squad has first-hand knowledge how they can twist things to meet their own needs. So I want every i dotted and every t crossed in this investigation. Work this case like your life depends on it because it very well may. We have cop killers running loose on our streets and none of us are safe until we find them. So, when IAB comes calling, we will answer their questions. The quicker we do, the quicker we get them out of the squad and out of the investigation. Don’t play games with them. If they ask or allude to anything that sets off your warning bells, let me know.

“From now until this case is solved, it’s all hands on deck. All vacation time is canceled until further notice. If you call in sick, you’d damn well better have a doctor telling me you are on your death bed. Work your contacts and get your CI’s on the street and asking questions. Finding these bastards is our priority now. That said, make sure your other cases are worked as well. Don’t miss any court dates. But hear me,this is our priority. We will find the bastards behind the ambush and we will be the ones to bring them in.”

With that, she strode across the bullpen. Pausing before the door to the office that had been her partner’s she reached down to turn the knob. As she did, her hand shook. A sob rose in her throat. She choked it down. She had to maintain control until she was behind closed doors. The squad was hers, at least until Chief Culver found someone to replace Lt. Mackenzie Santos, not that anyone could ever fill her shoes as a cop or as a partner and friend.

Damn it, Mac. I wish you were here.

 

Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order

Whew, finally!

Nocturnal Rebellion is now available for pre-order.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

It’s Monday. Nose, meet grindstone

First off, the pre-order for Nocturnal Rebellion should go live late tonight or early in the morning (fingers crossed). It is later than I wanted or anticipated but, as is so often the case, real life interfered. I learned long ago when that happens, it is best to wait it out instead of trying to push through. Mistakes happen when I’m too distracted by real life and I don’t want to hurt a book by not giving it my all.

Unfortunately, this means I am behind on several other things as well. Today and tomorrow, hopefully, I can get caught up on some of them. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, the updates for Vengeance from Ashes for the expanded edition are rolling along. (The link is to the original edition.) It is odd going back to a book I wrote several years ago and knowing this is my chance to make it into the book I initially visualized. I’m not knocking the original. I love it and I had a blast writing it. But I only had a vague idea where the series was going at that point. Now that idea has solidified — as it should since I’m three books and several short stories into it — and things I hesitated to put into the original can now be woven back in. I can’t wait for you to see the final result.

Now I need to figure out what I’m going to work on next. Yes, I know. I am supposed to have a schedule and I do, of a sorts. But the muse is being unnaturally quiet right now and that is kind of scary. It usually means she is about to hit me with something I most definitely hadn’t planned on. So, in order to head her off at the proverbial pass, I’m looking at what I have planned, what I have already roughed out and will decide in the next day or two what it will be.

Of course, Myrtle the Evil Muse says she has the right to object — of course, she does. She’s evil. Sigh.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes. It is still in rough (as in I haven’t done spell check, etc) format. For those of you who have read the original, you will see a few alterations from the original, nothing that changes the story in any way.

***

“Prisoner Four One Niner Baker One-A, prepare for transfer,” a disembodied voice said from the overhead speaker.

Lips pulled back, teeth bared in an animalistic sneer, the prisoner sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bunk. As she stood, she turned away from the cell door. Her hands automatically went behind her head, fingers lacing. Almost without thought, she sank to her knees, legs spread, ankles crossed. Then, realizing what she had done, she cursed silently, hating herself and those responsible for bringing her to this state.

Two years. Two very long years in Hell had taught her how to act. Her body responded automatically to the commands barked at her. Only when she allowed her mind to surface, to let herself fully experience what was going on around her, did she hesitate. But not this time. There was no reason to disobey, no threat yet to meet.

Those years may have taught her all too painfully how to act, but they hadn’t broken her. Not yet at any rate. Even so, they had come close. Two years cut off from those she cared for, from almost all human contact. Stripped of even the most basic of human rights and dignity, she knew she was little more than an animal to break and tame to those in charge. She knew it just as she knew she could do nothing about it.

Just as she knew she’d been betrayed by the government she’d served and had been ready to die for.

What she didn’t know was why. Why had she been betrayed? Worse, why had those who’d served loyally at her side been targeted?

The soft swoosh of the heavily armored door sliding open broke the silence of the small cell a few moments later. With her back to it, she couldn’t see who entered, not that she wanted to. One of the first lessons she had learned after arriving at the Tarsus military penal colony was not to look. That had been a very painful lesson, one that landed her in the prison’s infirmary for several days. It was also a mistake she’d never repeated.

That had been one of many lessons she’d been forced to endure since arriving there. With the commandant’s tacit – hell, as far as she knew it was his overt – approval, the guards could be as sadistic as they wanted. Correction for even the most insignificant infraction might take the form of a rifle butt to the ribs or kidney, and that was if she was lucky. If not, the beating that followed would leave her hurting so badly she could barely move. Even then, the guards wouldn’t send her to the infirmary. After all, it was so much more fun to watch her suffer, reminding her that she alone was responsible for what had happened.

Fortunately, she’d heard the horror stories before arriving at the penal colony. Even though she hadn’t been ready to believe them, they had helped prepare her for what she’d face. Even so, it had been a shock the first time one of the guards beat her down for asking what would have been a simple question on the outside. That had been enough to convince her that the best course of action was to remain silent unless it was imperative that she speak. That wasn’t to say there hadn’t been times when circumstances forced her to break that rule and she bore the scars to prove it. All she wanted now was to live through the remainder of her prison term. Survival was the first goal. Vengeance would come later. Not for her, but for those brave and loyal souls who had followed her despite her protests and who had paid the ultimate price as a result.

She swallowed hard, forcing her mind away from past horrors, as boots clomped across the small cell in her direction. A rough hand grabbed her right arm, twisting it painfully behind her back. She flinched as a security cuff was locked tightly around that wrist. Her breath hissed out as the process was repeated with her left arm. Moments later, similar restraints were fastened about her ankles. Then a gloved hand closed around her left arm and jerked her to her feet.

Guard Captain Gavin Haritos spun her to face him, grinning sadistically. His fist caught her with a vicious backhand. With a sharp cry of pain, she staggered back. The short chain connecting her ankles tripped her. Only the man’s quick grab at the front of her jumpsuit kept her from falling. He pulled her forward and, with the ease of much practice, draped a heavy hood over her head before she could react.

Haritos’ cruel grip on her arm kept her on her feet as he hauled her out of her cell and down the long corridor. Blood pounded in her ears, almost deafening her. Fear and hatred raced through her, sparking every fiber of her survival instincts. She knew this was going to be bad, very bad. It always was when the guard captain came for her. But she could do nothing to stop him, at least not yet.

“This is your lucky day, bitch.” Haritos shoved her into one of the three lifts at the end of the corridor and she heard him slam his fist against the control panel. A moment later, the lift gave a slight lurch and she felt the car start downward. “You’re being transferred, Shaw. But don’t get your hopes up that it means the rules no longer apply because they do. If you’re smart, you’ll remember those poor bastards sentenced here with you. Everything you say and do from now on impacts them.”

A soft moan escaped her lips before she could stop it and fear raced like an open current through her. No matter how many times she’d been in this position before, she couldn’t help it. A transfer could mean almost anything, none of it good. Not as long as the survivors of her unit were still on Tarsus.

Bile rose in her throat as the lift came to a sudden halt. But it wasn’t that which caused her breath to catch. The guard captain’s low chuckle sent a shiver of fear down her spine. Once before he had stopped the lift short of their destination. He’d told her then it was time to deliver a warning.

Warning!

He had beaten her so badly that day she had prayed for death. Was he about to repeat that performance? If so, why? She had done nothing to break the rules. She hadn’t been out of her cell in weeks, her only contact had been with the guards who checked on her three times a day.

Without warning, Haritos’ fist connected with her stomach. Pain doubled her over. Tears filled her eyes beneath the hood and she fought the urge to vomit. The neck of her jumpsuit tightened uncomfortably at her throat as the guard captain’s hand fisted in the material. Using it to hold her in place, he continued his assault. Her head snapped back and she tasted blood. She lost track of the number of times he struck or where each blow landed. All she could do was stand there, held in place by the hand at her collar, and pray the beating ended soon.

Suddenly, Haritos released her and she fell to the floor of the lift. Before she could struggle to her knees, his heavy boot caught her in the ribs. Once, twice, he struck, each time forcing her to cry out in pain. Her ribs ached and it hurt to breathe. Her face, especially her nose, throbbed with each beat of her pulse. From the stuffiness of her nose, she knew Haritos had broken it – again. Her right eye felt puffy, swollen. It had been a long time since she had been beaten this badly and why?

Why now?

“Listen carefully, bitch,” Haritos growled as he once more hauled her to her feet. “This is only a temporary respite for you. Sooner or later, you will be sent back. Remember your people are still here and we can do whatever we want with them. So keep your mouth shut. We’ll know if you do or say anything about your time here.”

To her surprise, Haritos said nothing more. That was unusual. Whenever he’d come for her before, he’d taken perverse pleasure in detailing what horrors awaited her. The fact he’d gone silent worried her. And what did he mean by this being a respite and she would be back?

Dear God, what was happening?

Haritos remained silent as he forced her off the lift. Doors opened and then closed behind them. She didn’t know how to react when, for the first time in months, she felt the sun beating down on her. They were outside. But why? Where were they going?

It didn’t take long to find out. Haritos led her up a ramp. The hood obscured her sight, but she could hear the muffled sounds of a crew working to prepare a shuttle, maybe even a courier ship, for launch. Haritos pulled her to a halt and told her to stand still. Then he released his hold on her arm and she sensed that he had moved a short distance away. There were soft voices. Straining to hear, she only caught a few words. Transfer. . . prisoner. . . dangerous. . . tried to escape. . . take no chances. . . don’t listen to anything she says. . . .

Dear God, was she actually being transferred out of the Tarsus penal colony?

Hope flared only to die as quickly as it had been born. She remembered Haritos’ warning. Her people, those few who had survived the ambush only to be betrayed by those who should have stood for them, were being left behind. That meant she had to do as the guard captain said. Otherwise, her people were as good as dead.

No!

Before she could do anything – not that there was much she could do, bound and hooded as she was – Haritos was once more at her side. She stumbled forward as he grabbed her and led her further up the ramp. He hissed one last warning not to do anything foolish. Then he turned her over to someone else. Flanked on both sides by unseen guards, she was led into another lift. A few minutes later, her restraints were removed and then her hood and she found herself standing in the center of a small cell. She didn’t need to hear the announcement for all hands to prepare for departure to know she was on a ship. But a ship to where?

And what about those who’d been sent to the penal colony with her? Why weren’t they being transferred with her?

Now, almost a week later, she stood in yet another cell, this one planetside, and worry warred with anger. She’d overheard enough from the guards on the transport to know her fears were true – the others had been left behind on the penal colony.

That’s when an anger so great it overrode the fear of the unknown had flowed through her. For the first time in two years, she’d been separated from the survivors of her unit, those poor, brave souls who had fallowed her into hell and back only to find themselves brought up on charges right along with her. It didn’t matter that the commandant of the penal colony hadn’t let her see her people. She’d managed to get word of them from time to time and that had been enough to let her know they were all right – or at least as all right as anyone could be after being sentenced to the Tarsus penal colony.

It still amazed her how the prison grapevine managed to keep tabs on everyone and pass along information. It might be inconsistent, but it was there and it had been all that kept her sane. She’d never thought herself a social animal, but two years of rarely seeing anyone but her jailers had been almost more than she could handle. Thank God for the grapevine and the bits of information it brought her.

During transport from the penal colony, no one had told her anything. Held in the transport ship’s brig, she had no opportunity to learn anything about their destination or why she had been taken from Tarsus. A guard brought her food and drink at regular intervals but he never said a word that wasn’t necessary. He certainly hadn’t volunteered any information. Still, she’d managed to work out that she was alone in the brig by the way his steps never stopped before he appeared at her cell door and because no one had responded when she’d tapped out messages using the code learned on Tarsus.

She had just noticed the slightest change in the rhythm of the ship’s engines, indicating it had assumed orbit somewhere, when another guard arrived with a change of clothes for her. She’d looked at the plain black jumpsuit with suspicious eyes. Nothing about it marked her as a prisoner. It could have been something worn by almost any worker on the docks or in a warehouse. That should have reassured her but for one thing. There was nothing about the guard’s manner to indicate she was about to be freed. In that moment, she’d come the closest to breaking her rule of “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to” than she had been since her first few days on Tarsus.

Half an hour later, she’d been seated on a shuttle. The guards had secured her hands behind her back before locking her safety harness in place but they hadn’t hooded her. They obviously weren’t worried about her recognizing where she was. Of course, the only way she could do that was if she could actually see something of the lay of the land. So she’d craned her neck in an effort to see into the shuttle’s cockpit. One corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly at the sight of the high rises ahead of them. Her heart beat a bit faster and her breath caught as she recognized the skyline of Fuercon’s capital city. New Kilrain. She was home. But why?

Now, after being processed into the same military brig where she’d been held during her trial, she still didn’t know why she’d been brought back home. It couldn’t be good. They may have taken away her prison issued jumpsuit, but she’d still been brought there shackled and had been processed into the brig as quickly as humanly possible. It had almost been as if FleetCom was afraid word of her return might leak out. But why?

Damn it, what was going on?

Of course, there’d been no explanation. Nor had she asked for one. It would be a long time before she forgot that lesson. Too much talking, too much curiosity was a bad thing that almost always resulted in painful punishment. She might not be on Tarsus any longer but that didn’t mean things would be any different here. After all, who policed the jailers? No one, at least not on Tarsus and she wasn’t willing to risk it now that she was home. That was especially true after the way she and the others had been betrayed by those they’d been loyal to

Freed of her restraints and alone, she looked around. One cell was pretty much like any other. Across from the door was a narrow bunk. Hygiene facilities were at the foot of the bunk. It was almost exactly like her cell back on Tarsus. There was nothing she could use to escape and nothing she could use to kill herself, not that she planned on taking that route out. At least not anymore. No, there were others who needed to die before she did.

“Prisoner is secured,” the guard who had brought her to the cell radioed as he stepped back.

Ashlyn Shaw, former Marine captain, didn’t move. Instead, she stood in the center of the small cell, her brown eyes focused on some point beyond the guard, her hands behind her back even though the restraints had been removed. As the security field across the cell door activated, she gave no sign of realizing it even though the faint, high pitched hum was something she’d learned to listen for over the last two years. That sound, like a distant bunch of angry bees, meant she’d fry her nervous system long before pushing through the field. Freedom might look close, but she’d be dead – or worse – before she actually found it.

At least the guard didn’t close the physical door. For the first time in what had to be months, she could look beyond the confines of her cell. It might not be the same cell she’d occupied since her conviction. Hell, this wasn’t even the same planet. That didn’t matter. All that did was the fact that the open cell door gave her at least some semblance of not being completely cut off from all other life on the planet.

As the guard disappeared from sight, Ashlyn remained where she was, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest and the slow blinking of her eyes. She listened, counting his footsteps as they slowly faded away. When she’d been escorted to the cell, she had focused on what was directly in front of her. She had not wanted to give the guards on duty the satisfaction of seeing her look around in curiosity. Now, with only silence filling the air, she allowed herself to relax a just a little.

Once convinced the guard was gone, she moved to the door, careful not to get too close to the security field. Looking to her left, she couldn’t tell how far away he might be. All she knew for certain was that her cell was located at the end of the corridor, the door situated so she couldn’t see much beyond the far edge of the cell. So there might be any number of other prisoners close by but, for all intents and purposes, she was alone – again.

That was fine. Alone meant fewer chances for anyone to figure out what she planned. But it also meant she had to keep up appearances. She couldn’t let them guess what she had in mind. So she lay on her bunk, her back to the doorway. She wouldn’t let those she knew were watching over security monitors see her curiosity or her concern.

This was as close to home as she was likely to get in a very long while. If the opportunity to escape presented itself, she’d take it and be damned with waiting on the military courts to finally get it right. Once free, she’d deal with everyone who had betrayed her and then she’d find a way to free those who had been sent to the penal colony with her. After that, she really didn’t give a damn about what happened.

***

I hope you enjoyed the snippet. Until later!

 

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