Book Review ~~ Dave vs. The Monsters: Emergence

 

 

They say the only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. Dave Hooper has managed to avoid both, though the IRS and recent events in Dave’s life are doing their best to cash in on his debts. Dave is a father in a self-destructive, downward spiral who is currently fonder of hookers, blow, and booze than of taking care of or seeing his kids—or paying taxes. Though, who can really blame him about the taxes?

He was heading back a day early for his shift on an off-shore oil rig, hungover and hating life in general, when his world crashed down around his ears. Monsters were attacking the rig and eating his guys. What’s a safety manager to do? Piss your pants and kick monster ass, of course.

Art by: Concept Artist and Illustrator Ray Lederer for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Emergence is the first book in John Birmingham’s Dave vs. The Monsters series, and it follows our, (as per the back of the book), ‘unworthy champion of humanity’. Apparently, humans learned nothing from Tolkein’s Dwarves of Moria and they dug too deep, releasing monsters not seen on Earth since humans thought caves and mud huts were high class living.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read and an interesting take on what would happen if your average Joe Schmoe were thrown into a monster madness situation. I do have a few issues with it, but not enough to keep me from reading more into the series.

First, the pros:

  • As I said above, it feels like a more realistic take on the average person being thrown into one of these situations. Whereas in similar books with comparable concepts, (Monster Hunters International comes to mind), the person has some special skill, are blessed by Fate, or have been training all their lives to fight the adversary, whoever or whatever that may be. It’s a sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer syndrome for main characters. I’m not saying these special people have it easy because of their powers, only that they do have them right from the get-go, and generally know how to use them.

Dave, on the other hand, is not the first thing that comes to mind when you picture a ‘hero’. I won’t spoil anything about the book here, but let’s just say that Dave’s rise to herodom is both awkward and not a little painful.

  • The military stuff in the book is mostly accurate. I really enjoyed the fact there wasn’t some government agency that crawled out of the woodwork having expected something like this to happen. As Heath, our Navy officer in charge, points out, “All you’ve got is JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command).” And Heath isn’t some super-commando, he just happened to be the closest military presence to the oil rig when all the bad stuff went down, hence he’s put mostly in charge.

It also takes time to mobilize military assets, especially during unknown encounters and in a situation where there is no Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for what’s going down. Because the monsters aren’t following a pattern that a typical terrorist organization would follow, and the fact they have no idea where they’ll show up, it’s impossible to adapt procedures that quickly.

  • I liked the monster descriptions and concepts, as they weren’t based on anything from myth or legend on Earth (for the most part). It felt like it pulled from various fantasy worlds, like the Drow in Forgotten Realms and some Vord from the Codex Alera for their hierarchy and hivemind-type stuff. The different clans and abilities of clans were also interesting.
Found at: http://codexalera.wikia.com/wiki/Vord

Now, the cons:

  • My biggest gripe with the book is the endless exposition that could have been done through interaction with the monsters and other characters. I got more than halfway through the book and there were only two interactions with the bad guys at that point: the initial one, and a very brief one after Dave gets out of the hospital.

It felt more like an alternate history book than a fantasy novel. I wanted to see more interaction with the monsters to get details on how they worked, instead of Dave just constantly doing his thing. (Not going to tell you what it is, you’ll just have to read for yourself). Dave’s thing should have been used as an addendum to the interactions, not the primary source. Which brings me to my next issue…

  • The monster viewpoints in the book added almost nothing to the book overall, and even less to the plot. In fact, you could probably skip the ones that are chapters by themselves and not miss out on much. While it could be interesting, and it gave us a look into their hierarchy and how they function, it got incredibly tedious to have to basically translate their way to a human understanding/concepts.

Everything we learned from their viewpoints could have been done in Dave interactions with the monsters. In fact, the little bits woven in where the monsters interacted with Dave and we were getting information from their point of view were great—in small doses.

  • Compton isn’t filled out very well as a character, and as a result his actions at the end of the book had the plot fall on its face right at the finish line. In fact, some of the characters we meet for only a few pages leave a more lasting impression than Compton.

It might have to do with another character explaining Compton’s motives instead of Dave (especially), Heath, or Ashbury having any real confrontation with him. He just doesn’t come across as anyone willing to throw their weight around enough to do what he does at the end of the book.

  • The main character can be hard to connect to for some people. For people who haven’t gone through any self-destructive behavior in their life, Dave can come off as an emotionally stunted, major scumbag, and incredibly unlikable. He’s very: Work hard. Play hard. Damn the consequences. Even to the detriment of his family. So, there might be a majority-ish of people who can’t understand his motives and actions.

The nitpicks:

  • I have never met a woman who says they have, “good breeding hips,” so J2’s comment made me cringe a bit. Perhaps it’s a regional thing, and I just don’t ‘get it’.
  • Some of the emotional reactions of characters didn’t track for me, and left me scratching my head as to why they reacted the way they did. There were times people got pissed off at Dave for something he said, that left me wondering why they reacted to him like that. I’m putting it in the nitpicks because that could just be a failing on my part, and not the author’s.

The tl;dr:

Concept: Good. Execution: Shaky.

All in all, I give it 3/5 stars.

As I said, the cons won’t stop me from reading the rest of the books, but I’d like to see more plot and character interaction, and less exposition. Where it ended for the first book had the feeling of the middle-point in your average novel with good pacing and plot.

I’d relegate the series to something you could read between waiting for your favorite authors to release their next book, and I don’t think I’d ever buy a hardback if the rest of the series is similar.

Fan Fiction (World of Warcraft): The Greatest Gift

Chapter One

The air was bitingly cold, and Lyriah Moonstrider’s breath misted out in front of her. She shivered, and snuggled her face further down into the soft, brown wool scarf wrapped around her neck. It had been a gift from her mother and father in preparation for her father’s most recent business trip to Northrend.

A low yowl sounded at her feet, and Lyriah looked down at her shivering companion.

“Oh, Titian,” Lyriah said, and huffed out a laugh.

The little lynx’s black tufts at the end of her ears, and mane of reddish-brown hair moved with the gusts of wind. There were flakes of snow caught in it, which she shook off in annoyance. She had her oversized paws tucked underneath her, and her short tail circled as far around her as she could manage. Her glowing, green luminescent eyes, the same color as Lyriah’s were closed, and the lines of black fur that ran from them around her muzzle looked like dark tears.

Lyriah sat down cross-legged on the cold, wooden planks of the Wind Rider Master’s landing deck, setting her simple, but lovingly crafted bow down at her side. She opened her heavy coat and pulled the little lynx onto her lap, and wrapped her jacket around the chilly creature. The lynx snuggled down, and began to purr, the rumbling going through Lyriah’s chest.

A low, disapproving chuff came from nearby, and Lyriah glanced up from the top of Titian’s head to her mother’s lynx, Vermilia.

“Hush now; she’s only a kitten,” Talonia Moonstrider chided the larger pet.

Vermilia twitched her tail, and then began cleaning her paws, ignoring Talonia’s admonishment.

Talonia chuckled. “Stubborn creature.” Her mother was tall and thin, as most Blood Elves were. She had long, onyx-black hair pulled into a high bun at the back of her head; ‘You don’t want hair in your face, spoiling your shot.’  Since she wore no makeup, the light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks were visible against her lightly tanned skin. She also wore no jewelry; ‘Running through the brush with jewelry on is a good way to get an earring caught on a branch.’

Mother and daughter wore similar outfits of dark brown leather, from their boots to their helms, while their hooded cloaks were a drab, olive green. Her mother’s were finely made, having won them through perseverance and countless battles with enemies ranging from ogres to elementals, while Lyriah’s were crafted to look like hers. They had also been a gift after Lyriah’s beginning hunter training was complete.

It was Talonia’s bow, though, that Lyriah admired. The grip was covered by an ornate shield with the Blood Elf crest on it. The limbs of the bow were painstakingly carved wood of phoenix heads facing the shield, while further down they were embedded with gems, and glowing with an eerie Fel light. The tip and recurve were made of two talon-like protrusions on each end, swirling with the same vivid energy, with the bowstring connecting two of the four talons that pointed back toward the wielder.

Lyriah glanced at her own bow, and though she loved it—as her mother had made it for her—she couldn’t help but wish for her mother’s. Though as a newly minted hunter, as well as only just turning eleven, there was a snowball’s chance in the lava flows of the Searing Gorge that would happen.

The wind picked up momentarily, and when it dropped her father’s voice drifted over to the pair. He was negotiating their passage with the Wind Rider Master to Sholazar Basin. Though he’d been given coin upfront for travel expenses, An’dras Moonstrider was not above negotiating to bring the price as low as he could manage. It was a habit he’d picked up from one of his colleagues, a Goblin by the name of Baxraz Copperblast; ‘Never pay full price.’

The patient Tauren’s low voice wasn’t audible, even to Lyriah’s long ears and their sharp hearing. Though from her father’s gestures, he wasn’t getting the calm, yet stubborn, woman to budge. Talonia was tolerant of her husband’s acquired quirks, but it was always easiest for Lyriah to gauge her mother’s moods by the body language of Vermilia, whose tail was now thrashing the air. Vermilia let out another low growl, this one far more annoyed. Her father turned and caught sight of the lynx. His long, platinum blonde eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Though they couldn’t see his eyes behind his engineered goggles with their scope on one side and glowing magenta glass on the other, she had no doubt they widened in alarm.

He chuckled nervously and turned back to the Wind Rider Master. Then he ran his left hand through his short, spiky hair, and handed the coin over to the Wind Rider Master with the other. She counted the coin, and nodded to An’dras. At the Tauren’s smile, it didn’t take a rocket engineer to know the steadfast woman had won, and likely still would have, even without Talonia’s annoyance.  Lyriah hid her own smile in Titian’s mane.

Talonia turned an amused look down at Titian at her daughter’s movement. “Worry not, kitten. Where we’re going, you’ll be plenty warm, if not in excess.”

An’dras strode over to them, rubbing his gloved hands together, either from nerves at his wife’s mood or from the cold. It was difficult to know which. His clothing was a hodge-podge of leather, patched here and there by her mother. He’d often come home from a lab accident, with holes burned through by fire, acid, or whatever concoction he and Baxraz were attempting to perfect. Such a substance was the reason they were on this trip in the first place.

He’d come home one day, grinning from ear to ear, his hair still smoldering at the ends.

“We’ve done it!” he said, and lifted Lyriah up, spinning her through the air.
She’d been dizzy when he sat her back down. Titian growled at her father’s exuberance when Lyriah stumbled and had to catch herself on the edge of the table.

“Done what, dear?” her mother asked calmly, handing him a damp towel to extinguish his hair. She was well rehearsed in this routine.

“We’ve finally come up with a substance to combat the humidity damage experienced by machines! Weslex will be pleased,” he said, and laughed.

Her father and Baxraz were top-notch mechanics and engineers, who also dabbled in concoctions to help their machines and weapons run better, faster, and smoother. It was a side-business to their primary one, to be sure, but it seemed to bring them joy, not to mention numerous injuries and the need to reconstruct their lab every couple of months.

“And Weslex was…?” her mother prompted him. He had so many clients, ranging from both factions, it could be difficult to remember them all.

“The flying machine mechanic and flight master for Hemet in Sholazar Basin.”
An’dras didn’t take note of the cutthroat flash in his wife’s eyes at the mention of Hemet’s name.

Lyriah sucked in a breath and her eyes widened at her mother’s predatory smile. Even Lyriah, as new to being a hunter as she was, had heard of Hemet.

“Hemet, you say?”

At the inquisitive tone in his wife’s voice, An’dras froze, just now realizing his mistake.

“Uh,” he started, and thought—only briefly—about trying to take back the name, but there was nothing for it. “Yes?” he said, hesitantly.

“Hah!” she exclaimed, and hit a fist in the palm of her other hand. “I can finally shut that loud-mouthed braggart up for good.” Then she looked down at Lyriah, her grin still feral and triumphant.

“Time to pack, dearest. We’re heading for Sholazar Basin.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Book Review: The Summoner, by Gail Z. Martin

The comfortable world of Martris Drayke, second son of King Bricen of Margolan, is shattered when his older half-brother, Jared, and Jared’s dark mage, Foor Arontala, kill the king and seize the throne. Tris is the only surviving member of the royal family aside from Jared the traitor. Tris flees with three friends: Soterius, captain of the guard; Carroway, the court’s master bard; and Harrtuck, a member of the royal guard. Tris harbors a deep secret. In a land where spirits walk openly and influence the affairs of the living, he suspects he may be the mage heir to the power of his grandmother, Bava K’aa, once the greatest sorceress of her age. Such magic would make Tris a Summoner, the rarest of magic gifts, capable of arbitrating between the living and the dead.” — GoodReads

 

summoner

 

The Summoner is the first book in Gail Z. Martin’s Chronicles of the Necromancer, and despite its girth it’s an easy, breezy beautiful cover girl. Er, I mean read. Damn jingles. In reality, it reads as something that might do better in the Young Adult section than adult. If you enjoyed Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, this might be a book series for you. It has the same kind of general feel to the storyline. It’s dark, but there’s no Lovecraft-ian monster lurking in that darkness. 

There are some books I read for the twists, the surprises, and the depth of the plot. This isn’t one of those series. The plotlines are predictable, the character arcs are similarly foreseeable with cliche characters, and it has all the earmarks of the classic hero’s journey. Sounds boring, right? Well, not completely. 

It has some pretty interesting concepts: the Eight Faces of The Lady, a ‘good’ necromancer, being able to see ghosts on Haunts (Halloween), and the world in general. It makes the read enjoyable and interesting, but as I said, very easy on the mind. 

What really made me enjoy this book? Sometimes you need something almost modern, fairytale-like, where the good guys prevail after a few hardships, and the bad guys lose. Real life is messy, and having a story where everything fits nice and neat is relaxing. Think of this series as the opposite of what you’ll see in A Song of Ice and Fire, as far grittiness and plot. 

Most of the pros and cons below can double as both, as you’ll note in the lists. 

The Pros:

  • Engaging concepts, as noted above. 
  • Easy read for moments where you don’t have a lot of time to read, and don’t want anything that’ll get you in trouble for staying up late to read it.  
  • You know the good guys are going to prevail despite the hardships, and nothing overly horrific will happen to them. Everyone ends up with who and where they should.
  • It’d be good for teens looking to get into adult fantasy, without their parents having to worry too much about the content. 
  • Gives you the feel goods.  

The Cons:

  • There’s no real depth to the plot. You see everything coming from a mile away, whether it concerns the overall story or the character arcs. 
  • The good guys don’t face any true life-threatening hardships. The worst that might happen is hurt feelings, and some bruises. Honestly, The Hunger Games, is darker and grittier than this book, and THG is slotted for teens. Even on the first read-through, there was no real sense that any of the characters were in true danger.
  • Your teens could read this.
  • It was a lot of book to give us nothing new in the genre, except a world that was more engaging than the characters.

It’s getting 3/5 stars:

3-out-of-5-stars

 

Overall, if you’re looking for a book where you won’t need to think too hard, and is essentially a 637-page fairytale, this is for you. I’d also recommend this for teens more than adults. I’m not saying teens can’t handle deep concepts, because they can. However, if they’re looking for something that gives them a classic hero’s tale and won’t traumatize them, this is it.

If you prefer Game of Thrones-type stories, this is absolutely not for you, and will seem like absolute fluff in comparison.

Huh, fluff. That is a good word to describe this book. It’s fantasy fluff.

So if you’re looking for a little feel good fluff in your reading time, pick up The Summoner by Gail Z. Martin. If you’re looking for nitty gritty, this is not the book you are looking for. /waves hand

Come Hell, High Water, or Both: Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

There is a subconscious, or at times conscious, desire to avoid problems that have been thrown in your path. Issues can hit like landmines and cause utter devastation to a person’s life, so who can really blame us for not wanting to confront them? The trouble with avoidance is we attempt to utilize it way too late in the game, when we’re already eyeball level and sinking fast in the quicksand. I didn’t want to wake up to whatever nightmare was going on; I just wanted to remain drifting aimlessly in the darkness that was blissful unconsciousness, but I couldn’t. Mina, Talitha, and Meriel needed me.

Pain lanced through my skull like vicious lightning and throbbed in time with my pulse. Nausea roiled through my stomach like a treacherous sea and I barely had enough time to roll onto my side to empty the contents of my stomach. Chains clinked in the near darkness when I moved, and I couldn’t get my hands and legs beneath me to get off the floor away from the vile liquid. Short chains in conjunction with wobbly coordination threw my muddled brain for a loop, so I simply stopped moving until I could finish puking and collect my thoughts.

Bile coated my mouth and tongue, and with each heave the pressure in my skull fairly exploded outward. Finally, mercifully, it ceased, and I cracked open one eye, since the other was stuck shut with something itchy and crusty. Even the dim light, from an unknown source, made me wince and the movement ended in pain shuddering through me like a convulsion.

I swallowed against another surge of queasiness, and weak as a newborn I pulled on the chains to determine where they were anchored. They quickly tightened, as I was at the absolute end of them, and I hissed when the movement rubbed the metal manacles against the raw skin of my wrists. Surprising what you don’t notice when your mind is fuddled and you’re puking your innards out. To add insult to my injuries, I needed to go past my vomit to get some slack for the restraints. Using the chains as my new frenemy, I pulled along them as though I was climbing a rope. The major difference being I was on the ground, scraping skin away on the cold, stone floor, and sliding through my own vomit. Who says I never have any fun?

I couldn’t smell, or feel, any food particles in my puke, and I urgently needed to use a bathroom, which led me to believe I’d been wherever I was between one and two days. We’d had steak which takes longer to fully digest than other foods, but we’d also had veggies, so it was a crapshoot, (hardy har har), in figuring it out. Or, perhaps, I’d already sicked it all up. It was difficult to tell.

Through the vomit, while resolutely breathing through my nose, I made my agonizingly slow way to the wall where the chains were anchored. I groaned, rolled to a kneeling position, and then fell back like a limp noodle against the stone to keep me in a sitting position. My head didn’t appreciate all the movement, and when I sat up consciousness wavered like a distant heat wave on the desert sand.

I took a deep, steadying breath, and flinched at the sting when I licked my cracked and swollen lips. My tongue didn’t have enough moisture to help anything, and reported back to me that I was in desperate need of a toothbrush and mouthwash. It was bad enough that I couldn’t ‘scent’ anything beyond that, but my awful halitosis and fuzzy teeth could get in line; what I needed was to get out of these chains.

When only one eye opened again, I reached up and gingerly felt around it to make sure it was just sealed shut with something, and not swollen from an injury. Finding nothing outside of the norm, I bit back a sob as I pried open my eyelid. It was probably blood keeping it closed. I doubted I had much in the way of eyelashes left over after the ordeal, but at least I could see out of both eyes. Small miracles, I supposed.

The dim light was coming from three large candles, each as thick as the thickest part of my forearm and close to it in length, across the small, square room. I was near the back left corner, if you were looking at me from the doorway, which was metal with one of those nifty sliding doors for the prison guards to see and talk to the prisoners through. It was old, the metal rusted and ominously stained dark in certain places.

A groan send a thrill of surprise and fear through me like shit through a goose, and I finally noticed I had a guest. I was beginning to suspect a potential concussion, as if the pain and vomiting wasn’t a big enough clue, because how else could I explain missing an entire person?

Whoever they were, they were male, lying on the floor on their side with their front turned away from me, and there was nothing between him and the Dark Goddess but a smile. It left nothing to the imagination, or covering the long, thick, and savage scars that criss-crossed and overlapped on his back like wicker in a chair.

He stirred, head tucked toward his belly in a fetal position, and the vulnerability belied the strength evident in the muscles of his back, butt, and what little I could see of the rest of him. I cleared my throat, and he stilled the way a predator did when they scented a potential enemy.

“Hello,” I barely choked out trying to sound calm, but the dryness and swollen tissue in my throat barely let me sound like a person.

“Erryn?” an equally harsh voice questioned, and Warren rolled up to his knees. I averted my eyes, trying to give him some semblance of privacy, and looked down to note I was still—thankfully—clothed.

“Yes,” I tried, and made a poor attempt to clear my throat and possibly conjure moisture from somewhere. “Um, you’re naked.” Pure wit and brilliance, I tell ya.

“I shifted at the house and our captors didn’t bother to re-clothe me,” he replied, the words coming out as painful as sandpaper along the skin.

Shifting forms was difficult on clothing, which is why most people did so without, if given the choice. While the Law of Conservation of Mass meant we didn’t shift into a form much bigger than what we were as human, for most our Dragon form tended to be bulkier. Not to mention the mechanics for our legs were different, and we didn’t exactly remain still as the agony of a shift poured through us like molten gold.

“Do you know where we are, or who took us?” I had a pretty good idea on the latter, but the former was somewhat more enigmatic.

“The people trying to kidnap Meriel, I’m assuming, and they took care in covering my head and keeping me unconscious for most of the trip. I—” he started, but stopped as emotion sat thick on his words like fresh tree sap and stalled him. “I tried to keep them from getting her, from getting all the girls,” he continued, and dread pooled in the pit of my stomach while rage danced through me like a bonfire, “but I failed. I couldn’t protect people, again,” he finished, as his grief and regret sat heavy on the air as though a boulder crushed the wind from me.

“Hey, I didn’t do anything but get hit and lose consciousness. If anyone should be embarrassed it’s me,” I said, the words spat out and more bitter than the bile blanketing my tongue. I was supposed to protect them, and I’d come up short on that vital finish line.

“They took us all by surprise, though Mina was able to get a few chunks out of the one who hit you. I heard them yelling for a medic to take him while they brought her down. I’m not sure about Talitha, but we know they have Meriel because she was the primary target,” he said, the despair making way for a more logical angle on the discussion.

“Yes, she certainly was,” a muffled voice came from the other side of the door.

We both stiffened, and our gazes zeroed in on the door across the room. When the tumblers keeping it locked slid back and the door began to open, we both moved to our feet. The chains nearly yanked me back down; they were only long enough to let us hunch, not stand fully erect.

The man who came through the doorway was dressed in a business suit, and it was so out of place in the grungy dungeon that the absurdity and hysteria almost had me cracking a smile. What stopped me was the cold, dead stare in his icy blue eyes, as unforgiving and merciless as a Russian winter. He was a half-kin, like me.

It was hard to explain how Drakken recognized each other, and knew whether they were full-blood or half-kin. It was some kind of ability hardwired into our brains. It’s not like Drakken routinely sent their bodies in to be studied by scientists to know how we functioned, so it was all theory.

His skin stretched taut over his frame, leaving him with a skeletal and sickly appearance, further emphasized by the gauntness of his cheeks. Weak, the thought jumped, and as though he shouldn’t be alive, but it was foolish to underestimate an opponent based on looks. His hair was wispy and white, like spider webs, and cut just a little too short to allow a comb-over. A chill emanated from him, somewhat like leaving a freezer door open and standing next to it, and a deathly pallor hung from him as though it was a heavy cloak; leaving his shoulders with a slight hunch.

“Who are you?” Warren demanded, breaking the silence and whatever magic he’d woven around me.

I dragged in a breath, as though I hadn’t been breathing since he opened the door and our eyes met, and my oxygen starved lungs screamed in agony. My eyes watered as I did my best to squelch the need to cough, and I closed my eyes against his unwavering stare.

“My name is Raymond Pullman, though that will likely mean little to you. Clans rarely intersect, and half-kins from different clans even less, Nameless,” Raymond answered to both of us, though I knew his gaze never wavered from me as he spoke.

“I know of you; you were sent into exile many years ago from one of the white clans,” Warren said, and I opened my eyes a crack to watch Raymond’s reaction.

He merely slid his gaze, as slow and full of potential violence as a great white moving through the water, to Warren, who seemed completely immune to the man’s presence. Lucky duck.

“Yes, because I refused to be a disgusting pawn to the will of the clans, as this woman chose to be. They say I’m a traitor, but the real traitors are those like her, who bow and scrape to pompous fools obsessed with pure bloodlines,” he spat, though kept his attention on Warren, dismissing me as nothing more than a piece of garbage in his presence.

“Seems the clan Drakkens aren’t the only pretentious asshats among our race,” I said, and returned the insult, my mouth shooting away like a Wild West pistol in a showdown.

He still didn’t look at me.

“Careful, whore, or my men will slit your brats’ throats and let you watch the light die from their eyes, and I’ll be sure to let them know it was your careless words that did it,” he said, voice mocking, and daring me to say more.

I closed my mouth with an angry clack of teeth.

“That’s better,” he said, and made the most lazy, arrogant motion with his hand over his shoulder, as though he couldn’t be bothered, or needed, to do more. He twitched two of his fingers forward, the slightest of movements, and two men dressed in all black fatigues entered the room.

One had the implacable stare of man who has been through combat, saw it all and did it all, especially if his survival was in the balance. The other had pure, undiluted murder in his jade eyes, and the look was directed at me. This wasn’t like Raymond’s disgust for my life choices. This was someone who had a major bone to pick with me, and I had no idea what I’d done to warrant it. I made a habit of not offending people badly enough that they wanted my head on a platter.

“Hose them down, unchain them, and bring them to the chamber,” Raymond said, and left, his gait as smooth as molasses and just as unhurried.

After a minute, when a door opened and thumped shut much further down the hall, the military man, (because it was rare for a guy to get that look anywhere else), turned to murderous dude. I had to make light of the guy in my mind, because this wasn’t the time or place to give in to hysterics.

“Go grab the hose,” he said, words brooking no argument. Never taking his eyes from me, Murderous Dude backed out of the room.

Military Man advanced and pulled a knife from a sheath at his thigh. My breath caught in my throat and fear clamored for control in my brain, but he wasn’t aiming for me specifically. It didn’t take long for the sharp knife to cut away my vomit-soaked clothing—all of it. I remained as still as I could, not wanting my flesh to be collateral damage. When he stepped back I was naked and feeling more vulnerable than if I was swimming in a gator-infested swamp. My nakedness held no importance to Military Man–he was simply completing a job.

When Murderous Dude returned with the hose, though, his eyes lit up with an evil pleasure that shook me down to my toes. All this terror and pain was going to do me in before the bad guys ever got a chance; I wasn’t sure how much more of this my heart could take. The nozzle on the hose was the cylindrical kind that could widen like a flower in bloom, or narrow down into a stinging line of high-pressured liquid pain.

Before he started it up I knew what he was going to do, and barely had time to turn my face as the narrow stream punched me like a fist in the jaw. He kept it there, aiming for my mouth and nose as much as possible, and I turned away as best I could. I shivered as the freezing cold water sluiced over my skin, and grimaced when the water managed to catch where I’d been punched by the brass knuckles.

“Stop fucking around and clean her off, Terry,” Military Man said to Murderous Dude, his tone curt and annoyed.

Terry growled at him, like a tiger defending a piece of meat, but after a tense moment the water moved on.

It hurt. Dark Goddess, did it ever.

“Turn around,” Terry said, the satisfaction in his voice in the face of my pain like a layer of grease running over my skin. He finished cleaning me, though made sure to concentrate on any bruises I hadn’t noticed at that point, and moved on to Warren.

When we were clean, Military Man unlocked the chains connected to the length of chain between the manacles at our wrists and ankles. He motioned for us to move through the doorway, staying just out of hobbled lunging reach, and we complied.

“Go,” he said, the man of many words, and we went. To what, though, I’m not sure I wanted to find out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Compilation of Story Links

All the links for my stories can be found here!

The blog has been up for a couple of years now, and I figured it’d be a good time to compile the story links again! Click here to visit the page. All the chapters will have links to the other chapters for the story at the bottom of their pages. Also, if you’re here from Twitch for the Micro-Stories the link is here. Enjoy!

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