Roxanne Grail. Coming Soon.

Author’s Note: In this excerpt, Roxanne Grail is battling a horde of drone bees. Since I wrote this, two years ago, engineers have created the first drone bees. They aren’t there yet, and certainly not weaponized like mine, but they are coming. I write different types of Sci-Fi. Roxx is hard Sci-Fi, technology-centric, with a dystopian twist. I estimate fully 80% of the technology in my book will be seen by the end of this century. The world, she is a-changing. Better hop on, or you’ll miss it.

Roxx was screaming inside her own head. She needed the bitch now. She needed her strength and her seemingly endless supply of crazy.

Then play me some music if you want me to dance.

It was Le Roux, ready to dance, back in charge.

She managed to lift a sluggish arm, sweeping a small horde of bees from her face. There, to her right, lay Trint, slumped over the sidecar, face down. Scattered about her were hundreds, perhaps a thousand of the bees. She had drawn the swarm to her, under the guise of protecting Jessi from the attacking bees. However, Roxx and Trint knew an attack was coming – Jazz had said as much, and Roxx had learned long ago to trust her daughter’s instincts. The first drone, the sand lark, had launched its attack as soon as Roxx and Jessi were together. That meant it had been programmed to find them both. She was not going to risk another such attack. Jessi was miles away by now, perhaps at the underground, safe and waiting. Her big sister would see to that.

Roxx staggered to the sheath that ran alongside the Indian’s frame. She could barely walk, but for now, the bees had ceased stinging, perhaps sensing she was no longer a threat to flee. They would hold her here until the men came.

Then she would wish the bees had killed her.

More than half their numbers were immobile, downed by the force of the sonic bomb Trint detonated from the Indian’s sidecar. Roxx could not know if her friend lay stunned from the concussive wave that fried the drones’ circuits, or if she herself had succumbed to their venom. Roxx took one more step … swayed … another … sank to her knees in the sand. Her ears rang from the explosion, with the remaining swarm buzzing and swirling about. The sun was high in the sky now, but lay in sporadic eclipse, as the black cloud of drone bees patrolled overhead. They seemed impatient, as though Roxx’s inconvenient lack of death infuriated them.

Roxx placed one hand on her sword’s hilt. Her eyes closed, and for a moment, the earth spun backwards on its axis. A neat trick though ill timed. She felt the sword’s warm hilt in her hand, knew its touch, each imperfection. She could close her eyes and see them: the scratch on the blade that matched a three-inch scar on her wrist from the first time she defeated her husband in combat; the engraved rose that marked the spot she must hold her thumb; and the small button none but her could see – they were all there. But now, she must sleep – rest to fight another day.

Oh not yet, darlin’. The music is just getting ready to play.

The bitch was awake now – fully awake. The bitch liked the short girl with the round butt, enjoyed the music of her constant chatter, and the song of her smile. Moreover, the bitch loved the girls, yearned for the feel of mouth to nipple – for the few remaining moments of that privilege she would feel in this life. But most of all, the bitch liked killing bugs. All bugs everywhere. The bitch really, really hated bugs – which is a problem if you live in Africa.

Her eyes flung wide, she felt them crawling along her flesh.

The bloody impudence.

Roxx stood, unsheathing the blade in one easy movement. With her free hand, she grasped a pair of the little creatures from her face, flung them in the air, and spun, cleaving them. The bees dropped to the ground in four pieces.

Roxx smiled. It was perfection. The bees made a lovely metallic “clang” as they died, then a softer tinkling sound as they fell gently to the sand. She would make music, and dance. The swarm covered her clothing, head to toe. Roxx grasped her shirt with one hand and jerked it over her head, slicing and shredding it and the insects simultaneously.

“Lovely that,” she said aloud.

That action must have triggered an alert, as the swarm once again became active. The remaining bees on her body lifted into the air, preparing to strike. Roxx danced with the hive, swirling, leaping, her arms playing a symphony. It was Capoeira for Bees in C minor, Jeet Kune Do Opus Number One for Sonically Enhanced Sword. The bitch danced with the swarm, her blade slicing through metal like a warm knife through butter, the bees dying. They stung her, repeatedly – ten times, twenty, fifty – but still she danced, and slowly, surely, as she dripped blood, sweat, and a solitary tear, the sun began to dance with her. The cloud of bees was thinning.

One bee latched onto her cheek, puncturing it. She felt hot liquid, but no pain. With dozens of lacerations and punctures, she had reached that point beyond pain. Initially, with each sting, she felt burning – an almost electrical pain than danced through pathways along her back, down her legs, to her fingertips. Now there was only numbness. Her brain knew she was under attack; there was no longer reason for pain. She felt little, but sank to one knee. Roxx plucked the bee from her face and killed it. Using her sword as a crutch, she stood once again, turned, and resumed her dance. The buzzing was softer. The cloud moved, and she sliced and pirouetted; the sun beamed through the cloud in applause. And again they danced, and still again. The dominant sound from the swarm changed from raucous buzzing to the metallic tinkling of falling insects.

Thirty agonizing minutes later, her anger spent, she sank into the desert sand. Above, the eclipse had ended, and there was only flat, beige sand, littered with black metallic insects. Roxx smiled, turned her head to check on Trint, who lay, bottom to the sun over the sidecar …

Then all went black.

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