A Pregnant Trint Is Still Formidable

An excerpt from Hard As Roxx, “Who’s Your Daddy?”

“So, your brilliant plan is that you kidnap me, Roxx rushes off to rescue me in a fit of rage and you kill her.”

“Something like that,” he answered. He had the disconcerting habit of talking with his hands, gun hand included.

“Yeah, well, I’ve seen that movie. I didn’t like it much.”

“I promise you, this is no movie. There will be no happy ending unless you cooperate. Now sit down!”

He aimed his gun at Trint’s belly. The threat and message were clear: “You are required to be alive when we land. Your child is not.”

Trint smiled, but the taste of it was bitter in her mind. She sat down and began rubbing her hands over her protruding belly.

“What the hell are you doing?” Emersen asked. He came and stood over her.

“Soothing my baby. She seems to be trying to kick the shit out of you.”

“Well tell her to stop it, or you’ll both get shot.”

She smiled and stopped rubbing. “It’s okay, I’m done now, anyway.” Trint tilted her head in the way Roxx did when she was maneuvering. “I’m thinking there are two flaws with your plan, Emersen.”

He looked genuinely amused. “Oh really? And what would those be?”

“One, Roxxy hates movies, except for old westerns. The idea of rushing out like the hero and rescuing the damsel in distress? She would think that’s stupid. Roxx would just as soon talk Poppa into nuking the damn place before we get there.”

“Oh, I don’t think that will be a problem.” Emersen laughed, but this time, it sounded hollow. He knew Roxx, knew she was just crazy enough to do it. He was hiding something, but he was still scared of her. “And what is the second flaw?”

It was her turn to smile. “Why do you think me and Roxx got together?”

“Because for a dyke, she’s pretty damn hot.”

“Well, there’s that, except for the d-word part. Actually, it’s because despite what people may think, Roxxy and I are soul mates. And you know what?” Trint asked, leaning forward, her bound hands still on her belly.

Emersen gave a smirk and leaned forward too. “What, Miss Trint?”

Trint brought her hands up swiftly and jammed her hidden knife into Emersen’s throat.

“I ain’t a goddamned damsel in distress, bitch, that’s what.” Trint stood quickly, Emersen’s blood gushing down her arm. His eyes were open, his mouth working, though only gurgles were emitted from his punctured throat. No-chest, who initially reeled back in horror, now regained a bit of composure and rushed toward Trint, his hand fumbling in his pocket. She grabbed Emersen’s hand, which was still holding his gun and squeezed the trigger.

Excerpt: Hibi – Human Brainwave Interface Device

I am writing a novel and a collection of stories that serve as a sequel and adjuncts to my Aligned Worlds series. However, I don’t intend on publishing either, but will instead send them free to my few very dedicated readers.

The novel, Trinity’s Redemption, manages to be the prequel to Hard as Roxx, and the sequel to both Roxx and If A Robot Play The Blues Do It Still Be Funky. How’s that for ambitious? 🙂 It begins with my lead character’s early life, skims past the events of Hard As Roxx, and ends in the post-Roxx period, just before the events of Robot Blues. I think it will be a gas, but I’m not sure, because this is the first novel I haven’t plotted in advance.

Trusting in the Muse for this one.

Here’s an excerpt where my main character explains how a Hibi worked for a hearing-impaired woman and her husband.

Enjoy.

I knew her Hibi was augmenting everything she saw with available information. If she looked at a tree, the Hibi would offer information about the tree and the bird she spotted nesting there. She’d learn to filter the information so that it only showed up when she wondered about it. Later, her brain would teach her to ignore all of the info she didn’t care about. For now, however, her mind was abuzz with data. She peeked up at a pair of white-haired joggers and then looked back down. “Should I be able to hear their thoughts?”

“You aren’t. Those are … verbal messages they’re sending each other. Some of these people have early prototypes. Mom kept them pretty local.”

“Uh-huh.” She was still bent over, hands on knees, staring at the soft pavement.

“We’ve told people how to set the protocols to private so others don’t overhear your conversations. I guess they’ve gotten so used to no one’s having a Hibi that they’re careless.” The couple stopped, smiled at me, and waved.

“Hello Mr. Uwazie.”

“Hi, Trint,” he said.

His wife smiled, signed, and mouthed silent words to me. I looked to my friend, who looked confused, but answered, “My name’s Krista. I’m living with the Sandahls for a while.”

“Yeah, she’s my girlfriend, but she’s ‘in,’ so she doesn’t want anyone to know.”

“I’m not in! I’m so not!”

Mrs. Uwazie clapped and said, both signing and through silently mouthed words that my Hibi let me hear, “I am so happy for you both. I remember my first girlfriend. She never would admit we were together in public.”

“Yah, isn’t that so annoying?” asked Krista.

The three of us were about to enter a long-winded chat on dating etiquette, I could tell, but Mr. Uwazie tapped his wrist. It was a silly old-fashioned gesture, since I knew his timekeeper was implanted in his head. All he had to do was think, “I wonder what the time is,” and his Hibi would tell him it was ten past noon.

“We have to get home and changed, Stella.”

Mrs. Uwazie nodded, though her back had been to him.

“Oh, okay,” said Krista. “Another time then. It was so nice meeting you both.”

We said our goodbyes and Krista and I moved on. I waited for Krista’s inquiry. She didn’t disappoint. “Trint, how come Mrs. Uwazie had a robot voice? I mean, it’s a nice voice, really nice, but she sounds like the elevator in our building.”

“She doesn’t have a voice,” I answered. “She only has about five percent hearing, and she had her vocal chords frozen in a medibot accident some years back.”

“Ah.”

We walked along for another five minutes, speaking to this person and that, while my friend looked increasingly puzzled.

“Trint?”

“Yeah?”

“How come I could hear her if she can’t talk?”

Oh my god, that question felt so good.

I’d been waiting to explain this all to her for weeks. In a breathy rush, I answered, gesturing as though I was simultaneously hand-tossing pizza. “Because your Hibi can hear her Hibi, and it sent you what she was thinking via some subaural neural messages that your Hibi routed to your speech center. You must like the elevator voice, since that’s the one it picked to be Mrs. Uwazie’s. It could have picked any.”

I smiled, because this confirmed Krista wasn’t a narcissist. In tests, they often heard people’s subaural speech in their own voices, because they were so self-enamored.

Her eyes brightened. “So I can hear deaf people now?”

“If they have a Hibi. They can hear you too, sort of. Her Hibi translates your speech into signals in her brain. She used to be able to hear, so it’s easy for her. But it can also read sign language and decode that into speech too.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. Mom said the Hibi can even decode for people who never heard speech. I haven’t studied the mechanism, so I can’t explain it, but somehow it teaches her brain speech as though she’d always been able to hear it.”

“Jesus Applesauce.”

“Deafness? Cured.” I wiped a tear, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by emotion. “By my little mommy.”

Krista sniffled too, but said, “She’s taller than I am, Trint.”

“I know. But she’s my mommy, so she’s little because I say so.”

“What was Mr. Uwazie’s accent? It was so pretty.”

I grinned. “Not accent. He was speaking Igbo. So were you. He’s never learned English and refuses to on principle.”

“His Hibi doesn’t work?”

“The man won’t learn the language of the country he lives in. You think he’s gonna accept a brain implant?”

“Good point.” She took a step and froze. “Wait. How were they talking then?”

“She can hear him now, and he reads her lips perfectly. Old school. But Mom says he reminds her of her grandfather, so she integrated a Hibi’s receptor into his hearing aids. It creates an artificial voice that he can hear. I’m not even sure he understands that his wife hasn’t really suddenly learned to talk.”

“Is he … senile?” she asked.

“Him? No. He’s just sort of a go-with-the-flow kinda dude.”

“Like me!” claimed Krista. She walked and stopped again, causing me to bump into her.

“Dude,” I said, rubbing my nose.

“How many languages do I speak now?”

“All of them. Well, all of them with an integratable dictionary and morphology, so, about 300-ish.”

“Holy shit.” Her eyes were wide. “I was going to major in linguistics. What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

I shrugged. “Help Mom improve the Hibi’s translation routines?”

“Hell yeah, I will,” she said. With that, she grinned, kissed me, and we both took off running toward the nearest subway station. I had a lot to show her.

Excerpt: Opening Chapter of Hard As Roxx

To purchase a copy of Hard As Roxx, click on smarturl.it/HardAsRoxx

Up There, Somewhere

05 May 2137—6:57 a.m. Central Africasian time.

The desert is a damned desolate place for a woman on a motorcycle and a baby in the sidecar, but it suited Roxx. She’d read somewhere that the Sahara used to be hard dirt and scrub brush, but by the time she and her daughters reached it, humans had already sucked the life from it like a thirsty cat at the throat of a limp rat. Gone were the pockets of drying grass, low trees, and brush that fed the indigenous wildlife. In their place were fluffy sheets of dirty dust, covering a hundred years’ worth of desert flotsam. She’d been riding in dark silence for hours, in part to let the girls sleep and part because there was no way to be sure the area was as abandoned as it appeared. The thing about predators is that you never see the good ones. Maybe you’ll catch a whiff if you’re lucky enough to be downwind of their attack or skilled enough to recognize the setup.

I best be skilled. My luck is shite.

She’d stumbled across a trio of them two days prior when her group was emerging from the tattered remnants of the Congolese jungle. Roxx had gotten careless, and the men came out of nowhere, cutting Roxx off with their battered pick-up truck and ancient rifles. They made the mistake of aiming a gun and sexual remarks at Jazz, her ten-year-old daughter. She still wore their blood on her boots as a reminder to be more vigilant. Jazz made her abandon their heads to the scavengers, but Roxx would have remembered the lesson better had she kept them.

For endless miles, the Sahara’s low hills scraped along the indigo night, rising and falling beside her like silent, subterranean giants beneath an endless ocean of sand. Jazz called them sand whales—smooth, silent, and deadly. It was all very lovely unless you kept in mind something dangerous could be lurking behind each dune. There were no street lights, but Roxx’s day/night glasses picked up enough residual starlight to allow her to keep the bikes dark. Their pattern of movements would have been the perfect symphony of hushed obscurity except for one thing: Roxx never was any damn good at being discrete. A six-hour ride through the mind-bending boredom of the desert night had become more than she could bear in silence. With silence came memories, and with memories came the realization that she and her daughters might never live long enough to reach any place even approaching safety.

So, fighting sleep and tedium, she called upon one of her demigods, the Lord thy Pavarotti, and at a sacred seven seconds past the seventh hour of the seventh day since their escape, she flipped the switch on her Indian’s dual speaker array and lit the crimson hell out of the quiet morning air. She rode there for a time, sailing through her desert dawn with her god singing “Nessun Dorma.” Hers was a gentle deity and never minded when she sang with him each dawn—always translated into English by her language implants —Puccini’s words, directed to her baby.

None shall sleep! None shall sleep! Even you, O Princess, in your cold bedroom, watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope!

As could have been predicted—were she the sort to bother making predictions—within seconds a single point of light emerged from a dune behind her with the wind whispering the sounds of a gruff engine’s growl above her bike’s operatic roar. The light was a half-mile back and closing fast. Roxx accelerated. Beside her, the two companion bikes matched her movements. Her trio of vehicles and the pursuers continued racing through the dunes for a full minute. Without slowing, she reached forward, pulled her rifle from its vertical holster next to the front wheel, turned, and squeezed off a single shot. The warm air carried the sound of breaking glass as the desert returned to darkness. Seconds later, the din of the engine behind her stopped. The winds carried the faint smells of food-derived organic fuel mixed in with human sweat.

Roxx pulled her scarf down, freeing her nose and mouth, and waited.

Stay stopped, mate. You only get the one warning.

Over her pounding heart, Pavarotti sang, and she sang aloud with him. “Set, stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!” She wondered how long she’d been crying.

It’s never bloody dawn in Africa.

Lit by starlight, Roxx could just make out the dim figures of two men pushing a motorcycle up and over a sand dune. She doubted they’d be back. Roxx restarted her bike, and the two clones hummed into action with her. The long road ahead took a gentle slope upward, twisting and rising above a high dune. Roxx followed it upward, accelerating her bike to north of eighty miles per hour. She powered over the rise, going airborne for no other reason than because she could, and she was Roxx. Even before the bike touched down, she was breathless, exhilarated for a second before remembering the baby was with her. Shit. Beside her, safely ensconced in her covered sidecar, Jessi slept on as though she’d been floating on clouds.

It’s not like she can fall out. Besides, you can’t be safe all the time.

Here in the higher elevations, the sand dunes grew steeper, swept into low mountains by the harsh north winds. In another day or two she’d reach the coast, and if reports were accurate, the terrain there would have been scraped flat by the same winds, taking with it her cover. She’d need to find provisions before then. The final leg to the coast might prove to be a full-on run for safety. But the minutia could wait—the sight before her was magnificent. As far as she could see, crimson hues from the dawning sky painted the dunes into a churning, red ochre sea, the waves rising and falling in blood-tinged solitude. Only bits of blue at the cool fringes of the horizon reminded her that she and her girls were still motoring through North Africa instead of some forsaken Martian valley. Roxx imagined she would like Mars almost as much as she did this place. She’d never seen the desert, much less one the scale of the Sahara, but couldn’t have been more at home had she been born to it. It was quiet. It was unforgiving. It was hard, and it was beautiful. It was Roxx personified.

Even the sky here is red.

Her uncle had taught her that dusk’s brilliant colors weren’t the work of some universe-building supernatural force, but a lingering reminder of the faint, radioactive pollution that bent long light waves back to earth. It wasn’t glorious, he’d say, but rather a reminder to humans of what death they’d wrought. She didn’t care. Unc was wrong. It was glorious; the tears told her it was. A bloody Rembrandt, this guy, God.

After another twenty miles, she slowed, unable to distinguish one low hill from the next. They were somewhere south of the ends of the earth, but north of hell, so at least her daughters were safe. For now, that was enough. She glanced down, pushed a button, and the navigational readout on her modified 1940 Indian Chief displayed fourteen degrees, forty-three minutes north by fifteen degrees, eighteen minutes east. She was well into the Chadian desert. With one hand, she pulled a scarf across her mouth, shielding her nose and lips from the desert wind. Before her, on the hardened sand that passed for a road, long shadows clutched at the undulating dunes; deeper black and reddish hues painted the landscape ahead like a madman’s abstract. Since they’d reached the Sahara, they had seen few traces of life and fewer traces of man. She’d heard God was dead, killed in the 21st-century apocalypse that shattered society. Here, she guessed, must be where he would have asked to be buried. Roxx pulled the black Indian to a halt, and Jazz’s high-tech 2133 Rogue bike hummed to a silent stop behind her, as did the third bike in her party, driven by Roxx’s unwanted guest.

I let Jazz bring one toy, and she picks that kaking thing. She knows I don’t trust bots.

Robots were so pervasive the term had been shortened to a suffix: workerbots, medibots, nanobots, even sexbots. Roxx disliked them all and spat out the term bots like an ethnic slur. Still, even she recognized that the motorcycle bringing up the rear was an amazing piece of technology, especially considering it had been hand-built by her late uncle. Its driver, an elegantly crafted robot, was Jazz’s masterpiece assembled from specifications Unc left before his sudden death. Roxx assumed her daughter chose the bike and its mechanized driver as a means to feel closer to the old man. Having his prized work with them pained Roxx as much as it gave comfort to Jazz. However, the girl asked for little, and whatever small bit of peace she could give her during their escape, she would.

To Roxx’s right, in the Indian’s bullet-shaped sidecar, her baby still slept peacefully, with wisps of blond hair spilling from under her blanket. A giant teddy bear, aptly named Bear, sat a protective watch from the floor, his yellow polka-dot bow tie giving him an air of distinction. Roxx lowered the sidecar’s convertible top and smiled at the wafting scent of cornstarch she used to keep Jessi dry. Still beaming, she bent to kiss her baby’s forehead and stopped. Waves shook her, wracked her sides, her hands tremulous like the quaking earth, until she sank to her knees and grasped the edge of the sidecar for support. Jessi couldn’t die, she just couldn’t. She couldn’t let it. Roxx pressed her lips to the soft skin of her angel’s forehead and allowed herself to cry, dousing the baby in tears. After a moment, then another, she gathered what remained of her shattered resolve and turned to check on Jazz. Her older daughter had not stirred and was likely asleep as well, secure inside the automated bike.

“Another night with the girls safe.” She spoke as one might utter a prayer after waking. There was no relief in her words, however, no lessening of anxiety. “Another day of hiding from the whole kaking world.” Roxx slid her goggles down to her neck, and as she’d done often in the past week, watched her sleeping girls: Jessi, with fair skin, iceberg blue eyes, and hair like corn silk, and Jazz, with caramel skin, inquisitive eyes, and a too-wise-for-her-years demeanor. Both were innocent of any crime unless perfection were a crime. The girls were so beautiful it hurt to look at them.

“Must be love.” Roxx wiped tears and mascara from her cheeks, turning again toward the rising sun. “Only love hurts this much.” She looked up at the sky and shouted. “How can I do this? How do you expect me to protect them against the whole goddamned world?” She was talking to that god bloke, but once again, he didn’t answer. Shrugging off her weakness like an unwanted cloak, Roxx folded her shaking hands across her chest and studied her bleak surroundings. “Good thing I’m bollocks at geography. If I knew how far away the desert was, I might never have tried to get here.” She scowled, shaking doubt from her mind. “We had no choice once the soldiers found out about Jessi. We had to run, even if the desert was as far away as the moon.”

 The phrase the soldiers used stuck in her mind: Post-term abortion. Jessi had been discovered and condemned to die. The soldiers admitted it in the end, and the flashes of news reports they’d picked up en route north confirmed it. Their words sickened her even more than if they’d just had the courage to call it an execution. Not only the baby, but Roxx would be killed too, and Jazz too, in case she carried whatever genetic flaw had allowed her mother to conceive a second child. They would be dissected and examined, and no one would dare protest. Governments would stop at nothing to ensure no one found out about the woman who successfully conceived a second child—at least not until all the rich people of the world had been cured of the genetic solution that limited women to one pregnancy. One Woman, One Child. That was the law. Humans, acting under the guise of bioterrorism, had usurped their gods and made it Nature’s law as well. No one was going to let a single mother from an impoverished part of Africa upend decades of peaceful oppression.

Roxx stood, her long, slim legs straddling her graceful motorcycle, watching as the morning sun kissed the desert awake. It was her morning ritual, watching the sunrise. She was looking for something here in the Sahara, but still didn’t know what.

The desert shows you nothing. You must find everything.

The old Tuareg saying had become her mantra. No morning prayers, only a firm restatement of the day’s agenda: survive another day. Flipping the day-night switch on her opaque glasses, she scanned 360 degrees to the horizon. There was only endless sand, a cool, distant sun, a few rusting hulls of grounded hovercraft, and stray tracks and scat from crossing camels herded by desert nomads. The abandoned machines meant they were nearing human populations. The nomads could be peaceful or most decidedly not. The machines were old and certainly not military grade; she doubted even Jazz could salvage useable parts. If there were people here, odds were they wouldn’t be better armed or trained than she was, and amateurs didn’t worry Roxx much.

Good. Me and soldiers don’t get on so well. To the northeast, shimmering in the early sun, were distant wisps of smoke. Must be another refugee town up there someplace. Maybe we can get a bit of food and some fresh water.

She sat down and started the Indian. Obediently, the two other bikes whispered to a start. Roxx flipped the scarf over her face.

Another step closer.

Closer to what, she didn’t know, but they had a chance. Her daughters could live and love, perhaps wed and have kids of their own. There was a future to be had, and she would find it for them or die trying. After a week of backwater towns, villages that had regressed seemingly to the eighteenth century, and roving bands of the desperate and dangerous, she had yet to find a safe haven for the girls. Here in the Sahara Wilderness District there was no real government and communities consisted of little more than glorified refugee camps until you reached the shores of the Mediterranean. Roxx heard stories of tremendous wealth on the coast and technology that few in her part of the world had ever seen.

Jazz would fit right in someplace like that.

The brilliant preteen likened their desert crossing to ancient mariners navigating the ocean to discover a new world. Hope crested before them like a silent wave, flowing against the grey ebb of hopelessness that had been their former home—the southern African district called Africasia. Roxx felt the promise that led them north as surely as she could feel the wind that carved ripples in the desert sand. At that moment, perhaps in response to her thoughts, the wind rose, and the Sahara’s ochre dust came alive, dancing mini-cyclonic ballets. It was an omen, Roxx decided, pointing them to freedom. The cloud of sand blew north and east, toward her grandmother’s home.

If the sand wants us to see Gran, that’s where we’ll go. Maybe Jazz is right. Maybe this bloke, God, ain’t dead yet. Maybe him and me can be mates. She smiled. It was a faint gesture that none, but her daughters, could have detected. The Tuareg were wrong about the desert.

Roxx accelerated and headed northeast after the sand cloud. The other bikes in the party resumed their places behind her. Following a sudden gust of wind was as good as any other course, she reasoned, and her grandmother was certain to give them at least a few days’ shelter. Roxx and her girls fled their home with no plan, except to survive. There’d been little to take. The clothes they wore. Some food. Weapons. Her late uncle’s prized bikes. Hope. She heard whispers of another life in the frozen north that used to be Europe—and remaining in her South Africasian home meant certain death. Even whispers of escape were enough, so she pointed their bikes up there, somewhere and began.

Roxanne Grail was never one to overthink a problem.

Roxx Hates Your Questions

Interviews with lead characters are generally a good idea, but once in a while you meet a lead who is, shall we say, less than cooperative when it comes to answering questions. I found this out when I interviewed Roxanne Grail, whose story is detailed in the novel Hard as Roxx.  I suppose I should have realized what would happen when she showed up for the interview with a weapon. Oh well, I suppose I should be grateful that she didn’t use it. Anyway, here’s my interview with Roxx.

Welcome Roxx and thank you for coming. Can I get you something to drink?
Is that your first question?
“Uh no. I was being polite.
If you wanna be polite, ask me your stupid questions and let’s get this over with.
Um, okay. Here go the first 10 questions.
First ten??
Yes, as we discussed, there may be a few follow-up questions.
How many is a few?
Er, um, twenty or thirty.
You taking the piss with me, you tosser?
No, I …
At this point, Roxx stood up, weapon in hand, and we mutually agreed I would send her written questions. That worked better, as I am still not deceased. Here, for what they’re worth, are the questions and her answers. Warning: some spoilers are contained in her answers. Roxx doesn’t do “cagey,” apparently. (Sigh)

First 10 Questions

1. What did you eat for breakfast? Did you make it yourself? What time do you eat breakfast? Do you wash the pan after you cook the eggs or do you leave it for the maid to clean? Do you have a maid?
Bacon, coffee, bacon, and then coffee. I let the damned bots clean up. I eat when I’m hungry, or after morning sex. Sometimes during sex. I like to eat.
2. Do you have a cat? How many cats do you have? Do you wish you were a cat? How many litter boxes do you have? Do you clean the litter boxes every day? Or does your maid clean the litter boxes?
Are you fucking kidding?
3. Do you go out for lunch or bring a sack lunch? Do you take an extra long lunch break and charge the company?
What’s your bloody obsession with me diet? Are you calling me fat?
4. Are you an only child? How many siblings do you have? Are you close or are you estranged?
Seriously? Did you even read me book?
[Let the record show that I actually wrote her book, although she disputes that obvious fact.]
5. If you are adopted, do you know your birth parents? Do you want to find them?
I was adopted, sort of. I don’t want to meet my birth father; his brother raised me and he never said much that was nice about the bloke.
6. Do you call your mother every day, or only on her birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas? Are your parents alive?
Shouldn’t you have asked the last question first? They’re dead. Happy now? Because now, I miss me mum. You are an arse.
7. Do you like to cook? Do you use recipes or make up your own recipes? Do you eat out every night?
I like to mix drinks. Does that count?
8. Do you put both socks on first, or one sock, one shoe?
How in the kak do you put on two socks at the same time? You best not be some 4-armed bot asking me these damned questions. On the other hand, if you have some kind of foot fetish … I have very pretty feet. Long, sensuous toes. High arches. You’re hot now, aren’t you?
9. Do you have a dog? Is the dog a rescue dog or bought from a breeder?
No, I don’t have a bloody dog. Me middle child has a pet Pelorovis. I saw him kill and eat a dog once. Does that count?
10. Or perhaps a hamster? Or do you have any pets?
Me wife has pet Neanderthals. I ride woolly mammoths. We’re different than most girls.

15 More Questions

1. Do you pick your nose?
I am going to cut your fucking head off and spit down your neck.
2. Do you bite your fingernails? Do you have any bad habits?
I occasionally cut off people’s heads when they annoy me. Trint and Jazz (my daughter) frown on that.
3. What is your earliest memory?
Private.
4. Do you hold the door open for the person behind you or do you let it go and slam in their face?
Depends on whether I like the person behind me.
5. Do you take chicken soup to your elderly neighbor when they are sick?
My elderly neighbor is 107 years old and she runs six miles per day. She has never been sick in her life. Never.
6. If your boss asked you to cheat on your invoice and bill your client for extra hours, would you do it?
I have never had a boss in my life. Well, Trint is pretty bossy, but I don’t do what she tells me to.
7. On Monday morning, are you excited to go to work, or are you sad?
I don’t do sad. I go to work.
8. If you could go back in time for one day, where would you go?
The day you wrote these questions. I’d strongly discourage you from sending them to me.
9. You can cure one disease. Which one would you cure?
Does the one-child genetic disruption count as a disease?
10. Do you honk at the car in front of you if they didn’t see the light turn green?
I have no idea what this means. We from Africa. We don’t wait for ‘green.’ The hell is wrong with you?
11. Do you exercise or are you a coach potato?
I’ve exercised six hours a day since I was six. You tell me what kind of potato that makes me. Spoiler alert: a hot potato.
12. If a Boy Scout comes to your door selling popcorn, do you hide in the kitchen or buy popcorn?
What. The. Hell?
13. Have you ever served in the military?
No, but I killed a military once.
14. What is your greatest fear?
I’ll let you know if I get one.
15. Let’s say we’re meeting in person. Would you like me to get you a glass of water? Or would you rather have soda? Wine? Whiskey?
Yes. Yes. Yes. No. Okay, yes, but only one.

Let’s Push Our Luck: A Dozen More Questions (Warning : Some Major Spoilers Below)

1. Do you iron your clothes? Who does your laundry? Do you do it yourself or do you send it out?
Jasper (my valet) does my clothes, but yeah, I’m really particular with my clothes.
2. Are you married? Are you divorced? How many times have you been married?
Yes. No. Twice.
3. Do you brush and floss your teeth before you go to bed? Do you use an electric toothbrush and a water pick?
You writing a book about dental hygiene? I do not want to be in that book.
4. Do you have any cavities?
You are writing about dental hygiene. You arsehole!
5. Are those your real teeth, or are they dentures, or are they all capped?
Ask me one more tooth question. I dare you.
6. What do you throw into the garbage? Do you recycle?
Interviewers’ heads.
7. Do you live in an apartment or a house?
I live in a kaking castle. We also have a farmhouse in Antarctica. I don’t care if you don’t believe me.
8. Do you own your own home or rent?
Super, super, super, super rich. Very rich.
9. Do you mow your own lawn or use a landscape service?
My lawn is 16 square miles. You figure it out.
10. Have you ever had a garden?
I grew up in fucking Africa. The whole country was a garden.
11. Have you ever eaten a carrot right out of the ground?
What the hell is a carrot?
12. If you had a dog, would you pick up your dog’s poop when you go for a walk or sneak off and hope no one saw your dog poop on their lawn?
What’s with you and dogs? Do you brush and floss your dog’s teeth? No, I’m not picking up no kaking dog poop. What the hell is wrong with you?? Who does that? You are a psycho!! Plus, and get this straight, I don’t sneak.

Well Roxx, thank you for your time, and for mostly answering our questions. I wouldn’t call it cooperation, but at least it was … interesting.
If you ain’t dead, I was cooperating.

You’re kind of a jerk, you know that?
Yeah, I really like you too, sweetie. Kisses.

Whence Ideas Come and Whither They Go

Those who’ve followed my blog for some time know that I think writer’s block is an (ironically) imagined disorder. There is no such thing as a lack of ideas. However, writers can make finding those ideas difficult, often by falling into inflexible routines. Let’s assume, for instance, a writer has always found their story ideas while hiking through the woods. If, after months of hiking without any new ideas emerging, it would be normal for the writer to assume they’ve finally run out of new ideas. It’s even easier to feel stuck if your normal writing method is to sit down at the computer and pound out whatever idea emerges. If nothing comes, is that writer’s block or simply a bad methodology? I would argue that it’s the latter.

While everyone has periods where new ideas don’t fall as readily from the imagination tree as other times, changing your writing routine can be very effective at giving your tree a vigorous shake. To this point, I’ve penned the equivalent of ten books, although I’ve not published all of them. Of the ten, three are collections of short fiction. In addition, I have a backlog of a half-dozen new book ideas I’ve not had time to develop and dozens of short-story ideas. So, how do I generate so many fresh starts? I simply assume that everything I do in life is a potential source of information. As a result, ideas never stop.

To demonstrate what I mean, let’s look at books I’ve written and where I got some of my ideas. I’ll ignore sequels, since those are follow-on works that should evolve organically from books that are already developed on in progress. The list below shows where brand new ideas sprang from.

  • Dreams: The Changeling* (Fantasy) – I wrote this when I first started writing fiction in 2009, and long before I had any inkling on how to generate ideas. In fact, to this point, I’d never seriously considered fiction since I was convinced I had no imagination at all. On a lark, I decided I would write a short story based on one of the few dreams I remembered from my childhood. A friend liked the story, and so I turned it into a novel, which quickly became a series. In fact, I wrote the first two books at once (Grandfather Time** was Book 2), so you could say that childhood dream inspired two books.
  • Music and/or Videos: Hard as Roxx (Sci-Fi) and The Little Burgundy (Mystery) – Being somewhat of a music fanatic, it’s perhaps not surprising that I get inspiration from music and music videos. While I would hesitate to recommend turning someone’s video directly into a book plot, music is an interesting way to generate story ideas. For Hard as Roxx, the music video to “Dude It Like a Dude,” by Jessie J gave me the idea for my Sci-Fi tome’s protagonist, Roxanne Grail. I let myself imagine a world wherein women allowed themselves the same power that men always claimed, with my lead being a musically inclined woman who just happened to kick much ass. The Little Burgundy stars detective Jeanne Dark, and while I created my lead based on character traits I wanted her to have, like synesthesia, inspiration for her style (and a bit of background story) came from singer Melody Gardot. There was just something about Gardot’s rendition of “Who Will Comfort Me” that gave me a sense of Jeanne’s smooth vibe and set the tone for the book. I even wrote a few chapters while listening to it. In a number of books, the writing was inspired (or at least aided) by the music I listened to while writing).
  • Movies: Hard as Roxx (Sci-Fi) – In addition to the above, Roxx is somewhat of a character amalgam. She’s part Clint Eastwood, part Bruce Lee, and very much her own woman. In order to avoid typical dystopian clichés, I created my own projection of scientific and technological advancements, and then placed them in a northern African setting for a change of pace. Action scenes were inspired by movie genres, rather than plots, with fight sequences taken from spaghetti westerns and Kung Fu flicks.  I asked myself to imagine a Bruce Lee fight sequence that takes place on an airplane with an 8-months-pregnant woman as one of the combatants. I asked, “How would Eastwood’s Man With No Name respond to encountering a group of sex slavers in an unmarked desert town, if he were the father of a little girl?” These “what-ifs” provided fodder and allowed me to explore both new ideas and old ideas in new ways and settings. Imagination isn’t limited to creating new worlds; sometimes, it’s understanding how a simple shift in a few dynamics changes the existing world.
  • Books: The Brooklyn Trace (Detective)  – Admittedly, I’m no longer a voracious reader of fiction, so if I read a book, I’m looking for something specific: not plot ideas, but more often, understanding what’s been done so that I don’t do that. Frankly, other writers’ ideas get in my way. I can no longer read a book as a reader. Instead, I always read as a writer–specifically, me, as the writer–and end up asking myself, “How would I have written this scene?” It’s not always better in my head, but it is always different. I wanted The Brooklyn Trace’s Eddie Daley to have an old Film Noir detective feel, but in an updated setting. Eddie isn’t sexist or mildly racist like Hammett’s Sam Spade or Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. He’ll never call someone a ‘fairy’ or use the ‘n-word.’ He’s not a misogynist like Marlowe, and he not an alcoholic like Hammett’s Nick Charles. In short, he’s not a self-destructive loser like most noir detectives, but neither is he an infallible superhero like (sober) Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. Knowing what your character is not goes a long way toward determining what he is. While I plotted the book meticulously (for mysteries, you have to ) I allowed dialog and relationships to evolve organically, based on the strong character definition that the noir genre requires. In that way, I took cues from  Chandler and Hammett, using their clipped dialog and quick-paced conversations as a template. The book is all mine,  but the novel’s pacing was inspired by those masterful writers. No one’s writing is a tight as Raymond Chandler’s, but Eddie’s narration is my tightest writing to date.
  • Kinetic Scripting: The Brooklyn Trace – Okay, I made this term up, but I don’t know what else you’d call it. While I outlined in great detail Brooklyn Trace’s primary and secondary plot lines, the actual writing of each scene was different. A typical chapter’s outline would list one or two pieces of information that needed to be revealed or an event that needed to happen. The why and how of it is where all the free-style writing comes into play. The entirety of this book I wrote while walking or hiking, typically on my two-mile jaunt through the neighborhood. I’d allow the scene to play out in my head as I walked and when I got home, sat at the computer and typed it out. There is something symbiotic about scripting an action novel while in motion. If you haven’t tried it, give it a whirl. Just watch out for traffic if you do.
  • Daydreams: The Stubborn Life of Jesse Ed McKinney (Literary Fiction)– I’ve learned there are 3 stages of dreaming: normal dreaming, conscious dreaming, and wakeful dreaming. As a kid, I taught myself conscious dreaming by focusing on one element I wished to see and not moving on in the dream until it appeared. My key at that time was a “STOP” sign. Until I could read the sign, nothing else happened. When I could, I knew I was dreaming, but in control. I’d allow the dream to continue, or wake myself up if it got too scary. I still use the technique, though now it’s limited to my usually being aware that I’m dreaming as I dream. For Jesse Ed’s book, I took it a step further. I often awake from dreams in the morning, with the dream interrupted in mid-stream by my brain’s clock telling me it’s 7:30 and time for meds. On one late-summer morning, I decided to remain in bed and asked myself how would I finish the dream I’d been having. How would I change the parts I didn’t like? I lay there, and as I did, the dream evolved to a new story about a poor family in Tennessee in the early 1900s. The entire “movie” played out before me in my head, and after an hour, I got up and wrote the plot down exactly as I remembered it. It still took a month to convert my notes to a book, but 30 days later, I’d finished my best work to date. Since then, I’ve written a couple of short stories the same way, and come up with a several plot ideas.
  • More Books: The Stubborn Life of Jesse Ed McKinney – As I wrote Jesse Ed’s book, the narrative voice was quite different than my usual style. Prior to beginning writing, I read some work by William Faulkner (choking on his racist stupidity but dazzled by the literary brilliance of Light of August) and Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon and Jazz). What I was looking for was not “how they wrote” or “what they wrote” but, much more importantly, “What did they give themselves permission to do?” Faulkner gave himself permission to make up words for things that didn’t have words, but needed them. I remembered Shakespeare gave himself the same permission. Oddly, I do that all the time in my real life, but usually edited made-up words out of my writing. This time I gave myself permission to create as much language as I wished or ignore as much grammar as was required to tell the story. Morrison gave herself permission to be poetic whenever she felt, to sing the words, to love the characters’ flaws, and tell the story as though reality, absurdity, and impossibility were all one thing. So, I gave myself that permission too, dedicating the book to them both.
  • Photos: Various Short Stories and Novelettes – For me, this works much better for short fiction. To put it simply, I find unusual photos online, those that have a story, and I write scenes, or stories, or 16,000-word novelettes based on the photo. It’s easier than you think, especially if you keep the visual on your computer, side-by-side with your story, as you write. I use a similar technique when I want to get very specific in a story, having the advantage there of setting stories in places I’ve been, using photos I’ve taken. As an example, the cover photo for Jesse Ed’s book is, in fact, my great-grandfather, a shot I had restored some years back. The opening chapter of the book was inspired by the two photos below, which I searched for online, since I’d already dreamt the story that went with them. Sometimes the photos come first, sometimes it’s the story that does.

For me, writing is quite similar to how I’ve heard “channeling” described. The stories are there, and the characters can’t wait to tell them. All you must do is trust that they’re there, learn how to see or hear them, and then try to keep out of the way of the story as it’s being told. If, when you begin to write, you find yourself talking too much within the book, try to be quiet and see if your narrator can’t surprise you with a voice you didn’t know you had in you.

If you have ways of coming up with stories I’ve not thought of here, chime in and let me know in the comments. Maybe I’ll try those too.

Notes:

* The Changeling was previously released as The Stream: Discovery.
** Grandfather Time was previously released as The Stream: Awakening.

Roxx Reduxx

In the coming months, I will be re-releasing all of my old novels, starting with my Sci-Fi adventure, Hard as Roxx. All of them have been revised. Roxx, like the others, have had their prose tightened, with the opening retooled substantially. Unlike the other older books, Roxx’s story is slightly longer, rather than shorter, as I added elements I deemed needed for world-building. Plus, there is even more ass kicking than before. Here is an excerpt from the new, improved Chapter 1, “Up There, Somewhere.”

05 May 2137—6:57 a.m. Central Africasian time.

The desert is a damned desolate place for a woman on a motorcycle and a baby in the sidecar. It suited Roxx. She’d read somewhere that the Sahara used to be hard dirt and scrub brush, but by the time she and her daughters reached it, humans had already sucked the life from it like a thirsty cat at the throat of a limp rat. Gone were the pockets of drying grass, low trees, and brush that fed the indigenous wildlife. In their place were fluffy sheets of dirty dust, covering a hundred years’ worth of desert flotsam. She’d been riding in dark silence for hours, in part to let the girls sleep and part because there was no way to be sure the area was as abandoned as it appeared. The thing about predators is that you never see the good ones. Maybe you’ll catch a whiff if you’re lucky enough to be downwind of their attack or skilled enough to recognize the setup.
I best be skilled. My luck is shite.

She’d stumbled across a trio of them two days prior when her group was emerging from the tattered remnants of the Congolese jungle. Roxx had gotten careless, and the men came out of nowhere, cutting Roxx off with their battered pick-up truck and ancient rifles. They made the mistake of aiming a gun and sexual remarks at Jazz, her ten-year-old daughter. She still wore their blood on her boots as a reminder to be more vigilant. Jazz made her abandon their heads to the scavengers, but Roxx would have remembered the lesson better had she kept them.

For endless miles, the Sahara’s low hills scraped along the indigo night, rising and falling beside her like silent, subterranean giants beneath an endless ocean of sand. Jazz called them sand whales—smooth, silent, and deadly. It was all very lovely unless you kept in mind something dangerous could be lurking behind each dune. There were no street lights, but Roxx’s day/night glasses picked up enough residual starlight to allow her to keep the bikes dark. Their pattern of movements would have been the perfect symphony of hushed obscurity except for one thing: Roxx never was any damn good at being discrete. A six-hour ride through the mind-bending boredom of the desert night had become more than she could bear in silence. With silence came memories, and with memories came the realization that she and her daughters might never live long enough to reach any place even approaching safety.

So, fighting sleep and tedium, she called upon one of her demigods, the Lord thy Pavarotti, and at a sacred seven seconds past the seventh hour of the seventh day since their escape, she flipped the switch on her Indian’s dual speaker array and lit the crimson hell out of the quiet morning air. She rode there for a time, sailing through her desert dawn with her god singing “Nessun Dorma.” Hers was a gentle deity and never minded when she sang with him each dawn—always translated into English—Puccini’s words, directed to her baby.

None shall sleep! None shall sleep! Even you, O Princess, in your cold bedroom, watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope!

As could have been predicted—were she the sort to bother making predictions—within seconds a single point of light emerged from a dune behind her with the wind whispering the sounds of a gruff engine’s growl above her bike’s operatic roar. The light was a half-mile back and closing fast. Roxx accelerated. Beside her, the two companion bikes matched her movements. Her trio of vehicles and the pursuers continued racing through the dunes for a full minute. Without slowing, she reached forward, pulled her rifle from its vertical holster next to the front wheel, turned, and squeezed off a single shot. The warm air carried the sound of breaking glass as the desert returned to darkness. Seconds later, the din of the engine behind her stopped. The winds carried the faint smells of food-derived organic fuel mixed in with human sweat.

Roxx pulled her scarf down, freeing her nose and mouth, her nose and waited.

Stay stopped, mate. You only get the one warning. Over her pounding heart, Pavarotti sang, and she with him, this time, singing aloud, “Set, stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!” She wondered how long she’d been crying.

It’s never bloody dawn in Africa.

Lit by starlight, Roxx could just make out the dim figures of two men pushing a motorcycle up and over a sand dune. She doubted they’d be back. Roxx restarted her bike, and the two clones hummed into action with her. The long road ahead took a gentle slope upward, twisting and rising above a high dune. Roxx followed it upward, accelerating her bike to north of eighty miles per hour. She powered over the rise, going airborne for no other reason than because she could, and she was Roxx. Even before the bike touched down, she was breathless, exhilarated for a second before remembering the baby was with her. Shit. Beside her, safely ensconced in her covered sidecar, Jessi slept on as though she’d been floating on clouds.

It’s not like she can fall out. Besides, you can’t be safe all the time.

  • Writer’s note: It turns out that Puccini’s words fit the story excellently
  • ENGLISH

    None shall sleep! None shall sleep! Even you, O Princess,
    in your cold bedroom,
    watch the stars
    that tremble with love and with hope!
    But my secret is hidden within me;
    none will know my name!

Up There, Somewhere

So, I’m reworking my science fiction novel, which I will try to get published (one day) via the traditional publishing model (assuming I can find one open to some LGBT lead characters). I’ve started at the beginning, and am re-imagining my book as the movie it needs to be. As such, the opening needs to be my lead characters sailing through the predawn darkness of the desert on their bikes, not her response to it.

I’ve said it, but now I’ll be showing it. More importantly, I’ve learned–from my other, better books–I must make you feel it. She’s headed “up there, somewhere,” and that’s the adventure in the book. Like so much in life, one launches oneself clothed in little more than hope–a wish, two parts luck and fifty parts work–and try to make life do what it do. She’s like that, opening her story wistfully and misty eyed because it’s dark, no one’s awake but her, and there’s no one to see. She’s strong, and true strength isn’t granite. It bends, it bows, but it never breaks.

My girl is there, with her daughters, and life is about to get real. All she can count on is her training, and her hope that “she and this bloke, god, can be mates.”

This way go I, with her, and for real this time. One thousand, nine hundred, and fifty-nine words. That’s the opening sequence. If I haven’t made you love her a little by then, if you don’t want to sit in her jump seat and take the ride with her 1959 words in I’ve lost you. If this isn’t the best thing I’ve done, the best thing I’ll ever do, then I’ll have done the world a disservice. It’s time to turn the world on its ear, Roxx and me.

Wish us luck.

Apocalypse Soon?

Actual Headline: “China Is Testing an Unproven Malaria Drug on an Entire African Nation

The drug works to eliminate the parasite in humans such that it can no longer be transmissible via mosquitoes. The unproven drug was given to everyone on the island across three waves of treatments — all 700,000 inhabitants — despite it not being approved for use in humans by any international health body.

My Prediction in Hard as Roxx:

2019
•    Dr. Heinz Radler announced a breakthrough in anti-malarial treatment, via a treatable “microvirus.” Infected patients can be injected with the microvirus, which binds with the Plasmodium falciparum parasite that causes malaria, killing it. Dr. Radler went public due to pressure to rush the technique to market, given the dramatic rise in malarial cases in southeast Asia, which were caused by a heavy mosquito infestation. Heavy rains were to blame for the insect population’s explosion.

2020
•    Dr. Xu Xiang, head of Infectious Disease Research at the largest hospital in Chengdu, China, informs the World Health Organization (WHO) that an “adapted” microvirus, being used in an experimental drug trial in Cambodia, has mutated. Dr. Radler goes into hiding.

Apocalypse: Still Possible, and a few years ahead of schedule. So far, nothing in my timeline is falling out. This predicting an apocalypse thing might be too easy. Of course, in my timeline the drug was tested in Cambodia, not Comoros. Africa came later.

“That’s right, a pregnant girl just whipped your bitch ass.”

From the science fiction adventure, Hard as Roxx, Chapter 25

Trint stood face-to-face with Buzz, the backs of their right hands touching. He had six inches on her, but he was not as tall as Roxx. This, she felt, put her at an advantage. Trint, after all their years together, had inherited her spouse’s odd way of sizing up a situation. The two combatants stood there for a few seconds with the blonde smirking down at her. He began to push against her hand, testing her strength, perhaps her resolve. She pushed back and saw a hint – just of trace – of surprise. She was stronger than she looked. Considering that from the side, she looked like a capital letter “B” with legs, being stronger than she looked didn’t take much doing.

Buzz smiled harder and nodded. “Well, hit me,” he said, looking at her hand.

Trint’s demeanor was even. “When there is an opportunity, I do not hit. It hits all by itself.” Then she punched him squarely in the nose.

He hadn’t moved yet.

That’s Master Lee, bitch.

He shook his head, and this time surprise took full control of his face. Anger hung above like a cloud. Trint resumed the same position as before. Buzz hesitated, looking as if he were trying to decide whether to continue the “fair fight” regime.

“Best two out of three?” she asked, smiling.

The blonde snarled and returned his hand. Trint punched him twice: once with the right and once with the left, which had been at her side. He almost managed to raise his defense at the second strike.

“Oopsy,” she said. “Oh-for-three. You lose.”

She stepped back, just as Buzz swung at her torso. She’d anticipated that once he discovered she was not an easy out, he would either get serious, and they’d have a real sparring match, or he would aim directly for her weakest spot – her baby.

He chose dream number two.

It was a mistake, as his downward swing sent him off balance, just enough for Trint to swing over him and shatter his nose. The sound of the breaking cartilage excited her, and she began to dance on her toes, her tongue sticking out.

I do not stick it out. It sticks out all by itself. Trint began to laugh.

Continue reading ““That’s right, a pregnant girl just whipped your bitch ass.””

Girl Sex

ddbb44854f796d8c3e1962444c6eb84bSome reviewers gave Hard as Roxx negative reviews because it features two smart, sexy women who sometimes have sex with each other. They have sex with others too, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Instead, the readers objected to my updating social mores to reflect the 22nd century.

In effect, it’s okay that Roxx decapitates enough people to start a head farm as long as she doesn’t perform oral sex on a girl, because that would be gross. Ew, girl sex. So, here’s me, saying, “Bite me.” Sure, book sales slowed when people inaccurately labeled my work “lesbian fiction.” But I don’t think I’d have changed a word, mainly because it’s not lesbian fiction.

Excerpt below. Click to read more.

Hell, Roxx isn’t even gay. Whatever. Anyone who doesn’t know that LGBTQ themes are prevalent in Sci-Fi shouldn’t read my books anyway. Seriously.

Remember her? She liked sex with girls too. Dumb shits.
Remember her? She liked sex with girls too. Dumb shits.


 

15 December 2142 07:02 a.m. – Central European Time.

Trint awoke to kisses. As the eastern light bathed their room, she turned, burying her head under the oversized pillow she had become accustomed to hugging in her sleep. She began to drift, once more, to sleep, but felt familiar lips and an impudent tongue teasing the soft curve of her belly, tickling her protruding navel, tracing a path along the curves of her hips. She could feel Roxx’s warm breath coming in increasing bursts and stole a glance at her partner, who was nude, eyes closed, her mouth pressed to flesh. She could have been sleep kissing for all Trint knew. Without warning, her partner slid her lower body to the floor and began working in earnest. Trint felt the wind pulled from her, felt her eyes clamp shut. Fluttering kisses … a touch here … another there, in the spot that always worked … and she knew it was coming and would begin soon.

Her back arched and she could hear soft moans, sweet sounds whose owner she could not identify. And it was here now and there was fire, she was aflame; her partner would not stop … she defeated her, winded her. In a flash of impassioned light, with muffled screams and hands wrenching at sheets, it was over. She gasped for breath, whispered calming words to her pounding heart and … one last kiss … felt her partner’s soft skin against her own.

“Thank you,” Roxx whispered, filling Trint’s cheeks with kisses.

“Why are you thanking me? All I did was wake up.” Trint was smiling, though her eyes were apparently glued shut.

“Just … for always giving me what I need, even when I argue with you that I don’t need it.”

Though lovemaking was Trint’s favorite way to start the day – or end the day, or steal a few moments from the pace of the day – it was all too rare an occurrence, lately. There was abundant space. Some days, she felt as if they were two continents, doomed to drift apart, with no bridge wide enough to span the gap. Then, magically, Roxx would reach across the chasm if it was not there. She would leave and take a bit more of Trint with her when she was gone. Lately, there was very little of Trint left.

She was born to wander, she had concluded. The world was waiting, and yet she spent most of her time on the land adjacent to her father’s estate. Roxx would not join her on the hunt, today. That, she knew without asking. Roxx hated the cold, detested the snow, despised winter and everything it stood for. When she did risk the cold, which was not often, she was a walking anachronism, a Viking among robots. Trint smiled, thinking of Roxx dressed in black jeans, fur boots, jacket, and a fourteenth-century sword with integrated twenty-second century technology. Roxanne fought the cold with as much vigor as she had embraced the desert. Long, lean limbs did not serve as good insulators against biting nine-month winters. So, she would not join Trint today, and there would be just that much more space between them. Instead, Roxx would be working at her father-in-law’s institute, “for the good of the girls.” Trint, meanwhile, would continue studying the neo-anthropology of the Neanderthal.

“The lonely life of an academic,” she said aloud, as she listened to the sounds of the house awaking around her. “Ten more hours with my peeps, and none with my Roxxy.”