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New Releases: 7/18/17

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Arabella and the Battle of Venus by David D. Levine

Place holder  of - 45 Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

Image Placeholder of - 47 Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, born in ancient Rome, are vice cops in a special Miami police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, bootleg blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.

When poisoned artificial blood drives vampires to murder, the city threatens to tear itself apart. Only an unlikely alliance with former opponents can give Alex and Marcus a fighting chance against an ancient vampire conspiracy.

NEW IN PAPERBACK:

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

Poster Placeholder of - 36 Hwa is of the few people in her community to forgo bio-engineered enhancements. As such, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig—making her doubly an outsider, as well as a neglected daughter and bodyguard extraordinaire. Still, her expertise in the arts of self-defense and her record as a fighter mean that her services are yet in high demand. When the youngest Lynch needs training and protection, the family turns to Hwa. But can even she protect against increasingly intense death threats seemingly coming from another timeline?

One Year After by William R. Forstchen

Placeholder of  -74 Months before publication, William R. Forstchen’s One Second After was cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read. This thrilling follow-up to that smash hit begins one year after One Second After ends, two years since nuclear weapons were detonated above the United States and brought America to its knees. After months of suffering starvation, war, and countless deaths, the survivors of Black Mountain, North Carolina, are beginning to recover technology and supplies they had once taken for granted. When a “federal administrator” arrives in a nearby city, they dare to hope that a new national government is finally emerging.

 

NEW IN MANGA:

Hana & Hina After School Vol. 2 Story and art by Milk Morinaga

Lord Marksman and Vanadis Vol. 4 Story by Tsukasa Kawaguchi; Art by Nobuhiko Yanai

Magika Swordsman and Summoner Vol. 7 Story by Mitsuki Mihara; Art by MonRin

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New Releases: 7/12/16

Here’s what went on sale today!

Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, he proved that space travel was both possible and profitable. Now, one century later, a plantation in a flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars.

Clear to Lift by Anne A. Wilson

Clear to Lift by Anne A. Wilson Navy helicopter pilot Lt. Alison Malone has been assigned to a search and rescue team based at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, near the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada, and far from her former elite H-60 squadron. Alison is desperate to be transferred out of the boonies, where careers stagnate, and back to her life and fiancé in San Diego. Alison’s defenses start to slip when she meets mountain guide Will Cavanaugh during a particularly dicey mission. Will introduces her to a wild, beautiful world of adventure that she has never known before. Stranded on a mountain during a sudden dangerous blizzard, Alison questions every truth she thought she knew about herself. When Will braves the storm to save her life, she must confront the fact that she has been living a lie. But is it too late to change course?

The Monster War by Alan Gratz

The Monster War by Alan GratzThe Monster War is the third book in the action-packed, steampunk League of Seven series by acclaimed author Alan Gratz. Having discovered the monstrous secret of his origins, Archie Dent is no longer certain that he is worthy to be a member of the League of Seven. But with new enemies to face, he realizes that he may not have the luxury of questioning his destiny. Wielding the Dragon Lantern, the maniacal Philomena Moffett has turned her back on the Septemberist Society, creating her own Shadow League and unleashing a monster army on the American continent. Archie and his friends must race to find the last two members of their league in time to thwart Moffett’s plan and rescue humanity once more.

Necessity by Jo Walton

Necessity by Jo WaltonMore than sixty-five years ago, Pallas Athena founded the Just City on an island in the eastern Mediterranean, placing it centuries before the Trojan WarAmong the City’s children was Pytheas, secretly the god Apollo in human form. Sixty years ago, the Just City schismed into five cities, each devoted to a different version of the original vision. Forty years ago, the five cities managed to bring their squabbles to a close. But in consequence of their struggle, their existence finally came to the attention of Zeus, who can’t allow them to remain in deep antiquity, changing the course of human history. Convinced by Apollo to spare the Cities, Zeus instead moved everything on the island to the planet Plato, circling its own distant sun. Now, more than a generation has passed.

The Cities are flourishing on Plato, and even trading with multiple alien species. Then, on the same day, two things happen. Pytheas dies as a human, returning immediately as Apollo in his full glory. And there’s suddenly a human ship in orbit around Plato–a ship from Earth.

Rebellion by J. A. Souders

Rebellion by J. A. SoudersIn this conclusion to J. A. Souders’s thrilling, twist-filled Elysium Chronicles series, Evie Winters and Gavin Hunter return to the isolated, dangerous underwater city that they fought so hard to escape. Back in Elysium at last, Evie has finally found her true self hidden under layers and layers of false memories implanted by the woman she knew as Mother. Thanks to the intervention of her father, she knows the horrible truth about Mother and her insidious plans for the city. With the help of the love of her life, Gavin, and her best friend, Asher St. James, Evie is determined to free her people from the cruel dictatorship of Mother’s laws. But how do you free people who don’t know they need rescuing?

The Stars Askew by Rjurik Davidson

The Stars Askew by Rjurik DavidsonThe Stars Askew is the highly anticipated sequel to the New Weird adventure begun by talented young author Rjurik Davidson. With the seditionists in power, Caeli-Amur has begun a new age. Or has it? The escaped House officials no longer send food, and the city is starving. When the moderate leader Aceline is murdered, the trail leads Kata to a mysterious book that explains how to control the fabled Prism of Alerion. But when the last person to possess the book is found dead, it becomes clear that a conspiracy is afoot. At its center is former House Officiate Armand, who has hidden the Prism. Meanwhile, Maximilian is sharing his mind with another being: the joker-god Aya.

It seems the seditionists’ hopes for a new age of peace and prosperity in Caeli-Amur have come to naught, and every attempt to improve the situation makes it worse. The question now is not just whether Kata, Max, and Armand can do anything to stop the bloody battle in the city, but if they can escape with their lives.

Time Siege by Wesley Chu

Time Siege by Wesley ChuHaving been haunted by the past and enslaved by the present, James Griffin-Mars is taking control of the future. Earth is a toxic, sparsely inhabited wasteland–the perfect hiding place for a fugitive ex-chronman to hide from the authorities. James has allies, scientists he rescued from previous centuries, as well as the Elfreth, a population of downtrodden humans who want desperately to believe that James and his friends will heal their ailing home world. James also has enemies. They include the full military might of benighted solar system ruled by corporate greed and a desperate fear of what James will do next. At the forefront of their efforts to stop him is Kuo, the ruthless security head, who wants James’s head on a pike and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

NEW FROM TOR.COM:

The Ghoul King by Guy Haley

The Ghoul King by Guy HaleyQuinn returns in The Ghoul King, another story of the Dreaming Cities by Guy Haley. The Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means, any more – to restock his small but essential inventory. After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional robot. But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many…

NOW IN PAPERBACK:

The Iron Assassin by Ed Greenwood

The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett

Revelations by J. A. Souders

NEW IN MANGA:

Magical Girl Apocalypse Vol. 8 by Kentaro Sato

Monster Musume: I Heart Monster Girls Vol. 2 by OKAYADO

Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn Vol. 5 by Masamune Shirow

See upcoming releases.

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Visit Tor/Forge Books at ALA!

AC16-GeneralThe American Library Association’s 2016 Annual Conference is in Orlando this week! Tor/Forge Books will be there. Come say hello at Booth #2114, or at one of these events:

Saturday, June 25

  • 9:30 – 10:15 AM Book Buzz Theater: The Future According to Harlequin TEEN, Tor Teen, and Starscape
    We’re pleased to present a selection of must-shelve upcoming fiction from Harlequin TEEN, Tor Teen, and Starscape. Join us as Tor’s Ali Fisher and Harlequin TEEN’s Siena Koncsol discuss some of our excellent forthcoming titles, as well as highlights from the current season. Galleys, posters, and other giveaways are available in booth #1402 and #2114.
    Location: Orange County Convention Center, Exhibit Hall – Book Buzz Theater
  • 11:00 AM – Kathleen Baldwin will be signing copies of the first book in her Stranje House series, A School for Unusual Girls
    Location: Booth #2114
  • 1:00 – 2:30 PM Tor/LITA Author Panel: Science Fiction/Fantasy and Information Technology: Where We Are and Where We Could Have Been
    Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature have a unique ability to speculate about things that have never been, but can also be predictive about things that never were. Through the lens provided by alternate history/counterfactual literature one can look at how the world might have changed if different technologies had been pursued. For examples what if instead of developing microprocessors computing depended on vacuum tubes or something fantastic like the harmonies in the resonance of crystals? Join LITA, the Imagineering Interest Group, and a panel of distinguished Science Fiction and Fantasy writers as they discuss what the craft can tell us about not only who we are today, but who, given a small set of differences, we could have been. Featuring authors Charlie Jane Anders, Brian Staveley, Catherynne M. Valente, and Katherine Addison.
    Location: Orange County Convention Center, Room W208
  • 2:00 PM – Sarah Porter will be signing copies of her upcoming novel Vassa in the Night
    Location: Booth #2114
  • 3:00 – 4:00 PM AAP Children’s Author & Librarian Speed Dating
    Meet over twenty authors across all children’s book categories in this one hour speed dating event. Featuring Tor Teen authors Kathleen Baldwin and J. A. Souders.
    Location: Rosen Centre, Room Grand D
  • 3:30 PM – Thomas Olde Heuvelt will be signing copies of his nightmare-inducing novel HEX
    Location: Booth #2114

Sunday, June 26

  • 9:00 – 10:00 AM YA Author Coffee Klatch
    Enjoy coffee and meet with YALSA’s award winning authors! This informal coffee klatch will give you an opportunity to meet authors who have appeared on one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists or have received one of YALSA’s five literary awards. Librarians will sit at a table and every 3 or 4 minutes, a new author will arrive at your table to talk about their current projects! Featuring Tor Teen author Kathleen Baldwin.
    Location: Orange County Convention Center, Room W110
  • 10:00 AM – Shannon Baker will be signing copies of her upcoming mystery Stripped Bare
    Location: Booth #2114
  • 1:00 – 1:50 PM Pop Top Stage: Thomas Olde Heuvelt
    Named as “One of Europe’s foremost talents in fantastic literature” by BBC Radio, a multiple winner of the Paul Harland Prijs for best Dutch Fantasy, and nominated for a Hugo and World Fantasy Award for his short fiction, Thomas Olde Heuvelt brings his bestselling Dutch horror-fantasy—HEX—to the English language. HEX has been praised by authors such as Paul Cornell, Sarah Lotz, among others, and lauded by venues including Crimezone, for “…expos[ing] how psychological fear can make a modern society spiral into dark, medieval practices…. Terrifying and tantalizingly good.”
    Location: Orange County Convention Center, Room Exhibit Hall – PopTop Stage
  • 2:00 PM – J. A. Souders will be signing copies of the first book in her young adult series The Elysium Chronicles, Renegade
    Location: Booth #2114

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Sneak Peek: Rebellion by J. A. Souders

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Rebellion by J. A. SoudersIn this conclusion to J. A. Souders’s thrilling, twist-filled Elysium Chronicles series, Evie Winters and Gavin Hunter return to the isolated, dangerous underwater city that they fought so hard to escape.

Back in Elysium at last, Evie has finally found her true self hidden under layers and layers of false memories implanted by the woman she knew as Mother. Thanks to the intervention of her father, she knows the horrible truth about Mother and her insidious plans for the city. With the help of the love of her life, Gavin, and her best friend, Asher St. James, Evie is determined to free her people from the cruel dictatorship of Mother’s laws. But how do you free people who don’t know they need rescuing?

Working with the growing Underground rebellion, Evie tries to remove Mother from her position by force–with disastrous results. As the body count rises, Evie must find a way to save Elysium before Mother destroys them all.

 Rebellion will be available July 12th. Please enjoy this excerpt.

CHAPTER ONE

Sacrifices must be made for the greater good.

CITIZEN’S SOCIAL CODE, VOLUME VI

Evie

My life is just about perfect.

These are the words Mother has permanently etched into my memory, as if it’s nothing more than another of the stone plaques placed around the city bearing her Motherisms.

There are times I actually believe it.

But it’s not true.

At least not yet.

I’ve been beaten down. Chased away. Used as a pawn in Mother’s sadistic games. My own people see me as a monster and have turned against me. Even my memories have been stolen from me and tampered with or just plain damaged beyond repair.

However, although I’m metaphorically crippled, I’ve not been broken.

For the past month I’ve been watching. Waiting. Planning.

Today’s the day it’s all going to come together. The day we remove Mother from office and put her where she belongs. The Surface.

Luckily, even as messed up as my memories are, the one thing Mother never fiddled with was my knowledge of the city. It’s a simple matter to walk through Sector Two from the Residential Sector. I stride right past the Guard at the tunnel to the Palace Wing. My heart skips a beat when he looks up. But like everyone else, he quickly returns his attention to the podium, and I breathe a bit easier.

One step down, and so far everything is going according to plan. That’s probably a problem.

From what Father told me and my own warped memories, I know Mother will be holding court during what I’d called Request Day once upon a time. The Enforcer currently in the room will be rotated out in a few minutes, and thanks to Father’s interference there will be no one to take her place.

No one but me, that is.

When Father first brought me an Enforcer’s uniform, I’d been convinced I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Even with my memories back, it’s been so long—I was only ten when I was relieved of duty. The next six years were devoted to being groomed to become the next leader of Elysium. The Daughter of the People. And I’d spent those years being as afraid of the Enforcers as every other Citizen.

But the minute I pulled the cloak around me, everything about me changed. My mind easily adapted. It terrifies me how my brain works now. Gauging everyone and everything and its threat level.

But now, face-to-face with the doors to the Enforcer entrance to the request room, a few doubts slip in. Will Mother see who I really am? Surely she will. Who knows me better than the woman who watched my training personally and then raised me as her own when I “failed” in my Enforcer directive? Even if my mind has changed, my appearance hasn’t.

But that doesn’t mean she pays attention to the girls she orders to kill for her. Hopefully, she won’t even glance at me.

I push the uncertainty away. I have to make this work. There’s no room for failure. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, then blow it out, slow and measured. When I open my eyes again, I’ve forced all my emotions down. I’m not playing an Enforcer now. I am one.

I push open the doors and step into the large room. A line has already formed inside and extends out the main door. The Citizens step away from me as I pass, avoiding my grazing glance. But then I turn my attention toward the reason I’m here.

I freeze when I see her.

Mother.

A dose of terror makes it impossible to move for a second, and I’m bombarded with a barrage of memories. None of them are nice I have to clamp down on the emotions they cause.

Mother glances up, and for a second that stretches into eternity I’m sure my cover’s blown. But then she turns away again, dismissing me to resume her talks with the couple in front of her.

I force myself to move, slowly making my way around the perimeter of the room, as an Enforcer would. Using the shadows as my cover until I’m standing in the corner—still in the shadows—practically behind Mother.

I survey my surroundings. My position is fairly ideal. It’s exactly where an Enforcer would be to make sure Mother is safe from any potentially brave but foolhardy Citizens who think they can take Mother down. I also have a view of all the doors and can see anyone who leaves or enters. The corner is to my back, so no one can sneak up behind me, not even a real Enforcer, should Father be wrong and I’m not alone as an Enforcer in the room today. It’s not that I don’t have faith in Father, but Mother is far from foolish. She’s never trusted anyone but herself, and I can’t imagine she’d put enough confidence in Father to tell him the complete truth about anything.

Exactly as I’m thinking that, I look into the corner opposite of where I’m standing and meet the eyes of an Enforcer. A real one. My heart stops as we stare at each other. I’m not sure what to do. She isn’t supposed to be here, but she is. And obviously she knows who I am.

One corner of her mouth slides up into a half-smile that chills the blood in my veins. I don’t know what that expression means. Enforcers don’t show emotion. It’s the biggest thing drilled/brainwashed into us. But then something catches my eye and I glance down at the only skin an Enforcer can show—the half circle right under her collarbones. She’s wearing a necklace. I reach for my own and worry the pendant between my thumb and first finger. Father told me we had an insider. He wouldn’t tell me who it was, just that I’d recognize her when I saw her. He couldn’t have meant an Enforcer, could he? If he had an Enforcer on his side, why would he need me?

I meet her eyes again, my mind shouting questions at her from where I stand. She glances at my hand and her smile grows a fraction before she nods and backs into the dark, where I can’t see her or where she goes. If she goes anywhere.

Warning? Or greeting?

I don’t start breathing again until I hear the side door open and then close. That must have been our insider. But … why? And if she wasn’t, what…?

I don’t even know where to start with the questions. But I haven’t seen anyone else that it could be, and I need my team to know I’m in place.

For the next hour, I stand behind Mother, a pistol held tightly in my hand and hidden in the special pockets of my skirt, waiting impatiently while everything sets up. Or, more accurately, while I hope that everything is being set up. This next part has to go flawlessly. One tiny mistake could mean failure.

I stand straighter as the last Citizen vacates the room. It’s showtime, as Asher would say.

As if on cue, Asher walks in, dragging a struggling Gavin. Even though I knew this was going to happen, my heart lurches. I want to run to him and drag him out of here, but I can’t. So I bide my time, as Father follows directly behind him.

Gavin shouts curses at Asher, who keeps a tight hand on his bound arms. He tosses Gavin to the ground at Mother’s feet. I can’t tell from my angle what her expression is, but she does lean forward.

“What have we here?” The unmistakable sound of glee in her voice makes me want to hit her, but I stay quiet and slip closer like any good Enforcer would do.

“The Surface Dweller.” Asher’s voice is deep and sans accent. I have to admit I’m impressed he was able to pull it off. We’ve worked on it for two weeks, but he never really lost the slight twang. “We caught him skulking around the Medical Sector.”

Mother steps down off her throne—I don’t really know what else to call it; it’s too lavish to be simply a chair. She bends down and then grasps Gavin’s chin in her hand. He tries to shake loose, but she holds tight.

“I never thought I’d see you again … Gavin, isn’t it?”

Gavin only glares at her.

Mother claps her hands twice; my cue that she needs me. I should have already moved closer. A real Enforcer would have, but I’d frozen at the sight of Gavin. But I brush off the emotions as best I can and I step completely out of the shadows now, my head held high as I slowly walk to her and Gavin.

Making sure my arm doesn’t shake, I pull the pistol from my skirt and aim it level at Gavin’s head, as if I’m awaiting orders to shoot him. It gives me the uncomfortable reminder of the time in Sector Three when I did the same thing—when my Conditioned programming took over, and I had every intention of actually killing him. When he glances at me out of the corner of his eye and visibly swallows before turning a glare at Mother again, I wonder if he had the same thought.

“What brings you back here, Surface Dweller? Have you brought my traitorous daughter with you?” There’s a slight sound of a laugh in her voice, as if this is just some great joke to her. It sends my instincts humming.

Gavin spits at her.

She jumps back and wrinkles her nose. “Well, I see she hasn’t been able to teach you any manners. Pity.” She turns to Asher. “How were you able to capture him? Why did you not alert an Enforcer?”

Asher averts his gaze. “He seemed quite desperate. He was muttering something about someone named Evie and infections. It took me only a moment to realize he was the Surface Dweller who kidnapped the Daughter. Forgive me, Mother, but I thought time was of the essence and I did not want him to get away again. I had hoped to find an Enforcer along the way.”

Mother jerks her gaze back to Gavin. “Is this true, Surface Dweller?” He doesn’t answer, but she nods. “I think it is. Why else would you risk another trip here, knowing what fate awaited you? Did you bring Evelyn with you?” He still doesn’t speak and she pushes his head away in disgust. “Just the same as before. But this time, there is no one weak enough to help you escape. You’ve sealed your own death sentence.” She looks to Asher. The way she studies him has me wishing I’d insisted he cut his hair—and the blue streak completely out—instead of just dyeing it. I’m certain she sees a shadow of the blue tint. But then she waves him away. “You may go.” She turns to Father. “Escort him from the Palace Wing and then make sure he’s fairly compensated for his … bravery.”

My blood freezes at her tone. She’s going to order me to kill Gavin. It’s what we’ve been expecting. It’s also the moment I’ve been dreading. The true test to see if the other side of myself—the Conditioned Enforcer part of me—is wiped out, or at least destroyed enough that I can refuse a direct order.

Father’s convinced that this won’t even be an issue for me. I’ve been able to resist her orders before. And the hard reset caused by leaving Elysium in the first place should have erased enough of the old programming.

She glances over at me and I fight the urge to look down. An Enforcer wouldn’t. I keep my eyes focused on Gavin.

She stares at me so long, I start to worry she knows who I am. If anyone here knew who I was, it would be her. It’s why I’ve kept my distance and made sure the hood, and its shadow, covered my face. But she’s my adoptive mom, and a mother always knows her child. This was a mistake. I should have listened to Asher and Gavin, not Father. I should have taken more time to hatch a better plan. One that wasn’t so bold and risky.

But then she surprises me by saying, “Take him to the Detainment Center. This time I’m going to get answers from him, whether or not he wants to give them to me.” She waves me toward him.

Trying not to show my relief that the plan is working, I pocket the gun, then reach down and yank Gavin to his feet. He fights me as I drag him from the room. I’m slightly worried that I’m hurting him as he struggles against me. But I can’t do anything less or Mother will suspect something. We’re lucky she hasn’t already. But, as expected and hoped for, Mother follows as I drag him across the marble floors of the Palace Wing and then over to the concrete of Sector Two and the Detainment Center.

So far everything has gone as planned, and that worries me. Nothing ever goes as planned. There’s always bound to be mistakes. But this is going so smoothly I know something’s wrong.

It doesn’t take long to figure it out. My stomach flips when we step into the Detainment Center.

There’s no one here. There’s supposed to be members of the Underground waiting to help us subdue Mother and remove her from Elysium. There’s supposed to be backup.

For a moment I think something must have changed in the plans, but Gavin stiffens when he sees the empty room. Even from my less than ideal vantage point as I drag him to the cell door, I can see his eyes darting all over the room as if he’s expecting the people that are supposed to be here to jump out of some hidden crevice.

I don’t know exactly what to do, so I keep walking, then turn at the glass door of the cell, as if waiting for someone to open it. That’s when I notice that Mother has stopped at the door to the Detainment Center. She’s smiling at me.

Not Gavin.

Me!

My stomach doesn’t just sink; it drops.

She knew the entire time and we fell into her trap like rats.

At least I can be grateful that Asher and Father got away. With only Gavin to protect from Mother, I can do this. I might have to kill her to do it, but if it’s a choice between her and Gavin, I don’t even have to think about it.

She starts clapping. “Well done, Evelyn. I was beginning to worry that you weren’t going to pass.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Gavin demands. His entire posture has changed from the defiant one he’d had before, to angry and protective as he steps a little in front of me. But when his hand takes mine, it trembles a little and I know he’s just as afraid as I am.

Mother scoffs. “You didn’t think I’d let my daughter just walk out of Elysium, did you?”

“I’m not your daughter.”

“Of course you are.” She sighs. “I raised you. Loved you.”

“What you did wasn’t love.”

“You’ll see it my way soon.” She purses her lips. “But now we have a problem. You brought two Surface Dwellers back with you. That wasn’t part of the plan. We only need one.”

Mother steps to the side and out of the doorway, revealing a group of people standing behind her. Two Enforcers rush into the room. One levels a pistol at Gavin, but before I can protect him, my body erupts with a million tiny fires. My screams echo throughout the tiny room as I collapse into a mass of writhing muscles on the hard concrete floor.

I know exactly what’s happening; I’ve felt it before. Every time Dr. Friar brainwashed me with some new memory. Or when Mother wanted to punish me for some wrongdoing—intentional or not. But it had always followed an injection of the nanite serum. I don’t understand how it’s happening now. My ears ring from my screams and even though my vision tunnels, I can see Gavin struggling to get to me, until an Enforcer hits him over the head with the butt of her gun and he joins me on the floor.

Then, just as my vision almost completely fades, the pain stops as suddenly as it began.

Every single muscle in my body is pulled taut. To even think about moving is a fresh agony, and I’m still whimpering from the memory of the pain, but at least the raging inferno in my body has been doused. Gavin lies on the floor next to me, a trickle of blood trickling out from the cut the Enforcer gave him. He seems to be out cold. I try to push myself up to at least crawl to him, but my arms can’t even handle that little amount of pressure and I collapse onto the ground again.

There’s the sound of more struggling coming from the doorway and I glance over in horror when I see Asher struggling with another Enforcer. The one who saw me in the Palace Wing.

That’s why she smiled. Why she let me know she was there. She’d known the whole time. And apparently so did Mother.

Mother crouches down next to me. “I wish you wouldn’t have done that, Evelyn. You were doing so well. I was hoping not to have to use your nanos like that again, but it’s for your own good.” She pats my cheek. I have the quick thought that if I could move, I’d rip her arm from her body. She turns to the Enforcer looking down at Gavin. “Pick him up.” Once the Enforcer does, Mother smiles at me. “It’s too bad he hasn’t learned how to control his emotions better. I believe he would have made an acceptable match for you.”

I don’t really pay attention to what she’s saying. I’m starting to get the feeling back in my muscles, but I don’t move. I don’t want to waste the energy I have. I need it to get to my pistol. I have to get Asher and Gavin out of here.

She turns to Asher. “This one, though.” She smiles at him. “He reminds me of Timothy.” She looks down at me. “Do you remember him, dear?”

I glare at her. There are no words to describe the amount of hate I feel for her in this instant. “I remember you had him killed so you could Couple me with that Guard.”

“Ah, yes. A mistake on my part. I should have just let you Couple with Timothy. The Guard was an unfortunate failure and had to be put down after he attacked one of my Enforcers.”

“Put down? Like a dog?” Asher asks. The incredulous tone to his voice makes me want to laugh. Of course she killed him, then dismissed him like he was some sick animal she was putting out of its misery.

All of her experiments with the Guards were a failure then. How can someone be so callous? “How can you be like this? How can people be nothing more than toys to you that you just throw away when you break them?” My voice cracks just thinking about how many lives she’s destroyed.

“They were broken to begin with. I’m trying to fix them.” She shrugs. “You should be grateful.”

The feeling is almost completely back in my legs. If I can just move them without her seeing me, I could knock out the Enforcer next to me and then grab Mother. If I held her hostage, she’d have to let Asher go. Other people may be disposable, but she isn’t.

“Bitch,” Asher spits at her.

She immediately stands and walks toward Asher, giving me the opportunity to make my move. I jump up and shove the Enforcer leaning over Gavin aside, wincing when she hits the wall and crumples to the floor.

Oops, I think, but wrench the gun from her hand and swing around to grab Mother. She’d make a better hostage anyway. Even though I hold the gun against her temple, Mother laughs.

“You can’t do it.” Her voice sounds almost like she’s singing it. “You can’t kill me. I’m Mother.”

I merely lift an eyebrow at the other Enforcer and cock the gun. “Wanna try me?” Mother stops laughing. “Let Asher go.”

The Enforcer glances at Mother, then at me. Just before she releases him, something crosses her eyes. The look she gives me next is almost an apology as she shoves Asher at me. He knocks into me so hard I fall, losing my grip on Mother. I hear the sound of a gunshot, just milliseconds before I hit the ground. My head bounces off the concrete, and Asher falls on top of me, still as death.

Copyright © 2016 by Jessica Souders

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Crying Bully

Crying Bully

Renegade by J. A. Souders

Written by J. A. Souders

“I know you are, but what am I?” Chances are you’ve heard this once or twice in your lifetime. This may be a simple child’s joke, but it’s no joke when it comes to bullying.

Bullying might seem like a new epidemic, but I’m sure most of us can think back to that person we’d call a bully from our pasts. Why the big fuss lately, then? It might be because bullying seems to be getting worse every year and I’m fairly certain that has to do with how connected we are, due to the Internet and smart phones. We can never get away from it. When, once, we could leave school, or work, or wherever and escape from our tormentors, now they can reach us through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and our phones push their messages straight into our hands the second they send it. There’s no safety zone.

Because of its prevalence and inescapability, bullying has become the new “hot-button,” much the same way drugs and smoking were back when I was in high school. Organizations have been founded. Politicians vow to change laws to prevent bullying. A quick Google search shows pages and pages of different schools’ initiatives to stop bullying. Most schools have a zero-tolerance policy for it and kids accused of bullying are often expelled, just as they would be if they were found with drugs.

This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s easier now for a bullied child to get the protection they need, but at the same time it may have become too easy to “cry bully.” Every time someone says something we don’t like, or when they disagree with us, or someone says something mean, we immediately yell bully. That accomplishes exactly what we hope it will—it gets that person in trouble and we feel better about ourselves.

So we keep doing it, but we take it one step forward. We strike back. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Other times? Not so much. Can anti-bullying become bullying itself? It certainly can look that way some times. There are entire websites devoted to “outing” the “bullies” who dare dislike our books. Some even go entirely too far and send death threats to the bully and their families.

However, no matter how many rules we pass or how we strike back at the bullies, stopping them is almost impossible. There have always been mean-spirited people in the world. Always that certain person who needs to put other people down to feel good about themselves. But, a lot of what they do is protected under free speech. And even when it turns to harassment and/or violence, punishing that one bully is like plugging a dam with your finger. Our leaders and teachers and those in a position to stop it, often find themselves impotent.

From my book, Renegade, Mother—the leader of Elysium—has addressed this epidemic in her own brand of leadership. Eradicate all differences. Remove the right of free speech, make sure punishments are so extreme no one would dare argue. And when all else fails, brainwash. It’s effective—in Elysium—but do we really want that here?

But more damaging than all of that is all the people who’ve been “crying bully” and turning bullying into just another word. Like the boy who cried wolf, the more time we cry bully, the less people are going to pay attention. And the real victims of bullying will get ignored again, but this time it’ll be even worse, because no one will care at all. It’s a type of brainwashing and punishment all in one. One Mother would be proud of. One of which requires no more effort than watching the masses becoming indifferent to the issue because of constant exposure. And like that boy who cried wolf, the victim will get eaten.

We really need to focus on educating people on what bullying really is and stop using it as a buzzword to get people to respond to us, because if we continue to call everything bullying, then eventually nothing will be.

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