UNEDITED (Book 1 is still #1 in LGBT SCIFI! Crazy – over 6 weeks after launch).
(part of the intro redacted)
Communication was still exceptionally difficult with the middle portion of the country, so there wasn’t going to be any kind of search and rescue mission for Gran. Nor would anyone even know if her mother was actually her mother or not. Too many variables to even try it in the middle of a war.
And too dangerous to go out looking.
Quinn knew the truth, though. The truth she didn’t want to say out loud. She knew her mother well. She’d disappeared on purpose so Samantha would have a fighting chance. Some might have called it abandonment. But Quinn knew better. Her mother would have seen that Samantha could handle herself, but that she would hold her back. So she never gave Samantha a choice. She found her own way and set Samantha free.
“What happened after that?” Quinn asked, hesitant as to whether she really wanted to know.
“You wouldn’t believe me,” Samantha said. “Not sure I even believe what happened after that.”
“You wouldn’t believe what I’ve done either,” Quinn said. “So try me.”
“Ate berries and nuts mostly, like you taught me. Instead of stealing from other starving people.”
“Good. Anything else?”
Samantha beamed. “Took out an arc glider by myself.”
“I heard,” Quinn replied. “That’s the part that’s unbelievable.”
“But did you hear how I did it?”
“That’s the part that’s got some in the resistance worried.” Quinn tilted her head, debating. “How’d a human girl get Syndicate weaponry to work for her? Without Cody to unlock the controls… They want to run experiments on you to see if they can duplicate what you did.”
“Not happening,” Samantha said, voice firm.
“That’s what I said. Over my dead body.”
Samantha smiled at that. “It doesn’t make sense, Mom. But it happened. I’m not lying about it, and Eli witnessed it. I know I can do it again. Something’s different about me. And I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.”
“Even if you become the enemy,” Quinn said, “I’d still be by your side.”
“Exactly what I was afraid you’d say.”
“Don’t be. Your side will always be the good side for me.”
Samantha breathed heavy and looked around. Quinn wondered what was going through her mind. Too much had already happened to her at too young an age. She wished she could do something to make her daughter’s life safer. But the only thing she could offer was the will to fight.
“The thing about it, the thing I haven’t told anyone,” Samantha said. “Was what it felt like. That gun felt powerful. When I was holding it, I felt invincible. It gave me a rush even before I fired it.”
“Sounds like Syndicate tech.”
“But what if it means I’m destined to be one of them?” Samantha asked. “I don’t think I’d like that.”
“You won’t be. I promise. We’re fighting to stop them. And nothing will stop me from protecting you from them.”
“Yeah,” Samantha said. “But still. It could be a good thing. Maybe if I’m like them somehow, we can use that against them. Or it could be a bad thing. I just don’t know.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be practicing with human weapons anymore then,” Quinn said.
“If it worked in my hands, wouldn’t that mean their other weapons could be used by other humans too? Maybe there are others like me. Maybe the resistance is right. They should look into how I did it.”
Quinn opened her mouth to respond, but realized she had no idea why, or how, her daughter was able to use the alien tech. She’d always thought of her as special, but this was a whole different ballgame and even beyond a mother’s love. Quinn’s heart was in her throat as she’d been listening.
Her daughter had almost been killed by the invaders, but her ability to use their weapons against them kept her alive. That alone should have already been enough to convince others that Samantha wasn’t a threat, that she was on their side. She had aimed the weapon back at the Syndicate. After all, Quinn had been Syndicate for several months. But she’d never changed her loyalty.
“And you?” Her daughter looked up, eyes wide. “You were on the command ship, right? You were basically one of them? Syndicate?”
Quinn couldn’t return her daughter’s look as she nodded. “It was complicated.”
“Try me,” Samantha said.
“Implants… if we tried to turn on them, or fight them in any way. Death. We found a work around, finally, but it wasn’t pleasant.” She thought of telling the whole truth, of relating how all of the Marines in her squad had to die en masse before being resurrected basically. But then figured that might be too much for Samantha to handle. A little bit at a time, Quinn thought. Instead, she lied and said, “Cody developed a process to short-circuit the implant with the aid of radio waves. More or less.”
“More or less?” Samantha said, shooting a doubtful look at Quinn.
Quinn shrugged and didn’t elaborate.
“But what was it like?” Samantha asked. “They’re supposed to be, like, the greatest military force the Universe has ever seen, right?”
“The gossip mill.”
Quinn frowned but nodded. “They are superior to us in almost every way. There’s no denying that.”
“And you guys just stole a glider and walked right out of their command ship?”
“Pretty much,” Quinn answered, not pausing to think about how relatively easy it had been to orchestrate their escape. Too easy, a voice whispered somewhere in the dark backwaters of her mind. The same voice that asked, over and over, if their captors were still watching everything they were doing, observing it all and, for some reason, letting it happen.
“Did you kill anyone along the way?” Samantha finally asked, stopping her mother near the edge of an outbuilding, droplets of water coasting down her cheeks.
“Sure, yeah, we had to. I mean, they’re the bad guys, Sam.”
Samantha shook her head. “I meant people. Humans. When you were forced to fight for them, did you kill anyone like us?”
Quinn groped for the right words. She peered into Samantha’s small, inscrutable eyes, and could find no good response. Instead she fumbled out, “I did what I had to do to make sure I saw you again.”
“Do you think that makes you … evil?”
Quinn digested this. “No, because sometimes you have to do bad to do good. That probably doesn’t make any sense at all, but I don’t know any other way to put it. You just have to try and minimize the bad as much as you can. At least I always do any time I pick up a weapon.”
“Is it weird that I liked it?”
Quinn shielded her eyes from the rain. “Liked what?”
“The fighting. I was scared at first, I mean I ran nearly every time the beetles came after us, but then after I stopped running from them and began running at them, I wasn’t scared anymore.”
Quinn tapped a finger on Samantha’s shoulder. “You learned the lesson of control.”
“What do you mean?”
Quinn opened her mouth and caught a few raindrops. “People with experience, even in extreme situations, are less likely to break than untrained people in significantly less danger. The reason is the perception of control. You felt like you owned your fate, didn’t you?”
“How’d you know?”
“Because that’s how I felt once upon a time.”
Samantha broke her gaze and stared at the muddy ground. “I feel like I was meant to do this, Mom. I know it sounds super spooky and all, but it’s like, I experienced déjà vu on steroids. It’s almost like I had been there before, y’know? Everything was in 3-D when we were fighting. Colors were different and I could smell and see better and it was like I sensed what was happening before it occurred. But now, just sitting around down in a hole in the ground sucks big time. I mean this is nothing.”
Quinn was taken aback. That was exactly how she’d felt on black sunshine. What if that crap was somehow given to Samantha? The thought built a fury inside Quinn. What if the two of them were being played somehow? She didn’t even want to go down that rabbit hole. But she knew there was more than they were aware of at play. “Be thankful you’re alive.”
Samantha looked up. “But that’s the point. I don’t feel like I am.” Quinn didn’t respond and so Samantha continued, “You know that whole ‘we sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who’d do us harm’ thing?”
“I’ve heard that a time or two,” Quinn answered, nodding slowly.
“Why should the guys have all the fun?”
“You’re not even a teenager, Samantha.”
Samantha scowled and tapped her right foot on the ground at a slow and steady pace like she was waiting for the other person to give in, just as she’d done as a toddler when she didn’t get her way. “I don’t want to be the person who’s asleep, mom. I don’t ever want to be that person. Just saying.”
Quinn didn’t reply, so the two silently trudged back through the rain which had stopped by the time they’d reached the entrance to the silo, what had once been formally called the launch control data center.
They’d barely had any time to inspect it after the reunion and so Samantha took Quinn on a tour of the areas she’d yet to visit. She told her mother everything that Comerford had originally related to her. She described how the entire complex was sixty feet underground, buried under several feet of steel-reinforced ballistic cement.
Before the invasion there’d been roughly six-hundred soldiers responsible for the nuclear weapons, a group largely under the 20th Air Force, Air Global Strike Command, that had been known as “Missileers.” Significant changes had been made to the base in the years directly before the invasion, the entire complex upgraded and restructured, new missile alert facilities constructed underground.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the soldiers at the base had left their posts after the invasion, save a brave handful who’d stayed behind and joined the resistance. These men and women had been trained in protocol and knew how to use the nukes if it ever came to that.
They padded by the mess hall, stopping for a bite to eat, past the tankage areas where waste was stored, and the alcoves filled with ammunition and supplies, and finally, beyond the heavy doors where the nuclear-tipped missiles were housed.
As they surveyed everything, Quinn caught nasty looks from several resistance fighters who recognized her as a Marine. She surmised that word had gotten out about the Marine operations in New Mexico and New York City.
Eventually, they found their way down to their sleeping quarters, which were located just beyond a bank of industrial generators. These were tethered to a vast field of buried propane tanks and a garden of above-ground solar panels and wind turbines that spit out just enough energy to keep the lights on and the missiles ready to fire.
Their room was only about twenty feet by fifteen feet in size, partitioned by a bed sheet hung from a suspended wire. The space was anchored by a pair of cots and heavy cabinets and an old TV that showed kids cartoons. Near Samantha’s cot were the trappings of her time on the road with the resistance: her rucksack, some mismatched clothes, an extra pair of boots, and a bandolier of ammunition. Zeus, the toy robot, was perched atop the TV, peering down at everything.
“I like what you’ve done with the place,” Quinn said.
Samantha nodded and eased herself down onto her bunk. “You see those guys giving you the evil eye back there?”
“They’re super pissed at you, Mom. Pretty much everybody in this place that isn’t me or a Marine hates your guts.”
“I don’t blame them,” Quinn replied, “but there’s nothing I can do about that.”
“Have you thought about apologizing?”
“Marines don’t apologize.”
“No, they just bust down doors and blow things up, right?”
“Yeah, but that’s only Monday through Friday.”
Quinn offered up a smile to Samantha that wasn’t returned. “The resistance dude in charge down here, Comerford, he’s a good guy,” Samantha added.
“Seemed like it.”
“I’d really like it if you’d tell him you’re sorry.”
“I don’t think it’ll do any good.”
“You never know unless you try,” Samantha replied.
FROM JUSTIN >>> That’s a long one! I wanted to get as much as I can to you ASAP, because (a) launch is right around the corner, and (b) I’m going to start posting snippets from Reclaiming Honor 5 here in the next 24 hours or so, probably. I’ll get at lest one more SW snippet to you before launch – I promise!
In the meantime, if you’re able to leave reviews for book 1 and 2, that would be amazing (Amazon/ Goodreads). That’s how people know you liked the books, and it’s how we know we aren’t crazy. Haha, who are we kidding, of course we’re crazy!
This week’s other book is a silly/ fun one, put together by MD Cooper…
9 Comedic space opera tales of big spaceships, poor life decisions, and lots of Pew!
Delta-Team – by M. D. Cooper
In 8913, a crack military unit was court-martialed and sent to a maximum security prison for stealing the general’s cookie recipes. Colonel Ramsey and his team promptly escaped and fled the core systems.
Today they serve as soldiers of fortune, or whatever else will make them a buck.
If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find, then maybe, you can hire the Delta Team.
Of course, if you’re not into LGBT Scifi, don’t worry, there are other aspects of both these books the make them wonderful. I hope you read for yourself to find out. Grab Sydnicate Wars here.