WIP Wednesday

WIP Wednesday: Klaxon at the Core

For today’s WIP Wednesday, I scrounged up a snippet of Klaxon at the Core, the sequel to Signal to Noise, so new I don’t have a blurb drafted up for it yet. So here’s one on the fly.

    “At the close of Signal to Noise, Bastian and Theo Kautzer were headed for Central on The Lighthammer for a new life, safe from the Armors that hunted them during the three years since their planet was overtaken by the Incursion. However, Central brings with it new challenges, and the Kautzers soon discover their trauma-honed instincts serve them well even though they thought they’d left their battles behind.”

Excerpt:

Without visuals, they had to find their destination on foot. They walked through the dormitory, and though Theo was alert for it, they weren’t the subject of any curious stares. He supposed that studied lack of curiosity was part of being a psionic. They were all special, in some way or another. And he and Bastian weren’t going to flaunt themselves by walking around hand in hand, anyhow. They had the right to be together, no one could stop them, but objectively they were both aware it was considered ‘weird’ and they ought to be discreet.

There was an entire telekinesis wing along one of the outlying walls of the Institute’s enormous compound. Bastian was complaining by the time they were halfway there along the silvery path that wound through the green grass and hedges.

“Suck it up,” Theo advised. “Dr. Rashad said it was ostentatious for psionics to jump everywhere.”

Bastian glowered. “Maybe I like ostentatious.”

“You sure do have a talent for the dramatic,” Theo teased, tugging on a lock of hair.

The front of the telekinesis wing was imposing, nearly three stories tall, and the door had a sign over it with a name that Theo recognized as one of the famous early telekinetics in history. He, along with other founding members of the Institute, had established psionic ability as science rather than myth.

“The Grant Ishida wing, huh?” Bastian said aloud, draping a hand on Theo’s shoulder. “There’s a bit of ancient history.”

“Probably more like a reminder,” Theo said. “Of where we came from, and how far.”

“Central’s a long way from Old Terra.”

Theo slanted him an annoyed look. “From levitating bobby pins and shifting crates.”

“Oh, right.”

Inside the building, they stood together in front of a directory before setting a course for Bahir Anwar’s office. There had been an astonishing array of options on the directory. Theo had never heard of micro-kinetics, and wondered if they would be tested at some point for that ability, too. Dr. Rashad had seemed keen to test them on all the psionic axes of power.

Their destination was one story up, and against the far wall of the building. It turned out to resemble an open gymnasium, skylights above letting in full sunlight, than the stuffy office either of them had been expecting. A man of medium height and darkly olive complexion rose to greet them. He had a ruggedly handsome face—Theo slanted an irritated glance at Bastian, because that was his twin’s observation—and close-cropped black hair.

What? I have eyes.

Theo ignored that. They had already reassured one another, on multiple levels, but it was different with other people around. He noticed Bastian noticing, and hoped they could leave it at that.

“Welcome to the Institute, I’m Bahir,” he introduced himself, inclining his body but not offering his hand, the way all psionics they’d met so far had done. Theo could understand; he’d never enjoyed physical contact from anyone but his family, or Bastian, who had always been part of his personal space.

“Theo.”

“Bastian.”

“Yes, I’ve been expecting you.” Bahir rubbed his hands together briskly, and gestured to the wide-open space to their left. “Shall we begin?”

The floor space was covered in mats, and there was a great deal of equipment against one wall, a few machines, what looked like a workout bench, a number of terminal display banks, and what appeared to be crates, boxes, and various weighted items labeled with numbers.

“I’ve heard that you shifted a great deal of hydronium the other day,” Bahir began. “Any idea how much?”

Theo shrugged. “Sixty pallets?” He glanced to Bastian, who quirked a brow and corrected, “Seventy-five.”

Bahir nodded and he stepped up to a terminal display, pulling up a program, fingers dancing nimbly over the surface. “Quite a payload.” He gave a low, impressed whistle. “That’s several tons. I hope you ate a good meal afterward.”

“We ate like pigs for dinner,” Bastian said happily. “It was amazing. I can’t remember the last time we got so stuffed.”

A brief smile flickered over Bahir’s mouth. “Yes, that’s the only way to avoid kinetic debt.”

“Right, that’s when you use more energy than you replenish, right?” Theo asked shrewdly. “We did a lot of research after we teleported for the first time.”

“Was teleportation your first kinetic action?”

Bastian shook his head. “No, we’d done other things, little things, without even really noticing before then. Our parents sure did, though.” He sidled closer to Theo with a brief, woebegone look.

Theo folded his arms. “We’d shifted some small stuff,” he replied. “We call it ‘pulling.’ When we lift something, you know, but don’t port it.”

Bahir nodded. He picked up two thin silver bands that resembled circlets, and offered them up. “These are biometric monitors,” he said, holding one and donning the other. It circled his head from forehead over temples and around the back of his skull. “I’d like for each of you to wear one, and go through a number of tasks, after which we can have a lunch delivered from the refectory and I’ll answer any questions you like.” He pulled the circlet from his head.

Theo shrugged.

“Sure,” Bastian chirped.

Theo wrinkled his nose and put his hand out for one of the circlets. He fitted his on first, and kept a watchful eye on Bastian when his twin donned the other.

Two side by side vitals appeared on one of the displays, and Bahir moved to bring up more information.

“Theo, if you could press your thumb here?” Bahir requested, and Theo complied. His name appeared in green over the green vitals.

Bahir turned to Bastian, who did the same for the blue vitals.

“Good strong brain activity,” Bahir commended. “Shall we begin?”

WIP Wednesday: Body Option

First things first! Less Than Three Press has released a discount code for the first lucky 30 customers, see their Facebook for info: https://www.facebook.com/lt3press/posts/10151535051610988

My launch for WIP Wednesday is Body Option, my recently-completed story for the mecha anthology “Loose Screw.” Story summary:

For five years, Grant Badu has been part of a solid fighting team with the Gemini Suit, Trefoil Argent. Together, they fly and fight so effectively, their combat record so impressive, that they’ve become informally known as the Infallible Duo. When a case containing classified military innovations is stolen and shot down in the foothills of disputed border territory, Grant and Argent are tapped for its swift recovery. The spoke in their gears is the fact that the mission requires pilot Argent to take on the one cybernetic option he’s been avoiding, for reasons even Grant doesn’t know. When their enemies close in faster than expected, Grant and Argent need to put aside the sudden tension between them in order to complete their mission, but the overwhelming odds facing them push them right up against the critical threshold, from which there is no return.

Excerpt:

The wind screamed past the reinforced glass of the cockpit, sheltered between the two sleek shoulder tines of Trefoil Argent as the Gemini Raptor dropped low toward the jagged teeth of the mountain range studding the near horizon. Grant Badu winced as the glare bounced off a tine at the precise angle to reflect into his eyes, and he squinted at the rapidly growing cliffs rising up in the forward view.

“Careful,” Grant cautioned his pilot. “We need to fly low enough to avoid the Bah’zeth sweeps, but there’s no need to clip your tail feathers.”

“This isn’t my first flight mission,” Argent’s voice sniped through his earjack. “Or my tenth, for that matter. If I so much as see your fingers twitch for the override controls, I’ll spin you into a blackout.”

Grant flicked his eyes toward the blue heavens visible overhead, and held back a comment on insubordination. His rig in the cockpit afforded him a near three-sixty view, if he were to rotate his suspension clear around, but it was only on one dimension. Argent had eyes in every direction, because he wasn’t merely the pilot for the Gemini Raptor Suit. He was part of it.

“Wasn’t impugning your flight pattern, Argent,” Grant replied, containing his amusement to a low rumble within his voice. “Nor have I reached for those controls in the eight years I’ve been working with you. Old habits die hard, is all.”

“Sure, and you still fly solo on weekends.”

“Why, Argent, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you sound jealous.” Grant cocked a deliberate glance over his shoulder at the impenetrable central column that housed Argent’s physical body.

Silence was his only reply.

Grant shook his head, mouth quirking, and turned his attention to the display panels and various readouts at hand. They were dropping low over the Cressian mountain range that bordered his and Argent’s homeland of Crestovia, and it was time to cut back on the idle chatter. The mission required their concentration. Argent would rib him that it took Grant the greater share of his, seeing as he was without Argent’s enhanced advantages.

Crestovia’s enemies had been legion ever since the split and redistricting of nations that had followed the Thirty-year Poison War. They were surrounded on all sides by countries and kingdoms that remained at war, both with Crestovia and one another, and kept building bigger and more deadly machinery following the World Nations’ ban on chemical or foot-soldier warfare of any kind. As the only land with a fertile valley and seaport access on their embattled slice of the map, Crestovia had poured their best resources into finding a military solution to keep their enemies off their necks. Grant’s own piloting expertise had come into play with the rise of the Gemini Suit program.

Trefoil Argent was not a machine. He was the brain at the center column of a giant cybernetic suit with flight capabilities, fully equipped with a number of weapons that Grant could wield from his suspension rig in the protected cockpit.

Where other countries used robots, or long-range drones, Crestovia had chosen a different, drastic solution. They had offered their young, bright, disabled children the option for body repair, or a crack at the Gemini Suit program. Many had opted for reconstruction, and served their country in other ways from military defense to diplomacy. Argent, and those like him, had opted to fly.

Grant had never seen anything like it in his years of piloting, or military service. At first, when he’d been redeployed to the Gemini Suit program, he’d thought it cruel. How could they encase a human, a living being, within a buffered support column and relegate them to the status of a brain, a human computer that powered a mobile suit? Argent didn’t see it that way, though. He had taken to his cybernetic peripherals like Mozart to arranging chords. He flew the suit, walked through its giant legs, and fought with its state of the art mechanical limbs. Grant, for his part, controlled the weaponry, from forearm gatling cannons to precision laser knife, and sat with redundancy “override” pilot controls in the rare case a Gemini Suit overextended themselves and hit the critical break threshold. Many of the “brains” of the Gemini Suits had hit critical break since the inception of the program, and been decommissioned for other types of civil service. Argent, one of the first to don a cybernetic suit and one of a handful of the Raptor class still in action, had never hit critical.

In fact, Argent had taken to the cybernetics so well, he was unique among his peers.

Trefoil Argent, Argent’s Raptor suit, was one of the first-run Gemini Suits. It was built on roughly human-shaped but aerodynamic lines that allowed the suit to double functionality as a flight-capable unit, and a war machine that could stride into battle and dispatch its enemies more nimbly than any tank or drone. Argent had chosen the designation Trefoil, and the distinctive triple split tines of his symbol were etched onto the arms of the suit as well as Argent’s central column.

“We’re getting close,” Grant observed, scrutinizing the topography map on one of his readouts. They didn’t have an exact location fix from the Raptor, but a Bah’zeth robot had downed one of their fighter pilots a few days prior, and it had caused an immediate scramble in the upper ranks. Grant and Argent had been tapped as the best team for the recovery job, even though they’d been further out from the border at the Pegasus Eyrie.

“Acknowledged,” Argent said. He had been curt ever since the mission orders had come in.

Grant shrugged, suppressing his instinct to glance over his shoulder at Argent’s column again. He would notice, and it might make an already-tense situation worse. Still …

He couldn’t help himself. “You going to be ready?”

“Of course I’m going to be ready!” Argent snapped in his ear. He altered course, dipping an aerodynamic arm that doubled function as a wing, causing them to scream through the narrow gap between two close-set peaks. “It’s just like any other peripheral. I’ve been using those all my life.”

Grant didn’t bother to disguise the frown that pinched his brow. Argent’s participation in their upcoming mission was nothing like any of the other peripherals he’d used before, but Grant didn’t know how to breach the topic without pressing Argent in a number of already sore spots. There was a crucial difference in Argent’s latest, and he refused to discuss it.

Once they made landfall, it would be Argent’s first time using a body option.