Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday Snippet: A Gentle Valor

Well, the beginning of April is here and I've been bitten by the spring cleaning bug. This is not a bad thing. House, garage, and computer files are getting spiffed up and decluttered.

The Walking Dead finale is tonight and I'll be there. Not sure I'll pay a lot of attention, but I can't not watch.

The Flash introduced an irritating villain. Can't say I'm sad to see him go. Also really frustrated with the whole Savitar storyline at this point. I'm ready for the final end game and season finale.

Legends of Tomorrow rewrote reality and kept me entertained. Looking forward to the season finale to see how they resolve everything. Mick remains one of my favorite characters and it better stay that way.

Arrow's deft mastery of weaving Oliver's past into his present life will be missed. This isn't to say the writers won't continue churning out excellent fare. In fact, I'm looking forward to seeing how the story continues. Something tells me Oliver's past will still come back to haunt him in many other ways.

Riverdale had a new episode and, wow, I wanted to get a better read on Alice Cooper… I got it. A little sad it's at the expense of Hal, but the interesting wrinkle might be worth it. FP's playing a sly game. He doesn't get near enough credit for being a true mastermind. Come on, people. He's Jughead's dad. The kid had to get his smarts from someone. Just saying.

I'm still binge-watching City Homicide, working my way through season three. The first season is probably my absolute favorite but I do enjoy the later seasons also.

That's it for television this week. Tonight's post is from Gentle Valor, a novella that started as a sexy short but morphed into more.

Here's the mini-blurb:

Aggie Fyffe makes an impossible decision and survives a hellish experience. Haunted by her choice, she faces her demons with a little help from Zane Tetherson and earns a chance for redemption.

And a sneaky peek…

Aggie Fyffe stood, stunned, staring in horror at the sight in front of her. Women, so many women, hooked up to machines, tubes running to and fro like a spider's web. All in various stages of gestation, she had no idea if any could be saved. Swallowing down bile, she shuffled further into the lab on numb feet that tried to fight forward progress. She didn't blame them. Her brain might not be able to handle a closer look.
Give her a rifle, hell, any weapon, and she could shoot to defend, maim, or kill. The sight of blood didn't faze her. Gaping wounds, lost limbs, or severed arteries barely blipped in her mind. Combat had hardened her against it.
But the sight of the women?
Chilled her to her soul.
She edged closer to the first bed and bit back a curse. (Describe the visage. Unconscious, maybe comatose, her distended abdomen had to be in the final stages of pregnancy. Aggie had no idea how close to delivery the woman might be, but it couldn't be long off. What the hell happened to the infants? Aggie decided she probably didn't want to know.
Her eyes scanned the row of beds. Nine total. Logic suggested one for each month of pregnancy. Why? Again, her brain shied away from possible answers. Movement from the farthest bed caught her attention. Maybe she'd imagined it. She hoped so. Would be better for the women if they weren't awake and aware.
She slowly made her way to the last bed… oh, shit. The woman's eyes blinked, tears spilling out. Addie knew her, not well, but she ran one of the shops on their home world. Betsy Morehead, a nice lady who liked to sew.
Aggie eased up to the bed and Betsy's eyes met hers. Pain-filled and agonized, they beseeched Aggie to remove the tube so Betsy could speak. Aggie gingerly lifted the device and gently tore the tape away. Out of her element, she hoped she didn't cause harm. Putting a gun in the woman's hand would be easier.
Betsy gagged when the tube slid free, coughing and sputtering until her lungs filled with air. Aggie quickly loosened the wrist restraints, giving Betsy a little more freedom.
She grabbed hold of Aggie's hand, her grip weak. "Thank you." Her voice croaked, but she got the words out.
Aggie squeezed Betsy's fingers. "What's going on? Why are you here?" Stupid question, but if she didn't get Betsy talking, Aggie would freak out.
The machines and tubes pressed in on her like a weight, a sick feeling crawled up her spine, and her head didn't want to believe what her gut knew.
Betsy swallowed hard. "You have to know. Or guess." Her eyes slid shut and Aggie's heart went out to her.
"Why?" Aggie needed to hear it.
To have her suspicions confirmed. Aggie had been dragged from the battlefield wreckage of her downed hopper for a reason. She'd taken out a small outpost before enemy combatants shot her rotor up. Aggie should've hit intra-atmo as soon as the building blew, but she'd wanted to recon the area.
Stupid fucking mistake.
One that cost her lost time and brought her to the creeptastic, cluster fuck of a hellhole she'd woken up in. A shudder tore through her. Someone had patched up her wounds, but she had stitches she couldn't explain.
Her abdomen hadn't been affected by her crash-landing.
Betsy's mouth worked but only garbled mumbles came out. She pointed to the corner work station and Aggie made her way to the location and picked up a stack of lab notes. Neatly typed names filled the page and the roiling nausea returned when Aggie spotted hers at the bottom, the last entry.
Her gaze scanned the next several papers, words leaping out, punching her brain with trepidation. Experiment. The attempt to breed the perfect specimen.
"Dammit." Women were forcefully taken until they were with child.
When too many were lost due to abuse, insemination trials began. Once impregnated, the subjects ended up hooked up to machines that kept them nourished, sedated, and restrained so no attempt could be made to escape… or to abort the pregnancy.
Aggie read more, rage building with each new atrocity. Births were listed, results tallied, failures eliminated. Then the process started over again. And there were more. Lots more. At least a dozen facilities located across the country.
The freshly sewn area on her side throbbed. What the hell had they done to her? Flipping through the notes, she finally found her name. Something about her blood had no less than five doctors excited about using her as their next subject. She dropped the files.
Aggie bit back rising bile. "No fucking way." She whirled around, dizzy with dread and fatigue. "I'm not sticking around to let them have any piece of me." She went back to Betsy's side and grasped her hand. "I'm going to send help. As soon as I get back to base, we'll come with everything we have." Aggie turned to leave.
Betsy stopped her with a surprisingly firm grip. "Please, end this." Her voice croaked with agony. "None of us want to be here."
Other women were going through the same thing. A horrifying experience. No control, imprisoned, imperiled, dehumanized.
Betsy squeezed Aggie's hand again. "Disconnect the machine. I don't want to deliver this child into the world." Her voice wobbled and fresh tears leaked from her eyes.
Aggie recoiled from the idea. She couldn't kill nine women. They deserved a chance to live. She shook her head.
Betsy tightened her grip. "You have to. Please don't let them use us to further their cause. None of us want this." Her plea came out as a hoarse cry.
Aggie relented. She wouldn't want to contribute either. Had, in fact, decided not to.
She drew in a deep breath. "How?" A simple question with a terrible answer.
Betsy glanced across the room. "The big machine in the corner. Destroy it. It's the generator." A low moan sounded from one of the other women. "Please, hurry. Magda could start labor at any time."
Aggie made her way over to the corner and searched for a way to stop the monstrosity keeping the females prisoner. A carafe of coffee caught her attention and Aggie swiped it from the machine and threw it at the generator. The crash of glass followed by the sizzle and pop of the electrical reaction with the liquid made a booming sound in the otherwise quiet room. The lights went first, then finally, the respirators ceased their hissing noise. Aggie's action placed a heavy burden on her. It also made her determined to find the other locations and destroy them.
Aggie turned back toward the row of beds and gasped. Betsy had removed the tubes and wires and lay quickly bleeding out. Aggie made her way to the woman's side and waited until she no longer drew breath. Blinking away the sight, Aggie bit back a sob then paused at each bed, silently acknowledging her role in their deaths. She owed the victims that much.
Victims twice over. They'd become hers, too, dying by her hand. It hurt to breathe, but she dragged in a shaky breath. She had to focus… had to move… had to get out. An alarm would sound—soon—and she had to not be there, staring at the carnage she created.
The urge to heave overwhelmed her and Aggie made a slow dash for the door. She had to get out, get away before the need to expel her stomach contents couldn't be contained. Her head spinning, she weaved through the corridors. Her brain didn't want to wrap around everything she'd learned. Gah! The atrocities went way deeper than she'd thought. Than anyone thought.
The need to tell someone hit hard and Aggie used the adrenaline to wrench the heavy wooden door open and get outside. The cool, night breeze brought a chill to her skin, but filled her lungs with clean air, devoid of the stench and aroma of death. She slid her gaze sideways and scanned her surroundings. She had the cover of darkness and if she made the tree line before the alarm sounded, she'd never be caught.
Creeping stealthily toward the dense forest, Aggie decided she'd end her life like Betsy before going back to that place. Aggie would not be used as a breeding vessel.
She made it halfway to safety when the loud blare of klaxons screeched through the quiet. Her bare feel would pay for it later, but Aggie didn't care. She ran, as fast as her injuries would allow, and dived into the scraggy brush just when the flare of lights lit up the field. She rolled over brambles and briars, but dug her knees into the undergrowth and scurried until she felt safe among the tall pines.
When her body could go no further, she propped herself against fallen timber and scrubbed her hands over her face. Her fingertips came back wet and Aggie didn't know if blood or tears covered them. She'd find out at daybreak. For now, she had to keep going or risk discovery when they brought out the hounds.

A little longer than usual sneak peek but this scene ended up being so much more than I'd hoped.

That's it for this week. Catch everyone on the flipside.

ML Skye

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