Excerpts robotics faction science fiction romance

Liberation’s Passion – Chapter 1

coverPreorder Liberation’s Passion now: Liberation’s Passion at Amazon. Read FREE in Kindle Unlimited. Purchase or borrow by January 27 and receive a limited edition with a heartwarming bonus epilogue.


“Come to me, my love.”

Valorious stared into the holographic recorder. Her sultry tone was flat as a board.

“Sweep me away with your passionate kiss.”

Her hunky costar cupped her face. His lips nibbled hers and his tongue plunged into her mouth, wet and hot. He tasted minty-fresh.

She kept her eyes open and focused on the recorder. Her reflection stared back from the flat glass. Her gorgeous face was empty. Perfect.

Emotionless acting was her signature style. Her “blank slate” allowed the audience to put their own feelings onto her. It was like she wasn’t even here. Valorious was a pro.

Besides, only one man had ever made her lose control from a kiss.

Thinking of him made her frozen heart thump. She flinched.

“Cut!” the director screamed.

Her costar stepped back.

She sucked in a breath as the director of Her Torrid Love Lies, the highest-rated daytime soap opera on the planet, stalked to them.

Damn her momentary distraction. Was she going to have to redo the scene? And today was the last day of filming, too.

“That… was…” The director cupped her cold cheeks and his expression lifted into a radiant smile. “Magnificent!”


The studio erupted in cheers. Confetti fluttered down on them. The director grabbed her hands and waltzed her around the set.

“Another award-winning performance,” he crowed, as they danced past the over-filled trophy cabinets. “This season, we’ll hit a new record for ratings! Let’s enchant the press.”

They exited into the front of the studio, where a season-finale conference had been set up. Reporters shouted questions.

“Valorious, Valorious! How do you feel now you’ve wrapped your one-hundredth season?”

She had been filming for seventeen hours. Her head hurt. All she wanted to do was go home.

“I feel fabulous,” she said. Still expressionless, and monotone.

“Valorious, how do you feel about the scriptwriters who plan for you to murder your husband in the next season? Are they targeting you because of your continuing decades of success?”

“My real life husband will be happy to say goodbye to his handsome rival.”

Everyone laughed.

“I might come back,” her costar said, cheeks flushed and eyes snapping. “I can always be resurrected.”

“Valorious!” one reporter shouted from the back, over the rest. “Your ex-lover, Domingo, dumped your cousin and is back on the market. How does that make you feel?”

It felt like blue fire burning in her gut. An ember long ago encased in ice.

Ever since she heard the news two weeks ago, the ember had begun to kindle heat, distracting her during filming, and shaking her to the core.

She drew a long, controlled breath. On the screen above, a shadow crossed her perfect face. “Um….”

Her mother’s voice spoke in her ear via an invisible earpiece. “You are very happy for him and wish him nothing but the best.”

Valorious located her mother on the edge of the crowd. Sisstine Antiata Chen. Her hair twisted up into a business coif with every strand neatly in place. A slate green business suit fit her well, and the wide collar accented her slender neck. Half a millennium separated their ages, but thanks to modern aging technology, they could be sisters.

“I am very happy and wish him nothing but the best,” Valorious repeated blandly.

The reporter paused as though waiting for her to break down and scream her real feelings.

But, long ago, she had learned how to operate the muscles of her face separate from any feelings. She bestowed a graceful smile on the reporter.

The reporter dug harder for dirt. “He just became the richest man in the solar system. Any plans to snatch him back?”

“That will never happen,” Valorious snapped.

“I would love to speak more about this when I have more details to share,” her mother’s voice was saying.

Shit. She’d spoken off the cuff and missed her cue.

Her mother paled with fury.

“I’ll share more details later,” Valorious said smoothly.

The press conference continued. Her mother’s icy wrath blew like the air off a frozen wasteland at the side of the press area. After the conference finally ended, Valorious excused herself from the rest of the cast and reached her mother. “I’m very sorry—”

“Go to the jet, Valorious.”

She obeyed, climbing to the massive studio rooftop. In their private hover jet, they flew across the starry cityscape of the small planet. Valorious sat in the luxurious back. Her mother stared out the window, every muscle tensed.

“Please don’t be mad,” Valorious said. Her throat, too dry, cracked. “I’ll make it up to you.”

Her mother relented and handed her a bottle of refined water. “You should be over him.”

They both knew she meant Domingo.

Thinking of the hard, passionate, dark-eyed man made Valorious sweat.

Valorious drank. It chilled her all the way to the center of her body, soothing her. She held the empty bottle in her cold hands. “I am.”

“Good. You will have no objections to accepting the next contract.” Her mother pulled a screen out of her business jacket.

Valorious couldn’t stop her sigh.

The end of the season was always a time of uncertainty. Her old obligation was over, at least for a few weeks.

In theory, she could escape. Slip away to a little cabin, tuck her feet under a fuzzy blanket, savor a good book and endless cups of tea… and not think about the man whose existence worried her like an itch she couldn’t scratch.

Her mother noted her sigh. “Something wrong?”

“Can we skip the public appearances? Just this once? It is my hundred-year anniversary on the show.”

Her mother lowered the screen. “I thought you liked showing off your husband’s luxury goods. You get to go out to the best restaurants and be seen with the right people. Their sales make your life possible.”

“I know, but I’m just… I’m a little tired.”

Her mother lifted the screen again. “Fine. Because you asked me, Valorious, and because I live to make you happy, you will be pleased to know there are no planned public appearances during this break.”

Thank goodness.

“I’ve already agreed to review a personal contract.” Her mother began to read aloud the summary of Valorious’s next contract.


Valorious studied her perfectly blank face in the reflection of the glass bottle. Phrases about “requested presence” and “compensation” and “full body privileges” floated in the private jet on her mother’s calm drone.

Personal contracts weren’t bad. Mostly. She lived in someone else’s house, obeyed their every whim, and got plenty of free time to herself. Maybe she could slip in a book and a pot of tea.

“In summary,” her mother finished, as the jet landed imperceptibly in their reserved spot, “for the next few months, you will live with, sleep with, and cater to every whim of Domingo Chen.”

Preorder Liberation’s Passion now: Liberation’s Passion at Amazon. Read FREE in Kindle Unlimited. Purchase or borrow by January 27 and receive a limited edition with a heartwarming bonus epilogue.

Excerpts robotics faction science fiction romance

Liberation’s Vow – Chapter Three

liberation's vow coverThis is a preview of Liberation’s Vow, the third installment of the trilogy following the Antiata siblings (Cressida, Mercury, and Aris). Will they finally reunite after years of hiding from mysterious Robotics Faction assassins? Now the tables are turning and those robot assassins have discovered their all-too-human capacity for love…and passion!

Publication date: July 1 2016
Price: $3.99
Pre-order now!

Did you miss the first chapters? Read Chapter One and learn what happened to Resa centuries ago and Chapter Two to see the first sparks fly.


Heat and cold flushed through her. “What?”

“For the broadcast.” He positioned his lips against the corner of her mouth. “Act passionate.”

She froze in rigid confusion.

His firm mouth pressed against her soft cheek, missing her lips on purpose. His hot breath teased her skin, his large hands splayed across her waist, and his body pressed against hers. Crackling sensations broke through her circuits, and her whole brain seemed to hang. Her body pulsed from his electric contact. He felt hot in her arms, so deliciously hot. His forbidden pleasure teased her, tantalized her. She had always wanted to enchant a powerful man. All she had to do was just slightly turn her head, and then her lips would press on his, and she would experience all there was to this kiss.

Wait. She had always wanted to enchant a powerful man?

Since when?

In her memories, both the several-days-old ones that belonged only to her and the nightmares that belonged to Zenya, she had never desired a man or his kiss.

Had she?

She lifted her hands to… what? Stroke his broad back? Shove him away? Mold herself to him? She left her hands in the air, a tangible question mark, a confusion of her body and her mind.

He ended the kiss, resting his forehead against hers and gasping. “That should confuse the bastards.”

Her voice sounded like it came from another person. “Why did you do that?”

“Proof.” He coughed and spat blood. “Only I would allow myself to be distracted by a beautiful woman while a city street fell in around me.”

Again, he caused a sizzling sensation deep in her body. Beautiful woman. He would say kind words to a career criminal, with as much apparent sincerity.

“I think,” his voice lightened as his grip on her faded, “it’s time for my new head of security to take me home.”

She battled the confusion pulsing through her hot body away, hefted his unconscious form, and carried him barefoot through the streets rapidly filling with emergency response drones and trauma sirens.

With all of these questions swirling in her head, caused by Aris, the last thing she needed was to join his house. But that was just where she was bound.

Because only he knew the location of the rogue. And as much as she disliked the idea of killing, she hated her predecessor Zenya more. The rogue was the key.

She had driven many robots insane with emotion.

Resa would not become one of them.

When the time came, she would dispatch Aris and the rogue without a single moment of doubt.


Aris lived in a cloud.

The floors, couches, and lower walls were all varying shades of white. Some laced with silver while others crackled with lines of gold; hard edges softened beneath pale peaches and grays. His carpeting caressed feet while seating areas invited sinking into and relaxing, and the domes overhead opened up to stars.

City residences floated below, and his governor’s mansion was one of three great domes that anchored their residences to the barren planet beneath and also soared up to the atmosphere shield above and interfaced with the stars. The other two great domes tinted their interfaces to pink mornings and cream afternoons. He left his as night. A land lit by sparkle after sparkle of pure white stars.

A hundred separate fountains tinkled around his residence, including fifteen waterfalls and seven hot springs, a project started by former governors and completed by him. That was how he always knew when he had returned home. On the airless planetoid, only the governor’s mansion afforded the constant serenity of burbling liquid.

The other way he knew that he was home was the mild scents infused into his thick, fluffy comforters and activated whenever his ID chip passed into the chambers. Coconut in his private rooms, sweet aprium in his kitchen, and sensual cinnamon throughout the public areas.

Scents that evoked comfort, richness, wealth.

And secrets.

Sometimes the price of secrets meant waking after too few rest hours and too many empty calories, his head pounding, his body throbbing, and his conscience ready to declare independence from one who clearly didn’t have a use for it.

That was how he felt right now. From the strength of the coconut scent and the pain digging into his backside, he guessed he hadn’t even made it to the bed; he must have collapsed on the floor.


He lifted his hand to his forehead. This form of espionage, he had intended cut back on, since his deal with the lady rogue made his life so precarious right now—

“I wouldn’t do that,” a woman’s voice said.

His hand arrested in midair. The whole mixed up day returned, starting with those damnable warning signs that his cousins were moving against him and ending with the death of his faithful security head, Joensen.

He opened his eyes.

The robot woman, Resa, sat across from him in the dark. Staring. With, he imagined, odd cat eyes and a frightening robotic grin.

Was this the kind of life he had to look forward to? Everyone he cared about cut down? His half sisters had certainly been dealing with fearful losses for decades, and only now did he have any appreciation for their suffering.

He groaned and actually opened his eyes. Resa stood across the room, and the area was dim, not dark. Her eyes certainly did not glow, and she wasn’t even looking at him. She was looking up, at the night sky, at the white spatter of stars.

“I assume I still have security,” he said dryly.

“I’ve eliminated the holes through which I snuck you in. Hundreds of alternates remain. Anyone could fire a single laser and wipe out half this city, and your residence with it.”

“That’s why the governor controls the satellites, and the solar system administrator controls the Hyeon fleet.”

“Unsecure,” she murmured.

He dropped his hand. It rested on the blood-smeared carpet; around it, lightening halos indicated where the residential nanobots lifted the stain, transforming his blood into pure moisture and a small amount of iron dust. It wasn’t the worst thing the nanobots had cleaned up.

“Why am I on the ground?” he asked.

“I thought that was your sleeping place,” she said. “I analyzed the body signatures of every inch of these quarters, and that particular section of carpeting held the most molecules.”

Great. Just great.

“More even than what appeared to be your bed,” she indicated the couch.

He groaned and pulled himself up to a sitting position.

Then he crawled over to the nearest chair and lifted his hand in the shape of a wine glass. His fingers interrupted the room’s particle waves, which triggered a signal to the nanobots. A glass goblet emerged as though by magic, excreted by the nanobot activities.

He dropped the glass to his throbbing knee, then lifted the rim to the edge of the particle beam, and said, “Pain level eight.”

A tranquilizer soporific began to multiply. A tiny droplet increased to a sloshing gobletful of liquid.

He dropped the glass below the beam and sipped the soothing medicine.

“You’re going to want more than a hangover cure,” Resa said, still from her position against the wall.

“It’s a start.” He rubbed his shoulders. It felt like his head had separated from his spine. “You could give me a healing massage.”

Silence graced his small joke. The female robot thing had no sense of humor.

“It’s not a very funny joke,” she replied, as though reading his thoughts aloud.

He glanced at her.

Standing silhouetted against the gentle cocoon of his private fountain, she seemed smaller and more delicate than ever before.

But it was simply his mistaken impression. Like imagining for one moment that she was a woman and not an undulating poisonous snake.

“Do you always trade insults with your targets before you kill them?” he asked.

She sucked in her lower lip.

A conscious gesture? An unconscious gesture? It abruptly made her more human, and more desirable.

“I did not mean to insult you,” she said.

“No offense taken,” he replied breezily. “You break into my house, leave me for dead on the floor, and then dismiss my real request for help as a bad joke. Why should I be offended?”

“I… am sorry.”

Fuck. The hesitant way she apologized, as though she weren’t used to it, as though only he evoked it in her, it did things for him. Things he shouldn’t be interested in. That must have been a hell of a knock to the head.

The recent trauma also explained the odd tightening in his cock, reacting to a woman who must have been formulaically constructed to tempt his interest. Her fragility, her fresh innocence, and her sweet caution were explosive ingredients in a cocktail that threatened to ignite all his desires. Especially since he’d just seen first-hand what she was capable of. His cock thought she was “fragile”? Even if she hadn’t orchestrated the death of his employees or caused the pyroclastic cloud of noxious gas that had been visible through the hole in the unmoored residence, she could certainly rip off both his arms and use them to beat him to death.

He downed another glass of painkillers and asked for her help to his comfy couch-shaped bed. Which she gave, willingly. He leaned on her the way an old man leaned on an iron cane. She was probably less breakable. He collapsed on the private couch, injuries pinching everywhere. If she hadn’t saved him, he wouldn’t be feeling much of anything right now.

Of course, she had only saved him to end his life later.

“I organized medical supplies.” She set out a neat tray of creams and pills, ointments to deaden the shrieking nerves and speed the regrowth of torn skin. “You should apply it.”

He gave her his best lazy smile. “I’m so injured. Won’t you rub it into my skin?”

Her expression flattened.

Then, when he least expected her response, she lifted the tube of nerve silencing cream. “I’ll apply this numbing cream to your waist region first.”

He caught the tube. His fingers covered hers. Her breath stopped, but she didn’t pull away. “I didn’t realize robots had a sense of humor.”

“What makes you think I’m joking?”

In the gentle dimness, her eyes looked so completely normal. Black pupils surrounded by innocent brown irises, wide and liquid, and framed with a thick fringe of dark lashes. Although thin, her petite frame still held itself well. A demure black flight suit deflected notice like a shadow racing the wind. Even though he had looked for her for days, he hadn’t seen her until he was holding her in his arms on the inside of a destroyed building.

The body pressed against his, he barely remembered. Only its general shape, and that he’d clung to it so desperately, and the fact he wanted to cling to it again. In the daylight. Or even in the night, against soft glowing candles and cinnamon sheets, while slowly unmasking the new Hyeon flight suit to reveal the creamy skin beneath.

Not that there would necessarily be creamy skin. She was a robot.

And for some crazy reason, that just made him want to tease her more.

“Very well.” He unfastened his under robe. “I accede to your medical opinion.”

“That was a joke.”

“Aw, how unfair. I believed you.”

“I apologize again.” She disentangled their fingers and shoved the nerve cream at him, rocking back on her heels. “I’ll refrain from misleading you with my more sophisticated responses.”

A smile chased itself into his jaw. “My last head of security was a lot more caring.”

“And look what happened to him.”

A jab. Joensen had been more caring, from his rough cadet apprenticeship to his more recent, distracted defense, even though he disagreed with Aris’s outlandish attempt to open the eyes of his family to the robotic threat, such as the one currently sitting in his bedroom.

He applied the creams while she politely averted her gaze, even though he felt perfectly comfortable displaying his full glory any time she desired a piece.

Which caused him to ask, “Is any part of you human?”

She walked to the fountain garden window. “Yes.”

“Which part?”

She didn’t answer.

“It’s sure as hell not your legs. They’re fine legs, very shapely, but no human could’ve taken a fall like that.”

She rubbed her ankles together as though conscious of his words.

“It’s not your arms. You lifted me like a handful of paper, which is unsettling despite how much I would love to have your arms wrapped around me again.”

She brushed something from her bicep.

“It’s definitely not your beautiful eyes—”

“It’s not a part you can see,” she said quietly.

Well, how perfectly fascinating. His pulse pounded in his cock. Could she hear it?

She whirled to him. Although it was too dark to tell for certain, he swore her cheeks once again looked flushed. She strode to the doorway. “Sleep. I’ll patrol your residence.”

“You’ll guard me more securely with a more intimate patrol.” He patted the couch.

“Your body needs quiet to heal.”

“As if I can sleep after a come-on like that,” he complained, but he did so to an empty room.

He fluffed his pillows and relaxed into them. Good thing she wasn’t programmed to use her body to get what she wanted from him. He had yet to invite a woman to share this private couch; the others never moved beyond his public bed. Resa didn’t count. She wasn’t, after all, actually a woman.

Under the cover, he pulled out his last communication with the lady rogue.

Your half sisters were captured by the Robotics Faction and escaped with their lives. They will meet you in Seven Stars secretly. Have you convinced your family of the Robotics Faction threat? We can’t wait much longer. The Faction’s deadly Third Brigade fleet is gathering outside your solar system, and the zero class has already been dispatched to your planetoid.

Dispatched? Aris erased the memo and reprocessed the paper, disintegrating it to its constituent molecules. How would the lady rogue feel about the zero class sitting on his windowsill? He smiled.

Someday she would turn her weapon on Aris. Her mission would end and she would eradicate loose ends. Or try, anyway.

But until then, he would use her skills to push his agenda. He would figure out a way to make her open his family’s eyes to the truth.

Joensen had died so easily in his arms. He deserved justice.

When he identified the culprit, Aris would let the murderous robot find justice for him.


Resa patrolled the perimeter of the governor’s dome, forming a perfect map and noting all the gaps in the security cameras. She wore a pair of clear oculars linked to his security cameras inside, showing her interior rooms, and also downloading the important human data for perusal.

Multitasking like this took a lot of her attention, but not all of it.

Aris’s full staff printed inside the oculars. She looked through names, locations, heartbeats to the cityscape around her while she jogged along the ornate outer walls.

His gentle breathing, silenced under the duvet (she had checked via a video communicator she had secreted in his room), now filled her ears. He drifted trustingly into sleep.

His vulnerability disturbed her.

It wasn’t the first time she’d noticed his laxness, but now that she saw it from the inside, the impact struck her more forcefully. Satellites, so often used for surveillance and defense, could easily be manipulated with a few codes. The Hyeon defense fleet, so certain of its readiness, could easily be dispersed with a feint toward a more vulnerable target. Leaving this planetoid, and all inhabiting it, a fragile shell just waiting for someone to crack it open.

Someone like the Faction’s Third Brigade, a massive fleet full of soldier x-classes and the newest ship-to-planet weapons, only a single Hub away and itching to mobilize at the first real hint of the rogue.

She walked along the garden wall ledge. Aris’s city clustered around her.

Through the atmosphere shield’s thin places, the stars shone straight through, and distant vistas appeared as crisp as something at the length of her arm from her nose. The holes of the mines, from which the planetoid received its wealth and from which these domes had been fabricated like so many ornamental balloons, gaped, stark against the barren stone.

Morning tinted the far southern pole of the atmosphere shield, and evening sat at the far north. Night surrounded the capitol, and the main import/export freight elevator into space.

Individual domes, such as the abandoned storage warehouse she had unmoored earlier today, could select their preferred time of day and move at will.

Three governmental residences—Morning, Twilight, and Aris’s Night—formed fixed points holding up the tent of the atmosphere shield. The cities clustered around them contained nanobot-refreshed air and the bulk of the residences.

It seemed fitting that Aris lived in night.

Although he more than proved himself a playboy, flirtatious even to her, essentially an inanimate object in comparison to his biological humanity, and a deeper level of sincerity powered his tossed-off phrases. Even she found herself susceptible. Of course, she wasn’t entirely inanimate.

No, she had one living human part. Not a part that anyone could see. If someone cut her open to the core, they wouldn’t find a bit of skin or heart buried in the robotic case. Her fragment was a memory. A ghost, or a piece of a ghost, that had lived so long ago even she didn’t know her age. She brushed her hands across her human-soft metal skin. This body seemed to be a few decades old, perhaps as old as the governor. Her memory… it had an ageless quality. But even though she couldn’t open herself up and point to the living piece, it held as much sway over her as any metallic thump of her heart.

Her living human part craved his touch, his notice, his casual kindness.

A weakness, her robot pointed out.

As much as she hated the weakness, it existed. She acknowledged it so she could move on.

Not so she could consider how to protect him from his violent family. Her protection would mean nothing once she completed her reconnaissance, successfully discovered the hidden location of the rogue agent, and dispatched them both.

He called her beautiful. Again.

Her hands flexed for her missing guns.

Control your emotions, her robot instructed.

She knelt at the edge of the wall separating his inner gardens from the publicly accessible fountains. Any person could don rebreathers and swim through the sewer drain into his side. She made a note to systematically install drone-offensive grating.

Of course, with the rogue gone, perhaps there would be no need to dispatch Aris. The power would be gone, perhaps. He could live a long, normal life fighting with his family, leaving her alone.

She shouldn’t crave his compliments. Or his jokes. Or his rough hands on her body, pressing her tight against him, like the one good memory from the cascade of bad.

Below, movement in the public gardens made her pause. A street sweeper, simple and direct, vacuumed debris into its molecular reprocessor.

Goosebumps rose up on her arms.


She watched the small, hovering vacuum while the planetoid turned and turned. Something about it was wrong. An eyeless, earless, brainless street sweeper without even the logic processors to work out how to leave its area or the appendages to do so, yet contained a disturbing malevolence. She felt it. And for once, her robot shut up about feelings and gave her the peace she needed to figure out why.

It was watching the house.

Excerpts robotics faction science fiction romance

Liberation’s Vow – Chapter Two

This is a preview of Liberation’s Vow, the third installment of the trilogy following the Antiata siblings (Cressida, Mercury, and Aris). Will they finally reunite after years of hiding from mysterious Robotics Faction assassins? Now the tables are turning and those robot assassins have discovered their all-too-human capacity for love and passion…

Publication date: July 1 2016
Price: $3.99
Pre-order now!

Did you miss the first chapter? Read Chapter One and learn what happened to Resa centuries ago.

Chapter Two

Elite zero class android assassin Resa looked down the barrel of her sniper rifle at the street two hundred feet below.

Someone else was stalking her target.

Too much about this assignment felt eerily familiar, even though she had only been alive a few days and thus couldn’t possibly have experienced it before.

An airless planetoid making everything look startlingly crisp. The ghostly sensation of nanobots climbing over her rifle, skin, and clothes, turning carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen. An abandoned warehouse district where no one could scurry for cover.

Staring down the barrel of a rifle at people who were already dead.

Three security guards sprawled behind vehicles and in shadows, their glassy eyes fixed on the atmosphere shield overhead, their mouths open in shock.

She searched for their killer, playing her sniper glass across the most likely route.

Who else stalked governor Aris Hyeon Antiata?

A shadow moved at the corner of her vision. The fourth guard slid bonelessly out of his chair. A flash of silver disappeared as the shadow melted away against the floating domes of the warehouse district.

Not a fellow agent of the Robotics Faction.

Resa adjusted the rifle. Most likely the governor’s greedy cousins had put a price on his head and smuggled in a chameleon-suited human assassin to pull off the execution. Aris belonged to a wealthy, grasping family more likely to stab than pat each other on the back. And the governor was campaigning to cut off Robotics Faction technology. More than one group thought he was crazy; some might hire an agent to do something about it.

If only they knew the truth.

Her aim shifted to the grungy district census office below.

One guard meandered around the dusty golden facade. He paused at the governor’s parked hover car and nodded at the personal guard waiting inside. Both humans eyed the empty street and the gently bobbing domes without seeing the dangers.

On the census bureau dome, curved doors slid open and golden steps descended to the street.

Both guards snapped to attention. The gorgeously bejeweled, heavily armored carriage door opened, and another guard stood at its side.

The governor’s personal security moved down the steps, their infrared oculars sweeping for any invisible threat. They missed the human assassin in the chameleon suit stalking them from above. So, the oculars were compromised.

Something interesting was about to happen.

Office staff emerged next. Obsequious and smiling furiously, they posed stiffly, forming an almost perfect funnel for an assassin.

The entire square seemed to drop silent.

The governor himself emerged and paused at the top step.

Aris Hyeon Antiata.

A light breeze ruffled his indigo-gray hair, shielding his mesmerizing blue eyes. Taut leather clothed his powerful physique with flashing gold threads, and he sparkled against the functional white uniforms of the bureau staff like a peacock amidst mourning doves. Jewels glittered in his powerful boots.

As if in recognition of his great status, he deigned to turn and speak with the lowly staff. He took each hand in turn, addressing them personally and playfully until they blushed. They would remember this day forever. The day the planetary governor visited their office, smiled, and shook their hands. But as soon as he let go of their hands, he had clearly already forgotten them.

She would not be sad to kill him. He deserved to die. Lords who used others as Aris did made her sick.

Except, her robot rebuked her, you are an android and don’t have feelings. So he can’t make you sick.

Sure. Whatever. It was a figure of speech. She felt fine.

She tightened her aim.

He bid the staff farewell and faced out. His smile dropped away like the facade it was. He cast his gaze up, up, up, skimming past her without seeing her. His features sharpened in her perfectly targeted scope. He shaded his eyes.

A frisson of awareness sizzled through her. Was he looking for her?

He had grown paranoid this week since she’d started watching him. It was like he knew she was here, just out of sight, never out of mind.

But she wasn’t a danger to him today. She was just an observer.

A deathly shadow moved across the brightly lit, curved dome behind and above him, getting into position to attack with the silver arc-blade.

Oblivious to the assassin almost within reach, Aris dropped his hand and started down the steps.

She rested her finger on the trigger, calculating angles and odds. The human assassin would slice him in moments, and for now, only Resa was authorized to execute the governor.

She hated to kill anyone—

Except you are an android, her robot reminded her, which means you don’t hate anything. Not even killing. Because you don’t have feelings.

Yes, yes, yes. She had heard those reminders often enough this week. Feelings led to evil, chaos, and death. Like her predecessor, insane zero class Zenya|Sen, who went crazy and got destroyed by her own human feelings.

Resa must not have feelings.

So why save the life of the man she was assigned to kill?

Aris Hyeon Antiata was the only known contact of a notorious techno-criminal. Until she caught the rogue, Resa had to protect Aris with her life. No matter how much he deserved to die.

The shadow sprang.

Resa pulled the trigger.


A ping-thwok-thud sounded behind him.

Aris Hyeon Antiata flinched and spun, his heart in his throat and a scared shriek only barely clamped back by his iron-trembling teeth. Nothing appeared on the steps behind him.


His security ran up the stairs and swept the platform.

The census operations director stopped smiling and stepped out. “What was that?”

Unfortunately, he wasn’t crazy.

“An odd noise.” He forced himself to remain upright, an obvious target from all angles. “Director, do odd noises often happen here?”

“No.” Her boots obscured the government crest of Seven Stars, a furious golden sandstorm marked with the immortal words of the first founders, We help ourselves or nobody does. “Are you afraid of a threat?”

“I fear nothing.”

She stiffened. “Oh, excuse me. I didn’t mean to imply—”

“Of course not. I meant there is no reason for fear because you didn’t tell anyone I was coming.”

“Er, well, no.”

The director cupped her elbows, realized her body language betrayed her, and reverted to the nervous tight smile she sheltered behind as he audited all her files and found no evidence of the corruption he knew was hiding in them. Somewhere.

“I mean, I’m sure it’s nothing. An odd squeak of a cable securing the dome.” She grimaced at the empty storehouse creaking next to their dome, clearly in need of battening down. “We certainly didn’t tell anyone you were coming, just like you asked us.”

Just like she hadn’t touched the strangely perfect files.

He turned away to disguise his grinding teeth.

His guards walked the platform, looking off the sides. The census building didn’t mesh with the street; for artistic reasons, it hovered between its tethers to create a “river” of space that flowed all the way down to the planetoid’s surface half a mile below.

Was that a flash beneath the building, clinging to a pipe below? He squinted.

Perhaps it really was nothing. The odd prickling sensation at the back of his neck that he was being watched by more than the sightless inhuman eyes of the recording satellites overhead burned more sensitive than usual.

He was used to being surrounded by people who wanted him dead. Ruling over his family was a son of a bitch. The fear, contempt, and judgment never eased. Most would happily execute him barehanded.

Especially since the promotions next week determined the prosperity of all districts for a decade, and his cousins were going to stuff the candidates with their own pro-Faction people. Darvin would bully Aris for the governor’s seat and eliminate him in any way possible, but clever Poyo was thankfully less interested in ruling atop Aris’s corpse.

What was a little accidental death between family?

Aris used to dream of being assassinated. A few weeks in hospital to be resurrected, followed by recovery on a distant beach where no one knew him or his father, tantalized like a forbidden dream.

But now, that dream had turned to a nightmare.

If he died right now, he ceased to exist. His restore point gone; daily backups, destroyed. He would die. Permanently.

His secret vulnerability was designed to lure out the Robotics Faction. The lady rogue assured him their plan had already worked. A nasty, brutal, terrifying robot watched him. Every move. While he worked, while he slept. Waiting until he made a mistake and contacted the lady rogue on an open network.

He rubbed the tingling back of his neck.

“Sir?” His security second moved to him. “Are you well?”

Aris dropped his hand and wielded his most potent fearless smile. “Just enjoying the scenery.”

The bureau director siding with his cousins smiled. “We invite you to enjoy the scenery any time.”

“I will certainly return the invitation.” Business. He forced his nerves aside and focused on the woman, smiling with his best natural grace. “Your whole office is invited to join me at the governor’s residence this week.”

She touched her throat and colored. Desire conflicted with worry. “So generous. My office will, of course, join you. Thank you for the honor.”

“I expect you as well.” If he couldn’t get incriminating information against his cousins from the files, he would get it from the people. “Treat yourself. You may bring guests.”

“Ah.” Her expression cleared. Resigned, yet still deeply pleased. “Again, thank you.”

“Until then.” He squeezed her fingers, tracing her blush, and then headed down the steps, into the hover car. Behind the thick armor, he allowed himself to relax. All he wanted to do was go home, bury himself behind the reinforced walls of the governor’s mansion, and count the days until this was over. The governorship. The promotions. Painting a target on his back. All of it. “ETA?”

“Forty minutes.” His driver communicated their route over his secure channel to the home team. “Unless you prefer the direct drive.”

He rubbed his temples. “Whatever you recommend.”

“I recommend an unpredictable circuit.” His driver leaned across the seat. “Unless your head of security disagrees?”

Aris’s head of security, Joensen, studied the upper curves of the domes suspiciously. He had been with Aris from almost the beginning and had kept him alive through more questionable incidences than Aris could count. He trusted Joensen with his life.

But not with the truth.

“Joensen?” Aris leaned forward. “See something?”

“No.” Joensen wiped sweat off his wide brow and folded his big frame into the passenger’s seat of the hover car. “Nothing.”

Aris patted the faithful man’s taut shoulder. “Great job, everyone. With the promotions next week, let’s keep our alert level up.”

The lips of his team curved up, accepting his encouragement without letting it distract them.

Joensen wiped his forehead again.

Aris rested his hands on his leather-clad knees to stop from balling them into fists. Reinforced leather woven with anti-gold protected his skin from fire, depressurization, and puncturing trauma. It was the subtlest protective gear he owned.

We help ourselves or nobody does.

He couldn’t die now. The Robotics Faction had to hunt him. Just like it had hunted his half sisters fourteen years ago. This time, he would turn the hunt on the Faction. By the time they realized their mistake, the lady rogue would have saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, more vulnerable lives. All because of him.

Just so long as his family didn’t kill him first and fuck it all up.

The driver finished their location call-in. “Sir?”

He should’ve told the lady rogue to wait six weeks. The promotions would have been over. His family would have given up trying to kill him.

But Aris wasn’t the kind of man to run from a challenge. No matter how wise or calculated.

“Go,” Aris authorized.

The car started forward.

It hovered onto a pressure mine and exploded.


There, Resa thought.

As soon as the governor’s car hovered over the pressure mine, the full extent of the ambush unfurled.

The concealed mine exploded beneath the front half of the governor’s car, knocking out the engine and cracking the body’s seal. The cab smashed into the street, shattering decorative tile and stunning the driver.

Primary target disabled.

In the abandoned storeroom dome next to the census bureau, an auto-turret activated. Bullets sprayed the armored sides and the street, threatening the occupants inside.

Primary target pinned.

From a hidden balcony in a warehouse at the top of the square, noxious vapor canisters toppled over and poured gas into the street.

Primary target soon to be euthanized.

The shocked security team struggled to cover the governor, firing blindly in the general direction of the auto-turret. The head of security erupted from the damaged vehicle, directly into a barrage of hull-piercing fire. Well, that was either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.

She lifted her gun to stop the auto-turret.

Her robot arrested her. Why are you intervening? That man is nothing to us. He is not the target.

Her trigger finger flexed and released, unable to pull. He was not the target, so they might as well save his life.

You might as well save your ammo.

She fought the order.

Auto-turret bolts ripped into his chest, dropping him in a bloody heap.

Damn. She released the trigger with a puffed exhale. Now it was too late.

Yellow gas roiled, a smoldering river hissing down the artfully curving street. The passenger door yawned, car gaping open. The vapors now had clear access into the vehicle to smother the occupants.

The governor crawled into the front seat. Had he noticed the pooling gas?

No. The strutting peacock hugged his dead security chief to his chest. The gas, if he saw it, was only another problem.

Instead of calling out to his team, who couldn’t do anything anyway, he looked up.

Another frisson of awareness tingled through her.

Grief yielded his features to fury. He was looking for her. Beseeching her help.

Not likely, her robot said. If he knows we’re here, he also knows you’re as likely to kill him as to rescue—

She leapt off her hidden balcony.

The dome curved steeply. Resa ran along the corniced edge of the building. Each footfall grazed the two-hundred-foot drop. Her mechanical legs pumped like pistons; her robot arms held the rifle in unfailing aim on the peacock governor. She leapt into air.

What are you doing? her robot inquired.

She was casing the street.

Obviously. Why?

Because the Faction didn’t control the planetoid’s satellites yet, and she needed to measure the extent of the ambush to save the governor.

Your predecessor extracted information from dead bodies all the time, her robot complained.

I am not ‘complaining,’ her robot chastised. Don’t assign human emotions to a z-class processor. You’ll learn that when you complete your training.

Zenya’s memories leaned on Resa’s brain like a headache. A dull, constant ache just behind her eyes. Trying to get in. Trying to make her into the new Zenya.

She was not saving the governor because she had an unacceptable interest in him. She was saving him because she hadn’t learned how to extract information from dead bodies.

Resa landed lightly on the neighboring dome and slid, running sideways as she accounted for the gravitational pull of the curvature.

Once you complete the training, you will no longer possess a separate mind. We will operate as one. Your thoughts will be only my orders.

The storage dome floated against its tethering wires, not perfectly coupled to its mooring pikes. If she miscalculated and slipped, she would fall all the way down to the surface of the planetoid, and even her indestructible body might suffer a scratch.

Her robot dropped silent.


She leapt onto the abandoned dome and double-timed her steps. Her speed accelerated. Her aim did not waver.

Below, the governor rose and brushed his hair out of his face, streaking blood across his forehead.

She landed on the census bureau and slid her hand across the gouge where she had shot the human assassin’s climbers off. The assassin still dangled below the building; his silver knife flashed, helpless. Eventually, he would have to choose whether to fall to his death or to remove the suit and cry for help.

Not Resa’s problem today.

She reached the point at which all calculable angles had been visually mapped. Data streamed from her senses into the Robotics Faction processor. Once she completed her training, her split personality would integrate, and she wouldn’t have a quarter-second delay as the robot portion calculated her best response.

Below, the governor studied the rooftops. Dome after dome secured the city’s floating scape, tied to moorages and bouncing gently against each other. He traced the rounded rooftops to the census bureau building and locked eyes with her.

He knew—

Her robot transmitted the orders. Perform the rescue.

She shot the tethering wires of the abandoned storage dome as she fell. Precise lasers lanced the lines and one, two, three tethers streaked past her face with sharp whistles. The final line creaked and strained as the dome rocked against the census square.

The dome creaked and shifted. Disoriented by the upheaval, the auto-turret lost its target and sprayed over the square, rolling destruction across the tile.

The governor’s gaze finally dropped to the noxious oxide and his eyes widened in grim surprise. Instead of listening to his team or doing anything useful, he balled his fists.

Did he intend to fistfight the unstoppable gas or the reorienting turret? Idiot.

Resa landed in front of the bloodied governor, in the center of the street. Cobblestone jutted from the plaster, dented by the force of her landing, and impact rattled up her joints, snapping her teeth together. If she were a human, ordinary enamel would have shattered.

But she wasn’t.

The governor startled. In his surprise floated shocking recognition. “You—”

She shoved him sideways.

Bullets smashed into her chest. Ball-marbles cut through her flight suit, smashed through her body, and flew out the backside.

She flexed.

Her skin tightened, capturing the bullets and absorbing their energy. Natural plasticity shot the bullets back where they came, blinding the auto-turret. Her flight suit hung in shreds. Her body returned to seamless perfection.

The governor struggled out of the car, holding his head where he’d bumped it against the doorframe. His security guards screamed at him to get back in. He ignored them. “You can’t kill me.”

She calculated they had approximately two seconds before the yellow noxious gas enveloped them. She stepped past him and knelt to the car. “I don’t have to.”

He started to answer.

She flexed her knees. The car, plus the two guards in the back, and the one driver still slumped unconscious over the front wheel, spun two hundred feet into the air and smashed into the balcony where she had been hiding.

Its broken engine remained on the shattered tile, coughing sparks into the street.

His answer changed to, “Wha—?”

The gas surrounded them, hissing death.

She punched her arm across his taut midsection. Although he was much taller, he folded over, clotheslined on her securely. She twisted and shot the final tether holding the creaking dome.

The tether cable whirled past. She tucked the rifle under her arm, flexed her knees, and she leapt for it. Her fingers closed around the corded metal.

The mass of the dome fought the inertia of their two bodies and declared a decisive victory. They launching high above the shrieking explosion, hundreds of feet into the air.

Her loosened elbows caught the bulk of the snap.

But he was only human.

His internal organs compressed between her arm and his spine, squeezing like jelly crushed in a fist, and his head snapped forward, straining against his taut neck and shoulder muscles, adhering his brain stem to his spine. The biological fibers groaned.

Noxious oxide pooled around the sparking engine and boomed, rattling the floating street. A chunk of collapsed. Abandoned vehicles toppled into the hole and fell to the planetoid’s barren surface.

They reached the arc of the tether and snapped like a flag in the wind.

The governor’s head jerked. Pain turned his breathing ragged. No human could survive another injury.

The lower pole of the residence caught on an adjacent arcade, and the entire floating residence fell. Shoppers ran screaming. Tile shattered and popped, archways crumpled, and marblestone crumbled to rubble and dust. The runaway residence ground to a halt.

They flew directly for the lowest level of the residence.

Resa released the cable and operated her rifle with her elbow, melting a hole through the wall. Extruded plastic blackened. She broke through it feet-first.

Inside, the household’s storage trunks, vases, freezers, and electronics bounced to the mass of gravitational forces like snow in a hurricane.

She rotated the governor so her feet touched the floor, wall, and tilting ceiling, dancing him across the unoccupied floor and through the shattering debris. Each place dented with her transfer of force. The feet of her flight suit ripped away like a cloth ground into a belt sander, exposing her skin. The pads of her feet super-heated and turned slick as a shuttle’s skin.

Splinters wicked past her indestructible skin. She twisted her dance to shelter his beautiful face from scars.

Why? Scars mean nothing. We intend to kill him.

Well, because…. She had no answer.

Their room abruptly ended. She hugged the governor and bent her knees, skiing backward across a wall. Metal curled beneath her feet.

His tendons strained against shaking human joints.

She shifted to the balls of her feet, stomping down on the force. They hit the back wall with a crushing thump and stopped.

In the distance, through the hole in the wall of the settling dome, a poison death cloud puffed up and out. Green health hazard lights and trauma sirens reflected from the arcade where they had rested. The cloud drifted slowly back down towards the census bureau dome.

She calculated a few minutes for the poison to flow into the arcade.

So she gave the governor a few seconds to recover.

The governor shuddered. His body, always concealed beneath some foppish robe, felt harder and more masculine than she had ever realized. Muscle rippled, taut and rhythmic, across his arms in his frayed clothing.

“Control your emotions and release me,” she ordered.

Instead, he opened his trembling fists and gripped her thin shoulders, hugging her hard with a man’s hands that spanned her blades. A strange shiver moved through her.

Her robot cataloged the odd sensation. A reaction to the stress of breaking her cover. Nothing to worry about.

Which was good, because no worry could compete with the sensations of the governor filling her mind.

He was taller than her, and wider. Broad-chested, in fact. Stripped practically naked and pressed against her, he stirred a strange recognition within. She felt something she had struggled against since awakening in the Robotics Faction construction factory as a pure metal thing, electric brain connected to titanium-alloy bones enclosed in plastic skin, and suppressed as too disturbing.

She felt human.

Resa pushed him a step back.

The security head’s blood still smeared his forehead, and a crust of cobblestone dusted his deep steel indigo hair. Sliver cuts marred his high cheekbones and fine features, artful eyebrows and firm jawline.

He blinked at her and, again, recognition flashed, unsettling as the first time she had seen it on his face. “You saved me.”

The same steel indigo of his hair matched in the fine-threaded irises. A hard strength. A resolute, ruthless, implacable determination.

Again, she felt something that she had not since taking on this assignment.

She felt respect. “For now.”

“How long is now?”

“That depends on you.”

The man retreated behind the playboy smile he paraded for watchers, the swoon-worthy daredevil expression she had heretofore taken as his actual identity. “Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?”

“No,” she said.

“You are. Sweet and genuine and honestly beautiful.”

Despite the fact he had probably used this line successfully on many women, she was unprepared for it to work on her. His lazy smile sparked a human interest in her, a sort of curling ache, undiminished by the split lips and purpling bruises.

Her robot cataloged the interest.

She struggled to understand it. “Do you mean your statement is honest, or honesty is beautiful?”

He reached to stroke her cheek.

She maneuvered around his reach. “Answer.”

His hand dropped. “Both. Honestly.”

Somehow, he was still playing with her. Despite knowing who she was and why she was here. Despite having recently survived an assassination attempt. Despite everything. His lazy smile disguised a calculating mind and an evaluating gaze.

Both layers of his personality interested her in a way she couldn’t explain.

Good, her robot said. We can turn this into a success. He is interested in you too. Use his interest and get him to contact the rogue. Then kill them both, quickly.

“I owe you thanks.” His mellifluous voice, dark in timbre, enticed her hunger. Not for food, but for other, deeply forbidden things. “For whatever impulse caused you to save me. Even if it was just a ploy to get me alone.”

She hadn’t intended to get him alone, even though now that they were alone, she felt things she couldn’t justify or explain. “I only desire information.”


He was still standing too close. She could feel his body heat.

She shoved him a step back. He put weight on his scraped leg and crumpled, catching himself on debris.

With distance, logic soothed her. The robotic underside of her brain read his sweating expressions and body language. Despite what an ordinary person would fear, the thought of being alone with his potential assassin didn’t frighten him. Which meant he was himself insane.

She pushed ahead. “Where is the location of the intergalactic killer known to us as the rogue?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“Because she is an intergalactic killer.”

“So are you.”

Yet he was still talking to her. “Do you have a death wish?”

His smile returned. “That depends.”


“Dying might be worth it if I get to spend the rest of my life with a beauty like you.”

Heat flushed through her. How did his words cause sensations that could not exist? She was not human. She felt nothing. The heat glimmered like a mirage.

I sense no heat, her robot confirmed. He is tricking you.

“If spending the rest of your life with me is your object,” she said, “I promise you a short life.”

“At least I’ll be the object of your desire.”

What was this trap? The waves of heat flushed through her again, even though it was impossible. Both she and her robot agreed.

“I don’t understand.”

He smiled, cavalier. “I’m the only one who can give you information. Doesn’t that make me the object you most desire?” He reached out.

She jerked back, thumping her head against the wall. His touch must be dangerous. Cold, hard logic only prevailed at a distance.

He stopped, examining the space between his outstretched hand and her cheek. And then, out of respect for her, he let his arm drop.

“The intergalactic criminal rogue has driven robots insane,” she said, her head still pressed against the wall. “An insane robot is a danger to everyone. Give me her location to capture the criminal before more are hurt.”

“Nice words. But you’re here to kill me.”

“Not right now.”

A brow raised. He winced and touched the bloodied scratch.

“You don’t believe me,” she said.

“I’ve always had a weakness for pretty girls.”

Somehow, this tossed-off compliment affected her more deeply than his declaration of her beauty. “Pretty” sounded closer to truth. The realization burned through her like the flickering of a match, burning into her center and stealing her breath. He thought she was pretty, and she liked him for thinking so. Danger. Danger. The word chanted in her head.

Be pretty. Use his weakness to extract information. Your untrained human persona is perfect for this chore.

“I am not a pretty girl,” she said, deliberately crushing her robot’s new idea. “And I’m not the organizer of the attempt to assassinate you just now.”

His non-reaction said he was already aware. “That doesn’t mean I’m safe around you, Zenya.”


He paused.

She bit back the argument forming in her robot’s processor. When she finished her training in the Faction, she would accept her predecessor’s name and become the new Zenya. Fine. But she had not finished her training, and she refused her predecessor’s name.

“My name is Resa.”

Skepticism sealed his brow.

“Since you know about my predecessor, then you also know I could have killed you at any time simply by not acting. Instead, I have saved your life.”

He licked his lips. “Because you need me.”

The way he said those words, the way he moved and gestured, evoked all sorts of wrong ideas. Darts of pleasure, darts of need, digging under her skin. She didn’t need him. She didn’t need anything about him.

“That irritates you,” he observed.

She dropped all emotion from her body, squeezing it out like a liquid until nothing but the robot remained. And still, she felt like he could see her. See the empty shell, know that it was empty, and sense a challenge to fill it up again. “I don’t need anything.”

“Sure.” He squared his jaw. “The lady rogue knows you’re coming. The only way you could possibly hope to catch her is to stay close to me. I’ll let you stay as close as you like. For a price.”

Pay it, her robot ordered.

She shivered. “You do have a death wish.”


“So what?”

“Are you going to kill me?”

How interesting that he drew a distinction between her assignment and her intention. “Why do you think I will tell you the truth?”

“Because I already know the truth.” He coughed. “I’m testing to see whether you’re going to bother to lie.”

Fine. He thought he knew her answer. The rogue could listen in on the most private, highest encoded Robotics Faction transmissions and get away undetected. Somehow.

Lie anyway, her robot ordered.

His expression baited her.

“I’m undecided.”

The cocky arrogance wiped from his face.


Her robot screamed at her for her honesty, but it was worth seeing Aris’s surprise, even only for a moment. His resolution returned, steely and gray.

“I feel like we understand each other.” He lifted a measuring gaze. “I’ll give you the chance to search me and my home for the lady rogue.”

How unexpected. “You think I can’t find her.”

“I know you can’t. She’s not even on this planet.” The brazen look in his eyes told her he didn’t know whether that were true. “But you won’t believe me, so I’m gifting you a free pass to search for her anyway. In exchange, you—”

“I prevent your family from killing you while you have no restore point?”

He snapped his jaw closed. A half smile played on his lips. “I was going to say ‘if you’ll give me a lift home.’”

“No, you weren’t.”

The smile deepened, his interest piqued. “I might have said it.”

“It would have been a lie.”

Her robot remained silent, judging her handling of him, but not interfering. Her untrained human persona would remain near him, in his residence, touching everything he touched, and without any compromise of her own.

Aris cocked a hip. “You’re right about one thing.”

“Everything I spoke is true.”

“You’re not a pretty girl.”

She stiffened.

“My first impression was right. You’re a beautiful woman.”

Damn his words. The dangerous sensation glimmered in her chest. He caused strange confusion without touching her. She needed more than to keep him at arm’s distance.

But to capture the rogue, keeping her space wasn’t an option anymore.

He tottered, strength leaving him.

“Then I will give you your lift home.” She caught him as he collapsed. “We leave now.”



Aris studied the blush, tinting the innocent cheeks of the woman holding him up, like an artist picking out her colors. Correction, the colors of the robot clothed in the skin of a female. Because that’s what she was: A robot pretending to be everything that any man would desire.

Her flight suit flapped around her ankles as she carried him. She dragged him across the sharp wreckage toward the gaping hole in the side of the dome.

Fair enough that she had saved his life. One of his cousins had challenged boldness in their public attack, and he needed to respond in kind to prove the attack a failure.

“I would love for you to take me home.” He put his hand on the hole and ignored the sharp pain of his split lip as he favored her with his smoothest smile. “But there’s a few more things we have to work out here, beautiful.”

She stiffened, which was not usually the reaction to his attention.

But after having lost at least Joensen, and perhaps three additional excellent employees, he wasn’t at his top form.

“You currently have a job opening. I offer myself as your new head of security.”

“I’ve seen your skills.” He played with her, waiting to see her reveal herself again. “Who do I contact for character references?”

“I speak for myself.”

“No one can vouch for your past deeds?”

“Those ‘deeds’ are past.” Something flitted across her face, gone before he could capture it. “They belong to another’s life.”

“Aren’t you made in exactly the same model as your predecessor, with all of her memories? Aren’t you essentially her restoration?”

“When my training completes, then yes. I will become the same agent formerly known as Zenya.”

But disagreement passed across her face. A fight within herself, perhaps. The same look had crossed when she corrected him about her name.

Zenya, he understood from his conversations with the lady rogue, had been a killer, happier behind a fortress of piled bodies. If he met her face-to-face, an emotionless mask would be the last thing he ever saw.

But this Resa wore a mask to cover a writhing mass of emotion. Their conversation had already lasted longer than the lady rogue had suggested any conversation with Zenya Sen ever did.

And he had felt her petite body pressed up against the wall. She reacted like a woman. Curious, cautious, hungry. Her skin might repel glass, but it felt soft and supple beneath his hands. Crinkly black hair curled around her face. The memory of her body burned in his fingers like match-flares. He wanted to coat himself in oil and dive in.

Of course, that was insane, which was why he liked it.

“Decide,” she ordered. “The noxious oxide is almost to the arcade.”

“I need to make a statement to the family I’m still alive.” He took a step across the tilted floor and collapsed.

She simply looked down at him, splayed out like a smudge on the gritty debris-filled floor. “If you delay, you will be dead.”

“If I don’t make a statement, my cousin Darvin will challenge my authenticity, and I might as well be.”

She regarded him stoically.

He dared her with the last of his strength and only the start of his indomitable will. “Your interview test is to ensure I make a statement without collapsing from gas poisoning.”


Resa accepted the governor’s conditions spoken in a half whisper from ashen lips. Being surrounded by household debris, too, was uncomfortably familiar. Deeper than Zenya’s memories, it resonated with an image that was older, deeper, and somehow more true. Something that she almost remembered.…

No. She couldn’t remember. Resa shoved it aside just like she shoved aside the doubts her robot voiced. She didn’t dare.

“How do you make the statement?” she asked.

“A broadcast station,” came his faint reply. “With the highest security. And satellite.”

So, he needed to be filmed outdoors with the noxious oxide to prove that he hadn’t succumbed to it. Excellent.

She lifted Aris, trying to ignore the white smile he bestowed on her and the murmur of something that was bound to have been flirtatious, but which ended up swallowed by a pained gasp, and carried him to the hole. Grabbing the tether cable with her bare hands, she slid to the ground. Friction heated her palm to a molten shine. She turned off her receptors, dumped Aris in a groaning pile beneath a broken arcade column, and flexed her hand. The shiny skin swapped chemicals within so the skin returned to suppleness. She turned on her receptors again.

Step one: Contain the noxious oxide.

Resa unsealed her second weapon, a shatter pistol, from her thigh and aimed at the storage dome. A thousand closely-pulsed charges sheared off the side of the giant building, opening the dome. The metal-glass round slammed into the ground, crushed the buildings around it, and rolled into the noxious cloud. It fell open and gas pooled into it.

She shot the power transformer within the dome.

It exploded outward. The dome lifted off the arcade and wobbled in the air. A boom echoed through the ground.

Metal siding rattled and slid off ruined domes around the arcade overhead.

She sheltered Aris.

Several hundred pounds of debris boomed against them, snapping her rifle in half. The force reverberated through her marrow, crackling in her bones. Chips expelled at the force of a bullet. Several smacked her shatter pistol, weakening and cracking the plastic.

She followed the path of each fracture, moving faster than physics to protect Aris. One splinter unexpectedly sliced through her cheek. The metal siding came to a rest.

She shoved the metal siding off. It clanged and crushed the opposite building.

Two guns destroyed. She threw them aside. No matter. She disliked guns anyway.

You do not dislike guns, her robot said. You have no preference. Although losing both at once is strange.

But not impossible.

And… she did dislike guns. For some reason, they had failed her when she needed them. Sometime in the past… but the memories were out of reach.

Zenya loved guns.

Yes. Without poking the dark morass of her predecessor’s memories, she imagined that Zenya did.

Blood gaped from the exposed hole in her cheek, reacting to loss of pressure and chemical atmosphere to immediately bond into a seal. Magnetese in Resa’s blood contained it. She pressed the sides of her cheek together. Where the skin overlapped, it adhered like tape and reknit her injury. Her scar melded and disappeared.

Out in the center, the whole dome rolled over, crushing everything in its path, and landed on the lip of the hole. Noxious oxide poured out the hole like a poisoned faucet. In minutes, the area cleared. The air flowed clean.

Aris leaned against the column; his legs splayed and his head thrown like he’d been gut shot.

He licked his lips. “Anyone in those buildings you just destroyed?”


“Did you bother to check?”

His judgment stuck her like needles.

“Yes,” she answered mechanically. “However, if I killed in error, I only accelerated the result of the gas.”

Emergency sirens filled the air as survivors crawled out of the wreckage.

He grunted. “Take me to the broadcast station.”

She dragged him past survivors, well-wishers, and emergency personnel over a mile to the nearest undamaged transmitter. It registered his ID chip and activated. He rolled up his sleeve, spoke, “Identity confirm,” and winced when the biologic needle stabbed into his bicep for a bloody DNA confirmation while the broadcaster confirmed voice print, hand prints, toe prints, eye scans, and earlobe depths.

“Identity confirmed,” the machine announced. “Voice transmissions out of order.”

He squinted at it, wiped blood across his forehead, and groaned. “Prop me up. Hit the video.”

She slid her arm under his, too aware of his heat against her torso. “What is your answer to my offer?”

“Sure.” He licked his chapped, split lips again and grinned for the video feed. “As everyone can see, we successfully survived a tragic accident. The victims will be compensated for their losses and resurrected according to their government contracts.”

She tilted her mouth away. “They can’t hear you.”

He nodded; lip reading would input the sound. His serious exhaustion gave way to lazy flirting.

Against her will, awareness of his sexy form pressed against hers and pulsed through her inhuman body.

It hitched a fraction with his next command.

“Now give me a kiss.”


Continue to Chapter Three!

Excerpts robotics faction science fiction romance

Liberation’s Vow – Chapter One

I’m so excited! This is the first preview of Liberation’s Vow, the third installment of the trilogy following the Antiata siblings (Cressida, Mercury, and Aris). Will they finally reunite after years of hiding from mysterious Robotics Faction assassins? Now the tables are turning and those robot assassins have discovered their all-too-human capacity for love and passion…

Publication date: July 1 2016
Price: $3.99
Pre-order now!

Chapter One

Resalynne grabbed her brother’s Mach 8 cyber-rifle and squeezed the trigger. “Bam, bam, bam!”

A distant tumble-rock, which could have been five feet away or five hundred on the airless planetoid Seven Stars’ surface, stood dumbly where it started.

She pretended to aim at the rock next to it. “Bam, bam, bam! Another pirate dead.”

Her brother rested his gloved hand on the cold barrel, thumb on the safety. Behind exposure suit glass, his brows cocked. “Resa, what have I told you about guns?”

She released the rifle to him and toggled her in-suit mic. “Deep breath, center your shot, and don’t waste ammo because the next supply drop isn’t for a month.”

“And don’t play with my rifle.” He returned it to his shoulder holster. “You practice like you perform. Real practice, with the safety off. I’ll take you out tonight if you want.”

“It’s not like I really need to.” She bounced after him across the barren wasteland of North Frontier Outpost. “I’m the last person on base who’d ever have to shoot someone.”

“Preparation never hurts.”

She tripped into the yawning mine, flipped closed her solar charging cells, and tapped her exposure glass to lighten the polarized tint. “We’re going to be valuable any day now. If those Antiata raiders or Emperor goons try to jump our claim, Central will send their whole force to save us.”

They waited in the pressurization corridor, suits still on, because only a micrometer-thin skin separated themselves from space.

In comparison, a hundred thousand miles separated their outpost from Central.

Obviously thinking of that, her brother shook his head. “We help ourselves or nobody does.”

The doors popped open on the mine. The growl and roar of tumbling rock pulsed against her chest. A low-grade siren warned that they were entering a nanobot risk area, and to watch out in case the massive drills uncovered a trapped pocket. Nanobots were like invisible bees, collecting their preprogrammed mineral pollen and depositing it into a honeycomb of raw wealth. They were supposed to go inert after they stripped off the valuable minerals, but accidents did happen, and human blood contained minute traces of those same valuable minerals. Better safe in a suit than exposing a cut to a nanobot and losing half an arm before electro-scrubbers could shut it off.

Her brother nodded to the miners they passed, inspecting suits and machinery with a security officer’s practiced eye.

She ducked under a gigantic spring-loader mirror used for balancing space-bound loads. “What if pirates torpedoed us like they tried on Second Star?”

“They wouldn’t bother.” He hefted a heavy load of core samples, hopefully containing more valuable minerals than they had yet discovered. “Work on our economics problem, warrior.”

She dragged a smaller bag into the tunnels. Dust coated their suits in beautiful, worthless magnetized gold. “We could sell confetti at royal balls.”

He grunted. “Pretty hefty shipping costs.”

“We could design custom ship hulls.”

“Solar etching is more durable.”

“We could sell robots attractive, shiny body paint.”

He laughed and patted her helmet.

That night, after they’d logged their share of the day’s profits, studied the core samples for nonexistent valuable minerals, and eaten their evening meal—which, even limited to the starkest reprocessor solids, cost more than their share yet again—her brother headed out on patrols. And, she suspected, he secretly borrowed the outer perimeter network connection and searched survey-ship maps for more lucrative mines for them to apply for a transfer.

She bunked down with her holo viewer of Fantastical Alien Warlords. The romance between the main warlord’s renegade, amnesiac, brainwashed, secret half brother and his fourth-favorite physicist slave was really heating up in the 198th season.

Her brother propped an elbow on her makeshift bunk. “A marker’s out on the south second quadrant. I’m taking the maintenance guy.”

“Overtime again?”

He ruffled her hair. “Got to pay for dinner.”

“Stay safe. Keep in verbal contact.”

“Suits don’t hold enough charge.”

She knew that, but she wanted him to anyway.

He seemed on the verge of saying something else, but then smiled and hunkered down on his proper bunk below her to put on his suit again.

She rolled over on her side. “Hey, Evanni?”


“I’m not sorry I left Central and everybody behind. I didn’t think we’d strike it rich with our first mine. I mean,”—she hugged the imaginary fortunes in her frayed and patched blanket—“it would have been so amazing if we had, and I could buy a hundred living dresses and two spaceships and every-single-day resurrection points for both of us, like total emperors.”

He snorted.

“Maybe,” she kept dreaming, “we’ll invent something for that gold, like pretty dresses or houses or gold-plated domes.”

“Nobody’d waste their profits on something so useless.”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “But honestly, I’m just glad the supe let me stay, even though I’m barely starting my third decade, and they could have sent me home. I’m glad to stay anywhere so long as I’m with you.”

He was silent for a long minute.

Then, he popped above her bunk again. “I’m heading out.”

She made her hand into a gun. “Call if you see pirates.”

“Want to practice shooting them?”

“What do I have to practice for when you’re out there to protect me?” She rolled her eyes and put alien warlords back in her ears.

Her brother left.

Too many episodes later, she rubbed her eyes and shut off the viewer. Where was her brother? She set the holo viewer on its charger, pulled off her earphones, and got up.

Strange. The air was off.

She padded into the hall. Her grubby inside shoes squeaked on the mesh floor and her slim biceps shivered with coolness.

The solar grid was probably out again.

She searched the familiar, eerily silent rooms. Finally, she found people in the mess hall huddled around their single reprocessor. Unlike the ventilation fans, the reprocessor sat on permanent power. Almost the whole mine, minus the few out on patrols, clustered around tiny map screens.

Her older brother tapped the map. “We should get to Dome 2 and activate the emergency communicator to Central.”

“It could be dust,” a miner said, rolling her grimy sleeves over her powerful biceps. “We’re not little kids, crying home to Mama.”

“Alerting Central is the proper response when a perimeter outage—”

“What are they going to do anyway? We’re too far out. We fix it or we’ll be suffocated before they send a recon probe.”

“—and when we cannot reach the other mines. Proper protocol states—”

“Dust. It’s been storming since the second watch. Weather’s as miserable as the mines.”

“Hey, little princess,” one of the miners saw her in the doorway, and his wrinkled brow lightened. “Don’t you need your beauty sleep to catch your lord?”

“Warlord,” she replied, because they all knew her silly fantasies. “What are you all doing?”

The old miners looked at her brother.

He pointed back the way she’d come. “Suit up and bunk down.”

She stifled a yawn. “I’m not tired.”

The miners chuckled.

“I can help.”

Her brother nodded. His emergency oxygen rebreather swung gently from his neck. “We have a perimeter out and we can’t hail the other mines. Suit up and get to the safe room in Dome 2.”

“I want to help here.”

Her brother fixed her with a hard look.

Yes, she knew bickering caused the other miners to treat her like a child. She tamped down her worry—it was probably nothing—and went to the doorway. “When I get there, I’m going to call in an emergency.”

The miners groaned and complained.

Her brother’s tiredness lightened. “Follow protocol.”

She left the mess hall and sealed the door—following safety protocol already, look at her—and started to recite the call orders she’d read in the manuals.

The world roared.

The walls boomed and buckled, throwing her to the floor. Metal mesh rattled at her face. Low moans echoed deep below the building. Behind her, a horrid shriek screamed from the broken seals around the bulging mess hall door.

Oh no.

She pushed herself to her feet and ran to the door. It canted on its hinges. Through the cracked fist-thick glass, she could see the dome ceiling in shreds. It revealed billowing sand and a star-studded, no-atmosphere-crisp sky.

Oh no. No, no, no.

Bodies were strewn across the floor, some arching and gasping, others unmoving. Her brother…. Yes! Her brother gripped the reprocessor platform. He held the emergency rebreather to his mouth. He survived.

White-clad foreigners stormed into the shredded dome, heat lasers blasting. The few miners who had survived the first assault fell. Her brother lifted his arm. His chest disappeared in a barrage of sinister light.

Shock paralyzed her.

Her brother slumped onto the reprocessor. The rebreather fell from his lax mouth.

Her heart stopped dead in her chest. A strange hollow sensation filled her bones, and her ears floated next to her head.

No. This hadn’t happened. It wasn’t real. Her brother was still alive in there. This hadn’t happened. It wasn’t real.

The white-suits gathered around the console, pushing aside the dead, and exchanged signals. Most of them turned around and headed for the mines. One headed for the mess hall door.

She stumbled backward on numb feet.

Her brother’s voice echoed in her ears, straight out of all their drills. Move.

She backed away from the glass, turned, and ran.

The wrecked dome moved past her in a blur. Nothing registered. Only her brother’s last instructions echoed in her mind, guiding her numb body. Partial walls collapsed, and jutting floors knocked holes into the tunnels below. She banged into walls, lost her footing, and fell. Her forehead dripped blood. She felt nothing.

In their room, she yanked on her suit with shaking hands. No helmet—that was near the Outside door—suit battery low. She grabbed her extra battery pack, leaving her brother’s—no, she grabbed all the battery packs, including her brother’s spare.

Below the shelf, in the main portion of his locker, rested his gun.

She hesitated.

We help ourselves or nobody does.

She grabbed it.

Voices echoed in the hall. Harsh, foreign sounds between her and the safe exit to the planetoid.

A jagged opening gaped in the destroyed floor. Into the mine. Infested with nanobots.

Run, Resa!

She dropped to her butt and slid into the hole. Her indoor shoes slipped, and she banged her head on an exposed pipe. The voices grew louder. She huddled in shadow. They passed.

Dome 2 hid several miles underground, buried on the other side of the mine.

She started walking.

The miles passed. Reality of what the pirates stole from her turned to sober consideration of what she planned to do about it. Vengeance fantasies played in her mind, every one of them a white suit in the targeting circle.

She gripped the gun.

The caverns opened up and reflective gold dust gave way to generator floodlights and harsh shadows. Sirens had fallen silent, although the grit of the gold dust falling on her cheeks tickled like the whispered warning of unseen dangers. Any second now, she should see her first murderer.

Her suit mic hissed.

She stopped.

The pirates communicated over an open local channel. She tapped her wrist to lower the volume and slowed her approach.

“Is this all they’ve got? We knocked the place and risked our necks for a couple of bills?”

She emerged on the walkway. A white-clad group, suits open to their bellies, milled around the mining control console, arguing. One typed on the nanobot control panel. She knelt in position behind a milled boulder.

“Even one of those miners survives, we got the whole lot of them coming after us.”

“Relax. We wipe the whole station. No one ever knows we were here.”

“Fuck. For this tiny amount, I wish we were never here.”

She set her aim, rested the gun against the boulder, and placed the man’s head in the targeting circle. Deep breath. She pushed the safety off.

The tiniest click sounded beneath her ragged gloves.

The targeting circle glowed red. Live ammo.

The man finished tapping on the controls. “There. The nanobots are programmed to reactivate and swarm the bodies, turning them into an unidentifiable paste. ‘Biologic mode’ is on.”

One of them shivered. “Let’s get out of here.”

“We’ve got an hour.” The man stood, leaving her target circle.


The red circle remained on the console. Oh, she had locked on the console. She unlocked it, wasting precious time, and locked on the man. Again, it centered on an inanimate object, a loader.

Reality intruded on her fantasy.

She possessed limited ammo and less experience. The white suits were armed, experienced, and ruthless. Some weren’t even here. If she managed to fully unlock the weapon and shot, even killed, a single man, the others would hunt and annihilate her.

It was hopeless.

Her mic hissed.

“Shuttle One, this is Away Team,” one of the pirates said, over her mic. “The miners are dead. Drop ship to pick up the payday.”

“Come and get it yourself,” their pilot responded. “We don’t have enough fucking men.”

“Shuttle One, don’t be a little girl.”

““If I bring down the shuttle, no one’s left on board to pilot the ship.”

“Let me worry about that.”

“Oh yes, sir, commander, sir.” Swearing ended the shuttle pilot’s transmission.

A drop shuttle flew to the surface, and the group emptied the mine’s meager profits into its hold. Disappointed the valuable super-magnetic mineral, magnetese, could fit in a single duffel, the pirates loaded everything else of value, stacking gold bars and mercury-alloy pistoles, sacks of dust and low earning gems.

Resa moved around the back of the dome, sighting and losing the murderers. Her brother’s teachings echoed through her. Deep breath. Center your shot. Don’t waste ammo.

We help ourselves or nobody does.

“All right, the load is almost balanced.” The leader turned to another pirate. “Call everyone in.”

The pilot grumbled as he fought the obviously unfamiliar loader controls, lifting and lowering the several-thousand-ton mirror until it reflected accurate mass and weight. “Maybe they got something out of the dirt-digger’s sympathy letters from their mommies.”

He moved the loader from one side of the shuttle to the other and, instead of taking the extra time to manipulate it around the vulnerable shuttle, he hovered the several-thousand-ton loader mirror directly over the top.

Classic mistake. One she learned about on her first week at the mines. Never, ever, let the loader mirror cross a more fragile load.

She put the loader control console in the target circle, locked on, and pulled the trigger.

The gun hummed beneath her fingers. Its electrified plasma charge burst out of the barrel and smashed into the loader control console.

Electricity skittered across the interconnected consoles, blackening screens and spitting fire. The loader groaned as power leeched from its arm and physics bent the extenders. Its gigantic mirror lowered to rest on the top of the shuttle, denting its shell.

It would not be going to space today.

Far above, in the sky, the unoccupied pirate transport ship hovered, patiently waiting for its owners to return.

The white suits jumped and ducked for cover. No one knew for sure what had happened. From an outside perspective, the console had simply exploded.

Resa stood up, put on the safety, and disappeared into the tunnel for Dome 2. On her mic, the surprise turned to confusion and rage. They couldn’t call back the shuttle and they couldn’t contact the ship. They couldn’t contact anyone.

Moments later, they realized a worst case: They couldn’t reprogram the nanobots.

That was when they started searching for her.

She reached the secret underground bunker of Dome 2, squeezed into the closet-sized space designed to outlast the bleakest emergencies, and sealed the doors. The comm system took forever to wake up and charge. She wedged herself between a box of reprocessor raws and a moisture cache. Every second, she imagined the pirates finding her tunnel, blasting in her door, and ending her fate.

If they didn’t come….

Sirens started, low and insistent, and the lights flickered to red. Warning of the imminent nanobot invasion, turning all of her cells into powder, vaporizing her to the bones and beyond.

Rescue. She needed rescue.

As soon as the comm console blinked on, she clenched the call switch. “Someone please help me. Someone, come quick!”

Empty space replied.

Oh no. The pirates had destroyed Central. They had—

No, wait. She had to move the communication switch to “receive”.

“Please come quick, someone!” Resa dropped the switch.

Hisses and squeals emerged from the speakers. Interference jammed the transmission, which jumped between snips of women shouting, men crying, and automated voices calling for help. One calm voice droned between hissing fits. She finally made it out. It directed everyone to turn to the alternate frequency and await a request for status reports.

Status reports.

Control. Protocol. She took a deep breath, read the instruction manual for the console, and switched to the alternate frequency.

“—survivors, thirteen casualties, and two hundred survivors, come and get us quick. We cannot hold. I repeat, we cannot hold.”

“Understood, West Plain Outpost Five. You cannot hold.”

“You have to help us!”

“Understood. Moving on. W—”

“Now, please!”

“Don’t jam the transmission. Moving on. Status report, West Plain Outpost Six… West Plain Outpost Six, status report…. West Plain Outpost Seven, status report.”

“Thirty survivors. This is West Seven. Three lost and thirty survivors, and fire everywhere. The pirates are gone, but the fires. Fire assistance is needed now.”


“No, you don’t understand! We need assistance! We can’t wait!”

She slowly released the call switch.

We help ourselves or nobody does.

“…North Frontier Outpost, status report.”

There. That was her.

She scrambled for the switch. “North Frontier Outpost, um, reporting.”

“North Frontier Outpost, we’re glad to finally hear from you. Status report.”

“One, uh, pirate ship. So far as we know.” Report the enemies first. She calmed. “They breached the dome, killed pretty much everyone, and reprogrammed the nanobots to destroy the bodies.”

Central dropped silent for a long moment.

“You’re, um, going to want to bring something to contain them. I kind of destroyed the control panel when I grounded their shuttle.”

“…acknowledge, North Frontier Outpost. One heavy, which we still see over your location, a breached habitat, and biologic outbreak. I hope the survivors sheltered at a safe distance. It may be… it’s going to be a long time until we can organize a rescue up to there. A long time.”

The power blinked out. Dome fans ceased circulating life support. Her precious communications console flickered over to stored charge.

They found her.

She clutched the spare batteries, gripped the gun, and backed into the farthest corner of the tiny bunker, her aim on the vulnerable door.

“North Frontier Outpost, how many can we hope to rescue?”

We help ourselves or nobody does.

No rich alien warlord was going to swoop down and save her. No skilled older brother or proud, independent miner would pat her head and tell her to take a nap. There was only Resa. She was North Frontier now. Nanobots eating through the metal silently or pirates blasting through with deadly heat; she would give both one hell of a fight.

“One.” She stacked the batteries next to the gun. “And don’t hurry. North Frontier is holding just fine.”


Several centuries later…

The rogue walked up to the silent, dark underground storage facility deep beneath Seven Stars, heart of the Hyeon Antiata empire, and inserted her magic key—a stick containing her universal authorization code—into the locked front doors.

They rolled open.

Security bots instantly surrounded her, red lights warning intruders of termination.

No time to stick them all. She fumbled with her flash code emitter. The lipstick-sized tube slipped from her fingers and rolled on the sandy floor.


The security bots closed, menacing. Their red lights beeped faster, counting down the moments until the facility registered her presence, shot an alert to the resurrection facility half a mile above and triggered an anti-theft explosion.

She dropped to her hands and knees.

The security bots milled, starting to beep the final countdown.

Her fingers closed over the flash code emitter.

The facility flashed red. Intruder alert.

She scrambled to her feet again and depressed the button.

Her flashed authorization stopped the nearest bots. Their lights turned white and they dropped quiet.

She pushed through the deactivated security bots, flashing the rest until they all relaxed and the facility lighting changed back to white.

Too close.

She wiped a drizzle of sweat off her brow—it was hotter so deep beneath the surface, aside from her near miss—and packed the flash emitter back into her utility belt. She selected one of the bots and inserted a local network connector. A few moments later, the data from her ship wrote across the security bot, inviting her to enter the name of the person who had recently died and needed to be resurrected.

Aris Hyeon Antiata, she typed.

The planetary governor of Seven Stars might be surprised to find himself dead since he was currently in a meeting arguing that the planetoid needed to reduce its reliance on Robotics Faction technology. Even though deadly mining nanobots no longer endangered the citizens, having lost his two half sisters to robot assassins, Aris was uniquely qualified to make the argument. Unfortunately, no one believed him. The Robotics Faction had given their technology too freely for too long; decoupling now was worse than unthinkable.

It was expensive.

A security bot carried the governor’s name into the facility. Deep within the interior, rollers pushed the gigantic armored box forward, easing out a single brick in a massive data wall. Reverse magnetization floated the several-ton box gently, past a thousand other bricks representing the important friends and relatives. The data box rested in the loading pedestal.

This was one of the newer restore points in the facility. Most would consider four centuries too little experience to govern a planetoid; the current governor barely possessed four decades. Barely an adolescent, as his rivals constantly crowed, meant he was in no position to quit their Faction contracts.

No one believed he was right.

No one but the rogue and Aris’s two half sisters. And, of course, the Robotics Faction.

The giant black box rotated to display all sides. Its claimed durability—the armor was said to survive the outer rim of black holes and partial solar explosions—was about to be tested.

The security bot signaled its inspection complete.

The rogue intercepted the signal.

Normally, the facility floated a data box up to the resurrection facility and staff ensured the new body’s memories—chemical predilections worn into brain grooves, electrical dendrites networking learning, and shapes and sizes all measured by precise interior phrenology—grew into the new brain and a whole man stepped forth from the recovery chamber, his entire self intact.

She recast the signal to remove the restore point from the pedestal.

The facility accepted the new signal and looped it back to the bot. The bot tethered the floating restore point and dragged it to the front doors.

So far so good.

She directed the bot to continue out to her ship.

The bot hovered through the gaping front doors and into the caverns. As it passed the doors, it dropped a physical wheel and rolled on the dust.

The restore point passed across the threshold and smashed into the ground.

Tremors echoed through the cavern and rattled the facility.

Full security powered on.

Uh oh.

Bots raced out. Sensors activated. Infrared pulsed over her and the restore point.

She stopped her bot.

The other bots queried the open door, the gap of the missing restore point, the signals and signs of something out of order. Problem. Alert. Enemy engaged.

She ran to the facility terminal and shoved in her universal authorization code. The terminal powered on. She intercepted every signal and added one code piece: as expected. The door was open as expected. The restore point was missing as expected. The signals and signs of something out of order as expected.

Enemy engaged as expected.

Everything calmed. Alerts dissipated. Lights returned to darkness.


She had forgotten the magnetic floor ended outside the facility. What a silly error. One that had almost cost her entire mission.

Hilarious that she should outrun Faction assassins for several hundred years and then nearly get blown up by stupid human deterrence measures. Twice.

Someone had once said she would trip on her own boots if they didn’t sport compensatory gyros. She smiled to remember the ancient phrase, and the even more ancient technology, spoken by someone long, long gone.

Well, since the bots had reactivated anyway, she summoned the entire cadre to the grounded restore point. They put down wheels and lifted the heavy tonnage enough to traverse the lost mining caverns to her ship. The bots loaded the restore point block next to others and backed out. She flash-erased their memories and unhooked her network connector from the bot who had carried her, unknowing, through her entire plan.

She flash-erased its memory too.

As it rolled back to the storage facility, she calculated how long it would take until the Robotics Faction learned what she had done.

There were nine keys to the Robotics Faction kingdom, and she possessed the ninth. Each universal authorization key, against which no security could resist and no encryption could hide, always issued a command to phone home. The next time someone died and they activated the facility, which happened every few days, her key would find a network connection and broadcast itself out.

Like the calling card of an evil villain, her action would reach the Robotics Faction.

She sat at her ship’s controls and opened a transmission up to the planetoid’s surface. “It is done.”

On her screen, Governor Aris Hyeon Antiata grinned back at her.

Classically handsome, with pleasant features and intent blue eyes that bordered on gray, the governor crossed one trim knee with his ankle. His meeting finished; he spoke in the privacy of his personal hover car. Neatly trimmed blond hair threaded with fashionable silver highlights, and his well-muscled body strained pleasingly against his clothes. Regal indigo robes shimmered with gold patterns created from melting the dust mined within the planet, a now valuable material thanks to the artisans who worked it into fantastic designs denoting incredible luxury.

Only his adventure-seeking nature adorned his broad, white smile. “Bring on my hot date.”

She smiled. The cocksure governor had his heart in the right place and just about nothing else. He didn’t know her smile disguised a true, deep sadness. “She’s coming.”

“I can’t wait.”

When the Faction decoded her universal key, they would send someone to investigate. And that someone would be the most dangerous agent ever created: the zero class assassin, a stealthy crocodile clothed in the skin of a beautiful woman. The rogue didn’t expect the governor to survive.

“Be careful up there.” She looked at the powerful, resolute, kind man for what might be the last time. “You can no longer be resurrected. Don’t trip and break your neck.”

“A Hyeon Antiata would never do something so unfashionable.”

She smiled again.

He hit the end transmission button. The connection winked out.

She fired up her ship, navigated the caverns to the North Frontier Outpost, and deposited Aris’s restore point at their agreed-upon hidden location.

Aris’s half sisters both possessed a gene that corrupted robots and made them fall in love. Once the Robotics Faction figured out which gene his half sisters—and all the others the rogue had tried to save—held in common, they would declare war on all humans possessing that gene. Entire planets, entire family lines, entire galaxies.

Aris didn’t possess the gene.

When the Faction sent their best assassin to end him, nothing would corrupt or otherwise prevent the assassin from succeeding. But when they analyzed his resurrection data, the Faction would end up farther from figuring out the truth.

She swore to protect Aris as long as possible. But once the zero class arrived, only a miracle would save him from the Robotics Faction’s crosshairs.

Ironic that the one who tripped over her boots was the one destined to try to save two entire races from a needless war that was beginning to look inevitable. Ironic, and not what she would have chosen. Sometimes, she wondered if this crazy plan would work, or if she sentenced innocents like the governor and his half sisters to death for no reason.

She carried out the plan anyway.

The rogue would never disappoint the ones who invested all their faith in her. No matter the demand.

No matter what she lost or who she left to die.


In the deepest levels of the Robotics Faction, a slick bank of processors churned data feverishly into the night. Secretly and resolutely, steadily and inexorably, it parsed a million billion human genome combinations tracing a ghost.

Tracing a flaw.

If the human genome combination—the “super-nome” corrupting robot processors—was not identified, the processor bank would trace the end of all robots.

New data arrived from a distant star system. A man’s restore point had been stolen by the rogue agent. The data was flagged as the highest importance. He was a half brother to two known carriers.

The main processor consulted the archive data files.

Cressida Sarit Antiata (known carrier)—genomic data collected from remains in a melted incubation chamber at a bombed hospital.

Mercury Sarit Antiata aka Chen Antiata (known carrier)—genomic data collected from remains found at her last known residence.

The main processor eagerly fed the half brother’s specimen to the bank, churning and churning and churning, dissecting and inspecting. This living sample could determine at last which super-nome spread the flaw.

Disturbingly, the half brother’s super-nome expanded the possibilities. Exponentially.

The main processor returned those results to the authorized layers of the Robotics Faction: Either our entire question is poorly formulated, or the sample of the half brother misses critical genomes. We must review the half brother’s purified restore point to decisively identify the problem super-nome.

The upper layer returned its reply. We will dispatch the zero class agent to conduct a second test.

An assassin conducting a test? Superior to the bank of processors?

Not superior, the upper layers clarified, but, in the end, equally decisive.

Only the zero class could penetrate deeply into human space undetected. Only the zero class could operate off Faction networks, hiding her movements from the rogue agent and others who might be listening in to sabotage them.

But the old zero class, which had successfully executed the Faction’s assignments for six hundred years, had failed to assassinate Mercury and Cressida, and had, in fact, been destroyed by them. How could an indestructible robot have been destroyed by two humans? That costly and unexpected question still ricocheted through their processors. It was a question the Faction as a whole hoped not to repeat.

Is there time to create and train a new zero class?

No, the upper layers returned. We are sending an untrained model.

The shocking cost and risk of sending an untrained agent into this delicate situation stunned the bank of processors into momentary stillness. A whir of fans sounded across the atmosphere-filled, warehouse-sized cranium.

The processor bank finally churned to life. Won’t an untrained model simply destroy the target and herself, leaving us with no possibility of gleaning useful data?

The new zero class has been created from a purified human fragment. Once she goes off-assignment, we will see instantly which gene caused the corruption. Then, we will forcefully reconnect her to the Faction and turn off her human personality, changing her into a full robot.

So, not the half brother, but the new zero class would determine which humans exactly possessed the corrupting genetic code.

And, once the Faction regained control of her, she would become the instrument of their destruction.

What is this new human fragment?

We found it buried in our records of the earliest known carriers, the upper layers replied. From the Old Empire era, when humans were weaker than they are now.

The processor bank read her data file while the upper layers described their test. There is a danger that she could destroy her robot when she goes off assignment.

Then she will destroy herself, the upper layers said. The human fragment, Resa, is nothing but a frightened, emotional shell. She cannot operate without a robot. We will have no problem reconnecting her.

You are certain? Her record after this memory fragment is impressive.

She will be incapable of accessing any additional memories. She will be incapable of operating outside the direction of her core robot. We will hobble her with fears to ensure her absolute obedience.

Read Chapter Two.

Pre-order now!

Excerpts liberation's desire Uncategorized

Liberation’s Desire – Prologue


“We are under attack.”

The statement cracked across the star chamber like a stun-shot to the brain.

Ruling CEO of the intergalactic Antiata Family conglomerate leaned across his onyx desk. “The only question is, who is our attacker?”

Two representatives of the most important subfamilies shifted uncomfortably in their floating seats. Untouched chalices of coffee-vodka swirled, black mixed with silver, on gem-encrusted coasters.

When private meetings were called, someone died. Or worse, they lost their family seats.

He narrowed his gaze on the first representative. “Deterrence?”

Blade-sharp Chen rested an ankle across her taut knee. “None of our military campaigns affect the main families.”

“And yet, someone permanently erased the resurrection data of Cressida Sarit Antiata and her younger sister, Mercury.”

The other representative, Oleron of the Antiata Entertainment Proxy, fidgeted with his gold oculars.

Chen folded her hands. “Cressida’s resurrection data was destroyed fourteen years ago—”

“And Mercury’s occurred this morning.”

Oleron snorted.

The ruler flicked to the entertainer. “Amusing?”

All the blood drained from Oleron’s face. “Not at all.”

“Try me.”

“I thought—uh—well, losing the second kid’s just careless. After the first kid, they should’ve moved their data to a secure facility.”

“They did.”

Oleron’s mouth dropped.

Chen turned even more statuesque.

“Tell him,” the ruler ordered.

“At 3:47 Old Empire time, Mercury Sarit Antiata’s data was erased from the Chen family repository.” Chen’s taut mouth clipped her words. “Her identity had been changed to mask her family connection. She is currently alive and well hidden.”

“What about Cressida?” Oleron asked.

“Two weeks ago, the moon Cressida had fled to was bombed. Her current whereabouts are unknown.”

“Cressida was twenty-six, real age, when she disappeared.” The ruler steepled his hands. A holographic tattoo of the Antiata family crest, a stylized fist erupting a sun, glimmered across his knuckles. “Her accused assassins have never been investigated.”

A muscle in Chen’s jaw flexed. “That is because her parents accused the Robotics Faction.”

Oleron laughed aloud.

The ruler raised both brows. “Another small joke?”

“I was just wondering who they accused in the Robotics Faction. Their light switches or the bed thermostat?”

“The data is missing,” the ruler said. “If you have a viable alternate theory, I will give you Chen’s family seat.”

Oleron drummed his fingers on his bouncing knees.

Chen sat still as glass.

“Check it.” Oleron leaned forward, one hand leaving an oily print on the desk. “They sold off her spot for a few credits and lied to get a new one.”

“Sales leave a record. And someone else’s data would be in the resurrection facility. Instead…” He dropped Chen’s full coffee into the reprocessor. It disassembled the chalice to molecular components in a silent puff. “Both are simply gone. As if they never existed.”

Oleron swallowed.

The ruler fixed on him. “Try again.”

“They, uh, crossed a local mafioso, he bombed the regional depot, and poof, no data.”

“A local mafioso somehow amassed the firepower to cause a sub-planetary implosion?” The ruler marveled. “I sense the plot of a holo.”

Oleron grinned gold. “Guaranteed supernova at the box office.”

The ruler slammed his palms on the desk. Oleron jumped, spilling scalding coffee across his lap.

“We have lost two family members with no explanation!”

Silence pulled thin.

“Extricating ourselves from Faction technology would be inconvenient.” He reprocessed another coffee mixed with silver ice vodka. The two colors, separated by a barrier of Faction-made nano-particles, created intricate patterns in the goblet. “However, I also don’t intend to wake up and find my light switch trying to kill me. Oleron.”

Oleron flapped his suit. “Yes?”

“You will submit a list of every possible explanation for these assassinations. Mafioso, trade rivals, sentient tropical storms. I don’t care what you make up. Include every possible explanation and submit it tomorrow.”

He straightened, nodding with relief and already transmitting the orders to his most creative staff.

“Chen. Where do we compete with the Faction?”

She shook her head. Her short black hair slicked back neatly against the buzzed sides. “During campaigns, we fight their soldiers or drones. As often, we lease them for our own use.”

“We don’t fight over any resources? None at all?”

“They do not require food, water, or even a constant supply of oxygen. There is no conflict.”

“Cressida and Mercury would disagree.” He sipped his shot. “We need to find out why. I assume you have warned the remaining sister about her imminent danger.”

“A courier will arrive at her secret location within the hour.”

“Armed for escort?”

Chen’s lips tightened. “Information only.”

“You’ve sent a courier directly from the site of her data loss to her hidden physical location?” The ruler flexed his knuckles, shimmering the family crest. “How helpful for the assassins trying to kill her.”

blog tour Excerpts robotics faction science fiction romance

SFR Monday spotlight at Jessica E Subject blog

Today I’m spotlighted at Jessica E Subject’s blog. Check her out!

She’s got tons of SFR recommendations and is a great place to find your next read. She’s also a sexy/erotica SFR author so her books are much hotter than mine. If you think that mine don’t have enough of the good stuff, give hers a look! She’s got free reads to get you started.

Jessica E Subject – Jessica Subject is the author of contemporary and science fiction romance, ranging from sweet to sexy. In her stories, you could meet clones, or a sexy alien or two. You may even be transported to another planet for a romantic rendezvous…