Authors: Sandy Holden
Tags: #drama, #dystopia, #Steampunk, #biological weapons, #Romance, #scifi, #super powers
Darker, harder sci-fi drama, a unique blend.”
A cross genre adventure into a screwed up world.”
If you loved Lost Princess and The Contract, you’ll love this!”
A Keyhole Romantica Book
Copyright © 2012 Sandy Holden
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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No responsibility or liability is assumed or accepted by the author for any claimed financial losses and/or damages sustained to persons from the use of the information in this publication, personal or otherwise, either directly or indirectly. While every effort has been made to ensure reliability and accuracy of the information within, all liability, negligence or otherwise, from any use, misuse or abuse of the operation of any methods, strategies, instructions or ideas contained in the material herein, is the sole responsibility of the reader. By reading past this point you are accepting these terms and conditions.
Table Of Contents
Chapter 1: Introducing “New Guy”
My name is Madde Morton. Madde is short for Madeline, which is far too elegant for a girl like me. I am of average height, probably have average size and figure. The most outstanding feature is my hair that is mostly deep red but that has streaks of a darker, rather startling brown or black. My roommates assure me I’m good looking—not to me—when I look in the mirror I see a myriad of faults, but I’m trying to be honest here. I’m also trying to do away with false modesty—it has no place in my world anymore. Many things don’t have a place in my world anymore, but I’m getting ahead of myself, and I don’t want to do that. So, reddish-brown hair, oval face that has fairly good skin (one of my better parts. I don’t know how I escaped the freckles but somehow I did). Eyes of dark brown with eyebrows that peak over my eyes. Personally, I’ve always felt these make me look a little like I’m waiting for something, but other people say they’re nice. My lips look rather puffy to me, but again, I’m overly critical. My friend Meri says my lips are completely in. I usually shrug at that and try not to frown. Compliments make me a little nervous, as if they might actually be insults in disguise. Maybe that’s actually a self-image problem.
I live in Catfish Lake, Minnesota. If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not surprised, even though our tiny consolidated high school went to the State Basketball Finals two years running a few years back. That’s our claim to fame. You might have thought it was the catfish hereabouts, but you’d be wrong. Minnesota is the land of ten thousand lakes, and no one actually cares that we have another one.
I have lived here in Catfish ever since I was little. We moved to lovely lakey Minnesota from California when I was just a toddler, not that I remember any of it. No, all I know is Catfish. I went to school here, my parents lived here, and I’ll probably die here. I just hope I can finish this before that happens. But who knows, right? Death is closer that it used to be, that’s for darned sure. Death has moved from something that happened to the very old or someone else to something that has personally touched my life in many ways. In other words, death has gotten up-close and personal.
So, back to telling you who I am. This shouldn’t take too long—I’m only 24 and have lived a very average life. I went to school and made good grades—B’s and A’s. One D from Mr. “Bombshell” Alexander who taught
eighth grade history. He blindsided me with a final exam that blew me away. And to be honest, the whole class was terrible for me. I kept thinking that Mr. Alexander (Bombshell was a less than loving term we gave him for his pointed bald head) looked like some kind of cartoon villain—I could never think exactly which one—and he scared me. I was lucky to even get that D. Perhaps it was a pity-grade from my “cartoon-villain” teacher.
I headed off to community college in Redwing, but after a year and a half of that I gave it up as a bad idea. I didn’t feel like I was really getting anywhere, and my teachers just seemed to be going through the motions. So I quit and started paying back some of the mountains of debt I had accrued. I attacked this with my best intentions and a job at the local sandwich shop.
You guessed correctly if you thought I was pretty strapped financially. I had two roommates and an apartment over Henry’s Bar, which was probably the crappiest bar in town and just possibly the known universe. And that brings us to the start of my story—me working at
and living with Meri and Phil (short for Phyllis), both of who have been friends of mine since I was in grade school.
Phil had a date. This was nothing new, but the boy was. Phil had been dating Jeff Walker for the last two years, until he had suddenly dumped her and had started dating Kitten Smith. You might not be surprised to find that Kitten had a rather poor reputation. Kitten had been accused of sleeping with just about every male in town. That’s not fair though, since she usually didn’t sleep with anyone older than 30-years-old.
Anyway, Meri and I were hanging around to see the new guy. Phil had met him in church, of all places, which tickled us to no end since Phil was not exactly a regular churchgoer. She was more of a pragmatist—if God was there, then hurray, and if He wasn’t, well, then hurray for that too. For some reason (I refuse to consider the divine—doesn’t God have better things to do that act as a matchmaker?) Phil decided out of the blue to try the
Open Bible Fellowship
, and then fate or the happy boyfriend fairy whacked her on the head and there was Chris.
When Mr. New Guy knocked at the door, Meri elbowed me out of the way to answer it, and I tried to look uninterested, grabbing a book and dropping into a chair sideways, my legs up over the overstuffed arm. He came in and I casually put the book away and stood and stretched as if I had been sitting all day. Meri giggled behind her hand.
We told the man, a cute blond named Chris Masters that Phil would be ready in a minute. We invited him to sit down and asked him some questions. We wanted to make sure that he was okay to go out with Phil. Not that we worried about her physically. She had a black belt in karate, or some kind of Asian defense—they all blend together for me. Whatever the defense was called, she could kick ass with it, and we both knew that. But we were worried about her emotionally. It hadn’t been that long since Jeff the Jerk had defected into Kittenland.
Chris seemed nice enough. He said all the right things and looked kind without being wimpy. We called to Phil to hurry up, and she came out, looking beautiful as she always does. Phil is really a looker, with a large chest, a little waist, and long legs. She isn’t model skinny, but that doesn’t keep the boys from watching her whenever they see her. She’s also tall—5 feet 10 inches. With heels on tonight, she was over 6 feet. Good thing Chris looked pretty tall himself. Guys don’t usually like to be the shorter one.
So off they went, and Meri and I got ready for our big night out. I say that as a joke. See, neither of us had plans since I had a steady boyfriend—Eddy, and Meri had a steady as well who was in the Army and right now at least a continent away. I thought Eddy might come over, but he and I had a fight yesterday, and he might not be over it. We had been fighting a lot lately, and sometimes I wondered if he was really worth all this trouble. But he was a nice guy, basically, just tense lately for some reason. I figured he’d get whatever was bothering him out of his system, and then we would go back to how things were before.
Meri jumped on the computer to some game—I bet you know the one—it’s a type of game called an MMORPG. That stands for massive multiplayer online roll playing game. In this game you are the hero, and interact with all these other players. I’d tried it but wasn’t exactly a natural gamer, I guess, since I kept asking why? Why Meri? Why would we “loot” a body after we kill someone? (This sort of grossed me out) Because, she said, that’s how you get money and other items you need. Oh. I would ask her why I couldn’t just hurt someone and then make him give me his stuff and money. Why did I have to kill him? After a few of these questions, Meri just shook her head and pronounced me “not gaming material.” I wasn’t too heartbroken. I can’t imagine spending so much time staring at a little screen anyway.
Meri has another reason to be on the computer. Her sweetie, Cal, had Internet access sometimes and would instant message her whenever he could. They would chat back and forth through the computer, and she would light up with happiness. Finally he would sign off, and she would go back to her games, or sometimes cry a little. I guess they had the real thing going on between them. They had been going together since middle school, and she nearly broke up with him over his decision to enter the military. He still had another year left, so he wasn’t coming home anytime soon. Meri was rock solid true, however, and I secretly hoped he was as loyal as she was, but never could ask him. It just wasn’t a question I could ask, you know? I had known him for a long time, and hoped the Army hadn’t changed him. Unless it made him a little less bossy, and I truly doubted the Army was going to mellow him out.