040 – Crystalized Breath

You can read the next chapter of Children of Invention here.

This chapter sees the incursion into the Governor’s arboretum get a bit hairy. Hopefully it opens up some interesting ideas on the runaway science of this world and what sorts of creatures might have come about because of it. You’ll be seeing more of the Sharkteeth in the future.

Stay tuned for more stuff from Children of Invention and for some previews of my latest project, Arcane Machines.

If you like what you’ve read, you can make a one time donation through PayPal or support me at Patreon. Your patronage gets you additional scenes, sketches, drafts, and notes. Your support will allow me to keep writing. Read the next chapter on Friday, April 29th, 2016.

039 – Mission of Flowers

Read the next chapter in the Children of Invention series for free here.

This chapter includes more antics with Rice, Ben, and Jun. I love the way these guys interact. Hopefully this whole plot to capture a flower doesn’t go awry for them ;p

Stay tuned for more stuff from Children of Invention and for some previews of my latest project, Arcane Machines.

If you like what you’ve read, you can make a one time donation through PayPal or support me at Patreon. Your patronage gets you additional scenes, sketches, drafts, and notes. Your support will allow me to keep writing. Read the next chapter on Friday, April 29th, 2016.

Chapter 38     —     Chapter 40

038 – Frequency of Flowers

The sun rose and managed to fend off the clouds, but it spent all its heat on the fight. Ben shrugged his coat tighter around his body and expelled a breath, which puffed out in front of him and hung on the still air. He slowed, running his eyes along the strip of green dotted with garbage below the bridge. His muscles tightened when he heard footsteps behind him.

He looked up as Jun approached. He frowned. “Did you follow me out here?”

“Yeah,” Jun said slowly. “Heard you leave. Wanted to thank you for giving me your bed. Haven’t slept in one of those in ages.”

Ben shrugged. “It’s no problem. I can’t really tell the difference between sleeping on a mattress and sleeping on the floor.”

Jun chewed his bottom lip and stared at Ben for a moment. Ben continued looking at the greenery. Jun cleared his throat and opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when Ben climbed up on the bridge railing and shimmied over the side. Ben held on and then lowered himself down so he was hanging about five feet from the ground. He dropped.

“What are you doing?” Jun asked, hurrying to the railing.

“Looking for flowers,” said Ben. He scrambled on the damp earth and over moldy mattresses and discarded metal, the smell of cold, wet dirt, mold, and green things wafting up out of the loam. He used his arm to sweep aside some thorny branches and peered into the dark crevices of a nearby bush.

“Why do you need a flower?” Jun asked.

“It’s for Zee,” Ben said as he searched the loam. “I can’t make a shape unless I study a physical representation, and I’ve never studied flowers. Never noticed them, you know.”

“Dude, it’s February,” said Jun.

Ben looked up, a confused frown on his face. “So?” he said.

Jun sighed and leaned against the railing. “Flowers don’t come out in February, man. At least not around here. And they wouldn’t be hiding under a bush anyway. More likely to find townies and cannibals that way.”

Ben lowered his arm and stepped back from the bush quickly. He looked up at Jun. “Where can I find flowers?”

Jun held out his bare hand in the air. “Feel that?” he said.

Ben copied him and stared at his own hand for a moment. “No,” he said finally.

“Dude, not with your skin. Feel it with your…you know…the frequencies? That funky mojo.”

“Somatic instinct?”

Jun blinked at him. “Sure, man, if that’s what they’re calling it these days.”

Ben stared at his own hand again, pupils constricting. “Calcium, carbon,” he muttered. “Iron.” He paused. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for.” His eyes returned to normal and he looked back up at Jun. “What, exactly, am I supposed to be feeling?”

“Man, you’re too concrete. Frequencies can tell you more than just the solid stuff. They can tell you possibility…potential.” Jun held out his hand. “Delta T, man, delta T.”

Ben blinked in confusion. “Temperature?” he asked. Jun nodded enthusiastically so Ben closed his eyes and dove into the somatic instinct. Observing frequencies cost him little energy, changing them cost a lot. He could look without much worry of having to spend a week in bed. Seeing the potentials, as Jun described, required that he defocus his mind and look past what he already knew.

Gasping, Ben opened his eyes. He looked up at Jun, who grinned from the bridge. “Cool, huh?”

“Cold,” Ben said, smiling back.

“Flowers like warm,” said Jun.

 

Read the next chapter.

If you like what you’ve read, you can make a one time donation through PayPal or support me at Patreon. Your patronage gets you additional scenes, sketches, drafts, and notes. Your support will allow me to keep writing. Read the next chapter on Friday, April 29th, 2016.

037 – Beaten

Ben stood outside Boss’s door for five minutes, clenching and unclenching his hands, before he raised his fist and pounded on her door. Boss opened the door, saw the expression on his face, rolled her eyes, and turned away leaving the door open for him to follow.

“Let me guess, if I hit the robot again you’ll be angry?” she said, plopping down in a cushy chair and facing a large screen. The screen displayed schematics. A glance told Ben it was of Arena. He blinked in surprise, but shook his head.

“It was an accident,” said Boss.

“Sure it was,” said Ben. He stood in front of her, blocking her view.

Boss took a swig from a bottle. She craned her neck to see the screen and zoomed in on a section of the schematic, her fingers tapping across an interface tab. “What do you want me to say?”

“Say you’re sorry,” Ben said.

“I already did,” said Boss.

Ben continued to block the view of her screen. “It’s not good enough,” he said.

She sighed. A chain of titanium snaked around his arm and pulled him out of the way of the screen. It wrapped around his torso and arms before he could react and dragged him to the floor. The weight of it compressed his chest. Ben gasped.

“Pathetic as usual,” said Boss. “You didn’t even try to resist. Where’s that crowbar you’ve been practicing?” She shook her head. “I think you’ve got too many distractions. Maybe I should put you in isolation for a few days. It’s been a while.”

The titanium melted and began spreading over his entire body. Ben struggled, but Boss increased the mass of it. He snarled and a heavy piece of tungsten carbide buzzed towards Boss’s head. She swatted it away with a piece of titanium.

His snarl turned to a panicked cry as the titanium completely encased his legs and arms, then abdomen and chest, leeching up towards his head. “No, stop, I’m sorry,” he said, breathlessly. “Please don’t. I’m sorry.”

Boss narrowed her eyes, but the metal retracted reluctantly. She shook her head. “Pathetic. Metal dispersal may be cool, but it doesn’t do you much good, does it? You can barely even fight back. Still just like a pathetic little boy.”

“Right,” Ben gasped, struggling to his knees. “All my methods of fighting back would kill you.” He glared at her, eyes snapping up angrily.

She returned his glare, the metal slowing, and he lowered his gaze. She released him from the titanium. “You need to learn some decent half measures.”

“I’m not the fighter,” Ben said. “That’s Rice’s job.”

She shook her head. “If the Arena wasn’t just violence theater, you could do well there.”

“I don’t want to do well there,” Ben said. “And I don’t want to hurt you. I just want you to stop being an asshole to Zee.”

“I lost my temper,” said Boss. “I’ve been under a lot of stress and she questioned my methods.”

“Your methods are sometimes questionable,” said Ben.

“How long has it been since you’ve had a time out?” Boss asked. Ben fell silent and looked away. She nudged him with her foot. “How long?”

“Three years, five months,” he whispered.

She nodded. “Sounds about right.” She looked back at the schematic of the Arena. “If I asked you to kill someone for me, what would it take to get you to do it?”

Ben stared at her.

“I used to be able to get you to do it for sweets,” she said.

“Why can’t you do it?” Ben asked, a tremble in his voice.

“I’ll be busy, and I want it to be untraceable.”

Through gritted teeth, Ben said, “I thought we were done with the power grabs.”

“This one is fool proof,” Boss said.

Ben glanced at the Arena schematic.

“Tell you what,” said Boss. “If you don’t do it, I’ll send the robot back.”

“You can’t—”

“I can,” said Boss. “And I will.”

“She does good work,” said Ben quickly. “This whole situation with Jun would not have been possible without her.”

“She’s an analog and replaceable.”

Ben gulped. “What do you want me to do?”

Boss smiled.

 

Read the next chapter.

If you like what you’ve read, you can make a one time donation through PayPal or support me at Patreon. Your patronage gets you additional scenes, sketches, drafts, and notes. Your support will allow me to keep writing. Read the next chapter on Friday, April 29th, 2016.

036 – Bruised

Ben sat cross-legged on the floor of the hangar. He stared at the wriggling screwdriver in his hands, the metal freezing in place as he lost concentration. Boss and Zee entered the hangar. He looked up. Normal, them coming home. His eyes drifted towards Zee, as they always did. He stared at her. At her face. At the new, reddening bruise on her cheek.

He stood. But in the moment before he opened his mouth, shocked words primed, Zee’s expression silenced him. Fear in her eyes and a shifting glance towards Boss kicked him in the stomach. Zee hurried to her apartment, and Boss huffed and escaped to her private apartments below the hangar.

Alone under the bright lights, Ben looked down at the screwdriver in his hands. It had transformed into a jagged, spiked piece of metal. He dropped it and stumbled towards Zee’s door. He raised his hand to knock, but the door slid open. Zee stood there, and when she saw him right outside she turned her face aside quickly.

“I just forgot to set the security system,” she said. She shouldered past him, but he touched her hand, warm, gentle. She stopped.

“Are you—”

“I’m fine,” Zee said, avoiding his eyes.

He reached up and brushed away some loose strands of her hair that had fallen over the bruise. He winced. “Sorry,” he said.

Zee gritted her teeth and shoved his hand away. “What are you sorry for?” she snapped.

“I—”

Zee stepped past him. She moved to the hangar’s entrance and pressed a few buttons on the security panel. The panel beeped a confirmation and when she turned around, her face had set back to expressionlessness.

Ben looked at his feet. “Why did she hit you?”

“Because I briefly forgot that she owns me,” Zee said, her voice even. “You and Rice lull me into a false sense of reality.”

Meeting her gaze, Ben shuffled. “Maybe reality is wrong.”

“You’re the dumbest person I’ve ever met,” Zee said, anger flashing in her eyes. “And a hypocrite. You jumped to Cyntha’s defense because she didn’t like what was happening to her, but you don’t stop to think if I like what you’re doing to me. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to be Rice’s friend. I don’t like either of you. I don’t want my freedom or to be human. I just want to do my job and stay out of trouble, and I’ve had a really bad day in that regard. Excuse me.”

She stepped into her apartment, but Ben stepped inside after her and the door slid shut behind him. Zee spun around to face him, a thrill of fear speeding her heart. “Y-you can’t come in here,” she said. It wasn’t true. He could do whatever he wanted.

“Well, you can’t just run away after…”

Ben blinked and looked around. He looked at her tiny mirror, makeup masks stacked neatly in clear boxes, the straps that held her vertically when she slept, a partially open panel that housed her folded clothes. Neat writing labeled each panel and button.

Zee backed against the far wall of the tiny cylindrical room, but in the small space, that did not put much room between her and Ben. “You can’t be in here,” she said, angry tears welling in her eyes. “This is my private space.” They never came in her cylinder. Never ever. Her lip trembled. “Get out,” she said.

Ben’s gaze settled on her face and her tears. His jaw dropped. “Gods, sorry,” he said, the words cracking. Zee pressed herself against the wall, as far away from him as she could. “Uh.” Ben fumbled behind his back for the door, then turned and frantically searched for the button to open the door.

It slid open and he stumbled outside. Zee closed the door behind him.

 

Read the next chapter.

If you like what you’ve read, you can make a one time donation through PayPal or support me at Patreon. Your patronage gets you additional scenes, sketches, drafts, and notes. Your support will allow me to keep writing. Read the next chapter on Friday, April 29th, 2016.