Free Sample from Blood Siren 2nd Edition!
Coming Soon! Blood Siren 2nd Edition!
In preparation for the July 1st release, below is a free sample of what Blood Siren has to offer!
2nd Edition will feature:
—New Artwork by Michael Lam!
|Art by Michael Lam 2013|
—From Blood Siren 2nd Edition by Michael Formichelli
(Copyright 2012, 2014)
On Kosfanter the Great Houses made their homes in kilometer-tall towers of varying designs instead of floating arcologies. Ikuzlu’s Galactic Quarter was a sierra of geometric shapes and swooping angles that cast odd shadows on the poorer neighborhoods across the lagoon.
The Intelligent Systems tower had four right-triangular sections of dark-blue poly-glass standing at right angles to one another. They supported a large silver egg-shaped section with the wide end facing up and longitudinal electric blue lines tracing from its apex to its nadir. The egg housed the central offices and spacious living quarters of the Cronus family, while the four triangular structures housed the offices and banks of computer servers that made up the Intelligent Systems’ headquarters.
The Cronuses tended to eat in the smaller of two dining halls in the tower. The table seated ten. There was an oval alcove with a crackling fire behind the table’s head. The chamber, modeled in white marble, was lined by domed sconces on two of the four opposing walls. At the end of the table opposite the fireplace was a huge picture window through which could be seen distant clouds over calm seas lit orange, pink, and red by the setting sun.
Sable and Sophiathena were already in the room when Cylus entered behind an artificial servant. The latter bowed and left promptly with its head high in the air. Cylus’ friends rose from their seats and bowed formally to him. Sophi lifted her gloved hands and drew back her hood.
His gaze followed her white braids up to where snowy hair framed her narrow, chalky face. Arctic blue eyes regarded him, making him feel like she was studying his appearance for flaws before she smiled slightly and nodded. Cylus had never grown comfortable with her dissecting him like that, but as usual he did his best to shrug it off. She judged everyone and everything around her with those eyes so he knew he shouldn’t take it personally. Others in her past had not been so understanding.
There were rumors that Sophi was really an artificial and not human, but he knew her differently. Her eyes warmed when they were in private, becoming the friendly, beautiful things he liked to gaze upon. She was a full person behind closed doors, full of life and an overwhelming intelligence. It was only in public that she was so guarded.
“Welcome brother.” Sable came around the table and hugged him.
“I’m glad you made it.” Sophi took her turn next. She added a brief kiss on his cheek before stepping back.
“Are you going to be all right?” He gestured towards the window.
“The light is sufficiently dim now, and the glass is polarized to block ultra-violet wavelengths,” Sophi said.
The door behind Cylus opened. He turned and had to hop out of the servant’s way. Black pupils set in white orbs met his eyes, sending a shiver down his back. It was one of the ways the industry marked artificials, making them without iris or skin pigment so one knew who was human and what wasn’t, but Cylus didn’t like the way it looked. If he could, he would have Ben’s pigmentation changed.
“The Baroness Hephestia Cronus, the Baron Yoji Mitsugawa, and Heir-Representative Aurora Cronus,” the servant said.
Those named entered the room in that order. Hephestia and her sister Aurora were both dressed in sparkling evening gowns of silver cloth studded with diamonds around the hem and cuffs. The dress’ cut did more to emphasize Aurora’s round figure than Hephestia’s narrow one, but it did go well with their honey blonde hair and vibrant blue eyes. His former step-uncle, Yoji, had changed into a formal black kimono and still had his hair up in the cue. His dark, narrow eyes were pensive, and his brow showed the lines of hard thinking.
Cylus bowed as they entered, and they returned the gesture formally.
“Baron Keltan, I’m happy to see you here tonight,” Yoji said.
“Please call me Cylus, uncle. The baron thing makes me uncomfortable.” Yoji and the Cronuses were the last living links to his own parents, even if he was no longer technically related to them. Titles were too formal for people so close to him.
Yoji smiled. “Cylus, please sit.”
Hephestia cleared her throat.
“Sorry, my lady,” Yoji said and bowed to the master of the tower.
“Good to see you looking whole again, Cylus. You’re always welcome at my table.” She emphasized “my” and glared at Yoji.
His face broke into a smile.
Cylus waited for them to take their seats before sitting in his. The chairs were high backed, made from native wood and leather, and very comfortable. The table was set with the Cronus’ fine china, glass goblets, and an eight stick candle-holder in the center with twigs of white-berried holly arranged around its base on a red lace doily.
Hephestia raised a bell that was placed near the head of the table and rang it once. A train of servants entered and filled the waiting goblets with dark-red wine. When the cups were full she raised hers and the small silver bells tied into her curly blonde hair jingled.
“To our health, and Yoji’s success. May Zalor fail and the Confederation be saved,” she said.
They all drank. Cylus took only a single mouthful of the sweet wine before placing his cup down. He didn’t want to repeat the other night when his inebriated state nearly caused him to pass out in Sophi’s bed. It wasn’t that he thought his aunts would care, but it would be embarrassing if they found him in such a situation.
Hephestia rang the bell again. The servants brought in a large bowl of Greek salad and began serving them in synchronized motions. The second wave brought silver trays bearing courses of dark-green grape leaf rolls, golden-brown loaves of roasted lamb surrounded by a bed of seasoned potatoes and slices of lemon. The scent of garlic, oregano, and well-cooked meat made Cylus worry that he might drool all over himself before the food was even on the table.
“Father, I have a question,” Sable said between bites.
“What did Baron Revenant say to you on the floor before we adjourned? Cylus and I were trying to figure it out but we couldn’t. We’ve never seen him act like that before.”
“I found it odd as well. He told me I had played the card well and that he’d have a response for me soon, but also that he’d do me the courtesy of buying me time to reconsider.” Yoji shrugged.
Sable snorted. “In other words he let you know he has something up his sleeve and your move would be ineffective?”
“Something like that, I’m sure.” Yoji nodded.
“It’s still not like him,” Sophi said. She speared a single olive on her fork and placed it carefully in her mouth.
“He hasn’t been known to announce his moves before.” Yoji stabbed the salad and scooped a portion into his mouth.
“He’s got to be up to something. Did you see how uncomfortable that whore, Brudah, was?” Hephestia said.
“Baroness Altair? She wasn’t happy about something, but it couldn’t have been what Zalor did. He didn’t really give anything away.” Aurora signaled the servants to bring bread.
“Maybe her daughter’s decided to help out another of her enemies? Who knows? She’s one of the co-conspirators against the Confederation, and that’s all that matters,” Hephestia said.
“Her daughter?” Cylus didn’t know Baroness Altair had any children.
Aurora glanced meaningfully at her sister. Sophi and Sable were staring at Hephestia along with him.
“It’s not public knowledge, but she does have one. I’m sorry I brought it up, it’s nothing you kids need worry about.” Hephestia pressed her lips together and picked at her food.
Cylus opened his mouth, but caught Yoji’s stare.
“Let it go,” the older man said.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
Sophi and Sable exchanged suspicious looks. Cylus knew then that Sophi was already on the Cyberweb with her implant, looking up whatever she could find on this mysterious daughter. Very little could stay hidden from Sophi once she got an itch to know something.
Silence hung heavily in the air.
Aurora cleared her throat. “You kids might as well know the important parts of what’s going on without hearing the idle gossip of old barons. Right before the war began we arranged for an agent, a mercenary of sorts, to go to Ganymede and infiltrate Brudah’s compound there. Our agent got a hold of some encrypted files that proved to be very interesting reading. We’ve learned a lot from those files, enough to know that Zalor is making some kind of grab at the Premier’s chair, but not enough to know exactly how or when.”
“It’s been seven years, so whatever his plan is, it’s slow, methodical, and therefore very hard to detect. We haven’t learned much more since then,” Yoji said.
“Did it implicate him in my parents’ death?” Cylus said a bit sharper than he meant. All eyes turned to him and he found himself frowning back at them, blushing.
Yoji and Aurora exchanged glances.
“The files implied that Baron Revenant was arranging for some things to happen; a shipment to Cleeb from Sol, funds transferred from various accounts, that sort of thing. The more interesting parts were the people involved. Baron Revenant, Baroness Altair, and Zalor’s little pet, Baron Olivaar.” Yoji said.
“Did any of it imply him in my family’s massacre? Did he make some deal with the Brogh to kill them?”
“Nothing that straightforward Cylus, I’m sorry,” Aurora said, seemingly hugging him with her eyes.
Yoji glanced at Aurora. “There was one thing though, a mention of some cargo being shipped into Broghite space. The dates of the shipment would’ve gotten it there about fourteen days before your family was killed.”
“What was it?” Cylus leaned forward with his palms digging into the edge of the table.
“It didn’t say, just a codename,” Aurora said.
“It’s nothing to go on, Cylus. We haven’t been able to learn anything more about the name or what the ship—” Hephestia said.
“What was it?” Cylus interrupted.
“The codename was Siren. That’s all we know about it. Cylus, I’m sorry. Your parents were good people, your siblings too. I used to bounce Sando on my knee when he was a baby. I feel for your loss but—” Yoji said.
“But what?” Cylus said. Being ten years older than Sable or Sophi, he knew he remembered some of those moments better than they did. He watched as Yoji and his father had talked, laughed, drank together, but that didn’t excuse keeping him in the dark for seven years. He had nothing to go on, nothing at all until this moment.
Yoji abruptly looked confused, like he didn’t know where he was or what he was doing. His fork rang out as it hit the floor.
“Darling?” Aurora said.
He blinked. “Sorry, what was I saying?”
“About the Keltans,” Aurora almost whispered the words.
“Right, so your parents were, were—” Yoji stood up abruptly. “Siren, that was the name, I—ah—”
Sable and Sophi were on their feet.
Yoji moved, heading for the window. Sable attempted to get in his way, but the larger man grabbed his son’s wrist and twisted the boy’s body off to the side.
“Yoji? Yoji!” Aurora was frantic.
Cylus watched the next few seconds as though viewing stars through a ship window in E-R Drive. His uncle moved towards the window, flipping the ornate brass switch on its side as he got close enough to reach it. The window slid up obediently, blasting them all with the frigid night air at a thousand meters above the fast-crete pavement. It was nearly the same smell as the Barony had that morning, wet and briny, a cruel and ironic twist to this moment where he stood powerless and watched Yoji step calmly up onto the window sill. He shook off his family’s groping hands, and placed his foot into the air.
His eyes were vacant like an artificial’s.
Then he was over the edge, and gone.
Cylus’ aunts screamed. Sable dashed to the window, staring down in horror.
Cylus looked over at Sophi. She was standing by her chair, not having moved since she got up. She seemed to feel his eyes on her, and turned her head to meet them. He could tell from her expression she was already thinking, analyzing, plotting as she always did. She was a strange point of calm in the sea of madness that followed.
At some point he remembered suggesting they contact the Abyssian Praetor, Nero Graves.