Thank you for reading BODIES IN MOTION!

Dear Reader,

Thank you for coming along on the journey that is BODIES IN MOTION.

When I first came up with this story it was something much shorter, with much less depth and impact. It was a story about a missed opportunity, a war, and a second chance at love. I toyed with the idea of writing the war itself, and decided that the war never mattered. Wars happen all the time. Wars are universally painful. Wars are universally tragic. Even when a war wins something crucial – like freedom or safety – everyone who survives walks away scarred. What is unique is how those survivors live with the scars.

The common wisdom is that wars and collapses of society are exciting, but rebuilding is boring. I hope BODIES IN MOTION gave you a different perspective. Personally, I’ve seen enough war in my lifetime. I’ll probably live to see more war and more scars. But with every war will come the challenge to rebuild. With every scar we’re given a chance to rebuild ourselves, or let the wound seep, rot, and inevitably destroy us. I’d rather rebuild than rot.

BODIES IN MOTION became not just a larger novel, but also my first serial novel, and that was a fun adventure.

One of my dedicated fans in Australia wrote to tell me she was late to work because a chapter posted and she had to read before leaving home (Sorry!). People from all around the globe found BODIES IN MOTION. We chatted about who was guilty, who was falling in love, and speculated on who Rowena would find love with in LAWS OF ATTRACTION. Can I tell you a secret? Up until June Rowena was slotted for a very different story arc and One True Love. Up until early June, she was actually going to meet a new character in LAWS OF ATTRACTION.

One scene changed that.

The interaction was too good between Rowena and (SPOILER!) so I threw out everything I had for Book 2 and took LAWS OF ATTRACTION in a completely different direction. I have the first quarter of the book written and I think you’ll like it. But you’ll have to wait until 2018 to read.

For now, BODIES IN MOTION will stay up in all it’s drafty glory on the blog. Most of you already know how to get EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE for free (hint: sign up for my newsletter), but I think for other readers who stumble across here in the next year or so BODIES IN MOTION is a good place to start.

 

BODIES IN MOTION: Chapter 25 (The End)

SELENA

Start at Chapter 1

The water falling from the three-tiered fountain in the center of the plaza shone with an ethereal blue light. Climbing roses framed every arch and window, and someone had come through to brush them with a luminescent nanite gel so they glowed a pale pink. Strings lights overhead mimicked distant stars, and already people were congregating around tables of food. Officially, the reception for Perrin and Genevieve didn’t start for another thirty minutes, but no one wanted to be late for a party.

Selena hung in the shadows, watching people arrive on the transport pad and via grounder cars. The warm summer air was encouraging everyone to come out.

Already, the happy couple was surrounded by well-wishers. Perrin’s adopted grounder family was there, although the youngest daughter had wandered off to flirt with Mars Sciarra. Captain Sciarra and her new second-in-command were there. The Lees, the Silars, most of the fleet, but Titan was nowhere to be found.

She pinged him again, trying to get a location, but he’d gone dark after breakfast this morning, promising only that he’d be back in time for the party. Looking over the crowd, she found a promising lead: Rowena Lee hiding in a small alcove. Selena made her way through the growing crowd. “Hello.”

Rowena put her hands behind her back, taking an at-ease stance. “Captain Caryll.”

“Do you know where my husband is?”

“I do. And I’m not allowed to tell you anything more than it is a surprise and he is safe.” She paused, then shrugged. “I’ve checked on him twice and he wasn’t bleeding, dehydrated, or in danger of losing oxygen either time, so he’s probably okay.”

Selena crossed her arms. “I thought he was planning to be here tonight.”

“Everyone is planning on being here tonight,” Rowena said, relaxing and sounding annoyed. “The invitations last week almost started a civil war and did trigger three mini-mutinies in crews who are stir-crazy. You opened up new housing outside Enclave, are throwing a party, and didn’t think anyone would come?” Rowena scoffed at her. “Hoshi’s favorite cousin almost killed him when the captain threatened to boycott the celebration.”

Wrinkling her nose, Selena considered the outcome. “Would it really have hurt…?”

Rowena gave her a glare she’d learned to accept over the past few weeks. “I’m not ready for a war.”

“When you are, Titan and I will be there for you. We owe you that. Meanwhile, Gen deserves a party after as long as she waited. So does Perrin.”

“We all deserve a party after this past month.” Rowena took a deep breath.

Selena nodded and waited for Rowena to leave, but the woman stayed stubbornly present. And silent. They watched more fleet and grounders arrive, more tables teleport in, more presents appear on the reception table. Finally Selena said, “Was there anything else you needed, or are we faking this buddy thing until Titan gets here?”

Rowena wrinkled her nose and raised a light sound shield. Nothing that would draw attention, but enough to keep anyone else form overhearing, or recording, their conversation. “I wanted to say thank you for the nanite gel you sent Aronia. The medicine helped, but we aren’t sure they would have both pulled through without it. The internal bleeding was extensive.”

“You’re welcome. Although that was meant to be a secret. I know what Hoshi thinks of me and I didn’t want to start any trouble.”

Rowena lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “No one knows, officially, but I knew the Sciarras didn’t have anything like it, and that Titan had used something similar. It wasn’t very hard to draw the right conclusion. I haven’t told anyone.”

“Thank you. How are Aronia and the baby doing?”

“Nia is up and moving. She’s feeling a lot better. The baby is good. They named him Ki, after a great-grandfather of ours.”

“Good. I’m glad that worked out then.” She stared off into the distance, not quite certain how she felt about the idea of sisters, babies, and bonding with Rowena Lee. It wasn’t as awkward as she’d imagined.

“You had a sister, didn’t you?”

Selena nodded. “Losna. She was eight years older than me and in crew training when I was born. We weren’t close like you and Aronia.”

“I’m sorry she won’t be here for your reception.”

She shook her head. “I don’t really remember her. She bunked with her age mates by the time I was old enough to remember anything, and then she went to the Academy. I was only home three weeks before she led a charge in battle and died.”

“Do you know who killed her?”

“No. I could. I have access to the files as captain. But I don’t want to carry that around.”

Rowena tipped her head in acknowledgment but not agreement. “I don’t know if I could be that restrained.”

“It’s easier when you know they didn’t love you.” The words seemed heavier than they were. She’d named the beast that had haunted her all these years. No one loved her. No one could love her. And now, that was changing. She was making a new family and crew with Titan. And—she glanced sideways—apparently with Rowena.

Every family needed uncomfortable sibling rivalries, didn’t it?

Rowena straightened up and looked around. “Titan says he’s incoming.”

“Why didn’t he tell me?”

“Because you’re shielding to the point of being invisible again,” Rowena said as she stood on her tiptoes. “Uh oh.” She dropped to her feet and spun around to inspect a rose.

Selena turned with her. “What’s uh-oh?”

“Silar is here.”

“Be more specific!” Half the crowd had red hair and freckles. Gen was well loved.

“Hollis!” Rowena sneered at the name. “I promised Ty I wouldn’t get into a fight tonight and…” She curled her lips in a dramatic look of disgust.

Selena rolled her eyes. “It’s his baby sister’s reception. He’ll be on his best behavior.”

“How do you find that reassuring?” Rowena asked. “His best behavior is flirting until your clothes spontaneously combust.”

“Never worked on me,” Selena said, amused. It wasn’t a bad description, but she’d never expected Rowena of all people to notice. Hollis had never flirted with anyone from the Lee crew that Selena knew about.

Rowena gave her a pained look.

“If I see you starting to smolder, I’ll dump the punch on you.”

“There are two of my three favorite ladies!” Titan’s voice made them turn.

Selena reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug, greeting him with a kiss. “Two of three?” She smiled at him. :Who am I forgetting?:

“Can’t forget my auntie,” Titan said before he gave her another quick kiss. “I’m glad to see you two getting along. What were you discussing?”

“Hollis Silar,” Selena said as she rested her head against Titan’s chest.

Titan raised his eyebrows. “Ways to kill him?”

“No!” Selena hit his chest. “We’ve talked about this. You can’t joke about killing my friends.”

“I’m confused,” Titan said. “Rowena talked about Hollis and murder didn’t come up as an option? Are you feeling all right, Ro?”

Rowena rolled her eyes. “I was up all night with the new baby on family duty. Call it a lapse of judgment. Or my present to Genevieve and Carver. I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough.” She smiled viciously. “Where’s the present you’ve been teasing Caryll with for weeks?”

“Yes,” Selena held him tighter. “Where’s this present that kept you away from me all day while I was party planning? I was in desperate need of help,” she said dramatically.

“I saw you and Marshall out here. You didn’t need help, you wanted willing slaves. That’s what fleetlings are for.” Titan’s grin lit up the night.

“Excuse me?” Rowena held up a hand. “I’m leaving before you two have your first fight as a married couple. Caryll, try not to shoot the planet. Again.”

Selena pinged Rowena’s shield with the thought of someone sticking out their tongue as Lee retreated. Then she turned back to Titan. “Well? What’s this secret present you’ve been hiding from me for weeks?”

“I was getting this.” He teleported a small stick with a bundle of roots and four large, green leaves and let it hover in front of her.

Selena frowned at the twig. “Okay. It’s… a plant.” She looked from the stick to her husband. “Right?” There was nothing in her implant about Sciarra courting rituals. Was it a special plant? Was she supposed to eat it? Grow it? “Am I supposed to give you a plant?”

“No!” Titan laughed happily. “This is one of the plants that was sketched by your ancestors, or a descendent of the original at any rate. I spent the week tracking down a crew that had the seeds in stasis. I was thinking we could put it in our hydroponics section.”

“Greenhouse,” she corrected. The house didn’t have anywhere for a contained garden, but she’d make one for this, and for him. “Down here they have greenhouses, or conservatories. This is beautiful, thank you, Titan.” She kissed his cheek and took the plant.

He smiled and whispered in her ear. “I meant hydroponics.”

A shield she hadn’t noticed all day vanished and Persephone hit her with a dozen updates. It was a whirlwind of information that took her a minute to sort through.

“Estimated time to repair completion… two days?” Selena stepped away from Titan as she processed everything. “Two? Titan? What did you do?”

“You know the fighters that were mine as dowry?”

She nodded.

“I traded them for a convoy ship that lost its environmental controls but which had engines that matched Persephone’s. And then I twisted Rowena’s arm to help me fix it. My captain deserves a ship.”

Her jaw dropped. “Really?”

Titan nodded.

“We have a ship? A working ship? It’s perfect!” She fell into him again, teleporting them away from the party and to the bridge of the Persephone.

Everything was gleaming. The broken screen was repaired, the duty stations were waiting for a crew… Titan had even taken the time to install a chair for her second in command and her chief medic on either side of the captain’s seat. It was perfection, the one thing she’d wanted but never dared dream of having.

“Permission to come aboard?” Titan asked.

“Permission granted.” The words were a whisper. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything more. Selena walked around the bridge, touching the chairs and looking at the waiting consoles.

Persephone’s face appeared on the screen. “Welcome aboard, Captain.”

Titan wrapped his arms around her waist. “What are you thinking?”

“There’s no place to land her in Enclave. We’re still out of fuel.” There were so many things she’d overlooked.

“So we make new fuel. We land her somewhere else. We—”

“We have no crew.” A tear ran down her cheek.

“Love, what’s wrong?”

“You said we.” Selena looked up at him. “We. Every time I stood here as a captain, I stood alone. No future. No hope. No one there for me.” She’d bled and fought for her crew. She’d been ready to lay her life down for them. But, in the end when she needed them the most, they had left her. They’d fled to the life pods when she stood against Old Balaur. They’d run to other crews when she arrived in Enclave, broken and heart-sick. “It’s always just been me on the Persephone.”

Titan held her close. “That won’t happen again. Whatever fight comes next, I’ll be here. With you.”

She smiled as she claimed his lips in a kiss. “You’d better be.”

:Is that an order?: His hands slid down her back to squeeze her buttocks. One hand kept going, slipping down to the hem of her short dress to caress her leg.

Selena laughed as Titan brushed feather-light kisses down her jawline and slid the strap of her sundress down. “Persephone, dismissed.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The computers on the bridge shut down, leaving them truly alone.

Titan held still, watching her, waiting for her.

She blushed. “I don’t think our every moment together has to be recorded for posterity.” Sex on the bridge. There was a teenage fantasy she’d never envisioned coming true. “How long do you think we have before anyone notices we’re missing from the party?”

Titan’s smile widened. “I enlisted help from the Sciarra troops to accomplish my mission.”

“Your mission?” She couldn’t help but laugh.

“I have to see the morale and happiness of the crew.” He stole a lingering kiss that melted away her fears. “Relax,” he whispered as he massaged her back. “The Sciarras are on the ground handling that. If anyone asks, they just saw us go past or we just turned the corner. They’ll even cheerfully help people go search for us. Elea is going to answer our pings, and Rowena promised to make sure they don’t run out of food. We have hours before the festivities are over.”

She walked her fingers up his chest to reach the top button of his shirt and looked up at his gorgeous green eyes. “Have I ever mentioned how wonderful you are?”

“Several times.” A smile tugged at his lips as his eyes sparkled with joy. “Permission to proceed with my mission, Captain?”

“Proceed, Commander.”

THE END
…until the next book at least…

 

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BODIES IN MOTION: Chapter 22

SELENA

Start at Chapter 1

Persephone’s face filled the cracked screen. “Captain, it’s good to see you alive again.”

“Likewise,” Selena said.

A skitter bot brushed past her like a cat.

“Commander Lee,” Persephone said, using Rowena’s rank from the war, “it has been five hundred years, twenty-three days, and thirteen hours since a member of your crew was welcomed on board.”

“Persephone, where’s my rank?”

“Your rank?” Rowena asked, finally breaking her stunned silence. “Where in the name of the nine stars are we, Caryll?”

Selena looked around the burnt bridge. “This is the Caryll flagship Persephone. In orbit around Malik IV.”

Rowena sputtered in protest. “You can’t just force a teleport from ground to orbit!”

“I can though.”

“She can,” Persephone agreed. “Captain, the rank you threw is under the logistics station. There’s a crack in the computer casing. You threw it with some energy.”

Selena knelt in front of the logistics station and blindly groped in the crack until she felt the cold metal of her captain’s stars. A golden circle around a field of golden dots and a single shooting star in the center. She stared at it in her hand until Rowena walked over.

“Why did we come here?”

Selena closed her fist around the rank. “I need to meet Captain Sciarra, and it can’t be informal. You’ll need to do the introductions.”

“You aren’t my ally,” Rowena scoffed.

“Persephone?”

“Yes, captain?”

“Draft a declaration of allyship, effective immediately for one Captain Caryll and Commander Rowena Lee of the Danielle Nicole.”

Rowena balled her hands in anger. “It’s yeoman.”

“No.” Selena stood up. “According to the Persephone’s records, you were never officially demoted. And only senior officers can sign treaties.” The data stream from Persephone flashed across her inner eye. “Here.” She shot the declaration to Rowena. “Acknowledge and sign while I go change into my uniform.”

Her uniform has where she’d left it before disembarking after the war. She’d thrown her rank, because no captain would leave their ship and because she’d been too much of a coward to die like she ought to have. Selena ran her thumb over the stars. It had seemed like the easier choice back then. Walking away from the wreckage and letting herself get caught in the flow of rebuilding. Carver had given orders. She had obeyed. Tyrling had given orders. She had obeyed.

 

For years she’d been drifting. Cut off from family and crew and what was the difference? A little more oxygen. A slower death, but a death all the same.

And then there was Titan.

The memory of his smile, his kiss, strong hands holding her and the promise of so much more. Titan was offering her life after death. And she couldn’t find him.

The wall beside her buckled and Selena jumped in surprise.

“Captain?” Persephone’s face appeared on a corridor screen. “Is everything well?”

She stared at the damage she’d caused. Lashing out was something she’d learned to control when she’d put on her first gauntlet. The Caryll implants were too sensitive to allow someone who couldn’t control their emotions to be augmented. “I need to locate Titan Sciarra and I can’t.”

Persephone’s face split in static lines then reformed. “I have targeting computers online, Captain, but my sensor array is still non-functional. Would you like me to put those repairs at the top of the priority list?”

Selena was about to say no, then nodded. “Yes. Top priority. If this doesn’t work I’ll need them.”

“Estimated time to repair is one hundred fifteen hours.”

“Understood.” In the quiet of the Persephone’s war room, she changed into the navy blue flight uniform with the silvery-gold piping and the Caryll’s twelve-star insignia on her shoulder. She walked out to see Rowena waiting in the center of the bridge. “Are you ready?”

“To rescue Titan? Yes. To get between two feuding crews? Never. But I’ll do it anyway.”

“That’s the spirit, Lee.” Selena grabbed Rowena in a modified shield and transported them down to Enclave on the outside of the Sciarra shields.

Rowena landed beside her, scowl in place. “I’ll go talk to them.”

“They see us,” Selena said as a sailor waiting at the ramp moved toward them. “Give it a minute.”

The sailor approached. He grimaced at Rowena, and his frown deepened when he saw Selena. “Yes?”

“Captain Caryll for Captain Sciarra.”

The sailor squared his shoulders. “The captain isn’t expecting you and isn’t taking social calls at this time.”

Selena glanced at Rowena and nodded.

“I’m here at the behest of Captain Sciarra,” Rowena said. “She asked me to report back on an urgent matter.”

“Fine. What about you?” He nodded to Selena.

“I’m the urgent matter that Commander Lee is reporting on. If you hurry, there won’t be a war.”

His eyes widened in fear as shuffled backward. “I’ll… contact the captain immediately. Please wait here.”

“Thank you.” Selena took a breath and scanned for Titan again.

Nothing.

If he was hurt… She couldn’t let her mind go down that path. She couldn’t give room for the fear that he’d been taken from her after they’d only just found each other.

“Incoming,” Rowena muttered.

The sailor was running their way.

Selena allowed herself a tight smile of victory. “I thought they’d see things my way.”

“Watch it, you’re starting to sound like Marshall.”

“Ma’am, yeoman.” The sailor sounded slightly panicked. “Captain Elea Sciarra welcomes you the Sabiha and requests you teleport directly to her office. If you’ll hold out your hands I’ll transfer the necessary codes.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Selena said. She entrapped Rowena, shield and all, and transferred them to Elea’s office. It was very satisfying to see the look of indignant shock on Rowena’s face. But there wasn’t time to indulge. “Captain Sciarra, thank you for welcoming us.”

Elea Sciarra stood. She looked older than she had across the room at the Captain’s Council. More stretched. More stressed.

“Captain Caryll, Yeoman Lee. I presume you bring news about Titan?”

“We have a theory,” Selena said. “After conferring with Commander Lee, it seems likely that Titan is being held by the Sekoos. Since they won’t communicate with the commander or myself, we’ll need your help.”

Elea looked at Rowena. “I believe her rank is Yeoman.”

Rowena nodded.

Selena shrugged. “The Caryll crew never recognized her demotion, and we will continue not to recognize her demotion. I may not love everything about the commander, but I won’t have a fleet officer insulted.”

There was a ping against her personal shield; Rowena trying to get clarification.

Selena pinged her, sending a flurry of memories of Titan praising her and the understanding that Titan and Rowena would always be close. Rowena was important to Titan, so Rowena was falling under Caryll protection whether she wanted it or not.

Captain Sciarra raised her eyebrows. “Now that you mention it, I can’t find any record of the Sciarra crew accepting the demotion in our records.”

Selena nodded to Rowena.

With a heavy sigh, Rowena nodded back. Her eyes lit up, a glowing black with silver streamers of light. “Now this moment shall be recorded for posterity.”

The formal words sent a shiver of fear up Selena’s spine. Generations had passed since the Carylls had made an alliance like this. Ancestors forgive me. I fell in love. Accept him. Welcome me. The prayer was as long as a heartbeat, and just as important.

“Captain Elea Sciarra, born aboard the glorious ship Hazel Ying Lee, you are an ally of Lee crew, laud and honor to you. I am Yeo-ommander,” Rowena tripped over her title. “I am Commander Rowena Lee, born aboard the glorious Danielle Nicole, flagship of the Lee armada. Captain, I wish to formally introduce you to Captain Selena Caryll, born of—”

:The Diana,: Selena said.

“Born of the glorious Diana.” Rowena took a deep breath and gave her a side-eye glare. :I can’t believe I am going to say this on official fleet record.:

:Do it for Titan,: Selena said, keeping her eyes on Captain Sciarra.

“Captain Caryll is known to me. She is a fierce fighter with combat skills.” Rowena rolled her eyes. “She is praised, and honorable. A good captain.”

Selena could hear Rowena grinding her teeth.

“Before her, enemies flee,” Rowena said. “Or they are destroyed. In the defense of Malik IV she destroyed Bassi, Aryton, Theoano.” All Lee ships. “She defeated the Baular flagship Sárkány. I recommend her to you as an ally.”

Captain Sciarra raised an eyebrow. “Why does that sound like a threat?”

“Because Commander Lee values military might,” Selena said calmly. “What she does not mention is that I have powerful allies who will becomes your allies. I have contacts in the city-states of Tarrin and Royan. Allying with me will open trade for your crew, entry to training programs on Malik IV, and access to the Tarrin universities. I also have lands and holdings should you wish to house your crew in shielded places outside Enclave. Furthermore, I come with a gift of priority Caryll tech.” She held up a datdisk she’d brought from the Persephone.

Captain Sciarra nodded. “Is it the targeting program you used last night in defense of the Jhandarmi?”

“It’s an invasive code that can decrypt an enemy’s code in a matter of minutes, giving you full access to their computers.”

Rowena sucked in her breath in surprise.

“You have something like that?” Captain Sciarra’s eyes narrowed. “If you did, why didn’t you use it?”

“The Caryll senior officers considered it too dangerous,” Selena said, still holding the datdisk out. “I haven’t written a counter program to it. Yet.”

“Commander Lee, the Sciarras offer you our thanks. Captain Caryll, your offer of allyship is accepted.”

The light in Rowena’s eyes died. She shook her head to clear it and wrinkled her nose.

Elea Sciarra took the datdisk. “What is your plan?”

Selena took a deep breath. “I think Titan is with the Sekoos. They’re one of the few crews with access to the grounders, they had rights to the warehouse, have grounder contacts-“

“None of which adds up to them taking Titan,” Rowena argued. “Being a Warmonger doesn’t automatically mean they contributed.”

“No, it’s not about them being Warmongers. It’s about the explosion.” The thought had been nagging her all night. “It was out of place. Unless someone was targeting Titan. The Jhandarmi knew there was an assassination ordered, but the assassin didn’t survive. Kaftan blamed his suppliers.”

Captain Sciarra frowned in thought. “Why my nephew?”

“The shields,” Selena and Rowena answered in union.

With a glance at Rowena, Selena nodded. “The Enclave shield tracks anyone who moves through it, and everyone knows Titan wrote the code. Earlier they might have just wanted a window to move goods, but now they’ve lost Kaftan and their contacts, their plan is crumbling, they need to get out. Titan makes a good hostage.”

“How does this work?” Elea asked.

Contact the Sekoos and talk to them. Anything that will keep them connected for at least a minute. The program here will hijack the com link and search for Titan.”

“How?”

“It’ll identify anyone with two implants,” Selena said. “Titan still has parts of the original implant fused to his bones.”

Captain Sciarra inhaled sharply. “That was classified information.”

“There’s only one way Titan got those scars on his arm and no medic in the fleet would have authorized a full removal,” Selena said with an apologetic shrug. “Don’t waste secrets on something anyone with half a brain could figure out.”

“It’s a good way to find Titan,” Rowena said.

She hadn’t expected backup, but it was nice.

Elea nodded. “If I can verify that they have Titan?”

“Tell me which ship they’re in and I’ll handle the rest,” Selena said.

“Shouldn’t we call the Starguard?” Rowena protested. “We don’t want another civil war.”

“Don’t worry.” Selena smiled. “I have every intention of making sure they understand this is a personal matter.”

With a nod, Elea walked back to her desk. A blue shield shimmered into place as she made the call.

Selena looked over at Rowena. “You’ll want to stay back until you see my signal.”

“And what’s that likely to be?”

“When people start screaming, you can come running. If I’m dead…” She smiled. “I’m sure you’ve kept up your combatives practice. Feel free to kill them all.”

“You were weird to begin with. I don’t think I like this creepy side of you.”

“I’m not creepy. I’m angry. And no one in fleet has ever seen me angry.” She chuckled to herself. “Actually, I’m kind of looking forward to this. I’ve never had a chance to let loose.”

Rowena looked skeptical. “You’re going to lecture them to death?”

“Killing people isn’t what wins wars. If you want to truly defeat someone, you crush their hopes and dreams. Let them sit by as everything they love dies. You break them without ever shedding a drop of blood.” She took a deep breath, inhaling the cool, clean scent of ship’s air. “It’s what the fleet did to me.”

 

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Will the ending of BODIES IN MOTION be posted online?

Lovely Reader says…

Hey Liana, I was curious if your serialized version of Bodies in Motion was done at Ch 21, if there are more chapters coming, or if one needs to buy the book to finish the story. Since your site says it’s serialized through 9/8, I just wanted to be sure…

ANSWERS: The original plan was to have the whole book on the blog by Sept-8 (now updated!). That did not happen. The original plan was also for BODIES IN MOTION to be a novella. That. Did. Not. Happen.

So ignore the September 8th finale plans.

Chapter 21 finished posting on Friday, and there are 25 chapters in the finished novel ( which is 88,500 words long – or roughly 350 pages). That means the last chapter will publish after the release date. But it will publish.

CHANGES: With all serial projects like this there are some scenes that get changed in edits. These aren’t major changes, it’s more aesthetic work… fixing the make up, adjusting the typos, giving the pacing a little nip and tuck… If you opt to keep reading the unedited draft on the blog you won’t miss much. If you opt to buy the ebook or print edition you’ll find there’s a little bonus material, including character bios and chapter one of LAWS OF ATTRACTION.

You can pre-order the ebook now for $4.99
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Inkprint Press

Print Editions will also be at Conflux 2017 in Australia. I will, sadly, not be attending Conflux but Amy Laurens will be there with all the Inkprint titles including the Even Villains… series, Bodies In Motion, and her own Roads Between series.

Signed Editions I haven’t found a local bookstore to partner with for signed editions yet so those are going to be rarer. There will be a giveaway for a signed edition next week, and if you don’t win that you can order a signed edition directly from Inkprint Press starting September-19.

BODIES IN MOTION: Chapter 19

SELENA

Start at Chapter 1

Selena stepped into Arwell’s climate-controlled house and slid the door shut behind her. All the party guests were outside, mingling and giggling as the first effects of the free-flowing alcohol took over their good judgement. Titan being here changed plans considerably. Titan knowing she was working with the Jhandarmi changed her long-term plans by more than she wanted to calculate at the moment.

Leaving the lights off she pulled the gauzy curtains shut with a twitch. She wouldn’t be invisible to anyone outside, but they wouldn’t be able to see her easily either. It was enough. Walking across the kitchen she found the electronic juicer Arwel had purchased on a whim years before and never locked against tech invasion. On one of her earliest forays into his house she’d programmed it to suit her purposes. Suspicious people would find her purse and check her phone, but they wouldn’t find anything compromising there.

She turned the juicer on and typed in the code.

Tyrling’s face appeared next to a logo with oranges circled by stars. “What’s going on? You were out of visual contact for a quarter hour.”

“Sciarra showed up.”

The Jhandarmi director rubbed his face as he swore. With a grumbling sigh he asked, “How much trouble are you in?”

“None, I think. Sciarra…” She wasn’t sure what to say exactly.

“He likes you,” Tyrling said. “Enough to be protective at any rate.”

Selena smiled. “Enough that you need to factor him in as a long term variable. We can read him in to the operations I handle later.”

Tyrling’s image split and broke for a second.

With a frown she checked the juicer’s energy supply. “Is something happening on your end?”

“Not a thing. The city’s quiet,” Tyrling said. He paused, and then his eyes narrowed. “When’s the last time nothing happened in Tarrin?”

“My implant says never.” She started to smile and then realized what the silence implied. “None of the corps or gangs are near war. Everything’s been quiet.”

Tyrling arched a shaggy eyebrow. “Except the theft.”

“Fleet has no plans for retaliation.”

“All the same…”

She nodded in understanding. “I’ll get the information from Kaftan tonight.”

“Are you sure you can without blowing your cover?”

“The Balaurs weren’t the only ones who learned torture techniques,” she said. “Trust me. I can make him talk. And I won’t leave a mark.” She turned off the juicer and looked down at her hands. Over the years she’d had a lot of blood on them, and it was rarely hers. But she’d worked hard to make sure the blood on her hands hadn’t been spilled by her either. With a little luck, and a lot of booze, she’d be able to resolve all this without anyone being the wiser.

Outside the music had been turned up, people were finally dipping their feet in the pool, and Arwel was drying the paint on a man who decided he had to try a free sample before the night was over.

Selena looked over the garden and her implant tallied the recording devices. Kaftan was standing conveniently close to one on the eastern edge of the yard. She put on her best smile, swung her hips, and sashayed over to the thief.

He looked up with hungry eyes. Not, she couldn’t help notice, filled with the adoration and love she saw in Titan’s eyes. Kaftan’s look was predatory. To him she was a victim. The poor fool.

“Hello,” he said, reaching for her as she walked up. “Have you been avoiding me all evening?”

“Of course not,” Selena lied. “I was waiting until I could catch you alone.” Her hand warmed as she sent a very specific code to her implant. Casually, she ran her hand across Kaftan’s back and watched him relax. The soporific effect of heat combined with slow sound waves below the range of human hearing.

Kaftan’s pupils dilated in pleasure as she pressed her body against his side. “Well.”

“You looked so busy earlier,” Selena murmured in a softly modulated tone meant to set him at ease. “You must be very important.” Her hand stretched down his side, reaching for his pocket.

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand to his torso with a laugh. “Important enough, but I’ll be more important later. Rich. So rich.” His eyes shut.

Too much stimuli. Selena cut the dosage in half, her hand cooling. She squeezed his shoulder and pulled away. “Too important to get a drink with a body paint model?”

His eyes stuttered open and he looked her over lazily. “What else do you do?”

“Advertising work. Modeling. Sometimes I work at a bar up by the High Street Market. It’s paying the bills for now.” With a flirty smile she took his hand, pulling him towards a table near the lights and the next recording device. “I love meeting new people, but there’s not really a degree for that at the university. I suppose I could try politics, but not here. I have too much of a reputation here.” She winked at her willing victim.

There was a static-y ping against her shields.

She sent a query to Titan and returned her focus to Kaftan. “What do you do?”

“This and that,” he evaded.

Selena turned the relaxant up. “Someone said you were in shipping. That sounds important. Getting this and that here and there.”

“I do that,” Kaftan agreed as she slid him into a chair. “I do a lot of that.”

“Anything recent?” She kept her hand on his arm as she reached across the table for a wine bottle.

The liquid sloshed into his glass with a hypnotic sound. “Rearranged some inventory on the docks. Brought in cash for a buy. The seller did the exchange. Then I moved the goods out.”

“You must know the docks so well,” Selena cooed. “Where did you-”

An explosion of light and sound knocked her from her chair. The soft grass cushioned her knees.

Kaftan jumped to his feet as he reached for a gun.

In the confusion, someone screamed.

Kaftan pushed away from the table and took off running.

She tried to teleport but her implant couldn’t find a path. :Titan?: There was nothing on the other end. It was possible to modulate energy waves to disrupt communication, like a white noise machine balancing out sound, but she’d never seen one on this scale.

“Selena?” Titan ran up to her, Arwel trailing behind him. “We need to get out.”

Arwel grabbed her arm. “What is happening?”

“I don’t know. I think Kaftan’s sale just went nova though.”

The sound of gun fire ripped through the air and turf exploded around them.

There were too many options. Keeping civilians safe took top priority, but she needed to finish the mission.

Titan squeezed her shoulder. “Go,” he said as if he could read her thoughts. “I’ve got the civilians.”

“Civilians?” Arwel echoed.

“Another time,” Selena said. “Go with Titan.” The words I Love You hung on her lips, not willing to fall. All she could manage was a tight smile. “Be safe.”

“Always.” His smile was enough.

Selena turned and ran into the debris cloud after Kaftan. Cycling her shields kept them up against the assault of the destabilizer but keeping it at full strength was impossible. A concussion grenade exploded near her feet and the shrapnel pummeled her bare legs.

Underfoot there was sharp joke and glass from a broken cup. All hidden by a smoky blue haze that burned her eyes and throat. Whoever had interrupted the party wasn’t worried about wasting resources. This was overkill.

“Minus ten points for style,” she muttered as she brought up a battle code. Let the grounders see her eyes glow, she was done pretending to be a civilian.

In the blink of an eye the battlefield changed from a field filled with chemical fog to a muted gray background where bodies appeared as bright red targets and the furniture became a soft green.

Kaftan was ahead of her, crawling on all fours towards the dubious safety of the house.

Rolling a clearing shield in front of her Selena brushed the debris away from her feet and ran after him.

Hot air turned to sticky condensation on her skin as Selena stalked forward. Her implant was filtering out sounds now, but she knew what she was missing… the screaming, the crying, the shouts of angry denial.

Ahead of her Kaftan managed to take down a guard with a quick stun shot. It wasn’t a bad idea, leave the soldier naked and unconscious and leave in his uniform. Kaftan was confident enough in his plan that he was stripping the guard down before the invaders opened fire.

Kaftan scrambled backward.

Selena blocked his path. “Oww!” Stupid yaldson was wearing boots.

The thief turned to her in surprise. “You again?”

She nodded.

“Sorry about this. Business gets messy sometimes,” he said as he raised his gun.

She pushed him so he was pointing at the attackers. “Did you bring them?”

“No!” He struggled to turn but she held him in place with telekyen and muscle.

“Who are they?”

“Someone who didn’t like the buy-in price for my auction, Arwel’s old clients, who knows. Let me go. What are you doing to me?”

She reached for his pocket where the datcube was. “Nothing personal. Just business. I know someone who will pay very well for the data you have.” Her fingers touched a hole in the lining of his jacket. Frantically she patted down the other side. “Where is it?”

Kaftan’s hand dropped, clenching and unclenching around the empty fabric. “I had it. It was… I fell.” He broke away from her, desperately searching the littered ground.

Everything looked the same to her. The datcube looked no different from a shard of glass and there was no way to do a search with her implant or by satellite. Panic closed her throat. She switched to normal vision and searched the grass for any sign of the datcube.

In the fog Kaftan squeaked joyfully.

She leaped, tackling him as another round of bullets ripped through the air.

“Trying to save me?” he panted.

“Not likely.” She punched him, but he rolled, pushing her away.

Kaftan kicked her bruised ribs.

The burst of pain made her see stars. Her muscles froze in agony. It was only for a few seconds, but it was enough.

Kaftan and the datcube were already out of reach.

But it was the little hairs on her arm standing on end that made her raise her full shield. A sense born of war and loss. When the blast hit she was thrown several meters, but she was alive.

She looked up, searching for Titan and saw his broad shield ripple and fall. He lay on the ground by a quivering Arwel.

Between her and safety the enemy was lining up another battery, like they were trying to herd everyone away from the exits.

No, not herd. Corral. Like forcing a squad of fighters into close formation so they could go down with one hit.

Without Titan’s shield everyone would die. She watched Kaftan bolt for the house, then turned and ran for Titan. Falling to her knees she checked his pulse. Alive, but bleeding and his eyes were glazed. “You were supposed to stay safe.”

“I tried.”

Arwel grabbed her arm with a bruising grasp. “What is happening? Why? Who?” He shook his head in confusion. “Your eyes are glowing.”

“I don’t know, but we can’t escape.”

“Can’t get a signal out,” Titan said weakly. “No rescue imminent.” He sighed and his eyes fluttered shut.

She brushed her hands across his face, assessing the damage and trying to attract his attention. He needed a full medbay, but even a nanite gel pack would be better than this. There was a box left on the Persephone.

Time slowed as she looked up beyond the haze and shields. “I can signal for backup.”

Titan managed to move his head. “Can’t reach Carver or Silar. Can’t reach Sabiha.”

“I don’t need Sabiha.” I need Persephone. She opened the link to her ship.

:Yes, captain?:

:Prepare a ground strike for these coordinates.:

There was a pause punctuated by another round of bullets spraying in front of the partygoers.

:Captain,: Persephone said, :those coordinates are very close to your current location. This action is not advised.:

:Story of my life.:

:Would you like to belay your order?:

The battery was nearly charged.

:Fire, Persephone. Make it a very precise hit.:

There was a muted grumble of protest from the AI.

Selena pushed Arwel down. “Close your eyes.” She held a hand over Titan’s face and looked up, watching the spear of deadly light fall.

It only took a moment. A ring of energy hit the ground with enough force to drive the attackers to their knees, and the following breaths let them inhale the heavy gases and fall unconscious.

A heartbeat later the entire district was red with alarms. The disrupters that had silenced communication were gone, the shield over the district burned with warning, and police sirens screamed in the distance.

Selena slumped down. “The cavalry is coming.”

As the dust cleared she saw Kaftan walking in a white business suit walking toward a waiting car. Looked like he was going to get his sale after all.

 

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