Chapters 7 and 8 are ready for your delectation. If you are on this list, you ought to have received them. If you were overlooked, as always, drop us a line or leave a comment.

Enjoy and fire when ready!

Chapter 7:

The gentle light of the new-risen sun filtered through the heavily laden boughs of the peach trees to fall across Mariwen’s face, accentuating the eloquent curve of her cheek and the perfect shape of her lips, while emphasizing the extraordinary warmth of her flawless latte complexion. It was a famous face—indeed, one of the most famous in charted space—revered for its beauty. Such an inadequate word. To say Mariwen Rathor was beautiful was to state that which was blindingly obvious, and indeed, the multitudes were blinded by the captivating trademark smile, the lambent sensuality, the penetrating look in the dark eyes that could kill at a mile. But those were merely the tools of her trade. The essence went much deeper than that; a sublime quality, richer and more invisible, that defied description—and it was gone. In its place was a look of peace, as serene as this perfect morning with the dew-scented air barely stirring and the tiny droplets on the leaves catching the light in a myriad rainbow glints.

To Antoine Rathor, standing at his sister’s shoulder as she gazed up at something that had caught her attention in the branches above, that was the cruelest cut of all. The peace was manufactured, the serenity medically induced. This early walk in the peach orchard was actually a medical exercise: Mariwen’s time sense remained dislocated and carefully planned excursions like this were calculated to steady her perception of the passing days and hours, and help her sort prior memories from present existence. …

Chapter 8:

Kris opened her locker and, reaching far back on the top shelf, took out the metal case there. It was somewhat bigger than the bronze boxes the CEF shipped off to the families of those killed in action, weighed about the same, and served a related purpose: safeguarding critical items, such as service records, and anything else the owner could fit into it. It was equipped with a recovery beacon and built to survive the most catastrophic events. Officers and enlisted alike called them DMBs: Dead Man’s Bank.

She set it on the compartment’s small desk and sitting, opened it with her ID tag. Most people’s DMB held a few mementos, maybe some credit chips, and for the pessimistic (or well-prepared, depending on one’s point of view) a last letter to be sent to family or friends. Other than her service records and a sheaf of official documents, Kris’s DMB held just two envelopes and a dented tin cup. …