Chase Brigham twirled the tip of his salt-and-pepper goatee, mesmerized by the bright graphs flickering on a computer screen: breath rate, heart rate, neurotransmitter and hormone levels, all the vitals. He snapped his fingers. “Skirra, increase the current.”
“Yes, Sir.” The female assistant in a snug ivory labcoat adjusted her glasses, and pecked an entry into a portable computer beside the examination chair. “Output is increased by twenty units.” She chewed a fingernail and tapped her foot, transfixed with the screen.
Skirra let out a long breath, and her eyes settled on the youth in the chair: twenty-four years of age, he was among the specimens in perfect condition. A silver helmet capped his skull, wild with protruding lights and wires, exposing tufts of flaxen hair; electrodes dotted his smooth and sturdy chest; thick leather bands clamped his rugged arms and ankles to the chair. His head tilted to one side, with eyes closed, breaths cresting in shallow and frequent gasps. The height recorded on his medical chart read an inch or two shorter than the other soldiers in his class.
“He’s primed.” Brigham turned to Skirra, pointing at the screen. “Inject him.”
“Sir, Commander Brigham, Sir, if I may speak--” Skirra curled her right hand into a mousy fist and lifted it to her chest, saluting him. “The biomedical research team in the Nanotech Department submitted a recent study of the compounds for review, and--” Her eyes darted to the side, and she rubbed her bitten nails together. “One of the primates in the experiment went mad.”
Brigham stared at her, dark eyes blazing, but didn’t speak. He didn’t move. He didn’t blink.
Skirra swallowed, and ducked her head forward in an anticipating nod. “Sir, not to say I am comparing your investments to a bunch of monkeys, Sir--”
She offered another pantomimed salute. “I believe... this injection will progress our work and bring Glory to the Empire, Sir!”
Brigham tilted his head back, rustling a mane of waist-length silver hair. He raised his eyebrows. “Thendo it.”
Skirra traced her fingers over pencil-thin lids on a rack of vials on the table, hefty onyx rings glittering on her fingers. She selected a vial, a glass tube with a murky, bloody liquid, and unscrewed the lid. She opened a disinfectant pad, and prepared a cotton ball; she jammed her syringe into the vial, extracting the necessary liquid for the experiment.
“And that is the department’s shortcoming.” Brigham wandered closer to the examination chair, staring at the youth. “They have become so obsessed with transcending human limitations that they’ve grown disgusted with the body.” He glanced at the screen, a satisfied smile twisting his lips. “It will forever retard their efforts.”
Skirra blotted the youth’s arm with a disinfectant-soaked cotton ball. “How is that, Sir?”
“The will to live is something animal, irrational. It can’t be quantified. It can’t be predicted. So they eschew it, negate it from their calculations.” Brigham glanced at the digital clock in military time on the wall. “But that same will is infinitely powerful, and if they could learn to master it, to subdue it...” He clenched a fist and shook his head. “If they could bend that power to serve their goals--”
Skirra drove the needle into the youth’s arm.
“If we don’t push him to the limits--” Brigham rested an arm against the back of the chair, surveying the unconscious man. “We won’t ever know what he’s fully capable of doing. If we don’t understand his capabilities, we’ll never be able to control him; and, if we can’t properly control him, we’ll never be able toutilize those capabilities.”
Beads of sweat pooled on Skirra’s forehead as she monitored the values on the screen.
Brigham spun around and paced toward the door, twirling his goatee, deep in thought. A long kluzein baton dangled from his belt and knocked against his leg.
Skirra waited for Brigham to turn his back, and reached to give the subject’s hand a firm squeeze. She pressed her palm against his bare chest, and worry warped her face. She bit the fingernails on her free hand.
Brigham tapped his fingers against the back of the examination chair, studying Skirra.
“Oh! Sir!” She threw both hands into the air and blushed. “Sir, I--Oh--” She tucked her arms into her chest. “Sir, his vitals are stable!”
“Let’s begin.” Brigham marched toward the chair.
She scampered away and leered at the restrained man, lurking behind Brigham’s broad shoulders.
Brigham loomed over the youth, and with a sharp gesture of the hand, spit the booming command: “Aadima.”
The youth stirred from his drug-induced catatonia. He rolled his head to one side, the silver wired crown tipping forward, and slowly sat upright, confined by the bonds of the chair. His eyes fluttered open, brown, wide, and blank, reflecting an awareness scrambled.
He squinted, struggling to draw Brigham into focus. A moment passed: he shook the fog out of his head, and his posture stiffened, recognizing the man in front of him. He pounded a fist against his chest in salute. “Commander Brigham, Sir!”
Brigham looked to the screen; he glanced at his watch, and turned to Skirra. “Thirty-seven seconds. Note it.”
Skirra fumbled with an electronic notepad, trembling and tapping in her notes.
Brigham knelt on one knee beside the examination chair, and waved an intricate series of hand gesticulations in the subject’s face. “Greetings, Kain.”
The man sat rigid in the chair, staring blankly ahead.
“Dvitiiya.” Brigham paired his command with a symphony of motor signals. “Disable.”
“Secondary Dvitiiya functions.” The youth spoke in an empty voice. “Disabled, Sir.”
“Kain.” Brigham climbed to his feet, clutching the back of the chair. “Tritiiya.”
The subject remained frozen in his chair, eyes glossy and unblinking.
“Damn you!” Brigham grabbed a flat remote from his pocket, pointed it at the man in the chair and clicked.
The youth moaned, violent tremors wracking his body. He convulsed and flopped in the chair, the leather bonds subduing him, holding him in place.
Skirra brought her hands to her head, watching in horror as graphs spiked and numbers soared.
“There are no uses for faulty machinery!” Brigham towered over the shackled youth, indifferent to his pain. “None! You remember that.”
Skirra glanced at the clock, and chewed her nails.
“Kain.” Brigham cleared his throat. “LoadTritiiya.”
The subject’s breathing slowed and he shifted his posture, sitting upright. He stared ahead, speaking in a monotone. “Tertiary Tritiiya functions loaded, Sir.”
“Kain.” Brigham waved his hand, and spoke in a thunderous voice. “Load Caturtha.”
“Identification confirmed: granting access to restricted Caturtha systems.” He mechanically rotated his head toward the floor, and spoke with eyes closed. “Proceed with instructions.”
Skirra slinked beside Brigham, and lifted a pair of clunky taupe goggles covered in a swarm of blinking lights. She leaned over the chair and rested the goggles on the bridge of the youth’s nose, and fitted the frames, one at a time, over his ears with a gentle touch. She paused, her rings glittering beneath the blinding light above the exam chair, and compulsively thumbed the bristle of hair poking out beneath his helmet. She stroked his temples once, twice, before yanking her hands away and lifting them into the air. “Sir, goggles are ready, Sir!” Her cheeks blushed.
“Kain, do you recognize the image of this man?” He drummed his fingers against the back of the chair.
“Recognition affirmative, Sir.”
“Spectacular.” Brigham joined his hands in a deafening clap. “Execute primary Caturtha commands, and target this man.”
“Target confirmed, Sir.” He stared in a daze at the lightshow provided by the goggles. “Requesting variables of mission duration, Sir.”
Brigham pealed his final command. “Caturtha functions will terminate when his Glorious duties are fulfilled.”
The youth twitched. “Parameters understood, Sir.Caturtha, execution complete. Awaiting further instruction.”
Brigham waved dismissively. “Kain, I require no further services from you today.”
The youth’s eyes fell shut and he slumped forward in the chair, restrained by the leather bonds.
Skirra hovered over his body, moving to take the glasses away. She paused, glancing at his chest, and swiped the goggles from his face, retreating behind Brigham.
“Skirra, send for Krodha. We’re finished today.” Brigham turned and strode toward the door.
Skirra stood up on her toes, lifting a hand to her mouth, and reached out, groping with words, with questions. “Ahem--Yes--”
Brigham exited. The electronic door slammed shut.
Skirra curled a limp fist against her chest. “Sir--”
She trotted to the desk and lowered her head over the intra-complex communications device. She pushed a button and made demands through a speaker. “Session cleanup required!”
Skirra scrambled across the floor and knelt beside her subject. Unimpressed with the numbers on the screen, she clutched his lifeless hand. She struggled to loosen his bonds, wiggling the straps, and succeeded enough to rotate his wrist so his palm faced up. She felt for one pulse point, pawing at his flesh until she found it, and repeated the action on a second pulse point.
She tugged at the straps binding his other wrist, and felt again for one pulse point, two pulse points, pressing the pads of her fingers into his skin. “You poor thing.” She removed the helmet from his head and ran a hand beneath his chin, pinching his cheeks together, watching his lips pout.
The electronic doors to the examination room clicked open.
Skirra leapt away from the chair, eyes wide.
A broad-shouldered hellion stormed into the room, dressed in a black uniform wrapping tightly over every bulging vein, every curving muscle of his body. He had a mane of black ringlets, square jaw, and frosty eyes. “You said you were finished!” His lips curled when he spoke, revealing a flash of teeth.
Skirra made a trembling salute at her chest. “Yes, Krodha, my apologies, Sir--”
She rushed to the table and dutifully unbound her subject, unhooked him. She found a knit grey sweater on the floor and tugged it over his head.
Krodha stomped toward the unconscious youth, grabbed both of his wrists, and ripped him from the chair.
He drooped in Krodha’s arms, feet dragging on the floor.
Krodha hoisted him up and gave him a shove.
The youth’s legs folded and he crashed against the floor, cracking his elbow, smacking his face against the hard tile.
“Aah!” Skirra zipped across the room and dove onto the floor, rolling her subject over and resting his head on her lap. She ran her fingers across his forehead, through his hair. “Be careful with him!” She rebuked Krodha with a pointed finger.
“Ms. Department Head, you know all about Ascended Machine Technology.” Krodha squatted, wrapped one of the youth’s arms around his neck and held a steady grip on one of his legs, hoisting him onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. “You know how it works.”
Krodha dropped him.
The youth crashed against the floor, landing on his back.
Krodha kicked him in the ribs with a cold laugh, and squatted to hoist him into another carry. He sauntered to the edge of the doorway, the youth dangling over his shoulders, and glanced at Skirra. “You engineered this stupid mongrel to take a beating.”
<500 word excerpt:
Brigham loomed over the youth, and with a sharp gesture of the hand, spit the booming command: “Aadima.”
Schedule Kain by Brie McGill
September 9 Interview
September 10 Spotlight
Rose & Beps Blog -
September 11 Spotlight
Author Karen Swart
September 11 review
Mousehead & Tales
September 12 Interview
September 13 Interview
September 16 Guest blog
Cloey's Book Reviews and Other stuff
September 17 Spotlight
Let’s Start Saving Now –
Book Worm & More,
September 18 Spotlight
September 19 Spotlight
Share My Destiny
September 20 Guest blog
September 23 Interview
Check out all the dates in the schedule ! I've really enjoyed "Kain" and you can read reviews , excerpts , and more.