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[D&B Vol. 01] Episode 005

The demon blood had stiffened on her battle tights. It flaked away in small patches, covering the cell’s wooden bench in spots of darkness every time she shifted.

Her thighs hurt from laying on the hard surface, her hips and shoulders too, all those soft points objecting to a night spent in close contact with something never meant for sleeping. Not that she’d intended to sleep, not with her cell mate looking at her with hard calculation, but exhaustion had pulled her eyes closed almost as soon as the door slammed closed behind her.

She hadn’t dreamed, not even of that dark space between lives.

The dull throb in her legs and arms brought her half from sleep, but it was the dull itch between her shoulder blades that woke her.

Someone had lowered the lights during the night, leaving the cell in half-gloom, but the figure across from her was easy to make out.

A man sat where the hard-eyed woman had. Lean and pale he slouched against the wall, his white-blond hair model perfect, the dark roots just so. He stared at her out of pale, black-rimmed irises that had always reminded her of light trying to escape a black hole.

He smiled. ‘You’re usually harder to find.’

Byrne was up and across the cell, teeth bared, summoning her trident to her hand. A force like an anvil sent her crashing back into the wall. Starlight burst behind her eyes, coming with sharp pain as her head hit the concrete, trident dissolving before it had formed. She must have lost a few seconds there, because when she blinked he was above her, staring down, and for a heartbeat she thought she saw concern replace his smile.

‘I’m going to kill you,’ she said.

The smile flooded back to his face. He crouched. ‘You always say that, but so far…’ He gestured to his unruffled T-shirt and jacket. ‘You’re not doing too well.’

Byrne struggled to stand, getting her feet under her before the same force that had sent her into the wall pushed her back down.

He shook his head, brushing his hands down his jeans. ‘I don’t know Byrne, twice in two lifetimes your sister has died on your watch.’ He folded his arms over his knee and leaned in close. ‘Maybe you should get another job?’

She spat. The blob of saliva hit his cheek, and he jerked like she’d hit him. His expression turned to stone, and even though she couldn’t see his eyes, she could see his anger in the fine tremble of his hand as he wiped the spit away. The same anger made the invisible band holding her down tremble.

Satisfaction coursed through Byrne’s blood and she smiled, showing teeth. ‘She’s not dead arsehole.’

‘She will be.’ He didn’t look at her, but at the spit on his hand. ‘She’ll make sure Suun sees to that.’

‘Not if I told Suun I won’t follow.’

His head snapped up. ‘You can’t do that,’ he said, but was the hint of a question buried under the certainty in his voice.

‘I can,’ she said, satisfaction running through her veins as she felt the invisible band crack. ‘Nova may stick a knife between her ribs, but you’ll still be stuck with me, Tellamoth.’


Don’t forget to check out the episode notes for more behind the scenes content.

!!! Very Important Question time !!!

Do we think Tellamoth is truly evil? Might he be a) redeemable or b) not guilty of the things we suspect he is?

[D&B Vol 01.] Episode 003

Another lifetime. Another war they couldn’t win because her sister and Empress fell for the same pretty face.

Suun had kept Nova alive long enough for the paramedics to find them. The woman and her partner had both had the calm, stoic expressions of those who had seen it all, but Byrne had recognised the too-wide eyes and pale sheen of shock as they’d half-jogged into the gym showers. 

There’d been a handful of seconds where all they did was stare, eyes agog at the four teens in their battle-stained uniforms, before Della had laid a hand on their shoulders. The paramedics had gone about their work then, not seeing the incor stains or claw marks, just like the people around Byrne didn’t see them now. 

The hospital beeped and rustled soft-footed nurses rushing past her in a sea of pale blue and white, the doctors striding past with coats flapping, cocooned in their bubble of command.

She knew that feeling, the power, the rush of command, remembered it well from that lifetime when she’d wielded the might of her sister’s armies. Remembered too the crushing despair when she held Nova’s body in her arms as the Imperial city burned around her, the strength of its legions laid to waste by her sister’s indiscretion.

And now…now she stood in a hospital ward while the Hordes paced beyond the Veil and her sister struggled to breathe. 

‘We were meant to do it better,’ Byrne said to herself. 

‘We will.’ Della wrapped a hand around Byrne’s arm, hugging it tight to her chest. ‘We know Tellamoth’s true face now, and I know once we complete the ritual, we’ll recognise it in the next life—’

Byrne ripped her arm out of Della’s embrace, horror stopping her heart, making her voice shrill. ‘What?’

The next life? Their lives were now, the threat was here. There was no guarantee if they performed the ritual, committed themselves to another go at the Wheel, that they would recall anything in another life. 

Byrne remembered the most out of them all, fragments of memory and snippets of knowledge that pressed against her brain and haunted her nights. Every day the weight of it threatened to swallow her whole, every night she dreamed of blood and terror. And never did she remember enough or soon enough to prevent the same sorry tragedies. 

Even now, she recalled Della as she had been before, tall and statuesque, raven hair cascading down her back, arms banded in the golden marks of a priestess, screaming as the power of the universe pulled her apart molecule-by-molecule. 

Della reached for her again, big dark eyes soft but steady, hiding the thread of steel Byrne knew lurked behind. ‘It was Her last order Byrne.’ 

Byrne shuddered at the way Della’s voice seemed to echo when she used the Imperial ‘Her’. She worked to push back the memories of echoing marble corridors and a sea of bowed heads, of always standing to the left and two steps behind Nova. Pain and regret swamped her senses, made it difficult for her to concentrate on the here and now, and maybe Della knew, counted on it even because her next words barely penetrated the haze of memory. 

‘Suun’s with Her now.’

Byrne ripped herself out of the memory. ‘No.’ The colour left her cheeks, she felt the blood drain to her feet but the dizzy rush didn’t stop her from spinning on her heel and sprinting down the corridor.


Don’t forget to check out the episode notes for more behind the scenes content.

Question time

What is Suun doing to Nova and what’s Byrne going to do about it? What kind of empire do you think Nova ruled?

 

Page 7

Svana tossed, the sheets twisting tighter and tighter around her legs, her brow furrowed in a grimace of pain.

Sassa stood on the threshold and let her twin fight the dream. It used to frighten her, the way Ana thrashed and fought, how her face screwed up and her mouth screamed silently. When she heard the tell-tale creak of the mattress she would rush to her sister’s side and shake her violently awake.

She turned away from the door, sliding it shut behind her, locking out Ana’s nightmare. She was tired, tired and far to used to the silent dreams. It was the times she wasn’t silent, the times when strange, foreign words streamed from her mouth that disturbed her. The sounds tickled something in the back of her mind, something old, something that came with fear.

But this wasn’t one of those times, and as Sassa grabbed her jacket from the back of dining chair, she was glad at least that Ana was no longer shutting her out. The genetic anomaly her twin had stumbled across was … was … Sassa shook her head. There were no words to describe it, not yet at any rate, but they’d find them, publish them, own them. Her and Ana, just like they used to.

Page 6

“Valu,” he/she shouted.

Valu paused and glanced over his shoulder, the muscles in his arms rigid, his grip white knuckled on the sonic stick’s grip. “The decision has already been made Wolern, we’re not welcome here.”

Wolern/Svana clasped Valu’s shoulder, spinning the younger man around to face him/her. “Don’t do this.”

The other man’s face, already set like steel, hardened further as he shook off Wolern/Svana’s hand. “You should be coming with us, you’re not one of them anymore.” He swung his arm, encompassing the gleaming city rising around them. “They’ll turn on you like they have on the rest of us, insist you take their ‘cure’ and then where will you be?”

“It won’t come to that.” He/she reached out again, clasping both of Valu’s shoulders in hands marked by the Other. “If you could just work with them, show a little patien-”

Valu jerked backwards, his face contorted in disgust. “Wake up and smell the ko’choo brother, they’re scared of us, scared of what they made us.” He shook his head. “You’ll be lucky if they let you live.”

Page 5

This page is not working for me, I’ll rewrite it soon.

The compound was peaceful in the small hours with the others tucked away in their bunks. A few, like Svana still roamed the modules and interconnecting umbilici, the graveyard shift who where either unlucky enough or obsessed enough to work the first twelve hours of Hetica’s 38 hour rotation.

Svana leaned against the the curve of the plexiglas and admired the tops of the starlit forest. From it’s position atop the volcanic rim, the compound commanded unparalleled views and a highly defensible perimeter the efficiency of which had not been tested in the eighteen months since the Directorate had landed them on the planet. Which caused much speculation as to the cause of the tension in Captain Kava’s shoulders and the new lines in her forehead.

Something nocturnal winged it’s way through the night, a deep rumbling craw following in its wake.

Page 4

I’ve made an executive decision (since no one else has weighed in), The Hybrid Theory will the 3rd person.

The tall white bucket was almost comfortable put her in easy reach of the fruit. Three discarded skins already lay on the frozen concrete floor of the cold-room and she plunged her hand into the tub for a forth.

The botanists were calling them Citrus musa, the rest of the expedition called the tart, curved fruits Grape-nanas and relished the latest addition to their diet of protein packs and dehydrated vegetables.

Svana peeled the thin, fleshy skin back with practised ease, careful to keep the inner flesh intact lest a cascade of juice run down her arm. She dropped each long piece of red-orange peel to the floor and then began separating the long, slightly curved segments with more gusto.

Page 3 – 1st Person

World changing. My twin’s words ring in my ears, following me into the dark mess hall and around the vacant tables that sprouted the legs of upturned chairs like a herd of hedgehogs. I didn’t need world changing, I’m wasn’t looking for anything more than life changing, my life changing, but all the same something had tightened in my gut when Sassa flung her hands in the air and said the words. The something stayed with me, crouching in the back of my mind, running up and down my spine with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

I push past half-door, slipping into the galley dimly lit by the green exit sign and small red standby lights on the huge appliances. The heavy cold-room door stands at the end of the long row of stainless steel benches and I pull it open slowly, waiting until the flickering automatic light steadies before stepping across the threshold. Rows and columns of carefully stacked and sorted food and, towards the back, a stack of frosted plastic drawers. I slide one out, revealing a pile of orange-red, banana like fruits the gathering party collected the day before, and reach in and pick out the juiciest.

“A single genetic marker.” My breath frosts in the cold as I study the fruit, my mouth already watering. “Changing the world.”

Page 3 – 2nd Person

World changing. Your twin’s words ring in your ears, following you into the dark mess hall and around the vacant tables that sprouted the legs of upturned chairs like a herd of hedgehogs. You don’t need world changing, you weren’t looking for anything more than life changing, your life changing, but all the same something had tightened in your gut when Sassa flung her hands in the air and said the words. The something stayed with you, crouching in the back of your mind, running up and down your spine with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

You push past the half-door, slipping into the galley, dimly lit by the green exit sign and the small red standby lights on the huge appliances. The heavy cold-room door stands at the end of the long row of stainless steel benches and you pull it open slowly, waiting until the flickering automatic light steadies before you step across the threshold. Rows and columns of carefully stacked and sorted food and, towards the back, a stack of frosted plastic drawers. You slide one out, revealing the pile of orange-red, banana like fruits the gathering party collected the day before, and reach in and pick out the juiciest.

“A single genetic marker.” Your breath frosts in the cold as you study the fruit, your mouth already watering. “Changing the world.”

Page 3 – 3rd Person

World changing. Her twin’s words ring in Svana’s ears, following her into the dark mess hall and around the vacant tables that sprout the legs of upturned chairs like a herd of hedgehogs. She doesn’t need world changing, isn’t looking for anything more than life changing, her life changing, but all the same something had tightened in her gut when Sassa flung her hands in the air and said the words. The something stayed with her, crouched in the back of her mind, running up and down her spine with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

Svana pushes past the half-door, slipping into the galley, dimly lit by the green exit sign and small red standby lights on the huge appliances. The heavy cold-room door stands at the end of the long row of stainless steel benches and she pulls it open slowly, waiting until the flickering automatic light steadies before stepping across the threshold. Rows and columns of carefully stacked and sorted food and, towards the back, a stack of frosted plastic drawers. She slides one out, revealing a pile of orange-red, banana like fruits the gathering party collected the day before, and reaches in and picking out the juiciest.

“A single genetic marker.” Svana’s breath frosts in the cold as she studies the fruit, her mouth already watering. “Changing the world.”

Page 2 (3rd Person)

Page two of The Hybrid Theory. Again this is in three different versions, first person, second and third. Let me know which one you like best.

Sassa is beautiful, a pale blonde vision of Nordic beauty with high cheekbones and lips the same tint as dusk. She is Svana’s mirror, apart from the eyes, a classic icy blue where hers are brown, the only remnant of their father stamped on Svana’s face. The rest belongs to their mother, beautiful and petite and cold.

When Sassa looks up from the microscope the artificial daylight turns her hair the colour of straw and highlights the shadows under her eyes. Her face is tired, the new lines in her forehead deeper than they were just 73 hours ago before they started down this path.

“What’s it look like?” Svana asks.

Her twin drags a few wisps of hair back into her ponytail. “Alien?” She shrugs and the white lab coat slips further down her shoulder. “I don’t know where to start, I’ve never seen anything so …” Her face scrunches as she searches for the word to describe what has become Svana’s obsession. “… So perfect.”

“So what’s it do?”

“Do?” Sassa’s laugh is edged in glass. “I can’t even tell you want it’s made of. God Ana, this is…” She threw her hands in the air and spun around, her eyes on the ceiling like she could find whatever answers she needed in the perforated tiles. “This is world changing.”