M9B Friday Reveal Temper Lifer #2 by Beck Nicholas

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Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter of
Temper (Lifer #2) by Beck Nicholas
an upcoming Month9Books title!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
 
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FREEDOM COMES WITH A PRICE.
Free from the spaceship and reunited with Samuai, Asher should be happy. But thoughts of her dead family weigh heavily on her mind.
Things worsen when temper problems in camp lead to a murder. When Asher volunteers to get the drug need to calm people down, tension ignites.
Loyalties are questioned.
Jealousy rears its head. Sparks fly.
And when rumor of a second ship hits close to home, all bets are off.
Have the aliens returned? Is this the end of everything Asher has ever known?
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Temper (Lifer #2)   by Beck Nicholas Publication Date:  Feb. 23, 2015 Publisher:  Month9Books
 
excerpt
 
Chapter One [Asher] They come for me at nighttime. They gather around in the darkness, cold and empty and begging me to feel something. I welcome them, the ghosts of those who’ve died for my freedom. A freedom I thought would solve everything, or at the very least be better than the Lifer sentence I’d been destined to live out before the revolution and the truth of our incarceration. In my head, Mother is loudest, demanding answers for the loss of her son. If I can find out exactly what happened to my brother, Zed, maybe I’ll find peace. As I sit alone, guarding the rocky outcrop above the field where the rabbits we brought over the mountains are penned, a part of me longs for the Pelican and the safety of the world I knew on board the ship. My world might have sucked, but there was comfort in the known. Comfort in the certainty of my place in the order of things. The splat of the first drops of water on my makeshift shelter has my fingers tightening on the Q I hold. I’m on my feet before the shine of drops on the foliage around me registers in my sleepdeprived brain. It’s nothing but rain. Simple, brilliant rain. A marvel after a lifetime inside. It’s not the Company attack we’ve been expecting since we set up camp here on the other side of the Upheaval Mountains. But understanding doesn’t let me relax. I’d rather fight—it’s the waiting that has us all on edge. Single drops become a patter, and the plump rabbits below move to huddle in the shelter of the overhang on which I perch. I step out and lift my face to the cloud-filled sky, letting the water run over my cheeks and down my neck to dampen the ship-issued singlet I still wear. If Samuai recognizes it as his that his mother gave me when I thought he was dead, he hasn’t said anything. Once we would have talked about it because we talked and kissed every chance we could. Not now. Since he returned, everything that happened while he was gone has built a mountain between us too big for young love to overcome. I open my mouth, and water drops fall on my tongue, fresh and clean, and missing the faint plastic taint everything had on the ship. A taste I learned now not integral in the liquid itself, but rather a product of the recycling method used. Or worse, a result of whatever it is they did to us to make us immune to the weapon that still has some of our allies in a Q-induced coma, fighting for life. While most of us sleep in simple tents, one of the few intact buildings at the settlement site is used as a hospital. The setup is basic, but the equipment is a collection of the best of what we could remove from the medical bay of the ship, and the green robes’ own supplies from their former hideout. Once, it would have moved me to see families sitting in vigil next to their loved ones. But I have nothing left for them now. The Company took everything from me when they killed my brother and mother. All that is left in me is the hope of revenge. I sense, rather than see, the small shape moving through the bushes below. A flash of white eyes and a blur of brown. Time for guard duty. I steady the Q and aim for a rock in front of the creature. The weapon that once only worked on living things is now more useful. A press of the button and what was a boulder now becomes chunks of gravel. Undeterred, the creature slinks low onto its belly, ribs clear even from this distance. It’s ignoring the threat of me above, its starving hunter’s instincts focused on a plump rabbit. I aim closer, fire again. A rock explodes right in front of the dog’s nose. A yelp pierces the air. “Get away,” I shout. I don’t want another death on my conscience. I breathe again when it disappears into the undergrowth. It will be back, I’m sure, but hopefully not while I’m here. There’s movement on the path a few feet below. I straighten and try to see through the gloom. Something strides over the crumbling rock with ease, sending no cascade of rocks and gravel behind. Too big to be another wild dog. Too early to be the changeover for the next watch. My blood sings. Confrontation at last. I lift my weapon, prepare to attack. “Don’t move.” The shape ignores my barked command and continues toward me. My muscles tighten, ready to spring. “I thought I’d find you here,” Davyd says, stepping into a small clearing at the top of the cliff. There’s something intimate about the way he speaks, as though we have some kind of connection. Like he knows me. I exhale, but don’t relax my stance. It shouldn’t be light enough to see him clearly, but I do. I see the details of lean hips in training pants and the singlet fitted to every hard muscle and meet eyes I know are ice gray. “That’s hardly a brilliant deduction,” I snap. “It’s my watch. The schedule is posted on the board where anyone can see.” “But last night wasn’t supposed to be your watch.” His pause is deliberate. “Or the night before.” Only he would notice I’ve been volunteering for extra night shifts protecting the animals we brought from the ship from stray dogs running around our new settlement. Anything to avoid the community that feels as much like a cage as the spaceship ever did. Only the bars are of my guilt and regret and the questions I can’t bring myself to ask. “It’s no secret,” I say, trying for casual but unable to hide the strain in my voice. I hate the way he makes everything I mean to say come out all wrong. His mouth kicks up at the corner but he remains silent. The rain has made his blond hair dark, and if I squint, I can almost see Samuai, his brother and the boy I thought I’d love forever. The boy I last saw laughing at dinner a few hours ago with his green robe friends. The boy I have been avoiding for the weeks we’ve been here. I fold my arms. Davyd’s no longer my master. In this new age of freedom, those who were once superior Fishie and lowly Lifer are now equals in the war against the Company who tricked us all. “What do you want?” I spit the question. “You.” My traitorous body heats at the intensity in the single word. “No chance in hell.” “But there is a chance? Hell, huh?” He lifts his hands in the air, his eyes making a sweep of the jagged, barren rock exposed by the earthquakes that were part of the Upheaval all those years ago. It’s as though in unspeakable agony the very earth has tried to push out its insides. “Does this qualify?” I breathe in. The scent of rain on the rich soil where we keep the rabbits fills my lungs. It should be heaven to be able to farm like I always wanted, but the darkness inside me makes enjoying it impossible. I shake myself free of might-have-beens. It is what it is. All I can do is move forward, move on. “Go away. I don’t want to play your games.” “That’s not what you said back at the ship.” He steps closer, uncaring that my body tenses. “It might have been weeks ago but I only need close my eyes and the memory is right there. You and me … I’m sure you haven’t forgotten the night of the ball?” “The night of the rebellion when we Lifers gained our rightful place as free people. People who are no longer forced to serve you Fishies to pay for our ancestor’s sins.” “You know that’s not what I mean.” I do. Damn him, I do. Before the fighting and the fire and the shock of Samuai’s return from the dead, there was the ball and the dress and his arms around my waist and his tongue teasing between my parted lips. “Admit it,” he says softly. “You’ve been thinking about it.” My vision blurs. All I can see is the smug smile on his face. Like always, goading me, trying to make me break. “It meant nothing.” I don’t recognize the voice that scrapes from my tight, raw throat. “Nothing.” “Really?” “Really. It was an act.” I let my lip curl. “Surely you could tell.” His mouth twitches. Did I hit a nerve? A moment later his mask of assurance is back. “So you’ve talked about it with my brother? That kiss we shared, the intimate press of our bodies. Sought out some time alone to clear the air and get back to how things were before between you two.” I swallow. My hands grip the rock behind me. I didn’t realize I’d backed up, but I revel in the sharp edge; feel the sting of flesh breaking and press harder. What I really want to do is close the distance between us and punish him. “We will talk. Relocating from the spaceship hasn’t left a lot of time for deep and meaningful conversations.” I don’t intend to explain anything to him, but the defense slips out and hangs lamely between us. The same lie I’ve been telling myself. The truth is, Samuai and I haven’t spoken properly since the aftermath of the fight outside the Pelican; I’ve done everything I can to avoid him. If we speak, he’ll know what I’ve become. Or worse, he’ll think I’m the same. “But I’ve found you,” says Davyd. “We’re all alone with plenty of opportunity for talking … or other things.” He’s laughing at me again. Damn him. Would it be so hard for him to leave me alone for once with the stories I tell myself that allow me to keep going? Anger surges up inside me, claws at my throat, wanting to get out. It’s not like I want Samuai to choose me over his new friends. I have nothing for him now. The love that once flowed through me isn’t so much gone than blasted out. I’m not the girl he left behind. “Why do you do this?” “Come and talk to you?” He frowns. “We’re old friends from the ship. We have to stick together.” “We have never been friends.” “Allies?” He moves even closer, and I arch back hard against the rock, just to keep him mountains?” He ignores my jab. “They do now. We need to fight, and we need to make plans.” The urgency in his voice sparks something inside me. A flicker of drive where for weeks there’s been only emptiness. “from touching me. “I’m here because you know this isn’t happily ever after. Nothing is resolved, and we can’t do anything about it until you admit there’s something wrong.” “With Samuai?” A pulse throbs in his jaw. “Forget my brother. He’s too busy buddying up to the green robes, and he’s forgotten the real enemy.” “The Company?” “Yes. They locked us up, lied to us, experimented on us, and what have we done in return? Killed a few officers and then scurried like rats to hide in the mountains.” “Do rats even hide in Attack the Company?” He ignores my sneer. “Why not? Those of us from the ship are impervious to their great weapon. We have strength and speed. They’ve made us strong. I say we use the way they’ve enhanced us against them.” No wonder Davyd is never lonely for female company. I hate him and yet find it hard not to get caught up in his desire. His voice, his energy, echoes the need for revenge that keeps me awake at night. But inside me lingers the voice of reason, too. “We need to establish a secure base.” “You mean give them time to organize an attack?” “Maybe they’re not. We escaped them before. They could be cutting their losses.” “Do you really believe that?” I push past him to stand at the edge of the cliff. From here I can see the settlement off in the distance, glowing with light in the darkness. Filled with the green robes who’ve been resisting the Company for years and with the people the Company were breeding for battle. “They’re not going to take the loss of decades of investment in their little spaceship program well,” I admit eventually. “They’re going to come for their property. I don’t intend to be sitting waiting for collection when they do.” He’s including himself. Back on the ship he was important as the head Official, Fishie’s, son. Out here he’s just another specimen with no idea what the Company has done to him. We’ve all been violated, and we don’t even know how. “What’s your plan?” He runs a hand through his wet hair, scattering water drops. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. If I go to the council as a lone voice then they’ll shoot me down; but together we could present a case for action.” “Why me?” “Apart from this special connection we have?” In a few swift steps my hand is around his throat. “Don’t push me.” “Look at you, taking any excuse to touch me. It’s almost romantic,” he squeaks. The rain has cleared, and the clouds thin, letting the moon light up his perfect, mocking face. My fingers tighten. I’m squeezing, feeling the muscles and tendons give way to my pressure; his airway begins to cut off. The anger inside me glories in the way his eyes bulge and his lips part in a desperate gasp for oxygen. He doesn’t move to defend himself. I hold his hateful gaze for one second, two. Now I have all the power. It spreads hot tendrils through me, giving me strength. My vision blurs, and spots appear in front of my eyes. I could shut him up forever. Squeeze a little tighter. It would be so easy. All I need to do is … Nothing. I drop my hand and crumble to my knees, pressing my forehead to the rocky ground. Shudders wrack my body as I rock back and forth. What have I become? Somewhere above me he sucks in a shaky breath. “Temper, temper,” he says softly. My eyes sting, but no tears will fall. “Leave me alone.” “Until the rage inside you overtakes everything else? Until you do something you can’t undo?” “I warned you not to push me.” I grasp hold of that fact. I did warn him. He drove me to act, goaded me until I didn’t have a choice. But did his teasing deserve death? I block out the voice in my head. But I can’t ignore the one a few feet away. “This isn’t grief making you act this way,” he says, kneeling in front of me. “And you’re not the only one who’s losing control.” “Don’t make excuses.” “I’m not.” His hand brushes the top of my head where my hair has grown into soft fuzz. It’s been weeks since Lifer regulations of shaved heads have been left behind. Electricity skitters across my skin when he touches my forehead, and it dampens the rage within. As the anger in me cools, I find the strength to lift my head. “I’m guessing you have a theory?” His mouth curves. “I would say ‘that’s my girl’ since you worked it out so fast, but I don’t have a death wish. I suspect you don’t belong to anyone.” Against all reason, I smile at the hint of admiration in his voice. I curl up and wrap my hands around my knees. I let myself look up at him, relieved when the marks on his neck are already fading. “There are others?” “You’re the first who’s actually tried to kill me, but surely you’ve noticed the fights in food lines? The shoving over shower use? The extra injuries in the practice fights that go too far?” Guilt nibbles at the back of my mind. Why didn’t I notice any of this? “I haven’t been around much.” “Believe me, it’s only a matter of time before someone from the ship loses control. Probably a Lifer.” “Because we’re less sophisticated.” His eyes don’t quite meet mine. “Because whatever it is they’ve done, I believe they’ve done it to you more. The hardships you’ve faced as a group, it’s made you … stronger for lack of a better word.” I want to argue but I remember too well how easily I could have crushed his throat. Only weeks ago when we fought in the low gravity training rooms on the ship, he could overpower me without breaking a sweat. “Something’s changed.” “But I can’t work out what.” The rain begins to fall again. I close my eyes and let it cool my skin. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to water falling from the sky. I’ve been too long in an artificial environment where every molecule I’ve ingested came from a particular source. I jump to my feet. “The ship.” Davyd blinks up at me. “What about it?” “They had control of our food and water.” I pace around him as I think aloud. “What if they were drugging us to keep us pliable? Now, without the drug, the changes they’ve made have no check, nothing to keep control.” “But we brought the majority of the food and water production with us.” “It’s the Nauts.” In my urgency, I slip back to calling our leaders by the old name from when we thought those in the gray suits were piloting us in space. It takes a beat before I correct myself. “The Company added it themselves to the water, or maybe the very air we breathed. Don’t you see? It’s a part of them having control over the experiment. We have our own inbuilt self-destruct sequence. We’ll all turn on each other before we can possibly rise against them.” “They’re the only ones who can save us.” “But they want to destroy us.” “We’ll take the fight to them, there must be a way.” Anything else Davyd might have said is cut off by a bang from the direction of the settlement. “Did you hear that?” I ask. But he’s already running. “Come on.” “But I’m supposed to be on guard.” He spares me a glance over his broad shoulder. A look that shines through the darkness and the drizzle and slices through to my soul. “You play babysitter for some rabbits if you want to. I’m going to fight.” I hesitate a beat. Long enough for him to disappear down the trail. This time his hurried steps send rock and gravel tumbling, and the sound echoes over distant shouts. The sound of a battle. My longing to be alone wars with the need to know what’s happening, and the fact that no matter how much I want to, I can’t sever all links with those who came with me from the ship. Q tight in my hand, I run.
 
About-the-Author
 
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I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.
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