Juxtaposed – The Character Cast — Derek Barton

Juxtaposed 2019JUXTAPOSED is a very complex tale that weaves back and forth among two planes of reality and back and forth among characters with almost the same names.  While it is a daunting storyline it is worth the effort — think of the movie, Inception or the thriller Memento.  They may hurt your head…at first, but once you grasp the concepts you can follow along.

I decided to give you a little cheat sheet.  Shhhhh take it, the Overseer isn’t watching! HA!

Remember there are two worlds and two sets of young men.  One set in the fantasy world of Tayneva at the Temple of Kove, the other set in the Enddawn prison encampment of Kav’zera.

 

alexandar-alexender-2Alexendar — Elexendar (Garrett Hedlund) =

Alexendar of Kove: Considered their leader by the other Bhik-sunii students. Alex strives to be fair and even heroic but does have a curious, rebellious side as well.

Elexendar in Enddawn: Hardened by his childhood experiences among the Yularis rebellion soldiers. He tends to be selfish and even ruthless.

 

thomass-thomess

Thomess — Thomass (Paul Craddock) =

Thomess of Kove: Known to be the most pious and religious among the clerical students. He is overall good-natured and brave.

Thomass in Enddawn: Considered to be the leader among the prisoners due to his officer position and a heroic story of rescuing villagers soon to be executed.

 

romann-romunn-1Romunn — Rovunn (Michael B. Jordan) =

Romunn of Kove: Very loyal to Alexander, considers him his best friend. Also, he’s known as the prankster and joker of the group.

Rovunn in Enddawn: He is often good-spirited and outgoing. Like his counterpart, he is very loyal but to Thomass. His cell tube is next to his best friend, Welleum.

 

Gregge - GreigeGregge — Greige (Alex Wolff) =

Gregge of Kove: The smallest boy in the group as well as the most intelligent. He is often upbeat in spite of the teasing and sometimes bullying by the other boys.

Greige in Enddawn: Still the smallest of the gang, but suffered a horrendous injury upon his capture and arrest. Now blind, he regrets his involvement with the Rebellion.

 

willeum-welleumWilleum — Welleum (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) =

Willeum of Kove:  Often has a negative and pecismistic point of view.  He tends to believe luck, people and everything is against him. Not extremely intelligent and the others just have not had the will to exclude him from their activities.

Welleum in Enddawn: Charismatic and even brave under pressure. He is very well liked by the other boys and relied upon as a trusted member.  Still loyal to the Yularis Movement, he’s looking for a way to escape and bring the others with him.

 

charlse-charellsCharlse — Charells (Will Poulter) =

Charlse of Kove:  He is secretly not welcomed in the group like Willeum, but it is more that they are afraid of what he might do as retaliation for being snubbed.  He is often selfish and greedy, if not outright mean.  The others fear he may even snitch on them if he’s not included.

Charells in Enddawn:  Has been in lockup for seven years and has the record for the longest prison sentence.  This has made him pretty bitter and even evil to some.  No longer hoping to get out, he works to take what he wants or do whatever he can to give the Malatt guards as much grief and trouble possible.

 

Tressmen - ThressdenSuperior Tressmen — Overseer Thressden (Michael Ironside) =

Superior Tressmen of Kove:  A father-figure (no pun intended) to all the clergy of the Temple of Kove.  He has been at the helm of the church for almost eight years. Works extensively to build rapport with the boys to lead them out of mischief. At times his temper has gotten away from him, sometimes a tad zealous in his discipline, but overall he is fair.

Overseer Thressden, Warden of Enddawn:  A militant commander and a former Sergeant-of-arms in the Crest Infantry.  He has carried over his methods for strict discipline and harsh enforcement of the prison rules.  There have never been any escapes under his watch which he boasts often about. He has authorized the Malatt guards to carry weapons and assault if necessary to maintain order and stability in Enddawn.

 

 

Hope this helps paint the picture of the story scenes in your mind easier.  Stay tuned for new installments — Chapters Four: Walking Dreams and Chapter Five:  Waking Nightmares!

 

 

THE THREE-YEAR RIDE! — Derek Barton

Anniv Blog

Three years ago, I created this blog and established my site and social media footprint in order to advertise my book and to give my fans a place to reach out to me.  This has been a crazy but fantastic ride!  So thankful to all of you who’ve come along as passengers on my little quest.

Here’s the growth from year one to now:

SUBSCRIBERS:

  • 2019 = 70 WordPress, 11 Email & 488 through Twitter & Facebook.
  • 2016 = 11 Email

VIEWS/VISITORS:

  • 2019 = 4,488 — 2016 = 1603 views
  • 2019 = 2,475 — 2016 = 659 visitors
  • 2019 = 61 — 2016 = 19 different countries

POSTS:

  • 2019 = this is the 115th post!! (26 so far this year)
  • 2016 = 37 posts

GIVEAWAYS:  18 Individual giveaways for Book, Audio, Amazon or Metal Bookmarkers!

 

As you know if you’ve been following my goal blogs, I use a bi-montly process that has actually been quite effective.  Here are the goals made and fulfilled from July, 2018 through June, 2019:

  • Complete the Audiobook for In Four Days. Now out on Amazon, Audible & Kindle! N4D Revamp 2018c
  • Create/organize this year’s 2018 Indie Fantasy Book Giveaway with several other independent authors. Was a decent success — this year’s increase in participation & what we are giving away is a nice testament to that!

2019 Indie Book Giveaway Ad

  • Find at least two places to do a book-signing appearance. Did four book signings but due to finances and low turnout I couldn’t justify doing more…but with several books released now, I will be on the prowl for another couple signing spots this year!  Would also like to get into one or two comic-cons, but cannot promise that due to having to usually register months in advance.
  • Finish editing for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Design the book cover for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Write the end of Elude #3.  Elude Ad 2019The entire series has been completed, book covers designed then redesigned, and soon to be released in audible format by the end of the first quarter next year!!
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month.  I have been successful with this and plan on continuing.
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks.  Accomplished this and have published the entire series on Amazon & Kindle!cover
  • Start my outline for Book #3 for the Wyvernshield Fantasy series. Still trying to get through this one. Coming up with the battle plans and the intricate plots is a whole lot more complicated than you’d expect! Plus, with this being the finale, I want to do better than “What-did-you-do-to-my-Game-of-Thrones?!”… UGH!!!GoT s8
  • Write up and prepare for writing in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Challenge in November — Book #3 will be my focus for NaNoWriMo! (50,000 word count goal!)  I participated in this last November, but my outline had too many holes so it only garnered 26,000 words… However, it’s a good start!
  • Craft a video book trailer for Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown.  (Can you say strettcccchhhhh gooooaaalll???)  This will happen — but trying to make Wyvernshield #3 a priority right now.
  • Start another web saga?  May have to have a survey for which genre to pursue — fantasy or horror.  Decided to do a Dystopian/Fantasy saga:  Juxtaposed…  Now working on Chapter Four. JX CH 2
  • Thinking about setting up a service to other authors for possible book cover design.  Maybe…  I did get this off the ground and have had some success doing covers, editing & proofing for other writers. I plan on continuing this as the work has been sporadic and not too overwhelming so far.
  • Begin a four-part guest blog swap with fellow writer Adam Mitchell and complete a Blog Interview with him! (This will be my first ever blog swap and should be a lot of fun!)  This has been a success — our final and fourth blogs are due out this month.  Check out Adam’s here!  For my blogs, click here!

 

Thanks again to all of you for your continued help, support and following me along this bumpy road!  It has been the greatest adventure of my life!!

Anniv Blog v2

 

JUXTAPOSED — CHAPTER THREE — Derek Barton

JX CH 3

CHAPTER THREE — THE DELANN-VAIK:

“It is fine, really. Only eight switches,” Romunn explained.

Alexendar said, “You were limping when you came in.”

He shrugged. “Well, the last switch caught me high on the back of my thigh, that is all.”

Gregge shook his head. “Maybe we should wait for another night. I copied the ritual down so none of the Fremons will miss the book or even know it was gone. I was careful. We do not have to—”

“–No. Come on, he is fine,” Charlse interrupted. “There is a storm brewing in the west, this will cover any noises we make leaving. Romunn, you are up for it, no?”

“Sure. Of course.”

Alexendar blurted, “He should not have hit you so many times. I am going to ta—”

“—NO” all the boys shouted in response.

Romunn said, “I appreciate all of your concern, but this is not needed and certainly speaking to him is not going to help me or you. It is done. Can we get going or what?”

The boys quieted and waited for Alexendar to make the decision. He did not say anything but faced Gregge. “You have your backpack prepped? The Sessnine? The scrollwork?”

Gregge bobbed his head yes. “Thomess mixed up the Sessnine with me today in our room.”

“We need to grab some candles and torches from the Pantry on the way,” Willeum put in. He had been put to that particular task and, of course, this was his way of getting things done.

Frowning but turning away from Willeum, Gregge continued, “I even swiped a few of the Sanctuary Blessing Markers. This is as good as done.” The Markers were white stones purified in holy water by the Fremons and set beside graves of the cemetery grounds.

“Then we will meet in the South Hall entrance a half-bell after Bed Call, agreed?” Alexendar scanned the group. Everyone was eager to do the ritual. Eager to make student history.

The DeLann-Vaik was not an overly complex ritual, but it was shrouded in mystery and taboo. Roughly translated, the ritual’s title was “Link to the Dead” or some said it was “Gate to the Crossover”. They did not care. To the group, this was adventure – speaking to the spirits became an obsessive compulsion. Ever since Gregge came across the obscure passages about the ritual two seasons before, their pursuit to make it happen filled every spare moment between Reciting, Prayer and Dominion Vespers.

“We will be forever whispered about by dozens, no generations of classes after us!” Gregge claimed one night. “No one else has ever done this.”

Romunn agreed and convinced Alexendar. He spoke in a hushed tone but with almost frenzied words. “We have all heard of the Vaik, but only we have found the How to do it. Think about that, Alex! We would be permanently linked to DeLann-Vaik!”

***

As they have planned, the boys all slipped one by one into the dusty corridor a half-bell after they were ordered to bed. Without much said, they followed Alexendar down the passage, descended a set of stairs at the back of the Workshop, and out into the misty night. He made a straight march around a massive stone building, Pavanac’s Canteen, where they ate their meals to a window Thomess left slightly open for them.

Moonlight flickered like a candlewick in wind through the massive cloud cover, making silvery spotlights in the grass. Wind sputtered and raged, but only threatened rain as of yet.

They climbed in and gathered again in the gloom of the shadows.

Alexendar turned and waved them together. They wrapped arms around their shoulders forming a huddle. He whispered, “Willeum, go get the candled and torches now, but make it fast as Old Girdy may be doing a lap or two in here.” Girdy was a fat, aging bulldog owned by the Head Cook. It tended to roam and hunt for spare crumbs on the luncheon floor at night.

“Romunn and Charlse, stay as lookouts and catch up to us. The rest of us will go through the basement and out the Orchard door, alright? Then we will gather the stashes and wait for you there.”

***

In spite of the yellow aura from the fire and the amber-orange light surrounding the bottles of Sessnine, the forest grove was intensely dark around the gang of boys. The slight wind above them ruffled the treetop canopies, but otherwise, the night was as if it was holding its breath.

Gregge worked on setting the last of the white Marker stones in a complex pattern in the dirt surrounding the fire pit. He swiveled to look behind him and counted to himself, crouching next to a circle made of powdered chalk. “Fifteen over and down, thirteen to the east, and four to the west.” He took two more from his leather knapsack and lined them with the last stone, placing them in a diagonal formation.

“There. That is complete.” He stood back up and walked over to Willeum. “You are over here.” He took the boy by the elbow and guided him to a spot inside the chalk ring.

Alexendar smiled, laughing internally. Gregge is not taking any chances with that kid.

“Where do I go?” Thomess asked impatiently.

“Hush.”

“I am here, correct?” Alexendar stated with confidence. He had peeked over Gregge’s shoulder while the boy drew the Vaik’s pattern and copied the ritual words in the Library Hall three days prior.

Gregge ignored him as well and strode over to Charlse. He guided him to a spot opposite Alexender and next to the last of the Marker lines.

“Now the rest of us will form up around the outside ring. Thomess, hand everyone a Sessnine,” Gregge ordered. “Listen! It is important while we recite the Trills, each of you extend your arms out at your sides like this with your fingers pointing to the persons on either side of you.” He lifted his arms out and splayed out his fingers as he wanted them to do.

“Alex, when we hit the highest Trills, step into the triangle at the center, close your eyes and listen. You should only hear the spirits by then, not us if we have done it all correct. Anyone got questions?” He looked around, but all met his gaze with bright-eyed anticipation.

He then nodded satisfied his directions were heard, smiled and uncorked his bottle of Sessnine, starting the DeLann-Vaik. Each of the boys down the line popped the potion bottles and imbued the liquid contents.

Alexendar was the last and his potion contained a combination of the Sessnine and a fine powder of Sage, Rue and Angelica herbs. Gregge and Thomess prepared the combination powder to give Alexendar a “level of extra protection from dark spirits and jinn”. They were, after all, invading the land of the dead and crossed-over.

Alexendar scrunched his face as the bitter and sour concoction hit him. He had never tasted Sessnine. It was a horrid experience. The potion was needed as it magnified their magical energy, draining it from the surrounding wilds around them.

“Ay Bas Chor Doram Escaba,” Charlse sang out, trilling the notes of the last ritual words. The other boys followed suit and filled the grove with impassioned chanting.

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat Gea tav

Electricity prickled the hairs on their necks and arms. Heat boiled in their stomachs from the Sessnine, and the wild birds within the forests chirped and squawked in alarmed response to the magical incantations. Deeper in the woods, a large pack of Wild Tarrabo Dogs howled and broke out in staccato barking.

Sensing the highest Trills, Alexendar stepped into the triangle of stones per Gregge’s instruction and squeezed his eyes shut. This was the craziest stunt he had ever done. The darkest ritual he had ever participated in and by far the most dangerous. They all knew they were going into unexplored territory.

But forget all that now, boyo. You have come this far. Focus and listen, remember? Do not let them down!

He tried to blank out all distracting thoughts and sent out a simple question.

Are you there?

He waited then repeated. A dizzying shift alerted him and made him sick to his stomach. He was now projecting away from his body.

Are you there?

Nothing.

Are you there?

Nothi—

—Of course, where could I go?

The faint words came to him. It was not a sensation — he was not hearing the words, but rather he felt them. They bloomed inside his mind, without warning and from no direction. The voice was internal and intimate, not external.

He thought, You can hear me?

Pipe down, Thomass! Ya don’t want my company in there, trust it, rat-punk.

The harshness and violence implied in the threat startled Alexendar. This new voice was gruff and older. He opened his eyes to a brilliant blue light. Blinking and startled by the piercing illumination, Alexendar asked, What? Where am I?

The air about him was stale and cold. Not a damp chill but rather like the air inside a crypt. He blinked rapidly trying to get his eyes adjusted as he now stood alone in the center of a lit tubelike room. Strips of magical blue light ran from floor to ceiling. There was no more than an arm’s length from wall to wall. A small patch of glass was a handspan over his head. His eyes could only make out more faint sources of bluish light which hung from the ceiling of a narrow hall.

Where are the others?

Back in their cells probably, the same fuzzy voice mumbled as if almost asleep inside his head.

A patter of boots clunk hard upon a metallic floor. The set of heavy footfalls approached fast to where he stood.

“Who is that?” Alexendar shouted and banged his right fist upon the glass. “Let me out of here!”

“Damn! Thomass, you’re really up to pressing your luck with me, tonight? Gettin’ thrown in the Shaft wasn’t enough?” This was the other voice, Alexendar realized. This was the source that threatened him with harm before.

“Please! Where are the others?” he begged.

A black helmet with a semi-transparent visor appeared in the glass. A gloved hand came up and raised the visor. A face beneath the glass visor was all angry eyes and a matching hateful frown. The man snarled, “You asked for this!”

The lights blinked off in the cylindrical room, followed by loud hissing and popping noises. Volts of electricity shot up Alexendar’s legs and snapped the muscles in his calves and lower back. He could only shriek as he collapsed and writhed upon the small floorboard. The sensation had been short but incredibly intense.

“You still feel like havin’ a chat, Thomass?” the man taunted.

Alexendar was incapacitated but was smart enough to not dare a response even if he had the ability. Tears flowed freely along his cheeks.

Why did he do that? I didn’t do shit! The other voice asked in shock. This time the words were sharp, loud, and focused.

Who are you? Alexendar demanded, scared witless.

Silence.

Are you there?

Am I somehow still dreaming? The voice answered Alexendar this time.

I do not know. I did not think you would dream in the Crossover.

What’s the Crossover? I thought I was in the Shaft.

When were you taken? Maybe we call it something different in our time.

What do you mean? What’s going on? The voice inside grew more terse, anxious.

Calm, spirit. I mean you no harm. My name is Acam Alexendar. I am a Bhik-sunii at the Temple of Kove. What is your name?

This is insane. A gasp escaped his lips. Or is this some trick of the Overseer to get information? Screw off!

Who? Overseer?

Why are you speaking in my head, asshole? Stop messing with my brain!

Alexendar grew very frightened himself. This was not what he thought the Vaik would do. The spirit was confused, not the all-wise as he always assumed. When you die, did you not learn the follies of your life, the answers to what you always sought and never found? This spirit seemed more confused than anything.

Spirit, can you tell me your name?

You want to play this game? Fine! I am Thomass Roan-Vi. Cell 99854-22. Sentenced for treason, incarcerated indefinitely at your fine Enddawn Encampment for the Insurgents here on Kav’zera. What else would you like to know? Shirt and pant sizes? That’s all I have left and all you’re going to get out of me.

Uh…encampment? Treason? Was that why you died?

What? I’m not dead!

Alexendar’s legs straightened and he rose without control. He had not wanted to raise up from the floor. Did the spirit possess his body?

What has happened? Why have you taken over my body, Spirit? I mean, Thomass Roa… Uh… I am sorry. This is too much! I will leave you to your eternal slumber and go back now. Please release me!

Alexendar’s hands rose up on their own accord and felt the features of his face then pressed along his chest and arms.

“Stupid dream! I’m not dead,” a baritone voice cursed aloud in the tube cell. The words this time did not blossom inside Alexendar’s mind but resonated in his ears.

Thomass, are you really a spirit in the Crossover? Alexendar repeated his earlier inquiry. He was starting to believe that Gregge had made a serious mistake and the ritual did not link one with the spirit world.

But if not the dead then who?

You’re trying to speak with the dead? Thomass’ voice bloomed inside once more, obviously hearing Alexendar’s own thoughts.

I thought…well, we thought…that is Gregge, another Acam here at the temple thought he translated a ritual to link us to the other side. Who are you then? Where are you?

There was no further response. Alexendar waited then impatiently started again when Thomass cut him off.

LOOK!

Alexendar then spotted the angry face peering in again through the glass.

Remain completely still and do not lift your head up. He’s waiting for any excuse to shock us again. And it will be even worse and longer. Understand?

Thomass, what hell are you trapped in?

This isn’t hell, it’s prison.

THE 2019 INDIE BOOK GIVEAWAY IS UPON US!! — Derek Barton

2019 Indie Book Giveaway Ad

HEY EVERYONE! IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN!! A SUPER-SIZED INDIE BOOK GIVEAWAY THIS YEAR!!

Check out these amazing eight authors giving away FREE EBOOKS — Doug Sanburn, T.D. Barton, Logan Fox, Susanne Lamdin, Nesa Miller, Andrea Cooper, Adam Mitchell, and Christy Mann!

ONE WINNER will have their choice of a $100 Amazon Gift Card or a Kindle Reader (pictured below!).

2019 Kindle Reader

It’s open for entry from July 5th to July 31st. You get “extra entries” by posting an ad on Facebook or sharing the ad or Tweeting (like Trump) on Twitter!

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE! 

Bi-Monthly Goals for July & August 2019 — Derek Barton

Blog Goal #1

Well…this has definitely been a challenging yet rewarding year. Unfortunately, events have substantially impacted my writing production.

At the beginning of April, I gave you my goals for April & May.  Now, I won’t go into detail or give any excuses, but me and my family had to face and overcome some serious medical obstacles followed by financial hardships. I was so derailed that I lost most of June as well still working things out.

The dust has settled and overall, we are sitting better than where we even started the year.  However, like any sudden change, it takes time to recover and adapt.

I do want to apologize to you, my core fans, and ask for your forgiveness and patience.

My work schedule has done a 360 degree shift on me and thus, my writing time has been severely compromised. One of my priorities this month will have to be to determine when and where to write. As I have stated in the past that I write mainly after 10 PM when my family goes to bed. Now I am working from 8 AM to 4:30 PM versus 11:30 AM to 8 PM  — not too mention the two hours of driving time… But, I repeat, I am not wanting  to give you excuses, only facts which I’ll have to find a work-around.

I promise you: Writing and developing my collection is too important for me to throw away or forget about. Adjustment, flexibility, good attitude and drive will help me find a path through.

Here were my goals and results from April & May:

  • Complete the outline for the third book in the Wyvernshield Series — partially completed; more chapters to work though.
  • Complete the outline for the new web saga, Juxtaposed — succeeded on this goal, but need to publish the third installment.
  • Complete the outline for the new Evade Series (crime/horror series) — no writing or outlining yet done on this storyline unfortunately.
  • Rework the covers of my books — partial success as I revamped the Elude Series which I’m quite happy with. Still need another artist or somehow figure out what I want for my new covers for the Wyvernshield Series.
  • Begin a four-part guest blog swap with fellow writer Adam Mitchell and complete a Blog Interview with him! — success as I published the interview (see here if you haven’t had a chance to read it) and have done 3 of the 4 guest blogs with him so far.

And by the way…I recently did an in-depth interview with my voice actress, Laura Richcreek on the Wyvernshield Series. That is in the editing stage but soon to be released. STAY TUNED FOR THAT!  It was fun to do and we get into a lot of the minute details and reasons behind the plot twists in the two books>>SPOILERS ALERT<<  

My Goals for July & August:

The last goal blog, I proposed goals and put some dates of completion with them.  This time I’m going to try putting Priority Levels on them — I will work from the top down which will keep me focused on what’s most important for me to complete.

  • Complete the total outline for the third book of the Wyvernshield Series. Highest Priority.
  • Maintain a two-week production of the chapters for the web series, Juxtaposed. Highest Priority.
  • Develop and begin the Evade Series outline.  Medium Priority.
  • Find a cover artist or design the Wyvernshield book covers myself.  Medium Priority.
  • Develop a book trailer for Wyvernshield Series. Lowest Priority (stretch goal).

 

There are many other things I want to do, but time is very limited so I hope these goals can be accomplished. With luck and with the better financial position, I hope to do more appearances, giveaways, and book signings by the end of the year! Thanks for everyone’s support and I appreciate everyone sticking around to see what’s in store for the future.

 

 

JUXTAPOSED: Chapter Two — Derek Barton

JX CH 2

CHAPTER TWO — THE ENDDAWN ENCAMPMENT:

Thomass stretched his neck, staring up into Enddawn’s blackened skylights high overhead. A massive storm crashed and raged over the building, flickers of lightning streaked along the storm’s underbelly.

It’s another record-breaking storm…just like the one on the night she died.

A thunderclap set off a brief spark in his mind’s eye — his sister, running right behind him through gales of pouring rain. The Crest’s raid on his village had already separated them from their father. Her tiny hand ripped violently from his grip. An explosion from a cannon cluster only yards ahead of them had launched the pair to the left and on top of a rubble pile. Moments later, the soldiers found him, semi-conscious, covered in her blood as he lay a few feet below her impaled body. Ppt. PPt. PPt. Phantom drops pooling on his chest.

The faint clatter of hail snapped him back to reality as it bounced off of the skylight glass, almost drowning out Overseer Thressden’s words.

No one here is ever that lucky.

As if he had the same thought, the Overseer of Kav’zera’s prison encampment gripped the microphone stand attached to a gray cabinet. He stood upon a floating metal platform, hovering above the crowd. He angled the mic closer to his face. His voice was a deep bass and a bit on the gritty-side.

“…The incursion into Bre’oal has interrupted our normal supply caravans. I understand that some of you have been harking this as a positive, a victory of sorts for your fellow traitors among the Yularis.” He paused and his eyes scanned the crowd of youths standing in line formation in front of him. Not a single face was raised or a pair of eyes upturned to meet his.

The first rule at Enddawn impressed upon newcomers, normally on the receiving end of an ionized baton, is that no one is ever to look in the face of the Crest Overseer or any of the Malatt guards.

“Meal rations will be reduced to two half-meals per day until further notice. I realize this might seem taxing or harsh to some of you, but in such violent times as these, one must be resolved and steadfast. To be shining examples to those around you who might be seeking direction. Your sacrifices and efforts to make sure the colonists eat before you are recognized by me and the Council. The Crest will always be there — to take responsibility for you. President-General Rhiet may not understand your recent betrayals, but he’s given you this gift of a second chance to join society. You are here to re-educate yourselves and—”

“—that’s hopeless!” Thomass uttered the curse barely hidden in a hacking cough.

Sudden and shock-induced laughter erupted through the crowd of eighteen prisoners. Everyone’s eyes found him as he stood in a tight-knit group of four. He’d only been brought here two months before, but already he’d won the loyalty of many of the ex-patriots.

Realizing what happened, everyone tightly held their breath and waited for a new storm to burst. Thomass leaned and peeked past his closest ally, Rovunn, to the side where the carbon glass reflected the Overseer’s image.

“You’re screwed,” Rovunn whispered. Worry registered in the black boy’s eyes.

Overseer Thressden, thick in a frame which was more iron muscle than any fat, stared in stony silence. His piercing black eyes matched his salt-and-pepper flat-top hair and matching thin goatee. The man made no movement and seemed to be seeing Thomass for the first time ever. Capturing Thomass’ image of stark white hair, heavyset body and crystaline blue eyes.

“Indeed, some of you will never come to appreciate the blessings of the Crest,” Overseer Thressden continued. He then took a deep breath and pressed forward with his speech of prepared propaganda.

Thomass didn’t know if he was spared or if the Overseer hadn’t actually seen him. Either way, he knew his mouth had nearly cost him again.

On the other side of Rovunn, Welleum, a thin boy with shaggy sandy hair, slid his right boot to the side, dragging a parcel of white paper. Rovunn checked to see where the guards were then with care stepped lightly over the paper and slid it to Thomass.

After copying Rovunn’s spot-check of the Malatt, he slowly dropped down, pretending to tie his boot. Lifting his foot, he read:

L.S. 4 HERNANDEZ @ 23
BRB DODGENS?

Using the end of his bootlace which he’d dipped previously into pencil shavings, he marked a Y on the note next to the name Dodgens, the guard who they intended to bribe.

‘Bout time! That cockroach won’t do this again after tonight.

Charells, one of Thomass’ group, was recovering in the infirmary for his stolen food rations. “L.S.” was the abbreviation for “lesson-session” which is what Hernandez was going to get for snitching on Charells to the Malatt.

As Thomass stood, he slid the note with his boot down the line intended for the prisoner Elexendar. The idiot bent down and picked up the paper without thought, reading it before his face. Greige, a dark, olive-skinned boy snatched the paper out of the his hands and ate the note.

“ENOUGH!” The Overseer roared as he swept the hoverplate down right above their bowed heads.

“EXPLAIN — DON’T MAKE ME WAIT!”

Thomass could feel the waves of heat from the plate’s engines. He knew the man was directly over him. His shaking hand came up and swiped nervously at his long bangs.

Before he realized what he did, he looked up at the man. “I, uh, I’m sorry, uh, Overseer, sir. I just ne—”

Intense rolling pain coursed along his left side and down through his boots. The series of electrified stingers gripped the muscles in his calf so sharply his toes even curled by reflex. As he sprawled onto his back in pure agony upon the concrete floor, Thomass could not even remember the rest of what he was going to say.

At the front of the prisoner lines, the Overseer landed his hoverplate. Two sets of hands gripped Thomass’ arms and drug him on his back. The Malatt then pressed his face to the floor before Overseer Thressden as he removed a charged Viperglove from a shelf in the cabinet.

“Prisoner Thomass, why have you stopped answering me?” His fist, wrapped in a red metal gauntlet, rained down and struck between Thomass’ shoulders.

“I asked you for a reason for your lack of engagement.” Another strike landed on his right hand breaking two of the boy’s fingers.

The Overseer coated in a fine sheen of sweat shook his head. “I don’t think you understand the language we speak here.” The fist then cracked the left kneecap.

“You seem unwilling to speak to me. You’ll have some time to think about it in The Shaft.” Thomass didn’t know where the last strike hit him as the metal Viperglove blasted him into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

A set of handcuffs dug deep into Thomass’ wrists, blackened welts formed in a loop. The tips of his boots barely touched the floor as he was suspended from chains in a blue neon-lit shaft.

Voices, muted and slurred, whispered to him. The words chanted in a sing-song tempo.

Open to your Mind, Open to your Message.
This is not the end of your Tale.
Speak with the freedom of Death.

There was an unusual accent, a foreign element to the speech. He was almost entertained by it. A faint smile crept over his lips.

“Who’s there?” Thomass mumbled, his lips cracked and baked by the neon lamps.

Something is wrong!
Who said that?
Did someone follow us?

The voices clashed and clouded together as the whispers were said at the same time.

“Who’s there?” Thomass repeated, a little louder this time.

There was no response and he was met only with silence. However, the pain in his back and hands, especially his right began to speak to him.

So this is what they’re all afraid of? This is The Shaft?

He’d gotten a few worse injuries in some of the Yularis clashes than what the Overseer had done to him, but he doubted he’d see the infirmary soon. Yet when he first came to the Enddawn Encampment, all they talked and gossiped about was what happened in The Shaft. Terrible, nightmarish stories.

Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.

Again, the strange voices echoed in the quiet of The Shaft. This time he realized he hadn’t truly heard the words. They rang out in the recesses of his mind.

Am I mad? Am I actually still dreaming?

Liad Damnos, tell me your name.

Thomass… Who of the Viles are you?

And the voice actually replied.

My name is Alexander.