I’m baaaack! (With a book review!)

Hi, everyone!! I’ve been gone for a while, and I’m super sorry about that. Work started back up, and with all of the new guidelines and COVID adjustments, things have been hectic to say the least. I’ve been all kinds of stressy and depressy.

But like…

amy ryan | Tumblr

So, I’m back! And with something new for me! A BOOK REVIEW!! Since Caged was published, I’ve been working really hard to boost sales and gather reviews. If you have read it, please consider leaving an Amazon & Goodreads review. Heck, post the same one in both places. It really helps me get the word out and get readers’ attention.

I joined some reader groups on Facebook and Twitter and started exchanging reviews with other self-published authors. I should do a better job of supporting them anyway! One of my favorites that I’ve read over the past few weeks is…

The Cassidy Chronicles by Adam Gaffen!

Picture taken from book’s Amazon profile.

The story itself is set in a post-war United States in the year 2113. The country is split into sections, each being its own true state. They have their own currencies, laws, etc. At first, this was a bit overwhelming for me to keep track of, but as the story continued, I fell into it quickly. Adam includes a very helpful map. I used it often as I forgot what state was which.

The two main characters are every bit as charming as they are well-written. Aiyana Cassidy is a confident engineer working on a concept that will eliminate the need for public transportation (sort of like teleportation, but I can’t think of another decent name for it). Her fiancee, Kendra Foster-Briggs is a gorgeous “sensies” actress with a deadly secret life.

It’s on the day of their wedding that things start to go haywire. As assassination attempt mid-ceremony leads to two brides and their groom– Derek– being on the run. Conveniently enough, Kendra’s double-life is revealed, and every gun in her arsenal will be used to protect Cass.

I adored the entire cast. Ninety percent of the secret agents and scientists are female. Each one was different than the last. They had their own backstories, personalities, quirks, and talents. Mac with her chatterbox and hacking skills, Montana the Wrecking Ball, Stone the butt-kicking Aussie…. It’d be impossible for me to pick a favorite side character.

My only complain was that most of the characters really seemed too perfect. They were all mega-talented gals. I definitely connected with them, but sometimes, it all seemed to work out just a little too well. I would like to see the main girls, Ken and Cass, make mistakes and show weakness.

Now, let’s talk about this PLOT. When I say page-turner, I mean PAGE-TURNER. It was a rather long book, but technically, it’s three books in one. And I could not stop reading. Once I got started, I was done in no time at all because there was no stopping. Every event perfectly led into the next one; the alternating third-person POVs made sure the reader (me) was constantly engaged. There wasn’t a boring part in the entire 500 page book!

There’s romance of all kinds– polyamorous, homosexual, heterosexual… Literally all of it. If you want a LGBT+ inclusive book, this is The One. It wasn’t overdone or overexplained. No detailed scenes; everything PG-13 for the most part. And it wasn’t cheesy! I found myself grinning often as the girls were absolutely adorable together.

I could honestly probably go on forever. I loved this book. It was so well-written. Kudos to Adam!! You can find the book here. His Facebook profile is here. Please, please read this book. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

I’ll be back with more book reviews! Thanks for reading!!

xoxo,

Amy. 🙂

Character Interviews (Cyrus)

Happy Monday!! We’re back today with another character interview. I might tear up a little on this one. Eden’s big brother, Cyrus, is here with me, ready to answer some questions. 

(As before, interviewer questions are in BOLD.)

Hey, Cyrus! Are you ready? *grins* Oh, absolutely! Let’s do this! We know your full name is Cyrus Cavalleri, but do you have any nicknames? Sure. Eden and Lin call me Cy. I’m sure the council calls me all kinds of things, but I don’t dwell on their negativity. They’re just a bunch of old sourheads. 

What’s your occupation? I am on The Council here in Druxy. I’m in charge of general health and welfare. I make sure everyone gets fed and that the general populace is taken care of. Is it a hard job? *rubs neck* It can be, well, pressuring. Not everyone agrees with the decisions The Council makes. Heck, we don’t even agree with each other sometimes. Do you like your job, though? *grimaces* No, not really. But it’s what I’m good at. Leading comes second-nature. Plus, I need to take care of my father’s legacy. He was on The Council before me. 

Do you have a motto? Sure. Always look for the silver lining. How does that affect your everyday life? Well, it helps me to make it through a day in this gray dump. Living underground, constantly throwing your baby sister into the lion’s den, fighting to make the best decision… it can all be really depressing. But it’s important for everyone that I remain positive. So, I do. Or, I try to. Things have been really hard here lately. 

You said that your life right now is depressing. How about your childhood? What was that like? *laughs* My parents tried really hard. I’ll give them that. They did their best to make sure I have more good memories than bad. Everything was golden most days. Did they treat you differently than Eden? Of course. I’m the oldest, the one responsible for her now that they’re gone. They were more serious with me when it came to the dangers of the world above us and the risks they were taking every day. I had to be trained harder than she did, even though she’s so much better at fighting the machines than I am. I love them all— Eden included— but I sometimes wanted to kick back like she could. 

When and where are you the happiest? I may have said this a couple times, but I freakin’ adore my sister. So anytime we can be together is heaven on Earth. I have this one memory of a night when we snuck out to the river to watch the sunset. I wrapped my arms around her, and we cuddled up in the shadows so the patrols wouldn’t see. *sighs* I don’t know why that made me so happy… So you and Eden are really close? Inseparable. I’m one hundred percent sure we’d die for each other. 

If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why? I’d convince my parents not to let Eden go on supply runs with them. I’d give anything to have been able to keep her out of that world, to keep her safe. It was too late for them, but if they’d never trained her, maybe she’d… I don’t know… be content with me down here. I’m terrified I won’t always be able to protect her. 

You’re an amazing brother. You know that, right? *smiles* Thank you. I try. Let’s switch gears and talk about some of your opinions and beliefs. Sounds fun! Do you believe in soulmates? *thinks* This might be a little… mean. But no, I don’t. Relationships take work. Nothing really comes that natural. That’s not harsh. It makes sense. So, do you want a relationship? I’m not looking, per say. I think I’m a little picky. Have you ever been in love? Romantically? I don’t think so. I’m sorry to hear that. *laughs* Don’t be! I told you— I’m picky. What are you looking for in a romantic partner? *thinks* Um…. someone smarter than me, probably. Probably younger, because I like to be in charge. *laughs* Looks aren’t really important, but I tend to like darker haired individuals. Tall… gentle… funny… passionate… Cy, it kind of sounds like you’re describing someone I know… *turns BRIGHT pink*

Let’s, um, finish up with some rapid fire questions. Favorite color? Brown. Food? Anything that’s not soup. Ugh. Most treasured possession? My tulip book that Eden reads. What makes you laugh? Linux, really. He’s stupidly funny. Sad? When Eden leaves for runs. Angry? When The Council questions my decisions. Are you spontaneous or do you like plans? Oh, I’m a planner. For sure. Who do you most despise? Ugh. *groans* EMORY.

Alright. That’s it. I’ll let you go back to work now. Thanks for taking the time to come talk to me. Anytime, Amy! 

Cyrus has a special place in my heart… 

Have you picked up a copy of Caged yet? If not, go to the link in my Works tab and buy one today! It’s free to Kindle Unlimited users! If you have bought one, please don’t forget to leave a review! 

Lots of love,

Amy. 

Character Interviews (Linux)

Hello, everyone! If you haven’t already heard, Caged went on sale last week. My fierce YA scifi novel can be purchased in ebook or paperback form here: Caged (Idyllic Series Book 1)

But today, we have another character interview for you! Per Eden’s request, I’ve dragged Linux here. These questions are going to be hard. Let’s torture a Linux.

Dwight Schrute The Office GIF - DwightSchrute TheOffice EvilLaugh -  Discover & Share GIFs

(Just like before, interviewer questions are in bold.)

Hey, Linux. What’s your full name? Alyx… I don’t, um, really know my last name. That’s alright. Do you have any nicknames? Yeah. Linux is actually one. Eden also calls me Lin, among other things. Where did that nickname come from? Um… Linux is an operating system for different devices. Some of the cybernetics in Druxy run on the Linux system. Since I do a lot of the coding for the Luddites, it just seemed to fit.

Where were you born? Somewhere in Druxy, I guess. You don’t know? *shakes his head* My parents didn’t live long enough to tell me. Also, most of my memories before Eden are blurry. Did you know your parents names? *shakes his head* Sorry…

I should be the one that’s sorry. I’m going to dig into this a little more. Is that okay? *nods* How would you describe your childhood? Lonely and scary. I was young when my parents were harvested. Most of my time was spent running and hiding from the Artificials. Do you remember what happened to them? *shakes his head* I think I’ve blocked most of it, out. I just know they were harvested.

Where did you learn about computers, then, if your parents weren’t around? I did learn some of it from them. They were both proficient with machines, too. What I didn’t learn from them, I got from experimentation. 

Want to talk about something happier? Yes, please. Who are your friends? Eden and her brother, Cyrus. Is that all? *cringes* The other Luddites our age haven’t always been kind to me. That’s unfortunate. Do you know why? *nods* When I first came to the tunnels, I was really weak and withdrawn. I didn’t help or really pitch in. Everything scared me. They resented me for being useless, basically. That’s terrible, Linux. I’m sorry. *shrugs* It’s okay. it’s not so bad anymore. 

Who has had the most influence on you? Eden. Definitely. Why? *blushes* She… She inspires me to be braver. I’m not as scared when she’s around. Aww. That’s cute. Are you and Eden dating? What?! No! *turns bright red* We’re just friends! That’s it. Sorry I asked. *laughs* Do you want to be more than, um, friends? NO! She’s like an older sister! I— she— we—

*laughs* Let’s just move on. What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you so far? *rubs back of neck* This one time, I stepped on a rat in one of the outer tunnels and screamed so loud that everyone within a mile probably heard me. That’s not that bad. *still red in the face* I also fell when it tried to climb on me and ended up with a very… obvious… mud stain. They called me Poopux for a month. *hides laughter by shuffling interview questions* That’s unfortunate. I’m sorry, Poo-LINUX

What’s the best memory you have so far? When Eden found me. Why is that so powerful to you? She rescued me from the brink of death, nursed me back to health, and gave me a purpose. I’ll be forever indebted to her. 

What’s your biggest fear? The cyborgs— Artificials, cybernetics, Idyllics. All of them terrify me. But don’t you go with Eden on runs? *grimaces* Yeah… but I’m always a scared mess. My stomach hurts every time we go out. 

I asked Eden this question, but I want to know what your opinion is. Do you believe in the existence of soulmates/true love? *thinks* Um, sure. Some people fit together perfectly. Everyone has a opposite, a person to balance them out. Have you met your soulmate? *looks away* I don’t want to answer that…

Let’s finish with some short, easy questions. What’s your favorite hobby? Building and coding. Favorite color? Electric blue. *blushes* Do you like to read? Sure. I like it better when Eden reads to me. 

What makes you laugh? When Cyrus tells me jokes. What makes you sad? When someone’s mean to me. What makes you mad? When people insult or doubt Eden. 

Okay, two questions left. This one’s from Eden, actually. Where do you see yourself in five years? *hesitates* Honestly? Yes. Be truthful, please. We can take it. Dead, more than likely. Us humans don’t stand a chance in this world. 

Last question: Who should I interview next? Cyrus or Knox? Cyrus. Keep Knox waiting. it’ll kill him to be last. 

Have a good weekend, guys! See ya on Monday!

Character Interviews (Eden)

Tomorrow is the release of Caged!!! Are you as excited as I am?! Probably not, because I’m having minor heart palpitations over here. 

In preparation and in celebration of Caged’s release, I called in some co-hosts. I’m going to be conducting some interviews with the main cast— Eden, Linux, Knox, and Cyrus. Ladies first, of course. 

**Words in bold are spoken by Amy, the interviewer**

Hey, Eden! Bear with me; I know you hate being in the spotlight. We’ll start easy, I promise. What’s your full name? Do you have any nicknames? Um… My full name is Eden Cavalleri. People call me lots of things behind my back, but mostly just Eden in front of me. Knox calls me Angel sometimes.

Where and when were you born?The tunnels underneath the city of Druxy. Pretty sure that’s where we were all born. It’s pretty gross to think that I was born in the same place were rats sleep. Don’t you sleep there, too? Yeah… *shudders* Change the subject. 

Who are your parents? Alaric and Lydia Cavalleri. My dad was a council member. He oversaw Luddite health. Mom was a gardener. She helped feed everyone. Who do you think had the hardest job? Mom. Definitely. It’s almost impossible to garden when you live underground. 

Do you have any siblings? One. Cyrus. What’s he like? *smiles* Cyrus is the best person I’ve ever met. He’s optimistic, funny, kind… He always had faith in me, even when I had none for myself. Man, he had a temper, though. I remember this one time he fought another council member because they snapped at me. *laughs* Good times…

Where do you live now? And with whom? Well, I’m kind of on the run. I can’t tell you where I am or who’s with me. The Artificials and Idyllics are probably tracking me.

Okay, that’s fine. What’s your occupation? I was a runner. What’s that? I went outside the tunnel system to look for supplies, mostly weapons, medicine, clothes. That kind of thing. Was it dangerous? *laughs* I’ll let them read my story to figure that one out. 

Let’s get a little more specific to your world. Humans are endangered, right? Yes. What’s their biggest threat? The Artificials. They’re like robotic police officers. They’re specifically designed to hunt down humans and capture them. What happens once they’re caught? Well, there’s two options. You will either be killed and used as a host for the cybernetics, or you’ll become an exhibit in the Anthros. 

Let’s talk about the Anthros for a minute. What is that? Anthros is short for Anthropological Park. It’s basically a facility where machines study humans. They conduct all sorts of tests, mental and physical. Some subjects become exhibits, where you stand in a glass box and machines come to look at you. Kind of like a zoo, huh? So I’ve heard. I’ve never seen a zoo, only read about them. 

So you like reading! What’s your favorite book? That’s an impossible question to answer! I love all books. Same. But stretch your brain. I guess if I had to pick, it would be my poetry book. It’s a collection of Sara Teasdale poems. 

Let’s talk about your past a little. I know it’s hard. I’ll try to skip the bad parts. I really appreciate that. Describe your childhood in one word. Loving. Care to elaborate? Sure. We didn’t have a lot, but I never felt unloved. My parents made sure Cyrus and I had happy memories from that dark time. 

What’s one of your best memories? Ice skating. The tunnels connected to the river, and Dad engineered some skates for us out of old knives and shoes. It was a disaster, and we were all black and blue by the end of the night. Mom worried that we would get sick, but luckily, we didn’t. 

What do you consider the most important event in your past? The day my parents were captured. Why? It moved me to be the best runner that I could be. Taught me to be careful when dealing with the machines. 

Okay, easier questions. Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Pessimist, for sure. I’m the best at finding the worst case scenario. 

What’s your greatest fear? The Luddites being killed off. 

Do you believe in soul mates/true love? Of course. Some people are just meant for one another. Do you have one? *scowls* Yeah, no. 

What’s your favorite color? Green, for sure. Why? It reminds me of the outdoors. 

Last one, who do you want me to interview next? Linux. He’s going to hate it. *laughs* Should I go easy on him? Absolutely not. Make it as torturous as possible. Got it. 

Have a great Monday! Tomorrow’s the BIG DAY!!!

kevin malone the office gif

SURPRISE!

Hey, everyone! Sorry for not updating yesterday. I’ve been doing really good on my Monday and Friday schedule, which I hope to stick to once work starts back up. Yesterday was uneventful, though. We watched Hamilton (finally but that’s another blog post), and I got some writing done.

But really, nothing happened! I was waiting for today.

Guess what came in the mail today?!

MY PROOF!!! I finally get to hold Caged in my hands, and to be honest, I might NEVER let it go. 😭😍😭😍😭

To say my emotions are running a little haywire would be an understatement. I am elated, y’all. Enjoy the following mess of a video. I’m sorry in advance ‘cause I got a little excited, and my voice did weird things.

Two days, y’all!! Two more days until release!

Something Different

Hey, everyone!

I am on vacation this weekend and don’t have a blog post planned for Caged. Right now, I’m getting ready to set up pre-orders, but there’s been so many issues along the way. The cover wasn’t the right size, I made a million formatting mistakes, and everyone I’m working with lives on the other side of the world. facepalm Frustrating doesn’t begin to cover it.

I keeping my head up, though!! Pre-orders will be ready soon, and until then, I’m just enjoying what little bit of summer I have left. Which brings me to….

VACATION!

For this year’s summer trip, we decided to spend five days in Bradenton, Florida! I know what you’re thinking. “Oh my god, Amy. Florida has like a million cases of Covid. What were you thinking?” I was thinking BEACHOCEANBEACHOCEAN. But also like, I can wear a mask and social distance to the max. I’m a hermit anyway. I sleep most of the day and never want to go places.

So, we went. We are staying in this adorable tiny house on a shared property.

Our home away from home.

I would show you the inside, but you’ll just have to check out their AirBnB listing here: Tiny House Paradise

We depart for home tomorrow, but here are some various beach pictures and short descriptions for each. Enjoy!!

Manatee Beach, 7-11
Same day, same beach but an absolutely stunning sunset. We chose the perfect time to come.
A poorly taken panorama from
Neal Preserve. This was from a watch tower built during the Great Depression.

You can learn more about Neal Preserve here: Neal Preserve. While we wanted to see all sorts of local wildlife, we most saw rabbits and pigeons. The mosquitoes loved us though. I’ve never been swarmed by so many bugs in all my life. Some advice: always wear bug spray in the evenings in Florida. ALWAYS.

Another shot from Neal. That black stuff is extremely shallow water that smelled like DEATH. Just saying.

While there were many other adventures, I didn’t keep my phone on me at all times. So, here’s a bulleted list.

-We got trapped in a rainstorm. I walked/ran to get our car while Brandon sat and waited in a cop car.

-I somehow managed to knock my knee on the stairs climbing to the balcony to the bed. It hurt so bad that I cried.

-Elliott learned that he’s terrified of lizards. Do you know how many lizards there are in Florida?!

-The owners of the property had a super sweet dog named Winter that I didn’t even get a picture of. But he was the best part of the whole thing. Lol

Overall, it’s been really nice to get away and spend some time at the beach. There’s just something so relaxing about the water.

See you guys soon with updates on Caged. Xoxo.

Caged Cover Reveal

IT’S TIME!!!!

Let’s be honest. What writer doesn’t dream of the day they get to see a PROFESSIONAL cover for their own book? I’ve been waiting for this day to come quite literally for as long as I can remember. And while I had to take my own route, there’s nothing wrong with this road I’m on. I’m beyond excited to show you my cover.

DRUMROLL, PLEASE!

I’m in a The Office mood today, I guess. Haha!

Thanks to the brilliant, Rebeca-Ira on Fiverr! Need a cover? I HIGHLY recommend her.

Ignore the watermark; I swear I own it. LOL. It’s still being edited for one small typo.

What do you guys think? Leave me a comment below!!!

xoxo

Meet the Cast of CAGED (part 2)

In true Young Adult novel fashion, Eden’s parents left this world years before our story takes place. Their sudden, and quite gruesome death (sorry, not sorry), serves as a motivation for Eden. But their fate also affects another person.

You see, in Eden’s mind, she didn’t just need a best friend/sidekick. Eden also needed a partner-in-crime. That’s where Cyrus comes in.

Older than Eden by a few years, Cyrus was his parent’s golden child. Quite simply put, he wasn’t Eden. First borns are always better, aren’t they? (Amy says as a first born child and definitely not biased at all.) Calm and level-headed, he liked to be in charge and organize things. He gladly took his father’s place on the council of elders upon his death.

Yet, what Eden loved most about her big brother Cyrus wasn’t his bossy personality. It was his sense of humor. Cyrus was a beacon of light in their eternally dark life. From ice skating and snowball fights to picture books and late-night storytelling, Cyrus was sure to make sure his little sister was happy. Truly happy.

To quote Eden:

“I look back up at my brother, taking in the mud of his eyes. I see years of digging through dry dirt and repotting pathetic vegetables. I see the precise slices of his blade through tomatoes and his dirty fingernails as he turns the page of his Holland book. His laughter as he slides across the frozen river, his smile when I return safely from another mission, and his comforting embrace when I begin to panic in the overwhelming small of the Underground flit through my mind like a flip book of images. 

If anyone deserves to live, it’s him. Not me.”

Within the walls of the Anthropological Park, a human-zoo for the machines, Eden meets someone new. A boy born behind the glass of the exhibits with soft hands and a gentle heart. Her angelic exhibit mate, Knox, has never known freedom, never known another human, never felt emotional pain and loss. But when he sings, Eden’s pain melts away and she forgets her demons for a moment to become lost in his world.

Without Knox, Eden has no hope of escaping the Anthros. He knows the machines and the hallways. If only he wanted to help her….

Eden clings to Knox when she needs him the most. But remember what I said about her ability to love blindly? It’s not always a strength.

Random, but true: You gotta watch out for those boys with “K” names. They’re the worst.

Meet the Cast of CAGED (part 1)

Hey, guys!

One of my favorite things about writing is getting to know my characters. To me, the characters in my story are real. They do things of their own will; they write their own story. I craft the person, and they design their fate.

… except those times where I take control and ruin things for them. That’s always fun!

Evil Laugh GIF - Evil Laugh Plotting - Discover & Share GIFs

Caged really started with an individual. She came to me on a particularly hot day while camping with my husband. Sitting in a camp chair, praying that God would just turn down the thermostat just a little, an image popped in my head: a girl who wouldn’t stand for this kind of injustice, who would find whoever was making her this uncomfortable and verbally assault them until it changed. It was a ridiculous picture. Who in the world fights someone about the temperature outside? But Eden, whose name wasn’t revealed to me until much later, grew from this. Eden– who would fight anyone and anything to protect her family. Eden– who knew no mountain too high to be scaled. Eden– who fearlessly faced a world intent on seeing her dead and was obsessed with stories and languages.

But also, Eden– who loved with every ounce of her person and trusted too quickly. Every character has their flaw. For her, it was that protectiveness she felt for her family. You see, Eden fought blindly sometimes for them, sometimes missing the smaller details in front of her.

With Eden’s personality came her looks. Her best friend describes her to me as this: short for her age with somewhat ugly, pale skin (Good grief, she lives in an underground tunnel, what did you expect, LINUX?), but the most gorgeous electric blue eyes under her mess of knotted jet black hair.

Eden needed a sidekick. Every hero does! And so, Linux was created.

A smart boy, he proved to be everything Eden wasn’t, in both good ways and bad. Linux could be cowardly and careful, reserved and still. Where his best friend never stopped, Linux found himself often lost in thought, in coding, in watching, or in waiting.

Eden calls him “gangly” more often than anything. With broken glasses half-hanging off his face and a messy mop of dark hair, it’s obvious the boy lives in darkness.

Linux was the brains and caution; Eden was the strength and risk. They found comfort in each other’s haunted past and leaned on each other to fill in the gaps of their personality. Eden gave Linux the assurance that he’d survive another day. Linux gave Eden someone worth coming home to, someone worth fighting to see again when things in her life got worse.

But the most important part is this… To quote Linux exactly:

“Like a right and left arm, neither one of us can do our job without the other.”

An Excerpt from CAGED

Morning, everyone! Today’s post is going to be an excerpt from my pride and joy Caged. I don’t want to tell you too much, so without further ado….

CAGED. (Excerpt taken from chapter 4, “Cornered”)

I brace for impact, holding my head high. [The cybernetic] does exactly what I expect, throwing her entire body into tackling me against the wall. I step right. She crashes into the brick, sparks flying. My hand meets the back of her head and I entangle my fingers into her hair, rearing back and slamming her head into the wall a few more times. 

When I pull it away, there’s nothing but steaming metal and drips of plastic left of her face. The glass of her eyes is shattered, spiderweb trails scattering across the surface. I throw her to the ground, kneeling down beside her and digging my hand into the soft skin of her exposed back. 

Finding the familiar panel, I grip it and yank, the suction of her skin attempting to hold me back. When the wires snap like string, the cyber falls limp under me, steam curling out of her deformed body. 

“Hey, Linux, I got it!” I say, standing and turning around to face the boy. 

Instead of his broad, goofy smile, I am greeted by a ghost’s face, panicked and horrified. 

Standing beside him with a paralyzer aimed at his head is a cyber unlike any I’ve ever seen before. 

He’s monstrously tall, towering over even Linux. His outfit is a black suit and tie, finished with black shoes that reflect the sunlight overhead. His hair is short, spiked up in the front. I would’ve thought he was human, had half his face not been translucent, showing the machinery beneath. One eye is human, emerald green, and the other is mechanical, red as it stares me down. 

Scarier still is the emotion on his face, a mixture of joy and rage. 

“Oh my, what a catch we have today,” he whispers, picking up Linux by the back of his neck. Linux turns whiter still, his hands trembling at his side. “Zwei, there’s two of them.”

A female comes around the corner, dressed in a matching black suit. She’s as tall as he is, yet leaner. Her blonde hair curls at the top, framing electric blue eyes that put mine to shame. Like him, she looks entirely human. Yet, there’s a huge piece of skin on her face missing, a gaping hole that cuts from her hairline to her collarbone. As I stare at her, feeling my heart racing in my ears, the mechanics in her face shift, giving her a sinister half-smile. 

“Eins, she’s adorable,” the female says. Neither of them have the cybernetic accent. They have no accent at all, as far as I can tell. The female takes a giant step towards me. “Sorry, cutie. You’re going to have to come with us.”

I shake my head violently, taking a shaky step backwards. Stumbling over the body of the cybernetic on the ground, I hit the wall, knocking what air remains in my lungs out of me. 

“Eins, can I just shoot her?” the female asks, taking aim for me. The gun in her hand isn’t a paralyzer. In the barrel are actual metal bullets, not the electrified blue ones. 

“No,” the male says, shaking Linux at her. My eyes dart between him and the female. 

I promised him. I have to protect him. 

“Why not? Do you see anything valuable about her? She’s painfully average.”

I say a quick prayer of thanks to God for making me normal. 

“No, she’s not,” the male says. “Look at those eyes. Almost as lovely as yours, except natural. Our ‘Eyes’ exhibit has been needing a second occupant.”

My heart stops in that moment, crushed by the thousand-pound weight of his words. I can’t go to the Anthros. I won’t. My body kicks into overdrive, and I dive for the limp cyber just as the female switches weapons and begins to fire. 

Using the dead cyber as a shield, I inch backwards towards the end of the alley. There is nothing but a brick wall behind me, but there’s a ladder. Maybe I can climb out. 

The female, Zwei, continues to fire her paralyzer, electrified bullets flying like bees in the air. Through my personal shield, the electricity tickles my hands, spreading goosebumps up my arms. The hair covering my body stands on end. The metal of the cyber is a good enough conductor; yet, the strength behind the bullets dies out before it reaches me. 

My teeth chatter as I struggle to hold up the weight of the cyber, bending almost backwards. 

The computer panel in my hand is destroyed, fried by a stray bullet. 

“Eden!” Linux screams. “Please don’t leave me.”

I take a chance and glance at him, where he’s still being dangled in the air. 

Leaving Linux isn’t an option. What was I thinking? I couldn’t leave him even if I tried. He means too much to me. And to Cyrus.

I let out a long, determined breath.

Even if I don’t make it out of this alley alive, Linux has to. 

“Oh, don’t fight me, little Mensch,” Zwei says, throwing her arms in the air. There’s a sick smile painted on her face, still, even as she waves the paralyzer at me. “Just come willingly, and we won’t kill either of you. We will find a place for your boring companion.”

“Make me,” I whisper. 

“Make you?” She lets out a dry laugh. “Okay, but you asked for it.”

She lunges at me, grabs the body of the cyber with both hands, and lifts me off of the ground. My feet dangle under me until I am eye to eye with her. 

“The fear in your eyes is hilarious,” she whispers at me. 

I hold onto the cyber for dear life, frozen. 

No, no, no; this isn’t how it’s supposed to happen. 

The image of my parents flashes before my eyes. These two machines aren’t Artificials. They’re something much worse. Why am I scared of them? They have to have a weakness. 

Desperate, I kick out at Zwei, my foot landing square in the middle of her chest. She takes a deep breath, losing her grip on me in surprise. 

“Ooh, feisty,” she squeals, grabbing my ankle as I crawl away. 

Now, I’m upside down. 

I look around for a weapon as she carries me by one leg toward Linux and her partner. With the blood rushing to my head, my vision blurs. The heat in my face is unbearable, and my heartbeat pounds in my ears. 

We pass my backpack, where my grenade sits. Why couldn’t Cyrus have given me a gun? Just once? Screw the limited resources and needing to protect the other Luddites with the guns. If I just had a long range weapon, I could…

My eyes fall on the gun in Zwei’s pocket. The hilt is exposed by her open suit jacket, flashing silver in the streetlights. It doesn’t have the blue tint of a paralyzer. Mustering up all the strength I have left in my upper body, I grab for the gun, aiming towards Linux and Eins. 

“Zwei, you Dummkopf!” Eins snaps, pointing with his free hand at me. 

He is a second too late, though. The bullet hits its target, the joint of his shoulder. He swears loudly as the arm dislodges, sending Linux tumbling to the ground. 

“Run, Lin!” I scream, tossing the gun at him. 

For a moment, confusion passes over his face. Then, he takes off at a sprint, disappearing from my sight. 

“You let him get away,” Zwei whines, throwing me onto the ground. I slam head-first into the pavement. Pain radiates through my head and back, and warm liquid runs down my forehead. 

“She better be worth this,” she continues. 

I pry my eyes open, the misty form of Eins’ face uncomfortably close to mine. His single red eye bores through mine, making my head hurt worse. He smells faintly of motor oil and plastic, and his teeth are slightly yellow. 

“She will prove her worth. If nothing, we will breed her. She’s a strong candidate.” He puts the cold barrel of a gun on my temple. The blue of it appears like lightning in my peripheral. 

“Kill me,” I mutter. “Harvest me, please.”

Eins laughs, reminding me of the sound trains make when they scrape on their brakes. The paralyzer hums in my ear. 

“See you behind the glass,” he says, and I enter the lightning, thrown into a sea of excruciating pain. 

For the next week, you can find CAGED on Wattpad! It won’t be there much longer though. So, if you want to read it for free, you’d better hop on that! See you next time!