Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sulan, Episode 3: The Dome by Camille Picott

Title: The Dome
Author: Camille Picott
Series: Sulan #3
Genre: Cyberpunk, Dystopian, Young Adult
Release Date: January 15, 2017
After escaping the League, Sulan and her friends are granted entrance into the Dome, a utopian biodome in the wilderness of Alaska. Sulan soon finds herself a pawn in Global Arms’s political maneuvers to secure the national mercenary contract. Forced to put on a public persona that makes her skin crawl, she must charm Vex media moguls to further the cause of Global. Should she fail to embrace her new role as company spokesperson, the consequences will be deadly to everyone she loves.

Meanwhile, the League unleashes a new deadly threat on the United States. When Sulan and her friends stumble on the trail of a League mole within the Dome, they set out to track him down. Will they be safe in their new home, or will they find themselves trapped among enemies?

Taro boosts himself over the windowsill and lands lightly on his feet. When he looks up at me, there’s concern on his face.

I should be embarrassed, but I’m not. I’m too caught up in the stream of my raging emotions. Besides, Taro came to my room. I’m allowed to cry in my own room.

“What … what are all these?” Taro asks.

“My mom …” I glance toward the mess and see a picture of me and Mom with Vex headsets on. “I was just looking at these pictures. Mom packed them.”

I sit down inside the arc of photos, my eyes roving across them. Taro crouches down across from me. He doesn’t say anything. His eyes drink in the smiling pictures of me and Mom together.

“I can’t even remember the last time we smiled together,” I whisper. “All we did over the past few years was fight.”

“Sulan …” His dark eyes are soft with empathy.

“How—how do you do it?” I whisper. “How do you get through your days without her?”

“At first,” he whispers, “you just go through the motions. It’s hard. I won’t sugarcoat it for you. I … ran a lot in those first few weeks after her murder. I ran until my legs collapsed. Sometimes I ran until I vomited. Or I’d work out with a punching bag. I’d hit it until I couldn’t lift my arms. Then I’d kick it until my shins and knees bled.”

He reaches out with one hand, extending it over the photos. He touches my face with the tips of his fingers. His hand unfolds, fingers spreading out to cradle my cheek. I close my eyes and lean into his strong fingers. Touching is such a strange real-world thing to do, but I find it comforting.

Taro steps over the photos, kneeling beside me. He’s so close I feel his body heat.

He pulls an ink pen out of his pocket and takes my left hand, cradling my wrist. The bandage around his missing finger brushes my skin. He leans forward. For a panicked moment, I think he’s going to try and kiss me. But his eyes are focused on my arm, not my face.

He places the pen between his teeth and pulls off the cap. His writing hand rests on my palm, pen poised over my forearm. The tip of the pen comes down, and he starts to draw.

His hand moves with the surety of an artist. He draws on my skin, sketching lines that come together and form the face of my mother. Mom’s expression is one of focus and determination. It’s how she looked back on the League freighter before she was killed. Her black hair is tied back into a bun. Her eyes are fierce, her jaw set.

Taro leans back, recapping the pen. “So you won’t forget what she looked like that day she came to save you.” He doesn’t let go of my hand.

Something inside me snaps. I start to shake. Tears overflow down my cheeks.

Taro’s arms come around me. I stiffen in surprise for an instant, then fall against him and sob into his shoulder. He holds me close as I weep. He strokes my damp hair with strong, gentle hands. I can’t remember ever feeling so wretched and so safe at the same time.

“She made me mad all the time,” I say into his shoulder, forcing the words out between sobs. “The last time I saw her, back on the ship, we had a fight. I’m still angry at her.”

“Do you love her?” Taro’s warm breath feathers my ear.

“Yes,” I wail, without hesitation. “I loved her. I love her, Taro. I love her!”

“That’s all that matters. All the other stuff doesn’t mean anything in the end. Hold on to the love.”

If possible, I cry even harder. Images of my last few months with Mom flash through my head. The two of us arguing as I begged her to teach me self-defense; her catching me watching Merc reruns in my bedroom, our discussion disintegrating into another yelling match as I accused her of leaving me defenseless; our last epic fight over a gun; and the wounded anger that hung between us on the League freighter.

And despite all that, I ache for her. I ache, and ache, and ache.

Author Bio:
Camille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings.


The Dome #3

The League #1
**Currently Free on Smashwords**

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