Imagine a drug that creates a false reality in the mind of its user... then imagine that the drug’s creator is the government itself. Scientists and politicians combine to unleash untold devastation upon the world. A lone computer programmer learns the truth and fights feverishly to supply survivors—if any—with the information they need to combat Earth’s desperate plight. His legacy—the powerful AI computer known as 001—may be Earth’s greatest hope for survival.
Prejudice continues to exist, even in the year 3500. Jasarah is half-elf, which condemns her to a life without a proper education, her only prospect the certainty of becoming an outcast from her village in her ninetieth year. Luckily for the young girl, her parents have defied convention to teach her the best technical skills they can.
Dumped into the strange world of Denver, Jasarah quickly finds herself working at a bar filled with unusual types, outcasts such as herself. Among these is another half-elf by the name of Ghost—a devil-may-care sexy hitman with dangerous eyes and skills. He’ll kill anyone at any time, and he isn’t picky about the reason why.
When idealism meets skepticism, will the shit hit the fan? Who is the teacher, and who is the pupil? Together, will they become an unstoppable force?
Over the next year her cousin secretly brought her baskets of food and medicine. Jasarah smiled while looking through the collection. “This is so dangerous. Why do you do it?”
Lyra shrugged. “Because I want to.”
“If you get caught slipping village supplies to someone who should have been outcast a year ago—”
“Hush. That guard who walks past your house on the nightly patrol is sweet to me and I thought I’d put it to good use.”
Jasarah scrambled to catch the jar of honey slipping from her fingers, set it on the counter, then faced her cousin. “What kind of deal have you made?”
“Nothing. I just bat my eyes when I try to slip past him. He smiles, shakes his head, waves me on, and never asks what’s behind my back. I think he likes me. Besides, I love you and you have to eat.”
“Don’t you dare get caught.”
Lyra moved to the door. “I won’t. Watch.”
Jasarah dashed to the window and peeked through the curtain as her cousin shut the door and literally danced off the steps and practically into the night guard, who quickly kept her from falling.
“Sorry about that.” Lyra settled her hand over his chest.
Whatever the guard said was too soft for Jasarah’s ears, but it sure broadened her cousin’s smile. As the couple disappeared in the distance, Jasarah returned to the basket.
Two days later, the creak of the front door brought Jasarah to her feet and she dashed to the living room. Relief flooded her. “What are you doing here?”
Lyra held up a deck of cards. “I brought some fun this time.”
A week before her ninetieth elven birthday, her father received a letter. Upon reading it, he smiled and motioned for her to come closer. His voice raspy and weak, he whispered, “When I’m gone, you will go live with your brother. He promised to take care of you. I arranged everything. He agreed to help you find a place and get a job. Your brother has changed. He isn’t the same boy we sent from the village so long ago.”
Jasarah stared. “He threatened an elder. With a knife.”
“I know, but he said the man threatened him first.” He shook his head. “Look, because I have nowhere else to send you except to him, I have to believe that people change over time.”
The look in his eyes almost broke her heart. “I hope you’re right, Father.” Jasarah patted his hand, then shifted the dark decorations. She spent the next week preparing for the inevitable journey.
In the early morning hours of her ninetieth birthday, she sat by her father’s side, the deathbed shrouded in black lace. Angry, she stared at the blank walls. She wanted to stay in the village to tend her father, but the elves would have none of it. Over a year before, the villagers had stopped acknowledging her existence, just as they would if she had been forced from the village as tradition dictated. Today was her last day and she was ordered to leave. Curse the rules of the elven village and the human blood running in my veins! She looked at the village elder now standing in the doorway. The smooth elven cheek still bore the hideous jagged scar from her brother’s attack. She smiled sadly as that day flashed in her memory.
Jasarah admired the elder’s grace, his robes flowing around him with every step. It was almost like he floated rather than walked.
The elder paused his conversation with the guard, turned toward the porch, and nodded with a smile. “Thank you for staying within the bounds of your family boundary, little one.”
As her brother stepped into the road, Jasarah gasped.
The elder looked at the boy. “Why are you out past curfew, young man?”
Jim glared. “You’re not my father.”
“I’m an elder, and you’re required to heed my advice as well as comply with village rules.”
“Screw you, old man. I’ll do what I want when I’m damn good and ready!”
The elder motioned the guard. “Easy.”
Jim drew a knife, lunged, and slashed at the elder, taking everyone by surprise. The elder turning his head and stepping back was all that kept the blade from piercing his throat. The knife only grazed his cheek.
The guard dove and pinned the boy on the ground as other guards rushed to tend to the elder.
The clearing of the elder’s throat drew Jasarah back. “I’m sorry—”
The elder raised his hand. “You’ve nothing to apologize for.”
Smiling thankfully, she sighed.
“Jasarah, it’s time. We will not allow another postponement. You must leave with the sunrise.”
A glance at the sky revealed that dawn was close. It was a dim golden-orange color. “I know.” She leaned over and kissed her father’s cheek. “Goodbye, Father.” She stepped back and hugged her cousin.
Lyra squeezed her back. “I’ll take care of him.”
Reluctant, Jasarah picked up her bag, walked to the door, and glanced at the gray-black lifeless soil surrounding the village.
“We will bury him beside your mother.” The elder turned. “This way.”
She followed him. “Do I need water or food?”
He glanced at her. “No one crosses the Deadlands on foot. We’re elves, not monsters. Transportation is provided as per your father’s request.”
She stopped at a waiting motorcycle.
“I accepted Larik’s offer to escort you out of the village. He was the only chance you had for a spouse and your only chance to stay, but he has other desires.”
“I know, children.” She secured her bag to the back of the bike and climbed behind Larik. “I’m ready.”
Larik started the bike and headed for the station. The trip to the town of New Bullock was uneventful as her silent escort sought to complete his task swiftly.
After three hours, they reached the station. When they arrived, Larik handed a ticket to the conductor and quickly helped her board the train. He nodded at her and sped away without another word.
Jasarah watched him drive away until he was out of sight. Seated, she nervously surveyed her surroundings. The compartment was plain and simple, with a wooden bench bolted beside a large window. A blanket was tossed over it as a cover.
The whistle screamed and the engine whined as the conductor yelled, “All aboard!” Several more people scrambled for the train, just making it inside as the wheels clicked into motion. The train slowly gained speed as minutes passed. The conductor opened the door. “It’ll be four hours until Denver, miss.” He shut the door.
She closed shut her eyes and dozed off.