Stranded in a Martian desert, a cybernetic soldier teams up with her friend-turned-enemy in a desperate attempt to survive. #pitprom #SFF
Dear Royal Advisors,
Separated from her unit after a brutal accident, Nadema finds herself in the middle of an inhospitable Martian desert unable to call for help. As a half-organic robot and the former commander of a Nobu armada, Nadema has always been treated like a walking warhead. Her limbs can be replaced as easily as car parts, and the idea of vulnerability is laughable. Now, with her systems fragmented and her memory failing, she thinks she’s doomed to die. But when she runs into an old friend-turned-enemy – the recalcitrant, traumatized Hara – she realizes that she must utilize every resource that she has at her disposal, including her unwilling companion, in order to make it back to her family alive. If she doesn’t, she risks not only her death but the annihilation of Hara’s people at the hands of her vengeful brother.
Complete at 136,000 words, IDOLS OF PARADISE is a character-driven adult space opera where PITCH BLACK meets AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. IDOLS OF PARADISE has series potential.
I have a Minor in Creative Writing from OCAD University, and have created educational scripts for Make A Change Canada. I’ve also worked as a content writer for BBTV, and have written a byline for Film Daily as a freelance contributor. Additionally, I’m one of the co-hosts for the podcast Metamashina, where we discuss genre fiction from the feminine gaze. This is my first novel.
Thank you for your time and your consideration of my query.
First Ten Pages:
Chapter I: The Silence
When Nadema began to remember her accident in bits and pieces, the most important thing she recalled was that she was very good at adapting.
Like all toddlers taking their first steps, her initial attempts at moving were a series of accidents that involved running into a succession of objects. Heartfelt efforts at walking were met with bumps to the head and bruising limbs, and no one came to pick her up. Nadema wasn’t young, but she felt like it in that moment, a newborn in an adult’s skin barely bigger than a child and just as frail.
WARNING, a small, tinny voice declared from the side of her head as she fell to her knees, then staggered upwards. Not a man nor a woman, but familiar perhaps. Scrawling numbers tracked across her vision from right to left, and it took Nadema a moment to place them. WARNING, CRITICAL SYSTEMS MALFUNCTION, the person said. RESYNC IN PROGRESS.
Processor, she realized. I’m speaking to my processor, but all the came back was static.
Around her the world was stained a hazy shade of orange, the same color as the sand-choked sky. The light of a nearby star blazed downwards, turning the hue of her skin a warmer shade of ivory. ‘You aren’t supposed to be here,’ someone had told her when she’d first woken up in the grasslands, hours ago, and those words were the ones that Nadema remembered the most when she thought back through all the white noise. It was in the shudder of goosebumps running up her arms. The twitch of a finger. A sluggish stream of black fluid had slowly dripped its way past her lips. She’d been thinking of something else before this, only it had been of a different time and a different place. A pocket of dark matter, with the singular memory of a planet shattering before a streak of white light. Why was she in a field of poppies?
RESYNC IN PROGRESS, her processor continued. BOOT CONFIGURATION AT 36%.
“I know,” Nadema said. She felt like crying. Her processor hadn’t stopped glitching since she’d woken up. “I know. Be quiet.” It couldn’t.
A breeze wound through the sand-choked poppy field that surrounded her, stirring up dust and making the flowers undulate. Nadema clenched her fists and looked down, dipping to the right as she fought to stay up. Her armor—tarnished, scuffed, and falling off her in pieces—had once been bright red. Now it was mostly missing from her arms and bottom left leg. Beneath the gaps in the metal, hundreds of scars ran across her arms in a sprawling network of aging lacerations. She didn’t remember why she had them—the wounds were healed—so she tentatively slid her palm along the ridges, watching as the marks pulsed white beneath her fingertips. The she looked up again, coughing on the black fluid that still stained her lips. Oh, that star was bright. Had it been this big before her accident?
BOOT CONFIGURATION AT 74%.
“Shut up,” she begged. “Please.” Her heads-up system ignored her.
Nadema stared at the star until she should have gone blind from its light, but didn’t. She should have gained energy from its heat—absorbed through her skin in a grid—but that failed to happen. When she’d first woken up amongst the poppies, she’d tried to absorb the elements around her in an effort to increase her energy—running her hands over the too-hot sand to soak in its heat, her fingers vibrating against the flowers with a metallic hum until the petals wilted. Unfortunately she couldn’t repurpose the matter. Her skin remained dull, splotched with purple bruising. Now she could taste dust on her tongue and dust down her throat, and when she ground her teeth sand scraped between her molars. Nadema’s lungs burned as they searched for oxygen, the grit beneath her fingernails irritated her too-sensitive skin. She knew she’d been in an accident, but she had no recollection of what the accident was or how she’d ended up here. What was her mission, before this?
Right, she thought. Remember your training. You know how to deal with this.
Run local_triangulation.exe, she told her processor, fighting the escalating panic as she took her first steps. Which way to go? Towards the star? Nothing came back from the data stream, but her legs almost gave out. Run communications.exe, she tried next. Run backup_gen.exe. Neither worked.
‘Little One, why did you run?’ that voice asked her, rattling around inside her head. Nadema couldn’t stop sweating, and her hands shook like she had some sort of nerve damage. Something cold and hard dug into her spine.
RESYNC IN PROGRESS, her systems trilled. BOOT CONFIGURATION AT 74%. WARNING, MULTIPLE EXTERNAL ERRORS DETECTED. IONIC EXPOSURE EXCEEDS RECOMMENDED SAFETY LIMITS. CRITICAL SYSTEMS MALFUNCTION IN PROGRESS. PLEASE RETURN TO THE NEAREST DREADNOUGHT FOR IMMEDIATE REPAIRS.
Nadema gagged, coughing so violently she spat out blood. It was black, too.
“Okay,” she told herself. Her words echoed in on themselves, like her voice box was broken. Nadema’s gaze darted back and forth, from the blood flecking the grass to the sun above. “Okay, you can do this. Find a dreadnought.” Mission first. Family second. Self last. The directive was hard-coded from birth.
‘Why did you run?’ the voice asked again.
“I don’t know,” she replied, swallowing thickly against the sand. She put a hand to the front of her throat, where the armor was still mostly intact, but beneath its carapace-styled shell her skin felt bruised, too. The wind moaned and the poppies danced.
No one answered her.
Once the resync was complete, Nadema hit execute on her systems check with a fervor, cataloguing outside information at unsafe speeds as she attempted to sift through the synesthetic overload that ricocheted around her brain. Something was definitely wrong.
INTERIOR SPINE INTACT, the report came back. She kept on walking. IRREGULARITIES WITH EXTERIOR SPINE DETECTED. HEAD OPERATIONAL. LIMBS ATTACHED. IONIC SHIELDING NON-OPERATIONAL. MULTIPLE ARMOR BREACHES DETECTED. MULTIPLE CRITICAL MALFUNCTIONS DETECTED. CONTUSIONS TO THE LEFT PARIETAL BONE, SQUAMOUS SUTURE, OPTIC CANAL, ATLAS AND AXIS. RIGHT FALSE RIBS EIGHT-TO-TEN FRACTURED.
The list went on and on, until Nadema shut it off.
The accident must have been bad, she decided, trying to dampen her anxiety. She’d been in accidents before and she’d always made it out okay. Seeing double—and tripping over her own feet—she ticked off her list of objectives. She needed help, but out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by poppies she was vulnerable. A queasy feeling in her gut told her that no one thought she was coming back.
You work best as a team, she reminded herself, and she continued to march through the poppies. Teams have food, and water, and communications terminals. Find yourself a new one. They’ll be at a dreadnought. She had no problems asking for help when she needed it, nor was she picky with the source.
The numbers trekking across her vision were mostly junk, filled with urgent warnings about failing organs and ionic contamination. One of them—THIS UNIT IS SUFFERING FROM ADVANCED MULTI-SYSTEM FAILURE, PLEASE RETURN TO THE NEAREST DREADNOUGHT FOR IMMEDIATE REPAIRS—repeated more frequently than the rest, but she ignored it. So long as her spine was intact and her head was attached to her body, her nanites would try to fix the damage. She just had to make it to a repair station before the damage got worse, or—Father forbid—decay set in. If she did that she would survive, Nadema was sure. Her protigenitor had always said she was good at adapting.
Some of the other data was still good.
Nadema knew that the external temperature was three hundred and twenty-two degrees Kelvin. Her internal barometer told her that her body temperature was five degrees lower than normal. The wind travelled at ten knots, threading in from the northeast. She also knew that the nearby star’s name was Gogam from the charts stored in her datahive, and that it would set in sixteen hours. The rest of her memories were scattered and discombobulated, bleeding into each other in a catastrophic tangle. Her instincts told her that if she followed the edge of the field she might find an escape. Escape was a new word of hers, and like all data she found relevant Nadema hoarded it. She clung to information about herself, too.
The crimson armor that covered her body from chin to toe was severely damaged, bordering on useless. A memory warned her that it’s distinctive color would give her away. No one had found her after her accident, so she was probably in hostile territory and would have been better off ditching it in an effort to blend in, but Nadema had spent her entire life in metal. She felt naked without it, so she kept it on.
‘Be careful who you talk to,’ the voice warned. ‘They’ll kill you.’
“I know,” she said. It made her feel a little less lonely, to talk to the emptiness. Her tremors and the sweats were getting worse.
The giant star remained steady. Nadema smelled dirt and dust and the perfume of poppies. She saw no signs to indicate any sort of civilization. No sounds of life other than the whir of the flies. She walked west for a time, because west was home and when in doubt it was the direction they were trained to follow. When west brought her nothing but grass and more grass Nadema decided there was nothing to be gained by following that particular rule and changed her course to march east instead. She trudged for hours, but when east yielded nothing she grit her teeth against the pain in her legs and went northwest, towards the day-wards trajectory of the star. Gogam was huge and its core was decaying, but its path was slow and predictable. The days are always like this, even though the star’s a bit closer, she told herself. Your internal navigation is fried.
The internal warning signals from her HUD went off again. THIS UNIT IS SUFFERING FROM ADVANCED MULTI-SYSTEM FAILURE, it trumpeted. PLEASE RETURN TO THE NEAREST DREADNOUGHT FOR IMMEDIATE REPAIRS.
Nadema swatted at her head. It can’t be that bad, she thought. Advanced multi-system failure was something that happened to other people. Weaker people who were not her, or people who were not her father’s favorite.
‘My beautiful girl,’ someone whispered from her memories.
The warning persisted. Nadema reached up, ripping open the skin behind her ear and removing a soft white wire to sever it between her nails. After that, there was perfect silence. The visual glitches were still there, but the noise was not.
“Complete the mission,” she chanted. A half-remembered song came back to her in the newfound silence: a lullaby. Nadema began humming it as she stayed along an unerringly straight path, following the pre-planned trajectory in her head. Eventually her marching led her to another edge of the field. She didn’t realize it was there at first, so wrapped up she was in studying a star map that she’d recovered from her local datahive.
This system has one star, she mused, looking over the chart in her head with her second set of pupils. She had three in either eye, and could focus on multiple data points at once—reports were easy enough to run in the background on minimal power. She took another step. This system has three planets, but it used to have nine. Where did the others go?
A sudden drop-off into open air greeted her internal question. She’d reached the edge. Nadema cursed, scrabbling backwards to keep herself from tumbling over the side.
Ahead of her the land sheared off into an abyss. The air crackled with static behind a storm front that was as opaque as a vat of aging soup. Nadema looked down at the expanse of open air, and a crushing whiteness flashed through her memory, leaving her stricken. Her breath clutched in her throat and she swayed to the side as her mind curled in on itself. It reminded her of the pale light that had come before. Of falling.
WARNING, ARMOR BREACH.
In her mind’s eye she saw it: exploding ships, planets shattering into a sea of dust. A monolithic tenor spoke to her through the silence of the Void, but the memories were not her own. She couldn’t control the input. These aren’t my memories, she reminded herself, breathing too hard, but it didn’t work. They’re someone else’s. Not yours, never yours, don’t panic, it’s just a virus. They’re not yours, abort, abort, run abort.exe--
‘But these are your memories,’ the voice said. ‘Or did you forget that too?’
The world around her flickered into blackness, oscillating like the light between the blades in an exhaust fan. Nadema stumbled and her left ankle gave out. She vomited. I can’t be sick, she thought as she sunk to the ground. I’m never sick. She passed out then, limbs akimbo and bile on her lips.
When Nadema woke up it was still midday and the star was at its zenith. She was sprawled on her stomach, her left arm and leg dangling over the side of the cliff.
RESYNC IN PROGRESS, her HUD warned. BOOT CONFIGURATION AT 13%.
Nadema bit down on her tongue, clenching her fingers against the grass. The skin along her back burned beneath the star’s relentless glare.
Remember your training, she told herself as the resync completed, fighting back tears. Find yourself a new unit. Go home and get repairs. You’ll feel better soon.
What training? something inside her screamed. What repairs?! You’re decaying!
I’m not. I can’t be. People like her didn’t decay.
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,