by J.S. Dewes
A castoff commander and her rebellious crew are all that stand between mankind and the universe’s collapse. #PitProm #A #SF
Dear Agencies and Publishers of PitProm,
At the edge of the universe lies the Divide. Veteran war hero Adequin Rake commands a dreadnaught-turned-watchtower stationed along the invisible boundary. Adequin never thought her decorated career would be rewarded with the opportunity to babysit delinquent soldiers billions of lightyears from civilization. But, here she is.
An even more tiresome challenge presents itself in the form of exiled prince Cavalon Mercer. Forced to enlist after a “familial disagreement” (which may have involved explosives), the disowned royal wants nothing more than to lie low and go unnoticed. But relentless snark and a complete lack of self-preservation instincts quickly land him in the crosshairs of anti-royalist soldiers.
Then the universe starts to collapse.
Stranded without access to faster-than-light travel or functioning comms, this motley crew must find a way to escape the Divide as it closes in on them and — if possible — stop it before the universe collapses completely.
THE DIVIDE is a 121,000-word character-driven adult military space opera told in dual-POV. It will appeal to fans of James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes and Jay Posey’s Outriders.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Film from Columbia College Chicago. I’ve written scripts for award-winning films including “Rigamortis: A Zombie Love Story”, which screened at San Diego Comic-Con and won awards at dozens of film festivals across the nation. My film experience has allowed me to network with fan bases all across the country, which readily fall into THE DIVIDE’s target audience.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Jenny (J.S.) Dewes
First Ten Pages:
“Spread your legs and bend over.”
Cavalon’s face flushed. Actually flushed. Embarrassing Cavalon Mercer was a feat few could boast. He was a little impressed.
He looked over his shoulder to grin at the guard, but the sour-faced man narrowed his eyes and jabbed Cavalon’s hip with his taser baton. A jolt of electricity shot along the nerves of his leg and his foot cramped.
“Spread ‘em, soldier.”
Cavalon’s smirk faded into a scowl. He complied, spreading his legs and leaning against the wall in front of him. He flinched at the snap of a rubber glove. “If we’re gonna do this— agh!”
Apparently, they were going to do it, right-the-fuck now.
Cavalon squirmed, pressing the side of his face into the cold aerasteel wall as the officer reached higher. “I mean, if we’re going to be intimate,” he managed, “you could at least tell me your name.”
“Pleased to— ugh— meet you, Bray.”
“Does talking make this better for you?” Bray jeered.
Another guard snickered from behind his terminal in the corner of the room.
Cavalon pressed his forehead against the wall and closed his eyes. “No.”
Twenty hellishly-uncomfortable seconds later, Bray removed his fingers and pulled off the glove. “Rivas, he’s clear.”
“Was that strictly necessary?” Cavalon grumbled.
Rivas stepped out from behind the intake desk, Cavalon’s underwear in hand. “We like to be thorough.”
“Clearly.” Cavalon snatched his boxers from the smug man’s grip and pulled them on. If this was what life aboard the SCS Argus was going to be like, he was already over it.
Rivas returned to his terminal in the corner of the cramped intake chamber. The holographic displays above the desk created a blue aura of light, though the rest of the room was dim, lit only by a few narrow strips of recessed lights that ran vertically up the aerasteel walls.
Rivas’s fingers swept through the displays as he flicked furiously through files. He stopped on a glowing blue icon and swept it open. “Full name, Cavalon Augustus Mercer the Second. Confirm.”
“Service number sigma 6454-19. Confirm.”
Cavalon thumbed the pair of newly minted, yet absurdly antiquated, etched metal and glass identification tags around his neck. “Uh, looks right.”
“Your bio scan set age at thirty-three standard years. Confirm.”
Cavalon narrowed his eyes. “I’m twenty-eight.”
Rivas sighed. “Soldier is advised that biological age is determined based on the degradation of subject’s physical form due to environmental factors including injury, wear-and-tear, use of narcotics—”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Cavalon grumbled. “Sure, confirmed.”
“Offenses listed as…” Rivas exchanged a quick look with Bray, then raised an eyebrow at Cavalon. “Redacted?”
Cavalon gave a forced grin. “Definitely confirmed.”
Rivas shook his head, then swiped the screen and it flashed green.
An artificial female voice rang from shrill speakers. “Identity confirmed. Please proceed to the next intake chamber.” A door in the sleek silver wall slid open and Bray invited Cavalon forward with a condescending smile and a sweep of his arm. Cavalon drew back his shoulders and marched toward the door.
“Hold up.” Bray grabbed Cavalon by the arm and pulled him back. “You’ve got Imprints.”
Cavalon twisted his right arm to angle his triceps at Bray. The gold and bronze squares of the Imprint tattoos that ran from his shoulder to his wrist rearranged with the flexing of muscle, glinting as they caught the light. “Just noticed that, huh? You were too busy checking out my—”
“Shut it, soldier.” Bray turned back to Rivas. “Rivas — Imprints.”
“Yeah, yeah. I heard you.” Rivas detached the tablet from the top of the console and stepped around the desk. He touched the screen and a flood of neon blue text poured into the air above it, the lines blurring together as the words sped by. He took a deep breath. “The System Collective Legion acknowledges that pre-existing Imprints cannot be removed at risk of death. However, measures will be taken to counteract inappropriate use of pre-existing Imprints, by whatever means deemed necessary by your superior officer or the excubitor.”
The hologram disappeared and the outline of a small blue box materialized alongside a rather unfortunate mugshot of Cavalon.
“Do you understand?” Rivas asked.
Cavalon scratched the back of his neck. “Uh, yeah? I guess.”
“Sign to acknowledge.”
He pressed his thumb to the tablet. The screen flashed and his fingerprint appeared in the hologram. It faded away as more blue text flooded the air above the tablet, disappearing off the top too quickly to be read.
“You will be receiving a second set of Imprints as per your intake aboard the SCS Argus,” Rivas continued. “The System Collective Legion is not responsible for any adverse reaction you may have to an additional installation of Imprints. For the soldier’s comfort and safety, it is advised that the soldier not attempt to utilize the functions of pre-existing Imprints, at risk of volatile interfacing, which may include injury or death.”
Cavalon eyed the waiver as the text continued to flicker by. “That sounds… bad.” He was only half-joking. He’d only ever heard of half-breeds getting more than one set of Imprints, and never with any kind of stable outcome.
“Do you understand?” Rivas prompted.
“What would you do if I said no?”
Rivas’s jaw flexed and from the corner of his eye, Cavalon caught a glimpse of Bray’s hand hovering over his taser baton.
Cavalon sighed. “Okay, fine, I get it. No unsanctioned Imprint voodoo.”
“Sign to acknowledge.”
He pressed his thumb into the tablet again and the hologram accepted it. Bray grabbed Cavalon’s arm and dragged him into the next room.
In stark contrast to the mood-lighting in the violation chamber, this room seemed to be made of light. Walls and floors of frosted glass showcased banks of white lights that bathed the entire chamber in an other-worldly glow. Cavalon shielded his eyes with his free hand as the door whizzed shut behind them.
In the center of the room sat a narrow counter, glowing from within like the walls. A silver box hung from the ceiling above the counter, and a series of articulated arms hung lifelessly beneath it.
Cavalon shuddered. He’d always found Viator tech unnerving. There was something off-putting about utilizing technology created by a species that had all but wiped out your own, even if the war had ended centuries ago.
Though this apparatus was clearly a second-hand appropriation of the original tech, it was all too similar to the one from which Cavalon had received his Imprints on his eighteenth birthday. The same day he’d been forced to accept his role as the Mercer heir, and the same day he’d vowed to find a way to escape his fate. He supposed getting shipped off to the Sentinels qualified as success in that regard, but it was certainly not what he would call an ideal solution.
He glanced back at Bray, who swept his hand toward the machine. Cavalon grit his teeth. His first Imprint experience had been borderline-blackout painful.
Wringing his hands, he shuffled forward, sucking in a deep breath and letting it out through his teeth. He sat down on the stool in front of the machine and a panel slid open, revealing a series of clamps recessed beneath the glowing glass counter.
The computer’s voice returned. “Please place arm in the Imprint chamber.”
He eyed the gold and bronze squares on his right bicep, then shifted and laid his left arm into the clamps. Cold metal closed around his forearm and the machine whirred to life, buzzing and clicking as the apparatus set itself. A series of thin red beams shone down from each of the articulated arms, and positioned themselves noisily until the lasers lined up with their reference points.
“Please hold still during the Imprint process,” the computer said.
Searing pain engulfed Cavalon’s senses as white-hot lasers fired into his arm. He ground his teeth and clamped his eyes shut, though the radiance of the blinding beams penetrated his eyelids. He withheld a groan as the lasers danced across his skin, which burned and smoldered until his arm felt like it was on fire. Just as he was starting to think it might be a good time to pass out, the heat from the lasers dissipated along with the radiating light.
His eyes fluttered open and his jaw slackened, teeth aching from prolonged clenching. The skin on his forearm was bright pink from irritation, and within sat the new Imprint tattoos — a polished obsidian black. He opened and closed his fist as the tiny squares folded and unfolded of their own accord. They hummed lightly as they streamed past his elbow and up his arm.
His first set of Imprints were comprised of gold and bronze squares, whose default arrangement was a tidy series of lines that ran from wrist to shoulder down the length of his right arm. These new Imprints crawled up his skin and fell into formation in a latticed grid on his left triceps, with a single dotted line of black squares trailing to his wrist.
“Imprint process complete,” the computer chirped. “Control protocols updated.”
Cavalon gulped. Control protocols? He ran his fingers along the new markings, then took a breath and tried to access them, call out to them and command them like he could his royal Imprints. They didn’t stir. They might have looked similar in appearance, but they were something else entirely.
His stomach knotted. Having a set of Imprints he didn’t have control over was disconcerting, to say the least. Who knew what these things could do to him?
“Come on, tough guy.” Bray gripped Cavalon’s shoulder and lifted him from the stool.
Cavalon followed numbly, flexing his sore arm and scratching the irritated skin.
Bray led him into another small room. The guard pressed his thumb into a screen and a small panel in the wall opened, revealing a pile of navy blue clothing and a pair of black boots. He grabbed the stack and shoved it at Cavalon. “Suit up. Boss is incoming.” A door on the opposite wall slid open, and Bray left.
Cavalon called after him. “I thought we’d already moved past respecting each other’s privacy…” The door shut, leaving him alone in the changing room.
He eyed the pile of navy in his arms — standard, Legion-issue, dull navy blue layered with more navy blue. The centerpiece was a tailed, hooded, double-breasted vest which fastened high across the chest with two long straps. A single, narrow sandy brown bar was pinned to the left arm of the long-sleeved shirt, indicating his rank of oculus.
He pulled the clothing on piece by piece, trying and failing not to think about what was on the other side of that door. The Argus was on the other side of that door. His new life was on the other side of that door. Like every other kid in the System Collective, Cavalon had played the game of Sentinel at the Divide, but never during his opulent childhood did he think it a fate that would actually befall him.
The door opened and Bray stuck his head inside. “Soldier.” It was a single word command. Cavalon took a deep breath.
He entered a cramped, steel gray box containing only a simple narrow table and two straight-backed metal chairs. One of the aerasteel walls was slatted, with clean, warm light pouring in — an illusion meant to simulate the light of a nearby star.
But there were no stars this far out, no celestial bodies of any kind this close to the edge of the universe. No planets or moons, no asteroids or comets or black holes or intergalactic dust. Not even space junk. Just nothing, just black. Just like the nursery rhyme described. Cavalon would more than likely never see the light of a real star again.
He licked his lips as he walked up to the table and pulled the chair out to sit down.
“No,” Bray chided.
Cavalon stopped mid-sit and pushed the chair back, standing awkwardly at the edge of the table. He rubbed his new Imprints, still sparking with pain along the nerves in his left arm, then drummed his fingers across the cold metal table. After a minute of silence, he turned to raise a questioning eyebrow at Bray, then the door across the room slid open.
Bray snapped to attention — shoulders drawn back, fist to chest.
A woman marched into the room, back straight but head hung low. She wore what looked like the undershirt of a flight suit — navy blue tank top over a short-sleeved charcoal gray syntek shirt, with a set of dog tags tucked between the layers. The glittering orange and yellow badges of her rank, meant to be displayed proudly across her shoulders, were obscured among the folded sleeves of the navy-blue jacket tied around her waist. She looked for all the universe like a ship mechanic, mid-repair.
She stepped up to the table across from Cavalon, then nodded at Bray. “At ease.”
Bray turned on his heel and marched to stand beside the doorway she’d come through.
“Rake.” She reached her hand across the table. Cavalon shook it, surprised at the firmness of her grip.
“Mercer.” Cavalon responded on instinct, but immediately wished he could suck the surname back in. “Er— Cavalon. Cav’s fine.” He let out a heavy sigh. Like she didn’t already know exactly who he was.
Rake sat down as Bray stepped forward and laid a tablet down in front of her before returning to his post.
Cavalon eyed his chair, then gave Bray a sidelong look. The guard maintained his composure, but rolled his eyes, which Cavalon took as permission. He pulled out the chair and sat down.
Rake stared down at the tablet, scanning through pages of text. Her long, brown hair had been pulled up haphazardly, loose pieces draping around her face. She pushed her hair out of her tired eyes, revealing a smudge of black grease across her cheekbone.
Cavalon raised an eyebrow. This was the “boss”, huh?
“You got a little…” He flicked his fingers in front of his own cheek.
She sighed and wiped it with the back of her hand. Though it smeared into a soft gray, the smudge remained.
The corner of his mouth tugged up. “You got it.”
Her expression remained impassive as she appraised him, then lowered her gaze to the tablet again.
“You high brass?” he asked, craning his neck to get a better look at the set of badges on the jacket around her waist. “Gramps made sure I got the special treatment, didn’t he?”
“I don’t think so,” she mumbled as her fingers slid along the tablet’s surface. “Your ranks and titles have been stripped. From the look of it, you’re lucky he let you keep your given name.”
He leaned forward and smirked. “What’s it say? I’m intensely curious.”
“I’m sure you are.”
He shifted in his seat as she continued to sift through his file. He wasn’t able to tolerate the silence for long. “So, you really take the time to tête-à-tête with every new soldier that comes aboard?”
Rake lifted her eyes from the tablet and stared at him. “I like to know who someone is before I ask them to risk their life under my command.”
“Well,” he scoffed. “That’s a special kind of martyrdom. I think I’d prefer the blind-eye approach myself. Wouldn’t that be easier?”
“Easier? Yes.” She held his gaze, not wavering for an instant. She was dead serious.
Cavalon bit the inside of his lip. He didn’t know what to make of that kind of adamancy. For possibly the first time ever, he couldn’t think of anything snarky to say.
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