*Please refer to this post for Treasure Hunt Giveaway details.
Special prize: Win all three books in Jess Alter‘s Dome Trilogy.
Beneath a Sunless Sky (Book 1)
Nightmare Specters (Book 2)
Solaray Dawn (Book 3)
Number of Prizes Available: 3
Description (Book 1):
Ten years after child prodigy Remy had an accident which robbed her of a prestigious future, she walks the edge between life on Solaray-lit Level One and the gloom of the UnderDome, waiting for an opportunity to return to her place among the elite ruling class and put the nightmare of living as a sub-human behind her. In the first book of the Dome Trilogy, Remy’s life spirals from her control; she is condemned to live her life in the most reviled pit in the Dome world, known to be populated by brutish beasts too inhuman to even live on the edge of society. When she arrives, however, she discovers that humanity does not belong only to the citizen, life on Level One is not what she had believed it to be, and a threat more grave than the UnderDome, itself, lurks just beyond its shadows.
Beneath a Sunless Sky
“Please don’t make me go in there,” Remy plead. The officer raised an eyebrow. “I’ll die if I go in there!” He sighed in annoyance, grabbed her arm roughly, and dragged Remy to the elevator. He pressed the elevator button; she struggled. “Don’t make me go! Please! Arrest me instead! Just, please, don’t let me fall through!” The door opened; Remy tugged against his grasp. He brought his sidearm out and pointed it to her head. Seeing it, Remy struggled harder.
“Go in or I’ll shoot you,” he said as she fought.
“Please.” Remy stopped struggling and rested the side of her head against the end of his weapon’s barrel, her eyes squeezed shut. “Just don’t make me go down there.”
The officer replaced his weapon into its holster and picked Remy up under one arm. She kicked wildly and wept as he carried her into the elevator. When the doors closed, Remy dropped to the floor, wailing. When the door to the UnderDome opened onto a hallway, he shoved Remy from the elevator. “Go. Now.” Remy stood as the doors closed. She looked around the hallway, shaking in terror. Down the hallway to the left was darkness and machine noise. To the right was a black marbleized wall with backlit chromed letters and a heavy door in a mottled grey-and-black granite pattern. The chromed letters read: HUMAN SANITATION SERVICES. She turned back to the elevator and slid her hand around the wall in the darkness to find the button up.
“Impressive, isn’t it?”
Remy turned around. A balding, white-haired, rosy-cheeked man sprayed cleaner on the letters and shined them to a mirror finish. “Y-yes.”
“Oh, now it’s not as fearsome as all that.” He wiped his right hand off on his light brown coverall’s pant leg and offered his hand to her. “I’m Carl. I do janitorial work for HumSan. You know, Human Sanitation Services? It’s what we people in the know call it.” Remy took his hand and Carl shook it. With a grin, Carl added, “My job is to make the place look scarier than it actually is.”
“It’s, um, certainly imposing.” When Carl tried to release Remy’s hand, she held on, so he renewed his grip and led her toward the door.
“Come on with me. Once you’re inside, it does get better.” He grinned at her, trying to get her to relax. “Well, maybe not better, but it definitely gets brighter.” Carl walked her slowly to the door in two- and three-step increments, waiting with Remy as she froze in fear then recovered. They reached the entrance, and the glossy granite-patterned door slid away.
The reception area was a blinding bright white. To Remy’s left and right, curved walls with opaque white panels were backlit from below and above, forcing shadows from them. Overhead lights illuminated the white floor, eliminating the rest of the shadows. Along the walls were uncomfortable-looking chairs set in groups of two and three. A small round table near one set of chairs was littered with six-month-old periodical cartridges. The back wall was straight except for a protruding semicircular half-wall topped with frosted windows on tracks – the reception desk, Remy surmised. On either side of the reception desk were brushed metal pass doors set into the wall. Remy entered the room and dropped Carl’s hand. She walked to the table slowly. Remy lifted the portable and examined it; the handheld portable was beaten and scratched and had a crack in the screen cover. Remy turned it over and dropped it back onto the table, recoiling. The back was held on by the same black wrap the Human Sanitation Services workers used on corpses. She looked over at Carl, worried. “Go on up to the reception desk,” he encouraged. “Minnie’s a good woman. She’ll set you in the right direction.”
From behind the curved marble and glass protrusion, a noise like bursts from an automatic assault rifle emanated. Remy approached, cautious. The noise stopped. A curved, frosted, centrally-located window snapped aside; Remy cringed, wondering how it didn’t shatter with the force used to move it. At waist-level was the head of a venerable and surly woman. Dressed in a carefully tailored suit jacket and skirt in espresso brown with off-white polka dots, Minnie sat, Her face was a pinched mask of seething irritation. Remy stared at the woman, confused as to why Minnie wasn’t wearing coveralls.
“Here to pick up remains?”
“Here to complain?”
“Then you must be Remy.” Before Remy could respond, the window snapped closed centimeters from her face. Looking back at Carl, Remy saw he was chortling.
“That’s Minnie for you.” Carl crossed the room as Remy looked from him to the closed window in shock. “They say she had experiments done on her when she was young.”
“I thought you said she was a good woman!”
“She’s not gentle, but she’s the most efficient lady I ever met. That makes her a good woman.”
The left chrome door slid open. The man who stepped through was the same from the night Remy met Jack B. in DamCare; she could still remember the echo of this man’s booming order for Jack B. to leave her side.
He stood a head-and-a-half taller than Remy and was broader than any Enforcement officer Remy had ever dealt with. His shaved head shone brightly in the light; his large and angular jaw ended in a strong squared chin. His dark brown coverall was tailored; his muscled arms and broad chest topped a narrow waist. Even in the bright light, his plum-and-coffee skin complemented his serene sienna eyes. His frown was neither angry nor impatient but contemplative. He was what mature Enforcement officers imagined themselves to be – huge, powerful, and possessed of a commanding presence. As she stared up at him, Remy realized her mouth was agape. Closing her mouth, Remy swallowed nervously, offering an apologetic smile. “Sir?”
“Welcome to HumSan. I am your supervisor: Cain.”
The edges of the room were hidden in inky shadow. A skinny spotlight lit the middle of the room. An unoccupied chair faced the semicircular table’s straight edge; the chair was the focus of the bright lamp. The chair’s back was to Remy and the woman in gray. Obfuscated people sat along the table’s curved edge. Their faces were so dimly lit that Remy could not discern features, only motion.
Remy approached the chair, reaching to pull it out for herself. A deep, masculine voice commanded, “Halt!”
Remy stopped. She turned to look over her shoulder at the woman in gray, who stepped backward into the shadows and disappeared. Remy turned back toward the table and squinted to into the darkness. A woman’s voice, demanded, “Why are you here?”
Flummoxed, Remy asked, “Excuse me?”
“What is your purpose beneath the UnderDome, in Prime Settlement?”
“My purpose.” Remy trembled, adrenaline coursing through her, driving Remy to run away or to stand and fight. Anger took hold of her, and she pointed at them. “You have hunted me for over a drekking year, and you want me to state why I’m here? I’m here because you drekking forced me down here!”
After a long silence, another woman spoke from the shadowed table. “Obviously, we have the wrong person, therefore you must be terminated. Goodbye.”
Remy paced in a circle in despair, then set her hands at her hips, angry. “You want my purpose? Fine. Every infant who was taken from its denizen mother’s arms by a eugenicist, every innocent slaughtered by Enforcement, every denizen kept from his or her right to citizenship demands justice. Every person who imprisoned me in the UnderDome deserves to suffer as I have, and I will tear apart the UnderDome if I have to in order to do it.” Remy walked forward and rested her hands on the table, leaning into the darkness. “My purpose is vengeance, and I will have it, with or without you.”
A nervous man’s voice cut the darkness. “Perhaps in the next world. Goodbye.”
From the darkness, two burly figures entered the light. Remy backed up slowly, until she reached the two men. With her left hand, Remy snatched the sidearm from the hulking red-haired guard’s holster, switched it to her right hand, and stepped into the light. She moved the weapon in a slow arc around the table. “Let’s see how many of you come with me to your ‘next world’, shall we? I’m sure I can take at least two of you with me before the redhead’s partner kills me.”
“Remy, put the pistol down.” The woman in gray stepped into the light, and Remy turned, pointing the weapon at the woman in gray’s heart. Unfazed, the woman smiled and opened her arms benevolently. Remy lowered the pistol, confused. The woman in gray reached for Remy’s hands. Her right-hand fingers slid between the free fingers of Remy’s left hand; with her left hand, the woman in gray took the pistol from Remy, then held it out behind her. The redheaded guard swept by the woman in gray and retrieved his sidearm. The woman in gray clasped Remy’s other hand. “Welcome, Messiah.”
The lights in the room illuminated, and Remy looked at the men and women assembled around the table. Several men had beards, many of the women bound their hair back and covered their heads with kerchiefs. Jubilant, the disorganized group walked around the table to Remy, laughing and talking. Hands touched her back and shoulders, kisses were lain on her cheeks, and words of relief that she had arrived in Prime Settlement at its time of greatest need were spoken to Remy in thankful tones. Gripping the hands of the woman in gray, Remy asked, “What just happened here?”
“This is the Council, Messiah. They were chosen to test your heart and assure that you have come to renew the Almighty One’s power in this world. We seek liberty for the oppressed of the caste system above us and judgment for those who oppose His glory. Those who stand in our way oppose the Almighty One’s greatest truth: We are all equal under the Almighty One’s loving sight and prescient guidance.”
“All mighty one? Prescient guidance? What—?” Remy’s eyes widened. “Drek me. You’re Lindy.”
As she began to stand, Remy was yanked onto her feet by her braid. Her assailant’s hand was low on the back of her head; she tried to turn to see who held her but could not. Her earbud was snatched from her ear and tossed to the floor. The gravelly voice at Remy’s ear sent horrible grating shivers down her back. “False Messiah.”
“Messiah!” Tavia struggled under the crushing grip of one of the Freedomers. Jack B. stood as calmly as possible, his neurocables gathered in a Freedomer soldier’s fist.
“The true Messiah,” corrected Remy. “I conquered the homeland by the Almighty One’s will to use me as His right hand; Ami stole credit from the Almighty One after I died to FreeDome.”
“Hope, then, you know well the miracle of resurrection, for all but one of your strike team is dead.” The red-armored Nightmare Guardian chuckled, amused. He passed Remy to one of his subordinates, who set the muzzle of his own pistol at the base of Remy’s head. The Nightmare Guardian removed a black resin rectangular prism from a small pouch on his dark red belt. Fifteen centimeters long and matte carbon black, the stick had eight empty ports on two sides; the other two sides were flat. He waved his red-gauntleted hand dismissively in front of him. Ethan was thrown at the Nightmare Guardian’s feet. The red-armored Freedomer carefully removed the red glove from his right hand; one of his team collected it from him and held it with reverence. “False Messiah, you shall know the reaching arm of the one, true Destroyer of FreeDome before you die by his command and your body delivered to him.”
Ethan’s colored connections were given to the Nightmare Guardian. The red- armored Freedomer set Ethan’s connections—red to violet—in a row, leaving the last space empty. Snapping in his own connections in the same order, he placed his own clear connection in last. Wide-eyed with mad delight, the Nightmare Guardian rolled Ethan’s solid black connector in his fingers. Ethan struggled against his captors; then, the Nightmare Guardian set the black connector into the final slot and concentrated.
Ethan spasmed and keened. His agony was sustained only for a few seconds until he was released. He slumped to the ground with a vacant stare, trembling. Remy’s ire rose. She shook in rage as her nanotechnology registered alarms and alerts that they were being overtaxed by the addition of trying to manage her biochemical response.
The Freedomers laughed, and the Nightmare Guardian carefully removed his own connections from the bar. “The false Messiah did not like that at all. What shall I do to the Betrayer’s whore before I kill her, false Messiah. What would pain you most to see before you die?”
Angry, Remy demanded: “Son of FreeDome, betrayer of the Almighty One, follower of the false Messiah and false prophet: Repent now or know the Almighty One’s wrath.”
The Nightmare Guardian slammed his bare right hand against Remy’s throat, pulling her onto her toes. The black-clad Freedomer behind her released Remy, lowered his weapon, and stepped aside. The Nightmare Guardian squeezed Remy’s throat; her nanotechnology blinded her with damage alerts and overload warnings. “I will hear no blasphemy from you.”
“May . . . Almighty . . . your soul,” Remy croaked at him, struggling for air through the anguish as her nanotechnology excreted electrostatic energy to stop the overload, “I . . . have none.”
Treasure Hunt Questions (please answer all 3 to receive the trilogy, or answer 1 question to receive the book of your choice):
Excerpt 1 – What is Carl’s job?
Excerpt 2 – Who says, “Welcome, Messiah”?
Excerpt 3 – What does the “red-armored Freedomer” remove from his right hand?
The first person to comment with the correct answer(s) will receive free PDF copies of the Dome Trilogy (if you prefer to pick one or two of the books instead, please specify). You must provide your email address in order to receive the eBook. If you’re uncomfortable posting your personal information in public, send it to my email: email@example.com. I promise not to share it.
Please allow 1-2 business days for the delivery of your eBook (arrives by Christmas).
Jessica “Jess” Alter is a science fiction novelist. She is the author of the dystopian science fiction Dome Trilogy and the upcoming paranormal science fiction Cryptid Series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys collecting folktales from around the world, adapting dessert recipes and baking homemade breads, and crocheting little monsters. You can find her web journal at http://www.indieimprint.com/alteredstates and find her on Twitter as @Jess_Alter.
http://www.Dometrilogy.com has links to and excerpts from all three Dome Trilogy books.