Michelle Browne and Nicolas Wilson
Genre: Science Fiction/dystopian biopunk
Date of Publication: 11/20/2014
Number of pages: 252
Word Count: 63,000 words
Cover Artist: Katie de Long
Execution above or extinction below...
“Please help me. I'm pregnant.”
A chance encounter with a fugitive has turned Christine's life into a nightmare.
Survival is hard enough in the poverty-stricken streets of the Lower Blocks, and this woman is far from the first to flee the Engineers who oversee the City. But now Christine's a target: hunted by the aristocracy, her future uncertain, and past laid bare. And a person with Christine's powers can't afford to be caught.
Humanity built the Foundation to elevate themselves from the poisoned earth, but Christine and Ilsa must choose whether to descend to hell below, or remain in hell above.
From post-apocalyptic authors Nicolas Wilson (Homeless), and Michelle Browne (The Underlighters) comes Euphoria/Dysphoria, a biopunk dystopia.
The world stretched before me: cluttered, broken, and empty. The salvage on my back was heavy, but I had to believe the cramps in my legs and shoulders served a purpose.
I glanced behind me to remind myself of that purpose. The Foundation, rooted in the ground, as much a part of the scenery as the trees at its base. Its top vanished into the clouds, and I knew that somewhere there was the City, and Adeline.
I hadn't gotten anywhere near enough salvage today, or any day in the last week. As if the threat of being starved or flogged for my failure wasn't enough, I knew that Adeline was counting on me. Her child was born wrong. And our only hope of affording treatment for her was in my ability to earn extra this month.
If I just pushed myself a little harder, a little further…
My mask pressed into my face, cut into my cheeks, and where the acidic mist collected at the edge of the seal, my skin burned.
They called me Monkey, both for my tattoo and for my skills. There was no one more skilled at climbing through vents to rooms blocked by cave-ins. But that small size also meant I could carry less. Even now, with the bags' straps criss-crossed against my shoulders, my gait was most of the way to a stagger.
I couldn't see Potts and Azuretz, the men on my work team. It wasn't their business whether I kept up; I'd filled their bags good and plenty either way.
No honor among thieves.
And that's what all of us were, picking through our ancestors' bones for the coins laid on their corpses' eyes. Give me an honest day's work in the Lower Levels' factories any day.
Finally, the Mercury came into sight, its horns still blaring to call us back, and me, the last straggler.
Coronetto glared at me for holding up the lot up, and ripped one of the bags off my shoulder hard enough to unbalance me. The others had finished tallying their loads already.
I waited as Coronetto evaluated my take. “Not good, Monkey. You learning from your namesake and getting hung up playing with shit?”
I flushed, but bit back a retort.
“It's been too long, you know. Maybe you just aren't motivated. Or maybe you're hiding the rest to sell yourself.”
I shivered. I'd done no such thing, but the punishments, if Coronetto believed I had would be fierce, crippling. Possibly fatal.
“Search his bunk,” Coronetto barked, and I lowered my head to wait for the inevitable. I had saved my bonuses for months, but in the absence of a trip to the City, I hadn't been able to pass them on to Adeline. I'd earned that coin fair and square, though.
I listened to them mutter as the crew returned with my cache. The man next to me, Tyson, backed away from me warily. I could see that the fear in his eyes wasn't only for my fate, but for his own, if Coronetto would try taking my old wages hostage. There had to be some degree of trust and privacy in our personal belongings, or else the crew would fracture.
“This just about covers it. You don't get bonuses if you don't earn your keep.” Coronetto tucked the coins into his own pack, ignoring the angry murmurs of the crew. I caught one particularly agitated witness muttering, “Did he stick his head in the Cloud?”
I knew I should be grateful; the chits were obviously not stolen salvage, obviously my own payroll. But the idea of being saved a beating only to watch my toddling daughter waste away from lack of care was too much.
Coronetto's hand flicked to his side, to a knife, and I held my tongue.
Nothing for it. I was a slave here, even my wages were an illusion designed to keep me compliant.
I'd sneak out tonight. Take what air filters I could, scavenge along the way, and then climb up through the Foundation to make my way back to Adeline.
The amount I'd saved wouldn't even come close to covering the worth of the equipment I'd need if I stood a chance at living. The Cloud had poisoned far better men than I, and the rats killed far more than the Cloud. But it would damn well serve Coronetto right for taking away a man's only tool to survive, his only power.
Screw him, I thought, staring at the empty space between my bed and the floor. I’d get my bonuses back and then some. I’d cover my little girl’s surgery. Anything it took to help her out.
I glanced back at the clouds outside, the hallucinogenic pollutants visible only as dust in the wind. Breathe them too long, and you’d see things, strange things. Breathe them longer still, and you’d suffocate even as strange visions swallowed your mind. That is, if you didn’t end up committing suicide or injuring yourself under their influence.
And yet, it was better to risk that then to go home, see Adeline’s face fall like a bird failing midflight, to see my daughter limping around, crawling.
I waited until night. I made a stop by the storage area to get more filters and supplies, and I counted the hours. All my sins would be forgiven with one lucky trip, or a long one. All I had to do was survive.
About the Authors
Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer from Calgary, AB. She has a cat and a partner-in-crime. Her days revolve around freelance editing, jewelry, phuquerie, and nightmares. She is currently working on the next books in her series, other people's manuscripts, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
She is all over the internet, far too often for anyone’s sanity, and can be found in various places.
Nicolas Wilson is a published journalist, graphic novelist, and novelist. He lives in the rainy wastes of Portland, Oregon with his wife, four cats and a dog.
Nic's work spans a variety of genres, from political thriller to science fiction and urban fantasy. He has several novels currently available, and many more due for release in the next year. Nic's stories are characterized by his eye for the absurd, the off-color, and the bombastic.
For information on Nic's books, and behind-the-scenes looks at his writing, visit www.nicolaswilson.com