Genre: Science fiction
Word count: 84,000
Ash Palmer sold his life for
150,000 dollars. The money will go to his parents, and he’ll go to his grave.
All he has to do is drive a supposedly unmanned vehicle into battle for a
foreign army, and it will all be over. This time, the inevitable second
thoughts won’t steal the ending Ash seeks.
It’s the suicide to end all
attempts, but Ash just isn’t any good at dying. When he and Zephyr, another
driver, make it back from their first mission, Ash discovers that she
understands him better than he thought possible. So many reasons to die, yet
one reason to live might overrule them all.
Unfortunately, their employer won’t
let either of them quit. He’ll kill them to advance his career. They know too
much. And inside each vehicle is a self-destruct to destroy all evidence of the
human drivers if anything goes wrong.
Ash has a plan to override the
self-destruct and escape, but it’s a suicide mission in and of itself. The
future looks darker by the hour. Giving his life to save Zephyr’s is a far
better death than Ash has ever faced. But is it really the best thing for her?
Maybe the question isn’t whether he has the courage to die for Zephyr, but
whether he has the courage to live for both of them.
I don’t exist anymore. Not as a real person,
anyway. I’m more like cargo. Expensive cargo, with my own guard and a corporate
jet. The steps down to the tarmac are steep but sturdy. The sky arches
overhead, splashed with clouds. A city squats nearby, skyscrapers reaching. And
the air smells foreign.
not a prisoner, exactly. I’m an employee. My first day on the job has been
everything they promised--exciting, new, well-paying. My last day on the job is
less than a week away, though they’re not certain exactly when. That’s too bad,
because I’d really like to know when I’m going to die. Mostly, I just want to
get through the days until then.
guard hands a passport to another man who must be airport security.
Palmer,” he mutters, glancing up at me. I guess it’s my passport. This ain’t
normal airport security. There’s no metal detector, no customs, not even a
desk. Just the one guy who writes something in a book and doesn’t bother
were three others like me on the plane, each with his--or her--own guard. Mine
looks like Yul Brynner: bald, sharp jaw line, intense manner. He collects the
passports of the two recruits who went through security first, drops them into
a small vinyl pouch with mine, and waits for the girl behind me.
the only girl. The guards, security guy, and the other recruits are all men. I
suppose that applies to me as well, though I’m still more comfortable with