October 16, 2010

Ranking the Romance

When I began writing At the Mercy of Her Pleasure, my heroine was a lieutenant in the fictional APLA – All People’s Liberation Army. Since I’d been in the Navy, I knew the basic ranks there. I’d seen enough Star Trek episodes to know Navy ranks were used on the Enterprise. That was good enough for me.
The book was rocking right along, and I was more than halfway finished. I mentioned at dinner one night that I was using Navy ranks for the officers aboard the ship.
Did I mention that I have a rather opinionated son who happened to have been in Junior ROTC – USAF? My youngest son Joel is a stickler for details. He held a perfect score in ROTC, and was the pride of the colonel who taught the class. 
Joel informed me that the Air Force is in charge of the air, and by extension space, Star Trek notwithstanding. He suggested I change the ranks of my officers and offered to help with the conversion. We made them close approximations fitting with the work they performed.
My lieutenant became a captain. The character once designated captain now became a colonel (and in later books, a General). Joel gave me a print out of Air Force ranks to use for reference, and is still (many years later and post USAF service) my go-to guy on anything related to the military when I don’t know myself, or can’t ask a fellow member of RomVets.
Here's an excerpt from the book. In this scene, NarrAy, having completed her mission (or so she thinks) has been shown to the office of the rebellion's leader.
The aide to Colonel Somnoll O'Venna saw NarrAy to the colonel's door, opened it without knocking, and announced her in a whisper. She turned back and set a finger over her lips as she gestured NarrAy inside.
Destoiya ranked him a desperado and the number one terrorist threat to the empire, but the man before her was slight of build and had a gentle face and shaggy blond hair. The desperado sat behind a desk piled with documents, note readers, and vidchips. He held a sleeping child on his lap, her head cradled against his shoulder. Wrapping the girl in his arms, he gestured to NarrAy to close the door.
She shut it quietly and snapped him a salute. "Sir." She kept her voice low. "Captain Jorlan reporting."
"At ease, Captain." The Chiasma officer leaned across the sleeping girl and extended his hand. The APLA disregarded most Better Laws, especially the one about not shaking hands. "Glad to have you on board. Please sit down."
The Sleeper had gained his moniker because of his first name, Somnoll, and his reputation in always catching the Conqueror unawares.
Senth Antonello

When he swiveled his chair a bit and turned out a bright light over his shoulder, NarrAy caught a glimpse of a braid down his back, woven with a bright red ribbon. One of the oddities of having Androgs in the military was having different dress codes on different days for the same person, but NarrAy felt fairly certain none of the allowances included ribbon or braids.
Colonel O'Venna drew a blanket closer to the girl and tucked it around her. "You've been debriefed, have you?"
"Yes, sir."
The girl whimpered and stirred in her sleep, and O'Venna cooed assurances, adjusting the blanket. She had Kin ears, but they were on the side like a human's instead of near the top. They almost disappeared from sight in her tangle of blonde hair.
A HalfKin like Senth. NarrAy's heart leaped. The Better Laws forbade her to bear children, and a HalfKin could never sire one. What would one of theirs have looked like? I actually had thoughts of bearing children with Senth? That's a first.
"Was the item recovered?"
"Yes, sir. Lieutenant Keheyl took delivery."
"Excellent! Now a couple things you need to know. The first is about Stealth Keheyl. Do you realize who he is?"
"I believe his family promised him at birth to Ruffhaus Fasra, Destoiya's top Praetorian. I heard talk on the way up here she'd--"
A swiftly upheld hand stopped her. "Been relieved of duty and arrested?"
NarrAy nodded.
"More than true. Stealth and Ruffhaus have been lovers since they were teens. He followed her into the armada and became her right hand. In the short time you've been on this mission, the entire structure of the Conqueror's Praetorian Guard has crumbled."
NarrAy moved to the edge of her seat. "What happened?"
"To phrase it politely, the Conqueror demanded Ruffhaus hand over her brother." He nodded toward the sleeping girl. "He was Talyn's father. The Conqueror wanted him for her stable of pleasure slaves, but Ruffhaus refused. When Destoiya tried to force the issue, Ruffhaus stepped in to defend her brother. Before it was over, the Conqueror had arrested Ruffhaus and sent Praetorian to her brother's house to fetch him. He wasn't there, so they raped and killed his human wife, then set fire to the house. Talyn was trapped inside. I helped her father rescue her. He insisted I get her to safety while he drew the Praetorian's fire. They killed him."
NarrAy clutched a hand over her heart.
O'Venna gestured for NarrAy to come closer and pointed to the floor behind his desk.
She stood and leaned over to peer down. A younger child lay sound asleep on a pallet at his feet. "Who is this?"
"Onys is the only Chiasma test subject who survived the Sabbath Experiment."
Stark anxiety roiled NarrAy's stomach. She sank back down in the chair.
The Sabbath Experiment. A code name for research that exploited Chiasmii gender phases by intrafertilizing individuals with their own sperm and egg. It created genetically balanced fetuses that, when altered, produced a step beyond Betters. So they said. Arson started by protesters resulted in a catastrophic loss of life, the destruction of countless viable embryos, and led directly to the cessation of all genetic experiments in the empire and the outlawing of Betters.
"I didn't know someone survived the Sabbath Experiment, sir."
"No one survived, Captain Jorlan." He looked pointedly at her.
She nodded. "My mistake."
"Stealth and Ruffhaus were assigned there. Stealth rescued O's tavi--his mother--who died shortly after reaching Felidae."
"Is he like me? Genetically enhanced?"
"Because he's been hidden, he's never been properly evaluated. If Destoiya had known he survived... I don't have to tell you what his life would have been like."

NarrAy Jorlan, a Better

Tested, prodded, trained, judged, assessed. Pushed to exceed yesterday's accomplishments. Pressed to perform longer, harder, faster. Better.
"No, sir, you don't. I understand completely."
"I thought you might. We hid him from Destoiya by keeping him with Ruff's family. My change in political convictions separated us, but I'd been Ruff and Stealth's friend for years before that. Now they've seen I was right about Destoiya."
"So these little ones are in your care?"
"O was reared with Talyn, so they're both homeless. I've known them most of their lives. Where else would they go?"
"I'm surprised to see an officer of your rank with children literally underfoot." She smiled.
"A Chiasma can father one child and give birth to the next, Captain, so caring for children is part of who we are. All our workplaces are geared around childcare first, then business. My office will need some refitting, it seems." He looked around.
"Quite a challenge."
He nodded, fondly gazing at the child on the pallet. "An incredible challenge. O thinks like a HalfKin, not a Chiasma. I'm not sure what to do with him. He doesn't know how to use telepathy or any of his empathic senses. And Talyn..." He sighed and leaned back in the chair, then grinned widely. "She'd been aboard less than one day when she convinced a fighter pilot to take her up backseat and teach her to fly against the empire. I had to discipline him, but I have a feeling it won't help. The crew's adopted her as their own."
NarrAy had to laugh. "She's a leader, then."
"And a troublemaker, just like her aunt. Ruffhaus will join us soon. Stealth and those Praetorian now on our side hope to free her within a day or so. Destoiya will spit venom when she finds out."
"You expect Ruffhaus to join the resistance?"
"Ruff has no reason to trust Destoiya and every reason to hate her. She can win us our freedom."
"You have a lot of faith in her."
"That is a massive understatement. I'm staking my life on her. More than that, I'm staking the future of the empire." He tucked the blanket under Talyn's chin. "I believe once Ruff's on our side, she'll become the leader of the rebellion. It's time I stepped aside. To that end, Captain, once your mission is completed..." He paused. "Which will be when?" He waited.
"I'll return Sen--Mr. Antonello--to Kelthia and be back within a day, sir."
"Good. When you return, you'll be Ruff's aide. Show her the ropes. That's a lateral move for you, but it will work into a hefty promotion later."
"Thank you, sir. I'm honored."
"Congratulations on a job well done, Captain. I've taken the liberty of assigning your aides elsewhere for a few days. I need their expertise on a private security matter. When they return, they'll report to you. I'll expect you to hire a staff and train them."
Talyn twitched and cried out in her sleep. Crooning softly, O'Venna rocked her in his arms.
"Nightmares." He glanced up. "Small wonder. Thank you, Captain. That will be all."
"Yes, sir." Smiling, NarrAy rose and clasped the Sleeper's hand between hers. "Thank you, sir. I wish you well with the children." She stepped back and saluted. At the door, she paused and turned back.
O'Venna was smoothing one of Talyn's curls.
He looked up.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Of course."
"I couldn't help but notice your ribbon."
With a smile, the Sleeper reached back and pulled the long blond braid over his shoulder. "This ribbon is for the Conqueror, Captain Jorlan. She's made a point of saying I'm the primary target in her war against domestic terrorists, which is what she calls anyone who resists her power. I've answered that tyranny cannot and will not rule any person free at heart. So this" -- he tossed the beribboned braid over his back -- "is to make sure Destoiya can spot me in a crowd."
Antonello Brothers 1: At the Mercy of Her Pleasure (a Tarthian Empire Book)
Available at Loose Id http://www.loose-id.com/At-the-Mercy-of-Her-Pleasure.aspx
Warnings: This book is a substantially re-edited, revised edition previously released by another publisher, and contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play, dubious consent, menage (m/f/m), reference to rape offscreen.
Copyright © Kayelle Allen 2010
Backlist: http://kayelleallen.com/Books.html
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