The Invasion of Rocket City

Suck it up, buttercup.

The words were a mantra. They kept Jude going when her mind and body betrayed her. Weakness was death in the Rocket City. She’d learned that growing up as an orphan in this gang-infested territory, the last human colony on Earth. Ripping out your heart, distancing yourself, was the only way to survive.

That’s why she moved to the outskirts of town. Solitude was safe.

One last bolt and the heavy machine gun would be ready to test. Ax, the leader of the Raging Pistons, had requested the weapon weeks ago. He was coming to check it out today and, if it went well, he’d order enough to keep Jude working for a year. She needed this. Supplies were thin, and nobody else was willing to take a chance on a sixteen-year-old girl building specialized weapons for them.

Freshly greased, the large wheels glided with minimal force as Jude pushed the free-standing gun out of her dilapidated shop. Its dark, matte finish absorbed the glare of the sun instead of reflecting it. No one wanted a weapon that could double as a beacon.

Everyone was armed out here. The element of surprise mattered, unless, like Ax, you had five times more people than anyone else. Of course, he was also shrewd and knew arrogance could get you killed. No matter how fierce you were, there was nothing you could do if Ax came for you. He would wait, lulling you into believing you were safe, and then pounce, a predator in the dark, his eyes locked on yours a moment before releasing repressed rage.

Jude shielded her eyes and looked toward the city. Dust clouds blocked the view of the buildings in the distance. Ax rode hard, and he wasn’t alone. Jude tensed. She patted her thighs without looking away from the incoming riders, and then remembered she had removed her weapons. With only a few seconds to prepare, she ducked into the shop to arm herself. She belted the holster with her twin eighteen-inch machetes, pulled on the metal lined vest lying next to her toolbox, and grabbed the big wrench on top of the workbench.

Ax and his gang dismounted as Jude emerged from the shop. With narrowed eyes, Ax followed her movements. He grinned as she shifted from one foot to another. An older, brutish man with massive hands, his deep, gravel voice sent chills up her spine. “You seem nervous, Jude.  Is it ready?”

Jude licked her lips. “Haven’t tested it yet, but, yeah, it’s ready.”

“Good.” Ax walked over to the heavy machine gun to inspect it. In his hands, the weapon looked like a toy.

At any moment, he could crush it like a can, crush me like a can.

“Get the ammo,” Ax ordered.

Jude walked to the back of the shop to grab the ammo. From inside, she heard Ax’s men start shouting. Their words ran together. She couldn’t understand most of what they said, but she heard something about a ship in the sky. Jude rushed back outside; her arms weighed down by ammo cans. Ax grabbed them from her while she stood there with her mouth wide open. Hundreds of Shark Riders, zombies on the backs of cyborg sharks, descended from an airship circling above the clouds. It’s gleaming metal exterior reflected beams of sunlight like a disco ball.

“We need weapons, ammo – anything you got. Move.” Ax ordered.

Anything.

Jude only had seconds to decide. If she revealed her deception, Ax would demand her head. However, if she didn’t, they might all die.

It was only one ship. Maybe we could take it down without the extra firepower?

The portal in the sky opened again, purging a dozen more airships like the first. This time, the Shark Riders hadn’t merely stumbled upon them. It was a full-scale invasion.

On heavy gun and a small arsenal wouldn’t be enough. They’d all die for sure without more firepower.

Stealing from Axe had been stupid. But desperation performed its own kind of lobotomy on a person. Jude never thought he’d find out about the extra parts. And now, her only chance at survival hinged on coming clean.

She clenched her jaw.

Commanding the attention of several of Ax’s men, Jude shouted, “Come on. Gimme a hand.” She motioned to the other large shop doors. Together, they retrieved three more heavy machine guns. Jude risked a glance at Ax as they loaded the weapons. Their eyes locked. Ax gave Jude a knowing look. Had he suspected since the beginning that she had overcharged him for parts?

“Fire.” Ax shouted. Jude’s ears filled with ringing from the loud, constant clanging. Her arms felt like they were being ripped from the sockets but she managed to keep control of the weapon. Sharks fell from the sky, but more took their place. The enormous, winged beasts with razor-sharp teeth had a blood thirst matched only by the zombies rising from the ground.

Jude looked at the men around her. Focused. Determined. Closing ranks.

Jude had existed alone most of her life. But alone, none of them would survive. None of them would live.

***This story has been modified and refined from its original version, first published in 2017. If you enjoyed this story, drop a line in the comments or share it with a friend.


Books, Debates, and Lightning: The Scepter of Knowledge World Building

Today’s post features a behind-the-scenes look into the world building for Sekastra’s Scepter of Knowlege as part of the blog tour celebrating the release of Faithless by Janeen Ippolito (available October 18th). More about Faithless, the author, and the blog tour, including details about a Facebook party with the author, games, and giveaways, is included at the bottom of this post.

Pick up an autographed copy of Faithless directly from the publisher: here.

***

MapOfSekastra

Each of the four Scepters in Sekastra have their own focus areas—commerce, pleasure, knowledge, and industry. Lawless: The Ironfire Legacy Book 1 focused on the Scepter of Commerce, as did Priceless: An Ironfire Legacy Novella (1.5). While it was fun spending all that time in the same city-state, I was ready to dive into a new place in Faithless: The Ironfire Legacy Book 2.

The Scepter of Knowledge is in northwestern Sekastra, next to the Cresida Inlet and near the ocean. My inspiration for the climate was a combination of Seattle, Acadia, Maine, and Boston—all of those great northern coastal areas. The city-state features buildings of stone and red brick, paneled with creamy white pinwood from the Pinwood Forest to the north of the city. There is perpetual mist and fog and sea breezes flowing through the streets, and fish and other seafood feature prominently in local cuisine.

Picture1Unlike the Scepter of Commerce, which is run by a nominated council and the largest businesses, the Scepter of Knowledge is run in a sort of democratic republic, with citizens electing representatives, but also taking part in direct electoral processes. The highest authority is the Meritas, and this individual can be displaced by debate courts and elections. Because of the dependency on elections, private and public debates are a major part of the political process, and all citizens are expected to be educated on many matters to vote with discernment. This system also means things can move very slowly. Even after twenty years, the Scepter of Knowledge is the only city-state that has not officially entered the dragon-human war, because the decision is still tied up in the debate courts.

Other inspiration for the Scepter of Knowledge was the late 1700s Enlightenment period, especially in the northeastern United States with the focus on new ideas, improvement, and experimentation. For the steampunk angle, I opted to add lightning rod electro-carriages and feature three summer festivals featuring different inventions that might not work in practice, but look really cool. In terms of fashion, the Scepter of Knowledge is more conservative and typically Victorian than the Scepter of Knowledge, with very high collars, stiff corsets, long skirts, hats, and all the rest. As a throwback to the 1700s, I had the city maintain the tradition of men wearing stockings with breeches—partly because it’s a fun throwback and partly to annoy the male characters a teense.

Picture2A final major part of the Scepter of Knowledge is the libraries. There are have huge libraries in tall buildings for every single topic imaginable. When you’ve checked out a stack, auto-wators transport your books directly to your door so that the paper isn’t damaged by the damp air. If you love reading, be prepared to get lost in this city-state! But made sure to emerge from your bookish hermitage for a hot beverage at one of the many coffee and tea shops. One shop features twenty-six different flavors of tea.

Books, hot beverages, seafood, and fresh salty air—the Scepter of Knowledge definitely has a lot to offer!

Thanks for joining me today on this brief tour.

About Faithless

FaithlessCoverSmall_optOne wild night, Shance Windkeeper discovers he’s married to a death unicorn.

But that’s the least of his troubles.

As an agent for the Lawless, Shance is working with dragonshifters Kesia Ironfire and Zephryn Nightstalker, trying to end the dragon-human war and the organization that masterminded it. While on a mission in the Scepter of Knowledge, the Lawless is hit with a devastating death unicorn attack.

Out of the wreckage new allies emerge: Lirome Ukerys, and his twin sister Maira, the death unicorn queen – Shance’s long-lost wife.

Recently freed from captivity, Maira is fighting to regain control of her herd. Lurien Alistil, a rogue death unicorn, has bespelled the Scepter of Knowledge and taken Maira’s son. When Kesia unexpectedly challenges Lurien to a public debate over the fate of the city, the Lawless has a chance to break the usurper’s hold. To obtain vital information they must infiltrate her lair – and as the husband of the death unicorn queen, Shance Windkeeper is the perfect prize to go in.

But Lurien’s power is stronger and more insidious than they realize. And if the final pieces of her plan fall into place, not even Shance’s newfound Talents and knowledge will be enough to stop her.

A steampunk fantasy adventure with much intrigue, unexpected romance, sudden tragedy, and a snarky cat-dragon.

Faithless is available from AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and iBooks. Or pick up an autographed paperback directly from the publisher here.

Add Faithless to your reading list on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41743098-faithless

About the AuthorJaneen-016_opt

Janeen Ippolito believes words transform worlds. She creates writing resources and writes steampunk fantasy. She’s also an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, and the editor in chief of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, food, and making brownie batter. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her website: janeenippolito.com

Blog Tour Schedule

FACEBOOK PARTY!

Celebrate the launch of Faithless: The Ironfire Legacy Book 2 with featured author Janeen Ippolito and guest authors Angelique Anderson and R.J. Metcalf! Get your fill of steampunk, dragons, adventures, and more (re: death unicorns and a cat-dragon) with this fun-filled evening that includes giveaways, games, and an exclusive reveal or two.

Hosted by Laura A. Grace of Unicorn Quester and Uncommon Universes Press!

Facebook Party Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1123291547833648/

Faithless FB Party Banner


Cover Reveal for Faithless by Janeen Ippolito

Faithless releases on October 18th!!!

For any who aren’t familiar, Faithless is the next installment in the Ironfire Legacy, an inventive steampunk series aimed at new adults. You can check out my review of Lawless (book 1) and Priceless (book 1.5).

Here’s the blurb…

One wild night, Shance Windkeeper discovers he’s married to a death unicorn.

But that’s the least of his troubles.

As an agent for the Lawless, Shance is working with dragonshifters Kesia Ironfire and Zephryn Nightstalker, trying to end the dragon-human war and the organization that masterminded it. While on a mission in the Scepter of Knowledge, the Lawless is hit with a devastating death unicorn attack.

Out of the wreckage new allies emerge: Lirome Ukerys, and his twin sister Maira, the death unicorn queen—Shance’s long-lost wife.

Recently freed from captivity, Maira is fighting to regain control of her herd. Lurien Alistil, a rogue death unicorn, has bespelled the Scepter of Knowledge and taken Maira’s son. When Kesia unexpectedly challenges Lurien to a public debate, the Lawless has a chance to break the usurper’s hold. To obtain vital information they must infiltrate her lair—and as the husband of the death unicorn queen, Shance Windkeeper is the perfect prize to go in.

But Lurien’s power is stronger and more insidious than they realize. And if the final pieces of her plan fall into place, not even Shance’s newfound Talents and knowledge will be enough to stop her.

A steampunk fantasy adventure with much intrigue, unexpected romance, sudden tragedy, and a snarky cat-dragon.

Pre-order an autographed paperback of Faithless

Faithless https://uncommonuniverses.com/product/faithless-autographed-paperback-pre-order/
Faithless & Priceless pre-order bundle: https://uncommonuniverses.com/product/priceless-and-faithless-pre-order-bundle/
Lawless, Priceless, & Faithless pre-order bundle: https://uncommonuniverses.com/product/ironfire-legacy-pre-order-bundle/

You can also pre-order Faithless from Amazon and other online ebook retailers.

And now for a closer look at the amazing cover…

FaithlessCoverSmall_opt

About the Author

Janeen-016_optJaneen Ippolito believes words transform worlds. She creates writing resources and writes steampunk fantasy. She’s also an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, and the editor in chief of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, food, and making brownie batter. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her website: janeenippolito.com

Social media links
Website:
https://janeenippolito.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janeenippolitollc/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JaneenIppolito
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janeen_ippolito/