From the Archive (slightly edited), since DAEGAN was my featured backlist title this week:
When I wrote KIERCE a few books prior in the award winning Badari Warriors series, I established that there was another lab in the southern hemisphere which was also creating these genetically engineered soldiers of the far future and that this other lab was run somewhat differently. I knew I’d be taking a trip to that lab in a future book and exploring some of the differences. (All the books can be read as standalones.)
I decided it was a good time to write DAEGAN and give my existing Badari some good news, in the form of a large number of well-trained soldiers to join their ranks. The first problem to resolve was the way in which this second lab had been kept so super-secret by the Khagrish, no one knew where it was. So I needed someone to figure how to get there, go undercover and to make contact with the hidden Alpha.
Flo appeared in the first book, AYDARR, as one of the three mercenaries who helped Jill the northern Alpha’s human mate free the original Badari from captivity but since then she’s kind of languished on the sidelines. I’d make sure to mention Flo in the ensuing books, usually by having her piloting a flyer during an attack or a rescue, but she had yet to have her own adventure or to find her potential Badari mate. I thought she’d be the perfect person to undertake this mission but that led to the question of how and why she’d be sent to the island. Not to to give spoilers, but it turns out the Khagrish have a specific experiment in mind and are shipping human women down there in connection with this idea. So I made it possible for Flo to be added to the group and off we went for the adventure.
The whole nature of the experiment and how much or how little the women and the Badari would or could co-operate or resist was touchy for me. I tried to make it clear both groups of prisoners were doing their best under the circumstances, which did lead to some difficult decisions for people involved. I had to add a trigger warning, which I’ve never done before because there is an attempted suicide by drowning in the book. I don’t linger on the scene, which involves a supporting character, or the details but I didn’t want to surprise any readers who’d be sensitive to the event.
And of course the readers know, because Flo knows, that ‘her’ Badari will be coming to the rescue as soon as they can.
I enjoyed having a tropical island and the ocean to write about, which allowed me to add some plot wrinkles. Alien jellyfish, for example! I’m always happy to do research on new topics.
I set myself the challenge of dealing with a group of Badari who were never allowed to form packs, and where anyone who was alpha-born was executed by the Khagrish, which made it necessary for Daegen to hide who and what he was from a very early age.
I always say that I never want to write exactly the same story twice in this series, although of course certain fundamentals remain the same, and I truly enjoyed looking at things from a different standpoint this time out. It was interesting to me to write a group of Badari who don’t necessarily believe or know all the things the northern pack takes for granted. It also felt good to give Flo her due as a gutsy woman and hand her a mission and a story where her talents as an elite soldier could shine.
And make sure she meets a worthy mate!
The blurb: Ex-Special Forces soldier and mercenary Flo Michetti is bored with her assignment as a pilot for the genetically engineered Badari pack in their fight against the evil Khagrish scientists. She jumps at the chance to take a dangerous undercover mission. She infiltrates a group of human prisoners on their way to a secret lab in the southern ocean, where the Badari believe many more of their own kind have been created and are being experimented on. Once Flo has located the lab, found the Alpha among the Badari there and sent a report back, the plan will be to attack and rescue all the prisoners.
Arriving at the island Flo learns the true nature of the horrific experiment for which the humans have been brought to this remote location. Time will be perilously short to escape before it’s too late for all of them. She has to locate the Alpha of this captive southern pack, who conceals his identity to escape death at the hands of the Khagrish, and get him to join with her and her allies.
Daegan feels an instant attraction to Flo when the Badari and the humans are forced together by the Khagrish scientists, but there are mysteries and questions surrounding her. Before he reveals himself as the incognito Alpha she’s seeking, he wants answers to allay his doubts. He also wants Flo in his bed…but can he risk his heart to claim her as his mate?
Complicating the situation is a dangerous rival for Daegan’s position as Alpha, an oncoming hurricane and Flo’s resistance to abandoning her life as a soldier of fortune…as the Khagrish scientists prepare to initiate the experiment, the clock is ticking for humans and Badari alike.
Nerves on edge, Flo crouched in the darkness with the others as MARL did his bag of tricks, scanning the complex, identifying where the twenty human women were being held. He hacked into the artificial intelligence system running the lab, using secret back doors and passwords Jill set up a long time ago. The Khagrish might be absolute masters at genetic manipulation but they weren’t too adept with computers and artificial intelligence.
A small door to the right of her hissed open and MARL led the way. Flo stayed in the center of the tight bunch of Badari, knowing they were protected under his distortion field. Kierce remained outside to act as sentry. The lab was basically like all the others Flo had seen, and MARL brought them inside the facility in the middle of the cell block. The Khagrish had vids but MARL was giving them a false readout and the aliens’ security guards rarely patrolled at night.
As long as we’re efficient, we’ll pull this off undetected. Flo’s nerves were tightly wound nevertheless as she and her companions proceeded down the corridor.
When they arrived at the proper cell, MARL stopped, floating in midair, bobbing slightly, with violet and chartreuse running over him in a gaudy display. Aydarr sent a small dissolving canister of sleep gas through the tiny opening MARL created in the force field barrier in front of the cell and the group waited while the highly localized, concentrated gas did its work and dissipated. At the Alpha’s hand signal, MARL opened the cell entirely and the squad rushed inside. Aydarr swept up one of the unconscious women from a bunk at the rear of the cell. Darik quickly removed the unconscious woman’s neurocontroller bracelet before she was carried out of the cell. He then placed the black bracelet on Flo’s wrist setting off a brief flare of heat against her skin and pain along her arm as the device adjusted to her.
Biting her lip and muttering curses to herself, Flo lay on the cot and watched as her teammates left the cell. When MARL put the force barrier back up there was a sizzle and then she could no longer see the squad as the AI reinstated his distortion shield. Flo laced her fingers behind her head and stared at the ceiling. I’m in for it now. She hoped the woman who’d been rescued wasn’t close friends with any of the others in the cell but was prepared to spin a story about how the Khagrish had entered in the night and made the substitution for their own inscrutable reasons. Frankly she doubted anyone was going to care. Most humans in the Khagrish lab system were pretty beaten down and frightened, unlikely to make a fuss or take the risk of bringing the aliens’ attention onto themselves.
Flo moved her arm to where she could study the bracelet in the subdued light. She’d never had to endure one of these either but it’d been made clear to her they could be used to inflict severe pain, at times enough to kill. She planned to be a model prisoner, obedient to a fault.
Right up to the moment when she wasn’t…
When the lights came up in the cell to signify morning and an annoying buzzer sounded to make sure the prisoners were awake, the other women rose groggily and milled around, using the limited bathroom facilities and straightening their clothing and hair as much as it was possible to do so. Flo joined the group at the muster line toward the front of the cell and although a few looked at her with mildly puzzled expressions, no one asked where the other woman had gone. Actually no one spoke at all, which suited Flo fine.
The Khagrish guards brought the breakfast mush in bowls, carried on trays by robo servers and again no one blinked or said anything about Flo. The guards only seemed to care whether they had the same count of human women as they’d had the night before.
“We’ll be loading you onto the flyer in an hour,” the security captain said as the robos deposited the food trays on the tables and left the cell. “It’s a long flight to your next destination but the location will be the end of your journey.” He gave them a leer. “You should be grateful you were selected for this experiment, believe me.”
The guards marched away and the women headed for the tables.
“What do you suppose he meant by his last remark?” someone asked. “Has anyone heard anything about the reason the Khagrish gathered us up?”
Apparently the room full of women hadn’t been told anything about the purpose for which they’d been chosen, so Flo held her tongue as well while idle speculation buzzed in the air. Wild as some of the guesses were, no one came close to the true purpose behind the Khagrishi actions.
She wasn’t here to get to know the other women although she was mildly curious where they’d been in the Sectors when they were kidnapped, but not enough to ask questions when no one else was making any effort to become acquainted.
As promised, the guards returned all too soon and escorted the prisoners outside, to the landing field and onto a big, rear-loading cargo style flyer, which was the first one Flo had seen on the planet. We could sure use one of these. She amused herself by contemplating how she’d go about hijacking this craft if she had a different mission than the one she was actually assigned to. The women weren’t shackled or restrained in any way, merely told to stay in their seats. The guards seated fore and aft didn’t even pay much attention to them. Clearly they didn’t regard the women as any threat.
The flyer took off smoothly and flew south as far as Flo could tell from the limited view she had on the overhead vids.
“Where exactly are we going?” one guard asked the other in Khagrish, offering him a pack of feelgood sticks. “Have you ever heard of this island lab?”
His friend selected a purple-tipped feelgood and lit up. “Nah, but this whole planet is full of secrets of one kind or another. Probably soft duty for some lucky bastards.”
“Not if they’re guarding a pack of Badari.” The first man also lit up, inhaling the colored smoke with obvious pleasure. “I did two tours in the lab where the animals were kept on this continent and they were scary, let me tell you. Give them an inch and you’re likely to be dead. Glad I wasn’t there when they broke out.”
Checking to see where the officer was, the second guard said in a low voice, “I heard the authorities handled things smarter at this island facility. Didn’t let the Badari form packs, killed off any alphas at a young age. Easier to handle when they don’t have a leader.”
Flo wondered if the Khagrishi was right. If these new Badari were too tame, or too collaborative with the Khagrish, they’d be no help at all to Aydarr. They could even prove to be a hindrance. Of course Kierce was a fierce warrior and joined Aydarr’s pack willingly so that was a good sign. She leaned her head against the bulkhead and let herself drift into a light sleep. Better to arrive rested and ready for anything than to force herself to stay awake during a long and boring flight.