Title: A Broken Winter
Author: Kale Night
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: November 25, 2019
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBT, Fantasy, futuristic, hurt/comfort, soul mates, re-incarnation, political terrorism, prison, religious extremism, scientist
General Auryn Tyrus is tired of serving an emperor who turns political dissidents into expensive steak and claims to have swallowed Ankari’s sun. He is fed up with pretending not to know Emperor Haken is buying biological weapons and collecting taxes for a war that doesn’t exist. Auryn’s role in the entire mirage leads him to drastic choices, but unexpected news halts his plans. Seven-year-old Keita Kaneko, the son of a former lover, is captured by the emperor’s special forces. Auryn secretly intervenes and spares Keita from execution.
Keita changes everything. Instead of feeling helpless and oppressed by a self-proclaimed living god, Auryn works to expose the emperor as a fraud. But he knows exactly will happen if he’s discovered, and the extent of Emperor Haken’s lies is worse than anticipated. If Auryn expects anyone to believe the truth, he’s going to need proof. And a lot of help.
I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from A Broken Winter. This scene takes place shortly after Keita arrives at the Farm and is rescued by Auryn. The Farm is the source of all food in Terasyn. It’s also a convenient dumping ground for political dissidents. The excerpt goes into a few specifics about how the Farm functions, as Auryn is in charge of keeping everything running smoothly. It also shows how Keita’s arrival affects Auryn. Saving Keita makes a huge change to Auryn’s overall quality of life and gives him a reason not to spend countless hours behind his desk.
Trigger warnings: Gore, mention of suicide/suicidal ideation.
A Broken Winter
Kale Night © 2019
All Rights Reserved
In anticipation of Keita’s arrival, Auryn deleted the record of an earlier visitor. A nine-year-old boy classified as noncompliant—asking too many questions in class, arguing with his teachers. Like most additions to the Farm, the boy and his parents had been taken at night.
The boy’s remains were vacuum packed and labelled with Keita’s ID number. Almost nothing was wasted. Emperor Haken had a taste for his subjects. Only the head and genitals were exempted from consumption, soaked in consecrated oil and set alight.
Auryn began his daily patrol in Building A—over 200,000 square feet of greenhouses rigged with artificial lights, producing food for roughly 100,000 people on the surface and the animals in Building C. Fast-growing, genetically modified crops maximised output, largely the product of Reisen’s research.
Hot, humid air swirled around him, making Auryn’s uniform uncomfortably warm, fabric sticking to his back. Finding staff willing to work under such conditions was easy. It beat working in the capital, where the emperor’s growing contempt for a population fumbling towards enlightenment at the speed of limbless babies resulted in fewer luxuries and colder temperatures.
The sun shone overhead, clearly visible through sheets of polycarbonate. An illusion, but an important one. When Emperor Haken swallowed the sun, millennia ago, there was 300 years of absolute darkness. A time of penitence and self-reflection, during which the suicide rate climbed until roughly half the population were dead and Haken reluctantly agreed to give people a glimpse of what they were supposed to be working for. His Holiness was nothing if not merciful.
Climate controls checked out. Crop yields looked good. They kept up with demand and stored what little surplus they had, praying they never needed it. Auryn paused at a peach tree, indulging in a moment of quality control. He liked peaches, though they inspired an inexplicably mixed reaction. The texture seemed off. Too smooth. He wasn’t sure what he wanted instead. The fruit tasted fine, but lacked sweetness. It fell short of unreasonable expectations and never failed to confound him. The taste reminded him of something he couldn’t identify. Something buried in the back of his mind, resisting recovery.
Once assured everything in Building A was running smoothly, Auryn moved on to Building B—packaging and shipping. As Director of Operations for the Farm, his main interest was efficiency, reaching and maintaining production goals. Any disputes or practices interfering with achieving these goals were not tolerated.
Building C housed a variety of animals—cows, pigs, fish, and chickens. Maintaining them was ridiculously expensive and consumed more far resources than Auryn deemed practical—the largest cows consumed over 60 pounds of feed per day—but Emperor Haken insisted, refusing suggestions for optimisation. The animals of Building C aged quickly, reaching full maturity after several months, after which they were either utilised for breeding purposes or slaughtered.
Chickens were housed in an area joking referred to as the “chicken wing,” crushed into thousands of tiny cages, beaks trimmed to prevent stress-induced self-mutilation and cannibalism. Cows and pigs lived out the duration of their short lives under the same roof. A small number were spared terrifying confinement and raised in the “Massage Parlour,” a special section where the pens weren’t overcrowded and the animals occupying them were well cared for. Unlike the others, they were content. Oblivious to their fates. Their muscles and hides were massaged with alcohol on a regular basis, producing meat of exceptional quality with a price tag to match.
Auryn stepped onto the kill floor, at which point he usually caught himself thinking of inventive ways to die, involving things like meathooks and air saws. It felt strange to walk past a hide fleshing machine without experiencing the urge to stop and stick his head inside. Keita needed him, at least for now.
Those like Keita—political dissidents, sexual deviants, heretics, and other “undesirables” inevitably ended up here. Human sacrifices appeased the emperor and his family, buying much-needed patience and tolerance for their subjects. Sacrifices were ritualistically slaughtered in a secure section of the building, hidden from civilian eyes. Civilians never questioned the disappearances of their neighbours, knowing what happened when you doubt the integrity of a living god. An omnipotent being who saw everything. Heard everything. Owned warehouses full of surveillance equipment.
To do his job, Auryn needed to be detached. Being under orders helped dilute any sense of responsibility, but the greatest sense of distance came from progressive desensitisation. He’d seen his first dead body at age twelve—a suicide, jumped out a window, skull split open, brains everywhere. It haunted him for years, but as the disturbing visual was joined by others, it became less visceral, less traumatic. Just a splash of colour on the sidewalk.
Auryn drove a utility vehicle back to Building D and settled into his office, reviewing financial statements for the upcoming budget, losing himself in a sea of numbers. He usually worked late, preferring distraction to being left alone with his thoughts, putting in more hours than required, but for the first time in recent memory, he left his desk early. He descended into the basement and unlocked the door to his quarters, eager to check on Keita.
He found the boy in front of the TV, eyes glued to the screen, listening intently to the news.
“Twenty-seven-year-old Keera Denkawa’s body was found this evening in a dumpster on 19th street. Her eyes, ears, and tongue were removed, an all too familiar calling card of terrorist Reisen Kaneko. Occult symbols used in dark magick and demon worship were found burned into her skin and leading experts to conclude she was victim of a perverse sacrifice. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.”
Auryn switched off the TV. “That’s enough of that.”
Keita stared at the blank screen. “If my dad didn’t hurt her, who did?”
“Do you remember what I told you before I left?”
“Don’t believe everything you see on TV,” muttered Keita.
“That’s right. Saying someone found a dead body doesn’t make it so. The only thing we know for sure is that the lady on TV is being paid to say whatever the emperor wants her to.”
“Then how do you know what’s real?”
Auryn sat beside Keita on the couch, considering a variety of responses before settling on the most honest, but least reassuring. “You don’t. That’s why you question everything.”
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Meet the Author
Kale currently resides outside a small town in northern Alberta, where she works in a library. She’s an avid reader with an English degree from the University of Calgary. In her spare time Kale loves playing video games, making chain maille, watching anime, and cultivating a steadily expanding bonsai collection.
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