Friday, December 14, 2012


I have no words appropriate for this blog to describe the tragedy in Connecticut today.

If you have kids, go hug them and tell them you love them.  If you have kids and are unable to hug them today, call them and tell them you love them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Carniepunk Cover Reveal

All Things Urban Fantasy is doing an exclusive cover reveal for CARNIEPUNK, the carnival-themed urban fantasy anthology in which I have a story. The anthology releases July 30, 2013 from Pocket, and it has an amazing lineup of UF authors--bestsellers, as well as a good slice of us regular folks, and I'm excited to be in their company.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing.

I received an invite to this Blog-Tag from the incomparable Stacey Graham, and you can find her blog post here.

What is the working title of your book? --Tempest

Where did the idea come from for the book? --Tempest is the third book in my MetaWars series, which follows a group of adult superheroes who are dealing with malfunctioning powers, a world that hates them, and a lot of romantic complications.  The idea for Tempest came out of the titular character, Ethan "Tempest" Swift.  He has the ability to control the wind, which is one of the few things about himself that Ethan actually likes. His story sprung from several wells, including the secret of the identity of his father (which Ethan's mother told him on her deathbed) and the fact that he's gay--something Ethan has kept from pretty much everyone. He has to come to terms with a lot of aspects of his life, and it's quite a journey.

What genre does your book fall under? --Urban fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? --This is always such a difficult question to answer. Sometimes I imagine well-known actors, and sometimes I'd rather image that Hollywood would find a brilliant new face to play my characters. But I will admit that I've always been rather fond of Scott Speedman as Gage.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? --In private it's "A lot of shit's about to hit the Meta fan." But that's probably not a great pitch for mixed company.  I'll have to come up with something better....

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? --Tempest is releasing digitally from Pocket Star on April 23, 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? --About three or four months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? --I don't think there are many comparables. Superhero books are still rare, and to have an ongoing superhero series that mixes up the POV's is also kind of rare. But the books do have the trademarks of urban fantasy: unusual worlds, first-person POV, supernatural/paranormal abilities, and humor/snark.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? --Is is silly to say the characters? I always wanted to rotate POV's for the MetaWars books, and when it was time I just knew that this would be Ethan's book. He's had something to say for a while now, and it was fun to give his personality a platform and a chance to shine. Plus, after everything he's been through, he deserves to find a little love....

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? --Fans of the series will get to see Manhattan Island prison from the inside, as well as hear from some of the Bane prisoners. I also delve a bit more into the politics of this war-torn world and the mindset of the general public when it comes to Metas. It's also a guy's POV, which is much less prolific in urban fantasy than female.

So those are my answers!

I was excited when Stacey asked me to participate and post my own answers to these questions.  And then, like the loser I am sometimes, I forgot about it until today. So instead of having other writers tagged at the end of this post, I am opening this up to any followers who wish to do their own The Next Big Thing post.  Just link back in the Comments of this blog!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tempest Snippet

It's hard to believe that it's October, and that Halloween is almost here. We're already putting out Christmas items at the day job. Yikes!

On the plus side, that means only about six months until TEMPEST is released!  Since that's pretty awesome, I thought I'd tease y'all with a snippet. This is Ethan "Tempest" Swift's story (as if the title didn't give that away), and the scene I chose is from Chapter Four.  Ethan and Aaron Scott (remember him from CHANGELING?) are on a private jet, heading toward New York City, to help Simon Hewitt with a little job involving the folks still living in the Manhattan Island prison--and Ethan has a very personal reason for volunteering.



"We're going to be working together for at least the next three days, so at some point you're going to have to talk to me," Aaron said. He had an annoying ability to sound both condescending and completely reasonable in the exact same sentence.

 Which, naturally, made me feel about five years old. I hadn't ignored him for the last three hours on purpose. I simply didn't have anything to say in the way of polite conversation. The questions I wanted to ask—What's it like for your brother sharing space with my kind-of-best friend? How can Marco learn to cope with having all that extra noise in his head and not go crazy?—would only start a fight. And us getting into it at thirty-thousand feet was a very bad idea.

I was also too busy keeping my own shit together to bother entertaining Aaron. Not just because of our destination, which was stress-inducing enough. I simply wasn't a fan of flying on man-made aircraft. Flying on my own, using the wind currents and my Meta powers to guide me, was something I had total control over. Sitting inside a giant metal tube going five hundred miles an hour was out of my control, and it meant keeping a tight lid on my emotions. The last thing I needed to do was get upset and cause unexpected turbulence.

The jet's main cabin had three rows of seats in front and a small lounge in the back. After takeoff, we'd silently moved to opposite ends of the lounge's long faux-leather sofa, and then proceeded to ignore each other. A few minutes ago, Aaron had discarded his tablet in favor of staring at me from his end of the couch. And then he spoke.

"Fine," I said. I put down the tablet I'd been reading—a pre-departure gift from Teresa, full of information on the ex-Banes already registered and in our database. "What do you want to talk about?"

If Aaron noticed the challenge in my tone, he didn't react to it. "Tell me about Manhattan. About the prison, I mean. I don't know a whole lot about it."

At least he'd chosen an easy topic—kind of. I'd never forgotten those horrifying hours I'd spent in Central Park as a thirteen year-old Ranger trainee, being chased along by a group of Banes intent on murdering us. Over the years, I'd devoured every additional scrap of information I could find on the man-made prison they'd created out of the skeleton of Manhattan Island, including security protocols and street maps. As a teenager, I'd entertained ideas of getting inside and taking out Jinx. Now all those years of studying should help us do our jobs that much faster.

Still…. "What have you been reading about this whole time?" I asked, pointing at the tablet next to Aaron's knee. We'd been given identical information, and everything he needed to know about the prison was on his tablet.

"Official documents and government reports, mostly. Suspected hiding locations for the people we're searching for, as well as a rundown of their powers."

"Did you get to the part with the map of the prison and all the specs?"

"First thing."

I resisted the urge pull a face. "So why are you asking me about it?"

"Because you've been there, and I never have."

Sweat prickled across my forehead. "I haven't been there in fifteen years."

Aaron tilted his head to the left, like a bird observing a potential worm in the grass—or a killer sizing up his next victim. Same difference.

Okay, so that wasn't a very generous description, but give me a break here. Maybe he could dispute that he wasn't a killer by the basic definition of the word, arguing that the consciousness of the host remained inside him in some vague capacity, but it didn't change the fact that bodies had been left behind. Or parts of bodies. Four people—Ronald Jarvis, Joel Stevenson, Arnold Stark, and Miguel Ortega—were no longer among the general population, mingling with their friends and loved ones, because of choices made by Test Subject 0982, aka King. 

Now alias Aaron Scott. He insisted the peaceful amalgamation of King and Aaron was the person we interacted with, and he was the person he'd chosen to become. How that supposedly worked with four other consciousnesses floating around in his head was totally beyond me—and it was why I just didn't trust Aaron.

Working together this week was going to be an extra-special treat.

At least he was easy on the eyes. Not that I was ogling or anything, but Aaron's dirty blond hair and green eyes (a darker green than mine) were a definite win in the genetic lottery. In my more reckless youth, my type was usually defined by "available" and "male." This past year my type had been completely nonexistent, for a variety of reasons, but Aaron was—no way.  

I was so not letting my brain go there.

"I read a little about that final battle you were in," Aaron said. "You were pretty brave for a bunch of kids."

I wanted to laugh, but didn't. Bravery hadn't factored much into it at the time. We were running from grownups who wanted to kill us. There's nothing vaguely heroic in trying to save your own ass.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

News: Anthology Announcement

We've been sitting on this news for a few months now, and it's finally time to spill the beans!

From Publisher's Marketplace:

Fiction: Sci-Fi/Fantasy: CARNIEPUNK, an anthology which combines the carnival setting and the world of urban fantasy, a place of deception, where monsters wait silently in the dark, featuring short stories by authors Rachel Caine, Jennifer Estep, Seanan McGuire, Rob Thurman, Delilah Dawson, Kelly Gay, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Hillary Jacques, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler and Jaye Wells, to Adam Wilson at Pocket, for publication in August 2013, by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media.

I'm so excited to be part of this anthology with so many other amazing authors.  And the concept was a lot of fun to work with.  My story is called "Freak House" and is set in a completely new world, unrelated to my Dreg City and MetaWars books.

This is the story I pitched (and the final product was pretty spot-on):

Sheltered and raised by her gypsy mother, Shiloh Harrison has never explored the djinn heritage of her absentee father—until she learns he's been captured by a man whose underground paranormal freak show is the latest rage among the rich and elite.  Determined to embrace her djinn half and to prove herself to her gypsy Clan, Shiloh enlists the aid of a US Marshal on the verge of retiring and a lone werewolf with no Pack loyalties to help free her father and the other imprisoned Paras from the nightmare of this traveling Freak House.

The anthology is coming out in August 2013 from Pocket.  I'll keep y'all updated as I learn more!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Third Quarter Roundup

It's hard to believe that it's September.  Honestly, I feel like summer just started, and now it's over.  Labor Day Weekend is the official end to summer and the tourist season here on the Shore. In the world of retail, it means one thing: Christmas is coming. 

August just flew by for me.  I had an amazing time in New Orleans for Authors After Dark. The conference was a blast, and I loved being in the city.  It's gorgeous, especially in the historic areas. If visiting Nola is on your bucket list, I highly recommend it.  Just don't fly US Airways.  I still have anger with them over a cancelled flight and lost luggage.

Writing-wise, I'm almost finished with first round edits on TEMPEST (MetaWars #3) and will get that back to my editor this week.  TEMPEST also has a release date! You get Ethan's story on April 23, 2013. The MetaWars world expands even further this time, as Ethan Swift and Aaron Scott head to Manhattan Prison to assist Simon Hewitt in locating a few AWOL prisoners--and Ethan has a very personal reason for wanting to get into Manhattan....

Book 4, CHIMERA, will release in November 2013.  I'm over 1/3 into Renee's story, and I'm genuinely loving her.  A friend who just read TRANCE and CHANGELING for the first time tweeted me the other and said "Renee's kind of a bitch."  I laughed, then wrote back, "Yes, she is, but there's a reason for that!"  You'll just have to wait to find out.  *grin*

I turned in my anthology short last week. The antho will be out next summer with Pocket with a theme that I haven't seen before.  I keep promising more later, and later hasn't yet arrived.  Soon!

Other than that, I have no news.  The Sekrit Project is still out there.  I have a handful of Dreg City short stories in various stages of completion, and I hope to self-publish some of those while I keep working at Dreg City 5.  I'm looking forward to the new seasons of "Glee" and "The Walking Dead." I will probably watching "American Horror Story" again.  Mostly I'll be working, writing, and trying to occasionally hang out with friends, before the hell of Christmas in Retail World swallows me whole....

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Where I'll Be in August

August 1st. I ask you, where on earth has the summer gone? Two months are down, and August will be half over before I come up for air.  These next two weeks are packed full of fun things for me!

First up is Shore Leave 34 this weekend, at the Hunt Valley Inn, near Baltimore, MD. This is my twelfth year going to this particular convention, and I'm excited to go again and see old friends. I'll once again be participating in the All Kinds of Writing Workshop on Saturday, as well as several other panels: Superheroes In Between, Self-Publishing and Small Press Publishing, Genre Mash-ups, and Pro-Writing Basics. 

After Shore Leave, I'm home for two days before leaving for Authors After Dark: New Orleans!!!! I cannot wait for this! It's my first AAD, as well as my first trip to NOLA. I can't wait to catch up with some writer friends, meet some other authors, and get to chat personally with bloggers and fans. I already have my costume for the masquerade ball!  It should be a lot of fun.

Once I get home, I have two guest posts going up for two different, awesome month-long events.  The first I mentioned last month:


My post goes up August 13.  Since I'm on the Romp team, Dahlia "Ember" Perkins will be interviewing her boss and mentor Teresa "Trance" West on what it's like to be a superhero, a team leader, and juggle a relationship.

The second guest post is for my second foray into:


Last year, Milo Gant took you on a trip through Dreg City.  This year, you're getting a bird's eye view of the Meta Wars world, lead by Ethan "Tempest" Swift and Marco "Onyx" Mendoza.  They'll give you an overview of the post-War United States and warn you of the places to stay away from.  Plus Ethan gets a little more face-time before his book, TEMPEST (MetaWars #3) comes out next year.  The tour goes up on August 14th!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Stomp vs Romp and Other Things

First off, Happy 4th to those who celebrate.  And for those who don't, Happy Wednesday!

You may have seen this around Twitter, but in August a new blog event called STOMP VS ROMP is beginning, and I agreed to participate.


Authors will be going head-to-head to see if Action or Romance reigns supreme. But some odd twist of fate, I've ended up on the Romance side of the battle.  And anyone whose read my books knows that will be a big handicap for our side, since I'm more of an Action girl (as are my characters).  We'll see how things shake out.

There is a new interview with me up at Calliope's Domain, as well as a giveaway. The winner has their choice of a signed copy of TRANCE or CHANGELING.  Only a few have entered, so your chance of winning are incredibly good.

The Pocket After Dark community is offering TRANCE for free this month!  Free read! Check out the MetaWars world.  Read it, love it, go buy CHANGELING!  All you have to do is join the community, which is quick and easy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Release Day: Changeling

It's here!

Today is the official release day for CHANGELING, MetaWars #2.  It's available online and at your local bookstore. I'm excited for this chapter in the MetaWars saga, because it opens up a new side of the world only vaguely hinted at in the first book.  You are also treated to a new perspective on our team of heroes, because this book is narrated by newcomer Dahlia "Ember" Perkins, who you briefly met in TRANCE.

If you want to get a taste of it now, the first chapter is below. Feel free to link, but please don't duplicate without permission.

Thanks to all of my intrepid readers for following Teresa and Company on their next adventure!


Chapter One
Settling In

            "Who's got the friggin' fire extinguisher?"
            Renee's shout echoed all the way down the main staircase, punctuated by a foot stamped down on the ceiling above me.  I dropped my paint-soaked roller into its pan a little too hard and splattered eggshell interior matte all over the legs of my jeans, adding to the pre-existing splats of burgundy, sage, white, navy blue, and two different wood stains. 
            I was downstairs in the foyer of the mansion we were hip-deep renovating, trying to get a second coat onto the interior walls of the spacious entry.  Even after a primer and first coat, the garish blue-green paint job the home's previous owners subjected themselves to—in a fit of drunken misguidance, one can only hope—continued to peek through.  The home in mostly-deserted Beverly Hills had been on the market for seven years before we bought it; real estate in California anywhere south of Santa Barbara was hard to sell.  Everyone was moving north, just as they had been in the twenty years since the outbreak of the Meta War that had ravaged Los Angeles, among other major cities.  With the last four major film studios located in Vancouver, half of the city's population had defected to Canada.
            Several million residents remained, though, including we six—the last of a defunct group of superheroes once called the Ranger Corps.
            The house we settled on—and after much discussion named Hill House, after a fallen friend—was huge.  More than twenty rooms, a perimeter fence with a built-in security system, an interior courtyard, exterior pool and tennis court, and plastic pipes that didn't need replacing.  Everything else was surface and could be fixed with time and patience.   
            More foot stamping above.  Renee and Ethan had gone upstairs to work on the front room, which was destined to be our common lounge.  I darted toward the main staircase on my right and took the steps two at a time, past the first landing and up to the second floor. 
            The lounge was on my immediate right.  Its floor was bare, stripped of its old carpeting and sanded smooth of ancient carpet glue.  The walls were painted a pleasant lemon yellow and trimmed with walnut molding.  It was a large, L-shaped room, and I stood at the entrance to the short end.
            Ethan "Tempest" Swift sat on the floor by the far wall, next to the open balcony doors.  Morning sunlight glinted off his red hair, seeming to set it on fire.  He clutched his left hand to his chest and scowled at the far end of the room.  I rounded the corner to the longer end of the L and was assaulted by the odor of scorched plastic.  Renee "Flex" Duvall hovered in the center of the room, staring up at the ceiling.  A dusty, broken light fixture lay in pieces at her feet.  Above her, exposed wires dangled and sparked, and light gray smoke twisted out of the hole in the ceiling.
            "Are you two trying to burn us down?" I asked.  I strode over, accidentally bumping Renee sideways with my hip.  She grunted.  I extended my hands toward the exposed wires and concentrated.  The heat pulled into my body, absorbed through my fingertips to settle deep in my belly.  A warm flush filled my cheeks.  A few sparks leapt from the hole to me—little caresses of warmth—and then the threat passed.
            "Yeah, we were hoping to cause a nice fire," Renee said.  Her berry-red lips twisted into a wry smile, the only bit of her skin that wasn't ash-blue.  "Because I love burning down the headquarters I've barely had a chance to live in."
            For a moment, I didn't know if she was serious.  Renee and I had an awkward relationship, to say the least.  I discovered the awesome extent of my powers during the same fire that killed a good friend (possibly a lover) of hers.  I hadn't grown up with her and the others, and she often seemed to view me as an annoyance, rather than a teammate.
            "My fault," Ethan said, hauling ass to his feet.  "I should have turned off the circuit breaker before I decided to try some rewiring."
            I blanched.  "You think?"
            "I'm just trying to be helpful with this whole renovations thing, Dal.  I like to think I can do more than just help the paint dry faster."
            Renee's mouth twitched.  "You know, people might line up for that kind of assistance.  Blow a lot of wind, dry the paint in ten minutes flat.  Contractors would pay good money for you."
            "Not contractors who get paid by the hour."
            Ethan's particular power was control over the air.  His codename, Tempest, fit the ability perfectly.  I had seen him practice dozens of times.  He could concentrate a whirlwind to drill a hole into the ground, and aim a blast of air at an object to knock it loose from a great height.  His most impressive (to me) talent was gliding on air currents to simulate flying.  He looked so free when he did, as close to happy as he ever seemed to get.  Ethan often played peacemaker among our disparate personalities, but he never seemed to find any peace for himself.
            I blew air out through my nose.  "Look, guys, I know that Teresa is all gung-ho about us doing as much as possible ourselves, but there are reasons people hire professional electricians.  Painting is one thing, but electricity is tricky.  Let's just pay someone and get it over with.  We can—"
            "If you say we can afford it one more time, I'll gag you," Renee said.  She planted her hands on her hips, and I half-expected her to stretch her limbs into crazy proportions in order to intimidate me.  I admired her power.  She could stretch her body like taffy, at least ten times its original length.  All I did was absorb heat.
            "Well, we can," I snapped.  Our decision to break away from government oversight and go freelance had hinged on accessing the trust fund my father left in my name.  It was money I'd ignored my entire adult life, until I finally found a way to put it to good use.  "What we can't afford is Ethan constantly electrocuting himself, or us burning this place down around our ears.  He's not an electrician."
            "Just a wind bag."
            Ethan grunted.  "Funny."
            Renee blew him a kiss.  "Look, Dal, bring it up with Teresa again.  If she wants to hire out, fine.  Great.  Go for it.  Just don't get your hopes up."
            "I just don't understand why she's so averse to using the money," I said.
            "It's not about the money."
            I stared.  "What do you mean, it's not about the money?"
            Renee cast her eyes at Ethan; he gazed at the floor.  No help there, so she squared her shoulders.  A spot of white paint stood out against her otherwise flawless blue skin.  They both knew Teresa "Trance" West longer than I had; they had grown up together, along with Marco "Onyx" Mendoza and Gage "Cipher" McAllister.  The five of them, elder heroes by all rights, worked together like a single entity.  As much as I tried, I never felt like one of them.  Yes, I was Metahuman just like they were, but I wasn't part of their shared history.  It made me an outsider.
            They knew what else bothered our venerable leader, and I hadn't a clue.
            "Well?" I asked.  "Throw me a bone here, guys."
            "She's being cautious, is all," Ethan said.  "Any electrician we hire would be a stranger.  This is our sanctuary, Dal, we can't let just anyone inside."
            I understood Teresa's reasons for extreme caution, having lived through the events that culminated in our separation from the MetaHuman Control branch of ATF.  Her sense of betrayal over the fail safe plan.  The literal betrayal of Angus Seward, who was once considered a valuable ally and had, in the end, tried to annihilate all Metas.  Knowledge that attack could come from any direction, as it often did when we ventured into the city.  Heroes to some, villains to others, but feared by all—this is what we had become to the people of Los Angeles.
            "I'm not suggesting," I began, picking my words carefully, "that we grab contractors off the street and give them a key to the front gate.  We check them out, they have escorts while on the property, and no access to certain rooms."  Rooms that housed our personal history and were not for public viewing.
            "I could agree to that."
            We all turned toward the door nearest us, at the top of the L.  Teresa stood in its frame, arms tight across her chest.  Her violet-streaked hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, the tips frozen with blue paint, and more blue paint decorated her cheeks, forearms, and jeans.  It created a palette contrast to the natural violet hues that framed her forehead, jaw line, and elbows, and sunk deeply into the wells of her collarbone. 
            The coloration made her look like a domestic abuse victim—a laughable thought to anyone who knew Gage McAllister.  They loved each other in a messy, passionate, eyes-wide-open way I only thought existed in the cinema.  Few people found that kind of love, and being around them made me alternate between sugar-shock and longing for it in my own life.  I had low expectations; relationships and I did not go together.
            Teresa smiled at me, brightening up the room with such a simple gesture.  She was only four years older than me, and the youngest of the others, but her leadership was unchallenged.  Power led, and she possessed great power tempered by equal amounts of humility.  Her gentle approval was worth more to me than a thousand words of encouragement. 
            "I take it you have someone in mind?" Teresa asked.
            Oops.  "I'll find someone we can trust."  The haziest bit of memory poked at my brain without coalescing into something useful.  It would come to me.
            She nodded, taking me at my word.  Her violet gaze turned past me, to Ethan.  "Let me see it," she said, walking to him.
            He held out his hand, frowning like a kid who'd had dessert taken away.  The tips of his fingers were red, his index starting to blister.  She held his hand gently, gazing at the burns with a Mother Hen quality she'd displayed more and more frequently these last few months.
            "Just don't say I told you so," Ethan said.
            She quirked an eyebrow.  "Would I say that?"
            "You're thinking it."
            "There's some burn ointment downstairs in the Infirmary." 
            "I'll patch him up," Renee said.  "Come on, Windy, I'll give you the hot pink bandages."
            Ethan blanched.  "That's supposed to be an incentive?"
            She slung her arm over his shoulders and steered him toward the door.  Their idle teasing followed them out of the room, leaving me and Teresa alone.  She gazed up at the dangling wires and blackened hole.  A shadow of fatigue stole across her face, and then disappeared behind a mask of thoughtfulness.
            "Was this Renee's brilliant idea, or Ethan's?" she asked.
            "You got me.  I just came when someone yelled for a fire extinguisher."
            Laughing, she said, "Good thing you were home, then, because I don't believe we own an actual extinguisher.  Something else to add to our growing list of needs."  Her voice dropped on the last bit, humor overtaken by frustration.  No one, least of all Teresa, believed striking out on our own would be so exhausting. 
            Give her something positive to think about, Dal.
            "The lobby is almost finished," I said.  "I have one more wall to cover and then we can lay down the new floor.  The laminate arrived at the store this morning, it just hasn't been delivered yet."
            "Good news."  Something still distracted her.  Couldn't be a fight with Gage.  They didn't know how to fight without resorting to make-up sex within ten minutes of the argument.  The upstairs walls were pretty thick, but not the doors.
            "How's your room coming along?" I asked, trying again. 
            "Almost done."  The edge in her voice softened at the topic of her shared room.  Definitely not a fight with Gage.  "I never thought I'd be the type to spend so much time picking out curtains, especially at twenty-five.  Literal curtains and metaphorical ones."
            It was a simple statement that said so much about her, probably without meaning to.  She rarely gave up details about her life during the last fifteen years she and the others had spent without powers.  Fifteen long years separated from her childhood friends, from anything remotely like her old life, forced to pretend she'd always been normal.  Had never been the daughter of two decorated heroes.
From idle conversation, I knew she'd done things she wasn't proud of in those years, even spent a little time in jail, and she hadn't found happiness until getting her powers back.  It had been a rebirth for everyone, including me.
            She had lost her powers as a child of ten, torn away by a mysterious pair of people called Wardens, and had them restored when the Wardens were murdered.  I discovered mine during a freak accident at my old apartment, two days after.  I spilled sesame oil while attempting a stir fry and caught the pan's contents on fire.  It sizzled, splattered, and ignited the sleeve of my blouse.
            I had screamed, startled less by the fire than the lack of heat on my skin.  The flames licked at the blouse and my hand.  As I watched, the fire absorbed right into my body.  It remained hot for the next hour, and then faded completely.  I'd explained it away as a panic-induced hallucination—even after news began to spread of the Meta reactivation.  I hadn't entertained the idea that I was a Meta until the day the Channel Seven broadcast station blew up, and I really came into my abilities.
            No, I couldn't compare our pain, or hope to understand her feelings of alienation and isolation.  Trying to was patronizing.
            "I haven't even thought about wallpaper," I said, "much less curtains."
            Teresa laughed, and I basked in the warmth of her smile.  "You have time to settle in, Dahlia.  With any luck, we'll be here for a very long while."  She picked at a fleck of dried paint adhered to her arm.  "So, do you know any good electricians?"
            An alarm clanged in the hallway, like an old fashioned school bell.  We turned toward the door in perfect unison.  The sound continued uninterrupted for a good fifteen seconds.  Teresa looked at me over her shoulder, eyebrows furrowed.  I stared back at her, perplexed.  I didn't recognize the sound.  I had tested the fire alarm system yesterday, and it did not sound like that.
            Something pounded the floor beneath our feet.  I jumped.  Teresa stamped her foot.  It must have been Renee banging on the ceiling, trying to get our attention.  But why?  To turn off the bell? 
            "Something tripped the security system's perimeter alarm," Teresa said, then took off running. 
            I dashed after her, through the door, around a curve in the short hallway and back down the main staircase.  She took them two at a time, moving faster than me, and disappeared.  I crossed the lobby, still running, and turned down the left corridor.  I ran past the interior courtyard exit on my right, to the first door on the left.  Our appointed War Room housed a long oak table and eight desk chairs. A digital monitor took up four feet of the opposite wall, situated between the room's two windows.  Maps and a dry-erase board decorated the wall on my right. 
            To my left, another door stood open and voices filtered out.  Research and Security.  Half the size of the previous room, it contained only two computer systems so far.  More were expected to be delivered next week.  Right now, the monitor on the right desk was for online research and connecting to our Intra-Network.  I-N was a program that Marco had written for us, after admitting his pre-repowering job was as a computer programmer (it still felt odd to think that any of us once had real jobs).  It collated and integrated all of our combined information about known Metas, unsolved crimes, and even allowed us access to certain, inaccessible government databases.
            The computer on the left desk displayed eight different camera angles of our property.  The perimeter fence had twenty-four different views and it monitored almost every single inch of the fence line.  With that much acreage, it was quite a feat.  The display monitor switched views every four seconds, recording everything into our database.  I knew the views by heart, since I'd helped Marco install all of the cameras two months ago—right before that friendship went all to hell.
            Teresa, Renee, and Ethan were hunched over the monitor.
            "Did something trip the alarm?" I asked.
            Teresa had taken the desk chair, and she punched a series of command codes into the keyboard.  A search box came up.  Moments later, the eight angles disappeared and were replaced by one large scene.  I recognized the length of fence behind the pool house.  A grove of trees created a natural curtain between our property and our rear neighbor.  Teresa pressed PLAY.
            Wind rustled the leaves of the trees.  Seconds passed and nothing happened.  Two birds, about the size of wrens, swooped down from the trees.  They chased and danced back and forth across the screen.  Then they angled sideways and flew right between the narrow iron bars of the fence.  Red letters appeared on the bottom of the screen: Perimeter Breach Detected.
            "Hell, T," Renee said.  "I thought it was some kind of emergency and it's just a goddamn bird?"
            "It's a sensitive system, Renee," Ethan said.  He tapped a few keys and new words popped up: Perimeter Sensor Eight Deactivated.  "We need to find a middle ground with the sensors so it doesn't get tripped by birds, but will still pick up on small objects being lobbed at our house."
            "Yeah, we don't want to be woken up in the middle of the night by a runaway parakeet."
            "It's fixable, okay?" Teresa said.  "There are going to be glitches, folks, we're still feeling this out.  But we responded to the alarm, which is its purpose."
            "What about the earthquake that set it off two days ago?" Renee said. 
            "The earthquake, really?" I said.  I wasn't home for the 5.2 that shook the town.  Earthquakes set off car alarms and such, so our system really wasn't a stretch.
            "We'll have false alarms, guys," Ethan said, stepping in as peacemaker.  "I'd rather have false positives, than a system unable to detect a real threat.  Am I alone?"
            "No, you're not," Teresa said.
            Renee grunted, and the others took that as her agreement.  Their scrutiny fell on me, and I nodded.
            Teresa's intense, violet-eyed gaze continued to study me, until she finally asked, "So what are your afternoon plans, Dal?"
            "Hadn't really thought much past painting the—"  Oh, wait, I had a new assignment.  "Electrician hunting, right?"
            "I'll go get on that," I said, and darted from the room. 
            As I passed I tossed a guilty look at the paint pan and roller, drying to a tacky mess by the lobby wall.  Someone would finish it later.  Half the house still needed fresh coats of paint.  Thank goodness it was June and not the middle of L.A.'s rainy season.  We had the windows wide open and box fans blowing fresh, if somewhat humid, air around to rid the place of that cloying odor of new paint.
            My room was on the second floor, like the others.  Unlike them, I'd chosen a room in the front of the house, second door on the left, opposite side of the house from the rooms of my elders.  It's funny that I still thought of them that way, even though at thirty Gage was as old as we got.  Unless you counted Simon Hewitt, a former-bad guy and current Teresa West Pet Project.  He lived and worked in New York with his son, though, and wasn't technically part of the team.
            They were all elder to my experience, I supposed, and in bloodline.  My mother hadn't been a Ranger, nor had anyone else in her family.  My father—such as he was—had no powers.  Someone in one of their family trees had to have been Meta, but I had no idea who and really didn't care enough to research it.  The direct descendants of the Ranger Corps were the five people I worked with every single day.  Stories circulated about newly powered people popping up across the country.  We'd publicly invited them to contact us.  So far, they were keeping to themselves. 
            I popped into my bedroom to change.  Its meager contents included a well-made bed, littered with overstuffed pillows, and a matching dresser.  My favorite wicker rocking chair had followed me over from my old apartment.  An oversized, peeling white monster with a flat, faded cushion, it was the only thing from my mother's house I'd kept. 
            Sentimentality wasn't my strong suit.  I had a shoe box of snapshots packed up in a carton along with the rest of my meager belongings—mostly books and a few academic award certificates.  Spiffing up my personal space was less important than getting the rest of the house in order.  No one would ever see the crappy interior of my bedroom, but the lobby and downstairs rooms presented an image to others.  It had to be a good one.
            I stripped out of my paint splattered jeans and tank top, then did a quick skin check in the closet mirror, as had become a habit.  Teresa had smudges of purple on her body, some more noticeable than others.  Renee was completely blue.  Marco had black and brown patches of velvet-soft fur all over his face, torso, and legs.  Sections of Gage's hair reflected the same silver in his flecked eyes.  Only Ethan had escaped noticeable discoloration.
            So far, I had the orange streak that no brand of hair dye managed to hide, and no other major colorations on my body.  Thank God.  Even my eyes had remained light blue.
            I slipped into a pair of clean, dark blue jeans and a white silk camisole.  A brush through my hair separated the dried-together bits.  I twisted the orange section into a rope, tucked it behind my right ear, and secured it with a barrette.  Not too bad.  Nothing like the timid journalist I'd been last year.
            I opened the door and jumped back, barely missing Ethan's fist in my nose.  His other hand sported bandages on three fingertips.
            "Hey," he said.  "Change your clothes.  We've got a job."