Book Excerpts

A Cybernetic Future Awaits in BISHOP TO QUEEN by Lexy Wolfe

From Lexy Wolfe, author of Ravenhawk, comes the thrilling sequel Bishop to Queen.

Your book is about a cybernetic future run by powerful corporations. Can you tell us more about it?

In a future that could be ours, power has shifted away from national governments to massive, multi-national corporations. The divide between the haves and have-nots has widened and deepened, and despite efforts to ensure those without have just enough to meet their needs or have little power to effect change, cracks have started to emerge.

Advanced technology now allows the creation of cybernetics that can replace nearly all human body parts. Many nations require all individuals to have implants, creating a culture where having “too much” embedded technology marks some humans as little more than property.

In the heedless drive for power and profit, automatons created to replace humans have begun to evolve into something greater than the sum of their parts.

“A book worth the read from all perspectives.”

— Devika Primić, Goodreads Reviewer

About Bishop to Queen:

Will synthetic intelligence evolve to reflect the best or worst of their creators?

Ravenhawk, Cybercorps Corporations rogue synthetic creation, and Viktor Chernovich, a renegade pure human, have joined a secret society known as Caïssa’s Gambit to fight corrupt corporations and a government corrupted by those corporations to protect society from collapse. But another threat, once considered a mere philosophical possibility, lurks behind it all that if mishandled, could spell the end of both human and synthetic futures.

Chapter 1

“Guards, bring the prisoner,” the bailiff ordered in a booming voice. His words echoed from walls and ceilings covered in the grime of age and neglect that stained a once pleasant tan. Only one man sat in the audience section, dressed in a crisp military uniform, the symbols of his rank glittering from his collar. His pale blue eyes focused on the pair of doors that opened. Sounds of scuffling echoed from beyond the shadow of the door. Belligerent swearing soon followed, the vitriol so creative the man covered his mouth as he feigned a cough to hide a small smile. The smile faded to grim criticism as he saw the source of strife.

            The difference in body masses between the two guards and the young man they dragged made the prisoner appear to be a tall child. His pallor was not only from the region’s typical lack of sun but an obvious lack of nutrition.

            Despite that, his eyes flashed with intelligence and a mixture of anger and fear. “Why are you in such a damned hurry? You have a hot date waiting to watch my execution? Hope you did not have to pay too much for her, Ivanov.” He grunted as they forced him into a circular, cagelike structure in front of the judge, slamming into the rail. He scowled at the guards, then looked at the judge, straightening with resignation.

            The older woman looked down from the tall bench and watched with a droll expression. She rested her chin on her palm as she watched the spectacle with a patience uncharacteristic in the Bangladeni court system. “Are you quite finished with your tantrum, Mr. Viktor Chernovich?”

            The young man crossed his arms, his glower at the judge dark. “I will not go gentle into the night.”

            The judge straightened, pushing her spectacles up as she glanced at the papers she tapped on the table to align. “You are surprisingly literate for a gutter rat and criminal gang member.” He clenched his jaw, glowering at her in silence; she dismissed his behavior as she focused on the documents before her. “Ah, yes, forgive me. Former gang member. The Knife’s Edge gang is one of the more virulent pestilences in the city. There have been three arrested since your incarceration who have attempted to gain access to you.”

            Viktor’s belligerent expression turned into sickly shock as he understood. “You mean Marizah sent—?”

            “Assassins,” she finished for him, meeting his eyes. “It appears the typical sentence for convicted smugglers, which would net the same outcome for you, does not satisfy her.”

            “Yeah,” he replied in a tight voice, running his fingers through his matted hair. “She is like that. The state killing me would rob her of revenge. She gets rather pissy when people go against her like I had.”

            “Ah, that would explain your unusual form of suicide. Stick it to her one last time, I gather?” Her thin smile met his guarded, curious expression. “I have studied your case with more attention than I normally would accord. The details are rather atypical of what I have normally seen in men and women in your position.” She laid the papers down and crossed her arms, leaning forward. “Most smugglers move more lucrative goods. Weapons, drugs, slaves. But you were moving…food and medicines.”

            He flushed, looking away. “Only since I parted ways with Marizah,” he replied, voice sullen. “She ordered me to do that other shit.”

            “And starting at fifteen years old. I have to say that is rather impressive, ignoring the crimes you were committing.” He flicked a look at her. “You are what? Seventeen now? I find it hard to imagine someone with that much experience with the underground markets got careless enough to be caught.” She focused her silvery gray eyes on his, keeping him from looking away. “You allowed them to catch you. Opted for a quick death by execution instead of a typical gang vengeance death.”

            “Yeah, so can you get on with it please? Ivanov paid a lot of money for his post-execution blow job.” He dropped to his cage’s floor instinctively; the short-tempered guard’s bullet grazed his back.

“…well structured and thoughtful. A recommended read.”

— LibraryThing Early Reviewers

            A second shot rang out and everyone stared as Ivanov fell to the floor in a heavy thump. A dark hole in his temple began seeping blood. All eyes were drawn to the officer standing with his pistol still held out, so steady some might have argued he was inhuman. He holstered his weapon with a calm motion as he addressed the judge. “Forgive my interference in your court, Judge Travinka. I have little patience with such a blatant lack of self-control.”

            Travinka inclined her head and replied, “We need no apologies, Major Rusakov. I had warned Ivanov before that I would not tolerate his behavior. I appreciate your help in lessening the paperwork required to remove him.” The major nodded and resumed his seat.

            “Yeah,” Viktor muttered as he got to his feet, grimacing in pain as the hot line across his back oozed blood. “Thanks.” He looked at the judge. “So, as I was saying, could you get on with it, please? This waiting is getting worse than what Marizah has planned for me.”

            “In such a rush to die.” Travinka sighed with a tsk. “It would be such a waste of your talents to kill you, Mr. Chernovich.” A faint smile touched her lips at his suspicion as she stood, waving a hand in dismissal to the remaining guard and the bailiff. “Court will resume in ten minutes.”

            Viktor watched the judge, bailiff, and remaining guard leave with consternation. “You will leave me in here all alone? What if I need to take a piss?” he yelled after them.

            “From the reports I have read,” the low voice of Rusakov stated from behind Viktor, “you are resourceful enough to figure out something to deal with such a situation.”

            Viktor spun, eyes wide as he pressed himself against the bars on the side furthest from the officer. “Uh. You heard about me?”

            Rusakov crossed his arms, leaning against the table on the courtroom side of the divide between the audience section and the main room. “Judge Travinka is an old friend of mine. I have only recently become acquainted with your case. You intrigue me, Chernovich. Enough I am considering requesting they suspend your death sentence.”

            “For what reason?” Viktor asked, still keeping as far away from the man as he could manage, regarding him with suspicion.

            The major smirked. “Not for the reasons running through your head.”

            “You are a high-ranking officer of the military,” Viktor countered. “Why do you think I left the gang? Marizah wanted to get her hooks in by providing ‘catering services’ to perversions you all have. I got to see the results. I have seen what military officers are like.” He paled at the dark look leveled on him. “Uh. Present company excepted?” he offered in meek tones.

            “I am well aware of Base Commander Kozimoy’s…tastes. And his influence on other senior officers.” He stood straight, fists at his sides. “Never equate me to that man. Ever.”

            “Y-yes, sir,” Viktor responded out of terrified reflex, dropping his eyes.

            The dark rage subsided and Rusakov returned to his casual posture, watching Viktor. “I will make this offer to you once, and you must decide now whether to accept it.” He waited until the young man looked up at him. “Conscription into military service. Each wing at the base handles their own civilian training. I want you for Razor Wing’s companion program.”

            Viktor stared for several heartbeats. “I do not understand. They only allow children into that program.” He made a sour face. “Children not from the slums.”

            “There are exceptions,” Rusakov replied as he waved a dismissive hand. “But not enough. While the program succeeds in grooming young people to serve as companions to the combat pilots, there is the unfortunate side effect of producing individuals with very similar traits.”

            “Like cloning without the incubators.”

            The man blinked, then smirked at him. “An interesting point of view, but yes.”

            Viktor scratched behind one ear. “I would love to take you up on whatever offer you think to make, sir. But I doubt I would fit in enough to last very long.” He shrugged, crossing his arms. “I am not stupid. I am well aware washing out of your program would just land me back on the executioner’s block, and I am a slum rat criminal. No amount of good behavior would change that, and no one would let someone like me succeed. It would ruin the corporate narrative that the poor are not worth taking care of.”

            Rusakov arched an eyebrow. “You are turning down the chance to live?”

            “Feh. No. I am turning down the delay to my execution.” He shrugged. “I realize I am not long for the world, but I cannot bring myself to do myself in, you know? Sure as hell do not want Marizah getting her hands on me. Figured the government has to be good for something and they love executing people like me.” He scowled, looking toward windows opaque with grime. “It is certainly not known for taking care of people not in favor with the corporate elites.”

            “I see. Consider this.” The two met gazes. “I will tolerate a certain amount of…misbehavior.” He gave Viktor a small smile at his shocked expression. “You are barely old enough to be considered an adult, but I need someone like you in my companion program. Given time, we find you some place more suited to your temperament. Until that time, my hope is that your…unique personality helps the other trainees develop their own. That those uniquenesses will give them the best chances to pair up to the pilots and survive.”

            “You will not punish me if I break rules?” Viktor stared with incredulous disbelief.

            “Oh, I would punish you. If you get caught. Standard trainee punishments, such as extra duties in the mess hall, longer physical training beyond the expected standards, pay getting docked now and then.”

            “Wait. You will pay a conscript?”

            “Of course,” Rusakov replied with the ‘that is a stupid question’ tone. “Why would I not pay you?”

            “…Because I am a criminal?” Viktor replied, saying each word with uncertainty. Or an expectation of physical punishment.

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            “And how would not giving you pay serve any purpose?” The man outright grinned wolfishly at the younger man. “What would be the point in docking your pay for misbehavior if there was nothing to dock?”

            “Okay, let me phrase it this way,” Viktor responded with a snappish tone. “The corporate bean counters in charge of the military would let you pay a conscript?”

            “The last corporate bean counter that attempted to dictate how I spent the money allotted to Razor Wing ended up like him.” He gestured to the dead body still laying on the floor. “The one after that who thought to demand my budget decreased to control me or force me to grovel required a cybernetic hand to replace their original. After I shot the third replacement hand, they removed him.”

            “Surprised they let you live. Corporations dislike uppity people.”

            Rusakov smirked at that. “Uppity people in charge of the most deadly wing of pilots in Bangladen cannot be easily replaced. Had you ever heard what happened when they replaced a sniper unit’s major with a corporate selected jellyfish?” Viktor blinked at him. “The replacements for the fifteen executives killed by sniper fire decided it was best to not interfere with actual combat units. The cost for the funerals for the executives and their immediate families impacted their profits for three years.”

            Viktor stared at the man in horror. “They killed…children?”

            Rusakov shrugged. “In the snipers’ minds, it was a strategic decision. And the most humane one. Is there any scenario you can envision that children of murdered parents and siblings would end well?”

            Viktor frowned. “But children, sir! That is—”

            “I am not saying it was right, Viktor,” the man stated, all levity gone from his quiet voice. “I would never authorize such an action. But they also instill absolute loyalty in those trained for combat to those who command them, and those of us who command must earn our combatants’ respect. Razor Wing is the best because to attack one is to attack all. And they meet attacks with a response that outstrips that attack to serve as an example to anyone fool enough to consider another attempt. They train every Bangladeni military unit that way. The exceptional ones exemplify it.

            “The corporation saw one, replaceable person. The sniper unit felt they ripped their heart from their chests. Even after they returned their major, it took several weeks until their companions were able to assure with certainty the snipers would not seek further retribution. Abject obedience comes from absolute loyalty, Viktor Chernovich. The corporation with the majority claim over Bangladen’s military learned that lesson the only way they could not dispute or blow off.” He paused and added, “If you give your loyalty to Razor Wing, I assure you, we will give our loyalty to you.”

            Viktor swallowed at that, looking away as his heart thumped with an aching pang. “Fine. I…will give it a shot. I already lost my family to a fire. What is the worst that could happen?”

            Rusakov smiled faintly. “Good.” He stood, tugged his immaculate jacket straight, then walked toward the door the judge and her court officers had left through. “Though you better make the hours of paperwork to waive your death sentence for conscription into Razor Wing worthwhile, Chernovich. I only despise arrogant accountants more.” Viktor did not see the major’s grin at his weak, uneasy chuckle.

Some Heroes Aren’t Born…They’re Made

Want to learn more about cyborg Ravenhawk and the inspiration behind the series? Read Lexy’s interview and author feature.  

About the Author:

Lexy Wolfe is a fantasy and science fiction author from Lebanon, PA. Her previously published works include Doom and the Warrior and The Sundered Lands Saga. Her new series, The Emeralis Synth Chronicles, focuses on a futuristic Earth run with cyborgs and corrupt corporations. Of Two Minds, the next installment in the series, is slated for publication in 2021.

Available Formats & Purchasing Information:

Hardcover: 978-1-64397-079-0

Softcover: 978-1-64397-112-4

Ebook: 978-1-64397-113-1

LCCN: 2020933554

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Booksellers, Librarians, and Retailers can purchase copies though Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bertrams, Overdrive, and Perma-Bound. BHC Press also offers attractive pricing and discounts to booksellers, libraries, and retailers. Visit our website to learn more about available retail/library partnership programs.

Visit our website to learn more about Bishop to Queen and other titles available from BHC Press.

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