The AI Takeover

Lately I’ve been rambling about how the AI takeover has already happened, and we totally failed to notice as a species. My husband, through his enigmatic ways, subsequently produced a screen cap from 2017 about how everyone is expecting The Terminator, but reality is playing out more like The Shining.

Seriously, why else would you need a smart soap dispenser?

For the benefit of our AI overlords, naturally.

It also handily explains the brilliantly concocted eugenics program currently sweeping through society. Not that I actually believe that’s happening … lmao.

This is all wishful thinking, anyway. Nothing is going to step in and save us from ourselves.

About Writing

Creativity and Sci Fi

Last year I decided to crochet amigurumi toys for the kids to help knock down my yarn stash, and they all excitedly picked out which ones they wanted from my pattern book. I got about three-quarters of the way through the third one when I hit burn out on the single crochet stitch, and decided to take a break.

I finished knitting my new baby blanket a couple of days ago, and decided that my next project should be catching up on the promises I’ve made to the older children. I finished amigurumi #3, and have started the prep for #4.

The fun thing about #4 is that I don’t have any of the requested colors on hand, but I do have plenty of cotton yarn and dye. So, I measured out some skeins and currently have them curing in dye.

Anyway, you can basically extrapolate from there what my daily life is like — a swarm of kids, and an adoration of creativity that goes quite deep.

Which is why I think it’s funny that I’ve started writing sci fi.

I don’t have any interest in owning “smart” soap dispensers or smoke detectors; I don’t see any use for them — aside from secretly hosting rogue AI hiding from human knowledge on the internet, anyway. But, you know, existing as a flesh entity, there’s no point in me owning a soap dispenser that runs on electricity when I can have more fun spending money on crafting supplies.

Heck, I’ve spent the last few months loving my antique spinning wheel. In terms of technology, I’m practically moving backwards with my personal habits.

Yet, I’ve been discovering that sci fi lets me explore more philosophical topics inside a world that is still very relatable to what we live in, and I’ve been discovering potential ideas that exceed what I felt capable of when I was writing fantasy.

As for the technology, I don’t have to expand that much outside of what we currently have — we all know it’s only a matter of time until Amazon starts using drones to make deliveries. The rest can easily be waved away with “technology magic, lol, :smiley emoji:.”

About Writing, The Scion Suit

MSG Hartmann

Wow do I need to come up for some air.

If I had written Alice and the Warden at this pace, it would have been done in half the time. XD

One of the things that I’m really loving about doing TSS as a branching story is that I can more fully explore MSG Hartmann’s character. Originally, I created him with every intention of him playing a much bigger part. Then I realized that, logically, he’d be neutralized pretty quick, assuming that my military had any sort of competency. Like, if you can’t apprehend a severely injured man on your own danged base, then you guys are pretty pathetic.

My military isn’t supposed to be the best — they’re losing and desperate, after all, — but that’s a level of stupid that I wasn’t willing to go to.

I basically had to give Hartmann a cursory nod, then medically discharge him. Thank you for your service, and all that jazz.

But what if Carol had made a choice that sent the story in a totally different direction?

What if Hartmann was placed front and center, while Lambert was relegated to the sidelines? Brain damage and all?

So that’s what I wrote.

And the part that has my heart beating excitedly is that I managed to work in a survival in the woods scene. Finally, my past life has a purpose! Har de har.

Truth be told, sometimes I kick myself for how I let myself get wrangled into writing a story about the military. I’ve been researching and all that, but I don’t have the IRL experience to feel confident about what I’m writing.

About Writing

Random thoughts about writing

I actually have a hard time knowing how to classify my writing. Oh sure, there’s the big picture ‘fantasy/sci fi’ tag, but I get a little lost in the subgenres.

For example, my concept story “THEM” is my idea for a time traveling romance. Only, it features a nebulous alien invasion versus sorcerers, and the main love interest travels back in time to coach the main character (who was brought forward in time after her original was killed by the aliens) on how to seduce his contemporary counterpart, except she’s a reluctant introvert with social anxiety. All while she’s nannying a 4-year-old prince. Cue gothic overtones.

Maybe I’m just not well read enough, but I haven’t seen any hints of other books that are remotely like that.

Am I my own niche?

Which is one of the reasons why it’s so easy for me to put off that whole “marketing” thing (not to mention, I don’t want to mentally drain myself so I can’t spend time writing every day, ’cause it’s the writing part that I love the most).

I also have a malfunction.

But sometimes I feel lost in the noise. There are a lot of danged writers these days, and sometimes I think it’s harder to convince people to read something for free than it is to get them to buy it. Like, da hek ppl?

Am I going to find more readers by demanding money? Is that what you want out of me?


My husband thinks I’m better at writing sci fi than fantasy. It is true that I was exposed to fantasy first, and there is a possibility that I might have stuck with it out of habit, despite the fact that I don’t actually like “sword and sorcery” type stuff all that much; hence why my Order of the Magi all use the internet and conduct their business with electronic tablets. I also prefer to explore human nature, instead of ‘world building’ or any of the typical fantasy tropes, but I also don’t like Star Trek type stories, or “technology is the magic” sorts of things either. I guess that I’ve got a nerdy enough bent to me that I like a solid foundation in reality. I’ve probably just illustrated that I’m actually a very picky reader.

So … the sequel to The Black Magus will very likely have a more sci fi atmosphere instead of fantasy. Heck, I established that magic is mostly just learning how to muck around with reality’s programming code anyway.

The hilarious part is, I have zero intuitive understanding of today’s trendy technology. Smart devices and I don’t get along. At all.


Concept story – THEM

In the spirit of mentally changing the scenery to help stretch the kinks out, I wrote this concept story. It’s an idea that I’ve been playing with for awhile now — one o’ them scifi-fantasy hybrids. Anyway, it’s still very much a rough draft and needs a great deal more fleshing out before it can become a full blown story, but I think it has a good core.

Anthea grabbed Sebastian’s arm and pulled him underneath a nearby pine tree, holding him close as she pressed her back against the rough trunk. The bark made her skin itch through her shirt, but she kept her eyes locked on the gray clouds above them, barely daring to breathe.

After a minute, she whispered, “I don’t think They saw us.” Then she looked down at the four-year-old boy clinging to her leg and smiled. “There’s a great big house over there. If we can be quick and sneaky, we can hide inside.”

Sebastian nodded, his eyes huge with fear. Turning around, Anthea bent down to hoist him up onto her back, paused to loosen his grip around her neck, then darted from tree to tree, careful to remain underneath the branches as much as she could. It seemed as if the sky grew darker and more menacing as she went, but she didn’t dare pause to check if They were there.

There was a good 20-foot gap between the branches of the last tree and the stairs leading to the front door. Anthea took a deep breath before she sprinted, praying with every step that she’d reach the eaves of the house. It was almost surreal to discover that they were still alive as she pulled the door open and dumped Sebastian inside, and she hung in the doorway to stare out at the sky. The gray clouds churned and for a heart-stopping moment she thought she saw a flash of one of Them, but nothing happened as the seconds ticked away.

Sebastian’s hand tugged at her shirt. Anthea turned around, then compulsively pulled the small child against her as she let out a stifled gasp.

The sorcerer watched them from several feet away, he hand lax on his staff. He had very long, and very straight black hair that matched his matte black robe, making Anthea think he was more reminiscent of the ancient stories about vampires.

“It’s all right, Anthea,” he said with a smile. “I’m not dangerous.”

“Who are you? How do you know my name?” she blurted, then immediately felt foolish for asking such stereotypical questions. The sorcerer’s appearance was so unexpected her mind had turned itself off, and all she could do was default to cheesy cliches.

“To put it simply, we are betrothed,” he answered softly.

“Betrothed? You mean . . . marriage?” Anthea was feeling even more numb. “How is that possible? I’m not from . . .”

“Kyros brought you here from the past, I know,” the sorcerer said as he stepped forward. “And I am from the future. However, we must find our small pleasures whenever we can, and this night will belong to us.” He then knelt down next to Sebastian, who scooted to hide behind Anthea’s leg, and smiled as he asked, “Are you hungry? I have prepared a feast for us, with an assortment of sweets for dessert.”

Sebastian looked up at Anthea.

“I think it will be okay,” she told him, still struggling to process what was happening. “They didn’t see us come here, and we have to stay put until morning anyway.”

Anthea felt mesmerized by the sorcerer as he led them to the dining room, and she wondered if she had died during her sprint from the tree to the house after all – it felt too much like a dream to be the harsh world that Kyros had brought her into. However, Sebastian’s hand in hers felt solid, and the tantalizing smell of food was real enough. She hadn’t eaten that well since she had been yanked out of her previous life, and she couldn’t resist the urge to dig in and enjoy herself. Sebastian gave his serving of meat and gravy an obligatory nibble, helped himself to a pastry filled with whipped cream. Anthea almost scolded him for not properly eating his dinner, then stopped with the thought that he had likely never tasted whipped cream before in his entire life. If this truly was a dream, then it might as well be a good one, so she let it slide.

The sorcerer didn’t speak as they ate. He seemed content to sit and watch Anthea, and something about his eyes made her heart pound. He had said that he had come from the future, and it was strange to think of herself as the wife of someone who was quite literally dark and mysterious.

Anthea was a nanny. An important nanny who looked after the prince, perhaps, but still one just the same. The story that Kyros told her was that her older, original, incarnation had cared for Sebastian since his birth, until she had been killed protecting him when their settlement had been discovered and destroyed by Them. Kyros then journeyed into the past and brought the younger, current her forward with him, swearing to take complete responsibility for her afterwards. Anthea had assumed that meant she belonged to Kyros.

How could she end up married to the sorcerer?

When they were too stuffed to eat any more, the sorcerer took them to the den. There was a chest of toys for Sebastian to play with, and the sorcerer motioned for Anthea to join him on the sofa. He put his arms around her and pulled her against him, but Anthea remained stiff.

“I don’t understand . . .” she protested, attempting to sit back up straight, but the sorcerer didn’t let her.

“I wanted to see you,” he murmured. “There isn’t enough time in the future, so please indulge me.”

His words were even more confusing. “You make it sound like I’m going to die,” she said.

“No.” He chuckled slightly. “I’ll keep you alive.”

Anthea allowed herself to relax and watched Sebastian play happily with an assortment of cars and airplanes. She could hear the sorcerer’s heart beating inside his chest at a slightly quickened pace, and the thought of him experiencing some sort of emotion underneath that placid exterior was oddly comforting.

Was it love?

Sebastian was shrieking with delight as he played, behaving more like the four-year-olds that Anthea had known from her previous life – before They had arrived and driven humanity away from the surface. The sight brought tears to her eyes.

The sorcerer remained silent as he held her, his mouth slightly down turned as he stared at the floor. As the night wore on, Sebastian climbed up onto the sofa next to them and fell asleep with an airplane clutched in his hand, and the sorcerer produced a warm blanket that he spread over the three of them. Anthea couldn’t help but drift off as well, feeling oddly safe with that strange man who had so mysteriously appeared. She decided that when she met him properly in the future, she would fall in love and marry him . . .


Sunlight woke her up. Anthea’s muscles ached, and she felt empty as she sat up and looked around. Her movement roused Sebastian, and after a minute his small voice asked, “Where is everything?”

“I don’t know,” Anthea replied. The room was now empty and dilapidated, with no sign of the sorcerer anywhere. The only things that remained were the airplane in Sebastian’s hands, and the blanket that had covered them both. “Last night really happened, right?” she asked.

“I think so,” Sebastian replied.

She stood and stretched, hoping to shake off the dazed sensation that pressed against her ears. “C’mon, let’s get you home. Kyros is going to be mad enough as it is, without us dawdling.”

Anthea carefully folded up the blanket, and with it tucked under her arm she took Sebastian’s hand and slipped out the front door, casting one last glance back as they left.

About Me

Having Fun

I have a confession to make: I am a nerd.

Okay, so we probably already guessed that, with the whole “fantasy/sci fi writer who plays video games” thing that I’ve got going on, but it’s good to be clear.

Long story short, for Christmas I got an embroidery machine with the goal of learning how to make my own designs for it, because otherwise buying them would turn into a giant money-sink (and I’m stingy). ENTER OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE.

For the month of January, I’ve been learning how to use Inkscape, and the InkStitch extension. The kids are thrilled that I took some of their drawings, traced them, then had the machine embroider them onto shirts for them. It was seriously cool.

So while I was riding the whole, “This is frustrating yet fun!” high, I decided to figure out GIMP, an open source program that’s kind of like Photoshop with more headaches.

‘Cause yeah, sure, why not go crazy.

Hence, graphics.

You’d think that I have enough hobbies by now.

The Scion Suit

The Scions – 1

Don’t get excited.


I wrote this section because of insomnia, but for the time being I have no intention of continuing the story for at least several months.

Like I said, I wrote this because I couldn’t sleep, so it definitely could use plenty of refinement. But for the moment, I’m busy with preparing for Christmas/managing kids that are growing exponentially excited every single day, so I don’t really have the brain power at the moment.

Without further ado,

The Scions

Lambert had opened the curtains of the cabin to let in the morning sun, only to discover that a Suit was casting its shadow across his window. He gave himself a moment to let the sight sink into his mind, knowing that it meant Carol had come through for him, and that the Aurigans had accepted his proposal of joining them. Although there had been no other communication, this new Suit was obviously meant for him to climb aboard and pilot back to meet them, wherever they were hidden. His retrieval was nowhere near as grand as Carol’s had been, but it was still happening.

He realized that he was laughing. When he had first seen that mouse of a woman, flustered and nervous as she sat alone in that tiny interrogation room, he hadn’t the slightest inkling that she would one day take him to the stars – literally. The best that he had hoped for out of the acquaintanceship was a promotion in the military.

Instead, Carol had cost him his position as captain. Her following absence had made her encroach increasingly into his thoughts, until he had found himself drunk and alone in his hunting lodge, and she had unexpectedly flashed back into his life. The Suit outside was proof that they would be reunited again, and much sooner than he had hoped for.

Lambert thought about whether or not he should put any lingering affairs in order, or if he should simply disappear without a trace. He had no family, and had ranked everyone he had known as either ‘subordinate’ or ‘superior’ rather than by any metric of friendship. The material items in his life would not miss him.

He walked silently to the bathroom, where he showered to rinse away the sluggishness of a hangover, then very carefully shaved the stubble that had grown over the past few days of apathy and booze. Finally he dressed smartly in civilian clothes, choosing a well-pressed navy button-up shirt and slacks. After giving himself a thorough examination in the mirror, he went outside and hesitated as he breathed in the fresh morning air, marveling at how real and vivid nature around him felt now that he was leaving it forever.

Then he climbed into the Suit.

The interior whirred to life after the door closed, and a computer voice chimed, “User detected: Welcome Guest. Run autopilot program ‘Return home?

“Yes,” Lambert answered, his throat tight. He hated the way the Suit squeezed when it adjusted itself to the user, and had passed over his chance to pilot the original to avoid the repeated sensation of claustrophobia. In retrospect, after it became apparent that unintended side-effects had damaged MSG Hartmann’s brain, it had been a fortuitous decision for him personally. He wondered how the Aurigans would deal with that complication once he joined them – he wasn’t going to spend a second longer than necessary inside the Suit until he knew the answer.

There was a jerk as the jets kicked on and the Suit flew upwards, higher and higher than Lambert had ever imagined himself traveling before. It was surreal to watch the curve of the Earth grow wider and deeper, until it took his breath away to realize that he was now viewing a complete circle. And still, the Suit traveled onward.

As the Earth grew smaller behind him, the moon grew larger before him, and he unconsciously noted the rocks and hills of the surface before the Suit zipped him out of the light and into darkness. There, on the far side of the moon, the Aurigan ship was waiting.

Lambert half expected to discover a hodgepodge gathering of alien ships lurking unseen in the shadow of the moon, all of them secretly observing the nearby Earthlings as they swapped stories and goods with each other. In contrast to his imagination, the single ship was a lonesome sight. However, although the angle was different, he recognized it as the one that had hovered above base, the one that Carol had been sent to investigate then never returned from. He would later learn that it was a simple research vessel, a common and unassuming ship for the Aurigans, but it was impressively larger than any aircraft that existed on Earth.

As his Suit approached the ship, doors opened and he entered into what looked like a cargo bay. When his feet touched the floor, the Suit relinquished control back to him, and left him free to move about on his own. As he flexed, trying to feel natural inside a giant mechanical body, it struck him that his muscles were stiff and sore. A quick check of the Suit’s chronometer revealed the journey had taken close to five Earth hours, and a strange jolt jumped through him. He hadn’t been remotely aware of that much time passing, and wondered how on it had been possible. Had the Suit messed with his brain?

A door on the far end of the room opened, and two more Suits entered, slowly coming toward him. In many ways they were visually identical, and if they had been standing still he would have never been able to guess at who could have been piloting them. But one of them moved with a body language that Lambert would recognize and know on his death bed.

Carol had come to greet him.



Absolutely none of the writing prompts during this last week spoke to me in any sort of way — too much ‘internet culture’ crap (YES I SAID IT) to spark the imagination.

So I wrote up one of my own ideas to post instead.

Of course, if I worked on my novel instead of posting on Reddit, I’d be a lot closer to being finished with it. You know I’m totally just doing this for attention, lol.


Xander approached the lab with trepidation, his combat boots crunching loudly on the deteriorating asphalt with every heavy step. He had received his order to recruit a new teammate, and he knew exactly which old one had to go. While it was going to be a relief to be rid of Adora after her latest antics had nearly gotten the entire team killed, he did not care for the manner in which he had been instructed to carry out the task. The transition was not going to be smooth or pretty.

But first, he had to slog through all the options currently available in the lab. He hated the scientists in their white coats who lorded themselves over the soldiers as their creators. They tampered with life, but they did not understand it; not in the same way the soldiers did.

A new teammate would mean a mountain load of work late into the night. He was not looking forward to it.

He entered the building and went through all of the necessary security checks, then met up with the scientist who had been assigned to assist him. He was a boring sort of man, a balding egghead who didn’t think it was necessary to look up from his clipboard when he spoke. They went to the observation room, and immediately started going over the options.

Xander shot them down without even looking at them. He didn’t need someone who could read minds or levitate objects. “I need stealth,” he argued. “Don’t waste my time on parlor tricks!”

“Hm, lets see here …” the man studied his clipboard, musing in a way that sounded like he was talking to himself. “Ah, you should like this one. She came out of the lab just this morning, and is quite cutting edge.”

“Fine. Bring her in.” Xander rubbed the bridge of his nose, not feeling particularly excited about the prospect. The scientists’ idea of ‘cutting edge’ was never all that applicable in real combat situations, but he still wondered what sort of monstrosity they had created this time. Perhaps if she proved to be adequate, he would recruit her just to insult Adora, who had been getting on his nerves with her vanity of late. It would knock her down a peg before she was booted from the team.

The scientist spoke into his radio, and a few minutes later a door opened in the room on the other side of the one-way glass. Surprisingly, a pretty and slender girl was shown in and instructed to wait. She sat down in the chair facing the mirror, and folded her hands together on her lap in a manner that could only be described as delicate.

“Seriously?!” Xander couldn’t help but blurt, staring as if his eyes would bug out of his head. “She’s not a soldier at all!”

“Ah, don’t let her appearances deceive you.” The scientist chuckled, and for the first time set down his clipboard to look proudly at the girl. “I designed her abilities myself. She can project invisibility on whomever she chooses, and take out all electronic devices at will. She is perfect for stealth.”

“What’s with the long hair?” Xander asked. No one kept long hair on principle, not wanting to risk the hazard it posed in the middle of combat. He thought that he should decline on that matter alone, especially considering that it wasn’t simply her hair that bothered him; everything about her looked like some lonely man had decided to create a living doll for his own enjoyment, from her rosebud mouth to her D cup breasts. There was no way he could work with someone like that. There was no way she could successfully integrate into the team.

The scientist simply shrugged. “We provide their powers, not their personalities. If you want her to cut it, you’ll have to convince her yourself.”

Xander opened his mouth to say what his mind was telling him, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He was ogling her, embarrassed by his inability to look away. His heart tugged at him, whispering that he was a lonely man and that he could use some enjoyment. Of course, as the team leader, that would be an appalling abuse of power. Even if he recruited her, he would never be allowed to touch her.

“What’s her name?” he asked instead.

“Eleta. She’s the best we’ve ever made,” the scientist replied.

“The best, huh?” He clenched his hands into fists, keeping them rigidly at his sides as he tried to keep his mind clean and focused. She would prove to be too much for him, and he needed to walk away before he got into any trouble. “Invisibility would be useful …” He hated himself. He wanted to punch himself in the face for being so stupid.

Say no. Just say no.

“I’ll take her. She needs to cut that damn hair, though.”

The scientist grinned. “I’ll inform her that she’s been recruited. Take good care of her – we put a lot of hard work into this one.”

Xander grunted, his heart pounding over what he had done as he watched the scientist go into the other room to speak with the girl. For however long he was stuck working with her, it was going to be the sweetest hell he would ever endure.

The Scion Suit

The Scion Suit – Behind the scenes

I know, everyone is all like, “Oh my god, she’s beating a dead horse! The story wasn’t that good.”

But ha ha! I intend on turning this horse into GLUE! The only escape is to stop reading my blog, bwahahahahahahaha!

Actually, I’ve had a really crazy week, and now I’m coming down sick/loopy from the stress. Hoo-rah!

ANYwho, some of my personal notes on The Scion Suit:



I changed a few things for the final version, but you can probably see how things evolved.

Not pictured: Research into military rankings and culture. This was the hardest part for me; I didn’t want to be blatantly wrong, but the only personal experience I have is a handful of conversations with a couple of ex-military guys. I’m not actually sure if Lambert would have had his own office as a captain.

Also not pictured: Lots of brainstorming with my husband. He’s my number one source of inspiration, meaning he comes up with the ideas and I steal them. Just kidding. He knows how to get my juices going. Lol.

Why did I choose that particular prompt?

My method is to sort by ‘new’ then keep scrolling until I find something that stands out to me, and ignore popularity altogether, because I’m an arteest and not an attention whore. I picked that prompt because it reminded me of a reoccurring dream that I’ve had several times over the past few years, and I very nearly wrote the dream as my response. However, I very quickly decided that the dream deserved the time and attention that I put into my novels, and opted to come up with an entirely new story instead. The dream was still a major influence.

Then the prompt got popular. Whoopsie.

So there you go.

The Scion Suit

The Scion Suit – Side Quest

Author’s Note: Someone said that this story needed side quests, so here you go. #NoOneWillUnderstandMySenseOfHumor

I am currently trying to write a novel while maintaining a real life, so this will be it for awhile.

Takes place between parts 6 and 7

Alternately titled: In Which Carol and Lambert Wash Laundry, Eat Dinner, and Do Not Have Sex.

Scion Suit

Carol returned to her room to discover that she didn’t have any more clean clothes. She had been training with Lambert, and had stripped out of her sweaty t-shirt as soon as the door had closed behind her. It was then, standing half-naked in front of her closet, that she realized she had nothing else to wear.

The smell of her shirt, now that it had been removed from her body, was too unappealing to put back on. She turned to the boxes that she had never gotten around to unpacking, and dug around until she found something that she could wear. A few months ago, perhaps out of some unconscious impulse to prove that she wasn’t actually a boring and lonely sort of person, she had purchased a red satin pushup bra that she had promptly become embarrassed of and never wore. A little more digging produced an old white tank top.

Carol dressed, stuffed her dirty laundry in a big bag, then banged on her door. “Holmes!” she yelled. “Let me out! I need to talk to the captain!”

There was a click as the door unlocked, and Holmes stepped back as she barged through, his nose wrinkling up as the bag passed by him. “Whew-ee! Are you planning on pranking him with a dead cat? Where’d you get it from? Mind if I watch?”

She gave him her best ‘I wish you death’ stare. “No. I just want to talk to him.”

Carol trotted down the hallway, and managed to remember every single turn to get to Lambert’s office without getting lost. She let herself in without knocking, and found Lambert studying over his little notebook at his desk.

He glanced at her, flipped another page, then looked up again, this time openly staring. “Commander!” he barked. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Captain, I need to wash my laundry,” she replied, uncertain over why he seemed especially irritated to see her.

“You don’t need to bother me about that! That’s what Holmes is for.” Lambert kept staring. He attempted once to return his focus to his notebook, but his eyes wouldn’t stray from Carol. It was making her uncomfortable.

“Well, you see, sir…” She shifted uneasily. “Holmes is… normal.”

“What has that got to do with anything?” Lambert was on his feet now. Still staring.

“I’m scared to wash my clothes under the watchful gaze of someone who… I don’t know.” Carol looked down, losing her train of thought as her face grew hot with shame. “I feel safer around you,” she muttered, more to herself. Clearly she had made a mistake in coming there, and even she didn’t know why she had thought that only Lambert could help her.

“Commander,” he growled, skirting around his desk to come towards her. “You don’t have any clean clothes at all?”

“No, sir,” Carol answered. She couldn’t look at him, even when he towered over her and glared down.

“And that’s all?”

His question surprised her. She couldn’t guess what he was thinking, or why he was acting so weird. Maybe she had caught him at a particularly bad time. “That’s all, sir.”

Lambert’s jaw tightened, and he looked down at her for a moment longer. Then, as if tearing himself away, he stepped over to a cabinet and pulled a navy t-shirt out of one of the drawers. “Put this on, commander,” he said gruffly. “You look like you’re working a street corner.”

“What?!” Carol looked down at herself, and blushed heavily at the realization that her bra could be seen clearly through the clingy old fabric of her tank top. She suspected that from Lambert’s perspective above her, he had gotten an eyeful of cleavage as well.

She snatched the t-shirt away from him and quickly pulled it on. It was obviously one of his spares, and she was dwarfed in it. He kept staring at her anyway.

“Give me an hour to complete my paperwork,” he said. “Then we’ll go to my house.”

“I thought there was a laundromat on base, or something,” Carol sat down in one of the chairs, feeling tiny in Lambert’s shirt. At least she didn’t look like a hooker anymore, she thought.

“My clothes need washing as well,” Lambert murmured, moving back to his desk. “And I hate those cheap-ass machines. We’re going to my house.”

“I’m not so sure I want to go to your house,” Carol protested; especially after the way he had looked at her.

“Then get Holmes to take you to the laundromat.” Lambert waved his hand. “Now shut up so I can think.”

“Sorry, sir.”

Lambert kept glancing up at her, then back down, then up again. Finally, after ten minutes, he practically bellowed, “For fuck’s sake Carol, cut it out!”

“I’m not doing anything!” she exclaimed. She had been very careful to sit still and not fidget or make any noise, so she didn’t know what he had yelled at her for. Lambert was behaving very strangely.

He shoved papers into a folder and slammed it shut, then stood. “We’re going. Now!” He had switched into full-blown captain mode, and Carol jumped in response.

“Yes sir!” she yipped.

She had a hard time keeping up with the fast pace he set as they moved out to the parking lot to Lambert’s car. She barely had enough time to toss her bag of laundry into the backseat before climbing into the passenger side, pulling the door closed as Lambert began driving. She didn’t understand what had gotten him into such a foul mood – more so than usual, anyway.

They didn’t speak at all as they left the base. Carol stared out at the scenery as buildings gave way to trees, and she wondered how far out of town Lambert lived. She had a hard time imagining him doing anything that wasn’t centered around the military, so it was an odd glimpse into his private life to realize that his house was so far out of the way. Forty-five minutes passed before they pulled into a driveway.

Lambert’s house was old but well-kept, and surprisingly large for a bachelor who never had the time to go home. He must have paid someone to maintain the lawn and garden. Inside was organized but dusty, and held pieces of a life that he would have liked but never got around too – like Carol with her red bra. There was an expensive entertainment system and comfy chairs in the living room, and a gorgeous kitchen with an ornate shelf dedicated to fancy cookbooks. None of it looked used.

That was why Carol felt drawn to Lambert, and why she trusted him over Holmes even though he continually berated her. They were both hopelessly one-dimensional.

He pointed his thumb towards the laundry room, then went out to his car to retrieve his own dirty clothes from the trunk. His machine was a front-loader, and the only thing in the house that bore any signs of use. It had more buttons on it than Carol was familiar with.

All of her clothes were neutral tones, so she didn’t feel bad about shoving them in one load, but she couldn’t figure out what to do from there. The detergent wasn’t kept anywhere obvious, and she wasn’t technologically savvy enough to figure out how to configure the machine to simply wash without anything fancy. Carol felt herself slipping into a sense of paralyzation as she became overwhelmed.

Wordlessly, Lambert came up behind her and popped a pod into the machine, then pushed a button to turn it on. He was staring at her again, and she was growing tired of his gaze.

“Thank you, sir,” she mumbled, crossing her arms and hunching in an effort to shrink away.

“How old are you, commander?” he asked.

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” Carol snipped back. She could tell that he wasn’t going to say something flattering, and she didn’t want to give him any ammunition to use against her.

“You’ve obviously been an adult for long enough, so why on Earth does a laundry machine make you freeze up? How did someone like you survive alone?”

“I did just fine!” Carol was annoyed, especially because she couldn’t remember the answer herself. After using the Suit and losing all her personal freedom, she was forgetting what it was like to walk around alone, and she was becoming increasingly anxious outside of her giant mechanical body. It was unfair that Lambert judged her whole life based on the recent changes that she had undergone, and she hated him for it. His eyes narrowed, growing increasingly intense. Carol double checked herself, and couldn’t find anything provocative in the baggy t-shirt she was borrowing. Maybe he was high; it was a well known fact that soldiers used all manner of substances to cope with their jobs, and maybe she had caught him after he had taken a hit of something good.

“Wash my stuff too, and help yourself to the TV or whatever.” Lambert dismissed her, and retreated to the kitchen. A minute later she could hear beeps from the microwave, and imagined that he was preparing a frozen dinner for himself. Her stomach rumbled at the thought of food, and she wished that she could have something too, but she didn’t imagine that Lambert was the sort who would share a meal with a subordinate. The long drive back made her heart drop.

Thirty minutes later, she reluctantly went after him to ask for help with turning on the dryer, and found him cooking in the kitchen.

“Sit down, commander, it’s almost ready,” he said, motioning to the kitchen table that had been set for two. “Don’t get excited, all the ingredients were either frozen or canned.”

“What is it?” Carol asked, picking a chair. The situation was surreal.

“Spaghetti. No comments, just eat it.” He brought a pot over and scooped out a big heap of noodles and sauce mixed with ground beef, then did the same for himself. The spaghetti tasted heavily of basil and peppercorn, but was otherwise better than the food they served in the canteen.

They ate in an awkward silence.

When they were through, Lambert helped with the laundry then turned on an old movie, settling down as they waited. Carol sat in the other chair and only half looked at the screen, feeling very aware of him lounging so he could watch her at the same time. The machines couldn’t work fast enough for her liking.

Finally, once everything was washed, dried, and folded, they made the long drive back to base, and Lambert escorted her to her room. Before she closed the door behind her, Carol asked, “Would you like your shirt back?”

“Keep it,” he growled, then stormed away.

Carol was never going to figure him out.