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About the author:
Ronel van Tonder is a science fiction author from South Africa. Having recently completed her dark, dystopian sci-fi trilogy, The Corrupted SUN Script, she’s hard at work penning a new standalone sci-fi novel, The Seventh Glitch. When she’s not writing, Ronel spends her free time slaying rendered baddies in the form of robots, gangsters and aliens – with any weapon that happens to be at hand.
What inspired you to write your book?
This book was based on the vision of Jacques Fresco, a social engineer who believes the world can operate on a resource-based economy. The characters quickly developed lives of their own, and their agendas and love interests tangle around a twisting plot that will leave readers guessing right up till the end.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Wildebeest Digger Colony,
The Regent looked unimpressed. The man followed Ray and Boet, narrowing his eyes every time Ray turned to look over his shoulder. He hadn’t spoken another word since taking command of Izaak’s henchman but seemed impatient with Boet’s lumbering steps, growling every few minutes as they wound their way through the colony. When they’d crossed the Pit, Ray turned again, shrugging at the man’s glower.
“I don’t remember you,” Ray said, curiosity battling his nervousness.
The man blinked at him and frowned. “Excuse me?”
“I worked for Leider Petrus a few years ago. I heard—” Ray cleared his throat “—heard a man say you were recently promoted to Regent, but I could’ve sworn I’ve never seen you before.”
“You know every digger in this colony?” the man retorted.
“No, of course—”
“Then I’m obviously one of those.”
Ray fell silent. His mind churned as he processed the man’s response. Having had a good look at the Regent, he’d confirmed he’d never seen the man before. They turned into the corridor sloping down toward the niners, and Ray twisted back again. The Regent glanced away, lips compressing, before fixing Ray with a goading stare.
“I didn’t catch your name,” Ray said.
“That’s because I never gave it to you,” the Regent replied, shaking his head.
“Perhaps if I knew your name—”
“Name’s Gerard.” The man glowered at him. “Seems Izaak was making a wise decision sending you to the cells. You just don’t know when to shut your trap, do you?” Gerard’s hand flicked out in a violent gesture, his eyes turning to slits. “Keep walking digger. I have better things to do than follow you around while you attempt to interrogate me.”
Ray’s heart pounded in his throat — loud, hard — the pain from his groin still nauseatingly distinct. I’m doing the right thing. I’m doing the right thing. He couldn’t repeat the mantra a third time; a knot had formed in his stomach, twisting his innards. Taking a deep breath, Ray pushed back his shoulders, ignoring his pain, his fatigue, his contrition.
He reached down, stroking the rip in his pants where the bullet had lodged. What was the life of a witch? It was nothing compared to his son’s life. And his own. Give them the girl. Let them take her. The thought spoke to him from some dark, shadowy place in his mind. She doesn’t belong here. She’s nothing to you.
They entered Ray’s burrow.
“Selena,” Ray called out, grimacing as Boet’s hand tightened around his arm.
There was no response. A prickle started up Ray’s neck as he led Boet and Gerard through the entry hall. Soft sounds came from the kitchen. Ray headed for it, pushing ahead of the others; no need to scare Selena with a strange face.
“Selena! I need to speak to you.”
Ray staggered as Boet walked into him.
Selena crouched on the floor, busying herself around Phil. He lay sprawled against the wall while she bound his wrists with thick rope. The man let out a small groan.
“What’s this?” Gerard pushed past Boet, coming to a halt in the middle of the kitchen.
Selena looked up in surprise, her eyes widening at the sight of the strangers. She shot to her feet, holding out a thick piece of wood that looked like — the table leg? Ray glanced at their kitchen table where it had been thrown against the wall.
“Who is this?” Gerard demanded. “What’s happened?”
Selena’s eyes looked wild. She had blood on the side of her head.
“You’re hurt!” Ray started forward. Boet released his arm, but Selena waved the table leg at him, her mouth thinning.
“Stay right there,” she said.
Ray’s hands went out, palms facing her. “My love, what—”
She glanced at Gerard, raising a voice seething with anger over Ray’s.
“How could you?”
Ray felt the blood drain from his face. “But she’s—there’s—”
“Nothing you can say will ever make this okay.” Her eyes gleamed with tears.
“Who is this digger?” Gerard barked.
“Who’s this, Ray?” Selena asked.
Ray turned between the two. “This is the Regent. We’ve come to fetch… we’re here for the girl.”
“She’s gone.” Selena glared at Ray, as if daring him to act on this information.
“Gone?” Ray whispered.
His eyes darted to the side, trying to see Gerard’s reaction without moving his head.
“Gone where? I need her, my love.”
“She’s gone home.”
Ray stared at his wife, horrified. Beside him, Gerard slowly exhaled.
“Unfortunate, that.” Gerard grabbed hold of Ray’s arm.
Ray tore it free, surprising both of them. “Selena! Where is she?”
“She’ll be no one’s slave.” Selena’s shoulders moved back as she faced Ray, her gaze fierce and unblinking. “I can’t believe you thought for a moment I’d let you take her. How could you?”
“Time’s up, digger,” Gerard said.
The Regent took hold of Ray’s arm again. This time, Ray didn’t pull free.
“Ray?” Selena called out after them, her voice now edged with concern. “Where’re you taking him? Ray?”
Ray legs dragged as he stared at his wife over his shoulder. Selena. So beautiful. Even with tousled, blood-soaked hair, she looked like an angel.
“I love you, Selena.”
“Don’t,” Ray whispered, and she stopped, a tear glittering down her cheek. “I love you.”
He lost sight of Selena as Gerard dragged him up the burrow’s entrance. He might have heard a sob, but then they were surrounded by pressing bodies, individual sounds intertwined, undecipherable.
Gerard hauled Ray to the Leider’s audience chamber. He was let in after his second knock, striding to the center of the enormous room and forcing Ray to his knees on the cold stone floor. Ray’s head hung limply between his shoulders, chin to his chest. He closed his eyes and pictured Selena’s face, watched that last tear slide down her cheek again and again.
The padding of footsteps lifted Ray’s chin. He stared at the Leider over the polished stones, stomach clenching. The man approached them slowly, casually, head tipped to the side as he studied Ray’s prostrate body. He halted a few meters from them and slid his hands behind his back.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion, Regent?” The Leider didn’t look at Gerard as he spoke, his eyes remaining fixed on Ray.
“This man claims to have had chattel, your grace.”
“Claims?” The Leider tasted the word. Nothing on his face indicated his opinion of it. “Is there evidence to substantiate this claim?”
“I have reason to believe he wasn’t lying.” Gerard’s grip on his neck tightened. “His wife was there. And two of Izaak’s men, I believe. The woman claims the girl escaped.”
“A girl?” The Leider’s head tipped the other way as he considered this new fragment of information. “From which colony?”
“Your grace…” Gerard’s grip released.
Ray glanced at the regent over his shoulder.
“This man claims she’s from the Shining City. However, I find that to be a near impossibility.”
Ray hadn’t realised the Leider had taken another step toward them until gentle fingers found his jaw and twisted his head back. The Leider’s radiant eyes bored into him, lips parted.
“Is this true, digger?” The fingers massaged Ray’s jaw, sending waves of unease coursing through his numb body.
“Yes,” Ray managed.
“Where is the chattel now?”
“I don’t know. Gone, I think. I wasn’t there. I was with Izaak.” Ray realised he was babbling and pressed his lips shut, trying to ignore the blood throbbing in his ears.
“That is unfortunate.” The Leider’s lips twitched into an exaggerated sulk as he released Ray’s jaw. “I just disposed of my last girl. The Squire says her mind had… shattered.” His fingers slowly curled into a fist. “New chattel would have been welcomed.”
“With your leave, my grace, I’ll take him to the cells—” Gerard spoke in a rush, as if eager to have the audience completed. The Leider’s hand slipped behind his back again, his lips compressing into a musing pout.
“You mentioned he had a wife?”
Ray twisted around, catching Gerard’s shrug.
“Is she old?”
Gerard shook his head.
“No.” Ray heard his own voice, saw Gerard’s flash of irritation. He spun back to the Leider, who was ignoring him.
“Bring her to me. She will have to do, for now. And have Izaak attend me at once.” The monolith of a man turned on his heel, braid swinging behind him as he strode away.
“I said no!” Ray bellowed as he surged to his feet.
Gerard’s hand slammed onto his shoulder, but Ray brushed it off, managing two steps. Behind him, Gerard cocked a gun.
“Move and you die, digger.”
The Leider had drawn to a halt at Ray’s protest. He twisted his torso to stare back at them.
“No?” He glanced away, jaw moving as if he was tasting the word in his mouth. “You seem to be exhibiting signs of dementia, digger.”
Slow, steady steps brought the tower of a man back to them.
“You can’t have her,” Ray whispered.
“Can’t is a word you are in no position to use. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. This is fact. You have wasted the good Regent’s time with this ruse, so as punishment I will take your wife from you.”
“I’ll bring her to you.”
“Now that is a much better attitude. Be sure to have your wife—”
“The girl!” Ray snapped. The Leider’s golden eyes widened. “I’ll bring you the girl from the Shining City. You can have her. She’s nothing to me.”
“But she is not here,” the Leider pointed out, his sweeping hand indicating the lack of chattel in the audience chamber. “How can you bargain with imaginary stakes, digger?”
Ray took a step closer. Gerard growled. The muzzle of the gun pressed to his lower back. The Leider’s eyes hooded as he stared down at Ray.
“I’ll find her.” The leider’s lips twitched as Ray spoke. “I’ll bring her to you. And you can have her until she’s used up.” Warmth flashed over Ray’s face, his body reacting to the callousness in his own words. His ears hummed as fear and remorse grappled his heart.
“How do I know you’re not lying to me?”
“She’s young. Untouched.” Ray swallowed the acid rising in his throat. “With purple hair and white skin. And she… She’s the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen.”
There was a sharp intake of breath. Ray’s head whipped to a dark corner of the audience chamber where the sound had emanated from. Out of the shadows, the crone Anelle emerged, her shoulders hunched, her face sickly.
She shambled to the Leider, reaching out to tug at his sleeve. The massive man bent down, turning his body to block Ray’s view of the old woman. There was a rush of whispered words. Ray glanced behind him. A deep frown creased Gerard’s face.
The Leider snapped his fingers, ending the stream of words. Anelle made her way back to the shadows, peering over her shoulder at Ray, her sightless eyes pinning him, a small smile on her lips.
“Yes,” the Leider drawled.
His voice drew Ray’s gaze back to him. When their eyes met, the Leider smiled.
“Bring her to me.”
. . .