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NEW RELEASE: Angels Fall – Ryan Southwick

Angels Fall - Ryan Southwick

QSFer Ryan Southwick has a new queer sci-fi/urban fantasy book out, Z-Tech Chronicles book 3: Angels Fall.

Charlie’s life force is fading. His only hope is an aged martial arts master in the remote reaches of China who, as far as Cappa can tell, doesn’t like him very much.

While Charlie and Cappa are away from Z-Tech, William has been raising an empire of his own — one determined to crush any who interfere with his plans for world domination. Worse, he’s sided with the only other organization who had almost succeeded in erasing Z-Tech from the global market, pitting Anne and her friends in a desperate struggle for survival.

The enemy has the advantage of numbers, but Z-Tech has Zima — a one-person army in her own right. Only time will tell if she’s enough to offset the overwhelming forces set against Z-Tech, and if San Francisco will survive their battle.

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The road abruptly ended near the entrance to a large, single-story bamboo house. Nestled between two picturesque mountain peaks, the simple thatched-roof structure was the poster child for martial arts training temples: outside, a group of bald men in loose robes flowed through a series of movements, reminding Cappa of a gentle breeze rustling through a lush meadow; chickens pecked the grass around the monks’ feet while they practiced. A cobblestone path ran from the end of the road to the house. To one side of the path, a small pond rippled. Even through the bus’s dirt-smeared window, Cappa could see bright orange fish swimming beneath the tranquil surface.

Beyond the building lay acres of farmland, rimmed by red pines to the right, a thick bamboo forest on the left, and steep mountains behind.

National Geographic, eat your heart out.

The bus stopped forty-three yards away from the start of the cobbled path, where the road transitioned from dirt to mud.

Charlie took a deep breath, grabbed his satchel, and exited the bus. His dense mass immediately buried his shoes beneath the mud.

Holding her own bag over her head, Cappa trod close behind him through the muck. Although she appeared to be an average five-foot-seven-inch female with a modest figure, her metal skeleton, endo-armor, and other dense components weighed her in at four hundred and fifty pounds—almost as heavy as Charlie.

Mud grabbed her bright-white sneakers at every step, which she now regretted wearing in favor of the brown ones she’d left in San Francisco. She had dressed down from her usual sundress-and-pumps outfit to more practical khakis and a loose blouse—although, judging from the local residents, she had totally overdressed.

The bus driver wasted no time and roared away. The practicing monks—or whatever they called themselves—paid she and Charlie no heed while they walked the path to the red-painted monastery doors.

Charlie hesitated, knocked three times, then surprised her by kneeling in his designer jeans on the cobblestone, head bowed. Cappa hastily did likewise, although she stayed several paces behind him to show the expected deference.

I’m definitely overdressed for this crap…

Chickens pecked. Monks practiced. Mud soaked the knees of her new khakis, but no sound came from within.

Is he here? Cappa sent to Charlie through their electronic communication link, not wanting to break the solemn silence. Or maybe Master Wung didn’t hear you? Try knocking again.

If he’s here, he heard us, Charlie replied. Be patient.


Normally, Cappa surfed the web when she was idle, played online poker, or cruised her numerous social media outlets to see what was new and crazy in the world.

But here, forced to sit still on the other side of the planet from the only home she’d ever known, she suddenly realized with growing unease that this was the first time in her short life she hadn’t had internet access to stave her boredom.

No phone. No texting. No email. No video chat. No shopping for the newest fashions. No online tabloids to get the latest celebrity gossip.

No adorable kitten videos! How do these people live?

She was revising her assessment that her stranded-yet-internet-enabled factory self had the raw end of the deal when her enhanced hearing picked up footsteps from within the house.

The door creaked open. Charlie kept his eyes to the ground, but Cappa sneaked a peek at the person who had belatedly answered their summons.

Long, scraggly gray hair hung over his weathered face. He was old, Cappa knew that much, but had a youthful energy that made it difficult to say exactly how old. He was about Charlie’s height, smaller in build, yet powerful and erect. A long staff came to rest at his feet.

That was when Cappa noticed he hadn’t opened his eyes.

“Who comes to the sanctity of this temple?” the old man said in a firm voice. His Cantonese was clear and crisp, unlike some of the muddled local dialects Cappa had had difficulty translating during their trip.

Charlie’s shoulders drooped at the question. “Master Wung,” he said in the same, crisp Cantonese dialect. “It is Charlie. I have returned to—”

The door slammed so hard that even the imperturbable monks in the yard skipped a step.

Charlie stood, scratched his head, and turned to her with a half-smile. “That went better than I expected.”

Cappa’s jaw dropped. “If you were expecting, oh, say… boiling oil, sure! I’d take a door in the face any day.”

“Believe me, that wasn’t bad. You just have to know him.”

Cappa threw her hands up. “Charlie, what are we going to do? Something tells me he isn’t taking house guests.”

“He might. Like I said, we just have to be patient.”

“Fine, so what do we do while we’re being patient?” Cappa looked around. Apart from the small clearing where the house stood, surrounded by small plots of farmland, she saw no sign of civilization anywhere.

“Chores,” Charlie said cheerfully. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

“You’re going to show me how to do chores?” Cappa said, following him around the side of the building. “I know we’re on the other side of the planet, but I thought the ‘everything’s backward in China’ thing was a myth.”

“Not backward, but simpler, for sure. Here…” Charlie handed her a crude hoe fashioned from bamboo and stone. “We’re two more mouths to feed, or so they think, and there’s no room for sluggards in the country. We’ll need to expand the farmland to compensate for our presence.” He grabbed a hoe for himself, then heaved a large sack onto his shoulder. “Rice seeds. Ready to do some cultivating?”

Author Bio

Ryan Southwick decided to dabble at writing late in life, and quickly became obsessed with the craft. He grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to a farming town on California’s central coast during elementary school, but it was in junior high school where he had his first taste of storytelling with a small role playing group and couldn’t get enough.

In addition to half a lifetime in the software development industry, making everything from 3-D games to mission-critical business applications to help cure cancer, he was also a Radiation Therapist for many years. His technical experience, medical skills, and lifelong fascination for science fiction became the ingredients for his book series, “The Z-Tech Chronicles”, which combines elements of each into a fantastic contemporary tale of super-science, fantasy, and adventure, based in his Bay Area stomping grounds. Ryan’s related short story “Once Upon a Nightwalker” was published in the Corporate Catharsis anthology, available from Paper Angel Press.

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