Jenna McCormick’s B Cubed One: Born:
by Jenna McCormick
4.7 stars – 3 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Born: Natural born humans are precious few and dwell in darkness. Bred: Genetically engineered slaves who are the protectors of the Born. Borg: The cybernetically enhanced enclave that split from the Born humans. These three factions are all that remains of the human race after the world stopped turning. Scavenging in the darkness for what little is left, the war between them rages on though few know why. It begins with a child’s prophesy and can only end when they unite. Or die. B Cubed Book One: Born. From the moment he spies her silhouette cast by the bonfire, Cormack understands what it is to yearn for something he will never possess. Breds are made to provide for the natural born humans, dig their homes deep beneath the surface of the earth and to protect them from the ever-present cyborg threat. A Bred who reaches beyond his station will be recycled immediately, yet Cormack cannot get her visage out of his mind. Until he unearths a box, buried long before the earth stopped spinning. Task Mistress Allora has no wish to brutalize the Bred worker she finds hoarding treasure, but as a servant of the colony that raised her from infancy, she is duty bound to report anything unusual to the Overlord, even if it costs the blue-eyed man his life. Yet something about the way Cormack watches her forces Allora to reevaluate her understanding of right and wrong. For this genetically engineered soldier is her only protection against the cyborgs who seek what they have discovered, a journal written by the prophetess Cassandra and a way to end the warring between the factions forever.
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The author hopes you will enjoy this free excerpt:
November 15, 2011
The new doctor said I need to keep a dream journal, to keep track of my visions. He doesn’t understand they come all the time, whether I’m awake or sleeping. I agreed because I had to, but what he doesn’t know is that I am keeping two. One is make believe, all about ice cream and pony rides, boys I like and mean kids at school. Normal stuff—things he wants to see because then he’ll say I’m fixed and won’t call CPS on Mom and Daddy.
This one is about what I really see. The darkness, the burning buildings and the enormous deserts. In my dreams the Earth doesn’t spin anymore, a machine made it stop, and billions of people spun off into space. Those who remain are nomads, following the darkness so they don’t die from exposure. Using artificial light sources, they set up farming communities near the few freshwater lakes that have not been swallowed up by the polar oceans.
Usually, I float over the scorched landscape, the one great supercontinent surrounded by the two polar oceans. I see the piles of bleached bones on the light side, they span for miles, stretching back through time. Then, I find the survivors. They live in small clusters, the Born colonies as they call themselves. They are the descendants of those that did believe the prophesy and went deep underground. The Bred do all the work though, people grown like crops. The Born are too few, too important to do manual labor. They must carry on their lines and police the Bred.
Last night’s dream was different though. I’ve never been in the dream before, but this time I viewed the world through the eyes of a man. He was tired and sweaty, but his fingers had turned almost blue with tilling a new field for planting. Since the world is dark for half the year there are no real seasons anymore. Light and dark, hot and cold. Crops are grown year round inside plastic tents.
His job was to prepare the hard ground to take seeds after the structure was enclosed. The shovel burrows into the soil and clangs against something hard. He looks around, but he is the last one left, having given up his meal privileges for one of the children. The Breds must earn their food through work, but he has skipped many earned meals to help feed an ill child. I can feel his hunger, his stomach aches. He’s almost to the point where eating would make him sick and there aren’t any in this camp that would give him a meal. If he grows too weak to work, he will be recycled for usable parts.
Curious, he drops the shovel and uses his hands to dig around the metal thing, finding the edges. It’s a box, like the size of a lunchbox but thicker. The supervisors will have him flogged if he doesn’t report anything out of the ordinary, but he is angry and tired and thinks maybe he was supposed to find this.
There are too many Breds in the barracks at this time of day so he goes to the barn. I can smell the hay and the poop that the animals have made since the last time their stalls were mucked out. The horses have all been tended for the shift, no one else is inside.
Settling down in an empty stall, he runs his dirty hands over the smooth surface. The metal is rough and cold after being in the ground so long. I can feel how fast his heart beats inside his chest and want to beg him to open the box.
“You there! What are you doing?”
He jumps at the sound of her voice and glances up. It’s the woman, the supervisor he’s seen on barracks patrol. She has a reputation for being cruel, but he can tell she is not from the look in her eyes. He has known cruel Borns before, the ones that punish the Bred just because they can.
She is beautiful, with red-gold hair that she keeps tucked inside her warrior’s helmet. He has only seen her without it once but he remembers it vividly, how she looked in front of the bonfire.
Will she have him flogged? He looks down at the box again. If he is going to be whipped, he will give her a reason.
“Don’t!” I scream when he reaches for the latch.
She uncoils the whip from her belt. “You leave me no choice.”
He pivots away from the blow, offering his scarred back, still cradling his treasure. The whip whistles and the sharp crack wakes me up. My back hurts and when I looked in the mirror this morning I have a scar between my shoulder blades.
“What are you doing?” The Bred asked Allora as she bent down to examine his back. He was no stranger to a sound lashing, his back an intricate web work of scar tissue that stood out in sharp relief next to his golden skin tone. Shit, she wished he would have just handed over the box when she’d ordered him the first time.
“Patching you up, you ungrateful cur.” His eyes stayed shut as she produced the poultice gel from her utility belt and aimed the dispenser at the throbbing wound. “You ready to hand over your prize?”
He nodded once and she applied the gel immediately. He had not been so cooperative in the past; otherwise the supervisor on duty would have healed him right away. Breds were known to be thick-skulled, the only teacher they respected was pain but Allora saw no reason to let one suffer any longer than necessary.
“I just found it, out in the new field.” Still he didn’t let go.
His big body trembled in relief and she allowed him thirty seconds to regain his composure before making her demand. “Now, hand over the box.”
“I only wanted to see—”
Allora cut him off with a clipped tone. “Don’t make me repeat myself.”
He shuddered once and extended his hand. She didn’t reach for it right away, that was an ignorant move worthy of a new supervisor, not a second level task mistress. Instead she watched his face. Breds had no control over their emotions and Allora had some proficiency in understanding them.
Which is why I’m still alive.
She expected to see malice or a promise of retribution written across his features, but instead there was only a quiet longing. And he wasn’t staring at the box.
“Please, I want to know what’s in there.” Despite the please, he didn’t beg, just asking for his due.
Allora hesitated. There was no rule against a Bred witnessing a discovery. Oftentimes they were present when a new field yielded surprises. The regs stated that a supervisor rank or higher must control the situation. “All right, you can open it.”
He didn’t thank her, obviously a proud lug. Allora expected nothing more. Politeness was irrelevant as long as he obeyed. She watched him shift to his side gingerly, as if unsure whether her poultice would hold. She noticed the hollows under his cheekbones, the gauntness to his entire frame and asked, “How many meals have you gone without?”
He refused to meet her gaze. “Why do you care?”
She fingered her whip. “Don’t push me, Bred. I don’t want to beat you again, but insubordination will not be tolerated.”
This time he did look up, his bright blue eyes alight with an unholy fire as he stared at her. Allora had to steel her reserve to keep from backing away. His voice was low as he whispered, “There are those who need it more.”
Holding his stare, she dug into her hip pocket and withdrew a nutri packet. “I agree.”
He frowned, looking from her to the packet and back. She jiggled it impatiently and when he proffered his hand, she dropped it into his grip. He stared at it warily and she sighed, loathed to explain her actions, but knowing he would not eat until she did so.
“There is more than enough food to go around and I see no reason why any ought to starve.”
This time he did surprise her. “Thank you.”
The corners of her mouth curved upward. “Manners from a Bred? Will wonders never cease?”
“I have a name, Supervisor,” he muttered, opening the packet.
She raised an eyebrow at his distain. “As do I. I’ll give you a hint—it is not Supervisor.”
He nodded once. “I am called Cormack.”
Despite her best judgment, she had to ask. “How old are you, Cormack?”
He finished his meal and swallowed, his shoulders stiffening infinitesimally. “Thirty four.”
Double shit. Allora regretted her need to ask. At almost three and a half decades, Cormack of the bright blue eyes stood on the threshold of a minefield. Any transgression at all and he would be sent to the draining chamber, broken down into parts which could then be used to sustain Born humans. Or pressed down into the viscous fluid that would incubate a whole new generation of Breds.
“Well, Cormack. I am not a supervisor but a second level task mistress. It would serve you well to recognize the difference.” She tapped the infinity insignia on her lapel.
His eyes went wide. “Task Mistress? I have never encountered one of your designation before. Forgive me.”
Allora ground her teeth together. That was because most who reached the task designations no longer walked the planting fields, letting the supervisors handle the Breds. “It is not a punishable offence.”
Silence reigned between them and almost as though it had been choreographed, they both stared down at the box.
“Go ahead, open it.” Allora put a thin thread of command in her tone, hoping he understood that she was in no mood for games.
Cormack ran his hand lovingly over the grime-encrusted box, his slow caress denoting awe and wonder. Her body tingled in the most unusual places as she watched his long fingers fiddle with the latch, careful not to break it. She scowled, shifting her weight to ease her odd discomfort. What is the matter with me?
The locking mechanism gave way with ease, and Cormack licked his lips as he gripped the top of the strongbox. Allora’s own tongue darted out before she realized it. Glancing from her to the box and back again, Cormack studied her mouth in a most inappropriate way.
The constraints of her thermal gear grew tighter, her skin prickled against the layers of fabric. Her nipples, peaked from the cold, felt sensitive as his tongue emerged again.
“Get on with it already!” she snapped, unwilling to prolong this bizarre encounter. To feel urges for a Bred? The only lowlier disgrace would be to mount a Cyborg.
For a heartbeat she felt sure he would ignore her command and keep eye contact, see how far he could push her. She was too close to him now to use her whip and if he attacked, she’d have no choice but to inject him with the sedative in her gauntlet and have him hauled off to be drained.
Curiosity won out and he raised the lid to the metal box. His eyes went wide and he threw it to the side and scrambled away, curling into a defensive posture in the dust.
“What is it?” Allora frowned.
He flung himself at her feet, forehead touching her boots, hands trembling. “Please, I didn’t know.”
She glanced to where the box had landed and at the clear plastic bag that protected a book. Triple decker shit on a stick.
Cormack watched in horror as the task mistress strode to pick up the book, his heart thundering against his ribcage. It had been going so well too, she’d been quick to strike but he understood he’d given her no choice. As a woman, she could not afford to be more lenient, lest the Bred take advantage of her.
Her beauty stunned him. Pale unmarred flesh, amethyst eyes and a curl of brilliant flame-red hair escaping the confines of her helmet. A dream, so vivid compared to the bleak landscape. For the endless moment when their gazes had locked he felt some sort of connection to her. Then he’d opened the blasted box. Even knowing what awaited him—he couldn’t help but stare at it, at her holding it. One quick glimpse of all he ever wanted.
And would never have.
He swallowed once, determined to take his punishment like a man. Perhaps his death would serve as a warning to others who found strange objects from the long deposed civilizations. Curiosity is not worth one’s life.
“Mother puss bucket, this is not my night,” she muttered. Taking off her helmet and setting it down he watched, enraptured as her red gold hair spilled free, lava flowing from a volcano.
In that moment, seeing her irritated expression and contemplating his own death, Cormack realized pride was not one of his strengths. “Please, Task Mistress. I’ll do anything. I am not ready for the journey to be over.”
She heaved a sigh, as though the weight of the world rested on her shoulders. “You know the law, Cormack. Any Bred found in possession of a book is to be recycled immediately. I may not agree with it, but I am its servant, my sole purpose to enforce for the greater good of this colony.”
He cast about wildly for anything he might have to barter. “Can’t we just…pretend this never happened? No one else has to know.”
A muscle jumped in her jaw. “I’ll know.”
Crawling to her on hands and knees, he swallowed before offering, “I’ll service you.”
She didn’t speak. He dared to glance up. Her unusual eyes revealed nothing of what she thought or felt—if she felt anything at all.
Taking her silence as a positive sign, he pushed forward, reaching out until one hand grasped her calf through the leather of her boot. “Have you never wondered what it would be like, to be pleasured by a Bred? No man would work as hard to bring you satisfaction. I vow it.”
“Do you do this often, Cormack? Barter your sexual services to the supervisors so they turn a blind eye?” Her tone was colder than outside the protective shield around the barn. He took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of fresh hay and aroused woman with his keen senses. She needed what he could give and oh, how he wanted to give it. All had not been lost yet, he could see her hesitation when she breathed, “I am not a man with an unruly cock to be tempted by such a proposal.”
“This would be the first time for me.” His fingers crept up to where the thin material of her stockings peeped out over the boot. Boldly, he caressed the delicate crease at the back of her knee for he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. “Can’t you imagine how incredible it would feel, to be tongue-fucked by a man desperate to please you?”
Because he touched her, he felt her tremble. So, she had been affected by his offer. He would not have made it with any other Born, but his task mistress…he could already taste her essence on his lips, imagine the silk of her wet flesh, hear her gasps and moans as he brought her to climax again and again.
“Release me,” she ordered. He lifted his head, staring up over her thermal plated armor. It had been molded to her curvaceous form and his hands itched to undress her, see all of her. His face was even with her groin and he breathed deeply, enjoying her feminine scent. If I’m going to be damned, I will damn well earn it.
Breds wore thin thermal cloth to cover their skin, not this hefty armament. It took him a moment to discover where the ties to her garments were located. She trembled in his arms. One of the horses whickered softly.
“I don’t want this,” she protested, but her body told a different tale. The ties gave way and her armor clattered to the ground. Beneath it she wore only a thin layer of fabric, too sheer to be thermally charged. The armor had hidden the full lushness of her curves beneath its bulk, the delicate flare of her round hips, the gentle swells of her breasts. She still wore her boots and the gauntlets. He feared she might stop him if he tried to remove either. And he wanted this taste of her, more than his next breath.
“Yes, you do.” Guided by instinct more primal than time herself, he dared to argue, nuzzling her mound through the fabric, moving slowly so as not to startle her, as if gentling a wild mare. Would her pubic hair be the same color as the flaming tresses above, or would they be darker, hiding the mysteries of her sex? His hands slowly bunched the fabric until he’d gathered it to her waist. Red, the same vivid red curls. He moved in even closer, letting his breath fall on her sensitive flesh.
She gasped and her gauntlets clattered to the ground, the book with them. Triumph roared through him along with an unbelievable giddiness. He wanted to fall on her like a ravening beast, part her folds and lick her madly. But he’d promised her a unique and incomparable experience.
An empty crate sat nearby. Turning it over he guided one of her boots to the top so he had enough room to maneuver between her parted thighs. Letting go of the dress, fabric billowed down, trapping him in paradise. He ran his fingers along the silk of her leg, his gaze fixed on her sex.
“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered as his thumbs parted her wider. “My mouth is watering to kiss you, to lap up your sweet juices.”
“You shouldn’t,” she whispered, but there was need in her tone as well.
He stared at his calloused hands, rough and cold from hard labor. She practically steamed with liquid heat. He sucked one finger into his mouth, warming and wetting the digit with his saliva as best he could. No, not good enough. His tongue was softer and he had to have a taste.
He touched her wet core first, groaning at his first perception of her sweet lube. She cried out in response and he went deeper, probing the entrance to her body before lashing her clitoris in a rapid fire rhythm. Cormack had performed this act countless times with countless lovers and yet this was a first for him. He wanted the taste and smell of her invading his senses as much as he wanted to live.
Her legs trembled and instinct took over as he gripped the swells of her ass, keeping her upright and holding her to him while he feasted on her sex. He looked up through the transparent swath of fabric and drank in every detail. Her eyes were closed, her lips parted as she gasped for breath. Her chest heaved, large luscious breasts tipped with erect nipples. Her belly quivered as did her thighs. His cock ached for release but he ignored it, determined to send her even higher.
“My delicious task mistress,” he whispered, dragging a finger down through her saturated flesh to swirl around her opening. He watched in fascination as her sex clenched, her breaths becoming shallower. His words turned her on as much as his touch.
“Cormack.” Her eyelids fluttered open and that sizzle of connection burned through him, just like before. Groaning, he swirled his tongue over her folds again, working a finger into her snug channel.
Cormack didn’t understand when his penetration of her sex stopped. His fingertip brushed what felt like a barrier, halting his exploration. What is this? He frowned and thrust harder. She gasped, her body tensing as pleasure drained out of her. His heart rate kicked up as he thought, she’s a virgin? Whatever he did next could mean life or death.
If she’d been one of the Bred he would suck her clit until she came then fuck her hard and fast, keeping her riding the peak waves to orgasm. She wasn’t of his kind though and he had no idea what the protocol might be. Don’t overthink it, just react.
“Did I hurt you?” he asked, withdrawing himself from beneath her skirts.
She shook her head once, her breaths ragged. “Get out and tell no one of this.”
Lowering his eyes, he nodded and fled.
Allora watched Cormack go, fighting to reclaim control over her body. For a moment the phantom of his mouth caressed her sex again. Stubble scraping her inner thigh, his groan of ecstasy filling her ears as he pleasured her. His wet heat manipulating her own before cold air invaded, snapping her out of her stupor. Nothing felt as it ought, her heartbeat too fast, breaths shallow and her stomach filled with liquid fire. What have I done?
Wobbling on shaky legs, she retrieved her armor, righting her clothing as best she could without her maid. The hour had grown late and with any luck everyone would be busy feasting in the main hall so she could slip back to her room and wash away the evidence of this encounter.
He has to be drained. Bad enough that she’s let him take such liberties on her traitorous body, but she could not allow him to tell others of what had happened. Her reputation aside, if the Breds started offering sex in exchange for leniency, the Borns would lose control over their creations and no one would do the work they had precious little time to do.
Donning her helmet, she strode from the stable and headed toward the servant’s entrance to the tunnels the Born lived in this time of year, all the while compiling a list of reasons why Cormack had to die. It’s almost his time—his life will be over soon enough. A Bred who can’t work isn’t worth the sheets he sleeps in. The book sealed his fate.
Damn, she’d forgotten all about it, so lost in the new sensations cascading through her. Pivoting on her heel, she picked up her pace to a fast trot, needing to retrieve the cursed object before another Bred stumbled across it and shared in Cormack’s unfortunate fate.
Wind buffeted against her face as she struggled with the barn door. The shield must have failed again. Shivering, Allora could not help but wonder how much longer they could survive on the surface. Reports of glaciers forming had come in from a few of the northern colonies and even now, Breds dug tunnels beneath the surface, aiming for the earth’s beating heart, the only real source of natural heat left to them. And other dangers lurked below the liquid mantel. Could the planet sustain them? So many species were already dead or dying, the food chain crumbling from the bottom and working its way up.
Horses started as the door blew shut behind her, the wind shield flickering from lack of solar power. The splintered wood had been thoroughly warped from the six months of nonstop sun that had just ended and was barely any sort of barricade for the violent winds sweeping down from the north to buffet the structure. Some of the larger settlements had dug subterranean stalls for their livestock but with only a few dozen Bred doing the heavy lifting, Allora knew her colony couldn’t spare the laborers for such a task until the barn would no longer suffice.
Bending down, she scooped up the book. It was not an official publication, which would immediately have to be catalogued by the Born librarian for historical purposes. No, the cover had not been emblazoned with a title and when she opened it, saw that the words were not computer generated but written in a spidery scrawl. She flipped to a random page.
December 7, 2017
I know you are reading this, Allora.
She blinked, fumbling the book, dropping the bag altogether. No way could I have read that right. Sucking in a deep breath, she straightened the book and started again.
Yes, Task Mistress Allora, I’ve seen you and your discovery of my journal.
By the time you read this, my time will have ended. Your time is about to begin.
“’Tis madness,” though she whispered aloud, Allora couldn’t look away, enraptured by the words on the page.
I know nothing that I write within these pages will convince you immediately,
I could not even convince my own parents that I saw the future. It is my curse,
to see what is to come and live on unable to change it. From this point on,
your purpose is murky, your decisions yet unmade.
There are many possible futures for the world, Allora.
And all of them start with you.
For now, take my journal and hide it. No one else needs to shoulder this burden than the ones that already do. Hurry, now, before the overlord finds you.
The mention of the overlord jerked her out of the surreal haze that seemed to engulf her ever since she’d entered the barn. Slipping the book back in the plastic sheath, she hid it inside her armor and sprinted for the tunnel.
The clattering of clay dishes and cups was a dull roar compared to the jovial sounds of the colonists. As per usual, Borns sat and talked and laughed while Breds scurried about doing their bidding. Allora kept her head turned away, but she was not fast enough.
“Where have you been?” The thunderous boom of Overlord Mag’s voice echoed throughout the caverns. Even the torches appeared to flicker at the question, as though they too feared displeasing her adopted father.
Squaring her shoulders, she whirled to face Mag. His fat, trout-like lips curled in disgust and she could smell the liquor on his breath. How he could sleep, when every day he consumed her weight in alcohol while Bred children cried themselves to sleep from hunger was beyond her.
“Doing the rounds, Overlord.” The last time she’d used his name he’d struck her so hard, her jaw had been dislocated. Mag deserved her obedience, but she would prefer to be as far away from his stench as possible. “There were reports of wild dogs raiding the harvest bins and—”
A slashing motion of his hand cut her off before she could make up a phony report. “I’d hope you would have dressed for dinner, since we have company. But the soldier maiden is not without her virtues, eh, Gaul?”
Gritting her teeth together, Allora turned to face the bulbous blond who reached no higher than her chin. And that was without her boots. Gaul smirked up at her. “We were just discussing our possible colony merger. It seems that your group has a bounty of untapped…assets.” He looked directly at her breastplate as he formed the last.
Forcing herself to endure this humiliation, Allora lifted her chin. Would Mag ever tire of playing matchmaker for this swollen troll? Gaul must hold something of value, for every Born woman in the colony had been offered to him as soon as she came of age. First Allora’s two adopted sisters, who had found Born husbands of their choosing, much to Gaul’s irritation. Now, it was her turn.
Turning her cool gaze on Mag she said, “May I consult with you in private, sir?”
He nodded once, blustering out orders to Breds who scurried about refilling food troughs, and clay goblets.
Not even a week back in this place and already the Borns had settled in to their typical sloth-like lifestyles. Allora shook her head, knowing there was nothing she could say to change his stance and knowing she needed to try just the same. “Father, why do you not change the supervisor rotation? We have more than enough—”
Mag slammed his goblet down on a stone table and whirled to face her, backing her up against the tunnel wall. “Shut up or I’ll cut out your impertinent tongue! Born women are not supposed to work at anything other than pleasing their men. We have Bred to do the work and the men will supervise the Bred.”
Allora lifted her chin, though she wasn’t about to meet his bloodshot gaze. “So why was I allowed to be appointed Task Mistress?” She cringed as the question came out, wishing she could call the words back inside and tuck them away.
“Because no Born male in his right mind would have you and your odd ideas!” Mag sniffed and gripped her shoulder. “Lucky for us, Gaul has no mind and a large hive of tunnels we could access if a civil union was in place. Stupid sod sees nothing but a pair of big titties. A word of warning, daughter—learn to curb your tongue because if you ruin my merger I will cut it out.”
Her suspicions confirmed, Allora shrank from his touch. “So I am to be sold off like some prize heifer?”
He wagged his index finger in her face. “You are to be married off in a joining of clans. We are holding a banquet tomorrow night. The official announcement will be made then, so long as all the arrangements have been reached by that time.”
Allora swallowed. “What if I have no wish to wed?”
A muscle ticked in his jaw. “By colony law, that is your right. But, you will be disowned from my family. I doubt any would take in a rootless wench with no kin.” His gaze roved over her in an assessing manner, his sneer telling he found her lacking in every possible way. “Wear something appropriate to your station because you are about to be promoted from Task Mistress to fiancé.”
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