dark swarm- sci fi, YA novel ages 14+
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A violent force descends on Earth, threatening human sovereignty initially recognized as a viral outbreak. Jayce Morrison is infected but quickly becomes the most important person on Earth–able to read the Dark Swarm communications until the darkness overcomes him, turning him into a soldier for the enemy. Time is running out as his thoughts betray him.

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dark swarm- sci fi, YA novel ages 14+

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dark swarm- sci fi, YA novel ages 14+

 Dark Swarm Young Adult Novel (preview ages 13+)

The Life

Detroit 2042


Jayce Morrison dashed across the street, noting that the sun was below the horizon; thus unleashing the nightly promenade of chaos upon the city. His older stepbrother, Darius, led the way past one-hundred-year-old homes nestled among water starved, long-neglected hedges, broken-down cars and trash piles that gathered at the curb like drifts of snow. The neighborhood houses were mostly dark, save for the glow of a TV in the window here or there. Sometimes, Jayce would notice signs of occupation farther inside the homes, always behind iron bars and drawn curtains. He hated going outside; his house was situated inside a territory controlled by side K-side, a powerful cartel, run by thugs and gangsters.

Darius was eighteen, three years older. He had once confessed that he, too, was as afraid of going out at night. But Darius hid behind his mask of confidence, a skill Jayce had yet to learn.

Most of Detroit was dangerous, had been all Jayce’s life. He’d seen good times, prosperous times, safe neighborhoods with painted homes and trimmed lawns. He’d seen vids of smiling people, happy children. Not in this city. Those places were mostly on TV, or in movies, or in gated communities so far away they might as well be on the moon.

Between the houses were occasional empty lots, now filled with tent villages nestled among collections of trash and twisted junk. Fire raged in a nearby garbage can. The smell of burning plastic assaulted Jayce’s nose. Men and women warmed their hands, staring into the flames like zombies. A shot rang out into the late afternoon, startling no one.

Jayce and Darius headed toward a ten-foot chain-link fence topped with razor wire, separating the houses from a commercial zone. Markets, gas and fuel stations, casinos, restaurants were guarded by thugs who, along with their weapons of war, cluttered around the economic powerhouses like dragons hovering over their piles of gold.

Jayce glanced behind and between homes, always alert, his hand firmly on the can of mace in his pocket. He stumbled on a ragged crack in the sidewalk, the crack he always seemed to step in, every damn time.

“Move it, noodle feet. I have a date tonight,” Darius ordered. He never left the house without his fancy Clubhouse button-up, always eager to chat with girls, even those accompanied other guys—sometimes older, bigger guys who sent Jayce into a panic. But Darius always got out of trouble with his half-serious, playful, charming nature. Only a couple of times did the brothers have to flee from an irate man. Truth was, Darius had the confidence Jayce could only dream of. Darius was his step-brother, but Jayce loved Darius, looked up to every move he made.

“I hate coming down here,” Jayce complained, stepping over a pile of trash, gagging on a whiff of soiled clothing and rotting food.

“Come on. Mom needs her meds now. Can’t wait for Dad to get home.”

“I know, just sucks they won’t deliver to our house anymore ‘cause we’re on the other side of the fence.” Jayce could still feel his mother’s panic when her breather ran out of Diaphox, the asthma treatment that allowed her to breathe deeply. Jayce had his own inhaler, but his symptoms were much less severe. The air was visibly polluted, choked by the Lithium mine machines, the paper mills and the millions of cars that hadn’t seen a carbon emissions test in twenty years. When the country broke apart, the cities were pulverized under the boots of very bad people who had very bad weapons.

The two hurried across the intersection then through a packed electric car recharging station, working their way toward the pharmacy down the street. The line of cars was ten deep, four across, every driver annoyed but familiar with the wait. Most people couldn’t afford to charge at their homes; the rest didn’t want to risk being stranded in one of the frequent, rolling power outages that lasted for days. 

A blue sedan blew through the intersection, tires squealing, smoke filling the air. The driver didn’t stop, but hit the accelerator, spinning the tires, the back of the vehicle fishtailing.

“Shit! Idiot’s trying to U-turn onto the freeway going, like, fifty.” Darius yelped, dashing toward the fueling station’s mini-mart.

A PSF (private security force) cruiser– classic red and blue lights on the roof, black and white paint job, gold badge logo on the door– flashed its lights, wailed its siren, sped after the sedan. The cruiser careened off a curb, sparks flying. Jayce liked to hear the sirens, to see them trying to do their jobs. Get the bastards. Throw away the key.

The blue sedan pulled out of the spin and hit the accelerator, revving the engine into shrieks of panicking metal, whipped the car 180 degrees and sped toward the PSF cruiser.

Darius grabbed Jayce’s shirt collar. “He’s playing chicken! Gonna get ugly!” At the last second, the blue sedan veered toward the fueling station and smashed through one of the lines of electric cars.

Jayce and Darius sprinted full-out toward the mini-mart, the crowd of onlookers colliding and yelling, scrambling out of the way of the oncoming crash.

A piece of shrapnel flew by Jayce’s head, forcing him to fall to his knees. Darius fell too, but threw his arms over his younger brother’s head, protecting him.

The loud bang and crumpling metal settled in a half-second. But the PSF cruiser was still moving, bouncing over the curb and squeezing the tires before they stopped near the blue sedan.

Two men wearing classic blue police officer uniforms shoved open their doors, stepped out of the PSF cruiser, guns drawn. “Get out of the car with your hands up! Now!” The officers crouched behind their doors for cover.

“Whoa, front seat, action!” Darius exclaimed, helping Jayce to his feet.

Jayce was shaking. He pulled out his trusty inhaler and took a puff. I should just never leave the house. Nothing good comes from leaving the house.

“Out of the car now!”

“Someone’s gonna start shooting,” Jayce said, backing up, passing the mini-mart door, heading down the street. The drug store was two doors down along a row of other retail stores; two-thirds of the businesses were closed permanently.

The fueling station’s mini-mart door opened: out stomped an eight-foot-tall robot covered in gang tags, band and rapper decals, red bandannas tied around its neck. Its yellow armor was scratched and dinged, extensively. Greasy cables were exposed at its pivot points. Its face was a black glass shield, pierced with two glowing red eyes.

The robot pulled a 3-foot-long, lethal-looking black rifle out of the utility compartment in its back, swung it over its head, lowered and aimed the weapon toward the comotion.

Two more robots, similarly armed, exited the mini-mart at a fast lumber; the three robots marched elbow-to-elbow toward the scene of the crash.

All the onlookers fled, some in panic. A few hid around the mini-mart to watch the excitement, Darius among them.

Jayce ran up to Darius, hiding as best he could. “Come on! The last thing Mom needs is for her kids to end up full of holes.”

Darius shrugged, conceded his vantage point. “Alright. We gotta get movin’ anyway.”

One of the PSF officers grabbed his loudspeaker mic, addressed the robots, “Treaty 621 states we are allowed to pursue any suspect fleeing the scene of a crime on our territory.”

The three robots stopped 10 yards from the PSF officer, their guns trained on the men in uniform. “Treaty 621 does not include pursuing suspects with diplomatic immunity.”

The driver of the blue sedan popped open the car door and stepped out, brandishing two gold-plated pistols. “Thas right y’all. I gots diplomatic immunity. My uncle runs East Village.” He holstered his weapons and strolled up to the bots, stopping in their shadow.

The PSF officers stood bewildered, their guns sagging in their deflated arms. One of the men shook his head. The other one spat, “Fucking robots.” The officers climbed back into their cars, slamming the doors. The PSF cruiser backed away from the wreck and drove off, tires squealing.

The robots turned, clanked back inside the mini-mart.

Darius was walking backward, slowly, still trying to see the action. “Aw, no territorial dispute today,” he said, feigning disappointment. “I swear the cops keep getting more chickenshit by the day.”

“Come on. We’re way late. If it gets late, we’re epic screwed,” Jayce snipped. He and Darius hurried up the street toward the drugstore.

“What about my car? Who’s paying for this? It’s totaled!” yelled one of the victims of the wreck. He was irate, screaming at a dispassionate, dispersing crowd and being ignored.

The quickly darkening sunset, as red as blood, showed just over the nearby skyline.

Darius grabbed the handle to the drugstore’s front entrance and pulled it open. The door, heavy on thick hinges, was weighed down with iron security bars. A soft bell rang. Jayce followed Darius past a few chairs and an empty magazine rack. They stopped at the counter, heavily shielded with half-inch plexiglass.

The man behind the counter greeted the boys by name. “Got your mom’s prescription right here. Just need to scan your phone and get the credits.”

Darius took out his phone; the clerk scanned the ID.

The door to the drug store opened, the bell ringing faster than before. The blue sedan driver strolled in, spinning a pistol on his finger. He looked at Jayce, smiled a toothy grin. The man’s gaunt face looked sickly; dark circles confirmed Jayce’s observation. Pistol-driver looked homeless save for his gold necklaces and diamond-studded teeth.

This close, Jayce could see the driver’s gang tattoos. K-side. The powerful gang-slash-cartel owned all the war robots, bought off the black-market years ago. The sudden dissolving of the United States, the influx of AI-supported war-bots and defunded police services during the severe, years-long recession shifted governing powers. Two decades of gang and cop wars all across the Severed Territories followed. The war-bots could keep massive forces—even trained armies—at bay with their accuracy. When the bots shot, they hit their mark. Every time. Not only did the cartels buy more robots, they stole them too. Somehow, the gangs could hack into the bots and turn them on the police forces. It didn’t take long for good people to give up, give in, set down constitutions and laws. Society to crumbled into anarchy.

The gangster banged on the plexiglass divider.

“What do you want?” yelled the shop owner, backing away from the counter.

Ding, ding. The door swung open again. One of the yellow bots that protected the charging station ducked to get under the door.

The gangster raised his gun lazily. “You know what’ I want, ol’ man.” He turned to the robot, stood on tip toes and whispered something.

The robot moved around the gangster, stuck his three clawed-like hand into the service hole in the plexiglass and ripped it out of the metal frame in one motion.

Jayce and Darius jumped away from the cacophony and shrapnel, protecting their faces with their arms, ducked around the corner of the L-shaped counter.

“Yo! I want what I want!” The gangster waved to the counter.

The bot ripped off the countertop, kicked through the wood cabinets, sweeping its arms back and forth.

The hulking robot, the pistol-twirling K-sider and the debris littering the small waiting room left no room for Jayce and Darius to escape. The two huddled next to the only section of counter still standing.

The owner, cowering on the other side, was so close Jayce could hear him praying to his god. “You can’t do this to my shop!” yelled the owner.

“I can do what I want! Diplomatic immunity, biatch.” The gangster moved to step through the destroyed part of the counter.

The owner lifted up his shotgun.

Darius leapt to his feet and grabbed the gun, twisting it out of the owner’s hands, then threw it at the robot’s feet.

The bot had its own massive blaster out in a heartbeat, pushing aside the gangster. “Threat detected,” the robot barked. “Mr. Romano Morales, owner of RoMo’s Drug Store, get on your knees. Do not resist. This is your only warning.”

The gangster, laughing, kicked through the counter debris. “Nice move, bro,” he said to Darius. “We could use someone with your reflexes in our crew.”

“No way,” Darius snapped, raising his hands. “Just trying to de-escalate this crap.”

The gangster smacked the bot on the arm. “Keep RoMo on his knees. ‘Til I’m done.” The gangster jumped over jagged wood and metal and followed the tall shelves full of medicine bottles and prescription bags, looking for specific drugs.

“He’ll ruin me. People who need those meds won’t get ’em. He’s killing people,” Romano mumbled, nearly in tears.

“Better to not be dead yourself. Shit, you were about to be blasted,” Darius replied. “Yeah, it sucks, but the saying is, “You don’t go to war with the army you want. You go to war with the army you have, unless it’s an army of just one. Then you don’t go to war at all. You getting off one shot before the bot takes off your head won’t make a difference. No one will even know you tried.”

Romano lowered his head, sniffling. “I was guaranteed safe business. I pay K-side.”

Just because his uncle is a warlord, he can do whatever he wants. It’s not right. It’s the damn robots, Jayce thought, his heart still pounding. I wish I could switch them off. Give the city back to the good guys.

Jayce and Darius were allowed to leave, so they rushed home just after the sun set and the darkness wrapped itself around the city.

The brothers burst into their home, medicine in hand, instantly relieved to be in their safe haven, their respite from the despair and privation.

Though dealing with the gangsters and the war-bots and the power struggles was a daily dance with the devil, Jayce couldn’t shake the feeling it was all going to get a lot worse.

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