Part crime-fiction and part cyberpunk, THE AZREAL DECEPTION is a collection Chad Rohrbacher has been working on for years. Yesterday, we had a bit of a chat. Today, I asked him to tell us a little more about the stories.
By Chad Rohrbacher
The Azreal Deception is loosely based on a screenplay I wrote years ago, then subsequently shoved in a drawer somewhere. Unfortunately, the characters bugged me and bugged me until I finally broke down wrote their stories. The cyberpunk collection is the product of their nagging.
The future. It’s hardcore. The only people who get to see nature, are the one’s who can afford to buy it. Most, however, live in the cityscape’s squalor or a desolate town, the ones you wouldn’t find on a map, but if you were driving through, say, Texas you’d think you ate peyote for lunch. Or maybe they’d come right out of a Hugo poem – run down and ruinous with desperation a long lost memory.
It’s a dangerous and lonely existence for most people. After the Upheaval, the people begged for safety, for order. Food was running out. Purified water was getting to be a luxury. The Planetary Control Group (PCG) stepped in with molifying rations, water, and their own paramilitary security.
Oscar leads an elite force in that paramilitary organization and it is their job to protect the citizens from the Insurgs, a group bent on destroying the PCG and returning society to the way it was before the Upheaval. He’s good at his job.
The stories catch Oscar’s team (Morris, Swede, Knute, Hob, and Charlie) at various points in their lives. Before and after the Upheaval. We see them fall in love, lose loved ones, find their calling, and, of course, get bloodied. I really enjoyed exploring this world and have a strong inclination that the characters aren’t done with me yet.
Here is a portion of Swede’s story ->
Alana first met Swede when she found all 6’4″ of his massive frame spewing Rations and beer on her front porch.
To her, it seemed like an awful lot of beer.
Anger welled up inside her right. She gazed down the line of squat houses with their sleek fibrous walls painted in the same tan material that would shield them from most satellites and drone scans, and wondered how this poor Skin ended up on her porch rather than any of the others. Luck followed her like a horsefly.
Once his body stopped convulsing and he rested his cheek on the porch, she went to him and kicked his boot. Nothing. She kicked him again.
He raised his head slightly, like some hibernating bear just aware of something in its general vicinity. He attempted to wipe his chin with the back of his hand but failed miserably. Fwapping the porch slats, his face turned bright pink and Alana struggled to hold in her laughter. It had been a long time since she laughed, let alone felt the need to suppress it.
She worked for the Planetary Control Group (PCG) in a level 5 security research center doing 12 hour days, 6 days a week, and she expected that dedication from her colleagues. Alana was called a lot of things: brilliant, meticulous, hard working, a soulless bitch. While some of these things bothered her at first, she soon found the benefits of such a reputation.
Alana’s hard features and hazel eyes were striking against her midnight colored skin. Her full lips had a slight upturn, making people think she was personable until they actually got close. Early on in life, Alana learned how dangerous a little flash of teeth, a slight crinkle of the nose, and a twinkle of the eye could be. She trained herself to not use them, even involuntarily. A smile would let people get away with mediocrity through the guise of friendship or amicability. Niceness inevitably led to misunderstandings.
Alana put her hands on her hips and considered her options that included calling the Regs, pushing him off her landing and onto the concrete, or letting him wake up with splinters in his nose. She decided to kick him again.
Sporting standard PCG fatigues, he looked like a typical Skin: shaved blond hair, finely toned arms bulging from under his white T-shirt, large hands. For a moment she wanted to touch him, make sure he was alive, the last thing she needed was some fool dying in front of her door, and then she felt her body flush. It was an awkward experience to feel her body do something she did not will it to do, to feel the pop of blood prickle the back of her neck.
Gritting her teeth, Alana peered into the bare street then back at the body at her feet. She had no patience for the Skins, though she understood they needed to be here, to protect her research. This display by this man was completely over the top; she’d have to speak with his corporate handler in the morning.
In the distance she heard three more Skins stumbling towards her place and back to their barracks. It was a shortcut they were not supposed make but made anyway. Just like they weren’t supposed to mix rations with alcohol or worse smoke them, but some of the boys did in the evenings after duty. Alana knew that once a man started smoking his rations it was impossible to stop. Once found out those men would be fired and, without a job, find themselves on the streets looking to turn into a full-blown Ration Rat.
Her stomach dropped in a moment of something close to sadness. Her skin felt like a simple wrapping holding her muscles and she for a fleeting moment she wanted to tear it off and let herself go. Her eyes furrowed. She worked her teeth, the muscles in her face tensed. Damn Rats. She kicked him again.
“Come on, before I report you.”
Rolling onto his back, Alana noticed his searing blue eyes, square jaw, his shirt pulled up just a little exposing a smile of hip and strong stomach. She felt her body relax and her cheeks flush again.
When Alana saw him trying to focus, she scolded him and once again tried to shoo the man from her porch.
The man rubbed his eyes and tried to shake his head like a wet dog. Then he shared a goofy childlike grin.
Alana almost giggled.
Of course he is Alana thought noticing his officer status.
“What are you smiling about?”
“Am I smiling?” the big man said rubbing his cheeks like putty.
Again Alana had to suppress her grin despite the feel of her stomach plunging to her knees.
“I suppose I am. Imagine that.”
“I’d appreciate it if you removed that puke stinking mug from my porch.”
He took in his surroundings then smirked, “I’d be happy to get off your porch if I thought I could walk without falling down and breaking my face again.”
Alana turned her head toward the three Skins, arm-in-arm, stumbling towards her with the PCG jingle rolling off their tongues, horribly off-key.
“They your men?” she asked jutting a thumb over her shoulder.
“What’s your name?”
“If those are your men….” She stopped. “What?”
“Your name? What do people call you?”
Alana’s brow furrowed then she faced the three Skins about to pass her house.
“You,” she called. “You men get this sloth off my porch before the next person you see is from Home Office.”
The men could’ve been brothers: shaved heads, medium builds, standard uniforms. At first they regarded her as some ghost, shaking their heads, focusing their widening eyes on her, their song lost in the weight of silence.
“Don’t stand there. Get your asses moving.”
By their dash towards the porch, it was clear they knew she was way above their pay grade.
Grab your copy of THE AZREAL DECEPTION here