Blog Tour ~ The Thieves of Nottica
Author: Ash Gray
Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk
Tour Dates: 3rd – 7th of April
Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours
In a world where humans are evil, invading aliens, Rigg is the youngest member of the Keymasters, a band of professional thieves who use their skills to defy an overbearing government known as the Hand. It is a world full of pollution, intrusive surveillance cameras, and injustice, where any who “give the finger to the Hand” are punished with death. The Keymasters are hired to steal a highly sought after treasure, but when one of their number is lost during the job, they find themselves the tools in a power play for said treasure — a mysterious lockbox that no one can open. To ultimately survive in the end, the Keymasters must battle their way through mechanical monsters, airships, and politics, literally going through shit (they travel through a sewage pipe) to make it out alive.
Ash Gray is a dragon with minuscule spectacles perched on her nose, living in a wonderfully dank, musty cave far away in an alternate universe. She types her stories with gigantic claws on a ridiculously small typewriter before sending them through a membrane and into your dimension for your enjoyment.
I am the scariest thing you’ll find in the dark, forsaken places, with breath of fire and claws that shred. “Dragon!” they scream as I rip them red.
Visit them at:
When Rose awoke, she could hear voices speaking quietly, and the room was so vast and so empty, they echoed off the walls in a whispered refrain. She went very still, too afraid to open her eyes, listening with building dread to the whispers that surrounded her. She could feel that she was lying on a metal table, for its cold stung the back of her arms and her legs, which seemed to be bare in that chill room. She tried moving her hand, and when it did not respond, her brain flew into a panic and tears filled her eyes. She was unhappy to realize that she could open them if she wanted and squeezed them shut tight, too afraid of what she might see. Her heart thundered in her chest as she tried to imagine where she was, if she had been kidnapped . . . if Oliver was dead.
The voices fell silent, and somehow, without even looking, Rose knew they were waiting for her to open her eyes. She didn’t want to. She just wanted to wake up in her hotel room again, with Oliver beside her in bed, laughing and stuffing his face with popcorn as he watched tv.
“Rose,” said a man’s voice, buzzing as if from a speaker. “Open your eyes. It’s alright. You are safe.”
Rose swallowed hard. Somehow, she knew that voice, but she couldn’t recall where she’d heard it before. Her eyes slowly fluttered open, and her heart shrank to see the man standing over her. He was wearing a tropical shirt and a pair of khaki shorts, and her lips parted in surprise when she recognized him as the young man from the bar, only now his eyes were solid black instead of warm brown. His golden brown skin appeared dusky in the dim light, and matted blonde locks fell twisted into his eyes, which reflected the overhead light like black water.
The room was very dimly lit, but straining to look past the bartender, Rose could see the curving walls were lined with pod after pod. The translucent brown sacks all contained black-eyed fetuses that were curled and gurgling softly, a strange warbling sound that rose like a background buzz in the vast chamber.
As she glanced around, Rose realized her table was in the very center of the room. On a table beside her, the corpse of a dead woman was stretched, and Rose went still, staring at that body in silent dismay. The woman was beautiful, with smooth brown skin and pale blonde hair, high cheekbones and full lips. She was wearing what looked like a white hospital gown, and glancing down, Rose realized she was wearing the same garb.
The dead woman’s eyes were barely open, solid black orbs that stared in frowning agonies she could feel no more. The front of her hospital gown was bloody and her legs were up in stirrups, as if she had died in childbirth.
Rose’s eyes turned back to the bartender in fright and confusion. She tried to speak but her throat flexed, her lips moved, and nothing came out. Her lashes fluttered and she tried again. Tears started to her eyes when she realized she could only make the barest moan.
“You can not speak,” the bartender gently told Rose, his voice buzzing still, as if he were speaking through a dying microphone. “Which is just as well. There is no need for you to. You need merely listen. It is paramount that you do so.” He paused, as if to make certain Rose was indeed listening.
Rose glared at him. She didn’t care what he had to say or what was important him. He had drugged her and kidnapped her and had probably murdered her husband to boot! She could still feel the drowsing effects of the drug and glanced around in a listless daze as she raged against her own helplessness. It seemed to her as if the world was spinning the harder she tried to scream, but nothing came out of her mouth and her chest heaved in vain. Whatever drug they had given her, it had stolen her voice.
“You have been selected,” said the bartender, “to carry one in the fifteen thousand eggs of her royal highness, Empress Nashal, of our beloved planet Qorlec.” His black eyes went to the dead woman on the adjoining table and they filled with affection.
Rose watched, heart thudding fear, as people with surgical masks came forward. Like the bartender and the dead woman, their eyes were solid black and their skin was brown and their hair blonde. There were two of them and they were women. One gently closed the dead woman’s eyes with fingers that were spindly and long, while the other shook her head in silent sorrow, gently taking each of the woman’s legs down from the stirrups.
“Our empress passed away as we smuggled her from the homeworld,” said the bartender regretfully and his eyes saddened as he gestured at the surrounding pods on the walls. “But she managed to lay every last one of her eggs. She did so prematurely, knowing she would die but that it was best for the survival of the empire.”
Rose glared at the bartender, wondering why she should care.
“Each one of the fifteen thousand princesses needs a womb and a place to hide on your planet, until the rebel forces have regained control of Qorlec. Because you are one in ten thousand humans who are biologically compatible with our people, because you are healthy, intelligent, and – by estimation of our brain scanners – kind and compassionate, we have chosen you to carry one of our royal eggs. When the time is right, we will return to Earth for the girl.”
How do they even know it would be a girl? Rose wondered in listless misery.
The bartender’s lips curled in a slight smile, as if he were listening to her thoughts. “Ninety percent of the eggs that hatch to our women are female. Men on our planet are something of an anomaly. The queen’s sister would have been a perfect replacement in the event of her death, but she has disappeared.” He blinked regretfully. “We believe the regime has taken her.”
There was a bang in the distance, and the room rocked. The lamp above Rose wobbled, gliding its spotlight through the dark in a white circle and swinging dangerously before the bartender caught it deftly in one long-fingered hand. He looked with alarm beyond the edge of the light’s sphere, and following his gaze, Rose could see people in white coats staggering amidst sliding furniture as the room swayed. They screamed and shouted in a language Rose could not understand, scrambling to gather falling trays and instruments.
The sound of a clicking voice buzzed something frantic over an intercom, and several people ran in and out of the room. Lights on the walls blinked in duress, and the fetuses stopped their soft gurgling to shriek in horror. There was another bang and a crash, and someone screamed in pain as somewhere far away, glass shattered.
“My god,” muttered the bartender, his voice buzzing still. “They’ve found us. It’s begun.” He braced himself against Rose’s table and looked down at her apologetically. “If the regime captures us, there will be no hope of saving the royal children. You may be the only one we manage to impregnate – Gralik! Hurry! We’ve little time now!”
Rose saw three women come running to her table. As the bartender stepped back into the shadows, they surrounded her, peering down at her from behind their white surgical masks. Two were dressed in white scrubs, while the third was wearing a long white lab coat.
As the nurses prepared instruments and scrambled to ready the procedure, the woman in the lab coat caught the swinging overhead light and twisted it into the proper position. Rose winced as the light was flashed hot in her eyes and beads of sweat broke out on her skin. One of the nurses opened the front of her gown, revealing her bare belly in the harsh pool of light.
Watching as the masked nurses lifted gleaming-sharp instruments, Rose wanted to scream, but her mouth moved in silence. She hated how the woman in the lab coat watched her with pitying black eyes.
I am the doctor, said the woman’s voice, reaching abruptly into Rose’s mind. She pushed a button on the overhead panel, and Rose watched in silent horror as a whirling drill peeled out of the darkness.
As the whizzing contraption came slowly toward Rose’s vulnerable belly, the room rocked and the walls banged, smoke rose and people screamed, and miraculously, Rose remained fixed to the table, never sliding, only moving slightly with every violent quake.
The doctor alone seemed unmovable. She watched with quiet intensity as the drill drew within inches of Rose’s bare belly, a still pillar in the swaying room, even as her nurses cringed in fear of the shots that rocketed into the walls. When yet another blow hit its target, the room tilted violently, and Rose heard the bartender hiss from the shadows for the doctor to hurry. The doctor, with panicking eyes, reached up and hit another button, and Rose was horrified to see the drill coming down faster.
Helplessly watching those menacing razors, Rose felt certain it was all some hellish nightmare, that she would wake and the drill would never have touched her. She was wrong. The whirling drill plunged slowly through the flesh of her trembling belly in a sudden cream of bright red blood, and she screamed and screamed, the sound tearing at last from her throat like the ragged wail of a dying woman.