Dear readers, tonight with us is a young woman, dealing with the stigmas of being part machine and adopted by the galaxy’s most powerful man. Working as an agent of law enforcement and investigating a murder, she is here to talk about uncovering a secret of crimes and darkness hidden in the depths of the galaxy.

Tell us a little about growing up in the Ancora Federation, an entirely different galaxy from the one we know. What was it like there?

I grew up on planet that was beautiful and structured—but not all were like mine. As the daughter of the General-in-Chief—think of your president, just in a society run by the military—I traveled to many different planets on the “civilized” side of our solar system. Most of my childhood, from age six, was spent on Aurora, the governing planet.

Want to know what it was like? Close your eyes. Imagine the most beautiful landscape your mind can create. What did you see? Wildflowers? Towering pine trees topped with fresh snow? A pristine lake? Or maybe a far-off mountain peak? Or even a futuristic city with the latest technology? Aurora has them all. The natural and architectural wonders are limitless. But those wonders mask so much corruption and so many lies. Or so I came to learn…

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My memories begin at six-years-old. Everything before that… darkness. The General-in-Chief saved me from a (supposed) wild animal attack that left me near death, paid for the best cyborg surgeons, and then adopted me. While he lavished me with every luxury, my favorite belonging was an earring that he he found with me that fateful day.

 And cherished memory? The day he adopted me, as tarnished as it might be after everything I learned. I know, I know. I’m a bleeding heart, or so my adoptive brother says. Ugh. Him. Forget I even mentioned Ty.

Do you have a job or are you still in school?

Everyone in my system is required to serve two years in the military. One year in basic. The next in the service. Most people stay enlisted and make the military a career. I chose the path of a DISC agent, which some people call bounty hunters—though not fondly. DISC agents and their assigned canine partners are sent after defected Ancorans that the typical police can’t capture. I’m in my second year of required service. After that? I don’t know.  So much has changed…

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I screwed up. Badly. Made a charlie foxtrot out of everything. It was my first mission. But instead of catching, detaining, and transporting my target, he slipped through my fingers. Literally.

Not what you’re thinking though. He didn’t escape. Unless you consider hurling yourself off a skyscraper to a watery death ‘escaping.’ Everything since that moment has been one adventure after another.

What did you first think when you realized space pirates were going to board your shuttle?

Instinct took over. I was alone (except for my canine partner, Birdie) on a shuttle, in the middle of a nefarious asteroid belt. Without comms. Without back up. And hideously outnumbered. Things had gone to kuso, but all I could think in that moment was one word: survive.

What was the scariest thing you discovered about your solar system?

I don’t want to give too much away. We don’t have enough intel to share galaxy-wide yet. But there is a festering darkness lurking the in the depths of the Federation. A darkness full of gnashing teeth and blood and death. I’m not sure if I’m more scared of them… Or of the lies told to hide their existence.

What is the worst thing about being a cyborg?

Everything. Okay, not everything. I wouldn’t willingly choose this mismatch of parts, constant surgeries, and lack of sensation. But worst of all is the hate. Ever since the Cyrborg Bomber killed hundreds of people a few years ago, no one trusts cyborgs. They even call us ‘clanks.’ As if all we are is a clattering bunch of metal walking around. We’re still human. Or, at least, I hope so.

What is the best thing about it?

This is probably the hardest question you’ve asked me yet! I mean, I suppose I’m glad to still be alive. Without my cyborg parts, I would’ve died years ago. They are also stronger than my human limbs and nearly impossible to break.

Tell us a little about your friends.

I don’t really have friends thanks to the whole cyborg thing. Being the General-in-Chief’s adoptive daughter doesn’t help either. No one really wants to risk getting in trouble with the most powerful man in the system. But I do have my adoptive brother, Ty. Or I did. Things are complicated.

My truest friend is my canine partner, Birdie. She’s a white poodle that has trained with me since my second week at basic. I named her after her tendency to chase birds. These days she’s a lot better at impulse control. As long as she’s wearing her working harness!

Other than Birdie, I’m getting to know my new crew. Especially the captain. I think I may find true friends—the family I’ve always longed for—in them.

Any romantic involvement?

I wish you hadn’t brought that up. I feel like I can barely breathe now. What an idiot I was. I spent so long pining, without seeing what was right in front of me. Romantic involvement? No. And maybe never again.

Whom do you really hate?

My feelings aren’t that simple. I don’t think I solely hate anyone. Not even the GIC after everything. But people with cyborg prejudice? Definitely don’t like them. What I despise more than anything is the weak having no one to defend them. It’s one of the reasons I decided to become a DISC agent in the first place.

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

I’m not picky a long as it isn’t canteen water. There’s nothing like water that’s been sloshing around in a canteen for hours. Getting stale and warm. For a special treat I like to drink Ramuné, but that’s mostly at festivals.

The color green feels like home. I see it reflected in all the plants I grow and the hue of my DISC agent uniform.

To relax, I love to walk barefoot through my balcony garden. I have every kind of plant from herbs to vegetables to flowers. I hope I see it again one day. When all of this is over. These days I settle for a warm bath.

What does the future hold for you?

A hunt for the truth. Whatever that is and where ever it takes me.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

That earring I mentioned? I’ve seen the match to it in the ear of someone—something—else. And I have a sinking feeling my past is entwined with theirs. I’m desperate to discover the truth, but at the same time I’m terrified.

Emily Layne grew up a proud Army brat with an Anne Shirley-esque imagination. When not writing fantastical stories, Emily can be found spending time with her family, exploring the great outdoors, or concocting mostly-believable excuses to avoid socializing.

You can find Auri on the pages of Of Starlight and Bone.

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