Title: Zhukov's Dogs
Author: Amanda Cyr
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publish Date: October 27, 2014
Summary: Lieutenant Colonel Nik Zhukov is just like any other desensitized seventeen-year-old living in the year 2076. At least he likes to think he is when he isn’t busy eliminating threats to national security, breaking up terrorist organizations, and trying not to get blown up. It’s all in a normal day’s work for one of the military’s top dogs, and he’s never disappointed. Never failed. Never lost sight of his dream of making it to the elite force, even as each new job forces him to see just how morally corrupt his leaders are.
On the verge of promotion, Nik is dispatched to the underground city beneath the icy Seattle tundra, his final mission handed down directly from The Council. It should have been a simple in-and-out, but the underground is full of dark secrets and he soon finds himself swept into battles, lying to his best friend back east, and growing a bit too close to the rebels he was sent to spy on.
Nik realizes too late that he’s broken the number one rule within his ranks; he’s allowed himself to feel normal for the first time in his life. He might be able to turn the job around, become the soldier he was once was, except for his growing attachment to the rebel leader. A guy. Yet another first for Nik. It’s a mistake he pays for dearly when he learns The Council’s true intentions for the city.
She wasn’t being courteous; she was being smart. I entered the room without a word and took a seat on one side of the table. A camera in the corner moved to focus on me, and I got the feeling some very important people were watching from a safe distance.
“My name is Dr. Halliburton,” she introduced herself in a stern tone. She opened the leather purse on the desk and fished through, pulling out a thin, magenta tablet before taking her seat. “Oof. Damn, these chairs are uncomfortable,” she said. I wanted to suggest she try sleeping on the cot back in my cell, but I held my tongue and kept my eyes on the camera in the corner.
Her hand dove into the bag again and scrounged for a stylus, which she proceeded to tap three times against her tablet before finally settling in. She noticed my attention was elsewhere, and seemed to know exactly what I was looking at without needing to turn her head. “Smile for the camera.”
“What is this?” I asked warily. As pleasant as she seemed, I knew she was mocking me behind her thin smile, and I didn’t enjoy it.
“This,” she said, “Is a little thing called therapy.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re joking.”
“Yes. It’s actually a surprise party.”
“Well, I’m surprised.”
Dr. Halliburton made a small laughing noise behind her cruel smile. “You should be. People like you usually go straight to the big electric box.”
“So, why am I here?”
My lack of enthusiasm didn’t seem to bother Dr. Halliburton one bit. She waved her hand and said, “Because some people reviewing your case seem to think what happened in Seattle was the result of a temporary loss of sanity. It’s my job to figure out if you’ve merely gone mad or if you consciously betrayed your nation.”
She sounded like one of those people who dismissed any city north of Des Moines. There weren’t a lot of places inhabitable beyond there, not comfortably at least. Some maps had even been altered to outline the remaining thirty-nine states which had yet to be taken over by snow and ice.
“Seattle’s a part of that nation,” I said.
I could see Dr. Halliburton’s eyes light up the second she processed the words. She pried her stare from the tablet she’d been scribbling away on. “Mr. Zhukov,” she began in a sickeningly sweet coo, which put my teeth on edge, “Let me be the first to tell you this civilly. You committed treason, a crime punishable by death and not often given the opportunity for trial. You are not an agent of the Y.I.D., and you are certainly not Lieutenant Colonel anymore. Your only title is prisoner 9-3-5-1-1. Whether or not you remain a number for the rest of—what will undoubtedly be—a very short prison life is entirely up to you. Just say the word, and I’ll declare you mad. If you’d like, we can even bump up the execution to this evening.”
“Not a very compassionate shrink are you?” I scoffed, slouching back and looking up at the camera in the corner again, wondering briefly who was watching.
“Compassionate enough to let you know he’s not dead.”
That yanked my attention quickly back to Dr. Halliburton. The smile she wore took on an even more vindictive curl as she leaned forward to rest her elbows on the table and fold her hands beneath her chin. She took an agonizingly long moment to study my expression, the one I was determined to keep blank despite internal amok.