by Stacy Gail, futuristic (2011)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-519-7
Zero Factor is set in a future where everything is shiny and robotic. Via Brede, our heroine, is naturally special - she is a psionic. I have no idea what she can actually do, but her special abilities mark her a wanted person under the law of the current United North American States government. So why is she taking part in a delivery that sees her going straight into a military zone? I have no idea, but I guess we need some kind of excuse for a story to take place. Lieutenant First-Class C Locke is attracted to her, mostly because she's gorgeous without needing artificial enhancements, I think, and Via is terrified that he may realize that she's psionic. Before anything can happen, the bad guys attack the area, killing Via's friends, and everything goes downhill from there. Locke and Via soon find themselves working together to figure out what is going on.
The plot leads to a pretty predictable denouement that also allows Via and Locke to have their happily ever after, but it's well paced and the narrative is engaging enough to keep me reading. This story is interesting in that I initially was prepared to cringe as Via seemed like such a spineless limpet, but she turns out to be a pretty decent heroine once she decides to stop being frightened of everything. Locke is a more standard kind of action hero, and if there is any weakness here, it's how the short story format doesn't give him much room to convincingly demonstrate how he has changed from someone who dutifully followed orders - including those to hunt down and round up psionics - to someone who will disobey orders for Via's sake.
This is a serviceable short story, all things considered. It is a pleasant and moderately fast paced read, good enough to pass a lazy afternoon or two. It's just that he author doesn't quite succeed in fully overcoming all the limitations of the short story format here, causing this story to seem somewhat underdeveloped at places.
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