Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 6



“Do you think you are ready?”

My stomach grumbled. “If nothing else, I have to eat.”

Lakshou smiled. “A very apt observation. And your energy is much calmer now. Just remember, no one in the crew wishes to hurt you. You are safe now, and no one will do anything to you without your permission.”

“I’ll try.” I took a breath and blew away the tension starting to build inside me. My shoulders dropped; I hadn’t even realized I’d started to curl in on myself again. “Okay. Ready.”

The door whooshed open, and I hesitated before following Lakshou out. The tiny temple proved to be a sanctuary I couldn’t ever remember having before. The air was cooler outside in the corridor. I pulled my hands inside the sleeves of the silky robe Lakshou had given me.

He stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “At your pace, little one. No one is going to hurt you.”

“Okay.” I stepped out. The door slid shut nearly on my heels, and I jumped forward.

Lakshou led the way, explaining the ship layout as we moved. “Essentially, the ship is a long narrow capsule with short branches to each side. This is a mid-sized cruiser.”

For someone who’d been trapped in a single, tiny cell for years, it felt huge. There were places the corridor turned and I couldn’t see beyond the wall. Doors, some open and some shut. And people. There were many more around than I’d seen earlier before I ran into Lakshou.

“It is shift change and close to a meal time. There will be people around, but not too many since this early many people choose to eat something in their quarters. If you need to leave at any time, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

“Won’t you be able to tell?”

He hesitated. “Well. My abilities don’t always work that way in a crowd. I can sense the overall mood in a room, but it’s harder to be sure of individual emotions. That is one of the reasons I usually work one on one with supplicants.” Lakshou ducked his head as they entered the galley, his horns barely clearing the smaller doorway.

“Okay.”

What he considered not too many people was still overwhelming for me. I struggled to stay calm because it felt like everyone was watching us—me—as we walked into the room. I took a step sideways, hiding behind Lakshou’s bulk as he led the way to a dispenser on the wall. The room was filled with a feast of food scents, and my stomach snarled in hunger.

There were a lot of humans but there were also aliens mixed in here and there, all eating different things. It didn’t seem like there was any separation between them, except one big alien who was nearly colorless eating something bright red that was… wiggling. I even saw several aliens I’d never heard of. I could only hope they would all be as friendly and helpful as Lakshou.

“Would you like me to pick something for you to eat?”

Watching the scrolling choices on the dispenser screen, I nodded. There were too many choices; I wouldn’t even know where to start. “Thank you,” I whispered.

“Think nothing of it. Hmm. Something simple, I think. A soup?”

I wrinkled my nose at the thought of food in soft or liquid form. “Something crispy?”

“We can do that.” Lakshou scrolled the menu down and then pressed a selection. “Toasted bread. And the cooked animal protein that gets crispy.”

The urge to snatch the food that appeared below the dispenser was hard to resist, but I’d learned to control my physical actions over the years, if not my emotional reactions. I curled my fingers around the tray and waited for Lakshou to get his food. His plate had an electric blue cube that jiggled as we walked to a nearby table.

When we sat, Lakshou folded up his legs up and leaned back in the chair, lifting his face and closing his eyes. I watched him, unsure of what he was doing, and even more surprised when a blue light flashed around him but I didn’t feel anything. After a minute, he opened his eyes. “Oh. You didn’t have to wait for me. I was just taking a self-communion moment.”

“Okay.” I picked up the meat, something I hadn’t had in years, even before leaving Earth. The salty, smoky cube was crisp as I bit it in half, then dissolved into salty shreds on my tongue. I moaned, and grabbed another one, greedily shoving it in before I finished swallowing the first.

“Easy, easy. You can always have more later.”

The bread was coated with a sweet substance on one side, and I liked the dry crunch. I reveled in the taste and texture. There was a cup beside my plate. I sniffed it; it smelled like the one I’d had in medical. I looked up at Lakshou.

“I was given some instructions by the staff. Just a nutritionally-balanced mix designed to give your body what it needs.”

“And you’d know just what that is, wouldn’t you?” Some man stopped beside our table. He leaned in, getting closer than I wanted him to. “Who do you have here? A new disciple for your cozy little temple? I see he’s wearing one of your easy access robes.”

Lakshou’s horns began to glow, and I eyed him warily. The other human was acting aggressive, but I didn’t understand why.

“Kemit. You have been warned about your attitude toward my counseling before, especially in front of supplicants. How you wish to express your personal beliefs is your business, but you are not allowed to badger others about theirs. There is nothing wrong with my counseling others, and your hidebound, colonial sensibilities are the problem here. Don’t make me go to the captain again.”

“You don’t need to.”

Captain’s voice from behind me made me jump, and I spun in my chair.

TBC

Want more flash?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Five


Hey everyone! This week's prompt is: Once in a lifetime. Enjoy!!


“Meditation?”
“When you ran into me, you were nearly mindless with panic. Anyone who is feeling that lost could benefit from some techniques and time to center their thoughts.” Lakshou shifted on his cushion, arranging his robes over his knees.
I clenched my teeth. “I’ve had time.” Hours, days, months, years, in that cell alone. Most of the time I had no input, nothing but my thoughts.
“Do you want to tell me about what had you so scared, then?”
“No.” I shook my head violently. “No questions.”
Blue light flashed, an arc that went from horn to horn on Lakshou’s head. My anger and fear faded, and my hands stopped shaking immediately. I tilted my head, my hand going to the edge of the cushion. I stroked it. “What was that?”
“I apologize.” Lakshou leaned forward. “I don’t always remember that my kind aren’t widely known through the galaxies. I am a Triberiom. When we are in the presence of those who need our counsel, we release an aura that helps soothe them. It is not an impulse I can use to control you in any way, and the effect is only temporary. It eases your body’s physical response to stress, allowing your emotions to calm as well.
“If you wish to leave, you may. I only wish to help you learn how to help yourself do the same.”
Lakshou seemed like he meant what he was saying, and, above all, I didn’t want to leave. I curled back onto my side. I couldn’t remember feeling like this, ever. I rubbed my thumb against the cushion, then my cheek. “It’s so soft.”
“Yes. A special material from my home world. We believe in surrounding ourselves with comfort. It is a pleasure we see no reason to deny.” Lakshou rose. “That uni from medical is probably far from comfortable. Would you care for a robe?”
“Like yours?”
Lakshou’s face crinkled as his lips turned up. A smile? I thought it was one. “Similar. I don’t think you would like to wear this particular robe, but I have others.” He tapped a spot on the wall that was nothing more than a small depression, and the wall faded. There were robes of all kinds in there. Lakshou rifled through the fabric before pulling one out. “Here. I believe you would like this one.”
The fabric was a uniform light gray, but it shimmered in the low lights in the room. Muted, but not in a bad way.
“It has long sleeves and a head covering as well. Space can be cold.”
“Yes, it is,” I said softly. I’d been cold a lot. Never freezing, but never really warm either.
Pressing another depression, Lakshou opened another door to a cleansing chamber. “You can use the facilities if you need them while you change.”
Lakshou held out the robe, and I took it from him. Our hands didn’t touch, and I was relieved when he moved around me. The small space didn’t afford much room, and the floor was littered with pillows, but he made a small circle around the edge of the room and knelt in the smoking jar. He muttered a few words and then sprinkled something yellow in the hole.
I retreated into the bathroom. I twisted and ran my hands over the clothes, but finally figured out they just pulled off so I could clean up. When I pulled the robe over my head and arms, it slithered down my body to my feet. I shivered and wrapped my arms around my torso. “Oh.” It felt so good.

Lakshou was twisted up in some bizarre pose. He could have scratched the base of the tail I didn’t know he’d had until his robe parted down the back as he flexed and his whole body contorted as he faced me upside down. He chuckled when he saw my face, and I snapped my mouth shut.
“Triberiom are very flexible. It’s part of our meditation.”
“You don’t expect me to do that, do you?”
“No, no.” He uncoiled and righted himself. “Simply sitting and closing your eyes would be fine. I know you must have been through a lot, considering the captain brought you on board after the last raid. No one we rescue has had an easy life. But I can help you center and handle the changes better, if you will let me.”
What did I have to lose? “Okay.”
Lakshou settled on a cushion facing me. “Just close your eyes and focus on your feelings.”
“My feelings?” How did do that?
“Imagine them as a ball inside you.” Lakshou’s voice took on a hypnotic note. “Fear, anger, loneliness.” Behind my eyelids the light in the room flashed. “I sense them all.”
I shivered, pulling my hands into the sleeves. I whimpered. He was putting names to the swirling in my core that threatened to make me pass out again.
“Imagine that ball getting smaller, lighter, as you peel away the layers and discard each negative emotion, exposing the core of calm inside you. Breathe in, and breathe out the fear and push it away.” Lakshou took a deep breath, and I mirrored him, trying to do what he said.
I’d gained an ability to create vivid mind pictures during my reprogramming, and I used it now. Fear was an ugly red, a pulsing virulence. I took it in my hands and shoved it away, outside of my body as I let out a hard breath. A band around my chest loosened, and I opened my eyes. “I did it.”
Lakshou smiled. “You have begun.”
“More.” I needed this. I closed my eyes. There was more in there, more I wanted gone. I wanted the peace Lakshou promised, the one I’d felt so briefly when he’d influenced me. This was like a once in a lifetime chance to help myself, at least do this one thing. I could take away my own fear; I could do anything. 

TBC

Want more flash?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 4


Hey everyone! For week 4, there's no prompt, but there is a chapter for you to enjoy anyway. 




“Kohen? Is that your name?”

I nodded.

“Good. Kohen, do you know where you are?”

I licked my lips, wishing for more of that fluid.

“Are you still thirsty?”

“Yes.”

He walked over to a spot on the wall. A hum, a flash of light, and another cup appeared. He stretched out his arm, not getting too close. I touched the cup, and he settled it into my hand without our fingers brushing.

Relief swamped me along with a tiny bit of regret. The fluid was cool, and I jerked, nearly spilling it.

“Careful, careful.” Captain’s warm hands cupped mine, steadying the cup. My heart started to pound in my chest, and I froze. Quick as a flash, I looked at his face and then away. I focused on the cup and took a drink. Captain didn’t say anything else as I finished the cup. I snuck another look when he took it from me.

He was pale but his eyes and hair were the same warm color. Brown? Like dirt. Or wood. I remembered them, sort of. Clods I broke with my feet. Big plumes racing across the fields on the backs of strong breezes.

I hadn’t felt the movement of air on my body in so long. I looked down, unable to believe the suit was gone. I ghosted one hand over my arm, but I didn’t touch. Couldn’t touch.

“Kohen? I need to ask you some questions.”

I stiffened. Tests. They’d ask questions, endless questions. Zap me all over with the suit if I got it wrong. My breath hitched in my throat, and the fluid I’d just swallowed came back up. Sickly sweet and bitter bile burned my throat. I vomited everywhere.

Stomach heaving, I curled onto my side. Hot tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes, dripping down my face.

“Okay, no questions. Just calm down, Kohen.” Captain put his hand on my shoulder, and that was too much.

I bolted from the bed, falling onto the ground and then scrambling to my feet. There were people all around, and the space was big, too big. I went from ice cold to hot in a flash.

Aparoe hurried over. “Hey, it’s okay.”

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t okay.

“Kohen, don’t—”

I ran, dodging around the bed, and Captain, and the other people in the room with their arms spread wide.

The door opened when I neared it, and I took it. I looked around wildly, but they were coming for me. I had to escape. Stumbling, banging into the walls from side to side like an unstable livestock after a tremor, I went as fast as I could. Doors stayed shut, and I banged at the panels beside them, but none opened.

My whole body hurt, but I was used to that. The corridor turned, and I darted around it, running smack into something hard. I landed on my butt, and stared up, mouth open.

It was a… I didn’t know what he was, but somehow I knew it was a he. He was tall. Wide. Horns spiraled out of his head. He had on a green and white robe. A blue light flashed, and my heart calmed, my breathing slowed, and the fear faded.

“That’s better.” He crouched down, and I curled up, hugging my knees. “My name is Lakshou. What’s yours?”

“Kohen.”

“Did you hurt yourself when you fell, Kohen?”

I shook my head. I wasn’t hurt. Just cold now.

“Do you need help?”

I nodded. The captain wanted to ask questions. They were all looking for me. I was too much.

“Peace can always be found in the temple to those who seek it. It’s just through here.” Lakshou touched the wall and a door I hadn’t noticed before opened. “When you’re ready,” he said.

He waited while I studied him and the door. It was dim in the room, and when I rolled onto my knees and inched closer, I could smell something light and sweet. The tremors wracking my muscles eased, and I made it to my feet. Glancing at Lakshou, I edged past him and into the room.

“Good lad.” Lakshou entered behind me and the door slid shut. The room, temple he’d called it, was small. A small blaze burned in a round jar, and smoke curled up and reached thin tendrils through the room. Large cushions dotted around the room. They looked so soft.

I leaned down and stroked one. My hand sank in to the cushion, and the covering was smooth and warm.

“You can lie down, if you like. Rest. No one will harm you here.”

It was less a matter of believing him, and more that I felt like I was about to collapse anyway. Exhaustion dragged at me, and the pain in my arms and legs was making my muscles crawl. Still, the fear I expected to return didn’t, and I closed my eyes without worrying that I’d wake back up in that suit, in my cell… or worse.



I woke slowly. It always hurt, staying too still for too long, but moving brought its own special agony. This time was different. The room was dim but colorful, and a lovely scent filled my nostrils. I took a deep breath, and my cheek slid on something smooth and soft.

Nothing in my cell was smooth and soft.

Slowly, the memories came back to me. I flicked my eyes open, and the being I’d run into was still in the tiny room with me. The lights flickered on his horns.

“Welcome back, little one. I hope you rested well,” Lakshou said.

I nodded. I had slept without nightmares, and the panic that had swamped me was missing.

“Good. Captain knows you’re here.” I darted a look at the door, but it was closed. “But you don’t have to leave until you’re ready.”

“I don’t?”

“Of course not. You’re not a prisoner. I would like to teach you some meditation techniques though.”


TBC

Want more flash?
Briefers Website

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Three


Hey everyone! On to week three of my new story, Denied. This week's prompt is: If you're not to busy there, can you give me a hand?


“What is he doing here?”
“Captain—”
“I left express orders not to bring him to the infirmary. Do you want to terrorize him? Why is he sedated?”
The harsh, angry voice made me flinch, and I started breathing faster, but then something grabbed ahold of my body and control was wrested from me. My breathing slowed, the panic welling up inside faded, and the protesting voice shushing the furious protest couldn’t capture my attention from the strange, peaceful twilight I floated in.
If it was possible, I wanted to stay here. I hurt, but it was distant. Like my memory of the bed I’d slept in for my early years. I’d had a soft, puffy pillow I’d bury my head in as I fought against getting up for schooling.
A pillow was a luxury I hadn’t had in too long. Nothing soft, nothing warm. No sensory input that would make me seek out touch. I’d learned control, especially once they put me in the suit, but that desire for comfort was like a sickening need inside me. Sometimes I’d take the pain, just to ease it a little.
Right now, I felt nothing. Physically, emotionally… just nothing.
But I would be afraid, if I could have been. That was how they’d wanted me to become, the aliens. Indifferent to comfort, even averse to it. A physical null, an emotionless robot. But they never managed it.
Or maybe they had. Maybe that was what this test had been. One last, major test to see if I’d pass or fail. But was this distance from my body a reward or a punishment? I couldn’t be bothered to figure it out, because even as the thoughts tried to pierce the veil around me, they floated away, leaving me once again in darkness.

A metallic taste flooded my mouth. I smacked my lips a few times, grimacing. I blinked my eyes open. I was in a big room and there were flat surfaces—beds—along the walls. There were people here and there. There were also beings. Aliens in colorful plumage and iridescent bodies like I’d never imagined seeing.
The aliens who’d held me had been gray, hard skinned like a flexible shell covered their bodies, and they’d had next to no features. Just two eye slits and a lipless slash across their face that was covered with some sort of bristles. The one time an alien came in my room I couldn’t smell anything or feel any heat from its body. The device it carried spoke in a monotone digital voice—it hadn’t even made a sound. I’d never even seen them touch or speak to each other when they observed me where I could see them.
It made me wonder if they were experimenting on me to change me to more like them. I’d been trained to avoid touch, emotion, contact. My suit was molded to my body and hardened away from my joints. I shivered, oddly cold. The air was swirling in the room.
I glanced down, the cold distracting me from the taste in my mouth. The sight of my arms, pale and bony, was something I hadn’t experienced in all the long years I’d been held in that room. I lifted both arms and held them stiffly out in front of me. There was a garment covering my chest, but it was loose.
“W-what—” My scratchy voice broke.
Aparoe stood on one side of the bed. They held out a container with fluid inside. “We removed that wicked thing they put on you. Here, you have to be thirsty. We’ve had you on fluid replacements, but it took several days for you to recover after the nerve surgery. I’m sorry we had to keep you under, but your body needed time to repair. It would have been agonizing if you were allowed to wake.
“I did… one time.”
“Yes, just after the surgery was complete, but we kept a body block active to prevent the damaged nerves from causing you any pain. They couldn’t heal that way, though, we had to keep you under.” When I didn’t take it from her, Aparoe put the container on a table that hovered beside the bed, then pushed it close. “Please drink.”
I picked up the cup, sniffing the pink fluid. It smelled… sweet. Like fruit. I vaguely remembered eating fruit one time. I took a sip. My taste buds practically danced. Flavor! I greedily tipped the cup, but it didn’t hold much.
“You can have more soon, but we need to make sure your body doesn’t reject normal food and fluids. All the tests we’ve run show a successful removal of that horrible technology, and your nerves are regenerating nicely. You’ll be healthy in no time.”
Food? I’d had nothing but a bland paste I sucked out of a tube. Sometimes I pretended to chew, just to make sure I didn’t forget how. Maybe they’d have fresh food. When I was a kid, I’d looked up spaceship jobs, and the rations had seemed pretty bad. But compared to what I’d survived on… anything would be an improvement.
“Aparoe, if you’re not too busy there, can you give me a hand?” one of feathered beings asked. They nodded and stepped away.
“Do you remember me?” Captain stood on the other side of the bed.
I nodded, staring straight into his eyes. Captain was carved on my brain. He took me out of my cell. He was warm and smelled good, standing close to me. I leaned closer to him, closing my eyes. What was it about him?
“Good. Do you have a name?”
I opened my mouth, then shut it. The first thing that popped into my head was seven-six-delta-nine-nine-two. I’d almost said it, having responded to it for years. But those memories I’d struggled to remember were a little closer. Maybe from the dreams I’d had while they drugged me. I only remembered snatches… but I knew one thing.
“Kohen.”
TBC
Want more flash?

 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

eBook Feature! The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

I'm very happy to share a great new scifi story released by J. Scott Coatsworth, the first in a new series!


Publisher: DSP Publications

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth

Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Length: 284 Pages

Format: eBook, Paperback

Release Date: 10/10/17

Pairing: MM

Price: 6.99, 16.99

Series: Liminal Sky (Book One)

Genre: Sci Fi, Space, Gen Ship, Apocalypse, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer



Blurb:
Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.


Book One of Liminal Sky

Excerpt:
DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed. 

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm. 

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

Buy Links





Author Bio:

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.



Author Links:
Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ