Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Thirty-one




“It doesn’t help when you provoke her,” Captain said.

“She hates that the head of security has more say in the mission than she does as your second. She acts like I’m some newbie in the ranks, not a commander in my own right.”

“She’s new.”

“And that right there’s the problem.” Deke leaned forward. “This mission has always been different. The orders came down the pipeline instead of in person. You had to take this ship and a good third of the crew is new.”

“They work for Central Command, just like we do.” Captain held up a hand. “I know, I know. That doesn’t mean they only work for Central Command.”

“Obviously, or we wouldn’t have a murderer on board. Or a stowaway like the Trepharo.”

I shivered and leaned toward Captain. He let me, and I inched closer until our legs and sides touched. Deke watched, but I avoided looking in his eyes, and he didn’t say anything.

“Orders are orders. And ours were to infiltrate the station and rescue the prisoners there.”

“On a station in a system that’s barely even mapped. How did Intelligence know the Brox Consortium had a lab operating there? Why send us on this ship when there were at least two other crews on ships with enough firepower and space to do the same job?”

“We’ve talked about this before. We have the best track record for successful retrievals.”

“Exactly. Retrieval. My teams had next to nothing to do. We secured the victims in the cells, brought them on board, cleared the station and grabbed files. No guards. No scientists. The station’s security systems were easily cracked.” Deke made a face. “All of them, offered up on a platter. Why? What’s the goal?”

“Getting the Trepharo on a central planet? They’re even more dangerous than I am,” I said quietly. “On a ship this big, the null field would be too much to run without cause. Luca showed me the ship’s power cells and the schematics for the systems. A smaller ship doesn’t have that problem.”

“But you would’ve been in close contact with them as part of the rescued group. You would’ve picked them out, just like you did yesterday.”

I shrugged. “Maybe not. You have more room on this ship. And in the suit, I was shut down. If you hadn’t rescued me, and I hadn’t latched on to you?” It was one single moment, the fact Captain came to my cell, that he was the one who rescued me.

“We would’ve gotten you out of it.” Captain rubbed his hand along my back.

“And if you had? Without someone touching me? What would’ve happened?” I pointed at one of the ports in my head. “Would I have survived?”

Deke raised his eyebrows, and Captain hesitated. “Look.” Deke spread his hands and leaned forward. “What it comes down to is this. Do you trust who gave you the orders to raid the station? Were they giving us orders to help Central or are they working with Brox? Did we take a weapon away from the Brox Consortium or are we bringing it straight to the people who are standing in their way?”

“Those are very good fucking questions. Did the Trepharo have any information that might help me figure out the answers?”

My stomach churned every time it was mentioned, but I swallowed and held on to the present, focusing on the touch of Captain’s body against mine, the heat of his palm resting against the base of my neck. I wanted to hear this, needed to.

“Not a whole lot. I believe it was camouflaged as the crew member Kohen didn’t know that he heard talking with Kemit. The plan with the flame wasps was intended to send the ship straight to Central Core. To investigators. Higher ups. People who gave us the mission who’d want to figure out what went wrong and how you’d fucked up.”

“So then it’s a plan to infiltrate the central planet.”

“Maybe. Or they wanted us to bring it in and they’d issue orders then.”

Captain’s body was tense against mine. “So, really, we have no fucking idea who the Trepharo is working for, what it was going to do when it got to the Central planet… nothing.”

“Maybe Kemit will prove more malleable,” Deke said. His voice was dark, and I shivered. “There is evidence Ss’merit has been… friendly, with the Trepharo as well. I do not know if that was as part of its cover, or if he is part of the plot, but we will find that out. His actions are suspect too, especially with his interest in Kohen.”

“I don’t like using you this way.” Captain rubbed a hand over his face. “We are not equipped to deal with spies. We put down resistance, capture and detain, and rescue.”

“But we need answers. The Trepharo is too damn strong. Kemit is human. I can work with human. I had a team following him since we detected the Trepharo. I’ll have them take him in now and report back to you as soon as I have something concrete.”

Deke stood and saluted. He turned and stalked out of Captain’s lounge, already intent on his duty. If nothing else, I was comforted by his willingness to do whatever it took. Maybe it was just loyalty to Captain, but it felt sort of like he was protecting me too.

“What now, Cap—”

“Everett,” Captain reminded me.

My breath caught. I licked my lips. “Everett,” I repeated slowly. “What now?”

“Now I craft my own messages. I have contacts outside of Command, a few palms greased in dark corners. I’ll make sure you’re safe, Kohen. Don’t be afraid.”

“Just me? What about all the people the Brox Consortium could hurt?”

Captain squeezed my neck. “On this ship? You are the most important thing to me.” 

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 30

This week's flash installment was inspired by a prompt which was: Take your hands off of me!


I flexed my feet, my toes scraping along Captain’s hairy legs. I could move again, but I didn’t want to. Even in those cloudy memories I had of before the station, and my cell, and the tests, I couldn’t remember feeling like this. Happy, warm, no pain, no fear, no hunger. Thirst didn’t torture me with every dry breath.

The only thing I could smell was the spice of Captain’s skin and the thump of his heart beat slow under my ear where I’d tucked my head under his chin. His arms were wrapped around me, one around my shoulders and the other anchored at the small of my back.

We were naked, but that was just another layer to the perfection of the moment. It didn’t matter that I was folded against the ridges of his stomach or that his parts prodded my thighs. If I could freeze time and keep this moment forever, I would.

Capturing the scent, touch, sound, even the taste as I gingerly dipped my tongue and took the tiniest sample of the salt of his skin, was paramount. Captain’s breath hitched. I froze, not breathing.

His hand flattened between my shoulder blades. “Kohen? Kohen! Shit.” Captain leaned back. “Please breathe.”

“What?” I asked on a breathy exhale, the word nearly indistinguishable.

“Oh thank the fates.” Captain stared at my chest. “Take another breath.”

“What’s wrong?”

“You stopped breathing last night. I was trying to stay awake, to make sure you kept breathing, but I fell asleep. I’m so sorry. Are you okay? Does your chest hurt? Should I get Aparoe? I’ll call Aparoe now.” He reached out, and I latched onto his arm.

“I’m fine. Nothing hurts. I just froze ‘cause I was trying not to wake you up. I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

He snorted. “Are you sure? You’ve gotten really good at it.”

I glanced away from him, staring at hollow of his throat where the skin pulsed. “Sorry.”

“Stop apologizing. It’s not like you do it on purpose.”

After that, I didn’t know what to say. My plan to show him I could be mature and be a productive part of the crew, was as far as I’d gotten. Naked, in bed, with him naked too? So not part of the plan.

Well, it would’ve been if I’d been going off my dreams. But even those hadn’t been this specific.

“Kohen? Look at me.”

I couldn’t.

His fingers under my chin didn’t give me a choice. I kept my gaze around his nose, not wanting to look into his eyes and see that look I saw before. The one that said I wasn’t what he wanted. The one he probably had on his face when he’d been talking the last time he’d held me. “Kohen.” I couldn’t defy that voice.

“You have nothing to be sorry for. You’re not the one who did this. Whatever happens, it’s not your fault.”

“Okay.” What else was I going to say? No? Of course it is? I should’ve jumped out an airlock or off a cliff on a test? Never met you? I couldn’t argue with him. Not if that would mean he might let me go.

“Why do I feel like that was too easy?”

I shrugged.

He sighed. “All right. Well, if you feel up to it, we need to get up. I need to contact Deke and my second. We’re approaching central space soon. There are things that need to be done before then.”

“Like find out who Ss’merit and the Trepharo are working for?”

“Yes. We need to know where the rescued people come from. What species, planets, and potential contacts we can reach out to find for them. Our reports will be read but there will be officials asking more questions.”

My heart hiccupped, and I stiffened. “You have reports… on me? W-will I have to talk to strangers?”

“Yes.” Captain said it slowly. His hand against my back stroked soothing circles between my shoulder blades. “Never alone. I won’t let you face any of this alone.”

“Promise?” I studied his eyes, seeking the truth there.

“I promise.”

I scooted back. “We should get up, Captain.”

“Everett.” Captain caught my hand and stopped me. “I’m not your captain. Not just your captain, anyway. No, I’m not kicking you off the crew. But if we’re alone, and especially if we’re naked, I need you to call me Everett.”

An immediate denial sprang to my lips, but I studied him. The memory was hazy, but Aparoe had said something about helping him being hard, but why? It wasn’t physically hard—though we both were—but it was confusing.

“I’ll try.” That was the best I could offer.



When we met with Deke and Kekillil, Captain’s second, my nerves had started to jangle again. Not sure if it was the nerves about the Trepharo, or meeting someone new, or the inches of space between me and Captain.

Kekillill was a female Verazoi. Her arms were covered in green tendrils that quivered when Deke sat down next to her. He brushed a hand over them as they hit his arm.

“Take your hands off me!” she trilled.

“You touched me first!”

“Enough!” Captain barked out the order and they sprang apart. “Report.”

“You first,” Deke said.

“As it should be, security guard. The ship entered the edge of central space. The radioactivity of the Qlart system is blocking communication, but we should pass that in the next shift rotation. We’ll send reports at that time and wait for commands.”

“Don’t send the reports until I clear it,” Captain said.

Kekillill’s spots darkened. “Captain?”

“Just a precaution as we finish investigating. I want to send complete files.”

“Oh. Of course, sir.”

“That will be all, Kekillill.”

She glanced at Deke, her spots darkening again. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“He’s staying.” Captain’s tone and the smug smile on Deke’s tone bothered me. Didn’t they trust her? 

TBC
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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 29



What? Humans don’t bond.” Captain jerked back, and I whimpered at the loss of his touch.

“Who cares about that in this moment? Put your hand back on Kohen right now,” Aparoe ordered.

His hand was even warmer than before and shaking slightly. Or was I shaking? I couldn’t tell. But I could breathe, and the pounding in my head and ache all over my body I’d felt for the last few days started to ease. “It looks like he’s just having a panic attack. He’s had them before.”

“Has he?” Lakshou asked. “Captain Querry, since you brought Kohen on board, I’ve gradually adjusted to the unique signature of his electrical signals. The machinery in his mind has been dormant, and still is, but the parts of his mind that hold alien matter have been changing. I’ve been sensing what I thought were his emotions.

“But I don’t think it’s that simple. Did you ever determine what all they did to him, Aparoe?” Lakshou asked.

“No.” Aparoe’s voice was a quiet murmur behind me. “It’s too complex, and I don’t have scanning equipment that sensitive. Plus, the testing it would require would be too traumatizing.”

I was starting to resent that they were talking about me while I was right there, but when I tried to speak, I couldn’t. My chest was too tight, and all that came out was a strangled whine.

“Captain, there is a psychic connection between the two of you. I can see the mingling happen the second you touched him. He was barely breathing.”

“He’s still barely breathing!”

“I think that’s because you aren’t touching him the… right way.”

There was a choking noise. “I… What?”

“Think about it.” Aparoe held something over my head that beeped right in my head. I flinched. “Good. Good.”

“Think about what?” Captain asked.

“They had him in a suit that deprived him of all sensory contact unless they had him on some sort of test, he said. Things they made him do, even if he didn’t want to. The suit, plus the machinery in his mind, plus the alien biological matter all through his limbic system. That controls everything from emotions, to behavior, to memory, to even the olfactory senses.”

Aparoe was telling Captain to think about it, but now that I wasn’t in danger of passing out and the pain was lessening, my mind was working again and I was absorbing everything they said. The intense need I felt for Captain? The way his scent calmed and drew me to him?

The way the aliens had been able to change my behavior and my memories? Wrapping up most of my childhood in a fog that only cleared in snatches here and there? What they’d done to me had done far more than given me strength and agility.

I wasn’t human. I wasn’t alien. I was something completely other.

And I knew, if Captain rejected me again, I’d die.

“When you took him from his cell, he was in your quarters. In your bed. We did not touch him without gloves on after we took off the suit, since we worried about infection. But you touched him, talked to him. He would have naturally bonded with you. And who better? You care about him, Everett.” Aparoe’s voice held sympathy. “I know this is hard for you, and why, but this young man needs you. Your past is just that. He may be young, but he’s lived enough for several lifetimes. Why not give both of you a chance to be happy?”

“But, if this is because of some weird biology… what if it changes?” Captain’s voice dropped at the end. “What if we get back to the central systems, some government official debriefs him and convinces him to let them study what they did to him, and they can fix it. And, when they do, this bond disappears?”

“Kohen? Let some stranger convince him to let doctors poke around his brain and do surgery? Because removing the alien matter would be the only way to change it. And that would probably kill him because it is literally grafted to his own brain tissue as if it grew that way naturally.”

“Fear, Captain Querry, that’s what you’re feeling. And hope. Try to let go of the fear and hold on to the hope.” Lakshou was using his meditation voice. “I’m not telling you to go to your quarters, or his, and have sex with Kohen. I doubt either of you are ready for that. But both of you need some skin-on-skin contact and some time to come to grips with all this.”

“How am I going to explain any of it?”

“Actually,” Aparoe said, “his brain activity shows that he’s been conscious the whole time. He’s just so physically overcome that he’s incapable of movement.”

“Are you serious?” A hand touched my face, cupping my cheek. “Kohen? Can you hear me?”

I wanted to answer Captain, but I couldn’t. I tried for the second best thing, opening my eyes so I could see him close to me, touching my skin, but my eyelids barely fluttered. I sighed.

“That’s okay, Kohen. That’s enough. Rest.” Captain’s thumb brushed the underside of my jaw. “I’m taking him back to my quarters. Deke, resolve this situation with the Trepharo. I want to know everything it knows.”

“Yes, sir.”

Captain grunted as I was lifted into the air. “You’ve put on weight since the first time I carried you,” he said. When he set me down, I was surrounded by his scent, and I knew I was in his bed again, not on the couch. “Skin-on-skin contact, huh?” Captain chuckled, and it sounded off. “Well, here goes.”

Fabric rustled, the bed shifted, and I rolled. Aparoe had cut off my shirt then wrapped me in a covering from Lakshou’s temple, so my skin was bared. Then I was chest to chest to Captain, my head tucked into his neck.

Utter contentment.
TBC
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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Whirlwind, a sexy FF romance, available now!



QSFer J.V. Speyer has a new FF romance book out. Have you checked out this sexy singer's story yet? And don't forget to enter J.V.'s contest to win an Amazon gift card!

Rock star Jo Avery didn’t have a choice about coming out, but ever since her ex outed her as bi she’s been a proud advocate for LGBTQ+ issues. Most of her family wants nothing to do with her, but her brother has always supported her. When he gets married, he wants her in the wedding party, and she has to accept.

The only problem? Her new sister in law is the daughter of conservative pundit and anti-LGBT warrior Sarah Tremblay. Sarah has another daughter, too, the beautiful and charming Valeria.

Valeria has been in the closet since she was fourteen. She’s always envied Jo’s strength and freedom, if not her path to living her authentic life. She soon finds herself falling for the fierce, pretty rocker, but coming out could cost her everything. How many risks can she take for someone she’ll only know for two weeks?

Can Jo and Valeria turn attraction into love, or will their whirlwind romance blow out before it gets off the ground?

Releases Apr 14th at JMS Books





Giveaway

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Excerpt

Simon shifted uneasily in his seat. "Should I step in?"

Jo shrugged. "Seems dangerous. You're not being paid to break up fights between conservative media hosts." She looked up and groaned as she saw Sarah Tremblay making her way toward her. "Just when the fight was getting good."

Simon straightened up in his seat as Sarah swept into position beside Jo. "This is not the way people should behave at an event like this. It's supposed to be a joyous occasion, where people give the bride the material she'll need in her new life as a wife. Not some kind of spectacle for the enjoyment of others." She sniffed and cast her gaze pointedly at guests who had their phones out, recording the action.

Jo hated the thought of agreeing with Sarah Tremblay about anything, but she couldn't argue either. "It's a little bit like watching daytime television."

Sarah stared as hotel security swooped in and separated the fighting women. The one who'd been kneed in the face was going to need an ambulance. "This is what comes from an overly permissive culture," she said after a moment. "This is why I fight so hard."

Jo rolled her eyes. And of course it all comes down to this. "So we can all enjoy a live action version of the Jerry Springer Show?"

Sarah curled her lip. "Do you honestly think any of this would have happened if you hadn't showed your face here today?"

Jo lowered her eyes and laughed. "Sarah, I don't even know those women. Any of those women. The great part of being a pariah at things like this is that no one can say they did anything because of me."

Sarah grabbed onto Jo's wrist with one claw-like hand. "You come walking in here with all of those tattoos exposed. That alone lowers the tone. It tells people, 'Oh, it doesn't matter what you do.' And with you flaunting your sin all over the place, disobeying your mother, giving your body to anyone who wants it, wallowing in the sin of Sodom and Gomorra without shame, everyone knows who you are. They know what you do.

"They think to themselves, If she can get away with that, then I don't have to worry about what I do. I don't have to live a clean and wholesome life. I don't have to behave myself in public. And then we get what we had here today."

"Wow. You get all that from a couple of tattoos and a complete failure at reading the Bible." Jo snorted. Her hands shook, but they were hiding under the table so it didn't matter. "Did you miss the part about motes and beams and all that? Or the Samaritan woman? I'm, like, ninety percent sure that those people would have fought even if I'd stayed on tour."

"You should have stayed on tour. No one wants you here." Sarah narrowed her eyes at Jo. "If even your own mother can't stand to look at you, why should the rest of us be troubled with your presence?"

Jo shrugged. "Take it up with Tom. Much as I love hanging out here and being harangued about my sex life, I'd rather be out there with my band mates touring."

Sarah recoiled, nose in the air. "I can see I'm not going to get anywhere with you. Just stay away from my daughter."

Jo blinked for a second. Was Sarah really worried about Valeria's virtue around her? If she was, that must mean she had a reason to be. Maybe there was hope after all. As for the rest of it ...

She curled her lips into a wolfish smile and stood up. As Simon stood up beside her, she dropped a hand onto Sarah's shoulder. "Oh, Sarah. I didn't realize. I didn't mean to lead you on. I'm not great with subtle hints. If you wanted to 'get somewhere' with me, you should have been more direct. If you want, I can help you find someone who might be looking for someone a little more like you, though." She walked out of the shower, smiling.




Author Bio

J. V. Speyer has lived in upstate New York and rural Catalonia before making the greater Boston, Massachusetts area her permanent home. She has worked in archaeology, security, accountancy, finance, and non-profit management. She currently lives just south of Boston in a house with more animals than people.

J. V. finds most of her inspiration from music. Her tastes run the gamut from traditional to industrial and back again. When not writing she can usually be found enjoying a baseball game. She's learning to crochet so she can make blankets to fortify herself against the cold.

J. V. can be found on Twitter at @JVSpeyer, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JVSpeyer

Website: http://www.jessicawritesonline.com
Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/JVSpeyerAuthor/
Twitter: @jvspeyer
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14108614.J_V_Speyer
QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-v-speyer/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.V.-Speyer/e/B074G3SMMB/

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 28



“Null field engaged. All vulnerable areas of the ship have been sealed off. We’re going to start hunting on the level Kohen is on, as well as his quarters, and the level the other rescues are sequestered. I’ve sent three teams, but with the null field, he’ll be aware of that we’ve discovered his presence on board.” Deke’s methodical report reassured me, but I couldn’t relax.

Not until they had him. It. They had no real gender characteristics when they were in their true forms but the bodies it had been using to follow me had been male, so it was probably male. Then again, the crew was mostly made of males, so it made more sense to have that form to avoid standing out. So it could be female.

And none of that mattered at all. It was just a distraction so I wouldn’t have to think about that thing coming near me, and my growing fear this was just an elaborate trap. Could they have created an entire ship, a planet? Fooled me that well?

How could I know different?

“Kohen, you need to breathe.” Lakshou’s quiet voice startled me.

I gasped, and my chest hurt. I let the screen fall to my lap.

“That’s it. Keep breathing.”

“What’s going on? Kohen?” Captain’s voice came from the screen, and Lakshou picked it up.

“He needs a moment, Captain.”

“Did something happen? Deke, send someone to guard Lakshou’s quarters.”

“Not as far as I can tell.” Lakshou watched me, his horns glowing, but nothing could ease the doubts that swarmed and overwhelmed me, just like those flame wasps had covered Holldu’s body in stinging welts, leaving behind a poison that killed him.

“Deke—”

“I already sent someone, Captain, but they’re trying to be subtle. Relax, no one is knocking down the door to hurt your boy.”

Their voices faded out, and I just let go. Since I’d let Captain take me out of that tiny cell, a lot had changed. No more suit. I now knew that I was different, and why, if not exactly how I was different or what I was capable of. The things I thought were tests were memories, which I sort of thought I’d always known but couldn’t handle. I had a job, friends, and I’d touched and hugged a man—who’d hugged me back—just because I wanted to.

But all I thought I knew balanced on a single thing… could I trust my own mind to know what was true? Was this a fantasy? A nightmare?

I’d been afraid that I’d hurt someone, that the scientists and people would use me against the ship’s crew. Then we learned that there were people on the ship working with the same people who tortured and abused other races for power.

How could I help find out who was behind all that, if I couldn’t even trust that the walls around me and the people I saw were real or not?

I curled on my side, hugging my knees to my chest. A light covering fell over me, but I didn’t move. Sleep would have been a blessing, but the vise around my chest only grew tighter. It was hard to breathe, so I had to focus on each breathe, pulling one in and pushing the next out.

A whole shift could’ve passed for all I knew. Lakshou kept the screen on, the vid link active between him and Captain and Deke. The reports meant next to nothing until I caught a note of triumph.

“Got him!” Captain said. “He was trying to hide, but a crew member sniffed him out thanks to Kohen’s description of his scent. Thank you, Kohen.”

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe. Lakshou had been giving me space, but he brought the screen over so Captain could tell me thank you, since he thought I hadn’t heard him. I had, I just… I couldn’t….

“Kohen? Kohen!” Lakhou’s voice rose, and he shook my shoulder. It only made it harder to focus on the in and out. I was getting tired; maybe I’d just stop. Just for a little while. “Captain, he’s barely breathing.”

“Overriding remaining lockdown protocols. I’m sending Aparoe and a medical team now.” Captain’s voice shook. Was he having trouble breathing too? Maybe it was something to do with the air.

Surely they’d think of that, if we were being attacked again.  Lakshou stayed by my side until the door to his meditation quarters slid open. He started to protest, but stopped and sank to his knees when Aparoe came inside. Almost immediately after, Captain entered.

He was breathing in great gasps, and I grew worried. As worried as I could be, as tired as I was in that moment, I couldn’t say or do anything to show it. But they needed to check Captain out, then run a diagnostic on the ship, not bother with me.

Something must have been done to the environmental controls. I’d just been in the system, so I knew it hadn’t been properly maintained before this flight. Aparoe began running tests, just like they always did. I’d grown used to them, enough not to flinch away.

Nothing Aparoe did gave any answers. The screen waved over my body remained stubbornly silent. I couldn’t tell Aparoe what was wrong, not matter how carefully I was cajoled. My lungs stayed tight, my chest screamed, and the room grew darker.

And darker.

And then a warm hand touched his shoulder, and peace and ease radiated from that gentle touch. I gasped in a loud breath, air scraping by my strangled throat.

Lakshou’s gasp drowned out even that harsh sound. “By all that’s holy, you’ve bonded!” 

TBC
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