Thursday, March 31, 2022

All you need to break fragile neutrality is politics


 

Wars have happened throughout human history. They're usually the result of one country invading another - much as is happening in Europe at the moment. Russia has invaded Ukraine and the Ukrainians are resisting. But sometimes wars can start over silly things.

Hans Island is in the middle of the Kennedy Channel between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, which means it's between Canada and Denmark (which owns Greenland). Those two countries couldn't come to an agreement about this bare slab of rock and they've been at 'war' about it ever since. Periodically, the Canadians leave a bottle of whisky on the island, and the Danes replace it with a bottle of schnapps. It's all very polite and actually quite funny.

But that's because the Canadians are unfailingly polite and the Danes have a sense of humour. If either country wanted an excuse for war, then Hans Island could well be a candidate.

It's that sort of situation at the heart of Crisis at Validor. The planet has two continents, with Humans living on Nestor and the Ptorix living on Dhnizan. Between the two continents lies a chain of volcanic islands which is home to the Berzhani, a species endemic to Validor. Neither the Ptorix nor the Humans own Berzhan Island but some Ptorix live there, supporting a temple to the Berzhani. The creatures themselves just want to be left alone.

All you need to break that fragile neutrality is politics. 


BLURB:

Newly-promoted Captain Brett Butcher is about to achieve his life-long ambition to command a battle cruiser. But before he takes up his new posting, he goes home on leave, hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of his first love, the unattainable Lady Tarlyn.

When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher.

As Validor’s Ptorix and human populations face off over a group of islands neither owns, the calls for war grow louder. Torn between duty and ambition, Butcher and Tarlyn struggle to prevent an inter-species conflict, while the ember of love that has smouldered for so long bursts into flame. But with planetary peace at stake, both will be forced to choose; love or duty.

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SNIPPET:

Butcher meets the berzhan

The base of the wall seemed to shift and transform, taking on a different pattern, drawing back from the rock. A column rose up in front of the high priestess. A column with glowing red eyes.

Butcher' legs turned to jelly. The breath caught in his throat. The bloody thing was huge, as thick as his own body and he couldn't see the end of its tail. The great tapered head hung above the khiphra like a portent of doom. Just at the edge of hearing Butcher recognized a tune. She was singing to the damn thing.

Oh, suns and stars, the creature answered her. The tone was low enough for his translator to intercept the sounds, but the words were meaningless.

The berzhan's head turned. The faceted eyes faced forward, and that alien gaze, cold as starlight, fixed on him. Butcher was sure his heart would burst out of his chest. But it turned away, swaying its body to reach Lurmask and the two children.

Tarlyn grabbed his arm, digging in her nails. "Don't interfere. The children are safe. She won't hurt them."

"She?"

"Yes. The matriarch. U'long Mar. She's the living representation of the great sky dragon." Butcher knew about that one. It was what the Ptorix called the galactic lens, as visible from Validor. Superstitious nonsense it might be, but the berzhan in this cave was real enough.

The berzhan's head hovered over Lena and the three Ptorix. Lena smiled, gazing up at the beast.

"You've seen this… this creature before?"

Tarlyn's throat rippled. "No. But I know about her."

Butcher prised Tarlyn's hand off his arm, felt the tremor. "You're nervous."

She managed half a chuckle. "Yes. But not really. I trust the khiphra."

Good for her. Butcher had learned not to trust anybody too much. But he held her hand in his, aware of how comfortably their fingers intertwined. They exchanged a smile.

The berzhan was gone.

But where? Where in this room could it be?

The creature materialized in front of him, a column of interlocking armor topped by that dreadful head. Short legs ending in three talons supported the body. He jerked Tarlyn's arm, forcing her behind him, his eyes locked onto the berzhan's icy stare.

"You have no need to fear."

Stars in space, the thing spoke Standard. Tarlyn pushed back to stand beside him. "I am… we are… honored."

The great jaws parted slightly, revealing rows of teeth. "Honor. I think not. You fear me."

How did it form the words? Not out of that mouth. But something that articulated sounds, or copied them. Not that it mattered. "I fear anything that could eat me," Butcher said.

The head dropped a little lower, the jaws parted. That smell Butcher hadn't been able to define wafted around him. "I could." The head rose. "But I will not. I prefer fish."

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 8

In today's episode, Ferly Mor tries to train his new human pet, but Addy doesn't exactly cooperate.  

An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.   

Catch up on the first 7 chapters of this exciting alien abduction sci-fi romance here: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7.

CAPTIVE

Chapter Eight

 

It wasn’t long before the monster lost interest in petting her and returned them to Duncan’s house. With its one-way transparent walls for the alien’s unlimited viewing pleasure, the house resembled a fishbowl.

The door crackled closed. Duncan hung their cloaks. “Ye’ve already seen the common area.” He indicated the room she woke up in earlier today.

A whoosh of cold air startled her as Ferly Mor’s hand reached through the vapor to place food bowls on the sideboard next to a giant hanging water dispenser. Could she feel more like a caged rat?

“Suppertime. But first, let me show ye the rest of our home.” Duncan opened the middle door on the back wall and turned on a little flashlight-looking thing that illuminated the closet-sized room containing a familiar orange flowerpot and a pitcher and bowl sitting atop a wooden table. “The privy.”

“No shower? No sink?”

“No, lass. Ye can wash up in any one of the bathing pools in the Yard.”

“Great,” she mumbled. “More being naked in front of strangers.”

“Ye’ll find towels under the privy table.” He left the bathroom and entered an open doorway. “My chamber.”

She needn’t step inside. The overfilled bookshelves, knickknacks, and trinkets crammed in every conceivable space had been visible through transparent walls from Ferly Mor’s apartment. Did the Hyboreans steal these things from Earth? If anyone lost something back home, they could find it in Duncan’s seven by ten foot room.

In the far corner loomed the same pillow bedding as in the breeding box. She stepped back in case Duncan suddenly got the same idea Max and Regan had.

“This is your home now. Ye’re free to go anywhere ye wish. Except in here.” He retrieved a key from his pocket and unlocked the door at the rear of his bedroom. “This is my private horde of the malt.”

Duncan cracked open the hinged door just enough to fit through, not that she’d be able to see inside anyway, since the door opened out in her direction. Boxes shuffled. They were, no doubt, the tower of boxes that blocked the view from the alien’s apartment. Was he hiding the alcohol from Ferly Mor?

More boxes shuffled and glasses clinked before Duncan emerged with three bottles of whiskey. He shut and locked the door.

“If anyone asks ye for some, ye must fetch me. I’ll no’ have ye accidentally giving away the good stuff to just anybody. And if Regan ever received the lesser quality—” He shuddered. “It’s best ye not be on the receiving end of his anger, aye?”

Addy nodded. She didn’t want to see Regan in a good mood, never mind seeing him going ballistic.

Duncan took great care in packing up the bottles before calling for Tess. “Can ye show Addy her bed? I’ve a delivery to make.”

Addy followed Tess into the last room, which was L-shaped with the short end wrapping behind the “privy” as Duncan called it. At least she’d have complete privacy in the one place that mattered. “Where’s the squeaky exercise wheel?”

“The what?”

“Never mind.” Addy stared out into the darkened Yard.

“The observation walls are transparent one way,” Tess said, reading Addy’s mind. “All you can see from the outside is the mural.”

“Does everyone have observation walls like this?”

“Of course. The Hyboreans love nature. They like to view the Yard habitat.”

“View it or monitor it?”

“It’s not like they keep a sharp eye on every little thing we do. We have a great amount of freedom.”

Ha. What did Tess know about freedom? She’d been born a captive. To her, voyeuristic aliens were normal. To Addy, they posed another challenge for escape. How on earth would she get out of here if Big Hairy Brother was watching?

She shuddered.

Perhaps Tess was right that the aliens didn’t monitor every little thing. After all, they hadn’t chased after her when she fled from Duncan. Maybe the aliens viewed people with mild interest, kind of like she did when watching aquarium fish.

That could explain how someone was able to escape.

He escaped. He got caught. He was killed. Max’s haunting voice invaded her thoughts. What had happened to Max after being pulled from the breeding box?

“Where does Max live? Duncan told me he’s not from the Yard.”

“He lived here with the other gladiators some years ago, but his master sold him.” Tess arranged long body pillows on the floor for Addy’s bed. “When he comes back for breeding or for the infirmary, he stays at HuBReC’s kennel.”

“Infirmary?”

“The survival race is a brutal sport.”

“I see.” Though she didn’t, really. If Max had been hospitalized often, how come he didn’t have any scars? Not that she’d been checking for scars on his naked body. Her cheeks warmed. She turned away before Tess could see her blush and flopped down on her bedding, shoes and all. She was not about to undress in front of the alien. For all she knew, he was watching her right now. “Night,” she mumbled into a pillow.

“Don’t you want supper?”

“No. I’m beyond exhausted.”

“Of course you are. Good night, Addy. I’ll leave the lightstick here.” The room darkened. A blanket covered her, and exhaustion took over.

* * *

Addy woke the next day intent on learning more about this godforsaken planet in order to find a way to escape. Ferly Mor had other ideas. He brought her to HuBReC’s infirmary, where she’d been poked, prodded, and shot with some supersized injection pen filled with who-knew-what.

As if the medical exam hadn’t been humiliating enough, the damn alien brought her to the yard to train her!

Outside of Duncan’s home, Addy stared down the furry, gray beast with her teeth clenched so tightly her head ached. Hot, heaving breaths expelled through her nostrils like an irate bull. Only this bull refused to charge.

Crouched down twenty feet away, Ferly Mor sounded a musical tune on his silver headband.

“Och, Addy, just go to him.”

She folded her arms across her chest. “No way.”

Ferly Mor held out a square chocolate cookie and sent happy telepathic feelings as the ringtone played again.

She didn’t budge.

He faced Duncan. A different ringtone sounded, and Duncan walked to him to receive his cookie. “That’s all he wants ye to do, lassie.”

“Call me Lassie again, and I’ll punch your Scottish mouth.” She turned her back on them. “I’m not a freaking dog.”

A queer uneasiness fell over her. Angry vibes infiltrated her body. A moment ago, the alien was merely frustrated, but now he was outright mad. Had she pushed her luck with that about-face?

She spun back to see they weren’t alone. A black Hyborean, a foot or two larger than Ferly Mor, faced off with him and pointed a leathery finger in her direction. Though they made no noise, the remembered sound of snarls and growls filled her head. 

Somehow, she had caused this fight.

At their feet, Duncan looked back and forth from one to the other as if he followed the conversation. His eyes grew wide, and his cheeks lost what little color they had.

The black alien strode forward, it’s dark, angry gaze boring into her.

Ferly Mor snatched her up, holding tight enough to snap her spine. She sensed him pleading with the black fur Hyborean.

When Black Fur nodded, the pressure on her spine eased, and Ferly Mor set her on the ground. Legs giving out, she fell on her butt.

The aliens faced each other. With ceremony, they simultaneously placed two fingers on their lips before using the same hand to slap each other’s chests. They each covered the hand touching them with their free hand.

Perhaps Duncan would’ve explained the ritual if he hadn’t appeared too frightened to speak, though he did have the presence of mind to help her stand.

Black Fur seized Ferly Mor’s silver headband and placed it on his own head. Both Hyboreans walked the same distance away and then faced her. Ferly Mor knelt down and held out the chocolate cookie. The ringtone sounded from Black Fur’s headband. She sensed them both calling.

Who was she supposed to go to?

A sharp pain jolted her body. It wasn’t nearly the same intensity as in the breeding box, but it was enough to warrant a jump backward. The tone played again.

“Go to Ferly Mor, lass.”

Another zap had her running for his furry body. She jumped into his arms. He hugged her and stroked the hair from her eyes before setting her down with her reward.

Black Fur shoved the headband into Ferly Mor’s hands, giving him a curt nod that could have meant, “That’s how you train a human.” He strode off.

Duncan squeezed Addy’s shoulders. “Ye did well, lass.”

“What was all that about? Who was that other Hyborean?”

Duncan sat, then flopped back on the grass with his hand over his heart. “It doesna matter now.”

Like hell it doesn’t.

Ferly Mor tousled her hair before creating distance between them and playing the ringtone again. Not wanting repeat shock therapy, she popped the cookie into her mouth and hurried to him the first time.

After six more sweet treats, training day—and her abject humiliation—finally ceased.

 

#

Thanks for reading! See you next week.

Stay safe out there!

K.M. FAWCETT

Romance with a rebel heart

www.kmfawcett.com

 

 

 

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Shell and the Star - Part 7

 In Part 7 of The Shell and the Star, the differences between Jinn's and Trey's cultures (other than the obvious) start to become more apparent. 

If you're just tuning in to this serialized "aquatic SFR" book, you can catch up on all the parts posted to date at this link:  

The Shell and the Star  

For those reading along, here's a refresher how Part 6 ended after Trey showed Jinn how he plays in the waterfall.

“Do you want to try it?”

Jinn harrumphed and rolled her eyes, reaching out to tap the inner surface of her envirosphere. “I think not. If my bubble were to hit the rocks…”

“I understand why you need to be cautious. All of this is outside your experience. Outside your comfort zone.” Trey swam back and hovered near her sphere, moving his footfins back and forth in a slow tempo that kept him vertical in the water. When she finally made eye contact, his smile eased away. “Jinn, if you—” Trey stopped, his gaze narrowing on a point beyond her bubble.

Jinn looked back over her shoulder to see a large form had trespassed into Trey’s Garden and was swimming toward them at a fast clip. She grabbed for her controls in alarm, until the shape took the form of someone she recognized—Trey’s brash older sibling, Tardem.

 



 “Hey, Runt, I figured I’d find you here. We need a Middler for Boggy Ball,” Tardem’s voice emitted as a shout through her translator. “Come out to the courts.”

“I’m entertaining my guest,” Trey countered.

“Bring her along. You can play a game in her honor.” Tardem sneered. “And she can witness you getting crushed.”

“Crushed?” Jinn questioned, grappling with a flare of concern for Trey. “This sounds like a truly dangerous game.”

“He only means defeated,” Trey clarified, with a sly glance at his brother that was clearly a challenge. “Care to watch a game while you’re here, Jinn? Boggy Ball is our favorite sport.”

While you’re here?

So it seemed he didn’t expect her to stay. Well, had she changed her mind about that? Everything here was just so…fascinating. Still, it wasn’t like she’d given him any reason to think otherwise. Yet his words did….sting a bit.

No harm in prolonging her stay here a few more hours, she decided. At least it would appear to her father that she’d made an attempt. She could see Trey wanted to play this game. And besides, she was curious to see how he might fare against his taller, older and not nearly so likable sibling. “Where are these courts?”

“In the waters near the strait,” Trey said. “I don’t think it would be far for your bubble to travel.”

On Talstar, Jinn loved to play Squarecourt in the half gravity rec-cubes. It was one of her few pleasures, and she was quite good at it. Much to the chagrin of her much taller opponents. How would games be played in this aquatic world? And what sort of athlete might Trey be?

Jinn gave a nod, smiling back at Trey for the first time. “I think I would like to see this game.”

***

Jinn maneuvered her bubble as Trey swam beside her, answering her many questions about the city, the structures, the fish, the vegetation, and the sea. He seemed pleased with her interest in his world of the Shell. Before long, they’d arrived at their destination.

When the Talstar males all stripped down to their skin, discarding their swimkilts in preparation for the game, Jinn blanched. There was a profound difference in attitude toward nudity in her more chaste Talstar society.

Her eyes went wide and the heat flared on her cheeks as the boys swam into the ring of buoys at the surface, their physical attributes on full display. She’d never seen a naked male, and couldn’t help but stare at Trey any more than she could control the flood of heat that surged to her cheeks at the sight of his solid, muscled, bare form.

Despite his mutant proportions, he had a masculine elegance and a quiet confidence that Jinn found rather…captivating. She’d known such flustery stirrings for other males, but most only tolerated her because she was the commander’s daughter and none had been engaging and attentive toward her.

Or ever naked in her presence.

The object of her fascination suddenly appeared beside her bubble looking concerned and completely unabashed about his state of undress. “Jinn, you looked distressed. Are you feeling all right? Is your envirosphere operating as it should?”

“Y-yes,” Jinn managed, her eyes drinking in all the planes, contours and—well, differences!—of his male body with reticent fascination. Her own unfamiliar and potent response plucked at her nerves and made her heartbeat quicken. What was this strange sensation? Was it the same mystery that her older sisters giggled and gossiped about? Her mother had schooled her about the dynamics of male/female relationships, but clearly she’d left a few important parts out. Jinn had never experienced such feelings before.

When Trey swam closer, she shifted to the back of her bubble.

“Jinn, what’s wrong?” he asked, concern coloring his tone.

“You’re…” She made a sweeping motion with her hand, grasping for words. “You’re unclothed.”

Trey glanced at his body before meeting her eyes, his lips quirking down at her puzzling statement. “My game attire makes you uncomfortable?”

“No,” she answered, struggling for breath. “Your lack of it.”

His brows arched in surprise. “I didn’t realize. Apologies.” He swam to the spot where he’d left his swimkilt on a branch of dead coral and slipped it back on, glancing her way with a respectful nod.

She gave him a shy answering nod of thanks, but soon wished she’d said nothing at all. His still-naked brother and companions were ruthless in their mockery, giving him looks of contempt. Trey weathered their abuse without complaint, but Jinn knew she’d brought this on him. Yet easing her discomfort seemed more important to him than his pride.

My feelings matter to him?

Her heart swelled with new appreciation as she watched him prep for the game. Other than her family, no one on Talstar had ever shown concern over her feelings before. She was a mutant. Who cared how she felt? Who cared if she was uncomfortable or embarrassed or fearful? She didn’t matter.

_______________________________________

I hope you enjoyed this week's installment. I'll be back next week with Part 8 of the story. Have a good week.



Friday, March 25, 2022

IT'S STAR TREK BIRTHDAY WEEK!

 

 Nimoy, b. 3/26/31, d. 2/27/2015, and Shatner, b. 3/22/31.

It’s Star Trek OG heroes’ week here on the blog, a time for those of us who are fans of The Original Series to honor two actors who made the franchise the success it was. Both William Shatner (who played Captain James T. Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (who played Lieutenant Commander Spock) were born during this week in 1931—Shatner on March 22, Nimoy on March 26. Shatner celebrated his 91st birthday Tuesday in his usual flamboyant style. Nimoy, of course, passed away in 2015 from COPD.

Both men had a huge impact on hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of fans, myself included. As Spock, Nimoy spoke for many who felt alienated from the society they had been raised in, for the introverted, the nerdy, the conflicted. The actor had been born in Boston to Jewish immigrants who had made a harrowing escape from—wait for it—Ukraine. He recognized early on that acting was the only thing he wanted to do and, despite a three-year detour in the Army Reserve, he pursued that career with dedication through drama classes, bit parts in B-movies and TV shows and roles as villains and heavies. His Star Trek role as the Vulcan Spock was his breakout role.

Shatner was born to middle-class Jewish parents in Montreal (his father was a clothing manufacturer). He’s always said he knew he would be an actor when he made the audience cry during a summer camp performance about Jewish refugees when he was only six. His family, too, has a connection to Ukraine, though it’s another generation back; his grandparents on one side were immigrants from that country.

In some ways, Shatner’s career started on a more formal footing, with Shakespearean training at the Canadian National Repertory Theater in Ottawa and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. He was understudy to the great Christopher Plummer, and got his chance when Plummer fell ill, and Shatner took the stage. From there it was Broadway (in THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG) and Hollywood (in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBURG) before notable appearances in THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS.

As Kirk, Shatner may have been typecast, but it was largely because he made the character his own—resourceful, energetic, able to make quick, decisive judgments in the face of chaos, and, most of all, compassionate. Kirk, like all the best heroes, was not afraid to show his emotions, because he realized the value of human feeling. In the end, he even convinced his friend Spock of that value.

So, let’s lift a glass of Romulan ale or Saurian brandy or plain old Terran beer or wine or what-have-you, to the actors who helped create one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time.

Happy birthday, Bill and Leonard!

Cheers, Donna


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