Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Year Ahead

The world didn’t end on December 21, 2012.  Darned Mayans, now I have all this writing work to do.  

So what do I have in store for the coming year?  Oh, tons.  At least six new books, including two new ones from the regular Clans of Kalquor series.  Alien Refuge is well under way, and I’m starting to think long and hard about Book 8, Alien Caged.  

Also coming will be two new Clan Beginnings stories:  Clan Gelan’s book, Clan and Conviction, plus the as yet unnamed story of Clan Rajhir.  Then we also have Sister Katherine’s tale and the first installment of the To Protect and Service trilogy, Ravenous Virtue.  

Shalia’s Diary is also increasing in frequency.  I start posting entries on Mondays and Thursdays beginning next week.  

Also up this year will be a re-edited Alien Embrace.  What I had initially intended as a kind of ‘clean up’ of the first Clans of Kalquor book – fixing some typos that got through the first time, adding a little here and cutting a little there – has turned into a big re-write.  The basic story remains the same, so don’t think you have to run out and buy the second edition when it comes out.  Not at all.  There is no new alternate ending or anything like that.  If classic Alien Embrace suited you fine, don’t worry about new Alien Embrace.

What happened to make me tackle a major rewrite of Alien Embrace is that I’ve grown as a writer since its release.  Plus I feel it needs work because when I wrote it, I did not intend it to turn into a series.  The most I saw happening was a sequel.  However, the Clans of Kalquor just keeps growing with no end in sight, and it feels to me like the first book of the series doesn’t quite match up to later ones.  Kalquor has evolved, with more knowledge of how clans operate and the Empire’s history.  I have to reflect that in an updated version.

A few other things jumped out at me as I set about the quick editing job I’d planned.  We have an inkling of Breft’s past, but where were the background stories on Rajhir and Flencik?  Why did Flencik sometimes not act like the gentle Imdiko I knew he was?  Rajhir seemed almost mindlessly duty-bound to Kalquor.  Didn’t he ever experience the least little doubt or conscience when it came to abducting Amelia?  The more I read, the more things I wanted to cut completely out or elaborate on.   I’m not even halfway through in the process, and there are already 5,000 more words added to the story.  That’s right, it’s gotten bigger even though I have pulled entire sections out.  Don’t bother asking when the re-edited version will be available.  That is up in the air right now because this has turned into such a big job.

Those are the plans for 2013 at this time.  As we all know, life happens so this is subject to change.  It could be fewer books make it out than I hope.  It could be more are written.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Shalia's Diary

A visit from a young, handsome Dramok.

Six Sentence Sunday – Clan Beginnings: Clan and Conviction (WIP)

Krijero looked over their small, government-issued quarters, his excitement edging down in the disappointment that Pertak wasn’t home from work yet.  As his gaze swept over the greeting room’s nondescript seating cushions and tables that had come with the place, he was already planning how nice the furniture would be in their new home, the place they would now be able to afford.  The place they would start their clanship, now that the last hurdle to their parents’ objections had been cleared.  Krijero had a job.  Better yet, he had a career, one he’d been looking forward to for years.

Sure, Pertak still had to get off his ass and do something other than the government-funded infrastructure repairs delegated to those who hadn’t settled on their life’s goals. 

Releasing Spring or Summer 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012

To Clan and Conquer - Official Release

It is out!  Unfortunately, the news is not all good.  There have been major glitches with Barnes & Noble's site, and uploading to Nook has not happened.  I am working very hard to get that issue corrected as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, the book is available at Amazon Kindle, Amazon UK,  and Smashwords.  Nook-compatible files can be had at the Smashwords site, so if you can't wait for B&N to get their act together, you don't have to.

Also, the formatting problem that was occurring at Amazon for the basic Kindle has been corrected.  If you bought a copy of To Clan and Conquer and the lack of paragraph indents are driving you insane, please return it and get another copy.  

I am very sorry for the aggravation these issues may have caused you.  It could be worse, I suppose.  Today was supposed to be the end of the world, wasn't it?  I guess I can live with the headache all the trouble with this book has given me. ;)

And now, on to the blurb and first chapter: 

Starting a clan is not on ambitious First Officer Tranis’ agenda; he is too busy building a career in the Kalquorian fleet.  It’s a good thing since the Nobek who captures his interest belongs to the captain and the Imdiko he can’t stop thinking about is not his type.

Weapons Commander Lidon feels his best days are behind him.  The Imdiko he wants avoids him, and the new Dramok first officer is obviously too young to consider an older, crippled Nobek.  However, an unexpected invitation makes Lidon wonder if there is something more to look forward to after all.

Head doctor Degorsk hides behind an offbeat sense of humor that shocks and keeps his fellow crewmembers at arms’ length – exactly where he wants them.  But one Nobek refuses to be discouraged and the new first officer is too much temptation to deny himself. 

As the trio is pulled together by attraction and pushed back apart by fear, an old enemy threatens the Kalquorian Empire.  With no choice but to rely on each other for survival, Tranis, Lidon, and Degorsk are forced to expose their greatest terrors to each other…and themselves.

Contains elements of BDSM, including physical discipline, anal play/intercourse, bondage, Dom/sub play, forced seduction, multiple sexual partners and homoerotic situations (m/m/m). 

 Chapter 1

Nobek Lidon zeroed in on a two-man fighter in his single-man ship.  He felt no remorse as he fired on the other vessel, though it was Kalquorian in origin.  Taken in a bloody raid by the Tragooms, the two-man fighter was now the enemy.  It had barely been off the assemblage phase on the free-orbiting manufacturing station it was stolen from.  The target was so new it hadn’t yet received its navigational link-in frequencies.

Squad Leader Lidon’s twenty-fighter force was one of five squads.  His home ship, a Kalquorian destroyer, sent plasma bursts and percussion blast volleys at the massive Tragoom warship.  The opposite of the sleek lines of the Kalquorian craft, the enemy warship was typical of a Tragoom vessel:  put together from a myriad of other species’ best technologies, it resembled something a group of semi-bright five-year olds might have constructed.  If said five-year olds were also insane.

The enemy had slipped into Empire space undetected and was now trying to escape with the latest in Kalquor’s famous technology.  Five days ago, the marauder had mounted the attack on the manufacturing plant.  Lidon snarled.  Clumsy and ill-fitting as the Tragoom ship looked, it was still a menace.  Over three hundred Kalquorians had been left dead on the station, another one hundred captured, along with all the newly constructed fighters the Tragooms could fly.  Tragooms did not bother to develop their own technology.  They chose to steal what they could instead.  That one of their roving bands of misbegotten raiders had gotten so far into the Empire’s space was the very thing the border was supposed to be guarded against.  Heads would certainly roll for this fracture in Kalquor’s supposedly remarkable defenses.  Nobek Emperor Yuder would no doubt have it publicly taken out on as many hides as he could find responsible.

Right now, Lidon had to concentrate on destroying as many stolen fighters as possible.  Like the one his targeting computer had just locked in on.

His fingers flew over the control panel’s lit commands, firing a burst of devastating percussion power on the two-man craft that sadly contained only one enemy Tragoom.  According to one of the three vids floating before his eyes, his arms-force levels were low.  Thirteen years of manning a lightning class fighter had Lidon confident he could still render his target into so much space dust.  He was right.  The fighter in front of his guns broke apart with the first volley and then shattered utterly with the next.  The idiot pilot, unfamiliar with the newest line’s configurations, had never figured out how to raise defensive shielding.  Cold satisfaction swept through Lidon.

His blood was surging and there were still at least fifty more of the enemy to kill.  Unfortunately, power levels had been depleted.  He knew by the time he recharged and rejoined the fight, his fellow attack pilots would have finished the job.  He grimaced, though he’d personally taken out fourteen of the bastards himself.  “Great is the man who can share glory with others,” his Imdiko father, a temple priest, would say.

“I can’t keep it all to myself,” Lidon reluctantly agreed with his absent parent.  He sighed and commed the destroyer.  “Squad Leader Lidon of Rizpah Squad reporting in.”

The answer was as clear as if the man handling communications sat right next to him.  “Go ahead, Squad Leader.”

“I’m out of firepower.  Request permission to dock.  This fight’s all but done.”

“You are clear, Squad Leader.  The captain offers his congratulations on your work.  This is one of your highest kill runs.”

Lidon scowled a little.  Piras, the destroyer’s captain and Lidon’s Dramok lover for over a year now, knew better than to offer such public praise outside of ceremonial recognition.  Especially on an open com link.  Of course, most knew better than to call Lidon the captain’s pet.  The few that might dare to say such a thing to him would be taught better by his fists.

Still, he’d grown tired of correcting Piras over these niggling oversights.  Even the fun of pounding other Nobeks bloody was wearing thin.  Reinforcing the fact he had earned his rank and not been given it had lost its charm.  He was going to have to have another talk with his would-be clanmate.

“Squad Leader Lidon to Second of Rizpah.”

“Second Squad Leader.”

“I’m done for this little skirmish.  You have command.”

“Acknowledged.  Second Squad Leader Resok assuming point.”

Lidon headed for the destroyer.  Skirmish indeed.  There had been few good moments in this fight, moments when he’d found an enemy worth his skills.  He looked forward to counting the scorch marks on his fighter, to seeing how close he’d enticed death to come before scaring it off with his warrior ferocity.  The defense stations on the Empire’s borders were usually enough to dissuade attacks like today’s.  It was getting harder all the time to get a good fight going with Tragoom infiltrators.

The drone of tactical updates and advisories from his com was abruptly interrupted by an intense voice.  “Squad Leader Lidon, you’ve got company coming in fast and wagging your tail.”

Despite keeping a constant eye on his vids, Lidon instantly rechecked everything.  Instrumentation detected nothing, and he snarled.  The lack of information meant only one thing:  he had a chameleon-class fighter with signal-cloaking shields closing in.  The tail of his craft was vid-blind in the back, not allowing him to call up an image.

A blip sounded, and Lidon noted a lightning class fighter, one of the stolen ones, coming at him from starboard.  “How close is that chameleon?” he asked.

“Seven clicks, closing on you at a rate of two-point-seven-five.”

Lidon grinned with feral delight.  He was either going to add more bodies to his kill count or meet a glorious death.  For a Nobek, both were equally welcome.

Adjusting his heading and speed to mask the oncoming Tragooms from each other, he muttered, “As the Book of Life says, ‘The enemy’s sins are only redeemed when he offers peace or his throat.’  So come on in, you useless blight on the ass of the galaxy, and find some redemption.”

Lidon could see the lightning class closing in exactly where he wanted him.  He had to count on fortune to keep the chameleon steady on its path to destruction.  His grin grew larger and his hinged fangs unfolded from his palate.  He waited for brute instinct and hard-won experience to give him the go-ahead.

The moment came.  Lidon pitched the nose of the fighter down and executed a steep roll, effectively turning his course at a right angle.  Now his vids showed him the sleek lines of the chameleon as it hurtled over him and in the path of the bulkier but better armed lightning.  They collided with gorgeous force, and Lidon howled his victory.

Damn, he loved his job.

His moment of triumph was cut short as sensors chimed a warning.  Several huge pieces of the chameleon flew straight at him.  Too many to avoid being hit.  Fingers flying over his navigational computer, faster than he could bark voice commands, Lidon veered hard from the biggest piece.  He braced as another hurtling missile closed in.

He heard the impact before he felt it.  Claxons went off, vids blinked frantically, and a flash of fire erupted in front of his face for a bare instant.   Then the cockpit was doused in extinguishing foam, killing the blaze and wetting Lidon from head to toe.  The foam almost immediately turned to clear liquid and dripped from his console.

A moment later, the pain hit.  Lidon’s leg suddenly screamed in brutal agony, and he screamed with it.  It felt as if dozens of huge, jagged blades stabbed into his calf and thigh all at once.  He jerked against the torment, but the limb was pinned in its hellish space.  The hull had apparently collapsed in that area, crushing and trapping his leg.

Lidon fought to hold onto consciousness in that grim realm of anguish.  Gritting his teeth to keep from screaming again, he said, “Squad Leader Lidon to destroyer.”

Only now did he realize the constant relaying of information had ceased on his link.  He had no communications.  As if to taunt him, all the blinking vids went out.  Then the entire cockpit went dark as the ship’s power failed.  For a moment Lidon was left in utter darkness and overwhelming pain.

The backup emergency lighting came on, bathing the smooth and now featureless control panel in orangey-red light.  Lidon smashed his fist against the panel in frustration.  He left no damage.  The ship was designed to take the abuse of irritable Nobeks.

He hit it again anyway.  “Well that’s just fucking great.  Someone’s going to have to tow my sorry ass in.”

The question now was, how badly had he been injured?  The leg hurt with a physical misery Lidon had not known in his entire violent life.  He stuck his hand in the tight confines where he couldn’t see anything six inches below his groin.  Wet heat greeted his touch, and he withdrew the hand.  Despite his increasingly hazy vision, he could easily see the blood dripping from his fingers.

Lidon felt the fighter shudder around him.  Someone was firing on his dead ship, finishing him off.
His lips were tingling and numbing from blood loss.  He could hear himself slurring as he closed his eyes and leaned his head back.  “Sixteen enemy dead.  Glorious death on the battlefield instead of safe in my bed.”  A surge of guilt washed through him at those words, though they were what every Nobek hoped for.  Why the ancestors had been so kind to deliver him an end he didn’t deserve, Lidon couldn’t fathom.

He’d face those who had gone before him soon enough.  At least the pain would stop.  In his last moments, however, Lidon couldn’t seem to stop the flow of words that poured like his life’s blood.
“Well, Piras, you’ll understand when I don’t make our dinner date.  Sorry, but some opportunistic gurluck cancelled by killing me.”

Also cancelled was the discipline Piras had earned for his public display of affection.  Discipline the Dramok would no doubt have been looking forward to.  Lidon had to admit, he would have taken pleasure in dealing it, though Piras would have given in much too easily.

The ship continued to shake as it took abuse from the enemy.  Somehow its defenses must have held for it to take so long to be destroyed.  Lidon looked forward to his death, to getting away from the pain.  It was all for the best; no doubt the damage to his leg would leave him crippled had he survived.  And what kind of life could a Nobek in his prime enjoy with such a handicap?  Not one worth living.

Lidon welcomed death, begged with all his soul for it to find him.  His voice so low that he could barely hear himself speak, he uttered the words his Imdiko father had blessed the bodies of his Dramok and Nobek fathers with: “To every man death must come.  Death, the destroyer of sorrows.  Death, that dark friend to the sick.  Go, and be not afraid.”  Lidon snorted.  “I was not sickly, nor do I have any hope of being relieved of my remorse, but what the hell.”

The fighter shook harder than ever.  The motion jarred his leg hard, making it shriek with misery.  Lidon opened his mouth to shriek with it.

He wanted to die, to at least relinquish consciousness, but the hurt went on, and on, and on…

* * * *
Lidon woke with a gasp to find himself in his lover’s darkened quarters.  His leg, his damned leg.  Fuck.  He’d rolled over onto it in his sleep and had lay there long enough to set off brutal pain.  He sat up, grinding his teeth together to keep from making noise and waking Piras.

Fifteen years after the incident, the agony still possessed the power to take him back to that hideous moment when his life changed.  While Lidon was grateful to still have purpose, to be of continued use to the fleet, the harrowing beginning to his ordeal lived on in his nightmares.

Times like these didn’t invite the words from the Book of Life to comfort Lidon.  Not when the torment was intense and much of the sleepless night lay before him.  Instead, the long-ago mantra from Nobek training camp ran through his mind.

Pain is my friend.  Pain gives me a challenge to show I have overcome and will continue to do so.  I worship my pain, and I invite it to give me strength.

He looked over at Piras.  The Dramok slept like a rock, fortunately.  He lightly snored now, arms and legs slung wide, hogging the sleeping mat as he often did.  The bed surface was clan-sized, big enough for three men and their Matara should they be so lucky as to have a rare female in their number.  Still, Piras managed to take up most of it.  Lidon had rolled to the edge to escape, ending up on his bad right leg.

The Nobek’s gaze wandered over the other man’s body, uncovered by the linens to the waist.  Piras was a long, lean, graceful man, tall and elegant to look at.  His strong jaw was somewhat at odds with the rest of his delicate face.  It probably came from the fact he ground his teeth together so much in near-constant frustration.  Those jaw muscles had gotten quite the workout in the last fifteen years.  Piras was easily annoyed, and it was often because of Lidon.

Lidon’s expression as he looked over his longtime lover was a mix of affection and irritation.  He debated waking Piras for sex, since he knew he wouldn’t be sleeping for the rest of the night.  It would be good to fuck out some of the angst from the nightmare, and Piras was never adverse to being on the bottom.  However, he was adverse to missing out on sleep.  Deprive him of even an hour of his usual rest, and he would be a vicious brute to his crew during his entire shift.  For such a docile lover, the captain was an unmitigated bastard outside the sleeping room.

The ridiculous hard-on had shown up despite the torment of Lidon’s leg.  He decided the guilt of watching Piras make everyone else’s life miserable wasn’t worth relieving his erection.  Nor was it worth listening to his would-be Dramok complain even as he put his ass up in the air for Lidon’s use.

Lidon thought about his altar in his own cramped quarters.  Crew quarters didn’t offer much room for personal items, but the Nobek had managed to make a space for the small wooden shelf where he burned incense and read from the Book of Life.  Most Nobeks meditated to calm their primal urges.  On a destroyer where a man could only move so far and was in near constant contact with others, serene contemplation was a must.  Lidon took it farther than most with a near-religious devotion to the philosophies of the Book’s writers, particularly the first prophet Lozatu’s teachings.

Meditation was the obvious choice, but Lidon’s heart was still drumming quicker than normal from his nightmare.  He didn’t think he could sit still.  He needed to move.

To the bridge then, though little would be happening with the captain asleep.  Lidon pushed the covers from his perspiration-sheened body and swung his legs over the side of the sleeping mat.

Even in the very dim sleep-mode lighting of the room, Lidon could see the differences in his legs.  The calves were nearly identical in shape, though the right was crisscrossed with scars.  The muscles of the lower leg hadn’t been nearly as damaged as the thigh.

Damaged?  His right thigh had been demolished.  Crushed and torn, it was a miracle any of it had been salvageable.

Lidon looked at his leg with consternation and pride.  A patchwork of scarred and lumpy flesh, it was a badge of honor many other Nobeks looked at with open envy and awe.  Few men received such a horrific battle wound and were able to keep the limb to show off.  In fact, the surgeons had begged him to let them replace the shattered leg with a robotic prosthetic.  He’d flatly refused though it meant constant pain and the limp of a cripple.

Pain is my friend, and I invite it in to make me stronger.  With such thoughts burned into their brains, it was no wonder most Nobeks were both sadists and masochists.

Lidon quickly dressed, putting on his red-trimmed black uniform formsuit, which had been tossed on the floor from the night before.  He debated going to his quarters for a clean one then decided against it.  He’d shower and change before his regular shift.  For now, he needed to be engrossed in official business.

Putting his knee-high boot on the afflicted leg was an exercise in torture, and he hissed despite efforts not to.  Piras didn’t react, continuing to snore his way through the night.

Lidon got to his feet, putting his weight on his left leg as he reached for his brace.  The stiff metal contraption kept his weakened leg from collapsing under him.  It fit over his boot and ran all the way up to his groin.  The thing looked like an ancient torture device, which was why Lidon used it instead of one of the newer invisible-field braces.  The brace elicited respect from other Nobeks.  Unfortunately, it also made medics pester him to submit to more surgeries.  Particularly a certain Imdiko he knew, when Lidon was able to corner the man and force him into a conversation.

Lidon’s utility belt with its collection of tools and knives went on his waist, and he was ready to see how the destroyer’s nightshift was doing.  He limped to the door and it hissed open, letting in a wedge of light.  Piras sighed and rolled over.  He didn’t wake.  Leaving his lover slumbering, Lidon slipped soundlessly from the room.

The Nobek limped down the corridor heading for the ship’s transport system.  In the crew section at this time, it was an utterly blank stretch of hallway.  It was only when he crossed from that part into the destroyer’s more functional middle section that he started to see others.  Night shift personnel jerked their heads in quick nods to acknowledge him.

Lidon’s route took him past the medical department.  Knowing he was being foolish, but hopeful just the same, the Nobek slowed and peered in.  No one was being treated in the examination portion of the unit.  A few orderlies and techs were standing around talking.  The door to the head doctor’s office near the department entrance stood open, but the room within was dark.

Lidon sped up again as he passed Medical and got into the nearby transport, a tube-system conveyance that would take him anywhere within the ship.  The small room he stood in was every bit as bland as the hallway.

“Bridge.”  The transport’s door closed and he felt the slightest sensation of motion beneath his feet.  In less than thirty seconds the door opened again, and he was in the braincenter of the destroyer.

The bridge during the ship’s normal sleeping hours was quiet, humming with efficiency.  The room was a half-circle, with the first officer, captain, and weapons command’s podiums at the center of the flat end of the room.  Next to weapons command was the security station with five Nobeks keeping tabs on everything from the destroyer’s defensive shielding to simple policing of the ship’s crew.
Directly in front of those stations were the communications banks, both in-ship and fleet monitors, run by five crewmembers.  Beyond them were navigation and piloting, handled by a complement of three.

Along the most forward part of the curved section were the monitors, giant vids that kept the bridge informed of everything they needed to know to run the ship efficiently.  Central was the constantly scrolling status-read, giving up-to-the second information on ship’s condition, position, and anything of note happening outside of it.  A quick glance told Lidon they were on course for CP-108, a small moon with an acceptable atmosphere for life forms such as Kalquorians.

As the Nobek limped out of the transport, the first officer looked at him from the captain’s station with surprise; surprise Lidon shared.

Dramok Tranis, Piras’ second-in-command for only the past four months, was young for his rank.  Very young.  Thirty years Lidon’s junior, he nevertheless carried himself with maturity and assurance.  Even now, caught off guard by Lidon’s sudden appearance, there was only a slight widening of eyes and steady stare to betray his concern.

The first officer’s deep voice was smooth, betraying nothing of his feelings as he acknowledged Lidon.  “Weapons Commander?  You’re not on this shift’s rotation.”

“No, First Officer, I’m not.  Neither are you.”  As the senior security officer for the entire destroyer, Lidon’s rank was only a step below that of the first officer.  As Piras’ lover, he could get away with the borderline show of disrespect.  It wasn’t something Lidon liked to indulge in.  Sleeping with the captain shouldn’t mean special treatment.  But with Tranis so new, the Nobek couldn’t help but test him.

Tranis’ eyebrows rose over sharp blue-purple eyes.  His slitted pupils widened just a hair.  The corner of his mouth twitched.  Damned if he didn’t look almost amused by Lidon’s slight challenge instead of affronted or scared, the reactions the Nobek would have expected from anyone else.  Dramok Tranis was different, however.  From the little Lidon had seen so far, the younger man seemed to know when to let things lie peacefully and when to bite back.

Tranis went back to his readouts, which hovered over the captain’s computer station.  He kept his body angled towards Lidon.  The Nobek noted the younger man also kept his head tilted in such a way so he kept the weapons commander in his peripheral vision.  It was almost a watchful Nobek pose, one that said Tranis wasn’t threatened but he wanted to keep an eye on the situation anyway.

The first officer said, “I’m filling in for Ranem.”

Lidon let his gaze wander just a bit, enjoying the sight of the strong, wide shoulders and chest of the Dramok.  The formsuit uniforms Kalquorians wore let a man know exactly what he was getting when it came to other men.  With the first officer, the promise was exceedingly nice.  Tranis was more muscled than Piras.  Shorter too, right about Lidon’s height.  In the Nobek’s opinion, the view on the bridge had vastly improved since Tranis came on board.

He made himself stop before his gaze went any lower.  “Is Lieutenant Ranem sick?”

“Injured.  He insulted a fighter squad leader.”  Tranis’ hint of a smile became the real thing.  “Five broken bones and internal injuries.  He’ll be back on duty tomorrow after the repairs have taken hold.”

Lidon snorted and limped over to the weapons computer station, where a lieutenant commander stepped aside, bowing slightly to his superior.  A curved floating platform like the one Tranis stood at, the black podium put everything Lidon needed to do his job well at his fingertips.  Lidon glanced at the vids floating over it.  The Nobek lieutenant, only slightly younger than Tranis, had brought up all the latest ship diagnostics, security communications, and flight course scans for Lidon’s immediate inspection.  Lidon wouldn’t have to punch him for sloppy command transfer, and that was fine.

One item caught his attention immediately, and he read it over with his brows drawn together.  “That’s an interesting report from the border defense.”

Tranis nodded.  “I’ve been wondering what those anomalous energy readings coming from Joshadan space might be.  They look like power signatures from ships, but the defense stations can’t lock down a source.”

“If those are ships, they’re not answering communication attempts.”  Lidon’s eyes narrowed.  The border defense on the perimeter between the Empire and Joshadan space was thought by many to be a joke, more a punishment for misbehaving Nobek soldiers than real duty.  Joshadans were a peaceful lot and not interested in technology beyond what they absolutely needed.  Kalquor provided the small world and its colonies with defense, which typically consisted of nothing more than beating back the occasional Tragoom raid.  It was certainly not as exciting as manning the border with Bi’is territorial space.  A destroyer sweep in this section of the Empire, such as what they were doing now, was considered akin to taking a vacation.

Underlining the typical attitude for the Kalquorian-Joshadan border, the weapons lieutenant muttered, “I can’t imagine anything dangerous coming from Joshada.”

Lidon shot him a glance.  “‘There is nothing as dangerous as not recognizing the potential for danger.’”


Tranis’ voice came from Lidon’s left.  “The Book of Life, right?”

Lidon turned his attention to the first officer, restraining the urge to smile.  Young ones rarely paid much attention to the philosophical arts.  “Seventh chapter, twelfth verse,” he confirmed.

His lieutenant persisted.  “But what trouble could be coming from Joshadan space?”

Lidon kept his tone steady while acknowledging privately he might have to punch the man after all.  A good brain-rattling blow might clear the fog from a lazy mind quicker than anything.  “Ships of multiple origins could indicate Tragooms, since they steal from everyone.  And we know next to nothing about that new species that’s shown up recently.”

Tranis gave him a curious look.  “Earthers?  I haven’t heard of them being hostile.  Certainly not aggressive without cause, though some do say they strictly adhere to religious precepts.  An aide to an ambassador I spoke with said they are easily affronted by anything not conforming to their beliefs.”

Lidon nodded.  “They’ve attacked none of the members of the Galactic Planets.  It doesn’t mean they won’t, eventually.”

Tranis stared at him, his look speculative.

Lidon quirked a suggestion of a smile. “Don’t look so worried, Commander Tranis.  Nobeks, especially ones who have seen what I have, are a suspicious lot.  I have yet to meet an Earther, so I naturally expect the worst.”

The first officer snorted.  “Naturally.  Deferring to your greater experience, Weapons Commander, may I ask if it’s your view that I alter course towards the nearest defense station?  To check out those anomalous readings?”

Lidon’s estimation of the Dramok edged up a notch.  Young officers climbing the ranks often felt it lessened their standing to ask the opinions of those under them.  They had a bad habit of not recognizing the value of a range of judgments.  It was nice to know Tranis was not one of those.

The Nobek studied the intelligence carefully before answering.  “In all honesty, I see no reason to divert at this time.  The defense stations on the border are well armed, each with a complement of fighters.  Without confirmation of an enemy, I think you’ll be better off letting Captain Piras make that call.”

Tranis dipped his head.  “Thank you for your recommendation, Commander.  The captain will be on the bridge in a couple of hours anyway.”

Lidon went back to his reports, a sense of satisfaction warming his gut.  Piras was a hard man to serve under, but he thought Tranis would work out fine.

A few minutes later, he sensed someone approaching him from his left.  A pleasant, masculine scent wafted to his sensitive nostrils.  He looked up to see Tranis standing at the edge of his station, eyeing him carefully.

The first officer wouldn’t have moved so close unless he wanted to have a semi-private conversation.  Lidon took a step over, bringing their faces within inches of each other.  Close enough to feel Tranis’ warmth.  The Nobek’s cocks twitched.  No surprise there.  The Dramok was young and attractive with a personality Lidon found easy to relate to.  Nice fantasy material.

He pitched his voice low, curious to know what was on the other man’s mind.  “Can I help you, First Officer?”

Just as quietly, Tranis said, “Maybe.  We’ll be entering orbit around the CP-108 in seven hours.”

“I’m aware of that.   I look forward to enjoying a few hours of shore leave to breathe something besides canned air.  It should make the Nobeks less likely to take Dramok insults personally.”

Lieutenant Ranem’s violent run-in with the squad leader was no real surprise to Lidon.  Fights were breaking out more frequently.  On this particular pass, Piras had really pushed the Nobeks’ limits as far as their need to regularly get out of the destroyer’s tight confines.  He liked demonstrating his power as their captain, which was an essential component to his command.  Still, Lidon’s lover would be in a pretty mess trying to control nearly 150 claustrophobic Nobeks with only a third of that number of Dramoks and Imdikos.  Sometimes Lidon thought Piras pressed the crew’s warrior breed too hard.

Tranis’ voice lowered even more, his words only breath.  “I’ve been trying to get a few crewmembers together for a kurble game.  Would you like to participate?”

Lidon stilled and stared at him.  It seemed he would be punching someone after all, a jokester of a Dramok.  A growl slipped out.  “Who put you up to this, First Officer Tranis?”

There was that bare hint of humor from the young man again, sending a spike of hot fury through Lidon’s skull.  Tranis’ gaze held his, clearly not afraid.  “No one put me up to anything.  I know you have trouble with your leg, but the position of hurler defense doesn’t require running.  You’d only have to stay upright long enough to get in the way of the attackers so the hurler can throw the ball.”

Lidon’s fists clenched.  He was seriously pissed off now.  “I am well aware of how the game is played.”

“I know.  I used to watch you when you caught and ran for the Lotna Fleet Training Camp’s team.  My brothers took me to all the home games.”

Surprise took the place of anger.  Lidon blinked.  “Your brothers attended Lotna?”

Tranis nodded.  “A couple of them.  The oldest was three years behind you, so I doubt you ever met any of them.  You were amazing.  I always wondered why you didn’t turn pro.”

Lidon relaxed.  It wasn’t a joke.  If Tranis had Nobek brothers, he’d know a member of that breed suffering with a disability would be looking for ways to prove himself still strong.  Tranis wasn’t fucking with Lidon; he was offering him an opportunity.

In a much more conversational tone, Lidon said, “I wanted more adventure than the kurble field provided.”  He snorted, glancing down at his brace.  “I found more than I anticipated.  How many brothers do you have, Commander?”

Tranis grinned, lighting his handsome face in a way that made Lidon’s cocks twitch again.  “Five.  All older, and all Nobeks.”

Lidon couldn’t restrain his own smile.  Five brothers?  Tranis’ mother had been extremely fertile.  Bearing six children was unheard of these days.  A precious few Mataras managed to produce just one.  “Being the youngest brother to five of my breed must have been interesting.”

“They taught me how to play kurble.  I love the game.  The trouble is, most Nobeks don’t take a Dramok seriously when he tries to get a match going.”

Lidon could see his point.  Then again, there were Nobeks who would enjoy taking apart a Dramok who would dare to step onto their turf.  His grin spread.  “I might know a few who will take you up on your offer.  What’s your position?”

“Hurler.  I really could use a smart defender.”

Lidon snorted.  “Especially since Nobeks of the opposing team will think you’re an easy cart-off. “
Cart-offs were injured players who had to be carried off the field.  It was humiliating to be one of those.

Tranis shrugged.  “I think I might surprise them.”

Lidon looked at the young, strong body in front of him.  Tranis had the sturdy build needed by a hurler who would be thrown to the ground time and again.

The Nobek thought, You’re certainly surprising me.  Too bad you’re so damned young, or I’d invite you to play other games.  I bet you’d be an animal in bed.

As opposed to Piras, who gave up control all too easily.

“So are you in, Commander?” Tranis prodded.

Lidon considered.  A hurler defender was in the thick of the action, yet Tranis was right; he’d only have to be in the way of attackers, holding them off long enough for Tranis to throw or hand off the ball.  Plenty of opportunity for pain while still contributing to his team.  And Piras, no fan of kurble and certainly no fan of Lidon playing it, would hate the idea.  Somehow, that made the decision easy.

“I’ll be your left flank defender, Tranis.”  The position would afford some protection for his damaged right leg.  He added, “I’ll see who else I can round up for the match.”

Tranis’ youth showed in that moment.  Pure boyish delight suffused his features.  He suddenly looked much younger than his 36 years.  “Thank you, Commander.  I look forward to it.”

The first officer returned to the captain’s station.  Lidon couldn’t help but watch him walk away, admiring those muscular thighs and the ass that topped them.

The things he could do with such a fine specimen.  Especially a Dramok that was fierce enough to play the sometimes deadly game kurble.

Amused at himself, the weapons commander went back to his reports.  Delicious to contemplate, Tranis was obviously too young to seriously consider someone like Lidon for a sexual romp.  Especially when Lidon was not just significantly older, but also crippled.

It was still fun to think about.