Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Christine Griffin
Pre-order Release Date: 6/17/2016
Official Release Date: 7/18/2016
Genre: MM Science Fiction
Length: 288 Pages/110k
Their journey will span the universe and back, but there’s no guarantee they’ll make it together.
Though Nick and Fieo are drawn to each other, their relationship has never been easy. Their differences go beyond their races, but they’ve managed to work together to prevent the spread of corruption, growing closer along the way. Nick still battles the effects of years of oneliness, fear, and pain but surprises everyone when he refuses to stay behind when Fieo is sent on a vital mission to find the Collectors. Fieo objects, but there’s no stopping Nick when he sets his mind to something. Over the course of their mission, it becomes clear Nick is more than anyone ever imagined, but the mystery of his past threatens to derail his future.
The search for the truth will take Fieo and Nick far from Caeorleia, to worlds both familiar and completely alien, and put stress on their already tenuous relationship. It’s a journey that will either tear them apart or finally bring them together.
“Look at you.” The humid warmth of the garden enveloped and welcomed me. I stroked one finger across the fluffy yellow pod of a waist-high flower. The small strands curled in and then opened back into a wider puff, sending out a glowing powder that drifted high into the night sky. I chuckled. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the small flower was ticklish. I rubbed the pollen off against my shorts, glad I hadn’t tried to smell it. “You haven’t told me about these yet, Jirulm.”
The elderly Caeorleian was mumbling as he plucked clusters of hard orange buds off spindly stalks. I’d picked up the habit of talking to the plants from him, and it wasn’t hard to see why. They were so alive.
I had flowers, and fruit, and vegetables. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to live on a planet with wild flora. My schooling and job training had focused on creating new strains of food crops that were grown in chemical vats in the midst of a planet covered in metal and concrete.
Not exactly natural. Or very appetizing, if you knew where they got the basic building blocks for the food. No one had ever questioned it—I hadn’t either, until I’d taken the job with the Federal Food Service Corp after I couldn’t find a job anywhere else. Horrified when I learned the truth, I’d spent a few days unable to choke more than few mouthfuls down at a time, and they rarely stayed down. My mistake had been telling a coworker my plans to reveal everything to the public.
Of course when you’re a prisoner and starving, you tend to ignore the fact your food was grown from cells harvested from composted humans, and you ate it anyway. Beggars couldn’t be choosers.
And I’d begged. A lot. At least five years spent on a spaceship as the experiement of scientists had sucked all hope from me. But then the military scientists’ plans had gone wrong. Ryker and Seral had been sent to the planet in a bid for more information. The doctors assumed the Caeorleians would blame Ryker, one of the hated nelho scum they named the human soldiers waging war on their planet. Instead, something completely unexpected happened. Seral joined in besedad with Ryker, bonding them together.
In a daring attack against the human military, using the nanos they filled Ryker with to spy on the Caeorleians, Seral had brought down the scientists’ enormous ship and spread the reengieeered nanos like a plague to the rest of the fleet. Along they way, they also rescued Dade and me, the only other two survivors of the scientists’ experiments.
And once again, I was wide awake in the middle of the night. The memory of the moments right before rescue came, when I was forced to watch as the human scientists cut the alien woman open, and listen as the sadistic doctors planned to cut my belly open to compare organs, disturbed my sleep almost nightly and left me sweating and shuddering in my bed.
I didn’t mind being awake in the early morning hours all that much. Some of the flowers in my garden only bloomed at night. Besides, I didn’t have much to do, so I could nap during the heat of the day. With a planet this tropical, it made sense for Caeorleians to be seminocturnal. Night was the only time I could count on finding Jirulm, the gardener who taught me about the plants in my garden. Ovrumi suggested I would enjoy gardening when he caught me wandering in the corridors, flinching away from the others passing by.
“It’ll be time to prune those soon, Nicklaus,” Jirulm said. The hum of his voice was low, nearly indistinguishable from the light wind rustling through the plants.
“But they’re just barely blooming.” Sure, flowers indoors brightened up the rather plain walls of the Residence, but all the ones in my suite were potted. I didn’t like to snuff out their already brief lives.
“Good thing, too.” He examined the flowers, pulling at one of the fluffy heads. “When agvarali have absorbed enough energy to glow, the heads detach during the final bloom and migrate along the breeze.”
“Oh, I bet that’s beautiful.” I could just imagine the small glowing fluff balls floating along a soft night wind, though I wasn’t sure if I’d get to see it. Fieo, the stubborn ass, refused to believe I’d be going to find the Collectors with his team, so I had no idea when the departure was planned. I’d assumed sooner rather than later, but maybe I’d still get to see the final bloom—some of the heads were already glowing a faint yellow.
Jirulm snorted. “Beautiful… and dangerous.”
I cocked my head sideways. “What do you mean?” Sometimes getting information out of the old alien was like pulling teeth. But when he did speak, he knew basically everything there was to know about plants on Caeorleia.
“They gather energy, like sampanga trees, but so much in such a small sphere means when they touch something—or something touches them, like a careless finger—they explode.”
I snatched my hand back. “Explode?”
His lips twitched at the corners. It was probably the closest I’d come to seeing a smile on his face. “Oh, not enough to kill you, but you could easily lose a finger in the energy jolt that spreads the seeds. Luckily, these blooms are harmless.”
“That doesn’t sound harmless! Why plant these in a garden if they’re so dangerous?” I couldn’t believe they were actually cultivating the damn things.
“They attract insects to pollinate the other plants.” Jirulm tapped one long stem, and one of the creepy flying bugs crawled out of a waving puffball and flew to another vine a few beds over. “See.”
That was one aspect of gardening I could do without. I did not like bugs. I had nightmares of them crawling inside my ears and laying eggs that would hatch into little buggy babies just dying to burrow into my brain. I backed away from the agvarali. “Well, feel free to prune these while I’m gone.”
Thoughts of going into space again on the mission kept crowding into my mind, disturbing the peace I usually found in my garden. I tried pushing them away and succeeded for a while as Jirulm rambled on. After checking the natural spring fountain in the center of the garden that fed the irrigation lines, he left me alone. There was a small carpet of grass around it, the blades a dull gray in the silver light of the moons. Nighttime lent a certain somber feel to the garden, muting the usually vibrant displays; I sighed as I settled on the grass to stare up at the stars twinkling.
There was a lot of beauty in the darkness.
Alicia Nordwell is one of those not so rare creatures, a reader turned writer. Striving to find something interesting to read one day, she decided to write what she wanted instead. Then the voices started … Yep, not only does she talk about herself in the third person for bios, she has voices in her head constantly clamoring to get out.
Fortunately for readers, with the encouragement of her family and friends, she decided for her own sanity to keep writing. Now you can find her stories both free and e-published!She can be found quite often at her blog, where she has a lot of free fiction for readers to enjoy or working hard, or maybe hardly working, as an admin on GayAuthors.org under her online nickname, Cia.
Oh yeah, she’s a wife, mom of two, and lives in the dreary, yet ideal for her redhead complexion, Pacific Northwest. Except for when she disappears into one of the many worlds in her head, of course!
Cia’s Stories: http://www.ciasstories.blogspot.com