#freereads – Adrift Ch 24 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Welcome to another free read Wednesday!

We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week, the contributing members write a chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!

Okay… Arad and Roku have had an interesting encounter. What now?

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 24

Arad’s eyes fluttered awake. Had minutes or hours passed? Roku still held him in his iron embrace.  Two rows of teeth continued to gently rest around Arad’s drool soaked shoulder. Rucked up from earlier, his shirt was chilled and clammy from wicking moisture off the DemiShou’s fur, meant it couldn’t have been too long. Although he didn’t feel aroused in any way, so the Syn must have worn off.

All kinds of things told him he should be terrified, but the extra weight felt less like a cage and more like a warm, dozy shelter. Roku held him like a treasured possession, and Arad welcomed that, which made Arad question his own mental health under the circumstances.

The opportunity to assess his wayward brain ended as Roku shifted and awoke with a gasp, probably from the peeling of stuck-together body parts. Releasing Arad, his weight lifted, moving to his straightened arms and floor. Then with a confused grunt, he lurched backwards. It allowed Arad to roll over and the sight quashed all the warm feelings he’d woke up with.

Sitting back on his feet, Roku’s corded muscles twitched as his wild eyes fixed on Arad. Distressed, feral noises rumbled out of him. Now able to see Roku unhindered, Arad could see the bestial side hidden during his hibernation, the dangerous unknown in his midst. It stoked Arad’s primal urge to run. To flee. But even a slug knew not to run from a predator.

However, the longer Arad watched, the less Roku appeared enraged. The skittish gaze grew glossy with each passing minute. His broad shoulders weren’t poised to pounce. They shivered as if struggling to hold the weight of his huge arms.

Roku looked lost. Somehow monstrous and vulnerable at the same time.

Arad stamped down his unease. It didn’t vanish, but smothered long enough to paste on a facade of confidence. He hadn’t forgotten his promise to help. He wouldn’t abandon him now.

Raising both hands, Arad tried to sound calm. “It’s okay, Roku. Everything’s all right.”

“Who are you?” Roku growled. He clasped a hand to his own throat. “What’s wrong with my voice?”

“Oh! You can speak?”

Annoyed ridges crinkled Roku’s snout. “What? Why would you say that?”

“Sorry. It’s been a weird week. You’ve been through a few changes.”

Feeling abruptly stupid, Arad tried to maintain a casual tone. The tiger hybrid was spooked enough. No need to add to his anxiety. 

Roku’s baffled gaze swept the ceiling and walls, yet didn’t turn to see the cryotubes behind him. “Where am I?”

“Oh man. That’s gonna take some explaining, Roku.”

“Why do you keep calling me Roku?”

“Um… long story. What should I call you then?”

Roku opened his mouth to speak and paused. His eyes lost focus as he searched himself, brow creasing as he dug deeper. Arad waited, watching Roku’s feline features darken into a growing despair as he came up with a big fat nothing. From his expression, more than his name was missing.

“It’s okay. You can be Roku until you come up with something better.”

“What’s wrong with me?”

The last status Arad recalled read SYNAPTIC. He knew what that meant. Did the process scoop out Roku’s brain and leave it empty? What was left of whoever he started as?

Roku wrapped his powerful arms around himself, as if he could make himself smaller and escape. Every glance and every movement screamed out his disorientation. 

Marshaling his nerve, Arad covered his concern. “You just woke up. Give it time.”

“Your voice. It sounds familiar.”

“I talked to you a lot while you slept. Didn’t know if you could hear me.”

“Was I sick?”

“I’m not sure. You were in a kind of coma, I guess.”

Roku’s brow furrowed as he noticed his hands, seriously for the first time. He raised them for a clearer view. Spreading his fingers wide, he followed the unnatural stripes running up his arms, turning them slowly to see as much as possible. His breath stuttered, leaving him one step away from shedding a tear. The sound wrenched at Arad’s heart.

“What happened to me?”

“I wish I knew. I don’t really understand what was going on.”

“Do we know each other?”

“Sort of? Maybe?”

“How?”

The word biblically came to mind, but it wasn’t completely accurate, so he struck it down as poor phrasing. “I’m not sure how to answer that.”

Roku looked down at himself, finally aware of his nudity. He touched the dried fluids around his groin and smelled his fingers. When his attention came back around, he sniffed in Arad’s direction.

“You smell like… Did we…?”

“You don’t remember?”

Roku’s eyes widened as he really took in Arad’s lack of pants and the stains on the shirt. Recognition flashed across his tiger face and there it was. That horrible moment when a person wakes up and the drugs have worn off, and they’re forced to realize what sleaze they’d been up to the night before.

“Okay… Yeah… you remember.” Mildly humiliated, Arad fingered his shirt hem, tugging it lower as if a hooker could really make himself decent. He tried to be nonchalant, but Roku noticed.

“Did I hurt you?” His voice became so tiny and fragile, contrasting his dominant presence.

“No.”

“But I scared you.”

Scratching his head, Arad’s face burned as he tried to find an answer. “That’s not how I’d describe it.”

“I… I… don’t understand.”

The questions and Arad’s conflicted thoughts made the awkward scene heavier still. They needed a chance to get settled. Somewhere without the evidence and memories of their first encounter getting in the way. Roku needed a touch of stability.

“Right now, it’s not important. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually run around with my junk hanging out when I have guests over. Let’s go get cleaned up and see if we can’t find you some clothes.” Arad stood and offered his hand. “Roku? C’mon.”


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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#freereads – Adrift Ch 23 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Welcome to another free read Wednesday!

We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week, the contributing members write a chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!

OMG! Roku’s awake and out of his cryotube. What now?

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 23

Roku swayed back and forth in minuscule movements. His lidded eyes stared at nothing, unfocused and groggy.

“Can you hear me?”

Arad risked reaching out to touch Roku’s head, trying to get some response. Roku allowed the contact, but barely seemed aware of it as well. The soaked fur glided between his fingers with the touch of luscious velvet, begging to be stroked. Dense muscle danced underneath the surface.

The tech attached to his skin popped off one by one when Arad brushed his hand against them. He traced the unnatural stripes decorating Roku’s body with his fingers. They ran down his arms to merge with his neck and back, all the way down to his meaty buttocks. Arad snatched back his hand and averted his wandering eyes. He was perving over a possibly injured man while hunched over Roku with his bare ass hanging out. He told himself it was the Syn talking, but either way it was damned inappropriate.

Tugging down his shirt hem, Arad stood and stepped backwards, while trying to maintain a crumbling air of decency. “Um… Hold still. I’ll be right back and get you a blanket.”

With a jerky, awkward movement, Roku reached out and caught Arad’s ankle in his grasp. Uncoordinated his grip might have been, but it was made of unforgiving steel. He gave a sudden pull and Arad lost his balance, dropping to the floor.

Still holding Arad’s ankle, Roku shifted forward in a clumsy shuffle that could barely be called a crawl. Nose flaring, he snorted and sniffed his way up Arad’s shin, thigh and into his groin.

“Whoa! Whacha doin?”

Roku’s inhales grew stronger, more urgent. A feral yowl seeped out as he opened his jaw and wetted Arad’s cock with his wandering tongue.

“Oh shi—” The word caught itself short as shocks surged through his body and brain, all centered on Roku’s lazy but intent slavering. Arad’s dick responded instantly, the Syn having turned his normal recovery time into nothing. The drug used to fuel Davis’s marathon sex binges. A cycle of excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution to be repeated until his body gave up. Arad had taken half of Davis’s usual amount and assumed the effect would be far less. Perhaps not.

“Don’t…”

A fluttering of unease captured his splintered thoughts. This should not be happening. Arad grabbed at Roku’s head, but instead and shoving him back, he found himself pulling the DemiShou closer, rubbing his swollen, eager cock all over Roku’s mouth and face, desperate for more.

Fevered rushed struck hard, far faster than rubbing one out earlier. Without warning, he peaked and toppled. In a wordless shout, every muscle seized as he came. Streaks of semen coated his shirt and Roku’s face, and it did nothing to slow things down for either of them as the Demi licked up the mess.

Roku’s lifted Arad’s leg as he rooted deeper, his snout and tongue forcing Arad to turn over on his stomach to avoid being folding in half. The new position allowed Roku to push forward and separate the halves of Arad’s buttocks with his free hand and face. With unfettered access, he wasted no time digging deep, lapping the tender iris into a center of quaking need.

“Stop…” Arad’s pitiful plea sounded unconvincing as he pushed backwards like a desperate two-credit whore.

Sex had always been a transaction for Arad, no matter how pleasurable. A way to afford food. A roof over his head for the night. Acts of trade of any variety. Hooking up with someone exclusively to chase a sexual high? Never. It had always been an exchange of services. Always. How was he supposed to handle walking through this foreign territory?

Or handle the disappointment when the treatment ended.

Roku stopped long enough to climb Arad’s body, still stumbling and groggy until he clamped his jaw over Arad’s collar and shoulder. Sharp teeth didn’t pierce his skin but when Roku’s steely arms circled Arad’s chest and arms, he knew Roku didn’t want him going anywhere. The rest of the DemiShou’s body settled on top of Arad, with an obviously large and hard penis landing between his spit-slick cheeks. With a shift of his hips, Roku’s solid member began humping the wet channel between Arad’s haunches at a maddening slow and frustrating pace. 

Arad knew he should be scared. Roku was a fierce stranger with all the power. He knew the unforgiving metal and rivets in the floor should leave him in pain. But the Syn morphed all of it into heady sensations, and the more he got the more he craved. And the more he urged it on. 

“Don’t stop…”

Canting his hips on each upstroke, Arad hoped to capture the slippery knob and force it inside to no avail. Held down tight in feral arms, he lacked the clearance to do much more than feel each juicy slide rub across his opening and making him moan uncontrollably. The slow stroke allowed his feverish mind to map out each ridge and vein teasing him into a frenzy.

Roku’s speed didn’t increase, but each rut strengthened. The growling against Arad’s shoulder vibrated deeper through his body, meeting his crushed cock until everything swelled into climax. Roku squeezed Arad tight and with a muffled roar went rigid. Searing fluid shot up Arad’s lower back and ass, ultimately dripping down his sac in hot rivulets. All the conflicted feelings and ramped up tactile sensitivity triggered Arad again. He cried out as he came, smearing the floor beneath them.

Without releasing Arad, Roku’s huffing reduced to normal breaths until he fell asleep with Arad still trapped in his arms. Then he began to… purr?

The guttural chainsaw reverberated into Arad’s shoulder and chest. It lulled him, drowning his anxiety on the harsh metal floor. Exhaustion dragged him into sleep, and he allowed it because he was sure Roku wasn’t letting him up anytime soon.

And strangely, he felt safer than he should have been.


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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#freereads – Adrift Ch 22 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Welcome to another free read Wednesday!

We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week, the contributing members write a chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!

Now that Arad’s had the chance to try the Syn and blow off some steam (no pun intended) what will he do next?

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 22

Plodding barefoot across the cargo bay’s riveted metal floor was oddly comforting instead of outright painful. Every little sensation brought him a touch of joy and pleasure. A sure sign the Syn lurked under the surface. That and Arad found himself evaluating the DemiShou in an entirely inappropriate way. Not that he hand’t noticed before, but he seemed slightly obsessed with how the cryotubes’ transparent faces allowed near complete peepshow views of their inhabitants. 

Shichi’s scales looked coarse, like rows and rows of serrated edges. Almost as if they could score patterns into another person’s bare skin. Strangely, Arad’s curiosity kept coming back to that feature until he forced himself to move on. Stupid drug. 

Hachi’s fearsome size continued through every part of his body, including his flaccid junk’s prize-winning length and girth. If all bulls were this well hung, it was probably a good thing he’d turned down the bartender the night he met Torrins. Even so, his gaze lingered much longer than he should.

Roku’s endowment, while more than ample, elicited far less terror. It suited the fine hair covering his perfect musculature which made his body appear so silky. Arad found every centimeter of his physique alluring, even as Roku started… to twitch?

The alarm blared as Roku’s movements progressed into full seizure. He jerked and flailed, thumping over and over against the container’s sides. His muscles swelled in relief, contractions increasing the definition with each pulse. Ropy veins pushed to the surface, threatening to explode at any moment.

All arousal fled, replaced with razors of panic. Arad’s heartbeat spiked as he tried to keep it together, knowing he would useless if he freaked out. The incessant electronic cadence tugged at the braided thread binding his nerves together, making it difficult to concentrate. His attention flew between Roku and the screen, his hand millimeters over the PAUSE SEQUENCE and ABORT controls. Last time, Hachi’s seizures resolved themselves and everything was fine—

Abruptly Roku slumped in the cryotube and every health data readout flatlined. The alarm condensed into a single shrill tone reserved for the dying.

“No no no no no…” This wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s not what happened with Hachi. He was supposed to have time to learn how to save them all.

Not knowing what else to do, Arad slapped the ABORT command.

Arad jumped backwards as the capsule split open, the top and bottom halves separating like a cracked egg. Chamber fluids gushed out in a wave, splashing the floor and rushing towards the built-in drains nearby. When the tube opened far enough, Roku crumpled and tumbled out into an unseemly heap, arms and legs bent at odd angles. Arad rushed to him, ignoring the pooling liquids splattering his shins and ankles.

“Roku! Roku, wake up!” Shaking the unconscious DemiShou did nothing. Dead weight refused to move. No, not dead. He wasn’t allowed to be dead. Arad grabbed a shoulder and heaved with all his might to roll Roku onto his back.

“First aid, first aid, first aid.” The myriad of instructions whirled in his head, and there wasn’t time to hunt down the tablet somewhere in the cargo bay and confirm them. Arad needed to do this right. And now.

Roku’s chest didn’t move. It didn’t rise and fall like a living man, and Arad couldn’t find a pulse at his neck. Hopefully he was checking the right spot. He’d practiced finding his own often enough while he studied. Light glinted off the fluids filling Roku’s slack mouth.

“Oh man, you’re drowning.” He tipped Roku’s head to the side, allowing it to drain. “You could breathe this stuff just fine in the tube. Why not now?” Once the flow stemmed to a faint trickle, Arad slapped him. “Come on! Please! Wake up!” Arad slapped him again.

Nothing happened.

Scrubbing at his face, he cried out in desperation. No higher power would help him now, he had to do the work himself. Arad reached up and grabbed fistfuls of his hair as he raced through the procedure in his head. He could do this. He knelt next to Roku in what he thought was the correct position.

Arad’s exhale stuttered. “I hope I’m doing this right.”

With one hand over the other, he pumped at the center of Roku’s chest, making a wish he was using enough power to do the job. Five, four, three, two, one. He grabbed Roku’s head and sealed his mouth over Roku’s. It wasn’t easy with his tiger features and thin lower lip, but Arad managed. He blew steady and with enough force to make Roku’s chest rise. Two, one, then repeat.

Over and over, he ran through the steps, praying he had them right. He only stopped as water gurgled up in Roku’s mouth, forcing him to turn his head and drain it once again. His arms burned and his eyes blurred with only the sounds of his efforts filling the room. What he wouldn’t give for the alarm to distract him. It couldn’t end this way. Arad refused to give up, even though his patient did nothing on his own.

The only thing stemming Arad’s tears was the rhythm of two breaths, five compressions, two breaths, and cracks were forming in the dam. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold out. His strength was fading along with his determination to survive. The one thing he’d always held dear and it was failing him.

“I’m so sorry, Roku.”

Suddenly, Roku lurched, bucking Arad off with a yelp. The DemiShou rolled over and began heaving, spewing all the fluids trapped in his lungs until he gave out a ragged, weakened gasp. The first breath of the newborn. He coughed and sputtered with his face on the wet floor, too weak to hold himself up higher.

Tears laced with relief finally tore free from Arad. He crawled carefully closer, not wanting to startle the groggy DemiShou on the floor.

“Roku, can you hear me?”


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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#freereads – Adrift Ch 21 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Happy New Year! and welcome to another free read Wednesday!

We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!

This week I used the following prompt: use certificate, crane, and onion in your story.

Arad found Daiko and Serene’s stash of Syn. What happens now?

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 21

Arad flipped the bottle’s top open with his thumb and stared at the nine or ten tiny squares of paper inside. Each one had an identical stamp, marking the maker so the buyer knew where to get more.

Syn was based off an obsolete synthetic drug called LSD. Still a hallucinogenic, it centered on the pleasure centers of the brain, making everything feel good. Severe overuse left a person corrupted, leaving them in a perpetual state of uncontrollable sex addiction.

Arad had seen enough of it after Sketch found him recovering from pneumonia in the alley. He’d taken pity on Arad and let him crash with him for a few months. Sketch made and dealt the Syn—it was easy enough with a basic lab—but he didn’t use. He insisted on Arad keeping clean as well. The last thing he wanted was a corrupted burnout in his flat. Sketch was kind and didn’t ask anything for favors in return. He said Arad was far too young.

The few months together were an odd blessing compared to living in the workhouse, but it couldn’t last. Sketch had use his expired pharmacy certificate to steal the ingredients from a corporate chemical storehouse and the authorities managed to trace them back and raided their home. Sketch was arrested but they pitched Arad into the street—literally face first—because his identity had been scrubbed and he was now undocumented. Corporations didn’t care about slugs. He never saw Sketch again.

In all of their encounters Davis used Syn, so Arad knew there was little risk of being corrupted with a single dose. Davis would take two hits and every aspect of his grim life in Grey District would shine and sparkle and become fabulous.

An exhuasted sigh made his shoulders sag. “Oh, I could use some of that right now.”

He’d lost count of the number of men and women who lost themselves to chemical escape over the years. Stealing small moments in a life of drudgery was common, as for some downright dangerous. Arad had made a point to avoid the trap. When the high faded, all the crap of the world still existed.

But sometimes a little distraction felt appropriate.

Carefully using his fingernails, he picked a single square from the bottle trying not to touch the rest. Syn could soak in through the skin and throw off the dose. He dropped the tab on his tongue and swallowed it down. Tossing the bottle onto the bed, he only had to sit back and wait for it to take effect.

When the red, chipped paint on the wall started looking especially luscious, he knew it had begun. Colors appeared more vibrant, each detail crisper. Serene’s glittery dress sitting in a heap on the floor seemed sad, unable to shine.

“Starting to see what Davis saw in this stuff.”

Was the room temperature climbing? Warmth spread through his body and his skin tingled. It felt good. Really good. Arousal ramped up in a gradual incline and Arad found himself thumbing his nipple through his shirt. Each little stroke built a charge which flooded his battery and threatened to overflow. His clothes had never felt so confining. Restrictive. Arad attacked his belt. Completely stripping himself from the waist down, he dumped his pants on top of the glitter dress. The recycled air on his bare ass and legs was a blessing.

“Oh wow. My cock’s hard enough to do the work of a crane! That’s awesome!”

Swollen and jutting out like a flesh covered spike, he wasn’t sure his dick had ever been so rigid. He had a fleeting idea to tie a cord around the end and see if he could lift things with it. But no, that was the Syn talking. The color and stiffness was impressive. Arad took a light grip to better examine his organ and was gifted with a hard, pleasurable shudder that quaked him to the core. Nothing had ever felt so amazing before. So fantastic, so addictive, he didn’t let go as his flesh swelled and pulsed in his tightening fist.

Davis used to make the weirdest, uncontrollable noises in their sessions and Arad did the same as he made an exploratory stroke. So much glossy fluid dribbled out of the slit, he spread it around making each slick movement peel away a new layer of his inhibitions. A pantsless, horny onion. Three or four strokes were enough to throw the idea of stopping out the airlock. Eager and needy like never before, he launched into his task with a new vigor.

Near-mindless in ecstasy, he kept pumping until he came loud, crying out at the top of his lungs, and all over Daiko and Serene’s sheets. Spraying his DNA to mark the bed as his own made him preen even as his moans echoed in the room’s tight confines. He began to wonder what it could be like if they were still here with him—

“Nope. Full stop.” Arad gave his head a violent shake to end that traitorous thought. “That is definitely the Syn talking.”

Several long, tedious minutes were required to calm his breathing. Scooping up the bottle, he dumped it in the drawer and kicked it shut with a scraping bang. “So glad Torrins didn’t ever get the nerve to dose me with this junk. Who knows what he would have talked me into. Ha! You missed out, Torrins. Sucker.”

The heat still simmered under his skin, but the intensity muted after his orgasm. His cock continued to do its impression of a third leg, but the need to couple and rut was gone. A touch of euphoria elevated his mood above normal, lifting the stress from his bones. Now that the edge was off, he could go back to his work. The DemiShou and Ansariland’s issues had yet to disappear.

Refusing to glance at the bed’s condition, Arad stepped into the hallway and headed back to the cargo bay.


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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Saying Goodbye to 2018

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2018 was not my favorite year to date.

Many, many things slowed me down and stressed me out, far above the norm. While I don’t really celebrate the holiday beyond drinking a glass of champagne as the ball falls on Dick Clark’s Rocking New Eve (Is it still called that since he died?) I will still be happy to see this year in the rearview mirror.

Granted, It makes no sense to believe that the changing of one day into the next magically creates a new beginning beyond a new day, but I’ll take what I can get.

I don’t make resolutions, per se, but I’m looking forward to not obsessing on the negative of 2018 and finding the positives in my writing.

High points of 2018:

• Re-release of all three of my Sci-fi series after the awful debacle of my original publisher. Many thanks to NineStar Press for giving new life to The Luxorian Fugitive, A Cook’s Tale, and Priest & Pariahs. (All three available at NineStarPress.com, Amazon, and most other major online book sites. – shameless plug, sorry, not sorry.)

• I started a new free story with the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefs. This keeps me on a writing schedule and able to produce a new 1k chapter each week. Check out my Sci-fi serial, Adrift. As of this week, we’ll be at week 21 and there’s LOTS more story to go!

• My M/M steampunk manuscript of Innocence & Carnality was accepted and is slated for release in April 2019 by Dreamspinner Publications. (Go me!) Edits are complete, and we’re in the final stages. I can’t wait!

With all the pies I have fingers in, I think this is a pretty good list. I’m deciding which WIP is getting attention next so I have something new to play with. There’s a lot to choose from.

So with that, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and look forward to new works, good drinks, and well-wishes to everyone’s friends and family. May 2019 be the start of something lovely.

#freereads – Adrift Ch 20 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Happy Holidays and welcome to another free read Wednesday!

We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!

Arad has a lot to learn on the Ansariland. Is he up for the challenge?

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 20

Throwing his arms wide, Arad slumped backwards on the mattress and allowed the tablet to tumble out of his hand and to the floor.

“No more today, guys. I can’t look at another schematic.” 

Six straight days studying the Ansarliand’s mechanical systems had turned his brain to mush. It’s not that he didn’t find it all fascinating, there was just so much to get through. The first day overloaded with emergency medical procedures had been bad enough. He should have paid more attention in biology. Academics came easier before he ended up in the workhouse. Arad remembered how much he’d complained about school, and now he almost missed it.

Almost.

Most of his time was now spent in the cargo bay standing watch while he scoured the databases. He’d even gone so far as to drag Franc’s mattress out of his room, dropping it in front of the cryotubes for a better vantage point. It wasn’t a big deal. Franc didn’t need it anymore.

An unfamiliar chirp from one of the tubes startled Arad. “What was that?” Rolling to his feet, he sprinted the short distance to the capsules, barely noticing how he kicked the tablet aside in the rush. Starting with Hachi, Arad scanned the slumbering DemiShou, his container, and the attached control screen, searching for any sign of distress. Finding nothing, he repeated the process with Shichi and then Roku. The status line under Roku’s health line data had changed from BIOLOGICAL to SYNAPTIC.

His panicked breath stalled as Arad stared at Roku, waiting for something to explode.

Long, long minutes passed and nothing happened.

Roku continued to sleep like all three with no more movement than the rise and fall of his chest and the occasional muscle twitch that amounted to a whole lot of nothing.

He wished he understood the DemiShou process. There was no way to know if any part could harm them and no available datafile existed to teach him about the past week’s changes. A fine pattern of iridescent scales covered Shichi’s body, the pebbled texture now defined. Hachi’s skin had grown darker and Roku’s geometric stripes were richer and deeper in tone. All of their animalistic features and details were more pronounced. What more was in store? How likely was another seizure and would it end as uneventfully as the previous one? Frustration over his lack of knowledge was such an understatement.

Scrubbing a hand through his hair, Arad stepped backwards. “I gotta take a break. You guys relax. I’ll be back later.”

With one last fleeting look of concern at Roku, Arad left the cargo bay. Stepping into the hall did little to ease the constant state of tightness in his chest. Overseeing the DemiShou would send him to meet Torrins and the rest.

“Forget it, Torrins. I’m not getting buggered by you in the afterlife.”

Too much information and worry and uncertainty flooded his mind and left him more adrift than the ship. It was near impossible to focus on one thing when all sides of the situation competed for equal time. Arad couldn’t be sure which aspect deserved the most attention. 

The resulting sigh echoed down the corridor, amplified by the emptiness. He probably should have left the music running, but the background noise pulled him out of his studies too easily. Street noise he could ignore, but not Torrins’ eclectic playlist. And Arad needed to learn all the areas he never had access to before the crew got popped because there was too much riding on it now.

Why couldn’t he be like Torrins and not give a shit? Life would be so much easier if he could be like so many others he’d met over the years. So selfish they could sacrifice everyone around them in order to survive. Arad understood the appeal, but no matter how hard his life became, people still mattered. He hadn’t given up on the universe simply because it turned his back on him. He was only somewhat jaded.

Middle finger raised, Arad waved his hand at the ceiling.

“I’m gonna figure this out, no matter how hard you jerks made this.”

Half in a fugue state, Arad wandered the halls looking for something, anything to distract his thoughts. Shuffling about between the crew quarters, he ambled into Tank’s old room. It didn’t take long until boredom moved him along into another and wound up in Daiko and Serene’s.

Without any real intent, he wrenched open various drawers, hardly flinching as the metal scraped. The noise did little to jar the fuzziness of his mood. He thumbed through their closet for the thousandth time, and hardly noticed anything of interest. The weight on his soul muddied him into boredom. Or maybe some kind of depression. It was hard to tell the difference.

Had he skipped his last meal? It was possible given how much energy he’d thrown into the ship schematics, but finding the momentum to deal with food was harder than it should have been. Too much weight on his shoulders. Too many dilemmas in his thoughts. If he didn’t get a handle on it soon, he was going to have a spurting, bloody stroke all over the ship, and with his luck he’d be crippled and still have to clean up the mess.

He’d give anything to spend a little time out of his own head. But seriously, what kind of options did he have?

Arad slumped down onto the bed and fell back on the mattress, refusing to harbor images of how Daiko and Serene spent their intimate time on this potentially seedy surface. Shuddering, he rolled to his side and bumped his knee against the first storage he’d opened when he came in.

“Ow!” Arad rubbed out the ache, oddly proud to remember his first aid studies. “If you drew blood and I need a tetanus booster, I’m gonna rip you off the hinges.” 

Peeking into the drawer, he spied Daiko and Serene’s bottle of Syn.


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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#freereads – Adrift Ch 19 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Welcome to another free read Wednesday!

We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!

What’s Arad going to do now that he has three more bodies to care for on board?

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 19

It took several uneventful hours with no additional DemiShou alarms before Arad was satisfied enough to pry himself from the cargo bay. Even so, he still peeked over his shoulder and stretched his hearing as he crossed the threshold. Worry lingered in his chest, but it sat hushed, dulled enough to prevent the impending panic over the chance something horrible could happen at any second.

Dulled, but not extinguished. Quick steps rushed him down the hall to the closest thing Ansariland had to a sick bay. 

In all honesty, the infirmary was a glorified closet dominated by a high-end automated medical bed and companion first aid kit, looking way too pricey for this ship. He’d only ever seen one in newsfeeds and entertainment vids through storefront windows. This sleek model was out of place among the rusted yet functional aspects of Ansariland.

Arad circled the bed and its tech, beauty he’d never believed he see up close, let alone touch. A proper reverence warmed him as he brushed his fingers over the glossy, hygienic surface. “Man, Torrins. I always wondered if you smuggled this on board or if you sold someone’s first born to a workhouse to get ahold of this?”

Humor rushed out of Arad faster than a storm drain. Some things shouldn’t be joked about no matter if a person survived the experience or not.

Arad shook himself to bring him back to the present with a hard shiver. Hachi’s seizure had stretched his tolerance for bitter memories into tattered mesh. Blocking the sieve was a necessary skill born from years on the streets. If he bogged himself down in the unchangeable past, he’d have no chance to help Hachi, Shichi, and Roku. Survivors didn’t wallow.

With no one to shake a disapproving finger at him—mostly Serene, but the rest also took their turns keeping him in his place—Arad was free to explore. The portable first aid kit mounted to the wall released with ease. Inside, the contents appeared well stocked and mostly untouched. A number of the items were unfamiliar. Hopefully, instructional files were included with the med bed.

The bed’s translucent surface gleamed in the harsh light as a gentle glow brightened it from within. Too hard to be plastic, too soft to be metal, Arad marveled at its construction. Much of its appearance bordered on design and aesthetics rather than function, marking it an item of excess. Something not intended for likes of him.

The cryotubes had similar characteristics. Unnecessary perfection for an illicit machine. What a shame that those with wealth and power would waste such splendor.

Well, it was in his hands now and he planned to be able to make use of it.

It took several minutes to dig through the monitor’s menus to find the medical library. Navigating a piece of tech so complicated was something he might have excelled at years ago—before his fall from grace into slugdom. Now he struggled with unfamiliar systems, an awkwardness built from disuse.

But Arad would persevere.

He found the search function and pulled up everything the bed was programmed for regarding the care of DemiShou.

Arad’s heart sank when the results revealed next to nothing.

“You have to be kidding me!”

Only fleeting references to DemiShou existed inside the encyclopedia of data. No specialized medical profile to cover the three in the cargo bay in case of emergency. Welcome to Go’s fate.

Arad remembered what it was like so many years ago after being ousted from the condemned workhouse. One hand on the scanner pad, he stood before a med-kiosk in the pouring rain trying to navigate the device’s diagnostics program through the fever haze cooking his brain. 

“Your diagnosis is… double pneumonia.”

No surprise given the shoddy conditions he’d lived and worked in for so long. Barely able to breathe through painful, wet coughing fits, he stopped pretending that this might pass.

“To dispense treatment, please insert currency.”

Arad had fed the last of his meager credits into the machine because starvation would be a slower death than the one brewing from his current condition. And far kinder.

“Accepted. Thank you for choosing GalatiCorp. Have a nice day.”

He curled up in an alley behind a dumpster, shivering against the deluge. Creating what little shelter he could manage from a discarded metal sheeting as a makeshift roof, he waited for his meds to kick in and the ache in his chest to ease. No job. No money. No home. Hope circled into the sewer faster than the gutter’s runoff as he learned life’s most important rule.

Corporations didn’t care about people over profits. Nothing personal, just business, of course. The giant excuse for unethical behavior on a global scale. If they hadn’t already, it was a harsh lesson Hachi, Shichi, and Roku would learn the moment they set foot on solid ground once again and were forced to make their way. 

Assuming they survived long enough to find out.

“Dammit, Torrins! You brought them on board for a quick score and had no backup if something went wrong! You’re just like my idiot parents! I’m glad you’re all dead!”

Arad punched the bed twice, three times, leaving no mark on its lavishly durable shell. Fist aching, he pulled back. He needed to calm down before he really hurt himself. This was why he hated dwelling on the past. Only shame and humiliation lived there. Living for the future is how he continued moving forward, no matter what.

“Okay. I’m not really glad. But I’m not sad about it either.”

With a deep breath, he dug into the directory for first aid instructions. If the bed couldn’t help the DemiShou directly, he would have to do it himself. Add it to the growing pile of things to learn along with the engines, communications systems and everything else.

He’d never envied people with enough money to pay for implants that could upload everything into their brains instantly before now.


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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