#freereads – Adrift Ch 10 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hello story lovers!

Welcome to the newest addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week was without a prompt so I get to write whatever I want.

What’s it like for Arad on board with his new position and life?

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


 

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Chapter 10

The moment Arad stepped onto the bridge all conversation stopped.

Soft chimes from the instrument panels were the only sounds in the uncomfortable silence. Franc, Torrins, and Daiko sat in their respective seats. As he stepped across the threshold, three sets of eyes followed him. And he thought walking in the hallway was noisy. The short trek felt downright deafening as he found his place next to Torrins. It wasn’t the first time his appearance had quieted the room, but he refused to give them the satisfaction of knowing how unnerving it could be.

“Are we going somewhere?”

Daiko swiveled his chair to face front without answering. The usual cool reception. As Serene’s other half, one would expect drama from the dark eyed man as opposed to the calm disdain he normally exuded at Arad. Apparently opposites did attract in the real world. 

“We have some business to attend to.” Torrins snaked his arm around Arad’s waist and brought him closer, snugging him against the captain’s side. He resisted the urge to pull away. After two months, Arad should have been used to Torrins’s public demonstrations—half affection, half possession—but he still found himself off guard with crew members who questioned his role on the ship. Which was pretty much all of them.

Franc cleared his throat. “Should Arad be in here for this?”

“Just set coordinates, Franc. I’ll deal with it.”

With a disapproving look, Franc turned back to his console and began tapped at the control screen. When they’d first met, Arad thought he might have a comrade in the dark skinned helmsman, but like the others on board, he ran standoffish one minute and Arad’s best friend the next. Usually if he wanted something. Such as a night with the cabin boy with the captain’s permission. It was difficult to know if Franc’s mood swings were simply an attempt to keep in the crew’s good graces, but all it told Arad was that he couldn’t be trusted any more than the corporate mercs dismantling the shanties back in the Grey District.

Arad tilted his head to get a better look at Torrins. “So… I need to be dealt with?” 

“Poor choice of words, my boy. What brings you up here?”

“I did the maintenance and cleaned up.”

Torrins leaned in and sniffed a blatant line up Arad’s stomach and chest. “Mmm yes. You are smelling awfully fresh.”

A shiver born of equal parts arousal and embarrassment prompted Arad to playfully push Torrins’s head away. “Stop that. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I came looking for you.”

A brilliant, yet lusty smile lit up Torrins’s face. “That’s what I like to hear.”

“I didn’t mean to interrupt. Should I go?”

“No. I like you where you are right now.” Flexing his arm, he gave Arad a gentle squeeze. The move was as much a distraction as foreplay. If things were different and their ranks not cabin boy and captain, Arad might have taken a proper shine to the man. But things were not different, and instead he found himself growing more and more suspicious.

Arad may have been flying high after challenging Serene earlier, but dealing with Torrins required another tactic. Demands were rarely met with success. The captain responded better to subtler methods.

“Did I hear right earlier? You’re charging up for a space fold?”

“We are.”

Arad frowned, almost pouting. “Do we really need to? Can’t we just ride straight through?” There was no joy in bending space for instant travel. It wasn’t done often because it was a wrenching ordeal Arad could live without. He’d puked and passed out for hours after his first experience. The crew found it hysterical.

“We don’t have that kind of time, and sometimes it’s better to get right to business.” Torrins patted Arad’s behind.

Flexing his bottom under Torrins’s hand, Arad reached up and toyed with the small hair at the captain’s nape. Arad knew how to play this game. “Where are we going?”

“No place in particular.”

“Will you warn me before we jump this time?”

“I’ll consider the request.”

“I really hate throwing up.”

“Duly noted.”

No matter how flirtatious he was being, short answers were always a sign Torrins was hiding something. The man liked to hear himself speak, but now he avoided the topic of the fold which meant he was steering the conversation away from their destination. On top of that, even though both men were facing front, there was no doubt Franc and Daiko were listening with full intent.

What could require so much secrecy? Arad knew the ship’s dealings weren’t one hundred precent legitimate. Torrins had all but admitted that the night they met. What was happening here was far more than the typical reaction he’d received on the ship.

Curiosity could be damning. Arad had seen more than one slug vanish for asking too many questions in the past. Even so, the tension floating in the manufactured air left him craving information. Arad searched for parts of the conversation he’d accidentally overheard.

“You said you already lost Go? What’s Go? Should I know what—”

Torrins interrupted him with a finger pressed to Arad’s lips.

“Shh. Everything’s fine. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”

Arad wondered how long Torrins would indulge him. There were limits to the man’s patience and he was edging around them. Time to be penitent instead of inquisitive.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be asking. I’d just like to help if I can. That’s what I’m here for.”

Arad dipped his head to peer through his brow like an apologetic urchin, keeping silent, short of begging. Two months by his side gave Arad as much insight as Torrins was capable of gleaning when he tried. Torrins paused, calculating. The captain’s eyes softened, almost as if he might bring Arad into his confidence for the first time when Franc broke in, his voice lacking his normally collected tenor.

“Torrins. We’re getting a hail.”


 

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 9 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hello story lovers!

Welcome to the newest addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week was without a prompt so I get to write whatever I want.

What’s it like for Arad on board with his new position and life?

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


 

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Chapter 9

It was an effort to step lightly and not make a commotion. The rattling clang of boots on the metal floors reminded Arad too much of when the corporate mechs dismantled the shanty village on the docks. On occasion he thought of Mareth and the others and what became of them. It wouldn’t be easy, but he told himself they would be fine. They were survivors. The alternative held too much guilt to bear.

Shuffling down the hall, he reached out, brushing his fingertips along the cool walls. Scuffs and scratches aged the once pristine surfaces, giving away their age. He skimmed invisible trails over the worn paint until he passed over the hand reader connected to the cargo bay’s door. A defiant chime blared out of the device as faded red text alerted his entry denial.

The noise brought him to a halt. Just to see what would happen, Arad placed his hand fully on the palm panel and received another loud rejection. He was about to try another tactic when a hard series of footsteps approached. A hand slammed against the wall, barring him from further attempts. Following the arm—muscles visibly twitched under the thermal sleeve—brought Arad face to face with its owner, the main mechanic, Serene.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Bracing and hostile, Serene’s name was ill-fitting. Not once sense he’d arrived had she behaved like her namesake. Serene leaned forward into Arad’s personal space, menacing as ever. The heavy, dark braid which pulled her hair tight to her head accented her sharp features.

“Nothing. Just playing around.” It was difficult to sound casual when faced with Serene’s natural ability to unnerve people.

“You don’t have permission to be in there.”

Arad had learned enough to know the ship’s OS was retired military grade with rank-based access to each area. This had been the first time he’d seen it at work. Up until now, he’d never been denied access to anywhere he’s wanted to go. Granted, he’d never tried to enter the cargo bay before. Usually when confronted with the crew’s cold reception he’d mind his own business, but Serene’s attitude made him feel insubordinate.

“That sounds… mysterious. What’s in there?”

“It’s private. And none of your concern.” Serene stepped forward, attempting to herd Arad away from the door.

For years Arad had dealt with slug squabbles, occasional fights over food and necessities with people who desperately need them. He was hardly going to pushed around by one abrasive crew member, even if she was bigger than him. Arad stood his ground and waved his hands, shooing at her. The gesture forced Serene to lean back to avoid being slapped in the face.

“Sorry. I’m just curious. No need to be so salty.”

Serene’s snarl deepened. It appeared to be a permanent feature. “Don’t think that just because you’re shagging Torrins, you’re something special. You’re not really part of the crew. If it was up to us, you wouldn’t be on board.”

Arad crossed his arms over his chest. “I know. You all find a way to remind me every day.”

“That’s because we see what Torrins can’t… or won’t. You’re extra weight we don’t need.”

“Maybe. But I am here. And as long as I am, I plan to do what I came here for.”

“I can handle the ship fine. I don’t need your help.”

Arad dropped his arms to his side and slumped his shoulders. His voice softened. “What do expect me to do?”

“Exactly what you’re doing. Then on the next dock, no one would think twice if you took your pay and moved on. Don’t worry about Torrins. He’ll just find another boy.”

Putting on his best urchin-face—the kind he used when snatching produce from the market—he looked up at her with wide eyes. “You’re probably right. This is quite a mess I’ve gotten myself into. What do you suggest I do? Would it be best if I disappear without saying a word?”

“It might be for the best,” Serene said in her best attempt at a motherly tone as she laid her big man-hand on Arad’s shoulder. The delivery was so phony, Arad cringed as he cocked his head and narrowed his eyes.

Arad reached up and swept her hand off his shoulder. “Do you think we should we ask Torrins what he thinks of your brilliant plan? I’d be curious to see who he thinks he needs more.” Arad shifted forward into her space. “Are you so sure he’ll choose you?”

If such a thing were possible, Serene’s expression became more severe as her hand curled into a fist. Arad waited to see if she’d raise it. She didn’t.

“Yeah. I didn’t think so. For your information, I’m here to earn my keep and that’s it. I know Torrins brought me on without asking your permission, but it sounds like he didn’t need it. I’m sorry I set foot in your territory, but stop pissing on my feet already. You don’t even have to talk to me. After this cuddly moment, I’d prefer it. Whatever you guys have going on has nothing to do with me. I don’t care what’s in storage.”

Arad turned and walked off, trying not to hyperventilate. There was still a chance she’d slit his throat. That woman was crazy and he’d just shined her on like she was another slug marking her zone. He managed not to start running, and she didn’t follow. One small win.

The closer he came to the bridge the easier he breathed. Hard starlight spilled into the hallway through the open port bringing any and all structural flaws to life in shadowed relief. Voices echoed off the metal walls, giving them a tinny, distant quality.

“Franc, charge the space fold and enter coordinates.” Torrin’s tenor was unmistakable.

“Are you sure they’re still going to be there? We’ve already lost Go.”

Space fold? Go? What were they talking about?


 

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 8 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hello story lovers!

Welcome to the newest addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week was without a prompt so I get to write whatever I want.

What did Arad choose? Stay home or venture off with Torrins as the new cabin boy?

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


 

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Chapter 8

Everything Arad Ansari owned could fit in one half of one drawer. 

Lifting the flat metal latch he pulled the panel from its seat, flush within the rusted wall. It made a painful screech as it stuck halfway open, but a quick tug forced it the rest of the way. Dull red paint flaked off their cramped quarters’ rusted metal walls everywhere except the sleeping berth large enough for two, and was still a far cry better than the shelter back home. 

“Use this drawer,” Torrins said. “When you bring the rest of your stuff, we’ll figure out how to squeeze it in.”

Arad tugged on the strap crossing his chest. “This is everything.”

Torrins’s brow creased. “What do you mean this is everything? One shoulder bag full?”

“It’s all I own.”

“That won’t even fill half the drawer. How can you own so little?”

Arad shrugged as he emptied his satchel. “It’s only safe to keep what you can carry.”

“Why?”

“Keeps you from being a target.” One by one, Arad stowed away the sum of his life into the deteriorated space.

“From who?”

“Gangs. They leave you alone if you don’t look like you have anything.”  Scraping the bottom of his bag with his fingers told Arad he was finished. A quick study of his work left him with room to spare.

Torrins scanned the contents of Arad’s half of the drawer. “You don’t have much of anything.”

“See? It works. It’s even easier to keep up the image when you can’t afford anything.”

“How long have you lived like this?” The peak in Torrins’s voice bordered on an accusation. Did he think Arad might be lying? It nagged at Arad, making him face the captain with an incredulous stare.

“How long? When haven’t I?”

The last comment hadn’t been entirely true. Arad hadn’t always been on the street, it only felt like it some days. Besides, Torrins had acted so smug when he’d deduced Arad’s social status bar at the tavern. Now he was disturbed when faced with some of the gritty details? It served him right. Years of destitution had washed out most traces of Arad’s shame. Reality was reality. 

Arad scrubbed the gritty, disposable towel over his wet skin. The chill began to overtake the leftover warmth of his shower, so he dressed like it was a race. He rubbed the towel through his hair, hoping it wouldn’t disintegrate before he could prevent water from dripping down his spine. The old exploration cruiser comfortably housed a crew of six and was a piece of junk. Arad was only an assistant to the engineer but he knew the ship could run warmer. Little could hold off the absolute cold of outer space seeping through the walls, but the environmentals running at 15°C was Torrins’ doing. Stingy bastard. Regardless, the shower system produced more than sufficient amounts of hot water, so Arad held his tongue, like always. Growing up in poverty made a man know all too well how to appreciate such a luxury.

Torrins preferred his men younger but legal—like most of Arad’s clients—and was willing to make space. Arad shouldn’t have been surprised when Torrins announced they could share his quarters. There wasn’t a spare room on board. It wasn’t the worst arrangement, and Arad didn’t have any better options. Do grunt work on the ship, get paid, and play cabin boy. Another kind of grunt work. Arad liked handsome, authoritative men, so he was hardly compromising his standards. At least the captain lacked any alarming kinks for the most part. Torrins liked regular servicing and occasionally to watch as he shared his boy with Franc of all people.

Arad hated thinking of himself as the captain’s boy. It was meant to be a act of trade that would elevate above his status as a lowly slug, but he knew such a feat would require more than a simple change of venue. He also couldn’t deny the situation he’d placed himself in.

Two months had passed since Arad had joined the crew, but he could remember the day after their meeting like it was yesterday. Once Torrins and Franc had left him in the bar without a viable customer, he’d only spent a few hours deciding, ignoring the clamor of warning in his head. It wasn’t really a choice. Arad had nothing and no prospects. Torrins’ offer, while dubious at the very least, was an opportunity he couldn’t pass by. The internal argument was short-lived. So he found himself at the landing bay far ahead of the deadline with his limited possessions stowed in his trusty messenger bag he never left without. 

Torrins’s possessions were a different kind of creature. The drawer’s left side was stacked with Torrins’ folded thermals, a few phase pistols, and spare ammo cells. The captain had more weapons than anyone Arad had ever known. Stashes were hidden in every cabinet. Everything from guns to knives and a few items Arad could only guess at and they all still looked lethal. It made him wonder what kind of trouble Torrins was preparing for or if he were simply paranoid. Perhaps a touch of both?

It wouldn’t be the first time Arad had known a man who wasn’t completely stable. Look at Davis. At this rate, it wouldn’t be the last either.

Arad took a quick glance at the cracked time panel above the door and frowned. It was too early to say the day’s work was done. As captain, Torrins could declare otherwise, but Arad would need to check in first. Could he manage the rest of the day off? Well… he was the cabin boy. A nice smile and a better offer to distract the captain could make his day easier. 

Smoothing back his damp hair with his fingers, Arad hoped he hadn’t showered for nothing. He straightened his clothes, ignoring the frayed seams, and headed out. Torrins should be on the bridge at this hour.


 

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 7 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

Welcome to the newest addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week was without a prompt so I get to write whatever I want.

The conversation between Torrins and Arad takes a new turn.

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


 

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Chapter 7

Arad turned slowly, glaring at Torrins. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m still willing to pay for your time. And the way I walked you back here pretty much killed any other options for you.” Torrins held out the whiskey Arad had left behind. “You might as well finish it. I imagine it’ll be a while before you get another.”

“I’m not a drunk.” Arad took the drink but stayed standing, silently noting the closest exit.

“Don’t think you are. But simple luxuries are hard to come by for some people. How long have you been living on the streets?”

“I never said I was.”

The comical tilt of Torrins’s head showcased his disbelief. He looked ready to start laughing. “I’ve been watching you for a few hours now. Your clothes are worn and you only had enough on you to scrounge up two drinks.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“You’re a little rough, but you’re still a looker. If you only wanted some dick, you could’ve had that ten times over. No, you’ve been scoping the men in this bar and ignored them all while sipping a drink that’s long gone warm. Almost like you’re holding out for just the right target. Maybe someone with enough funds to be worth your time. On top of that, you’re honest.”

Arad took a careful sip, not wanting to waste any more than he already had. “How can you be sure of that?”

Taking a quick swig, Torrins patted his thigh. “If you were a pickpocket, I wouldn’t still have all my stuff. And you could have fleeced that bartender for everything he owned and then some.”

“But you couldn’t be sure, so why approach me?”

“I got curious, plus you’re my type. I’ve been around enough crooks to know how to handle them. It’s nice to be surprised.”

“If you want my time, I don’t do parties.” Arad glanced at Franc. “No offense.”

“He wasn’t invited.” Torrins tossed a gloating smile at his helmsman. “No offense.”

Franc’s brow flattened and he gave Torrins a middle finger salute.

“So my time is all you want?”

Torrins chuckled softly. “And then some…”

A frisson of annoyance escaped Arad. “You know what? I’ve only known you for about ten minutes and I’m already tired of being talked about like I’m not in the room. Spit it out or I walk. Money or not.”

Gaze locked on Arad, Torrins nodded. “I need someone who can help do mechanical work on my ship.”

“Then let me know which landing bay it’s in and I’ll take a look.”

“I mean while we’re traveling. I don’t have anyone working on my baby that’s not part of the crew, and we spend a lot of time off planet.”

“What kind of business are you running?”

“We do freelance trading.”

“With a little smuggling on the side?”

A broad grin curled Torrins’s lips. The mark of a man impressed with Arad’s deduction. “I did say freelance.”

“So you want me to what, live with you on your ship?”

“You’d be working.”

“As a mechanic.” Arad couldn’t stifle his doubts.

Franc broke into the conversation, his voice laced with mischief. “Wait for it…”

Torrins shrugged. “And other things. I’ve always wanted a cabin boy. Sometimes we’re out for weeks at a time. I don’t like waiting that long.”

“Are you serious?” Arad had to tone down his volume at Torrins’s boldness. Most men weren’t so direct with him, but perhaps he’d always aimed for guys with something to lose. Torrins appeared to be in charge at all times.

The eyeroll was so subtle, Torrins managed not to look disgusted. “It’s nothing you haven’t done in some way before, is it?”

Arad pondered the scenario with another sip. “What if I was on board and changed my mind?”

“Then I bring you back where I found you.”

“Why me?”

“I have a need and my gut says you fit my needs.” Torrins grinned, displaying a fine set of teeth. “In more ways than one.”

“I don’t know.”

“It’d be an adventure.”

“It’s a huge step.”

“Tell me you have something waiting for you here and I won’t say another word. But if you say yes, you’d earn a percentage, have a roof over your head, and never wonder where your next meal comes from. Tell me you have—or will have—a better offer in the near future. There’s nothing safe about your world.”

“At least I know this world and what’s expected of me here.”

“I bet that guy the cops roughed up and dragged off outside thought the same thing. I get the feeling that sort of things happens often around here. Maybe a little too often. I believe a man should choose the way he lives.”

“I do too.” Arad averted his eyes. Torrins’s gaze was too piercing, and Arad could feel it dig into truths he didn’t like to face.

“There’s too many people like you in this district. Too many people scratching in the dirt to make their way. What are your chances without my help?”

Arad didn’t know how to answer. He stared into his drink as if the cheap amber fluid could do more than dull his senses. Torrins’s argument had merit, but so did the cautious twinges that had kept Arad alive for the past several years since landing in the district as a penniless slug. Luck had never been Arad’s companion. What was the downside? He couldn’t see it, but knew it was there, hiding in the dark corner.

After an appropriate pause, Torrins slugged down the rest of his drink and stood. “Tell you what. I’ve said my piece and I’ll consider the topic closed. You want the job and everything included, then you come find us at Landing Bay Theta 6-Delta tomorrow at 11:00 hours.”

“So soon?”

France stood and followed as Torrins moved away from the table and Arad.

“Yep. I don’t believe in wasting time.”


 

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

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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Release Day!! Priest & Pariahs by J. Alan Veerkamp – #scifi #mmromance #queerromance #lgbtbooks

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It’s release day!!!

Priest & Pariahs – book three of the Centauri Survivors Second Chance Chronicles is now live! All the info you need to get your copy can be found below!

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Blurb

Costa McQuillen has escaped from Earth, where being para-human—a Pariah—with tech empathic abilities is illegal, and marks him for extermination. Arrogant and standoffish, Costa is unable to trust anyone but is willing to risk everyone’s safety in his desperate effort to reach the planet Omoikane. His best solution, gaining passage on board the Santa Claus.

Arbor Kittering is the crew’s newest coding tech. Having spent a short time in prison for data hacking and falsifying government files, the Santa Claus is his last chance at a new start—if he can decipher the strange malfunctions plaguing the ship.

Eugene “Priest” Jones, the Santa Claus’s Head Pilot, is a bit of a scoundrel. Perpetually single, Priest is attracted to Costa and Arbor. In truth, he’d like to have both, but it’s clear even his grifting and gambling skills can’t make that happen.

Now as they all travel together, it appears Priest needs to make a choice before it’s too late as each of their lives intertwine with potentially dangerous and deadly consequences.

Buy Links

Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/priest-pariahs/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Priest-Pariahs-Centauri-Survivors-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B07HFK5HFK/

Get the whole series! Need The Luxorian Fugitive and A Cook’s Tale – Books 1 & 2?  Click Here – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DCVNHBJ/

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Free Reads – Adrift Ch 6 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re starting to read and enjoy my new story through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week’s prompt was use quarry, motel, whiskey.

An interesting conversation has broken out between Torrins and Franc. What have we here?

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


 

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Chapter 6

“What do you mean no?” Torrins appeared equal parts confused and affronted by Franc’s refusal, whatever is was about.

“You know exactly what I mean.”

Franc’s dark gaze locked onto Torrins and the two resumed the unspoken communication which took on a new intensity and flared into an unheard argument. A test of wills, helmsman challenging the captain. Arad wondered if they were going to share their ideas or continue to communicate through body language and psychic streaming. Although Arad had the impression neither man had the requisite hardware installed or would allow themselves to be connected to any corporate network in such a fashion.

A strobe of red and blue caught Arad’s eye. Through the nearby window, a sector authority officer tackled a running man, slamming his quarry against the wall. Security drone lights swept back and forth, their harsh spotlight flashing into the tavern, distorting the interior’s colors. Disquieted murmurs from the establishment’s patrons flitted between booths and tables. Arad shuddered at the thought of what might have prompted the overzealous arrest. Neither Franc nor Torrins gave the scene the slightest attention.

Torrins shook his head and took a swig of his drink. He slid into a seat facing the booth and nudged Arad to sit in the adjacent chair. “I don’t see what your problem is.”

“This isn’t what we talked about.” All of Franc’s earlier playfulness had vanished. What was left was an unerring sharp edge aimed at Torrins and it brought up a wave of concern in Arad.

“He’s perfect.” Torrins leaned back in his chair, leaving his arm resting on the back of Arad’s. His fingers cupped the join between Arad’s neck and shoulder.

“You don’t know that.”

“He fits everything we need.” Torrins began a deliberate massage with his thumb, working up to Arad’s nape. The move underscored Torrins’s interest and under better circumstances if would have settled Arad’s worries. It did not. The contact failed to rise any revulsion, creating a sense of wariness instead. There was far more going on than he understood, but he managed to gather at least one thing out of the veiled discourse.

“Excuse me. Are you talking about me?” Arad tried to stare each man in the eyes, to no effect.

Franc reached out, only to find his empty glass which only renewed his scowl at Torrins. “The crew won’t like it.”

“Why?”

“Too many people knowing puts everything at risk.”

Torrins looked at Franc’s glass and taunted him by taking a slow sip of his own. “Not everyone has to know everything.”

“There’s not enough room on board.”

“We have plenty of space if we get creative. We were prepared for that.”

“Daiko and Serene will have a shit fit. You know they didn’t want anything to happen unless they had a say in it.”

“Well in the end it’s my ship, and I’m gonna hold onto my supreme veto power, if you don’t mind.”

Arad waved at each man in turn. “Hello, if you’re talking about me, I’m right here.”

And again, they continued talking as if Arad wasn’t even present or trying to be heard. Heat built along the edges of his ears at the insult. He may have been a slug, but he had some pride, even as low as it had become recently. Outside, the officer ignored the man’s pleas and requests for the charges as restraints were lashed around his wrists. Dust swirled around them as the sentries hovered close. Another officer joined in and grabbed a fistful the man’s hair, drawing his head back at a painful angle. They clamped a gag around the man’s jaw, stifling his outcries.

“You’re asking for a mutiny. We all have a stake in this.”

“And you’ll all get paid. Just like normal. Shit, Franc. I’d think you’d back me up a little here. It’s what we’re here for in the first place, remember?” Torrins gave Franc a knowing grin. “You know, you stand to benefit in a lot of ways too. I’ll make sure of it.”

Franc’s glanced at Arad and then away just as quickly. “I don’t like this at all.” He couldn’t mask his frustration as he rubbed his face with both hands.

“Fat payment cards will make it all better. Now’s not the time to get squeamish when what we need is right in front of us.”

Outside, the authorities dragged away their suspect as he kicked and squirmed, protesting their handling. They heaved him into the back of the security trawler that had flew in during the scene and brought down the solid metal door. The searchlights vanished, leaving the tavern in its standard level of bland lighting. Everyone else in the tavern went back to their booze, meager snacks, and whispering, pretending their lives wouldn’t be touched by the violence out there, but knowing it could at any moment with one wrong word or one wrong move.

Arad kicked back his chair and set his drink down hard. Drops of cheap alcohol splashed onto his wrist, chilling as they evaporated. Abruptly, Arad stood, dislodging Torrins’s hand from its perch.

“You know what? I think the two of you have some serious issues to sort out. I’m going to go. Thanks for the drink. You boys have a nice evening.”

Torrins and Franc both finally shut up. Interrupting their discussion gave Arad a small sense of satisfaction even if the night had turned into a complete disaster. Nothing had gone as planned, no matter how flimsy a plan he’d started with. At this point, Arad should have been shacked up in a motel earning the credits to feed himself, but no… he had to take way too long to choose a mark and ran into these two.

With a snug grip on his bag, he turned and stepped away, only to halt when Torrins spoke up over the room’s din.

“Arad, come back and finish your whiskey. If you leave now, how are you gonna get paid?”


 

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

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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Free Reads – Adrift Ch 5 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re starting to read and enjoy my new story through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

No prompts this week, so I’m writing however the story lands.

Who is the swarthy man buying Arad’s drink? Let’s find out…

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


 

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Chapter 5

The bartender’s mouth was tight in obvious disappointment. The new man collected his drink, his voice positively gloating. “I think we should find a better corner to sit in.”

He swept an arm around Arad’s waist and ushered him away from the bar. His touch was light without being possessive as if there were no doubt Arad would follow. Arad allowed himself to be led and hazarded a glance back at the bull, who huffed in disgust and went back to his work. Arad would have to do the same.

“I’m Torrins. Since I bought you a drink, I figure you owe me your name.”

Knowing when to play his part, Arad leaned back slightly into Torrins’s hand. “You might be right. I’m Arad. Thanks.”

As they walked deeper through the bar, knowing gazes followed their every step. Torrins’s hand never left the small of Arad’s back. The public display marked him as chosen to every man present, leaving Torrins as Arad’s only option for the night.

Perhaps Arad should have been thankful. Torrins had forced him to choose, an unsavory task which often stalled if it took too long. The real trick would be convincing the man to purchase his time for the night. Well-kept work clothing, groomed dark hair with a whispering of grey, and a rugged charisma all spoke of a man who rarely would be refused let alone be willing to pay for a smutty tumble. It wouldn’t be easy. Confident men like Torrins needed subtlety and the belief all ideas were theirs in the first place.

Their short trek led them to the last booth under poor lighting where a man with dreads knotted over his head sat waiting.

“You didn’t even bring me a round?”

Arad schooled his expression even as his chances to hustle Torrins dwindled. Men with friends rarely solicited company—not in front of them, at least—unless everyone present was interested. If that were the case, Arad would walk. No amount of money was worth the risk. He’d heard enough stories of rent boys without pimps disappearing after entertaining a gathering of men. Arad had no interest in pimps and the authorities didn’t care enough about slugs to provide justice when such things happened.

Torrins pulled out chairs for them both, and ran a gentle caress down Arad’s neck and shoulder as they sat. A claim that confirmed Torrins’s interest for anyone watching, but especially for his buddy. Now if only Arad could turn that to his advantage.

Snorting, Torrins gestured to the dark skinned man. “I got mine for the night. Get your own. Arad, this is one of my crew. My helmsman, Franc.”

Franc nodded as he swept his gaze over Arad, his eyes bright in contrast against his natural color.

Arad returned the greeting. “Nice to meet you. Crew? Helmsman? I guess that means you boys aren’t locals.” This was fortunate. Visitors raised the chances of either man looking for a sure thing. And nothing was more sure than paid company. The night wasn’t over yet.

“Nope. We don’t stay in any one place for too long.” A teasing grin played across Franc’s features. “So…how do you know Torrins?”

Creating awkward moments for his own pleasure appeared to be Franc’s game. A trickster, for sure. Arad wasn’t about to fall prey to that nonsense. A wild story began to formulate in his head, a tale worthy enough to show Franc that Arad was no one’s prey, but Torrins beat him to the reply.

“I just saved Arad from the pervert Demi bartender. Can’t believe he had the nerve to hit up on you like that.”

Franc rolled his eyes. “Yeah. The nerve of the guy trying to hook up at a bar.”

“Better me than the furry freak. I don’t mind them working alongside us and all, but they shouldn’t be mixing with us like that. He had Arad cornered.”

Arad shook his head. “I don’t know. Cornered might be a little strong.”

“You weren’t actually going to take him up on his offer were you?” Torrins’s words were served as a joke, but Arad picked up a hint of offense.

Arad chuckled, hoping to defuse any of Torrins’s doubts. “Oh no, that’s wasn’t happening. I wasn’t interested. He just caught me off guard. I don’t have strong feelings towards Demis one way or another. Although some people think I should since I lost a job to a wolf last week.”

“What kind of job?” For all of his mischievous appearance, Franc seemed to be genuinely curious.

“A friend tried to get me in as a repair mechanic at the techyard during the last job lottery.”

Torrins’s brow quirked. “Really? So you know your way around machines?”

“It’s a requirement in this zone. There aren’t many other options.”

“So you live around here?”

The question caught Arad unprepared. Since the dock reclaiming, his stock answers for where he lived had fallen apart. It was easier to hide the truth when the truth was woven through the lie. Trying to find a new response left an uneasy pause between them.

“Well…yes.”

Torrins and Franc shared a brief look. “Ah. I see. Don’t stress over it. Times are tough all around.”

What was it about men in this bar being so damned clever? With barely a word, Arad knew both of them knew his status on the street. He could read their faces, a mix of pity and something else he couldn’t quite place which said it all. 

Arad took a larger swallow of his drink than he had all night, shuddering at its potency. Damn bull gave him a seriously stiff pour of cheap booze. It didn’t dull his apprehension as Torrins and Franc continued staring at one another. A silent conversation waged between them that Arad knew he was at the center of. A sly smirk curled the corner of Torrins’s mouth.

Franc’s face flattened and he narrowed his eyes. “No.”


 

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

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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