#freereads – Adrift Ch 13 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.

We didn’t have a prompt for this week, but with the way we left off did we really need one? OMG!!!

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


 

adrift banner

Chapter 13

Torrins evacuation command continued to repeat through the ship, the urgency heightened by the blaring alarm loud enough to signal the end of days. Metal shifted behind the walls as the airlock cycled. The crew were about the escape and leave Arad behind sitting dumbfounded on the deck.

He wanted to kick himself for not seeing it sooner. He should have seen it coming. But now was not the time for recriminations. The corporate flagship still had its guns aimed at the Midas Ascending while Torrins and the rest were going to flee in a cloaked ship leaving him the sole occupant. 

The word scapegoat came to mind.

Arad couldn’t sit there and do nothing to save himself. Scrambling to his feet, he raced back to the bridge. Like any authority figure under a corporate contract, First Commander Bard couldn’t be trusted, but prison was preferable to being blown into charred debris floating through the airless wastelands. Living was always the better option. Dead people had none.

On the bridge the stars swept to the side as the ship continued to spin. He needed to think and quick. Time was not his friend, but the endless alerts filled his ears and dulled his mind. He stumbled to the captain’s chair and started pressing buttons.

“Shut up already!”

The noise abruptly stopped.

The readout on armchair display read: RANK UPDATED. Whatever that meant. There wasn’t time to consider it. He would have to be thankful for the quiet as the Alpha One Flagship drifted in front of the ship once again. 

Arad needed to contact them, convince them to stand down. Surrender. He could do that. Slugs knew how to that better than anyone. Survival was everything. As long as a man was alive, he had a future. Franc had shut down the hail before at Torrins’ order, so the controls must have been at his station.

Through the viewer, a cloud of steam emanated from the Midas Ascending, probably from the damaged engine. A mix of frost and smoke, it caught the starlight, leaving a gossamer nebula between the two vessels. The haze parted as if something unseen pushed through the veil, opening a pathway on a vector away from both ships. The warship started firing at the distortion. The third particle blast stopped short in a burst of phosphorescent sparks causing the once-hidden shuttle’s cloak to fail, revealing it to anyone watching. The shuttle tumbled in a lazy roll from its leftover momentum. Its running lights sputtered out, the craft dead and useless. Torrins and the others weren’t going anywhere if the ugly scorch down the side was any indication.

A swell of smug satisfaction warmed Arad’s chest, right up until the moment the burn scar marring the shuttle’s hull ruptured. A geyser of freezing oxygen, debris, and human beings billowed out into the soundless vacuum.

Torrins. Franc. Daiko. Serene. Tank. All gone. Arad couldn’t wrap his head around how he should be reacting. They’d left him behind but did they deserve this? How could he be sure? Whatever he felt for the motley crew was nothing compared to the disgust Bard’s voice crackling through the new audio feed sparked in him.

“Midas Ascending, my scans show there’s only one life sign left on board. How very noble to go down with the ship, Captain Torrins.”

“Don’t shoot! I surrender!” Panic forced Arad’s shout into the air, counting on the channel to send the message.

Breathing quickened as the seconds passed and Arad’s pulse spiked, pounding in his ears. Bard said nothing in return.

“Bard! I surrender!”

“Respond, captain. I’m waiting…”

This wasn’t a game he was playing. Bard expected a response and couldn’t hear a word he said. Arad pounced on Franc’s dashboard, desperately hunting for the comm controls. “I’m not Torrins! Torrins was on the shuttle you just blew to hell!”

The commander sighed. “I’m growing bored playing this charade. I’m only going to ask this one more time. Send me the override codes so I can take command.”

Arad didn’t know the codes. Torrins would never have trusted him with such things. If he did, he’d have transmitting them long ago, saving himself from this insanity.

“Where’s the on switch? Where is it? Where is it?”

“Salvaging the stolen property is preferable, but its within the scope of my mission to treat you as hostile if you don’t comply. If I have to wait much longer, you’ll join your crew out the airlock.”

“Shut up, you moron! I’m trying to surrender!” Arad’s fingers flew as he spun the screen menus hunting for anything that might help him.

“The timer is counting down, captain.” Bard’s fraying patience was audible. If Arad didn’t find a way to contact him, he was no better off than Torrins and the rest. Explosive decompression in a wave of fire and destruction was not how he wanted to go.

Having zero success with Franc’s terminal, Arad scanned through Daiko’s station as well. His eye caught the following prompt on the right hand monitor:

***SPACE FOLD CAPACITORS ACTIVE – MINIMUM CHARGE ACHIEVED***

Did that mean it was primed to use? Arad backtracked through his memories like a madman. Didn’t Torrins have Diako enter the coordinates earlier? A holographic icon labeled ENGAGE hovered on the screen begging to be touched.

“You had your chance, captain. It’s a shame you have no sense of self-preservation.”

Time’s up. One last chance. Act now or lose forever.

“Please be ready.” Arad tapped the control and a dialog box with additional buttons popped up on the screen, pulsing in red.

***WARNING***

Performing a space fold within a star’s gravity field can cause unexpected results.

Do you wish to continue?

***YES***   ***NO***

Are you kidding me? Yes!” Arad shrieked at the monitor.

“Goodbye, captain.”

Arad punched the button and the universe howled as it turned itself inside out even as the flagship fired. Crushing his eyes closed, he prayed for a miracle he’d never seen slugs receive.


 

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

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge

Advertisements

#freereads – Adrift Ch 12 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’s prompt was: “Time is a luxury we don’t have.”

All I can say about this chapter is “Oh shit!”

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


 

adrift banner

Chapter 12

The universe stalled, refusing to move forward.

Daiko shouted and everything rushed forward. “They’re going to fire!”

Torrins braced against Franc’s chair. “Evasive maneuvers!”

Franc’s hands flew across the controls and Alpha One Flagship spun and dipped in the viewscreen. The maneuver still wasn’t fast enough to hide the flare of the warcraft’s particle cannon. The Midas Ascending lurched as a violent tremor shook the framework, throwing Arad to the unforgiving metal floor. The power flickered, dimming the lights and equipment displays for a moment. Alarms blared and the emergency warnings flashed in every monitor. 

Franc righted himself in his seat. “Engines are down!”

“Get them back up, damn it!” Torrins sounded as desperate as Arad felt.

“They’re not responding and we’re drifting into the star’s gravity well.”

“Can we fix it?”

A new schematic on Daiko’s screen, scrolled a litany of text at his fingertips. “Damage report shows emergency bulkheads are down. They breached the hull. Better yet, the engine’s venting and it’s pushing us out of orbit towards the star. We’ve already almost drifted past the gravity well’s safe point.”

“What about thrusters?”

Panic seeped into Franc’s response as he frantically beat on his console. “The damage to the engine is affecting them too. Even they were working right, they’re not enough to escape the warship or keep us from burning.”

“Fuck!”

Unsure of the next step, Arad sat on the floor rubbing the ache out of his shoulder. “What do we do?”

The comm flared to life, the audio of First Commander Bard’s voice was distorted with static. “Captain Torrins, I am under orders to bring back the contraband property or erase it if we cannot. I don’t particularly care which option you choose.”

Torrins snarled in disgust. “Kill that comm.”

As Franc slapped the control, Torrins resumed pacing, scrubbing furiously at his jaw. Arad swore the deck showed signs of wear.  

“Franc, talk to me. How much time do we need?” The lights dimmed briefly and everyone scanned the bridge. Hopefully it would hold together long enough.

“At least another five minutes.”

Daiko’s sharp inhale could be felt as well as heard. “They’re charging weapons again. Time is a luxury we don’t have.”

Torrins stopped pacing. 

Blinding light filled the bridge as the star they’d been orbiting entered the viewscreen, forcing everyone to avert their eyes. Shadows fled in the intensity giving Arad a glimpse at an afterlife he wasn’t sure he’d earned. The brightness made him teary. He shielded his face until the ship turned far enough to move the star out of view once again.

Blinking the light out of his eyes, Torrins turned, sweeping his sad gaze over every nut and bolt in the room. Pain, rage, and loss etched lines into his face, each one entangled with the others. The dread pooling in Arad’s gut told him the captain was making a silent goodbye to an old friend in the middle of the chaos. Seconds stretched into forever as Arad joined him.

Stomping back to his chair, Torrins growled as he punched the panel on the armrest. “Emergency evac! Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Drop everything and head for the shuttle!”

The command could be heard in the hallway, echoing and overlapping, building like the anxious swell in Arad’s chest. It continued to repeat, becoming part of the alarms.

Daiko and Franc scrambled out of their seats and sped out the door.

With a ragged inhale, Torrins headed for the hallway, ignoring Arad as he bolted. Arad jumped to his feet and followed, because he was not about to be left behind if there was any chance of survival. He’d come too far for this to be the end. The evacuation order continued over and over, mixed with the sirens. Arad winced, trying to block out the noise as he raced to keep up with Torrins. For the first time, he would have welcomed the clatter of footsteps.

Lungs burning from fear and exertion, Arad managed to shout at Torrins over the bedlam. “You’re going to get in a shuttle and escape? That’s insane! What makes you think you can outrun a military vessel of that size? It’s big enough to block out the sun!”

“The shuttle’s cloaked. They’ll never see us until we’re long gone.”

Arad thought back to how the warship had found them in the first place when Franc said it shouldn’t have. “How can you be sure?”

“Staying on board isn’t an option. We’ll end up in prison or the morgue before that commander is done. I choose none of the above.”

They turned a corner to find Tank allowing Nixta to enter the mini-airlock to the shuttle first. 

“Cap, what the fuck is going on?”

“Corporate warship found us.”

“Son of a bitch.” Tank dipped his head, turning his body to step through. It was the only way his bulk would pass the threshold. The crew were strapping themselves into sturdy chairs with Franc and Daiko already at the helm powering up the lifeboat. It would be a tight fit for all of them, but Arad wasn’t picky by habit.

Serene caught sight of Arad, and her standard discord flared. “Torrins? What do you think you’re doing?”

“What?”

“There’s only room for six.” Her piercing stare rooted Torrins in the doorway.

Franc glanced Arad’s way, then turned front along with the rest. Arad felt the disconnect more than ever. The captain paused in a moment of indecision.

“Torrins, get a move on! We don’t have time for this bullshit!”

With a tight lipped growl, Torrins spun to face Arad. The captain’s brow creased hard. His entire frame quaked with the unsteady stance of the guilty man. Regret stained his words in ugly colors.

“Sorry, kid. You were fun, but this is what we hired you for.”

Torrins gave Arad a hard shove, pushing him clear of the hatch. It swung closed with a loud clang, leaving Arad on the other side, trapped on the wounded ship.


 

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

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge

#freereads – Adrift Ch 11 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.

Another freebie week without prompts. Time to write whatever I like.

Who’s hailing the ship and what does that mean for Arad and the crew?

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


 

adrift banner

Chapter 11

Silence more severe than Arad’s arrival blanketed the bridge as a massive vessel, all dread metal and force, drifted in front of the ship. A weathered military insignia marked the hull dwarfed by its pristine supporting company logo. Even at this distance, the beast blocked the entire viewport. Arad had heard enough stories about single ships like this having enough firepower to wipe out whole fleets.

“Unidentified vessel, this is First Commander Hyland Bard, Alpha One Flagship. Respond at once.”

Torrins’s arm wrapped around Arad relaxed and fell away. A fresh tension drew lines through the length of his body as he stood and stepped forward, staring at the warship without blinking. “I thought you said this star’s radiation field was supposed to hide us from sensors.”

“It should have. It appears this ship is better equipped than most.” Daiko’s annoyance was as strong as his visible discomfort.

“Shit. Patch me through.”

Daiko and Franc exchanged agitated glances. With a few taps on the console, Franc nodded, signaling Torrins the comm was open.

“This is Captain Torrins of the Midas Ascending. How can I be of assistance?”

It may have only been audio communication, but Torrins stood tall and smiled, throwing on his most persuasive persona. The bearing of a born actor. This was the charismatic man who convinced Arad coming on board would be a grand adventure. He was having second thoughts.

“Captain Torrins, you are in possession of stolen corporate property. Stand down at once and prepare for reclamation.” Bard’s voice, riddled with arrogant contempt, made Arad want to run for cover. He could hear the determination of a man used to stomping out obstacles in his path. The lack of compassion. Flashbacks of the arrest at the tavern where he’d met Torrins shined bright in his head. He’d never known of a good interaction with corporate sponsored military. A lack of accountability hovered over these people when profits were involved. A slug didn’t need to be part of the government to see corruption running rampant inside it. Running a warship that size had to bleed insane amounts of credits, so Torrins must have smuggled something worth a fortune to warrant such a spectacle.

“What? Stolen property? There must be some kind of misunderstanding.” Torrins’s denial was award worthy. Arad almost believed him and he knew better.

“The only misunderstanding I see is your interpretation of the law. Refusal to comply will be treated as an act of aggression in full accordance with my authority.”

“There’s no need for aggression. Honestly, Commander, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. How about we chat a bit and sort this out?”

Bard appeared immune to Torrins’s charms. “We’re not here to discuss anything. You will simply do as you’re told or I will be forced to act.”

“And what exactly are you asking us to do?”

“Transmit your ship’s override codes immediately. You will be boarded and towed planet-side where you will face the corporate magistrates.”

The unflinching demand bristled Torrins. “If you’d be good to show me your warrant—”

“I don’t need one. Act fast. My patience is thin, Captain.”

The comm connection went dead.

The confidence holding Torrins’s facade eroded in minuscule amounts. Fear weakened his expression and his shoulders slumped a fraction. The atmosphere on the bridge thickened into soup, becoming unbreathable.

Arad stepped up to the captain and placed a hand on his arm. “Torrins, what did you do?”

“Be quiet. I have to think.” He dislodged Arad’s touch with a hard shrug. Scrubbing a hand over his head, Torrins paced in a tiny circle. “Franc, can we fold?”

Franc shook his head. “The system still isn’t at minimum charge.”

Lurching forward, Torrins gripped the back of Franc’s seat, neck stretched to read the display over Franc’s shoulder. “How long do we need?”

“At least five minutes. Maybe more.”

Jerking away, he went back into his circular pacing. “Okay, okay. We just need to stall them. Franc, keep your eyes on that screen. The second it peaks, bounce us out of here.”

“Shit. That’s gonna hurt.”

“Give me another option.”

Arad couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you kidding?”

Seconds passed as an eternity waiting for something to happen. All four men were frozen in place, the universe daring anyone to make the first move. Arad prayed it wouldn’t be the Alpha One Flagship. Atheists should know better than to pray.

Daiko’s normally stoic tone cracked with terror. “They’re locking weapons systems on us.”

A subtle tremor raced through Torrins’s hand as he wiped at his mouth and jaw in frustration. “It’s a bluff. They’re not about to kill us and destroy their property.”

“Are you sure about that?” Arad’s voice pitched upwards to the point of shrill and his chest grew tight. In Grey District, this would have been the point he would have ran through he streets, dodging people and police, and found a place to hide. Where he would be safe. That option didn’t exist now.

Torrins didn’t answer. “Patch me back in.”

“I’m waiting, Captain Torrins.” The delay hadn’t improved the chill from First Commander Bard’s words. Arad’s spine was icing fast and his hope was fleeting. 

Clearing his throat and squaring his shoulders, Torrins tried to buy some time. “I’d like to discuss the terms of our surrender.”

“There are no terms.” Bard sounded incensed. “I made one simple and specific request and you couldn’t even do me the courtesy of that. I warned you, Captain. I don’t appreciate having my time wasted.”

The channel died again.

Arad stopped breathing. Torrins’s gamble held on by the thinnest cable, and it was fraying to the final strand. He couldn’t turn his eyes away from the flagship, its presence echoing First Commander Bard’s gift at oppression. They needed to do something and they needed to do it quickly before they ran out of time.

Daiko’s shout broke the fragile impasse, shattering the silence.

“Shit! They’re charging weapons!”


 

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

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge

#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


 

adrift banner

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!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge

#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


 

adrift banner

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!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge

#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


 

adrift banner

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!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge

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


 

adrift banner

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!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge