#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

Advertisements

#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

Free Reads – Adrift Ch 4 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 I chose the prompt, “I’ll have whatever he’s having.”

Arad is homeless, jobless, and is at a seriously low point. What happens next? Let’s find out in Chapter 4 of Adrift.

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


 

adrift banner

Chapter 4

Two drinks maximum was all he could afford and the bottom of number one came closer no matter how much time Arad managed between sips. The lager had warmed a while ago, but he didn’t mind. He’d learned to savor these moments a long time ago.

Almost a week had passed since the dock reclamation had ousted him and the others. Six days of walking the streets looking for suitable shelter each night, holding tight to what little he owned. Word was Mareth had stowed away on a transport, following a rumor of a job lottery in district A-6. It took some effort because of the expected awkwardness, but Davis told Arad the chance wasn’t any better there than here, so Arad hadn’t followed. Loyalty barely existed among most of the slugs, and he knew he wouldn’t see her again.

Arad liked this tavern with its simple, low-tech atmosphere. Filled with locals and outliers alike, the pricing brought in wealthier clientele, but not enough that Arad couldn’t blend in. After a trip to the bathhouse, anyways. His seat at the bar was well suited to keep sight of all the current patrons, watching them come and go as he quietly nursed his drink. Suppressing the frustration when he saw someone approaching was difficult. Arad couldn’t help being turned off by the aura of booze drifting off the middle aged, decently groomed man as he sidled close.

“Looking for a little company?” Words on the verge of slurring confirmed Arad’s disinterest.

“No thanks.”

He edged closer, scrubbing his chest against Arad’s shoulder. “You sure?”

“Yeah I’m sure.”

“C’mon. I got a place ‘round the corner.”

The drunken attraction reminded Arad of the worst parts of his contacts with Davis. The reactions of men under the influence often couldn’t be trusted. Arad cursed under his breath. He didn’t need this hassle. The trick would be getting the jerk to bugger off without causing a scene, and the longer this went on, the less chance there was.

A sudden shadow blanketed them. Paired with a hostile snort, it caused the pushy man to pale. 

“He said no. Get the fuck out.”

The man backed off and left the building at an unexpected casual pace, leaving Arad only partially relieved. The hulking new bartender blocking the light unnerved Arad enough he’d avoided him most of the night.

By his facial structure and the ring looped through his wide nostrils, Arad pegged him for a bull DemiShou. Smooth, black fur covered his skin, making the oversized arms spilling out of his short sleeves shimmer in the minimal light. Two broad horns protruding from his temples had been cut short, leaving the black bone flat and harmless. Which seemed ridiculous given the fearsome muscles found on most DemiShou.

DemiShou had originally been engineered as the first settlers during terraforming efforts. Their human-animal hybrid physiologies were spliced to be better suited for the hostile extremes on undeveloped planets. Once the planets were suitable for regular people, there wasn’t much need for them, so they were folded into the population. At least that’s what Arad understood. Most DemiShou he’d encountered were laborers, security, or penniless slugs like himself. A wolf DemiShou snatched the job he’d been promised last week, but he didn’t harbor any ill will. Being at the bottom of the food chain didn’t give him any illusions about being better than anyone else.

“I was surprised you told him no. I figured you were here to make a little money.”

Arad didn’t appreciate the bartender’s perceptiveness. This place was a refuge he didn’t like hustling, even if that was exactly his plan. He was trying to be subtle about needing more cash. Arad had spent the first drink sizing up potential marks, but he wasn’t running off with just anyone. The bartender may have been a big beast, but he wasn’t stupid.

Arad took the last swallow and pushed the glass across the bar. “I’ll take another draft.”

The bartender collected the glass, stowing it under the bar. His non-human gaze never wavered, drifting over Arad with…appreciation? That couldn’t be right.

“There are better ways to make a living.”

Arad had no intention of giving the bartender the satisfaction of being right. “Are you offering me a job?”

The bull chuckled. “I wish.”

“Then pour.”

The bartender filled a fresh pint and slid it over to Arad, Still holding the drink when Arad reached for it, their hands touched. Leaning in, the bull shared his quiet rumble with Arad alone.

“A man like you shouldn’t have to demean himself. If you were mine, you wouldn’t have to. Ever.” 

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Spoken—or rather, stammered—like a guilty man, Arad couldn’t think. Indecent ideas surfaced as his face grew hot. He wasn’t attracted to the bartender, but the bull bulged… everywhere. Arms, shoulders, legs… between them. Everything about them was oversized. Whispers and jokes ran rampant about DemiShou mating instincts, their appetites and sexual prowess, but Arad had never really considered it. Animal rutting frenzies.

Flustered, Arad dug into his shoulder bag, scrambling to find money and end this conversation. Where the hell were those tokens?

Out of nowhere a dark haired man with broad shoulders pushed forward, making a wall between Arad and the bull. He slapped the bar, cash in his hand.

“Save your money. I’ve got this one.” The stranger stared at the bartender. A silent challenge, but subtle enough someone might miss if they weren’t paying attention.

“I don’t need you to.”

The swarthy gentleman turned to Arad, his grin confident and disarming. “Call it my good deed for the day.”

“You sure?” Arad hated needing to be saved, but he’d yet to find the last of his tokens.

“I’m sure.”

The bartender frowned and took the cash, apparently not caring who paid in the end. All business, he nodded at Arad’s savior. “A’right. What’ll ya have?”

“I’ll have whatever he’s having.”


 

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 3 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 was a freebie so I could write whatever I wanted. 🙂

So welcome to Chapter 3 of Adrift, with a new post each Wednesday.

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


 

adrift banner

Chapter 3

Arad jerked away from Mareth and ran around her into the chaos. At the end of the docks he found the source. Dust kicked into the sky clouded the air around the mammoth transport sitting on the once unused landing pad. Search beacons reflected through the fog, scattering the light into a dangerous haze as a line of machines exited the vehicle. Mechanical leviathans at least fifteen meters tall rose between the buildings, crushing makeshift shelters between its hydraulic jaws. Each step was thunder and wrenching metal all in one.

Frightened screams could be heard under the layers of noise as people fled their only sanctuary. The clamor stole part of his sanity, and he drove deeper finding a few sporadic humans standing alongside the machines. Traitors.

Arad approached one of the men, trying not to notice his military-like garb complete with body armor and riot helmet. “Why are you doing this?”

“Demolition for corporate reconstruction.” The guard barely glanced Arad’s way. 

Yards away, Shaky Jake barely avoided being smashed under the rusted metal shed as he scrambled to retrieve his few meager belongings. The machines weren’t hesitating, ignoring the people present and treating them as less than obstacles as they performed their duties. Corporate reconstruction at its finest. After all this time, the company decided to reclaim its property and woe to anyone caught in the crossfire while they used mercs to do the dirty work. Fewer witnesses that way if things went wrong.

“People live here.”

“Not any more. They’re trespassing.” The guard’s words were clipped. He didn’t even raise his head this time, maintaining his focus on the com-pad in his hands, making an obvious effort to ignore Arad. Almost as if he had issues with this job.

“Someone’s going to get killed.”

“Not if they get out of the way.”

“What do you expect them all to do?”

The guard shrugged, his voice impatient and exasperated. “I don’t know. Get jobs like the rest of us.”

Outraged, Arad circled in front of the guard, throwing out his arms to demand his attention. “How can you say that with a straight face? Are you really that dense? If there were jobs to go around, do you think anyone would live like this on purpose?” Arad swung his arm wide, showcasing the decrepit conditions of both the demolished and undemolished zone. He had to make the man understand.

No one chose this existence. Circumstances and financial inequities forced this upon them all. When the machines could do the work themselves, what use were the people who once did the work? Even here, only a small number of men ran the operation to reclaim this area.

The guard stalled. For a moment, a calculating light brightened his eyes. A glimmer of recognition hinted at the truth of Grey District’s social dynamics at work, but he shook his head and the sympathy flickered out. He raised a hand. “Look, I’ve got work to do. Go earn a living and quit begging for a handout. Lazy fucking slugs.”

The fresh venom left Arad aghast. Everyone present was being upheaved without the slightest notice, all for the love of profits. If you couldn’t create it, you didn’t matter. 

“We don’t want handouts! We just want a chance to survive!”

“Survive somewhere else.”

“We don’t have anywhere to go, you bastard!” Blinded by fury, Arad flung himself at the guard. The unconscious action surprised him in the deep recesses under the burning anger, but it was buried too far to stop him either. He grabbed at the armor panels attached to man’s uniform, unable to get purchase on the slick material. It made no sense. Arad wouldn’t know what to do if he got a proper hold anyways. 

“Step off!” The guard snarled and stiff-armed Arad in the chest, knocking him to the ground.

The texture molded into the plasti-crete pavement for traction dug sharp lines into his back. Spasms froze his breathing into short, erratic pulses, but Arad jumped to his feet and advanced on the man. He didn’t make half the distance before the security drone dove between them, its pacifiers armed and sparking. Hands in surrender, Arad inched backwards as one would from a rabid animal, not trusting the bot wouldn’t strike him from behind given the chance. Who knew if a person was behind the controls or an algorithm. Neither one was a safety guarantee.

A pair of arms latched around him and pulled him away. His heels dragged twin lines in the dust as Mareth’s familiar worried voice hissed in his ear. “I told you to go back. You can’t win this. None of us can.”

This time he didn’t resist, because he knew Mareth was right.

At a safe distance, she released him and continued on, leaving Arad behind to watch the heartless erasure of his haggard community. The people who used these docks scattered like insects and would be treated as such by the population of whatever street whose alleys they next huddled inside of. Constant relocation was a way of life from them. Permanence was a fiction for slugs in Grey District A-5. A series of shanties collapsed under a tech-behemoth’s foot as another scooped up the debris and shuffled it into a garbage scowl waiting in the landing zone. Steel screeching vibrated up Arad’s spine. So much gone in such a short period of time. Many of the fleeing slugs would be left with nothing after it all. Arad clutched his shoulder bag that much tighter. It was all he had in the world. He was fortunate not to lose much in the destruction, but it didn’t make the impact any less profound.

Sitting on a dirty half wall, his strength and resolve bled out in combination with an extended, defeated exhale. Arad stretched his sight up again for the few stars visible through the skyline, jealous of their position so far, far away from this wretched planet.


 

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 2 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 was a freebie so I could write whatever I wanted. 🙂

So welcome to Chapter 2 of Adrift, with a new post each Wednesday.


 

adrift banner

Chapter 2

“You could stay the night.”

Davis brushed his knuckles along Arad’s shoulder. Holding back a shudder, Arad smoothed back his hair still damp from the shower. The embedded wall sconces were calibrated in automatic night mode, bathing the one room flat with a meager level of illumination. In the poor light, Davis’ pleading eyes were dilated with barely any visible color left. He meant the words now, but when the drug wore off, the morning would be painfully awkward for them both. 

“I need to go.”

“You always say that.” A strobe of harsh light from a passing trawler swept through the window slats, highlighting Davis’ sturdy, naked body. His shoulders sagged as if sadness were a physical thing.

Arad had to turn away. “Because it’s true.”

It wasn’t the first version of this exchange. Temptation was a seductive creature. Having a bed to sleep in, a man of his own made for a powerful enticement. Arad didn’t need a reminder of how they’d spent the last few hours, rutting in a Syn-fueled frenzy. PnP was Davis’s preferred scene, giving his needs a voice he wouldn’t have otherwise. His addiction for companionship outweighed his decency. Arad shouldn’t have followed through again, but in the end, credits were credits and jobs were hard to come by.

The script played out the same each time. Arad would prepare to leave. Davis would beg. Arad would politely refuse, holding out his hand, waiting. Just like now. Brow crinkled in embarrassment and frustration, Davis slipped the fund tokens into Arad’s hand. For a moment he hesitated, like he might take Arad’s hand, but drew back.

“Be safe out there. Let me know if you need anything.”

Shirt barely buttoned, Arad slung his satchel over his neck before he could change his mind. “Tell your wife and kids I said hello.”

He heard the soft gasp, imagining the hurt flinch. Stepping onto the landing, Arad didn’t look back, knowing Davis would be standing there, high and undressed in the doorway until he was out of sight like all the times before. It might have been a cruel jab, but Arad couldn’t afford to get too close to Davis, and the man needed the reminder. In the end, he had to be a customer. No more, no less.

Davis was always more emotional until the Syn wore off. It lowered inhibitions and induced a nice sexual euphoria, making for a fun time. It was also cheap enough for even a slug to get their hands on. Tricks often liked it, but Arad left it alone. It wasn’t a case of judgement. Stoned hustlers were likely to be rolled, raped, or worse.

Once at ground level, he moved a block down the street to be sure Davis hadn’t followed. Each step twinged with the promise of a furious ache in his backside tomorrow morning. With a stuttering exhale, he stopped and slumped against the nearby warehouse until his forehead touched the cold metal wall. Life fed his weariness, from its trials to his own choices. Arad was educated, and handsome enough most people usually noticed it under the grime. If he made more of an effort, he could rake in far more credits than he did. There were plenty of offers. But by accepting he’d have to face himself, and it was hard enough with what few men he hustled now. Multiplying the resulting shame would do him no favors. Arad scoffed. World’s oldest profession? He was a part-timer at best. This wasn’t the life he was born to but it’s what he had thanks to his parents, and he refused to wither into nothing.

Pushing off, he set back on his path, making the long trek back to… where again? Not home. He didn’t have one of those.

It was late, yet Arad wasn’t sure of the time. Like every other slug, he couldn’t afford any level of tech implant that would link to the world server. The street was devoid of people and when he looked up, buildings reached upwards to such impossible heights, few stars could be seen through the night. Random vehicles floated between sleek towers dotted with vulgar brilliance all the way to their peaks. The world up there was active and vibrant and here he stood—far, far away from it—cast in shadow.

So he walked. The further from the district’s center he became, the more dilapidated the environment. Ground level was hardly well maintained, but where he headed could be mistaken for a scrap heap. These machine docks had long since been abandoned by their corporate owners. Maintenance panels along foundations and site barriers were out of position or missing, their valuable parts long since scavenged. 

Arad was spent. A makeshift shanty might be all he had, but it was shelter and he needed sleep. Feet and body aching, he almost wished he’d taken Davis up on his plea to stay. Almost.

A growing commotion slowed him to a halt. Noises that didn’t belong grew in volume. Angry overlapping voices and chugging machinery had no place in this dead facility. A smattering of people appeared, scuttling away from the ragtag community of slugs and their only refuge. Vermin fleeing a sinking vessel. One woman caught sight of Arad and rushed at him.

“Arad! Go back! Go back!” She fisted his shirt, shoving at him in her panic. In the dark, he didn’t recognize her until the searchlight of a series of security drones swept the area.

“Mareth? What’s going on?” Arad grasped her wrists to keep the burly woman from knocking him over. Her eyes were wild and wet, ready to overflow. A broad smudge on her cheek nearly camouflaged a growing bruise.

“Go back! You have to go back!”

Her manic words continued to loop and he struggled against her hysterical strength. This wasn’t like her at all.

“What are you talking about? What’s happening?”

Mareth gasped as the first tears fell. “They’re destroying everything.”


 

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

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

cropped-wedbriefs-badge