QSFer Angel Martinez has a new queer sci fi book out in her ESTO Universe (gay, trans): “By Imperial Degree.”
An Imperial prince can only hide for so long—but his solution of a hastily invented engagement could backfire spectacularly.
Marsh Kensinger’s work as the utility mechanic for Bremen Station keeps his life interesting – but never quite as interesting as finding a pilot still hidden inside a hibernation drawer in what should have been a salvage craft. He knows he shouldn’t get involved, but the Altairian Imperial crest on the private craft and the semi-conscious pilot’s odd questions pique his always-whirling curiosity.
Still unattached at a concerning age for an imperial son, Prince Shiro Shinohara hadn’t been running from the endless, mind-numbing rounds of omiai his mother, the Empress, had mandated. Not exactly. He’d just wanted a break from persistent suitors at the family retreat on Ceti Tau. The short respite becomes a panicked flight for his life when one of the suitors stalking him attacks the family compound.
Worried for the soldiers he was forced to leave behind, afraid there’s a conspiracy to kidnap him, Shiro confides in the handsome mechanic who found him and in a moment of panic, concocts the fiction of a serious relationship with Marsh. It’s only until Shiro’s people can reach him and he can press charges back home. Marsh is willing to play along and Shiro’s just going to have to keep himself together and not, under any circumstances, fall for the wonderful, generous man who refuses to stop helping him.
A sigh escaped the ship as if it had been holding its breath. Soft crackling followed as a seam began to outline a door on the port side. Marsh held his own breath as he rose, hand still on the ship. The door slid open.
He stood up on the crate and waved both arms over his head until Supervisor Kaneer glanced up and jogged over.
“I can’t believe you talked it open.”
“Me, either.” Marsh gave the ship a side-eye. “Now I’m scared of accidentally saying something that’ll trigger it to close again.”
Kaneer’s eyes widened, then she nodded with a finger to her lips. She jogged off again and returned with a team of silent data techs whom she’d obviously instructed not to speak. Hand signals sent them to different parts of the ship, and Marsh followed them in since she didn’t tell him to stay outside.
The inside completely lived up to expectations. Fluid rose-gold surfaces trimmed in soft gray dominated the interior from the cockpit to the living areas at the stern. No boards or controls marred the sleek contours of the cockpit, all the controls most likely contained in the padded chair and on the silvered-out screen taking up the entire nose of the ship. Everything screamed wealth and unearned privilege so loudly that Marsh fought against a niggle of irritation.
Different system, different culture—who was he to judge?
Inset drawers and cabinets lined the walls starting just beyond the cockpit, from tiny cubbies to ones large enough…
Hold on. He approached one of the big drawers near the deck plates, checking and rechecking his readouts. For thirty full seconds, he watched the intermittent blips before he stepped over and pulled on Supervisor Kaneer’s sleeve. Life signs, he mouthed and pointed to the drawer when he had her attention.
She frowned at the too-slow heartbeat and the heat signature that wasn’t nearly warm enough before she sent one of her techs outside to call emergency assistance. The rest of them gathered close as she probed around the drawer until she found the right spot to press. The drawer clicked and slid on silent tracks, cold vapor crawling over its sides as it opened.
The contents had them all staring a bit longer.
A young man lay inside the drawer, so gray-pale he looked like a corpse, and Marsh would’ve thought just that if he wasn’t registering a heartbeat. Thick, black hair lay across his shoulders. He still wore a scarlet flight suit and deck boots that hadn’t seen much wear.
He’s gorgeous… Marsh couldn’t help the thought. Their mystery pilot’s face was fairy tale beautiful, even in his unnatural sleep. Like the prince who slept for hundreds of years. Was it a prince?
Angel Martinez writes both kinds of queer fiction – Science Fiction andFantasy. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author’s head) Angel has one husband, one son, two cats, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.